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

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

Thursday, 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.