April 28, 2007

Best excuse ever for a new apron

Cross-posted from my blog at ChicagoParent.com

This apron caught my eye when I dropped off some donations at a local resale shop earlier today. I'm totally digging aprons these days. They're so handy.
I wonder who sewed and wore this little creation? That's something to think about as I'm whipping up my own creations.I mean, something to think about other than the boys losing a finger to the blender.
I bought a perfectly good apron on my honeymoon as gazillion years ago, so DH asked me why I bothered to buy a new one.
Honey, it matches my blog!

April 24, 2007

The Mother-Talk literary salon

In a word, it was fun. But also interesting, enjoyable--I could go on, but, this is a food blog, so I'll just say the food was tasty and plentiful (maybe too much so).

You can see the bountiful veggie tray from Marketplace on Oakton, "Half the plastic of a Jewel tray and twice the veggies," noted DH.

For the full scoop on the mom's literary salon see my personal blog: Hormone-colored Days.

April 22, 2007

Green Eggs and Ham: a cookbook worth a long look

Looking for something exciting and new?
Then here’s a wonderful cookbook for you!

Consider Schlottz’s Knots washed down with Moose Juice
And other crazy meals inspired by Dr. Seuss.

Try Schlopp with a Cherry on Top, you’ll be in heaven
Thanks to Frankie Frankeny and Georgeanne Brennan.

If you like to read, eat or try a new food,
This book will put you in a great mood.

We made Brown and Black’s Snack with just a small fuss,
Changing soy milk for cow’s-- it was delicious.

The minor change didn’t cause any strife,
And for the next recipe I let the boys use a knife.

They got to chop chocolate under my watchful eye,
For Valley of Vung’s Chocolate Rocks*, which we couldn’t wait to try.

With chocolate cream and sugar, they were delish,
We look forward to trying our next yummy dish.

With this book in your kitchen, who knows what will transpire?
Just keep an eye on your kiddos, so they don’t start a fire.

*pictured above

Serving up a taste of Chicago to a famous English Author

Tonight I'm hosting a Mother-Talk literary salon featuring British author and journalist Rachel Johnson. Rachel will be reading from her book Notting Hell, which has just been released in the US.

I'm expecting a combination of friends, fellow bloggers and even one of my blog readers (don't tell my kids I invited people I've only "met" online!) to be a part of Chicago's first Mother-Talk.
But what to feed the famous British author and my small crowd? The easiest choice is to run to Costco and pick up everything I need in one fell swoop. From wine to one-bite brownies to a bright, beautiful bouquet of flowers, Costco has it all at low, low prices.

Convenience has it's own price, though. I recently read about a study in Austin, TX that showed if each household redirected just $100 of planned holiday spending from chain stores to locally owned merchants, the local economic impact would reach approximately $10 million. I don't know how sound the research is or how the numbers truly pan out, but, Costco be damned!, I decided to shop local for my Mother-Talk spread. Especially since Isabel Kallman of Alpha-Mom is co-sponsoring the event and providing a generous food and drink budget.

I'm going to serve El Milagro tortilla chips along with fresh salsa and guacamole from Evanston's new mom-and-pop taco joint, Tacos del Lago. I ordered a veggie and dip tray from Marketplace on Oakton, Skokie's go-to store for high-quality, inexpensive produce (now with some organic products, too). I'll also put out some pita and Mediterranean spreads from Pita Inn (along with a few Kosher pita from the North Shore Bakery as my own little statement of Middle East peace).

To satisfy everyone's sweet tooth, I've got chocolate-covered pretzels from Mrs. Prindable's as well as chocolate-covered Rice-Krispie treats and white-chocolate-covered Oreos (see a theme here?) from the Long Grove Confectionery. Both of these companies have outlet shops (in Niles and Wheeling, respectively), which helped stretch my budget.

I caved a bit on the drinks- wine from Trader's Joe's and pop from my corner store. But I've also got a case of Goose Island beer and root beer for a little local flavor.

How do you resist the siren song of Costco? What are your local favorites?

April 16, 2007

Popover for a Sleepover

The boys with the clean house recently popped over to spend the night at our messy place.

Keenly aware of my growing library fines, I was determined to make one last recipe from Bonny Wolf's food memoir, Talking with my Mouth Full, before sending it back. So I recruited some young helpers and we mixed up popover batter, thinking we'd have fresh rolls with our otherwise unremarkable dinner. Then I realized the batter is supposed to set a while before baking...and that they take nearly an hour to bake.

Guess what, guys? We're going to have fresh, warm popovers for breakfast tomorrow!

"When the batter hits the oven heat," Wolf explains, "the liquid sends off steam and the popovers balloon into hollow shells."

Smothered with butter and jam, these magical rolls were a hit with 3 out of the 4 boys. (The 4th is the resident picky eater noted in our Sage Grille review--I'm honored that he even tried a popover.)

April 12, 2007

My sage advice: take advantage of Sage Grille's free kids meals this April

Sage Grille
260 Greenbay Road, Highwood

“This was the most fun I ever had at a restaurant!” Exclaimed our eight-year old dining companion. His comment wasn’t sparked by free balloon animals or a roving magician. No, this wise young man simply enjoyed a delicious meal shared with some of his silliest friends, the Moldofsky boys.

Our dinner got off to a rocky start due to some confusion between The Grill, the casual spot where our friends headed and the upscale Sage Grille where we waited for them just blocks away. We spent our first minutes in the small fireside lounge nibbling crispy homemade potato chips. Lightly dusted with cinnamon and cayenne, they were like a gentle alarm, waking our taste buds for the delightful flavors to come.

Reunited at last, our group of three adults and four boys ages 6 through 8 settled into the dining room. And by settled, I mean moved rather boisterously to our table. No worries, though. We were well within Sage Grille’s unofficial “children’s hours,” the period between 5:00 and 7:00 PM when diners are most likely to show up with kids in tow.

We received baskets of fresh herbs rolls and pretzel bread shortly after being seated. Each boy was handed a placemat full of games and pictures to color along with a small box of Rose Art crayons and a kids’ menu. It featured typical kid offerings with a grilled chicken breast for sophisticated little palates. Meals are priced $6-8 and include soup or salad, fresh vegetables and fruit, cookie or ice cream for dessert. We asked that the fruit be brought with the first dishes of the adults. This was the first of many special requests we made of our waiter. He patiently rose to the occasion throughout our meal.

He also provided detailed explanations of the tempting specials, but I heard almost none of it because I was busy shushing the boys. Sage Grille features fresh, seasonal offerings with the menu noting their preference for organic and local produce.

My friend Susan and I each started our meal with the roasted beet and endive salad ($10), while DH had parsnip and potato bisque ($9). Two of the boys received bowls of steaming chicken soup. Steaming liquids + small children, not a great combo, but the waiter promptly returned with a glass of ice and delicately spooned some into their bowls. Impressive service, but they might follow the lead of Starbucks where the kids’ hot cocoa is served lukewarm and ready to enjoy, not to mention less dangerous in case of a spill.

The fruit plate was a thing to behold and practically a meal in itself. Even as our resident picky eater admired the beautiful arrangement, he expressed concern because the different fruits were Touching. Each. Other. Fortunately, he found enough “uncontaminated” pieces to dig in and enjoy.

When the main course arrived, the discriminating friend was relieved to see they’d served his noodles just the way he likes- no sauce, no butter, no salt, and don’t even think about olive oil. The other boys were just as satisfied with their selections: mac and cheese, pastas with marinara sauce, and grilled cheese. The parents loved the fresh carrots and peas that accompanied each child’s meal. The boys, however, barely touched them.

Susan made a meal of the appetizer portion of the rich, filling lobster gnocchi ($13) and I enjoyed carmelized sea scallops served over French lentils ($28). DH had winter squash ravioli, a dish that left me swooning. It consisted of an artful combination of forest mushrooms, ruby beets, toasted almonds, mushroom syrup ($19).

The meal progressed with one spilled glass of water, a little nosepicking, much laughter and an excess of boy energy that took my attention away from the meal. As the restaurant filled up, I was acutely aware of the noise our boys were making.

I realized we had broken a key rule of dining out with kids: they outnumbered us, and this is not a good thing in an upscale restaurant. Susan pointed out that we’d ignored another cardinal rule: we neglected to ask our waiter for express service. Sage Grille is an excellent place for a leisurely dinner, but lingering + four raucous boys, not a good combo.

By the time we got to dessert my head was spinning. But even noisy boys and a waiter who strongly recommended the apple turnover could not keep me from my chocolate- the devil’s food cupcake. A chocolate cupcake with cocoa toffee tuile, chocolate ice cream, caramel sauce, buttered pecans and fresh bananas ($8). Susan and I ostensibly shared this, but she ate about five spoonfuls while I savored it down to a droopy chocolate puddle. The boys happily shared cookies and ice cream for dessert. We received a delightful amuse bouche (bonus treat) of chocolate truffles before leaving.

We look forward to returning to this restaurant in a few months, when their menu has changed with the season.

I hate to end a fine meal with potty talk, but here are some things you should know when someone has to go. Great news for moms: the men’s washrooms have baby-changing stations. Bad news for sensitive kids: the toilets flush very loudly; let your sensitive ones leave the room or at least cover their ears. It’s the kind of thing that can set a tentative potty trainer back a few months.

One final note: we were invited guests of a publicist, but we treated our friends to dinner.

April 08, 2007

Talking with my Mouth Full

It's a pain to celebrate a birthday during Passover, when leavened flour is not permitted. What's a birthday without cake? So I was delighted to find a tempting new recipe that fit the bill in Bonny Wolf's food memoir, Talking with my Mouth Full.

Wolf, the food commentator on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, serves up a pleasing mix of food history, personal history, and recipes. Though the book includes a designated Passover recipe (for popovers), Jennifer's Grandfather's Schaum's Torte was the one that caught my eye.

The torte consists of a large meringue base, which is baked and then covered with strawberries and topped with fresh whipped cream. As you will note in the Scrambled CAKE photo album, Smartypants provided able assistance throughout the process. Even so, our first attempt failed--maybe my pan was too small? We halved the recipe and tried again, with delicious results. The super-sugary meringue, tart strawberries and rich (unsweetened) cream combined to create am amazing, melt-in-your-mouth dessert.

I can't believe we've never had this before. This is one Passover dessert that can be enjoyed all year round.

April 01, 2007

Matzah Mania!

We’ve eaten the bread, crunched the crackers, and packed away the pasta in preparation for Passover, which starts Monday evening. Guess which of the following foods will be on the menu for the week?

A. Matzah Kugel
B. Matzah Schmattas
C. Matzah Lasagna
D. Matzah Brie
E. Matzah Bris
F. Matzah Balls
G. Matzah Ice Cream Cones
H. Matzah Nachos
I. Ice Cream A La Matzah
J. Matzah Toffee
K. Matzah A La Matzah
L. Matzah Lasagna

Answers: This Passover we will be eating A, C, D, F, J and L. To our knowledge, products B, E, G, I, and K do not exist. We may experiment with H.

If you got them all correct: Hooray, this yiddeshe mama is kvelling for you!
If your got more than two wrong, stop watching Borat and make some Jewish friends, already!


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