Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Total Recall

Last week, around 9 pm, I received a text from my friend, neighbor, and fellow mommy Janalle.  "In case you are using formula, certain Simulac has been recalled."  

I had just started giving The Sprout a bottle of formula a day just 2 weeks before in preparation for a trip to Puerto Rico in October.  I wanted her to get used to the formula in the bottle before going out of town, and organic Simulac was the brand I decided to go with.  Within minutes of receiving that text I was online typing in the product number of the formula.  

I thought to myself..."Surely their organic product is not contaminated..." but alas, I was wrong.  In big red letters the website told me that their organic formula had been recalled and that I needed to discontinue use immediately.  My heart sank. I felt sick to my stomach.  Guilt swept over me.  My poor baby had been drinking something that could have made her ill. I felt like a failure in a small way.

A factory in Michigan that made the formula had been infested with beetles and 5 million containers of formula were being recalled because they had bug parts and larvae in them, which when ingested could irritate an infants GI track.  It is a mother's nightmare to know that they had been giving their child something that could harm them.  Nightmare.

How does a factory that produces food for infants become infested with beetles?  How the hell did 5 million containers of formula hit the shelves before this infestation was even noticed?  What the hell does this say about the FDA and government health inspectors?  You would think that corporations feeding our nations most vulnerable citizens would be held to a far higher standard.

I began to think about the employee that found the infestation.  It must have been a terrifying experience, because for there to be enough bugs to contaminate such a huge number of products there must have been millions of bugs crawling all over that factory.

I thought this week I would make a list of all the food recalls that have occured in the USA this year alone.  Then I started to research and realized that for me to list all the food that has been recalled within the past 8 months would take me ages.  It is shocking.  There are recalls of food here in the USA every week it seems.  I will list a few just to give you an idea:

8/7/2120: Valley Meat recalls approx. 1 million lbs of frozen ground beef patties and bulk ground beef products for possible E. coli contamination.

7/20/2010: Perdue Farms recalls approx. 91,872 lbs of frozen chicken nugget products that may contain foreign materials. (what the hell does that mean?  Are they riddled with Italian leather or something? You would be surprised how may recalls I found have to do with "foreign materials" in our food.)

6/18/2010:  Campbell Soup Supply Company is recalling 15 million lbs of SpaghettiOs with Meatballs due to under-processing CLASS 1 RECALL, HEALTH RISK HIGH

5/15/2010: Sampco Inc is recalling 87,000 lbs of beef due to animal drug contaminant - a deworming drug called Ivermectin

Do you notice a trend?  Almost all of the recalls have to do with meat.  What is most shocking to me is how under reported this information is...I mean 15 million lbs of SpaghettiO's with meatballs...a class 1 recall. Didn't hear a word about it...and it is a food marketed to children.

This just validates how as a nation we need to support our local farmers, people who cherish the food they raise and grow, rather than buying our food from heartless factory farms.  Join the Slow Food Movement, hit up your farmers markets, buy local.  

If you want to know more about recalls check out
or if you just want to freak yourself out next time you are looking at the rows of raw meat at the grocery store the weekly recall updates will surely do the trick.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Bring your own baby and beverage.  That is what BYOBB stands for literally, but our weekly mommy group means so much more.  Every Wednesday I have anywhere from 2 to 7 moms and their little chicks over to my house for happy hour.  Wednesday is the "hump" day of the week and it is the perfect day to take a break from the whirlwind of motherhood, have a drink, and vent.

And oh do we vent.  We talk about our kids, we talk about our spouses, we talk about out uteruses, we talk about whatever it is that we need to get off our chests.  We are a mix of women...from late 20's to early 40's  and we are bound by the wild experience of being new mothers.  

Being a new mother this day in age is not easy.  In our culture, most of us do not live with extended family...or anywhere near our family.  While generations before us had aunties and grandmothers to build a village to raise our children, today we are isolated...and it is through friendship we find our little tribes that give us the support we need.

At BYOBB there is always a snack for the kids...a fruit of some sort, and always booze for the moms...and something non alcoholic for those with another bun in the oven.  The last gathering Kate, mother of two adorable little fellas brought Tom Collins fixings to add to the 3 half full bottles of wine I had set out.  At BYOBB we are far from booze hounds, but lets just say...we don't mess around.

If it is warm out, I set up the kiddie pool on the porch, pull out some beach chairs and let the kids splash it out while we hash it out.  Water is such an awesome toy for little ones.  It isn't something they can't easily hoard or fight over...which gives us moms a chance to shoot the breeze without having to break up toddler snatch attacks.  

If it is ugly out we move the party inside.  This particular BYOBB there was an offering made to our garden Buddha.

Making time to unwind is hard for parents, and this little weekday get together gives both mom and the kiddos time to let loose a little bit.  I think taking a little time to unwind on "hump day" is probably a healthy practice for anyone, not just mamas.  So often we wait until the weekend to let go, but it is in the middle of the week that we need a break the most.

Good Life Quest # 11 / Hump Day Happiness

Pick an up coming Wednesday and take a little time to unwind.  Do something out of your normal routine, something you save for the weekends.  Maybe grab a drink with a friend after work, or go for a hike.  Whatever it may be...see if you notice a difference in your world during the last 2 day push before the weekend.  Do it for your own sanity.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Mouths to Feed

2 babies. 2 dogs. 2 cats. And now 2 fish.  Every day I am responsible for making sure all these creatures are fed.  The babies, dogs, and cats are relentless in their yearning for meal time.  The babies cry.  The dogs hound me and nip at my heals. But our fish Ponyo and Poopy wait silently until I happen past their tank and sprinkle a little food in.

Ponyo and Poopy were Lil' Bit's gift for her second birthday.  I begged Chef not to get them.  "I have enough to deal with already. You can only get them if you promise to be the one to clean their tank."  Guess who cleaned the tank last?  Lets just say it was not Chef. 

Lil' Bit named the goldfish...Ponyo after her favorite animation character and Poopy because every time we see the fish it seems to be defecating.

We went out of town for almost two weeks in August and when we returned Poopy was twice the size as Ponyo.  At first I thought perhaps they were over fed, but both fish would have gained weight.  Now we think perhaps that Poopy is in fact a girl and that she is pregnant, which would make Ponyo a boy.  These things are hard to tell with fish.  

I have a terrible history with feeding fish.  About seven years ago my uncle who raises koi asked me to feed his fish while he and my aunt were on vacation.  He has a beautiful little pond at his house full of lily pads and vibrant koi.  Koi, like most larger fish, eat pelleted food.  The instructions were simple.  Take a scoop of food out of the bucket and toss it in the pond once a day.  I diligently fed the fish every morning, so they would have full bellies for the day.  It was a beautiful and peaceful ritual that I enjoyed, no chore about it.

It all went smoothly until 2 days before their return.  I went over in the early morning hours like usual and to my horror all of my uncle's gorgeous koi, that he had bred and raised himself, were floating belly up amongst the lilly pads in the soft morning light.  Total massacre.  It is an image that will haunt me for the rest of my life.  I thought for sure it was me who killed them, given that they were left in my stewardship.  It turned out that something happened with the pump in the pond and they did not have enough oxygen.  So, I was off the hook so to speak...but I still felt terrible.

I am a Pisces so at the risk of sounding terribly New Age, I have a certain affinity towards fish.  Even though I resent having two more mouths to feed at home in a day, I love to watch out fish swirl about their little tank.  I find it relaxing, although I do feel little guilty that they are trapped in there for the rest of their lives with only little stinky red flakes of food to eat.  At least they have each other, Ponyo and Poopy...and perhaps one day they will have a family.  

Goldfish love to eat their babies.  They loooove the taste of their fry...the little cannibals.  I have no idea what I am going to tell Lil' Bit if Poopy has babies and then eats them.  "She wanted to keep her babies in her tummy because they tickle."  That is the best I can come up with.  I hope she buys it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shana Tova

I grew up attending private schools in South Florida.  Every year the Jewish students would get certain days off while us gentiles had to drudge through class.  Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was the first of the holidays that my friends had to celebrate while I spent the day at school.  As a child I never knew what Rosh Hashanah was exactly, but I liked how it sounded.  Rosh Hashanah...say it a few times.  It has a nice ring to it.

When Chef and I first started dating and Rosh Hashanah rolled around I decided to make a traditional Jewish meal to celebrate the holiday.  I had no idea what I was celebrating so I googled it and printed up pages of information about the holiday and the symbolism of the food eaten. The Jewish New Year, like most Jewish holidays revolves around culinary tradition.  I made brisket, his Aunt Elaine's apple kugel, stuffed cabbage with buffalo meat ( I have no idea why I used buffalo, it is probably the only chemical free meat I could find at the grocery store). I pulled out all the stops.  I wanted to show his family that this shiksa meant business.

One of the most beautiful things about the Rosh Hashanah meal is the Challah bread.  I mean look at this loaf above, isn't it just gorgeous.  For this holiday, Challah is a round shape, in honor of the cycle of the celebrated year.

We started the meal with a prayer and the breaking of the bread.  I do not know Hebrew, but I love the rhythm it carries as as language.  Lil' Bit watched Chef and repeated the prayer word for word before shouting "Shana Tova" (happy new year) in a toast of Blackberry Manischewitz.  "Mani" as many members of the Tribe warmly refer to it, is a wine that is kosher, blessed by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and it tastes like melted popsicles.

Next course was the mother of of all Jewish comfort foods...Matzah Ball Soup.  Lil' Bit was weirded out by the doughy balls.  She had me remove them and then proceeded to take her little bowl in her hands and drink the broth down.  

Chef and I had a sort of kitchen relay in preparing our main course, stuffed cabbage.  Earlier in the day while the ladies were sleeping I made the sauce and the stuffing.  When he came home from work he cooked the cabbage leaves, stuffed them and cooked them off.  We used Ina Garten's recipe, but replaced the ground chuck with ground turkey.  This picture does not do them justice...they are actually utterly delicious, very easy to make, inexpensive, and perfect for a cold weather meal.

For dessert...apples and honey.  Well, not for Chef.  Apples are lethal to my old man.  Apples and honey symbolize a "sweet year." The tradition comes from medieval times, but the phrase "sweet year" seems more like contemporary surf lingo if you ask me.  

"Sweet year, man.  Sweeeet year."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

29 South Family Feast

Last Sunday we threw the staff at 29 South our annual employee appreciation dinner...aka Feast Party for the people who strive to keep our restaurant booming.  Seven courses for twenty-two people cooked by Chef and served by yours truly to celebrate the job they do for us.  I am not trying to brag, okay maybe just a little bit...but Chef and I pulled it off without a single harsh word... all seven courses in exactly 2 hours. In order to keep the peace between us, there are 3 rules I must follow when Chef and I embark on a production like this:

1. Don't give suggestions. 2. Don't ask questions. 3. Keep my head down and do what the man says.

Chef begins prep for parties of this nature about 2 days out, depending on what he is cooking. A sure sign that something delicious is going on in the kitchen is when you pop open your garbage can and a pile of lobster shell is looking back at you.

Sweet pea panna cotta in process...a precarious set up. 

While he cooks, I clean. And clean. And clean some more. I clean during prep, during the meal, and afterwards as well.  But I am not singing the dishwater blues...I also get to make lovely little arrangements for the tables. This year I wanted to use things from our garden we have buckwheat, sage, and rosemary.  Simple and fresh.

The first course of the evening, served with a yummy Pinot Gris was Crispy Pork Belly with Honey Roasted Peaches.   I am a huge fan of sweet and savory and this plate nailed the best of both.

The second course,  Braised Veal Cheek Lasagna with Chestnut Cream.  I don't eat baby animals, but if I ever did this is how I would want to do it.  There is eight sheets of paper thin hand rolled pasta in this little cheeky bite.  I was really tempted to lick the chestnut cream pot...

Remember the peas from earlier and the lobster..well this is how it turned out...not too shabby huh?  Lobster on Sweet Pea Panna Cotta with Creme Fraiche and Caviar


The next course was not served with a glass of wine...because it was a Prosecco and Elderberry Gelee with fresh berries. A nice little palatte cleaner don't you think?

The picture below does not do this course justice. Ballotine of Quail with Boar Sausage and Chevre Filled Marrow Bones. To the left is a faux marrow bone.  Chef carves them out of potato and fills them with a savory custard.   As I was clearing the tables after this course I practically had to pry the plate out of the hands of our chef de cuisine.  

The cheese course...Roasted Pears in Vin Santo with Pecorino.  It was just gorgeous.  Chef is a true could I not love this man.


I mean he is adorable is he not?  


This is the final course, Sea Salt Caramel Coppetta with Rosemary Chocolate Sauce and Candied Bacon.  Yes, candied bacon.  This little sundae was extraordinary. 


The aftermath.  We knocked it out of the park. Yes, I am so tooting my own horn.  It was a blast.  Chef had to spend the evening in the kitchen, but I mixed and mingled while serving.  It was great to see our entire staff,  the front and back of the house together, all smiles, enjoying a meal that they didn't have to cook or serve.  It was our gift to them for all they give to us...a 29 South family feast.