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

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What Did Izzy Eat Today?

Days go by and I don't post recipes or what we have eaten. So what did Izzy actually eat today?

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Berries, Cream and Maple Syrup

Lunch: Turkey Sausage, Potatoes and Lentilles de Puy

Snack: Bananas with Sour Cream; Oatmeal, Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dinner: Omelet, Salad and Roasted Carnival Squash

Dessert: One piece of dark chocolate from a special box of chocolates his Papa brought back from Paris

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When Will The U.S. Ban Dyes In Children's Foods??

Maybe Izzy's school could serve as a role model and ban them first...(psst. S. are you reading this??) Given that they have been banned in Europe and the current research, I would highly recommend it.

I haven't had a school snack rant in a while as Izzy seems to be eating less of it, or maybe I have been easing up on the interrogation or perhaps it just hasn't been that notable. Things changed this week when the news drifted my way that Rainbow Goldfish have been on offer. I know I have written about this before but I can't help but mention it again. Research has confirmed a link between the consumption of food dyes and hyperactivity in children.

Thankfully, Izzy is beginning to understand that it really is not a good idea for him to eat foods with dyes, especially in light of our recent red dye allergy scare. He claims that he didn't eat any of the goldfish and I believe him. I just wish he hadn't been tempted.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chickpea-Tomato Soup: To Warm Us During Cold, Scary Times

We can all do without the bitter cold days of late and the tragic event which unfolded in our very own neighborhood. Makes me want to shut the doors and not emerge until spring. Thankfully Izzy was shielded from the days events, having remained safe and warm in his school.

At home, I chose to get a ride instead of walk to see friends, somewhat freaked out that such horrible things were occurring so close to home. I picked Izzy up from school and we stayed in all afternoon, building long train tracks, reading stories and doing a fun experiment.

As the afternoon waned, I decided soup was what we needed and found everything I needed in the cupboard, including dried rosemary from our garden to canned chickpeas (great to have around for so many uses).

While I was grinding the rosemary in the mortar and pestle, Izzy was puttering about in the living room. All of a sudden he let out a shriek to end all shrieks and was hopping up and down clutching his hand. He was crying and screaming so that I couldn't surmise what was wrong. I thought that the cat had bitten his finger and looked around for evidence, all the while asking what was wrong. Eventually I heard the words "staple" and "finger". He continued his shrieking, finally letting me see the staple sticking out of his thumb. I yanked it out and blood spurted out, more than one would imagine from such a small spot. A band aid and many hugs later and he was cured.

Back to my soup...The recipe is forgiving and flexible..

1. 1/3 cup olive oil
2. 5 cloves smashed garlic
3. 1.5 teaspoons ground rosemary (best ground yourself)
4. 14 ounces of crushed canned tomatoes
5. 1 beef or mushroom bouillon cube or fresh broth (4 cups)
6. 2 cans chickpeas
7. 1/2 pound alphabet pasta or small macaroni


1. Saute garlic cloves in olive oil until light golden. Add rosemary then tomatoes. Simmer for 20-25 minutes.
2. Add chickpeas and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Add broth and bring to a boil.
4. Add pasta and simmer until done. Add salt, pepper and water to suit taste. This can be thick and stewy or thinner and soupy.
5. Serve with grated cheese on top.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cat On The Kitchen Table

Just one of the places he seems to feel right at home. I let him remain for the photo opp. but as soon as he tooted it was back to the floor.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chinese Puppet Show: Battle Over The Eel

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, I took Izzy to a local Chinese Puppet theatre show. He and his friend T. were riveted throughout the show, staring, mouths agape, at the peculiar vignettes. S. and I pondered these oddly violent scenes, wondering what they had to do with the Chinese New Year.

The particular scene above was the tale of a husband and wife who could not agree upon how to capture and cook and eel. Much shrieking and stabbing ensued and ultimately they had nothing to eat as the eel escaped.

And the moral of the story? Don't fight over cooking eels or you will go to bed without any supper.

Cat Grass

Did you know that "cat grass" is the same as wheat grass? Have you ever tried wheat grass juice? Years ago, during some health-foody phase, I ordered a shot of it. It wasn't exactly what I would call easily digestible. I think there is a reason that cows have two stomachs. Yet cats only have one and they seem to like it well enough.

I picked this small tray up at the greenmarket for just $3 and was told it would last a few weeks. Pound cat took an immediate liking to it and comes around to munch a few times a day. Here's hoping it will help his digestion even though it did nothing for mine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Baby Food For Great-Grandpa: Going Full Circle

Yes. I have taken to preparing baby food for my grandfather and I am thrilled. I loved preparing it for Izzy so who better for the job.

The truth is that my grandfather has very few teeth. As a matter of fact, at last count we heard there was just one remaining. We discovered he was in need of iron (something babies often lack as well). He hadn't been eating enough greens. How could he with no teeth? I then realized that baby food was the answer so I started by preparing some creamed spinach puree, inspired by the Baby Bistro Cookbook


Puree of Creamed Baby Spinach (for babies and oldsters)

1 clove of garlic, in thin slivers
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 oz. box baby spinach

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup whole milk or mixture cream and milk

1. Heat oil in large pan over low heat. Gently cook garlic until lightly browned. Turn up heat to medium, add spinach and toss. Cook only a few minutes, until wilted and bright green. Remove to a plate and let cool.

2. In same pan, melt butter over medium heat. Reduce to low, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for two minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Stir in milk slowly and whisk constantly, for five minutes until mixture thickens. Return spinach to pan, stir and season with salt, pepper and a scraping of nutmeg.

3. Allow to cool and puree in a blender. Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze. Remove the next day and store in plastic baggies or containers.

These can be added to many foods, from mashed potatoes to mac and cheese, or just eaten as a side dish.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nearly Missed: Inaugural Unpreparedness

It dawned on me Sunday that I had no plan for this historic occasion. Going to D.C. was never an option as standing around in the cold never appeals. I still wanted to do something to celebrate, something closer to home.

I came up with attending the event held at the Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side. I told Izzy that he could miss school and get to see Obama on a giant screen. I think it was more the screen than Obama that called to him but he agreed. It wasn't until Monday when he had had enough of weekending with me, that he changed his mind. He said he did not want to miss school.

I was sad because even though he might not realize the magnitude of the inauguration now, he would one day hold the memory of what he had been doing today. It then occurred to me to find out what they would be doing at his school. When the reply came in that they would not be watching it, I was upset but unsure as to what to do next. Thankfully, at school drop-off this morning, other parents expressed an interest in having their children witness the ceremony. The parents spoke and the school listened.

I received a call this morning, asking if I would host a group of children at my house. Montessori has a no t.v. policy but as a field trip it could be allowed. I was thrilled to oblige and began to eagerly set up the viewing area. Now I don't have a t.v. either but I do have a computer, which I attached to a large screen. When all was done, nearing to 11:15, my livestream CNN stopped working. It seemed stuck and I feared the children would arrive to see NOTHING. Panicked, I called my friend H. who saved the day.

Instead of coming to my house, I traipsed with 16 children and 3 teachers over to H's, arriving just in time to catch Joe Biden being sworn in. The older children were able to remain relatively calm and attentive for a good 20 -30 minutes but the others were fairly antsy. It was hard for most of us to stifle a giggle when H.'s youngest daughter wandered in front of the t.v., sans undies, but somehow decorum was maintained. Overall, I was thrilled that I was able to watch with Izzy.

After school, I invited his friend T. over and then realized we needed an appropriate snack. I whipped up some last minute OBAMA cupcakes which would probably have been better had I planned them in advance. The kids played in the snow happily and the day ended ordinarily. Will Izzy remember it....Only time will tell.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chinese: Beyond The Food

The cold weather has brought in a spate of Chinese food and Izzy and I have begun to consider Grand Sichuan as our second kitchen. We seem to find ourselves eating food from there at least once a week. We are often on our way home from visiting Grandpa and it is a convenient, warm stop.

Last week, as we awaited our order, Izzy was listening to the buzz of Chinese words floating around us. He turned to me to ask why he wasn't learning how to speak Chinese. I said I wasn't sure but that he was learning to speak French and Spanish. It was then he announced that he also wanted to learn Chinese. He explained that some of his classmates were learning it and that he wanted to as well. My first inclination was to refuse his request as I don't approve of over scheduling but he kept asking so I finally told him he could give it a try.

At his first class, the teacher promptly outfitted him with a traditional hat. He was captivated and despite the fact that he has French class immediately afterwards, he insists he can do it. He can already count past ten and he is excited for his next class. Who knows, if this all works out, one day he can take me to a restaurant in Chinatown and order for us in Chinese!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Chocolate Playdate

My friend Y., newly returned from a trip to Germany, called to inform me of all of the goodies she brought back. She was clearly itching to share some with us so I told her she could come by after Izzy came home from school.

When I went to pick-up Izzy from school, I worried that he might be disappointed because his friend playdate had been canceled. As a consolation, I told him that Y. would be coming over for a "chocolate tasting". He took it quite well. In fact he was pleased. "She will be my playdate." For that matter, she would be mine as well.

She arrived bearing a box of fancy chocolates and some homemade cookies her mother had made. The chocolates were from Pierre Marcolini , a Belgian chocolatier. We selected a few different chocolates and she cut them into small pieces so we could try different flavors. There wasn't a dud in the bunch. From thyme-orange to raspberry, they were a real treat.

I served crepes (post coming soon) and tea and we were all entertained. Izzy even got his playdate to help him build an airplane. We look forward to future playdates with my friend Y.

And of course we may just have to try the chocolate playdate with one of his friends.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Too Cold To Travel For Eggs?

I have been hibernating all week*, only emerging from my cozy nest to take Izzy to and from school. I did manage a mini-shopping on Monday but supplies are running low.

The question is: Do I bundle up and brave the cold for farm-fresh eggs at Union Square or do I try to make the dozen I have last until next week and stay warm and toasty inside? The latter option sure is appealing considering it is supposed to reach a low of 7 degrees F. but we could also use some other foods to make it through the weekend and I am supposed to bring something to grandpa's. What is the answer?

*Izzy heard me tell someone I was hibernating and he yelled out from the other room, "You can't hibernate. You are not an animal."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trouble At The Chocolate Factory...

Means no raspberry jellies for grandpa.

I have long told of my grandfather's insatiable sweet tooth. It had gotten so that he was requesting four pound boxes of raspberry jellies at a time. We never did buy quite that much at once (at least I didn't) but he certainly had his fair share.

Then about a month or two ago, his appetite diminished, not only for chocolates but for other foods. The two pound box of raspberry jellies sat forlornly on his counter, and each time I checked only a few candies had disappeared. I couldn't fathom why he wasn't eating them but eventually surmised it was related to his general lack of appetite.

The good news is that lately, his appetite has returned so when we visited last week there were only two raspberry jellies left in the box. He gave one to Izzy and had the other one himself. And then I was sent, illico presto, to the chocolate factory to buy more. I suggested a two pound box and was told to get four. I was so happy with the return of grandpa's appetite that I figured this would be the occasion to indulge.

I went off to Birnn Chocolates, only to find that they only had three quarters of a pound of raspberry jellies left. Not only that, they weren't sure when they would be making the next batch. It was hard to come up with soft chocolates as replacements. There are many fine choices but grandpa is a finicky chocolate eater. Would he like the hazelnut pralines or the peppermint patties?
I had them prepare a pound of assorted chocolates to find out which ones delight.

D. and S., the sweet ladies who work at Birnn, explained that there was an issue with one of the ingredients in the jellies. They were awaiting a new supply which was not forthcoming. D. then went on to explain the fate of another candy favorite, the raspberry cream. They only make those periodically as there is not enough of a demand. Apparently they are very difficult to make, using D.'s prized recipe. I asked her to contact me next time they make a batch as grandpa is fond of those too. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Izzy and I could take a peek at the next production?

Staten Island Children's Museum: An Outerborough Excursion

When I think of Staten Island, images of Melanie Griffith on the Staten Island Ferry come to mind (Working Girl). I have heard tell that there is some good pizza to be found there, along with beaches, noteworthy restaurants and a museum but even though it is only 30 minutes from Jersey City by car, it seems so far away and have never had occasion to visit. Until today.

Thanks to I.'s friend J., we were invited to a birthday party at the Staten Island Children's Museum. What a gem of a place. Plenty of interactive, hands on fun for toddlers and older children. Not only that, it wasn't even crowded on a Sunday afternoon.

The birthday party was a seamless affair. In the beginning, the guests were shepherded from room to room, with plenty of time to engage and explore. The second half of the party was in a separate room. There was pizza for the kids and a super-long chicken parm sub and salad for the adults. The birthday cake boasted a cannoli cream filling. I must say I was impressed. The birthday boy's mom said she couldn't even bake a cake if she had wanted to. They wouldn't allow it. Instead they provide food from local businesses.

Izzy and his friends were enthralled and tired out after two hours of fun. Of course Izzy is asking if we can have his party there (he asks that of nearly every party we attend) and it doesn't seem like a bad idea. Although I can't imagine having a party where I don't cook anything.

p.s. Staten Island is a scenic place. As we got slightly lost on our way home, we had a bird's eye view of the water and some beautiful old homes. We hope to make it back to the museum and go foraging for some good eats too. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sharing The Cat Love

Mama and Pound Cat spend so much time snuggling and lazing about together that it's a wonder that Pound has any time for us. But of course the call of his cat dish and a scratch brings him down into our zone.

Once in our realm, we shower him with love. Izzy can't get enough of him.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another Allergy Scare

This time, a few days after Christmas, Izzy awoke in the night, crying and moaning. His arms were reddened with hives and he had a splotchy torso.

Was it the cats? Or was it some mysterious foodstuff?

We mulled over the foods of the day and two potential culprits appeared, one served up in his Christmas stocking, another in a Christmas cookie..
a quiet aside: (This would never have happened with latkes and gelt).

The first item was red licorice. Something I detest but A. loves and it shows up every year. In the past, it has simply disappeared but this year as A. gnawed on his piece, Izzy needed to have one too.

The second was a bite of a cookie made from a Snickers bar. But given that he has been eating peanut goods all year, this one was a lesser evil.

And of course the new cat...

The only way to find out what was plaguing Izzy was to make a visit to our favorite pediatric allergist, Dr. Paul Ehrlich. Much to our relief, the cat test came up negative. But the Dr. was convinced that the red licorice was the culprit. As there is no specific test for this allergen we can either conduct our own or keep away from the stuff. The latter choice seems the easiest to me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Vestige Of My CSA: Sweet Dumpling Squash

The final CSA delivery of the season arrived during the last week of October. Long ago as that may seem, today I unearthed two remaining squashes in the back of my fridge. Sadly one ( a beautiful butternut) was long past its prime and had to be tossed but the other, a Sweet Dumpling, was still firm and perky-looking. I didn't want it to become another victim of procrastination so I took immediate action.

I cut it in quarters and and slathered it with maple syrup and some excellent butter. I roasted it at @400 for about an hour. It was silky sweet and had a warm mapley aroma which filled our house. Izzy and I ate the whole thing. Here's looking forward to finding some more squash at the greenmarket, if there are any.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No That Wasn't Me (Or at least it shouldn't have been)

Buying several cans of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. Well actually it was but I tried to hide it beneath my organic milk, yogurt, cat food and toilet paper.

What can I do? When A. is sick he craves foods that I wouldn't go near. When he asked for cans of chicken noodle soup last week, I brought home some cans of Whole Foods brand organic soup. I figured since I didn't have time to make any, the least I could do was buy something decent. Only they were not good enough (or shall I say bad enough) for him. He decided that the soup I had bought made him sicker and wondered why I just couldn't buy Campbell's. Truth is, they don't sell it at Whole Foods which was where I happened to be shopping that day.

Since he has been sick for over a week, I finally caved today and agreed to buy exactly what he requested. And so it was that I found myself wishing I had shopped incognito, with dark glasses and a wig, as I wheeled my cart around filled with cans of icky soup. As A. likes to say, "It could be worse."

I'd like to think it could be better and I hope to have some time to make him some homemade soup on Friday.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Orange Clogs At Citarella

I saw the tell-tale ponytail from behind and had an inkling of who was standing by the fish counter. I looked down at the man's feet and when I saw his orange clogs they confirmed my suspicions: Mario Batali, accompanied by his son, was shopping at Citarella this evening while Izzy and I were doing the same. Not quite as titillating as my Nina Planck or Martha sightings but thrilling none the less.

I hurried to gather the remainder of my groceries in hopes of sidling up behind him on line. Didn't make it but I did manage a surreptitious photo of the orange clogs from afar...

Oh how I do love grocery shopping in NYC..sure does beat Shoprite in JC.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Grandma Ida's Blintzes (or a reasonable facsimilie thereof)

Blintzes browning in butter was an aroma that often wafted from my grandmother's kitchen. They were one of her specialties and it seemed that she made them at least once a week. I would watch her as she fried a batch of them, allowing them to drain on brown paper bags. She nearly always had a batch ready to fry so I never had the chance to see her make the filling or roll them. I had to figure it out for myself.

My grandfather could never get enough of them so for New Year's Day dinner, I prepared a batch for him; something I should do more frequently since Izzy and I love them too.

Grandma Ida's Blintzes (Adapted from The Jewish-American Kitchen by Raymond Sokolov)


For the pancakes:

2 eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter melted and cooled
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
additional unsalted butter (for frying)


3/4 lb farmer cheese*
2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tablespoon grated lemon peel


For pancakes

1. Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl.
2. Add the cooled melted butter, flour, salt, and milk. Stir until smooth. Add the baking powder, and continue stirring.
3. Melt a teaspoon of butter in a 5-6in cast iron skillet or nonstick pan.
4. When the butter is hot, add 2 tablespoons of the batter and immediately rotate the pan to spread the batter evenly and thinly over the bottom (pour any excess into the bowl).
5. Cook for about 30 seconds on the first side.
6. If you are able to flip the pancake over to its other side without using a utensil, do so. Otherwise, slide the pancake onto a small plate, and flip it back into the pan.
7. Note: this is the perfect time to learn to flip, since the pancake has barely any weight!
8. Cook for about 15 second on its second side.
9. Remove the pancake to a cookie sheet or other surface or flat plate.
10. Repeat with the additional butter and remaining batter. The cooked pancakes will keep for several hours at room temperature. This amount of batter will yield 10-12 pancakes.

For the filling:

1. Combine the farmer cheese, cream cheese, egg, lemon peel, and a pinch of salt.
2. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.

To assemble blintzes:

1. Put about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each pancake. Fold over one side, then the other and fold in the ends. (For some reason I have never mastered this completely but they are still yummy).

At this point you can refrigerate a few hours before frying or freeze them. They also freeze well after frying.

2. Heat butter in a large skillet and fry each blintz for about 4 minutes, turning to brown all sides.

Makes 10-12 pancakes..serves 3-4 people. Serve with plenty of sour cream.

*The quality of the cheese you use really does impact the flavor. If you have have access to fresh farmer's cheese, use it!

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Clean Slate: A Nearly Empty Freezer

The Christmas refrigerator disaster of 2008 definitely had a purpose. It enabled me to clear out mysterious foil-wrapped items from an overstuffed freezer (and refrigerator). Foods long past their prime were tossed. From freezer-burned breads to pallid-looking leftovers, not much was spared. And although some perfectly lovely looking goat stew and some brand-new chicken thighs were sacrificed, it seems it may have all been for the best. How nice to start off the New Year with plenty of space for new foods.

My pristine freezer, now contains some buffalo meat, lamb sausages and venison which survived the disaster, along with some butter and a loaf of sliced bread. It is my intent to keep it as under stuffed as possible. How many pounds of meat do I really need to keep on hand anyway?

Now that you know what lurked in my freezer maybe you can share what lurks in yours...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cat Love: Starting The Year Off On A Happy Note

Mr. Cat, aka "Cat Pound", "Pound Cat" or Romeo, has been worming his way into our hearts for the past week. He and Mama have become inseparable. They sleep upstairs together and follow each other around the house. The Monsieur has a special meow reserved for her, and when summoned, she appears. She ventures downstairs regularly and has even taken to lounging on the steps. He is definitely changing her for the better. They even eat out of the same dish!

I didn't realize just how attached they were until the other night. I went upstairs with laptop in hand, ready to get into bed and write. There I found Mr. Cat, lazing about in a cozy spot, smack in the middle of my bed. I climbed in anyway and he generously moved to the foot of the bed. A short while later, Mama appeared, she jumped to the opposite corner of the bed. She has never come near my bed at night so I remained as still as possible.

As I typed, they inched closer to one another. When I was finally ready to go to sleep, Mr. Cat sidled over to my pillow. I have to admit, I felt slightly uneasy sleeping in bed with a wild cat and a cat I hardly knew. I watched with one eye open, as Mama crept closer to him. How touching, I thought. They were going to cuddle to sleep.

As I soon witnessed, a cuddle was not at all what they had in mind. Instead I was an innocent bystander to what I shall politely refer to as "cat love". I was immobile in my own bed as those two felines became more than friends. When I could take it no more, I leaped from my bed to tell my husband who was up working. "What should I do?" I asked. His reply?

"Tell them to shoo." I went back down to bed and thankfully they had done just that.