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).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Homemade Yogurt: The Second Batch



Izzy proclaimed it to be better than the first and he finished this jar for his dessert. He didn't even have any chocolate!


This time I used milk powder, along with Organic Valley 2% Milk and Hawthorne Valley Whole Milk Yogurt. It is less tart than the first batch but still needs tweaking. Next version I will try whole milk.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Visit To Great-Grandpa: Arranging The Eats

All outings require some advanced food planning but a visit to see Great-Grandpa requires the most. We are usually gone for most of the day and a good part of that time is travel so I need to keep ample snacks and beverages on hand.

Today we left the house at 9:30 a.m. and did not return before 8:00 p.m. Although Izzy ate a decent breakfast, we had much snacking along the way. From the Path train to NJ transit, snacks kept Izzy peppy.

We arrived at the station full of energy and Izzy scooted over the bridge to Highland Park. We stopped in to see Uncle Evan for 10 minutes before Izzy announced that he was hungry again. That was easily remedied since it was lunchtime.

We went up to Grandpa's apartment so I could prepare lunch. I brought along cheese pierogi, sour cream, tomatoes and cucumbers. This meal works well in his kitchen which has minimal space and equipment. I simply boil up the pierogi, drain and serve. Today I sliced up tomatoes and cucumbers on the side and we had slices of the banana-chocolate chip bread for dessert.

Izzy and Grandpa both seemed equally content with the fare and I love watching them eat, side-by-side..sour cream fiends that they are. Grandpa was slyly dipping his knife into the sour cream container after he had finished his meal (hope Izzy didn't notice that!).

Lunch was barely over when Izzy started looking around the apartment for nibbles. Some pretzel rods in the fridge did the trick. How does my toothless grandfather eat those I'll never know but Izzy was glad to have them. We then left Grandpa to take a nap and we went back to Uncle Evan's. Izzy worked on some sculpture while I took a walk to the chocolate shop fill Grandpa's order of five lbs. of chocolate.

Later on in the afternoon, we went back to see Grandpa before leaving. We even managed to get him to come downstairs and watch Izzy scoot, stunt-man style.Before too long it was time for us to make a run for the 5:34 train back to Newark. We made it with about 10 seconds to spare. Once on the train, Izzy had an apple to tide him over until dinner.

Back in JC, we made a bee-line for our favorite neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant which, thankfully, has reopened after some recent renovations.

It may have been long day but proper eating kept Izzy good-natured and calm throughout.

Friday, September 28, 2007

School Snack Report: The case of the dark cornbread

This was a banner snack week at Izzy's preschool. C's mom prepared quite a smorgasbord of treats for the children, centered for the most part, around a Fall theme. At the beginning of the week, Izzy couldn't wait to regale me with tales of eating not one, but two bagels with cream cheese. Later on I heard about banana bread (false), sliced grapes and cheeses. Today each child came home with a small paper bag with a cookie cutter and play dough (Since when did gifts become part of snack? B. you are going to be a tough act to follow!) I must say that I was tickled to hear about the great efforts that C's mom has put into snack and I hope that the others follow suit.

Getting the snack lowdown isn't always that simple. Today, Izzy and I were sitting on the stoop when he mentioned what he had for snack.

"We had cornbread. It was brown. It was dark cornbread."

Hmmm.. I thought to myself, interesting.

"Cornbread isn't usually brown. Are you sure it was cornbread?"

"Yes it was made with the dark kernels from Indian corn"

This explanation seemed plausible, especially when he proceeded to tell me how he spent all morning tweezing kernels of Indian corn as one of his Montessori "works".

Later on this afternoon, I learned about Izzy's snack interpretation. We went for a playdate with some classmates and I asked them what they had for snack. The reply?? PUMPKIN BREAD!!! I couldn't stop laughing..Dark kernels of corn indeed!

Perhaps my snack reporter is not as reliable as I had once thought!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

So Many Bananas, So Little Time


On almost any given day you will find a bunch of bananas on my counter, more often than not, they are too ripe to be eaten so they patiently await their fate. Will it be bread, cake, scones or garbage (sadly some do reach that point of no return).

I have three recipes that I return to over and over again which help put bananas out of their misery. One is cake, one is bread and the last one is scones. I wanted to make the bread last night and I was inspired to veer from my usual banana bread (New Joy of Cooking) and try David Lebovitz's version. It seemed like it would be slightly healthier than mine since it had less butter (well come to think of it, it made up for butter with the addition of sour cream).

I mashed up about 5 bananas and doubled his recipe. I also substitute a third of white flour for wheat. He ponders whether it is a cake or a bread. To me it was definitely a bread, especially because I baked it in loaf pans and it wasn't overly sweet. Sliced it makes a perfect snack for kids and the addition of wheat flour makes it seem healthy enough. I liked it well enough but I might need to do a taste test with my usual recipe. I think that mine might actually be lighter and finer...

Summer Lingers On



At least it does in New York City where temperatures are still quite steamy. You won't hear me complaining because it means there is still time for more gelato. On our way to pottery class this afternoon, Izzy and I made a new gelato discovery, L'Arte del Gelato, new to the Greenwich Village but apparently not to New York City.

I had noticed their shop at the Chelsea Market a few weeks ago, but because of was stuffed from my Ronnybrook Farms experience I wasn't up for even giving them a try. Then last week, as we were licking our cones from Cones on Bleecker, we discovered another outpost of L'Arte del Gelato, right around the corner on 7th Avenue. It is a small take-out shop with a bench inside and another one out front.

Several flavors in the display case were adorned with fruit. The pineapple had a large pineapple sticking out and the coconut had a hunk of real coconut. Izzy chose the ultra-dark looking chocolate. It was intense and not too sweet. I had a cup of frutti del bosco and nutella. The frutti del bosco was bursting with berry flavor though it was a smidge too icy. The nutella appropriately creamy but less intense than real Nutella.


We were both delighted with our find but will now be faced with an everlasting quandary..L'Arte del Gelato or Cones? That is the question.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Wrong Time To Go To Ikea

Ikea. I always dream of going there but leave curiously unfulfilled. I have visions of all of these inexpensive but designy items that I imagine will make my home Martha Stewart worthy. Yet once I am there I am disappointed by the shabbiness of it all and hardly buy a thing.

Yet still the promise remains so I will rarely turn down a chance to go there since being carless, the occasions are few and far between. This weekend, when T. suggested a quick jaunt on our way back from T.'s birthday party, I readily agreed. What on earth was I thinking? Sunday night at Ikea is the last place to take a preschooler post birthday party.

Poor Izzy hadn't had any proper food all day. Before leaving for the party, he had a quick lunch of carrots and a cream cheese sandwich. After that it was party fare galore, including enough juice to equal his usually weekly quota, along with cupcakes and fruit salad. By the time we left, Izzy was sufficiently sugared up. It was five o'clock on Sunday evening. The only place we should have gone was home.

Instead I forged on with the Ikea plan. I found myself watching as T. wheeled Izzy, slumped in a carriage, as he munched on some granola bars in my bag. When those were gone, I knew I was doomed. It was nearing dinner time and I had no other provisions. The cafeteria there holds no appeal so I wanted to wait until we got home.

We had gone to look at only two things. When we checked out it was past 6:30 and I was kicking myself for dragging poor Izzy along.
Little did I know that when T. purchased her item, we would need to wait for nearly an hour more for it to emerge from behind the scenes. That would mean we were stuck without dinner, at dinnertime, which for me is a tragedy.

You may already be aware that near the check-out area in Ikea there is a small fast-foodish outpost. I figured I would check it out briefly. The only thing I deemed acceptable were some dark, very crunchy Swedish crackers and some kind of bitter fizzy juice. T. was egging me on to purchase what she considered to be plump, juicy hot dogs but of course you all know that was simply NOT an option.

While T. stood awaiting her sofa-bed inside (and sneaking a few juicy hot dogs) Izzy and I went to wait outside and were lucky enough to have a bird's-eye view of planes landing at Newark airport, which entertained him, along with crackers and juice, for most of the hour. Izzy was so calm and patient throughout this he deserved an award. We didn't get home until eight o'clock and even though he is usually in bed by that time, he insisted on eating some leftover bok choy and tofu, while I tried to wash Spiderman from his face.

Izzy was hardly worse off from the wear and tear of the ordeal. I, on the other hand, was ready to collapse. Oh but I did manage to get some lovely glass water bottles for a very reasonable $3.99 each. I hope they will stave off any Ikea yearnings for a long while to come.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cooking With What's On Hand (thanks to CSA and T.J's)



In an effort to use what I have around the house, I cooked up a batch of frozen Artichoke Tortellini from Trader Joe's that have been in my freezer for ages. These are a perfect item to keep on hand for those nights when you have nothing for dinner. They keep forever and are good with just garlic and olive oil.

Tonight I wanted to use some of my CSA share so I grated up 1/2 a zucchini, sauteed in olive oil with two chopped shallots, then snipped some purple and green basil leaves and added a few heaping tablespoons of Three-Corner Field Farm Brebis Blanche Cheese.. You can get this cheese, as I have mentioned before, at Union Square on Wednesdays and Fridays. Aside from that fact that I am wild for its creamy, slightly sheepy flavor, you can freeze it and always have it on hand, which is rare for a cheese.

Tomato Salad on the side..voila, dinner in 20 minutes..with leftovers for Izzy's lunchbox.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Would You Drink It From A Box?


I would not, could not, from a box.

I would not drink it with a fox.

I will only drink it with fresh berries,

straw or blue and maybe cherries.


Do you remember Strawberry Quik? The pink powder that turned ordinary milk a lovely, rosy hue. Back in the 70's, the sky was the limit for milk flavorings around our house. Chocolate, strawberry and coffee. Time was I could not drink my milk without them. Now the very thought of giving Izzy something coffee flavored makes me cringe. I wonder if that stuff had caffeine it it. I no longer have much of a taste for coffee. Perhaps that's the reason.

I was reminded of those milk flavorings while Izzy and were at the lovely Shoprite the other morning. He came face to face with our modern-day version, Horizon Strawberry Milk in a small individual juice box size. He was drawn to those tiny boxes, luring him in at kid-range. Now there are certainly worse things that he could whine for but I still had not interest in buying that for him. I have nothing against flavored milks but would prefer to make our own.

The inevitable whine arose. My response, "You can't have that but we will make our own at home." Lately I have been using this tactic to discourage unhealthy food purchases and it has been quite effective. It usually stops him in his tracks. The downside is, now he thinks we can make everything at home. "Mama, can we make our own Cheerios? " or "Do you think we could make our own chocolate?" Hmmm..while I ponder those questions let's get back to strawberry milk.

When we got home, we simply tossed 4 large berries into the blender with 3/4 cup of milk. Voila..cold, frothy and delicious. No small box to add to landfills either!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Spiderman Eats Pink Cupcakes: Another Birthday Tale


Today was T.'s birthday party. She is a friend of Izzy's who left Jersey City for the greener pastures of Bloomfield (I daresay one could raise a cow out in their wide stretch of backyard). Izzy had been anticipating the event for days and our ride out with T., a neighbor friend in a Zipcar pick-up, only added to the thrills.

The scene was set for an afternoon of simple preschool pleasures. Giant bubble wands with vats of bubble juice were arrayed strategically around the yard. An adorable play gym stood awaiting young swingers and there were coolers of organic juices for the kids. Snack foods and fruit salads were awaiting sticky fingers and the big treat of the day was the face painter.

The birthday girl was first in line to have her face painted and she maintained an ultra-serious demeanor as she was turned into a lovely butterfly. When I asked the painter her suggestions for boys I was repelled by her suggestions (Spiderman, skull, snake, etc). I had hoped Izzy would choose to be a less gender-specific creature but alas, he had his own ideas. As soon as he eyed his friend T, sporting a t-shirt with Spiderman, I knew I had lost my case. The painter (quite aware of my mindset) tried to suggest other possibilities but Izzy wouldn't hear of anything but Spiderman. I had to relent lest I turn him into a Spiderman maniac. Funny thing was, after Izzy morphed into Spiderman, many of the other kids, boys and girls alike, were painted as Spiderpeople.

Mid-face painting, it was cupcake time. Trays of tiny pink frosted cupcakes magically appeared in the yard. K. (T.'s mom), like me, is a Billy's Cupcake, aficionado and with each passing birthday the recipe seems to improve. The cake was light and moist, the frosting perfectly fluffy. Who needs a bakery anyway?

Cupcakes, more play, another simple at home birthday success. The highlight of my afternoon, aside from eating one of those scrumptious cupcakes, was observing my little spider boy, of red and black face, tuck into those delightfully pink treats. The moment was captured and J. (T.'s dad) turned the photo into an instant homemade party favor, stuck into a popsicle stick frame.
Best (or worst) of all, Izzy is now asleep, clutching the frame in his little hands. Need I say more?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yogurt on Yom Kippur: Fast or Feast?


The day before Yom Kippur, Izzy and decided we were going to try out our brand-spanking new yogurt machine. Maybe not the smartest move before a fast but we had been contemplating doing it for a few days and I was running out of store-bought yogurt. We went ahead, despite my reservations.

The process is so simple I can't believe that a yogurt machine doesn't reside on every yogurt lover's counter. I simply boiled some milk, allowed it to cool, added a small amount of yogurt to it, stirred and poured the liquid into the yogurt cups. We turned on the machine and let it do its thing. The machine did not begin its work until four p.m. so the yogurt wouldn't be ready until about midnight. I wondered how I would possibly resist trying it in the morning and realized I had chosen the absolutely wrong time to try this recipe.

Throughout the evening, I kept peeking at the yogurt, even opening up the top (even though the instructions warned against this). I was shocked to see that it had indeed solidified and I turned the machine off just before midnight and covered up the jars and stuck them in the fridge.

Izzy and I were alone this morning and although I had to fast, Izzy is, of course, exempt. As I prepared his breakfast, the small glass jars of yogurt were taunting me in the fridge. I quickly shut it and went about preparing Izzy's breakfast. After he had eaten, we went about our morning business but before long, it was "snack time". And guess what Izzy wanted..the yogurt!

So I opened a jar, sniffed it, and handed it over to him. He was quick to spoon it up and I watched with curiosity. He said that it was sour but ate it anyway. He wanted to know why I couldn't try it so I explained to him a little about the fast. It was obviously a notion difficult to grasp, for a child accustomed to eating at his whim.

As the day wore on, and my hunger increased, I began to rationalize that the point of fasting was lost on me today. One fasts to avoid the distractions of food, yet food was most distracting to me. The vision of fresh yogurt was calling me..Most of our day was spent inside since Izzy was slightly feverish and by three o'clock I could take it no longer. Fasting failure that I was, I hid my act from Izzy and surreptitiously removed the yogurt jar from the fridge.

So sorry to report that I broke my fast for a somewhat sour experience. The yogurt seemed far too tart for my taste. It wasn't bad, just not the yogurt of my dreams. I finished the jar and placed it in the sink, seemingly unnoticed. But that Izzy doesn't miss a trick. He saw the jar in the sink and right away remarked, " I see another yogurt jar. Who ate that?" I had to confess and he added, "But you are not supposed to eat today."

I didn't feel as guilty as I thought I would and I finally figured out why. Usually I prepare a Break-Fast for either family or friends. Feasting after the fast is a holiday ritual that is best when shared. This year we had no company and I hadn't planned on any special meal. Izzy and I ended up having a rather odd "Break-Fast" meal, which was on the Chinesish side, including a large pan of sauteed Bok Choy. It was yummy but not exactly the bagels and lox I had in mind.
p.s. This morning I had another yogurt. Turns out that it is not that tart at all. Maybe my tastebuds were altered after fasting. I still need to tweak the recipe so I will wait until the next attempt before posting the recipe.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Long Green Beans: A Tangled Chopped Salad

These yard-long green beans have been a constant source of wonder for Izzy since their appearance here on Tuesday. He used one to play with like a lasso and then grabbed another one to bring to school for an impromptu show-and-tell. His wish, each day since, has been to cook them whole, spaghetti-style. I wasn't sure what I would do with them although I imagined them cut into smaller pieces.

Thanks to S., our babysitter, who ended up leaving our house on Wednesday with a leftover CSA share, I had a recipe for the beans awaiting me this morning. I modified it and ended up compromising with Izzy in the preparation. I left some beans whole and he cut up the other ones.

This is our S. inspired invention: Tangled Long Bean Salad (serves 2)

10 long green beans (3 kept whole): blanch beans for about 5 minutes
1 chopped shallot
1 chopped and seeded cucumber
1 chopped heirloom tomato - yellow or red
1/2 can drained chickpeas

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Toss with a swish of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar
3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and any fresh herbs you may have.

Serve with a simple garlic rubbed bruschetta.

p.s As we were eating and I mentioned that the recipe came from our babysitter, Izzy said, "I don't want to have a babysitter. I am not a baby." So we agreed to call her the kidsitter and then he will be happy to have her come back.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pondering Junk Food On A Park Bench

Izzy and I were sitting in the tiny park near Christopher Street, savoring our late afternoon gelato when the following spouted from his mouth. "Why do some people eat junk food?"

I looked at his sweet face, licking his cone of Cantalope Sorbetto and wondered what the right answer was to this question. I asked which people he meant and he motioned towards some men sitting across the park who were tucking into a bag of cheez doodles.. The sight of these men had triggered his memory of a day in the park when a friend offered him some organic cheese puffs. It was a day in which too much junk had been consumed and it had obviously made a big impression on him.

I said that some people don't realize how unhealthy junk food. This answer did not do the trick. He wanted to hear more. I then said that perhaps when they were young, their parents thought that junk food was a fine food for them to eat so they continued to eat it now. That still didn't seem to satisfy him. What exactly is the answer to his question? I guess some people think it tastes good. But does it really? I don't think so. Though I suppose it is an acquired taste, like anything else. One thing I didn't mention to him is that junk food is addictive. The more you eat it, the more you want it.

So then I talked about how we might help people stop eating junk food. He said, "I don't think that is going to happen." (It is somewhat frightening that he seems to know just how pervasive junk food is). I then explained that anything is possible and that his classroom might be the best place to start. We already started last year and I think that things are moving in the right direction. I noticed that this week's snack choices were definitely healthy ones. And he was happy to report that he had baby carrots the other day.

For those in the know...Why do people eat junk food?


Bread-Baking Aids Pottery-Making..Who Knew?

Izzy spent the late afternoon, involved in his very first clay class at Greenwich House Pottery. He was the youngest student, the sole four-year old in a group of six to nine year olds. I hesitated to bring him to this class but it was the only opening that worked for us and the school director encouraged us to give it a try. I sat in on the first class to see what transpired.

At first I thought it wouldn't work out but I completely impressed with how the teacher, L. managed to direct the first project. All of the students made bowls and then one free-form object of their choice. The bowls were made out of long snakes of clay that the children rolled out. I was so thrilled to see Izzy's bread baking skills have another use! After having watched me prepare the challah last week, he was able to roll the snakes like a pro.

L. was very patient with him and gave him and the other students, individualized attention. He worked intently on his bowl or flower pot? (not sure what it is) and then went on to create a "volcano." Next week he will get to paint the pieces and they will be fired in the kiln. He was so excited he immediately wanted to know if we would be going back tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

School Food Snippets

Tonight was "Back to School Night" so Izzy's school is on my mind. Since Izzy is a child who has been known to report about the food in his lunchbox AND the food of his friends..I bring you the following:

Izzy's lunch report (Usually prompted by the questions: Who did you sit with at lunchtime today? What did they have?"

"Mama, J. doesn't have hotdogs for lunch anymore."

Amazing..J., previously known for eating hotdogs for lunch on a daily basis, has since kicked the habit. This year he brings a wider variety of food for lunch. (I had always wondered about that story but tonight, J's mom confirmed it, assuring me that those hotdogs were organic..)


"Mama, I sat with C. at lunch today. He had some meat. In a plastic bag." (Mystery meat?)


Izzy proudly displayed his lunchbox today to his teacher, Mr. D. "Look, I ate all my lunch!" Mr. D. looked and said, "But you didn't eat your yogurt."
Izzy gave his teacher a quizzical look. "What are you talking about? Yogurt is my dessert." Silly Mr. Dr...please don't let the cat out of the bag.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Partial To Purple

I developed a penchant for the color purple in second grade and it has stuck with me for my entire life. Back then, if anyone had told me we were going to have purple potatoes for dinner I would have thought it was some kind of joke. Who ever heard of purple food?

Izzy has. A bowl of purple potatoes, placed before him, doesn't even seem to phase him a bit. He ate them with great pleasure, noticing that the skins were almost a purplish black and the interiors light purple. I prepared them simply, with a mustard vinaigrette. They were one highlight of our CSA inspired meal which also included Black-Eyed Peas with Shallots, Red Peppers, Tomato and Parcel(finally another use for that overpowering herb).

These black-eyed peas, served with rice are can be a simple meal, in and of themselves. Best of all, they are perfect for your child's lunch the next day.

Recipe:

Basically just saute in olive oil, either one onion or a few shallots with half a pepper, tspn mince fresh jalapeno, 1/2 tspn smoked paprika. Throw in a can of drained black-eyed peas(or two but increase other ingredients). Add one chopped tomato, tblspn parcel and simmer a couple of minutes..voila.. You can alter these ingredients to suit your taste.


Heaps Of Produce: CSA Tuesday

Izzy returned home from school today, to a veritable harvest upon our kitchen table. It is always a thrill for him to inspect the week's haul.

Farmer Rich is always sure to include something sure to intrigue us. Today's bags were overflowing with goodies, including more beautiful heirloom tomatoes, a large pattypan squash (which Izzy named, Star Squash), a giant zucchini, an enormous cucumber and some amazing looking ultra-long green beans which had passersby all abuzz.
Izzy was eager to cook the beans immediately but I convinced him to save them for tomorrow.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Duck Food? Observing Animals Makes For Playful Eating

You may not know this but, Izzy is a duck. Or so he tells me, quite often. It all began during our travels to Europe, after we saw duck families in both Greve, and Paris. In both locales, we visited the ducks almost daily, as they glided across ponds or waddled on the grass, ducklings trailing behind.

Before too long, Izzy began quacking and flapping his wings and I was unable to address him in the usual fashion. He would insist on being called "duck" or "ducky" instead. If I failed to do so he would admonish, "Why don't you call me duck? I'm a duck, Mama." Oh silly me. I guess I had forgotten.

Observing the ducks feed their young sparked Izzy's curiosity about what they eat. We talked about how they grab food with their beaks from under the water and then mash it up. We also discussed how birds often feed their young, by pre-chewing the food.

One day, when Izzy was merely picking at his food, I picked some up in my hand and said, "Eat up your duck food." He proceeded to bend his head down and nibble the food straight from my hands and then ask for more. "Ingenious," I thought. What a playful way of encouraging him to eat. Granted it might not do wonders in the manners department if used on a regular basis but for those occasions when he is feeling finicky, it might be just the trick. Try it with your child and see, whether it be a duck or a goose or even a rabbit, kids love to emulate their favorite animals.

Hmmm..maybe that would work during school lunch. Just imagine the Montessori teachers feeding Izzy, duck-style... We know that won't be happening anytime soon. Apparently his teachers don't realize he is a duck and when he tells them they refuse to address him as such. He seems disappointed by this so when I went to fill out some school papers for him I was tempted to put "Duck" down as his nickname..

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Having A Chocolatey Time

"I am having a chocolatey time"

My grandfather is positively mad about chocolate. He has eaten large quantities of chocolate on a daily basis for as long as I can remember, which I, of course, attribute to his longevity. In his younger days, the chocolate was of the candy bar variety. At his house you could always find stacks of giant Hershey Bars and Snickers.

In his old-old age he has become more discerning in his chocolate choices. He usually eats raspberry truffles and dark chocolate non-pareils and purchases them by the pound. Since he has the good fortune of living only a few blocks away from a local chocolate factory, Birnn Chocolates, he inevitably has a healthy supply on hand.

Nearly every time Izzy and I pay him a visit, we stop in at Birnn to replenish Great-Grandpa's chocolate supply and also treat ourselves. The last time we were there, a few weeks ago, Grandpa didn't want anything because he still had leftovers. Izzy was looking forward to a treat so we went anyway and I ended up buying a pound of assorted chocolates. This is not a good thing because I have great difficulty showing any restraint and besides, I still had some leftover assorted chocolate truffles in the fridge which were a gift from Grandpa a few weeks ago.

Izzy adores chocolate as I do yet he is able to exercise far more restraint than I. He knows that after dinner he is allowed to have one piece of chocolate, which is usually a dark chocolate square of one organic brand or another. When the chocolate was "fancy" (truffles, etc.), he savored every bite, licking his fingers to the very last. He appears so content after his one piece, he never asks for another. If only I could follow his example!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

West Village Clay Day: Eat, Create, Eat

There was an open house today at Greenwich House Pottery. I wanted to take Izzy to there because I was curious to see if he would take to clay. He loves manipulating dough so I figured clay would be in the same genre.

This meant an excursion into the West Village, which happily coincided with lunchtime. We ended up at Home . Time was, there was always a wait to get in there, but today we slipped right in. It was certainly homey and relaxing, not too noisy or busy. I was surprised to note that at brunch time we were amongst a minority of English-speaking diners there, the rest were all French..Who knew that such a place would be a big hit with the French crowd?

I read the menu selection to Izzy who insisted on ordered a dish which included poached eggs, something I can't remember him eating before. I think he liked the concept of the poached egg, after reading about them in one of his favorite books, Bread and Jam for Frances.

When his platter of Cheese Grits, Bacon and Poached Eggs with Tomato Sauce arrived, he seemed to eye them cautiously. I don't think they were what he was expecting. He was hungry though so I figured he would give them a try. I watched him use his fork to break the egg and he seemed surprised at how runny those eggs were. Then he used his spoon to scoop it up. I wonder if he actually liked them..I don't think I would have gone near those at his age.. The question remains..Did he actually like them or was he merely too hungry?

Lunch lunched it was finally time for pottery. What a great place it was..They had a children's workshop set up in the garden and the teachers had set up an amazing clay seascape, complete with waves, an island and sea creatures of all kinds...children were encouraged to add their own elements to the scene. Izzy was momentarily hesitant but then dug his hands right in. He worked for two hours creating a sea monster and some green beans for the monster to eat. I wondered around the studios looking at some great pottery for sale and signed him up for a class.

By the time it was time to leave, Izzy had worked up an appetite for a snack. There is a gelateria conveniently located around the block, Cones. I mistakenly referred to it as ice cream and while we were eating ours Izzy turned to me and announced.."This tastes like gelato, not ice cream." "Of course it does. It is gelato." "Well why did you call it ice cream then?"

Why indeed? Won't make that mistake again, will I? Especially since we will be finding ourselves in the West Village now, at least once a week, for clay class. More West Village food adventures are surely close at hand.

Friday, September 14, 2007

No Time For Lunch?

Last year, Izzy came home from school nearly every day having eaten or at least sampled, most of what was in his lunch bag. So far, this year has been different. At first I attributed the difference to beginning of the year kinks, now I am not so sure.

Today I packed a small smoked turkey sandwich on challah, with basil and mayo, a container of red cabbage and kasha varnishkes, and a small container of yogurt. All he ate was the sandwich. When he got home he sat down at the kitchen table, gobbled up a few snacks and then ran off to play.

When I ask him why he didn't finish his lunch, he claims that he wasn't given enough time. Not surprisingly, the school staff beg to differ and insist that he is given plenty of time. They have suggested that he is a "social" eater..I should know that this is teacherese for "talks too much and doesn't eat". At the same time, I am proud that I have raised him to be a social eater since eating is and should be a social activity.

I don't want him to "hurry up and eat". I would prefer him to linger over his meal, as he is accustomed to doing, either at home or in restaurants. The worst part is that I fear that our preschool lunch issues are only minor in comparison to what we will encounter later on.

My niece and nephew, one in high school, the other middle, just informed me that they are only afforded 20-25 minutes for lunch. How can we ever teach children to eat properly if they are not afforded ample time in which to do so?

Fortunately, change is afoot. In California, Alice Waters has spearheaded programs to change school lunch programs and Deborah Madison visits France for a true vision of what school lunches should be like. Even here in JC, local moms are trying to enact change. Who knows what the future holds?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This Is What You MIssed Last Night

When you turned down my invitation for dinner...you know who you are. And you weren't the only one.

Roast Chicken, Braised Red Cabbage Apples, Boiled Fingerling Potatoes, Green Beans Vinaigrette and let's not forget the Challah and Chocolate-Chip Cherry Rugelach for dessert.







Must Stop Eating These: Chocolate-Chip, Cherry Rugelach

And everything else that I bake, for that matter. It would be nice to stop at just one or two but these Chocolate-Chip, Cherry Rugelach are irresistible.
Even A. had one and we know he never eats sweets. But back to the subject of portion control. Baking for Izzy(and he has me as his portion controller) and friends is a favorite pastime, yet after he goes to bed, I am left with a whole pile of leftover sweets from the day. How will I ever manage to keep on baking and stop nibbling?

You try baking these and watch what happens...

Dough

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 ounces chilled cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Filling

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons cherry preserves
8 tablespoons dried tart cherries
8 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips
8 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup (about) whipping cream

Preparation for dough

Blend first 3 ingredients in processor.
Add butter and cream cheese and cut in using on/off turns until dough begins to clump together.
Gather dough into ball.
Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; flatten into disks.
Wrap each in waxed paper and refrigerate 2 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.
Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Filling preparation

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.
Roll out 1 dough disk on waxed paper, with paper on top too, to 9-inch round.
Spread 3 tablespoons cherry preserves over dough, leaving 1-inch border. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons dried cherries, then 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar.
Press filling firmly to adhere to dough.
Cut dough round into 8 equal wedges.
Starting at wide end of each wedge, roll up tightly.
Arrange cookies, tip side down, on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart and bending slightly to form crescents. Repeat 3 more times with remaining dough disks, preserves, dried cherries, chocolate chips, cinnamon sugar.
Place baking sheet in freezer 30 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Brush cookies lightly with whipping cream. Bake frozen cookies until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. (Can be made ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.)

Makes 32.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Vegetarian Rosh Hashanah: A New Tradition?

Meat was always an integral part of all of our holiday meals. My grandmother's brisket, tsimmes and/or stuffed cabbage always played a starring role on the table. The very thought of a holiday meal without one of those dishes never seemed quite right. This year I had a change of heart because I realized that it was silly to make food for tradition's sake (and mine) if most of the guests wouldn't be eating it. My brother and his family are vegetarians and in later years my grandfather has stopped eating meat. (He claims this is for health reasons but I think it is because of difficulty chewing.)

I thought the menu would be a challenge but in fact it was quite simple. I just used my grandmother's side dishes which were (or can be) vegetarian by nature.


We had: Mushroom and Barley Soup


Kasha Varnishkes (Grandma's recipe), Swiss Chard , Heirloom Tomatoes

Challah: I baked another batch today. No more challah pancake here. Look how fabulous it turned out. Izzy, my dear sweet boy, told me that the ugly challah tasted fine. My niece J., thought the same but finally had to admit that batch two tasted and looked better.



We ended the meal with Chocolate-Chip Cranberry Rugelach (always a hit) and Peach Frozen Yogurt (experimental). Check back for recipes.

Overall, the vegetarian meal was a success. I wasn't frustrated that I worked so hard cooking meat for nobody to eat and my relatives were happy to have food that they could enjoy. Will I make it a tradition? That remains to be seen because I would like Izzy to be privy to the foods I grew up on.. Fortunately most Jewish holidays last more than one day so I can always cook them for a different meal.

p.s. This meal was made possible through the incredible cooperation of Izzy, who was kind enough to entertain himself for six hours today. He helped bake, clean up the yard and spent an hour dozing on the lawn furniture, as he gazed at some workmen upon the roof of D.'s house (thanks for scheduling chimney repair today!).


























Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Does Bread Come From? Tales of Baking and One Miserably Misshapen Challah

The answer, according to Izzy, would most likely be, "the bakery or the oven" but in other households you would probably hear an altogether different answer, which would most likely be "the supermarket".

I don't really buy bread from the supermarket, except Whole Wheat English Muffins from Whole Foods (which are great in a pinch because they freeze well and have no additives), or their freshly baked breads. Most of the time we get bread from our local bakery, Pecararo, a Greenmarket bakery or we make it ourselves.

Bread has always been a staple of Izzy's diet, as well as ours and I couldn't imagine serving meals without it. I think of bread as one great kid-friendly food but yesterday I discovered this may not be the case for everyone.

While waiting for Izzy to emerge from school, talk amongst the moms turned to lunches. One mom commented that her child would not eat bread. This seemed unimaginable to me. I asked if she had tried different kinds of bread. She had. Then I asked if she had ever given him bread fresh from the bakery. It seemed that the thought hadn't crossed her mind. She seemed willing to give that a try.

Even better yet, I added, "Why not bake bread with him at home?" That would really be the best way to get a child interested. For bread-baking is an entire physical experience, involving all of the senses and who can resist home-baked bread?

Certainly not my little sister C. I remember baking bread with her, when she was probably three or four. She would sit at the table, gobbling the fresh baguettes, slathered with butter, with no mind to eat anything else. Izzy and I have baked bread several times and he, too has been quite taken with the fragrant loaves.

We don't bake bread often enough but one occasion that certainly warrants fresh bread is Rosh Hashanah, when I make fresh Challah. I would say I have been baking challah for over 15 years and have always had fantastic results. I use the recipe from the Silver Palate. I have baked it with Izzy since he was born and today we embarked upon our yearly Challah-makingtradition. We kneaded and punched it and rolled it and twisted it, til it looked like challah. And it did look lovely. All was going according to plan, then we left it to proof. While putting Izzy to bed, I left the loaves on the counter for a tad too long and they overproofed. When I eventually got around to putting them in the oven they looked sad and deflated but I had to bake one anyway to see the results.. This is the pathetic loaf that emerged. Even the first challahs I baked were more presentable than this one. How did it taste? Well better than it looked but how can I possibly serve that? It looks like some sort of challah pancake. On the other hand, should I go through the trouble of making more tomorrow, when I still haven't made the main course?


Stay tuned for more trials and tribulations of our first vegetarian Rosh Hashanah meal,

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Decrepit Gift Certificate: A Spending Story

If you had $100 dollars to spend at Williams-Sonoma, what would you buy?

I got to find out this weekend when I finally spent a gift certificate that I received as a wedding gift in 2001. Yes, I had saved it for all of these years, sometimes in a drawer, sometimes at the bottom of my purse. It traveled with me when I didn't need it and it was invariably at home when I did not.

When Izzy was born, it ended up at the bottom of his diaper bag where it was sadly abused and neglected. It became crumpled, stained and waterlogged and was beginning to disintegrate in the middle. Several months ago, N., my sometime organizer, recommended that I spend it as soon as possible before it was no longer valid. So I placed it in a safe place and promptly forgot about it until recently.

On Saturday I had a rare outing without Izzy and I brought the certificate along with me. My friend D. encouraged me to finally use it. It was in such a sorry state that I was slightly embarrassed to bring it into the store so my she. came along to egg me on. She was returning the favor since I had once accompanied her on a similar mission. She suggested I tell them that the gift certificate was one of the few belongings I was lucky enough to retrieve from Hurricane Katrina.

It was great fun looking around and deciding what indeed to purchase. So many things in that store call my name. I wanted the Kitchen Aid ice-cream making attachment but that would have used up nearly the entire amount. I also put down the Bug Cakelet pan, figuring that they were bound to go on sale (How many people do you know who would make bug cupcakes?).

When I saw the Nutmeg Grinder I couldn't imagine how I had gotten along without one but then I set it down in favor of some 3-D Halloween cookie cutters which I thought would be a hit with Izzy and friends.


What else? Now that summer is almost over, I still needed David Lebovitz's book, The Perfect Scoop. We can still eat ice cream in autumn, right? And I couldn't pass up the chance to get a Yogurt Maker, which I had been ogling since reading French Women Don't Get Fat.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

School Snack: First Episode


Okay, I admit that I signed up to be the first snack mom of the week to set an example for the others. What qualifies me for this role? The way I see it, who else could possibly obsess more about every morsel entering their child's mouth? Is there another mom in Izzy's class as au courant as I am about the latest unhealthy snack discovery?

Which reminds me, Izzy mentioned that last week's snack included Rainbow Goldfish. I had truly hoped that he invented this idea but I soon discovered that they do indeed exist. The worst part is that they obviously contain food coloring, which, according to last week's New York Times, have been linked to hyperactivity in children. Just one look at the bag in the supermarket was enough to tell me I wouldn't want my child going near those. They are chock full of dyes of every color, including red, yellow and blue.

Sad thing is, when I googled "Goldfish," I discovered that they were included on many "approved" classroom snack lists across the country. It is a true shame that we are teaching children to eat industrially processed foods and sending a message that homemade cupcakes or other baked goods are unhealthy. I can't believe that homemade cupcakes and other homemade items have been banned from many schools.

One of the supposed culprits is the high incidence of allergenic children...now really, if your child has severe allergies, wouldn't you just send in special foods for him/her anyway? Why do all of the students need to be penalized?

I know a mom who goes to great lengths to keep her child on a special diet but she goes out of her way not to impose her child's way of eating on his peers. She manages to keep him contented with snacks and lunches that rival those of his classmates. I applaud her for her efforts and wish she could be used as a role model for mom's with allergenic children.
p.s. Turns out that Izzy's Rainbow Goldfish allegations were unfounded. They served Regular Goldfish at school...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ronnybrook Farms Milk Bar: They "Were" Good Eggs


Dreams of dairy - organic eggs, cheeses, and ice cream led me to the Ronnybrook Farms Milk Bar at Chelsea Market. I had gone in hopes of scoping out the place for a future excursion with Izzy. I am quite familiar with their products from buying them at the Union Square Greenmarket. While pregnant I needed my weekly fix of their Raspberry Truffle ice cream and Izzy would recommend their drinkable yogurts, especially the mango. Sadly my imagination conjured up an experience far different from the one my friend D. and I had today.

When we arrived, D. and I managed to find two seats at the counter where we perused the menu which was full of possibilities, both for breakfast and lunch, not to mention the desserts. We both settled on the same breakfast meal of Cast-Iron Eggs, Country Ham and Potatoes.

We waited and waited. No beverage, no food. Something was clearly amiss in the kitchen since nothing seemed to be emerging from it. We were surrounded by disgruntled diners who had also been wronged.
When the eggs were finally set down before us, they were overcooked and rubbery. D. guessed they must have been forgotten. Not only that but the eggs did not come with toast and when we requested some, one of the sullen servers did not even offer it to us for an additional cost. Was this meal a complete flop? Not exactly. The menu had potential and the decor had an honest, homegrown appeal.

I can only hope that today's experience was an abberation. I will definitely return with Izzy, even if only for the ice cream since I can assure you that it is a wonderous, rich and creamy delight. I will wait for things to even out a bit before trying the food but I will do it again because I know those were good eggs.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Homefooding? What happened to Izzy's lunch?

I toyed with the idea of homepreschooling but decided to send Izzy to a Montessori preschool that happens to be conveniently located just steps from our house. The teachers and staff turned out to be fantastic and last year, everything was hunky-dory, minus a few snack unpleasantries.

The new school year began just a few days ago so it is too soon to say, though Izzy does seem pleased to go there every morning. Things must be a bit chaotic as they tend to be at the beginning for today Izzy's lunch was not munched, in fact, it seems that some of it had gone missing.

I typically pick Izzy up after lunch and today when I went to get him, I was told that he was "still eating." I waited patiently for him to come downstairs, even though I longed to run up and sit with him. It is nice to have company while eating.

When he finally straggled down, his lunchbox seemed full. He told me that he didn't have time to finish. When I opened it up to examine it I saw that the corn was gone and he had only eaten one tiny sandwich. I asked how he liked the corn and he said, "I didn't eat it." I asked where it was and he replied, "In the bag." Well it wasn't.. Then he said, "They put it in the microwave and forgot to give it to me."

Peculiar. Izzy always eats his yogurt but it remained in his bag untouched. He was also somewhat crabby when he is usually chipper. What when on in that lunchroom today? I know Montessori methods encourage eating independence but was Izzy supposed to take his own corn from the microwave?

Last year Izzy begged to stay for lunch and I hope that by next week things calm down and a routine is established. I certainly don't want Izzy (or his classmates) to be rushed through lunch. It should be a relaxing, calm time for them.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Last Night's Dinner: The Lunchbox Key


Never mind racking your brain and raiding your cabinets to come up with creative lunch ideas for your little ones. Everything you need is probably right on the dinner table. Just cook with the idea of having leftovers and you don't even need to worry about lunch. Okay, so maybe you don't cook every night but this can even work with takeout.

Case in point: On Izzy's first day of school, I packed him the dinner he helped to prepare the night before. He proudly showed off the mini-version of this meal to his teachers.

When I arrived for pick-up, there he sat just beginning to tuck into his lunchtime feast: Chicken Tajine, Eggplant-Tomato Jam, Couscous and Chickpeas with Kale. He also had watermelon slices and yogurt for dessert. I was able to keep him company at his tiny table yesterday since the first day's schedule was a bit chaotic and lunchtime turned out to be a bit later than planned. As I sat, I noted the other moms eyeing his lunch approvingly. Little did they realize what little effort it took to prepare.

Not only is preparing leftovers easy but eating leftovers for lunch is a much healthier option than stuffing kids' lunchboxes with all manner of pre-packaged "kid" lunch-foods. No need to create separate lunchtime extravaganzas either. Just use what you have and make sure you have the right sized containers.

Note: This method works best if your child's classroom has a microwave oven.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ice Cream Inspiration

The days of summer may be waning but our desire for ice cream lingers on. We may have had our peak ice cream/gelato experiences in Paris but since then, great ice cream has been a rare find. I finally had to take action.

I turned to David Lebovitz , the ice cream maven of the moment and although I don't yet have his cookbook, his recipes have been calling to me all summer long. Bloggers can't stop writing of their experiences with his recipes and I felt compelled to join them, especially after I saw this recipe for Mango Frozen Yogurt.

Izzy and I came up with our own version based upon David Lebovitz's recipe. We made Mixed Berry Frozen Yogurt and it sure was a cinch.Berries, yogurt, sugar and lemon juice. We had it all. We pureed. We poured. We turned on the ice cream maker. And then trouble ensued. The machine whirred but wouldn't turn, so I became the human crank..Is that why my shoulder is so incredibly sore today?

Well if so, I don't mind because my efforts paid off. Izzy and I were in awe of our frozen creation. He said, "This doesn't taste like frozen yogurt. It tastes like gelato. It tastes like fruit." Had we made homemade "Yolato?" Who knows? Whatever we made was a treat.

Meanwhile, don't put away your ice cream machines yet, or take them out if you haven't and make this.

Izzy's Berry "Yolato"Recipe (adapted from David Lebovitz)


Ingredients

1. 2 cups of mixed berries:strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

2. 14 ounces Greek Whole Milk Yogurt

3. 1/2 cup sugar

4. 1/4 cup brown sugar

5. 2 Tablespoons lemon juice



Directions



1. Puree berries in a blender with sugar, until sugar dissolves.

2. Strain mixture through a sieve ( I recommend this if using blackberries. I didn't do it and the seeds are an awful nuisance)

3. Blend berry mixture with yogurt and lemon juice. Chill for 1 hour.

4. Pour into ice cream machine and wait til done.



Best if eaten immediately. Once frozen, allow to soften before serving (around 10-15 minutes).

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

In A (Eggplant-Tomato) Jam: Three Days Until Dinner

So many tomatoes. Too many eggplants. What I could I possibly do with them all? With the season's bounty increasing weekly and my fridge overflowing, I had to come up with something and quick. At least the weather is cooperating and my kitchen is cool enough for cooking.

Somehow, some way, a recollection of this incredible Paula Wolfert recipe from World of Flavors, for Eggplant-Tomato Jam came to me. The perfect way to empty my fridge. In this recipe, the eggplants are fried alone, then the tomatoes, before they are cooked together; down to a soft, unctuous, jam-like consistency, intense with Moroccan spices. This "jam" is used to accompany a Moroccan chicken tajine, cooked until it is falling off the bone. I served this with a side of couscous and some kale braised with onion and smoked paprika.

Easing out of lazy mode, I chose to prepare this meal over a three-day period. This made it feel like less work. On day one, I sliced and salted the eggplant. Izzy helped to peel the eggplant so that it had stripes. In fact he was quite good at this task! Then I rinsed it and refrigerated it. On day two, I sauteed the eggplant and tomatoes and finished that dish. That same night, I prepared the chicken. On the third day, only the side dishes were left.

I was able to leisurely prep and cook the side dishes right before dinner tonight. We sat out in the cool yard to feast, Moroccan-style.

Recipes and more pix to follow: check back for updates..the dirty dishes are calling.

Eggplant-Tomato Jam (Paula Wolfert)

Ingredients


2 lbs. eggplant, kosher salt

olive oil for frying

3 medium cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

several pinches cayenne pepper

2 large tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped (I did not seed, too lazy)

pinch of sugar


1. Trim eggplants and peel strips so they look striped. Cut cross-wise into 1/2 slices. Sprinkle with salt and let drain in a colander for at least 2 hours. Weight down if possible. Rinse and drain eggplant. Pat dry. (You can do this a day in advance).


2. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry eggplant in batches until golden-brown on both sides, about 4 minutes. Drain the eggplant on paper towels.


3.Strain the oil and reserve. With a potato masher, crush eggplant with crushed garlic, herbs and spices.


4. Cook tomatoes in reserved oil over high heat until the moisture evaporates (about 5 minutes).


5. Add the mashed eggplant to the tomatoes in the skillet and cook over very low heat, stirring frequently, until most of the moisture evaporates and the mixture is very thick. Stir in lemon juice and vinegar. Cool cover and refrigerate (This can be made up to 3 days in advance).
This jam is wonderful alone (for the vegetarian sorts), on a sandwich, with mozzarella or as we had it with the chicken tajine in Wolfert's book. It would also go quite well with Moroccan lamb dishes.

Monday, September 3, 2007

British Birthday: Keep Traditions


I am a sap for the at-home birthday party. They bring to mind the pictures of my brothers' parties in our rec room in the 70's and and the nostalgic aspect of it all. I too had a couple of parties of the extremely low-key sort when I was four and five but it certainly all went down-hill after that..but that is another story.

Today's birthday guest of honor was Izzy's friend I., who happens to be born of British parents. It was a delight to be a part of her sweet, homemade birthday party, which included a few British touches.

The party was perfect in its simplicity. Kids arrived. They played. A magician entertained them for a short spell and then it was time to eat. The table was set with tea sandwiches (my faves..goat cheese/fig..egg salad..chicken salad and a few others), some veggies, cookie platters. I loved watching the birthday girl keep the others in check.. She admonished her best friend. "No, you may not have a cookie until you have eaten your other food."

I also adored the quirky aspect of some of the British birthday traditions, such as a platter of pineapple and cheese chunks on toothpicks, which were apparently de rigeueur at all British birthday parties of days gone by. The pink-iced number 5 cookies were also a nice touch (Nigella Lawson's recipe so I was told.

After cake and cookies, the guests went upstairs for one last British tradition, Pass the Parcel, in which there is a package with layers of wrapping paper, one for each child. The children sit in a circle while music is played. The parcel is passed and when the music stops the child holding the parcel opens one layer in which there is a trinket.. and so it goes until each layer has been unwrapped every child has something.

Great ending to a perfectly simple day. Goody bags are handed out and everyone goes home happy!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Crossing The Brooklyn Bridge: An Ill-Fated Excursion

Long before Izzy was born, his Papa and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe even more than once. We had the pizza of my dreams at Grimaldi's , followed by homemade ice cream at the then newly opened Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Pizza perfection and old-fashioned ice cream, what could be better for a city summer night?

I have tried, on numerous occasions, to recreate those evenings but circumstances of one kind or another have kept me from doing so. Between broken limbs, babies and unwilling friends, I have been unable to make my way back to what has become the pizza/ice cream mecca of my mind.. until today. Hard to believe but A. agreed to a family outing in the late afternoon. I would finally get to take Izzy on my ideal outing. As I should already know by now, things don't always go according to plan.

First we got a late start. Instead of leaving at 4:30, we left at 5:30. Getting to the Bridge from Jersey City didn't take much time at all but the Brooklyn Bridge was crowded with tourists. Whose idea was it to do this on a holiday weekend? I thought the city was supposed to empty out..apparently it did for some others..but not for us. Izzy braved the crowds and he managed to walk the entire way across the bridge by himself. He was giddy with delight and certainly worked up an appetite.

We finally arrived at Grimaldi's only to be met with an enormous line and it was after 7:00 p.m. There was no way we could wait an hour since Izzy was already in the whining phase, and rightfully so. We decided to try our usual alternative, Noodle Pudding..no dice either with a 45 minute wait. The only choice was to troll the block for the first decent-looking place to eat with no wait.

That turned out to be a restaurant called Oven. From all outwards signs, it seemed to be a fine spot. Menu looked reasonably interesting and they had pizza. Diners appeared to be happily engrossed in their meals and it was next door to an ice cream parlour called the Blue Pig. It all seemed like it was meant to be. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as it turns out, nearly everything.

The staff at Oven was extremely friendly and accommodating, perhaps to compensate for the extremely unappetizing fare coming from the kitchen. I know that it is unfair to disparage a restaurant after one dining experience but how could every single item be awful? Let me count the ways.

First we ordered a salumeria platter of meats and cheeses. This jumble of items arrived:
Even Izzy commented that prosciutto didn't taste quite right and the pre-cut chunks of cheese were rubbery. Soggy candied walnuts were placed in small piles in corners. Not only that, but there were sodden pieces of fruit arranged throughout, including pineapple, which didn't seem like a good match for platter. This certainly did not bode well for the rest of our meal. The beet and goat cheese salad may have been a step up, crisp diced beets and other crunchy vegetables in a bland vinaigrette, but that wasn't saying much.

When my Kobe Beef Lasagna showed up, looking like it had been deconstructed, I had a feeling it was all over. Apparently they had

forgotten to use the oven before serving it, as it was barely lukewarm. The Kobe beef was unseasoned and it just looked like they placed mounds of ricotta and mozzarella on top for effect but not flavor. I barely ate two bites before putting my fork down and A. and Izzy wouldn't even try it.

And the Margherita Pizza? Don't even get A. started on that one..He did not even manage to eat half of the pizza and although he is not one to waste food, the leftovers did not even merit a doggy bag. Izzy barely nibbled on his pizza either. The meal was dreadful but I still held on to the promise of the dessert...at The Blue Pig.

Izzy and I wandered next door while A. nursed the only acceptable part of his meal, the wine. I was lured into the Blue Pig by its sign for "homemade ice cream." Only a few flavors were left and not even one appealed to me.. I had little interest in Coconut Butterfinger. The only thing of interest to Izzy was what they called, "Red Ice"..I shudder at the thought but since it was so far past Izzy's bedtime, there was no room for negotiation. I let him have it. Ordinary cough-syrup cherry tasting ice..bleah. On the bright side, eating it provided entertainment for the extra long trip home, a result of subway rerouting.

Poor Izzy, he fell asleep on his Papa's shoulders on the Path and we carried him from a taxi inside the house. It was after 10 p.m...upon entering the door he awakened briefly to take off his shoes and managed to get upstairs, wash up and brush the red sugar coating from his teeth. He crawled right into bed and barely made a peep..He is my champion food-adventurerer!

A. seemed to think that this ill-fated excursion would finally rid me of my wish for pizza/ice cream nirvana. He is so wrong. I am now even more determined to get it right. Anyone game for a daytime outing??

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Sushi Sadness

What have we done? We turned Izzy into a sushi fanatic. This seemed like a good thing since we love sushi ourselves but things have changed. The more we read about the state of fish (dwindling fish populations/mercury content/pcbs) the less sushi we want Izzy to eat. Izzy's papa is particularly sensitive about this and feels that we need to limit Izzy's sushi intake to once a month, whereas I thought once a week would be okay.

Izzy had requested sushi last night and I said we couldn't have it because his papa wanted something else. He was sad but I consoled him by telling him that maybe we could have it tonight. I hadn't yet heard about A's new 'once a month' policy.

When we were debating tonight's dinner, Izzy heard us and said, "Why can't we ever have what I want? I WANT SUSHI..The debate continued and soon an adamant demand turned into a whine and when we finally decided that we would just stay home and have pasta, Izzy broke down sobbing. Part of the reason for the breakdown was that he was simply hungry and after he snacked on some prosciutto and cheese he calmed down.

We haven't had sushi in about a month now so it is high time we eat some soon. What we plan to do is try to introduce more vegetarian options so that Izzy craves other Japanese dishes too. We shall see how that goes..