28 December 2008

Recipe: Fresh Fruit Napoleons with Blackberry Curd 40

I did these blackberry curd & fresh fruit napoleons a while back for restaurant baking. I wished I would've had time to get better pictures.

This recipe is more suited for summer, but when winter rolls around, and the holidays have past - it is refreshing to see desserts that awaken memories of summers past - and that reminds you summer is right around the corner.

Fresh Fruit Napoleons
This recipe yields 20 servings.

16 sheets of frozen phyllo dough
1 cup butter (melted) [you can substitute "butter flavored" baking spray or earth balance sticks]
1/2 cup crystal sugar
2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
4 1/2 cups mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blue berries)

Whipped topping,
or hand whipped cream,
or sweetened whipped marscapone cheese

Pastry Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Now as stated in my former post (Recipe: Banana - Rum Napoleons) you need to work fast and follow certain guidelines when working with phyllo {Tip: When you are working with phyllo dough it is best to have a tray to lay out the sheets, then keep totally covered, under a damp kitchen towel. If exposed to air, the moisture from the phyllo dough will be wicked out and it will become dry and brittle - which means non workable for you. So work quickly.]

You will need 2 half sheet pans (jelly roll) lined with parchment, to bake 10 sheets on each pan.

Place a sheet of phyllo onto a jelly roll pan, brush with melted butter. Sprinkle crystal sugar. Top with another phyllo sheet and repeat these steps until 10 sheets are used. Make sure to repeat butter & sugar on the last (top piece). Repeat with second sheet pan.

Using a ruler - score each pastry stack with a pastry wheel or sharp paring knife into squares or rectangles of equal measurements. Bake in the preheated oven 10-12 minutes (pastry should be golden and crisp). Allow the baked pastry to cool. Do not handle the pastry until building your napoleons or the baked phyllo squares may crack.

Blackberry Curd Procedure:

In a sauce pan combine the blackberries, 1/2 cup of water and orange zest. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes more. Scrape berry contents into a food processor and pulse until smooth. (if you don't have a food processor, you can place the berry contents in a sieve over a bowl and using a ladle , gently push and rub the contents against the mesh, repeat this until most of the contents have been filtered through the sieve into the bowl. This will leave behind seeds and a few skins from the berries).

Return the berry contents back into the sauce pan (on medium heat) - stir in 1 cup of sugar and 4 tablespoons of butter.

Combine the cornstarch & cold water in a small bowl stirring briskly. With a wire whisk add the cornstarch mixture to the berry contents in the saucepan . Stir until thick and bubbling. Stir for 3 minutes more. Remove from heat , scrape into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap - allow to cool for 2 hours or over night.

Napoleon Assembly:

Place a small dallop of blackberry curd onto the center of your serving plate.
Place a baked phyllo square (sugar side down), add 1 tablespoon of curd onto the center of the pastry square. Add (by pressing) enough of the mixed berries to cover the blackberry curd.

Finish by piping or adding rounded dollops of your favorite topping (Whipped topping,
or hand whipped cream, or sweetened whipped marscapone cheese) then add another pastry squared (sugar side up) to top.

There are many ways to finish this dessert , you could make it much fancier than this- drizzling berry syrup onto it, or around the base, using pastry cream on top of the blackberry curd - the combinations are endless.

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20 December 2008

Quick Party Eats - Plus Enter to Win $3,000 7

Holidays. No matter what culture or faith you practice, the end of the year, and into January, tends to be a whirl wind of errands and visits with friends, family and co-workers.

Photo Credit: glam.com

If you are not cooking that big feast, or baking up a storm - you may be expected to bring something to a party, or there is always the possibility of having unexpected guests.

Recipes for easy appetizers are always a nice thing to have on hand - and they allow you to tend to other things while a time saving recipe is ready in no-time .

Heinz & Ocean Spray teamed up to create a website geared just for that - easy, simple recipes that free up time, and tips for entertaining . They are even hosting a Sweepstakes to help you throw the Ultimate Party: Grand Prize is $3,000 in gift cards. 20 second prize winners will win a Rival 4 Quart Slow Cooker , to help with your future party plans. You can fill out an contest entry until January 31th, 2009.

Ultimate Party Meatballs
These Ultimate Meatballs are super simple to make - for any cooking level.


  • 1 16-ounce can Ocean Spray® Jellied Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 12-ounce bottle Heinz® Chili Sauce
  • 1 2-pound bag frozen, pre-cooked, cocktail-size meatballs


Combine sauces in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth. Add meatballs. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until meatballs are heated through, stirring occasionally.
Makes 30 appetizer servings.

**Slow cooker Preparation: Place meatballs in a slow cooker. Combine sauces and pour over meatballs. Cover and cook 4 hours on HIGH.


Now you could really do these "Ultimate Meatballs" up right - make your own meatballs using prime cuts, create some fresh cranberry sauce (which is soo easy to do), etc - but the whole point of this recipe is to simplify and free up time in your kitchen. This recipe would make great snacks for Super Bowl on Feb. 1st 2009, (which falls on my husband's Birthday this year - hence even more reason for us to host a party).

When I was thinking about the meatballs, I wanted to include a vegan version. On the net there have been allot of different versions thrown around including what I call the trinity of vegan meat substitutions (tempeh, tofu , or textured vegetable protein). By far this recipe seemed the most pleasing to the eye, and it got some great write-ups on Josh & Chelsea's Blog. This recipe might be a little work, but these will definitely please. If you really want to save time look for Vegan meatballs in your grocer's freezer.

No Whey Jose Vegan Meatballs

2 cups TVP (textured vegetable protein)

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 1/2 stalks of celery, minced

1/2 cup onion, minced

1/2 cup mushrooms, diced (4-5)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon oregano

1 tablespoon basil (if making Ultimate Meatballs, omit & use 1/2 tsp thyme)

1 teaspoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


In a large bowl, combine TVP and broth to rehydrate. Add all other ingredients except nutritional yeast and oil.

Stir well to fully combine. Use your hands to roll golf ball-sized balls and press slightly to shape. (if you are having trouble forming into balls - add a little more broth and toss some nutritional yeast into the mixture)

Put nutritional yeast on a plate or shallow bowl and roll each meatball to cover. Spread olive oil on a baking sheet and arrange meatballs in a single layer.

Bake for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes or so, until golden brown. If using in a tomato sauce, add to the sauce 5-10 minutes before serving and carefully spoon them onto a plate to serve.

**If using with Ultimate Meatball recipe , add to the sauce 5 minutes before serving, strain extra sauce from meatballs gently by using a slotted spoon - arrange on serving tray.

Recipe © 2007 . No Whey Jose Blog. All Rights Stay with Original Author.

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17 December 2008

Love Your Veggies Mom? Chef Art Smith Wants to Know! 13

Art Smith is a twice named James Beard Award winner, Executive Chef, co-owner of Table Fifty-Two restaurant based in Chicago, Ill. - an establishment dedicated to serving and highlighting seasonal organic, farm raised produce. His latest restaurant endeavor , opened in October 2008, hails from Washington D.C, Art and Soul, which lends a southern twist from his roots:

Art and Soul offers guests a chic setting in which to meet and connect, while enjoying “food for the soul” – food made with love and special attention. With celebrated two-time James Beard-Award winning Chef Art Smith as chef/owner and Culinary Institute of America-trained local Ryan Morgan as executive chef, this 221-seat dining destination serves up fresh and modern regional cuisine with southern accents.

Named for its nationally renowned chef and the genuine welcoming feeling guests experience when they walk through the doors, the cuisine will be presented with southern-style hospitality. - Art & Soul website

Chef Smith truly encompasses what most people
envision as a successful chef, with hosts of celebrity
clients, including Oprah, who he served as personal
chef 10 years, and still heads her special events;
Smith also served as a former special events chef
for Martha Stewart Living. Television appear-
ances on popular shows like Iron Chef America,
The Today Show and Oprah.

Among his literary accomplishments - Chef
Smith is contributing editor to O, The Oprah
Magazine, And author of three award-winning
cookbooks: Back to the Table; Kitchen Life Real
Food For Real Families ; and Back to the Family .

Art Smith is a true philanthropist, spreading the
wealth of not only funds to disadvantaged children,
but knowledge about food and helping them find
the joy within their selves and those around them.
His labor of love Common Threads started in
2003 and continues to touch children in Chicago.
In the spirit of his philanthropy, Chef Smith has partnered
with the makers of Hidden Valley® Salad Dressings to find
moms who are true vegetable advocates through the Love
Your Veggies™ Search for Veggie Champions Contest. For 10 lucky moms whose essays are selected, Chef Smith will lead a two-day all expense paid retreat ,aimed at learning and sharing tips and tools on planting, harvesting, cooking and eating vegetables with children. These moms will also receive $5,000 to start or maintain a community vegetable garden in their hometown. Follow this link for complete prize winnings : whole prize package.

What an awesome way to spend 2 days - a retreat with a celebrity chef who wants to share his passion for organic produce and encouraging children to enjoy them too! This is a great opportunity for your community - $5,000 in seed money to create a sustainable source of food for your neighbors, what a great way to offset the rising food costs and strengthen the bond you share with both people & the garden.

When you visit http://www.loveyourveggies.com, not only can you enter the contest for a chance to win by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time January 15, 2009, but you can also check out kid tested recipes from Chef Smith, and activities to do with children.

16 December 2008

On VerTerra: Can Your Eco-Friendly Disposable Do This?? 9

Sure you have probably heard of, or even used eco-friendly containers, such as those made from bio-plastic W a.k.a corn derivatives. But have you baked with them? VerTerra ,(which is Latin for "close to earth"), have these really nifty eco-friendly trays, and now bowls, that are really versatile.

Below if you click on the picture you can view a larger version of the eco-friendly disposables comparison chart . This chart compares VerTerra products against the more popular materials of earth friendly disposables: recycled paper , sugar cane, recycled plastic, bio-plastic corn, bamboo. The chart notes how product materials fair using these standards: price, oven safe, hot liquids, hot foods, compostable, sun resistance, renewable source.

Credit: VerTerra Brochure

Needless to say VerTerra 's product material wins hands down in functionality compared to the other eco-friendly materials . This line of eco-friendly disposables has so many great positives going for it, it is unbelievable. If you are looking for the ultimate in sustainable , well designed biodegradable plates, bowls and trays - then you can be rest assured VerTerra has something to offer you.

All of VerTerra's products in the line, are created from palm leaves that have naturally fallen of the palm. There is NO cutting of trees or other plants involved in the collection process. The next step is steaming the palm leavess - which , while still pliable, pressed into a mold ( the excess is trimmed) and the molds are heated , to set the palm materials and create each products shape. The final process is %100 percent natural - no binders, glues or chemicals are applied when creating VerTerra's products. This means there are no bleaches or waxes making the product line completely non-toxic.

Picture Credit: Theodore Samuels

VerTerra's Bowls come in two shapes:
"Classic" shown to the right, in a 7 inch size, and their newest addition to the VerTerra product line "Signature bowls", shown to the left - these will be available Dec. 22nd, 2008 ranging in sizes of 6x8 inches and 8x8 inches. The newest bowls are very sexy, and are obviously Classics' modern, stylish cousin.

Picture Credit: Theodore Samuels
VerTerra's plates are great too. There are many options.
From the Classic line, you can purchase 6 inch hexagon shaped plates, shown to the right. Or Classic 9 inch square plates.
The highlight of VerTerra's plate line is their newest addition "Signature Plates", shown to the left above, also debuting Dec. 22nd 2008. And like the "Signature Bowls", the Signature Plates have a streamlined, modern , low profile appeal. The Signature Plates range in sizes from 6 inches to 1o inches.

There will also be a nifty assortment of trays debuting in the Signature line on Dec. 22 2008. Available sizes of Signature Trays are: 7" x 8.5" , 10.5" x 12.5" ,12 inch Square Platters or the largest version in 14" x 16" Trays.

All VerTerra dinnerware is biodegradable and compostable after 2 months. As well as being able to accommodate hot liquids without the worry that the product will disintegrate .You can even bake in each piece at 350 F ° for up to 45 minutes, without any buckling or warping of the piece. This makes any of the VerTerra products perfect for home or on the go.

Picture Credit: Theodore Samuels

The bonus at home, is that you can reuse each piece up to 12 times - if hand washing with a mild eco-friendly detergent, such as Seventh Generation Dish Soap . However VerTerra dinnerware are NOT dishwasher safe.

Oven-safe, microwaveable and refrigerator friendly, VerTerra Dinnerware will bring a guilt free, versatile and stylish disposable experience right to your table.

Available in packages of 10 to bulk packs of up to 300 pieces , VerTerra dinnerware is a very easy and economical solution for both home users or culinary business professionals.

Ec0- Friendly Related Posts:

05 December 2008

Owning a Domestic Kitchen Bakery: Is Your Kitchen Not Right? 24

In April of this year, I had posted an article: Oregon: The Last Domestic Kitchen Frontier , which outlined having a bakery business in your own kitchen - which is officially termed Domestic Kitchen Bakery, here in Oregon. The article outlined the requirements of obtaining a Domestic Kitchen Bakery License, as well as some statistics and tips I have learned through my own research.
Manuel Mixer by Viola Ng
I received a reader comment left anonymously under the post:
Hi! Thanks for the great info. I used to have a very small bakery,then had to close for financial reasons. I have been really wanting to get my license for my home,but my kitchen is not enclosed. To put a door on it,would really mess up the home value. It would look horrible. I have a separate area that is two small rooms attached to the back of my house,but it takes me a world away from my kitchen,where I do all my baking! I don't know what to do. It is very discouraging.

I replied to this person, in the comments, but most people probably won't be following the comments of that particular post (especially new readers), I thought it would be something that would be of interest to all readers so I decided to post my reply in this post:

If you are serious about obtaining a Domestic Bakery license you should not worry about "baking away" from your kitchen.

The perks from having a separate space for your home business outweigh the emotional attachments you feel for your kitchen space.

One of many perks --- You will be able to reap the tax benefits of having a separate business space.

The downside to having a "Domestic Kitchen License" at home is that you can NOT use any commercial equipment, at ALL. So all appliances must be those you would normally use in a standard home kitchen.

These two rooms at the back of your house that you spoke of - are you able to add (2) 220 watt outlets - one for a standard oven , and another for a refrigerator, or upright freezer?

You can have the 220 watt outlets put in by an electrician - then to cut costs you can find used or free appliances (check your local craigslist.org free section, or post a wanted message on your local freecycle.org message board). And check salvage yards etc for old counter tops and cabinets to use as work spaces.

If you do not want your rooms plumbed with a sink, or paying a plumber or contractor would be too expensive - Check with your counties' individual regulations - You may be able to have a food grade tank filled daily with clean tap or bottled water, in the room, for you daily water usage (which you can calculate the usage based on your baking formulas, and have plenty of extra in case your formula doesn't bake off right). This water cannot become contaminated, so a water cooler stand might be a good solution.

Don't let emotional attachments get in the way of your baking - if you cannot get past this, maybe you are not yet ready to take on a domestic kitchen business in your home.

I recommend you do some research and really consider how far you are willing to be vested in this - not only as an idea but as a physical and mental and financial challenge that will really take a large percentage of your time. Just as your former commercial bakery business did.

If you are interesting in knowing more about running a Domestic Kitchen Bakery from your home - Please see this post: Oregon: The Last Domestic Kitchen Frontier

01 December 2008

Children's Toy Review: Counting Bunnies Puzzle 23

In this day and age store bought toys are a dime a dozen and their designs and novelty are temporary if not fleeting. Even the quality is not as it once was, with giant companies racing to cut over head by outsourcing to factories with shaky safety records, hoping to turn a lucrative profit.

But do toys really matter any more? When video games and electronic devices such as cell phones and ipods , have consumed the culture of most of the civilized world's daily existence, and become the most wanted items - echoed in the fashions and advertising campaigns that flood our televisions and printed media. Do seemingly "dull" toys of yesteryear have a needed place in our children's lives? I, among a growing movement of parents , educators and specialists, believe the answer is yes.

There have recently been many studies compiling findings that support the theory that moving our children into the digital age has not come without a price. People are cluing in to the fact that children are slowly loosing out on make believe play, which is critical for language and problem solving development within their growing brains. Articles such as The End Of Make Believe featured on Newsweek.com, site that technology and entertainment are NOT tools used to stimulate imaginative play, no matter what their clever advertisements may lead you to believe.

In order for a child's brain to be stimulated to encourage proper make believe play , the toys he or she plays with need to be very plain and basic in nature (always wondered why your children enjoy the box the toys came in, more than the toy it's self?) - without all the flashing- beeping- digital goodness that floods store shelves. Wooden blocks and other basic toys are open ended - meaning there is no set outcome or plot, these toys can be anything the child imagines and the potential for creativity is limitless.

One of the toys I am reviewing today falls into the category of those reminiscent of toys of yesteryear.

Counting Bunnies Puzzle is offered by Imagiplay.com, a company that believes in selling toys that are eco-friendly and that inspire the imagination.

Counting Bunnies Puzzle Specs:

  • Hand-crafted & hand painted with child-safe paints. Made from plantation-grown rubberwood, an environmentally-friendly hardwood.
  • Non-toxic, eco-friendly, educational puzzles that teaches numbers, colors, dexterity and fun!
  • Fair Trade allows artisans a fair wage to support their families.
  • 10 puzzle pieces (8 bunnies, 2 carrots) 1 wooden puzzle base.
  • Ages: 3+
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4 x 14.5 inches ; 1 pounds
  • ASIN: B0016HPLK0


This puzzle is sized very nicely, perfect for a child's hands. The pieces are larger than other similar puzzles I have seen on the market, they also have rounded edges. It is nice to have a puzzle that offers a 2 dimensional feel instead of the typical one-dimensional, painted-on-one -side-only puzzles you find elsewhere.

The Counting Bunnies Puzzle's design is very sweet with momma bunny watching over her babies as they race to get to the large carrots, all numbered to encourage your little one's counting skills. The way the bunny pieces are positioned will help your child to learn about balance and sharpen his or her's dexterity. It is a nice feeling knowing that the designer used child safe paint when decorating the puzzle pieces, so many toys are made without forethought into the ingredients that will be used.

My 5 yr old daughter liked the way the pieces fit into the base and thought the carrot theme was "so cute!". Even my 18th month old little boy was drawn to the bright colors and different shapes.

I was happy to know that this purchase is supporting fair trade W artisans and that the wood used to create this puzzle is rubberwood - which can regenerate new growth that is usable fairly quickly, so the harvesting process is very eco-friendy.

The only slightly negative thing I can say about Counting Bunnies Puzzle is that because it is eco-friendly the puzzle came wrapped in shrink wrap, so there is not actually a container to house the pieces - which was a little inconvenient. My kids had the pieces all over the place in no time.

Overall Impression:

The Counting Bunnies Puzzle is well constructed by hand out of environmentally sustainable wood and supports Fair trade workers in disadvantaged countries. Not only will your children love the cuteness factor of the puzzles design, but this puzzle is educational and something that will last for years to come, and would make a great toy to pass on to future generations.

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10 November 2008

Guest Post: Modern Woman's Guide to Holiday Cooking 20

As the months start to spiral onward, Fall 2008 has arrived and Thanksgiving is fast approaching. I think that any one of us - regardless of cooking level or knowledge can remember sometime in our holiday past when dinner was anything but perfect and kitchen errors were left ingrained in our memories forever.

Post Forward:
Awhile ago I put out a call for interesting stories related to cooking, that would be featured on Renaissance Culinaire , and one of the responses I received was from April, who is a resident of Portland, OR.

This is what she wrote:

It is a humorous piece. I did not know if you wanted only articles that were written by 'real chefs'. Obviously, I am not, but I thought you might enjoy it anyway. - April M Whidden

April Whidden's Guest Post:

This year I did something I had never done before. I hosted our families traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Since the tragic salmonella poisoning of 1997, my family had voted (68-1) that I should never again be allowed to set foot inside a kitchen. Determined to redeem my inner domestic goddess, I crafted an ingenious plan to ensure that I would be the one cooking the bird this year.

Quite surprisingly, saying "please,please,please,please" for three hours straight works as well on my mother now as it did when I was a kid.

"This will be the best Thanksgiving ever." I told my husband as I happily planned the seating arrangement. Having only four chairs I had worked out a course by course rotation schedule to accommodate all of the guests, provided Aunt Tessie could not make it who would take up two seats alone.

"We need new placemats?" I reminded him, eying the plastic Easter Bunnies that still graced our table.

"We just got those." He said, gripping his wallet. "Just color in some feathers and a waddle."

I narrowed my eyes at him and he changed the subject.

"You inviting your brother?" He asked nervously.

"I had planned to." I replied. My brother was an anti-consumerist vegan who owned a million books and dvds which explained why shopping and holidays were wrong. My husband sighed helplessly.

"You know, you've never cooked a turkey." He informed me, as if this was something I had not considered.

"How hard can it be?" I asked him. "After all, it's just a big chicken. If the colonel can do it, then so can I."

Even so, his ominous words had me a bit worried, and reluctantly I sought out the wisdom of my mother.

"How were you thinking of preparing it?" She asked.

"I was thinking of brining it." I informed her, feeling knowledgeable.

"Brining?" Her voice grew louder, filling with alarm. "Do you even know what brining is?"

I hated to admit that I did not. I had read about it in a recent copy of Better Wives magazine while I was in the Super Cuts last week. Unfortunately, I had only read the part that said "Want to start a new Thanksgiving tradition? Try brining your turkey this year." before the stylist called me up to the chair.

"I'm starting a new Thanksgiving tradition." I told her simply, offering no more.

There was a long pause over the phone, followed by my mother's voice uttering an old Catholic prayer.

She is not catholic.

According to a google on the Internet, brining, as it turned out, is a very laborious process of salting the inside and the outside of a turkey, letting it sit overnight, and then rinsing the whole mess off again before baking it. This was way more work than I had intended and I really did not look forward to polishing a turkeys innards. Fortunately for me there were a gazillion other turkey recipes on the net and I found one that was not too difficult, after a bit of personal tweaking.

"Mom," I said, calling to report the change in turkey status, "I decided to use a recipe instead."

"April, I'm so glad honey!" She sounded so proud of me, as if I had just discovered the cure for seasonal hay fever. "What does the recipe call for? Rosemary? Sage? Thyme?"

I blinked and tried to recall where I had heard those words before. Weren't they the gifts from the wise men? I glanced up at my three-gallon bottle of Albertson's Season All and told my mom I had it all under control.

"Would you like me to make the stuffing?"she asked. I could tell in her voice that she was afraid I would, heaven forbid, use a boxed mix. "I can have it ready in the morning and you can swing by to pick it up and stuff the turkey before baking it."

"I wasn't planning on cooking the turkey with the stuffing. It will ruin my recipe." I looked at my meticulously written notes, scribbled in crayon, which hung on the refrigerator door.

Defrost turkey 2 hours...bake for four.

Any variation to this recipe and I knew I was in trouble.

The morning of feast day I woke up bright and early, eager to begin our families newest Thanksgiving tradition. It was almost 11. Wanting to be in a positive frame of mind before I started the actual cooking process I lounged about in my pajamas for a few hours catching up on Desperate Housewives via my trusty Tivo. At 1 PM, during a very good Susan scene, my mother called me to ask how the dinner was coming along. "Fine, mom." I told her absently, trying to read Susan's lips.

When I was little my mom used to get up at 5 AM to start preparation for the day. She began by making the pies, cutting the vegetables, setting the table, and then baking the turkey. She was busy from the moment she woke up until the time she went to bed, attempting to make our meal as wonderful and perfect as a Norman Rockwell painting.

But my mother had lacked the vision, not to mention the modern conveniences I had at my disposal. There was really no reason to waste one's entire day cooking one meal that would be eaten in less than fifteen minutes, when you could achieve the same results in a few hours. At 2 PM I removed the turkey from the freezer and let it sit on the counter to thaw while I tried out bold new hairstyles profiled in Celebrity Monthly. I certainly did not want guests coming over when I had my everyday hair on.

"Mom, turkey's still frozen." my son called to me from the kitchen. Glancing up at the clock I realized he must be mistaken. It was 4:30. It had had a good two and a half hours to go from solid to liquid form. I scratched my head, perplexed. Perhaps I had done a bit too much tweaking.

I put it in the microwave for an hour, using the popcorn cycle repeatedly.

Viola! Like magic, at 3 PM it was thawed, thanks to my incredible foresight to buy the microwave with the popcorn cycle my husband said we would never use.

The bird was small. It had been the Charlie Brown tree of turkeys and I had bought it because I was sure that no one else would not. I had imagined it, cold and alone in the store, wanting desperately to be a part of someone's special dinner this holiday season. I had created a whole Thanksgiving movie about it in my head, a heartwarming tale in which I had given it love and a home...The Littlest Turkey.

Somehow the popcorn cycle had done more than defrost the turkey, it had aged it. It was no longer cute and sweet, but shriveled and old.

"This thing okay to eat?" Asked my husband, uncertain.

"It's fine." I said. "That's how all turkeys look before you cook them" He shrugged and held open a turkey bag and I dropped it in.


That is the sound that turkeys make when they fall through turkey bags onto the floor. It is also interesting to note they do not make a sound at all when they slide across that same floor.

"Catch it!" I cried, panicked. My dogs had entered the room and were circling the bird like bandits on a wagon train. The only thing that kept them at bay was they could not reconcile the smell of turkey with the look of the leather-skinned bird that lay sadly on the linoleum. That would not last long.

My husband hurdled the chairs and seized the turkey just as three hungry canine jaws snapped shut behind him. It was a close call.

I finally put the turkey into the oven and was relieved to actually turn the dial to 325 F °. My job was done. I suppose it would have been wise of me to have preheated the oven, but I was already straying dangerously away from the recipe as it was.

With that, I went off to pick up my vehicular-impaired family. I loaded in my brother and his wife, laden with the traditional vegan goodies, and my mother and dad, carrying so many pies it looked like a circus juggling act. How we all fit in I will never know. The only sound on that still Thanksgiving night came as my dad yelled for me to slow down as we approached speed bumps at a dizzying three-miles-per-hour. Somehow we made it back to my home, safe and sound.

When we arrived, I hesitated at the door. I tried to imagine what my mother would encounter and I felt a pang of guilt. Thanksgiving and holidays had always been important to her. No matter how terrible the times had been for us as a family, she had always made holidays special. Somehow I felt like I had ruined this for her. I admitted to myself that perhaps I had not given the care and the love to the meal that she had. I wanted to warn her, to apologize for what might come. She seemed so happy, I could not do this to her. I would let her find out on her own.

The ghost's of holidays past were with me that night. The house, which only hours before had smelled of burnt leather and wet dog, felt warm and welcoming. The smells that came from the oven made my stomach lurch with hunger. My husband and son had cleaned in my absence and had even lit some scented candles. It felt like a real Thanksgiving.

There is this a part of me that hoped for some drama that night. Drama is always fun to write about. I had hoped that my brother would go on his traditional rant about the wrong-doings of the pilgrims. I had hoped that my mother would yell at me for not following turkey protocol. I had even hoped to burn the bird. None of that occurred. Everyone was happy and merry and the turkey turned out tender and delicious. It was a perfectly lovely night. I had not ruined Thanksgiving after all. Perhaps they will even let me cook dinner for Easter. After all, how difficult can baking a ham be?

This original article is authored by
April M. Whidden , who resides in Portland, OR , who is a freelance writer. Permission was given to republish this Article. 2005 © April M. Whidden. All Rights Reserved and stay with the Author.

06 October 2008

Chocolate Landing on The Floor - Not In Your Mouth 99

When I am working with chocolate - be it chocolate sauce, tempered chocolate, ganache or chocolate buttercream I have a tendency to slob the stuff around. Somehow I end up with it all 0ver the sleeves of my chef jacket or apron. When you are in a time crunch to get a product prepped, there is a delicate balance between artfully creating and efficiently creating, and sometimes things get sloppy, better yourself and not the product.

As a mom I realize that the possibility of chocolate getting totally consumed is a dream in theory. When children get a a hold of anything remotely edible, watching them consume and having the high expectations that they will be good and not make a mess - well let's just say they cannot help themselves and right it off as a disaster in the making.When I was chosen by Mom Central to review WD40 Spot Shot Carpet Cleaner, I thought this would be something pretty useful to have in my household.

Product Specs:
  • 22oz spray bottle
Can Remove:
  • Old Stains
  • Dirt/Grime
  • Cola/Colored Soda
  • Tracked in Mud, Dirt and Oil
Safe and Permanent Removal of
  • All kinds of new and old stains
  • Dual-odor eliminators absorb and neutralize odors
  • Anti-Resoiling agents protect carpet
  • Approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute for product performance

Safe for Pets, Kids and the Environment*
  • Non-Toxic
  • No Phosphates
  • No Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Recyclable Packaging
  • Certified Biodegradable by Scientific Certification Systems
Official Websitehttp://www.spotshot.com/

Cleaner Characteristics: I am always worried with cleaners about fumes and their ingredients because I am very sensitive to everything and can have pretty major allergic reactions, plus I don't want my children exposed to toxic chemicals. When I read the back of the Spot Shot bottle I was amazed to see that there were no warnings about accidental ingestion or inhaling the fumes. The label states that Spot Shot is non-toxic in both instances. The spray is not over powering and similar to Febreze in scent.

How To Use Spot Shot: The directions on the bottle say to use on both new stains that are still damp and older stains that are dry. It says repeat as necessary.

While using on a fresh stain:
  • Blot the stain with a dry cloth to wick up any moisture
  • Spray the stain with Spot Shot Spray
  • Wet a clean rag or sponge and start blotting the area to remove the stain.
  • Rinse out the rag or sponge as needed and repeat the above steps.
  • Allow carpet to air dry
While using on an old stain:
  • Spray the stain with Spot Shot Spray, allow to soak in.
  • Wet a clean rag or sponge and start rubbing the area to remove the stain.
  • Rinse out the rag or sponge as needed and repeat the above steps.
  • Allow carpet to air dry
The Performance:

My daughter had a spill with some chocolate sauce on the carpet.I used a rag to blot the remainder of the chocolate that hadn't quite soaked in. I followed the above noted steps for use with a fresh stain.

 The spray bubbled once it was applied. It worked better to blot at the stain as apposed to rubbing. The total cleaning process was repeated 3 times. I am able to say that Spot Shot did a pretty good job at removing the chocolate sauce, which tends to be a very hard stain to completely remove. Spot Shot is not an instant fix - it won't take all the work away for you, you will have to use a little elbow grease, but the time it takes to remove a stain is minimal. Compared to other spot cleaning products I have tried on previous carpets, I would say this does an excellent job. I wish I had had it when my daughter was a toddler, it might have saved my husband and I, hours of frustration. Overall I would say Spot Shot does what is advertised, with minimal effort and with a solution that is safe for kids and pets. It is biodegradable and has recyclable packaging. Eco-friendly solutions are always a plus.

The view expressed here are mine & mone alone. I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of WD40. In addition, I received an bottle of Spot Shot in exchange for my honest feedback.Please read more about Renaissance Culinaire's Disclosure Policy

Stumbleupon Lashes Out Against Bloggers 19

What is Stumbleupon? It is a social networking site, which allows people (i.e stumblers) to submit pages, or video or photos on the web that people can review and post whether they like or dislike the content, members can also build up a network of friends or fans that can subscribe to a stumbler's reviewed content.

Stumbleupon.com is one of the more powerful tools used for SEO, and can launch your sites into popularity by giving other stumblers the chance to view your link by referral of another stumbler - if that particular stumbler has allot of subscribers , or is highly regarded on the site - this can mean basically the equivalent to Internet gold for your site in the form of traffic. Search engines seem to love pages that are added to this service. And having your pages reviewed gives your site a better web presence.

By far stumbleupon.com has been one of the more popular sites for bloggers' to social network and get their content known, and helps to increase page views in turn adding to revenue from advertisements placed on blogs. By adding badges, stumble links and merely stumbling the very articles that fill up Stumbleupon's site, this has basically inundated Stumbleupon.com with traffic, which in turn gets them sponsors and huge advertising revenues.

Then WHY you ask is Stumbleupon.com targeting bloggers? These very same people who hurled the SU site into popularity ? How do you ask is Stumbleupon.com lashing out at bloggers?

Apparently it started with Entrecard.com. What is Entrecard? Entrecard is a blogging service that allows a widget to be placed on your blog, where people can give you Entrecard "credit" in exchange for advertising on your site., and vis a versa. Entrecard members signed into Entrecard get credit for visiting other members sites and "dropping" their ad card, by pushing on the widgetbutton that says "drop" - which lands the user's blog ad in the "recent droppers" section of the user's dashboard at Entrecard.com, or by clicking & visit the blog who's ad currently is displayed by the widget and also by adding comments to other Entrecard members' blogs.

Apparently, it started with some nefarious dealings involving bloggers posting to a forum about exchanging Entrecard credits for a stumble of their recent blog posts. Stumbleupon.com reacted by banning ALL posts referencing Entrecard from being stumbled on SU. If you do try to submit a post to stumbleupon.com , you will get redirected to this page of Banned Sites. The below pictue is a screenshot of what it says.

O.k, you may be wondering why am I posting about this? At 8:35 a.m this morning I received an email from Stumbleupon.com:

from StumbleUpon
to renaissanceculinaire (at ) gmail.com
date Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 8:37 AM
subject Your StumbleUpon account has been frozen
mailed-by stumbleupon.com

Your StumbleUpon account privileges have been restricted and the account is under review.

Accounts are placed under review for breaching our Terms of Service, which may be found here: http://www.stumbleupon.com/terms.html

The most common cause for account suspension is a contravention of the clauses which forbid the use of personal accounts for the promotion of a business, product or service, and also with regard to the sending of 'spam' messages to other members.

If you wish to appeal this suspension, having first reviewed the TOS, then you may contact us here: http://www.stumbleupon.com/feedback.php but be aware that we will only have imposed the suspension if we believe it to be warranted.

I immediately responded that I had done nothing to violate the TOS . I was NOT a business owner using SU for promoting a business; Nor was I spamming members with messages, I rarely used the message system.

I couldn't believe it. I had used, promoted and encouraged others to use Stumbleupon.com. Now my account was frozen? I went to twhirl, my twitter client that I use to post tweets to twitter, starting with "I am really tired of Legit, talented bloggers getting bullied by sites like Digg.com & Stumbleupon", because there was a slew of banned bloggers from both sites recently.
Here are my typed series of tweets:

My contacts were like What? And sent replies such as "I wasn't aware there was a problem with SU", or "DDOS attack?", Some, not regular users weren't sure where I was going with the tweet.

Then I got a Direct Mail from another contact, who asked "what? Your Su account was frozen this morning?", I answered back and got his reply which said:

"everyone in the comments of my post was banned from SU this morning"

What?! That is right - because I merely posted a comment on a random blog (which was NOT a banned site on SU), I was banned from Stumbleupon.com. I hadn't even stumbled ANYTHING related to Entrecard.com, nor had I participated in receiving EC credits for stumbling any sites. Stumbleupon.com had found that random post and banned every blogger that commented on the post, from the Stumbleupon.com site.

Yes, because I am an Entrecard user, I was targeted this morning by Stumbleupon. Yesterday I noticed a tweet from one of my contacts on Twitter that mirrored the spirit of The Problogger Love-in, a social networking experiment and experience that connected bloggers using various social networking sites to each other.

I thought it was a great idea, retweeted it to my own twitter stream, and then added the first comment for that particular post. I had referenced that I had 2 blogs on Entrecard, and noted that this blog, Renaissance Culinaire, was one of them and proceeded to link to my stumbleupon profile, within the comments. I had NO idea that SU had banned Entrecard.com.

ImpNerd owner Gary Hess, the original blog where the post I had commented on, is here. All the previous comments of the recently banned members have been removed. You can view what SU's support said in response to Gary's questioning here.

Stumbleupon has gone too far. Bloggers are the life blood of SU. I was unfairly targeted, for commenting on a post related to Entrecard. I, like many other bloggers are being unfairly punished for a sketchy forum post that included a few participants. Most people do NOT even know about the ban. How long will SU be combing the Internet for linked SU profiles that are randomly, somehow by coincidence, tied to a post that references Entrecard?

Type-A Parent New York City Bootcamp (Focus: Brand-Blogger Relations)
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