Gluten-Free Lemon, Almond and Polenta Cake

Gluten-Free Lemon Almond and Polenta Cake

Please allow me this bright and promising Monday morning to keep it one hundred percent real with you.  While this gluten free cake was buttery, nutty, bright with the flavor of lemon and perfectly sweet, the truth is, it ended up all over my floor.  Well… ok, bits on the floor, chunks on the counter, and pieces in my dirty sink.  Basically, this cake landed everywhere except the cake plate where I wanted it.

I salvaged a few if the larger pieces to mock up a pretty picture for you.  For a few moments I thought I might not even tell you about my cake accident.  But… see, my cake didn’t just land on the floor because I’m clumsy, but because I was taking baking liberties that I shouldn’t have.  Fact.

This cake taught me a small lesson about baking pan choices and cooking times.  It also helped me get my cake dropping out of the way for the next several months.  I only drop a cake every three months or so.  I feels good to be free and clear for a few months to come.

Gluten-Free Lemon Almond and Polenta Cake

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Dad’s Buttermilk Biscuits

Dad's Buttermilk Biscuits

On losing, letting go of little sisters, and warm biscuits:

We never talked about this.  I didn’t know how to bring it up.  The 2009 Bloggies.  Remember?  Best New Blog?  So… I sorta…. kinda…. mostly… didn’t win.  The thing is, I really really wanted to win.  I did.  I played it cool though.  On the outside, I pretended to not care either way.  That was a big fat lie.  But the thing about losing… it’s pretty cool actually… it makes me want to be better.  It also makes me unbelievably grateful for all of your smiling faces.  Fact.

I found myself in a frenzy this morning.  My little sister left for a many month long European adventure.  The thought of her being so far away that I can’t easily call her at two in the morning to scream our favorite Mariah Carey song at her sent me into panic mode.  I calmed myself, safe in the knowledge that my sister deserved some life changing adventures and I am due many presents from far away lands upon her return.

Biscuits.  If I were to hand you a warm biscuit with raspberry jam would you: a)  throw it on the ground and shove me on the floor or b) thank me kindly, gobble the biscuit and give me a giant hug?  If your answer involved shoving me on the floor… well, that’s kinda funny, but throwing biscuits on the floor is just plain rude.  Don’t do it.

Dad's Buttermilk Biscuits

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Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Buttercream

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Buttercream

This morning I stood under a blossoming orange tree that hummed with honey bees.  I found my way under this tree after a walk through my neighborhood on one of those mornings that couldn’t decide if it wanted to laugh or cry.

The sidewalk showed evidence of midnight rain.  The smell of rain on asphalt… ooh so perfectly dreamy.  The sky, bright blue with clusters of pure white and angry grey clouds.

The air was just cold enough to chill me through my sweater and carried the scent of orange blossoms nearly a block.  That’s the scene that lead me, arms hugging my chest, to the bee humming orange tree, live with blossoms and heavy with fruit.

The scene screamed of Spring.

Standing there under that tree, it felt like life was just bursting out into the world.  What a pure expression of life and beauty that tree was this morning.

Happy Spring.

Have some life… enjoy it!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Buttercream

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Tea Faces and a Winner!

Look at you!

No… seriously.  Look at you!  You’re adorable!

I have some seriously cute readers.  Um…. you guys!?  I had no idea you were so cute and sassy.  Yes… even you Rory, with your Tazmanian Devil mug.  You’ve got sass.  You’ve got class.  You’ve got cuteness for days.

I think I’ve got a crush on each and every one of you.

Can we do this every day?  You know… you send me a cute self pic and I giggle at how precious you are?  Yea?  Ok, great.

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Rishi Tea Giveaway

Tea Cupping

My favorite tea cup doesn’t even belong to me.  Sounds crazy, right?  My favorite tea cup belongs to my favorite cafe in Los Angeles.  My favorite cafe in Los Angeles is home to perfect sidewalk tables, breezes, shaded sunshine, loads of people watching, and some seriously good sandwiches and coleslaw.

Now… let’s play a game!

You want an awesome glass tea pot with five fantastic teas from Rishi Tea.

I want to know you more.  Is that creepy?   I just think you all are so dang cool, that I thought a giveaway involving awesome tea, a super sweet tea pot, and your smiling face might be just what we all need.

Here’s the deal:

Bust out your digital camera and send me a picture of you with your favorite tea cup.  I know… I’m totally making your work for this giveaway.  Can you handle it?  Come on… this is totally fun!

Email me a picture of your smiling, cheesy, or coy face with your favorite tea cup.  I’ll randomly pick a winner and send off a lovely Rishi Tea pot with five teas.

Emails and attached pictures should be sent to joy (at) joythebaker (dot) com, by the end of Friday March 20th.

But how will you know if you’ve won?  Well, I’ll post the picture of the wining reader and mug on Saturday morning.

But what if you don’t like my mug?  This isn’t a beauty contest friends.  I’m not judging on photo quality or hair stylings.  Just be the awesome Joy the Baker reader that you are!

You’ve got until the end of Friday to play along, so bust out those cameras and get shootin’.  Thanks to you and Rishi Tea for playing along!

Chai Spiced Pancakes

Chai Spiced Buttermilk Pancakes

Chai Spiced Pancakes

Everyday requires a little adventure, wouldn’t you agree?

Some days (say… yesterday for me) that adventure can be as simple as taking a new route home from work (and getting lost driving through the canyons).

Other days, that adventure might mean moving to France for three months  (not my adventure, but bon voyage dear Carsen!).

Maybe sometime during this bright and brisk week, your adventure will involve these Chai Spiced Pancakes.  I dunno about you, but there’s something about a steaming plate of pancakes makes me feel like I’m living the good life.  And chai spice?  Well, let’s just agree to calling that a mild pancake adventure.

Whatever adventure means to do, I say go and do!  Big or small.  France or pancakes.  Treat yourself to a little adventure this week…. and forever.  Foreva, eva, eva?  Yes.

Chai Spiced Pancakes

In other exciting, non pancake related news, the 2009 Bloggies are announced this afternoon.  You might want to hop on over there and check out the big winners.  Remember waaaaay back a month ago when I was nominated for Best New Blog?  Yea… well.  Win or no win, being nominated has been the most awesome kick in the pants.  Thanks for making that happen for me.  Really.  Thanks!

Wait!!  There’s more!  Here’s a super secret tip!  You might want to find yourself back here this time tomorrow for a super awesome giveaway.  I’m just sayin’…

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Warm Berries with Stove Top Dumplings

Warm Berries and Dumplings

I’ve figured out that most things in life… well, they completely surprise me.  As soon as I expect certainty, life has a way of galloping in with situations, opportunities and loves that I never could have imagined for myself.

Despite all of life’s uncertainties, I’m convinced that some things are set in stone.  Some things I’m just certain of.

I’m certain that I can throw back a box of Frosted Mini Wheats and happily call that dinner.

I’m certain that, before the week is finished, I’ll have spilled something juicy and red on my new favorite white shirt.

I’m certain that despite my nurturing personality and love of colorful flowerbeds, I’m destined to massacre every flowerbed I’m charged with caring for.

I’m certain that breakfast always tastes better served warm out of a cast iron skillet.

We wobble our way through most of life’s uncertainties.

Sometimes it just feels good to hold unto something certain, like the warm handle of a breakfast skillet filled with simmering berries and warm dumplings.  Yes.  Success.

Warm Berries and Dumplings

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Sweet and Spicy Cabbage Salad

Sweet and Spicy Cabbage Salad

I used to keep a dream dictionary by my bed.  Fact.  I thought that I could wake up from a vivid dream all about pansies and weasels, broken clocks and cotton candy to thumb through a book and answer all off those deep subconscious questions.

It never worked.  I was lucky enough if I’d remember the dream, and luckier still if I had the wakefulness to actually reach for a dictionary first thing in the morning.

My dreams are trying to tell me something, I just leave it up to my sly and cunning brains to figure it out or leave it a mystery.

In the same way, my body was trying to send me a message early this morning.  I hadn’t been awake and in the world for more than an hour when I found myself standing at work in the restaurant saying exactly this, completely unsolicited:

I want potato salad.  I want potato salad exactly now.  Potato salad sound SO good.  I want pounds and pounds of potatoes in my belly right this second!

How’s that for a craving!?

Sweet and Spicy Cabbage Salad

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Joy the Baker in Wine Country

Joy the Baker in Napa

Can we take a few moments to discuss my spur of the moment, Monday afternoon, high speed trip to Napa?

Napa seems to be in a perpetual state of sunshine.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  There are grapes everywhere.  If not actually growing from the earth, then engraved into the side of a freeway overpass, or painted on…. um… every available space in Napa.  Turns out they’re really into grapes.

Can I be honest?  Napa was a little too uppity, snootypants for my taste.  I know just enough about wine to make my way through a conversation about tannins and acid, grape varietals, oak aging and whatever other terms wine people drop…. but I don’t think good wine should be all about the secret, and unapproachable language of wine.

Joy the Baker in Napa

I discovered, in these few hours in Napa, that the beauty of wine is all in the land.  See, it’s the land that creates the beautiful grapes.  It’s the land that’s beautifully adored and so carefully tended.  It’s the careful love of soil that creates such beauty up in wine country.  The care is evident in the carefully places acres and rows of grapevines.  It’s lovely to see the earth adored for what it can produce.  I feel like the story should be about the people and the land… not about fruit forward mouth feels… or whatever.

Joy the Baker in Napa

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What Do You Do with Five Hours in Wine Country?

Joy the Baker in Napa

Five hours in Napa… ready, set, GO!

Drink wine.  Talk about tannins, body, oak barrels and finish.  Blah Blah Blaaaaahs.

Stomp around the vineyards like you own the joint (pictured above).

And stop by Fatted Calf to talk about how approachable and awesome American charcuterie can be.

More later!  Right now I’ve got more ground to stomp, and a plane to catch.

Fatted Calf, Napa

Oatmeal Cherry White Chocolate Cookies

Oatmeal Cherry White Chocolate Cookies

Here’s a fun game to play:

Grab a chef.  Any chef will do.

Ask that chef what their favorite Oatmeal Cookie recipe is.  I’ll bet you my favorite slippers (not that you would want those) that their favorite recipe for Oatmeal Cookies is the recipe right there on the Quaker Oats can.

I know… too easy right?  Take the easy.  Accept the easy.  Some things are complicated.  Other things are as simple as the Oatmeal Cookie recipe that I’ve been making since I was old enough to reach the counter.

Embrace the good, then add cherries and chocolate.

Oatmeal Cherry White Chocolate Cookies

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On broken eggs and other such broken things

broken egg

I feel like I’ve been breaking things all day.

First there was the printer…. and then another printer.  Two printers… broken.

Then a simple trip to the restroom seemed to be enough to unhinge the entire door.

Now… my site is feeling a little broken as well.

Here’s what’s going on.  I’ll explain it as I understand it.

I’ve gotten a few emails from readers that their IP addresses have been blacklisted and blocked from my site.  Their questions were the same as mine:  what the heck!?

It turns out that the blacklisting scandal is a hosting problem.

The hosting company I have used has increased their level of security.  That’s good, right?  Well, yes and no.

See, there’s this company called Spamhaus.

Spamhaus is in charge of compiling giant lists of evil spamming IP addresses.  They then send these lists to my hosting company.  In turn, my hosting company will block that IP address, thus saving me from the spam nasties.

But Oh No!  Some of you and your IP addresses are getting on this Spamhaus list and you’re finding yourselves banned from my site!  This may not be your fault.  You may have inherited a bum IP address, as they change every once in a while.

Now what do we do?  Well, first I think we should have a good cry…. no?  Ok.  First we should have a doughnut.  Then, if you find that you get this error message on this site, or any other site,  you can check whether or not your on the naughty list here.  You can also email me with any dirty error messages you might have received and I’ll contact my hosting company.

I’m working my way away from broken.  Just wanted to let you know!

Crunchy Oven Baked Fries with Herbes de Provence

Oven Baked Fries with Herbes de Provence

I’m a flake.

Ok… maybe that’s a little harsh.

I flaked on plans I made last Friday night, and I felt guilty until exactly this morning.

See… (I’ll try keep this short) I was supposed to go to see a friend’s play on Friday night.  You know,  it’s just one of those things you do.  Friend.  Theater.  You just go see it.

I was on the list.  The play was showing walking distance from my house.  I had no other plans.  The weather was gorgeous.  Really… I’d have to be a complete jerkface to not show up, right?  Well I didn’t, and here’s why…

I threw on my favorite jeans.  I was wearing my cute jacket and scarf.  I walked myself over to the theater feeling pretty good about the world.  That’s when I saw it:  a crowd of strangers.  I froze.  All the charm and clever wit that I might have possessed simply drained out of my system.  I suppose that happens to the best of us sometimes.  In my case, rather than facing my spontaneous fear of strangers, I turned myself right around and walked back home.

On the way home I concocted an elaborate lie to tell my friend the next time I saw him.  It was full of stress, drama, lost time and regret.  I stopped myself.  Literally.  In the middle of my street.

Why lie?  Why not keep it simple?  Why not express a little vulnerability?  Why not just say I couldn’t handle strangerdanger that particular night?

That’s just what I did.  Next time I say my friend, I simply apologized, looked him directly in the eye and told him what a ‘fraidycat I was.  It felt like one of those simply, human moments when you just lay it all out there for better or worse.

Life is complicated enough.  Why disguise your vulnerabilities with lies?  And why disguise your potatoes with a bunch of nonsense?

Oven Baked Fries with Herbes de Provence

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Borlotti Beans in Tomato Sauce with Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Brolotti Beans and Creamy Polenta

Life is all about balance, right?  Balance and beans.  Ok… maybe not that last part.

While I’ll be the first person in line to pick at those brownies fresh out of the oven, I also know that I have to fill my belly with foods that make my body feel strong.  Because I think food is just downright dreamy, I like to take the time to make something special for my body.  Why?  I figure if my body is happy, then my brain is pretty stoked and my heart feels pretty rad… and that trickles out to every part of my life.

Can I tell you a secret?  I gave up working out for the new year.  That’s right… I gave it up completely.  I had absolutely no interest at all in even glancing at my running shoes.  About two months in, I went to slip on my favorite jeans.  Um…  they were tight… and they hadn’t just come out of the dryer.  What did I expect?  Seriously…

Well, I’m back at it.  I’m taking my running shoes out for a spin every once in a while, and my body is all smiles.  Incidentally, my body also wants to celebrate its new found activity with French fries… but that’s a whole other battle we can talk about later.

Brolotti Beans and Creamy Polenta

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All About the Bean

All About the Bean

Yes, I still love cupcakes.

Yes, I’ve been thinking about oatmeal cookies all week.

Yes,  I think pancakes should have a daily requirement like fruits and vegetables.

All of these things are true, yet here I am… and all I have to offer you is a pile of dried beans.

Do you feel wronged?  A little?  Be honest.

Let me explain.  These beans are special.  These beans have character, color and integrity.  These beans were inspiration enough for me to sit down and actually consider cooking dried beans at home.

See, I’m convinced that food has a story to tell and a story to create.  I want to know where my food comes from, so I’m always aspiring to find new foods from people who care about it as much as I do.

I don’t want to settle, but I also don’t want to spend a fortune on some fancypants ingredient that I won’t even have the tools to cook.  That’s just silly, right?

Well… these beans… they just made me swoon.  They’re beautiful.  And!  And!  I can cook them at home.  And if I can cook them at home, you can too.

Can I share my beans with you?  Will you indulge me?

All About the Bean

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