Giant Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Giant Sugar Cookies

You know what?  You deserve a break.  Seriously.  It’s Saturday.  Let’s take it easy.

I know… I know.  You have that whole list of things to do.  Sure, you need to get the car washed.  Yes, there’s that thing about going to the pet store, and getting a present for your mother-in-law’s church friend’s niece.  You’ve got a lot on your plate.  I know.  But… well what would happen, if for today, you kicked the list to the curb and kicked you feet up on the couch?

I’ll tell you what would happen.  The car would stay dirty, the pet store would miss you, and your mother-in-law’s church friend’s niece would have one less present at her party.  She’ll have enough presents.  Go on… take a break.

Now… if you’re anything like me, you have a list and you can’t stand not to start crossing tasks off.  Here’s my tip:  make a new list.  I’ll help.  On our new list are these things: go to the farmer’s market and buy the prettiest cherries you can get your hands on, treat yourself to frozen yogurt, call that friend you’ve been meaning to call, watch at least three hours of a Law and Order marathon, and have two glasses of wine with dinner… dinner out.

See?  Better list.  It’s the list you should be working on this Saturday.

Aaaaand, if you wanted to add the making of these sugar cookies to the list… forget about it.  These can go on your Sunday to-do list.  Yea.  Sunday.

Giant Sugar Cookies

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How to Make Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Bust out the booze friends!  I’ve got a weekend project for you!

We’re making our very own vanilla extract!  Why?  Why make your own vanilla extract when you can just buy the stuff in a teeeeeeny tiny bottle at the grocery store for close to ten whopping dollars?  Hm… see what I did there?  I seem to have answered my own question.

Homemade vanilla extract only requires a handful of things.  Come on… we can totally rock this.

First let’s talk vanilla beans.  Yea… they’re a tad bit expensive, but totally worth their weight in… vanilla.

There are a lots different varieties of vanilla beans.  So many varieties all with their own subtle nuances… it can be a bit overwhelming.  There are beans from Madagascar, Mexico, Tahiti, Tonga… just throw a dart at the map and they just might produce vanilla beans there. Ok.  I’m exaggerating.   Different beans from all over the globe have different characteristics.  We could talk about this for days… seriously.  Here’s a brief brief brief run down of my favorites.

Madagascar beans are powerful, dark, full vanilla flavor beans.    Tahitian beans remind me of vanilla figs- fruity and floral.  The Mexican variety has just a hint of sweet creaminess.  How’s that for brief?

What beans are you going to choose for your vanilla extract?  Where are you going to get them?  Use exactly any bean you want!   Maybe you’ll buy them online here.  Use exactly whatever you can get your hands on.  Mix and match!  It’s your world.  It’s your extract.

This is going to be so easy!  Let’s get started!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

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Nectarine and Cream Cobbler

Nectarine and Cream Cobbler

I still write letters.

I still hand write letters in a festive card with a return address sticker.  I might even decorate the envelope with a rubbe-stamped dolphin stampede.

I still write letters and I still have pen pals.

My favorite pen pal?   My grandmother.  I call her Mommom.  She’s rad.  I don’t know how she would feel about me calling her rad.  She writes me short letters during the break she takes on her morning walk.  These letters are usually written from her favorite bagel shop.  Letters always include some sort of loving greeting, an update about her walking adventures and the bagel shop, something about an upcoming trailer trip, inquiries about my little sister, and an abrupt closing.  Short, sweet and to the point.

The best part about being pen pals with Mommom is that she will not let me slack off.  If  I haven’t written her a letter in a few weeks, I’ll get another letter urging me to, if I know what’s good for me, write my grandmother back.  If for some reason I don’t get to that letter in adequate time… well, I’m liable to hurt my grandmother’s feelings.  Hurt grandmother feelings, of course, leads to all sorts of guilt from all sorts of family members.  News of pen pal activity, or inactivity travels fast in my family.

Letter writing isn’t a chore.  It’s a nice break from simultaneously writing an email and checking my blog stats and watching stupid cat videos.   Letter writing is not technology multi-tasking.  It’s easy, breezy, simple… all about just sendin’ a little love.

Then there’s cobbler, which couldn’t be any more simple and delicious.  This easy cobbler is like letter writing, in baking form.  Spend a little time baking up a little love with this cobbler.  Sit down with a nice warm slice and write a letter to someone.  It’s supreme.

Nectarine and Cream Cobbler

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It’s Summer! I think you should…

Watermelon Eating

… eat watermelon, in a park, in a row with several friends, quickly, in a race-type situation.  See who finishes first.  Crown them the winner.

Call it a Watermelon Eating Contest.

It’s summer.  Summer is fun.  Watermelon is summer fun.

Here are five Watermelon Eating Contest tips, from a photographer not a participant.

Watermelon Eating

Just before the race, it’s not a bad idea to lick your lips and stretch out the back.  You’ll need every advantage.  No… pregnant women do not have to eat twice the amount of watermelon.  It doesn’t work that way.

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Father’s Day Pancakes

Dad and Pancakes

You know this guy, right!?

He’s my Dad.  He makes some amazing pancakes… the best pancakes, the best tacos, the best sweet potato pie, the best tofu potato bake.  He’s a champion in the kitchen.

He’s also a champion Dad.  Top notch.  The kind of man that will talk to you for hours about the intricacies of Alfred Hitchcock movies… when you’re eight years old, make your stuffed animals talk and have fake bowel movements, and microwave your ice cream so it’s not too cold.  He’s the best I know.  Happy Father’s Day.

Want pancakes?  Take the jump!

Dad and Pancakes

Dad and Pancakes

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Blackberry Pie Bars

Blackberry Pie Bars

I’ve been struggling for the past few hours with what to tell you in conjunction with these Blackberry Pie Bars.

I thought maybe we could talk about how I’m still totally dragging my feet about going to my ten year high school reunion.  No… that’s been done.  Boring.

Maybe we could talk about how I sat around a campfire with Andrea Zuckerman… a character from that show Beverly Hills 90210, but that was actually just a dream I had last night.  Not real.

We could chat about the weather?  Seen any good movies lately?

No?  Ok… let’s not fight this.

Let’s get on to the bars.  They’re good.  Really good.  Good enough to not need a silly introduction.

Blackberry Pie Bars

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Joy the Baker: The Top Five

Peanut Butter Fudge Krispy Treats

Number Five: Peanut Butter Fudge Treats

For those moments when you decide to kill your noisy neighbors by gifting them an epic sugar rush in the form of these super charged bars.  Not a crime, right?

Black and White

Number Four: Red Velvet Black and White Cookies

Because red dye makes everything… red velvety!

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Dark Chocolate, Walnut and Golden Raisin Cookies

Dark Chocolate Walnut Raisin Cookies

Dear Girl (that sat next to me on the plane last night),

Hi.  How are you?  This is just a quick note to let you know that you sat on my glasses.  I know that you know that you sat on my glasses.  You did, after all,  hand them back to me crazy mangled.  I trust that you know what shape glasses generally assume.

I understand that there are two active parties in this tragedy.  There’s the person that accidentally left her glasses in the middle seat next to her while she properly stowed her purse under the seat in from of her…. that’s me.  There’s also the person that was in such a hurry to get into that second row middle seat, that didn’t let the girl with the glasses on the aisle properly acclimate before barging in… that’s you.  So, you sat on my glasses.

My favorite part about you sitting on my glasses, was how you showed exactly zero remorse for the damage you caused.  That was awesome.  Hey… remember that part when I was very obviously trying to bend them back in shape in front of you?  Yea… that was pretty fun too.  That was me being passive aggressive.  I bet that was your favorite part.

Oh well, they’re just glasses, right?  Next time, I’ll watch where I put my glasses if you watch where you put your body.  Deal?



And now… dark chocolate cookies.  Let’s do this.

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Food and Wine

Food and Wine

Have you seen the newest Food & Wine magazine?

It’s a good one, made even better if you have a Sharpie marker and a couple of giggly girlfriends around.

It’s all about the best new chefs of 2009.  It’s about dudes (plus one ladydude) that are young, hip and magic in the kitchen… like Vinny Dotolo (bottom left with glasses) and Jon Shook (bottom middle with a heart drawn on his shirt) of a restaurant called Animal in Los Angeles.

Animal is the kind of place that turns lamb tongue into something I might actually consider eating… and enjoying.  They also work wonders with chicken liver and rabbit loin.  On the real.

My only concern is… well… only one awesome lady chef this year Food & Wine?  Really?

I suggest you get this months issue.  Also get a marker… maybe a glass of wine too.  It’s Friday, do it up right.

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

I made rolls, of the cinnamon variety.

I use cinnamon rolls as a sort of… well, anxiety calming drug.  I don’t pop pills, I definitely pop cinnamon rolls.

See… there was this thing invented a good long while ago called the 10 Year Class Reunion.  It’s where you get together with all the people that made fun of you during your painfully awkward teenage years.  Yea.  Why?  Why do I have to do this?  Can’t we all just become friends on Facebook and Twitter and consider ourselves properly reunited!?

Seriously.  The future is now!

Since I think I’m going to gracefully bow out of the reunion festivities, here’s the CliffsNotes of what I might have said to my old classmates.

Hi.  Yea, it’s me Joy.  I sat behind you in.. a bunch of classes probably.  Here’s the update.  I went to college.  I read a lot of books.  I graduated.  I traveled around some.  I haven’t gotten married or pregnant yet.  Yea.. I’m prettier now, but that’s mostly because I was actually really ugly when you knew me.  I’m a baker.  I think it’s the most awesome thing ever.  I know a crap ton about food.  Would you like to discuss French cheeses at all?  I have a blog… also awesome.  Sure, I’d like to meet your boyfriend Steve.  I recognize him from your Facebook photos.  Your relationship status is “complicated” though… care to discuss?  No?   Hm… well, sure I’d like to see pictures of your kids.  Would you like to see pictures of my cinnamon rolls?  It’s only fair.

Don’t make me go to this thing.  It will be awkward.  Awkward.  Awkward. Awkward!

I need counsel and another cinnamon roll.

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

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Peach Brulee

Peach Brulee

Reason #457 why I love this warm weather, sunny spring that leads into summertime:  the ponytail.

It’s bouncy, it’s festive, it helps me look like I’m having a good time even when I’m just standing in line at the grocery store, and it makes me feel like a cheerleader… which is strangely satisfying.

The ponytail is simple and uncomplicated.  I think I’m going to make the ponytail, and the fun simplicity it represents, the theme for the lovely summer we’re working towards.

I think that summer fruit is so fun and just bursting with bright flavors.   Most need very little fuss when it comes to preparation.  Why complicate something that’s already lovely?

This Peach Brulee is just three ingredients and it’s a gorgeous way to start the day.  Make it for breakfast and top the warm peaches with thick Greek yogurt, or make enough peach halves to serve after a big dinner with friends and family.  For one or for many, this simple peach recipe shows off the best of what’s in store for us this summer.  Go forth and broil…. and please sport a ponytail this summer.  It’s rad.

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Lucy and Ethel

Tomatoes Grow

Hi.  Hello.  Hey!

I hope your weekend is going swimmingly.

I just wanted to take a moment and introduce you to my tomatoes, Lucy and Ethel.

I’d also like to answer a few questions.

Yes, I’ve named my first two tomatoes after Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy.

Yes, I love that show.

Yes, I seem to have become abnormally attached to my tomatoes.  No, I don’t feel bad about that.

Tomatoes Grow

Also, this is happening.  I better start thinking of more names… and quick.

Are you gardening?

You + Me = Picnic?


Me in a tree.  Wanna join me?

The truth is… I think we should totally hang out.  You and me, and you, and you and me.  Can we get together!?

I mean it.  It’s just about summer, it’s beautiful outside, the parks are just begging us to visit, and we’re still wading our way through this financial mess.  In other words… we’re kinda broke and it’s sunny out, right?

What say we all get together for a picnic?  No joke.  We’ll have lemonade and cupcakes, we’ll throw around a Frisbee (don’t worry, I suck), I’ll bring some cookies to decorate,  loads of them… we can talk about baking and blogging and anything else we’re equally obsessed with.  It’s on me.  Are you in?

Think of it as one of those fancy blogging conventions except with cupcakes and waaaay more fun.

I haven’t planned this whole shin dig yet.  It’s still just a thought bubble floating above my head.  What I need to know is… well…  if you’re in the Los Angeles area, would you come?  For real.  Be honest.  Don’t let me throw a party and buy balloons and then not show up.

If you think you’d like to come to a Joy the Baker Big Fat Picnic Party where I bake things and you come eat them… if you think you’d bring your friends and family and dogs and birds… then leave a comment in this post expressing interest.  Be real.  I need to know if I’m an absolute maniac for dreaming something like this up or not.  Your thoughts, I need ’em.

Picnic?  Discuss.

1Cupcakes as far as the eye can see

Oh!  What if I promise to bring some of these!?