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

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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Meyer Lemons Called: Cupcakes Answered

I have been intrigued by the idea of the Meyer lemon for a few years now as they keep cropping up in cookbooks and magazines. I imagined its sweet-tartness in all manner of baked goods as well as in Amanda Hesser's recipe for Linguine with Meyer Lemon Zest etc, which has been tucked away in the back of my mind since I read Cooking For Mr. Latte.

So when I saw the bin of Meyer lemons calling to me at Whole Foods yesterday, I popped several in a bag and brought them home. They really are gorgeous to behold and if nothing else, would make a lovely centerpiece (which just so happens to be a suggestion here).

Instead I elected to use them for Meyer Lemon Cupcakes. Izzy had a baking playdate with his friend I. and we made these, minus the blueberries. They are moist and lush, the frosting oozing over the edge.


The Meyer lemon enjoys a short season so the next time you see them, pick some up for you surely can find something to do with them.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Grand Day: A Haircut and Grandaisy Bakery


I haven't had any food-related haircut tales to recount since my experience with Martha at the Eva Scrivo Salon. I do miss going there, not only because of the relaxed vibe and the chance to sit next to Martha but also because A. was an expert colorist and J.D. helped with my hair woes. I had to give them up because I am not Martha and could no longer justify the outrageous prices.

Since my last haircut there I have been shopping around for something eco-friendly and slightly easier on my pocketbook. I ended up at John Masters Organics in Soho, where today I had my first haircut. S. proved to be a hair visionary, inspiring me to get a new do. Only the first wash will tell but believe me, if she can tame my unruly locks, she is a master.

Izzy accompanied me to the salon and managed to remain calm until the cut was over so after the appointment we went over to Grandaisy Bakery for an afternoon snack.
How it is I just discovered this place is a mystery. I guess I just don't find myself in that neighborhood so I sure am glad that I have a reason to go now. In fact, the bakery alone could be a reason to go. If you do, try one of the sandwich cookies and bring home a bread for breakfast or sandwiches. The filone is Izzy's favorite (we have now been three times).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Beyond Just Dining Out: Being Regulars

As I kid, I have memories of frequenting numerous restaurants where we were regulars. The staff in these places were usually fairly solicitous as they anticipated my dad's generous tips. Back then I must admit, I was fairly mortified to get involved with the idle chit-chat my dad engaged in, with servers, hostesses and the like and tried my best to remain unnoticed. Yet despite my reluctance to get involved, no matter whether it was our favorite Chinese restaurant or the local Jewish deli, we were always treated well.

These days my dad is a regular (or at least attempts to be) at more restaurants then I can even fathom. I, on the other hand, would settle for being a regular at just a few. There are two places where we have achieved "regular" status in Jersey City and Izzy and I are working at number three. So far our campaign has been quite successful.

Since Izzy began to attend pottery class in NYC, we have begun to frequent the same restaurant on a weekly basis. With each passing week, our entry is greeted with more and more fanfare. This is just a small, unassuming restaurant but no matter, it is always nice to be noticed. Today the waiter shook my hand and for the past few weeks they have been giving us a little tidbit on the house. On some days we eat in and others we have our dinner packed to go. Either way, everyone who works there bends over backwards to engage Izzy. They invite him to watch behind the scenes and keep him giggling. They are a jovial bunch and it is always a pleasure to eat there.

The owner of this West Village restaurant has even offered to allow Izzy to come in and help out in the kitchen. We have only met him once but I am hoping to be able to take him up on his offer and videotape the event to post here! Stay-tuned as the perks of being a regular escalate!

Monday, January 28, 2008

I *Heart* Cheese, Red Meat, Bacon, Chocolate...

And a whole host of other foodstuffs that my cardiologist would say that my heart could do without.

Yes. Today I had my first visit to a cardiologist, a much needed visit considering that my father has been afflicted with heart disease since his thirties. The doctor was a trim, pert woman who looked the very picture of health, so much so that I longed to heed her advice. Until that advice included eliminating half of my diet.

Drink skim milk? Not in this lifetime. No occasional bacon? How could she? I used to think that I could change my diet in a flash if it meant better health. The problem here is that I am not so certain of the results. My cholesterol is barely problematic. The overall number is low but the bad fats (LDL's) are ever so slightly elevated. Conventional doctors will insist this is cause for concern yet current news suggests it may not be so black and white.

The kind doctor recommended that I try to lower the amount of high cholesterol foods in my diet, recognizing that pure elimination would not be happening around this house. She said, "You seem to know what is good and bad. I mean obviously bacon is bad." Are two measly pieces of bacon really that bad? From an heirloom pig? I am sure that Nina Planck would beg to differ.

This is her take (which I consider as license to keep eating my way):

"What about the dread LDL? In half of all heart disease cases, LDL is 'normal' or 'desirable.' In other words, 'high' LDL predicts heart disease with the accuracy of a coin toss. In older men and women, high LDL means you live longer. (These studies are in my book, Real Food. For more facts like these, see The Cholesterol Skeptics." A compelling argument, to say the least.

In addition to cutting down on many of my favorite foods, Dr. T. has also suggested that I follow a "Mediterranean Diet" full of fish (apparently she does not know my husband..will see how far that gets me).

Where does this all leave me? I want to be the healthiest I can be so that Izzy has his mama around for as long as possible yet I am unsure if changing my diet is the best mode of doing so. Granted I could cut back a bit on the cream (not too much, mind you) and in six months perhaps I will get this new test that Dr. T. recommended, called an Electron Beam CT Scan. This new technology will indicate and assess any calcium build-up in my arteries, an indicator of coronary plaque..Trouble is, if the results aren't good, who knows what I will have to do.

Until then, what's a little bacon between friends?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Brunch Stress: The Upper West Side

Going to the Upper West Side on a weekend can be a very stressful experience. With long lines and crowds as the norm, serenity does not always prevail. We had plans to brave the crowds today, since we had tickets for a play, A Tooth Fairy Tale, on 76th and Broadway, at the Vital Theatre where Pinkalicious ran last year (which was worlds better).

I was charged with coming up with some nearby dining options which is never easy in that neighborhood. For years I have been dying to have a Barney Greengrass experience but for reasons unbeknown to me, my friend L. was opposed to a Jewish brunch. Ouest, another possibility on my "to dine" list, was booked and I lost my almost reservation at Norma's (not exactly UWS but close enough for us to get to). This left me brunchless and ready to ditch the Upper West Side entirely and just hike down to Clinton Street Baking Company which I have only visited once in the past five years. I can assure anyone in need of a brunch nirvana, this is your place. Just go early or expect lines. I know L. and her kids would love it, as would Izzy but alas, that wasn't meant to be either.

When we parked our car and discovered that it would cost $47 for parking, we realized that moving the car would not be an option. Being of the carless ilk, I had no idea of current NYC parking prices, OUTRAGEOUS!

The play was about to begin and I still had no idea where we would be eating when I decided to give Nice Matin a call. A popular option and only a few blocks away but they didn't accept reservations. We decided to give it a go anyway, only to arrive to find hoards in front of us. We plowed through to find a hostess and were rewarded with being seated immediately. It certainly wasn't my dream brunch but we all ate well, Izzy had the Belgian Waffle with Strawberries and I the Creamy Polenta and Eggs with grilled radicchio (which added an unexpected smoky touch to the dish).

A visit to the city with my friend L., without a trip to Zabar's, would not be complete so after lunch we wandered on over there. I didn't really need anything but she left with two bags brimming and looking decidedly grumpy. When I asked why the reply was something like, "I just can't take the crowds up here." So true but we just can't stay away.

nb: Sorry to report that A Tooth Fairy Tale lacked the charms of its predecessor.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Who Says Birthday Food Doesn't Matter?: An Indian Feast

I recall a recent article about children's birthday parties. It stated that one needn't worry too much about the food since kids only care about the cake anyway, being too frenzied to concentrate on real food. I mulled this over and must take issue with it. This author has apparently not partied with Izzy and his friends. The meal and the cake share equal billing, as they should.

I marveled today at the scene at Izzy's friend J.'s house. We were invited to celebrate his little sister's birthday. Upon arrival, fresh fruit was offered and the children snacked and played until a troubadour arrived, revving up the children with music and dancing. When the entertainment ended, an Indian spread, lovingly prepared by J.'s grandma, was laid out upon the counter.

It was amazing to watch nearly all of the children dig into their platter of food, without complaints. Samosas, Sag Paneer, homemade spicy chicken sausages, rice and some type of chickpea dish were offered, with spicy sauces for the grown-ups. Mind you, this was the five and under crowd and they were hungry. These children ate happily and heartily, of course saving room for the cake.

The image of J., his family and friends eating that gorgeous spread of food should provide further inspiration for my mantra: Eat what you love and your children will follow.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Nonsense Are You Speaking Spoon? (or What Happens When Izzy Is Tired And Hungry)


Imagine that you are sitting innocently on a train, reading a book when you are suddenly interrupted by the smell of a banana and a small voice singing in your ear, "What nonsense are you speaking spoon?" This singing will continue, as the being bounces around, peeking head over seat, around seat until you finally give in and burst out laughing. I suppose I should be thankful that this is the way Izzy expresses himself when hungry and tired. Others may not be so fortunate.

If you were sitting in front of Izzy on the train, on any evening on our way back from Great-Grandpa's, you would most likely be the recipient of all manner of antics. Much to my dismay, most of the riders have been bemused and believe it or not, I'd say that 9 out of 10 become thoroughly engaged (someone is watching over me somewhere..thanks for putting those cheerful young women in close proximity).

This scene usually occurs on our trip back from Great-Grandpa's, where we are perilously close to dinnertime, bedtime and general winding-down time. Except we are winding up, which is what happens when Izzy is over-tired and hungry. I have ample snacks available and I have discovered that a hard-boiled egg is essential for these trips. They seem to sate the hungry beast until we get home.

I truly try to avoid these situations but for Great-Grandpa I make an exception, something any 98 1/2 year old deserves.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Just Say NO: To Toxic Fish

A meal to remember


Izzy's Papa has been issuing warnings for us to stay away from sushi for well over a year now, particularly salmon and tuna. Over the summer he began to insist that we strictly limit Izzy's sushi meals. After today's unequivocal news concerning the state of tuna sushi in our area, there is no question that I need to squelch any inclination to eat it or other large, predatory fish.

When I tell others that we limit Izzy's fish consumption, they always look rather surprised. Why does the fact they we don't want our child to ingest Mercury or PCB's so odd. After all, there are smaller, less toxic, fish in the sea and so many other things to eat.

One friend, who continues to consume such fish mentioned the fact that the government says that once a week is fine. Should we believe these guidelines? Didn't this same government allow our waters to become poisoned with toxins?

Eschewing tuna and salmon in particular is very difficult for me. I grew up consuming weekly portions of bagels, lox and whitefish and one of the few dishes my dad prepared for me when I was a child was tuna salad. I introduced Izzy to those fish delights early on and I am sorry to have to curtail his consumption. Not being able to eat those dishes is a difficult tradition to break and I am not sure I can adhere to an out and out ban.

My solution? We will continue to have an occasional fish indulgence (most likely salmon) and when we do, I will seek out the most ethically-raised, toxin-free fish that I can find. Does such a thing exist? A lox-lover can surely hope!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Plague Of Brown Fruit

After last week's snack complaints, I sent Izzy off to school this morning with snack for the class, a box of wheat crackers and a lovely basket of Empire apples, fresh from Monday's Union Square Market.

Last night he told me that he wanted to cut the apples himself and serve them to his classmates, the way his teacher had taught them last year. He explained that he wanted to do this so that the apples didn't turn "brown and yucky." Sounded like the perfect solution to me so I mentioned it to his teacher and watched as he carried the apples off to his classroom.

On our way home from school, when I asked him how the apples were, I was more than shocked to hear this. "They were brown and yucky and nobody ate them." Was I missing something? Had I purchased rotten apples? How could perfectly lovely apples, cut to order, have turned brown?

According to Izzy's version, "I don't know what the teachers were thinking." As he told it, they cut the apples long before snack, and then set them out, where they promptly turned brown, making them decidedly unappealing.

From what I understand, the children know (or maybe I assume too much) how to cut the apples with a little apple cutting gizmo. Wouldn't it make sense to have them use it just before they are about to eat one? How can we expect children to eat fruit if it is unappetizing?

Obviously I am overly sensitive to these things (otherwise I would not be writing this blog) but I am saddened by the waste of beautiful fruit. Last year, snack had its proper place in Izzy's classroom. This year I am not sure what to think. Until I get to the bottom of the apple injustice, if I send any fruit again, I will be sure to bathe it in lemon juice.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Who Cares? Three Vignettes

ONE

A friend asks why I bother to consider (for more than five minutes) why this hot chocolate company did not (in my mind ) properly print the suggested amount of chocolate on the package?" The fact that I went so far as to email the company was above and beyond anything that she would surely consider doing. She seemed to insinuate that this was clearly a waste of time and energy. Instead I should have just adjusted the amount of chocolate to suit my taste and continued along my merry way. What about the other innocent hot-chocolate makers? Plain to see, my friend does not have a food blog, nor spend inordinate amounts of time pondering inconsequential (to her) food-related minutiae.

TWO

Izzy and I prepared one of our worst baking selections this week. The recipe was supposedly for something considered to be the "Best" Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Cookie..I don't know what that baker had eaten previously but for me it fell into one of the worst..should I email that blogger? Should I warn other readers? Perhaps I miscalculated an ingredients. Which seems unlikely given how many times I have baked similar cookies. Who knows? Who cares? ME.

THREE

Today we dined with friends at a certain Food Network chef's restaurant. It's chief allure lay in its kid-appeal However, the meal was at best mediocre. It was disappointing and a shame to think that people go to this restaurant expecting an above average meal and are served food that is none too special (except for a few starters which were worthy but not sufficient to render the experience particularly memorable). I prefer not to malign a restaurant which may be having a bad day, however I must take issue with the service. Servers should not allow diners to over-order. This happened to us not once, but twice at this restaurant. The first time was so long ago, we forgot until it happened to us again. The server seemed to indicate that we would all need our own pizza,even the three children under 12.. Of course there were nearly three pizzas left over. We did take them home but that could have been avoided. Should I care?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Local Pasta: Fresh Fast Food For Four Bucks

This box of pasta is my latest, greatest food find. It is a steal for four bucks, made with Knoll Krest Farm eggs, sold at the Knoll Krest Farm Egg Stand at the Union Square Market.

Fresh pasta like this cooks up so quickly that you can have dinner on the table in the time it takes to boil the water plus four minutes. Tonight's theme was green.


Spinach Fettucine With Spinach, Scallions and Garlic

1 container Hudson Farmhouse Pasta

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch scallions sliced in thin rounds

1/2 bag chopped, frozen spinach or 1 bag fresh baby spinach

1/4 cup olive oil

salt, pepper to taste

chili oil to taste

Parmesan for grating


1. Boil water and salt.

2. While water is boiling saute garlic and scallions 3-4 minutes.

3. Add spinach and cover until wilted.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste, chili oil if desired.

5. Boil pasta for four minutes and drain (reserve one cup of cooking liquid).

6. Add drain pasta to sauce and place over low heat until ingredients are melded, adding water if sauce seems too dry.


Serves 3

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Hot Chocolate Experiment

On our last visit to Zabar's I unearthed these unique-looking, wax-paper wrapped, round blocks of Taza chocolate. Upon further examination I noted that their intended use was for making hot chocolate. SOLD! I threw two in my basket and carried on.

I had all but forgotten about their existence until today when Izzy decided to venture into the yard in the freezing cold (reality, there hasn't been much hot chocolate weather has there?). Digging in the freezing dirt was so engaging that I was only able to drag him back inside with the lure of hot chocolate. He reminded me of the blocks and so I opened one.

The package had the very simplest of directions: Break one piece of chocolate into one cup steaming milk, or water and whisk until frothy.

The block consisted of eight pieces so I cut off one and followed the instructions. Izzy assisted and we both watched the floating Z, looking rather lonely in the pan.


I whisked it vigorously and the mixture became quite frothy but remained ultra-pale. Izzy and I were both waiting for the mixture to miraculously darken but when we realized it wasn't going to, I poured it into our mugs.



I sipped the mixture which bore little resemblance to hot chocolates I have known (worthy of their own treatise to be sure). I tasted hints of chocolate and cinnamon and the beverage was certainly warming but I would venture to say that we didn't use an adequate portion of the block.

Izzy didn't seem to mind, nor did I. But hot chocolate it was not so I am awaiting a response from the company as to the correct portion size and hope to report shortly.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Zucchini and Leeks (My Latest Vegetable Obsession)


The British strike again. I ate this simple dish at Christmas dinner and have been making it at least once a week since. I am not even sure I am doing it as H. would but whatever I am doing seems quite good enough. Fat slices of leek and zucchini are tossed with butter, water and salt and simmered until tender. The leeks impart a delicate flavor to the zucchini and the soft melding of buttery vegetables is addictive.

In a short period of time, they have become an important addition to my repertoire, especially since I am trying to increase our overall vegetable consumption. Best of all, Izzy has become as taken with the combination as I have.

Zucchini and Leeks (My interpretation)

2 medium zucchini

2 medium leeks

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup water

salt and pepper


Cut zucchini and leeks into thick rounds. Place in a saucepan with the remaining ingredients. Steam until tender (5-10 minutes).


Serves 3

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Yucky Banana Special: Izzy's Snack Rant

Snack tales had simmered down for awhile. Good reports were coming in. Healthy, enticing choices were offered. Izzy was content. And then after school today, Izzy lodged his latest complaints.

Izzy: "We've had the same snack every day. Why do I keep having to eat the same boring snack. Crackers are a boring snack, aren't they Mama?

Me: "I guess so. Maybe nobody signed up for snack duty this week."

Izzy: "I think that's it. The teachers just give us the snack. Boring crackers and cheerios. Oh and yucky cut-up bananas. Why do the teachers need to cut the bananas? Can't they just give them to us whole?

Me: "Why don't you suggest that. Sounds like a good idea. You could cut the banana when you are ready and share it with your friends."

Izzy: "Yes. That would be much better than the Yucky Banana Special. Who wants Yucky Banana Special anyway?"

Me: Well if nobody has signed up for snack next week, would you like me to?

Izzy: "Yes. I want cream cheese and jam sandwiches."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Attached To His Apron Strings

Friends and family have helped us build an extensive apron collection. It all began with my friend D., who bought Izzy an adorable light blue oilcloth apron, decorated with a retro-space ship theme. At two, Izzy thrilled to wearing it and still does.

Then we received a dark-blue King Arthur Flour number from my friend L., which was perfect for floury messes. Then I purchased a striped cotton Anthropologie model for him and then he received a personalized chef's jacket and apron from two other relatives for his fourth birthday.

The collection was definitely getting out of hand (and space) and things calmed down a bit until he received the one pictured above. Can't resist the "Izzy Cooks."

It's plain to see I find all of these aprons irresistible but I am not so sure how Izzy feels. Never mind my 98 1/2 year old grandpa who worries that Izzy will remain attached to my apron strings, little does he know!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Shepherd's Pie Of My Own: British Comfort Food

Tea & Sympathy, my very favorite British haunt in NYC, is responsible for introducing me to this pie, as well as other English favorites. They, along with my friend H., have duly helped me turn the stereotype of awful British food on its head.

British food is comfort food at its finest and this pie is a classic example. Technically it can only be called Shepherd's Pie if it is made with ground lamb and a Cottage Pie when made with beef but it seems that either name will do.

I have been making a version of this since my purchase of the Tea & Sympathy cookbook (now temporarily out of print), years ago. I have compared a few versions and have come up with my own rendition. It is easy to make in advance.

Shepherd's Pie

2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk


1 medium onion diced
2 carrots chopped fine
1 celery rib chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. organic ground beef
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 cup canned tomatoes
salt and pepper
grated sharp cheddar (optional)

1. Boil potatoes, drain and make mashed potatoes with butter and milk (you can prep potatoes and leave in cold water. Start cooking them when you begin to saute onion etc.).
2. Saute onion,carrots, celery and garlic for 10-15 minutes until soft.
3. Add beef and cook about 15 minutes until browned.
4. Stir in remainder of ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes more.
5. Spoon beef mixture into a gratin dish.
6. Top with mashed potatoes. Make designs with fork, swirling them upwards. Sprinkle with grated cheddar (optional).
7. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 F.


Serves 4 generously

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Lesson In Good Manners: How To Politely Not Finish Your Food

When food is offered and you are not interested in partaking, a simple "No thank you" does the trick. But how do you worm out of eating something after you requested it and you find that it doesn't suit your tastes? This situation is even difficult for adults so I was quite amazed at how Izzy's friend J. handled himself.

We were all snacking together yesterday at our house when Izzy asked for some bananas with sour cream. When J. heard, he said that he would like to try some too. He ate a few bites and then quickly put his spoon down. I believe he said, "I have had a few bites and that is enough for now." Of course I knew full well that he wouldn't be going near it again, as did his mom who decided to finish it for him.

Later on, Izzy requested some tea. J. seemed intrigued. " Izzy drinks tea? I have never had tea before. May I have some too?" But of course. So I served him some tea, of which he only had a few sips before setting it aside and saying, "I've had enough. I think I'll save it for later." Of course he never gave it a backwards glance.

I see I could learn a thing or two from J. myself (or maybe his mom). Here's hoping some of those wonderful manners rub off on Izzy too.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Chocodoodle? A Leap Into The Unknown


Chocodoodle, a variation of the Snickerdoodle is a simple cookie with a whimsical name. If you need a sweet, simple snack and only have moments to spare, this is your cookie.

I stumbled upon the recipe when I was frantically seeking something quick to bake and serve to Izzy and his playdate. I opened up The Domestic Goddess and flipped to Snickerdoodles. The name definitely appealed and I was relieved to find I had all the ingredients on hand. I whipped this up in under 30 minutes. I should have gotten the kids to roll the balls of dough but they were too excited since it was their first playdate at our house.

This plain and simple cookie goes well with tea.


Chocodoodles (from The Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson)


Ingredients

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour less two tablespoons

two tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter at room temperature

1/3 cup plus two tablespoons sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cinnamon


Combine first five ingredients and set aside. In a large bowl cream the butter and 1/3 cup sugar, until light in texture and pale in color, then beat in egg and vanilla. Now stir in dry ingredients until you have a smooth mixture. Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon on a plate. Roll walnut-sized balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar and arrange on parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown (or so Nigella says, but chocolate is already brown so...use your judgement!). Makes about 32







Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Bad Taste In His Mouth: Izzy's Dental Trauma

Poor Izzy. I wonder if he will ever set foot in a dentist's office again. On our first visit everything went extraordinarily well. Beginner's luck I suppose. The dentist entertained him and managed to brush, floss and paint his teeth with fluoride (despite my reluctance to having that toxin spread upon his pearly whites), with not a hint of protest.

So I had no clue as to what would transpire today, other than that Izzy said he didn't want to go. He followed me willingly to the Light Rail so I surmised he would be fine.

Once seated in the chair, things changed rapidly. He reluctantly allowed Dr. X to peer inside and count his teeth. She was even able to prod them a tad, just long enough to find one tiny occlusion. When it was time for her to brush, he protested so vehemently that there was no way she could get inside of his mouth. She mentioned the balloons and goody bags that would await him but he became hysterical, repeating "I don't like what she is doing."

I then suggested that I lie on the dental chair, with him on top. He agreed but once comfortable, still would not open his mouth. When I asked her what she suggested she mentioned "holding him down"..Uh no thanks.. So she and her assistant left the room so I could calm him and negotiate. He had been looking forward to a cannoli so I mentioned that the more quickly he finished, the sooner we would be able to go get one. He pondered that but was not biting and then I suggested that they turn on the DVD player. That too was of interest but didn't have him jumping for joy.

He finally agreed to the brushing and when the dentist returned, he allowed her to do the bottom, before dissolving into sobs. She quickly finished the top and then came time for the fluoride. He begrudgingly allowed her to do that but became increasingly agitated and then sobbed as if something completely horrific had befallen him, crying and shaking uncontrollably. I felt truly awful and wished we had waited until his was six.

And what was the source of all of this misery. THE TASTE. He was begging for water to rinse it away. He was screaming for boobie (though he no longer nurses) probably because he remembered the taste and thought it would rid his mouth of the acrid fluoride flooding his poor palate. After all of of the wonderful things Izzy has eaten, the awful taste must have thrown his taste buds into a tizzy.

In his own words.."Mama, this was not a very fun day. Why did I need to go to the dentist anyway?" Why indeed!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Blueberry Bumplings (Scones Gone Silly?)


Today's recipe selection from the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook was called Blueberry Bumplings. Seems that the Cat in the Hat ate them but can't say I've ever heard of them.

The recipe said that they were "surprisingly like blueberry scones" but as we started to gather the ingredients I soon realized that if they were supposed to come out like scones, I would need to alter the recipe (despite Izzy's pleas to just "Do what the book says.") If I did I think we would have baked up some "gloppity-glop" so instead I made a few minor changes and we produced lovely blueberry scones.

Blueberry Bumplings (adapted from the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook)

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of cinnamon, plus cinnamon sugar for sprinkling.
4 ounces butter/ cold and cubed
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 large egg
1/2 cup cream or half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 400 f.
2. Mix dry ingredients.
3. Add the butter and blend until mixture is crumbly.
4. Add blueberries and stir.
5. Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl and then incorporate into dry ingredients. Do not over mix.
6. Cut ball of dough into two pieces. Roll out one at a time, into a small circle. Cut into 6 triangles. Repeat with second ball.
7. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes.




Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: Izzy's Own Julie/Julia Project?


Uh oh, I think Izzy is envisioning his very own Julie/Julia project . Only his would be more like the Izzy/Suess project.

You see he received this cute, silly, somewhat revolting cookbook for the holidays (Thanks, I imagine, to Izzy's cousin J.) and has been pondering all of the recipes ever since. He rifles through the pages asking things like, "Can we make the "Nook Hook Cook Book Dogs?" The name alone hardly conjures up something innately edible and the recipe just so happens to be a truly vile combination of roasted wienies with baked beans, ricotta cheese and black olives, all served in a bowl. Now I do see the humor here but the question is, should I humor Izzy by actually allowing him to prepare that ill-conceived concoction? The jury is still out on that one.

Suffice it to say, we skipped that recipe for the time being and went straight to the Pink Yink Ink Drink which had a certain allure, even for me. This would make a striking sip for any little pink-lover's birthday and it was a perfect, quick after-school project. Izzy and I were both enamored of the results.



Pretty in pink it is and not only that but it is healthy and tastes good too!

Pink Yink Ink Drink
(From Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook by Georgeanne Brennan)

Ingredients

1/2 cup frozen blackberries (or blueberries would do)
1 cup milk
6 fresh or frozen strawberries hulled (or frozen raspberries would do, that's what we used, about 12 or so)
1 teaspoon honey

Directions

1. Put blackberries in blender and puree. Pour into a large glass.
2. Put milk, other berries and honey in blender and blend til frothy.
3. Carefully pour on top of puree. Add a straw and sip.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lists, Not Just For New Year's


Lists are everywhere these days. Magazines, newspapers, blogs, you can't escape them. They are part and parcel of the New Year landscape. I, for one, am not the sort to make any New Year's resolutions so I hesitate to jump on the bandwagon. Yet I do love to make lists. Only I do so all year, especially those which involve food.

Shopping lists, places to eat, and recipes to try have long been a part of my listing repertoire and now Izzy is joining me. In fact list-making is another great way to get your toddler/preschooler/child involved in the kitchen. It helps them have a better understanding of the ingredients you use and eat and it is also a big help at the supermarket. I have to chuckle when we're at the supermarket and Izzy reminds me what we need to buy.
Here we have compiled a list of foods to make in the next couple of months. So far we have not settled on the actual recipes to be used so if you have any contributions, send them along.
What would you like us to make? Please comment upon what you think our tenth item should be. And try making some lists yourself..you never know what you might make!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Roast Chicken Issues


Nothing speaks to me more of home than the smell of a crispy, herby chicken roasting in the oven. I do not make them frequently enough because though I love them so, they never come out quite right. Let's face it, I have chicken issues.

On so many occasions, the chickens, though lovely and burnished on the outside, came out slightly underdone in the leg area. Most of these unhappy experiences occurred in my New York apartment where I had a most peculiar oven (ooh, what a great post that will make someday) in which most things took far longer to cook than the recipe suggested. Chickens suffered the most in that oven and what should have been just an ordinary part of my cooking repertoire, was relegated to the special occasion category.

Admittedly I had become slightly chicken-shy. Then I had the great fortune of encountering A Chicken In Every Granny Cart. There Ann describes a nearly fool-proof method for a perfect roast chicken. I have tried the recipe three times now and I what I have learned is that it can be tinkered with to suit your taste, with the same fabulous results. You can flavor the chicken with your favorite herbs, douse it with the booze you prefer, and add the vegetables of your choice. You don't need the butter either and you still get a crisp, moist bird. The best part? This bird is self-basting so you can forget about it for an hour and go about your business.


So tonight, after an afternoon of ice skating, Izzy and I returned home to prepare a quick chicken dinner. All I did was stuff the bird with rosemary,thyme, sliced shallots, garlic, salt and pepper and place it on a bed of shallots. I doused it with a bit of Lillet and some olive oil and into the oven it went. While it roasted, I peeled some sweet potatoes for braised sweet potatoes with rosemary and butter and then whipped up some creamed spinach. I had dinner on the table in 1 1/2 hours and I also managed to read some of the newspaper. Not bad for a Sunday dinner and hopefully this third chicken will mark the end of my chicken issues forever!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Eating Pizza: Ordinary For Some, Extraordinary For O.



Today was a momentous occasion for Izzy's friend O... You must understand that O. has been on a dairy, gluten and wheat-free diet for nearly three years. Lately, much to my great pleasure, his parents have been loosening the restrictions, hoping for no ill effects.

I was beside myself with joy to see O., at his very own birthday party, with a piece of pizza set before him. He seemed a tad bewildered and seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time nibbling gingerly at it. This is a boy who gobbles down cold ice cream in a flash so perhaps he realized the magnitude of the moment and was savoring his pizza, bit by bit.



Not only did he have pizza but he also was able to indulge in an ordinary birthday cake. So far so good, no ill effects were noted.

I am enthralled for so many reasons. For one, his mom will no longer have to stay up creating all manner of meals just for him, or have to agonize over what to prepare for his lunches. Best of all, it will be easier for O. to participate in parties and outings, without having to worry about what he can or cannot eat!

Nevermind birthday, I want to throw an "O. Eats Wheat" party!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Pease Porridge Hot: Warm Wintry Weekday Breakfast


How is it that I've gone through my whole life not knowing that porridge was just another name for oatmeal? To me, porridge is the stuff of Oliver and fairy tales and sounds far more fun to eat. I still don't know what "pease porridge" means but that won't keep me from eating it
.
I don't really know much about oats because I was raised as a Farina girl, lapping up soupy bowls of it, doused with milk. Only later it life have I have discovered the pleasures of a hearty bowl of oatmeal.

As it turns out, oats can be quite enticing, provided they are gussied up a bit. The best way to do this is by adding frozen berries. Izzy loves to add blueberries, raspberries and blackberries to his porridge, sweetened with a touch of maple syrup and a touch of heavy cream. The berries not only serve to sweeten, they also cool down the steaming porridge so that a child can eat it without waiting.

There is nothing I like more than the idea of sending Izzy off to school with his belly full and warm. So each morning I have taken to preparing a different type of porridge. This week we have been eating Scottish Style Porridge Oats (too chewy for my tastes) and last week we were having Whole Foods Organic Oats (much softer and more pleasing to our palates). Whichever oats you choose make sure they are not instant. Surprisingly, most regular oats (barring McCann's) cook in about six minutes.

Aside from frozen berries, there are many other welcome additions to oatmeal. You can play around with all sorts of fruits, including dried, creating an entire porridge repertoire.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

OX Take Two: No Tails?


I couldn't be more pleased that a restaurant of the Ox ilk has opened in Jersey City. I am more than happy to report that on this, our second visit, just a few months later, things have definitely improved. For one, a basket of bread and butter appeared at our table. Apparently I wasn't the only one to lament the lack thereof.

The menu offerings our now more complete and most of the items were available. However strangely enough, at 6:30 on a Thursday evening, they their signature dish, the luscious Ox Tail appetizer, was mysteriously missing, indicating that the bread issue may have been ironed out but other issues are still pending.

On the bright side, all of the main dishes sampled were appealing and the duck definitely stands out. The Duck Breast special (served with mashed sweet potatoes and Swiss chard in a chocolate port sauce) and the Duck Confit were both expertly prepared (Maybe they should consider changing the name to Duck since that bird always seems to be on hand).

My companions sampled the Scallops, very flavorful and the Rabbit Pappardelle which also held their own. More in-depth descriptions are unavailable as I was mainly entertaining Izzy at an hour when he should have been sleeping.

Which brings me to yet another reason to love Ox. Despite of what I have read elsewhere, I must insist that Ox is a child-friendly establishment( not that I suggest going with a gaggle or on a noisy weekend late night). For an early weeknight, it is a fine spot for one or two reasonably behaved little ones. Izzy was thrilled with his Tomato Soup appetizer and the Broccoli/Cheese Gratin which was not even on the menu. The staff were also kind enough to bring him one tiny portion of Grapefruit sorbet to round out his meal. Not only that but he was enchanted by the mini disco balls which adorn the ceiling. Watching them spin kept him happy long after his bedtime.


All told, even though Ox still needs a bit of work (I'd stay away from the Frisee with Goat-Cheese stuffed dates), and a larger stock of ox tails, it is an extremely welcome and appealing addition to the downtown Jersey City restaurant scene.







The

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Fancier Potato: The Gratin



I became enamored of potato gratin while living in Paris. It was frequently served in restaurants as an accompaniment to any number of meat dishes and seemed like an indulgence, which is why I almost always make one for New Year's Eve. There are numerous variations to this dish and in Patricia Well's, Bistro Cooking, there are 10 different recipes!



If you want to elevate an ordinary meal, primp your potatoes! It really sounds harder than it is. Aside from thinly slicing the potatoes, gratin preparation is a breeze. The recipe I favor calls for parboiling the potatoes in herb-infused milk. This technique insures that the gratin will be tender and creamy when cooked through.

Izzy's review says it all: He took a forkful and proclaimed, "Yumm..tastes like macaroni and cheese." (So much for the elegance I had aspired to...)

Pommes de Terre Solognottes (Potato Gratin from the Sologne)
(from Patricia Wells, Bistro Cooking)

2 cups milk
1/2 cup minced herbs (I use thyme and parsley,but she uses tarragon and chives too)
2 bay leaves
5 whole peppercorns
2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, halved
1/2 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
1 cup freshly grated gruyere or similar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Combine first four ingredients in a large saucepan. Cover and scald over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and let steep, covered for 10 minutes. Strain, discarding herbs and peppercorns.
3.Add potatoes to milk. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Rub the inside of an oval gratin dish(14 x 9 x 2) or whatever you have. Spoon the potato mixture into the dish. Pour cream over it and sprinkle with thyme.
5. Bake about 45 minutes or until golden and then sprinkle with grated cheese. Return to oven and bake until top is crisp, about 15 minutes more.

6 servings