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.
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.
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.
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...

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.
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?
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.
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...

Last Chance to order Blog Aid

I interrupt this regularly scheduled vegetable post to inform you that today is the last day to order Blog Aid: Recipes for Haiti. The cut off is noon MST, which is 2:00 EST and a half hour later in Newfoundland. Despite how it looks, we're not giving...

Frozen Ginger and a Garlic Peeler
My recent CTV appearance proved my career as a mind reader would be short lived. I went on expecting some reader questions about roasted vegetables. Nope. Everyone seems to have them down pat. Instead, everyone was interested in frozen ginger and "that garlic thing." So, here goes:

Frozen Ginger

I started freezing ginger when I got tired of buying fresh, plump, juicy roots and mere days later tossing wrinkled, dried up knobs of wood into the garbage. I'd read that you could freeze ginger without sacrificing flavour and experimented a bit -- peeling or not peeling, chopping or not chopping. To my delight, I found the simplest approach is best.

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