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.

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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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