recipe: fancy caramel apples.

okay, it’s totally misleading to call this a recipe. because let’s be honest, this is not anything revolutionary in the world of food. this is good, old, traditional, sticky fun, and most people have made caramel apples before. but i wanted to share the way i fancied mine up this year, and if it inspires you to try some of your own combos, all the better! and who couldn’t use more sweetness in their life on halloween?

remember when i told you that my basic heart was breaking because i hadn’t done a lot of fall things this year? and that i set a goal to do one festive thing last week? you’re looking at festive thing #1. fancy caramel apples. i got the idea after spending too much time on pinterest while nursing, and ended up pinning a ridiculous amount of dressed up caramel apples. it occurred to me that with a few ingredients and a tiny bit of luck with nap timing, i might actually be able to do this. the stars aligned last week, and so fancy caramel apple time it was!

i used a bag of caramel pieces, the kind that drive you crazy to unwrap (especially when you’re racing against nap time) and just followed the recipe on the bag…melt the caramel plus two tablespoons of water in a double boiler or bowl over a pot of a water until it’s smooth, then dip the apples in the caramel, place on a buttered plate and refrigerate until set!

the fancy part comes in once you’ve dipped the caramels. it’s your chance to get creative and really bring our your inner martha stewart. for my fancy apples, i decided to do a different ingredient twist on each apple. one i left as a plain caramel apple, with just a bit of sea salt added (not pictured because i ate it before i could take a photo). one i rolled in mini chocolate chips. one i rolled in heath bar pieces. then i got really crazy and made chocolate-dipped caramel apples with the last two by melting baker’s chocolate and dipping the apple once the caramel was a bit set. i rolled one of the chocolate-dipped apples in crushed pretzels and the other in a mix of heath bar and mini chocolate chips. HEAVEN.

here are some ideas of other ingredients to dip your caramel apples in:

  • mini chocolate chips
  • heath bar pieces
  • m&ms
  • crushed pretzels
  • melted chocolate
  • sea salt sprinkled over the caramel
  • candy corn
  • peanuts
  • crushed walnuts
  • sprinkles
  • crushed oreos

i mean, the sky’s the limit with these! i had to give a couple away, otherwise i would (and could) have eaten them all by myself before the week was over. that’s just not a good idea when i’m bound to have all the leftover halloween candy to eat after today.

now i just need to find time to watch hocus pocus tomorrow, and i’ll consider this october successful!

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strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

the sun came out today. and it was warm, like summertime warm. and don’t you think we should celebrate little things like this in some sunny, summery way, preferably involving food? me too. and the sunniest, summeriest thing i can think of is strawberry-rhubarb crisp. i think you should make some.

i talked about this dessert in my last humpday post, and i am being totally serious when i say that this is not only my signature dessert, but my easiest dessert as well. although, that’s how all signature desserts/dishes/meals should be, really. because why would you want your signature to be a pain in the butt to make? lightbulb! it’s a day of discovery here today guys. (i’d love to hear about your signature desserts…gotta branch out here and there)

right now is the perfect time to bake up this dessert. in fact, i think june was invented as a backdrop for this dessert. the rhubarb is coming up like crazy (seriously, $1 a bunch at the farmer’s market), and the strawberries are looking good and juicy. combine those two amazing things with a buttery, oatmeal-y topping and some vanilla  ice cream, and you have yourself a good night out on the patio.


strawberry-rhubarb crisp – lightly adapted from “essentials of baking” by williams-sonoma (makes 8 servings, for real)

  • 6 medium stalks rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 C. strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 C. organic cane sugar


  • 1 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C. old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 C. organic cane sugar
  • 1/3 C. firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted

preheat oven to 350 degrees F. to make the filling, stir together the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar until mixed together. pour into a 2 or 2.5 qt. ceramic or glass baking dish. to make the topping, stir together the flour, rolled oats, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until blended. stir in the melted butter until evenly moistened crumbs form. it will look vaguely of oatmeal cookie dough. sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling in the baking dish. bake the crisp for about 35-40 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and the topping is golden brown. let cool for 10 minutes. best when served warm, with vanilla ice cream. the crisp can also be stored at room temperature, covered, for up to 2 days (3 in the fridge, if it lasts that long in your house). also delicious for breakfast.

(sorry for the blur on this one…i literally ran home from a happy hour to make this for book club dessert. i had exactly 30 minutes, and i did it. it only worked because i was able to bake it at my friend’s place while we ate dinner. but, you know speed and food photography don’t go together, especially on a dark, rainy day. thank you for your cooperation and support.)


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humpday happy list.

oh hey guys! remember when i used to do these once a week? and then i changed over to doing them once a month and already missed may? yea, me too. i really like doing these, but may was bleak and cold, and you know how that sucks the inspiration out of a person, don’t you? i’m telling you, i am excited for summer. summer gives me energy, summer makes me want to create fun drinks, and bake things, and write blogs, and just be a better person in general. weather like we had in may makes me want to binge-watch seasons of “friday night lights”. not that i did that or anything….except i totally did. (why was i so late to that party??)

here’s to the rain stopping, too many links in one post (sorry), and lots and lots of dessert!


1) humpday milestone: one year of marriage.

you knew this would be here. because while i may have a dry sense of humor, and i’m rarely ever serious, my marriage is so important to me that i will celebrate it every chance i get. also, you should know that for our paper anniversary, Mister Man got me actual paper. 180 sheets of gorgeous printed paper. here is the vine i made of it for your viewing pleasure. it’s easily the best gift of paper i’ve ever received.

2) humpday splurge: my new iphone.

i’m still really liking my new little toy! the camera, i do love it. although i gotta say i can’t say i’ll be a forever apple phone gal… apparently mish over at mish lovin’ life got an iphone 5 last week too. i thought that she was also late to the game and i got super excited and welcomed her to 2010 with me over on instagram….turns out hers had just been thieved during her awesome world travels and i’m still the last one to the game. womp.

3) humpday healthy treat: funfetti milkshake.

i pinned this last week, and i haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. this girl just knows her sweet stuff, and is dang nice to share it with the rest of us! i’m going to hide a couple bananas from my husband so i can make this over the weekend…

4) humpday laugh: look at this instagram. (full disclosure: there is one swear in there!)

my co-worker sent this to me, and i could not stop laughing. although i was kind of pissed because i had nickelback stuck in my head the rest of the day (thanks a lot jolene!). i also realized that as much as a wish i wasn’t, i can be such a cliche! how many of those things do you all do? right??

5) humpday cold one: blood-orange/strawberry cocktail recipe.

because it’s wednesday but feels like thursday, i’m going to be way more than ready to make one of these babies on friday after work. i’m out of strawberries, so should i just make it with strawberry rum we brought back from st. john? is that crazy? also, would you guys like to see more cocktail recipes this summer? i may even do a collaboration with this lady? so many questions, i know!

6) humpday tunes: i feel a sin comin’ on.

i am not exaggerating, i listened to this song 12 times at work today. TWELVE! i want to be friends with those pistol annie’s, i tell ya what. (also, this video is just some random girl’s summer road trip video, but it’s kind of cute i think, and way better than those random lyric youtube videos.)

7) humpday meal: thai peanut noodle stirfry.

i got the idea for this from a recipe teags and i made while i was in pittsburgh, and i could not wait to get home to make it with Mister Man. i think because thai food seems like a treat to me, and because it’s a little exotic, i forget how simple the ingredients usually are. i only had to buy cabbage for this thrown-together recipe, and that includes the peanut sauce! seriously, just stirfry whatever meat and vegetables you want (we used chicken, cabbage, onions, peppers and mushrooms), cook up some thin noodles (we used wheat spaghetti), and throw it all together with the sauce, and you have a delicious meal with tons of leftovers.

easy peanut sauce recipe

  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 C. honey
  • 1/4 C. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 C. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes

mix all ingredients together with a whisk. the mixture will look chunky from the peanut butter. heat mixture in a small saucepan on low-medium heat until smooth. simmer sauce until it thickens slightly, to the consistency of thin barbecue sauce. try not to drink it from the saucepan before pouring it over your veggies and noodles.

8) humpday dessert: strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

this is kind of my jam in the summer months. if i’m in charge of dessert for a get-together, you can be 99% confident this is what i will be bringing. i will do a full recipe post on this soon, but i thrive on easy, seasonal recipes, and when they take 10 minutes to prep, what could be better?

9) humpday awwww: sophia grace’s first music video.

sophia grace (and don’t forget rosie!) is one of ellen degeneres’ proteges. she can rap nicki minaj like a pro, and now they’ve give her her own song and music video. and she is actually pretty good at rapping! girl does the damn thing in a tutu!

10) humpday “i-can’t-believe-i’ve-never-made-this-before”: lilac scones.

i mean, you’re  kidding me, right? you’re telling me that not only are my favorite flowers edible (i knew some flowers were, but never knew about these), but that you can put them into maybe the most rustic yet elegant food in the world, a scone?!?? i think i’ve died and gone to baker’s heaven. maybe we’ll find a house with a lilac bush in the backyard someday…

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sources: 1 | 2

a gluten-free birthday.

are you guys ready for yet another family birthday post? i know you’re up for it. yesterday marked the end of hooley family birthday season, while zauner family birthday season starts later this summer. woo! and if you’re keeping count, you’ll know that yesterday belonged to my brother patrick (but we call him patyick).


my baby brother turned twenty-five yesterday. you’ll notice i didn’t say little brother, because he has literally never been smaller than me. we are only thirteen or so months apart, and when he came home from the hospital, he was taller than me and weighed almost as much. even with that, i still thought he was my own personal babydoll. i was a one-year-old who thought she was going to take care of a giant infant herself. i called him “my baby” for a very long time, and would always ask if i could “hold my baby?” or “feed my baby?”, which i’m sure my mom and dad thought was hilarious.

i have a history of being extremely bossy towards patyick. like, THE bossiest. i think it stems from thinking i was his mother? that’s a theme i hope to dig into in therapy one day. i forced him into musical performances with me on the daily, and was a total micro-manager when it came to performance direction.

“no, you don’t come out yet!” “no, stop dancing like that, stand still and sing!” “no, keep that tutu on we are doing a ballet!”

i also really liked to play house with him, but my version of house was me being the mom, patyick being the dad, and since my dad went to work everyday, i would make patyick a plastic breakfast, then send him off to work in the closet. and only i knew when the workday was done. i think i once made him stay in there so long that he fell asleep on the vacuum. THE BOSSIEST!

that all ended when he realized he was bigger and stronger than me, although he never got me back for all the grief i put him through. which is why he is such a great brother. he just rolls with the punches and asks for another jellybean if things don’t go his way, like when he got four sisters instead of that brother he asked for. i love my brother a lot, he’s such a good man, and gets better and better every year. someday he will live in saint paul near us, and then life will get really fun! i hope twenty-five is the best birthday yet patyick, thanks for being my life-size babydoll for the last quarter century!


my brother recently found out he has a lot of food sensitivities. for the next year or so, he has to be on a gluten-free, potato-free, dairy-free, egg-free diet. yikes, right? don’t fret too much, he should be able to add back in dairy and eggs after a year if all goes well. but for the time-being, he is pretty limited to fruits, veggies, rice and proteins, which can get pretty boring. so i thought for his birthday i would make him some cupcakes that he could actually eat.

cupcake ingredients

this was my first foray into gluten-free baking, and these actually turned out WAY better than i thought they would. they are a little sticky (because of the rice flour, i think the sorghum flour would have a different effect), but taste delicious! and come on, these are for sure the healthiest cupcakes you’ve ever heard of, right? i KNOW!


cupcakes 2

cupcakes 3

cupcakes 4

gluten/egg/dairy-free vanilla cupcakes with mocha frosting (slightly modified from this recipe on gluten free goddess)

for the cupcakes:

  • 1 C. white rice flour (the original recipe called for sorghum or brown rice flour)
  • 1 C. tapioca starch
  • 1 C. organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. gluten-free cornstarch (the original recipe called for xanthan gum) (what?)
  • 1 C. vanilla coconut milk
  • 1/2 mashed banana + 1/4 tsp. baking powder (to replace 1/4 C. or 1 egg)
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. bourbon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon juice

preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. whisk flour, starch, and dry ingredients together. add in non-dairy milk, banana mixture, coconut oil, vanilla, lemon juice. beat until smooth, but don’t overbeat. use an ice cream spoon to spoon into cupcake tins. smooth tops with a wet finger. bake until firm and dome-shaped, which in my crappy oven took about 23 minutes, but could be anywhere between 18-25. let cool for about a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack so the cupcakes don’t steam on the bottom.

frosted cupcakes

for the frosting:

  • 2 C. powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2-3 Tbsp shortening (the original recipe called for vegan butter, but you could use regular butter too if you don’t need dairy-free)
  • 2 oz. cold coffee
  • 1 tsp. bourbon vanilla

starting with a small amount of coffee, beat in the sugar, cocoa, shortening, and vanilla. add more liquid if needed. beat for about two minutes, until smooth. add more sugar if you need to stiffen it. chill the frosting for about an hour before use.

don’t frost until you are ready to serve. if you need to frost a bit beforehand, pop the frosted cupcakes in the freezer for a while before taking them out and allowing them to warm up for about ten minutes.

frosted cupcakes


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