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

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Snack Success Story: Raw Peppers Agree With Izzy

Thank you to the mother who provided a rainbow of peppers for snack time in recent weeks. Izzy cannot stop talking about them. He mentioned stuffing himself silly with them. The array of colors made them all the more appealing. Green, red, yellow and maybe orange too. He mentioned a carrot dip..I wondered what it was. Whatever it was, this snack sounded like a great idea for the kids. It also taught me a lesson.Just because we don't buy it or eat it, doesn't mean that Izzy won't want it or eat it.

Peppers are a special case in which I am guilty of not trying hard enough. You see I used to be wild about red peppers. I especially liked them roasted and then sauteed with olive oil and garlic. I would use them as appetizers, in pastas and on sandwiches. And then A. came along and told me "peppers didn't agree with him." I never quite understood that phrase, which I often heard from my first stepmother or father and I tried to ignore. What does this mean? What does it do to them exactly? Never mind, I suppose I don't really want the details. My policy has been somewhat different. If I like to eat something and it doesn't make me vomit then I see no reason to stop eating it.

Yet because of A.'s refusal to eat peppers, I slowly began to cut them out of my diet and rarely buy them at all. I also started to think they didn't "agree" with me either. The few times I gave them to Izzy I thought that perhaps they didn't "agree" with him and that this was some hereditary food intolerance. I think I convinced myself of it.

I couldn't have been more misguided. Izzy has been deprived of bell peppers and has had a hankering for them since they were served at school. He was positively joyful when I presented a small plate of them to him after school and started musing over all of the color possibilities.

Peppers do make an easy snack and paired with hummus or some other dip are perfect for school or anytime. The rainbow appeal is an added bonus. I will certainly keep them in mind when it is my turn to be snack mom.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Not All That Rosy: A Sunday Outing To Really Rosie and 202

Our second outing this weekend was to a Maurice Sendak play, Really Rosie. I adore Maurice Sendak and knew that the songs would be based on my absolutely favorite storybook collection, The Nutshell Library which includes such favorites as Chicken Soup With Rice and Pierre. Izzy and I read them frequently and I assumed he too would be enchanted.

Well the songs were great but the background story was a bit too tough for our tastes (A. and I). A. kept glancing over at me, wondering why I had selected this. I guess I failed to read the fine print on the great review that the New York Times published last Friday.

If I had read more carefully, I would have noted the image of "a little brother suffering an agonizing death as he chokes on a chicken bone?" and perhaps made other plans. At least most of the talk of dead brothers and death went over Izzy's head. He smiled and laughed at the familiar words from the songs and seemed blissfully unaware of the rest.

Following the play, we went to brunch at 202, a restaurant within a clothing store next to Chelsea Market. It turned out to be incredibly kid-friendly. There were plenty of little ones dining there and high-chairs were available if needed. Izzy complained about the din, which did wonders for masking unruly kids but could be problematic for those with more sensitive ears.

I loved my tea (vanilla rooibos) and the sweet potato hash special with bacon and poached eggs, as did Izzy. He preferred it to his buttermilk pancakes with blackberry compote (my pancakes are far moister). A. had an English Breakfast platter which looked quite paltry compared to others we have tried elsewhere. In general, their portions are on the small side, which I tried to tell myself was a good thing but I was hard to convince since I was still a bit hungry when we left.

Overall, a good brunch stop if you are in the area, worthy of a detour if you plan on shopping there.

Would You Take Coffee From A Stranger?

I know that I certainly wouldn't nor do I think I would offer it. My husband, though has different ideas. We were on our way to take Izzy to see the play Really Rosie early Sunday morning. A. was bleary-eyed after only four hours of sleep and in desperate need of a pick-me-up. We passed a Starbucks on the way and he insisted on stopping. He even wanted to take the time to drink it there but since the play was starting in 10 minutes I convinced him to take it along and drink it there.

Once on line to pick up our tickets, another dad spied his coffee and moaned about how he too was in dire need. A. immediately came to his rescue, making the generous offer of "sharing" his, even though he already sipped it. He somehow located a clean cup and poured half of his coffee into for this dad. I vouched for A.'s health and the dad thanked him, mentioning something about how great New York was...

Izzy witnessed this entire exchange and what I wonder now is if he will think it is okay to share beverages with strangers or to bite on something that someone else has already bitten.. Is it? I for one don't think so. Though I do commend being kind to strangers, this may have gone a bit too far.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Izzy's First Movie: Historic But Not Appropriate

When I lived in Paris oh so many years ago, I went to the movies on a weekly basis. My boyfriend and I were Monday regulars since that was cheap movie day back then (not sure if it is now). After Paris, my movie-going diminished but I did have a great cheap theater near my apartment in New York so I did continue to go occasionally. One reason that my movie-going trips became few and far between was because I spent too much time dining out, and selecting a movie seemed to interfere with that. Given the choice of rushing through dinner and then going to the movies, A. and I often just chose dinner.

Then Izzy came along and my movie going days seemed to end entirely. In fact I have seen all of two movies in the past five years, Little Children, which traumatized me and The Business of Being Born which is a must see for everyone.

Izzy has led a movie-free existence as well. Since we don't have a television he hasn't much of a clue about watching or going to movies. Nor, in my opinion, does he need to. I don't think I saw my first film, Oliver, until I was about eight or so and I don't feel deprived.

Yet when I heard that the classic French film, The Red Balloon would be shown at our local historic cinema, Landmark Loew's, I couldn't resist. It was to be presented as a double feature along with White Mane.

This seemed like a perfection introduction to cinema at its finest. Even though I hadn't seen either film, I had a fuzzy memory of having read Red Balloon and assumed that the movies were child-friendly since the information stated that they were suitable for ages three and up.

We went along with two of Izzy's friends and I made bags of popcorn for all to share, having assumed that the old cinema wouldn't have any. Turns out they were popping giant batches of the fresh yellow stuff and I had to steer Izzy away from it with promises of fresh homemade. It was hard enough for me to steer myself away from it, having once been known for purchasing the bucket-sized popcorn in my teenage years, yet I managed and the kids just munched on that, thereby avoiding the giant candy bars and other movie concession junk.

Aside from the movies themselves, there was the added bonus of listening to the pipe organist play and singing along before the movies began. That turned out to be the most child-friendly experience of the day. White Mane is not meant for five year olds, let alone younger children. Izzy had to leave when he became disturbed by the poor horse, being surrounded and trapped by fire. His friend I. followed suit. The people at Loew's need to rethink their appropriateness policy. Izzy even found The Red Balloon upsetting and we needed to leave once a pack of boys started pursing the protagonist. Great films these may be, but far more suitable for eight year olds.

Izzy was slightly traumatized by the entire experience and announced his plans of not going to the movies again for a long while. Which I suppose would suit me just fine.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Dear Scones Letter: I didn't mean to dump you

Dear Chocolate-Chip Orange Scones,

You have always been my most beloved of scones. The ones everyone likes to eat. The orange zest and juice meld so sweetly with the mini-chocolate chips. You are moist when others are too dry. You are perfect for breakfast and teatime or just whenever.

Today, when I knew Izzy would be going directly from school to the Liberty Science Center with friends I chose you as the perfect snack. All was going according to plan when I began to mix your dough but when I went to scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl, I accidently turned on the mixer and the pastry scraper got caught and a shard of plastic broke off and ended up, I know not where. I found a small piece beside the mixer but it seemed that an even smaller one had gotten blended into the dough. Given that it was practically the same color as the dough, it was impossible to unearth.

I rolled out the dough, despite my misgivings, trying to convince myself that it was merely the tiniest piece of plastic, certainly not a choking hazard or anything harmful. So I placed you in the oven carefully and then began to dwell over some innocent child gagging on the tiny bit of plastic. I then thought it best to seek some advice so I called my friend H., a true Brit and scone-lover. I knew what was coming all along but I needed encouragement. I truly didn't wish to do you any harm. But you had it coming.

I had to dump you. The shard had jagged edges. What if it got caught in someone's throat? Or scraped a stomach? You smelled delightful and looked so sweet but you weren't for me anymore. I am so sorry but I had to do it. You'll be better off without us anyway. No, no I mean we will be better off without you.

I must confess now, that I immediately made a replacement. No, I didn't have enough orange juice but cream was a suitable substitute. The image of you amongst the egg shells and butter wrapper will haunt me for months to come but I know I did the right thing. Please forgive me.

I will use your recipe forever,

Izzy's Mama

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Good Night: An Oddly Carnivorous Bedtime Thought

Each night as I tuck Izzy into bed, I read a book to him and then tell him made up stories in the dark. I assure you our story had nothing to do with the following:

Tonight, when the stories were over, his small voice inquired, "Mama, can we eat a chicken's head?"

Me (thinking what or where did you get an idea like that): "No, I don't think so. They probably don't have much meat on them. Why do you ask?"

Izzy: "I think I would like to try one tomorrow."

Good night, sleep tight and don't let the chicken heads bite..or rather don't bite them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Little Bit Of Sunshine

The daffodils have bloomed in our backyard. Izzy ran out to pluck one and I was about to scold him for it when he said, "But Papa told me I could pick one for you Mama. Here. Here's a flower for you." And he lowered his eyes a bit, saddened that I was angry, which of course I wasn't. What more could I ask for than a little boy who picks flowers for his Mama..and also happens to carry laundry down four flights of stairs and vacuums up the crumbs after dinner. All on one sunny day.

It was a long one and we were back to being out in the park past six. Back to the springtime days of trying to rustle up dinner as soon as we get back from the park. Tonight I had a simple but odd plan in mind. In an attempt to use what we have I made Waffled Goat Cheese Sandwiches with sliced cucumbers and edamame on the side.

I used sliced sesame bread from the Grandaisy Bakery, smeared with fresh (well actually frozen from last summer!) goat cheese from Sprout Creek Farm. I smeared the bread with butter and sandwiched it into the waffle iron. Crispy on the outside, oozy cheese on the inside. Pleasing to Izzy and me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Five Dollar Broccolini? Sending The Clueless To Market

You must understand that I rarely ask my husband to go food shopping because he loathes it so and it invariably takes him hours to find five items. It amazes me how such a brilliant renaissance man has such difficulty navigating food stores. Does he do it on purpose so that I don't ask him? I couldn't say, yet every now and then I am faced with a missing ingredient and I have no choice but to ask. Sunday was one of those occasions.

As I was preparing the venison stew, it suddenly occurred to me that I had no vegetables to accompany the meal. I texted A.. who just so happened to be in nyc and asked him to pick up a "green vegetable or some salad" to go with dinner. I knew he was in Soho so I suggested Dean and Deluca and he refused (he has an intense hatred of many food stores) so I gave him the Gourmet Garage alternative and he agreed.

He arrived home after the stew was already done with a puny little bunch of broccolini, grumbling over its FIVE DOLLAR price tag. I didn't think it would serve one of us so I decided to save it for another day and I served salad instead. When I asked why on earth he had purchased a five dollar bunch of broccolini he claimed that the vegetable selection was paltry and that everything was pricey.

I tucked the broccolini away in the vegetable crisper and figured I'd better not allow it to wilt, considering its astronomical cost. I cooked it up tonight and surprisingly it was the perfect accompaniment to our chickpeas and couscous. I simply blanched it for four minutes and drizzled with olive oil. Our dinner was delicious and despite the five dollar broccolini, I served three plus one lunch for under ten dollars, not bad after all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Grapefruit Grousing: Spooned versus Peeled

Izzy adores grapefruit. Whenever I can, I buy organic red or pink grapefruits, slice them in half and then cut the sections with a grapefruit knife so that they may be eaten with a spoon. In this way, one only encounters minimal pith.

I learned to eat grapefruits in this manner because my first stepmother, S., used to serve them this way as appetizers, before dinner. I think it was something that must have been done in the Catskills. Whatever the reason, I would never serve them before dinner. In my house they are meant for breakfast or snacks. And snack on them we do.

Izzy has only known one way of eating grapefruits so when I attempted to serve them a different way, it turned his world upside down. You see the other day I had read that eating grapefruits with a spoon was not as healthful as eating them simply peeled, like an orange. Apparently I was depriving us of tons of fiber, which as we all know, everyone needs.

After school I told Izzy we would have a grapefruit for snack, eaten a new way. He didn't seem adverse to the idea but as he watched me peel it he balked.."That is not an orange. Why are you peeling it? I don't want any pith. I don't like the pith."

Too bad. I continued peeling, removing as much pith as possible. It was an extremely juicy and sweet grapefruit. He managed to eat a few sections but with each bite he became increasingly more upset. Each pithy encounter threw him into a tizzy. He eventually began to cry and he pushed the grapefruit away. I figured something other than grapefruit must have been on his mind but he begged that I NEVER, EVER serve him a peeled grapefruit again.

So much for fiber.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Venison Version Two: Mario Batali's Way

Way back in the autumn, I was the lucky recipient of several cuts of venison. I cooked some stew meat the first time around and I thought I would try something else this time. Then I found I had two more packages of stew meat. Since spring is already here, I thought it best to use those long-simmering cuts now before it gets too hot.

This time I adapted a Mario Batali recipe for Venison Goulash. I had to make do without a couple of key ingredients which I am sure would have improved the flavor but even without them, the dish was a success. Of course my taste buds aren't their usual quite yet but Izzy and his Papa managed to finish at least three pounds of the stuff.

Venison Goulash: Gulgas di Capriolo
Recipe copyright 2001, Mario Batali. All rights reserved
Molto Mario
A Casa A Cormons

4 pounds venison shoulder
1 carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 ribs celery,
cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 Spanish onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 sage leaves
6 cloves garlic
6 peppercorns
6 juniper berries (I left out)
1 bottle dry red wine
1/4 cup lard (I used olive oil)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces speck, cut into 1/4-inch dice (I used bacon)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 cloves
1 cup sour cream (I left out)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Grated Montasio, for garnish

Trim the venison of any connective tissue, and cut it into 2 by 1-inch cubes. In a 6-quart pot, combine the carrot, celery, onions, rosemary, thyme, sage, garlic, peppercorns, juniper berries, and red wine and bring to a boil.

Remove from the heat, allow the marinade to cool, and submerge the venison pieces. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry with towels, reserving marinade. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat the lard until smoking.

Season the venison with salt and pepper and place 4 to 5 pieces at a time in the pan. Sear until deep golden brown all over, then remove to a plate. Repeat the process until all the meat is done.

Add the flour and speck to the pan and bring to boil. Add the cinnamon, cloves, remaining marinade and meat, including juices exuded onto the plate, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook slowly for 1 1/4 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Remove from the heat, stir in the sour cream, sprinkle with parsley, check for seasoning, and serve immediately.

I served this over a bed of wide noodles. It would also be great with boiled potatoes.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sunny Side Down: Broken Will Not Do

And so is my life.. my camera is broken, my sciatica is flaring up, I still can't taste, ants are dancing in my kitchen and my fridge is slowly emptying. Yet the fact remains that I still need to feed Izzy, though I am trying to do so with minimal effort.

There was leftover spaghetti from last night in the fridge so I figured I was off the hook for lunch, but no. I had to go and mention eggs and then Izzy requested one with his spaghetti, sunny-side down. I had to go through three eggs before I got it right. You see the first attempt stuck to the pan. Apparently an egg is not worth eating if one cannot burst the yolk and then dip bread or fork in to scoop it up. Time for Egg #2 which contained a large blood red spot (not kosher..nor am I but I just can't stomach the thought) so I had to toss it. Success came with Egg #3, which Izzy happily consumed alongside a heap of cold spaghetti.

That egg experience zapped me of all energy. Saved by Taqueria takeout.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Laddies Who Lunch: Social Scene At The Preschool Table

At Izzy's school, the children eat lunch at tables for two. I don't know if there is some hidden Montessori logic to this but to me it spells exclusion. I hear daily tales of Izzy and his seating arrangements. Thoughts of who his lunch companion will be seem to occupy far too much of his time. Why is this such a big issue for I. and his classmates? Should it really be?

On most days, he dines with his pal C. and some days with C. and J., supposedly sneaking a third chair over to the table. Other times he dines with I. or simply J. But I heard that on those days, C. feels left out and doesn't eat his lunch. On a few occasions in the beginning of the year, I. was excluded and ended up sitting with a teacher. These stories leave me saddened and thinking there MUST be a better way.

Why can't the tables be put together so that several children can eat together? Wouldn't that be more conducive to a lively lunch camaraderie? I had been mulling that over lately and this morning Izzy suggested it to me. I told him to take it up with his teachers but I imagine he forgot.

How do the children lunch elsewhere?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Parsnips: Just Make Them

I like parsnips. They have their place in chicken soup and somewhere on the Thanksgiving table, yet I must admit, I rarely think of eating them as a side dish. I changed my mind about that tonight. I found a bag of parsnips in the fridge, leftover from some overzealous friend who bought extras for my soup.

I needed a side dish for some roasted chicken legs so I followed Nigella's recipe for Parsnips roasted with olive oil and honey. I couldn't tell you what they tasted like but Izzy asked for more.

Roasted Parsnips With Olive Oil and Honey (from Nigella Lawson's, How to Eat)

1 bunch of parsnips, peeled and cut lengthwise in 4 pieces.
olive oil

1. Blanch parsnips for 5 minutes in salted, boiling water. Drain.
2. Spread out on roasting pan and drizzle with oil and honey. Sprinkle with salt.
3. Roast at 425 F. for 30 minutes, until browned on outside, soft and moist inside.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I've Tried Everything

I truly want to believe that my body will heal itself. I have been trying my best to steer clear of antibiotics unless I really need them. My grandfather is going to be 99 this year and has probably not ever taken antibiotics. He has certainly had his share of colds and the like but he restores his health the old-fashioned way. His remedy? Bufferin, tea and sleep.

Since last Monday, I've been battling this rotten flu. I have drunk all sorts of teas sweetened with gobs of honey. Homemade ginger tea with lemon, Lemongrass tea, Peppermint tea, Biga Deep Defense Tea. I have sipped soups and steamed myself with eucalyptus. I subsist on a diet of mainly vegetables and no sweets. In fact I am rarely hungry and often thirsty.

I have humidfied and detoxified and still I ache and cannot talk without coughing. My head is full of icky phlegm. It seemed time to finally buy a Neti-pot. It has to be the way to clear my body of impurities.

In case you don't know much about them, you will find this video especially enlightening..I surely did! (Warning, the ending contains VULGAR language)

I have used mine twice, water only. Surely an odd sensation but will it help? I can only hope. Meanwhile, Izzy is itching to use it and we may just make an attempt shortly. Meanwhile, if there are any remedies I may have left out or should use, let me know.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Cook With No Taste (Or Sense Of Smell For That Matter)

No steaming vats of chicken soup arrived on my doorstep despite the kind mention of them by my neighbor D., who feigned performance anxiety for not having made some, and my MIL's offer to drop some by, which I had to turn down since I am in no mood for visitors or talk. Besides, I couldn't allow anyone healthy inside our plague-ridden household.

So I gathered forces to make my own. I defrosted a chicken and used some fresh vegetables that R. had delivered recently. I wasn't going to make "the usual" soup, a la grandma. I was overcome by an urge to make a soup with more of a kick. This must have been brought on by my complete and utter lack of taste or smell. Yes, for a week now, I have been unable to taste or smell my food (which is why you haven't hearing that much about it).

Yes cooking without one's two most important senses can be challenging
Without them, so many fundamental aspects of cooking are just thrown by the wayside.

Was my chicken rotten? How should I know? How about this coconut milk? I have never used coconut milk before. I looked at it longingly and wondered how it tasted. Perhaps it was sweet or rancid. I had to call in Izzy to test. Did the soup smell good? Izzy on the job. And on it went. Cooking became a visual and textural experience, which is of no help to the final product.

Eventually I made a version of Nina Planck's Chicken Coconut Soup recipe.
We all slurped it down but it needed more of everything..not my fault, I couldn't taste. All was not lost for I knew that I was on to a great recipe, definitely worth tweaking and improving.

Tonight I tried again. Izzy said it was much improved and I could feel the hot pepper in the back of my mouth. I also added more ingredients. It looked better and according to Izzy, smelled better too. I still won't reveal my recipe until I can actually taste it myself but give Nina's a try if you are in the market for something a bit spicier and lighter than grandma's version (unless of course your grandma happens to be Thai in which case perhaps you were brought up eating something like it).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Izzy Deserves A Medal

He was stuck with crabby old me for nearly the entire day. He entertained himself quite well, except for a certain backyard incident. It was awfully nice out so when he asked to play outside I sent him out and resumed my position on the couch, keeping fingers crossed that he would keep out of trouble. All was quiet for long stretch so I had to peek outside, only to find that he had started digging a ditch at the side of our yard. Our neighbor was trying to dissuade him but he wasn't having any of it. If A. says anything there is a French expression that comes to mind...Je fais ce que je peux..Only so much I could do in my state..

More importantly, I provided three meals and three snacks for him, even going so far as to cook dinner, so hard to do when I can't taste a thing nor do I feel like eating.

Right before bedtime, R. rescued him for a half hour jaunt to the park which saved the day.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Misery DOES NOT Love Company

At least not in the form of an ever ebullient, mischief-making Izzy. So I suppose it is a good thing that I spent the day without him. Two days in a row without Izzy..It has never happened before and it made me especially weepy but I knew if he were here he would have been jumping on the couch (and my last nerve), while blasting Brady Rymer. As it was, as soon as he arrived, he knew just how to get my goat. Never mind that he came in sporting some green boogers oozing from his eye (oh joy!) but he was also carrying a snack pack of Goldfish (on the bright side they weren't Rainbow)from I know not where, along with a juice box. All of this even that much more distressing after having spent the afternoon reading about the Weston Price Foundation.

Well I tried not to bite too hard. I let him have a few more and finish the juice. At which point he requested a healthier snack. He ate that and waited at the table for dinner. I was waiting for it too and soon enough, Papa brought something home and calm resumed. Until Papa tried to get him ready for bed (an ultra-rare occurrence) and I heard him crying for me. I had to go up because I hadn't played with him all day and he went right to sleep.

Here's ever hoping for a healthier tomorrow and the ability to photograph myself with the flu so that I look as cute as this woman. How dare someone look so cute with the flu while I look like a sea hag?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

If Not For The Kindness Of Friends And Neighbors

I would be stuck at home with this rotten flu, slowly dehydrating and serving Izzy fridge compost for dinner.

Instead I behold a fridge full of yogurt and milk courtesy of D., lovely bananas and kiwis, thanks to H. and a gorgeous new Whole Foods Tote filled with Izzy's favorite in-house sliced turkey, organic fruits, vegetables and other various and sundry goodies with many thanks to R.

And so with my fridge adequately stocked and some Vietnamese Chicken Soup at the ready for tomorrow's lunch, I can contemplate another day of hacking misery on the couch as I battle this beastly flu without antibiotics.

This may be something that you have thought is perhaps unnecessary or unthinkable but is actually okay as long as you are not in a high risk category. What I discovered is that if you want Tamiflu, it needs to be taken within two days of symptoms or it isn't effective, otherwise they will prescribe a Z-pack, some sort of high dosage treatment which I have no inclination to subject my body to, unless I take a significant turn for the worse.

Which leads me back to the couch, sipping fresh ginger, lemon and honey concoctions hoping this wretched ailment will finally go away. If it doesn't go away soon, Izzy is probably going to run away from home in search of friendlier faces and better things to eat. As it was today, he stayed at school until three and then had the good fortune of going to play with his friend I. at the park and then at her house. I should have had plenty of time to rest but I am still tired.

Here's hoping for a better day, when I can once again taste food.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Izzy's Mama Needs A Sick Day

Anyone want to come over a replace me for the day? Izzy is not getting the food or attention he deserves. He went to bed upset because my throat was too sore for a bedtime story.

I think I must have the flu and where did I get it? According to Izzy I "took it" from him. I took his fever, cough and boogers. I also got some additional ailments like swollen glands, aches and a horrible sounding cough.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bedtime Thoughts

Izzy: I like friends, snow and you.

Me: Is that all?

Izzy: Yes.

Me: What about Papa? And things to eat?

Izzy: I like Papa and Chinese Food and Sushi too.

(Glad I cleared that up).

It's a wonder that Izzy still liked me today after we spent the day home, again. He is still slightly feverish and I was very feverish, trying unsuccessfully to take to the couch. I was not a very good companion. To add insult to injury, we didn't have much to nibble around the house. When he heard we were having leftover soup for dinner, he looked pained.

Izzy: "I don't like that soup. Isn't there something else?"

Me: "No, that is all we have. I am sick and can't cook anything else."

Despite his complaints, he ate it quite willingly but when I saw it I soon realized that it did lack for something. A. came home and dumped some of Dave's Insanity Hot Sauce into it which supposedly rescued his portion. I will not be making that soup again anytime soon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Whatever Works: Taking That Yucky Medicine

Another feverish day spent at home. The highlight of the day was making homemade bread crumbs, from there it was all downhill. Izzy fever crept up as the day wore on so I decided he needed another dose of Motrin. He flat out refused. He sipped it so willingly yesterday but that was before he knew how awful it tasted.

Today he backed away and said, "I won't take it. It tastes like mud." When he was smaller it was easier to squirt the medicine into his cheek with an eyedropper and hope that he swallowed at least a bit. Now I wasn't exactly sure which tactic to use. I said he could have a bite of chocolate immediately afterwards but he still wouldn't change his stance. Then I remembered the method that worked for his iron supplements. I mixed them into his orange juice and he drank that mixture willingly. I mentioned that to him and he immediately agreed to give it a try.

It is best to use a shot glass for this so that you don't add too much juice. Today I made the mistake of using a small juice glass. I added an equal amount or maybe too much juice so it took him a painstakingly long time to finish it, swigging water between sips. He claimed it tasted like "Gummies" or at least seemed to convince himself that it did. Whatever works...Now he is sleeping and his fever is below 102 F. Maybe I will get some sleep too.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sick Day Soup: Izzy's Vegetable Bean Soup

Izzy was sick today; feverish and sneezy. After a waffle and numerous cups of Lemongrass/he took to the couch. I was stuck inside with him and it was just the kind of day to warrant a stay indoors.

My friend R. was kind enough to ferry over some vegetables from Whole Foods for us so that I could make a soup (don't think that her motives were entirely altruistic, I did have some chocolate here she was dying to get her hands on).

When Izzy's fever reached 103 F., it was time to give him some Motrin, something I rarely do. Little did I know that it would work its magic so well that he relinquished his nesting spot on the couch to be my soup sous-chef. What better way to spend a sick day?

He chopped carrots, celery, and celeriac while I took care of the parsnips, potatoes, onions, leeks, and garlic. The large quantity of turkey stock I saved from Thanksgiving finally came in handy. We added some red beans and alphabet pasta to the mix and had an easy, healthy meal.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Whose Birthday Was It?

Izzy and I went to celebrate N.'s 2nd birthday today. She is the little sister of Izzy's friends I. As always, their mother H. came up with an adorably perfect idea to beguile the birthday guests. Each child was presented with cupcake to match the birthday cake, complete with a lighted candle to blow out. Since most of the small birthday guests were older than two they were able to wait until the birthday girl was presented with her cake before all blowing the candles out together.
Cake eaten, Izzy looked around and announced, "It seemed like it was every one's birthday." And later on he asked if we could do the same for his party. What greater compliment is there than that?!

Friday, March 7, 2008

New Polish On The Block: Sava Polish Deli

The demise of Tania's(their basil-flecked potato pierogi were a step-up from ordinary Polish-fare) on Grove Street, saddened many of the Jersey City pierogi-eating contingent, myself included. The good news is that a replacement has arrived in the form of Sava Polish Deli (inexplicably, their sign says Diner).

We had our first sampling from there last night. After emerging from the Grove Street Path Station, I opted to walk home in the pouring rain just so that I could pick up our dinner from Sava, which I had been eyeing from across the street for a few weeks now. It isn't much to look at, a mostly unadorned space with a deli case of kielbasa and other polish deli items and a small refrigerated case with pickles and other Polish condiments.

The steam table is where all of the homemade prepared items are found. The owner pointed out the various options and I chose two combination platters and an extra side of potato pierogi. Each platter came with one large piece of stuffed cabbage, one piece of kielbasa, a mound of sauerkraut and three pierogi. She packed this all to go for us, all the while mentioning something about making pierogi with her eyes closed.

By the time Izzy and I arrived home, I was soaked to the bone. I had no umbrella having given it to Izzy who remained completely dry. I was comforted knowing a warm meal would await us. I liked to imagine that this was a meal that a Polish grandma would make. One platter with a few extra pierogi was perfect for Izzy and me to share. It was a warm, filling meal on a damp rainy night. Definitely a great takeout option for our neighborhood.

(If I could just get over wondering about the provenance of the meat I would feel so much better eating there but that is my problem, not yours!)

Quinoa: Not Just For Vegetarians

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a South American grain-like foodstuff that is prepared like rice. It contains more protein than most grains which make it perfect as a base for a vegetarian meal, or less-starchy side dish.

Inspired by this recipe on 101 Cookbooks, a fabulous source for vegetarian recipes, I made a bowl of quinoa topped with zucchini, leeks, hard-boiled eggs and scallion vinaigrette. The dish was ready in 30 minutes.

Izzy ate up the entire serving pictured...the leftovers would do well packed in a lunchbox and also work well as a cool summer meal. The recipe lends itself to endless variations which I will most definitely try in the future.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Dish On Fish: Sorting Through Polluted Waters

As I trolled the fish aisle in Whole Foods yesterday, their gleaming bodies and bright eyes called to me. I haven't purchased fish in more than a blue moon and I felt it was time to end the moratorium. There had to be something safe from the pristine-looking selection. Would I choose, Striped Bass, Red Snapper, Atlantic Cod fillets, whole Sardines or Tilapia? I knew Salmon and Tuna were no-nos for us but what of the other choices?

I chose the Atlantic Cod simply because I didn't think it was a large fish and I knew that was one way to gauge their level of toxicity. Then I went home cooked it and did some fish research after dinner.

I found a great website that spelled things out quite clearly and seemed very sensible for those of us feeding small children. Although these guidelines are from 2004, they still seem fairly accurate and compare to more current list.

I like the way this list breaks down choices in terms of Mercury levels, rating the fish High, Moderate, and Low and also in terms of eco-friendliness as well. It turns out that Atlantic Cod is in the moderate category as far as mercury level (kids can eat one serving of fish from this category only ONCE per month). It scores low in terms of eco-friendliness since it is endangered. Alas, I will have to find a more suitable substitute, which is too bad as it was awfully tasty. Izzy liked his so much that he was already asking when I would make it again. The good news is that I can probably replace the Cod easily.

Pan-fried Cod with Spiced Chickpeas and Couscous
1 1/2 lbs. Atlantic cod or other white fish fillets
2 cans organic chickpeas
1 large onion chopped fine
4 cloves garlic chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
hot pepper flakes to taste
1. Soak fish fillets in milk. Dredge in flour (seasoned with salt and pepper).
2. Heat large frying pan. Add olive oil to coat bottom and a tablespoon or two of butter.
3. When butter foams, place fillets in pan, saute about 3 minutes per side or until golden. Keep warm in low oven.
4. Meanwhile, saute garlic and onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil, over low heat. When soft, add chickpeas, thyme and hot pepper and 1/4 cup of water. Simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Prepare instant coucscous according to package.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

No Disrespect To Groundhogs: The Real First Sign Of Spring

When it is warm enough to eat gelato, you know spring is in the air. Pouring rain did not keep us from making our way downtown, after the allergy fun, to Izzy's pottery class. We were early and I was in need of a snack. Izzy may have stuffed himself with purse food but the warm damp air put me in the mood for some gelato.

We had just enough time to stop at L'Arte del Gelato before class. Izzy claimed he wasn't in the mood for anything until I opened the door and he gazed upon the lovely display case. I had Nutella and Canella (cinnamon) and he had Fruitti di Bosco (fruit of the woods or mixed berry).

Yes. Spring is in the air!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Have YOU Tasted This Cheese?

Don't think the thought hadn't crossed my mind...

Pin Cushion Man Redux: Peanut Allergy Part II

Time for Izzy's follow-up visit to the allergist. He was none too pleased that he needed to miss lunch at school in order to get to the appointment on time. Apparently lunch at school is THE place to be and he feels as if he is missing out on some great monster games. He had to have a quick lunch at home and he barely ate anything so by the time we arrived at the doctor's office he was ravenous.

NO EATING or DRINKING signs are plastered over the allergists office yet there was Izzy, sticking his snout in my purse, attempting to surreptitiously scarf down every morsel of food hiding in my bag, from carrots to scones, with a bite of hard-boiled egg in between, it's a wonder we weren't booted from the office.

After a short wait and plenty of illicit eating, the nurse ushered us into the pricking chamber. There she repeated the series of pin pricks on his back, along with an additional prick for sesame. I also requested tests for raspberries and sunflower seeds, only to learn that those are not available in pin prick form.

Izzy was exceptionally calm throughout, sitting on my lap as she performed the tests. He barely squeaked this time around. Well we waited for 20 minutes for the pricks to register and lo and behold, once again, the doctor found nothing. All of the results were negative. Dr. Ehrlich then suggested we test with REAL peanut butter. He said he would try a skin test first and proceeded to smear some organic peanut butter on Izzy's arm. We waited another 15 minutes and again, nothing. If it wasn't peanut butter what was it? Did this mean that he wasn't allergic to peanuts?

Hmmmm. The good doctor said that he couldn't give me a 100%guarantee that he was not allergic. What that meant to me was that I still had to keep Izzy away from peanuts. It was then the doctor mentioned "The peanut butter challenge" which sounded like a sensible idea to me except for the fact that it would have required us to remain in his office for another hour and a half. At that point, Izzy was too wacky so I opted for yet another appointment which will hopefully put this allergy business to rest.

And what is "The peanut butter challenge?" First he will smear peanut butter on Izzy's lips, wait a bit and then have Izzy EAT the peanut butter. I can even bring my own kind (fresh from the farm). Keep your fingers crossed that nothing will happen. But if it does, the doctor will be there to help!

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Lunchtime "Eggsperiment"

Eggs fit ever so seamlessly into our Saturday lunch menus. Which are generally eggs, beans and toast. This makes an ideal weekend meal because there is nothing to think about, all ingredients are nearly always on-hand.

This past Saturday, Izzy decided he wanted to veer from the usual sunny-side down eggs and he made a special request for a poached egg, like Frances. Now I believe Frances sang about soft-boiled eggs (and I am too lazy to go upstairs to check) and he agreed that what he really wanted was, "The egg in the egg".

Some "eggsperimentation" was clearly in order. So I soft-boiled an egg for Izzy, I poached an egg for myself and I scrambled some eggs for Izzy's papa who seemed repulsed by the other two types.

Izzy was unexpectedly smitten with his lovely, orangy, soft-boiled egg. I think it was extra-delicious as it was only quite recently plucked from an Amish chicken (thanks to Abner and my dairy connection). Although he had to make do with a shot glass this time, I foresee a need for some egg cups in our future, don't you?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Rare Afternoon Without Izzy: The Business Of Being Born

Izzy was off frolicking with his Papa while I went to see a local screening of Ricki Lake's compelling new documentary film, "The Business of Being Born." Her personal experiences with a hospital birth and then a home birth were the impetus for her to produce this important work. She wanted to explore the birth options women have and expose the sad state of birth in the United States.

What, you ask, does this have to do with Izzy eating? Well watching it reminded me of how one's birth experience can directly impact an infant's ability to breastfeed. Breastfeeding may not be easy at first as a result of certain birth experiences but I encourage mothers to persist in their attempts. Breast milk is nature's perfect food and should be considered as the best option whenever possible.

In the same way that many women can't conceive of the idea of natural childbirth, they also may not consider breastfeeding. Our culture is duped into believing that hospital births and formula are what's best for babies, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Breastfeeding is ideal for all babies. Aside from the bonding aspect and the well-known health benefits for both mother and child, babies who are breastfed are being exposed to more flavors than those who are formula fed. The taste and consistency of breast milk vary, depending upon what the mother has eaten. Formula, on the other hand, is one dimensional, never wavering in flavor or consistency. Breast milk is the clear winner when it comes to shaping a child's palate. If you eat garlic, the baby tastes it. If you have fish, they taste that too. What better way to expose those young tastebuds to deliciousness?

The movie brought back memories of nursing newborn Izzy, knowing that despite the pain, I was giving him the best food on earth. I had a very difficult time with breastfeeding but I was determined to make it work. Feeding was my greatest expression of love and still is, as I strive to ccok and provide Izzy with healthy, good-tasting foods.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Arthur's Landing: Where You Can Eat The View

Deciding where to go out to eat with my dad and stepmother often requires several phone calls, some Internet searching, an impasse and then finally compromise and resolution. Should we go out their way to Bergen County? Or should they come to Jersey City (which seems to bore them although Izzy and I could eat at our favorites at least once a week)? Where exactly should we go? What are they in the mood for? What are we in the mood for?

Today I devised a brilliant solution, that we meet somewhere in between. The neighboring towns of Edgewater and Weehawken have quite a selection of decent restaurants. We could rent a Zip Car and be there in a jiffy. I mentioned a few places and then we started really searching. My dad had a steakhouse in mind but when I looked at a few menus, I realized that I wouldn't want Izzy to eat any of the dishes available. Then my stepmother mentioned Arthur's Landing.
I was skeptical at first because I imagined it was one of those cheesy waterfront restaurants, known for a view and not much else.

Instead I found a well-thought out menu which included descriptions of the provenance of most of the meats, from Kurobuta Pork to Painted Hills Beef. This restaurant seemed to be the perfect choice and the discovery that we could get there via Light Rail turned our evening into an adventure.

The Light Rail is pure child entertainment, even if you have nowhere to go but of course having a destination heightens the thrill. It took us less than 15 minutes to get there plus a five minute walk to the restaurant. Once inside, Izzy was sucked in by the sight of the Empire State building alit in the distance and immediately requested a table with a view, which just so happened to be waiting for us.
He spent a good part of his meal simply gazing out the window, admiring the buildings and examining the clouds. The only downside for him was the noise which he complained about occasionally. In between gazes, he ate up his Caramelized Vidalia Onion Tart, a perfect kid-sized portion, artfully presented. Followed by his main course, the Sweet Potato Gnocchi appetizer, also a hit and he even had room for a trio of sorbets for dessert.

My 5-Hour Braised Lamb Shank was superb and Izzy demanded several bites. It was ultra-moist, with delightfully creamy polenta and wild mushrooms hidden beneath it. My dad ordered the Painted Hills Rib-eye which was nicely charred on the outside and juicy and flavorful within. Taste after taste, every other dish on our table was inspired and delicious.

In general, I don't favor large, noisy, restaurants with views but in this case I will make an exception. There is definitely a hint of the tourist about the place but it still makes a great spot to celebrate a special occasion or dine out in a group. The noise factor can be a plus if you are bringing kids along, as their voices will blend into the background. Going there would even make a fun excursion from New York City because it would involve a ferry ride.

Overall, this is one place where you can "eat the view" and enjoy it too.

p.s. Don't skip dessert here...Get the one with chocolate and roasted banana ice cream.