Sunday, October 20, 2013

buttermilk vah-vahs.

rapha's fifth word. approximately.
i must have heard somewhere that frozen waffles are good for teething. so he started on them young. i created a waffle addict. he's not even particular. he'll eat any kind of frozen waffle you can find in the grocery store. square waffles and round waffles and organic waffles and waffles with flax seed and generic store brand waffles and waffles with blueberries in them and whole grain waffles. he really, really, really likes to be in charge of putting the waffles in the toaster. it's not a good idea to do it without him. he also really, really, really likes to take the maple syrup out of the refrigerator by himself. he laughs maniacally when the toaster beeps (or pops, depending on where we are and what toaster we're using) and he is very particular about how much or how little maple syrup he wants. sometimes he wants none, sometimes the waffle is a conduit to the syrup. sometimes he still eats them frozen. he's 18 months old and not always sensible. 
i actually rarely eat waffles myself. i think they're utterly wonderful, but i'm never inspired to order them at restaurants when we go out for brunch (which is approximately twice a year, sadly) because i'm usually more tempted to get something savory involving eggs and hot sauce. but, if i may make a recommendation, consider ordering a plate of table waffles. table waffles are what you get when you've practiced excitedly proposing to the friends and family you're dining with that it would indeed be the most fantastic idea to order a giant plate of waffles (or pancakes, or french toast) for everyone to share because that way no one needs to decide between sweet and savory and everyone can follow their delicious egg dishes with the taste of something sweet and you propose it so stealthily that no one really knows whose idea it was but when the meal is over people will say "hey, whose idea was that?" and you will tell them and then they will thank you. 
anyway, we don't have a waffle iron. i'd probably feel horribly guilty about buying frozen waffles if we did, but i have an easy excuse, which is that i do not have another single square inch in my kitchen to store any kind of equipment, let alone a large and heavy waffle iron. i don't even have have a half inch to spare. some day though. some day i'll get a waffle iron. (the same day i have a dishwasher and a washer and dryer and more than 1 foot of counter space.) cause really, as i learned at school during our breads unit, there's pretty much nothing as delicious as a homemade buttermilk waffle straight out of the waffle iron, onto the plate, topped with butter and maple syrup. and hey, they freeze pretty well, too.

so for all you lucky waffle iron owners out there, please try this.

buttermilk waffles
makes 6 big ones

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
3 eggs, separated
12 tbs butter, melted
2 cups buttermilk

to make:
1. heat waffle iron.
2. mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a big bowl.
3. whisk egg yolks, butter, and buttermilk in a smaller bowl.
4. mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until the batter is smooth.
5. beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and then fold the egg whites into the mixed batter.
6. use a ladle to pour the batter, which will be thick, into the waffle
iron and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until they're perfectly done. serve with butter and syrup. and maybe some fruit.

rapha approved.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

here i am. i hope.

i've been absent a long, long time.
for a lot of different reasons.
the happiest reason: i'm in culinary school. finally.
but i want to come back here.
and write about food. and share recipes.
and i want to start by sharing the little application essay i wrote for school.
(there were three different prompts.)

1. I recall studying my mother as she kneaded challah dough, her hair tied back in a bandana as she labored over the sweet sticky substance until it was just right, just so. Though we sat for dinner together every night—forced, despite whatever inevitable sibling quarrel had taken place that day, to be civil, to be kind, for the dinner table was a sanctuary—Fridays were different. On Fridays we ate the product of my mother’s skilled hands, her diligent knuckles, and it made everything more delicious. My relationship to food: sometimes it takes work.  Sometimes that work leads to something sacred for a family.

I remember thinking vanilla extract had some kind of magical properties. That tiny, dark bottle. That rich, smooth smell. Cookies don’t taste right without it, my mother told me as I stirred the ingredients at her side. But you have to add just the slightest bit, she warned. My request for a direct taste of this essential ingredient was rejected. How did she know I wouldn’t like it, anyway? Too many things were off limits to me—the cookie dough itself, because of some awful man named Sal Manella, who somehow poisoned eggs—and now this, too. I happened to know that cookie dough was the most delicious substance in the world, so I was quite sure that vanilla extract was being withheld for its sheer deliciousness. I snuck that small bottle away from the kitchen in my palm and gleefully made my way to the bathroom with the contraband. I brought the bottle to my lips and took an expectant sip. I was utterly shocked and betrayed by what my mouth experienced. My relationship to food: sometimes the whole is better than its parts. It’s always worth trying things though, because sometimes you have to see for yourself.

The year I turned 18 I stopped eating meat. It happened suddenly. I vividly recall visiting the local bagel shop with friends, fully intending to order a turkey sandwich, but when I approached the counter the word turkey didn’t cross my lips. It just wasn’t there; gone, as was my desire for it. I ate lettuce, tomato, and mustard on my bagel that day. It was delicious. And that was it. I haven’t intentionally brought the flesh of a mammal or fowl to my lips since that day. It was an unwitting decision, a moment of change I was only later able to identify. My relationship to food: I won’t eat that which I do not believe is fit to eat. I do not impose this view. What’s right or wrong for my body is not the same for others.

My husband and I are busy. (Sometimes how busy we are is the topic of conversation for us.) And there are never ever enough hours in the day to catch up. There are jobs and a baby and a commute and sleep deprivation and too many emails and deadlines and a shared calendar and plans plans plans. We’re tired and worn and in need of a vacation, just like everyone else in NY and we don’t stop. We just keep going and then we go to bed and we wake up and start again. But there is a pause for us, without which the perpetual business would not be bearable. We pause before we eat. We have an intentional moment in which we bless our food and its source. My relationship to food: I am grateful that it sustains me. I must try my hardest to be mindful as I eat so as not to take for granted the blessing of a full belly.

Certain smells remind me of the shuk in Jerusalem, where I bought my groceries for two wonderful years. There, surrounded by people and movement, and noise and color, a man extended his hand, offered a sliver of yellow orange fruit. Taste it, he said in Arabic accented Hebrew through a lit cigarette. I did, disregarding the flies buzzing by. It was the sweetest mango I’d ever tasted, its ripe, dripping flesh a reward for living, a sure sign that its creator intended for us to experience pleasure. Years later, at a farmers market up the street from where I live in Brooklyn, I’d have a similar experience with a mushroom. As I wavered between two unfamiliar fungi, the smiling forager proposed a tasting. I agreed. And that’s when I discovered mushrooms for what they are, as they are meant to be. Flavorful, soft, meaty things; this one nutty, the other sweet.  My relationship to food: Its unadulterated sweetness, bitterness, freshness, essence are gifts. I must remember the way things taste when they’ve grown from the earth, before I stand in my kitchen and manipulate them.

My relationship to food is based on wonder, respect, admiration, and love. It is, I find, not unlike my relationship to my son. I want to know everything I can about him, to understand his endless dimensions, so that I can do my very best with him always. So that, when he’s ready, I can give him to the world and say here, enjoy this creation that is, as surely as it is human-made, also an ever present reminder of the presence of the divine. 

2. It was in my mother’s kitchen that I discovered the world, learned what I know about life. It is in my own kitchen now that I continue that exploration of the world. I experience life through food—it is the language I speak and the language with which I share my love of life and the world with the people around me. My distracted mind wanders daily to thoughts of recipes, menus, ingredients. I want to turn that distraction to focus. I want to learn to make healing foods to nourish body and soul; I want to understand why the foods we eat play this or that way on our tongues, have this or that effect on our bodies. All my life I’ve been surrounded by people who have devoted themselves to worthy pursuits based on their passions and it took me only 30 short years to realize that as there is nowhere I would rather be, nowhere I am more myself, than in a kitchen, I need a proper education, richer than love and raw talent alone, if I am to make food my life’s work. I seek the knowledge and skills Natural Gourmet Institute can provide me and the direction and guidance it will give.

3. I’ve never made a decision without knowing where it would lead me, without a vision of where I’d end up. That’s the result of a combination of anxiety and determination. But I’m making a decision now, and it’s no small thing. I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what I’ll do with a certificate from Natural Gourmet Institute. I don’t know what I want to do, but I am wholly certain that I want to do something, that I want to pursue food and share food and spend my life thinking about and creating and writing about food. And that’s enough for me to apply. In May of 2014 my husband will be ordained as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion and we will begin our lives anew some place. We don’t know where and we won’t know where until at least next January. Wherever we go, I will assess what kinds of contributions I can make with food, be it a small catering company, local bakery, dinner club, or something I haven’t even yet fathomed. And wherever we go, I know that I will always write about food, even if my mom is the only one who reads my words. I have so very many ideas and when I know where I’ll be ready to build them into realities.

Monday, February 25, 2013

mint + chocolate = yes.

it makes everything better.
heartburn. belly aches. motion sickness. congestion. breath.
winter. summer. 
mint is the embodiment of the best of winter and it's what snow would taste like if it always fell in perfect happy little flakes and never ever turned into those brown disasters on street corners that trick you into thinking they're stable when really they're just gushy lakes that will soak your shoes and ruin your day. mint is a clean, energetic burst of winter. it's also the single greatest cooling taste on those desperately swampy, sticky, two-shower-necessary summer days when you wonder why it is you complain about winter and strategically plan your outings so that you're not away from air conditioning for longer than 17 minutes at a time. 

mint tea is pretty much the most reliable tea.
mint gum is indisputably the best gum.
mint is delicious chopped up and thrown on salads. 
mint goes really well with peas. 
mint cough drops make you feel less sad than fruit flavored cough drops.
and guess what else mint is good for? dessert. 
mint + chocolate = yes.

homemade peppermint patties.

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp mint extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or more)
bag dark chocolate chips
a little bit of butter
crushed candy canes (highly recommended)

to make:
1. beat the sweetened condensed milk and the sugar until it's stiff and not too sticky. add more sugar little by little as needed. 
2. roll little balls and flatten them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. the bottom of a glass works great for this. if everything feels really sticky coat things with an extra little dusting of powdered sugar. 
3. let them sit out for about an hour and then stick them in the fridge for about an hour. they should feel pretty stiff after that.
4. melt the chocolate and the butter in the microwave, coat each mint circle in a nice layer of chocolate and place it on a clean piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet. sprinkle crushed candy cane bits all over the top. stick them back in the fridge until the chocolate is set.

voila! you've just made peppermint patties! they're refreshing and indulgent. a very good dessert.

if peppermint patties aren't your thing, try these.
chocolate mint oreos.

6 tbsp softened unsalted butter (i put it in the microwave)
6 tbsp softened salted butter
1 1/8 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp mint extract 
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag chocolate chips
10 crushed oreo cookies
2 crushed candy canes

to make the cookies:
1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

2. beat the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and mint extract in a large bowl until it looks nice and fluffy.
3. stir the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl and then slowly add this mixture to the butter mixture until it's all combined.
4. mix in the chocolate chips and the oreos. the cookie batter will be thick so you may need to use the beater to do this.
5. place tablespoon sized gobs of batter (or you can make them into giant cookies if you want!) onto cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper and leave a little room between the cookies cause they spread a bit.
6. bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until they don't look wet anymore. when they come out of the oven sprinkle them with the crushed candy cane.
eat these with hot chocolate. it's winter. why not?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

weeknight dinners. they're what happen before dessert.

below are a bunch of dishes i've made recently(ish).
i don't use recipes for these, so forgive the sloppy descriptions.
important note: everything tastes better with really good bread and cheese.

(i always thought it was silly for josh to take pictures of dinner. now i'm glad he did.)

deconstructed huevos rancheros. sort of. but not really. 
cut sweet potato into small pieces and roast with olive oil, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper. put the pieces in a bowl. open a can of black beans and put them in a pot on the stove. cook with cumin, curry powder, garlic salt, cayenne, salt, pepper, and any other spice you think would go well. put the beans on top of the sweet potato. chop up some avocado, tomato, and mango (i like tiny pieces of mango cause it's a nice bright little surprise) and squeeze some lime juice on top. add this, too. throw some roasted, salted edamame on top (i bought mine at the grocery store all ready to go in a little plastic container). combine greek yogurt with some lime juice. dollop this on top. if you have some kind of spicy sausage like thing--i used trader joe's soy chorizo--saute it for a minute and add it, too. fry an egg. put a piece of jalapeno on top of the fried egg. put the egg on the bowl. chop cilantro and sprinkle it on top. serve with plantain chips and hot sauce. call it a day. a very, very good day.

roasted asparagus with polenta, mushrooms, and white beans. layers are good.
roast some asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. cut thin slices of pre-made polenta and fry them in a little olive oil until they're crisp on the outside and place them on top of the asparagus. saute mushrooms in a little butter (and maybe some white wine if you're feeling fancy) and add salt, pepper, and garlic salt and when they're almost done add some white beans to the pan. plop them on top of the polenta. shave some parmesan on top of the mushrooms and beans, then add some fresh herbs. tarragon gives it a surprising, interesting little licorice flavor. 

herb salad. that's right.
cook some kind of grain like cous cous or quinoa and when it's cool chop up arugula, parsley, mint, tarragon, cilantro, and any other herb you like and combine it all in a bowl. add pomegranate seeds and lots of lemon juice and salt and pepper and some olive oil and toss it all together. this will brighten any dinner. even on a tuesday.

avocado and brussels sprout bruschetta. is that a stretch? 
cut brussels sprouts into thin little ribbons and saute them in olive oil with a generous amount of salt, pepper, and garlic salt until they're nice and brown. mash an avocado with lemon juice, salt, and pepper and spread it on crusty bread, preferably one containing olives. put the brussels sprouts on top of the avocado followed by some shaved parmesan and a fried egg. let the yolk spill out over everything. let the mess happen.
veggie buffalo chicken sandwich. in case you missed the superbowl.
buy a box of morningstar frozen buffalo wings. it's a good investment. microwave them and then cut them up into chunky strips and douse them in hot sauce like frank's and maybe a dash of bbq sauce. grate carrots, mash chickpeas, slice celery really really really thin and combine them in a bowl. add a bunch of red wine vinegar and some tahini and salt and pepper and stir it all together. melt some yummy cheese on a bun--i used pretzel buns because that seemed sensible--and soft boil an egg. put everything on the bun. sometimes superbowl food is just right.

ginger miso carrot soup. cause becca told me to. 
chop up some carrots and some ginger and some garlic and throw it all in a pot to saute in some sesame oil. add a little curry powder and lots of salt and pepper. pour veggie broth over everything and stir in some miso paste and cook until it's all tender. blend it all together and then add more ginger or miso if needed. chop up some radishes and pour rice wine vinegar over them if you have it or red or white wine vinegar if you don't. toss these on top of the soup for a nice little kick as well as some black sesame seeds you're not sure why you have. cilantro, too. if you're feeling feisty stir a little tahini with a little vinegar and drizzle this on top. who says you can't be feisty during the week, anyway?

greens with beluga lentils, sauteed mushrooms. and a fried egg, of course. 
first, you must discover beluga lentils, which will change everything. then you should cook them in some veggie broth and toss them over arugula or mustard greens or whatever delicious greens your husband brought home for you from the union square farmer's market on a wednesday. throw in some radicchio for an extra, bitter bite. saute some mushrooms in a bit of butter and marsala or sherry vinegar or red wine and throw them on there, too, along with some chopped tomatoes. toss it together in a nice, bright, lemony, mustardy vinaigrette then top it off with a fried egg. or two. maybe wednesdays aren't all that bad. 

salad with squash. and other treats. 
first you must become friends with jodie because jodie will introduce you to things like delicata squash, which is better than any other kind of squash in the world, and once you try it you will be hooked and you will spend an entire fall making things with it and stuffing it with other things. cut the squash up into thin semi circles and pan fry them in a little olive oil with salt and pepper until they're tender and brown. cook beluga lentils in veggie broth. toss some delicious, sweet greens in a light, lemony, mustardy vinaigrette and add the lentils and the squash. throw some tomatoes and avocado on top, too. eat this while sitting on the couch. sometimes dinner should be eaten on the couch. 

roasted potato leek soup. sometimes it's cold out.
when it's really cold out and you need some comfort, chop up some red potatoes and leeks and roast them with olive oil and salt and pepper. saute garlic and celery in olive oil and add the potatoes and leeks. cover with veggie broth and cook for a while. blend it all together and add some cream for an indulgent little treat. we all need cream in the winter.

cucumber mint soup. sometimes it's hot out. 
when it's really hot out and you don't feel much like eating, seed some cucumbers and throw them in a blender with some greek yogurt and mint. add vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste. it's like an air conditioner in your mouth. 

root vegetable puree with sauteed mushrooms. for those awful hump nights. 
put some celery root, parsnips, and garlic in a pot. add salt and pepper. pour some veggie broth in. cook until the veggies are tender enough to puree. puree them. add a little ricotta. plop it on a plate. saute mushrooms--i'm really into shitake right now--in a little butter and add a dash of marsala or sherry vinegar or just plain old red wine if that's what you have and some salt and pepper until they're tender. put them on top of the veggie puree. toss some crunchy greens like frisee in a little lemon juice to top it off. the weekend will be here soon. 

tomato pie. why not? 
combine goat cheese, cream or half and half, and an egg yolk and add salt and pepper. slice really delicious, ripe tomatoes. roll out pastry dough and put it in a pie tin. layer the tomatoes and the cheese mixture a couple times. cover with mozzarella and bake until the dough looks done. bring on a picnic if you can.

smoked trout. and other things on a plate.
roast some beets then slice them thin and pour a little red wine vinegar over them. grate celery root and add greek yogurt, salt, pepper, celery salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice. spread over the beets. chop some green apple. julienne it if you wanna get fancy. put it on top of the celery root. combine smoked trout, lemon juice, and horseradish in a bowl. add salt and pepper. add this to the plate. chop some parsley and sprinkle it over everything. sometimes things just go together. 

summer in a bowl salad.  
boil some corn. cut it off the cob. chop some tomatoes. chop some peaches. chop some basil. combine everything in a bowl. add salt and pepper. smile. sigh. 

seared tuna salad. or seared tuna ON salad?
chop ginger and garlic and add soy sauce and rice wine vinegar and lime juice and salt and pepper and marinate a nice piece of sushi grade tuna in this mixture. throw together some greens and avocado and tomato and cucumber and edamame and make a dressing out of tahini, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, and a dash of soy sauce. or just use store bought ginger carrot dressing. dip the marinated tuna in sesame seeds--black ones if you've got them--and pepper and sear in a pan with sesame oil for just a couple minutes on each side so the inside stays nice and rare. cut it up and place it around the tossed salad. top with cilantro. throw some chinese noodles on top if you keep them around after not eating them with hot and sour soup. feel fancy.

orange fennel salad. sometimes you need a detox. 
thinly slice some oranges and spread them on a plate. cut fennel into thin ribbons and put this on top of the oranges. chop up some salty black olives and dollop them all over the plate. drizze with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped fennel fronds. feel grateful for citrus. and for syd lipset, who gave me this recipe. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

'smores hamantashen. (from cake mix. shh.)

last year i didn't have a baby.

this year i have a (deliciously wonderful) baby.
this purim = cake mix hamantashen.

it's a thing. 

a very, very good thing. 

but not as good as this thing.

i concluded the post about the great hamantashen project last year with the following promise:
so, though this project proved slightly ridiculous in the end, and i can really only claim that the cookies might be identified as part of the triangle family, it made me happy to give out soft, moist, interesting, non-brick-like hamantashen to family and friends. but next year i'm only making one kind. i've already decided. 'smores hamantashen!!!!

it's good to keep your word.

i hereby give you 'smores hamantashen (from a cake mix)!


1 box yellow cake mix
1 box gingerbread or spice cake mix
1 1/2 cups flour
3 eggs 
3 tablespoons water (or more)
7 bars hershey's chocolate
mini marshmallows

to make:
1. preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. combine all ingredients in a bowl. you should have a thick, kind of hard dough. add more water as needed. 
2. either roll the dough out on a floured surface and use the top of a cup to cut out circular shapes or roll small balls in your hand and then flatten with the bottom of a cup. 
3. fill with two pieces of chocolate and three mini marshmallows--it's important for the marshmallows to be on top of the chocolate or they'll melt into the cookie dough.
4. fold the sides up and pinch to form a triangle leaving the marshmallow peeping through the top. arrange on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. 
5. bake for 7-9 minutes.


if you want to go a more simple route, this will work with a box of cake mix, one cup flour, two eggs, and 2 tablespoons water. give or take.

next year i'm thinking something involving oreo...

Friday, December 28, 2012

caramel : chocolate : candy + pretzel rod

joey and i went to college together. for a year and a half. the first half of my junior year before i went abroad and all of my senior year. he was accepted when i was a sophomore. at first i had some concerns about this plan, which is a nice way of saying i totally freaked out and had a self indulgent tantrum into my pillow when i found out because nothing would be okay again ever. i mean, i thought it was the. worst. idea. ever. so how else was i going to respond? i went to a tiny college. it seemed like everyone knew everything about everyone all the time. seriously. all the time. 
the last thing i needed was my little brother around.  GLARBH! a little brother! at college! little brothers weren't supposed to go to college with you. they were supposed to come visit and you were supposed to let them get drunk and make a fool of themselves at a party and it was all supposed to be okay because then on sunday evening they would leave. if joey came to kenyon with me, he would never leave. he would just be there being my disapproving little brother all the time. worst. idea. ever.
i was wrong. very, very, very wrong.
having joey on campus was one of the best things that ever happened.
as it turns out college freshman and sophomore joey was not at all like high school freshman and sophomore joey. he improved immensely over time! he wasn't annoying anymore! he was hilarious and brilliant and kind and supportive and forgiving and fun. and i loved sharing a tiny campus with him. we got to eat lunch together on random weekdays and randomly bumping into him here or there always made me happy. he made his own interesting friends and i liked hanging out with them just as i liked when he came around to hang out with my friends. going to parties with him was equally fun because he's one of the greatest dancers i've ever known. and, to top it all off, he always filled up the gas tank of our car. being at kenyon with him laid the foundation for the extremely close and happy relationship we share today and i don't know if we'd know each other as well as we do if he hadn't been there. that said, sometimes pillow tantrums are okay. 
my senior year i lived in a tiny little house called a bexley and joey used to come and laze around the living room all the time. he frequently came bearing treats, and that was the year he discovered one of the great combinations of all time. pretzel rods and salsa con queso. i ate a lot of questionable things at questionable times when i was in college including, but not limited to, pizza subs made at some extremely late or unreasonably early hour--depending on your perspective--at a gas station called hotrods (all one word) that never closed. HOTRODS. (at least i wasn't eating meat.)
the last time i was awake and hungry at said extremely late or unreasonably early hour was because of my baby, and not, sadly, because i've been up all night drinking and dancing. anyway these days i imagine it would be hard to get someone to agree to go with me to a 24 hour gas station for a sub. and even if i could find someone to go with me i'm sure i'd leave sub-less, guilt and reason having directed me to purchase a string cheese, a granola bar (maybe some chex mix instead of the granola bar if i was feeling feisty), and a very old now and later. though my questionable foods group has grown considerably since my college days, salsa con queso will always have a place in my home. first of all, i have checked the nutritional information and the first three ingredients of the wondrous substance are water, nonfat milk, and monterey jack cheese, which means it was actually probably providing me with much needed protein and calcium when i was in college, and is more than enough for me to consider it wholesome, and anyway the truth is i'd probably still eat it proudly even if i couldn't pronounce the first three ingredients. it is that delicious. joey seems to share my belief that pretzels are as good or better things to dip in other things and i think we learned this from our mom, who taught us that hummus with pretzels is far superior to hummus with pita. joey introduced the pretzel rod to the queso jar, i assume, to avoid a mess. though i very much prefer regular pretzels to pretzel rods, i understand that there is a time and place for them. 
like with salsa con queso.

and caramel. and chocolate. and candy.

caramel, chocolate, and candy covered pretzel rods. 
ingredients for the caramel:
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (salted or unsalted, depending on how salty you like it)
1 cup light corn syrup
ingredients for the chocolate and candy covering:
two bags chocolate chips of your choice
candy or cookies of your choice all ground up
little bit of butter
to make:
1. line cookie sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
2. mix the caramel ingredients over medium heat and let it boil for five minutes, stirring frequently to make sure it's not burning. when it's done, transfer it to the deepest bowl you have.
3. spread the caramel over the pretzel rod with a spatula leaving about two inches of exposed pretzel at the bottom. place each caramel rod on the parchment paper and let it set and cool for at least 30 minutes. (i actually ended up leaving them in the fridge overnight but that was because i got inspired a little too late at night and by the time the caramel had set i wanted to go to bed.)
4. prepare your candy toppings. i used crushed butterfinger, mini chocolate chips, mini m&m's, a crushed up cookie, little sour gummy things, shredded sweetened coconut, heath brickle, and gold sprinkles. i also used melted white chocolate and peanut butter and melted butterscotch, but those don't have to be ready to go in this step.  (i had almost all of these things in my pantry.)
5. line more cookie sheets with parchment paper, or if you've run out of cookie sheets just line your countertop if you have the space. melt the chocolate in the microwave with a little bit of butter. if the caramel has pooled away from the pretzel roll it either in your (very clean) hands or on the parchment paper to bring it back, then spread the chocolate over the caramel with a spatula and place it on the parchment paper. (the chocolate may spread a little and if you're one of those people who needs things to look perfect then try pouring the melted chocolate into a tall glass and dipping the pretzel rod in the glass to get nice even coverage.)
6. sprinkle your toppings over the chocolate before it sets. if you're going to use melted flavored chips of any kind, melt them and drizzle them over the chocolate, too.
7. let the chocolate and toppings set before moving them. they should set fine on their own, but i put each cookie sheet in the fridge for about 20 minutes (i only had room for one at a time) just to be sure.
in the end i had 30 pretzel rods which i arranged in threes in fancy little baggies tied with bows which i gave people as gifts. they're really delicious.

if i haven't inspired you to make caramel, chocolate, and candy covered pretzel rods, i hope i've at least convinced you that salsa con queso and pretzel rods is a winning combination.