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.

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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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Classic Mac and Cheese with Minty Peas

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I would like to feed you this mac and cheese, by the very large spoonful, until we make eye contact for too long and it gets awkward.  That’s a real thing, you know.

homeroom, oakland

This Classic Macaroni and Cheese recipe comes from one my very favorite new books The Mac + Cheese Cookbook!  Seriously.  We’re talking mac and cheese recipes, cool sides, and a peanut butter pie recipe that is just taunting me.

The book is written by two awesome and inspiring ladies, Allison and Erin who own a mac and cheese restaurant called Homeroom in Oakland, CA.  I was lucky enough to visit Homeroom this month and I am all-over smitten.

I made this recipe because I admire and want to support these two ladies, because comfort food is impossible to deny, and because macaroni and cheese is just the thing to break up all of the cookies I’ve baked as of late.

Also… I want to feed you until it gets weird.  It’s already weird.

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Toasted Pecan and Blueberry Couscous Salad

Toasted Pecan and Blueberry Couscous Salad

Hey hey pretty friend!

One of life’s great pleasures is sharing a salad over lunch.  You know… one of those leisurely lunches that involve pink wine and lots of bread baskets.  The kind of lunch that lasts until at least 3:30 in the afternoon.  The kind of lunch where you almost run out of things to talk about… but that never happens.  I covet those lunches, especially on a Monday.

Let’s share a salad!  I should tell you now that I put blueberries in it.  Trust me on this one.  Also… call me the salad whisperer.

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Heirloom Tomato Tart

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You guys, I’m in deep.  I’m in the middle of some pretty serious Instagram stalking.  I’ve gone down the rabbit hole.

I’ve followed a comment on my friend Whitney’s feed and now I’m well into some stranger’s Instagram wedding album, some weird dude’s pet snake, and did you know there’s a whole Ryan Gosling thing going on on Instagram?  Of course there is.  Also, there are just so many selfies of strangers I have to marvel at!  Gosh.  I’m in it.

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It’s usually when I’m in deep that I start to think about the other side of the coin:  someone losing themselves in my Instagram feed.  What would they think?  Geez, this girl eats a lot of food.  Geez, this girl likes to stack food and take pictures of it.  How many pictures of a desk can one person take?  A lot.  Ok… she has a cat.  And cocktails.  And she likes cookies.  And she’s been to New Orleans.

That’s about the long and short of it.

Whatever we do, let’s not think about the former bosses, and ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriends that are probably scrolling through our feeds.  Actually… maybe we do want to think about them, and hope they’re hungry when they run across this picture of our Heirloom Tomato Tart.

We’re here to inspire, right?  …and occasionally flaunt our flakey crust and lip gloss.

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French Bread Pizza: 2 Ways

French Bread Pizza: 2 ways

Two things you should know before this whole pizza extravaganza begins.  One: a ‘maj’, short for major… is a best friend.  Two:  Tracy is my maj.

I met Tracy a few years ago.  We caught one other rolling our eyes at the same thing.  It was frozen risotto that deserved our collective eye roll.  To be fair… it was gross and we were hungry.  Tracy is the kind of friend that you can bring to a party because she’ll compliment all the girls (most sincerely), give all the guys a much needed ribbing (most sincerely), and laugh at fart jokes.  She’s a crowd pleaser, and if you tend to be on the quiet side, like me… Tracy is a ringer.  She’s such a win.

French Bread Pizza: 2 ways

Also… if you were to say a sentence to Tracy like, ‘Hey what should I make for my blog?’, she’ll have the right answer… which is French Bread Pizza, always and forever.

Tracy and I live many miles apart, but found ourselves in the same kitchen this week.  This sort of rare occasion calls for carbs and cheese.  There was sausage and cheese, chicken and barbecue sauce, and a tremendous amount of laughter.

Tracy made Greek French Bread Pizza and Sausage and Pepper Breakfast French Bread Pizza… and she did a thing with Tapatio that made my heart kind of swoony.  Check it, don’t wreck it.

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Shrimp + Grits + Cocktail

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shrimp + grits

This isn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve been down this shrimp and grits road before… and I’ve taken you with me.  My last encounter with a warm dish of creamy grits and spicy shrimp was served to a gentleman whose only remark was that I had failed to remove the tails from the shrimp before serving them to him.  Really, dude?  Really!?  So ended that short relationship (not really… but sort of… FOR REAL).

I needed a redo.  Not for flavor’s sake, just for my own self… and because I totally just wanted a giant bowl of this madness.

New dating rule #37:  I graciously and happily remove a cooked shrimp tail for every car door that is graciously opened for me.  Respect, yo!

ps.  I don’t actually have thirty-seven dating rules.  I do, however, have two giant bowls of lunch.  Who’s counting (I am).

shrimp + grits + cocktail

I made these Shrimp + Grits with my friend Jonathan.  I bought the shrimp, he crashed my house with beer, cucumber, and lime… and we shot pictures on the floor by my front door (see Instagram) (we’re really fancy).

Jonathan made a bonkers cocktail to pair with the Shrimp + Grits… a Cucumber Blonde Bloody Mary.  It’s fizzy and refreshing.  It’s takes the tomato thickness out of the traditional Bloody Mary and makes this cocktail truly gulp-able.  In addition to being an awesome bringer-of-cocktails-to-my-house, Jonathan is also an incredible photographer, baker… and he’s obsessed with my cat.  All the things I look for in a friend.

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Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I’m not much for celebrating national food holidays.  It seems like everyday there’s sooooomething.

We could get tipsy on National Mulled Wine Day… which, strangely, is celebrated on March 3rd.  We could bust out a spoon for National Nutella Day.  We could get our fingers greasy on National Fried Chicken Day.  I’m actually thinking of changing my birthday to May 14th, National Buttermilk Biscuit Day.

Did you know that there’s a National German Chocolate Cake Day?  Yea. That’s real.  I hope you have your party hats ready.

I know what you’re thinking…when is National Grilled Cheese Day?  Surely this perfect food must have a day of remembrance.  I’ll tell you what… grilled cheese is so special that it has, not just a day, but an entire month of celebrating!

This is something I can get behind.  All in!

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On Toast: Baguette

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on toast: baguette

Let’s explore TOAST!!!

Toast feels all at once completely childish and utterly adult.

Toast was the first thing I learned how to make for myself in the kitchen.  Actually… false.  I first learned how to teeter on our old kitchen stool to reach for the box of Cinnamon Life cereal, dig for milk in the fridge, find the canister of brown sugar in the bottom left shelf, and slap it all together in a bowl.

Toast was the second thing I learned how to make.  Toast with cinnamon and sugar.  Toast with peanut butter and jelly.  Toast with butter and relish when I was feeling strange.  In my kid-brain of chores, allowance, homework, be-nice-to-your-sister, and no-singing-at-the-dinner-table… a piece of dry toast felt like something I could control and explore.

When I eat toast as an adult, I always think back to my kid-brain.  Toasted bread is a blank slate.  I can pile it high with sardines and lemon juice, and stand in my kitchen trying to convince my cat that I’m eating people food… not cat food.  Sure, I know how to roast a chicken, make a salad, and drink wine out of a proper glass, but sometimes it’s just nice to eat toasted bread, topped with whatever I dang please, and drink wine out of a mason jar.  I’m grown.   Thank heavens toast can be dinner.

We’re exploring toast this week.  Let’s get into this blank slate.  Let’s smash avocados, and mix our own cinnamon sugar.  There might also be Nutella and sprinkles.  It’s a week full of toast.  Get into it!

on toast: baguette

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Spinach Soup with Garlic Thyme Croutons

spinach soup with garlic thyme croutons

Soup is my restart button. Once I get started with the powdered sugar and beignets, it’s a slipper slippery slope that only leads to handfuls of caramel corn, and stacks of chocolate chip cookies.

Something savory, green, and surprisingly filling is the only way to stop me from digging through the freezer for a pint of ice cream.  I have a problem.  It’s called will power… and I don’t think I have any.

spinach soup with garlic thyme croutons

I want to talk about green things today.  We should.  We really should.

We should talk about buttery croutons too… because who wants soup without crisp, butter-soaked, garlic-infused croutons.  No one.

Aaaand here we are on the slippery slope again.  There’s no helping me.

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Brown Butter Rosemary Orange Cornbread

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Biscuits.  I love.  You know this to be true because I’m forever trying to stuff them with caramelized mushrooms  or chocolate chunks.  We could talk about biscuits all day and all night… and that would feel totally reasonable to me.

I have, however, neglected another Southern-bred carbohydrate:  cornbread.  How has this slipped by me?  Criminal, really.  In an effort to right this egregious wrong, I bring you cornbread with extras… totally major/bonkers-awesome extras like browned butter, orange, and rosemary.  It’s like cornbread gets a zippy kick in the pants.

The extra butter and honey drip added to the cornbread… that’s just showing off, which is totally allowed.

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Pickles and Brie Grilled Cheese

pickles and brie grilled cheese

I’m on high-alert.  I’m totally overdue.

I have the distinct feeling that something awkward is about to happen to me. A few months ago I ran into an ex-boyfriend at the grocery store.  It was very early in the morning and… picture a hot mess… that was my hair.  His new girlfriend… picture flawless… that was her.  Ok.  No big deal. It happens… and directly after it happens I’m relieved that I have at least another month before I have to suffer another such awkward moment.  It’s karmic… I get it.

It’s been a few months since my last painful karmic event and I can feel it coming.  It’s like a sixth sense.  I can feel the awkward approach.  I have a feeling I’m going to run into an ex-ladyfriend.  You know, sometimes you’re friends with girls and then sometimes you stop being friends with her because you realize she has been talking some major trash about you for like… ever.  And then sometimes your worlds collide.  And you wish they wouldn’t.  And you hope, at least, you’ve combed your hair.

It’s about to happen to me.  I can feel it.

Oh.  Wait.  Are you under the impression that I get along with everyone ever?  hahahaa.  No.  I have a very short list of people I would like to cage fight.  Totally normal.

pickles and brie grilled cheese

While we’re on the topic of painfully awkward moments that I have no control over, can I come clean about a nervous habit?  I nervous eat pickles straight from the jar while standing in front of the open refrigerator.  Bread and Butter pickles are my vice.

And so this sandwich was born.

ps.  Did I just mention cage fighting?  I’m sorry (kinda).

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