31 May 2008

Saterday Soul Search : Food Poetry 21

In my hopes to re-ignite my poetry writing, I try to find food pictures that will inspire me - then in a creative burst, I try to write out the thoughts that come to mind and type them out immediately. Here are some of my plated desserts shots and the words that became of them...

Sugar Garnish detail

Sugar fired ---
extreme degrees render your cube like structure molten.

How you boil into a yellow frenzy ---
Scorching, throwing your strand like tentacles
grasping and attaching

your hot intensity
slips quietly into a more permanent existence ---
Hardening , your exterior smooth,
yet fragile in
your mock
glass sheen.

Garnish detail

Hazelnut Spears HardeningmoreClose up

Related Posts:

30 May 2008

Food Sensitivities, Particulates, Allergens --- Oh MY! 2

Am I a gluten for punishment? Living in the Pacific Northwest w is wonderful, but behind every wonderful there is an unsavory side, and for me that is the dampness that gives us our lovely moss covered forests and temperate climate.rain, one winter day

When dampness is prevalent --- so is mold, spores, pollen, dust mites....Unfortunately for me and the 9 million+ inhabitants of the PNW, we are living in an allergen nightmare. Not only do we have mold, but pollens specifically found only in this Northwest corner of the United States.

Throughout the late years of my teens and into my adulthood I have been on a roller coaster ride of allergen induced symptoms. From skin to respiratory to full on facial swelling, which recently, of course led to an emergency trip to the ER. All these symptoms were caused by a growing list of things that either fall into one of these
categories: animal, vegetable, chemical, mineral or environmental. that I am "sensitive" to or painfully allergic to.

Needless to say this has caused me to have to document any symptoms I have. I urge anyone who thinks they, or their child has an allergy to document :

  1. Symptoms ? Be descriptive - whether or NOT you feel they are related to an allergy.
  2. The symptoms duration - How long do these symptoms last?
  3. Where were you when the symptoms occurred? The environment (inside / outdoor) (was it sunny or wet) etc. Be descriptive!
  4. What were you doing when the symptoms occurred? Be descriptive (eating - what? / sleeping- on? /petting cat - long hair?) [ The product you were using (hair gel / chemicals)]
These documented events will help your doctor narrow down the cause of the allergy. And it will help you to notice any patterns - such as "wow, frank gets itchy when he chews on rutabagas..", so that you know what things to avoid, and what triggers outbreaks or symptoms.

Eliminating those allergens in your life can sometimes be overwhelming and frustrating to think about. But if you stick to an allergen journal - slowly things come into perspective, and it makes this task allot easier.

The research about allergies is staggering.

Allergy Facts:

  • it is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions.(S)
  • The cost of allergies in the United States is more than $10 billion dollars yearly.(S)
  • Allergic rhinitis (nasal allergies) affects about 35 million Americans, 6 million of whom are children.(S)
  • Asthma affects 15 million Americans, 5 million of whom are children.(S)
  • The number of cases of asthma has doubled over the last 20 years.(S)
  • Dust Mites & their waste can remain airborne for 15 minutes, after being disturbed.
  • The male/female ratio for asthma is 3:1.
  • Asthma accounts for almost 5,000 deaths a year

There are some ways to combat Allergies, I have found some interesting links with some good info on allergens. Here are a few quick tips I have found helpful.

Simple Ways To Combat Common Allergens:

  • Keep the home cool (between 68 and 72 degrees F);
  • Maintain a low humidity (between 40 and 50%);
  • Make certain there is good ventilation.
  • If you have allergies - don't vacuum, if you must use a mask.
  • Stay out of the vacuumed area for 1 hour.

Also - You can invest in a air filtration system - you can find these in varying prices and strengths, they really do work! In both portable versions or One installed into the duct work of your home. One example is AccuClean™ Whole Home Air Filtration System, According to their website :

Key Benefits:
  • Removes over 99% of the common flu, or influenza A virus, from the filtered air in your home.
  • Removes up to 99.98% of allergens from filtered air
  • Catches particles even smaller than .1 micron in size
  • 8 times more effective than the best HEPA room appliance
  • 100 times more effective than a standard 1" throwaway filter or ionic-type room appliance
  • Delivers cleaner air, and more of it
  • Reusable filter is easy to vacuum or wash
See more info here: http://www.americanstandardair.com/HomeOwner/Products/AirCleaners/AccuClean.aspx

Links to Further Your Allergy Knowledge:

I have reason to believe I have food allergies also , and later I will going to an allergist for the first time and most likely go through a series of allergy tests. Since this is a food blog I wanted to highlight the dangers of food related allergens. I am a mom and I am amazed that not more parents are aware of food sensitivities and the symptoms.

Food Allergens - A Growing Trend

In the last twenty years, the US has seen an epidemic increase in allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism, including a:

  • 400% increase in food allergies

  • 300% increase in asthma, with a 56% increase in asthma deaths

  • 400% increase in ADHD

  • Between a 1,500 and 6,000% increase in autism.

  • The male/female ratio for food allergies is 2:1

  • An increase in the number of people with Celiac's Disease (a wheat allergy).

  • See more info here.

    Signs of Food Allergy
    Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to life threatening and may include:
    • hives
    • itching
    • rash (eczema)
    • behavioral/temper changes
    • swelling of the face, lips, tongue and/or eyes
    • diarrhea
    • vomiting
    • cramps
    • itching and tightness of throat
    • difficulty breathing (asthma)
    • wheezing
    • in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock.
    Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction that often includes swelling of the face, lips, mouth and throat and it can lead to a drop in blood pressure, shock and unconsciousness. If not treated immediately with epinephrine, anaphylaxis can be fatal.

    Links to improve Food Allergy Knowledge:

    Hopefully these links will help someone take control of the allergies that are plaguing them or a family member. Educating yourself should always be the first step to controlling any condition.

    29 May 2008

    Family Game Review : The Tuttles Madcap Misadventures 5

    I am reviewing this The Tuttles PC Game, in hopes to spread the word for a worthy cause. Proceeds of the $20 dollar purchase price is being donated to Starlight Star Bright Children's Foundation. Fifty percent of the retail proceeds from game sales and 75 percent of the proceeds from the downloads at http://www.tuttlesfamilygame.com/ go to Starlight.

    ...Play for pleasure

    The Tuttles Madcap

    Help a worthy cause..
    Game History:
    This game is a first of it's kind -
    a game designed specifically with
    a charity in mind. Starlight Star Bright
    Children's Foundation Partnered with
    Legacy Interactive to come up with
    a new way to drum up funds for a chari-
    table cause . Legacy Interactive just got
    done rolling out a Facebook "Friends"
    promotional contest designed
    to help spread the word about The Tuttles
    Madcap Misadventures: Starlight Charity
    Challenge. The animated arcade-style game
    is being sold with a first-of-its kind national
    fundraising campaign benefiting children
    with chronic and life-threatening illnesses via the Starlight Star bright Children's Foundation

    The Tuttles Madcap Misadventure was voted "2007 Kids Game of the Year" by Game Tunnel,
    and received a Parents' Choice Silver Honor Award 2008; and Iparenting Awards "2008
    Excellent Product/Video Game".

    Produced By: Legacy Interactive.

    Legacy Interactive is a leading developer and publisher of casual games for people of all ages. Entertaining customers since 1998, the company has built a reputation for developing intelligent, realistic and engaging games for a broad audience. Located in Los Angeles, Legacy is known for its TV-branded games, such as Law & Order and The Apprentice, as well as for its popular simulation games Pet Pals: Animal Doctor,
    Emergency Room and Zoo Vet.

    Legacy has ongoing distribution, marketing and content strategic partnerships with a number of companies, including Vivendi Games, Universal Studios, Ubisoft, Mindscape, Majesco Entertainment, and Scholastic.

    Developed By:

    Legacy Interactive http://www.legacyinteractive.com/

    Divo Games http://www.divogames.com/

    Animax http://www.animaxent.com/

    An original comedic script and characters designed by Emmy Award-winning Dave Thomas and Starlight. In addition to being a well-known actor, writer and director, he’s also creative director and co-founder of Animax Entertainment, which has a long history of working with Starlight. Animax developed the award-winning “Coping with Chemo” webisode series for the organization, and most recently helped redesign its online social network for seriously ill teens called Starbright World.

    All of these companies have worked on major gaming platforms, and have produced industry leading content for some time. Their great work on other kid friendly content within other projects is what ties these companies together, enabling them to create a game that both graphically and intellectually interests both kids and adults.

    Game Specs:

    Game Play: This game plays very smoothly, there is enough action and humor to peak anyones' interest. You can choose to play as any of the 4 characters in the Tuttle family. They all have their own unique game scenarios and experience. There are 40 levels that you must over come and these levels are divided between 6 main themes - Island, desert, mountain, Under Sea, tropical jungle, and sky.

    Game Interface: The Download of The Tuttles Madcap Misadventures was seamless. It installed well on my pc. My operating system is Windows XP, with Service Pack 3.

    The desktop icon is pleasant and easily seen. When clicked, you are taken immediately to a
    full screen, where you can watch the story of The Tuttles family unfold.

    There is both keyboard or mouse support. I chose to use my mouse, it was more comfortable. The characters are controlled by pointing the mouse cursor in the direction you want your character to go. If you want the character to crouch down, you move the mouse toward the bottom of the screen. If you want your character to jump you move the mouse upward. And so on. The artificial intelligence communicated well with my mouse cursor. There was a learning curve however, to familiarize myself with exact positioning of my character. When I chose to be the mother character, I especially liked being able to wallop anything that was in my path with my purse - it packed a powerful punch!

    Everything is very visible - the option icons, help points and save points, required objects and objects that rack up points - all are very clearly defined, and almost larger than life.

    Artificial Intelligence & Enemy Specs: The artificial intelligence of this game is pretty relentless, I could liken the enemy element to many popular platforms of arcade style games, more specifically Nintendo's Super Mario Brother's. Each Level has it's own that are suitable to the environment - for example the desert is littered with swooping bald eagles, stinging scorpions and poison cactus. There is something always raining in from the sky, crawling up from the ground or rolling in to your character, so you need to be on your toes constantly.

    Most levels have a predetermined amount of special items you must find, before you can pass the level. There is also an abundance of points that are decided by the environment of the level you are in, such as a first aid kit for extra life , you find in the desert.

    You get 3 lives for each level. Each enemy or hazard removes points from your life. There are special items you can pick up that will boost your life - they aren't always apparent - so look hard. Each level has special save points, resembling a book, which allow you to pick up where you left off when you restart the game.

    Game Plot: The main plot of the game is The Tuttles family trying to make it to their vacation via road trip to The Alamo (not limited to travel on the road, but also through their specialized van equipped with jet propulsion and wings for flight, and a submergeable body for deep underwater adventures) . Along the way they encounter many hazards, such as their beloved van crashing, deep jungle skirmishes and under sea foibles - all the while sticking it out like a loving family would. The mantra for the game is "getting things done, by doing good".

    Each family member is a hero, in their own right : the goofy father Barry, the spunky mother Barbara, the typical teen age, social obsessed daughter Jess and young Zach, who can't wait to be grown up. With each character choice you gain a unique perspective into the dynamics of the game. The Tuttles Madcap Misadventure is a linear game - meaning 3 bad mistakes and your game level is over. Each character must use their wits to defeat enemies and hazards both environmental , physical or animal related. As the game progresses - the difficulty and level of hazards increases.

    Game Graphics: The graphics are flash based, and comic book like. They are designed with a kids perspective in mind. I found the color scheme to be very likable and there were no overwhelmingly garish colors, the designers stuck to earthy,warm natural tones. They looked lively on my 17 inch 1280 x 1024px resolution, 32 bit CRT monitor. I have a VIA/SG3 UniChrome IGP.

    Visually the level scenes have allot going for them. There are plenty of details in the foreground, which sucks you into the game, making the setting believable. The terrain is textured and they hazards are very detailed. When a player's character encounters an hazard - the character wavers from opaque to semitransparent, alerting you to the fact that contact with the hazard has been made.

    You have 6 nicely rendered settings: desert, ocean , jungle, island , sky and mountains.

    Animation: The character animation is not quite true to life. The characters are whimsical and a little goofy. Their actions and interactions are pretty lifelike though. You can see a character gripping for a ladder, or jumping to reach a save point etc. Scorpions move like in real life, eagles glide.

    Some more whimsical features of the game include Special objects that levitate in mid air. Spiderwebs become bounce able trampolines that allow you to jump out of spear lined pits; Once enemies have been defeated (by being stomped or walloped) - they disintegrate into nothing and become bundles of money / gold or a character specific reward (i.e a "worlds greatest dad" trophy for Barry).

    Come to think of it I thought that Barry (the dad) looks very much like Max Weinberg, the drummer from Late Night with Connan Obrien.

    Theme Music: The theme music is pleasant. Each character has their own specially catered theme. Each level has a specific theme based on the environment the level takes place in.

    Character Voices: The amazing cast of characters can be heard sharing witty one liners
    and carrying out the crazy adventures of The Tuttle family : Bob Saget voices father Barry,
    Jamie Lee Curtis is mother Barbara, Ashley Tisdale plays teen daughter Jess, and Dominic Scott Kay voices young son Zach. Other characters include Dave Thomas as The Australian, Dave Coulier as The Islander and William Shatner as the voice of the souped-up mini van that transports the family. The voices are very well suited for each specific character. They make the game a very fun experience.

    This game is full of witty banter and parent vs. child humor. This game never wanes with a comedic script written with 300 lines, from the creative genoius of Dave Thomas.
    There are mini shorts throughout the game featuring humourous interaction between the Tuttle family.
    Sound effects are true to life. The rumbling of the van's engine, the hissing of a snake, the thundering echo of a rolling boulder, these are all concrete examples. Each level has it's own charm. And the characters each have their specific sounds, if running you hear gasping, or if hurt you hear wincing pain - all in keeping with the games momentum. I found the mother's exclamation of "Oh we NEED that" or "scratch that off the list", while in the mall were very funny and almost too realistic.

    Game Utilities: All games are managed by player name - you are asked to enter your name when you start a new profile, and your top score is saved. When the game is loaded you choose your specific player profile. The game memory is only limited by your amount of hard disk space.
    There are no options for difficulty. The game merely increases difficulty as the game progresses. This is a one player game.

    Game Rating:E for everyone. Has mild cartoon violence.

    Over all this has been a real fun gaming experience. I let my 5 yr old watch me play, and I felt the violence was mild in comparison to many other popular kids geared games. I look forward to much more game play with The Tuttles in the future. If you are looking for an engaging game for your children, that isn't too violent and that promotes family - this is a great choice.

    Purchasing this game helps a great cause.

    System Requirements :
    OS: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista - there is a Mac version available (see below)
    CPU: 600 Mhz RAM

    You can Download The Windows Version Here: Windows Download

    There is a Mac compatible version available here: Mac Download

    Starlight Star Bright Children's Foundation : When a child or teenager has a serious medical condition, everyone in the family is affected. For 25 years, Starlight Star bright Children's Foundation(TM) has dedicated itself to helping seriously ill children and their families cope with their pain, fear and isolation through entertainment, education and family activities.

    Starlight's programs have been proven to distract children from their pain, help them better understand and manage their illnesses, and connect families facing similar challenges so that no one feels alone. Through a network of offices, Starlight provides ongoing support to children, parents and siblings in all U.S. states and Canadian provinces with an array of outpatient, hospital-based and Web offerings. Programs are also delivered internationally through affiliates in Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom. To learn more visit http://www.starlight.org/.

    21 May 2008

    Food Photography : Banana - Midori Strawberry torte 12

    plated desserts 010

    An oval cookie cutter was used to cut out 3 layers of French sponge. I used a slightly larger size of the oval set and lined it with an acetate strip. I used sliced strawberry to line the acetate , point upward and then added banana mousse. I pushed a layer of the French sponge into the mousse, which distributed the mousse into the areas that weren’t filled by the strawberry. I continued to add mousse then a layer of sponge, and then used a small offset to comb the top smooth. I let this set in the reach in for several hours, then peeled the acetate off.

    The dessert was placed on the upper left side, off center. It was garnished with a chocolate design and a half kiwi slice following the line of the chocolate design.

    A tempered chocolate fern design was piped onto the plate. It was filled with honeydew-Midori sauce. Descending circles were piped of chocolate on each side of the dessert and strawberry sauce was used to fill the circles.

    I will post the full dessert costing presentation tomorrow.

    Related Posts:

    20 May 2008

    My Photographic Mind 4

    Here are some of my pictures. Bits and pieces of what I see. These are shots I have taken, using nothing more than a little digital point and shoot. I like to recall in certain instances, pictures from my photographic mind.


    something uncertain

    coming home

    Oil on wet concrete

    summer rain

    Please Remember to Vote for Renaissance Culinaire Best Hobby Blog at the BOBs awards by following the link below and selecting "Abstract2collective" and clicking vote on the voting widget. Voting ends June 2nd 2008

    http://www.thebestofblogs .com/2008/05/12/best-hobby -blogvote-here/

    Please bookmark the link - you can vote once a day in each category. Support your favorite blogs.

    18 May 2008

    Recalling Fondly Old Town Pizza in Portland, OR 4

    If you get the chance to visit Portland Oregon, be sure to visit Old Town Pizza.

    old town pizza company , portland oregon

    click here to see larger image

    Nestled on a side street in Portland's old town, you will find Old Town Pizza in a unassuming building with obviously aging architecture. As you walk inside - there is an air of bygone days.
    You can almost feel the presence of the once vibrant inhabitants that walked under the old growth timber beams framing it's 2nd floor, or hear an echo of their footsteps and distant laughter from the working men who threw back a couple - drinking their modest ales on their retreat homeward.

    As history has unfolded, a slightly more wicked slew of personal accounts from the early 1900's surrounds these grounds where Old Town Pizza sits. The tales are numerous, Apparently many a sailer was hijacked, while consuming their beverages or a warm meal, or talking up a pretty painted lady , seated above the tunnels in pubs--- all at once a trap door (a.k.a "Deadfall") would open up in the floor and a random sailer would fall , into the hands of awaiting anxious men, to be taken deep into the catacombs, and scurried through the eerie tunnels w, which lead to the basements of other buildings , where the men would be held captive in holding cells, to be bought and sold to ship captains in a lucrative human trafficking ring. The name "shanghai" came about because most of these ships were bound to The Orient. On Halloween this period in the Portland, Oregon history is a favorite among local Portland residents, and sometimes at various times of the year a Shanghai Tunnel tour can be had.

    Old Town Pizza has been in Business since 1974, once you walk into the place, you are transported to another time period. All the furniture is antique from the 1900 - 1930's period. The walls are also decorated with antique souvenirs from bygone days. Try wandering up stairs and you will find little enclaves of cozy furniture such as old couches and smoking chairs, positioned around coffee tables so you can set your pizza and pitcher of favorite beer and gather for a feast. These great seating areas evoke fun conversation. And are lighted by the warm glow of old period lamps - which creates a wonderful ambiance.

    The pizza is great, with a light crispy crust outside and soft insides, it is fired in a brick oven. You may want to find parking elsewhere and walk a few blocks to get there, because open street parking spots are far and few between.

    I have found going there a great experience, and there is a special area that you can find once you walk inside and make a left - toward the right far corner, and it is a little room, where you can be seated in booth style around a table - that at one time housed a freight elevator shaft. It was converted and there isn't a ceiling - if you look upwards you can see several windows that seem to reach for the sky - and you at once will feel dwarfed by the towering buildings that flank the room.

    Please Remember to Vote for Renaissance Culinaire Best Hobby Blog at the BOBs awards by following the link below and selecting "Abstract2collective" and clicking vote on the voting widget. Voting ends June 2nd 2008

    http://www.thebestofblogs .com/2008/05/12/best-hobby -blogvote-here/

    Please bookmark the link - you can vote once a day in each category. Support your favorite blogs.

    17 May 2008

    It's Official - This Blog is a BoB Award Finalist! 0

    Hi everyone, I was nominated for a "BestofBlogs" Award in April and I just got word that my blog Renaissance Culinaire has been chosen as a top 10 finalist.


    Small Bloggers
    for me..

    This is a really big deal for me - I just found
    out today.
    Usually the biggest names in the blogosphere are
    the only blogs to be seen representing
    the top ten finalists
    for each category - but this year I was initially
    nominated and accepted for a special
    "under appreciated blog" category for smaller
    blogs. I made a long list of finalists - but the
    final list of top ten nominees has been decided
    by a panel of judges and Renaissance Culinaire
    made the cut!!

    If you have visited my blog and like the content,
    if you want to see one of the little guys represent
    bloggers in a good light --- please show your support
    and vote for my blog in the "Best Hobby Blog" category.
    This is truly a "people's choice"award!
    Voting Ends June 2nd, 2008

    So Please visit the link below and on the voting widget: Select 'Abstract2Collective' and click 'vote', to make sure your vote is counted.


    It would really mean allot to me! If you can help spread the word I would be truly thankful.


    16 May 2008

    Recipe: Banana - Rum Napoleons 10

    I am a fan of bananas, and this Banana-Rum Napoleon is a recipe to satisfy your dessert cravings, and it is low-fat to boot!

    Thanks to ian_ransley for use of his photo.
    I love napoleons, they work really well in a restaurant kitchen, because they are relatively easy to assemble, if you prep before hand, and the presentation looks very elegant, and your patrons or guests will think allot of time was spent
    creating it.

    Sweet Nothings
    Low Fat
    Low Calorie Desserts
    This recipe is adapted from Sweet Nothings by
    Jill O'Connor. It makes 10 portions.
    If you aren't feeling like bananas - You can
    substitute peach, nectarine, or a favorite
    berry puree - and flavor
    with a liqueur of your choice.
    It is better to prep the pastry in
    advance(up to 24hrs ahead),
    to speed up the production of this dessert.
    The cream filling cannot be made more than
    2 hrs ahead of time if using the original recipe.
    If using real cream, you must make right before serving.

    For The Pastry
    • 6 Sheets of phyllo dough (12 x 17 inches), thaw if frozen
    • Butter flavored vegetable cooking spray.
    • 6 TB granulated sugar
    Tip: When working with phyllo dough - to thaw, allow the box of phyllo dough to rest out on a counter if the inside temp is relatively low, it will take 3-5 hrs for proper thaw. Otherwise put in the fridge 2-3 days ahead of time. Take out as many sheets as needed, then wrap the remaining in plastic wrap , tightly and use within 5 days. 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.


    1. Preheat Oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet w/ parchment paper.
    2. Place the first phyllo sheet on a clean flat work surface. Spray lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1 tsp of the sugar. Add a new sheet onto the previous prepared layer. Repeat as instructed above, using 3 of the 6 phyllo sheets only.
    3. Cut the layered phyllo into ten 6 x 3 inch rectangles. Place rectangles on prepped baking sheet. Bake in oven until crisp and golden - 3-5 minutes. WATCH THE BAKEOFF - thin phyllo burns very quickly, so don't get distracted while waiting for them to brown.
    4. Remove from oven and transfer phyllo triangles to a rack to completely cool.
    5. Repeat the above 4 steps again with the remaining 3 phyllo sheets.
    {There will be scraps - the books says to discard, but as anyone in the culinary trade knows - use everything you can, so save the scraps and bake last, use as garnish for another dessert, or a smoothy etc.}

    For The Cream Filling:

    • 1 1/4 cups pureed banana (1 1/2 - 2 large bananas) OR Measure out your favorite substituted puree - peach, nectarine, or a favorite berry puree.
    • 1 to 2 TB freshly squeezed lime juice
    • 2 1/2 TB Dark Jamaican Rum OR If using other fruit, the use the liqueur of your choice.
    • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 1 1/4 cups low-fat non-dairy topping
    • 4 medium bananas, sliced on the diagonal, 1/4 inch thick
    • confectioners sugar for top of finished pastry

    1. Place pureed fruit, lime juice, Rum or liqueur, vanilla and nondairy topping in a bowl. Fold together ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
    2. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.
    Dessert Assembly:

    1. Just before serving place a phyllo rectangle onto a plate. Spoon 1/4 cup of the banana cream onto the pastry.
    2. Top the cream with 8-10 banana sliced OR your substitute fruit pieces other berries.
    3. Top the filling with a 2nd phyllo rectangle, sieve confectioners sugar over the top.
    4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have created 10 napoleons.

    To create a decorative pattern - such as a herringbone or cross hatch : heat a metal skewer over a gas flame or use a mini blow torch, until very hot. Quickly lay the hot metal skewer on the top of your napoleon for the desired marking, repeat until you have the desired effect.

    For an nice presentation - garnish plate with drizzles of fruit puree; add a bit of mint, or some citrus zest curls.

    105 calories per serving; 1.5 grams of fat - 13% calories from fat.

    This dessert can easily be converted into a Vegan dessert: Use melted Earth's Balance in place of the cooking spray - or use soy milk to brush over the layers of phyllo (you might need to adjust baking times, so watch the pastry closely). Replace the "non-dairy topping" with silken tofu. Yum!

    Full FAT:
    And for those of you who cannot stand fake cream - go ahead and use the real deal, just use heavy cream in place of "nondairy topping", as heavy cream has a higher fat content which will help stabilize it a bit better than traditional whipping cream. Whip this up right before serving, as real WC will separate quickly. You may need to adjust the amount of puree also - try a little at a time.

    Original recipe© Jill O'Connor.

    13 May 2008

    Guest Post With Kate Jacobs : On Food Memories From Childhood 4

    I got a chance to ask Kate Jacobs, author of The Friday Night Knitting Club; And her most recent foodie geared novel Comfort Food , a very personal question.

    RC: How do you feel food memories from childhood shape us into adults?

    See Kate Jacobs Bio & Website
    Image © Kate Jacobs.
    KJ: We all have wonderful memories of meals shared with families, sitting around the table with the Thanksgiving turkey and summer barbecues eating corn on the cob.

    I love birthday cake,

    just like the main character Gus in my new novel Comfort Food, and I remember my sister decorating a cake that looked like a pizza with all the toppings for my fifth grade sleepover party. That was the birthday I got a puppy, Pepsi, who was my first Springer Spaniel and one of my dearest friends ever.

    It’s all connected for me: the cake, the friends, the puppy. That was one of the best days of my life!

    And I love to recall having fresh fruit pie at my grandmother’s house

    Made with cherries that my brothers and sisters had just picked off the trees in her yard. Amazing. Those are the meals you wish you could fly back in a time machine and savor again and again, and also enjoy the company of family who aren’t here anymore.

    But sometimes food isn’t just about family. Sometimes it’s about culture and identity.

    I remember how, growing up in Canada, I always thought of S’mores as being particularly American, and as such I was fascinated by them. Now, I was never a Girl Guide (that’s Canadian for a Girl Scout) and so I didn’t go camping and so on. Instead, I saw Archie & Betty talking about them in the comics: It was just this American cultural go-to that seemed so different to me. Well, this was something I had to get in on, you know?

    I recall trying to make some in the microwave on July 4: I was always a very pro-American Canadian. (And now I’m American and Canadian, so it’s really worked out for me.) But, anyway, back to my little experiment, which even involved a trip biking to the corner store to use some allowance money to invest in some very American Hershey chocolate. I took some graham crackers from the cupboard, put on several squares of chocolate, little mini marshmallows because that’s what we had at home, and topped it off with another graham cracker. I wrapped up the whole thing tightly in waxed paper and cooked the hell out of it the microwave. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad. Definitely gooey, definitely sweet. Though a S’more lacks a certain something something when it doesn’t have the roasting from the open fire.

    I must say my early culinary tastes were quite influenced by comic books

    I read a lot of and all types of comic books as a kid. I also saw a Dennis the Menace that had an activity page that included a tip on pickling carrots. The whole gist was that if you put carrots in a jar of pickles and let them soak overnight, the carrots would taste pickled. Well, duh: That’s what my 34-year-old self says. My 8-year-old self was utterly entranced as though Julia Child herself had made the suggestion. I would get very upset if my mother did not save the juice when we finished a jar of pickles. After all, I needed that for my Dennis-the-Menace carrots! Making those pickles felt like a sign of independence and worldliness: I had my own special “thing.”

    Food is so much more than just calories and nutrition.
    It’s also captures a moment, an emotion, with taste and aroma. And feel. Think of the sensation of a melting Popsicle running down your fingers on a hot summer day and try not to smile. Food can be good times, you know? And that’s what I wanted to capture in Comfort Food. This feeling of laughter and celebration and happiness.

    Kate Jacobs' Signature

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    12 May 2008

    On Mothers 0

    These are my smiling little children - The boy on the left is 12 months and the girl on the right is five years. Time has passed so quickly. It is funny I can look at them both and see them just as they were in the hospital - cradled in my arms for the first time. Their eyes squinting and unadjusted to the light all around them - unaware and scared of the world they had entered into. So tiny and red. Wrinkled and scented with what seemed the essence of purity itself.

    Happy mothers day

    I can recall flashes of memories, mainly feelings that awaken in brief instances. A mishmash of events carried out in a haphazard fashion, standard things every mother and father goes through.

    In the begining the feelings of creating such a beautiful new life overtake - the tiredness, the aching, stress. All the agony and pain of labor seems to have washed away during this brief period.

    Yet as the weeks progress, like in some cruel joke, nature inflicts upon us what seems like some maddash through parental basic training - unfortunately it is not a Drill Sargent you encounter, no, it is a screaming inconsolable infant.Which in some ways is worse. And slowly you feel the sleepless hours start to take there toll.

    Your body is not in the physical shape you need it to be - you are ill equipped to be inching your way through mountains of laundry and dishes. You aren't ready to shimmy up the stairs, now starting to feel like a rope climb. Nor do you want to do laps around the house for forgotten infant equipment, that you think will somehow (hopefully) appease this baby. Nights turn into days as this baby turns your schedule topsy turvy. He has needs, and yours are trivial at best.....
    And he has made his presence known.

    But just like everything else, days turn into weeks and then into months, and that little screaming bundle of chaos grows into a babbling, toddling little person. One who can add the sweetest moments to your daily ritual. The days and nights slowly regain there proper momentum, and bedtimes are now a real thing to look forward to. Even though the demanding has changed from screaming into a more direct form, it somehow makes it more palatable.

    I feel something that must be what only a mother's love can feel like --- the light in my children's eyes now blankets my heart, like I once swaddled and blanketed them. And when life's struggles and stresses creep in, and disrupt my mood - I can look at their faces and feel an instant wave of warmth, of joy rush over me and I can soldier on another day.

    04 May 2008

    On Taste Memories and The Economy 2

    When I experience something of taste worth noting, I archive it within the catacombs of my taste memories. There it is tagged and filed away - until there is new life breathed into it again, on some chance encounter with my taste buds.

    huii 026

    My palate has slowly matured. I wasn't always one to remark on how great a microbrew was. But now I appreciate the bold, earthy and spicy undertones contained in the hoppy liquid. I appreciate the complexities of each type of brew. And every now and again these same taste memories resurface like amber ghosts haunting me with unequaled sweetness. I begin to ache for another chance - another dance with this foamy goodness.

    My palate of course has not singled out microbrews exclusively, in it's maturity. I have taken on all types of complex tastes and textures not attractive to me in my younger years. This point is my life is very enlightening and I have entered a culinary awareness that rivals anything else I have experienced.

    As humans we are drawn toward things we have noted in our brains - things which have left a good impression on our psyche. We cherish the taste memories stored there. And in bad times or discontent we call upon them again to boost our spirits, to remind us of comfort and joy.

    A persons palate can only exceed his grasp, and for me living on a family budget means that not all my culinary whims are satisfied. For people who are also attending school this can mean even more cost saving measures. And as the economy becomes more and more disheveled, many of our budgets will continue to grow tighter.

    This is a hard reality for me as a food blogger. Mainly from two different perspectives A.) I love food and I am very passionate about the actions leading up to the final product - it pains me to not be able to create more artistic creations at home, due to cost restrictions. B.) Once your blog enters the realm of "foodie-o-sphere" there is an unwritten expectation from readers and foodie peers to create and post pictures of your latest food masterpieces. Also I am unable to participate in all the food community challenges, which leaves me feeling isolated from my foodie peers.

    The cost aspect that doesn't affect me however , is that I am not worried about having "trendy" kitchen gadgetry or appliances, I have always been thrifty in that way. I love to thrift shop for tools. I have found high end tools for a few dollars a piece. It is a great feeling to find a $60 tool for that price. The great thing about thrift stores is that people donate kitchen ware they bought on a whim / got as a gift , and never used. So most things are in great shape. I have a source that restaurants donate to, so you get high quality stock pots and stainless tools.

    Croissant Madness 1


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    01 May 2008

    And The Winners Are - Drum Roll Please... 0

    The Publisher has been notified. All 5 of
    the winners of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book Challenge were notified by email.
    For the first contest conducted on Renaissance Culinaire, it went very
    well. I will do this again soon when I have the opportunity.

    I really appreciate everyone who took the time to follow the contest rules and that had kind comments to make. Thanks to everyone who featured a link on their site also.

    The contest is over and the random drawing, thanks to random.org has come and gone.

    Now to officially announce the winners:

    1. Dan, of MN
    2. Mark ,of IL
    3. Curtis, of TX
    4. Karin, of MN
    5. Amy, of OH


    The publisher was forwarded the winners info, including email - in case she wants to verify your shipping address. You will then be shipped your brand new copy of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. Happy Baking!

    I have created a little graphic if any of the winners would like to display a link in their blog post about winning the contest.

    This is what it will look like on your site:

    Copy & paste this code into your site template:

    This is what it will look like on your site:

    Copy & paste this code into your site template:

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