Blog Post List

This blog post list contains the most recent blog posts from The Messy Baker in reverse chronological order. You can also browse by recipe category or use the search function.

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27 Apr
5 Things You Shouldn’t Pack During a Renovation
The past few weeks have been slow going. Why? Well, let's for a moment say my contractor didn't get a not-so-healthy dose of the Norwalk virus. And let's say he didn't recover only to be called to jury duty. Let's just pretend everyone was healthy and present. Things have slowed because of the curse of the crown molding. Even with the nice, newly installed, straight-as-an-arrow ceilings this job took the better half of a week. You see, the walls are still wonky as all get out. And this architectural challenge stretches what should be a one-day job into a multi-day nightmare. Each piece had to be finessed by hand. I'd have curled into a ball and wedged myself into the corner of the dumpster if faced with this. But these guys are master carpenters and seemed to enjoy the challenge. And the results are worth the wait. In the meantime, my stove remains in a box and my mother is still generously allowing me full use of her kitchen. Four weeks into what I thought would be a whirlwind reno, I realize that my zeal to pack up my cupboards clouded my judgment. More than once, I've rummaged through this, for a much needed item.
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23 Apr
Wooden Spoons
I've been cooking at my Mom's the past few weeks and find myself rummaging through her wooden spoon collection in search of the one pictured above. Yes, its bowl is broken,  but I like how it can simultaneously stir and scrape the sides of a pot. It's so useful, more than once I've considered taking a saw to one of my own. This blunt-sided spoon has been in my mother's kitchen for well over 35 years. Although it arrived symmetrical and unremarkable, a single, emotionally-charged incident transformed it into a conversation piece. And yes, it was my fault. I was very young and always getting into trouble. This innocent utensil just happened to be at hand when I did something that pushed my normally patient mother too far. While the details of my mischief have faded, the moment she lost her temper is very clear. I'd done something. Mom found out. My younger sister happened to be on hand and the three of us were in the kitchen when the spoon hit the counter. In her sternest, most authoritative voice, Mom emphasized each word with a slap of the spoon to the edge of the counter. "Don't. *whack* Ever. *whack* Do. *whack* That. *whack* AGAIN! *whack*!" On the final strike, it split. No one moved. There was a horrifying, all-enveloping silence as a fragment of wood flew across the kitchen.  When the projectile landed I waited for a fresh wave of fury, wondering if it were physically possible for someone to get any angrier than my mom already was.
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20 Apr
Lemon Meringue Pie
My father loves lemon meringue pie. Apparently, so does a certain little black cat who lives next door. I slipped the birthday pie off my mom's counter and onto the back porch for a clandestine photo shoot before the celebratory dinner. And within seconds got busted by a five-pound trouble maker. I managed to shoo the cat away before she did any damage, but I was aiming for something more like this:
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13 Apr
Welsh Griddle Cakes
At some point in every renovation, time grinds to a halt. And for us, that would be last week. Nothing happened. At least not structurally. Over Easter I painted the kitchen  -- first with a soul-crushing, jail cell grey tinted primer and then with a deep garnet red. Outside, the daffodils bloomed, the mourning doves hatched chicks, my patio junk gathered more dust and comments. But inside, except for a splash of colour, things remained unchanged. You see, the contractor was off site doing carpentry work. And then got the flu. And in the midst of all of this structural nothingness, the stove arrived.
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07 Apr
Boiling and Simmering Vegetables to Perfection (not death)
I feel a bit like Blanche DuBois from Street Car Named Desire. Of late I've been relying on the kindness of strangers (and friends, and family). From the shop that opened a half hour early so we could buy water when our supply was cut off to the stranger in seat 7c who shared his wifi signal when the train's satellite connection went kaput during my 5-hour trek back from Montreal, I'm being well looked after in my hour (month?) of need. To keep my vegetable-a-week-post promise, I'm once again relying on kindness from others. Without a stove, I'm preparing salad-in-a-bag more than I care to admit. I considered creating wonderful vegetables for you on my mom's smooth-top stove. But after 15 years cooking on a gas range, Mom's logey red elements send me into apoplectic fits of rage. I can barely boil water on them let alone produce stellar vegetables. So Joe at Rouxbe Online Cooking School has quickly provided some videos that will keep you informed and my blood pressure down. I'll get back to being self-reliant. Soon. I hope. In the meantime, I could get used to all this help.
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05 Apr
French Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse
It's official. We are the neighbourhood hillbillies. The stove, doormat, counter top, sink and fake plant have been in the back patio for two weeks -- or a fortnight as the British would say. Doesn't "Our unwanted kitchen items have been sitting about for a fortnight," sound more civilized than "we dumped our junk the backyard for a couple of weeks"? Maybe the plaster dust is affecting my brain, but the word "fortnight" conjures images of summer vacations with days spent wandering the beach and nights spent at swishy cocktail parties -- not used appliances and bits of furniture. To counteract the junk-laden karma of our reno, I made a very decadent dessert for Easter. Regan Daley's  In the Sweet Kitchen arrived just in time for the long weekend and I took it as a sign. Since I often browse cookbooks back to front, one of the first recipes I came upon (page 548) was for chocolate mousse. Real chocolate mousse. With hand-whisked egg whites,  top-end chocolate and a vanilla bean. Does this decadent dessert settle the score?
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31 Mar
Love in the dust

What a difference a year makes. March 2009 I was creating healthy variations of Andrew’s favourite junk food in a week-long birthday tribute to my beloved husband.  Spicy Southern Fried Chicken replaced his KFC, homemade ranch dressing knocked the bottled supermarket brand off the shelf...

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22 Mar
Reno Update #2
I hear you snickering. And that chorus of "I told you so". And just because you're on the other side of the Internet, don't think I can't see you rolling your eyes. I can. I know. I blithely wrote something along the lines of, "Don't worry, the reno wouldn't affect the blog." Well, let me state for the record: I was wrong. The reno has affected the blog. And me. And Andrew. And the cats. And my family. And some butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil. Witnessing just how far the dust has worked itself into our lives, I know on some level the reno has affected the stock market, the price of oil and the orbit of Pluto. When I think of how I was going to pop over to my Mom's to bake, nip down to the cafe to write or just close my home office door and hunker down to business, I see I was like those first time moms who think they'll get the housework done and a nutritious dinner cooked while the baby sleeps. Let me repeat: I was wrong.
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18 Mar
Mixed Greens with Maple-Glazed Nuts
When it comes to salad. I've let myself go. Sure, I might dress things up with Nectarine and Plum Chicken or make an extra effort with a new dessert like Coconut Cream Pie Ice Cream.  But leafy side dishes? I'm sad to say, the spark has gone. Until recently. I admit, before this week, salad usually meant a bowlful of Mesclun mix and a splash of homemade dressing. Sure it was satisfying. Better than a wedge of iceberg doused in store-brand Thousand Island. But it was safe. Predictable. Dare I say... Boring. I knew that if I kept this up,  Andrew's eye would inevitably stray towards more exciting side dishes. Like that tart of a potato salad all decked out in bacon bits some shameless hussy brought to last year's picnic. And I can't have that. So when Jeanelle Mitchell's For the Love of Salad arrived, I was more than ready to spruce things up a bit. Scared, but ready. But there was no need for fear. Notice how her book title doesn't have a secondary heading? It's not For the Love of Salad: 99 Tempting Ways to Rekindle Your Love Affair with Lettuce. Or For the Love of Salad: Discovering the Saucy Sides of Dinner.
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16 Mar
Not Another Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
While one of the contractors called these cookies "the devil" because they were so addictive, do you really need the recipe? I'm serious. I Googled "chocolate chip cookie recipe" (in quotes) and got 168,000 hits. Remove the quotes and the number jumps to 770,000.  How can I compete with numbers like that? I can't. And I really wonder if I should. This delicious but traditional recipe uses butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, flour, baking soda, vanilla, semi-sweet chocolate chips and walnuts.  Unless you're vegan or on a gluten-free diet, 96.42% of your standard chocolate chip cookie recipes use these ingredients. Sure you can substitute different nuts, alter the type of chips or get fancy by adding orange rind. But have you ever met an honest-to-goodness chocolate chip cookie recipe you didn't like?

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