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).

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!