How To Make The Best BLT Sandwich – Pro Tips from a Professional

The Best BLT

The Best BLT

Ok.  So maybe I’m not a professional BLT magic maker in the strictest sense of the word professional.  A professional BLT magic maker is a good-hearted line cook who sneaks extra bacon into your sandwich.  I’m just an enthusiast.  A professional enthusiast… can we leave it at that?  

Here are my Top Seven Tips to making the best BLT!  You think you know… but you have no idea.  

Willa Jean Bread

•  Let’s start with bread!  Bread should either be perfect, or perfectly horrible.  Let me explain.  The best BLTs are made on fresh bakery-baked bakery bread.  The more times you mention the word ‘bakery’, the better the bread.  I chose a soft loaf of bakery-baked white bread from Willa Jean Bakery in New Orleans.  

If you can’t, or don’t want to, get your hands on bakery-baked bakery bread, go with grocery store sliced white bread… I’m taking like, Wonder Bread.  It’s so soft and fluffy…  I need a pillow made out of Wonder Bread to snack myself to sleep every night. Thanks.   

Also, bonus… you can choose whatever bread makes you feel good.  You’re grown. 

•  To toast or not to toast.  TOAST!  We’re not heathens (well… we are, but we’re still going to toast our bread like civilized people).  

You can toast your bread in the toaster oven, to your desired shade of golden brown.  (You don’t need me to tell you this.)  

You can toast your bread under the oven broiler where you will forget it and find yourself with blackened bread pucks.  

You can be like me and rub your sliced bread in lard and sizzle them in a cast iron skillet until mostly browned and a little burnt on both sides.  I mean… I just said lard and meant it. 

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Spicy Hot Shrimp

Spicy Hot Fried Shrimp

Spicy Hot Fried Shrimp

If you were in Nashville Tennessee this Spring, sometime between the months of March and May, you may have noticed a distinct shortage of chicken.  That’s because I was in town… eating all of it.  

All of the chicken. 

Nashville makes the best chicken.  Fried.  Roasted.  Flamed.  It’s all good.  

One of my favorite bites of chicken came from Hattie B’s, where they fry very very spicy chicken and serve very very refreshing sweet tea.  Pickled and white bread, too.  Essentials for spice management.  

Spicy Hot Fried Shrimp

I’ve spent the summer mostly not in Nashville.  I’ve missed the chicken.  

I miss the chicken so I fried some shrimp.  It seemed like the New Orleans thing to do.  

These fried shrimp are doused in hot hot hot Hattie B’s inspired sauce.  Have some sweet tea, a cold beer, and a fire extinguisher at the ready.  We’re talking fire-hot. 

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Pepperoni Pineapple and Hatch Chile Pizza

Pepperoni, Pineapple, and Hatch Chile Pizza

Pepperoni, Pineapple, and Hatch Chile Pizza

I have to be honest… I don’t believe in bad pizza.  It doesn’t exist.  Where there is bread and melted cheese, sometimes sausage and olive, sometimes pepperoni and pineapple… there is some dang good pizza. 

Frozen, warmed-over, school-lunch, cold from the fridge, so hot all the cheese slides off, any which way… it’s pizza and it’s delicious.  

I have high standards when it comes to wine and chocolate chip cookies.  Low standards when it comes to pizza and reality television.  

Let’s do this. 

Pepperoni, Pineapple, and Hatch Chile Pizza

Party.  

Pizza party.  

PS.  It’s exciting that it’s Hatch Chile Pepper season again.  These special peppers from New Mexico are just the right spicy.  Last year we made Roasted Tomato and Hatch Chile Salsa.  That was juuuust fine. 

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Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream Cake with Salted Caramel

Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream cake with Salted Caramel

Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream cake with Salted Caramel

I remember the first time I went to the grocery store by myself, for myself.  It was the day I realized I could buy cheese puffs, a candy bar, and a strawberry-kiwi Snapple… call it dinner, and no one would argue with me.  

Unbelievable.  

I’d experiment with different combinations of ridiculous dinner purchases just to make sure it was all possible.  Top Ramen and marshmallows and chocolate milk?  You’re going to let me get away with this, Mrs Cashier?  Amazing.  You mean I don’t have to buy broccoli and steam it and eat it cold?  I love you.  

Downside.  Be prepared to pay for your own weird food when you’re grown and making poor dinner decisions.

This cake is made in that spirit.  I’m here to tell you that we can combine graham crackers, pecans, salted caramel, vanilla ice cream, AND toasted marshmallows and call it CAKE!  And then we get to eat it so… what more could you want? (A pony and Beyonce’s vacation wardrobe… but focus!!  We have marshmallows on our ice cream cake!)

Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream cake with Salted Caramel

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Strawberry Watermelon Lime Juice

Watermelon Strawberry Lime Juice

Watermelon Strawberry Lime Juice

Before Joy the Baker was Joy the Baker…. Joy the Baker was a low-level, middle school candy hustler.  

I used to buy candy from the ice cream truck after school, repurpose it, work it and twerk it, and re-sell the candy to other kids… at a markup of course.  I was in it for the glory and profit.  

There was a method to the hustle:  buy blow-pop lollipops, jolly rancher hard candy strips, and starburst candies.  Get them home and into the kitchen without them being confiscated by big sister or hungry mama.  

I’d unwrap the lollipops.  Somehow… and this part is hazy… heat the jolly rancher bar and wrap it around the lollipop.  Then heat the starburst candy and smash it on top of the blow-pop creating a MEGA three in one candy experience.  Four in one candy experience if you count the bubble gum inside the lollipop.  I think there was boiling water and tweezers involved.  The memory is murky. 

I’d wrap these candy knobs in plastic wrap and sell them at school.    Is that allowed?  Who knows. 

Where did this candy creation come from!?  These were the days before Pinterest.  How did we have any good ideas at all? 

Does anyone have any idea what I’m talking about?  Surely I didn’t invent this Franken-candy on my own.  Did you meld candy in your middle school years in order to hustle them and garner middle-school fame?    

I mention my monster candy creation because one sip of this juice brought be right back to my candy layering days.  In other words, this juice tastes just like candy, and it’s pink, and cold, and otherwise delicious. 

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Watermelon Wedge with Kale, Jalapeño, and Avocado

Watermelon Wedge Salad

Watermelon Wedge Salad

“I’m not so sure about watermelon and green salad.”  

I hear you.  I hear you, fan of donuts and caramels and watermelon margaritas.  Watermelon and greens?  Suspicious.  I totally get it.  

Just imagine this watermelon as a crisp, slightly sweet, juicy and delicious plate upon which you eat your salad from.  Except it’s an edible plate.  A plate that you’re going to eat.  Because actually it’s just fruit and it really is delicious with a slightly spicy kale salad.  

Its August.  We’re melting.  But we’re not going down without a fight.  Watermelon and greens to the rescue. 

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Cinnamon Sugar Funnel Cake with Peaches and Raspberries

Cinnamon Sugar Funnel Cake

Some things are better left a mystery.  It’s best not to know how many grams of fat are in a really good Pina Colada.  When drinks come with umbrellas and a side of fruit… all bets are way way off.

 It’s best not to know how many miles you’ve run when your knees are sweaty, your breath is just about gone, and you’re dog tired.  It’s the knowing that will have you talking your run-brain into stopping after the next tenth of a mile.  Maybe that’s just me. 

It’s best not to know how many people hate-follow you on Instagram photos because… how is that even a thing that people have time to do!? Good grief.  

It was best to be oblivious to the fact that we can make funnel cake… yes, the fried state fair delicacy… right in our very homes.  But now that we know, it feels like out duty to not unknown… and thus, eat a whole heck of a lot of funnel cake. 

It’s just that things get a little out of hand once you know you can make things like funnel cake and Beer Battered Onion Rings and Homemade Ranch Sauce right in your kitchen… in your very own kitchen… and you don’t even have to be wearing pants (although you should for hot oil safety… seriously).  

Cinnamon Sugar Funnel Cake

I should also mention that making homemade funnel is pretty dang easy.  There’s one part where we get nervous and hold our breaths a bit… but other than that, too easy.  We’re in real trouble now. 

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Charred Fresh Corn Cakes

Fresh Corn Cakes

Fresh Corn Cakes

You mean to tell me that I get to walk into a grocery store these days and choose between soft ripe peaches, juicy strawberries, big-ol raspberries AND fresh corn on the cob!? It’s just too good.  Everything is like candy.  Candy that I can char over an open flame and smash into savory pancakes.  

I might need someone to hold my hand and tell me everything is going to be alright when summer fades and Winter tubers are all we have to get excited about.  

Spoiled.  Consider me spoiled.  

Now let’s make some cakes! 

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Black Pepper and Strawberry Jam Doughnuts

Strawberry Black Pepper Doughnuts

Strawberry Black Pepper Doughnuts (10)

Remember my Summer Bucket List?  (How is your list coming along, BTW?)  

Well… I’m ticking them off.  I’m super close to meeting my running goal of 7 miles AND to celebrate, I’ve decided to cross another goal off my list:  making jelly filled doughnuts!  

To-do lists that include making and eating doughnuts… pretty smart on my part.  Life goals that include making and eating doughnuts… I feel like I’m doing a pretty great job at life.  Get in on this with me.    Strawberry Black Pepper Doughnuts

Doughnuts, luscious and buttery dough from scratch.  Sweet strawberry jam and spicy black pepper for flair.  Why not show off a little?    

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Easy Summer Shrimp Boil

Easy New Orleans Shrimp Boil

Easy New Orleans Shrimp Boil

I’ve learned something very important about New Orleans… I’ve learned that there’s A LOT I don’t know about New Orleans.  

This beautiful, majestic, haunted, steamy city I’ve called home for over a year has secrets.  Big secrets about past lives and lost loves. Small secrets about where to get the best Sazerac (still tbd) and how to make a stellar seafood boil.  

Actually… the seafood boil isn’t a small secret.  It’s important.  

The secret is heart and soul, guts, care, attention, salt, big ol’ shrimp, and boil seasoning.  Mostly heart and soul.  That’s the main ingredient.  Also… if you have a few salacious secrets, throw those in the boil too.  I think that’s why some of these New Orleans boils are so dang spicy.  

It’s Summer and whether we’re down in the swamp or not… I think we should boil ourselves some seafood, wave our neighbors over, drink cold beers and spill all of our tea.  

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Charred Corn with Pistachio Cilantro Lime Rub

Charred Corn with Pistachio Cilantro Lime Rub

Charred Corn with Pistachio Cilantro Lime Rub

Do I have anything in my teeth?  Actually, don’t answer that.  I know I have corn and cilantro pesto from nose to chin.  The real question is, do I have green pesto, feta cheese and random cilantro leaves in my hair?  I think I know the answer.  I think the answer is yes.  

The only way to go at the deliciously charred corn on the cob is with gusto.  Relentless enthusiasm.  

Now it’s your turn.  

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Red Grape and White Peach Tabbouleh Salad

Red Grape and White Peach Tabbouleh Salad

Red Grape and White Peach Tabbouleh Salad

When I was a kid, you couldn’t pay me to eat parsley.

Actually.  That’s not entirely true.  You could have paid me in candy bars to eat parsley… but no one was doing that… that would have been a dream come true.  

Now.  Grown (mostly).  And I love parsley.  I think it’s bright, hearty, and adds just the right taste of green to summer dishes.  It’s an accent, but it doesn’t wilt or shy away.  It’s proud and confident, green and healthful.  Let’s put parsley with some fruit and call it a salad.  

Related.  Still happy to be paid in candy bars.  That’s an option.  

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Milk Chocolate Cookies and Cream Cookies

Milk Chocolate Cookies and Cream Cookies

Milk Chocolate Cookies and Cream Cookies

I have this tooth whistle.  One of my teeth, maybe it’s two… in combination with my tongue and the letter ‘s’… it whistles.  

That’s a weird way to start a cookie recipe.  With a tooth whistle.  

It’s an elusive whistle.  It arrives unexpectedly with the sound of an ‘s’, just every few months.  One short whistle and it’s gone again only to surprise with its presence months later.  Something about the stars aligning just so.  

I’m always delighted by its presence.  Like I’m part bird and party fairy for just half a second.  I think so hard about what I’m trying to say that when part of it comes out as a whistle… well that’s just a bonus.  

I know it’s just a tooth whistle.  But I’ve come to cherish it.  

I mention my tooth whistle today for two reasons, because… I was thinking about it, and that’s how this whole blog things works.  You have to endure banal stories about my teeth in order to get the very best cookie recipes.  But also… a truly stellar, gooey, delicious, addictive, PERFECT cookie recipe is as elusive and delightful as a tooth whistle.  The stars have aligned and our cookie is here.  

Milk Chocolate Cookies and Cream Cookies

These cookies come from the brilliant sweet-treat mind of Graham Blackall.  You know Graham from the blog Glazed and Confused, or perhaps his King Cake French Fries.  Lordy.  I like the way he thinks.  

Cookies in cookies.   

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Costa Rican Breakfast

Costa Rican Breakfast

Costa Rican Breakfast

There’s something people don’t tell you about Costa Rica:  time slows (almost) all the way dooowwwnn.  It’s magic.  Like time gets stripped away leaving luxuriously long mornings followed by, luxuriously lazy afternoons, followed by impeccable… truly impeccable sunsets.

It’s like island life.  But not an island.  It’s beach life.  The sun stays high and the air is just mellow.  Completely mellow.  

I visited Costa Rica last year and still wonder about the paradise-heavy time warp.  Why does that happen in Costa Rica and not on any given Wednesday in my New Orleans life?  

Here’s hoping the Costa Rican time warp can be a state of mind no matter what my longitude and latitude.

I suppose it starts with breakfast.  Shall we?   

Ps.  When I returned from Costa Rica last year I made this Banana y Leche con Cafe and I don’t regret it one bit.  

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Mini Peanut Butter and Chocolate Baked Donuts

Chocolate Peanut Butter Baked Donuts

Chocolate Peanut Butter Baked Donuts

I wonder if tastebud tastes are inherited.  If so… I inherited my love (let’s go ahead and call it an obsession) with chocolate and peanut butter from my mother.  She’s the queen of spooning every last bit of peanut butter out of the PB and Chocolate ice cream.  She’s the master of making a holiday dessert called Peanut Butter Balls which are a glamorous mixture of butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar, dipped in chocolate.  Birthday cake?  You can guess, I’m sure.  

What I’m saying is, all of this chocolate baking and peanut butter dipping… I come by it honestly and I’d like to pass it on to you.  

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Campfire Baked Bananas At Home

Campfire Bananas At Home

Campfire Bananas At Home

I can just smell the campfire now.  I can feel that tinge of burn in my eyes from the smoke, and I can hear the John Denver.  

Campfires remind me of the last nights of sleep away summer camp.  When I sat with a group of girls… girls who just a week earlier had been complete strangers, now absolute best friends… bidding farewell to our Summer time together, wondering how we’d ever live without each other, without craft hour, without the flagpole song, without the knot workshop, without sliding down the big hill on a giant block of ice.  Just HOW will we go on?  

We’d sing Leaving on a Jet Plane and cry… all the way CRY and promise friendship and love and more summers to come.  Then we’d eat these bananas gooey chocolate and marshmallow bananas, sleep one last night in our bunks, fold up our sleeping bags (impossible for child hands), and wait for our parents to come  pick us up to take us back to home-summer with all of its daytime television and chores (uuugh chores).  

I’m still figuring out how to recreate that campfire feeling here in New Orleans.  I think it’s too humid for fire.  Is that a thing?  I think, yes.  Luckily, I have an oven that heats itself with fire and I can hustle up the most gooey part of my memories: baked bananas, in foil, with a glorious mess of toppings.   

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Sweet Plum Sorbet

Sweet Plum Sorbet

Sweet Plum Sorbet

I always wanted a ponytail.  A ponytail I could position extra high on my head with hair long enough to cascade down to my shoulders, cheerleader-style, youthful, bouncy.  The kind of hair, that you can flip around to express various emotions, from bitchy to bored to flirty.  

I don’t have ponytail hair.  Never did.  

What I’ve always had is a fine, curly, frizzy, perfectly acceptable, head of hair that I’m completely grateful for.  It’s just not ponytail hair.  It’s not hair I can whip around to express my enthusiasm for life.  

That’s how hair works, right?  

Summer fruit, all of the gorgeous peaches, apricots, strawberries, and plums… they’re like a gorgeous, shiny, lustrous, perfectly bouncy, high ponytail.  Showing off, effortless… a little enviable even.  

Luckily, no matter what hair grows from our head, high ponytail or not… it’s our time.  It’s Summer and the markets are bursting with sweet fruit flavors.  Let’s get at em!

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Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake

Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake with maple

Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake with maple

Because it’s Monday.  Because it’s just about summertime.  Because we like fruit with our breakfast.  Because we’re grown and we can do what we want…  we get to drink lots of coffee and eat lots of cake for breakfast.  

Blueberries, oats, and pure maple syrup make anything breakfast so… CAKE it is!  

Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake with maple

I’ve been experimenting a lot with gluten-free baking lately.  I’m sure you’ve noticed.  It’s possible you have a question mark in your mind about it.  Well… I want to learn how to bake without wheat.  Baking is such a science and I know how wheat flour interacts with leavening and liquid.  Gluten-free flours are a whole different science.  I want to know that I can still make fluffy cakes and flakey biscuits in the absence of wheat.  So far I’ve had some major fails and happy triumphs.  This is one of the triumphs.  

Eventually I’m going to try making my own gluten-free flour blend to use in my kitchen but I’m still getting my footing.  Right now I use King Arthur Flour’s Gluten-Free Flour and I’m going to give Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef’s All-Purpose Flour Blend.  They know what’s what!  

If you’re hoping for more gluten-FULL coffee cake recipes, here’s your jam: 

•  Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Brown Butter Glaze.  A recipe from my cookbook Homemade Decadence.  

•  Pear Crumble Coffee Cake.  You might not be in the mood for pears, but I think strawberries would also be mega! 

•  Coffee Coffee Cake Muffins.  I mean… let’s make our cake taste like coffee! 

•  Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins.  These really are THE BEST! 

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Mango and Jalapeño Guacamole

Mango and Jalapeño Guacamole

Mango and Jalapeño Guacamole

Sure, you could make this irresistible guacamole for a backyard barbecue, or a block party, a brunch party maybe… any event that would take you out of your pajamas, off of your couch, and into the presence of other people (gasp.) OR… you could make a giant bowl of this guacamole, keep your pajamas on and settle in for a good, old-fashioned Netflix binge.  I mean.  To me, the choice is clear.

Choose your own adventure.  I will often choose pajamas and privacy, especially where guacamole is involved. 

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Fresh Raspberry and Gin Slushies

Fresh Raspberry and Gin Slushies

Fresh Raspberry and Gin Slushies

I have very fond memories of a stained red tongue, way sticky fingers, and a messy stained t-shirt from those convenience store/ cherry-sweet slurpees.  You know… the ones that come with that long plastic straw with the scooper on the end?  Heaven for an eight year old.  Follow that slupree with a good run through the sprinklers and I’m pretty sure there was nothing better.  

We’re grown now (right?).  We have bills to pay and really… I don’t think we give ourselves enough time for slurpees.  

Fresh Raspberry and Gin Slushies

Until now.  

Say hello to adult slurpee-ing featuring fresh raspberries, lime, and  hallelujah for gin!  

We can skip the sticky fingers and stained shirts these days, but I really wouldn’t be above a god run through the sprinklers.  

Let’s go! 

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