salted caramel pumpkin chocolate chip cookie bars &108 things i love in this moment

it’s fall in the midwest. is there anything better? the leaves are turning colors & crunching below our boot-clad feet, the afternoon sun is still warming even as it sets a little earlier than it did the month before, & it has become cool enough to pull out our flannels & sweaters without breaking a sweat while trudging to & from our various destinations. in honor of the autumnal equinox & one of my favorite yoga instructors (& bloggers), this post contains not only a recipe for a salty-sweet fall treat that’s nearly vegan (you’ll have to sub unsweetened applesauce for the eggs to make it completely so), but also a list of 108 things i love in this moment. what is it that you love right now? please share in the comments. first on my list is these pumpkin chocolate chip cookie bars with salted caramel. read on for the recipe.

-1/2 cup light brown sugar
-1/2 cup granulated white sugar
-1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk (to make this recipe vegan, try substituting 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce for the eggs)
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-12 tbsp pumpkin puree (canned or make your own)
-2 cups flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp ground cloves
-1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1 cup chocolate chips
-10 caramel candy squares, unwrapped
-3 tbsp almond milk (or any kind of milk/cream)

1. preheat oven to 325* & grease an 8×8 baking pan. set aside.
2. meanwhile, whisk together sugars, eggs (or applesauce), vanilla & pumpkin in a large mixing bowl.
3. combine dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, spices) right on top of sugar mixture before folding them into the sugar mixture.
4. fold in chocolate chips.
5. in a microwavable bowl, place the 10 unwrapped caramel candies & almond milk. heat in 1-minute increments, stirring after each minute, until a caramel sauce is formed & the mixture is smooth. this usually only takes 2-3 minutes in my microwave.
6. while caramel sauce is heating in the microwave, divide the cookie dough into two parts. press half the dough into the pan (you might end up using a little more than half the dough to cover the bottom of the pan & that’s okay).
7. pour the caramel sauce over the layer of dough in the pan. spoon the rest of the dough in dollops over the sauce. you can use a spoon to try to spread the dough out evenly, but it’s okay if it’s not perfect.
8. bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges start to curl away from the pan, becoming golden. a knife stuck in the center should come out relatively clean. i use that qualifier because you’ll probably get some melted chocolate & caramel goo on your knife, which will happen even if the bars are done.
9. let the bars cool in the pan then cut into squares & serve.

*this recipe makes 12 decently-sized squares & is adapted from here (a great recipe, but i find the chocolate-to-dough ratio to be a little heavy, so i usually use half the chocolate they suggest).
**in the interest of full disclosure, i should share that the batter was entirely too sweet up until my friend paige came over & gently suggested the addition of some warming spices to tone the sweetness down a bit. i owe the perfection of this recipe to her expertise. just another reason you should come to slow food uw on wednesdays in order to partake in her epicurean wisdom (she is sous chef this semester)!

&, as promised, 108 things i love in this moment in honor of the autumnal equinox:

1. salted caramel pumpkin chocolate chip cookie bars.
2. the drive between milwaukee & madison this time of year.
3. tailgating for football & baseball games that i don’t really pay attention to anyway. it’s all about foreplay, right?
4. using my slow-cooker the minute it dips below 60 degrees fahrenheit. stay tuned for a slow-cooked butternut squash & black bean burrito bowl recipe, coming up later this week.
5. the fact that many of my favorite yoga instructors all teach at the same studio right now.
6. trying out new-to-me classes & instructors at dragonfly hot yoga & bliss flow .
7. the bruises on my triceps from too many attempts at forearm balances.
8. the fact that i can finally do some forearm balances, if only for seconds at a time.
9. coffee peppered with seasonal spices such as clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.
10. burt’s bees lip balm with clove oil, which reminds me of the cloves i smoked in college for a hot second, pretending i was cool.
11. flannel shirts.
12. leather boots.
13. big sweaters.
14. my new woolly leopard print scarf i’ve taken to wearing with everything i own.
15. the new avett brothers album, the carpenter.
16. the new cat power album, sun.
17. the new dave matthews band album, away from the world.
18. the new david byrne & st. vincent album, love this giant.
19. the new mumford & sons album, babel.
20. the new norah jones album, little broken hearts.
21. the new xx album, coexist.
22. this playlist, which i received via spam email from anthropologie this morning. they have the best spam emails.
23. apple spice potpourri.
24. pumpkin spice candles.
25. walking my puppy in the soul-warming autumnal late-afternoon sun.
26. when my friends request specific meals, instead of gifts, for their birthdays.
27. turning unsuspecting civilians into avid yogis (hi mom, hi dad, hi kristen).
28. the song “the party” by regina spektor.
29. when hally played “porcelain” by the red hot chili peppers during savasana the other night.
30. when hally played “angels” by the xx during savasana the other night.
31. whatever hally plays during savasana.
32. the balance i find between hally’s mellow & soothing but still somehow ass-kicking classes and the playful pop-music driven classes lead by susan.
33. the fact that i switched to the morning trusts & estates class in order to attend laura’s tuesday evening classes.
34. how katie’s yoga playlists sound like they came straight off my own ipod.
35. weekly movie nights with one of my #1 ladies, with or without wine, depending on how much we drank the night before.
36. the way my puppy snuggles her face into mine when i leave the bedroom window cracked open during the nippy fall nights.
37. the song “halloweenhead” by ryan adams. a great autumn jam.
38. seeing my freshman year college roommate last weekend.
39. seeing two other good friends of mine from college last weekend.
40. seeing my sister last weekend.
41. being in washington d.c. last weekend.
42. being in new york city last weekend.
43. going from one to the other & back again within 24 hours & not even being that cranky about it.
44. being in milwaukee this weekend.
45. seeing my high school sweatheart/main squeeze/a-thang/boyfrand/partner this weekend.
46. the fact that i still like/love said boyfriend after this many (9!) years.
47. eating at a wonderful brunch joint in milwaukee this weekend.
48. dearly beloved forever red wine. good things come in creepy packages, especially around this time of year.
49. trader joe’s pumpkin spice coffee, although i haven’t had a chance to snag any yet this season.
50. check out their pumpkin bread dry mix while you’re at it.
51. their apple spice bread won’t hurt either.
52. apple cider.
53. the possibility of apple picking next weekend.
54. the possibility of pumpkin picking too.
55. haunted corn mazes.
56. the possibility of a warm-hued hike in the nearby future in devil’s lake park.
57. kale.
8. slurping a hot cup of this slow-cooked tuscan kale & white bean soup (although one reader mentioned making a quicker version on a stovetop with much success).
59. this brown rice bowl with tahini miso dressing, kale & avocado, which i made a double batch of last night in order to reheat throughout the week. eating it makes me feel healthy, happy & whole.
60. my newish membership at willy street co-op.
1. the fresh juice bar at willy street co-op.
62. the baker at willy street co-op.
63. specifically the triple fudge brownies.
64. oh & the vegan pumpkin cookies.
65. farm fresh eggs from there in a fried egg sammy.
66. these boots.
67. these boots, too.
68. can’t forget these.
69. the fact that i’ve recently acquired not one, not two, but all three of the aforementioned boots with my work money from this summer.
70. my subsequent self-imposed ban from anywhere remotely close to a shopping facility for the next year & a half.
71. the mystery about where i’ll be a year from now.
72. possibly going to boulder for 8 weeks next summer to get trained as a yoga instructor.
73. the song “receive” by alanis morissette.
74. the huckleberry pulled pork sandwich i had at slow food uw two weeks ago.
75. the arugula, prosciutto, pear pizza i had at slow food uw last week.
76. the lavender honey ice cream i had at slow food last week.
77. slow food uw in general. you should probably come out & eat their creations on wednesdays between 11:30 & 2 in the basement of the crossing on university avenue.
78. pumpkin ales.
79. the talk in my circle about doing a brewery tour of ale asylum.
80. the fog inside the glass around my summer heart.
81. that it’s finally cool enough to go running again… but whether i’ll actually get off my ass & go is a whole other animal.
82. speaking of animals, this cover of miike snow’s “animal” by trails and ways. #overheardinyogaclass
83. the dane county farmer’s market. even though i’ve only been there once since i’ve been back. gotta change that.
84. the song “miriam” by norah jones off of the aforementioned little broken hearts album. another deliciously creepy jam that’s just perfect for a spo0o0o0oky october playlist.
85. pumpkin french toast. don’t worry, i’ll share the recipe the next time i take the time to write it down as i go. i’m thinking of a baked challah version. i’ll test it out on the family when we’re all home for thanksgiving.
86. the family.
87. that i’ll be seeing the family during the impending holidays.
88. that i’ll be seeing the family the weekend of october 19th when i travel to ann arbor for the michigan-michigan state game.
89. ann arbor.
90. madison.
91. that one of my college friends is visiting for the wisconsin-michigan state game weekend.
92. that my parents might also visit that weekend.
93. the fact that i can hold this pose for a split second.
94. the fact that i got into this pose, one time, for one-tenth of a second. gonna keep working at it.
95. the new-to-me teacher that guided me into the pose mentioned in #94 (thanks for the recommendation, hally!).
96. the following quote from marianne williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”

i like general idea of it, even if i don’t like the underlying assumption that everyone believes in (a) god.
97. salted caramel ice cream from the recently-established kilwin’s on state street. taking bites of it makes me want to utter obscenities in pleasurable tones that only the best things in life can provoke.
98. the ease with which i am able to let go of things that do not serve me. it’s one of my superpowers.
99. the restraining order clinic i am partaking in this summer. it’s fun to live my feminism.
100. red shirts.
101. red lipstick.
102. the fact that ’tis the time of year for warm tones like red.
103. ginger tea.
104. holing up at my desk with a cup of zingerman’s roadhouse joe each morning in order to get. shit. done.
105. that smitten kitchen’s cookbook is coming out soon.
106. that taylor swift’s latest album is debuting soon.
107. the videography for her latest single.
108. her heartbreakingly beautiful performance of “ronan,” a song written for a childhood cancer victim. don’t click that link unless you’re trying to cry right now.

About Christina

Milwaukee-based bon vivant. Lover of food, yoga, design, good words & loving kindness.
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3 Responses to salted caramel pumpkin chocolate chip cookie bars &108 things i love in this moment

  1. bandit says:

    shout out to myself for making it onto the list! I’m awesome

  2. bandit says:

    also i like how puggys creeping in the background also i like this list

  3. love ronan. i listen to it and cry all the time – its just so good.

    also im excited you’ll be here for state!! we must see each other!! :)

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