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).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Visit with Uncle G.: Stockton Market and Howell Living History Farm

The weekend before Halloween, we made a trip out to see my brother G., who just happens to live in the land of farms and pumpkin patches.  It is somewhat surprising to find that in less than an hour and half from Jersey City you can be surrounded by, clucking chickens, oinking piggies and horse manure, but indeed we were.

We arrived at my brother's house and quickly started out on our adventures.  Our first stop was a pumpkin patch, which we spotted along the way.  There Izzy selected a 75 lb. pumpkin to adorn our front stoop.  Luckily S. managed to help us take it home!

Our outing continued with lunch and shopping at the Stockton Market,  which holds a treasure of tasty comestibles, including local meat, dairy, vegetables, soaps and more.   My brother supplied me with yogurt, eggs and other goodies from the market while I was sick and it felt good to finally be able to shop there myself.  I even got to meet the folks from Flint Hill Farm, who supplied the luscious yogurt my brother delivered to me on a weekly basis, while I was ill.  Their yogurt was one of the few foods that sustained mean while I was unable to eat very much. 

After our delicious meal and some shopping, we continued on to our final destination, the Howell Living History Farm, where my brother G. and his wife M., had spent many a day with their own children.  It was a glorious fall day and the foliage viewing added additional beauty to the experience.  Izzy and I were both entranced by our surroundings.  We could not get enough of the country life.  To begin with, the chickens were awfully compelling.  Izzy took great pleasure in feeding them greens and listening to the sounds of their clucking.  When he tired of the chickens, he spotted this red-handled water pump.




 He spent a good, long time pumping water from the well.  He filled bucket, after bucket, which he carried over to "water the horses",  just the way it is done in the Little House on the Prairie books that we have been reading daily.  Izzy and I have been immersed in these books for more than a month 


 now so it was nice to come and get a taste of what life was like so long ago.  Pumping the water proved so exciting for Izzy that it was difficult for us to get him to go elsewhere.  We did take a break to remove dried kernels from the corncobs for the pig feed - watching them laze about in the mud was also stop on our tour - but  what finally managed to draw his attention away from the well was going to see "Daisy" the resident milk cow in action.


I personally found this to be the highlight of our farm visit.  I was positively giddy with excitement as I watched the milk spurting into the pail.  I even asked the farmer for a turn but apparently visitors are not permitted to touch the teats!  Oh! I did wish to try the milk but alas, that was not permitted either.

After Daisy was walked back to her pasture, it was time to leave so as to have time to visit the farm's corn maze,  located a ways down the road.  Izzy had been looking forward to it all that day and he couldn't have been happier. This large and well-conceived maze, took about an hour to navigate, by which time I was completely worn out, Izzy completely content.

We all piled back into the car for the trip to Uncle G,'s house and then home.  Izzy already looking forward to his next trip to the farm.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Little Bat-Witch Celebrates Halloween


Izzy awoke slightly sulky on Halloween morning.  Instead of eagerly awaiting trick-or-treating, he was fretting over his costume.  He had thought he would be his favorite heroine, Franny K. Stein, mad scientist, but decided that since he had already sported that costume for his birthday (and several other times thereafter), it was no longer very interesting.  In search of new costume ideas, he emptied out his drawers and turned his room upside down.  It was then he came up with this fetching get-up, that of a "Bat-witch".  With that out of the way, he could concentrate on the days amusements.

First up was pumpkin carving with this papa.  Leave it to A. to come up with a biting pumpkin.  Exactly what we needed to complete our festive front stoop display.  Seeing it illuminated was even better.

After pumpkin carving, Izzy spent the early afternoon at his friend J's birthday party, revving himself up by eating eyeball cupcakes.   After the party, at 5 p.m. it was time for trick-or-treating.  Oh, the creatures we saw!  In less than two hours, Izzy amassed enough candy to rot his teeth for years to come.

Back at home, warm and cozy, Izzy dumped his spoils upon the floor and sorted them out, putting most of it aside for the Switch-Witch.  He knew he could keep a small bowlful for himself but I didn't even have to tell him that he couldn't keep it all.  He was more than happy to give it up for the promise of books.

May future Halloweens prove so simple and easy. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Afternoon Excursion: Starn Brothers Bambu Exhibit at the MET

As Izzy and I walked home from school today, he seemed a bit forlorn.  He was feeling left out as he watched his classmates walk off for a playdate, knowing we had no particular plans.

I thought I would cheer him with a cup of hot vanilla (warm milk, honey and sprinkle of cinnamon dust) which we both sipped as I looked through the Weekend section of the New York Times.  Yes, I still read the hard copy of the paper. Am I the only one left?

I immediately honed-in on Last Chance section of the Art listings, where I noted that the Starn Brothers Bambu exhibit on the rooftop of the MET would be closing this weekend.  I suggested we go since the MET is open until 9 on Fridays and Izzy quickly agreed.  We made it there by 5:30, just in time to catch the gorgeous sunset upon the foliage of Central Park.  Better yet, A. happened to be working nearby and joined us.  Not only did we catch Bambu - which is a wondrous configuration of bamboo poles - but we also managed to peek in a few other places, including the Egyptian section - where Izzy clamored to see the mummies.  Izzy was skipping from room to room but I had to cut our visit short since it was already 7 p.m. and we needed to eat dinner.

We hopped in a cab across the park and made our way to Gazala Place which I have been meaning to write about for ages.  I discovered this narrow storefront in Hell's Kitchen in springtime and somehow managed to eat there during my treatments.  I ate there a couple of times on the days my treatments were canceled and I actually had an appetite.  This delicious Middle-Eastern spot features Druze cuisine and it was so delicious, I was eager to have Izzy and A. join me there.  We ordered the Mezze plate which showcases many of the wonderful offerings, including the smoky baba-ganoush, meat-filled cigars, Kibbe, falafel and hummous, served up with their incredible version of pita bread, made on the premises.  This paper-thin delight is addictive and Izzy held onto the bread basket to make sure he got the last bit before the waitress cleared the table.  Meanwhile, we polished off a fresh Fattoush salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, lettuce, crisped pita), a roasted fish and a lamb/beef kafte platter.  By that time, Izzy was falling asleep in the noisy restaurant and it was time to waddle along.  Taxi to the Path and we were on our way.  Certainly a memorable afternoon/evening for all.

Gazala Place will probably be around for awhile but you can only catch the Starn Brothers exhibit until Sunday.  If your kids are over 10 you can even go on the guided tour atop the bamboo poles for a real adventure. Definitely worth the trip!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Visit From My Cousin Sherri (And her boyfriend Silvio): Long Lost Relatives


I have but two first cousins.  Sherri and Danny.  As a child I had heard tell of them but we were never given the opportunity to meet. Distance was a factor since they grew up in Toronto and I, New Jersey. Such a shame since Sherri and I  were born only a month apart and it would have been nice to have had a relative, so close in age.  We finally met, quite briefly in our late twenties but our meeting didn't amount to much.

Last year, things changed.  Sherri, feeling the need for some familial connections, made an effort to get in touch with me and we began a correspondence, via email and phone.  We made plans for a visit and then I became ill.  We put the plans on hold until I recovered.

Little did I know what I was in for when we arranged to host Sherri and her boyfriend Silvio, this past August.  We agreed to spend half of their visit on Long Beach Island (at my dad's) and half the time in Jersey City doing New Yorky stuff.

It all began with picking them up at the airport.  Izzy, A. and I went to Newark airport to greet them and it was only then I realized that I had no idea what they looked like.  I tried contacting their cellphone but to no avail.  Instead I found myself approaching strangers with suitcases, while trying to surmise which ones resembled my cousin.  They eventually found A., who found them at customs.   We all piled into the taxi and were on our way to the shore.  Turns out that Sherri looked pretty much the way I remembered her from our one meeting so many years ago.

Thankfully, we got along swimmingly, catching up on our entire lives along the way.  Instantly apparent was that we shared many physical similarities, primarily body shape and size.  We also seem to share an immense fondness for cats, both of us calling after them in incessantly high-pitched tones.  Of course you won't ever find me referring to my cats as "pussies" and therein lies one fundamental difference between us.  Not to mention the disturbing fact that my cousin must rank in the top 3 pickiest eaters I know, far pickier than even some toddlers I have encountered.

Now while we were at the beach, my cousin's picky habits were of little consequence as she selected her breakfast from the options available in my dad's gigantic pantry and we dined out the rest of the time.   When we got back to Jersey City, her food issues became glaringly apparent.  I didn't really comprehend the extent of it until I noticed that she had been eating the same thing for breakfast every day, toast with either peanut butter or almond butter.  When I offered French toast, pancakes or waffles she declined.  Now really, who can decline a fresh waffle?

Now despite her picky ways, my dear cousin managed to find a beau, Silvio, who is quite the gourmand. He is game to try most anything and comes from a family of cooks.  In fact he showed us photos of his family and their sausage and cured meat cellar.  He regaled us with tales of the wondrous foods his family cooks up and we we also discovered what a fantastic cook he is.  One Saturday we went to Union Square and shopped together for dinner.  We bought lamb chops from 3-Corner Field Farm,  along with some purple potatoes to complement other ingredients we had at home.  When we got home, I became his sous-chef while he prepared dinner.   We had grilled lamb chops with herbs, tomato-basil salad, potatoes with rosemary and a platter of radishes.

lamb chops `a la Silvio

Everything was lip-smackingly delicious.  Having Silvio around provided an important counter-balance to the pickiness factor and kept us well-fed and content. From seafood feasts on Long Beach Island, to dinner at ABC Kitchen and a night at Bin 14, overall we ate quite well during my cousin's visit.  At least I know Izzy and I did!  And I do hold out hope that Silvio's eating ways may one day rub off on my cousin!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Doughnuts and Carnival Kitsch: Doughnut Plant/Park Avenue Armory Carnival

How can I choose?

Starting at the Doughnut Plant, followed by several hours at The Park Avenue Armory and ending with pizza at Artichoke Basille, today we crammed in as much old school food and fun as we possibly could.

I had earmarked The Park Avenue Armory Carnival as the perfect outing for this three-day weekend.  Just the mention of a 50 foot Ferris wheel inside a building was enticement enough.  Never one to just go into the city without planning where to eat, I quickly hatched a plan to stop on the Lower East Side for doughnuts, before continuing on to our destination.

The Doughnut Plant has been on my radar ever since it opened so I was anxious to finally give it a try.
We arrived to find a line out the door of the tiny store front.  Izzy patiently awaited his turn, spending his time pondering the selection.  There were yeast doughnuts and cake doughnuts, glazed and more. With fillings such as blackberry jam,  creme brulee or chocolate pudding, it was a tough choice.  When it was finally our turn, we chose two creme brulee, one chocolate pudding and a vanilla glazed.  By the time we left the doughnut shop, it was already lunchtime and Izzy knew that we needed to eat before we had our treats so I tucked the doughnuts in a bag and we ventured off in search of lunch (which I hadn't exactly planned for since only doughnuts were on my mind).

As we were on the Lower East Side we weren't far from somewhere to decent to eat.  We meandered over to Clinton Street and had lunch at Cafe Pedlar.  There we lunched on "Lancaster County Eggs" to fortify us for the adventures ahead.   Lunch over, we hopped on the "F" train traveling uptown and made our way over to Park Avenue.

Stunned by mirrors and lights
The scene at the Park Avenue Armory was oddly alluring.  Crowds thronged the vast hall where there were but a few rides, the Ferris wheel played the starring role, backed up by an elephant ride, a large slide and the Trabant.  Yet the other features of the carnival more than compensated.  I had the sensation of being privy to a Coney Island sideshow in the middle of Manhattan.  The roving hula hoopers were quick to engage kids as they waited for the rides and as you can see, Izzy was always game to join.  Oh, and don't let me forget to mention that there were plenty of snacks to be found, including freshly made cotton-candy, popcorn sold in small white paper bags and Prosecco by the glass for the grown-ups.


Izzy hoops

After testing out all of the rides, Izzy led me to the show corner where we watched a contortionist and other circus-type performances. He was particularly entranced by the fellow below, who could not only balance on one chair but also managed to stack up several and do a handstand.  Talented as he was, so glad he is not my son, as the worry would be too great!

Please don't fall






When all was said and done, I was exhausted.  Izzy, however, wanted pizza.  In keeping with my desire to make every morsel count , we cabbed it back down to 14th street where I was able to cross off yet another "must" from my "where to eat" list, Artichoke and Basille.   Not surprisingly, we were met by throngs outside this oft-lauded store-front pizzeria with an extremely limited menu.  We ordered a slice of their signature artichoke pizza and one Marguerita, and had each cut in two, to share.  The artichoke slice was thick, filling and unlike any other pizza I have ever tasted.  The Marguerita, on the other hand, was fragrant with basil and somewhat akin to the pie at Di Fara.  We finished the former and merely tasted the latter.  Our bellies were full and we were happy.  We left the second slice in the box.  It was time to go home.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Love Is A Vat Of Vanilla Pudding : Snack Mom Has Returned

I am back.  Alive and well enough to resume snack mom duties, something I haven't been able to do since last October.  The snack menus for the past week were a mix of old and new.

Monday

Red and Green Grapes,
Cheddar Cheese, Yogurt Cheese
and Trader Joe's Organic Cracker Assortment

Tuesday

Raita (Cucumber/Yogurt Dip)
Carrots
Celery
Jicama
Blue Xochitl Chips

Wednesday

Oatmeal/Prune Scones
Assorted Apples

Thursday

Kale Chips
Popcorn

Friday

Vanilla Pudding topped with wild strawberries
Granola with olive oil, prunes and honey (recipe coming soon)

After dinner last night, I thought I would have enough energy to make the pudding and the granola but by the time Izzy was ready for bed I wasn't sure I could make it back downstairs.  I was ready to collapse.  Then Izzy offered to help me make the pudding and I couldn't resist.  So we made our way back downstairs together and stirred up a big vat of vanilla pudding.  It seemed to take a bit longer than usual, perhaps because of the greater volume of liquid.

Izzy served as my stirring assistant and as he stood over the pot, he remarked, "Being snack mom is a lot of work, isn't it?"  Indeed it can be.  Which is fine for me since I know Izzy appreciates having good things to eat and I take pleasure in preparing them.

There are times, though, like this morning when I have to wonder what it might be like if I just took the easy way out.

The rain poured while Izzy got ready for school and I began to bake the granola.  The kitchen was in a particularly chaotic state and Izzy's lunch was as yet unmade.  I opted to drop Izzy off with pudding and go back to make his lunch and to get the granola when it emerged from the oven.  Meanwhile Izzy packed up several books that he wanted to bring to school and added a large container of tea to his bag.  I couldn't help him carry his bag, as I was to busy carrying pudding in glass containers.   As we trudged over to his school in the rain, I watched him maneuvering his heavy bag and I had the distinct feeling that something was about to go awry.  As I handed the pudding over to the teacher and Izzy took off his raincoat he began to cry.  His tea had spilled all over the books.  There he stood, teary-eyed before a puddle of tea and it was all my fault ( I had not screwed the top on properly).  To make matters worse, I had to hurry home to keep the granola from burning.   Another kitchen fire was certainly not part of my agenda.

I delivered the granola and returned home to clean up the mess. When all was tidy,  I had a moment to bask in the lingering scent of just-baked granola and envision Izzy and his classmates tucking into spoonfuls of luscious pudding goodness. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

ABC Kitchen: An Altogether Perfect Birthday

Pretzel-Dusted Calamari
Let's go back in time to June, when I set out to chronicle my birthday.... Yes, I managed to make it one more year and my darling friend L. helped me celebrate in style.

First, she took me to dine at ABC Kitchen and we both were bowled over by the entire experience. This restaurant promotes local, sustainable, organic ingredients and products, right down to the bathroom fittings. It is an airy space and our meal was superb. The menu was such that nearly every item was something we wanted to try.

We shared a few dishes, all of which were devoured with relish.  Some are chronicled here.

Wood-roasted Maine Lobster




The desserts were inventive and remarkably delicious.

Market Strawberries and Juice, Poppy Seed Sorbet


Sundae - Salted Caramel/Peanut Ice Cream, Candied Popcorn


Belated thanks, L. I could not have asked for a better birthday meal and I must get myself back to ABC Kitchen as fast as I can.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

La Festa Italiana 2010: The Tradition Lives On

Aunt Mary's rice balls are back at the Holy Rosary Church and Izzy and I walked over in the rain, post-fire, to grab a few for dinner the night of the disaster.  Somehow they had lost their allure.  Perhaps eating them on the couch, after the day's trauma didn't help.  Or perhaps just eating them away from the noise and lights of the feast didn't improve their flavor.  Whatever it was, I knew that when we returned for a feastly encore I would need to eat something else. 

Pure and Simple Flatbreads
I immediately zeroed in on something that I would have to try next time:  Pizza from a traveling wood-fired oven, something I have never encountered before.  The pizzas emerging from within looked awfully tempting.

When we returned to the Festa tonight I headed over for a closer look.  The kiosk for Pure and Simple Flatbreads (no website to be found) offers pizza and pizza alone.  The only accompaniment seemed to be large bunches of basil which were set out along the counter.  I watched as pie after pie emerged from the oven, looking slightly charred and inviting.  I ordered one for Izzy and me and was quite pleased to find pizza far better than any in Jersey City.  The $10 price tag might seem a bit steep for a personal-sized pizza but it was definitely worth it.

We took our pizza, along with my glass of peaches and wine and found a place to sit with our friends amidst the exceedingly large crowd of revelers behind the church.  Our friends were all about the rice balls which still seemed to delight them,  while Izzy ended up sharing pasta with his papa.  Dessert was also part of my agenda and I managed to find some just-filled cannoli and some chocolate cream pie.  The line was too long for Zeppole  which is a good thing since we already ate some on Thursday and I imagine one hunk of fried dough a year is probably sufficient. 

Grateful for the short time meeting up with friends (wished it had been longer) but by the time dessert was finished, the lights and noise had begun to overwhelm me.  So bellies filled, Izzy hopped on his papa's shoulders and we made our way home.  If you haven't made it over there, you still have tomorrow to try out that pizza.  In the meantime, I hope that pizza truck makes jersey city its permanent home. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Things Can't Get Much Worse, Can They? Of Kitchen Fires and Other Calamities

I had been attempting to make today a "lazy day of summer". Izzy and I had no particular plans as we were recovering from an eventful though tiring day spent in the city. We finally got to experience Traveling the Silk Road, an exhibit at The Museum of Natural History (go now it closes Sunday) and today we were just going to take it easy.

We spent the morning reading and Isadore was still in his undies and a t-shirt when I put some frozen pizza (leftover from Di Fara) and some frozen Yonah Schimmel's knishes in the oven for our lunch. We were sitting in the living room reading and I was just getting to the end of The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews when Izzy said, "Mama, I smell something". "What ?" I asked. He just insisted it was "Something" and he looked uncomfortable about it so I ventured into the kitchen.

It was then I saw cascades of thick black smoke emerging from the oven. I just stared, then picked up the fire extinguisher, knowing full well that in my crazed state I would not have the wherewithal to use it.

I instructed Izzy to run outside and ring a neighbors doorbell as I, with extinguisher in hand, grabbed my phone and wallet and followed. I frantically dialed 911 and we stood waiting barefoot in the street. I accosted the first passerby (a young woman who I had never seen before) and asked her if she could operate the extinguisher. She said she would give it a try and entered the house. When she saw the smoke she thought better of it and we both went back outside. She looked at me a moment and then said, "I feel terrible. Can I give you a hug?" Of course she could and she did and went on her way.

Meanwhile, Izzy was hopping on his toes, frightened and nervous. The sirens began wailing and we knew the trucks weren't far behind. At least three trucks arrived and fireman began to flood the house. While they were inside dealing with the smoke, Izzy and I paced about, uncertain of where to go or what to do. Just then, Miss S. arrived to save the day. She is the Director of Izzy's school which is located just a stone's throw away. When the teachers noticed the commotion at our house, she immediately set out to rescue him. She asked if she could take him over to the school and she had him hop, barefoot, on her back and off they went. Never mind that he was still in his undies!

And what was the cause of this unexpected disaster? I had no idea until the firefighters presented the charred remains...which can be explained here.

A few days ago, A. had washed up some grilling utensils (tongs, spatula, etc.) and when I saw them dry in the drainboard I decided they needed a new home. I thought I had found the perfect spot. I placed them in the broiler drawer, not realizing that they weren't fireproof. Why would grilling tools not be fireproof? I haven't any idea. But I digress...

When the firefighters finished their job, I was left with a sooty, filthy kitchen. The white stove was blackened, the walls tinged with dirt and the floors muddied and wet. I didn't know where to turn. Just as I was pondering what to do, the phone rang. It was S., who has been helping us out since I haven't been well. I asked if she had some time to spare and she agreed to come over and help clean up. She scrubbed and mopped, mopped and scrubbed, pouring buckets upon buckets of sooty water down the drain. She took apart the stove, down to the knobs. I worked alongside her, doing the less gritty tasks of cleaning the counters and bric-a-brac. Without her, my kitchen would still be in disarray.

At around six-thirty, I went out to pick up Izzy from his friend I.'s house and to round up a few rice balls and zeppole from this year's Festa Italiana (more on that tomorrow). I walked carrying my money and iphone on a wristlet. When we returned with our spoils, S. was finishing up mopping the kitchen (which is now gleaming) and there was a large bucket of sooty water near the table. When I leaned over to put down the food, the wristlet slipped off and into the water, iphone and all. Just the icing on the cake of a most disastrous day.

And so, weary as I am, I am compelled to tell this tale, as my iphone sputters, soggy and most likely useless on my dressing table and Izzy sleeps peacefully beside me (the trauma of the day keeping him from his own room). May tomorrow bring a hint of sunshine our way.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Please Oh Pretty Please : Make My City Better!!


My friend C. has spearheaded an event in our fair city of Jersey City to encourage residents to spend their $$$$ in Jersey City instead of traveling across the river or down the road to spend it elsewhere. The challenge is to shop local, July 18th - 24th.

She has contacted various local businesses, some of which are my very favorites, and throughout the week many of them will be offering discounts or promotions to entice you to shop. I urge you to try out something new this week as without increasing business, many of these shops simply might not survive. This initiative, "Make My City" could be just what local businesses need to perk up during the slow summer months

Back when I moved from New York City to Jersey City in 2003, I continued to travel to New York to do the bulk of my shopping. Those were hectic times as I carted nearly all of my groceries and my 6 month old to and fro. Little by little, as I began to discover uniquely Jersey local gems, I decreased my city visits to a more reasonable once or twice a week. Now I combine Jersey City shopping and New York jaunts for the best of both worlds.

I am always surprised when many friends and acquaintances claim never to have shopped at some of my favorite spots. Jersey City has much to offer if you take the time to discover.

Now is the time to dive in...

If you haven't done so, do stop in at Pecoraro Bakery where they now make croissants and muffins, as well as their always fresh Italian loaves and pizzas (some only available on weekends). Next stop, Europa Meat and Provisions where you can discover a world of Polish sausages at your fingertips, perfect for summer grilling. While there you will be across the street from Made With Love Organic Bakery and Cafe, where you can snack on scones nearly as good as mine! Jack's Toys is right next door (though with summer hours will only be open Saturday, offering future discounts) but they are definitely worth a stop anytime you are looking for gifts for the little ones.

Other sweets worth checking out, via their websites or local markets: Sassy Sweet Treats, where you will find home-baked cookies and brownies and Cocoa Bakery where you will find adorable mini-cookies, shortbread, cupcakes and other delights.

After all of the food and sweets, you might possibly be in need of a workout so what better time for me to plug my all-time favorite place to firm up: Project Pilates and their newest venture Hamilton Health and Fitness which I hope to join as soon as it opens!

It is hard for me to end this post as there are so many worthwhile places participating in this event. One new addition that I just can't resist mentioning is Smith and Chang General Goods. Just around the corner from my house, they are a boon to the neighborhood, providing an eclectic, carefully chosen mix of items for the home. Perfect for gifts or for yourself. I can't keep away from the place and even Izzy is attracted to the vintage offerings and purchased an adorable oil can for his Papa for Father's Day.

This is by no means a comprehensive listing of the participating shops and businesses. I frequent many of them but do not have the energy right now to highlight more of them but hope to in the future. Meanwhile check the website for more information. And don't forget to SHOP LOCAL!

Monday, June 14, 2010

First Grade Over: Izzy's End Of Year Picnic and Mini-Strawberry Cheesecakes



Izzy officially completed First Grade. Granted this is old news as we are already close to mid-July but when I began this post it was a milestone, not to be forgotten.

I had been eagerly awaiting his annual end-of-school-year Potluck picnic and was terribly disappointed to discover that it had morphed into a byop (bring your own picnic) event. No sharing of all manner of ethnically diverse foods and bringing desserts.

I couldn't imagine going to a picnic and not sharing so instead of making my usual large Strawberry-Cheesecake, I made mini-cheesecakes, about 30 of them and we were able to share quite a bit.



Making them was much easier than I had anticipated. I used this recipe, an old stand-by. Instead of making the large crust, I pressed an ample amount of the crumbs into muffin tins. I pre-baked the crusts for about 7 minutes and then poured in the batter as the directed. I adjusted the cooking time to about 30 minutes (check for doneness but it has been over a month and my memory is fuzzy).

The minis worked out just fine, perfect for serving to a large crowd as no messy cutting is involved. Another benefit is that I was able to have more servings which is a huge plus when feeding a crowd. Izzy was able to share the cheesecakes with all of his teachers and the highlight of the picnic was when a butterfly landed on Miss B's head! I guess that was her send off, as sadly she will not be returning to teach at his school next year. She will be missed!




Izzy's teachers will also be pleased to know that we began Izzy's summer vacation with a visit to the library, as per his request. We came back with some of my childhood favorites by
Beverly Cleary; The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Runaway Ralph.

Ah summer...a fine beginning.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Still Life With Chicken Hearts


What more could I wish for than a friend who would prepare a slew of skewered chicken hearts for me during my time of need?

The call for liver went out and it was answered with hearts, another great source of iron, in case you were unaware. My friend "X" who would rather remain nameless and initialess, invited Izzy and me to dinner the other night. I don't think I have dined at a friend's house for at least six months which made the dinner a real treat. I haven't been able to go out much but since A. was out of town and I was having a good day, I figured I could muster the energy to take the three minute walk to get there.

I had no idea what she was cooking up but was overjoyed to find her grilling several skewers of organic chicken hearts when we arrived. I wasn't even aware that she ate chicken hearts so they came as quite a surprise. And that was only one part of our dinner. She had also prepared a lovely Turbot en papillote along with sauteed spring vegetables.

Now the meal was delightful but the chicken hearts stole the show. I have never seen so many chicken hearts gathered in one place. Yes, I have nibbled on the occasional roasted chicken heart while preparing chicken at home but I am quite certain I have ever ingested as many chicken hearts in all my life as I did the other night. To top it off, I even was able to take some hearts to go since Izzy was not quite as smitten with them as I.

Thanks X for contributing to my (hopefully) rising hemoglobin. Here's to chicken hearts and livers!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Liver Cure...Liver More?..

I went in for my blood transfusion this morning. First stop was to draw blood to see if I would even need the transfusion. The results showed that my hemoglobin went up from 7.5 to 7.9 since last week. It needed to be an 8 to avoid the transfusion. I was so close. At least it was a sign that all my efforts to procure liver were not in vain.

I decided to discuss the possibilities with my doctor but she wasn't in, nor was my regular nurse so instead I spoke with the nurse in the transfusion suite and she paged the on-call doctor. They said I should just skip the transfusion and wait until I see my doctor on Wednesday. In the meantime, the doctor suggested that I eat "raw meat" until then. Now eating raw meat would not be wise as my white blood count is low and I am susceptible to infection. However I will certainly continue to eat rare liver, beef and other iron-rich foods.

My liver supply continues to grow. More liver arrived this morning, via my brother G. who brought along a large slab of beef liver from Highland Gourmet Market in Stockton. A. and I were suspicious since it was only $1.99 per lb. Is that liver for human or pet consumption? We have to wonder. Who actually eats beef liver anyway? I think calves liver is strong enough, not sure I could manage the beef. My friend Y. is on her way back from Sap Bush Hollow Farm with a package of chicken livers which are far more palatable.

As I will probably need to continue this iron-rich regimen for at least another month, I am still seeking delicate tender local, organic liver, along with clams and mussels which apparently are also extremely high in iron. If there are other foods you can recommend, send along your ideas. And until Wednesday I am attempting to double my the recommended daily iron consumption which is no easy feat.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Of Blood and Liver: (Looking For Liver In All The Wrong Places)


You see of have a bit of a problem. My chemo sessions are coming to an end ( only three left, YIPPEE!) which is wonderful but my body is done with it now. My blood counts have dipped so low that I skipped my last session. I was given what I like to call my "get out of chemo free card".

Even though I was thrilled to skip a week, having low blood counts is really not good because I am now scheduled for a blood transfusion, which I would like to avoid if at all possible. Which is where the liver comes in. The doctor has told me that there isn't anything I can do to raise my hemoglobin, which registered 7.5 last week (normal is 11.5-16), and needs to be above 8 to avoid the transfusion. I have trouble believing that nothing will help and have heard tell that copious amounts of iron-rich foods might actually help raise my hemoglobin. Liver tops the list but finding the grass fed/local/organic variety in Jersey City is a different story.

I put out a plea on Facebook and made a few phone calls. A couple of offers came in. M. a teacher at Izzy's school offered to bike some over from Brooklyn and E., a neighborhood friend, offered to make some for me. I was holding out for some from my sister who works at a veritable mecca of local livers and other meaty bits. Sadly I never saw that liver and was forced to send A. out foraging this morning. He went to every local supermarket on his scooter and only unearthed livers of questionable provenance. Best not to eat those conventional livers as they would only be adding more toxins to my body which surely doesn't need any extra. I resigned myself to being liver-less, and continued to gorge on lentils, Floradix, quail eggs and greens.

In the late afternoon, my luck changed. The phone rang. It was E. and she made my day. She was checking in to see if I had procured any liver. When she heard that I hadn't, she offered to stop at Whole Foods and bring some over. She also offered to cook it but I declined, welcoming the opportunity to cook something new with the bit of energy I had. She showed up at my door with a bag filled with the fixins for a Greek feast; a pound of local veal liver, baby spinach, Brussels sprouts and an onion. She explained her method for making liver Greek-style and I followed her instructions. Her liver recipe is quite similar to this one, only she substitutes lemon juice for the vinegar. The heaps of onions are the best part!

She also shared her recipes for the side dishes. The first was Jasmine rice with Baby spinach. I cooked 1.5 cups rice in one pot and in another pan I sauteed 1 diced onion until tender, added a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste, a bit of water, and two large packages of spinach which I cooked briefly until wilted. I sprinkled the spinach with plenty of salt, pepper and chopped fresh dill. Then mixed in the rice and the juice of one lemon.

The other side were simple Brussels sprouts which were blanched and tossed with sauteed garlic, olive oil and lemon.

Aside from a slight overcooking of the liver, the meal was a success. As I ate I imagined each bite of liver boosting my blood cells and I was grateful for having someone like E. to make my liver wish come true. This livery meal is only the beginning of my liver experiments as I am expecting liver deliveries from my brother G. and my friend Y.

Tomorrow I will find out if the liver did the trick. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sheepy Sustenance (or Why It's Better To Shop At A Farmers' Market)


Not only have I been receiving meals from friends and family but I have also received gifts of sustenance from unexpected places.

When K., the sheep lady from Three-Corner-Field Farm at Union Square, found out I was ill, she immediately offered sheep yogurt and cheeses for me to my friends who continue to shop at the market. In fact, she probably knew about my illness before other people because I was often recounting my inexplicable symptoms when I saw her. She worried that I was losing weight and always asked after my health. It's farmers like her who make traveling to the greenmarket worthwhile. Not only are her products fabulous but she takes the time to build a rapport with her customers. You are not likely to find that connection at the supermarket, which is why I so miss my forays into the city these days, while I am mainly confined to my house.

K. knew I wouldn't be making it into the city for my sheepy fix, so she provided me with one highlight during the beginning of my chemotherapy treatments, the arrival of a large care package filled with goodies from Three Corner Field Farm. Inside there was my favorite Brebis Blanche cheese, along with sheep's milk yogurt, and Izzy's beloved yogurt dip, all kept frozen by a package of lamb chops! I feasted on the dairy and I saved the chops for the day when my taste buds are in good functioning order. I do imagine I will grill them soon!

Many thanks, K.!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tick Tock: Some idea as to where I've been and what I've been doing

Time is passing by and so many tales are slipping past my typing fingers. I can only hope that posting about Izzy's birthday has broken the ice. I have been so out of sorts lately I just haven't had the inclination to write. Besides, it's not so appealing to write about food when just trying to eat is a chore.

Aside from my time spent at chemotherapy and doctors' appointments, most of these last two months have been spent at home, either in bed or on the couch, with occasional forays into the kitchen. One of my jobs is making myself eat and drink. I need to drink at least 2 liters of fluids per day and on some days it is quite a struggle. Eating is equally challenging as well, especially on post-chemo days which can last for 10 days. Between trying to keep hydrated and searching for appealing foods, I barely have time for much else. On bad days I only emerge from bed to pee. On good days I make it out to pick Izzy up from school and even spend time on the playground. There have even been occasional outings to restaurants which I hope to post about soon.

The good news is that since I stopped posting in March, I have finished four rounds of chemotherapy (10 sessions) and I am more than halfway done with my treatments. The treatments and side effects can only be described as awful and I am not looking forward to the last 2 rounds which could be comprised of as many as 6 more sessions. I was given a week off last week which is why I have the energy to write. The week off was not because I begged for it but rather as a result of low platelet counts, which are definitely not a good thing but are common with certain types of chemotherapy drugs. Last week my platelets were 82,000 and normal is 150,000-450,000.

One latest tidbit of news is that yesterday I managed to walk to my neighborhood bakery, and back, which is something I haven't done since January. Izzy and A. followed along, on bicycle and scooter, in case I needed some assistance on the way home. Miraculously I did not. What I do need is a pedometer to clock my mileage and inspire me to walk more and regain my strength and stamina.

And food, what about the food? I am still being sustained by meals from friends. Tonight there was grilled chicken, Israeli couscous with roasted vegetables and a mesclun salad, thanks to M. There are several memorable meals to recap which I hope to get to shortly.

p.s This post from the Yummy Mummy most certainly brightened my chemo-dimmed life. Check it out for a good chuckle.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mad Science Birthday (My Boy Turned 7)

That was April 19th, 2010, party April 17th. Old news, but still news, even a month later...

Celebrating and preparing Izzy's birthday parties is always great fun. This year I wondered how I would pull it off but I knew I had to, someway, somehow. I figured I could manage since the party fell on one of the better weeks in my treatment schedule.

Izzy requested a "Franny K. Stein" mad science party. I know he was conjuring up explosions in the living room and I knew I wouldn't have the wherewithal to create them. Instead of doing everything myself, I hired a "mad scientist" to help out. I also enlisted the help of friends and family and all I had left to do was bake the cake (with test tubes - which Izzy declared he needed two days before the party), cupcakes and pop up the popcorn. All important to my party plan was keeping the party no longer than two hours (something all parents should consider).

Easier said than done. It was more work than I anticipated but it all came together in the end and I was able to sit through it for the most part.

The party was supposed to begin with snacks but Izzy and friends were so over-excited they had to be herded into the backyard where mayhem ensued. When the mad scientist arrived (which wasn't soon enough) the children settled into rapt attention.

From bubbles to explosions it was just what Izzy had in mind.



Experiments over, next on the agenda was cake and dessert.
My friend L. assembled a most professional-looking fruit arrangement, with beautiful organic fruit.


Too bad Izzy and his pals thought to use the skewers as weapons.


As for the cake it was similar to the one I made last year, Chocolate Layer Cake with Raspberry Filling and Chocolate Frosting. This one was a more classic layer cake, adorned with test tubes which my dad found for me at a medical supply store. Perfect!



Much giddiness ensued and then it was time to sing "Happy Birthday".



So glad it turned out to be just the party Izzy had wished for. So glad that I could be there.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The World's Pickiest Eater


Here I am. The woman who could and would eat nearly anything, reduced to searching for something, anything, that will taste good or at least good to me. How is it that one of life's greatest pleasures has turned into a chore? No longer can I effortlessly sample anything of my choosing. No. Instead I need to carefully envision what will appeal in hopes that it actually will.

On one recent occasion, I demand smoked oysters with a dab of mayo and A. brings me a platter. Perfection. I gobble them all, artfully arranged with a caper and spinach leaves on toast.

Today I envisioned corned beef, cabbage and boiled potatoes. I thought it would come thickly sliced, from a nearby restaurant. Instead, my dad brought me 2 platters from a pub near his home. It was not at all what I had in mind, as it was presented, cold on a plate. So I asked that he try an order from the restaurant near my house. It was only marginally better, maybe because it was hot. It too, was not thickly sliced or at all what I had imagined. I ended up with an awful tummy ache.

Friends go out of their way to bring me elaborate meals, some quite over the top and inventive. All kinds of extremely healthful meals have come my way. I certainly do appreciate all of the effort that goes into these dishes but I now must confess that simple might be best. I cannot tolerate too many flavors at once. Comfort food tends to be less multi-dimensional and easier for me to tolerate. Ordinarily we are a family of adventurous eaters but in these trying times I think some comfort food might be in order.

Of course comfort food varies according to one's background. For me it conjures up visions of my grandmother's food. If she were here I would be asking for Matzoh Ball Soup, Stuffed Cabbage, Blintzes, and Noodle Kugel.

But I don't only entertain cravings for Jewish foods. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, a plain roast chicken, macaroni and cheese would please. Roasted vegetables with one herb and a sprinkling of salt. Salads with a simple vinaigrette. Pasta, pierogi, tuna-noodle casserole, potato gratin and chocolate or vanilla pudding, are foods which also tempt my palate, at least for today.

Odd but my cravings match my doctor's latest instructions. Yes. The good news is that I am no longer restricted to a low fat diet, nor am I adhering to all of the Anti-Cancer principles. Instead I have been instructed to eat as much butter, cream, ice cream, sour cream and the like, as I can.
And as long as it is organic, grass-fed, local etc., I will do my best to follow the doctor's orders!

Here's looking forward to eating some fine, fatty foods...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tonight's Feast: Indian Comfort Food



Late this afternoon, N. stopped by with her littlest boy to drop off this delightful meal. She stayed for a short visit and it cheered me to see her happy child.

This time, N. wowed us with a super-healthy Indian dinner. There was a Dal/Rice mix, Chana Masala, Cabbage Salad and some Paratha bread. There was even warm banana bread for dessert. How N. managed to cook all that for us with a five month old and two other young ones about amazes me. I didn't think I would be able to stomach the meal as I have been having quite a difficult time lately but she toned down the spice enough for me so that it was entirely palatable.

Izzy, A. and I all dined in the bedroom so I could stay warm and cozy in bed. We were all thankful for our dinner and as always, so grateful for the kindness of others.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Ant-Cancer Dinner: An outrageously healthy dinner from M!


My friend M. outdid herself, yet again. Greeting me after the first day of my second cycle of chemo, she arrived with tonight's delivery which included a Three Mushroom Soup, a gorgeous Beet and Citrus Salad with Greens, and a side of Israeli couscous with Baby Garbanzo beans.

It seems that she based chose her recipes based upon items I highlighted as being part of the Anti-Cancer diet I am trying to adhere to. It is important for me (and everyone for that matter) to eat as many vegetables as possible. I have been craving salads and I am thrilled that friends have been providing them.

More on cravings soon...4 days done, 14 to go. Have to rest up for tomorrow.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Moose Bolognese



A few months ago, I received the unlikely gift of a box of moose meat from B., a reader in Wasilla. Little did she know it would sustain me for such a very long while. As I hadn't been feeling that well at the time it arrived, I kept saving the moose for just the right occasion. After all, how often does one receive moose meat, right?!

It wasn't until a few days prior to my surgery that I finally had to have the moose burgers. I least I wouldn't have died on the operating table without having tasted what B. considers one of the best burgers around. The sliders I made were rather tasty so I was glad I did.

After surgery I had very little appetite for much of anything, let alone moose. When I began chemo in February, eating became even more of a challenge as perpetual nausea kept me from eating most things and my taste buds became hyper-sensitive. Flavors that I once loved became repellent and all I wanted was meat. Following chemo treatments, odd and very precise cravings hit me. One of the first things I asked for was crumbled moose meat in a frying pan, with salt. As all we had was a hunk of frozen chopped moose, A. took it out into the backyard and hacked it into chunks with an ax. He took out one chunk and prepared it for me as requested, accompanied by toast points and garnished with spinach. It hit the spot at the time but I will never eat or want that preparation again. So back to the freezer went a all of the hacked moose meat.



I knew that I had to use that moose meat before it suffered freezer burn and the other day I had a hankering for some pasta Bolognese, hence my idea for Moose Bolognese. I even had the energy to make it myself, using Marcella Hazan's already tried and true recipe. With moose meat, or without, give it a try for a comforting meal.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Friends Fatten Me Up: Surprise Dinnners Brighten My Day



My friends have gotten together to insure that I have a steady supply of dinners throughout my 5 months of treatment. Three nights a week, different friends will be dropping off dinner. The meals started coming two weeks ago and so far I have been enjoying the mystery of it all. I have no idea what I will be getting or who will be cooking so each meal is a surprise.

I have been terribly remiss in not recounting the meals I have received thus far. Tonight I will make amends because I cannot contain myself any longer. This evening my friend M. dropped off a meal worthy of much note and praise. The lady must have cooked all day and she arrived near three o'clock p.m., toting a Whole Foods bag filled with a vegetarian feast. There was a French Lentil soup with butternut squash and sweet potatoes, along with a red quinoa salad and steamed broccoli with a lemon vinaigrette. There was plenty of dinner to share, even with my brother who stopped by to help put Izzy to bed. Not only that but there was an extra-special healthy dessert, a Frozen Blueberry,Banana,Avocado and Date pie atop a granola crust, something I would never consider making myself but I'm glad to have eaten it as it was both healthy and fattening.



My very first delivery was a health, hearty chicken soup from C., my wonderful Pilates instructor. It came packed so prettily in a beribboned glass jar and was accompanied by some uber-healthy bread and fruit. My stomach was most fragile that evening so I never even managed to have a taste.




Next came some Indian victuals from my friend G., followed by an organic Friday night dinner from J., Spaghetti Squash casserole made with a delightfully herby ricotta cheese. This was accompanied by a wonderful Italian salad with artichokes and cucumber.





Monday brought us a Minestrone soup, whole wheat rolls and a Zucchini Bread warm from the oven, prepared by N... Not a morsel was left.

To get me completely up to date (I started this post last Wednesday), Friday's dinner came delivered by my friend A., who stayed for a short visit while dropping off a tureen of some Greek Lemon-Egg Soup.


All of these meals have helped me attain my goal of staying above 100 lbs., to fortify myself for the next round of treatments, after which I have will most likely have some difficulty eating, lose the weight and then try to regain it with some more food!

Am so grateful for food from friends, feeding me and my family. Keep it coming!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crazy Tasty Kasha Varniskes: May The Recipe Live On

Izzy has been home from school this past two days, feverish and mopey. I can't go near him which is hard on us but he has been spending time reading and playing quietly in my bedroom, even allowing me my reflexology session (deserving of a post all its own).

This afternoon he got a sudden burst of energy and began to dance around madly. At the same time, I somehow summoned the energy to make dinner for him, with the help of our Mary Poppins, Claudette. I made Kasha Varniskes , a variation of my grandma's recipe, as I had been dreaming about them last night. Izzy seemed so pleased that I managed to make them for him that he happily gobbled a huge platter of them, as he sat with me in my bedroom. Sadly I could not eat any. Make some and eat them for me!


Grandma Ida's Kasha Varniskes (Buckwheat Groats and Bow ties)

1 cup whole buckwheat groats (small pieces will not do)
1 egg

2 leeks, sliced fine
1 large onion, chopped
handful shiitake mushrooms, sliced
several sprigs thyme, chopped
olive oil

2 cups chicken broth (or a bouillion cube if you must, dissolved in boiling water)

1/2 box of small bowtie pasta, cooked, drained and set aside.


1. Place kasha in a large bowl and break egg on top. Use a spoon to coat kasha with egg so that every piece is shiny. Heat a large non-stick pan and place kasha in pan. Toss continually until kasha is dry and smells nutty, be careful not to burn it and break up any pieces that have stuck together. Remove from heat.

2. Meanwhile(or simultaneously) place a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet with cover (large enough to hold vegetables,kasha and broth). Saute onions, leeks and mushrooms until soft and slightly caramelized, about 10 or so minutes. Toss in thyme.

3. When vegetables are ready, add kasha to skillet and combine with vegetables, pour boiling broth over everything and cover. Simmer very gently for 12-15 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

4. Toss with bowtie pasta and serve.

Notes: This can be served as a side dish or as a main course with salad on the side. It also freezes well and can be made a day or so in advance and warmed in the oven. Izzy even eats his cold for lunch.

Crazy Sexy Cancer? Not quite...

Crazy Scrawny Cancer is more like me after my third chemo treatment Wednesday.

My ever-thoughtful friend S., who has been sending me all manner of care packages, was kind enough to send along the book, Crazy Sexy Cancer, brimming with stories of beautiful, courageous women beating cancer and still managing to look great. These are inspiring stories to be sure, but I just can't live up. I can barely get out of bed in the morning let alone muster up enough energy to look in any way presentable. And eating? That is the most difficult task of all, a cruel punishment for a food blogger to be sure.

Which brings me to the scrawny part. I could surely use some fattening up but can't eat fattening foods, nor do I really want to. Not to mention that everything tastes wrong. Any tips on helping nausea and increasing appetite welcome.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chemo Day Two: Not Much To Recommend It

Except for my pre-infusion breakfast from Le Pain Quotidian, which was an egg salad tartine. Never to be eaten again.

And so began my second day of chemo, this time with a Cisplatin IP infusion, inserting chemicals directly into my abdominal cavity, two liters there and two in the IV. My dear friend L. tended me thru it all and A. arrived to add a bit of massage to my day. From 9-5 it was a long day and I was thankful to get home and get in bed.

The aftermath has been wretched. With nausea and all of the other attendant pains I wonder how I will ever make it through the rest of my treatments. I am on three different anti-nausea meds and still can barely eat more than a few bites at a time. I started my day with a few spoonfuls of oatmeal with blueberries and then tried a few sips of a peach smoothie later. Dinner was a dumpling or two with a bite of chicken.

On the bright side, Claudette was here to tend to me and entertain Izzy until he went off on another playdate at his friend's I.'s house.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chemo Girl Foodie: First Day


First day at the Chemo Suites, Sloan Kettering.

My stepmother, L., accompanied me while Izzy stayed home with our Mary Poppins, Claudette. It is a comfort to know that he is well taken care of when I am not around. Friends and family have been taking him here and there and he has been having a great time. Yesterday he spent the day with his friend I., which saved the day since I had to see yet another doctor and today he had a playdate with my reflexologist he did art projects. Later on he and the Poppins did science projects. Back wait, back to me. While Izzy was gainfully amused, I was much less so.

I spent my day getting blood drawn and having a most uncomfortable iv stuck in my wrist while the chemo drug, Paclitoxel coursed, through my veins, hopefully attacking any lingering evil cancer cells. It was a long day as the drip took over 3 hours. Surprisingly I felt hungry (probably the steroids?) and L. went and fetched us a great lunch from Le Pain Quotidian.

While she was gone, I napped as the Benadryl and Xanax tired me out, and the fact that I barely slept three hours last night probably didn't help.

So far I feel fine but tomorrow's treatment will probably change that. I will have Cistoplatin chemo inserted through a port catheter under my chest and 2 liters of fluids will be pumped through me as I lay on a bed for several hours. My great friend L. will accompany me and promises to get me through it. It is this procedure that is supposedly crucial to my treatment. Doubtful I will feel hungry tomorrow.

When I returned home tonight, some great Indian food from my friend G. was awaiting and Claudette prepared fresh juice for me from our new juicer. Can't wait to post some recipes. Apparently she is an expert juicer.

Stay tuned and send healing thoughts.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

On Sheitels and Pizza: In the heart of Midwood Brooklyn



It has been nearly five weeks since my surgery, the unfortunate outcome of which has led me to travel deep into the heart of the Midwood section of Brooklyn, to a highly acclaimed wig shop, not a place I ever expected to find myself. Nor did I ever expect it but I will be starting chemotherapy next week for stage IIIc ovarian cancer which is what the surgeons found and removed, along with all of my inner girl parts, appendix and a few other fatty pieces. But never mind those gory details, lets get to the fun part: wigs and pizza, an odd juxtaposition to be sure.

Shopping for wigs was a giddy experience. For many women, hair loss can be very traumatic but lately I haven't been especially blessed in the hair department so the idea of a little enhancement intrigued rather than repulsed. My first wig trip to Manhattan with my stepmother L., last week yielded some promising results...

This one was by far a favorite, especially Izzy's. I daresay I have always fancied myself a redhead.




Below is a more studious look..apparently reminiscent of "70's grad student".



That first wig session was glamtabulous but I wasn't convinced that that particular wig shop was exactly the right place for me and I wanted to at visit at least one more before plunking down $2500 for something the cats might tear up. After doing a bit of research, I determined that I would find a better selection and more custom work at Claire Accuhair, a family-run business known for creating sheitels (the wigs observant Jewish married women wear to hide their beauty from men aside from their husbands), as well as wigs for chemo patients.

My brother E. and his beloved, along with my sister C. and her beloved, accompanied me on the excursion to Brooklyn, which met my expectations and then some. Claire, the wig matriarch and her daughters run quite an unusual little business out of their house-like shop. They actually sew the wigs on site and we were able to tour the space and watch the painstaking work in progress. A veritable wig factory before our very eyes.

These women really know their wigs; their expertise and devotion to their work was clear.

Here the wig maven helps while here daughter looks on...



How about this playful option?



The wig I settled on will be custom colored and fitted, after which it will be washed and cut upon my head (in 10 days). I can't wait to see the final results.

After a grueling afternoon of wig try-ons, we were all in need of a bit of sustenance. When we asked for advice on where to eat, we were sent to a nearby Kosher dairy restaurant. On our way there I spied "Di Fara" Pizza. I couldn't believe it. Di fara Pizza is a destination pizzeria in a destination I would ordinarily never find myself yet there we were and from what I could see there was no line. What good fortune ( well not exactly...but never mind that). At least I can still eat good pizza, right?

Again, we found ourselves in an unusual place, a pizzeria like no other, where the owner, already in his seventies, nearly does everything himself, including pulling perfectly charred bottomed pizzas from the oven with his bare hands. Watching him snip bouquets of fresh basil over each $25 pie was even more astonishing. He, just as the wig maven, is truly devoted to his metier.


The pizza lived up to its reputation and my hope is that the sheitel will as well, turning a sad time into a glam one. May both experiences strengthen me for the days ahead.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

To Duck the Duck Egg-or not.


Hi, this is Izzy's Mama's best friend who is going to occasionally guest blog for Izzy's Mama while she is recovering from surgery. I can tell you that she really appreciates all of the good thoughts and wishes coming her way. I am told she will need to be on a low fat diet for a month (less than 20 grams of fat a day). So feel free to post some yummy low fat recipes or treat ideas.

The Sunday before Izzy's mama's surgery, I went to her house to help out with some chores because she was not feeling well. When it was lunch time, I offered to make Izzy's lunch. Izzy's Mama actually agreed to this offer so she really must not have been feeling well. We trudged down to the kitchen and Izzy's Mama took out a carton of duck eggs and a stick of butter. She sat down at the kitchen table and said "Have you ever used a cast iron pan? It is very good for you because you get iron in your food." While I have a cast iron pan at home and have used it a few times, I probably never used it correctly and besides I thought to myself I did not want to know my pan was leaching metals into my food. So I just sorted of grunted a response. Izzy's Mama, safely assuming that to be a "No", explained "You must heat the cast iron pan for 3 minutes or else the butter will turn brown." Perish the thought. I went to turn on the vintage stove and when I did not get a flame, Izzy's Mama said, "You need to blow on the burner." What! I need to turn on the gas and then put my face to the burner and blow? Is she crazy? Does she have good insurance? But throwing caution and all my common sense to the wind for I was now in Izzy's Mama's world, I forged ahead anyway, putting my face (with much trepidation) in the vicinity of the burner and blowing and blowing. Nothing. I immediately thought about throwing in the towel at this point and was starting to look around for some peanut butter when Izzy's Mama innocently volunteered "You can also use the igniter thing on top of the fridge". You have to be kidding me. I then successfully lit the burner, put a pat of butter in the cast iron pan and waited to 3 minutes. Then I took a look at those duck eggs.

They were about twice the size of a chicken egg. Izzy's Mama said Izzy likes his eggs "over easy". Okay, I thought. I can do this. I grabbed an egg from the carton and as I was about to smash that egg on the rim of the pan, Izzy's Mama blurted out, "Izzy will not eat that egg if you break the yolk." Thanks for the tip, Izzy's Mama. I gingerly tapped the egg on the rim of the pan. Nothing. I applied more force. Still nothing. I pounded the egg against the rim of the pan (who knew duck eggs shells are harder and thicker than chicken egg shells) until I made a dent in the shell. I kept banging away until I created a little crack and then I wedged my finger in the crack and ripped the egg apart. By some miracle, the yolk did not break. I grabbed a spatula from a container of utensils on the stove and just as I was going to flip the egg, Izzy's Mama cried out "Oh no, that spatula is too thick you need the one in the drain board." I had previously been warned not to over cook the egg because Izzy likes to break the yolk with his bread. I dashed to the drain board, grabbed the spatula and ran back and flipped the egg. Although I have cooked eggs before, I confess that I have never cooked a duck egg and I have never cooked an egg under the watchful and expert eye of Izzy's Mama. I was scared. So I grabbed a pot holder and lugged the cast iron pan over to where Izzy's Mama sat to show her my creation and to ask for her blessing. She decreed "a little longer" and waved me off. With a sigh of relief, I finally put that egg on a plate, took a piece of bread and buttered it with butter from the stick of butter still out on the table. My relief was short lived because Izzy's Mama looked at me woefully and said "That butter is for cooking. We have different butter for eating." At that point I just ignored Izzy's Mama and called Izzy to the table. I am happy to report that the yolk was appropriately runny and Izzy ate the whole thing including the incorrectly buttered bread. Izzy's Mama and I each had a fried duck egg. She likes hers prepared the same way that Izzy does. I like mine well done. I found the duck egg to be oddly sweet but tasty. Izzy's Mama says they are $1.00 an egg at Whole Foods. Thanks a bunch to Izzy's Mama for introducing me to duck eggs.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Better Left Unsaid? On Last Suppers And Other Morbid Thoughts


After much hesitation I have decided to share why it is I have not been blogging, given that it somewhat easier for me to write than to tell...

How many of you have joked around about what you would eat if you only had one meal left?

I know I have. During just such conversations I have conjured up deliciously rich meals of grilled lamb chops, potatoes gratin or perfectly roasted duck with crispy potatoes, goat cheese salad with lardons and a creamy chocolate dessert. Yet now, when faced with the strange reality of possibly only having a limited number of meals left before major surgery and not even being that hungry, I don't even know what to ask for.

One thing that came to mind was moose. Not because I have an especial fondness for moose but simply because I have never tasted it . Besides, B. from Wasilla was kind enough to send some to me and I figured I'd better try it while I still had the chance, as B. made it sound like one has lived til one has tried moose

But before I ramble on about moose and last suppers, which are certainly far more amusing then that which I feel compelled to report, I must tell of the ill-fate that has led me to do so. My poor health over the past several months has finally led me down a path upon which I never expected to find myself. The past few weeks have been filled with CT Scans, MRIs, doctor visits and a disturbing diagnosis. The tests have shown a rather large mass on one of my ovaries and there is a strong suspicion I may have ovarian cancer. I am scheduled for surgery this Wednesday and I am terrified to say the least.

I am trying not to worry about how Izzy will be and what he will eat without me (he has never spent a night without me) and instead focus on what I need to do to get well but it isn't easy. I have been preparing Izzy for my surgery little by little. First I told him that there is "something bad in my stomach that needs to come out". Then I mentioned the word "operation" and he wanted to know if it would be like the operation the kitties had, "where they take out their girl parts." Apparently I didn't need to do as much explaining as I thought I would.

As for eating, well I can't do that much of it. A few small meals a day are about all I can take. Moose sliders last night (very lean and tasty, but a bit overcooked, will have to try again) Vietnamese food tonight and not sure what my last meal will be for tomorrow night. The day before the surgery I need to go on a 24 hour clear liquid diet. D. of "real milk" fame and the doyenne of stock-making, was kind enough to stop by today with three types of stock. My friend L., was surprised to read the label on one which said, "Beef Hoof"; the others were beef and chicken/turkey. Those should keep me nourished, along with some tea and apple juice.

Once the surgery is over, I will find out what happens next. Whatever it is , I hope to make it through so that Izzy has his mama for as long as possible.