Izzy (and Mama) Eat: The Gourmand Grows up...

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Monday, April 30, 2007

The New No Nap Mode: Cramping Our Eating Style

I suppose I should consider myself lucky for Izzy was always a rather willing napper. I would suggest it was nap time and he would follow me upstairs and happily lie down beside me for a story, boobie and then sleep. He followed the typical patterns for his age and then continued to have a 2-3 hour nap til past the age of 3.5. Then things slowly began to show signs of change. The nap time started to dwindle down to about 1.5 hours. I still couldn't complain, especially since some of his peers had long ago given up the nap altogether.

The long naps were great for many reasons. I could get some chores done, take a quick snooze and best of all, Izzy would be peppy and ready for some late night dining. Well, it seems those days may be but a distant memory. Izzy has not napped at home now for at least four weeks and it has been sheer torture. I am constantly tired and dinner plans are difficult to make.If I decide to cook then we can't go to the park. It requires me to be ultra-organized and that hasn't happened. Worst of all, if we want to go out for dinner, it is best to be at the restaurant by 6:30. And even then, it is unlikely we will be home for a 7:45 p.m. bedtime so he inevitably goes to bed too late, which then impacts our morning routine.

Tonight was a case in point. I didn't have my dining act together and after lingering too long at the park figured we would just go out. Well we didn't leave the house til 7:10 p.m. so our options were limited. We went to the nearby Greek spot (more on that some other time) and Izzy was practically falling asleep on the banquette, just nibbling half-heartedly on his pita. I felt like a negligent mom. I had to have my dinner fix whilst my poor child should have been cozy in bed, on his way to dreamland. There must be a better way.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pizza Party Prattle: Menu, Mayhem and More

Birthday Party Pizza Cook-Along
Menu (30 guests)

Vegetable platter
(grape tomatoes, celery, carrots, cooked broccoli and tzatziki dip)

Pizza with assorted toppings
(mozzarella, tomato sauce,turkey sausage, sauteed mushrooms,artichokes, parmesan cheese)

Strawberries with purple whipped cream
Gingerbread men on sticks

When I got up on Saturday morning, I had only three hours to prepare for the guests, who were arriving at 11:00 a.m...I was unable to finish up the night before because Izzy was cranky and kept calling me to soothe him.
Besides, there are always things that must be done right before the party.

One of the first things I needed to do was remove pizza dough (made two days ago) from fridge and allow to rise. Then on to prepare the vegetable platter, hull the strawberries, cut the mozzarella, and prepare a zillion other little things that all should have been done in advance.

While working, I peered over at the 24 balls of smooth dough rising on the counter. It was then that I had an inkling that things might work out. Somehow I had faith in this pizza dough. After all, I had never even tested it before making the four batches for the party. I just trusted the source, 101 Cookbooks.

Thankfully, by party time, almost everything was done (thanks to M. who helped me out) except table set up. The party boy was in his chef's garb and guests started trickling in. By 11:30, we started rolling! It would have been chaos, but friends helped out and somehow, every child was ready, with apron on, to get started. They each had a ball of dough, on parchment paper and a rolling pin. I didn't even have time for a demonstration. The dough was so pliable that they all managed to get it rolled out while I wandered around and offered assistance as needed.

Then I came around with sauce - surprisingly there was only one white pizza in the crowd. After that, the various toppings were passed around. Fascinating to see the variations, from the ultra plain..sauce and tons of cheese, to pizzas topped with the "works" (yay, I.!)

The hairiest part of the whole process was the interminable wait for the pizzas to bake. I only had room in my oven for four pizzas at a time so they were made in three shifts for the kids, who by that time were quite ravenous. Only after the children had been fed did the grown-ups even begin making their pizzas..how to deal with that lull next time..hmmm. At least the kids were able to run amuck in the yard.

Then there were the inevitable squeals for dessert from the kids who had already finished their pizzas first. So I relented and handed out the gingerbread men on sticks (I didn't actually use this recipe, just the stick part) to stave off the dessert demons. Funny thing, I thought the cookies were awful. I am not a gingerbread cookie person, have never made them before and I was convinced they were all wrong. I was shocked to see that the kids ate them. Izzy gave them the thumbs up. I used a recipe from an old cookie book I have but I won't give it to you because it really wasn't tasty. I will continue to look for a better one..Perhaps I should have used the stick one..but I digress...

After all of the children were served, we started on the grown-up pizzas, I took orders and made some, others came up and prepared their own. Of course the hankering for dessert continued so those gingerbread cookies turned out to be the interim dessert. When it was finally time for Happy Birthday, I brought out the cannoli, filled minutes before and the berries with purple whipped cream. Izzy blew out his candle and I could finally slump down, exhausted from the entire experience.

When all is said and done, preparing a pizza-cook-along for four year-olds was fun but it was no small feat. The words of one of I's, classmates rang in my ears.. As I was off with Izzy to prepare for the party one day last week, she asked where we were going. I said we needed to get some things for the party. She said, "Why? The party isn't now. We didn't have to do anything for my party. All we had to do was show up." Would that be food or lack thereof, for thought...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Hoboken Ingredients: Let'em Eat Cheese and Cannoli

My shopping excursions ended well yesterday. I managed to get everything I needed, including the fabulous mozzarella from Fiore's and the cannoli from Carlo's Bakery, both in Hoboken.

Our first stop was Fiore's, an old-time Italian deli which has a very loyal clientele. They are famous for their "mutz" and killer sandwiches. I myself go there for the "mutz". I must say that the pillow-soft, unctuous "mutz" is defintitely worth the trip. I had no idea how much of it I would need and ended up buying 5.5 lbs, sold in two, mishapen logs. They were certainly a sight to behold and one day I hope to have my new camera up and running so that you can share in my delight.

We completed our mission at Carlo's, another Hoboken institution, where I purchased 40 empty cannoli shells and 3 lbs. of cannoli cream with which to fill them (this way you have crunchy shells the next day but a royal pain to be sure when you have a zillion other things to do). Of course Izzy and I could not resist having a couple of filled cannoli to enjoy before making our way home in the drizzle.

Once home, I still had tons of stuff to do before the party. Veggies to prep, gingerbread cookies to cut out, dip to whip up and countless other details to tend to. I figured I would be up until two a.m. but Izzy couldn't sleep and needed me to soothe him. I ended up going to sleep earlier and leaving too much for the morning. At least I could rest-assured that two important items were ready for tomorrow. So if nothing else was done I could just say, "Let'em eat cheese and cannoli".

Friday, April 27, 2007

What I'll Do For The Right Food

I awoke this morning with a laundry list of things to still buy for tomorrow's party. I was anticipating a sunny day for errands but instead I was faced with a dismal downpour. Should I just stick around J.C. and settle for second best or should I make the wet trek into NYC? That was the question.

I was leaning towards the former and then thankfully snapped out of it. I said to myself, "Why should a bit of rain bother me." So off I went. I had to get to Trader Joe's because after all, where else would I be able to find the perfect Lambrusco for the parents to sip with their pizza tomorrow? I was also in the market for a heap of organic strawberries which I had hoped to find for a decent price (I had actually seen some at Whole Foods the other day) but ended up finding them at Trader Joe's, along with most of the remaining items on my list except for organic heavy cream and organic popcorn kernels. Why doesn't Trader Joe's carry these items? Sometimes it seems there is no rhyme or reason to the products they carry. They have organic half and half but not heavy cream..is there a deeper meaning to this?

The rain seemed to subside a bit for the walk back to the PATH so I was quite pleased to have ventured out. It was a different story when I arrived in J.C, where it was pouring again. Even so, I managed to get myself and my prized groceries home without getting too drenched. Next question, how do I make it to Hoboken for the last two most important items on my last?

Stay tuned...and give me a ride!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Party Planning With A Preschooler

Izzy's birthday was last week but the actual party for his friends won't take place until this Saturday. Izzy has been instrumental in the planning which has been going on for the past several weeks.

First we discussed the type of party and the location. Little did I know but Izzy already had a location in mind, our backyard. I suppose he has a fond memory of his last two birthdays which were celebrated there. I applaud his choice for its simplicity albeit more work for moi.

I knew this meant that we needed an activity of some kind. I suggested a 'make-your-own-pizza' party and lucky for me, Izzy latched on to the idea. All I would need to do was to iron out the particulars, of which there are many.

Then it was time to compile a guest list. This has been the most difficult part, especially since I allowed Izzy to choose the guests. He has his neighborhood friends and his school friends. We could not invite everyone from school because that would mean too many kids. So I told him to select a small group of school friends. Narrowing down his list was extremely difficult and I hope he is happy with the results.

Next we needed to go over the menu. Pizza was a given but what would we serve before and after? Would we serve cupcakes or something else? What would we select for possible pizza toppings?

The party is fast approaching and some details are still in need of fine-tuning. I will keep you posted as to the final results.

Meanwhile, every day now, Izzy asks..When is my 'make-your-own-pizza party'? Is it today? Is it after school?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Izzy Eats Noted on Babble

As a novice blogger, I couldn't have been more pleased to discover that Izzy Eats was noted on Babble, a website for the urban parent. I woke up yesterday to discover that new traffic was coming my way. I hope to hear comments from my new readers. I must thank Stefania Pomponi Butler of Family Food for taking notice.

Izzy's Birthday Parties Past

First Birthday Party: Since Izzy was born in Manhattan, I decided that we would celebrate his first birthday party in Central Park. After all, we had wondered around the park for 6 months until we moved to Jersey City. Granted this was my celebration because what does a one year old know from birthdays? Yet I knew he would at least have the picturesque memories which would then become part of his childhood story.

I invited 30 people to meet us on the grassy hill above the sailboat pond at 72nd and Fifth Avenue. I prepared a picnic of Deviled Chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs (made by L.) Asparagus vinaigrette, guacamole (also prepared by L.) and of course pastel -frosted cupcakes. I piled all of these provisions into a granny cart and schlepped it (along with I. and A.) on the Path train and subway, up to the park. The weather cooperated and so did Izzy, who managed to stay awake for almost the whole party. Afterwards, we strolled through the park and came upon some musicians. Somewhere floating about is a mini-video of Izzy bopping to the music.

Second Birthday Party: The invitations were sent out for a party by the Central Park Carousel, followed by a picnic. The day before the event, it seemed that the weather would not be nice enough so we switched the party to our house. Again I invited about 30 guests. I decided to make a tea party of sorts. Guests were greeted with platters of scones with jam and clotted cream. This was followed by an array of sandwiches: Chicken Salad, Goat cheese with Caramelized Onions, and Egg Salad. Of course the ubiquitous cupcakes, finished the meal. Kids just ran about underfoot and there was no specific activity other than eating.

Third Birthday Party: This time, Izzy played a role in designing the menu and selecting the guests. He knew specifically what he wanted to me to prepare. On the menu was:

Egg Salad Sandwiches
Green Beans Vinaigrette
Blue Cupcakes

He also knew who he wanted to invite. So we composed the guest list together. As a surprise, I hired his music teacher to come and play the guitar and sing songs with the kids. Izzy seemed overwhelmed by the whole affair, almost as if he were awestruck to have "Jessie" in our house.

Fourth Birthday Party: Coming right up..tune in to the party planning segment, up shortly.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Can Chocolate Chip Cookies Taste Good and Be Healthful? You Decide

Izzy and I made a great and unexpected cookie discovery today. We were trolling the aisles of Whole Foods at Union Square when we came upon a sampling station. A lovely young woman was handing out samples of what appeared to be chocolate chip cookies. I am always suspicious of baked goods that purport to be healthful but these actually looked tempting.

Now it is rare that we pass up a chance to sample something that looks fairly good, so even though I had no intention of buying them, we stopped and tried some. Izzy had the white chocolate cranberry version and I had the chocolate chip almond. They were chunkier and drier than your average cookie chocolate cookie yet they were indeed quite satisfying

It turns out, the woman handing out samples was Lauren,the actual baker and founder of City Girl Country Girl Cookies. Now I don't usually buy packaged cookies on a regular basis because I prefer to bake them myself but these cookies were unlike cookies that I make. What sets them apart from your average cookie is that they are made with oats and oat flour instead of wheat flour, maple syrup instead of sugar and canola oil rather than butter. I generally shy away from baked goods prepared without butter but these may have made me a believer. In fact, I liked them so much I bought a bag.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Evening Dining Disaster

Note to self and others: Don't ever go out to dinner with an overtired four year old and a finicky nearly 98 year old.

We were on our way back from a trip deep into the heart of suburban development New Jersey, Clinton to be exact. Since we were not that far from my grandfather's place, I figured we would stop by and see him and maybe have some dinner with him.

It was a beautiful sunny day so I thought that it would be nice to get him outside. I knew that he only liked to eat at the Edison Diner but I thought that I would convince him to branch out, especially since neither A. nor I were too keen on having diner food for dinner. I had read about a new Greek restaurant in Highland Park, called Pithari Taverna and it was less than a five minute ride away. I told him that we had heard great things about it and surprisingly he agreed to go along.

When we pulled up, the restaurant appeared busy yet somehow they had a table for us outside. Off to a good start but things quickly deteriorated from that point on. No menus appeared, nor was there any sign of a waiter. Just people running around looking especially harried. After sitting for about 10 minutes, a busboy set our table and put out some olives and grilled pitas. We managed to acquire some menus from another table. Perhaps things were improving. Alas it was only temporary. We continued to wait and nobody came to take our order. By this time, Izzy was jumping up and down, trying to consume the entire basket of pitas whilst commenting, "There's nothing to eat. There is no food on my plate."

Meanwhile Great-Grandpa was griping about the slow service. "This is a good place to go when you have plenty of time to waste," he said. All the while rhapsodizing over Matzoh Ball soup from the Edison Diner.

I kept stopping a bespectacled fellow who appeared to be the owner. He continued to answer, "Give me a few minutes." About 4o minutes after being seated he finally came to take our order. Then another half an hour elapsed and still no food appeared, nary a morsel. I decided it was time to take drastic action so I picked Izzy up and carried him to the counter to find out what was going on. They didn't even seem to have a record of the order. I said, "Please give us some food. My four year old is tired and hungry and my 98 year old grandfather needs something too, not to mention my cranky husband.

The woman behind the counter seemed to take pity on me and after figuring out what we had ordered, explained it would be out in a minute.

All at once, appetizers and main courses appeared on the table. There was a platter of Greek spreads, roasted chicken for Great-Grandpa, souvlaki for A., and a couple of charcoal-grilled octopus tentacles for me. Izzy's Spanokopita didn't show up but I let it go since it seemed that there was ample food for the group of us, and besides all the stress of waiting had diminished my appetite.

The octopus was a decent version of this dish but two tentacles for 11.95 seems a bit outrageous. The chicken was flavorful as well, moist and herby but it was served with fries instead of the lemon potatoes and cost 12.99 instead of the menu price of 8.95.

Izzy shared Great-Grandpa's chicken and as far as I was concerned, he could have had whatever he wanted at that point. As they both happily chomped on their chicken, Great-Grandpa peered over at the tentacles and asked what they were. I asked him to guess. He replied, "I am afraid to say." Our meal progressed in strained silence. Great-Grandpa chews rather slowly and continued to eat, long after the three of us had finished. I breathed a sigh of relief when he finally finished and we were able to leave.

Why did I do it, I wondered? I was lured in by a review from the New York Times, which mentioned feeling as if you were in Greece. Well if that is what Greece is like, I have no interest in ever going there. The food was mediocre at best. In all fairness, it did seem like they were having an off night so if you live around there you can give the place a chance. As for me, next time I will give the Edison Diner a chance.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Moment with Martha and Me: Celebrity Ogling at the Hair Salon

So there I was, innocently having my hair glazed at the Eva Scrivo Salon this morning. I am often antsy in the slightly uncomfortable sink chairs, so I always attempt to peer out to see who and what is passing by as the glaze sets. Well my heart skipped a beat when I looked up to see Martha pass by. Yes THE Martha. Although I wasn't wearing my glasses I was fairly certain my eyes weren't deceiving me since it is well publicized that Martha is an Eva devotee. She often features Eva on her show. From the looks of Martha, it seemed that she was in need of some perking up and understandably so. Because no matter what you may think of Martha, she does work hard.

I was stuck to the chair, wildly wishing that I could have a clearer view of the scene. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her walk over to one of the uncomfortable salon sinks, one sink away from me. Imagine that, she endures the same discomfort that I do. Since I couldn't really look over, I tried to listen for the sound of her voice but the drone of hair dryers blocked it out.

When I was finally released from the chair to get my hair cut, I saw that she had been escorted to a chair that placed her with one empty chair between the two of us. Now I was able to get a better view and to ascertain that she wasn't a figment of my imagination. When she spoke the deal was clinched. I was brushing up (well sort of) with a domestic hero. I was rendered practically speechless or starstruck, imagining what I might say to her, if given the chance. Of course I knew it was terribly inappropriate. Instead I struck up a conversation about cupcakes with J.D., my stylist, secretly hoping that Martha might pipe in and ask me to join her show.

After all, I did let Izzy watch the Martha video which featured Billy Reece preparing the famed Billy's cupcakes. Better yet, we often peruse her website together. I admit, I am a huge Martha fan, especially since I used many of her wedding ideas. I also heartily recommend her Kids Magazine for recipes and art projects. And menu planning, look to Martha too! Why? I have never had a Martha recipe fail me.

Whatever her failings, she manages a vast empire of useful cooking information, which to me, is admirable. And as they say, take what works for you and leave the rest behind.

Sushi Birthday To You..Sushi Birthday to You

After spending the better part of Wednesday afternoon preparing cupcakes with Izzy, I was hopelessly unprepared for birthday dinner on Thursday. I had some fuzzy idea that we would go for amazing pizza at Grimaldi's in Brooklyn but by the time he had tested out his new birthday bike (sans training wheels I proudly add), it was too late to make the trek. So I gave him a choice, pizza another night and sushi for birthday..he took the bait. Sushi it was.

Now Izzy has been indulging in vegetarian sushi with us since he was two but I had been rather hesitant about letting him eat the actual fish, no matter how much he begged. I worried that his tiny body would be unable to handle any possible parasites, not to mention the mercury and pollutants present in most seafood these days (one reasons we can't and won't eat sushi very often, which is sad because we love it so.) On this, his fourth birthday, despite my reservations, I decided it was finally time to initiate him into the wondrous world of raw fish. I don't know who was more pleased..We went to what I consider the best place for sushi in Jersey City, Komegashi Too, which is at Newport with a water view..Izzy insisted that he sit in a seat which faced the water.

To start we ordered what turned out to be some exceptional grilled asparagus with smoked tofu, a seaweed salad and some spicy squid creation that A. ate.

Then I selected a giant platter of sushi and special rolls. It included the Mi Amor roll with mango and tuna, yellowtail scallion roll, and assorted sushi like squid, octopus, mackerel and egg. Izzy was most keen on the tuna and mackerel sushi. He didn't really have that much room after having eaten all of the complementary edamame and the smoked tofu. He certainly did seem happy with the whole affair.

Afterwards, we skipped over to Babo, the Asian Teahouse and Gelateria for some Nutella and Panna Cotta gelato..will save that review for the warmer weather.

Thankfully, hopelessly unprepared turned out to be an impromptu introduction to sushi.

Different Cupcakes For Different Tastes: Izzy's First Cupcake Review

This week was a veritable birthday bonanza at Izzy's school. Not only was his birthday celebrated but two other children had birthdays as well. Today I. and M. brought in cupcakes for their birthdays. I was curious to hear about them so while Izzy was bathing the following conversation ensued.

Me: So, did what did I. bring in for her birthday?
Izzy: Cupcakes
Me: What kind?
Izzy: Rainbow
Me: That sounds nice. What was in them?
Izzy: The cake was ginger with crunchy carrots and uncooked potato. How could potato be in a cupcake uncooked?
Me (laughing) Are you sure it was potato?
Izzy: It was white and tasted like uncooked potato. Why are you laughing?
Me: It is funny. What about the frosting? Was it good?
Izzy: Yes, the frosting was whipped cream with food coloring. I had an orange one. The special one for the birthday girl had a rainbow on it. We had them in the park.
Me: That sounds like a good idea.

Me: What about M.'s cupcakes?
Izzy: The cake had ginger also. I think that M.'s mama put sugar and ginger to make it brown. The frosting was white with whipped cream and fruits on top.
Me: What kind of fruits?
Izzy: Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries. It was yummy.

How could I not be proud of such a detailed review. Frank Bruni, watch out!

Izzy and I are pondering...

What was the mysterious "uncooked potato" ingredient ?
What is the recipe for the suspiciously healthful but sweet, ginger sugar cake with fruits on top?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Birthday Cupcakes For Izzy: A Four Year Experiment

On Izzy's first birthday, I insisted on having big party. At the time I thought it was more for me but now when we look at the pictures together I think it was for both of us. I didn't have to think about what was for dessert because I knew I would bake the cupcakes. What I hadn't counted on was the fact that we were living in a rental apartment in Jersey City with a less than fantastic kitchen, never mind the electric oven that I had rarely used.

I still managed to produce more than 30 cupcakes, along with an entire picnic menu (which I will get to later). I remember I had to beg A. to take Izzy out of the apartment and the flour was flying everywhere. It was all worth it for the moment when Izzy stuck his fingers in the frosting, one of his first tastes of a real dessert.

This party set a precedent for his Second Birthday. By then we were living in our house with a lovely kitchen. This time, Isadore was part of the birthday planning and he picked cupcakes for dessert. I think I decided to try the Magnolia recipe that year. They were also a success but I began to think I needed something better.

Third Birthday it was time for a different recipe. So much for having honed my cupcake baking skills. I just couldn't keep well enough alone. Izzy had a distinct request for both chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with blue frosting, only blue. So this time I tried Billy's recipe, after having tried the ones K. had made for T.'s party. I made both chocolate and vanilla though I tried to fill the chocolate ones and it didn't really work out. These cupcakes seemed to be a cross between Magnolia and Fanny at Chez Panisse. At the time, Billy's topped the list and I decided I needn't look any further.

Yet here I am today, on Izzy's fourth birthday, ready to report another change. Izzy requested vanilla cupcakes with purple frosting. I immediately searched for Billy's recipe but when I looked at it it seemed impossibly unhealthy. These cupcakes were for his schoolmates, to be consumed in the morning. Wasn't there some way I could tweak them? I chose to substitute some whole wheat flour for some of the white, which is something I have done with great success in other recipes. In this case, it was merely a mild success. Indeed, Izzy seemed to enjoy them and I am sure that the purple and green cream cheese frosting helped. I however, thought they were a smidge too dense.

Cupcakes For Shakespeare

I became swept up into the cupcake craze, back in the mid-1990's when Magnolia Bakery opened in NYC. They made cupcakes fashionable and suddenly, a homey cupcake was elevated to an art form. It was this cupcake atmosphere that was partially responsible for my inclination to prepare a batch of 80 cupcakes.

One Spring, in the late 1990's, I was reading Hamlet with my Second Graders at the Lycee Francais. We were also studying Shakespeare's life and his birthday was approaching (April 23rd). I wanted to do something memorable that would forever remind them of Shakespeare. I decided I would make cupcakes in honor of his birthday and we would all sing Happy Birthday to Shakespeare. Since I had four Second Grade classes ( I was their English teacher), I needed to bake about 80 cupcakes. I frosted them with a lovely pastel palette of colors and packed them into all manner of tins and carriers to schlep them from my apartment to school.

I must say that my efforts were rewarded. Many of my students proclaimed the cupcakes to be the best they had ever eaten. All of them were quite appreciative and in awe of the fact that their teacher had actually baked for them. Best of all, it became a meaningful way for them to remember Shakespeare.

The recipe I used came from Fanny At Chez Panisse, one of my favorite children's cookbooks. It is a recipe for a Cake. The cake itself is very light and airy, much more delicate than that of Magnolia Bakery. I continued to make it for other occasions as well, continually experimenting with different cakes and frostings, usually preferring this one to others.

Once Izzy was born, I figured I had honed my cupcake baking skills and his birthdays would be a cinch.. To be continued...recipe to follow shortly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Cream Puff: A Fast Food Shocker

Ever heard of Beard Papa's? It is a Japanese import that specializes in, yes, you guessed it, cream puffs. Because it is a chain, I hate to admit that they produce a rather high quality product. But they do. They even use organic vanilla beans.

Perhaps they manage to produce such a wonderful product because of their narrow focus, the cream puff and not much else (though they do seem to experiment with a few other dessert items). The light, golden puffs are filled to order so as long as you eat your puff immediately it will have just the right amount of crunch which encases the ethereal custard filling... vanilla is the standard flavor and they feature a weekly flavor as well. I have noted strawberry and chocolate.

I discovered Beard Papa when Izzy was tiny because it just so happened that they opened up shop around the corner from his first pediatrician's office. I always made sure to stop by to treat myself after enduring Izzy's pitiful screams while he received the "pin cushion" treatment. When he got old enough to catch on to what I was snacking on, I would buy two of them and I would feed him while we made our way home on the subway. I can still envision the vanilla cream smeared all over his mouth.

Since we have switched pediatrician's we hadn't had a cream puff in many moons, until last weekend. It was our snack on our way home from the city, after a long day. We actually sat in the back of the shop (which is nothing to write home about) and ate our puffs there. Izzy savored every bite and we even contemplated getting a third but someone has to know when to stop..right!?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Zucchini and Peer Influence

Izzy and his friend T. were playing together this afternoon. It was nearing dinnertime and both were hungry so I suggested that T. join Izzy for dinner. I was making the aforementioned macaroni and cheese, along with some baked zucchini slices. Izzy enjoys these immensely and I assumed T. would too.

Well, when I removed the zucchini from the oven T. simply looked at them and said he didn't want any. I put a few on his plate anyway. He proceeded to lick one and proclaimed, "These are nasty." Izzy immediately followed suit in his usual "Monkey see, monkey do" fashion., proclaiming the same thing. He wouldn't eat them either and for a moment I was worried that zucchini would no longer be a part of his repertoire.

Izzy then said he was done with dinner and wanted dessert. Since we had already eaten far too much dessert earlier, I told him that he would not see anything resembling dessert until he ate some zucchini. Well he proceeded to finish the zucchini on his plate and then requested more. I made him a second tray and he ate those too, stuffing several slices into his mouth at once. Meanwhile T., wouldn't go beyond a tiny nibble, instead concentrating on the mac 'n cheese. I wonder how many times he would need to see Izzy eat them before eating some himself? I wonder what will happen when his mom prepares them at home (she seemed to like them).

Thankfully, Izzy was only momentarily swayed and went back to his zucchini-loving ways. I guess I don't have to have his friends take a food test before inviting them over.

Simplest Zucchini Slices

Thinly slice as many zucchini as you need.
Spread in one layer on parchment or foil-covered baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil
Sprinkle with salt
Sprinkle with herbs (parsley, thyme, chives) if you have any.
Bake in 400 degree oven until slightly browned.

Homemade Easy Mac'n Cheese

Everything goes back to that taste imprint. If you serve your kids boxed macaroni and cheese, that is the taste they will prefer. So, instead, why not try this easy recipe from the New York Times. Izzy likes it and so does his friend T. who just came over and gobbled up a heap of it. Granted, it isn't the best macaroni and cheese but it is world's better than what you get in a box. I plan on experimenting to come up with a better version but for now, try this. It only takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare (plus an hour in the oven).

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked.

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.
2. In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.
3. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Thoughts on Baby Food (Part I) Can I Convert You From Jars to Homemade?

I know. I know. I have barely met you yet here I am trying to convince you, an overworked WOHM (Work outside the home mom), a stressed out baby food loving SAHM (Stay at home mom), and you a culinarily-challenged SAHD(Stay at home dad) to change the way you feed your child. Who am I to preach...

I will tell you. I love to eat wonderful food and I know that one of the best ways to teach most children to love it too is to avoid jarred foods like the plague. The majority of jarred foods, whether regular or organic, provide bland, muddy flavors. Why would they inspire any child to delight at mealtime. Yes they may eat it (for lack of anything better) but the flavors will not create a wonderful taste imprint for their budding palates.

The idea may seem daunting but making homemade baby food is really not that difficult or time-consuming. You only need a few things to do so and a couple of hours per week. The benefits that you and your child will reap from this are far-reaching. Also keep in mind that the baby-food phase is short lived. Soon after you get the hang of making it, you will be mashing up regular food.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Creating a Taste Memory

Simple. You eat something once, you like it so much that you want to eat it again. Not always that easy with kids, sometimes they require many tastes. In fact, and I may have said this before, it may take as many as 12 tastes (or more) of a particular food before your child will come to accept it and like it. If you persist, it can and will happen.

Take the case of Izzy and toast. I love toast for breakfast. As soon as Izzy was old enough, I would put toast out for him with whatever he had for his morning meal. At first he would pick it up, examine it, nibble and put it down. Sometimes he would fling it down. He did not seem particularly keen on it.

How could my child not eat toast? It was a staple of my diet. I would not give up. I put that toast out day in and day out. Country bread, mixed grain slices, day-old baguettes all made their way to Izzy's plate. Finally, more bites were taken. Months passed and then he just started to eat it, and get this, he sometimes even eats the crusts!!

Now on some mornings toast is all he wants for breakfast.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Izzy Ponders: Ice Cream Truck Music

We do not buy ice cream from the ice cream truck, though we do see it and more importantly, hear it everywhere. On our way back from having gelato, we passed an ice cream truck playing its tune.

Izzy asked, "Mama, why do ice cream trucks play music?"

"Advertising. They play music so that people know that the ice cream truck is there. It let's people know that it's time to buy ice cream."

Your answer?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hot Chocolate Flashback

Flashback to over four years ago. There I stood at the counter looking very pregnant. I glanced around before I placed my order. "I'll have a shot please." Did I receive any glares in my direction. No, just a hint of bemusement. For it was merely a shot of hot chocolate that I had ordered. I was unable to stomach a full cup so I used the insider's trick to get a dose of City Bakery's thick, creamy brew without feeling completely decadent and bloated. I sat down and slowly sipped, while whatever was within wriggled and jiggled madly.. I remember thinking..whoever it will be, will love chocolate.

Fast forward to yesterday: I found myself at City Bakery, yet again, this time with Izzy. We had come expressly for some hot chocolate and a pretzel croissant which is the most amazing croissant variation I have ever tasted, not to mention a perfect accompaniment for the hot chocolate. I ordered us the "wimpy" which is their code word for half chocolate/half milk cup. It is yet another way to get the chocolate fix without having the full-blown version.

As we were sipping, I began to tell Izzy about how when he was in my belly, I used to come to City Bakery and drink hot chocolate. I described to him the way he would begin to wiggle around whenever I swallowed. He listened intently and then a shy smile appeared upon his face. "Mama, How did I get out of your belly?" He asked.

Hmmmm..Maybe I would need to have a real shot before I explained that...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Anchovies Al Fresco: Messy Tales of Bryant Park Eating

This cool Spring day found us in Bryant Park. We went for the Carousel and ended up staying for 'Wichcraft. I haven't been to Bryant Park in ages and had no idea that it had acquired such a parisian feel, with all of the green tables and chairs scattered along the parameters of the lush green lawn. The carousel was perfectly adorable and best of all, turned at a turtle's pace instead of the dizzying speed of the one in Central Park. Izzy rode the frog, his second choice, since the bunny was "out of order". He then requested a second spin on one of the horses. Unlike me, he was less enthralled with the slower pace, though last year it would have been just right.

When our all to brief whirl on the carousel ended it was time to move on to the food segment of our day. I had something unusual in mind but when given the choice and despite the nippy weather, Izzy chose to stay at Bryant Park. The lure of the fountain and sunny tables was too strong. That was fine with me since I have always been a fan of the Craft empire. I had dined at the original 'Wichcraft when Izzy was still a tiny one. I loved the idea that "park" food could be fast, yet innovative,inviting and healthy and was interested to see if it was working out.

We ordered the Marinated white Anchovies, soft-cooked egg and roasted onion sandwich with frisee on country bread. Salty, soft, crunchy and sweet, this sandwich has it all. It is quite a combination. Problem is, this is NOT finger food. I had to hold the sandwich and feed Izzy bites since I didn't have a change of clothing available for him,nor did I have any wet naps.
Between the egg yolk, and oily onions we were both ready for a bath. Izzy began to complain he was cold and I momentarily regretted the decision to dine al fresco. We both perked up after I wiped us down with napkins and tissues and we left the park eating their signature chocolate creme cookies. Would I eat there again? Absolutely, just save that sandwich for take home and find a neater alternative.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bread and Pork At Last

Passover ended tonight at sundown. We had the good fortune to celebrate our return to bread with Grandma L. and Grandpa J...They took us to the Light Horse Tavern, an upscale restaurant in the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City. We have been there many times before but our last experience there over six months ago wasn't exemplary so we eased off for awhile.

The Light Horse can be characterized as American Bistro cuisine. It has a bustling wooden bar and it is housed in a restored 19th century building. We have dined there with Izzy on a regular basis. We always get a table with banquette seating, this way he can spread out his toys if he gets bored during the sometimes interminable meals.

Our meal began with some appetizers for the table. We nibbled on Mussels with Bacon Bits and Calamari "Sicilian Style". Izzy appreciated the flavors but the chewiness became to difficult for him so he concentrated on his bread until the main courses arrived.

I chose to end Passover with a pork extravaganza. Berkshire Pork Chop with Bacon bits on a bed of Spring vegetables. My chop was extra thick and meaty, juicy though not fatty. The vegetables were a bit too al dente for my tastes. Izzy had the English Pea Risotto with Mushrooms. The risotto was so buttery and cheesy that it was almost difficult to locate the grains of risotto within. Neither he nor I could stop spooning it up, even A. stuck his spoon in a few times.

We ended our meal with what was called "Blueberry Cake". A tiny cake arrived on an extra-long plate with a dollop of whipped cream and a tiny puddle of creme-anglaise beside it. It was light but could have used a few additional blueberries.

Overall it was a satisfying meal though its slow pace kept Izzy up way past his bedtime. Somehow he remained calm throughout and we made it home without incident.

n.b. They do have a "kid" menu..we never go near those but if you are so inclined...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Budget Fast Food: From Dean and Deluca

Izzy and I were out in the city today. He has the week off from school so we have things to do, places to go..After a day of appointments and fun I realized I had nothing waiting at home for dinner. I knew we weren't far from Dean and Deluca and hoped to pick up something quick and not too expensive. That does seem implausible yet..

I wandered around the store gazing upon overpriced delicacies of all kinds, when I honed in upon the rotisserie chicken..It was only $10.50, which is not that much more then I would pay elsewhere for a similar organic chicken. I bought that along with a bunch of organic broccoli for $4..Would it have been that much less elsewhere? Not necessarily.

I got home; put the chicken in the oven to warm and whipped up some olive oil smashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Voila, a decent dinner in under 30 minutes. The miracle was that it only cost about $16.00 and we had leftovers.

I had to ponder, why do people go to fast food restaurants for unhealthy food when they can eat things like this instead? How much would dinner for three be at McDonald's?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Grass-fed Brisket Experiment

This year, circumstances did not allow for me to prepare an actual Seder. Nevertheless, I was still intent upon serving a festive Passover meal with some yearly favorites. My brother E., his girlfriend S. and the most important guest, my almost 98 year old grandfather would be in attendance.

I was unsure as to when this meal would be taking place and as it turned out I was only given a day's notice. This meant that I needed to shop and cook all in one day, which for me is a feat if I plan I making more than three things..talk about slow cooking. I tried to keep the menu short and simple.

Matzoh Ball Soup
Brisket with Red Wine
Quinoa with Wild Mushrooms
Organic Purple Asparagus with Mustard Vinaigrette
Chocolate-Covered Caramel Matzoh

When I went to do my shopping, I decided I wanted to see if any grass-fed brisket was available at Union Square. I found a vendor, Elk Trails Ranch who was selling grass-fed Black Angus. This sounded intriguing but I was afraid to attempt it..I have eaten grass-fed chopped meat many times but never brisket. What if it was tough and leathery? Worse yet, what if it just didn't cook in time.. I had only 5 hours to make everything. To top it off, the briskets they were selling were frozen.

The vendor insisted I had plenty of time. He had both first and second cut briskets and I decided to try one of each, even though I usually only get the first-cut. When I asked how I could sear the frozen meat he really threw me for a loop because he said I should not sear the meat at all. He told me to simply cover it with liquid and place it in the oven for 4-5 hours at 180 degrees and then add any additional flavors or vegetables after it was partially cooked.

Upon arriving home, I placed the two briskets to thaw for 1/2 an hour in cold water and then as per instructions, put them in a dutch oven , covered with water and wine. I later added a pile of sauteed onions with paprika, some smashed cloves of garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. I left the whole thing in the oven for about five hours and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was indeed tender when poked with a fork.

When I took the meat out to slice, there was clearly a difference between the two cuts. The first- cut was more compact which to me is more desirable while the second cut was stringier. Both pieces of meat were not fatty at all and had a clean, pure flavor. The problem was, the brisket didn't seem to have absorbed any of the additional flavors. It was not redolent of onion, thyme, or garlic, which somehow marred the experience.

I still have some left which I will freeze and revise in revamp in future recipes. Meanwhile, I have to discover the true secret to preparing grass-fed brisket. I would much prefer to serve it since it is far healthier and doesn't leave you feeling bloated and stuffed.

Whose in Charge of Izzy's Eats? Part II

Who could ever replace B.? Hopefully it would be someone who was not only great with children but also boasted a healthy appetite. I also hoped that she wouldn't show up with salad bar takeout in a plastic box and feed it to my child (yes, I failed to mention that B. had arrived with that on a few occasions and ended up sharing it with Izzy).

So I posted on Hobokeni and received dozens of replies. It turns out that many young women in the Jersey City area were seeking babysitting work so I had quite a pool to choose from. Little did they know, that they would be judged not only on babysitting credentials but food merit too.

I interviewed several candidates before I found S. She seemed too good to be true. She was a teacher who lived nearby. When I met her I liked her right away and I knew it would work out when she said that she shopped at Fairway and Whole Foods.

One of the first times she watched Izzy, she concocted some sort of yogurt, fruit and cucumber surprise that was quite a success and served as a great distraction for getting me out of the house without too many tears. She seemed amenable to eating whatever I left for the two of them as well.

Whenever she sits for us, she and Izzy usually dine on egg salad sandwiches, pierogi and peas, or tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. I rarely have time to prepare anything more elaborate than that if I am planning to go out. Since she is a vegetarian I have no fear that she will secretly stuff Izzy with hot dogs or other junk food.
She seems especially judicious when offering him any juice or treats.

When I leave Izzy with S., I know he will be well-cared for and well-fed, a perfect combination.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Whose In Charge Of Izzy's Eats? Part I

Sometimes I do yearn for the days when I could control every morsel that entered my child's mouth. In the beginning and for many moons after, this was quite simple, he needed me for feeding. I was fortunate enough to be there. He wouldn't take bottles and he didn't have to. Although there was the one half-hearted attempt made at Lake George when he was about three months old. Grandma L. tried to give him one and he screamed as if he had been punished. I couldn't go through with the plan.

Of course this no bottle policy meant that he didn't have a babysitter til he was nearly two years old. Some might call this insane, but I know it reassured me to know that he was safe and sound with me, eating at his leisure. There came a day though when I realized it was time to get him accustomed to someone else.

I was incredibly fortunate to find B., a sweet young woman who had just moved into our old building on Ninth Street. She did, as her reference stated, "Have a gift with children." As soon as Izzy met her, he was dizzy with giggles. I decided she was the "one." I introduced them gradually but even so, on the day I finally had to leave Izzy, he was distraught. She assuaged my fears and assured me that in ten minutes, the tears would be gone. And lo and behold, they were! So she continued to sit for us on a rather infrequent basis and each time Izzy became more comfortable with her. She truly was a gem - bringing along Mercer Mayer stories to enchant him and taking him on little excursions to her apartment.

What I didn't count on, however, was how her approach to food and eating differed so from my own. I discovered this pretty quickly after having prepared dinner for the two of them. The first time I left a simple pasta with peas, corn and shallots. The next morning Izzy said, "The babysitter gave me her peas. She wouldn't eat them."
This didn't seem right. The child was eating the veggies and the adult wasn't.. I inquired and she admitted to not liking peas.

Then there was the "pepitas" incident. In the morning Izzy said, "I asked B. to give me some pepitas for snack." She didn't know what they were.

I smiled over these tales with faint amusement, figuring her culinary influence was small. But the day Izzy told me that B. gave him a cookie, was the day I became concerned. Where did she find said cookie? Izzy told me she found them in the closet. It turned out that she had plunged into the depths of my pantry, into the baking section and unearthed a box of dusty graham crackers, intended for a cheesecake crust. I guess there are worse things that could happen but I was still perturbed. My boy was not supposed to eat cookies, at least not unless I made them. Okay, you may call it a food neuroses but why eat a boxed cookie if you can have better? I think I did fairly well in concealing my thoughts on these matters from her but I did hide the cookies from then on. She continued to sit for us because I knew that despite being culinarily challenged, she was a loving, wonderful babysitter.

Then the sad day came when she had to leave us, as she was getting married and moving to another state. It was time to find a replacement.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Smooth(ie) Mama

I wanted to end the last day of my "snack mom" stint with a bang. I decided to prepare smoothies with the class. This mission served two purposes:
1. To provide a fun, healthy food activity for the children.
2. To help reacclimate Izzy to his classroom after recent separation issues.

I chose to make smoothies because not only are they a perfect snack option, but they are also "Kosher for Passover." I thought I had everything carefully planned but things didn't go so smoothly before school, what with a 5:00 a.m. coughing jag and a giant water bug to wrestle with it is no surprise we were a bit late getting to school (my apologies Miss B.).

Nevertheless I managed to tote in milk, yogurt, raspberry jam, bananas, apples, frozen strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and a blender, with Izzy trailing behind. Miss B. set up a table for my "smoothie station" near the tiny pump sink (quite a hindrance for quick cleaning). Before I had even set out all of my wares I was pleased to see that a crowd of kids had begun to gather. I wondered why they were discouraged from pulling up a chair (Is that a Montessori rule I am unaware of?)

Izzy served as my capable though selfish sidekick, continually insisting it was his turn to do everything (I sense a food show in the works.) This was slightly comedic for me, though perhaps supremely annoying to his classmates. He eventually relented and allowed his classmates to take turns adding fruit and turning on the blender (which I might add, makes an excruiatingly earsplitting sound).

I had actually anticipated giving a food lesson of sorts but it turned out to be a more free-form affair. I let the kids choose their own fruit combinations which may have not been the best idea. The ones who insisted they didn't like one fruit or another (honestly I had never heard of someone not liking strawberries before), didn't seem to like their smoothies very much at all. Whereas the children most open to suggestion gladly slurped theirs down. Hmmmm...

I could start to draw all sorts of conclusions from this experience but clearly I don't have enough data here. Overall I'd say it was a success even if just for, as Miss S. put it, "The buzz I created in the classroom." One small step for kids eating healthy snacks...

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Let My People (and yours) Eat Irresistibly Delicous Chocolate-Covered Caramel Matzoh

It will make you want to celebrate Passover, Jewish or otherwise. I don't know how I lived my life without it. Store bought versions simply pale in comparison to this astonishly simple, sweet and crunchy creation.

I discovered this recipe last year on David Lebovitz's blog and it will be forever etched into my Passover repertoire.

I made a batch of it last night to give to Izzy's teachers since they have been so patient with us this past week. As I was preparing it, Izzy snuck out of bed and down to the kitchen to see what I was up to (mind you it was 10:30). He watched as I boiled the sugar and butter, quietly perched on a chair near the stove. He then continued to observe as I spread the mixture onto the matzoh. Once the chocolate chips were spread on I was finally able to convince him to go back to bed.

Most of that batch went to Izzy's teachers and we finished the rest of it ourselves. It is already time to make a new one. It is quite addictive stuff. If you are deserving, I might make some for you.

Chocolate-Covered Caramel Matzoh (slightly modified from original)

4 to 6 sheets of matzoh
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into chunks
1 cup (firmly-packed) light brown sugar
fleur de sel, or coarse sea salt
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, or coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
optional: 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Line a 11" x 17" baking sheet completely with foil (making sure it goes up the sides) and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line the bottom of the sheet completely with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.

3. In a medium-sized heavy duty saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over medium heat until the butter begins to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Remove from heat and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof utensil.

5. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the syrup darkens and gets thick. (While it's baking, make sure it's not burning. If so, reduce the heat to 325 degrees.)

6. Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips or chunks. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread smooth with an offset spatula.

7. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and scatter almonds on top. Press into chocolate. Chill in refrigerator until hardened. Then break into smaller pieces and store in a tin.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Matzoh Mama

I made a point of being "Snack Mom" this week so that I could bring in foods that were Kosher for Passover. This way I needn't worry that Izzy would come home telling me he had eaten cheese sandwiches for snack.

Not that we are ultra-observant or even kosher at all on a regular basis. It is simply that during this one week it assuages my year-long guilt if we observe this holiday as well as we can. That means that I give up all things pork, don't serve dairy with meat and also try my hardest to stick to the Passover rules. This basically also eliminates bread, pasta, cereal, as well as most ordinary baked goods. I would like Izzy to share this tradition, hence my Passover week snack neurosis.

Yesterday morning I delivered the first snack, mini-blueberry corn muffins and apples and oranges. I managed to slide in one baked good before the holiday officially began last night.

Today I decided to risk bringing in a box of Streit's Matzoh (best cause it is made in NYC), Temptee Whipped Cream Cheese (perfectly spreadable) and some Trader Joe's Cornichons. I wondered how the extremely diverse student body would react to such a snack. I was actually fortunate enough to be part of the Matzoh tasting thanks to Izzy, who, after having been out sick for so long, was loathe to let me leave his classroom. So his teacher, Miss B., kindly suggested that I stay and explain the snack which actually led to me serving it.

At first I noted the looks of disapproval and a sort of, "What is that stuff?" frame of mind. Some admitted to having tried some before while for others it was completely foreign. I started spreading pieces and handing them out and eventually I was surrounded by a group of 20 three and four-year olds munching contentedly on my favorite childhood snack and even asking for seconds. Granted some just ate it plain, but it was still a wonder to behold.

Social eating is a great way to entice kids into trying new foods. I can only hope that some of them went home and shared this experience with their families.

P.S. A few brave souls even tried the cornichons and half the jar was finished.

Monday, April 2, 2007

One Reason I Could Never Be Kosher

Non-dairy whipped topping. It is amazing what chemistry can do. This product is supposed to taste like something it isn't supposed to be. The ingredients used to do so are terribly unhealthy, and it doesn't taste good. Yet it beckons with its cream-like texture and appearance. Don't be fooled..
See for yourself...

Check out the ingredients: Water, hydrogenated palm kernel, oil, sugar, cellulose gum, polysorbate 80, disodium phosphate, vanillin, artificial flavor, annatto.

I tried to keep Izzy's little fingers out of the stuff but I was unsuccessful. He managed at least one dip into its sickly sweet allure.
*Note to self: Replace flavor imprint with real whipped cream this week!

Why Was This Night Different From All Other Nights?

1) Someone else prepared the Passover for us (usually I do it)
2) It was not your traditional seder food (at least not MY traditional seder food.

E. and M., friends of my dad and stepmother, hosted the event. E. is an incredible cook of Moroccan-jewish descent and since I am quite partial to Moroccan cooking in general I was eager to attend my first Moroccanish seder.

I was surprised we even made it there since Izzy still isn't himself but he perked up after a nap and I guess since he was a seder baby (born on Passover) he decided to make an appearance after all. We were late so unfortunately missed out on the good parts (though Izzy was pleased with his Pyramid of Plagues which provided ample entertainment throughout the remaining readings.

The most unusual looking aspect of the table were the "Charoset Balls". There was actually an entire platter piled high with these smooth dark brown balls. At first glance I thought they were some unusual meat dish so I was surprised to find out that they were made out of pureed dates and nuts. They didn't even seem like a distant relative of the Charoset from my childhood which was and is made from red wine, walnuts, apples and cinnamon. I don't know that I would change my recipe but they were interesting to sample.

Aside from that the whole table was groaning under the weight of the Moroccan salads including garlicky eggplant, spiced carrots, red peppers, green salad with fennel and radishes, and the traditional chopped liver spread (my dad and Izzy's favorite.)

The fish course was next; sliced Gefilte Fish and an excellent Moroccan Fish dish topped with tomatoes and peppers.

That was followed by Matzoh Ball Soup filled with chicken,parsnips and zucchini. Not my grandma's chicken soup but flavorful, homey and filling, nonetheless. That could have been my dinner. But then there was more.

Deep Fried Turkey..How that found a place at the Passover table is the fifth question that I forgot to ask. Was it their family tradition, who knows? Served up in Flintstone-sized portions it was delicious and went perfectly with the Sweet Potato souffle with pecans on top. Wait, was it Thanksgiving or Passover...hmmm. More signs of Passover included a huge platter of smokey Brisket, Roasted Asparagus, Mushroom Farfel (Passover Pasta), and Green Beans. How could we possibly go on after all of that. And there was still dessert.

Kosher for Passover cakes, both chocolate and angel food served along with a fresh fruit platter, strawberries and strawberry sauce. And, lest I forget, this was all accompanied by a huge bowl of non-dairy whipped cream (stay tuned for comments about that later).

All in all, it was a commendable meal, full of surprises and I am ever so thankful that we were able to join in the fun. A perfect place to start building Izzy's Passover memories.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Picklish: Predisposed to Drinking Pickle Juice?

Izzy's secret pickle cravings never cease to amaze me. He has been known to request pickles for breakfast and often eats them as snacks and side dishes too. If my sandwich arrives with pickle, it disappears before I have a chance to bite into it myself. Izzy is positively picklish and I have to wonder, are pickle eaters born or made?

His predilection for pickles certainly doesn't come from me (he would be better off chez the Head Hen) since the only pickle I would ever eat was a kosher dill. Granted I have since branched out to other varieties but pickles still don't top my list of favorites. His father is not an extreme pickle lover either. The only link may be his Great-Grandpa Louis who is known to always keep a jar on hand in his fridge. Perhaps he received the pickle gene from him. Though I prefer to think that the attraction began in the following manner.

I attribute his great pickle love to early exposure. We began pickle tasting at the Union Square Market when Izzy was almost two years old. This a great place to do this because Rick, of Rick's Picks, sets out an impressive display of his pickled vegetables for all to sample. There was an immediate attraction to nearly every item he tried though the Windy City Wasa Beans were the star. We returned to sample more on many occasions (and still do). Lately he has been drawn to the Slices of Life, a more ordinary pickle experience yet satisfying all the same. I even partake of them occasionally.
Aside from Rick's Picks and other random pickles, Izzy also enjoys Trader Joe's Cornichons which are great for children's sized pickle treats. In fact we brought them in with sliced cheese and bread for a preschool snack. I don't think his classmates were impressed but I will persevere and send them again next time I am "snack mom" of the week, which is actually this week.

This pickle predilection became especially acute today when Izzy, after finishing up the remaining pickles in the jar, asked to drink the pickle juice. Had he heard Rick say that this was something people did at some restaurant on the Lower East Side? Or did this just occur to him as a way to continue that pickle sensation? Whatever the case, he drank two glasses of the stuff, pickling ingredients and all. Admittedly I inwardly puckered at the sight of this but I was intrigued and had a sip too. I know it is healthy but not something I will be adding to my repertoire. Maybe I need to try some again. Pickles are an example of how I try not to allow my food prejudices to interfere with Izzy's budding palate. Even though I am not partial them, I try to taste and develop an interest in them alongside him. Who knows, maybe I will one day be picklish too.