Watermelon Peach Caprese Salad

Watermelon Peach Caprese Salad

Watermelon Peach Caprese Salad

Yea.  I definitely stood in the kitchen, staring at this gorgeous summer salad, wondering/hoping/wishing/longing to put all of these ingredients between two slices of bread to make an extra buttery, extra mozzarella-y grilled cheese.  

I think watermelon in a sandwich might be out-of-bounds.  I think this ultra fresh summer salad belongs on a plate with a knife and fork.  I think I just want to turn everything into a grilled cheese sandwich.  

Related:  Lasagna Grilled Cheese

 Summery goodness!  And the great news is that tomatoes and watermelon are only going to get better as we get deeper into summer.  

Now excuse me while I go daydream more grilled cheese situations.  

Watermelon Peach Caprese Salad

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Marakesh Carrots

Marrakesh Carrots

Marrakesh Carrots

Someone in my family (I forget exactly who to blame for these memories), was very fond of adding grated carrots to the bottom of their Jell-o molds for holiday dessert.  Come to think of it, there were grated carrots and a can of fruit cocktail at the bottom of the red Jell-o mold dessert.  Criminal.  At least the Jell-o was red. 

There are things better things to do with shredded carrots.  Things that are less jiggly, and frankly, less rude.  This carrot salad fits the bill.  It’s hearty, sweet and spicy, salty and crunchy, durable enough to last a few days in the refrigerator, and just generally polite… not rude at all.  

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

This recipe comes from Sara Forte’s brilliant salad-brain. You know Sprouted Kitchen? Beautiful, whole, and healthy food (and a really cute baby, too). The new Sprouted Kitchen book Bowl + Spoon is a tasty collections of breakfast bowls, salads, and sides that are elevated, healthful, but still totally comforting.

Tracy made Beet + Avocado Poke Bowls from the book.  The beets are gorgeous.  

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Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings

The days really are warming.  There are the prettiest strawberries in the market.  It might almost be time to daydream about watermelon wedges.  But… I still need soup.  The unapologetically comforting kind of soup with soft carrots, big bites of chicken, almost too much thyme, and the fluffiest floating dumplings.  

It’s Winter comforts in Spring.  Let’s bridge the gap.  You know… like wearing a light scarf or shoes with no socks… except this is food and way way delicious.    

Chicken and Dumplings

Boneless and skinless chicken thighs to start.  I like chicken thighs because they’re more fatty and flavorful than chicken breast.  Always go for flavor!  

The meat is seasoned well and browned in hot hot olive oil.  This is where the layers of flavor begin.  

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Sausage and Mushroom Risotto

Sausage and Mushroom Risotto

Sausage and Mushroom Risotto

As I move through the days, the months, the year, the seasons, I’ve noticed that my body always tells me what I need.  These days it’s all citrus juices and earth flavors.  Don’t get me wrong, I generally move through my days filling my body with coffee and sugar in various forms, paying very little attention to the little voice inside me crying for baby carrots.  

These days my cravings have been undeniable.  I want big bowl of warm goodness that make me feel like I have my feet on the ground.  This earthy and salty risotto is undeniably grounding, comforting, warm, and otherwise perfect.

This is the first time I’ve made risotto on the stovetop.  I’ll walk you through my technique and mild panic.  

If the stirring is more than you can handle (no judgement, I get it), you can try this Baked Lemon Risotto.  One stir and some quality oven time.  A dream, really! 

And!  For sweeter Arborio rice indulgences:  Maple Ginger Rice Pudding.  In other words, I’m not leaving my house again until I need to go stock up on more rice.  Until then, I’ll have the Do Not Disturb sign on my door. Thaaaanks! 

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Whole Roasted Onions

whole roasted onions

  whole roasted onions

Here’s how this is going to go down, my friends:  whole roasted sweet yellow onions, roasted with olive oil and butter, roasted with rosemary, roasted whole, roasted to sweet submission.  

It’s cold.  I mean… really cold.  Here’s our chance to crank up the oven, throw these onions inside and lean against the oven door as they transform from sharp and bite-y to soft and sweet.  

Oh wait… you might be one of those people who think they don’t like onions.   I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.  You exclusively like whole roasted onions.  

Now let’s carry on. 

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Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Cheddar Beer Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower with Cheddar Beer Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower with Cheddar Beer Sauce

My mom had a few predictable and necessary things she’d have to repeat ad-nauseam to my sister and me at our family dinner table night after night.  There was the inevitable ‘sit still and someone please say grace’ followed by something like ‘do NOT kick your sister under the table’ or ‘stop staring at your sister when you know it bothers her and eat your fish sticks, thank you’.

My favorite/least favorite was ‘eat your vegetables, they’ll make you beautiful’.  The vegetables she was referring to were usually barely steamed broccoli or cauliflower served nearly raw (and yes, full of nutrients… which is entirely unimpressive to an eight year old).  If the (basically raw) vegetables weren’t eaten within three minutes of leaving the steamer they devolved into sometime entirely inedible to a child that wanted nothing more than a Happy Meal for dinner.  Eat your vegetables.  They’ll make you beautiful.  Eat them.  Eat them.  No seriously.  Eat them.

We ate them.

What my mom didn’t have in mind is that I’d grow up to simmer my dinner vegetables in butter and olive oil and serve them in a homemade Cheddar Beer Sauce.  I mean… Eat your vegetables!  (roasted and toasted and awesome!) They’ll make you beautiful.  (and so will the cheese sauce?)  Oh man.  Thanks mom / Sorry mom.

Roasted Cauliflower with Cheddar Beer Sauce

Here’s how this happens.  Here’s what you’ll need:  a big head of cauliflower, a big pot to boil it in, butter, olive oil, lemon, and spice.

For the cheese sauce, all good things which include: milk, butter, beer, mustard, and Worcestershire.

Let’s!

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Inside the Baker’s Kitchen + Creamy Spiced Squash Soup with Parmesan Thyme Popovers

creamy spiced squash soup

creamy spiced squash soup

I‘ve been thinking a lot about comforts.

As I’m preparing to host my first Thanksgiving in New Orleans, I’m thinking a lot about exactly how to make my guests feel comfortable.  I’m thinking beyond moist stuffing and sweet cranberry sauce, because comfortable house guests require much more than one fancy meal on a Thursday.

I’m gathering baskets filled with filtered water, fancy soaps, good hand cream, extra toothbrushes just in case, extra blankets for the bed, a lavender spray for the bathroom, and a refrigerator full of snacks and comforts.

It’s essential and ultra luxurious… and since I don’t often host a house full of family (loud, hungry, crazy crazy family), it would be fair to say that maybe I’m going a bit overboard.

I’ve made a giant batch of this creamy squash soup and added a bit of ground clove and freshly grated nutmeg to highlight the sweet squash.  Salty pancetta breadcrumbs add a bit of crunch, and the whole deal is waiting in the refrigerator for a Thanksgiving week lunch.

I expect to feel proud and accomplished, until I run out of popovers and someone asks for more.

inside the baker's kitchen

We’re back in the kitchen with KitchenAid and it’s time to work these shelves.  It feels like I’m going to have every pan and every appliance on their job this week.  For this creamy soup and crispy popovers, I’m using a few new favorites:  the 7-speed Hand Mixer which is a savior for quick baking jobs, and the Pro Line® Series Cordless Hand Blender for the smoothest, creamiest blended soups.

If you missed our first Inside the Baker’s Kitchen, be sure the check out these sweet and savory biscuits!

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Mushroom and Mash

Mushroom and Mash

Mushroom and Mash

I just realized something essential to my next week.  Um… this is my first Thanksgiving!  This is the first year, of my 33 years in the world, that I’m hosting my first totally-grown, matching-casserole-dishes, not-paperplate, make-all-the-pies THANKSGIVING at my New Orleans apartment with aaallll of my family.

I’m pretty sure this is a big deal.

I need a plan.  I really need a plan.

Nervously tapping my foot, biting my nails, and drinking toooooo much coffee is not a plan, right?  It’s the opposite of a plan.

I’m putting together a meal that is simple, casual, non-traditional, and filled with sides and pies.  I’m not cooking a turkey… which either makes me THE WORST person, or a genius.  Probably the worst, but even knowing that, I’m still not doing it.  We’re going to enjoy a giant pot of gumbo and aaalll of the Thanksgiving sides, including these fluffy and earthy mashed potatoes.

The plan is coming together (and also includes a triple batch of this Mac and Cheese).

Mushroom and Mash

Being bigtime thankful is also part of the plan.  Thankful for New Orleans, and visiting family, and warm gumbo, and mashed potatoes with roasted mushrooms.  Thankful for all of the good and the gnarly and everything in between.

The Internet wants us to succeed next week:

•  I’m definitely into group games… unless I have to act something out and hope people guess it:  10 Thanksgiving Games To Make The Holiday Fun For Everyone

•  These Molasses Spice Cookies are developing quite the reputation here in New Orleans.  I also love Jessica’s Thanksgiving Dos and Don’ts.  

•  I’m not making a turkey BUT I am ordering aaallll of the gumbo from Cochon Butcher.

•  Dijon Maple Green Beans sound like juuust the ticket.  They also have bacon and feta!

•  Deb’s Pretzel Parker House Rolls!  Just pretzel everything, thanks!

• Tracy’s Creamed Spinach should be an everyday thing, don’t you think?

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Curry Roasted Acorn Squash

curry roasted acorn squash (4)

curry roasted acorn squash (3)

I‘m back in my kitchen this week… back from making pies with you up and down the east coast… back from gently and not so gently asking you to buy my dang book… back to my roasting pan.

curry roasted acorn squash

This acorn squash was patiently awaiting my return.  Just sitting tight, waiting to be more than it already is.

I hacked my way through the protective skin (didn’t even lose a finger), removed the seeds, sliced, and drizzled.

This is the result of those efforts.  Let’s make it together… I mean, right!?

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Creamy Vegan Herb Salad Dressing

Creamy Vegan Herb Salad Dressing

Creamy Vegan Herb Salad Dressing

Consider me an occasional fan of tofu.

My parents were early adopters of tofu.  Remember back when health food had as much cheese and potatoes as tofu?  Sure… there was the weirdest brown rice ever, but we covered it in cheese and sauce and all was right with the world.

Nowadays, I’m an occasional tofu enthusiast.  Count me among the few who just realized that you can make a delicious dipping and salad dressing from TOFU!  Did you know this?  Were you keeping it from me?

This thick dressing is creamy, satisfying, and doesn’t read as tofu per say… not that that would be a bad thing, but you know what I mean.   This dressing is more Ranch in distinction.  Herby, bright, and almost so good you want to rub it on your face (which is weird).

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Roasted Tomato and Pesto Grilled Cheese

Roasted Tomato Pesto and Brie Grilled Cheese

Roasted Tomato Pesto and Brie Grilled Cheese

Here’s what we’re going to do:

We’re going to go to our refrigerators and gather all of the delicious things.  If those things are roasted, pesto-ed, and melty… that’s ideal.

Truth be told, sometimes all I have in the fridge is orange juice and bendy celery… that’s why God invented bourbon and those Chinese take-out menus at the bottom of my junk drawer.  Orange juicy and bendy celery aren’t allowed in this sandwiches.  Not on this day… when there is precious Brie and pesto in the refrigerator.

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Muffuletta Pasta Salad

muffuletta pasta salad / joy the baker

muffuletta pasta salad / joy the baker

Some might say that you haven’t lived until you’ve had a muffuletta sandwich at its birthplace: Central Grocery in New Orleans.

For those of you who have yet to live (dramatic,right?), a Muffuletta is a sandwich made when a soft loaf of Italian bread is topped with olive spread, a pickled Italian vegetable medley called giardiniera, salami, mortadella, ham, and provolone.  The sandwich is also often has parsley, vinegar, and olive oil, and is pressed together to marry the flavors.  It’s a dang good sandwich.  There’s no denying it.  The muffuletta was made popular back when New Orleans was just a youngin’  by the lunch habits of Italian immigrants, and ooooh how thankful we are for (among other things) their sandwich sensibilities.

Muffuletta Pasta Salad by joy the baker

Before I dive into full-blown muffuletta-land, I’m doing to tinker around with a pasta salad version.  There’s lots of chopping and cubing.  It’s meditative, don’t fight it. I cubed salami, ham, roasted chicken, and provolone.  Crisp celery and raw onions and garlic for kick.  Olives.. a lot, and sliced.  Parsley and dried spices.  Dignified and delicious, all of it!

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Homemade Steak Sauce

Homemade Steak Sauce

Homemade Steak Sauce

I’m not the meatiest of carnivores.  I’m in it for the toppings.

I’m most interested in a steak when it is topped with a ludicrous amount of A-1 sauce and/or bleu cheese.  Hamburgers with exactly toooo much cheddar cheese.  Yes, please.  I’ll sign up for lobster because of the clarified butter.  And most every East LA taco truck is amazing because of its seasoning, sauce, and salsas.

Join me in saucing just about anything and everything.

My refrigerator is filled with a menagerie of little jars filled with sweet, sour, and spicy sauce concoctions.  Butter too… obviously lots of butter.

Steak is a special occasion in my refrigerator.  Because it’s Summer.  Because I’m experimenting with being a grown-up lady who grills over charcoal.  Because I made a fancy-pants Homemade Steak Sauce…  it’s a very special occasion.  STEAK!

Homemade Steak Sauce

Serving suggestion:  on grilled skirt steak, in abundance, like a BOSS.

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One-Pot French Onion Pasta

one pot french onion pasta

one pot french onion pasta

I’m already anticipating Sunday.

Talk about putting the cart before the horse.  We haven’t even hopped around the weekend enough to make it to Sunday.

Sundays, I would argue, are the worst.  Actually… they’re the BEST but only between the hours of 8am and noon when we’re sleeping in, churching, brunching, or napping after pancakes.  After noon on a Sunday I find myself in the unfortunate task of pretending to be relaxed while stressing about the week to come.  We’ve talked about this before.  It’s called The Sunday Stresses, and it’s more real that we deserve.

Luckily there’s PASTA.  All healing, all comforting, all filling PASTA.  Thank you, Lord.  For real.

I have pasta every Sunday night.  I spoon myself an embarrassingly large bowl, sit cross-legged on the couch, watch Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and just tear through a bowl.  I’m trying to fill the pit of Sunday Stresses and pasta usually works, until it doesn’t… but even still.

One Pot French Onion Pasta

This One-Pot pasta comes together easily and makes the house smell like an onion dream.  There’s just something so right about the smell of cooking onions.

While the onions, thyme, and chicken broth flavors have more of a Fall feel to them… well, The Sunday Stresses know no season.   Let’s just get some quality couch time in.  Let’s make out with pasta, just a little.

NOT WEIRD AT ALL!

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Turkey Sloppy Joes with Buttery Buns

turkey sloppy joes with buttery buns

turkey sloppy joes with buttery buns

There was a girl singing Summertime (and the living is easy) outside of my window as I made these Sloppy Joes today.  She wasn’t the best singer in the world.  I imagine that if I had the gall to sing in public, I’d be just around average as well.  A lot of times it’s way more about feel and guts when it comes to singing in the streets.  You just have to step out there and mean in.  That’s just about everything.

I’m feel the same way when I step in the kitchen to make bread.  Feel and guts, every time.

Turkey Sloppy Joes with Buttery Buns

I’ve had every intention of making homemade hamburger-type buns for (no joke) two years now.  Two years!?

I think that’s called self-procrastination.  Sometimes even the best laid plans take years to activate.  Feel and guts!  I’m telling  you.  It’s so real.

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Lemon and Asparagus Pasta with Pistachios and Mozzarella

lemon asparagus pasta with pistachio and mozzarella

lemon asparagus pasta with pistachio and mozzarella

It’s a good weekend for pasta.  You know how I know?  Every weekend is a good weekend for pasta.

Too easy.

If there’s also a couch involved in the weekend pasta plans… game over.  Consider me done!

Lemon and Asparagus Pasta

There are really great things happening in this big bowl of weekend pasta.

It’s Spring and we’re taking full advantage.  Asparagus, yes.  It’s even boiled with the pasta so laziness isn’t an excuse.  Fresh herbs and lemon brighten the whole deal into oblivion.  Olive oil… the good kind that you actually want to eat instead of butter.

We’re adding pistachios too because I’ve just discovered that Pistachios Crusted Asparagus is the best thing ever and the two should always and forever be paired together.

Lastly we’re adding mega special Bottarga.  Have you ever tried this stuff?

Bottarga is salted and cured fish roe.  Yea… get into it.  In this preparation the Bottarga is grated into tiny flakes.  It’s fishy and super salty and takes the place of Parmesan cheese in this pasta.  So much flavor! It’s unique and special.

Actually wait… what’s so special about this Bottarga is that is was handmade by my friend Jill in NYC.  It’s love, and gorgeous grated Bottarga can also be yours.  I’m already plotting sprinkling my eggs tomorrow with Bottarga.  This obsession has taken root.

Ok now… let’s pasta.

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Turkey and Bacon Meatloaf

turkey bacon meatloaf

turkey bacon meatloaf

I’ve had a bee in my bonnet for the last few weeks.  The bee in my bonnet was meatloaf shaped and dang persistent.

I’ll be the first to admit that meatloaf is kind of a weird thing to make these days.  Is it retro cool or vintage chic yet?  Or is it still just… meatloaf?

turkey bacon meatloaf

This meatloaf features ground turkey, crispy cooked bacon, deeply caramelized onions, and softened garlic.  It’s lighter than a beef meatloaf but boy of boy does the bacon pull off a miracle in this meatloaf.  It’s all the salty and savory I needed to calm the bee in my bonnet.

I imagine that if I had an actual bee in my bonnet, it would be far less delicious and basically a panic situation. But really, why am I wearing a bonnet in the first place?  Asking for trouble.

turkey bacon meatloaf

Let’s start with chopped onions, garlic, and chopped bacon in a sauté pan.  It’s a very good beginning!

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It’s Not Summer Yet Greek Pasta Salad

greek pasta salad

not yet summer greek pasta salad

Often my cravings tell me more about what I want, than the produce tables at the farmer’s market.

I know fresh tomatoes and cucumbers aren’t exactly deep winter foods, but I really just needed to combine them in a bowl with salty feta…. juuust to be sure.

This pasta salad feels extra indulgent because it tastes like early summer when most of you are ankle-deep in slush.  To be fair, this pasta salad is also loaded with an almost embarrassing amount of sheep’s milk feta.  So… should we start counting the days until Memorial Day now?  Too soon?

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Bonkers Awesome Avocado Grapefruit and Edamame Salad

edamame grapefruit avocado salad

edamame grapefruit avocado salad

Most of the country is in a mega deep freeze, and it feels like California just keeps churning out giant grapefruits and ripe avocados.  It’s obnoxious, really. I should keep the fact that I’m wearing a tank top to myself.  California is a spoiler state.

I’m actually toying with the idea of moving away from California.  For a native California girl… that’s a pretty big deal.  I’d need an air conditioner, some sort of frizz control system for my hair, and I’d sooo miss the Pacific Ocean.  Thinking about moving away has me appreciating these mild California days, appreciating the produce at the farmer’s markets, and taking in the laid back attitude.  I’ve always enjoyed it, but now I’m really appreciating it.

We’re all about salads and juice this month, right?  I feel like I’m trying to make up for all of the cinnamon rolls I devoured in December.  Seriously… I had so many cinnamon rolls!  I don’t want my salad to feel like a chore, ever.  That’s the absolute worst.  Every salad should have a few happy ingredients: fresh citrus and ripe avocado, crispy bacon and extra cheese.

In this, the latest Bonkers Awesome episode, my friend Alex and I go on a detox (and subsequent re-tox) kick.  There’s green juice, salad, and bacon involved… so… it’s not like we’re making any serious resolutions any time soon.

edamame grapefruit avocado salad

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Roasted Squash and Mushroom Tarts

Roasted Squash and Mushroom Tart

roasted squash and mushroom tart

I read yesterday that we have a new way of qualifying the people we date.  We’re supposed to thoroughly inspect their refrigerators.  Yea… let’s go ahead and add that to the to-do list.

Apparently, what our dates have in their refrigerators is supposed to tell us a lot about who they are, how they might behave in a relationship, and what kind of mustard they like.

Really though?  As if dating weren’t hard enough.  Now we have to finagle our way back to our date’s house (which actually isn’t that hard at all) and find an excuse to rummage through their refrigerator?  This concept has flaws.

Now I’m thinking about the status of my own refrigerator (because, I’m sooo self-centered).  If a date were to look through my fridge, they’d find an entire shelf dedicated to condiments, milks of various ages animals and nuts, a container of raw sauerkraut, and TWO WHOLE PIES.  It’s basically a cry for help.

You won’t find these Roasted Squash Tarts in the refrigerator.  I ate two and took the rest to a Halloween party.  A party!  Where I hung out with friends.  I have friends!  My refrigerator is trying to pawn me off as a mustard-loving, milk-enthusiast with a passion for pies.  True, but not really the whole picture.

_MG_4814

Dating is complicated.

In other news, it’s ROASTING SEASON!  I know because my feet are cold and I want to throw the entire contents of my refrigerator into a hot oven.

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