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).

Friday, February 29, 2008

Eat Fresh, Eat Local: Join A CSA Or Start One

Winter it may still be, but right now I am dreaming of the fresh vegetables and fruits that Farmer Rich of Catalpa Ridge Farm will deliver come June. I am coming up on my third year hosting this CSF from my home and right now we are reaching out to old members and looking for new. Next week I will host a "Meet the Farmer" event at my home.

I hope to find an eager bunch of eaters, willing to volunteer and pick up their shares on time. Last year I had to beg for volunteers, never mind the bags of forgotten shares I had to find a home for.

Wherever you live, I urge to you to either join a CSF or start your own. It's as easy as finding a farmer within driving distance and looking for neighbors who want fresh, local produce.

With scary beef in the news, and the tainted spinach of last year, the idea of belonging to a CSA/CSF (community-supported agriculture/farm) is ever more appealing. You get access to great-tasting, pesticide-free produce and you know where and how it was grown.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Cream Cheese Made Me Do It

Dear R.,

I know it was understood that I would purchase a container of Ben's Cream Cheese for you every week, when I bought mine. I know it was cruel of me to tempt you and then not deliver the goods. Believe me, I had every intention of doing so this week. In fact, I bought two containers of it. But temptation got the best of me. I got greedy and I had to keep them for myself. You see, Izzy and I have already made the first container disappear. Between breakfast, snacks and sneaking spoonfuls, it was unavoidable and I simply can't imagine going the rest of the week without it.


I blame you anyway. You had to go and mention those Blueberry Cream Cheese Scones. At first they sounded like an abomination but I am definitely warming up to the idea. Maybe if I make those for us for Sunday afternoon, you will forgive me.. Next week I promise to buy at least three packages. I won't let you down.





xoxo,



Izzy's Mama

Happy Belated First Blogaversary To Me: Merguez Soup For You


How could I have forgotten to mark this momentous occasion? Better yet how could you have just let it pass by? Never mind a gift, not even a card or a wish came my way and after all I've offered you..

I can't believe that a year has passed since I started this blog in February 2007 . Since then I have posted over 400 times. I write once a day, if not more and I have rarely skipped a day, not for lack of something to write but rather for lack of time.

When I first began posting, I didn't have a decent camera so my first few posts didn't have photographs. One of the first dishes I wrote about was what we now call Merguez Soup. We all love this dish and it is incredibly simple to make. Tonight we added chopped kale to the recipe and other greens would also work well. It is definitely a meal in a bowl, easy to make in advance and a simple dinner, perfect with salad.

Tonight Izzy helped prepare the soup. He stirred the onions and merguez while they browned, stirred in the tomatoes, added the water and watched it simmer. He also helped tear up the kale which he insisted he didn't like. He told me he would pick it out but then just slurped up three bowls of it, kale and all. The merguez makes the soup special and it comes from 3-Corner-Field Farm a stand at Union Square that I can't rave enough about.

A year later, I marvel at the good fortune I have. I never want for things to write about or eat! Right now I live close enough to all the best foodstuffs the world has to offer. I have the Union Square Greenmarket within 30 minutes from my house and a great farmer who delivers pesticide-free produce to my doorstep (to share with the other members of our CSA) in the warmer months. There are great neighborhood shops in Jersey City and Hoboken and I can take the Path into the city for shopping at some of my other favorite venues.

The icing on the cake? Izzy goes to school half days which gives us more time for cooking, baking and shopping together. Here's looking forward to more years of Izzy Eats, as his palate grows and my pleasure in sharing all that we eat and cook, grows along with him.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Long Day Of Foodie Shoot: Harvest Cart To The Rescue

Who knew what went into taking one measly photo!? And I thought models had the easy life.

My photographer friend, Elizabeth, was kind enough to consent to do a "foodie shoot" with me because I happened to need a decent photo of myself and Izzy for a project (fingers crossed) I hope to see in print. At first it was all fun, games and laughter but when it came time to upload the photos, some computer gadgetry went afoul and we had to go back and try to recapture the magic.

The second go round was more grimacing than glowing, with Izzy becoming less and less cooperative. After the second session, we went back to Elizabeth's house for more uploading.

We worked until nearly dinnertime while our boys played so nicely together. When I realized what time it was, I wished I had something to offer them for dinner and we pondered our choices. Then I remembered Harvest Cart, a new comforting take-out choice for downtown Jersey City. They have whole organic rotisserie chickens, several side dishes and more.

Izzy and I ordered a chicken last week and this time I ordered two, along with some roasted potatoes and braised greens. I ran home and put together a salad and in 20 minutes, dinner was on the table for all of us, and Izzy's papa even joined us.

The boys couldn't wait to dig in, both using forks AND knives! Not always a regular occurrence around this house.
You may think that $14 is a steep price to pay for a rotisserie chicken but it is worth every penny to get a juicy organic rotisserie chicken at your doorstep in 20 minutes. The side dishes we tried, roasted potatoes and braised greens were bit on the oily side but tasty nonetheless. Overall, we were happy to have this new option for warm comfort food at the end of a long day.
p.s. After dinner, the boys were debating their political choices. E. is a staunch Hillary supporter and Izzy favors Obama. When queried as to why, E. had much to say, he is six, after all. Izzy's reply, "I don't know."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bagel Shmaigel..Let's Talk Schmear



Disputes over the best New York Bagel crop up time and time again. But what about the topping? How many articles or cream cheese comparisons do you read about? In my opinion, the only thing worth topping a bagel with is cream cheese, with butter as an acceptable second. What is a bagel without its cream cheese?

Yet how often does one hear about the cream cheese offerings? Which ones are the most delectable and spreadable? For years I had been partial to the Zabar's variety, which appears to be regular cream cheese, whipped with sour cream to lighten it.

But then I came across Ben's Cream Cheese. It has now become a weekly habit. Must go to Murray's Cheese to buy Ben's..it is smooth, yet not airy or gummy. I sing its praises to the world, for it is unlike store-bought cream cheese and doesn't cost much more than organic. It is so superior it doesn't even need a bagel. In fact I love it on Amy's Semolina Raisin Bread and English muffins too, or just licking it plain, off the knife.

We have been eating it for about the past month or so and I thought Izzy was as smitten with it as I. He has grown up eating Organic Valley Cream Cheese and he is having a difficult time adjusting.

Over a dinner of eggs, beans, bagels and cream cheese tonight he asked, "Mama, why don't you get the other kind of cream cheese anymore?" "Because this one tastes so much better." His response, which can only be born of the "eat what you know" syndrome, "It's not that I don't like the taste, I just want the old kind."

He'll get used to it, I'm sure. Just as I hope he gets more accustomed to good bagels,instead of the Lender's variety his classmates bring in for snack.

Which brings me to my bagel preferences.


Columbia Bagels were my favorite but I rarely bought them because they were too far up town (and have closed down anyway). So I will settle for H & H, Murray's, or Hudson Bagels. In the bagel realm I take the best in close range, or none at all. In fact, Izzy remarked that we almost never eat bagels at home anymore and I realized it was because we don't have any really decent bagel shops in Jersey City. On our way home from pottery class tonight, I bought a few to have for dinner. My cream cheese was begging for them.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Waffle Wizardry: A Work In Progress

Before

After

I couldn't help but share this creation, born of limited dinner options. Will post when we have perfected the recipe. The possibilities are endless...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Today's Brunch: Waiting Patiently



We had invited friends for brunch at noon. Come 12:15, Izzy was restless and looking for eats. I told him his friends would be arriving shortly. He did not want to eat without them and he was sad because he was hungry. They arrived just in time and suddenly, his hunger was forgotten for a few minutes. Eventually, he and his friend T. made their way to the table.

Izzy and his friend T., feasted upon Belgian waffles (I tweaked the recipe yet again) and fruit salad. Waffles make good finger food although Izzy preferred to use his fingers for the fruit and his fork for the waffles. They both cleaned their plates!

Belgian Buttermilk Waffles ( Inspired by Epicurious)

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups well-shaken buttermilk

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

2 large eggs, separated, egg whites whipped to soft peaks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vegetable oil for waffle iron

Directions

Put oven rack in middle position and put a large metal cooling rack directly on it.

Preheat oven to 250°F and preheat waffle iron.


Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, egg yolks and vanilla extract in another bowl, then whisk into flour mixture until just combined. Fold in egg whites.


Brush hot waffle iron lightly with vegetable oil and pour a slightly rounded 1/2 cup of batter into each waffle mold (see cooks' note, below).

Cook waffles according to manufacturer's instructions until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer as cooked to rack in oven to keep warm, keeping waffles in 1 layer to stay crisp. Make more waffles in same manner.

Makes 8 squares, depending upon size of waffle-iron.

Play Food, Not War


Who needs violent toys when you can set up your very own miniature farmer's market? At least that was the mindset when I bought Izzy this incredibly charming Mighty World Farmer's Market. It probably didn't compare with the Power Rangers set that some unenlightened classmate purchased for him last year (which promptly disappeared) but it still entertains, even a year later.

What a concept, introduce kids to the idea of purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables from a farmer's market instead of a supermarket. For Izzy it was real life in miniature but for others it can just be a way to expose kids to different fruits and vegetables. The fun is watching as they shop and decide whether to purchase carrots or eggplants, potatoes or squash. Not only is filling up the crates great for their fine motor skills but it also can take a few minutes. Besides that, it definitely spurred Izzy's imagination as he decided to remove the doll's hair and adorn their heads with corn cobs. What a way to shop!

And I don't know about you but I just can't help but think that the world would be a far better place if more boys shopped and played with vegetables.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Truly Alien Universe: Izzy Attends A Party On Mars

The very thought of Mars 2112 frightened me and still does. Until Izzy was six months only, he actually lived only four blocks from Mars (as did his father and I) yet we never had the inclination to enter (shocking, I know.). I had an inkling that today's party would be an adventure of sorts so I tried to go with an open mind, especially since Izzy and his friends were so very excited about the prospect of an other worldly visit.

The trip there was one of the highlights of the outing (at least for most of the kids) though it could be a bit scary for some. The space vehicle shuddered and shook throughout the five minute simulated voyage, reminiscent of an amusement park ride or a plane going through turbulence. Izzy is still asking if the shuttle blasted through the bricks of the building and how that was possible. Another mom told him it was "pretend". (Hey wait a minute, kids are allowed to believe in Santa (not mine, mind you) but they can't believe that they were in a real spaceship? I am very confused.)

Upon arrival on the red planet, we were left to find our way through the reddened, noisy atmosphere, to balloon festooned tables where ominous sippy cups sat, awaiting an alien beverage (soda?). I pounced on the waitress before she could deliver that and instead opted for watered down punch.

Izzy chose to sit alone at the kids' table so I kept an eye on him from afar. When the food arrived I kept my thoughts to myself, this would be his first taste of a fast-foodesque burger and some sort of chicken fingerish surprise. Despite my disgust, I placed a burger and some fries on his plate along with a good dollop of ketchup and a chicken finger. Then I had to avert my eyes and try really really hard not to think of beef recalls and downer cattle...

I went back to my own table, several tables away when I heard, "Mama, Mama." What was it? He wanted to show me that he was eating what he called, "Chicken Nuggets." Oh, I was oh so delighted to know. Call me when its over please.

Throughout this alien (ating) eating experience, aliens were floating about the room, dancing and shaking hands with the partygoers. Izzy kept his distance.

Then there was cake. It was big, it was brown and it was chocolate. The slice which arrived was enormous. Izzy's friend J.'s dad admonished that too much cake would give J. a bellyache. Izzy only ate a small amount of his, clearly stuffed from the burgerganza. Later on he said, "I listened to J. and didn't eat too much cake today. That was a good idea, right Mama?" A wonderful idea.

The party ended with a trip to the gameroom, which was almost more than I could bear. Too much noise and too many games I would clearly avoid. There were some child-like options but sadly, many were "out of order" so we breezed through as quickly as possible avoiding the guns like the plague.

As we earthlings finally made the return trip..to Broadway and 50th Street, I breathed a sigh of relief, having made it through the harrowing journey. Although it was not my cup of tea, it was a great thrill for Izzy as I am sure it was for the birthday boy. It has certainly sparked his interest in all things space-related and in fact one of the goodie bag surprises was some freeze-dried ice cream.

He had to sample it as soon as we got home. We immediately had to research what astronauts eat and how they eat. I suppose there is good in everything, even trips to alien planets. A new food realm to be explored. I bet you didn't know that Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray have both had a hand in creating space food..No comment!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Izzy's Rice Pudding: Snowy Day Comfort

Izzy awoke with that same sense of wonder he always has at the appearance of snow. He was giddy with excitement and spent hours out in the front yard and backyard. Scooping, stomping, sliding, and sitting in it. Once inside, while warming up, a creative impulse arose and over 18 works of art are now spread out upon the floor. Not only was he quite the prolific artist but he also wanted to make something from our "cooking and baking list", rice pudding. But he said he didn't want just plain old rice pudding, he wanted berry rice pudding. So I looked around for a recipe to guide us and I was inspired by this Raspberry Rice Pudding.

I came up with the following recipe while Izzy shook a stick at every snowflake to hit our yard. We were both delighted with the results.

Izzy's Raspberry Rice Pudding


3 cups milk

1 cup half and half

1/2 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

few grinds nutmeg

few pinches of cinnamon

1. Bring milk and half and half to a boil. Add rice, cover and lower to a simmer for 45 minutes.
2. Add remainder of ingredients and simmer 5 minutes more.
3. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.

Makes about 6 servings


No Taking The Easy Way Out: Izzy's Dinner Choice


Me (in lazy mode): Would you like some pierogi and peas for dinner (always in the freezer for the laziest of days)?

Izzy: No. That's not what I want.

Me: Would you like some blintzes (made and frozen last week).

Izzy: I don't want that either.

Me: How about whole wheat pasta with zucchini, artichokes and bacon?

Izzy: Yes. That is what I want. Sounds yummy.
Oh well. So much for avoiding cooking and dish washing. Not that it was particularly complicated, just meant more chopping and pots and pans to wash.

I don't ordinarily use whole wheat pasta. I am not especially fond of the flavor and after all, how many Italians eat it? Isn't it some new-fangled American invention? Nevertheless, I had grabbed a box of whole wheat penne after having read that certain brands of whole-wheat pasta have improved in both texture and flavor. I knew A. wouldn't eat any which is why I chose to make it while he was away. It has a somewhat nutty aspect to it and is rather chewy. If you are in the mood for lower carb pasta then give it a try.

Whole-Wheat Penne With Zucchini, Artichoke Hearts and Bacon

1 box whole-wheat penne
6 slices of Niman Ranch Bacon (baked at400 about 15 minutes or until crisp)
2 medium zucchini, sliced
4 artichoke hearts in oil, drained
2 large shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
handful minced parsley
1. Boil pasta
2. Meanwhile place olive oil, shallots, garlic and zucchini and saute over low heat. Add artichokes when zucchini is almost tender and browned. Saute a couple of minutes longer. Turn off heat and add parsley.
3. Drain pasta and save a cup of pasta water. Return pasta to pot, add zucchini mixture and water. Stir for a minute over low heat.
4. Serve with grated Parmiggiano cheese.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Some Bunnies Like Other Food Too: The Velveteen Rabbit And Lunch at Risotteria



Fashioning our own "field-trip", Izzy and I, along with two of his school friends and their mamas, went off to Greenwich Village to see a small production of The Velveteen Rabbit, one of my top ten favorite kids books. Little did I know how much food fodder would result.

The kids were hungry before the performance and were munching on some snacks (with rabbit ears on). Izzy requested yet another snack and J.'s mom pulled out a bag of carrots..perfect for those little bunnies. Izzy and J. appreciated the bunny connection but their friend I. said, "Bunnies like other food too." Especially that particular bunny whose mom describes her as quite the picky eater.

After the wonderfully charming performance, which included original songs and choreography, we were off to lunch. I chose Risotteria, despite Izzy's protests. I figured creamy rice would certainly be pleasing to all. I hadn't counted on the place being full but it was and we were stuck waiting in the bitter cold..It was only a ten minute wait which worked out in the end since I got to have a second weekly stop at Murray's.

Being seated at Risotteria was a new experience as this was our first time dining out with three kids. One is one thing, three is a different story, particularly when they are seated together on a banquette. They were surprisingly well-behaved, considering their propensity for mischief!

In "monkey-see, monkey-do" ordering mode, we all ended up with the same risotto dish, which was shitaake mushrooms, green beans, corn and truffle oil. The portions were ample enough for mother and child to share. They were warm and satisfying on a cold day. The delightfully airy bread sticks placed on the table served not only as amuse-bouches for everyone but later in the meal they morphed into kid entertainment, becoming swords and letters of the alphabet, no crayons necessary.

When the food arrived, Izzy and his friend J., dove zealously into their risotto while their friend I. was more tentative. I could see that it was a new food for her and she was certainly reluctant to try it. However I did note that she observed her classmates and was willing to at least taste it. When her mom spooned some into her mouth, she seemed content to eat it. That is progress, in and of itself!
Lunch lunched, Izzy had other things in mind and was ornery and bouncy on the trip back, thankfully with no incident. Pleased with the overall success of the outing, I would attempt future restaurant meals with three children in tow. You never know what some bunnies might eat!

A Study In Substitutes: Banana-Oat Bars


A plague of bananas as always, has left me in search of something other than banana bread. I wanted a granola bar, instead I found these:
Banana-Oat Bars from Epicurious. Honestly I was in search of something healthier but these seemed like the most appealing choice. In efforts to increase the "healthy" factor, I substituted 1 cup of whole wheat flour for the regular and I decreased the overall amount of sweetener (SUGAR) from about three cups to two, substituting 1 cup of honey for 1 cup of sugar.

The results were pleasing and promising for the use of honey in other recipes. However they in no way, shape or form resembled a bar of any kind. Izzy claimed they tasted like banana bread but I would beg to differ. The honey flavor was prominent and the resulting treat was moist with a large crumb whereas my banana bread drier with a far smaller crumb.

This experiment bodes well for future attempts to use honey or maybe even agave as a sugar substitute. Meanwhile, Izzy and his friend J., happily gobbled up large mouthfuls of this newest banana concoction without complaint.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Shopping At Murray's: More Than Cheese

I had no idea there was a short strip of shopping paradise on Bleecker Street. Sure I had stopped in at Murray's on occasion, for a hunk of cheese but never really paid any mind to other items in the store.

In the past few weeks, I've had a bit of time to linger at Murray's, while Izzy, the prolific potter, molds clay around the corner at Greenwich House Pottery. There are all sorts of choice morsels to be had. From Niman Ranch Pastrami to alici anchovies and everything in between. What didn't I want to try?

There are fresh pastas, olive oils, pastured eggs, yogurts of all kinds, in-house cooked meats (of the turkey, pork ilk), sweets (chocolates galore) a small ice-cream freezer and countless other goodies that I have yet to unearth. The only thing missing is produce. I am in awe of how much wonder is crammed into that small space and I have yet to mention the one foodstuff (from the dairy section) that has me returning to Murray's for a weekly fix (deserving of a its own future post to be sure).

While shopping today, I spied Rob Kaufelt, the owner of Murray's and Nina Planck's boyfriend. If that isn't a match made in food heaven, I don't know what is. She, the champion of Real Food, with a boyfriend who provides a never-ending supply. What more could one ask for?

Celebrity musings finished, back to today's groceries. I picked up some marinated artichoke hearts, Niman Ranch Ham, an intriguing Vermont cheese (more on that after tasting), and some ridiculously expensive eggs, which must be the ones Nina spoke of at a reading once. Back then I wondered why her eggs cost $6 a dozen while the ones I buy at the Greenmarket cost $3..I will need to do a comparison.

Until then I need to go to sleep. Good night eggs, good night moon, good night all that Murray's crams in one room.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cooking Instructions From The Wienie Man? (A childhood song resonates)


I know a wienie man (He lives on our block).
He owns a wienie stand (He parks it in front of his house).
He sells most anything (not really).
From hotdogs to ham (hotdogs, soda and water is all).

Some day I'll join his life (very doubtful).
I'll be his wienie wife (he's already married, me too).
Hotdog, I love that wienie man! (have never even bought a wienie from him, they're not organic).

On weekdays, you can find the wienie man in front of Hamilton Park. He and his wife are a hardworking couple. We often see them pushing their cart past our house on their way to and from work. Every now and then, Izzy asks, "Why don't we ever buy hotdogs from the wienie man?" Hmmm.."Well we don't eat the kind of hotdogs he sells. They aren't organic."

Organic hotdogs or not, Izzy is somewhat in awe of the wienie man. And apparently has observed him carefully. This all came out at lunchtime today over some Niman Ranch Fearless Franks (not exactly organic but made with humanely raised beef and no nitrites).

If you know me, you know that hotdogs are a rare meal around our house. The older Izzy gets, the more I hear about how his best pals at school seem to lunch on cut-up wienies on a regular basis. I explain that we only eat wienies at home, and only on special occasions.

Today turned out to be that special occasion. Our cupboard was bare and the only thing I could conjure up was a frozen package of wienies. I figured a wienie was a good way to celebrate President's Day, especially if honoring our current one. When Izzy saw the package he was delighted so I boiled up two and placed them on buns, along with a small salad.

Izzy immediately requested some ketchup on his wienie. I began to squirt some on the dog when Izzy stopped me. "Don't you know how to put ketchup on a wienie, mama?"

I explained that I never used much ketchup and that I wasn't fond of it. He proceeded to tell me that the "right" way to apply ketchup was directly on the bun. "How do you know the right way to put ketchup on?" I asked.

"I saw the wienie man do it."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Scrounging In The Kitchen: Making Do

In preparation for our trip, I had cleaned out the fridge, save for a few things that could remain for a week or so, without incident. That was Friday and it seems that I haven't shopped in days. I missed my regular Wednesday jaunt because of bad weather though I did manage to sneak into Whole Foods on Thursday and pick-up some of my favorite in-house roasted turkey, which is a lunchtime staple. I suppose that is when I picked up groceries for Valentine's Dinner but even though I probably spent over $50, I didn't really buy anything for daily consumption.

So what have we eaten since Thursday you ask?

Friday
Lunch:
Izzy: Green Split Pea Soup
Me: Turkey sandwich with romaine lettuce and mayo
A.: OTL

Dinner
Izzy: Turkey sandwich with mayo
Me: Leftover lamb and mashed potatoes
A. Leftover Zans Cans Chili

Saturday
Breakfast
All of us: Whole Wheat English Muffins with cream cheese and jam

Lunch:
Izzy and I: Roast turkey sandwiches again
A.: Wasabi peas (apparently he doesn't always need to eat)

Dinner
All of us: The worst rendition of pasta with bacon and eggs (next time it is good, will post the recipe)

Sunday
Breakfast
All of us: Blueberry Belgian Waffles with Diced Mango

Lunch
Grilled A. and I.: Avocado/Cheddar Cheese Sandwiches
Izzy: MORE Roast turkey, this time with romaine and mayo

Dinner: Saved from facing an empty fridge by Grandma Laurie who invited us for dinner. Zipcar came in handy for a quick trip to Grandpa Joe's house.

We were greeted with these decadent little appetizers ( if I had only known we would not have had grilled cheese for lunch!). Mini-truffled grilled cheese squares..


The meal continued with a large salad, full of raw mushrooms, radishes, cucumbers, peppers and other tidbits that we usually don't have at home. Izzy was somewhat suspicious and only agreed to a few choice tidbits. He was clearly concerned about the rest of the meal and asked, "Is this all we are having for dinner?" It occurred to him that if he didn't eat the salad, there might not be anything else.

Lucky for him, a big casserole full of chicken vindaloo arrived beside him, with a smaller casserole of basmati rice. He was happy to indulge in a large portion of the vindaloo which contained plenty of vegetables, including parsnips and broccoli. It was definitely amongst one of our healthiest meals this weekend (if we forgot about those truffled grilled cheese bites... ) Thanks to Grandma Laurie, we managed to have at least one proper meal this weekend.

Definitely an odd weekend in the food department. I imagine that tomorrow the days of self-imposed scarcity will end and I will manage to get to the supermarket.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Consolation Prize: Little Red and Jacques Torres

playing with food before the play

Instead of a plane trip to the Dominican Republic, we found ourselves in a car on the way to New York City. I haven't had the heart to tell Izzy that not only has our trip been postponed, it has been changed. We may go to Florida instead, stay tuned.

But for today the plan was to divert his attention. So our friends R. and M., picked us up this morning. I found us a play in the East Village, called Little Red, which turned out to be far worthier than its tiny theatre and tiny price would imply. For just eight bucks, we were treated to a musical review and alterna-tale of Little Red Riding Hood, featuring vegetarian wolves, a hip-hop loving red riding hood, a grandma who said "Oy" and mother who squelched her passions through baking. All this in 40 minutes definitely deserves an extended run. There are still a few performances so RUN, don't walk to get your tickets!

After the show, my plan was a trip to the Jacques Torres shop on Hudson Street. Izzy and his friend M., were screaming for a snack and with the luxury of being in a car, we sped over there and parked in front. Thick hot chocolates and croissants were had by all. The classic version was preferable to the orange. Basically they have a hot chocolate bar and a few scattered tables. I was disappointed because it certainly wasn't a place to linger with kids, make sure you go to the loo beforehand, as there are none on the premises. The most appealing aspect of the experience is the view of the production line. The kids were riveted by the workers creating chocolate bunnies and other sweets behind glass.



The shop is a chocolate-lover's paradise, from chocolate-coated caramel corn, to chocolate-covered cherries and everything in between. Definitely a great place to buy gifts and have a quick chocolate pick-me up. Izzy and M. were satisfied with their hot chocolates and didn't even request other sweets.

By the end of the day, our canceled trip seemed just a vague memory. Here's hoping it remains that way.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Journey To An Unknown Food-World: POSTPONED

The trip was booked almost a year ago. We had agreed to join my father and stepmother, L., at a resort in the Dominican Republic. Now mind you, we are not resort people but who turns down a trip to the beach in February?

Izzy and I had been perusing the resort's website, imagining ourselves splashing with mermaids in the hot sun, fashioning sandcastles and sipping cool lemonade. Truthfully I think Izzy was imagining returning to the Jersey Shore, since that is his latest beach memory. I, on the other hand, was beginning to fret over what we would eat there. I had heard tell that "all inclusive" resorts were not necessarily known for high quality food. As my stepmother L. mentioned, "Don't expect to find organic."

Despite our reservations, Izzy and I were duly excited for our upcoming trip. He actually packed his suitcase a few days ago and I had begun to pack mine (with plenty of snacks, just in case). Then, late this afternoon, the phone rang with some rotten news. My dad's passport expired on Monday and he would be unable to join us. I was disappointed but Izzy was distraught, sobbing over his lost vacation. It was late afternoon, never a good time to break bad news to a child and his cries were pitiful.

When he finally calmed down, I discovered an odd light at the end of the tunnel. We would be able to attend his great friend, C.'s birthday at MARS 2112 next weekend, which will surely be another sort of journey to the unknown.
And, we have a new date for our trip in March and hopefully everyone will be able to make it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

No Lamb Roast For Izzy?


There were those heart cookies for Izzy (and other hearts for me). And then a bouquet of roses and some chocolate truffles arrived, along with my husband. Meanwhile the world's tiniest roast was marinating on the kitchen table.

Izzy was in dour spirits, which came with the realization that he was not going to be included in tonight's festivities, specifically our dinner. It is so rare that we do not dine together, that it was especially disconcerting to my dear boy.

He saw the lamb marinating and was gravely disappointed to discover that he would not be partaking. A few hours of whining ensued, to the tune of, "I don't want five pierogi. I only asked for four. Why are there more potato than cheese? I will NOT eat the extra potato. Why are you going to eat that lamb without me? Could you at least save some for me for tomorrow?" And on and on it went, culminating in high-pitched singing up the steps and while brushing teeth. Lights out at eight and not a peep to be heard since.

Meanwhile the tiny roast was sizzling in the oven. I came down and put the potatoes on for mash, and some asparagus on to blanch. Blue cheese and bread to nibble, red wine to sip. Valentine's Day Dinner was in the making.
p.s. Izzy will have roast lamb and mashed potatoes for lunch tomorrow.

For My Littlest Valentine And His School Friends



I am still awake rolling out the dough, cutting out the hearts, filling them with raspberry jam and dusting them with powdered sugar. I promised Izzy I would bring something tomorrow and a promise is a promise.

These are the plainest of "Linzer" hearts because I prepared them without nuts, using a recipe given to me by an old baker friend, B., who I worked with in a French bakery in Dumont, N.J., way back when. They are a very delicate butter cookie. Back then, as a neophyte baker, I thought these cookies were the cat's pajamas. I still think they are swell. And if I do say so myself, they are an adorable sight to behold.

Wishing a sweet Valentine's Day to all...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Moustache Mania: Dining Out With Friends


If the idea of pillowy, billowy homemade pita appeals to you, run to Moustache. It has been around for at least 10 years, tucked away on Bedford Street in the West Village. Izzy and I have been frequenting the place for months now, often stopping by on our way home from clay class.

Tonight we brought along some friends to share the pita extravaganza. The kids were all delighted by the puffy pitas, fresh, hot and steaming from the oven. Three children five and under, in one small restaurant, might not have been the wisest idea but it was early and the kids were mostly intent upon eating. A bit of chaos did ensue as the allure of the food began to wane. At least they had the pita maker to entertain them as he whirled the dough in the air, making a crust for their crispy pitzas, feather-light crusts with inspired toppings, the ground lamb being our favorite.

Not only are the pitas noteworthy but the other food is enticing as well, with a fabulous merguez sandwich and wonderful vegetarian salad options too.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Cooking Play Date: Zans Cans Chili (More Suess Stuff)

If you remember, Izzy and I recently made a list of dishes we wanted to make in the upcoming months. One of them was chili. Izzy's plan was Zans Cans Chili from The Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook. Definitely not one of the winners from the book, it basically called for dumping some cans of beans and tomatoes in a pot, along with some sauteed meat and a few spices.

I had to modify the recipe just a touch (despite Izzy's protests) so that I could eat it too. Izzy's friend O. joined us for the preparation, which for the boys basically meant opening the cans (learning to use a can opener is important, no?) and stirring the various components as they were added.

While the chili bubbled away, the boys played. When it was finished, I offered up tastes. Izzy was more than thrilled to have some but O. shied away from the dish, defying my theory that most children will eat what they cook. I suppose there is an exception to every rule, eh?

Although Izzy gobbled it up, I hesitate to share the recipe since even with tweaking, it was still lacking.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lemon Squares With A Whole Wheat Crust

Lemon desserts have never been at the top of my list of things to bake. For given the choice between lemon and chocolate, I would be more inclined to choose the latter. Because of this, I have not had much experience in the lemon realm, particularly with lemon squares. I have made decent ones in the past but I had no idea which recipe I had used. When the urge for lemon squares struck, I wasn't sure where to turn.

I found this recipe for lemon bars, which seemed to be well-thought out and executed from the looks of it. But I couldn't leave well enough alone. I doubled the recipe and then decided to use half whole wheat/half white flour for the crust. I had to bake the crust for about 8 minutes longer than indicated, which I also had to do with the filling (maybe the timing was off on the original?).

The results looked reasonably good but I found the crust to be somewhat doughy, rather than light. Whole wheat flour tends to produce leaden baked goods and it usually better to err on the side of less rather than more when substituting. I must confess that the real reason behind the substitution was that we had run out of regular flour and Izzy was having a p.j. day (more on that soon).

The doughy crust didn't seem to bother anyone but they probably haven't eaten a light, crusty square lately either.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Blueberry-Lemon Scones



You don't need to wait until blueberry season for these. Despite what most recipes will tell you, Trader Joe's Frozen Organic Wild Blueberries make a fine substitute for fresh. Frozen berries tend to ooze more blueberry juice but for me that doesn't seem problematic I think it adds to the homey appeal of this scone.

Blueberry-Lemon Scones

Ingredients

1. 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2. 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3. 1/3 cup sugar
4. 1 tablespoon baking powder
5. 1/2 teaspoon salt
6. 6 tablespoons butter
7. 1/2 cup heavy cream
8. 1 egg, beaten
9. 1 teaspoon meyer lemon or regular lemon zest
10. 1/2 cup frozen blueberries sprinkled with tablespoon flour
11. Extra cream and cinnamon sugar for topping (optional)


Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. and combine dry ingredients.
2. Add butter, chopped into small pieces and mix until butter is pea-sized.
3. Add blueberries and zest and mix lightly to incorporate.
4.Mix cream and egg together, add to dry ingredients slowly, just until dough forms. Knead briefly and form a ball. The trick is to handle dough as little as possible.
5. Cut ball in half and roll out each half into a circle about 5 inches wide. Cut into 5-6 wedges. Roll out second half and do the same.
6. Brush tops with a bit of heavy cream and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
7. Bake at 425 F. for 12-15 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.




Friday, February 8, 2008

Was Peanut Butter The Culprit?: A Vist To The Allergist

Poor Izzy, they used him as a pincushion. First they wrote on his back and then three strips with about five or so pins each, were pricked into his back. I held him and he whimpered but it wasn't nearly as bad as I had anticipated. The worst part was waiting with him,naked, cold and hungry, for the proscribed 15 minutes.

The doctor, highly acclaimed pediatric allergist, Dr. Paul Erhlich, was among the kindest, gentlest doctors I have ever visited (and, small world, it turns out that Izzy has played with his grandkids in the park). Izzy immediately felt at ease with him which made everything go that much more smoothly.

And what did we find out?? So far, negative on all counts. He said there are rarely false negatives but since the incident happened so recently, it would be best to wait two more weeks and then retest, along with a few other potential allergens.

Meanwhile, we still have to keep away from peanuts, sesame and their ilk. The good news is that I needn't be as vigilant as I thought. Chocolate produced in a factory where peanut products are used will be just fine!!! Bring back the mini-morsels and Ghiradelli! A cause for celebration in and of itself. Not to mention that I no longer need to envision a life sans eggs, wheat and Birnn Chocolates.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Something Smells Fishy Around Here: Of Spilled Paint and Fish Pies

Izzy and I were invited for fish pie. Little did we know what we were in for.

We arrived at H's house after school only to find ourselves in the midst of a family crisis. A smell of fish permeated the air, N. was wandering around with her tush pointing skywards (in the throes of potty-training) and poor I. was blubbering after having heedlessly tossed a can of paint all over the living room carpet. H. was in desperate need of either Calgon or a glass of sherry.

Izzy and I removed our shoes and joined the chaos. Izzy sniffed around and said, "What's that smell?" (kids are always so subtle, aren't they?). His friend replied, "It's fish pie." After trying to play with the kids upstairs while H. cleaned up, I managed to give her a break and take them all back to my house. I entertained them with Pink Ink Yink Drinks, scones and red pears.

They all sat round the table bubbling drinks and amusing themselves for half an hour, followed by some good-old fashioned child's play of their own invention. They created a runway and became airplanes landing, whilst I played goose patrol, monitoring the little N., so she wouldn't get tangled in the fuselage of landing planes.

The merriment continued until dinnertime, at which point I bundled the kids up and brought everyone back to H.'s house. When we arrived, the aromas were far more inviting, the table was set and general calm had returned. I knew we were in for a comforting meal.

The fish pie turned out to be the fish version of shepherd's pie, prepared with cod, salmon, shrimp and hard-boiled eggs. The fish are cooked in milk and then strained. The milk is then reserved to make a roux. The fish and roux are combined with a few other things like capers and parsley and then poured into a baking dished which is then topped with mashed potatoes. The steaming pie was a beautiful sight as it arrived at the table, steaming and golden brown. Served with broccoli rabe it was a soothing, warm dish for a winter's night.

Everyone dug in. The grown-ups had some wine and hopefully the paint will be gone from the rug tomorrow.

p.s. Izzy and I will be trying to make our fish pie one of these days.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Liberty Science Center: Play and Eat

The Liberty Science Center is a great way to while away a few hours. Weekday afternoons are ideal after the school crowds have dispersed and the space is left for local kids to romp and enjoy. Parents can relax as kids jump, press, pull and experiment. There are live animals, interactive exhibits and even what seemed to be an enormous cockroach terrarium. What more could you ask for?!

We went there today to celebrate Izzy's friend C.'s birthday. It was just the two of them because Izzy won't be around for C.'s big party. They played with C.'s younger brother D. who climbed up to the top of a climbing apparatus and became too afraid to descend on his own. I was so proud of Izzy when he offered to rush up and "save" D. He tried to gently prod him along (and did pull on him a bit too vigorously) but all and all he did assist in getting him back down.

After an hour or so of excitement the inevitable cries for drinks and snacks arose. I usually bring my own snacks but all I had was an apple. I had no choice but to agree to getting something at the cafeteria. I was relieved to discover that they actually have a small organic section with Horizon Organic Milk and applesauce which Izzy was more than happy to eat.

They also have a none too shabby-looking salad bar and some hot food (which had no appeal, given a previous experience with Mac and Cheese).
Granted they also have a section of candy and other less healthy snacks.
Yet f you pick and choose wisely you can find something healthy and satisfying. Cafeteria food sure is looking up these days.

So if you are seeking a stress-free afternoon, look no further than The Liberty Science Center (easily accessible from NYC as well).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Waffle-Iron Meets Untimely End




Someone left the waffle-iron out in the rain. Okay, that someone was me. I was trying to eradicate a little moth problem and the box seemed to have an infestation. I placed the box and waffle iron outside in my yard, along with a few other infested items and promptly forgot about them.

I remembered it was out there well after the rain had drenched my poor electric appliance, one of our favorite wedding gifts. This waffle-iron met an unfortunate end but one of the lights was broken and it may have been time for a new one anyway.

Izzy and I eat waffles regularly so I was certain I would find a replacement soon enough. Sadly, weeks have slipped past and my search for the perfect waffle iron has come up empty. Izzy and I looked at a few in Zabar's but I passed them up.

This weekend, Izzy had a hankering for some waffles and he reminded me that we do own another waffle iron. A non-electric, stove-top model. We have never used it together because I became lazy, so accustomed to awaiting the beep beep beep of my electric model. The stove-top model requires greater effort but on Sunday we discovered it was worth the trouble.

Izzy and I made a batch of Belgian Waffles and Izzy seemed to like them even better than our usual recipe, for me it was a toss-up. I envision a waffle-tasting in our future.



Belgian Buttermilk Waffles (From Epicurious)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups well-shaken buttermilk

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

2 large eggs

Vegetable oil for waffle iron

Directions

Put oven rack in middle position and put a large metal cooling rack directly on it.

Preheat oven to 250°F and preheat waffle iron.


Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs in another bowl, then whisk into flour mixture until just combined.


Brush hot waffle iron lightly with vegetable oil and pour a slightly rounded 1/2 cup of batter into each waffle mold (see cooks' note, below).

Cook waffles according to manufacturer's instructions until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer as cooked to rack in oven to keep warm, keeping waffles in 1 layer to stay crisp. Make more waffles in same manner.

Makes 8 squares, depending upon size of waffle-iron.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Venison Sliders: A Most Brilliant Invention

I couldn't stay away. Ox on Friday, Ox on Saturday. This, my fourth visit, ostensibly for a night out for fun with friends, was in reality just an excuse to return to inhale the most sublime of bar snacks, the inimitable Venison Slider (a photo will surely be provided upon my next visit).

What is a Venison Slider you ask? It seems to be a chopped venison patty(combined with something fatty?), topped with cheese and placed on a mini-brioche-like bun, held together with a toothpick and a cornichon.

I am not a true burger eater. I do not wax poetic over White Castle or other mini-burgers of that ilk and nowadays the thought of eating a burger worries me unless I know the provenance of the beef. Was it grass-fed? Locally raised? Despite those reservations about beef, I ask no questions about the Venison Slider and this is why.

It is a burger creation which appeals on so many levels. Flavor and health are the first that come to mind as well as the unexpected use of venison in a burger. I can eat venison without worrying about contracting "mad-deer disease" and I can assume that it was permitted to graze. Haven't heard of grain-fed deer yet, have you?

Perhaps the owners of Ox have started a trend and Venison Sliders will begin cropping up on menus everywhere. Not that they could equal the original. So go now, to the Bar at Ox and grab a slider while you can. You won't be able to eat just one.

The Dreaded Peanut Allergy: Please Say It Isn't So

My poor Izzy. I have been very cautious about giving him nuts and I held off on doing so until he was well over three years old. He has had small amounts of them since with no ill effect and I began giving him a bit of peanut butter a month or so ago.

Yesterday, after having eaten some apple slices slathered in peanut butter (a great snack for the allergy-free), he broke out in a horrible rash which began on his neck and crept up and down his body. Splotches and welts, puffy eyes and lips. The doctor recommended some treatments and said it sounded like a food allergy, possibly peanut.

The rash began on Saturday morning and although it has lessened, continued until bedtime tonight. We already started to eliminate any possible peanut sources from his diet until we see the doctor.

This whole food allergy thing is scary, particularly if it is a deadly one. This will be a whole new food world to navigate, not to mention the epi-pens and other paraphernalia.

As for eating at home, it probably won't impact our cooking too much. I have never been particularly keen on peanuts anyway and we don't really eat much that contains them but it seems that above all, his chocolate consumption will be curtailed. So many packages of plain chocolate post warnings about being wrapped in factories that process nuts or peanuts. My husband suggests ridding our home of all chocolate..What a dismal prospect. There must be some peanut-free chocolate out there. If not, I will make some!

Buttermilk Biscuits For Breakfast: A Weekend Favorite

I have been baking biscuits using the same recipe for over 15 years and have found none to rival it. An old friend whose family was from the South once said they rivaled his grandma's. I figured the recipe was a keeper.

A lazy weekend morning is my favorite time to make them. Yesterday they were Izzy's choice. He especially gets a kick out of cutting his own shapes.

especially the biscuit man. Even though he flattens the dough considerably more than necessary, the biscuit pops out fluffy. These biscuits can be made with either regular milk or buttermilk although I prefer to use the latter if I have it in the house. We usually just have them with jam and a pot of tea.


Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, cubed

3/4 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup regular milk)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450 F.

2. Mix dry ingredients.

3. Add butter and incorporate until size of small peas

4. Add liquid all at once and mix until dough holds together. Knead minimally until smooth.

5. Divide into two. Roll out one ball and cut out circles (or men) and then repeat.

6. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden.

Makes 10-12 biscuits

Note: Use the best quality butter you can.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Merry Old Land of OX: Visit Three

Tonight,
shock of all shocks,
I had a date with my husband at
the restaurant Ox.

We sat at the bar
the most fun by far,
with drinks oh so fizzy
making me dizzy.

Never mind drinks and other fanfare
The venison sliders
are beyond all compare.
These incredible patties of venison meat,
are a juicy, ribsticking, delectable treat.

If you have yet to try Ox,
now is the time.
Food and service have improved
since my last time.


If you have been having any qualms about dining at Ox, don't hesitate. We were thrilled with our meal, even at the bar. And if you can't afford to eat there, stop at the bar and just have drink and a $3.00 venison slider, an amazing bargain for such an incredible bar snack.