Author Archives: Stef

About Stef

Family: Husband (Tom) and little man Lincoln James. Dwelling: A 1967 Ranch home that changes every day. Homemaker tip: Don’t be afraid to fail. A bad meal can always be fixed with a frozen pizza, a dead plant can be replaced and paint can cure a room. I consider my style: Contemporary with a vintage flair. I love a sleek piece of furniture with the contrast of an old vase or a stack of old used books. I cannot live without eating: Italian Beef sandwiches. I am Chicago-bred and love a good beef with sweet peppers. Pizza is a close second. Three foods you will always find in my pantry: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Crushed Tomatoes and Chicken Broth. My cooking mantra: Even foods that were destined to be bad for you can be recreated in a healthy way.

Avocado Cashew Chicken Salad

I have an obsession with two ingredients. Greek yogurt and avocado. I use plain greek yogurt in pretty much everything I make (my husband can attest) and have become a fan of pretty much any dish paired with avocado. I love a good chicken salad, especially as the weather begins to warm up (finally!). This chicken salad combines my two favorite add-ins to make a creamy, healthy dressing for the chicken. Eat this chicken salad on a croissant, atop a bed of fresh greens or all by itself! This is a great dish to bring to a picnic, although you cannot make it too far ahead of time or the avocado with turn a brownish hue. So add the dressing right before serving!

Avocado Cashew Chicken Salad

Avocado Cashew Chicken Salad
1 lb. cooked and shredded skinless, boneless chicken breast (or rotisserie chicken), cooled
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 cashews, chopped
1 avocado
1/3 C plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
salt and pepper to taste

Combine chicken, celery, green pepper, cranberries and cashews in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mash avocado. A fork should suffice for a ripe avocado, but you may want to process it if it is a bit firm. Add yogurt, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Add to chicken mixture and fold together until all ingredients are covered. (Make sure to cool the chicken as to not melt the yogurt).

I hope you are all enjoying the entrance of spring and hints of summer as much as we are!




Filed under Cook, Healthy, Main Dish, Sides

Wisconsin Sports Awards: Modern Sports Dessert Table

Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of hosting the dessert bar at the Wisconsin Sports Awards at the Harley-Davidson Museum. A celebration of Wisconsin high school, collegiate and professional athletes, the Wisconsin Sports Awards boasts big names from Aaron Rodgers to Ryan Braun.

Working again with the wonderful Kate of Milwaukee’s The Home Market, we put together an enormous dessert spread including treats from Milwaukee Cupcake Company, Goodie Gourmets of Shorewood, WI, Simma’s Bakery in Wauwatosa and a few homemade treats put together and brought up from Chicago by my mom!

WSA dessert tableUsing a modern sports theme, we put together a spread of cupcakes, gourmet popcorn, signature cookies, sports candy, little “macs,” sports themed chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate covered pretzels and more. Black and white stripes with small bursts of chartreuse decorated the table to serve the almost 600 guests.


sports strawberries

Wisconsin Sports Award

sports popcorn holders

We served lemonade and caramel corn with pecans from Goodie Gourmets in Shorewood. The popcorn was a huge hit with all of the guests and the first thing to run out!

milwaukee cupcake wsa

little macs

sports themed candy bar

simma's goodies

sports cookies

Modern Sports Dessert Bar

Not only were the desserts delectable, but the room transformed from warehouse to a swanky modern soiree by the hands of Kate. The same color scheme was dispersed throughout the room with breath-taking modern touches including lamp bases filled with orchids and water and sleek couches and chairs.

WSA stage

orchid lamp


Wisconsin Sports Awards 2013It was a wonderful experience and a great time hobnobbing with the athletes! A special thanks to all of the amazing vendors for their fantastic treats!



Filed under Entertain

And the winner is…

The winner of the Super Snacks for Super Kids cookbook is HAP reader Erin who said: “My little guy is only 7 months old, so he’s pretty new to the snack scene. His favorite food so far? Acorn squash.”

We are excited for your little man to experience some of these great recipes in the future!

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{GIVEAWAY}: Super Snacks for Super Kids cookbook

Happy weekend to all of our HAP readers! Starting today, you have the fabulous opportunity to win the kid-friendly cookbook, Super Snacks for Super Kids by Sarah Fox MD and Julie Stephenson.

SuperSnacks cover

I attended the UW Writer’s Institute last weekend in Madison (for more on that, you can visit my journey to young adult authorship here) and had the pleasure of meeting the friendly staff of local Little Creek Press in Mineral Point, WI. When I saw this cookbook, my foodie brain kicked into gear. I wanted to land this beauty in the hands of one of our readers!

We’ve touched on the art of toddler food in a few other posts before. As hard as we try, it can be difficult to get healthy foods into the fingers of those finicky toddlers. Written by two moms who care about their kids’ nutrition, Super Snacks for Super Kids began as an initiative to bring in donations for the authors’ school wellness committee. With the help of Little Creek Press, these super moms have raised over $30,000 for their school’s program. All proceeds go to the Mineral Point School District Wellness committee.

In the book, you will find a collection of simple snack recipes packed with the nutrition your kids need to feel energized throughout the day. It’s divided into six sections: Snacks for Focus, Snacks for After School, Snacks for Play, Snacks for After Play, Snacks for A Crowd, and Staples. Each section contains recipes specifically designed to meet kids’ nutritional needs for their various activities.

superkids inside

The recipes in this book involve products that are easy to find and conform to our modern-day time constraints. You will also find tips for choosing the best foods and navigating your way through the grocery store to find the best choices for your wee ones. The book is not just good to read, but filled with beautiful photography, it is lovely to page through.

Authors Julie Stephensen and Sarah Fox also provide a way for you to create a fundraiser using their product. Check out the information on their site to learn how Super Snacks for Super Kids can be a healthy alternative to selling cookies!

So now, it is your chance to win a copy! You have until Thursday, April 25 at 11 pm CST to leave a comment on our blog about your kid’s (or nephew, niece, grandkids, friend’s kid, neighbor) favorite healthy treat! One entry per person. The winner will be announced on Friday, April 26.

You must be 18 and live in the continental United States to enter. 

Thanks for entering!



Filed under Giveaway

Broccoli Cheesy Rice

I’m constantly searching for new side dishes that are fast, easy and kid-friendly. There is something to be said about a good side dish that uses items that are already in your cupboard or your refrigerator. This broccoli cheesy rice is a great side to any grilled or pan seared protein like pork chops or chicken breast. I always find myself sneaking the spoon to add a little extra to my plate.

Broccoli Cheesy Rice

Broccoli Cheesy Rice
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 C long grain white rice
2 C chicken stock
1 C fresh or frozen broccoli, chopped
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
3 TBSP milk
1/2 tsp salt

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil. Add white rice and sauté until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and heat until boiling. Reduce to simmer and cover, 15 minutes.

Lightly steam broccoli on stovetop or heat in microwave for three minutes and chop.

Remove rice from heat, add broccoli, cheese, milk and salt and stir until cheese is melted.

Broccoli and Cheese Rice


The folks at Food Network are dishing up sides all spring! Check out these other “From the Pantry” side dish links from fellow bloggers around the web:

Feed Me PhoebeTropical Trail Mix With Ginger and Coconut
The Cultural DishGreen Bean Salad
Jeanette’s Healthy LivingEasy Roasted Tomatoes and Spring Asparagus
Napa Farmhouse 1885Pizza With Kale-Walnut Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pickled Garlic
Red or Green?Spring Greens With Homemade Vinaigrette
The Sensitive EpicurePasta alla Ghetto Fabuloso (Gluten-Free and Milk-Free)
Dishin & DishesScalloped Sweet Potatoes
Made By MichelleBroccoli Quiche With Homemade Bisquick
FN DishPantry-Friendly, Budget-Friendly Side Dish Recipes



Filed under Cook, Sides

Homemade Brioche Loaves

I’d like to say it is my role as a mother to a toddler that’s turned me into the grilled cheese guru I am today. However, this is not the case. I’ve always loved a classic grilled cheese sandwich, with just the right amount of crispiness and the perfect brown crust. I’ll make a grilled cheese with almost any kind of bread, but absolutely nothing beats the buttery flavor of brioche. I have a hard time finding brioche in the store which has led me to the quest to make my own brioche loaves.

The process takes awhile, so don’t expect to eat your bread the same day you make your dough. But hold onto your horses, because the bread is well worth the wait. Pair it with a little aged sharp cheddar cheese, grill it on the stovetop and you’ve got yourself the perfect simple sandwich. It makes great sandwich bread for pulled pork, it is the perfect canvas for french toast or a great filling for bread pudding.

Homemade Brioche Loaves

Homemade Brioche 
slightly adapted from The Kitchen Whisperer
Makes 2 loaves

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 C warm water
1/3 C sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
4 1/2 C bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg + 1 TBSP milk for egg wash

In a small bowl, add yeast, sugar and water. Mix until dissolved. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until bubbles form and mixture appears foamy. Add mixture to large mixing bowl. Add eggs to bowl, with a paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for three minutes.

Decrease speed to low. Add salt and mix. 1/2 cup at a time, add flour. Stop mixer as needed to scrape bowl and remove dough from paddle. Mix until combined.

Continuing at low speed, add the softened butter (make sure it is very soft) one quarter stick at a time. The butter will blend in with the dough, creating a smoother texture. Continue to mix, scraping the batter out of the attachment when necessary.

When the dough is combined and formed, transfer to a floured bowl, place in a warm place with a clean towel over the top and allow to rise to about double the size, 3-4 hours.

Remove from bowl and knead of floured surface for 1-2 minutes and transfer to greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator and split in half. Place each half of the dough in two greased bread pans. Cover with warm towel and allow to rise again, to about double the size for 3-5 hours.

When dough has risen near the top of the bread pan, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes until crust is golden brown and springs back to the touch.

Place loaves on wire rack to cool.





Filed under bread, Cook

Candy Land Birthday Party

My game-obsessed toddler just turned three! To celebrate, we decided to pay homage to his favorite game, Candy Land, at our most-loved local frozen yogurt place, Yo Mama. I wanted to keep it simple but just add a few tiny touches and some cool tech gifts to make the day extra special.

All his pint-sized friends were sent a Candy Land themed invitation. I designed this with inspiration from the game board and the story of Candy Land included in the box (which Lincoln asks us to read almost every day). This invitation is available in my Etsy shop, Morning Star Designs, as a printable file.

Candy Land InvitationEach Lord and Princess of Candy Land was designated a cupcake by King Lincoln. Our King donned a special crown to celebrate the occasion.

candy land cupcake

candy land king cupcake

Guests dined at tables with different candy buckets representing the various stops along the way to the Candy Castle, including Gummy Pass, Licorice Lagoon and Lollipop Forest. They were all allowed to snack on the centerpieces and bring some home at the conclusion of the party.



licorice lagoonBefore filling up their yogurt cups with whatever they wanted, they colored pictures to hang on the special Yo Mama art gallery wall.

candy land coloring

Finally, all the mini guests were treated to homemade play dough with special cookie cutters as a parting gift.

candy land play dough

rainbow playdoughWishing King Lincoln the happiest of third birthdays! May you always find your way to the Candy Castle…

third birthday


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Filed under Birthday, Entertain

DIY Valentine Chalkboard Decor

Valentine’s Day is not my favorite holiday. If not for my dislike for chocolate, my hatred for overpriced greeting cards and crowded restaurants, maybe I would enjoy it a bit more. But I am not a total curmudgeon. I still like to sprinkle my house with a few hearts and kisses and share an extra hug or two.

I am constantly seeing gorgeous pictures of holiday mantles. Unfortunately for me, I have no mantle. I use the space above my living room TV as a mantle, using shelves, pictures, wreaths and frames to break up the large wall. This Christmas I purchased a large, old frame for $2 from Goodwill and did a little chalkboard rehab on it (similar to this post). I hung it above my TV, tied a wreath on with some fabric and wrote “peace” at the bottom. I fell in love with it and decided I would use it all year long and switch it up of the different holidays and seasons.

DIY Valentine Chalkboard Decor

For Valentine’s Day, I used all items I have laying around the house. It took about 10 minutes and brings cheer and color to the room!

DIY Valentine Chalkboard Decor
What you need:
Red and pink patterned scrapbook paper
Flat pushpins
Mini wooden clothespins

Fold paper in half. Draw half-hearts and cut around with scissors. Make in slightly different sizes and shapes. I made four for each jute strand, eight in total.

Cut jute to desired lengths. Stick pushpin through the jute and affix to the back of the frame. Drape across the front and pin the other side to the opposite backside of the frame. Overlap for the second strand, following the same process.

Clip paper hearts to the strands. Write your favorite love phrase at the bottom with a few small hearts drawn with chalk and hang on the wall.

This is a very easy, very quick project. If you were more ambitious, you could sew some small fabric hearts to attach to the jute strands.

DIY Valentine Decor

Wishing you a very happy Valentine’s Day from Haute Apple Pie! Check out the links below for other Valentine projects and recipes:
Free Valentine’s Day Typography Download
Sew Sweet Valentines
Picture Perfect Valentines
Orange Scented French Toast with Nutella
Cinnamon French Toast with Cranberry Orange Chutney
Valentine’s Date Night In
Velvety Hot Fudge Sauce
Berry Mousse Pie


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Filed under Decorate, DIY, Valentine's Day

Train Room Inspiration

To mark his entrance into “big boy-hood,” Lincoln’s once soft and adorable nursery is getting one big choo choo overhaul. The little man is train-obsessed and we want to give him a room to match his toddler-sized passion. We’ve been to plenty of train museums, shows, exhibits and watched enough Thomas and other train shows to have a fairly good grip on what a super cool train room might involve. The room is a work in progress. I put this inspiration board together to help the decorating and accents along the way.


1. Red Train Lantern 2. KidKraft Train Table 3. TheStickerHut Train decal 4. Aluminum Railroad Crossing Sign 5. Pottery Barn Ryder Train Bedding 6. Chicago Subway Art 7. DIY Ruler Growth Chart 8. Overall Curtains via BHG

The room is close to completion, with the help of this inspiration board and Lincoln is bouncing off his big boy bed about it. I’ll post the room when all the projects are complete!


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Filed under Decorate

Honey, Gouda and Goat Cheese Pizza

Apple Pie isn’t the only pie around. I’m a Chicago-girl at heart. I love a good pizza pie. I’m not too picky when it comes to pizza. I will try any kind, any crust, any region. Take-out or homemade, it doesn’t matter to me! I recently created a winter white pizza incorporating some of my favorite cheeses into a twist on a traditional red sauce pizza. The whole wheat crust will be a bit grainier than an all-purpose flour crust, but it is hearty and a little more nutritious. The honey drizzle on this pizza really takes it over the top!

honey goat cheese and gouda pizza

Whole Wheat Honey Pizza Dough
1 package active dry yeast
1 C warm water
1 1/2 TBSP honey (plus extra for drizzle)
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1 TBSP corn meal

Mix yeast, honey and 1/2 TBSP olive oil in water. Stir until dissolved. Allow to sit until bubbles form, about 5 minutes.

Add whole wheat flour and mixture. Work with hands to form dough. Slowly add AP flour, combining with hands. Once combined, knead for a few minutes. Dough will be a slight bit sticky.

Add 1/2 TBSP olive oil to a bowl. Coat dough in oil. Cover bowl and allow to sit in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until doubled.

Pizza Toppings

1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz. goat cheese
2 C freshly grated Gouda cheese
Gouda Cheese Sauce (recipe below)

In a large skillet, heat oil on high. Add onions, spreading throughout the pan. Allow to brown, occasionally moving the onion around the pan. After five minutes, add salt. Mix in. Allow onions to brown and caramelize, approximately 20 minutes.

Gouda Cheese Sauce
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP flour
1 c milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 C fresh grated Gouda

In a small saucepan, warm milk. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour until roux forms. Slowly add warm milk, whisking continually. Continue to whisk until fully incorporated. Add garlic powder, basil and oregano. Stir often until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface, place dough. Roll out dough into 15 inch circle. Sprinkle cornmeal over top, roll over to incorporate. Press dough into pizza pan, thumbing down edges to make the crust. Lightly drizzle honey over top of crust.

With a spoon or rubber spatula, spread gouda cheese sauce over the crust. Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese and caramelized onions on crust. Top with grated Gouda. Drizzle a little honey over top of cheese.

Place in oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Remove, slice and serve.

white gouda goat cheese pizza

Check out these other fabulous pizza pies from our friends and bloggers at Food Network Dish for this winter’s Comfort Food Feast!

Jeanette’s Healthy LivingGluten-Free Grain-Free Mini Pizza Faces
Feed Me PhoebeDeep-Dish Polenta Pizza With Onions and Pesto
Cooking With EliseChicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza
What’s Gaby CookingLoaded Veggie and Prosciutto Pizza
Sweet Life BakeMexican Pizza – Tlayuda con Chorizo y Frijoles
DevourUnexpected but Delicious Pizza Toppings
Virtually HomemadeMashed Potato Bacon Pizza
The Cultural DishPizza, Pizza, Pizza! Three Delicious Variations 
Thursday Night DinnerBeet and Goat Cheese Pizza
The Heritage CookGluten-Free Pizza Focaccia
FN DishAs Quick as Delivery Pizza Recipes



Filed under Cook, Main Dish