Cucumber Raspberry Vodka Sparklers

I went into this post practically kicking and screaming today.  Let’s be honest-  sometimes the words flow, other times it’s a task just to get myself to sit in the chair long enough to post a few words and photos.

This whiny, kicking and screaming, can’t-even-stand-myself feeling seems to be a Labor Day holiday signature of mine.  See, the holiday represents the end of summer.  I’ve always had enormous jubilation for Memorial Day, the unofficial kick off of summer, and great disdain for it’s holiday evil doppelganger- Labor Day.  When I was a kid, we would always have to return to school the Tuesday after Labor Day.  The end of summer and the return to school always seemed like a great tragedy to me.  I’m talking Hamlet level tragedy.

It would seem that the feelings of that 9 year old, who can’t come to terms with her new backpack and Trapper Keeper have followed me to adulthood.  I still don’t like Labor Day.  I still have a hard time coming to terms with the end of summer.  But now I get to add alcohol to the mix.

My Oh My.  Cucumber Raspberry Vodka Sparklers.


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Cantaloupe Sherbet

This deliciously light, sweet and refreshing Cantaloupe Sherbet has everything and nothing to do with what I’m about to say.

I do a lot of thinking in the shower. Why do you need to know that? Well, you probably don’t. Nevertheless, allow me to over share. I got this new minty shampoo and it works wonders in the thought department. I think the fresh minty smells might be penetrating my brain.

Last minty shower I got to thinking about my dream job. After I mulled over my dream job I got to thinking about you. Yes, you. I think about you. It’s true. What’s your dream job? Are you lucky enough to have it? Does it pay you the millions of dollars that you deserve? Are you paid in smiles from your little squirt? Do you wake up in the morning before the alarm goes off because you’re thrilled to get to work? If not, what’s the difference between what you do now and what you really want to do? What will it take to make your dreams your reality?

I know. Lots and lots of questions. I told you the minty shampoo was good!

In some ways, I think I have my dream job. I get to cook and write about food virtually every day of the week. If someone would have told me two years ago, while I was grinding away in college, that I would soon get to write about and photograph food, I would have said to them “Awesome Opossum!”

So I feel like I’m mostly living the good life. Of course there’s the day to day of life that sometimes seems daunting or downright annoying, but all things considered it’s a dreamy.

This can’t be it though. I’m not done dreaming it yet! I think one of my dream jobs would be working for Epicurious or Bon Appetit or Gourmet Magazine in some way. Dreamy right!? I’d also like some sort of television or Internet show. I know. I owe you another podcast. Long story. I’m working on that. Maybe more minty showers will lead me in the right direction.


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Soft Seasoned Pretzels

I must be out of my mind. It seems that even the deep August heat can’t curb my constant craving for homemade carbohydrate treats.

Last week I slaved over a pot of 350 degree vegetable oil to fry some fresh doughnuts and this week I hovered over a pot of boiling water cooking up some traditional soft pretzels.

I will admit that these pretzels weren’t nearly as satisfying as the homemade doughnuts. I found the shaping and the subsequent boiling a little bit trying of my patience. I realized half way into the pretzel making process that I was in not mood for shaping and tending to yeasted dough. I was in the mood for instant carb gratification. I should have just hit up the drive through for some french fries.

Begrudgingly, the pretzels got made and adorned with grill seasoning instead of pretzel salt. I like the course flakes of salt, pepper and spices. Of course, served warm with a little brown mustard, my frustrations mostly melted away. The mess in my kitchen…. that was another story entirely.

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Doughnut Toppers and What’s Joy the Baker Eating?

I was gifted the most gorgeous homegrown peaches and figs yesterday.  I thought for a few fleeting seconds what kind of treat I could bake up with these goodies.  I simply couldn’t even bear the thought of waiting for the oven to preheat and batter to come together.  I reached for my small knife and dug into the summer fruit.  The peaches were just slightly tart and the figs… OH! The figs had me thinking dirty dirty thoughts- that’s how you know a fig is on point.

This fruit bowl was also a nice break from my doughnut feast.

The doughnuts were a hit?  You liked the doughnuts?  A few of you mentioned wanting some different options for glazes and toppings.  I aim to please.  Jump on over and ruffle through the doughnut toppings.  Find your fancy and get frying!

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Oh! My! God! Doughnuts!

Some things I make for the love of others. I’ve been known to gaze lovingly at ingredients. Wrap cookies in little bows, and present a friend with box of still warm chocolate chip cookies at just the right moment.

Other things I make because I’m a selfish hungry girl. These doughnuts. Oh my God! These doughnuts I made because I’m a selfish girl who loves loves loves doughnuts.

Three facts about this, my first doughnut making experience:

These puppies took me about 3 hours and 15 minutes from start to finish. I started craving them after my morning run, and sunk my teeth into my first warm doughnut bite around 2pm. Worth every minute! Seriously.

I burned my mouth, yes, four times eating donut balls that were just too fresh from the fryer. Worth it. I’d do it all over again.

If I didn’t get the what was left after the “Joy vs. Doughnut Throwdown 2008” out of my house, I might well have eaten every singe one. Not a joke. Fact.

If you’ve never made doughnuts before, here is my advice to you: Oh my God! Take the afternoon off. Turn off your phone. Make these donuts. Eat five to eight, and then promptly walk over to your neighbors house and beg them to take the rest off your hands. If your neighbors aren’t home you might even want to call the cops, they’ll be able to stop you from eating the remainder. You’ll need handcuffs.

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Dad’s “Clean Your Plate” Buttermilk Pancakes

My Dad has the hands that feed. My Mom can make a bundt cake that might make you want to slap your Grandma, but Dad has the love for cooking. You can tell whether or not someone loves cooking by observing a few simple movements: the way they look at ingredients and the way they stir a pot. My Dad will look at an unrolled pie crust like he’s looking at a newborn baby. He stirs a pot of his famous spaghetti sauce like he’s melting down gold. Not one ounce of that affection for food was lost on me growing up in his kitchen.

But there’s a problem. As much as I adore sitting down to a plate full of food, I rarely if ever finish everything on my plate. I always leave at least a bite or two untouched. Why? I have a theory. It’s solid.

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The Hands That Feed

Your thoughts about coconut cookies and what makes your happy brought endless smiles to my face.  Thank you to all of you who took the time to share.   From rainy afternoons, to rum drinks and hot tubs, hearing what helps you find your happy has reminded me of all the little things that can create some light on a down day.

I’m headed to Palm Springs this weekend to visit my grandparents.

I’m rushing to hit the highway.

I promise that upon my return I will tell you about these- the hands that feed.

Hope you all have a happy weekend.  Make it so!

Crispy Toasted Coconut Cookies

Happy isn’t hard for me.  I might even take happy for granted.  I wake up in the morning and I’m genuinely stoked about the possibilities the day brings.  I have thoughts that make me smile when I’m sitting alone in my car.  I like rainbows and kittens, well… you get my point.

Today I shared a meal with a dear friend who isn’t so blessed in the happy department.  She’s been struggling in recent months.  She’s lost her happy.  After dinner, as we sat lingering in conversation, she told me that she couldn’t think of one thing that made her happy anymore.  I was totally floored.  I didn’t know what to say to her.  In vain I tried to name things and places that I knew she liked.  None of it worked, she just shook her head no.  It breaks my heart, but I know that I could recall fun things we’d done together until I was blue in the face.  Her happiness needs to come from the inside.

It got me thinking about happy.

What makes you happy?  What thoughts make you smile when no one else is around?  What makes you happy to get out of bed in the morning?  Share.  I want to know.

On my list of the many things things that make me happy:  Crispy Toasted Coconut Cookies.

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Strawberry and Vanilla Ice Cream Cake

We’re going back to the beginning with this cake. Ice Cream Cakes- that’s what started it all. Can I tell you a story?

I moved from Los Angeles, California to Burlington, Vermont when I was 18 and straight out of high school. I had it in my head that I didn’t want to go to college right away, and that I wanted to do some soul searching, as far away from my parents as I could get. I landed in Burlington with one suitcase and the phone number to one friend that I knew there. My friend Niki graciously let me stay in her apartment, and her Lisa friend gave me a job at the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream flagship store. Miraculously, I had it all worked out. I had a place to stay and a job. There was just one small hitch- I was TERRIFIED. I had never been so far away from home and out in the world on my own. I literally stayed in Niki’s apartment for a full week. I never even cracked the door open. I knew that I was in a strange place, surrounded by people I didn’t know and I, frankly, didn’t want anything to do with any of it. I stayed in that apartment listening to Niki’s entire music collection and taking lots of baths. That’s when I discovered I loved Billie Holiday and grapefruit bubble bath.

What finally drove me out of my cave? Food of course, I ran out of food and I’m no good with hunger pains.

Once I was out of the apartment and well fed, I realized that my new surroundings were actually pretty awesome. People acknowledged me as I walked down the street. I lived right around the corner from the most beautiful lake, a glass blowing studio, a picture perfect chapel and a culinary school that fed me samples of their student food every day. It was the most beautiful, friendly, warm and open place I’ve ever been.

My job scooping ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s quickly turned into the head cake decorator position. I could frost and decorate an ice cream cake like maniac. And because we’re talking about wild and wacky Ben and Jerry’s, the flavor combinations and signature tie dye frostings were completely over the top.

I loved my job. I loved Vermont. I met some characters that I won’t soon forget.

Once I stepped out of that apartment door, after a week of solitude and regret, I felt that I was blazing forward on the life I knew I wanted for myself. I also learned how to make a killer Ice Cream Cake along the way. That’s was almost ten years ago…. wow.

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Vegan Cookies with Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Cinnamon

It’s about time that I introduce you to some of my friends.

Meet Jill. Jill is one fierce cookie, although me might try to fool you with her demure presence and coy smile.  Do not be fooled.  She’s a firecracker and she’s got your number.

I ventured into Jill’s kitchen one Sunday afternoon to make her famous vegan cookies.  I’m not a big vegan cookie baker, and I thought I reach out to an expert.

I met Jill when I hired her at a tiny Los Angeles coffee shop I managed.  We both learned very quickly that Jill is not a morning person and Joy is.  We also learned that Jill thinks Black Widow spiders are cool and Joy runs screaming for the hills at the mere mention of one.  But Joy and Jill share a deep love for, well… occasional boy talk and fast food tacos.  Joy and Jill are great friends.

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Buttermilk Pie with Blackberry Sauce

Update: I just got a lovely note from Barbara Duke, one of the authors of Panache at Rose Hill.  Here’s what she has to say about this lovely pie!

Hi Joy:
I’m Evan’s Mimi.  Just a little info about the buttermilk pie.  When our great, great grandmothers were traveling in those covered wagons, they had precious few ingredients for their recipes.  Buttermilk, meal, flour and eggs were staples.  Many creations came from those ingredients, including the buttermilk pie.  This particular recipe originated from the former owner of Rose Hill (where our restaurant was located).  His name was Mose Smith.  He won our local state fair cooking contest for his buttermilk pie.  When my partner and I bought the property and turned the Southern planter’s home into a restaurant, we altered the pie recipe somewhat (it had too much sugar in it), and added the blackberry sauce.  It became our signature dessert.  We have served that pie to guests from England, Japan, and everywhere in the USA to those  who have dined at our restaurant.  We had many tour groups from all over the world.  We feel food does not have to be complicated to be good, and of course all the love we put into it didn’t hurt.

I just woke up from one of those sloppy weekend naps. It was the kind of nap that left my face barely recognizable from marks from the pillow case folds. It was the kind of nap that might very well have taken place in the back seat of my car, at 173 degrees F. I feel like, lying here in my bedroom on this summer afternoon I may have just baked my brain. I can’t blog bout that, that’s not good for you.

I just took the kind of nap that makes me wish I could take it all back. It now feels like a mistake. I might have just felt better if I stood in the road and waited for Mac truck to hit me. I just took the kind of tragic, unforgiving nap that can only be healed with creamy coffee and buttermilk pie with warm blackberry sauce.

Keep reading, I have a story to tell you about this pie.

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