Sunday, June 29, 2008

Thirsty for Coconuts

Forget Gator-Aid. Coconut water contains five essential electrolytes and more potassium than a banana.

And it's not the color of a hi-liter pen.

Okay, so my kids shuddered with disgust after gamely giving it a try. But I haven't mixed it with that most magical elixir yet -- fruit juice. My plan is to mix it in gradually throughout the summer. By late August they should be completely hydrated.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fish Fry

Oh my god, my daughter is eating fish. She is four years old. I'm going to say that again: she is four years old and she eats fish. I am just about ready to go shout it from the mountaintops.

I do personally know a five-year-old who is a vegetarian and has been eating fish for years, so I realize that this is not considered a huge accomplishment or brilliant talent in every household. But in mine: yes.

Six months ago, I would have had to hold my children down and pry their mouths open to get them to even taste fish. They felt about it the way you or I would feel about "just a taste" of a worm saute. It was that repellant to them.

But in the last few weeks, as I've been mentioning, they've been coming out of their crazy food psychosis. I've pressed a taste on them here and there of this and that, including fish, and they've taken it. Now it's pretty standard, that they taste everything. This alone is a huge step forward.

So a couple weeks ago my daughter had a taste of fish... and wanted more, but it was all gone. Over the next few days it became an obsession. "I want more fish." "When can we have fish again?" "Are we having fish tonight?" "I love fish, and we NEVER have it." (Why would I think that just because it's about fish that it would be any different than it is about everything else?)

I finally got fish again, tilapia. I dredged it in flour, a big pinch of salt and paprika, and fried it in butter, the way my grandfather used to when we would go fly fishing at his house in North Carolina. (He actually kept a pan and hibachi grill in the shed down by his trout pond for quick meals.)

I served it as fish tacos, because my son loves tacos with cheese and guacamole. This way, everyone would be happy.

And everyone was. Except that I had to stop her from eating all the fish. Seriously. I made her stop eating fish. I made her stop eating fish. What golden words are these tumbling forth from my charmed finger tips?

Now all she wants is fish and she keeps chowing down.

My son, not so much. But I feel thrilled and satisfied. Our meals are so calm. Everyone eats something. It really works, just continuing to eat real food in front of your kids, breaking down the meals when you have to, pushing when you can, accepting when they won't. It works. It works. I'm going to go cry now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Radish Love

It's time to spread a little love in the world for my good friends, the radish.

They are so crunchy and spicy and sharp! They are like the meanest of vegetables. They are like your mean friend who has a sharp tongue and always says really incisive things that cut to the bone and sting, but later you have to admit she was right. And plus she is so refreshing after all the sweet lies everyone else always tells.

I almost always have radishes in the fridge, in a cold glass of water which keeps them from getting soft. In the winter it's black radishes, which seem like something that came out of the frozen tundra in Siberia, and you know just by looking at them that there is some intense survival compound in there. It is not a vegetable that wasted any resources on being pretty or perfumey or sweet. Like your friend who is ugly and brilliant and -- okay, enough with the friend metaphors.

Unlike mean friends, radishes have been scientifically proven to be good for you. They contain this phytonutrient called Isothiocyanates, which I can't pronounce or spell or remember, but which apparently stops carcinogens in their tracks.

Anyway, the pretty radishes are in season now, but they are still sharp and mean and refreshing.

Here's how I eat them:

-On good French bread with good butter and lots of coarse sea salt
-With cheddar cheese
-Sliced in salads
-Sliced and laid on top of slices of cheese on top of Ry-Vita or Wasa crackers
-Pickled in rice vinegar and salt and mirin and served with brown rice

And now Mark Bittman's blog has another suggestion: Radish Salad. I am totally trying this.

Are my kids going to eat radishes? Uhh, no. Probably not for a few years, when they've killed off enough taste buds so they can stand the spiciness. I'm just setting a good example for them now. With my radish sandwich. They're so good!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Food Chain Basics

Okay, so my kids aren't that picky, as it turns out. After reading the book Food Chaining, I can appreciate that my kids' habits are more annoying than alarming.

Food Chaining is written by Cheryl Fraker, a parent, and a bunch of doctors who specialize in serious food disorders in children, many of them with autism spectrum disorders. These are kids who will only eat two or three foods and are not gaining weight. The book's "Proven Six-Step Plan" involves building on the foods the kids like. So if the kid will only eat McDonald's french fries, then you would offer the kid Wendy's fries, then homemade fries, then hash browns, then roasted potatoes.

Okay, sure. I'll try it. I mean, when my kids were in the depths of their food aversions, I would have had to pry their mouths open to get them to try something even one degree off from what they were expecting. But, always when I was least expecting it, we'd have little victories. So, yeah, I'm putting this one in my bag of tricks.

It reminds me of a child I know who only eats one brand of fish stick. So, why not offer her a different brand of fish stick? Just open up her a palate a teensy bit? and then a still different-er one. And then a homemade one. And then a breaded fish filet. And so on.

Here's an interview with one of the writers. The book mostly addresses autism issues, but there is info in there for all of us. Nothing about bribery, but lots of other tactics.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sigg Shortage

If you've been thinking about tossing your Nalgenes and replacing with a BPA-free water bottle, you'd better hurry. My favorite source of bags and bottles,, reports a shortage:

Limited SIGG Availability: Recent mainstream awareness of both consumption and BPA related concerns has created a massive surge for reusable bottles and demand has far outweighed supply. SIGG was hit so hard that they've had to significantly reduce sales through Internet retailers. As it stands right now we do not expect to receive any new inventory for the next 60 to 90 days. If you see a style you like don't wait! Sign up for our email newsletter & we'll be sure to update you as this evolves. June 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Smoothie Time

When we're out and about it's almost impossible to find popsicles that aren't made with high fructose corn syrup and a bunch of other nasty ingredients (see Italian Ices, below). Don't get me started about the demise of Froz Fruit popsicles, which used to be made from cane sugar and must have been sold in the last few years, as they're now made with HFCS.

So we keep the blender out on the counter this time of year, and make lots of smoothies, which we then freeze into pops. This way I know there's no added sugar or artificial colors and my kids are getting experience with delicious treats that aren't PACKED with the maximum level of sweetness.

Our basic combo is frozen strawberries, orange juice and bananas. This makes a sweet, berry-colored, extremely palatable smoothie. You can add yogurt -- plain or vanilla -- to make it more substantial. Breakfast pop, anyone?

But I also love making smoothies and pops with Samabazon Acai smoothie packs. Also known as the Brazilian palm berry, acai is so packed with anti-oxidants that it is almost like dark chocolate. I would have named it the chocolate berry. I do the same combo as above, minus the frozen strawberries.

Here's a cute video from the founders of Sambazon about how they discovered acai on a surfing trip in Brazil:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

If You Eat This, You Can Have That...

In my ongoing quest to ease my children out of their neophobic ways, I am willing to stoop to bribery -- in the most absurd of situations, anyway.

After my pear post, I took the last pear in the house to my nine-year-old son's soccer game and out of desperation tried to push it on my 4-year-old. She was "STARRRRRVVINGGGG!" on the side lines of the game (with the container of crackers we'd packed for her sitting serenely on the kitchen counter at home).

She refused the pear, which is just ridiculous. A juicy cold pear on a hot day? Annoying!

So... instead of getting into an epic battle (which, if you knew my four-year-old, is no small undertaking), I took the shortest and easiest route: I bribed her.

Pointing to the Italian ice cart that was being pushed around the perimeter of the steamy hot soccer field (and which was an inevitability for us, given the heat and the fact that it was the last game of the season, and the fact that every other kid appeared to be slurping melted fluorescent ice out of paper cups), I told her she could have an ice if she ate half the pear.

Bribery's not really the ideal situation, but there was this simple fact: I was willing to buy her an ice, but not-no-way-no-how with an uneaten pear sitting in my bag. And, it worked. She ate the pear, and loved it -- and was so excited about her new discovery that shopping at the Coop later, she jumped up and down, chanting "Pear! Pear! Pear!" in the produce aisle.

This would have been impossible just 6 months ago, even with the bribery. Anyone else out there bribing their kids?

Prickly Pears

My son likes pears.

This might not seem like such a big deal. Because, what's not to like? You love apples, right? So what's the problem with a freakin pear? But for the last 8 years of solid food, pears were this exotic challenge for him, like the oyster of the fruit world. They might be sweet and some variety of green or red and grow on a tree like that mainstay of your fruit intake for eight years, the apple. But they're just... different.

I have read in Temple Grandin's books (she is the autistic animal expert who changed slaughterhouses so reduce fear in the animals) how animals don't generalize. They are all about the details. For example, a horse that is afraid of a man in a black cowboy hat may not be able to generalize enough to consequently be afraid of a man in a baseball cap, or even a man in a white cowboy hat. And dogs might obey a command given in a specific place or manner, but not be able to generalize the behavior to perform in another situation. Animals are totally focused on details.

I think kids are doing the same thing with food. They are totally fixated on the details, and they can't always generalize. So, the kid who likes chicken when it's breaded and fried may not like chicken when it's stir-fried. This causes great distress to parents ("But you love chicken!") Or a kid who likes hamburgers may not automatically like meatballs at first exposure (cf: my children). And kids with extreme food issues will sometimes like Wendy's french fries, but not McDonald's french fries. Every new food is a new experience, even if we adults know that it falls into an already accepted category of foods. And therein lies the irritation. What seems like a complete lack of logic to us is actually a hyper logic to the kids.

So my son, who has eaten apples with no problem for his entire life, and who has spent most of his life being an extremely picky eater, has never been interested in pears. They were different, duh! Pear-shaped! Softer-textured! More aromatic.

Until a few months ago when, magically, he was willing to try on one day, and then liked it. And wanted more. There's been a lot of magic lately happening with him. This is the kid who, as a toddler wouldn't eat cake or drink juice.

Last night after an early dinner in the park, both kids were hungry before bedtime. "Well, I have pears and cherry tomatoes," I said (truthfully -our food stores are low at the moment).

"Pears? I want a pear! I love pears"

Next up: oysters.

(Just kidding.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Food and Film

The 2nd Annual NYC Food Film Festival starts tomorrow at Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City with a celebration of the Philly Cheesesteak.

SPOILER ALERT: the above 3-minute film will be shown.

(Which, speaking of spoiling, this film has spoiled my assertion, which I've been throwing around for years, based on the eyewitness account of a friend of mine, that crappy ice cream bars from ice trucks don't melt. They hold their shape, even if you leave them out on the counter overnight, as my friend did, presumably because they are more filled with crap than with frozen cream. Amy? If you read this? Are you positive it didn't melt?)

Check out the festival's trailer here. It looks very cool.

Tuesday night the festival moves to DUMBO, and shows some pizza films in the parking lot next to Grimaldi's.

"Bad Cow Disease".. and Everything Else

Is bad American food the result of a conservative conspiracy? Is that why Koreans are protesting the re-introduction of American beef, why there's salmonella on the tomatoes, why there was e coli on the spinach and why American children have a shorter expected life span than their parents?

That's Paul Krugman's take in today's Times. He thinks the old school conservatives in the last century were so opposed to the FDA that they did everything they could to hobble it, making it an ineffectual institution.

That may be true -- and the ineffectual pert, definitely -- but there is also something entirely incongruent about mass marketing food. I don't care who's overseeing the process, you just can't make a million units of some food product, expect to ship it all over the place, have profit -- not food -- be your main motive, and expect the nourishment and integrity to remain intact. It just doesn't work that way.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Japanese Meatballs

I was making hamburgers last night and decided to hold back a little of the ground meat for lunchbox meatballs.

A recipe in Harumi Kurihara *'s cookbook Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking calls for mixing ground beef and pork with onions, breadcrumbs, butter, milk and egg; and then topping it with a teriyaki sauce (1 cup mirin, 1/2 cup soy sauce and 2 tbs of superfine sugar). Whoa, that is way too complicated for me, especially when you've got really great meat to work with.

I just added a couple teaspoons of soy sauce to the meat, mixed it in and made about 10 little 1-inch meatballs. They went on the grill with the burgers. I could barely keep my kids from devouring them all after dinner, and even my sandwich-only kid (the 9-year-old, who apparently thinks tortellini and other leftovers are for baby's lunches) wanted them in his lunch. "They're so good," he said, and I quote, "I can't stop eating them."

These could be a great staple. You could pack them with rice balls, some cut-up fruits and vegetables, and have a great lunch. I'm sure Biggie over at Lunchinabox freezes them, cooked, and takes them out in the morning to thaw in the lunchbox. Not a bad idea.

* The so-called "Japanese Martha Stewart"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Yeah, Yeah, Your Kids Eat Octopus and Scorpions...

Big deal, ya obnoxious show-off.

It's bad enough Matthew Forney has an Italian wife and is the former Beijing Bureau Chief for TIME and sends his kids to the French school in Beijing. (So they speak what, four languages?). He's got to brag in today's Times about how his kids will eat anything?

Well, not an American granola bar, apparently. Or the crusts on her toast. Hm.

Okay, I admit I'm impressed that his kids are great eaters. This is what we are all after. Kids who will order goat testicles and yak jerky, right? Well, adventurous eaters, anyway. Kids who will ask for a second helping of spinach and reach with gusto into family platters at a restaurant (see above). (He doesn't mention it, but I'm assuming his kids don't cry and whine and dance and sing at the table, either.)

And I agree with him that putting cauliflower in frosting and spinach in brownie mix (as he hears his American friends back home are doing) is absurd and counter-intuitive.

And I love that his wife breast fed their kids and says (not as unscientifically as Forney suggests) that the breastfeeding "opened their taste buds". (Studies actually show that kids are quicker to accept new foods if their mothers ate those foods while breastfeeding them.)

And it's great that they are telling dinner stories about food. This is a great thing to do at dinner. My children, too, are fascinated with stories about what food and dinner were like when I was a kid.

But gimme a break.

First of all, this guy just happens to be blessed with children who have an open palate. Some kids are like that. Usually, in my experience, they are the children of adventurous intrepid parents. The type of parent who might, oh just for example, choose to live in a country on the other side of the world.

Second, his kids are 9 and 13. They are so out of the trenches as far as picky eating is concerned. I know he says his kids ate rice porridge and pickled turnips at their nursery school, but I would be interested to know how open they were to unfamiliar foods in their preschool and early elementary years (the most neo-phobic, according to researchers).

Third, yes, as he says, they live in China. There are no microwaved pizzas, or cheez snacks. There is a strong food culture not ruled by the whims of children and profit margins of major corporations. Culture is on their side. Culture is certainly a strong force to have on your side.

Fourth, breastfeeding may indeed open the palate, but it does not entirely prevent picky-eating anymore than "modelling" does. I breastfed both my kids, very likely for far longer than Forney's wife did. My son breastfed for 2-1/2 years, and was one of the pickiest eaters I've personally known. My daughter breastfed for 21 months, started out as a wildly adventurous eater, and then at age three shut down and began eating only a handful of items. At almost-five she is showing signs of coming out, but we're still deep in the trenches.

I don't mind people setting an example and reminding us that it doesn't have to be the way it is. But I feel there is one thing that we all -- I would assume the Forneys, too -- have learned about parenting. If we haven't it's because we don't want to learn it, because the lesson is like a big fat puppy jumping and tumbling around our every step as parents. It's that the things that are easy for your kids don't necessarily come about because you did something right. Maybe they did, but probably not. And the things that are hard are not necessarily because you did something wrong. When my son was two and would sit and eat a bagel and doodle while I drank coffee and read the paper, was it because of my "expectations" or my "modelling"? Apparently not, because my second child couldn't sit still, never mind stop talking, for 30 seconds straight at that age.

When my daughter ate adult-sized portions of arugula with garlic-lemon vinaigrette at age two was it because we expected her to? No, because we didn't. We just ate it in front of her and she wanted it, and then around age three she suddenly would have sooner thrown herself off a cliff than even permit a piece of arugula to touch her plate. When my son liked pomegranates and almonds at age two but not at age three, four, five, six, seven or eight, was it something we did? No, because we kept eating them and offering them and enjoying them, to his utter indifference. (At nine he is beginning to change his ways.)

It's not always about modelling, expectation, or breastfeeding.

A little humility, please, Mr. Forney, and all you parents out there with good eaters.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Picnic Ideas from Apartment Therapy

When my daughter was a raging toddler, the only way we got through some of the worst evenings was by packing up our dinner and heading for the park. There she could toddle around after squirrels, chase fireflies, drop food, screech, fall down and generally wreak havoc, while we sipped wine from plastic cups and didn't worry about a thing.

She's a little more civilized these days, but we still eat in the park at least once a week this time of year. Plus, our local free concert series, Celebrate Brooklyn, starts this week, which means it's officially picnic season.

Just in time, there are some stylish picnic ideas from the busy bees over at Apartment Therapy, my current blog of obsessive choice. (EVERY time I go there, they have something new up. It's like a game, to click over and try to catch them with old material. Never.)

I love the fancy Tiffin Box from DWR (pictured above), but at $85, I think I'll stick with the Pearl River version ($15.50).

Happy Picnicking!

Tomato Scare

Wow, I didn't know I was taking my abdominal comfort and possibly life into my own hands when I made that tomato salad yesterday.

Little did I know, as I sliced and doctored, that salmonella-carrying tomatoes had already afflicted 145 people, and that Connecticut and Massachussetts, both pretty close to NY, were prime suspects.

My questions: Why is this happening just in restaurants? And how is the salmonella getting onto the tomatoes? The mind wanders to some unpleasant possibilities...

And why now, right at the beginning of tomato sandwich season?

This is from NPR:
For now, the FDA advises the following:

— Cherry, grape and homegrown tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with vines still attached are considered safe.

— Avoid raw Roma, plum and red-round tomatoes.

— Avoid fresh salsa, guacamole and pico de gallo, which often contain raw tomatoes.

— Safety experts say it's not possible to reliably wash off salmonella. But cooking tomatoes will destroy the bacteria.

Monday, June 9, 2008

More Heat Wave Food

Before I had kids Insalata Caprese was my favorite hangover food. I lived in Italy for a couple of years in my 20's, and after too much red wine I would drag myself to the market with a giant bottle of acqua gassata in hand and buy tomatoes, mozzarella, and a hefty square of salty, oily focaccia. I'd bring it all home in an oily brown paper bag and assemble my recovery salad like a mad woman, adding hot dried red pepper, torn basil leaves, and lots of olive oil and salt.

Hangovers aren't such a problem in my life anymore, but kids are. Luckily, one of my kids likes tomatoes, and the other one likes mozzarella. It would be nice if they could get in sync on these matters, but: oh well.

Anyway, nevermind about them. This is what I had for breakfast this morning: Insalata Caprese, a typical southern Italian breakfast.

But this is good for dinner, too: Cook up a pot of linguine or some bowties, and toss it with olive oil and salt. Serve with the tomatoes and mozzarella and basil in separate bowls.

Even if your kids don't want basil on their own plates, crush a leaf and try to get them to smell it. If you can challenge them to name-that-herb, getting them to enjoy specks of aromatic greens on their food is just one step away. It's all a slow process of wearing them down.

More importantly, on a day like this, it's a one-burner meal.

Stay cool!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Heat Wave Food

Ugh, it's so hot! And it's still not over. I just got an email from my son's teacher asking parents to email the mayor's office demanding that school be cancelled when it's over 100-degrees. No air-conditioning in their 3rd floor classroom, with giant windows facing the sun, over the highway...

The one good thing -- I remembered one of my favorite heat wave foods: Cabbage Salad from Isla Mujeres.

A long time ago I went on a snorkeling trip in Mexico. After the snorkeling, the guys running the boat took all us gringos to an island, where they pulled out some giant fish they'd just caught. Where did the fish come from? Details are escaping me. Did another boat come up at the last second and give us a fish they'd just caught? I can't remember, all I know is, they had this giant, freshly caught fish.

And lots of avocados and limes. And cabbage. And some really sharp, enormous knives.

So they lit a fire and made this meal from scratch: grilled fish, guacamole, rice and beans, and a cabbage salad. The cabbage was shredded so finely, and tossed with sea salt and lime juice, so that it wilted a tiny bit. It was amazing, and something I made regularly for years, until I sort of forgot about it, until tonight. I used to add a dash of olive oil, which was good.

So we had that tonight with tacoes. Mmm. My kids didn't eat the cabbage. In fact, my four-year-old ate almost nothing, and then was devastated, as I was cleaning up, to find out I wouldn't give her a bowl of blueberries.

I'm taking leftovers to work tomorrow, where I can only hope that the air conditioner has been fixed since last week...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The New Victory Gardens

It would kind of suck to pay $245 for a garden trough, but this Food Map container is pretty cool. And it's nice to see the design world appreciating the homegrown world.

It's all happening so fast, this convergence of garden mania -- in the schools, in the press, in shelter magazines...

I saw my friend Mirem last night. She is a landscape designer, and is working on a prototype for an easily replicated school garden that could live in a playground, and still be safe from soccer balls and night time prowlers.

And I love this:
the revival of the Victory Garden. We're after a new kind of victory now, right? As the site points out, the average dinner travels 1500 miles to get to our table. Need any ideas about how to reduce your carbon footprint by planting some of your own food? They've got lots.

I need more sun in my garden, but my herbs and peas are doing great. Tomatoes... not so much. I'm dreaming of a rooftop garden, but until then my part shade patch will have to do.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Potluck Panic

Okay, don't freak out. It's just a potluck.

Oh wait, you're not me. You're probably normal and just like, make some lasagna, or stop at the deli for some cole slaw, or order a freakin pizza, which is what everybody actually really wants. It's just a potluck for your kids' school, and people just want to eat. No Big Deal, right?

Unless you're me, in which case you have to make something that's healthy, organic, delicious, EXCITING, cheap and FUN.

Oh wait, you're reading this blog so you probably are like me, and you are in the same end-of-the-year-induced droning madness of potlucks, which is like family dinner, but AMPLIFIED, because you want it to be delicious and healthy, but you also want it to be something you would want to eat and serve to other grownups, and you also want it to be something kids would want to eat, and you're left sort of floundering and breathless, and you don't make up your mind until the last second, which always fucks up everything.

One of the last potlucks I went to was an ocean of carbs. It was a vast expanse of pasta salads. Carbs, carbs, carbs. (I was no help -- I brought a rice noodle salad.) Someone finally brought a rotisserie chicken, and it was devoured within minutes. I was overseeing the table, but I got a leg when I could and saved it for later. Good thing.

So now when I go to potlucks I think: PROTEIN. I think most people don't want to bring protein because it seems expensive to bring a giant dish of meat. But it's not really true.

Recently, I cut up an organic grass-fed rump roast ($10) into slivers (semi-froze them first, for easier slicing) and made them into shishkabobs and brought rice noodles and lettuce leaves and mint and basil. The rice noodles were tossed in a fish sauce-lime juice-sugar mixture. It was good. Even the kids liked it.

This is them on the grill.

But it was sort of complicated.

Tonight I went for fried chicken. At my coop, organic chicken drumsticks are $1.95/pound. For under $10 I got three packs of 4 drumsticks each. 12 drumsticks. Based on recent potluck experience, I thought: everyone loves fried chicken.

I didn't have a recipe, but in my kitchen, those who don't know, just go ahead and do it.

I brined the chicken for a couple hours in a salt and sugar mixture (1/4 cup each, boiled until dissolved, then cooled and diluted to cover the drumsticks.)

Then I rinsed and dried the chicken with paper towels.

I laid out three bowls: flour, beaten egg, bread crumbs. Everything was whole grain, just because that's how my kitchen is set up. I added a little salt and pepper. Shoulda added more.

First they went in the flour.

Then in the egg, then in the bread crumbs.

Then, into the frying pan. Yeah, baby!

Mmmmm! it was really good. My kids, who have perhaps never eaten fried chicken before, dug in, and so did I. They were gone almost immediately.

Of course, if you don't have an afternoon to spend brining and frying chicken, you could always just stop for a rotisserie chicken.

Kitty Balm

Here's our kitty, recovering from a vaccine-induced tummy ache. Or, whatever it was, it left her curled up and groggy with no appetite for a full day after a visit to the vet.

The first thing she ate? She grazed on my lemon grass plant (the stubby grass plant in front of her, stubby because my dog also grazes on it). I can't believe that a little kitten knows that lemon grass can be used medicinally to soothe stomach aches and flu symptoms. She feels much better now.

For the Dogs

One time at Fairway I asked for three Mackerels, the cheapest fish they had. The old Brooklyn guy behind the counter asked me how I wanted them. Gutted, fileted, whatever. I was like, "uhhhhh...."

"What're you gonna do with em?"

"Uhhhhhh...." A little hesitant to spill the beans, but I did. "It's for my dog, actually. She's gonna eat it raw."

I told him a little about raw food for dogs, how it's better for them, they're good with raw meat, they shouldn't eat so much grain, refined carbohydrates are bad for dogs, too, etc... I braced myself for an eye-rolling, but he surprised me.

"Yeah, my dog never ate dog food," the guy says. "My wife always gave him whatever we were having. She made an extra plate for him every day. The dog lived to be 17. Never once ate dog food. "


I'm not a total convert to homemade and/or raw food for my pets, but not for lack of belief. More because I'm too lazy, busy, and cheap. But I can't help wondering: Are dogs supposed to eat ground corn and sorghum? What about caramel and choline chloride? These are some of the around 15,000 ingredients in the fancy dog food I buy. And why do domestic dogs have to brush their teeth? Plus, why does a dog need all those added vitamins? Doesn't food have vitamins in it? And why do I feed animals who lived a miserable life on a factory farm to my beloved pets? Don't I care about all animals?

Whew, so much to think about. Anyway, here's what I'll make for Cleo once in a while:

Get some meat, either a cheap cut of red meat, or leftover meat. After I make a chicken stock, I take the meat off the bones and use that. Then I raid the produce drawer for wilted greens I'm probably never going to use. Wobbly zucchini or celery, kale, chard, etc. Squash and roasted squash skin are really good, too. My mom's and my dogs will eat squash right out of our hands, like it's candy.

Put the greens (and meat if it's in big pieces) in the food processor. Mix the pureed greens with the meat.

Form into patties, and freeze. You can give them frozen to the dog. Just like the polar bears at the zoo, they like to work it out, chew on it, gnaw it to death.

Am I a dog nutritionist? No.
Do I know that this is the best thing to do? No.
Do I know that all that kale and broccoli is not going to give my dog terrible gas? No.
I do this because my mom does it, and she knows a lot about dogs .
Also, its fun.

And eco! It's eco, too!
No, seriously, it is.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fennel Soup

Not a lot in the fridge tonight, but my kids appear to be growing lately -- eating everything in sight -- so I walked on the wild side, served fennel soup, mushroom-leek ravioli and arugula salad.

The fennel soup with so simple: chicken stock I'd made earlier in the day with shaved fennel, a little bit of cubed ham, half a chopped leek, and a handful of frozen peas thrown in the last second.

For the ravioli I sauteed the other half of the leek and some garlic in a knob of butter and a dash of olive oil, added some capers, and for lack of white wine, a splash of vermouth. And some salt and pepper.

Ordinarily this would all be out of the question. Leek-schmutz on the ravioli? Brown stuff inside the ravioli? Broth with STUFF IN IT? But they are going through some huge growth spurt. My almost-5-year-old has grown so much I sometimes don't recognize her in my periphery. And every day I am putting clothes out on the fence that no longer fit them.

So: they ate it. Not everything. Maybe it helped that I growled at them at one point that I didn't want to hear about what they thought about the soup. (The 4-year-old: "Okay but Mom can I just say one more thing about the soup? It's not sweet.") And, they navigated their way through it, ate what they wanted, left what they didn't, and decimated the ravioli.

Could it be the madness will end?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I sort of hate nutritional research and the weird things it comes up with...

... except for when I love it.

Drink up, everyone. Red wine appears to slow the effects of aging.