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.

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.
Bittersweet French Chocolate Mousse
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?
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...

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.
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.
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?
15 Mar
Kitchen Reno Update
My tag line has never been so accurate. After two full days of demolition, the support wall is down and the support beam is up (it's NOT an I-beam after all). The whole area is lighter and brighter, but this new open concept has one drawback. From now one, we must close the bathroom door -- unless we want passersby to catch a glimpse of us performing ablutions at the sink. As with any old home, there are always surprises. Turns out the wall we took out was more of a "moral support" wall than an actual load-bearing structure. This explains why the dining room ceiling was 2 inches lower than the kitchen's. With the support beam now properly inserted, the two ceilings are once again the same height and the pine floors in our bedroom above no longer sag. Bonus! Best of all, I've said good-bye to the horrid circulating fan -- and it's decade-long accumulation of grease. You know it's bad when the contractor's soft-spoken assistant feels the appliance warrants comment. Not only has this reno proven my housekeeping skills to be somewhat lamentable, it's shown I will never make it as an architect. I've lived in this house for more than 15 years and never realized the dining room is 24 inches wider than the kitchen. No wonder my reno drawings wouldn't line up. Initially I put this down to my questionable math skills, but the real culprit was my impaired powers of observation. And if that's all I have to report, you know it's going pretty smoothly. Below are some snapshots to give you an idea of what's happening and the level of chaos that has crept throughout our dwelling.
How to cook dried beans - The Messy Baker
11 Mar
How to Cook Dried Beans
How to cook dried beans - The Messy Baker Last month, I looked at how to debone a chicken as a faster-than-you'd-think way to save money and reduce salt in your diet. This month, the money-saving, salt-smashing culinary technique deals with how to cook dried beans and legumes. And no, the kitchen reno hasn't made me lose all sense of proportion. The biggest objection I hear about cooking your own beans is, "But it takes soooo long!"  Well, yes and no. Sure soaking and boiling takes time, but you don't have to stand there and keep watch. Your active time -- picking out stones, pouring water, draining -- is only a few minutes. The beans can soak while you sleep and cook while you do other things. Like laundry. Hmmm. Not sure that scenario helped my case. Anyway, if you look at the amount of labour involved, cooking your own beans -- even chick peas -- isn't all that time consuming. Just think of them as a stock item you always have on hand and not a single ingredient for a specific meal. I've been cooking and freezing big batches of beans for more than a year now and not only notice they taste better than their canned counterparts, the texture is far less mushy. This won't matter in a pureed bean soup, but a bean salad? Why it'll turn you into a food snob. The videos below, courtesy of Rouxbe Online Cooking School, run for less than 7 minutes combined and provide all the information you need about soaking, cooking and testing beans.  The only trick I can add is to freeze them in 2-cup batches, since this is approximately the amount in a can of beans.
09 Mar
Kitchen Reno

Hang onto your pot lids. It's going to be a bumpy ride. I don't know whether to cue up Springsteen's Wrecking Ball or Mellencamp's When the Walls Come Tumbling Down. But regardless of my musical selection, tomorrow morning the fun begins. And just after we fixed...

04 Mar
Honey and Cumin Braised Carrots
Me: How much broccoli should I cook? Andrew: How much Cheez Whiz do we have? Me: How long to you want to remain married? Andrew:  [...] Okay, moving onto safer territory -- carrots. I got the idea for these after dining in a restaurant when the accompanying vegetables outshone the forgettable duck confit. While the poultry disappointed, I was so impressed with the sweet yet savory carrots I had to recreate them at home. I usually find cooked carrots a source of frustration. Plain are boring but when I jazz them up with ginger, certain extended family members complain they're too spicy. But these? They should make everyone happy -- even without Cheez Whiz.

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