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

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Scene:All Fun And Games?

This looks like fun, right? For Izzy it was and I am glad of that. Friends, play, cupcakes, Pin-the Nose On the Witch, candy, more candy...What could possibly be wrong?

Well a whole lot if you are me, somehow having envisioned a party for adults too, with eating, laughing drinking...I guess that was last year's party, with my friends and their kids. This year's party was more of Izzy's friends and their parents. Some of whom may be my friends but others of whom are simply acquaintances, seen in passing on the way to school. To me the mixture spells undeniable awkwardness. Just a disparate bunch of grown-ups thrown together for the sake of their children's friendships. But hey, I could give it a try.

It was my intent for it to be a party for all. Which meant booze and plenty of food made to appeal to adults and kids alike. But my hopes were squashed when, after cupcake decorating and Pin-the-Nose-On-The-Witch, a few of the party goers decided to up and leave just as I was about to serve dinner. I looked at the heaping platters of food in dismay, wondering what had gone wrong? Izzy seem confused as well. Most people like to eat at my house. What was it? The lure of trick-or-treating was too strong?

Those who did stay were rewarded with some of my favorite Mexican-inspired dishes and were sufficiently appreciative. There was a dish I have been making since college, introduced to me by friend Alyse (I wonder where she is today.). I like to call it Tortilla Pie but she called it Green Enchilada Casserole. It is essentially a lasagna made by layering tomato/green chilies/onion/cheese and sour cream mixture between tortillas and baking it. It is a good foil for my spicy beef tacos which were also on hand. My friend D. made her famous Mango Rice Salad (will need that recipe one day) and one sweet mom tried her hand at Refried Beans, which she had never attempted before. On top of that I received wine, beer and a lovely bouquet of flowers which graced the table.

It was a lovely spread if I do say so myself. I even managed to have everything ready in advance, with barely any last minute scrambling and A. home in time to help with decorations and front yard sweeping.

The party didn't fizzle out but when it did end, Izzy ran out onto to front stoop with the big basket of candy which had sat, neglected by the front door (our chocolate and lollipops managed to arrive at the very last minute). He was disappointed that he didn't have much time to hand it out to the trick-or-treaters and we agreed that next year's Halloween would be all about sitting out on the stoop and greeting all of the neighborhood's witches, ghosts and goblins..Who needs parties anyway (sniff, pout)?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Handling Halloween: A Piece of... Candy?

Past Halloweens were so simple...
When Izzy was six months old, he wore a wizard hat and I wandered around with him in a sling. When he was 18 months old, he was happily clad as The Cat in The Hat, and he and some friends took turns being wheeled about in a red wagon . At two and a half, he was quite the willing chef, passing out treats to all on our street (I led him to believe that Halloween was all about giving out candy and the belief has stuck). He stood outside our house yelling to trick-or-treaters.."Come get candy". He was enchanted with the whole idea of doling out treats to masked visitors.

Last year it was time for more festivities so I hosted our First Annual Halloween party. Izzy chose a witch costume, with sparkly hat and wand. We invited just a small group of friends and had a simple celebration. I made Macaroni and Cheese, a big batch of broccoli and a few other things. The kids decorated cupcakes and I read a scary story. A great time was had by all. Throughout the party, trick-or-treaters came to the door and Izzy ran to greet them. We handed out some of my old favorites like Kit Kats and M&M's and that was Izzy's first taste of ordinary candy.

This Halloween is going to be just a little different, at least in the candy department. I have decided to forgo the sweets of my youth in favor of some Organic Fair Trade Chocolates and Yummy Organic Lollipops. If only they show up on time. As it is October 30th, I am beginning to worry. If not, at least we will still be having our Second Annual Halloween Party and I can support New Jersey's own local chocolatier, Birnn's with chocolate pumpkin lollys for the party goers.

Here I am, deep in the midst of party preparations and completely in the weeds yet while the cupcakes bake, I am stuck pondering over party politics. This party is for Izzy and I allowed him to invite whomever he chose. Unfortunately this meant that some moms I would like to have invited (and their kids too), were left off of the list. I did try to gently encourage but I was none too successful. Izzy seems to know exactly who he would like at his party. Is this wrong? Should I have invited whomever I wanted? Probably not since I don't really have room for so many guests anyway. I only hope that those who weren't invited are not offended. And according to Izzy, he may invite different friends to his birthday party. I shall wait and wonder.

In the meantime, I must frost the Halloween cupcakes...more on those to come!

Curdle Rhymes With Turtle: Homemade Yogurt Trials and Tribulations

Since my last posting about yogurt, I had been making it weekly with no incident, until the other day. I followed the same process I always do but this time something was amiss and I have no idea why.

Several hours after having turned the machine on, I went to check to see if the milk was firming up and it didn't look quite right. There was too much liquid floating at the top. So I increased the time on the machine and figured I was just being impatient. I went to sleep and hoped it would still miraculously morph intocreamy, smooth yogurt.

I awoke to find this rancid-looking creation which I sniffed, examined and promptly dumped down the drain. Izzy wanted to know what had happened and I said that the yogurt had curdled. Which then of course prompted, "Curdle rhymes with turtle, mama." Yes indeed!

If you have any clues as to why this may have occurred, do enlighten me. In the meantime, I will prepare for my next yogurt experiment..raw goat milk yogurt. Unfortunately that might have to wait a few days because my dear friend D. doesn't know a goat from a sheep (animal dyslexia?), but that is another story...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kabanos, Beans and Chard Soup ( or Kielbasa and Greens Soup)

Europa Meat and Provisions, a small polish deli and market, is a Jersey City gem.

It is there that I discovered the world of kielbasa. Little did I know that there were infinite varieties to be had, all homemade right here, just a few minutes walk from my house. Kabonos was the first type I tried and it has since become my favorite. Long and thin, these smoky sausages can just be sliced and eaten as is or added to flavor soups, salads and other dishes.

Tonight I concocted a soup to use up some leftover Rainbow Chard. It turned out to be perfect as the weather started to turn chillier this afternoon, while Izzy (the dragon) and I were out at the local Halloween parade.
This is another incredibly simple thing to whip up, mainly with things you may have around the house.

Recipe: Kabonos, Beans and Chard Soup

1 Large onion, diced
1-2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
6 small potatoes cut in small chunks
2 cans beans..I used pink
few tablespoons par-cel, minced (parsley will do)
1/2 cup alphabet pasta or stars
2 cups or so of shredded chard
2 cups of chicken or beef broth

1. Sautee onion, carrots, celery til slightly browned.
2. Add potatoes, parcel, then broth plus 5 cups water
3. Simmer til potatoes are almost tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Add pasta and cook 5 minutes more.
5. Add beans and chard, simmer for about 7 minutes more or until greens are tender.
6, Stir in kabanos and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 large servings with leftovers

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dabbling in Raw Milk: Riding The Railroad

What to do now? I really wanted the milk but I was worried. When I received word that it was time to place another order (if I were so inclined), I looked over the product list again. The pull of the unknown was irresistible so I cautiously decided to order a few items this week, ultimately deciding that the likelihood was slim that this farmer would have tainted products.

I eagerly awaited my first delivery, my excitement tempered by a twinge of nervousness. We were at home with friends when there was a knock at the door. It had arrived. I ferried my booty into the kitchen to survey it (because of a mix-up, not everything was there but this was resolved by the next day). In the end, I received 1/2 lb. cream cheese, 1/2 gallon of goat milk, 1 lb. of cultured butter and a pint of sour cream. All of these items were packaged in basically unlabeled (save for black magic marker) plastic containers, giving the appearance of a homegrown, clandestine operation.

I had to open everything and sniff it all. To what end? I couldn't say, but everything seemed to be fresh. Izzy insisted on sampling the goat milk right away so we both did. It didn't taste significantly different from the non-homogenized cow's milk we have been drinking lately but I don't think that my palate is yet accustomed to the subtle nuance. I need to conduct a taste taste in the near future...any takers?

Meanwhile, I am still left pondering how it is that all of these women (and now me) put their blind faith into this farmer. I suppose it is as X (the woman who spearheaded this group) said, "We put our faith into the big companies which supply the dairy we buy at the supermarkets, so why is this any different?" And she has a point because the reality is that milk which undergoes pasteurization is likely to be contaminated with more filth than one would care to imagine. I know that when I start to think about contaminated foods, the stories that resonate are those which involve large corporations with wide distribution, not local businesses or farms.

Have I made the right decision? How do these products compare to what we usually eat? Stay-tuned for more raw milk raves and rants.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dabbling in Raw Milk: On The Trail of Forbidden Dairy

Ever since reading Nina Planck's, Real Food, I have been hankering for a taste of raw milk. I nosed around Union Square, thinking I might turn up a source for it there but came up empty. Turns out this is because although it is legal to sell raw milk, it must be purchased at the farm. I conducted an Internet search as well but, without a car, my options seemed limited.

Then I heard rumors that a neighborhood woman had organized some type of raw-milk railroad, supplying farm-fresh milk and other dairy products to a small group, on a bi-monthly basis. Since it is legal to purchase raw milk products from farms in Pennsylvania, NJ residents travel there and then bring it back home (or so I thought). Now this seemed like a distinct possibility. I contacted her and received a product list. I pored over it and then for several reasons, couldn't decide if I really wanted to go through with it. That was several weeks ago.

Once the possibility became a reality, I became gripped by fear. What did I actually know about this farm? I didn't know the farmer personally, nor had anyone attested to the state of cleanliness there. Would I be endangering my family (mainly Izzy and myself since A. doesn't really drink milk)?
So I skipped the first order and figured I would see what I could glean from the other participants. I felt for sure that one of them would have answers.
Instead I found that the only thing they seemed to have was blind faith.

to be continued...meanwhile, muse over this.

Rainbow Risotto

Naturally colorful foods are inherently appealing to children and adults alike. When Izzy arrived home to find this bunch of rainbow carrots on the table he was drawn to them. He picked a different color to snack on, each day this week, starting with a purple one.

These carrots were not the only rainbow-colored foods to find their way into our vegetable drawer this week. We also had some rainbow chard from this week's CSA delivery. I had planned to use the chard as a side dish with some beans but decided we needed to celebrate the colors instead.

I made a Rainbow Chard and Carrot Risotto. Make sure to have ample cheese on hand, to make this colorful feast.

Risotto is a very forgiving recipe. Add or subtract ingredients to suit your taste.

5 cups chicken or vegetable broth or bouillon cubes with water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

4 cups (packed) coarsely chopped Rainbow chard leaves and stems (about 1 bunch). Parboil the stems first.

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Additional grated Parmesan cheese


Bring broth to simmer in medium saucepan. Cover and keep warm. Heat oil in heavy large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice and chard and stir until chard begins to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add 4 1/2 cups hot broth. Simmer until rice is just tender and risotto is creamy, stirring frequently and adding remaining 1/2 cup broth by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry, about 20 minutes. Mix in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese; season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer risotto to medium bowl. Serve, passing additional Parmesan separately.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Now This is A Serious Chocolate-Chip Cookie

The endless search for the "best" chocolate-chip cookie is not over but this one is a serious contender. I found it on Serious Eats , just the place to find great recipe comparisons and all other food-related minutiae.

When I saw that they had posted a recipe for "the best" chocolate-chip cookie, I felt the overwhelming inclination to give it try, as I am always looking for the "perfect" cookie. I had the perfect excuse to bake, as the cookies will accompany a gift that Izzy will be presenting to someone tomorrow. I followed the recipe except in one respect. I made slightly smaller cookies so my recipe made 19 cookies instead of the 16 mammoth ones which the original recipe suggested.
The result? This cookie will not disappoint, especially in the realm of texture. Warm from the oven they do have a slight crunch but are soft and chewy inside. The true test will be to see how they taste tomorrow, when they are fully cooled.
Next day notes: The cookie did not maintain its softness which definitely demotes it from being a top-notch cookie. Perhaps I overbaked them though they were certainly not browned...Bake at your own risk!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Vegetable Candy: A Hint of Sunday Supper

Sunday Supper at Lucques, a cookbook published last year, has incredibly luscious but time-consuming menus. I once spent two days preparing a dinner from the book, to the point of doing absolutely nothing else. The results were phenomenal and I would certainly do it again. Of course it isn't meant for weeknight cooking but I longed for one of the dishes I had made.

It was a side dish which featured Kabocha squash, simply prepared and then mixed with a few other ingredients and turned into a salad. What made the dish standout was the squash, which is roasted in small pieces and allowed to caramelize. It was so flavorful it could almost stand alone, maybe I could serve just that to accompany our dinner.

I used a butternut squash, on hand from my CSA. Now normally I loathe peeling and cutting squash, but this time I cut off the bulb and was able to do each part more easily. Next, I tossed it with olive oil, a few teaspoons of fresh thyme and sprinkled with salt and pepper. This went in the oven at 425 f for about 30 minutes, until tender and browned at the edges. I let the squash cool and then shaved some Ouray cheese from Sprout Creek Farm on top, mixed it together and had a perfect side dish for our lamb dinner.

Roasting squash in small pieces was a revelation for me, having been accustomed to squash baked whole or in halves, which seem sodden in comparison. During the roasting process, the texture of the squash is transformed, and the result is like candy. No need to disguise this for any child. Izzy was clamoring for more and the three of us finished the entire squash.

Sunday Suppers at Lucques may be intimidating but if you take shortcuts like this you can ease your way into the book. It is a great place to look for luscious, seasonal cooking. I am going to check it again to see if there are any other shortcuts I can use for weekday meals. This one was truly worth the extra time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lamb Loin Lesson

Today was the big day, time to defrost the first of my lamb parts. I took out the loin, thinking it would make a nifty roast. When I removed it from the package this is what it looked like. I wasn't sure what to do with it so I went to my cookbooks and elsewhere for answers. What I discovered was that lamb loins are typically boneless or cut into chops. Nowhere could I find any reference to a bone-in lamb loin. What was the butcher thinking? Why had he left those little bones? Do they add flavor to the roast? Was it some secret butcher's cut?

It occurred to me to try turning it into chops on my own but decided that I might end up mangling the lovely meat. So in the end, I decided to treat it as boneless and simply increase the cooking time. I did notice that the butcher had been kind enough to split the bones for easy cutting so I assumed there was a method to his madness.

I chose a very simple preparation, as I usually do with lamb. I stuffed it with fresh rosemary and garlic and then sprinkled it with salt and pepper. I browned it over high heat in an oven-proof pan and stuck it in the oven. I had a meat thermometer on hand to check for doneness, especially since A., likes his lamb rare (125 f). When I removed the roast from the oven, I let it rest a bit before carving it which was actually a snap. We ended up with two chops each. I slightly overcooked it, at least for A., who prefers his lamb medium rare, whereas Izzy and I are happy with ours done to medium.
Izzy couldn't get enough of it and after his two chops were gone he proceeded to gnaw on the bones. Because of the crazy weather, we dined outside, in the warm darkness. Our feast included some new potatoes sauteed in olive oil with shallots and some incredible butternut squash.

I went to Union Square today, to see if the Sheep Lady could give me any insight as to why the bones were left on and she said that it is done that way on purpose, exactly why I don't know but it did cook up quite easily so I can't complain.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Homemade Crackers From Cookie (Fiber Favor)

I love Cookie Magazine and unfortunately I was not paid to tell you that. You may not think of it as a source for recipes , but many of them appear to be intriguing and healthy. I might also add that many of their food-related articles share my food philosophy.

I was inspired to try these Flaxseed, Fig and Walnut Crackers since I am always looking for ways to incorporate flax seed and flax meal into our diets. Unlike vegetables, flax is an ingredient that might actually require a slight disguise.

When Izzy was younger and having a few um, uh issues.. I used to add flax to his juice, yogurt, smoothies and cereal. Sometimes he took it willingly and othertimes not. I think that having had an early introduction helped prime his palate for today he was thrilled to nibble at flax in all forms. As he helped me prepare he kept sneaking bits of the stuff, which I must say, is not the most tempting taste.

Izzy was home sick today so I thought baking would provide our late afternoon entertainment. This turned out to be just what we needed since the dough was quite forgiving and child-friendly.

We started by mixing the dry ingredients and then adding the butter.

The mixture looks like coarse crumbs here. Next we poured in the milk (I used whole milk, not soy). The dough looked like this.
What was so wonderful about this dough is that, after chilling, the dough is quite malleable. Izzy was able to roll it and cut out hearts and circles with ease. This project provided over an hour of engaging fun for both of us.
We were both impressed with the results. Izzy thought they were cookies and would not stop eating them. This was fine by me since the whole recipe has about a tablespoon of sugar.
So if you are looking to add some fiber to your family's diet, this is a good place to start and a great rainy day activity to boot.

OX Tales Stewin'

OX, the newest addition to the Jersey City restaurant scene, has finally flung open its doors. After 'preview' dinners served October 13th and 14th, they opened to the public this past Wednesday.

Starting a new business (or renovating a house) in Jersey City, can be a painstakingly long process and for OX,it was no different. Locals, myself included, waited patiently as we watched the owners slowly transform an old restaurant space to the new, spare and modern Ox. When I heard the initial positive reactions I decided there was no need to wait any longer, despite my avowal last week to do otherwise.

So when my dad mentioned getting together last night, I knew just where we would go. He was certainly game to try something different since we always go to the same old places. Late Sunday afternoon, Izzy was not in much of a restaurant-going mood since he has had a cold all weekend. I decided we would go anyway since we had an early reservation and the restaurant is so nearby.

We arrived to find a fairly empty restaurant but it was rather early. They have banquet seating which is always great for kids and it was comfy for all of us. Happily seated, I thought I wouldn't even have to look at the menu since I had studied the on-line version.

Surprise! The server informed us that they would only be serving from a limited version of the menu, something which did not come up in the preview buzz, where I had heard rumors of rabbit.

Fortunately the choices were easy to work with and my appetizer of choice, the Oxtails on a bed of polenta was still available. I also ordered the Duck Confit. Izzy had the Sweet Potato Salad with Roquette and the Broccoli and Cheese Gratin.

The oxtails were a perfect signature dish (but please serve them hotter!). Tender shreds of meat atop a crispy/soft polenta square.......dreamy.
The duck confit was better than some I have eaten in Paris. And without going into minute detail about the other dishes, everything else was worthy of a return trip. There was really only one thing lacking in this otherwise delightful restaurant, BREAD!

Maybe in this low-carb, no-carb age, people will find this acceptable. Not so for my family, who found it to be profoundly disturbing. Granted a fine olive assortment was offered in the beginning of our meal but Izzy was longing for some bread to entertain him before the food arrived. No bread option equals antsy Izzy and even worse an irate Grandpa Joe...

When we inquired as to the bread situation, we were told that the food was so hearty they didn't want diners to "fill up on bread." Surely they jest. Bread is an important component of most restaurant meals (excepting Asian restaurants of course) and I am certain that most adults can monitor the own bread intake. My old French boyfriend would not have eaten a meal without it, nor would my Russian-born grandfather for that matter. Indeed, it is the staff of life.

We caused such a fuss that we were told that there was some cornbread we could order (not sure if we paid for it or it came gratis). These turned out to be corn madeleines which seemed slightly sweet and better suited for dessert rather than dinner. Despite their inappropriateness, they helped calm Izzy (and Grandpa Joe) until the appetizers arrived.

Following the appetizers our meal was somewhat rushed because Izzy began to ask to leave and was barely touching his food. We didn't even have a chance to contemplate desserts so you know we will be back. As for the bread issue, my dad had a great idea for our next visit (B.Y.O.B - Bring Your Own Bread). I, on the other hand, just hope that the chef will reconsider. There is a world of fabulous bread out there, either to make or buy...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mama Bought A Little Lamb

And E., a fellow lamb aficionado, delivered it to my doorstep and it is currently residing in my freezer. How did this come about? The story goes like this...

Plain and simple. We like to eat meat. I don't cook it all that often because I am loathe to purchase it from the supermarket and it is awfully expensive when purchased from Whole Foods or the Greenmarket. I began to think that there must be an easier, cheaper way to get my hands on some local, pasture-raised beef. So I googled and read and heard tell of people buying half a cow. Which was actually what I had in mind. I soon discovered that the purchase of half a cow requires several people, cars, coolers and agreement over parts. I wasn't prepared for such an effort and investment, at least not yet.

And then this happened...I was walking by a vendor at the Greenmarket who had posted a sign advertising "Whole Lambs Available". I stopped to discuss the possibilities but realized his lamb wasn't for me since the deadline was too soon. Meanwhile I began to ponder lamb, which somehow seemed more sensible. Lamb is our favorite meat and a lamb is easy to divide. I found a partner who was willing to split the lamb with me and then I approached our favorite Sheep Lady from Three-Corner Field Farm.

She made it all sound fairly simple though somehow, some way, it took several weeks of emails, discussions and a detailed butchering list before we were ready to go ahead. Filling in the butchering list was certainly a new way of looking at lamb for me. Normally I would just buy rib chops or leg, maybe stew meat. Now I had to choose. Whole leg, split leg? Loin chops or loin roast? I felt like I was taking a test and hoped to choose the best.

It was a relief that no decision needed to be made regarding the tongue, heart, kidneys and other offal, which all went to my partner in crime. She celebrates Greek Easter and apparently those parts play a starring role in her soup. Parts settled, lists provided, we waited for word from The Sheep Lady.

When I saw her at the market this past Wednesday, there was some concern that it might not happen until the following week. In the end, the lamb was slaughtered on Wednesday and placed in the deep freeze, to make the trip down from upstate New York on Saturday, where E. picked it up. The entire lamb cost 335.00, so $167.00 each.

Saturday afternoon, Izzy and I were busy painting when the phone call came. E. was waiting outside, with lamb in tow. Izzy and I went out to the car to greet her and carry our half inside. A half a lamb is surprisingly small. This is what my portion looked like:

I managed to fit it on one shelf in my freezer. I wonder how many meals it will make?

This is what I got: 4 rib chops (should have been 6 but the way they were packaged I gave two to E.), 1 .25 lbs. ground beef, small loin roast, leg of lamb split into two roasts, 2 lamb shanks (will need to supplement), 1 lb. stew meat, and a lamb shoulder roast. Stay tuned to see what I do with it!

Pasta: Cooked Lugano-Style

The above dish may look like an ordinary bowl of pasta with tomatoes but I fooled you. It's not. It is pasta, cooked Lugano-style.

A., just back from a long trip filled with less than mediocre eating, had one culinary tidbit to share. He mentioned one decent lunch which occurred in a department store cafeteria, Manora. He had heard it was the place for cheap eats and was pleasantly surprised to discover that they actually made his pasta to order, while he watched. What was notable about the cooking was that the pasta only cooked for half the normal time in the water and continued cooking with the sauce for the second half. I always finish my pasta with the sauce but only for a minute or so, for the flavors to meld.

Tonight I decided to follow the Lugano method which is actually more labor intensive since it requires the cook to continually stir or shake the pan and add extra pasta water if necessary. The pasta absorbs the cooking liquid, making the dish more flavorful.

Lugano-Style Pasta With Fresh Tomatoes


a few cloves minced garlic

a few ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon capers

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lb. box pasta

1.Saute garlic in olive for a minute or two, then add other ingredients.

2. Simmer gently for 5 or so minutes until tomatoes release their water.

3. Turn off heat.

4. Meanwhile, boil pasta for 1/2 the suggested cooking time and drain (save a cup of the liquid).

5. Return pasta to cooking pot, add sauce and simmer for the remainder of suggested pasta cooking time.

This was my first experience with this method of cooking pasta . It works well with raw tomatoes since they release a lot of water. I imagine that it would work well with other types of sauces too.

Not Fava Beans, Fava GREENS

Ever heard of them? I hadn't either until Farmer Rich included them in our weekly CSA haul. I simply love fava beans so I was thrilled to have the chance to try these. One more reason to join a CSA, the opportunity to try something new and unusual.

Izzy and I immediately sampled them, raw. We were both pleased with this new taste. The soft, raw leaves have a mild fava flavor and they would make a fine addition to salads. Izzy even took them for lunch, on a sandwich with mayo. But then I mistakenly tried to cook them (or perhaps I didn't cook them long enough). I sauteed them quickly with olive oil and garlic. This changed their texture considerably and though they maintained their wonderful flavor, they became chewy and less palatable for Izzy. They also wilt rather quickly so if you do get your hands on some, put them in a salad within a day or two.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Izzy's Art: What IS This?

Izzy has been hard at work during clay class and this week he brought home a few completed pieces. There was a small blue bowl, a flat pale blue unidentified object and then this. He told me what it was before he had even painted and fired it, so I never had time to reflect over the possibilities. From this angle, I would have pegged it for a pig, not a volcano which is what he had in mind.

When he got home he decided his volcano wouldn't just sit there looking pretty. He was going to put it to good use. So there you have it, the very first ever, volcano lollipop holder. Perfect to hold my newest discovery, which will find their way into Halloween bags in my neighborhood, Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's The Thought That Counts: Back Forty

If you keep up with the NYC food scene, you may have already heard that Peter Hoffman, of Savoy, an intimate restaurant featuring local, seasonal foods, has opened a more casual spot in the East Village, called Back Forty. I was thrilled to hear about this, knowing that Peter puts great thought into the food he produces.

So when my friend Sarah suggested that we try it tonight, only one night after what I believe was its official opening, I couldn't resist. Despite the gnawing little voice in the back of my mind telling me to wait, at 5:50 p.m. we found ourselves on a crosstown bus, headed for Avenue B.

I worried that the place would be packed but it was quite early for the East Village crowd so for a short spell we had the place almost to ourselves. It is simply furnished with wooden tables and benches, some communal, others private. What led us to Back Forty was the promise of their menu which certainly has its heart in the right place. It is small but inspired, with some wonderful side portions of things like Parnsips with White Anchovy and Aleppo vinaigrette, or Roasted Brussel sprouts with Dried Cherry/Shallot butter.

Our meal began with a fabulous Concord Fizz, which featured freshly crushed Concord grapes . After that wonderful beginning, the unfortunate but somewhat expected occurred. Our meal was wildly uneven. I won't go into the details because I imagine that even in a few days, the kitchen staff will iron out the kinks, and the dishes will be expertly executed.

I am in love with the concept of this restaurant and do hope that it will succeed. I want to go back to Back Forty and tell you that the Grass-fed Burger with Spicy Homemade Ketchup is phenomenal and that the House-made Sausage is succulent.

In the meantime I will try to stick with the 'tried and true', restaurants that have been tested, if not by me, that at least a host of other diners. The lure of the new is appealing to me but not necessarily the best way to encourage my child to remain polite and engaged at the table. Izzy barely ate tonight save for a few morsels of each dish. The end of the meal found him singing songs out the front window of the restaurant, overcome with fatigue and hunger.

At least he had a crisp, local apple to snack on for the trip home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Oven Is On

But no one's home. Am I endangering my house and all my worldly possessions for the sake of some roasted potatoes or an acorn squash?
I certainly hope not but I am guilty of leaving the house with food in the oven. Why? So that Izzy and I can return from the park and have a warm, healthy dinner on the table in minutes.
Izzy and I were out for most of the early afternoon. When we returned I had a few minutes before it was time for us to go out again. With only minutes to figure out dinner, I decided upon an extremely simple meal. One component just happened to require in hour in the oven.
I know that one of my absolutely favorite food writers, Laurie Colwin, used to leave soups and stews over a flame tamer and leave her house. Now that seemed somewhat dangerous to me. Leaving the oven on seemed mild in comparison, especially since I wasn't roasting at high heat or cooking anything greasy.

In a contest between caution and warm, soft, buttery acorn squash, guess who turned out to be the winner? I simply cut the squash, scooped out the seeds and spread the insides with butter, maple syrup, nutmeg and a bit of salt. I placed this in the oven at 350 degrees f. for 1 hour. Then we went out to the park.

When we returned home, we were met with the sweet, buttery aroma of roasted acorn squash. Izzy prepared some steamed broccoli to go with and I made us an omelet as well. I mashed the squash in its shell and served.

Izzy's review? He looked up shyly and said, " This is scrumptious!" He had never used that word before and I remarked upon that. "Miss S always says that all of the food I eat sounds scrumptious." Thanks Miss S. ..It is especially heartwarming to hear my son appreciate his food!n Good things do happen at school.

And, as you may have guessed, our house is still standing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Plight Of The Urban Kitchen

I grew up in a spotless house with nary a speck of dirt or food on the kitchen floor, in the suburbs. Bugs, vermin, even ants were unheard of. Those were for poor unfortunate people who lived in big, dirty cities (like I do now.)

The vile creatures (dare I speak their name?) that plague urban kitchens never even entered my radar until quite a late age. I think my first sighting must have occurred in college, while visiting a boyfriend's apartment. I went into his kitchen one night and found some in a utensil drawer. Now he was the type who was always ready to whip something up for me so, suffice it to say, I was rather disgusted. Though, mind you, not disgusted enough to keep me from returning to eat grilled cheese in his bathtub.

Years passed before I met up with the filthy cockroaches (there, I said it) again, the second time being in my very own New York City apartment. They were at least small and easily squashed. Yet it was less than comforting to think that they were nesting on my turf. I bought the "Roach Motels" and sincerely hoped that check in would be speedy. Surprisingly, they did the trick and I lived there for years after with no sign of the nasty critters. Until a few months ago.

I thought we were safe. We had lived in this house for almost four years and hadn't spotted one. Then I heard talk of the neighboring apartment building. It was said that they had an awful problem and were bombing their basement. Great, with row houses, there is space in the party walls (shared walls) and plenty of crevices for all sorts of critters to make their way over to safe territory. Our toxin-free home would be a swell abode.

It began with the appearance of one enormous "Water bug". I swear the thing was so large that in a darkened room it could have been mistaken for a mouse. There is no way in the world I would or could squash such a thing so I shrieked and then covered it with a bowl. I hoped that my husband would be kind enough to discard it. Instead he decided to chase me around the house with it. This sighting was then followed by the occasional, errant bug in our kitchen which then turned into the weekly bug. Things were certainly NOT improving and then we had a flood in our basement. Instead of seeing the prehistoric, gigantic roaches, they began to show up in smaller versions.

One evening I had swept up some crumbs in a small pile and left them by the broom. I forgot to use the dustpan and left them til morning. When I awoke I found this cryptic text message from my husband:


wE tHe Cookkaraccha peoples inForm Yu of OUr gReat WorSHIp of BRoom AnD gREat gifTs.

The meaning of this was lost on me even though I thought it was uproariously funny. Turns out he encountered a few of my buggy friends having a party about the broom when he had gone down for a post-midnight snack.

The bug build-up was beginning to wear on me. Even though the sightings weren't daily I had to acknowledge there was a problem. I didn't want to get some toxic exterminator so I had to research green solutions. Seems there are several that may do the trick but it just so happens we haven't spotted one in weeks, except for the giant one that scurried by tonight.

Having witnessed my shrieking shenanigans and examining the hideous creatures that we have disposed of outdoors, Izzy has gotten a close up view of something I would have had no clue about at his age. Tonight, it seems, he decided to exorcise his demons. He raced around the kitchen in his new bug costume, yelling,

"I'm a roach mama. Are you going to squash me?"

Yes indeed, the urban child certainly does have a different Halloween experience, doesn't he?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Eco-Conscious Izzy

In support of Blog Action Day, I bring you the following:

My latest shopping obsession has been to reduce our plastic bag consumption. I have always envisioned giving up plastic bags but never quite got around to it. Until recently.

A few months ago I was watching some plastic bags stuck in a tree near my front window and became even more disgusted at the thought of bags flying about our landscape. I was finally inspired to take action. I purchased a cotton string bag and some fine mesh cotton bags and pretty much went cold turkey. Plastic bags are certainly a hard habit to break, though more for the shop clerks than for the buyers. I found myself having to insist that I didn't need a bag, otherwise I would inadvertently find my items stuffed into one before I could make a peep. I began to remove the items and hand the bag back, hoping that it would be reused.

Just days after beginning my private campaign against plastic bag usage, I was stopped by a news crew as I exited the Whole Foods store at Union Square. I seriously resembled a bag lady, with granny cart, string bag, tote bag and several other bags dangling from my person. The newscaster asked if they could interview me for a piece on the Today Show or some program of that ilk (the one hosted by Meredith Vieira). I agreed, despite the fact that I had just come from working out and was not looking especially fetching. The issue was too near and dear to me to remain silent.

Now, a month or so later, I just remember rambling on nervously and since I don't have a t.v. I have no idea whether it aired or not. Either way, the fact that they chose to zero in on me was a riot since I was surely a veritable poster loca for the no plastic movement.

After my brief brush with non-existent fame, I still continue to wage almost zero tolerance against plastic bags and Izzy is becoming a champion of the cause. He immediate sounds an alarm when we are shopping together, warning me of an impending plastic bag. He will admonish me if I accidentally accept one. As he watches other shoppers he is always wondering why they too, haven't given up plastic. My friend D., has supported the cause by generously giving me a set of these fabulous reusable totes by Envirosax. They make it easy to always have a spare bag with you and they are awfully cute to boot!

Tales From The Lunch Table

Keep in mind this is hearsay, but at bedtime this evening, Izzy revealed the following gem: He claims to have witnessed one of his classmates stick two black beans within each of his ears. Good old Mr. D. kindly removed them. If you have any information as to the veracity of this claim, do let us know!

Which reminds me of a story I read on Yummy Mummy, my latest blog discovery. This blogging mama, who shares many of my food ideals, tells a hilarious tale of extracting chives from her baby's nose.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

My Brother Doesn't Even Eat Chocolate

Why then did I feel compelled to make these brownies and these oreos for his birthday? I must be an awful sister. I let my sister--in-law order a carrot cake for my brother and instead I decided to indulge the rest of us in retro-chocolate heaven.

Let's face it, I just don't really like carrot cake and being a slightly selfish baker, the thought of baking something I didn't plan on eating didn't seem quite right. On top of that, I probably wouldn't have been able to recreate the tree that decorated his professionally prepared cake. Ultimately my decision may have been for the best.

I chose to make these homemade oreos, taken from Smitten Kitchen a food blog with an impressive roster of incredibly sinful, delicious sweets. I had great success with them the first time and knew that they would be a hit. I doubled the recipe and was up til all hours filling the cookies and cleaning up errant flour and confectioner's sugar.

Since M. had also requested brownies, I took the easy route and I chose Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Cream- Cheese Marbled Brownies. They looked delectable in her photos and I figured they were fool-proof (as long as the fool doesn't fool with the ingredients).
With Izzy at my side, we measured, mixed, stirred, dripped and swirled. Brownie batter is such fun to work with. The recipe was so decadent that I left out 1/4 cup of sugar. I didn't think it would make much difference. I also noted that the cream-cheese swirl didn't seem like enough to create the cheesecake note I had been imagining, I should have added more but left it as is.
The resulting brownies had an incredibly wonderful texture but I feel that the cream cheese muted the chocolatey flavor and perhaps the omission of sugar left them less intense than other brownies I have eaten. Don't get me wrong, these brownies were still quite luscious but just not the brownies of my dreams. Try them with the correct ingredients and they may just do the trick.
The lesson learned from this baking episode is that next time I should be more generous. I may bake a tried and true chocolate for the chocolate crowd and something new for my brother. Who knows, if I don't fool with the ingredients, it may even be something I might eat.

Surprise 50th: Musings on Mules and More

Surprise! Today my sister-in-law, M., threw a party for my eldest brother, G.'s, 50th birthday. They live in a rural area of New Jersey where apparently people shop for mules. In order to facilitate the surprise, a neighbor invited my brother to go mule-shopping. At first I thought that a 'mule' was the new name for a piece of farming equipment. Alas, no, they were talking live animals.

All of the guests awaited my brother's arrival on his endless expanse of front-lawn. We stood outside in the nippy air for what seemed like ages because something went awry in the mule-shopping plans. Not only that but just as they were making their way back my brother decided to chase a trespassing car through his many acres of woods, bypassing our surprise set-up. We all looked in shock as the car, instead of curving around the corner and toward our group, instead came speeding out of the woods, landing several yards away. I am not sure who was more surprised, him or us... It all ended well and he was indeed surprised. Izzy was relieved because by this time he had begun to whine for food. It was four o'clock, sort of the snack hour so we quickly made our way inside to begin eating. There was plenty of food which began with baguette slices spread with various toppings. These were followed by platters and platters of sandwiches, pastas, salads and cake. And, lest I forget, the brownies and homemade oreos that I prepared for the party. All in all, an ample spread, with something for everyone. And to be sure, plenty of vegetarian fare.
Izzy partook of all that was offered, eating sandwiches, salad and some desserts. In my mind we had eaten so much that dinner would not be in order. We had a longish trip back and left my brother's house around 6:45. We would be back just in time for bed, around 8. When we got inside, Izzy sat to remove his shoes and asked, "What are we having for dinner?"
I told him that we had already eaten dinner and I took him up to get ready for bed. He was clearly tired and somewhat confused but in some way I understood, for I too could have eaten something else.
Why you wonder? I will explain shortly.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Second Street Bakery Makes New York Times

For some reason I experience a burst of local pride when a place I frequent, in Jersey City, is reviewed in the New York Times. This time it is Second Street Bakery, which to me behaves more as a deli than bakery.

My friend J. steered me toward this local favorite which is truly an establishment of yore, in as far as menu and prices. This is old school Italian at its heartburning best. Consequently I can't go there that often. Though I admit there was a brief period when I found myself strolling over there too often for my own girth. I went for the Eggplant Parm. sandwiches, a small one large enough to feed both Izzy and me. They do all of the Italian faves, and then some, not to mention the stuffed breads and daily specials.

This bakery is somewhat off the beaten path but somehow there is always a crowd, especially at lunchtime so be prepared to wait. The trick is to get there before 11:00 a.m...otherwise you will have to line up with the rest of the neighborhood. I have yet to try their breakfast sandwich but I may just have to add that to my "to eat" list.

Travel Six Hours For Dinner: Would You? Could You?

Come next Friday, it will be five weeks that A. has been away (except for a brief two day visit in the middle). This morning Izzy seemed to be especially melancholic since Saturdays are generally their day together. It was as if he expected him to be here and couldn't exactly fathom why he wasn't.

I can't say as I was in such a perky mood myself but I managed to play some "Papa games", which involve giant clams and then we were off to the Van Vorst Farmer's Market. On our way there, I was surprised by a text message from A., asking if we wanted to meet him for dinner in NYC.

He was supposed to be working today but because of schedule changes had the afternoon off. I failed to mention that he is working up in North Adams, MA and this may have been convenient for us but certainly did not make much sense for him. He would have had to travel three hours each way in one day to get back for work tomorrow morning (yes, on Sunday, I know). At first I agreed to the offer, indeed a romantic idea, but after a few more minutes of reflection decided that A. would be better off relaxing where he was than schlepping all the way to NYC to see us for maybe two hours.

Later on, to cheer Izzy, we went out to a neighborhood celebration where Izzy got to have his face painted and then fashion his own Halloween costume, with materials and ideas provided by local artists and The Embankment...

Back home we drowned our sorrows in baking. Too much baking I was told. We spent more than two solid hours baking brownies and homemade oreos. More on that tomorrow.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Stars In My Eyes? Dreams of Food Fame

I know this is far-fetched but somehow I can't resist. Should I send in a video of Izzy and me and compete to be on FoodTV?

I don't even have a television but when I did, it was always tuned to The Food Network. From what I keep reading, it isn't as great as it once was. Perhaps if I could have my own show, I could help return it to its former glory. I might not be quite Nigella, Two Fat Ladies or David Rosengarten but I would certainly do my best to entertain, while providing (hopefully) humor, recipes and sensible food advice, of course.

My neighbor and great photographer E., may actually allot some time from her busy schedule to squeeze in some filming. She has suggested that I get primped for the session too.. I only have a week or so to get this done. Who knows where it may lead. If nothing else, it would be amusing to create this video and perhaps post it here! Please do send some inspiration my way.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Birdbath Bakery: Izzy Paints;Mama Eats

On this horribly rainy Thursday, counter to Izzy's better judgement, we made the trek to the Village for clay class. Once we arrived, despite being soaked, he was happy to be there. Given the bad weather, I thought I might stay and observe but since this was already his fourth time there, he said I should go. So I did.

This meant that I had to come up with some way to keep dry. In the back of my mind was a stop at Birdbath Bakery, which I had passed several times but never entered. It turns out that this newest offshoot from City Bakery would provide ideal shelter from the storm.
Just blocks from Greenwich House Pottery, this calm little oasis is chock full of organic and vegan delights. From scones, to cookies with some unusual pastries in between it was hard to choose. I wanted something different so I tried the Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie and though I don't usually drink coffee, I couldn't resist the "Two-Tone", iced hot chocolate and coffee. The drink and cookie were overkill..too much chocolate, even for me. I would recommend the Vegan cookie, for vegans. I imagine that they would find it quite satisfying. My issue was that it seemed to lack the sweetness of their standard chocolate chip cookie.

Aside from the lure of the baked goods, the very concept of the establishment is what drew me in. The entire shop was designed to be "green"; as recycled and eco-friendly materials are featured throughout. From floor to ceiling it seems that there is a story for each aspect of the bakery. I hope that the owner, Maury Rubin, is making a profit, for his shop is an admirable model of an environmentally -conscious business.

On top of the design appeal of the place, there is also a great neighborhood vibe and I sat and chatted with a handsome young fellow in a jaunty fedora. Apparently a regular, he simply stopped in to keep dry. He was followed by some other regulars who gathered around the wooden benches to enjoy some late afternoon sweets.

I definitely recommend at stop at Birdbath. I know I will find myself holed up there as the weather gets cooler, either for a quick stop with Izzy on the way to class or place to spend a delightful hour while Izzy paints or molds his clay.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Picky Eater Gene?

Today's New York Times article, Picky Eaters? They Get It From You showcases a study which claims that picky eaters are born, not made. The study, which compared the influence of genetics and environment determined that genetics had a greater influence by a ratio of 78%/22%....No details were given as to the method of study and whether or not parental food biases were taken into account.

Paint me skeptical...especially since Dr. Cooke, the researcher involved in the study seems to be biased towards absolving parents of any wrongdoing, "I came from a position of not wanting to blame parents."

At first I thought that from an evolutionary perspective his theory made sense. Supposedly, children are programmed to not just eat anything, since this would prevent them from putting poisonous, unhealthy things into their mouths. But if they are so programmed how can we explain the toddler predilection for putting all sorts of playground detritus into their mouths?

Thankfully, a voice of reason pervades the article, highlighting important strategies to help your picky eater overcome genetic predispositions. And in the end, parental involvement and tactics can play an enormous role in having nurture trump nature.

Bottom-line? Keep on serving family meals (no separate foods, please), introduce new foods regularly, encourage sampling of new items but don't force, and especially key, expose children under two to as many new flavors as possible!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Homemade Yogurt Batch 3: Too yummy to share

For our third batch of yogurt, I decided to concentrate on the ingredients and buy the best whole milk I could find, which came from Ronny Brook Farm in a lovely glass bottle. Holding the bottle had me waxing nostalgic about the milk of my childhood. Not that I remember much about its flavor. It is the delivery which remains etched in my memory. We used to keep a silver milkbox out front, where we would put out the old bottles and receive new. The milkman delivered twice weekly and my mother never had to worry about running out of milk. Too bad there's no milkman around here.

But I digress from my mission.. Back to the yogurt at hand.

I used Fage Greek Yogurt for my starter and some Organic Valley non-fat dry milk. This is the basic recipe I followed:

Yogurt Recipe
4 cups of milk

1/3 cup non-fat dry milk

1/2 cup yogurt

1. Stir milk and non-fat milk thoroughly,

2. Heat to 170 f.

3. Let cool to 108-112 f.

4. Stir in yogurt.

5. Pour into glass yogurt jars.

6. Heat according to yogurt machine instructions (about 8 hours).

7. Cover, chill and eat.

Izzy was as eager as ever to try our third batch of yogurt this morning. He opened the jar and wouldn't let me near it. Apparently it was "Too yummy to share." When I opened my own jar I was bowled over by the utter creaminess of our concoction. It was definitely our best attempt yet, decidedly rich and mild in flavor, without the tart aftertaste of our past experiences.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Out To Eat: Lessons and Advice

A common lament from new parents is that since they have had kids they rarely go out to restaurants. They hesitate to take their children out for fear of disturbing other diners, potential picky eating disasters, or some other unmentionable outcome. Some parents feel that children don't belong in restaurants and look askance at those of us who bring ours along. Well there is a way to do it so that everyone is happy. You just need to know what to expect and how to cope.

Check out my guest post on Mommy Poppins (a website devoted to great New York area activities for kids) for ways to manage restaurant-going with your little ones, from newborn to preschool. Introduce restaurant outings early and it should be a breeze.

Vegetable Babies

There I stood by the kitchen sink, preparing a rather large bunch of bok choy for yesterday's dinner. This may seem like an ordinary thing to be doing but for Izzy it was downright unusual. While intently observing me at work he asked, "Is that grown-up bok choy?" I had to smile at that one, for of course I wouldn't have put it in quite the same way myself.

Up until now Izzy had only encountered baby bok choy so when confronted with the large leaves, he needed to name them.

What strikes me as amusing is Izzy's greater familiarity with the baby version of vegetables rather than their grown-up counterparts. Potatoes, eggplant, carrots, artichokes,zucchini, peas and bok choy are just a few examples of baby produce that have crossed his path.

When I was small, I think the only baby vegetable that I encountered was the occasional 'baby corn' at Chinese restaurants. Izzy's vegetable experiences have been so much more appealing and interesting. Behold these adorable baby potatoes and baby eggplants that the farmer has brought us. Who wouldn't want to at least try them?

Foul Language? Who Would Have Thought?


I was on the phone with my dad, as he recounted a dinner he had eaten the previous night. Izzy was listening in to my end of the conversation and when he heard me utter the word charcuterie he said, "Mama, don't say that word in front of me." (The very idea of a platter of sliced meats, how could you...)

Is charcuterie a bad word? Does it sound like one? Is there something I am missing? He spent the rest of the day pronouncing the word and giggling. I do have to wonder what runs through his little mind. Giant slabs of pate, chasing slices of prosciutto?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Brussels Birthday: Izzy's Papa Reports

Keep in mind that while Izzy and I are eating at home, Papa is often off in foreign locales, forgetting to eat or not eating well. His one night spent in Brussels happened to also be his birthday. I had hoped that he would have a decent meal. I booked him a hotel which turned out to be the quirky spot I imagined. When A. arrived there, he sent this message.

I wish I could work here rather than all the crappy places I get stuck with. I'm taking myself our to the corner cafe for some dinner. I ordered without even looking at the menu.

Frisee aux Lardons

Agneau a point avec pommes dauphinoise

The waitress brought the menu & I said, "Non merci. Je suis prêt." (No thanks, I am ready.)

I seriously have not eaten in days. No dinner last night, a not so good pain au chocolat for breakfast. No lunch at all. Now its 8:56 pm and I'm going to have whatever I want. I don't care if it isn't on the menu. I looked at the specials, but nothing I wanted there.

The waitress asked the cook to come take my order. When I requested agneau he made a little fist and said "au point!". Of course I said "Mais oui". "Et pour buvez,.. Bordeaux?". "Mais oui encore". "Trrèèsss bon".

Let's hope its good. Though I'm going to eat it even if it isn't.Bordeaux is Haute Médoc 2004, grand vin de B. I'm loving it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Dinner: Totally Locally

I keep marveling about how my CSA deliveries, along with a few Greenmarket dairy items, allow me to prepare an almost 100% local meal (except for the olive oil).

Consider this menu from last week: Flat Zucchini Omelet (ignore that silly name, it is tender, light egg perfection), Yukon Gold Mashed potatoes and Mixed Greens sauteed with garlic.

This was another meal in a flash, especially with Izzy on potato mashing duty. He didn't always like to eat them (odd seemed I somehow assumed they all kids ate them) but once I got him involved in the mashing process, he became far more interested in eating them.
With Izzy mashing, I was able to grate the zucchini, wash the greens and do the other minor preparations. If you have any zucchini hanging about, this is one of the easiest things you can do with it and you won't be disappointed.

1 lb small zucchini1

3/4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon finely chopped herb of your choice (basil or chives work well, even parsley)

2 large eggs

1 large pinch black pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Trim ends of zucchini, then coarsely grate on large holes of a box grater. Toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and let stand 30 minutes.

Transfer zucchini to a colander, then firmly squeeze handfuls to remove excess liquid.

Heat olive oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and saute zucchini, stirring until golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in herbs, then let mixture cool to warm, about 15 minutes.

Lightly beat eggs with zucchini, pepper, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, using a fork.

Heat butter in a 7- to 8-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides and butter has a nutty fragrance.

Add egg mixture, distributing zucchini evenly with a heatproof rubber spatula, and cook, lifting up egg around edges occasionally to let any uncooked egg flow underneath, until egg mixture is set around edge, about 1 minute.Reduce heat to moderately low and cook omelet until softly set but top is still moist, about 3 minutes.

Shake skillet to loosen omelet from pan, then slide omelet onto a large plate.Wearing oven mitts, invert skillet over omelet, then holding skillet and plate together invert omelet, browned side up, into skillet. Cook omelet until underside is set, about 1 minute, then slide omelet onto a serving plate.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Not Your Ordinary Snack Week

Izzy has come home nearly each day this week, describing an unusual snack of some kind. I still am unsure as to what exactly they are.

Monday I heard tell of "Pancakes with holes in the middle.' Some friends confirmed the pancakes too but when I asked the teachers they seemed mystified and claimed ignorance on the pancake front. What were these pancake- like snacks anyway?

Tuesday I was regaled with visions of "Rainbow-colored Cakes" which I later heard were some type of homemade Chinese cake. Now I am intrigued.

Wednesday was the clincher. "Mama, I had chicken hot dogs for snack." Well now I had to take pause, step back and stop hyperventilating. Chicken hot dogs? Were they organic? Were they heated? The very thought of meat of any kind being left out on the snack table for two hours just doesn't seem entirely sanitary. Is that really a good idea to serve in a school with no kitchen? I think not. The question is .. Do I bring up another snack issue with the school?

Meanwhile, Izzy has me pondering on the subject of today's snack..He described it as, "Spicy cheerios." Pray tell, what are spicy Cheerios?

On the one hand I am thrilled that Izzy is being exposed to some snacks "outside the box" but on the other I worry about what is in

Who knows what tomorrow's snack will bring? Stay-tuned.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

To Market, To Market: To See Nina Planck?

This may even be more thrilling than spotting Martha at the hair salon. You see, I didn't interact with Martha, I merely glimpsed her from my salon sink, as my head was covered in some seemingly toxic goop, awaiting a shampoo. I don't even know if I would uttered a word to her had I been given the chance.

On the other hand, bumping into Nina Planck was an altogether different experience. I was on my regular Wednesday post-Pilates run to the Union Square Greenmarket. While engaging in my preliminary wander through the market, I saw that someone was being filmed. I stopped to watch for a moment and noted that the woman did look remarkably like Nina, and in fact, as she spoke about some interesting squash, I remarked that she sounded like her too. I didn't really have time to linger and watch her so I continued on my way, smiling at the thought of shopping at the market with Nina in the vicinity.

Later on, as I was discussing some pressing lamb issues with my favorite sheep-lady, Karen, of 3-Corner Field Farm, Nina walked over to have a word with her. As she stood next to me I blurted out, "You are Nina Planck, aren't you (I wasn't 100% certain so I didn't want to assume.") I then went on to explain that I had met her before at the Times Talk (I'm sure she has met many fans before and I was not notable but..) and then I said that I had emailed her and I had a blog. Zing! She said she had read of my Parisian travels with Izzy!! I couldn't have been more flattered.

We chatted briefly before she had to rush off to Julian, her almost year old son. She mentioned something about trying not to get too excited about watching all of the wonderful things he eats. Of course I say, she has every right to get excited, especially as I gather she is providing him with the absolute best in food, as far as local, organic and sustainable is concerned.

My only regret from my morning encounter is that I have no photo to share. Nina is on the forefront of changing the way Americans eat. She has been a great inspiration for me to seek out grass-fed, organic, local eats whenever possible. And I can't help but mention that she should be the poster woman for her healthy way of eating. She is slender, glowing and looked particularly fetching in her woolen shorts. If you haven't read her book, Real Food, you ought to. If nothing else,she will certainly lead you to think differently about the things you eat.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Keep Away From Blue Food

Except for blue potatoes and blueberries (and anything made with them like the beverage pictured above - blueberry milk).

Food coloring has been on my mind of late because of the recent news linking food dyes to hyperactivity in children. That these dyes are not healthy doesn't exactly surprise me but seeing the cold hard facts now has me on dye patrol, seeking to eradicate any trace from Izzy's diet.

We don't buy any foods that contain coloring but Izzy may have encountered the Rainbow Goldfish at school and today I heard tell of a mysterious rainbow colored cake he was served at snack time. He claimed that it was not homemade..Question is...what was it and why was it being served?

Meanwhile, in my efforts to rid Izzy's diet of any possible source of artificial food coloring, I realize that my cupcake icing methods will have to change. I just checked the fancy food colorings from one of my favorite baking stores and they are completely artificial. I am now on the hunt for organic, natural food colorings..I have some leads and need to order soon. Halloween is almost here and we may be in need of some cupcakes sooner, rather than later.

If you have any information leading to the purchase of these natural dyes, reveal your sources here!
n.b. I just found a source and a shipment is on its way...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Add Some Greens To Your Beans

Rice and beans are a staple of Izzy's diet. They are one of the easiest, healthiest dinners and one of the quickest to prepare. We probably have them about once a week, each time with a slight variation.

Tonight I had some leftover mustard greens which Izzy had deemed to bitter the other day (me too). I shredded them to add to my basic recipe and I also threw in some smoked paprika.

Rice and Beans (with greens - works well with all kinds)

1 large onion, chopped
1 frying pepper, chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper or more to taste, minced
1/4 tspn. smoked paprika

2 cans black beans
1 tomato, chopped
1-2 cups shredded greens
olive oil

1. Saute first three ingredients in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, until browned, stir in paprika and cook for 1 more minute.

2.Add last three ingredients. Stir and cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Serve over rice with shredded sharp cheddar, minced cilantro (if you have any) and sour cream. Soft tacos are also a nice touch.

Izzy liked it so much, greens included they he requested it for lunch tomorrow..How did he know that was what he would be getting?