Christmas

Easy Roasted Lemon Potatoes - The Messy Baker
Easy Roasted Lemon Potatoes

I have decided to strike the following phrase from my vocabulary: How hard can it be? It gets me into trouble. For example: Hey, honey, I need a new stove. Why don't we just knock down a wall and add an eat-in kitchen while we're at it....

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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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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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Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts
I fall easily into a vegetable rut. If it weren't for this blog I'd happily get my daily quota of greens from string beans, broccoli and mesclun mix salad. I once ate Basil and Walnut Green Beans every night for a week.  When I stopped I swear, the stock for California walnuts plummeted. But I have promised you a vegetable dish a week in 2010. That's 52 distinct recipes. Since I can't come up with that many variations with only three base ingredients, I am branching into scary territory. Swiss chard. And I'm pleased to report it's not all that scary. I feared it would be slimy or bitter or boring. It was none of these. As luck would have it, a copy of Everday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast by the good people at Martha Stewart Living arrived just in time for me to fulfill my vegetable obligations. Make fun of Martha all you want, but when she decides to do something, she does it well. This book is no exception. No chi-chi recipes for wedding cakes, truffles or finicky hors d'oeuvres that will take the better part of a week to make. Just simple recipes, fresh ingredients and delicious results. Even the photography is clean and simple -- but beautiful. This dish was one of four Winter Vegetable dishes offered on a single page. While all looked enticing, I tackled Swiss chard because I can't say no to the combination of garlic, balsamic vinegar and nuts. Each winter vegetable recipe required six ingredients (or fewer) and nothing more exotic than pine nuts. And it's within an everyday budget. You won't be forced to visit six specialty shops and the bank for a second mortgage. Best of all,  I had the chard plated and ready for the camera in about 15 minutes.
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How to Roast Vegetables
[caption id="attachment_2470" align="alignnone" width="640"]A Trio of Roasted Vegetables - The Messy Baker Sweet Potatoes roasted with rosemary[/caption] I got a bit carried away. I was experimenting with roasted vegetables for today's CTV appearance and ended up making five variations. I just couldn't make up my mind which version I liked best, so I made them all. Well, almost all. Having recently posted about Herb-Roasted Potatoes I felt I could skip this one and try some less obvious options. While I know that steaming is the most healthy option, I think of it as more of a summer technique. Light, bright vegetables suit the sunny weather. But during the dull, grey days of winter? I require more depth of flavour, more variation. And roasted vegetables are the ultimate free-style side dish. Not only does roasting caramelize the natural sugars and make the dish delightfully sweet, the options are almost limitless. You can roast almost any vegetable, combine them in any way you like and season them as the mood fits. Just follow the basic steps and you can't really go wrong. To properly roast vegetables you need a:
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Black Forest Chocolate Cookies
Sneaking in under the wire. It's still Groundhog Day. And all I can think of is Bill Murray sitting in a Punxsatawney diner, stuffing his face full of donuts with impunity. According to the groundhog, we have six more weeks of winter coming, which makes me want to stuff my face with donuts, too. Only I know that if I do, I won't start the next day as if nothing happened. Impunity for gluttonous digressions is not part of my Groundhog Day reality. Wanting something decadent, but reasonably healthy, I decided to make some chocolate cookies. Looking in my cupboards I found what I needed. Cocoa is always low-fat, dried cherries are full of antioxidants and nuts are good for you. Add a glass of milk and it's practically a whole meal.
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Raspberry Hot Chocolate and a Book Giveaway
When I was a child, my father used to make an ice rink in the back yard. He'd pile us onto the toboggan and pull us around to flatten the snow. Then, night after night, he'd zip up his navy blue snowmobile suit and disappear into the dark. When he came back in, his mittens would be coated in ice and his nose and cheeks would be bright red. The fix? Hot chocolate. When the rink was finally ready, after what seemed like weeks, mom would lace  up our skates, stuff us into an envelope of winter wear and send us out to slip and slide the afternoon away. We'd return with numb toes and ice-encrusted lashes. The cure? Hot chocolate. Today, as I face yet another snow shovel, I find myself craving this drink -- only a grown up version. As luck would have it, Dominique and Cindy Duby, chocolate artisans from Vancouver, have released a new book focusing entirely on chocolate. And their hot chocolate recipe is a raspberry version. And  raspberry is the only chocolate flavour  my lemon-loving dad likes. So I figure this was meant to be. I had to try it.
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Rosemary, Raisin and Pecan Crisps

I can't believe I'm about to make these again. The recipe makes a two loaf pans' worth and the entire batch is almost gone.Bored with plain crackers and still hyperventilating from the sticker price on the artisanal crisps, I was thrilled to find a knock-off...

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Readers Question: Herb-Roasted Potatoes

This is another of James Ingram's photos, snatched from the pages of Michael Smith's The Best of Chef at Home because I was too hungry to take a shot. In my defense, these potatoes were cooked alongside the Apple Roast Chicken so it was one...

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Ginger Gold Apple and Squash Soup

Pastry is fussy, cake requires precise measurement, fish over-cooks in a flash, but soup? Soup is incredibly forgiving. And it's the perfect way to  handle the abundance of fall. Got too many carrots? Make soup. More cauliflower than you know what do do with? Soup. Your...

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