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

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pound Cake? No. Pound Cat.

The day before Christmas Eve, I was scurrying around finishing up some elfish duties while my husband and child were charged with purchasing a Christmas tree. The entire afternoon, I attempted to contact them, begging them to shop for some much needed Christmas dinner ingredients. My texts and calls went unanswered and I fumed all the way home. Not only was I a Jewish girl fulfilling Christmas duty, but no help was coming from the Christmas side.

Upon my arrival, nearly four hours after I had left, I found an unadorned tree and Izzy and his papa acting peculiarly. I asked them where they had been and when they replied, "The Liberty Science Center", I became even more peeved. Then I asked if they had fed Mama cat and they said no. When I began to make my way upstairs to feed her Izzy couldn't contain himself. "You are going to find a surprise up there. There is a new Ca...Ca....Ca...CAT!"

"What??? You must be joking." I shrieked incredulously. I immediately ran upstairs, opened the bathroom door and found a large grey tabby cat cowering in the corner. What on earth was A. thinking?? I really didn't want another cat. Mama is enough trouble as it is. But no, instead of holiday preparations, my husband and child were out conducting cat interviews at the Liberty Humane Shelter.

A. somehow decided that Izzy and I both needed a cat that we could pet and play with. He has the notion that our new and friendly, "pound cat" or as he likes to call him, "cat pound", will have a positive influence on Mama. He explained that we could test drive the cat and return him if he and Mama didn't get along.

So far they have. It may even be that Mr. Pound Cat might is Mama's Romeo. They meow and frolic, and lounge in the same room. Mama watches with great interest as we pet and scratch her playmate. She has even ventured downstairs in search of him and today even made her way into the kitchen. Mr. Pound Cat has become quite a compelling player in our cat dramas.

Both family and friends are charmed by his tigerish face and amiable demeanor. Izzy and his pals relentlessly chase him and he willingly obliges. Who knows? Perhaps A. was onto something. Despite my initial resistance, a new cat might be just the thing our household needs.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Olive Story

Olives. The next time you eat one, don't take it for granted. Pop it into your mouth; slide your tongue over its slippery roundness, savor its saltiness and chew it up. A perfect little hors'd'oeuvre. Easy to eat many. Except if you are 99 and have no teeth. A small fact that I sometimes forget when I am bringing snacks for grandpa.

He has always been an olive lover. My grandmother used to buy the green ones stuffed with red pimento and there was always at least one jar in her fridge. When I started to prepare holiday meals, I always had a variety of great olives on hand and grandpa would always scarf down several before his meal.

So on Christmas Eve, when I was bringing the meal to his house, I brought along some olives. I gave him one as I was heating up the dinner. He certainly seemed pleased to have it but as I watched him continue to chew on for over 20 minutes, I couldn't contain myself. I had to say something.

Me: Grandpa, are you still chewing on that olive? It's time for dinner...

Grandpa: Yes. It's good. Like chewing gum.

Me (wondering to myself when he would finish so we could start dinner).

The fate of that olive remains unknown, whether he eventually swallowed it or spit it out. Either way, it seemed to be an enjoyable experience.

Olive flavored chewing gum...is there a market for that?

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Very Jewish Christmas Eve

Growing up Jewish meant going to a Chinese restaurant on Christmas. Or was that on Christmas Eve? Not quite sure but it is certainly a tradition I embrace and it was sorely missed this year, especially on Christmas Day while I was home cleaning and chewing on "donkey butt".

Our Christmas Eve as far more successful. We spent it savoring "my people's food" with my grandpa. Not sure how much that thrilled A. but he was definitely a good sport about it, even providing juggling entertainment.

A., Izzy and I showed up at my grandfather's apartment bearing dishes much like those my grandma used to prepare. Mushroom and Barley soup, Noodle Kugel and some homemade raspberry creams.

Grandpa was only able to eat one dish for his dinner, as his appetite has grown smaller with age. That one dish was the Kugel and he liked it so much he practically licked his dish clean. Izzy is a huge fan of Kugel too so it was nice to see them sharing in the Kugel joy.

Although I didn't get my Chinese food fix, eating Kugel with Grandpa was a fine way to spend Christmas Eve.

p.s. I wonder if Grandpa used to eat Chinese on Christmas? From what I understand the tradition does go way back...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bloody Holidays (Literally and Figuratively): or..What A Miserable Life

They do bring out the best in everyone. Just check out the comments I received on this post. I don't have the wherewith all to respond right now but maybe someone else will. And now to my story...

From mopping up dripping animal blood from my freezer to the buffalo roast I served for dinner, this Christmas day couldn't have gotten much worse.. and then it did. Any holiday cheer I may have had (and there wasn't much to start with) has been wiped away with the blood-soaked paper towels and buried with all of the food I tossed out when our fridge decided to go on the fritz.

After a lovely evening of wrapping gifts for Izzy to put under our tree, I awakened this morning to discover that our fridge/freezer was completely malfunctioning. Some areas were warm whereas others were frozen. Goat and buffalo juices were dripping everywhere. The sight was enough to turn even the staunchest of carnivores into a vegetarian. The mess was of such grand proportions that after the gift unwrapping, I was destined to a morning of freezer cleaning. We had no breakfast as I attempted to remove all bloody traces.

When I finally got around to preparing breakfast (while Izzy and his Papa played), I served scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage and toast. The sausage was from a mystery package that had defrosted and had to be used. It was one of many I had picked up at the greenmarket and I know not from which animal it came. It was most definitely not the tastiest of sausages. A. called it "possum sausage" and even Mama cat refused to try it. Indeed it had a funky flavor but at least breakfast (brunch) had be served.

After brunch, the matter of the fridge still plagued us. A. became intent upon fixing it himself and I had to remove everything and find a home for it, either out in the yard or in our vestibule which remains fairly cold. Somehow the entire afternoon disappeared and by the time it was determined that repairs were not going to happen, it was time to prepare dinner. I marinated a buffalo eye of round roast, part of the same share as my chopped buffalo which made for a fantastic meatloaf. I planned to serve it with mashed potatoes, broccoli and an arugula/mache salad.

All seemed set but the roast seemed to require additional roasting time, far beyond the suggested hour. By 7:30, I allowed Izzy to have a roast-less meal. We sat with him as we waited for the roast to reach the suggested internal temperature of 130 degrees. When it finally did, I immediately began to carve it, only to discover that it was unhappily overdone. Izzy had the first slice and kept chewing and chewing. Buffalo is an extremely lean meat and apparently should only be served on the rare side.

A. decided that it wasn't really buffalo meat at all and that I had been hoodwinked into purchasing a donkey butt. If nothing else it was good for a laugh. Soon it would be just a bad memory.

With dinner over, I was faced with yet another kitchen mess. I put Izzy into bed and came down to get to work when all of a sudden he started moaning from bed. He began crying intermittently, at times inconsolably and is now running a fever. A. got into bed with him to keep him company.

While I sit here and worry, I am certainly looking forward to better days and better dinners ahead. And a repaired refrigerator. Merry day after Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lunching With Rapscallions On A Cold Winter's Day

Izzy and his friend T., tagged along with us (their moms) to Pilates this morning. As they whizzed about the studio, making mischief of one kind or another, C., our instructor referred to them as monkeys, then elves. Upon hearing the word elves, T. said, "No, monkeys" and Izzy said, no "Rapscallions." Fitting enough, I might add. And as the day wore on, even more so.

As it was too cold to even think of strolling about in the pre-Christmas rush of NYC, we ended up at Baumgart's, in Edgewater, for a rather late lunch. Baumgart's in Edgewater, though not as wonderful as the original in Englewood, is still a fine place to dine with kids (or grown-ups). In fact we bumped into two teachers from Izzy's school, enjoying their first day of winter break.

Izzy and T. were giddy with delight as they frolicked in the booth. They both attacked a large platter of edamame and were then served warm sesame noodles, soft, thick and nutty. T. ignored hers for fries and ketchup while Izzy twirled his and commented upon how he first tried them with Papa.

S. and I were just happy to be sitting across from two happy, non-complaining children (oops I mean rapscallions), our accomplishment for the day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What Is A Gourmand? (In case you were curious...)

A long while back, a friend inquired as to what I had in mind by the word "gourmand". True the initial usage of the term referred to an individual who pursued culinary pleasures to excess, more akin to a glutton than a gourmet. Not quite what I had in mind.

Instead, the current Wikipedia definition best describes my image of a gourmand : " A person who takes great pleasure in food." And, knock on wood (my superstitious side comes out), so far Izzy does just that.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Homemade Organic Peppermint Patties: Get The Sensation!

I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food websites, The Kitchn and I knew it would make for an ideal holiday gift. The ingredient list was short and aside from peppermint oil, I had all of the ingredients* in my pantry.

Izzy and I prepared them this afternoon and had nearly instant candy gratification. These were even better than the ones we buy from Birnn Chocolates! The chocolate dipping can get a bit messy with a little helper but that was all part of the fun.

*All of the ingredients should be available in the organic section of your supermarket or at Whole Foods.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hanukkah Preview: Latkes With A Shot Of Applesauce

How's that for a new use for shot glasses? You can even buy a bunch of vintage ones on the cheap to use at your next Hanukkah party.

Recipes for latkes to follow and the applesauce is here. Be sure to use a variety of apples for a distinctive flavor..(Empire, Winesap, Jonagold are just some of the ones I used).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eating Great-Grandpa Style: The Edison Diner

Izzy's great-grandpa does not get out much, save for a weekly visit to his favorite restaurant, The Edison Diner. I have been able to avoid going there as he usually makes a weekly visit there with a kind friend who visits him nearly every Tuesday. When we visit, I usually bring something for us to eat with him at home.

This past visit, our usual routine was interrupted. My brother G. and my nephew D., visited at the same time so they decided Grandpa would like a trip to the diner. It was an outing. One I would sooner forget.

Once seated in our cramped booth (Grandpa insisted), I shuddered at the thought of what Izzy might eat there and searched for the least offensive choices on the menu. I offered him the choice of a veggie burger or grilled cheese sandwich. He chose the burger (as did his uncle) so I had the sandwich. Grandpa ordered Matzoh-Ball soup and fries. White food. What picky children like...

My nephew D., now 12, ordered several dishes from the menu, a burger, an egg sandwich and a Belgian waffle. I watched in amazement as he consumed everything in sight.

Everyone seemed thrilled with their choices (especially Izzy who was starving since it was nearly three p.m before lunch was served). He probably would have eaten whatever was put in front of him but it still pained me to watch him grab at my grandpa's greasy fries and take pleasure in that awful food.

As I sat, begrudgingly eating my grilled cheese, I thought about the countless people who flock to diners and why... I also wondered what Alice Waters would have done if her grandfather insisted on eating at a diner. "Bring your own olive oil" would have been of no use there...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chicken Finger (Trouble With Cat)

I thought I was adapting nicely to having a wild creature in my house, until the other night, when Mama cat mistook my finger for a piece of chicken. In her defense, both are white, and I was holding out the morsel of chicken between my fingers. There I was thinking about how fond Mama was of chicken and how she was coming around so nicely, even allowing me to stroke under her chin as she nibbled. Perhaps I should reconsider my feeding methods to avoid any confusion and to avoid the pain.. Do you have any idea how sharp a cat's teeth are?

All was forgiven until the next day, when I received the following text from A., "Your cursed cat attacked my foot. And not in a nice way. If she does that to Izzy she is out." Apparently she thought A.'s foot was a rat. Or so he surmised. Personally I think she was defending her territory. A. had no business pacing around her safe spot.

The following night, I tempted her again with some chicken. Once again I stupidly held out a morsel, and yet again, she grabbed my finger. I think I have finally learned my lesson. The only way to feed her is out of the palm of my hand. No more chicken finger for her!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Green Split Pea Soup: Not Exactly Like Grandma's

I grew up with my grandma's green split pea soup. It was a muddied green affair topped with sliced hot dogs. A. grew up with bits of ham in his soup.
Though I am still tempted to add some meaty tidbits to this soup, I have found a way to make this soup flavorful without meat, caramelized onions. The onions with olive oil somehow turn this into a rib sticking meal. And it need not simmer for hours either, making it entirely possible to prepare on a weeknight.

Green Split Pea Soup (Vegetarian)

2 cups organic green split peas
7 cups water (add more if needed)
1 bay leaf
1 3/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (optional)

4-6 carrots, sliced or chopped
2 leeks, whites with bit of green, chopped
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 cups onion, chopped

1. Add peas, bay leaf and salt to large stockpot, cover with water and simmer 20 minutes.
2. Add carrots, leeks, celery, and garlic. Simmer 40 minutes more.
3. While soup is simmering, saute onion in olive oil and add to soup at end.

4-6 generous servings.

Served with bread, cheese and a salad = Dinner!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Green Expectations (or The Many Shades Of Green)

"Green" conjures up images of many things. From the choices we make in the way we live, to the vibrant colors of the many wonderful vegetables we eat. Today green was all of those things and then some. It was also a green I'd rather forget: Namely, green gobs of frosting on cookies that Izzy was eating. Of course I prefer to think of the former but can't get my mind off the latter. In some way, they are intertwined.

In small ways we try to raise Izzy "green" given the environment in which we live. This means doing things like hanging our laundry on the line (weather permitting), living without a/c most of the summer and walking or taking public transportation whenever possible. Every little bit helps. Izzy helps recycle and it certainly helps that his school encourages that as well. Izzy's "sculpture" creations, made from discarded food packaging (what packaging is recycled is another story, don't even ask what ingredients are listed in the package below) are just one way he is learning to be "green".

We also try to guide him towards selecting earth-friendly toys (apparently not a guarantee of anything) and he is fortunate to have many handmade ones like the ferry above, made by his Grandpa T.

Most importantly, if you read this blog you know, being "green" greatly influences how we shop and eat. Our major efforts towards being "green" are certainly concentrated in the food realm. We try to eat local, organic foods whenever possible. It is my wish to instill in Izzy, a lifelong love and respect for healthy, delicious foods. This afternoon, I prepared an organic green-split pea soup, made with local or organic vegetables. It may not have been the most beautiful pale shade of green, but topped with sauteed leeks (more green), it was warming and nutritious on a cold, rainy night.

In the late afternoon, while the pea soup simmered on the stove, I took Izzy to join his classmates for a small holiday celebration. The children were offered cookies with gobs of green frosting and small green Christmas trees. Not wishing to be a Grinch, I allowed him to indulge, knowing full well what the aftermath might be.

I tried to be festive but couldn't help but be disturbed. Why were they being fed food dye and why the color green?

Food dyes have been consistently shown to cause hyperactivity in children. Current research continues to confirm this. It is truly best to steer clear of them if at all possible. There are organic dyes available and certainly other ways to be festive.

Secondly, why the choice of color. Is green the seasonal color? Not if you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Diwali. Not that another color would have been healthier but how about equal opportunity dyes?

As I mulled over these thoughts, it came as no surprise when Izzy and his friends turned from chattering children to rolling, romping creatures, piling up on one another, causing the parents and teachers to reign in their behavior, caused in part, by the foods they were served.

I was more than happy to take Izzy home for his dinner. Hopefully the green split pea soup would be both nourishing and calming.

I continue to ponder how challenging it is to be "green" here in lovely, toxic, Jersey City. It is especially difficult when not everyone shares the same mindset. Learning to eat better is one way to counteract the negative effects of our environment, as we live in the shadow of the Holland Tunnel. We all do not have the opportunity to raise our children on a farm, as this amazing woman does but we do have a chance to teach our children about good greens and bad.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mama Cat: Four Week Anniversary

Today we celebrated have Mama cat in our house for four weeks (well I am noting it here, no actual celebration was made). She marked the occasion by finding a true hiding place. I actually thought she had escaped. When I went to her usual spot, she wasn't there. I combed all of the rooms where she could possibly be and there was no sign. Under beds, in closets, nothing. I can't imagine where she went but 10 minutes later she miraculously reappeared in her usual spot.

My latest triumph is having her eat out of my hand while I attempt to scratch her chin. She sits on the steps and I stand below, sticking my hand through the staircase spindles.

And still the naysayers haunt me. "Let her go. She would be happier outdoors." "You won't be able to tame her unless you confine her to one room." Since there are so many schools of cat thought, I look towards the positive voices. "Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. She is better off inside. It is a rough life outside in Jersey City."

I would have to agree. Others have taken in ferals and seen them turn into lap cats. It may take two years, as was the case for S., who took in a pregnant feral and kept her, along with two kittens. Whatever the case may be, I still hold out hope for Mama.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Need He Say More? Need I?

It was getting close to dinnertime and I had nothing on the burner. Izzy announced how hungry he was, probably noting that nothing was ready to eat. Since I hadn't planned ahead, I mentioned some quick dinner possibilites. He looked up and said:

"Whatever you make I will eat."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ox Outing: It's Aging Well

You have heard me rave about Ox before and I am back to say that it is better than ever. I convinced my dad to go there despite his problem with their previous bread issues (which have in fact returned), but I tried to overlook that teensy drawback and focus on the wonderful.

More sliders to drool over (not venison but still fabulous), deviled eggs and butternut squash arrancini (rice balls) also called us. These bar bites got raves all around, as perfectly- sized deliciousness.

Everything on their seasonal menu was appealing but I settled on their signature oxtail appetizer, which was even better than I remember. A square of polenta was piled even higher with shredded, meltingly tender oxtail. Next was their chicken and waffles, a lovely riff on a southern standard. It was prepared with a whole roasted poussin served atop a waffle with bacon and pecans. You can bet Izzy was opening like a guppy for tastes of everything, as he enjoyed his half portion of sweet pea risotto. Yes. Ox now boasts half portions which makes it even more enticing than ever.

My dad and stepmother enjoyed their fish special but were unable to finish. We ordered so much that I ended up with a whole portion to take home. The only downside was the noise factor. We could hardly hear ourselves speak as it was still happy hour, well after seven.

Izzy's final word: "Everything on our table was yummy." Indeed it was.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Coffee Lessons From Aunt A.

I love the smell of coffee but I don't drink it and I don't make it at home. So when his Aunt A. set out to prepare some, I was thrilled when Izzy was invited to help. Little did I know that Aunt A. herself was pretty much a coffee novice and only recently has come to learn a thing or two about it.
She could hardly avoid it, given that her girlfriend is the proprietor of the popular Pittsburgh cafe, Enrico's Tazza D'Oro, which sells some of the finest coffee in the country.

Izzy patiently awaits his turn to press the coffee grounds.

Izzy was eager to do his job but waited until Auntie A. gave him the go ahead. He slowly pressed when the time came.

Even though I don't usually drink coffee, I had to try some of this. After all, Aunt A. said that this blend was very special, and I would say so at something like $50 a pound. At those prices I guess it pays to know someone in the business!

I liked the coffee well enough though Aunt A.deemed it weak. I'd say it was strong enough for me since it kept me awake that night. Good thing Izzy didn't try any!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cat Calls: Three Weeks With Mama Cat

Today marks three weeks since we captured Mama cat. She seems to be fully litter trained, which is a major success. She spends most of the daytime hiding out on the top floor of our house, either on a bed, or under it. She makes forays down one flight for food and to check out commotions.

Evenings are different. Nearly every night, at Izzy's bedtime, she perches on a back windowsill and meows. Each meow has a different sound. M-ow-boo, Meow-oo or just plain M-ow. Until she moved in with us, we never heard a peep out of her but now it is almost as if she is trying to tell us something.

Last night her meows were so loud and plaintive, as she peered down at her old love, the large gray and white tomcat, father of her first litter. All sorts of meowing ensued as other neighborhood cats wandered in and out of our yard. Maybe the warm weather brought them out. I was sad for Mama but have to remember that she is safer inside.

Here with us, she gets bowls of leftover turkey chunks (a real hit), smoked trout and other choice niblets. I do hope that the way to cat's heart is her stomach.. for one day we hope to be able to actually pet her. If she plays her cards right, I may just prepare some homemade cat food!

Monday, December 1, 2008

P is For Picking At Pomegranates, A Perfect Playdate Pastime

Pomegranate seeds, yogurt and honey. Perfect after school snack. Wildly entertaining too.

Today Izzy and his friend I. snacked on the above. After they licked their bowls clean, I gave them the remaining pomegranates to pick at with chopsticks. Soon their faces and fingers were red-stained and happy. Poking at pomegranates turned out to be a most pleasurable pastime.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Missing Piece: It Must Run In Their Family

Over a post-Thanksgiving meal at my Mother-in-Law's house, she told a tale behind the pumpkin pie that she had made. I listened to the story with great interest. Apparently it was her mother's recipe and it took her a mighty long time to extract it from her. She explained that her mother had given her the recipe but of course when she actually attempted to make it herself, it was not like her mother's, something was missing. She tried to glean what the missing ingredients were but was unable to do so.

Eventually, she had to go to watch her mother prepare the pumpkin pie. Only then did she discover that all sorts of ingredients were had been lef out of the recipe she had been given. The number of eggs was incorrect, spices were lacking and a few other details were off. Her mother denied any wrongdoing, simply saying, well of course I use cloves and of course I use...as if it was all understood.

I listened to this tale, realizing how clear it was where the apple had fallen. After having just finished her famous turkey soup, I wondered what it would take to procure the real recipe. The process is too long and drawn out for me to witness every step so I guess it will take years of questioning and experimentation before I ever get it.

This year, she added a few more ingredients from the last time, claiming that it always changes. Indeed some of the vegetables may vary but it is the consistency that remains constant.

Tonight I tried yet again,and yet again I made a wonderful pot of soup but it did not resemble my Mother-in-Law's version. Izzy tried to pinpoint the differences and he said, "In Grandma J.'s soup, the vegetables float to the top." Hmmm.. so do the ones in mine but he is on to something. My soup is a brothier soup and hers is a stewier one. Perhaps the difference is the amount of liquid? Who knows. Stay-tuned until next year when I try yet again.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Have Turkey Carcass Will Travel

My friend L., keen observer that she is, must have seen me covetously eyeing her turkey carcass. A 20 pounder to begin with, it still had plenty of meat on its bones. Uhmmm. It would definitely make a fine turkey soup. I did mention the soup idea to L. and T. but it was only met with a lukewarm response.

As the party festivities drew to a close, she and her husband T., offered up the turkey carcass. I tried to decline because even though I had envious thoughts, it would mean more kitchen scullery duty this weekend, which I wasn't sure I was up to. But they persisted, considering that they had plenty of turkey leftover off the bone. They proceeded to stuff the still meaty bird into the most enormous ziploc bag I'd ever seen, then into a shopping bag, all wrapped up and ready to travel. Before I knew it, it was thrust into my hands and I had no choice but to welcome it along on our travels home.

At one point while contemplating if I should actually take the turkey remains, I asked if it was organic. Hearing that it was, I realized it would be a shame to let it go to waste, especially if they had no grandiose plans for it.
So there I sat on the train, with a large turkey carcass on the rack above, poised to go flying if the train jolted unexpectedly.

As the train rolled forward, I was reminded of a long ago trip to Morocco, where live turkeys joined me and A. on a bus trip. At least they were packed with the luggage and not the passengers but somehow the image of a turkey crammed in with my luggage was not particularly appealing.

So now here I sit, two days post T-day, with the carcass calling me from the fridge. We have made a few sandwiches with the meat and I am now itching to get to the soup, especially since we were served generous tasty portions of it last night, prepared by the soup doyenne herself. Although my mother-in-law claims that the recipe changes each time, it always seems as I remember and not that much like mine. This time she added a few extra pointers which will hopefully serve me well.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Memories: From Popovers To Turkey Carcass

This is the first year I have ever celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, rather than family. No, come to think of it, maybe not. There was the time in Paris, and the time in New York but I suppose it is the first time in the past 15 years. My oldest, bestest friend L., invited us to her holiday table. And what a table it was. In fact there was more than one. There was an hors'd'oeuvres spread on one table, along with a grown-up table and a kiddie table. Everything was set beautifully with harvest-colored table linens.

Izzy stood out at the kiddie table for he was the only one to eat every course. Starting with popovers (which I was surprised to find T. making upon our arrival) on to pumpkin ravioli with sage butter, then salad with goat cheese and dried cranberries. He ate so much before the meal that he was too overstuffed to nibble any turkey. He did manage to squeeze in a some mashed potatoes and a few parsnips but that was about it.

As for me, I managed to heap my plate with as many things as would fit, despite being overstuffed with appetizers as well and keeping in mind that I needed to save room for dessert. While I was eating, Izzy spent much of the festivities zooming around with his friends S. and I. eventually coming to halt with the promise of dessert. There was a nice assortment, including the Tarte Tatin (my contribution) and Auntie S.'s cheesecake. We managed to have a sliver of each.

After the dessert course, I helped L. with a bit of the clean-up, all the while eyeing the turkey carcass on the counter. I suggested to L. that she make turkey soup, especially since I have the recipe right here. She seemed a bit uncertain about the idea and what happened next merits a post of its own, to come tomorrow, but back to my story.

Stuffed to the gills, much later than I thought it would be, L. took us to the train station to make our way home. A fine time was had by all. Poor Izzy was exhausted and needed to be carried much of the way. On our way, he lamented the late hour and dreamed of a day, this weekend, when he could stay in bed until dinnertime. Who knows, perhaps his wish may come true.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Brussels Sprouts Destalker and Cranberry Mold Maker: Izzy's Thanksgiving Contributions

Izzy and I had the whole day together to spend preparing our four dishes for the Thanksgiving meal. The first job was Brussels sprout destalker. Buying the sprouts on a stalk (if you can find them that way) is definitely the freshest way to go. I showed Izzy how to use a small sharp knife to slice them off. He immediately set to work.

When his task was completed, I prepped the sprouts for tomorrow by slicing them in half. The will be used to make this.

Next on the agenda was our Cranberry-Port Molds. He washed the cranberries and picked through them. He also added all of the ingredients to the pot, stirring and watching it while it simmered.

Meanwhile, I prepared the pastry dough for the Tarte Tatin ( I promise a recipe for this soon) and peeled the parsnips for this. Instead of a cooking frenzy, it was a leisurely day, with time for a walk to the bakery and supermarket, and games interspersed throughout. Ahhhhhh.

Tomorrow we will complete the dishes and cart them all to my friend L.'s Thanksgiving Feast.

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Case of The C@&$y Cupcake:

Who dunnit and Why?

My day was going along swimmingly. I did everything I needed to do before it was time to pick up Izzy from school. I even bought some luscious "pains au chocolat" from Bouley Bakery, which would be a real treat for him and his friend T...

And so, in fine spirits, I went to pick him up. We said our "Happy Thanksgivings" and were on our way. All of a sudden he remembered that one of his teachers had forgotten to give him something, a cupcake. There was a frenzied rush to go back and retrieve it. I didn't think much of it but he insisted on going back for said cupcake, which he informed me, came from the Yellow Room. I figured it must be a special, homemade cupcake but was unsure why it belonged to him, since he is not in the Yellow room.

We followed Izzy as he zoomed around the corner in his quest, just as Miss L., his teacher arrived with a cupcake, still in its plastic box. When I saw it, my face must have crumpled (or so said my friend S.) I thanked his teacher but told Izzy we would have plenty of goodies at home but we wouldn't be taking the cupcake.

Oh the tears that fell. How could I have done this? On and on he wailed.
I didn't realize the anguish it all would cause, not only to him but to me.
We made it home and thankfully his friend T. perked him up.

And then I was left wondering. What were Izzy's teachers thinking? I do love them but were they blinded by some holiday, sugar -induced cloud? I surely am not opposed to cupcakes, and especially love baking and eating them, so long as they are special cupcakes. Made with love or from Baked! But why was this cupcake bequeathed to him and not the other children?

I must be missing something. As was Izzy, who at bedtime asked why I didn't let him have the cupcake. Perhaps it was a special cupcake after all, in which case I am awfully sorry that I kept him from eating it. If not I'd still love to know the story behind it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On Coaxing Children To Eat: In The Classroom

Today I had the pleasure of assisting in Izzy's classroom. The teachers had planned a Thanksgivingesque celebration. There were three stations at which the children prepared three different dishes, ultimately to be eaten for their lunch at a communal table, rather than at separate, small tables as they usually do.

I helped out at the salad station, where the children chopped up carrots, celery, tomatoes and apples. They were also in charge of the fulfilling and age-appropriate task of tearing lettuce into small pieces. Having trained Izzy to use a knife at an early age, I was not quite aware of knife holding protocol for the uninitiated. The teacher demonstrated how the children were to hold the ridged slicer, holding it in one hand while placing the other on top of it, rather than beside it. I wondered how they would have done, had I not seen her demo..Thankfully there were no injuries.

At the cheese and tomato sandwich station they sliced tomatoes and placed them, along with sliced cheese, on small pieces of bread. Perfect jobs for a three- year old to be sure.

At the third station, Miss L., one of their teachers, prepared a Taiwanese sweet potato soup. She helped them grate the sweet potatoes which she then cooked in a rice cooker. I didn't get to see what went into this dish although it looked like simply potatoes, water and maybe some sugar.

Along with food prep, the children were responsible for making place cards with their names on them and setting the table. When the time came to eat, the children were clearly pleased with themselves, though not enough to actually try what they had helped prepare.

I was amazed at how many of the group (about 17), turned down the salad. I would say it was over half, if not more. The soup was an even harder sell. Of course I qvelled when Izzy continued to ask for extra helpings of it but wished the others would at least give it a try. I decided it was time to intervene. As his adorable friend A. was about to toss hers, I stopped her in her tracks. An amusing conversation ensued and the others became engaged as we discussed what would actually happen if she tasted something she didn't like. All eyes were on her and the others who I challenged to taste the soup. And guess what? They did! The friend even admitted it was not as awful as she would have imagined.

The best place to learn healthy, adventurous eating habits is the home. Barring that, teachers certainly can help to model good eating, as they did today. Indeed, modeling is important when it comes to teaching children to eat well, however peer influence can also prove to be quite useful.

As an educator, I have always been interested in measuring the impact of family vs. peer influence. It is so exciting to see how it comes into play in the realm of food.

I look forward to more time spent eating with Izzy and his classmates. Who knows what they might eat!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brussels Sprouts: Perfect Thanksgiving Side Dish

These Brussels sprouts are sprightly green, not dull and gray. Sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and sauteed with minced garlic and olive oil, they are quick and easy.

Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Garlic

1 1b. Brussels sprouts (choose ones of similar size, smaller ones are best).
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (to toast, place in hot pan over heat and toss til browned)
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic.
olive oil
salt, pepper

1. Bring small pot of salted water to boil.
2. Trim sprouts and cut large ones in half. Blanch in boiling water a few minutes. You want them still green but tender.
3. Add two - three tablespoons of olive oil to large frying pan. Add minced garlic and saute about 2 -3 minutes, until sizzling. Don't allow garlic to brown.
4. Add blanched sprouts and toss to coat. Add pine nuts and cook about 1-2 more minutes.
5. Serve immediately.

4-6 side dish servings.

notes: You can blanch sprouts in advance. Toss with garlic and oil right before serving.

If you are not serving vegetarians, add 2-3 slices of chopped cook bacon to dish.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Turkey Of My Own: Thanksgiving Misgivings

No matter what we end up doing for Thanksgiving, I continue to harbor my Thanksgiving fantasy, wherein we go to see the Macy's parade and then retreat to a restaurant for our Thanksgiving meal. It would be an effortless Thanksgiving to say the least. Imagine, nothing to shop for, nothing to fret over, nothing to wash up afterwards.

My sister-in-law once even entertained the possibility with me and I am sure my niece and nephew would think it grand, but somehow this has never come to be. Friends and relations (mainly relations), seem to keep us celebrating elsewhere.

And so another Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and I vowed for it not to be anything like last year's fiasco. In fact, I will not be making Thanksgiving at my house. I will get to make a dishes and bring them along to someone else's.

The one problem with this is that I will have no leftover turkey. No carcass for turkey soup, no turkey neck to nibble. To remedy the situation, I envision simply buying a small turkey and making it over the weekend, just for the leftovers. But just as the Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant, this is another fantasy that has never become reality. Maybe this year, I will make it so..

Anyone know where to find a tiny turkey (about 8 lbs. would be perfect)?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Izzy's Cheese Selection

They were sampling a trio of cheeses over at Murray's yesterday afternoon. Izzy was eager to try the stinky selection. One taste of this luscious, creamy-looking Brebirousse D'argental and he was sold, as was I. I immediately purchased a half pound hunk.

A. and I feasted upon it tonight. A dinner of bread, wine, cheese and olives. Something I would often do for lunch in Paris but hardly ever do here. It was nice to be inside on this cold night, savoring our simple meal.

My eating revery was interrupted when A.noted the price tag on this hunk of cheese..$10.78.. I blamed it on Izzy. The dangers of having a five year old cheese taster became apparent. Well not really. I explained that certain wonderful cheeses might seem costly but we needn't eat it all at once. Besides, it was still cheaper than going out for dinner.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's With Our Green Banana? Some Strangers Weigh In

Scene: Path train platform, awaiting the 33rd Street train. Izzy and I are seated on a bench, in between a young woman to the left and a young man to the right.

Izzy: I'm hungry.

Me: I have a banana. Would you like the banana?

Izzy: No. Don't you have anything else?

Me: No. Have the banana. It has vitamins in it that you need to help you grow.

Izzy nods okay and I take out the banana. Note that it is green, quite green, despite the fact that it has sat out on my counter for four days. I figured it was just one of those strange bananas that just never turn yellow but are ripe nonetheless. I try to peel the banana and the banana resists.

The woman says: That banana isn't ripe. It's green.

Me: It just looks green. I think it is ripe. It has been sitting on my counter for 4 days. (Then I touch it. It is hard as a rock.) Maybe you are right but something is strange about this banana.

The young man looks over at us and says: That is not an eating banana. It looks like a cooking banana. I am British and from the islands and we cook those bananas.

Me: You mean plantains?

Young man: Yes. You slice it lengthwise, and boil it until tender. With sweet potatoes if you want.

Me: Oh. I thought you fried them. Which island are you from?

Young man: Jamaica.

Me: (I then launch into some discussion of foods of Jamaica finally getting back to the banana). I don't think this is a cooking banana but I guess you never know.

Young man inspects banana and is then uncertain. He says it looks too small to be a cooking banana after all. The train pulls into the station and Izzy is still hungry. This isn't the first time I have purchased organic bananas that never seemed to get ripen.

And so the mystery of the green banana remains unsolved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Foray Into Brooklyn: Sahadi's, Trader Joe's, Fairway and Baked

Wednesday is greenmarket day. But not today. My friend S. dangled the prospect of a shopping adventure in a warm car in front of me and I couldn't resist.

I venture to Union Square, no matter the weather but it was colder than I expected today and besides, I just couldn't turn down a food adventure with a friend. Our main mission was Sahadi's on Atlantic Avenue. Many an ode has been sung to this Middle Eastern food mecca and I wanted to see for myself.

The store is a sea of olives, nuts, dried fruits, bulk grains and beans, along with all manner of Middle Eastern comestibles. I was afraid to start purchasing random items that would end up unused . I ended up with two types of olives, smoked almonds, some mushroom-leek triangular pies and tea. I was trying to pace myself for the next stop on our trip, a visit to the Red Hook Fairway. On our way out of the shop we noticed that its neighbor, Damascus Bakery, had some fresh-looking pitas, so I picked up a few of those and some hummus and Taramasalata to go with them.

On our way back to the car, we happened upon a Trader Joe's. I didn't even realize there was one in Brooklyn so that was a bonus (as was the fact that it was fairly empty and much easier to navigate than the one at Union Square). After that quick detour, back in the car and off to Fairway.

And what a Fairway it is. The largest of the stores, it's vast, wide aisles are a heavenly reprieve from the cramped space at 75th street. We didn't even have time to do it justice, making it about halfway through the store before realizing we'd better think about getting back to pick up our kids from school. We crammed us much as we could into our short trip and we are already planning a trip devoted entirely to Fairway and Fairway alone.

Back in the car, and still with a bit of time to spare, S. was suddenly reminded of a cupcake she had once eaten a few years ago. She recalled that it may have come from a bakery in Red Hook. We had driven by Baked on our way and it just so happened to be only a few blocks from Fairway. S. insisted that we stop in on our way home. Who was I to argue. She bought a cupcake and consumed it on the spot. I tried to look away but the pull of the cupcakes and whoopie pies was too strong. I took one of each to go, along with a Mate Latte, which I sipped on the way home.

I thought I would save the cupcake and whoopie pie for tomorrow but the cupcake is gone. Yes. S...that frosting is a light, creamy concoction.

At least I saved the whoopie pie for Izzy to eat tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mama Cat Makes Herself At Home

May the cat ladies of the world forgive me, but we just couldn't keep Mama in isolation. So we opened the bathroom door. At first she did not venture far. Her first outings were short forays up the stairs, to the other bathroom. Or to visit A. in his office. When she is not roaming, she spends her time next to the bathtub, or on the bathroom windowsill, where she perches quite nicely. She is drawn to windowsills, where she gazes upon her old stomping grounds and meows somewhat pitifully..

For the past few days, we have left the bathroom door open and most other doors closed. Today we left a few other doors open. Mama took advantage of her new found freedom. When I went to look for her, this is what I found.

She discovered my rocking chair. I took this as a good sign but I figured she would go back to her bathroom spot. Later on, I went to find her and she wasn't where I had expected she would be. Instead, I found her here...

It is now bedtime and she is still not back in the bathroom. In fact, she is nestled in the rocking chair and I am in bed, wondering if she will pounce on me in the night. I thought I would lure her to the bathroom with her midnight snack but she doesn't seem interested. Let's hope I don't awaken with a cat on my head!

Monday, November 17, 2008

At What Age Can A Child Dine Out Alone?

One family in New York City, featured in this New York Times article, decided that 12 was the right age. What do you think?

When David Fishman's parents told him they would not be coming home for dinner, they asked him to pick up some takeout. Instead he asked their permission to dine out at a new restaurant in their Upper West Side neighborhood. As a budding foodie, he took the opportunity to critique the restaurant while the staff and other diners fawned over him.

I am not sure what to think about this. I suppose that a restaurant is a relatively safe place for a 12 year old and certainly not a bad place for a young boy to spend time alone. I certainly applaud him for his interest in eating well and his choice of restaurant.

The only issue I have is that he had to eat alone. Made me think of him as the modern-day latch-key kid, only worse as his parents couldn't even make it home for dinner. Having been a latch-key kid myself, and not one who would have or could have taken myself out to dinner, I clearly have my own biases here.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Buffalo Bundt Meatloaf

I heard from a friend that yesterday was National Bundt Cake Day. I don't know if she invented that or if it is indeed a celebrated occasion. In either event, I celebrated a week earlier with my favorite bundt cake and this..the belle of the bundt ball. A buffalo bundt meatloaf, which is an excellent way to present meatloaf for a crowd.

I usually make my meatloaf with grass fed beef or turkey. This time I happened to use buffalo meat. How is it that I just happened to have several pounds of buffalo meat? Well that reminds me that I have been terribly remiss. I forgot to tell you that I was offered a share of a buffalo.

You see D. (my real food connection) became involved in purchasing a whole buffalo which would supposedly yield something like 600 pounds of buffalo meat. A share of that did seem daunting so I made sure to specify not more than 30 pounds. Even that seemed to be a bit much, considering I hadn't tried buffalo meat before. I'm not exactly sure what happened in the end but I think I only ended up with around 15 pounds, which now that I have tried it, might not be enough.

The meatloaf turned out wonderfully moist, despite the fact that buffalo is rather lean. I had hoped for leftovers but only had enough to give Izzy a portion in his lunchbox the next day. If you haven't been offered a buffalo share, grass-fed beef will do.

This recipe is adapted from this award winning meatloaf recipe I found year's ago in The New York Times.

Buffalo Bundt Meatloaf

1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
1 cup rolled oats
3 medium onions, chopped fine
olive oil
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 eggs
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 pounds ground buffalo meat or grass-fed beef
1/2 cup ketchup 1 tablespoon spicy mustard.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Saute onions in a 4 tablespoons olive oil until soft and slightly browned.
3. In a bowl, combine the honey and milk. Add oats, onions, salt, pepper, thyme and eggs. Toss with a fork and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the ground buffalo. Add the milk mixture.
4. Pat into oiled, 12-inch round bundt pan and bake 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn off the heat.
4. Turn the loaf out onto a baking sheet. Mix ketchup and mustard together and spread on top of the meat loaf with pastry brush. Return to the warm oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 10-12

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mama Cat: First Days At Home

So Mama has been safely installed in my bathroom since Tuesday evening. Her behavior has changed drastically since that first night when she spent most of the time on the windowsill.

The second day she seemed downright despondent, barely eating or drinking. Now her appetite has returned and she eats whatever I offer.

Although she eats, she doesn't seem to be herself. She spends almost all of her time curled up on a small towel beside the bathtub, only getting up to eat, drink or use her litter box.

The most exciting development is that she ate out of my hand, not once but twice! I sit with her whenever I can, throughout the day. In fact as I type, she is sitting beside me, nibbling a late-night snack.

She is still definitely out of sorts. Does she miss being outside or is she simply recuperating? I feel sad having taken her from the great outdoors yet at the same time think that she is surely safer here inside. The streets of Jersey City certainly can't be the most welcoming place for a cat. I will protect her from nasty neighbors, the harsh weather and always provide food.

Yes food. For isn't it all about the food? Can I charm her with smoked salmon and roast chicken? What tender morsels can I offer so that she will allow me to pet her? I have heard Gerber Baby Food is popular..I wouldn't feed that to my child. Surely Mama is worthy of better!

And so I await my copy of this rare title on taming feral cats. Let's hope it works.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

From A Reader In Wasilla...

You can bet my eyes grew saucer-like when an email appeared in my inbox from a reader in Wasilla. I mean the Wasilla, hometown of Sarah Palin. I didn't even realize I had a reader in Alaska and when I saw Wasilla I thought it must be some sort of joke, given the countless times I have relished watching this.

This email, a response to my post about far-flung readers, made my day. So surprising to find that readers, so different from me, take an interest in what I have to say. According to Barb, who cares for her five year old grandson:

"Our views are worlds apart, but I have never been to New York and I like to see/hear about the shops, parks and restaurants you get to visit."

What I found even more fascinating was Barb's inside view of the food world in Wasilla:

"Dining and take out here in Wasilla Alaska ( an hours drive north of Anchorage) gets you boring and downright terrible food. I can make it much better myself so I am always looking for new dishes to try and cook at home. The seafood here is indescribable. I have caught a King salmon on Sheep Creek and then cooked it in my cast iron skillet over the camp fire and I have never had anything better. I am also lucky to have friends with boats and have caught Alaskan Pink shrimp just in the bay in Whittier ,they were as big as a Pepsi can and we cleaned and cooked them on the boat and it is the sweetest treat you can imagine. Now I am in a soup making frenzy and I am looking for new soups to try. It is cold and snowy here so the soup/ stew- warm things phase will last awhile! I love my 2 weeks off each month and get to do anything I want."

So to Barb:
I thank you for speaking up; as hearing about you and your life inspires me to continue writing about mine. Please do send more comments and I would love to know if you do actually cook moose and how it tastes. I imagine it being akin to venison. If you do cook venison, perhaps you have a recipe suggestion to share. Looking forward to words from other readers, wherever you may reside.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Poor Cat

Mama is not doing well. Since I brought her home last night she has become increasingly lethargic. She has not peed or pooed and has only eaten very small amounts of food. She has been curled up in the same spot behind the bathtub since about 4 p.m...

Izzy must have been thinking about her all day because he came home from school waving the card above, announcing that he had made it for her. He also asked if we could get some more cats so we could be like this woman:

I promise I won't let it come to that. Let's all hope she is better in the morning so that she will be our one and only cat and live to eat some of the smoked trout I got for her at the greenmarket today. She certainly tore it up the last time when I left her the skin, bones and head.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mama Comes Home: Cat In The Bathroom

Izzy and I have moved. Out of our bathroom that is. Mama has taken over and we now have to share a bathroom with A....

I took Mama to the vet this morning, thanks to my friend H. She remained there throughout the day so that she could be spayed and receive other necessary shots and treatments. The good news was that she meowed this morning, a sign that she might not be as feral as we thought. It was a pitiful meowing, but a noise nonetheless.

When it came time to pick her up, my friend S. and Izzy's friend T., were kind enough to take us. The trip back was uneventful, no noises, no wriggling. Once home, I immediately put her in the bathroom. When I opened the trap she darted under the bathroom cabinet and then did a quick perusal of the room. I feared she would bolt for the door but instead she found a perch on the windowsill, where she could survey her old domain.

Considering all that she has been through, she seems rather calm but that might just be the groggy aftermath of her surgery. I left some water with some calming drops, (Rescue Remedy) for her and we have been peeking in at her from time to time. A. even sat and read to keep her company.

Through all of this excitement I neglected to think about dinner for Izzy and I had to whip up a quick zucchini omelet. He complained that he didn't want it but eventually gave in. He was hungry and it was warm.

Meanwhile, Mama is safe, sound and warm. The question is: Will she be content?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mama Cat: A Turning Point

Last week, C., a Jersey City cat rescuer, dropped off a trap so that I could finally capture Mama. She demonstrated how to use it and Izzy took notes.

She also examined the cat house and explained why Mama cat probably wasn't using it.

Ironically, that very night, Mama slept in the cat house and has been using it for the past week. I think C. dusted it with cat fairy dust. Last Friday morning, we planned to capture Mama. Izzy set the trap in the kitchen at breakfast time and I sent him in the other room while I waited. She walked right into the trap with little hesitation and gingerly stepped over the plate. She left without setting it off. When I tried to set it again, she was no longer interested so we decided to wait until this week.

I researched what went wrong and found a fool-proof method for capturing her, the water-bottle method. I also received dozens of emails from P., another area cat rescuer who provided me with numerous details as to how to deal with Mama.
This time I put a huge lump of stinky fishy cat food on a paper plate in the back of the trap. When dinnertime rolled around, she was waiting by the back door. We had everything set up and waited on the side, holding the string. Well wouldn't you know, she wandered in, sniffed at the food and then proceeded to sit down right in front of the trap door, inside the trap. I couldn't close it because it would have hit her in the face. So I waited. She closed her eyes and sat quietly. Eventually, she got up, walked out of the trap and inspected her surroundings. She wandered into the living room to check out Izzy and then went back to the trap.

Before I knew it, she was in the trap. Bang, the door shut and she was in. I felt a bit ill as she writhed about. Somewhat sad and not at all satisfied.

She calmed down after about five minutes and I transferred the trap to the basement. She proceeded to tear up all of the newspaper I had put inside and she managed to fling the stinky cat food everywhere. Izzy was a bit concerned and went to hide in the bathroom. She even managed to drag the sheet cover inside the trap.

I left her in the basement and turned out the light. I have been checking on her periodically. I discovered quite a mess in the trap and despite how stinky it all was, I used the fork method and managed to clean everything up. My grandmother's scarf wrapped around my nose helped immensely!

We have an appointment at the vet tomorrow and then she will recuperate in my bathroom... Who knows what wackiness will ensue?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Melting Potluck: An Obama Victory Party

If ever there were a cause for celebration, this election was it. I had to do something and since I haven't hosted a party in ages I decided it was now or never. The idea simmered in my head throughout the week and on Friday evening I sent out the Evite..There was no turning back.

Response was overwhelming and with kids and adults there were over 30 guests. Whenever I throw a party I go overboard, intending to prepare everything, which is why I chose potluck this time, hoping to relieve myself of some of the work. And I kept it fairly simple on my end with herbed popcorn, sliced olive breads, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and chocolate-banana cake.

The beauty and terror of potluck is you are never quite sure what you'll end up with. In this case I'd venture to say we were fairly potlucky..There was plenty to eat, from a vegetarian lasagne to an Israeli couscous salad. There were two kinds of salads, a few chicken dishes, a pear cobbler, a chocolate layer cake, biscotti and some booze.

In the aftermath, popcorn was ground into the carpeting, I have a hole in my foot from a toothpick and I am left with cake I don't want to eat. The wisest move I made was sending the guests home with their dishes, eaten or otherwise so that I didn't have extra dishes to wash, as I still haven't finished.

Potluck or no, I am exhausted and what I really wanted to talk about was my buffalo meatloaf and the mashed potatoes, but that will have to wait.

Yes it will...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

To My Readers In Far-Away Locales: Yes. That Means You.

Every so often, well actually too often, I check my Site Meter. In case you don't know what that is, it is a nifty feature which allows me to see track details about my fans. Depending upon how they log on I can figure out where they are from and how they have found my site. I scan the list for the unusual. Neighboring areas don't pique my interest quite so much. Instead I focus on readers from far-flung locales who spend inordinate amounts of time reading my blog. I mean, I know it is riveting and all but come on. At least make yourself known. At least send me a comment or two, instead of lurking out there in the shadows.

At one point, a fan in Singapore was reading every single page of my blog. Was it simply innocent or were they stealing my material (don't do it!) More recently I have taken pause at a fan in Perth, Australia, who spends oodles of time perusing the pages.

I am curious to know who you are. I somehow don't think its fair that you know so much about me but I know nothing about you. I write and I write. You read and read and read. What thanks do I get?

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Unstoppable Eater: Izzy Meets His Match

She is the two and a half year old sister of his friend E. Her name is L. and she sure can eat!

We all shared in a most pleasurable meal at Grand Sichuan, our new favorite Chinese restaurant on Grove Street. We have become increasingly fond of eating there. This all happened a few months ago when we bumped into some neighbors as we were on our way in. S. and his daughter S., who are regulars, inspired us to try many new dishes. I let them choose and we tried their favorites. From Spicy Ox Tongue and Tripe, to Soup Dumplings and Whole Fish, everything was well-seasoned and delicious.

Their favorites have since become ours and we had the pleasure of introducing our friends to the wonderful spicy flavors, so much more vibrant than typical American Chinese food. Some of the dishes we shared tonight (along with the aforementioned ones) were Cold Cucumber and Scallions, Shredded Duck With Green Beans, Tea-Smoked Duck, and Pumpkin with Scallions and Ginger.

Everyone ate heartily but L. was a sight to behold. From the moment the food arrived at the table, she did not stop eating. Her hand roved from plate to plate, in search of edible morsels. I watched in awe as she pressed a sliver of duck fat joyously into her mouth. She tried every dish, except the Ox Tongue which was not placed in close proximity for fear that it would be too spicy (Izzy has tried it a few times but has professed that it is too spicy for him).

As. L. entertained herself with food, Izzy and his pal E. finished their dinner and quietly amused themselves with the ever important toy bag which I bring along when occasion warrants. They also had endless fun working on a mini- puzzle which I highly recommend for restaurant outings.

A fine time was had by all and I look forward to our next outing with L. and company. What will she savor next?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Celebrate With Victory Cake

Yesterday I was so happy I baked a cake. A victory cake.

I took one of my favorite cakes, a chocolate-banana cake and infused it with additional richness. I added 1 cup of dried coconut flakes and exchanged 3/4 cup of mini-chips for 1 cup of white chocolate chips! I gave half to Izzy's teachers and saved the rest for us. Izzy couldn't wait to get home and have some for his after school snack.

Day After The Election Exchange
Me: Did you speak with any of your friends about the election?

Izzy: Yes. I spoke to A.

Me: What did you say?

Izzy: It was a private discussion.

Me: Oh, did she vote for Obama?

Izzy: Yes, all of my friends voted for Obama. A. and J. and J. and I. etc..

Me: Did anyone vote for McCain?

Izzy: I don't know because they're not my friends. I am only friends with people who voted for Obama.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama: Izzy Voted Twice (Don't Tell)

We all went to the polls together so he got to press the button with me and with his Papa. He was wearing his "My Mama's For Obama" T-shirt and was actually asked to zip his coat so that he would not be accused of soliciting.

We spent the day out and about, at the Liberty Science Center and also visited the Liberty Humane Society (in deep cat discussions) where the response to the shirt was overwhelmingly positive.

Can't wait to share the good news with him in the morning! Fingers crossed!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pining For Cats

My dreams of taking in Mama and Baby Cat have been shattered. Baby Cat has not been seen in a few weeks and would have been five weeks old this past weekend. Mama now lounges about our yard for hours, nary a kitten in sight. If one was around, we would surely have spotted it.

Mama is back to being a regular visitor at mealtimes. She even made an exploratory visit to our cellar!

I do plan to capture her this week or next. I will have her spayed but not sure if I will try to keep her or set her free. I hear there is another rescued mother/baby cat duo up for adoption...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Change Is In The Air...

Which has actually inspired me to do something other than think of food.

Today I hosted a small phone gathering to get out the vote for OBAMA! Not one to ignore eating entirely, I had intended to serve scones and hot chocolate to the guests. As the gathering was smaller than I had anticipated, I became less inspired to bake so I was thrilled when my friend C. offered to bring along her moist apple cake (I tried to ignore the revelation that it was made with ancient baking soda from her fridge and not imagine all of the attendant flavors it must have absorbed). I even opted out of the hot chocolate, figuring that tea would be more soothing during the phoning process.

I was glad that C. and T. joined me as it made a somewhat unpleasant task seem less so. If nothing else, I have now developed a newfound respect for telephone solicitors. Some reponses were downright nasty but at least these were balanced by some fervent Obama supporters. I truly felt sorry for the woman who claimed she had just received 7 calls from the Obama campaign and after her I couldn't take any more rejection. So I am still left with a few remaining calls. Anyone want to join me tomorrow night?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Izzy Tricked Me...

Into thinking that I could get away with one more year of no trick-or-treating. Up until today, he seemed thrilled with just the prospect of wearing his costume and handing out candy on our front stoop. This morning he asked if he could invite friends over to hand out the candy with him. I explained that his friends probably had their own candy to hand out at their houses. Then I regretted not having a small Halloween get together which I had contemplated but couldn't bring myself to do. After last year, I wasn't really in the mood.

Later on today, when school let out, we came home and prepared our treats. Then, with his costume on, we brought everything out to the stoop. We had organic lollipops, freshly popped popcorn and other organic candy. I also made the most adorable Halloween treat ever (leftovers available if you are in the neighborhood tomorrow!).

These ghosts will definitely become part of our Halloween repertoire. We will make them a tradition at our Halloween party next year.

There we sat, trolling for trick-or-treaters but few were coming our way. I could see Izzy would tire of this soon enough. Finally T., one of his classmates, came by and I decided it wouldn't harm anyone if we joined them to trick-or-treat at a few houses. My little bat boy flitted down the street, eager to ring bells and accept candy. After about a half an hour of this, he was ready to go home.

Once there, he promptly dumped out his loot and began to count it! He had over 60 pieces of candy. I explained to him that when I was little, my parents had the right to check over and discard anything that wasn't so good..like candies made in China, those with excessive food-coloring, the ones with sketchy labels.. He gladly handed over nearly half of the candy and was even on board with the one piece a week plan. Not bad for a first Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Does Manchego Smell Like?

1. Nutty

2. Creamy.

3.Like vomit.

Could it be the answer is a matter of opinion?

My friend R. sent her daughter to school with a snack of aged Manchego and crackers yesterday.

Today at breakfast her daughter M. said, "Mama, the teacher told me my cheese smelled like vomit. She said it was expired." R. could not believe her ears but her daughter repeated the same words. R. immediately called the school. It seems like someone at that school may need lessons in grace and courtesy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Granny Cart Expert

I have been using granny carts for years and do consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject. So when my friend S. complained of a sore back from lugging groceries home from the city, I offered to help her purchase a granny cart, just like mine. After all, my granny cart woes of last year ended when I purchased my trusty blue metal cart which has served me well.

We took the Path to 14th Street and headed for the hole in the wall shop where I have purchased a few carts. Surprise! It wasn't there. So we continued along to the second hole in the wall between 5th and 6th where I thought we might have better luck. I immediately spied a red metal cart that I thought would do, but upon further inspection I realized it was too wide and wouldn't fit through the Path turnstiles. The salesman tried to insist that it was a fine specimen. I shook my head no, as did my friend, who was deferring to me.

I don't know if I said it, or she did but someone said that I was a granny cart expert and at that very moment, as I wiggled my blue cart, one wheel popped off, right before our eyes!

Ah the irony of it all. So now we were both granny cartless, with high hopes of carting home loads of food from the market. We continued to walk towards Union Square, wondering where we would find granny carts in the neighborhood. We interviewed a couple of grannies along the way. The first one said hers was old and had no idea where it came from. The second one, inside Whole Foods, told us that she bought hers at Zabar's ages ago and that we should "Google It"...which somehow seemed awfully funny coming from a frail gray-haired woman who reminded me of my grandma (and my grandma had trouble wrapping her head around the concept of a tape recorder).

By then it was too late to travel for a new granny cart so we both just used our bags and tried not to purchase too much. Which leaves us..Desperately Seeking New Granny Carts!