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.

18 May
French Press Coffee
My coffee tastes have changed during the course of the renovation. I've decided I prefer my morning latte strong, rich, and served with an ocean breeze. By someone else. Although  I'm grateful for the use of my mom's stove, I'm less than enamoured with its slow-to-heat elements. Without the aid of a speedy gas stove top, my normally peppy cafetiera has devolved into a sluggish stainless steel pot. Although easy to clean, my mom's smooth electric top stove isn't designed for this coffee system. The results? Mediocre coffee and a bad mood as a 3-minute espresso stretches into a finger-drumming 10. Of course, after several weeks of snail-paced lattes, my coffee expert friend, Kristine Hansen, reminds me that a French press is an easy alternative that requires no stove. While I wade through the forest of boxes in my living room to dig out my Bodum, Kristine, co- author of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Coffee and Tea, has generously agreed to share her tips for using a French press.
Homemade salad dressing - The Messy Baker
10 May
5 Basic Elements of Homemade Salad Dressing

People roll their eyes when they hear I make my own salad dressing. From their reaction you'd think I was weaving my own linen or milling my own wheat. But homemade salad dressing is one of those ludicrously simple items that provides a suspiciously high...

09 May
Mother Tongue

Before children, my mother was an amateur actress. After parenthood, she poured all her dramatic skills into reading us stories. She provided distinct voices for each character, made sound effects and sometimes included flamboyant gestures. She was a tough act to follow. When my less-than-theatrical...

05 May
Dandelion Salad
I am quickly cementing my reputation as the neighbourhood nut. Yesterday I sat on the grass plucking dandelion heads and tossing them into a brown paper lawn bag before they could go to seed. Today? I was out there again, only this time nibbling on the leaves. Living on the windward side of a park in a no-spray municipality means we have a carpet of dandelions where our front yard used to be. When I complained about this on Facebook, in amongst all the weeding advice, my cousin Judith suggested I seek my revenge via a dandelion salad. So today, I went out and sampled the lawn. Here's what I learned.
03 May
Orange Coffee Cake
So much for my vegetable-a-week promise. I look back at recent posts and see a carb-heavy, fat-laden series of desserts. Yes, I've been eating my greens, but not in a way that will make you beg for the recipe. I've been very plebeian about my vegetables, choosing instead to concentrate my creativity on cake. So, it's steamed broccoli, boiled beans and plain old salad while my time in the kitchen is spent searching for the perfect orange cake for my sister's wedding -- light, airy, easy to stack and and with a bright orange flavour. I've created some really tasty desserts, but so far they only hint at orange. Despite adding generous portions of rind and opting for frozen concentrate instead of juice, the cakes end up tasting as if they merely chatted to a bowl of clementines on their way to the oven.
30 Apr
Cookbook Roundup
As the reno inches to a close, items are slowly working their way back into their proper place. My bookcase, for instance, has finally emerged from the midst of the chaos and now stands in the room that has become (and will remain) my office. For almost two months, it gathered dust and got in the way of the contractors, while my cookbooks sat clearly labeled but inaccessible in what was once my living room. As I returned the books to the shelf, I came across some titles which reminded me of my recent whirlwind trip to New York City. The following cookbooks have nothing in common except I met the authors at the Roger Smith Food Writers' Conference earlier this year. I liked the authors. I liked their books. And as April comes to a close, I thought I'd to a quick roundup of some of the titles I discovered while in New York City and rediscovered as I unpack. I didn't plan it this way, but these four books cover all the culinary bases. You'll find pre- and postprandial beverages to bracket the meal, a healthy dinner in the middles, and a big slice of pie to round things out. What more could you ask for?
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.
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.
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:
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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