The Best of 2012

best of 2012

 This year goes down in my personal history book as 100% major.  It’s been one of those years where I feel blessed far beyond what I even knew to ask for.  It’s been filled with gracious opportunity and a lot of hard work.  You are a huge part of my amazing year.  I mean that most sincerely.  Your loyalty and enthusiasm has changed the course of my life and I am deeply thankful.

With this new year, I hope that you are able to dive into the things that you love most.  I hope you feel beautiful most days.  I hope you act with kindness more often than not.  I hope you find inspiration in unexpected places.  I’m going to spend most of the new year writing a new cookbook for you.  But!  Before the book I’m making floral crowns for a New Year’s Eve Party… just because.

What follows are a few images from my year.  I hope they inspire you to reflect on the richness of your year.  By reflect I actually mean scroll through your cellphone pictures and reminisce.  It’s just a good life!

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Ham and Cheese Puff Pastry Pie

ham and cheese puff pastry pie

I’ve got New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day duties to tend to.  By duties, I mean that people will be coming to my house expecting to eat and drink delicious things, and… I have a reputation to maintain.  This holiday is about celebrating!  It’s about remembrance and hope, love and champagne.  It’s not about being the hostess with the mostess, as much as it’s about being the hostess with the most streamers and bubbly.

Sidenote:  I wish I could teach my cat to do something useful… like, wash champagne flutes.

In the absence of a dishwashing cat, I’m keeping things simple and festive for the holiday.  Simple yet totally impressive.


Puff pastry is the key to all things simple and impressive.  Fancy mustard, ham, and good cheese are just a bonus.

Delicious bonus.
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Crab, Apple & Pomegranate Salad

crab and apple salad

Whoa you guys…. whoa!

I’m pretty sure that Christmas just happened and I’m also pretty sure it was bonkers.  I lost myself in a sea of Bundt cakes, lasagna, loud family gatherings, and wrapping paper. It was glorious and loud, delicious and wonderful… and loud.

I hope you’ve also had a wonderful (and loud) holiday.  The higher the volume, the more the fun.

crab and apple salad

I’m now turning my attention to the next holiday in our December line-up: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day!  Let’s be real… I’m also turning my attention to my comfortable couch and marathons of Suvivorman on television.

But!  …I’ve been brainstorming fancy party punches, classy (but totally easy) salads, and simple New Year’s Day breakfasts.  It’s been such a blessed year, let’s go out deliciously.

First!  Fancy Crab, Apple and Pomegranate Salad.  It’s beautifully elegant.  I don’t eat Alaskan crab very often so this salad feels like a wonderful treat.

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Shine Bright

shine bright

If you’re anything like me, you can’t handle another Peppermint Bark Recipe or Holiday Wreath DIY.  I can’t deal.  It’s not that I’m bah-humbuggy.  Not at all.  I’m totally into these happy winter holidays.  It’s just that everything feels like so much lately.

… How’s that for eloquent?  Everything is so much.  Really though… that’s the only way to describe it.

Today, I don’t have a cookie recipe for you.  Maybe tomorrow… ok, probably tomorrow, because I really do love cookies.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the coming year.  I know that Christmas isn’t even here yet, but thoughts of 2013 are my little way of denying all the Christmas tasks I still need to accomplish.  Plus… I love to think about newness.  It distracts from the shortcomings of nowness.

getting inspired

One of the best way for my brain to think about new things, is to occupy my hands with new adventures.  This past weekend (instead of buying gift-cards at The Gap), I spent the afternoon exploring water-color paints.  I want to practice my handwriting.  Just… you know… because it seems like a really satisfying thing to be good at.

getting inspired

I practiced my handwriting using the words that I am currently most obsessed with.  Rihanna’s Diamonds.  If you’re not yet into this song:  you’re welcome/I’m sorry.

Also, this is the new workspace I’ve created for myself.  Before you think me fancy, let me just tell you that this is a simple Ikea wooden countertop jankily arranged in my living room.  Janky or not, I feel inspired in this space.

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Feta and Chive Sour Cream Scones

Feta and Chive Sour Cream Scone

Checkmate.  Game over.  I own your pawns.  Your king is crying.  I took your queen, covered her in butter, and baked her into the best biscuit to ever exist in the world (alongside these Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Biscuits). Aaaand that’s all I know about chess.  I’m spent.

This weekend was heavy on the brain and on the heart.  Really, the only thing I wanted to do was pray, binge on a Jersey Shore marathon, and eat boxed macaroni and cheese.  If those three things sound at odds with one another… well, they are… and I’ll accept your judgements and criticism.

During this weekend’s trip to the coffee shop I spied a little feta and chive scone in the pastry case.  What?  More carbs!?  Gimme.  It was love at first sight… and I was positive I could make a better home version (and then eat two-five scones fresh out of the oven).

Sunday morning, with the flavor combination still on my mind, I whipped up my own scones.  I brewed up a pot of coffee while the scones were in the oven and, um… these scones blew me away.  Fragrant, salty, and so tender I almost cried in my coffee (ok… I totally cried in my coffee).  Comfort carbs.  Thank you.

feta scallion and sour cream scone

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Persimmon Pear Caprese Toast

pear persimmon 7

I’m not much for keeping secrets, so let me just go ahead and tell you all about your Christmas present now.  I got you a few things:  a giant, two-year -old orange cat names Jules Cat Stevens, and a half bottle of rum (I used the first half on this cider).  Truth is, I haven’t done a stitch of holiday shopping.  It seems like every time I try to shop for you, I end up buying myself a scarf from H&M and calling it a day.  Other truth is, I’m the worst.


I’ve been spending more time taking pictures of basil than I have shopping for gifts/scarves.

pear persimmon 8

Ok Ok…  It looks like you’re going to get slightly worn H&M scarf for the holidays.  I think you’ll like it.  I do… that’s why I bought it.  Yes, I am, in fact, the worst.  I mentioned that earlier.

My only saving grace is that, along with your poorly wrapped, newly hand-me-down scarf, I’ll also bring along a mega-treat like these Persimmon and Pear Caprese Toasts.  This creation sort of makes me feel like an appetizer hero, and I’m hoping is saves me from my gifting disasters.  Please and thank you.

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Dinner Party Offerings


I have real-life dinner party compulsions:  I always say something awkward within seven minutes of arriving, I always offer to help with the dishes, and I never come empty-handed.  I believe that every offering brought to a dinner party has a certain unspoken subtext.

For example if I bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party, the subtext of the wine is this: ooooh my goodness!  I’m a little late and that’s the worst thing ever.  I picked up this bottle of wine on the way to your party.  I’m 78% sure it’s delicious.  I had to sweet talk the sales man into adding the bow, and please please open it now so we can have a glass.  Also, Hi!  It smells really good in here.

What follows are some awesome recipes you might consider taking as an offering to holiday parties this year.  There will be a certain subtext though, and it’s usually hilarious and revealing.

Candied Pecan Biscotti

Subtext:  I needed an excuse to make candied pecans.  I ate two handfuls.  So what.  Don’t look at me with your judging eyes.

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Hot Buttered Rum and Cider


Welcome to the one time of year when it’s totally acceptable (encouraged even) that we coat our throats with a hearty dose of booze and butter.  That’s right, my friends… it’s totally time to drink butter.  Call your mom, call your friends, text your ex-boyfriend from three ex-boyfriends ago (awesome excuse), and let everyone know that it’s time to get on this drinkable butter bandwagon.  Hallelujah, this is fun/dangerous/delicious/ridiculous/whaaaat!?

This post is brought to you by:  there’s a bottle of spiced rum ‘decorating’ my desk (and something must be done about it).

rum and such

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Honey Almond Butter Chocolate Tart

honey almond butter and chocolate tart

It’s totally that time of year.  Time to button up my blouse, dig out my cranberry red lipstick, and invite people over for dinner.  My usual dinner of scrambled eggs and popcorn isn’t going to cut it.  It’s the holidays and people need to be, you know… impressed!  No pressure or anything.  Seriously, no presh.

Except, wait… why am I still feeling the pressure?  The holiday season is awesome and just a bit overwhelming/intimidating/oh goodness gracious/what dessert am I going to make/ what shoes am I going to wear.  I get it.  I really do.  I am here (with my aggressively colored blouse on) to help.

I got a dinner party plan, and I partnered with the Almond Board of California to bring my plan to life.  This holiday dinner planning is serious business.  There is focaccia to make, Brussels sprouts to roast, and pork loins to roll.  There’s also some fun and short  videos to inspire you each step of the way!

Joy the Baker holiday guide

There’s also this clever holiday guide with every recipe from Almond Roasted Focaccia Bread with Grapes and Rosemary to Cherry Almond and Wild Rice Stuffed Pork Loin.  Yea… I kinda pulled out all the stops (and all the almonds).

honey almond butter and chocolate tart

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Cranberry Orange & Pecan Coffee Cake

cranberry orange coffee cake

This weekend I found myself in one of those expensive clothing boutiques that I really… really had no business being in.  You know those stores: random things cost three hundred dollars and you have no idea why.  Yea…

I realized something crazy ridiculous while browsing around.  The only sizes displayed on the racks were sizes 0, 2, and 4.  I ran across the occasional size 6 but those were like seeing a unicorn in a coffee shop.

Um…. this business practice does not at all agree with my thighs.  Putting me through the discomfort of asking the XS sales girl for a larger-than-size-six-size is just not really that cool.  It doesn’t inspire me to spend hundred of dollars to treat myself to clothes I don’t really need.

It’s like… Ok, fancy boutique, I see the ways in which you glorify size tiny while simultaneously work to undermine my confidence… but I happen to be happy with this body that I inhabit and I would hope that you would respect that, and reflect my needs among your offensively expensive offerings.  No?  You need to ‘go see if there’s a larger size from the back’?  Wwwwhhhyyyy must we suffer through this exchange?  It doesn’t have to be like this… you know that, right!? Fine.  Whatever.  I’m going to Zara.

I’m outraged and appalled (ok… i’m totally being dramatic) and I would like for you to pass the cake.  Not because I’m eating my feelings, but because I actually eat cake and I’m totally ok with that.

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On Instagram

I’m completely obsessed with Instagram.

(For those of you who don’t know, Instagram is a phone app that allows for pretty picture sharing between friends and pretty picture stalking between strangers).

I’m obsessed with scrolling through Instagram photos because of the beauty and circumstance.  Instagram will tell me that my friend Tracy is making gingerbread houses out of graham crackers.  Instagram tells me that this British dude I met in a Hollywood bar two years ago wears friendship bracelets and plays a white guitar.  Instagram tells me that your sunset view is pretty and your new baby is pretty cute.  I can see your shoes.  You share your morning coffee.  And I can appreciate your love of plants, and farm life, and warm soup.  It’s all so weird and random and tailored and intimate.

Here’s who I love to see pop up in my Instagram feed:

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