Long Time, No Blog

You guys!
(Side note – the word “guys” looks really funny when you stare at it for long time. I started typing “y’all” but felt weird since my family in Ohio thinks I’m just trying to be cute when I say it. But really it’s just a part of assimilating to life in the South after seven years. I can’t help it! So, “you guys” or “y’all”…whichever you prefer…)
Hello again! Long time, no blog, huh? 
While I’ve loved this teeny tiny little space on the internet called Counting My Cupcakes for the past 3+ years, letting it go and spending more quality time in the real world has been wonderful. I’ve said it a million times before, so I won’t elaborate on it again, but obviously I’ve let CMC take the backseat in my life. 
On Saturday, Hannah and I did Body Pump together, followed by a breakfast date at our go-to spot, Metto Coffee & Tea. She mentioned how she’s determined to finish writing a blog post about a medical mission trip she took recently, which reminded me how I’ve been wanting to check into my own blog as well. It’s been quite awhile and I (semi-jokingly) told Hannah I don’t want the first post people to see when they visit the site to forever be the one about Christian persecution. While it is such an important issue to pray about, I think something a little lighter-hearted up front and center when someone visits this site better portrays what this space is all about. 
In the time that’s past since my last post, Greg and I visited my oldest brother Ryan in D.C. (my mom and step dad were visiting as well so it was a “kill two birds with one stone” kind of trip). We ate lunch and homemade pop-tarts from Ted’s Bulletin, as seen above. 
Highlights include a tour inside the White House, strolling through Arlington Cemetery, and my new favorite attraction: the Newseum. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a museum all about the media and how some of history’s biggest stories have been told through the news. There are several videos and other multimedia components that sucked me in. The best part was probably the teleprompter station where I got to hold a microphone and be filmed reading a weather forecast off of the prompter. I was…awful. But! It was super entertaining, especially for Greg who stood there and laughed at me the whole time. 
Meteorologist Greg and News Anchor Brittany at your service!

In other news (no pun intended), after pinning this recipe months ago, I finally made Dorothy’s Small Batch Quick Cinnamon Rolls. Best. ever. I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of making homemade cinnamon rolls, but these were SO EASY. And more importantly, TO DIE FOR. I made them for Greg and I one weekend, fell in love, then made another batch in D.C. to enjoy with my family. 
My last update for today is about none other than the Zo Monster. She turned 2 years old! on September 11th. We had a birthday celebration for a co-worker the day before, so I brought the birthday hat home just for Zoey. She hated it, but I managed to get a few quick pictures before letting her have revenge and destroy it. 
I don’t know when I’ll be back here again, but feel free to connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Happy Fall!!!!
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Sunday Blessings – Prayers for Iraq

I admit I am not the best at staying in tune with worldly current events. I watch a little bit of local news and Brian Williams after work during the week, but easily get caught up in my own life happenings without much regard for the world around me. Honestly, I rely on Greg, and sometimes Twitter, to keep filled in on the most important stories.

The Christian persecution happening in Iraq has really made me think. I am not naive to the reality of religious persecution in many other places, including here in America, but the media is focusing on Iraq so that’s where my mind is specifically. As a communication major in college, something one professor said regarding the media has always stuck in my mind: “The media doesn’t tell us what to think, but tells us what to think about.” Now, it could easily be argued certain media channels are more bias towards certain viewpoints over others. That’s why I try to read/watch a variety of media outlets to get different viewpoints to make my own conclusions.

Okay, I’m not turing this into a post all about the media. The point is, out of all the issues and events in the world, good or bad, the media is focusing heavily on Iraq and the persecution against Christians. So, through the relatively little knowledge I do have on everything that’s happening, the media has caused me to think about this issue more in depth.

I’m also currently doing a Bible study on the book of Daniel by Beth Moore (amazing!!!) with a group of friends. One particular lesson of the study made us deeply question our willingness to be loyal to God even when faced with a fire, like a real life, literal FIRE right in front of us. Would we hold true to our faith and declare ourselves daughters of Christ even if it meant we’d have to walk into the fire?

It is so difficult for me to even comprehend what that would be like. Yet it is reality for far too many people in the world. In my little American suburb, my worst hardships in life are NOTHING compared to something like that. I am ashamed to even call them “hardships.”

In the past, I have been guilty of emotionally distancing myself from stories in the news like this. It may seem from thousands of miles away I am disconnected to the persecution, the hate, the torture, and the pain for being identified as a Christian. Then I read this blog post last week after a friend shared it on Instagram. Candace, the author of the blog, wrote inspiring words which have ignited a new flame in me (no pun intended). While I can’t physically put myself in their shoes, I am grateful to live in a country where I can do something – I can offer persistent PRAYER openly and freely. I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ facing persecution, not just in Iraq, but all over the world.

Lemon Cupcakes & Silicone Baking Cups

La-la-la! LEMON! I’m feeling bright and cheery today, so a bright and cheery lemon cupcake fits in just perfectly. 
You probably remember me saying in the past how citrus-y desserts rarely catch my attention. Vanilla, chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, red velvet…all top picks above anything citrus like lemon or lime. But more often than not, I am pleasantly surprised by them. They’re refreshing and offer a balance of sweet and tart that you can’t get anywhere else. 

The kind people at The New York Baking Co. sent me these silicone cups (don’t worry – they’re BPA free!), giving me all the more reason to bake something special. The baked cupcakes pulled away ever so slightly from the cups while baking, making them pop right out without even hardly trying. No falling apart and no leaving half of the cupcake behind in the liner (not that I would ever let that happen anyway). 
Not only do reusable cups like this save on paper and waste, but they’re also dishwasher safe. Laundry and kitchen cleaning are the two household chores I dislike most, so anything to make kitchen clean-up easier gets an extra thumbs up in my book.

Enough about the baking cups. The cupcakes themselves did not disappoint. Although, it did take me a day to fully appreciate them. See, I have a problem where I never like what I bake right away. Whenever I try something right out of the oven, or even an hour later, I don’t think it tastes good. When I let some time pass and try it again later on, I will want to eat every last bite. So what changes in that time period?

One theory I have is that while I’m baking, I’m usually taking tastes of the batter here and tastes of the frosting there, which may be suppressing my appetite. By the time the real thing is ready to go, I’m not as into it.

Or, maybe it’s the idea that things simply taste better when other people make them for you. PB&J, Kraft Mac and Cheese…the simple childhood classics are always best when made by Mom or Dad, am I right? But I usually don’t have this problem when it comes to my own cooking. I’m almost always pleased with what I cook (as opposed to bake) straight off the bat.

Whatever the case may be, in the end I loved these little citrus treats and I know you will too.

I followed Jessica’s recipe for Fluffy Lemon Cupcakes, only subbed homemade sugar frosting for the whipped coconut cream (only because I didn’t have the right kind of coconut milk on hand, but I look forward to trying it next time). 
  

If you’re interested in the silicone baking cups, you can purchase a 12-pack on Amazon for $11.95*.

*I updated this post on 8/7/14 to reflect the increased price I was recently made aware of.

Sunday Blessings – The Blog’s 3rd Birthday

THREE YEARS! This little baby blog just turned 3 this past Thursday and to be honest I had completely lost track of time. It was my devoted and loyal reader, my grandma (GG), who commented on my Facebook page about the birthday. She’s the best 🙂 Who else could have I counted on to pay attention the date for me? 🙂 Love you, G!

With the short notice, I wasn’t able to get the celebratory post up in time. It’s all for the best though because now I can tell you in a traditional Sunday Blessings post about how blessed I am to have this outlet and readers like you. I realize some of you may be long-time, loyal readers, and some of you may be reading for the first time. Some of you have stuck with me through the consistent posting times, and got bored with my lack of posting for quite awhile as well. However it makes no difference to me. I am so grateful for each and every reader taking time out of their busy lives to read what I have to say.

It’s also a bittersweet time, because as I’ve mentioned every year, August 1st is the anniversary of my good friend, college roommate, and teammate’s passing three years ago as well. That was by far the hardest loss I’ve ever had to endure and my heart still breaks when I think of Morgan losing her life so, so young. But I also have peace knowing our beautiful angel is in heaven.

such babies we were!

On a happier note, this third year in the blogosphere was a fun one. Since last July 31st:

We bought a house, celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a married couple in said house.
I started a new job and was able to take two mini vacations in between. I went to Orlando to visit Brooke where we celebrated our birthdays by getting up close and personal with beluga whales. Then I went to Breckenridge, CO with Greg to ski in the winter wonderland.

I competed with other local bloggers in the Food Lion Frugal Cook Off. With the help of Val, our Mexican style dish won!

When springtime rolled around, Greg and I planted a garden in our backyard and were thrilled when our mixed greens were ready to harvest! We’ve also grown tomatoes galore, jalapeños, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions.

Some of my favorite recipes from the blog’s third year include:

(funny to see that all of those recipes were created right around the time I had off between jobs. I was staying quite productive in the kitchen during that transition!)

Again, I hope you all know how much I appreciate you and love sharing my thoughts on faith, food and daily life in general with you. Here’s to year #4!

See also:
2nd Blog Birthday
1st Blog Birthday
1st Post Ever!

5 Items in My Dream Survival Kit

I am usually not one for hypothetical questions. I like rationality and focusing on what is, rather than dreaming about the “what ifs.” When Man Crates contacted me a couple weeks ago asking me to consider being stranded on an island, I shrugged off the idea at first. What was the point?

Well. I thought about it some more and in the end, I went with it. By doing so, I realized how much I really do appreciate (and NEED) certain things in my life.

Man Crates asked me if I were to, heaven forbid, ever be stranded on a desert island, what would be my five absolute must-have items. So, all humans, Great Danes, and modern technology aside, this is what I choose:

1. Bible. 
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. -Philippians 4:13. Pretty much sums it up! Christ is my rock and God’s word would bring me peace in what would surely be a scary time for a homebody and indoors kinda girl like myself.

2. Down comforter.
I’m almost always cold and love snuggling up in a fluffy comforter. Even if it’s a tropical island and hot, hot, hot, I would surely enjoy something soft to lay on.

3. Journal and a pen.
Writing my thoughts and prayers would be crucial for my sanity. I could make lists and doodle to pass the time. And more importantly, I could write letters to my loved ones in hopes of seeing them again someday too.

4. Photo album.
My family is everything to me. I would need photos of Greg, Zoey and my closest family members and friends to put a smile on my face.

(such a baby!!!!)

5. Publix’s Roadrunner Raspberry frozen yogurt. I know one should never assume, but let’s just say this hypothetical desert island had fruit trees, drinkable water, and maybe some other basic foods I could kind-of-sort-of live off of (I know nothing about the wilderness, so I really wouldn’t make it long at all…) BUT if I did have some essential nutrients for my body and wasn’t completely starving to death, I sure would need to satisfy my sweet tooth somehow! Publix fro yo would obviously be my top pick.

Man Crates ships various themed gift boxes for men in their custom crates, without the wrapping paper, ribbons and other fluff men simply don’t care about. Such a cool concept! I certainly know how difficult shopping for men can be. Between my dad, step-dad, Greg and two brothers, to name a few, I struggle every Christmas and birthday to find something just right.

One thing I do love is putting together gift bags/baskets. I usually know of a few smaller, everyday things my loved ones enjoy, whether it’s a particular snack, coffee, restaurant gift cards, everyday essentials, etc. Combining all of someone’s favorite things into one package is sometimes easier to come up with than a single, more expensive gift that you’re not sure they’ll like.

I would be so, so happy to receive a gift box with any combination of those “survival kit” items on my list. (hint, hint Greg!) Ha, just kidding. He actually did get me a journal (and pink pen!) for our anniversary and a small portion of our income goes towards Publix fro yo every week so…..I’m all set 🙂

Tell me! What’s one or two things that would be in your survival kit?


*I received no compensation of any kind for Man Crates’s publicity in this post.

Weekend Eats 7-28-14

The first half of this weekend was non-stop go-go-go at a work event. Everything went so well, but longs days made for one hungry girl. By the time I got home Saturday afternoon and had the rest of the weekend to completely relax with basically no plans, I couldn’t think of anything but getting food in my body. 
That’s not entirely true. As much as I wanted to feed myself, I first had to get Zoey out of the house and give her a little attention. I know being the parent to a human one day will teach me more selflessness than I can comprehend right now, but I like to think being the parent to a young pup has taught me some of that already. Zoey is a spoiled little girl and I had to take care of her first. It didn’t take but a quick half mile walk in the extreme humidity for Zo to be panting and ready to go back indoors. This was my cue to head straight for lunch. 
As much as I love Metto for breakfast and coffee, I’d never had it for lunch. Saturday was the day! 
The Chicken and Goat Cheese wrap – deli style chicken, sundried tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese – was perrrrfect. Nothing fancy, just simple and delicious. It’s something you could easily replicate at home, but for only $6 and some change it was worth it in my state of hunger.
However. Let’s be real. The star of the show was that peanut butter cookie. They had just pulled them from the oven, there was no way in heck I was about to resist that cookie. I was handed the cookie while I waited for my wrap and had a bite of the pure goodness – warm, soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside. 
Metto Coffee@Tea on Urbanspoon
Dinner time rolled around and I opted to clean out the fridge with this…

A bed of spinach topped with roasted veggies (broccoli, corn, tomato, bell pepper) and an over easy egg + a drizzle of sriracha. Then I topped a piece of toast with layers of sliced tomato and fresh mozzarella. 
Remember the soft boiled egg from Prohibition’s shrimp and grits?! Ever since then I can’t stop with the drippy egg yolk. 
Anndddd just because I need to make use of the million pictures I take of Zoey, we’ll end this post with a picture of the princess herself. 

What was the tastiest thing you ate this weekend?

Zoey says lots and lots of peanut butter was her favorite. 

Whole Wheat Peach Scones

I’m coming right out to state the obvious. These pictures aren’t very pretty. I tried, I really did. But the brown-ness of the whole wheat flour and cinnamon sugar, combined with the exceptionally cloudy day did not work to my benefit in capturing the true appeal of these scones. But. I promise there is true appeal. I just don’t have the time in the day to remake the same thing, stage more photos and pretend like I know what I’m doing with a camera. As much as I may love something I make, I have a hard time repeating it right away. There are just too many other things to try!
Nevermind the photos. 
What I love most about these scones are that while they are in fact peach scones, the peach isn’t necessarily the star of the show. It’s really more like two whole wheat + cinnamon sugar scones with a thin layer of sweet juicy peaches in between. 
I will eat just about any fruit and be satisfied, but peaches never have been near the top of my list. Apples, berries, bananas, avocados, pears, grapes, watermelon, pineapple…I buy all of those fruits on the reg, while peaches never quite make it in my shopping cart. When they’re given to me on the other hand, it’s a different story. I’m not about to let a perfectly ripe peach go by without baking it into a special treat. 

If peaches are your thing though, you could easily add more to the batch, or even chop some up and mix them into the dough itself.

The whole wheat flour makes these scones hearty and substantial. They’re thick, dense and somewhat chewy, not crumbly like many other scones. They’re easy to grab on the go for breakfast or a snack, although I always recommend warming it up in the microwave for 10 seconds first.

The day after I made these, I ate one for a snack towards the end of the workday. I headed directly to the gym after work to take a Body Attack class (taught by Erica) and felt super energetic and powerful during the hour-long class. That is not always the case, since I’m more of a morning workout person. The majority of my days are spent sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen, doing no good for my energy levels. I often feel drained by the time I’m driving home from the lack of inactivity and the damage I’m doing to my eyes. Ha! I love my job, I really do 🙂 I also just like to MOVE. 
Anyway, the energy I felt during that class brings me to the conclusion: These whole wheat peach scones may have magical energy powers. Try them for yourself!

Whole Wheat Peach Scones
(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

Makes 9 scones

Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
3/4 cup almond milk (any other type of milk should work)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 small peaches, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Extra milk for brushing

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat or spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand-alone mixer, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter pieces until small pea-size crumbles form.
3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, add egg, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract. Lightly beat the mixture until well combined. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture. Beat on medium speed until dough forms.
4. Flour an open space on your countertop and knead the dough ball several times. Roll out the dough into about 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Brush half of the dough with milk. Add sliced peaches in an even layer to that same half of dough. Sprinkle the peaches with half of your cinnamon sugar mixture. Fold the other half of dough overtop of the peaches. Gently press down on the edges with your finger tips to seal the dough. Brush the top of the dough with milk and sprinkle on the rest of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Slice into 9 even squares. Gently add each one to the baking sheet.
5. Bake 14-16 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 10-15 minutes before digging in.