Red Velvet Black and White Cookies

red velvet black and white cookies

I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic lately.

I’ve been feeling like there are some really awesome recipes living on this blog that might suffer from a bit of neglect.  It’s just the neglect of time, really.  A few weeks ago I brought my Creamy Pumpkin Pie Bars back to life with the aggressive use of pecans and oat streusel.

This week I’m feeling out these Red Velvet Black and White Cookies.  I first made these four years ago and I totally think it’s time for a re-do.  Oh, and if you’re going to try and tell me that all things red velvet are soooo 2009… well, you might be right but I’m going to stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly so I can’t hear you.  Sorry.

These cookies are cakey tender, as festive as the day is long, and happily smeared with vanilla cream cheese frosting and dark chocolate glaze.  I’m proud of how they’ve grown and who they’ve become as cookies…

with ina

I’m actually so proud that I took them to Ina Garten’s house, bamboozled her into being my friend, and took cellphone pictures to prove it (because we all know that if you didn’t Instagram it… it didn’t really happen).  I’ll elaborate on this totally amazing nonsense in just a moment.

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Orange Gingerbread with Cream Cheese Frosting

orange gingerbread with cream cheese frosting

Some things:

– I sometimes think about working in a furniture store just to observe couples come in and fight over couch seat depth and textiles: a sociological study, you know?  Ok… I never actually think about working in a furniture store… I’m really bad at talking about end tables and such.

– Only real adults should have to deal with fabric swatches.  Seriously… what is this swatch supposed to tell me about my life?  I don’t get it.

– I think that Ikea should have a bar instead of a cafeteria.

… I’m shopping for a couch… can you tell?  Please send reinforcements (not fabric swatches).

– Buying a car is easier than buying a couch.  I’m pretty sure this is fact.

I made this cake with far too much home decor nonsense in my brain.  I came to realize that this cake is totally the best air freshener EVER.  Couch shenanigans aside… (almost) all you really need is a house that smells of cake.  So much can be forgiven is cake exists on pretty plates with hot coffee.

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Eat Boutique + Joy the Baker


What do you want for the holidays?  No… I mean what do you rreeeaaalllyyy want?

I used to ask for the moon and the stars for Christmas when I was a kid.  Back then ‘the moon and the stars’ were also known as an Easy Bake Oven, a Barbie Dream House, an American Girl Doll, and a New Kids on the Block sleeping bag.  Just so you know… I got that New Kids on the Block sleeping bag and it was just about the most amazing thing ever.

These days I’ve cut down on my list so much that… my list doesn’t even exist anymore.

If my current desires were to manifest themselves into a list, that list would be, um… expensive and annoying.  So I just don’t make one.  I want cashmere, and fancy fancy shoes, and really expensive eye cream, and one of those handbags that are so expensive you’re afraid to use it.  The moon and the stars.  Totally annoying.  This is why I don’t make a list.

Reality list includes things like:  a nice Christmas Eve church service with my family, my Dad’s Sweet Potato Pie, and a nice bottle of pure maple syrup.  That’s really all I need.

Now let’s talk about YOU!  What’s on your list?  Cashmere?  Tell me it’s cashmere.  Ooohh, cashmere.

I should tell you now that I do know a little bit about your list.  It’s weird, but I do. See…. your boyfriend really likes you.  Your husband thinks you’re amazing.  Your girlfriend thinks you’re totally major.  I know.  I totally know because your boyfriends/husbands/girlfriends email me (all the time and it’s totally awesome) asking me to help them hook you up for the holidays.  I seriously do love those emails…  Where there is an issue, I’ve created a solution.

The answer:  an awesome gift box!!  Allow me to elaborate.

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Cranberry Brie Grilled Cheese

cranberry brie grilled cheese

I was the girl at the grocery store at 7:30am the day after Thanksgiving.  It was me and the dude replenishing the fresh cranberry produce display.  We made eye contact, and I hustled away before I could register confusion and judgement in his eyes.  To be fair… I was in the grocery (with a bit of a turkey-induced hangover) for two very specific items:  fresh bread and brie cheese.  I just felt like these were the best two items with which to make my Thanksgiving leftovers shine.  I’ll tackle the stuffing and mashed potatoes later.  First things first:  cranberry sauce, bread, cheese, spicy mustard and go!

I could totally just eat cranberry sauce with a spoon, but bread, cheese, and mustard make most everything better.

If this sandwich looks devastatingly close to the Jalapeno Jack Grilled Cheese I made a few months ago… well, it is very similar.  I have a deep love for edible things that melt and drip.

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Vegan Apple Cranberry Oatmeal Bake


Sometimes I like to explore the inverse of things.

The inverse of working is (clearly) laying on the couch watching really old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

The inverse of exercising is (clearly) laying on the couch watching really old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

The inverse of organizing my desk… Grey’s Anatomy.  You catch my drift.


With this dish I wanted to explore the inverse of fruit-topped oatmeal, which is… not Grey’s Anatomy.

I usually cook my oatmeal on a stove top, spoon a hearty portion into a bowl and top with a few bites of fruit.

With this warm pan of goodness, I’ve baked heaps of sliced apples and fresh cranberries with just a bit of oats.  Lost of fruit with less than lots of oatmeal.  Whoa dude!  With warm, steaming milk… this is bonkers delicious!  It feels like breakfast dessert.  Inverse accomplished.

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Vegan Creamy Curried Pumpkin Soup


I woke up this weekend morning and really felt like there were only two options for my day:  pajama bottoms and soup.  With the holidays (and Black Friday television commercials) upon us, it feels like the season is breaking down our doors.  Not subtle.  Well, Thanksgiving… if you’re going to come barging in here, please just know I’ll be dressed in my sleepytimes and gorging on this soup.  It’s vegan.  It’s guilt-free gorging.

This soup is totally a holiday-worthy dish… but my mind is really fighting the notion of turkey and stuffing.  Can we just make some soup and biscuits, watch Ben Affleck in The Town (because I’m weirdly obsessed with that movie) and call it a day?

I don’t have all the answers.  I do have all the soup.

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In Case of Emergency

be prepared

A few months ago,  the strangest thing happened one Wednesday evening:  my apartment lost power, my cell phone couldn’t get a signal, my home phone doesn’t even exist, and I was left alone in the dark.  I felt around for my one source of emergency light: a half used scented candle.  I lit it and found myself sitting in the tiniest flicker of light for hours.

I was alone, unable to contact anyone I know and love, and I was sitting in a mostly dark, overly fragranced house.  You’d think I’d learn from this.  You’d think I’d go out and buy myself a flashlight and some back-up batteries.  Nope.  I went to the store for a new scented candle and that was that.

Last month I found myself in a hurricane.  Luckily I was staying with friends who had more than just a scented candle to keep us going.  It got me thinking… what if the light were to go out again?  Would I be able to survive with a scented candle?

Listen… there isn’t really any good or easy time to talk about this.  Do you have what you need should things turn upside-down?  Weather is real.  Earthquakes are real.  Zombie apocalypses are (hopefully) not real.  Crazy things happen in the world and it’s really important to be prepared for them… to help ourselves and to help the people around us.  Cute and funny with a scented candle only goes so far… a headlamp and freeze-dried food go a lot farther.

Let’s talk about this.

A well-stocked First Aid Kit was at the top of my be-an-adult-and-be-ready-if-life-gets-really-real-emergency-bag.  This kit is full of sterile bandages and gauzey things… and I totally saw George Clooney give some dude a chest tube on ER in like… 1997… so between that and this first aid kit, I’m set for emergency procedures.

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Vanilla Almond Orange Cloud Cookies

almond cloud cookies

November is a month that always makes my head spin.  I feel like I’m barreling full force into the holidays, into the end of the year, into planning my life for the next year, into trying to keep my act together and my sore throat at bay.

I only wish November came with a tally of the year… just a little list that could tell me what has gone down in my year so far.

I don’t need an update on my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012… we all know those were shot to hell somewhere around January 18, 2012.  I want a tally more along the lines of:  How many times I used the word ‘bonkers’.  How many cookies I stress ate in my car.  How many times I’ve walked around town with either a pound of butter, or a bag of brown sugar in my purse.  How many times I’ve Googled the same word to spell check it.  You know… the important things.  The things that really tell you how you’re living in your everyday.  Quirky, cosmopolitan, and resourceful… right?

The November days are ticking away quickly. December will come and go in a blur of cranberries and Mariah Carey Christmas CDs.  Before we know it we’ll be pushing someone in the frigid pool at the New Year’s Eve party.

For now… while we have this simple and quiet November 13th… let’s just enjoy these (or really any) cookies, close our eyes and tally the year’s ridiculousness.

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Creamy Pumpkin Pie Bars

creamy pumpkin pie bars

Every once in a while, a recipe deserves a re-do.  I originally posted this recipe in the Fall of 2008, just a few months into the life of my blog.  I was trying to figure out my photography style.  I was trying to figure out what  a dang blog was.  I was trying to find my voice on the internet.  I was trying my hardest not to be a hot-mess.

creamy pumpkin pie bars

I decided that this dish is just too good to suffer from hot-mess-ed-ness.  Hot-mess-ed-ness is a real word (mostly because it’s a real thing that happens).  The recipe has a mostly infallible list of ingredients that includes pumpkin and cream cheese.  These are two great ingredients that in combination are utterly lovely and you know… festive!  It has taken me almost four years to realize that these bars was missing a certain sort of… greatness.  I’ve figured it out.  As is the case in improving most things in life.. we’re going to need more crust.  More dang crust!

Let’s do!

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Kale Cherry and Cashew Salad


Sometimes I want an award just for being an adult.

I’d like a little trophy with my adult accomplishment engraved… actually I’ll totally just settle for a sticker.  Being an adult is hard.  No seriously… it’s hard.  I’m not just being a whiner.  I just think that if I could be occasionally high-fived for all of life’s little tasks, I’d feel better about everything.  Just a small gesture, something that says:

Hey Joy, great job printing out and organizing all of your credit card statements.  It’s not even tax time yet.  Right on!

1st place for paying their phone bill not two months late goes to Joy the Baker.

You didn’t eat the entire pack of flour tortillas even though you wanted to.  Well done!

You dusted!  You’re a superstar!

Your socks match, and they’re clean.  Well played.

Look at you payin’ rent like a boss.

Congratulations!  You can aaaaalllllmost afford your own health insurance.

You drove a car across town without crashing it into another car… and your oil change light isn’t even on!

1st place in home decor goes to Joy the Baker for her bottle of bourbon and scented candle!

Great Job!  You didn’t have stale corn chips and salsa for dinner.  You made a kale salad.  You’re so good at life!

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Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Skillet Cake


If you were to drop by my house on any given day you’d probably find me hungry and over-caffinated, behind a computer screen.  You also might find me behind a giant pile of dirty dishes with flour all over my jeans.  I’m not the kind of girl that’s instantly prepared for company.  The pop-in is a biiig no-no.  I do, however,  wish I were the kind of lady that had pretty cake, coffee, and a pair of socially acceptable pants on at a moment’s notice.  Sigh.

I also wish I were the kind of lady who had an attic full of festive Autumn decor that I could bust out every November for Thanksgiving decorating.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s a different level of adulthood.  Beyond pants, for real.

riley apple farm by lani trock

Since I don’t have any well-stored festive wreaths, I decided to celebrate Autumn on the real… with apples and trees and crisp cool sunshine.  I went apple picking with Ms. Lani Trock, then I came home and made a simple and sweet Apple Skillet Cake.  It’s like a visitor’s cake… the sort of cake you throw together for company on a Saturday afternoon (at least, that’s what I do in my fantasy version of adulthood) (after cake we go shopping for wreaths, right?).

riley apple farm by lani trock

all beautiful orchard photographs by ms. lani trock.  she takes pretty pictures.

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Happy November Finds


I think this feeling that I have can best be described as a post-Halloween hangover.  It’s not a beer or bourbon hangover.  It’s more of a gold legging and cat ear hangover.  Suddenly my everyday wardrobe seems entirely ho-hum hum-drum.  My logical brain tells me to hush-right-up.  My awesome brain tells me to shopshopshop shop SHOP!

If you have these feelings… I want to offer you some advice.  Do not go to Target.  You’re in danger of spending $324.56 and running home to make and eat these homemade Cheese Crackers in a fit of buyer’s remorse.

Because I’m always trying to be better and because I’m always trying to eat less crackers, I’ve come up with a solution:  awesome drugstore finds!  I’ve found some good ones and I feel like these little gems are going to spruce up my Autumn/Holiday season.


Maybelliene Color Show nail colors are my new favorites.  They come in really great colors and are cheap enough to splurge on five at a time.  Let’s be real… if I’m spending $8 a bottle (I’m looking at you… Essie), I’m not going to buy more than one or two colors.  The thing about Maybelliene Color Show is this:  the bottles need a good shake,  and you’ll need a two or three coats for great color.  A good base and top coat also go a long way with these nail colors.

Believe it or not, I put all of these colors on one hand.  One finger for each bold color.  I’m embracing my inner Punky Brewster.

These are drug store finds, but you can browse colors here.

The colors above are: shocking seas, impeccable greys, paint the town, fuchsia fever, and tenacious teal.

Oh… I should tell you that no company is paying me to say these or the following things.  

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