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Oven-Dried Tomatoes
Oven-dried tomatoes - TheMessyBaker.com Brain, meet Fingers. Fingers, meet Brain. I hope you two become best of friends. Pronto. Because if you don't start working together really soon, I will be forced to give up this blog and move to a remote region of the world where there is no Internet access and only tinned soup for supper. What did I do this time? Despite finding the recipe in the index, reading the instructions and looking at the photo, my fingers typed "oven-roasted" tomatoes when Grow Great Grub clearly gives readers the low down on "oven-dried" tomatoes. I'm tempted to quietly correct this error and distract you with ice cream. But having asked you to vote and promising to post the results, I think you'd notice. Especially since the one recipe whose title I botched turned out to be the winner. So, for those of you who were looking forward to oven-roasted tomatoes, here's a refresher on how to roast vegetables. For the tomato version, I'd add chopped fresh basil, some crushed garlic, a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper. When done, top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. And for those who intuitively knew what I meant, here is the recipe for oven-dried tomatoes. They're different, but just as good. And last longer.
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Grow Great Grub Winner
We have a winner for Gayla Trail's Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces. Once again the random number generator selected a last-minute entry -- Chrystal, who ducked in under the wire with her vote for Roasted Zucchini Dip. Congratulations, Chrystal. I'll email you shortly so I can get your copy to you. As for the recipe you want me to make this Friday? Bit of a nail biter this time. Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Roasted Zucchini Dip battled for supremacy right to the end. Sorry Cold Cucumber Soup and Tangy Red Pepper Ketchup. People wanted things hot. But which recipe won?
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Cake Fit for a Garden Wedding
To quote Eddie Izzard, "Cake or Death? That's a pretty easy question. Anyone can answer that." Well, far be it from me to argue with Mr. Izzard, but there was a point late last week where I would have accused him of posing a trick question. The minute my sister Allison announced her wedding back in February, Mom and I volunteered to make the wedding cake. When Allison said she didn't want icing flowers, impossibly smooth royal icing or fancy piping, I thought we were getting off easy. A bit of ribbon, an armload of  flowers from the garden, and voila! Wedding cake. To avoid decorating the cake at the last minute and provide my sister with the "fairy-like not wedding-y" look she wanted,  I decided to candy the flowers. How hard could that be? After all, the pansies I candied in April only took a morning and are still going strong. But April wasn't humid. And all my July attempts resulted in a soggy, sticky mess. And I'm not just talking about the flowers.
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Reno Before & After
Clearly my future does not lie in photo shoots for shelter magazines. While the colours look dull and some shots are too yellow, I assure you, in reality the rooms are actually quite bright despite the deep claret walls. Looking back at the pre-reno kitchen I wonder how I functioned in it. To all those people who wrote to assure me that it would be worth it, know that you were right. Very-very-very right. So if I use a lot of exclamation marks in this post, I hope you will forgive me. The kitchen deserves them. I'll return to normal punctuation tomorrow. Promise. And without further ado, here are the before and after shots you requested!
The BEFORE shot was taken standing in the doorway between the dining room and kitchen. I was worried the claret colour from the dining room would be too dark if extended into the second room and had attempted a test patch. When I ran out of paint, the results looked more like a crime scene that a decorating experiment. How bad was it? I kid you not, it actually scared the cat. The AFTER shot:
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Sinks and solid surfaces
When the new counter tops, with their undermount sink came on Friday, water was restored to the kitchen after a 2-month absence. I'll confess, I was so pleased with the great big 24-inch stainless steel vat (same width as my previous stove!)  I went on a cleaning binge. For a good two hours, I soaked and scrubbed every ungainly item I could find. I'm please to report that as I type, my garbage pails are spotless, the dish rack practically sparkles and my largest pans are totally de-greased. Best of all? At no point did I have to resort to wedging them under the faucet at strange angles or perform contortionist acts to rinse them. Perhaps it was the fumes from the newly varnished floors, but the wading pool of a sink left me buzzed.
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Candied Flowers

To celebrate the start of June and the near-end of my renovation, I thought I'd post about one of the more whimsical culinary items I've made recently. Candied flowers. Somehow this clunky term doesn't do justice to the delicate, crystalized petals. And I figure if...

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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.
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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...

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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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