Izzy Eats: The art of raising a gourmand, one bite at a time

Stirring tales of eating, cooking and foraging in my never-ending quest to provide, great-tasting (local and organic whenever possible) EATS for me and my boy(s).

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Waffles For A New Generation

If you read my blog you will know that I am an avid waffle maker and eater. Izzy has grown up eating waffles and I wanted to share the waffle love with his preschool classmates. I imagined that many of them were unaware of the delights of a freshly made waffle.

Today I lugged in my waffle iron, along with the various bowls, ingredients and syrup and I gave a waffle demonstration to his class of 18 three and four year olds. They were quite patient as I showed them the ingredients. They were able to sniff and examine each one. And they watched with rapt attention as I mixed up the dry ingredients, then the wet ones and combined the two. One highlight was that some of the more adventurous children in the group opted to sample the buttermilk, something Izzy has been doing for ages.

When it finally came time to pour the batter into the iron, the kids were all vying to be first to try one. So imagine my disappointment when the first waffle split in two and stuck tenaciously to the iron and I had to pick it out. I didn't think they would go near it but it disappeared before my eyes.

I kept my fingers crossed for the next waffle and it and the rest all came out fine. I knew the day had been a success when nearly every child asked for seconds, even one who proclaimed he didn't eat waffles anymore. A few students came up to ask me to give their parents the recipe. What more could I ask for?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

You Can Say That Again, David Kamp...

David Kamp's article in today's New York Times, "Don't Point That Menu At My Child, Please." is a must read for anyone interested in raising children to eat well and sensibly. I abhor the idea of the children's menu, and always have. The food choices on those menus, of the chicken finger and hot dog ilk, are the last things I want Izzy to eat when we go out to dinner. When I see those menus coming toward our table, I automatically shoo the waiter away.

Shocked By My Snack Informant

Please say it isn't so, but Izzy revealed today's snack choices from the Yellow Room: Gummy Bears and Chocolate...This has to be a joke, right?

Am I Raising My Child In The Wrong State?

My great friend L. just came back from a weekend spent visiting a friend who lives on a farm in Vermont. From the sound of it, Vermont = Organic. She reported that it is difficult to grocery shop without bumping smack into a wide array of organic products. Of particular interest to her was the large selection of local milk brands available. L. doesn't even like milk but had to try what she described as milk "that just came from the cow yesterday."

She also mentioned eating in restaurants where all of the menu items featured local foods. The whole experience sounds like nirvana for those interested in eating locally and organically.

Why isn't it possible to eat this way so easily where we live? There are many local farms in New Jersey and New York State. I would think that both states combined have enough farms of all kinds to provide for the demand. Why aren't there more local dairy farm products available around here? Why are organic and local products specialty items?

Are Vermonters more demanding than those of us in the Metropolitan area? More interested in eating local, sustainable foods?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Today's Snack Rumour

The news from preschool was that Izzy was feeling hungry and a tad crabby at school today. This because he only had some pineapple and a few bites of bagel for breakfast. When I asked if he had snack, his teacher, Miss B., explained that he didn't like the snack which she described as a sandwich with red cabbage on it. He claimed that he ate it and liked it..I am intrigued..He said, R.'s family had brought in this unusual fare. I applaud them!

Meanwhile, Izzy ate his lunch super-early, at 11 and told me that when he asked for snack the teachers wouldn't give it to him. Perhaps because they were in the park?

For future reference, Miss B. suggested that I send Izzy's unfinished breakfast along with him to school. I will try this tomorrow!

Possessed: Party Pressure, Pitas and Memorial Day Madness

It happens all too often. A holiday is approaching and some cockamamie idea pops into my head, one that just won't disappear. This time I decided that Memorial Day was the occasion for a Middle Eastern-themed Garden Party. I hatched that plan after reading some recipes in Nigella Lawson's, Forever Summer. I thought the recipes looked simple enough and simplicity was what I was after, or so I thought.

So I wrote up a menu, sent an email out to friends and then got that feeling of, "Oh, no, what on earth have I gotten myself into!" The realization that I would not be sipping lemonade the whole weekend through had set in. Instead I would be plotting where to find the various ingredients I needed for the party and preparing them. Izzy became my willing (and sometimes unwilling) accomplice as we shopped, prepped and cooked for the party.

Memorial Day Menu (In my mind)
Hummus (easy, prepare night before)
Baba Ghanoush (easy, grill eggplants day of)
Za'atar Chicken (easy spice blend)
Fattoush Salad (simple prep)
Mini-Lamburgers with oregano and mint
Almond Cake
Whipped Cream
Fruit
Side dishes, beverages, etc. provided by friends


Looks like a snap, right? Wrong! I purchased most of the items I needed for the party on Friday but the first issue was the Za'atar, because naturally this aromatic spice blend is not available at Jersey City's lovely, downtown Shoprite. I rationalized that it certainly merited a trip to NYC, not really a big deal. Then we spent Sunday visiting Great-Grandpa so I didn't really have time to organize or clean. The only items that I could muster the energy to prepare Sunday night were the Hummus and the Almond Cake.

Monday, the day of the party I was left with too many things looming ahead of me, from washing the backyard furniture to preparing the rest of the meal. Feasible I suppose but with the addition of homemade pitas (inspired by FarmGirl Fare), which I somehow convinced myself were essential to the entire party, I was sinking deeper and deeper into weeds. I couldn't nix the pita idea though since I had no bread alternative and Izzy was already smitten with the idea. When he said, "Mama, how about a make your own Pita Party!" Not that, but they would remain on the menu.

I spent Monday morning picking up some last minute items at the supermarket and then grilling eggplant for the baba ghanoush, marinating chicken, cleaning the backyard furniture and washing dishes. Meanwhile I sent Izzy out to the yard, with bucket and sponge, to clean the kiddie furniture. While there I discovered him collecting rose petals in heaps, in fact he was attempting to remove them from the neighbors' bushes. When I asked what he was doing he said, "I want to give them to my friends as party favors." How sweet, watch out Colin Cowie!

Afternoon found me finishing the lamburgers and baking the chicken in my all too hot kitchen. At the same time I made a test batch of pitas on the grill while working on other things and they came out nicely. I had dispatched a friend/neighbor to bring us another propane gas tank, sorely needed if I planned on grilling the rest of the pitas, and I feared the gas might run out.

When the guests began to arrive at 4 p.m., the chicken was out of the oven and the lamburgers were done. I had the dips ready to set out but still no Fattoush salad or fruit ready for dessert. When would I ever get to those, especially since I had 16 more pitas to grill. The dough was rising for them as the guests arrived and kiddie mayhem ensued. My only goal became to get those pitas on the grill so people could use them for all of the side dishes and appetizers that had arrived. Friends brought so many salad type dishes I gave up any notions of preparing anything else, Fattoush Salad, Fruit Salad, gone by the wayside.

As I began to roll and ferry the pitas from kitchen to grill, guess what, the gas ran out and my propane tank had yet to arrive. I stopped production and wondered how to proceed when thankfully, J., arrived with propane tank in tow.
I was glad to have the grill up and running because I also needed it to warm the chicken and lamburgers since this was supposed to be a sort of BBQ (isn't that what people expect on Memorial Day?) A few moments on the grill would add just the right touch to the meal. How could I have known that the smoky touch would turn into an all out raging grease fire caused by olive oil drippings?
With the fire under control, food on the table, people eating and kids running about, it finally started to seem like the party was happening. I nibbled as I worked but hardly had a chance to sit down. What was wrong with this picture?
In retrospect it occurred to me that the parties I envision require a small kitchen staff (at the very least, a sous-chef) and gardener. It is nearly impossible for me to amuse Isadore, cook, clean and serve and manage to sit down and have an enjoyable time.
Or is it? Perhaps it is merely a matter of better organization. If I had done more in advance I would have had less to do on the day of..Does anyone have the answers? Does a foodie need to compromise? How can I do it better the next time? Yesterday I vowed that when the mood strikes me next to have a party, I would only have hamburgers and hot dogs. Hold me to it!
p.s. Now that the kitchen is cleaned up and I have had the morning to recuperate, I am glad I did it, if only because I saw that Izzy had such a great time with his friends and it seemed that they did too.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

To Zabar's For Za'atar

Why did I schlep to the Upper West Side on this awfully hot Saturday? Because I needed to buy whitefish for Great- Grandpa and Za'atar for a Nigella recipe. Since Zabar's had both, I figured I could pair that errand with a Central Park activity to please both Izzy and me.

We got off to a late start which meant we needed to find lunch as soon as we surfaced from the subway. Whenever it is last minute, my mind blanks but this time I had an epiphany. Why not get out at 59th and Columbus Circle and try Bouchon Bakery. They were bound to have something acceptable, albeit pricey. I bought a Tuna Nicoise sandwich and a piece of Spinach Quiche. (I managed to somehow get away without purchasing any of their wondrous looking pastries because I needed to save myself for Grom).

We carried our bounty over to some large rocks by the playground at Columbus Circle. Izzy insisted on eating on a sloping rock, none to comfortable for me and my aching back but I managed. The square sandwich would have been fine for the two of us, served on a large square, chewy roll. It was packed with tuna, egg, slivers of radish and olives. Izzy alternated between bites of my sandwich and bites of his quiche. I will certainly return and try some of their other sandwiches. A great option if you need decent food near the park.

After our meal, we made our way over to the Carousel, one of Izzy's favorite places in the park. After that, we meandered toward the ramble, where Izzy hunted for turtles and other water creatures. While watching Izzy, I couldn't help but overhear a nearby foodie discussion and somehow got involved in their conversation. A young, cute student of psychiatry was trying to woo a vegan..I brought up Nina Planck's recent article.. one can only imagine the wackiness that ensued.

Then it was time for our pilgrimage to Zabar's, where the Za'atar was spelled Zahtar. I picked that up along with a pound and a half of moist-looking whitefish for grandpa and some other goodies. And off to Grom we went..

Grom Gripe


Izzy and I finally made the trek to the Upper West Side, to see what all the fuss was about. Granted, I had other errands in the neighborhood, but Grom was number two on my list. How could I keep away with all the recent buzz surrounding this new gelato hotspot. Other bloggers have been singing its praises for days now and it sounded too good to miss.

My friend R. lives in the neighborhood so I called to see if she would like to join us to wait on line. She had never even heard of the place and she lives only about seven blocks away. I expected an especially long wait since it was so hot today and we arrived at about 4 p.m.. We waited for about 15-20 minutes before arriving at the front of the line. I had ample time to peruse the flavor choices which today included offerings such as fiordilatte, gianduja, yogurt, hazelnut, crema di grom (vanilla with chips and biscotti?) and the flavor of the month, which, though the name escapes me was something akin to strawberries and cream.

Izzy had the Crema di Grom and the Strawberries and Cream. He ended up trading for my Gianduja and Fiordilatte. R. had the Yogurt and Chocolate. I came expecting to swoon but left feeling vaguely disappointed. R. had no expectations but she wasn't won over either.

The texture was silky, but the flavors seemed somewhat muted compared to other gelati I have eaten. Now don't get me wrong, if I lived nearby I would probably be there daily, but for the hefty price tag placed upon these frozen delicacies. I don't mind paying extra for quality but at least make the portions a decent size. The small size which was more like kiddie size, cost over $5.00. The medium was $5.75 and the amount seemed rather stingy.

I appreciate the fact that Grom is devoted to using organic ingredients and local resources and I would recommend it if in the neighborhood. Next time I am at Zabar's or Fairway I will give them another chance since I haven't yet had the granita.

Meanwhile, I still remain a loyal fan of two other gelaterias, Cones in the West Village and Babo, in Jersey City. At both places, the portions are ample, the flavors vibrant and memorable.


p.s. For those Pinkberry or Yolato fans out there, my friend R. gave me an interesting tip..Bloomingdale's restaurant, 40 Carrots, serves a frozen yogurt that has a cult follwing and is supposedly superior to both..I will add it to my list.

Friday, May 25, 2007

On Yogurt

I was raised eating yogurt. From about the age 0f nine or so, I had one in my lunchbox nearly every day. Those were the days when yogurt choices were fairly limited. Perhaps a store carried two or three brands. My stepmother always bought Dannon, either strawberry, blueberry, mixed berries or vanilla. Although I liked yogurt, it seemed to me that there was too much fruity goop at the bottom and I would only stir up a small amount of it into the creamy white part. When my spoon made its way down to the goop it was time to throw the yogurt out. I continued to eat yogurt in this manner at least until the end of high school and most likely beyond. Despite a brief period when I tired of yogurt and stopped eating it altogether.

After I graduated from college, I discovered Paris and the pleasures of creamy yogurt. The yogurt choices I found in the nearby Monoprix (a large French supermarket chain) were overwhelming. From adorable rounded glass jars to tiny individual containers, in zero percent fat and full fat. There was a yogurt to suit every taste.

Somehow I settled on a yogurt produced by Danone (creature of habit) called Bio Natur. It was a plain, unflavored yogurt which contained some mysterious, supposedly healthful ingredient called bifidus in it. I fell for its plain and simple goodness. I felt like I was doing my body a favor when I ate it. After that discovery, there was no going back to American Dannon.

When I came back to the U.S., I sought out other kinds of yogurt.
For many moons, Stonyfield Farms was at the top of my list and I ate only that in a variety of flavors, being partial to vanilla and plain. The creamy layer on top was a bonus rather different from the Brown Cow variety which seemed sour.

For several years, I alternated brands, buying either plain or vanilla. I tried Hawthorne Valley, Seven Stars and others, buying whatever was available. I also discovered goat-milk yogurt which was a short-lived habit once I discovered how caloric it was.

When I first met A., we would breakfast on giant bowls of thick, full-fat yogurt topped with granola and fresh fruit. Those were happy mornings, for now A. no longer eats yogurt, claiming he has developed an intolerance to it. Yogurt though, is still a part of my breakfast.

I thought I had found my yogurt niche but then I encountered Greek Yogurt. The thick texture of even the lowfat versions is astonishing. They even contain active yogurt cultures. These have now become my yogurt du jour although I still have the occasional Stonyfield.

Meanwhile, Izzy is following the yogurt trail. Greek yogurt has become his yogurt du jour and it can always be found in his lunchbox. How it is prepared, is another story...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Yet Another Snack Rant

What on earth are those tiny chocolate-chip cookie things that masquerade as cereal? Please do not try to tell me those are healthy. I spied them on the snack table but did not have time to investigate. Foods like these dupe people into believing that they are eating something healthy...ARGHHHH!

Farmers' Market Tidbit: Zurich

Izzy's papa, still abroad, sends us this news from Zurich where he visited a Farmers' Market.

"I got some very perfect strawberries for 2 francs. It really makes the Union Square market look like Sanford & Son. Local producers offer samples of olive oil in tiny glasses. Cheese goes on for miles. There is a section devoted to regional chickens - rotisserie available."

My response:

1. I will always love Union Square. Let's not compare apples and oranges.
2. Next time send a photo.
3. A section of regional chickens??? Incredible, maybe I can meet you there on your next visit for a chicken tasting.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Frank Bruni Reviews Resto: I was one step ahead

And apparently he agrees with me. He gave them two stars and lauded their efforts to produce some eclectic twists on Belgian cuisine. He seemed especially fond of the fattiest choices to be found on the menu, and who could blame him, considering my love for their eggs Benedict. Read for yourself..I must get back to dreaming of having dinner there.

One Boy's Scone is Another's Chocolate Chip Cookie?

Apparently not. Izzy and I prepared scones this afternoon for his friend I. who was coming for a playdate. These were Izzy's creation, the Chocolate-Chip Banana Scones. They filled the house with that lovely, inviting baking smell that wafts in when you open the front door.

The scones were in the oven when his friend arrived. I had barely removed them when Izzy came to inspect, trying to sneak one, while his friend played on, showing little interest. When I invited them to come eat one, Izzy ran to the table while his friend seemed skeptical and after looking at them announced that he didn't want them or like them or some such thing.

His mom tried to entice him to try one by saying, "A scone is like a chocolate chip cookie." This did give him pause and he took a bite and then he realized he had been duped. He said, "These aren't like chocolate-chip cookies and he put it down." I had to agree..I would liken it to closer to a muffin or a small cake. Nonetheless, he wasn't convinced and he became the first of Izzy's friends to turn down a scone..

That doesn't mean we won't try again..

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Little Bit Of France in Jersey City

Before Izzy's Papa and I moved to Jersey City, we had to scope out the restaurant scene. The presence of a homey French restaurant was essential so when we discovered the charms of Madame Claude Cafe we knew it might just work out here.

This small restaurant is housed on an out of the way corner in a quirky shaped structure. The whole establishment is reminiscent of many a place in France, from the languid service down to the teeny tiny bathroom. The food is simple and comforting, from savory crepes to slow-braised lamb shanks. We have eaten chez Madame Claude on several occasions. The food has been somewhat uneven and the portions are sometimes small but what it sometimes lacks for in cuisine it more than compensates for in the general convivial ambiance. The husband/wife owners are extremely kid-friendly since they have two of their own and are quite tolerant of little ones under foot. They even offer crayons and toys to your antsy toddlers.

Tonight we were able to share in the Madame Claude experience with Grandpa Joe and Grandma Laurie (who had never been). Once again, though, timing was a bit off for Izzy, who I feared would fall asleep in his mushroom soup. As it turned out, Grandma Laurie and her antics managed to keep him awake, even in time to not really eat his main course, which was a savory crepe filled with ratatouille and goat cheese. Izzy didn't seem overly fond of either dish and spent awhile searching for mushroom slices amidst the sea of pureed mushrooms. He seemed justifiably disappointed, since I suppose he was expecting a chicken broth loaded with sliced mushrooms. As for the ratatouille, it was too heavy on the bell peppers, not enough balance with the other flavors and had the odd addition of lavender, which seemed to make its way it to many of the dishes we sampled this evening.

On the other hand, my appetizer, a warm calamari salad, was a huge portion of somewhat chewy though tasty tentacles and other squid parts combined with artichokes, carrots and zucchini floating atop a garlicky broth. This portion was certainly large enough for a main course. Izzy tried one bite but decided against seconds because the calamari took to much effort for his taste. As a main course I had the Duck Confit which was not nearly as tender as it should have been . This saddens me because I know they can do it right here and there is no reason for that mistake. Izzy loves duck but the texture of this leg was beyond palatable for him and when he bit into it he asked he if was eating bone.

Too bad. On my way to the WC I spied what I should have ordered, one of the soft looking lamb shanks that had been my second choice. Alas, next time I will peek into the kitchen before ordering. The other bright note was that Grandpa Joe and Grandma Laurie were much happier with their choices, Goat Cheese Salad, Onion Soup and Free-Range Chicken with Orange/Olives and Green Tagliatelle (though both ordered that).


Some ups, some downs but the overall experience one of comfort and Frenchiness. We will be back hoping for the best.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Why Butter Is So Much Better (Than You May Have Thought)

I love butter. I put it on my toast and in almost all of my baked goods. The realization that butter was far superior to margarine or any other spread, came while I was living in Paris. I remember seeing the signs for "Croissant au Beurre" versus "Croissant Ordinaire" ..Why would anyone choose the latter? I knew I didn't want the ordinary one, only the light flaky buttery one.

Yet I grew up living under the misconception that butter was unhealthy and we mostly ate margarine both for health reasons and because it is pareve and could be served with dairy or meat (important to the kosher household). I remember enjoying margarine but now my mouth curls down in disgust at the thought of it.

When it turned out that margarine, the poor butter substitute, contained trans-fats and was clearly unhealthy; I couldn't help but smile smugly to myself for having had the good sense to make the switch, long before the media revelation.

In her book, Real Food, Nina Planck enlightened me to the health benefits of butter. Specifically butter that comes from grass-fed cows. What she writes is fascinating, "Compared to industrial milk, dairy foods from grass-fed cows contain more omega-3 fats, more vitamin A, and more beta-carotene and other antioxidants." She recommends milk from Organic Valley and Natural by Nature. She offers even more compelling reasons to eat butter here. Read her article and you will feel confident that butter is a healthy food.

Naturally, Izzy has been raised on butter and he is a devotee. I am forever removing half-sticks of butter from his clutches as he is likely to sneak off with any butter left out in sight. What kind of butter does he eat? You may wonder. That is the next question. For not all butter is created equal.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Belgian Brunch: Resto Delivers


Whilst I was busy trying to rub elbows with my favorite foodies, Izzy was with a babysitter, L., from his past. They were at Madison Square Park, playing and apparently only eating pretzels. I'd like to think that he didn't snack that much in anticipation of the great lunch I had promised him.


When the talk had ended, we met up with L. and Izzy. Then my friend S., Izzy and I made our way to Resto, a place I discovered last night after searching for a good Belgian brunch. I had worried about getting a table but being on the late end of brunch paid off and we were seated almost immediately.


I was extremely disappointed to find that they had removed their Duck egg with cracklings from the menu but quickly found a replacement. The Eggs Benedict on Waffles certainly was enticing and I had to have it, along with something called Spring Pea Stoempt.


The Eggs Benedict were a true delight with a Belgian twist, the savory waffle was infused with bacony bits, the eggs were pillowy soft and the accompanying salad cut the richness of the dish. Izzy and I were both in heaven. I could have easily finished the dish alone, as could Izzy but we shared it and the Stoempt (which didn't seem to be more than some diced seasoned potatoes with peas) We also had a giant bowl of Granola with fruit, topped with Sheep's Milk Yogurt.


Meanwhile, S. feasted on a supposedly more heart healthy meal of an Egg White omelet with sunchokes which was than balanced by some unhealthy Belgian Frites.


In sum: The meal provided a fitting end to our foodie day and as for Resto, go for the Eggs Benedict..

What We Eat: In The Company Of Important Food Thinkers

Today I had the good fortune to attend a "Sunday with the Magazine" Times Talk. New York Times Food Editor, Amanda Hesser moderated the discussion which included a panel of food personalities including chefs Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Peter Hoffman of Savoy. Also present was Rick Schneiders, president and CEO of Sysco and Nina Planck, farmer's market innovator, champion of and author of Real Food. The women certainly stole the show, sharing their unique brands of food expertise and eloquence with the audience.

I left with their words and ideas swirling in my head:

Nina Planck's response to how she eats (for example, does she deprive herself of lemons or chocolate because they are not local..) She said that she buys what she can locally, than regionally, nationally and then internationally... One is "not likely to get all of the attributes in one meal." Which means that not every product can be local, organic etc. I was relieved to hear this because I strive to do the best I can but it certainly is difficult.

Also of interest was Sysco president Rick Schneider's attempt to portray his company in a better light. He'd like us to believe there is a movement afoot to think more locally and encourage healthier growing/animal raising practices etc...Is it true or just P.R.?

And then we had the comic relief of Dan Barber and Peter Hoffman, who undoubtedly both bring their fundamental values of local, sustainable etc to their restaurants in a myriad of ways, yet refuse to be considered elitist..

Lastly, the thoughtful and lovely Amanda Hesser, who I have adored and revered since her Cooking for Mr. Latte column and then book, who managed to keep the conversation on track.

All in all, it was an eye-opening view into the minds of these great food icons.

The icing on the cake was that both Amanda and Nina were available for book signings after the Talk. I had them both sign my books and even managed to say a few words to them. It was special treat to see Nina's new baby, Julian and note how she so nonchalantly breastfed him while book-signing! We need to see more of that so that moms everywhere feel more comfortable.

p.s: I brought to you only a smidgen of this talk..I think a podcast will be up on TimesTalk in the near future.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A New Bean In Town


Izzy has eaten black beans, white beans and even pink beans but tonight was the first time he tried red beans. He even helped me open the can (yes, I often cheat in the bean department when I want dinner in a hurry (although I recently discovered that canned beans have far fewer nutrients than dried so maybe I need to change that).


As soon as the can was opened, Izzy sampled some and deemed them acceptable. Hence tonight's dinner was Red Beans with Rice, Turkey Sausage and Mixed Greens.


This is one of those quick and easy dinners that everyone needs and can be easily altered with whatever you have in the fridge.


Red Beans


1 tablespoon olive oil
3 purple scallions, finely chopped
3 shallots, finely chopped
a few sprigs fresh oregano chopped
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1. Saute scallions and shallots in a tablespoon of olive oil for 5-8 minutes til soft, add oregano and stir.
2. Stir in beans and simmer
Serve atop rice with turkey sausage with whatever veggies you have around the house. Dinner in under 30 minutes!


P.S. When I handed him the plate he wouldn't touch the beans. He said, "They don't look red anymore, they are black. I wanted the red ones." I said "They are the red ones. They just darkened from cooking." He continued to only eat the other things on his plate and I asked him to try one bite. He did and then just kept on eating them.

The Birds and The Boobies

You may not know it but Jersey City is home to some nesting Peregrine Falcons, one of only 18-20 pairs in the entire state. My friend J. sent us the link to the live Webcam and Izzy and I have been riveted ever since.

They live in a nestbox, perched atop one of the tallest buildings in Jersey City. It is there that we can watch the Mama bird caring for the two fledglings. She is either off in search of prey, or home feeding and warming her babies. We have even seen her bring home what looked like a pigeon for her little ones to eat. Izzy and I have been observing them for about two days now.

This afternoon, the following conversation ensued:

Izzy: "Hey Mama! Look what the birds are doing."

Me: "It looks like the Mama bird is nuzzling the chicks to keep them warm."

Izzy:"No, I know what they are doing. The Mama bird is giving them boobie."

Me: "Birds don't have boobies. They are mammals."

Izzy: "These kind of birds do."

Hmmm...If I didn't know better myself, I may have thought the same thing, considering how the mother positioned herself over the babies.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Food News From The Castle

Yes, Izzy's Papa has been away in Germany, working in a castle in some unheard of town smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. The news is that he has been breakfasting on soft-boiled eggs ( I do need an egg cup don't I?), just like Frances.

In his words: I am having the lovely breakfast that Frau ? has prepared for me. Always a soft boiled egg, a selection of bread, cheese, and funny butter that has never seen a fridge. I suppose a castle breakfast is meant to be copious.

He also sends word that one of his colleagues has a young son who enjoys eating Shepherd's Pie. So do we, and we aren't Irish.

Izzy's Scone Creation


The perfect activity for this rainy, gloomy, far too chilly afternoon? Bake of course.. I said to Izzy.."Let's bake! What should we make?" He replied, "I want to bake Chocolate-Chip Banana Scones." Now although we have made scones many times, we had never made those. I wasn't even sure how bananas would fare in a scone recipe but I sure was willing to give it a try.

I was curious to see if he knew which ingredients we needed to use and his ideas were surprisingly accurate: "Flour, butter,chocolate chips, banana, vanilla and whole wheat flour." I told him that we would use those ingredients and add a few more.

This is what we came up with:

Izzy's Chocolate-Chip Banana Scones

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup mashed bananas
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips


Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter. Mix banana and buttermilk thoroughly. Add to the dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips. Mix until just moistened. Knead lightly. Do not over mix. Pat out into a 2 circles. Cut each circle into 5 wedges.

Sprinkle with sugar. Place 1" apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 425F for 12 minutes or until golden.

Makes 10 scones


When they came out of the oven we were both eager to test the results. A bit cakey but still quite impressive.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Prunes, Prunes The Magical Fruit: Not Just For Old Ladies

Izzy was introduced to prunes very early on, right after he started eating solids. I soaked them, pureed them and added them to vegetables, cereals and other fruits. They are a great source of iron and fiber, and a natural sweetener to boot. His taste for prunes served him well, a couple of years later, when they became required eating for the obvious reason...and they worked!

The best part is that now he views prunes as a treat. His dessert is often a small bowl of dark chocolate chips (4-6 chips) and a couple of cut-up prunes.

Prunes are on my mind because of today's snack incident. Izzy and his friend O. were playing together this afternoon when the snack urge hit. Izzy had a banana, a granola bar and I had also brought along a container of organic pitted prunes. Izzy was happily munching on his prune when I offered one to O... He gladly accepted, sniffed and licked it and then said, "I don't like this," and handed it back..and then an amazing thing happened. His Mama, instead of just allowing that to go by unnoticed, took the prune and broke it into smaller pieces, handed it back to him at which point he snarfed it down...a mini-food triumph in my book...Long live the prune!

p.s. Some people don't know that a dried plum is the new way to market prunes... A prune is a prune is a prune...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Exemplary Lunchtime Behavior

Forgive me for gushing but Izzy's preschool report just came in this week and I can't help but share the following excerpt: "At lunchtime, I.'s behavior is exemplary. He stays in his seat, eats his food in the proper order and cleans his space without being asked."
At the conference, his teacher, Miss B., also relayed the following gem: When asked what he wants to be when he grows up I. answered: A chef...

Later on that day he told me himself:"Mama, when I grow up I want to be a chef." I guess we will wait and see..

Greenmarket News Flash: Sprout Creek Farm Has Returned to Union Square

I was on my usual Wednesday Union Square outing when I came across what for a moment appeared to be a new cheese vendor. When I honed in on the product I did a double take, as I spotted the names of some long lost cheeses. Sprout Creek Farm had stolen my heart last year and then left without a trace. Well they are back at Union Square on Wednesdays with some new offerings. I noted two old favorites, Barat and Ouray, along with some goat cheese and ricotta. I can't wait to conduct a cheese tasting with Izzy. I did bring home a small sample of Toussaint and I hope I manage to save a bite for him.

I find this most exciting because Sprout Creek Farm was the first and only farm that Izzy has visited. We went last Spring and he still holds a fond memory of wandering the grounds looking for a pig (today they told me they didn't have one). We also saw goats and sheep and a few hens meandering about.

Maybe this is a harbinger of more farm visits to come. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Easy Peasy Kinda Chinesey

I had to make something healthy for dinner, especially after having eaten Cuban sandwiches for lunch. I remembered I had some firm tofu in the fridge so I picked up some broccoli and this is what we had..

Tofu with garlic/scallions served with Broccoli and Rice

1 package firm organic tofu, cubed
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, sliced cross-wise in thin rings
a few splashes soy sauce
dribbling of sesame oil
corn or canola oil

1 bunch of broccoli, stems peeled and cut, florets
Rice

1. Put rice on to boil
2. Boil water and cook broccoli - add stems first and cook 8 minutes, add florets and cook about 8 minutes or until tender. Drain
3.Saute garlic and scallions in a tablespoon or two of canola oil for two/three minutes. Do not allow to burn.
4. Add tofu, soy sauce and sesame oil and toss. Cover and cook a few minutes longer.
5. Serve over rice with broccoli on the side.

Not Quite A Day In The Park

Today was a looooooong day. Izzy was off from school and we had made plans to join some friends for a jaunt to Battery Park. A rattley cough in the night was cause for plans to change since I decided Izzy needed a visit to the doctor first.

We joined our friends for the walk to the Light Rail and then had to part ways as we needed to take the Path. This threw Izzy into a hideous tizzy. He had an all out screaming, crying, red-faced shaking fit as we made our way to the station. And understandably so, if given the chance which would you choose to do on a sunny day? Go to the Dr. or play with your friends at a wonderful park? Nothing I could say would console him and I received all manner of dirty looks as we boarded the train. He finally calmed down when we arrived at the Dr.'s office. And luckily it was a fast diagnosis. Allergies.

Thankfully we were able to zip downtown and meet up with the friends, still at the park. We lunched with them at Pan Latin Cafe, the closest option in the neighborhood. Don't go expecting anything out of the ordinary though they do boast a decent Cuban sandwich, rice and beans and other foods of that ilk. It is a good option but not a quick one. Each time I go I forgot how interminably slow the service is. It is best to before noon or you will be faced with the Stuyvesant High School students who eat there in droves.

We took our food to go and went back down to the park for an impromptu picnic. Izzy shared the Cuban Sandwich with me, along with a Broccoli Empanada. They carry empanadas with a variety of fillings which are perfect picnic fare, albeit a bit too doughy.

The kids continued to play for awhile after lunch and we didn't end up back home until after four. We made a stop at the supermarket on our way home while I pondered what we should have for dinner. Izzy was exhausted so I knew I would have to make something quick and easy (what else is new?). Details to follow.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Taste This Pea Mama...

Chinese leftovers have never enticed me but last night Izzy requested that we take home the leftover Chicken with Pine nuts so that he could have it tonight. The lazy bird in me jumped at the chance to not have to do anything so I asked for a doggy bag (actually I just asked them to wrap it). Do people still ask for doggy bags? Anyway back to the matter at hand.

At dinnertime tonight, I reheated the leftovers for Izzy, there was only enough for him so I planned to eat something else later. I served them with some vegetable dumplings on the side. I always try to sit with Izzy while he eats and nibble something, since eating is such a social experience. As I watched him, I noticed that he seemed to be avoiding the peas, which he normally loves.

So I coaxed, "Eat some more of your dinner, what about the peas?" He looked up at me and said, "Taste this pea, Mama." He tried to feed it to me and when I ate it I instantly knew why they had been pushed aside. Reheating had turned them mealy and inedible. I said, "They don't taste very good, do they?" "No they don't. Why don't they taste like the peas you make for me?" Good question...

I was proud of his discerning palate and he was instantly absolved of any wrongdoing in the not eating vegetables department. Maybe next time he won't be eager for leftover Chinese...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day? I'll Take Another Day

I can't say that Mother's Day has ever been much cause for celebration in my life and it seems that as my cohort grows older along with me, they too may unfortunately discover that it is a day tinged with sadness.

When Izzy was born I thought that Mother's Day might have a renaissance for me and turn into a sun-dappled, light-hearted occasion. The first Mother's Day with Izzy was sweet and most remarkable for the lovely antique locket with Izzy's birth picture that my dad presented to me. The following Mother's Day passed with little fanfare since Izzy was too young to recognize the day as such, though my friend D. and I, fantasized about having our boys get temporary tattoos with "I Love Mom" on their arms.
Last Mother's Day passed with some slight acknowledgement late in the day, by Izzy and his Papa, though nothing earth-shattering occurred.

This year was slightly different for Izzy was engaged, by his teachers, in preparing a Mother's Day craft. He came home on Friday with a bag and said, "You can open this in two days." He promptly went off to hide it somewhere.

At 6:30 a.m. today, Izzy arose and his greeting was, "Mama, go open your Mother's Day present." He then led me to its hiding spot in his room. Inside the black tissue paper (yes, he chose black - perhaps he knows something I don't?) I found a small cardboard flowerpot which he had decorated with flowers and I heartily thanked him for his efforts.

Next he informed me that HE wanted breakfast in bed. Hmmmm, isn't there something wrong with this picture? Whose day was it? I agreed to go down and get something and he said he only wanted cereal so I prepared a bowl for him and some yogurt with berries for myself. When I brought it all upstairs, he proceeded to eat his as well as half of mine. Not a bad start since I like breakfast in bed...

Then I had to figure out what was on the day's agenda. Izzy and I were on our own, since A. is out of the country for a spell. Izzy said he wanted to go into the city, as did I. I had already anticipated that the day's events should and must include good eats. I chose Tea and Sympathy, a comfortable old favorite. I had forgotten that they serve breakfast til 1:30 on Sunday and I wasn't in the mood for scrambled eggs since we had eaten them yesterday. Yet we were seated and it was lunchtime, so alas..we had eggs again, with British Bacon and Seven-Grain Toast, served along with some scones and clotted cream. Filling and delightful but redundant. At least I still had dinner to compensate.

Next we were off to Tompkins Square Park, thoughtfully situated near my favorite clothing store, Jill Anderson I decided I deserved a new dress. Again, my hopes were dashed when they didn't have what I had in mind..though they did have a lovely black spring coat I may just have to buy.

Once at the playground, a new one for us, I had my first, "I think I lost my child" scare. Turns out he was just watching some kids fill up their water toys at the fountain...PHEW.

Later on, we ran into my friend D. who was on her way home from the hair salon and decided to join her with her son O., for some gelato back in J.C., at Babo. There would surely be something there to perk me up. Izzy had an all chocolate cone and it was the first time we had tried the regular chocolate. I had always shied away from its extremely dark color but it turned out to be intensely rich and luscious. Lucky for me, I got to finish his cone!

Dinner was looming and I had no plan. It was getting late so I knew it was best to just choose a neighborhood place we both like, which turned out to be Confucius. So we spent Mother's Day dinner, surrounded by celebrating families, eating foods we had eaten many times before. The food was fine but nothing especially memorable.

The day turned out to be simply ordinary and would have been alright had it not been fraught with all manner of expectations, food and otherwise. So it seems to go, especially with holidays that the masses celebrate, since everyone is out either having, or pretending to have, a great time. Which is why in the end, it is sometimes best to celebrate life on other days instead.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Deli Meat...Not Quite Cold Cuts

I must confess, that the words "deli meat" frighten me. They conjure up images of baloney, turkey roll, and other scary extruded meat products that have been stored a tad to long in a finger-smudged glass case. I can certainly attribute this aversion to my culinary upbringing.

I was raised on "cold cuts" which I suppose are the kosher version of "deli meats". We would dine on corned beef, pastrami, tongue and fresh turkey (not turkey roll) almost every Sunday night. Somehow these meats were more acceptable, perhaps because they were made from one entire piece of meat, rather than an amalgam of parts (much like the hot dogs I fear). Hmmm.. yet the same cannot be said for salami which was also included, go figure.

I continued to eat corned beef and pastrami on a fairly regular basis until I met A. I would take him for bulging pastrami sandwiches at the Carnegi Deli and we would share one and still have leftovers. I so delighted in eating those sandwiches that my dad even set up an account for me there. This compelled me to eat there more often than I should have.
A. began to try to dissuade me from this habit and after having indulged would grumble, "Friends don't let friends eat meat."

Eventually I realized that I didn't feel especially healthy or perky after eating those sandwiches. So I curtailed my consumption which is now probably down to one pastrami sandwich a year, if that. I will only indulge if I know it is going to be primo pastrami (nothing from any old deli please).

Izzy has yet to to experience great pastrami or corned beef, though I do hope to introduce him to tongue soon. I don't buy those things for sandwiches because they are so unhealthy and since I rarely indulge he has yet to have the opportunity. In one sense this saddens me because he will probably never crave that which was such an important part of my culinary imprint.

On the other hand, I imagine he may often have a hankering for freshly roasted turkey... which is far healthier. And I suppose that is the point...up to a point!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Izzy Goes to Bed With No Supper: Sad Story

Poor Izzy. He had such a long day today. After school we made our first foray into the city without a stroller. He said he wanted to take his scooter instead. He scooted all the way to the Path station, and then, after we got off the train he scooted a few blocks to Doodle Doo's for his haircut.

We went right back to Jersey City and met his friend O. for gelato at Babo. The two then played together before going home.

I was planning to make rice and beans for dinner but A. had other ideas. Since he is leaving for Europe tomorrow, he wanted something more. Marco and Pepe was what he had in mind. I knew in my heart it was too late for Izzy but A. promised to meet us at 7:00 p.m.

Izzy and I arrived first. We ordered our appetizers and kept scanning the door for signs of Papa. We had been there for about a half hour when the food came out. But Izzy refused to eat. He said he was waiting for Papa. The only thing he agreed to eat was some bread with butter.

Papa finally arrived after 7:30. By the time we ordered our main courses, Izzy was so tired, he lay his head down on my arm and fell asleep. Not even the arrival of his lobster risotto would rouse him from slumber.
So A. and I had our dinner and an actual conversation, while Izzy slept through the restaurant clatter.

At the end of the meal, A. picked Izzy up and carried him, asleep, nearly the whole way home. He woke up two blocks from home and was somehow in a pleasant mood. Once home, we discovered had a fever and he went straight to bed.

And I am left to ponder. What is a mother do (when no babysitter is around)?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

T is for Teatime for Teachers

This week was teacher appreciation week. Is this a new thing? I don't recall any celebrations at my school five years ago but maybe the French don't celebrate that. In any case, I along with my friend H., volunteered to prepare a tea for the teachers.

Everyone who knows me, knows I am the scone queen. I will use any excuse to make a high tea; birthdays, wedding showers, winter days, friendly gatherings; they all merit at least a scone or two.

Treating Izzy's teachers was another perfect excuse. They are so patient and kind to him they certainly deserve it.

H. was my willing helper and she came over this morning to help me. She assisted in the sandwich making, of which there were two types, egg salad on olive bread and goat cheese with fig jam. I then baked two types of scones, chocolate chip orange and whole wheat/wheat germ. These were served with clotted cream and apricot jam. A bowl of fresh strawberries and a basket of assorted teas completed the spread.

When all was ready, I ferried the platters over to school. One parent spied the food and wanted to know what was on the menu. After I had spread out the goods, she snuck back into the room and pilfered a scone.. I know they are irresistible but really!

Maybe I need another excuse for a tea party..Parent appreciation week?

S is for Sharing Sweetly

Izzy and his friends I. and I. were all playing together this afternoon when I. decided it was time for a snack. All of the others were hungry too. I's mom gave him some organic fruit leatherish item to eat.

I watched in amazement as I. so generously offered up his snack to the others. He actually held the fruit leather up to their lips and fed them, mama-style, only taking a bite for himself after having fed the others. He continued this round robin snacking, offering the others more bites until it was all gone.

After that, Izzy was clamoring for something else. H. said there were some bananas in the kitchen so to get one for Izzy. When I brought it up, I suggested that he share it. He proceeded to take the banana from me and offered bites to his friends, following the wonderful example that I. had set!
What a sweet sight!

When we got home for dinner, Izzy was still quite hungry and able to eat much more for dinner than he had eaten the night before.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Taming the Snack Beast:Playground Grazing

We often find ourselves in the playground in the late afternoons, more so now, as summer is almost upon us and the days are longer. This means that Izzy and his pals are all hankering for plenty of snacks to tide them over until dinnertime.

I usually try to bring along healthyish options like apples, bananas, crackers, granola bars and Dutch pretzels. Today I only had pretzels and crackers in my bag and hoped they would do. Izzy kept pestering me for the pretzels and I was doling them out quite slowly because I didn't want him to eat too many or else he wouldn't have room for dinner.

Meanwhile, he spied his friend T. who was munching on a bag of some cheesy looking crackers. Izzy sidled over to him and suddenly he was dipping his hand into the cracker bag too. I couldn't help but eye those crackers suspiciously but they turned out to be Late July Organic which are certainly fine.

But it wasn't over. A few minutes later, another bag appeared and soon the twosome were busily crunching upon some kiddy cookie/cracker. Would this snack-fest ever end? How many crackers can a boy stuff into himself? I tried to keep from intervening but when a Ziploc bag of cheese puffs appeared I decided it was time to leave the park. When Izzy questioned why he couldn't eat the "cheese peanuts" (indeed they do look like packing peanuts, don't they?), I had to explain that these foods were not the healthiest things for his body and that if he only ate those, he wouldn't have room for the important foods that helped his body grow.

He protested and said the cheese puffs were not nasty or junk. He wanted to know why his friends could eat them. I said that each family has different rules and eats different foods. I didn't mind if he had some of these snacks sometimes but all at once was too much.

T.'s mom, P., tried to calm me by telling me that the "cheese peanuts" were some organic variety. True that organic snacks are in certain ways better than the ordinary type but are they healthy in such large quantities? So many processed snack foods, even organic ones, are empty calories.

Suddenly I find myself snack-challenged. I need to come up with a barrage of healthy, EASY and enticing snacks for us to take to the park. I envision myself schlepping a tray with vegetables and dip...I hope it doesn't come to that.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Newest Plea Continues, Unabated: I Want Sushi









Of late, Izzy has been on a sushi kick. It started with the sushi dinner on his actual birthday and he hasn't let up since. Any time there is any question as to what is for dinner I hear, "Let's go out for sushi." We haven't indulged since April 19th so it was finally time to do it again.
Grandpa Joe and Grandma Laurie invited us to dinner tonight so it turned out to be the perfect occasion to indulge. They had mentioned a sushi restaurant in Englewood, N.J., called Akai, which was their current fave and it sounded good to me. We were joined by Aunt Chloe and Carl ( a non-sushi eater who refused to even take one bite of any fish).

Izzy was mighty hungry upon our arrival but was quickly occupied with a bowl of edamame. We ordered a variety of appetizers for the table, including a sweet grilled Chilean sea bass, a martini glass of tuna tartar topped with guacamole (Izzy tucked into that one with gusto), a meltingly tender eggplant cooked with miso and seaweed salad. I also ordered a platter of assorted sushi for Izzy and me to share.

You can see how delighted he was when it was placed before him. He definitely has a preference for the softer fish, especially tuna and the rolls.

Dessert was also a hit because they gave us an artfully designed platter of melons/oranges/pineapple and when we had finished eating it, Izzy used the rinds for artwork.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I Saved the Cake: Grandpa's 98th Birthday Party

Another weekend, another party. Today we celebrated Grandpa's 98th birthday. For some odd reason, I chose to do another "Make your own pizza party". Funny but today nobody was making pizza but me. I was the short-order pizza cook. I made 13 pizzas in all. I guess older folks don't want to get too involved in the cooking process, they just want it to appear in front of them. It was fun but didn't give me much time to mingle with the guests.

This week's menu was slightly different. For appetizers I had olive bread and olives and then I served a big salad with romaine lettuce and balsamic vinaigrette. Dessert was chocolate layer cake, strawberries and whipped cream. Thankfully, I did manage to salvage the cake last night. Indeed it was slightly misshapen but nothing too catastrophic.

The guests seemed to enjoy it but it was hard for me to taste it since I am suffering from my yearly three week allergy season. In fact, because my taste buds are somewhat impaired, the cake reminded me of a Suzy-Q, which I can't say is a fond association. I decided to replace some of the oil with butter and I think it may have been better with all butter.

What was most important, however, is that Grandpa and Izzy both loved the cake. Izzy had to have a second helping after dinner and was chasing the cake plate around the kitchen. I had high hopes for this cake but it still is not my ideal, which, by the way, was the cake they used to make at the now defunct Grange Hall restaurant. If only I could find that recipe somewhere.


p.s.
Grandpa seemed to be having a fine old time gnawing on his pizza (after all eating pizza without teeth must be somewhat of a challenge).

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Three Cheers For The SAHB

Stay-at-home-birthday. We attended a small birthday gathering for one of Izzy's friends today. It was simple and to the point, presents, cupcakes, candies and best of all, playing with friends.

It was an ultra-small group but unlike the frenzy of Izzy's party, the kids there were really able to play with one another. And the parents were able to chat calmly, host included.

The party-goers dug dirt in the yard, ate some cupcakes (decorated by themselves with all manner of evil candies*) and then were off to play stomp rocket in the park..A fine time was had by all the four-year olds and the party,was proof that indeed, one needn't not spend $500 and up to celebrate.

*Note: I had never before encountered the "candy-coated" Hershey's Kiss. It is like a Kiss and M&M combined..keep those away from me. I will mindlessly eat them, even though I don't like them..arghhhhh

My Cake Pan Overfloweth

Remind me not to experiment, especially when the cake is for a birthday tomorrow. It is nearing midnight as I sit waiting for the cakes to cool. They appear glued to the pan and I wonder if there is any hope of removal. The recipe says to wait until completely cool but at this rate that won't happen until the morning.

I searched high and low for a double chocolate layer cake, one that was touted as "the best", "most chocolaty", richest etc. I found it on this blog, Dine and Dish and I will surely blame this woman, (since who else can I blame?) if I am unable to salvage this stuck-on mess. The frosting sits on the counter, while I seethe at my stupidity. Okay, I admit, it is probably all my fault, since I used 9" cake pans and didn't reduce the amount of batter. Why, oh, why?

I just want a perfect cake for my grandpa's 98th birthday. Keep your fingers crossed that I don't need to remake the cake or rush off to the bakery in the a.m.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Making Bad Food From Good Ingredients

It can happen to the best of us, though it shouldn't have happened to me. I bought marinated chicken thighs from Dines Farms, first spinach of the season from Migliorelli Farms and sweet potatoes from Whole Foods.

I grilled the chicken, which was fine since it came already marinated. I had little time to prepare the sides so I decided I would make mashed sweet potatoes and cook the spinach for a short time and drizzle with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Simple, right yet ruined. I undercooked the potatoes since I only sampled one piece; this made for lumpy potatoes. The spinach was still a tad gritty and needed something besides olive oil. Oh well, I always thought good ingredients speak for themselves, I guess I wasn't listening well enough tonight.

The chicken was the star of the show and as Izzy watched me grilling it he said, " I could eat a thousand pieces of that chicken." He also liked the lumpy potatoes. Too bad A. and I didn't.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Sandbox and Cupcakes: What more could a boy want?

Lately, Izzy has been begging to go into the city on a daily basis. I raised him to like the NYC playgrounds so now I guess I have to follow through, even if I am not always in the mood.

It was a brilliantly sunny day so we took the Colgate ferry to Battery Park to spend the afternoon in the sandbox and to frolic on the grass. Snack time would be an opportunity to explore Tribeca Treats, the newest cupcake eatery in the neighborhood, located on Reade Street which is about a 15 minute walk away.

At about three-o'clock, I began to feel some pms hunger pangs and suggested it was time to find a snack.I had no trouble coaxing Izzy to join me when I explained where we were going. On the way there, it seemed further away than I had anticipated but I pressed on in hopes of making a new discovery. We found the sleek, artfully designed shop empty, even though it was after school. The aroma of vanilla wafted up as we moved toward the counter. On display was an array of prim looking cupcakes, too neat -looking for my tastes. Another item featured was the sandwich cookie, which they offered in a variety of flavors. They looked remarkably similar to those sold at Craftwich. So it came as no surprise when I read that the pastry chef/owner of Tribeca Treats is a big fan.

Izzy immediately voiced his interest in trying the chocolate with chocolate frosting and I chose the red velvet with a white cream cheese frosting. They had several other flavors to choose from, including vanilla with peanut butter frosting and one featuring coconut. The red velvet cake was moist and the texture was fine but it was lacking in much flavor and I had difficulty detecting any cocoa overtones. The chocolate cupcake was also moist and the frosting fudgey yet still not my ideal. I also tried the sandwich cookies. The chocolate with caramel filling was satisfying but not quite up to Craftwich standards and the Chocolate with vanilla filling was mediocre.

Izzy definitely satisfied his dessert craving here. Apparently his friend M. was also smitten since one would not suffice. After having consumed her cupcake in less time than it took to pay for it, she proceeded to throw herself into quite a dither when her mama wouldn't buy her another one. The drama was so high that Izzy was left holding his ears and the owner and I were exchanging sympathetic glances. Thankfully her mom escorted her out.

When all was eaten and done, I was left with a trite taste in my mouth. The eatery does appeal to kids but for me a cupcake is the embodiment of homey comfort and these seemed too slick and perfect in appearance. The shop seemed designed with cupcake chain in mind.

On the upside, this is a good place to stop if you are in the neighborhood and need to satisfy the kids' urge for some cookies or cupcakes with milk. The venue itself might also be useful as a party venue and they do feature a small array of baking paraphernalia and cookbooks which would come in handy for last minute gifts.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bananas and Sour Cream: Fourth Generation

Every day, when Izzy gets home from school at 1:00 p.m., he has a snack. Even though he eats lunch at noon, somehow he is still hungry. Sometimes he just eats what I am having for lunch and sometimes I put out something else for him. Usually I give him a choice and he selects something.

Today I asked him what he wanted, gave a few choices and then he responded, "Mama, I know what I want. Bananas and sour cream." He came up with that idea on his own and I was thrilled. First because he is thinking about what pleases him and second because his Great-Grandpa loves this too, as do I. Great-Grandpa Staloff has eaten bananas and sour cream or berries with sour cream for as long as I can remember.

Today's version had a bit of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top and Izzy quickly spooned up the entire bowl, along with a double pancake on the side. Long live the tradition of fruit and sour cream!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Is Fennel the New Celery?

Crudite platters generally bore me, especially those with raw broccoli. Nonetheless when I needed some vegetal variety for Izzy's birthday menu I decided to go the crudite route.

My platter had baby carrots, celery sticks, cooked broccoli, grape tomatoes and fennel (or at least it was supposed to, not sure if actually made it to the patter or not). I don't know who ate the veggies but there were none left by the party's end.

I included the fennel (or at least intended to) because Izzy enjoys it and I always forget to buy it. I can't say that I am overly fond of it but it is growing on me. Izzy will munch his plain ,like a mishapen celery stalk, but I prefer my fennel shaved with lemon, olive oil and salt. I think anise is one of those flavors that people either love or hate. I did grow up disliking licorice and anything vaguely resembling it in taste yet fennel has helped me to conquer this shortcoming. In order to expose Izzy early, I started keeping it around for him to nibble on by the age of two and it has since become a part of our repertoire.

Tonight I served sliced fennel with shredded carrots and the lemon vinaigrette. It made a perfect side dish to our pasta with tomato, ricotta and basil.

Tomorrow, Izzy gets fennel sticks in his lunchbox. Fennel is a perfect alternative or companion to celery and carrots. Try keeping some around the house and introducing your kids to it.