Friday, February 26, 2016


Pork Saltimbocca
Another all-time fave

Saltimbocca, which in Italian means "leap into the mouth", is a traditional Mediterranean dish that is commonly made with veal. Using veal is delicious, but I prefer to use pork. It can also be prepared with chicken. All three meats make mouthwatering Saltimbocca.  Some recipes call for the prosciutto to be rolled inside the cutlets, but I favor leaving the meat flat. Either way, it's an easy 30-minute meal, perfect for this doldrum time of year, and is a real crowd pleaser...

Here is what you will need:

6 thin sliced Pork Cutlets
6-8 slices of Prosciutto
12-14 pieces of Sage
1 cup of Flour
1/2 cup of Chicken Broth
1 cup White Wine
2 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Mustard
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

If the meat is a cut thick, slice it horizontally into 2 separate cutlets.  It can also be pounded lightly (especially if using chicken).  Each cutlet should be 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. 

Begin by lightly flouring each cutlet.  Put 2-3 sage leaves on top of the floured cutlet and place a slice (or two) of prosciutto over the leaves.  Secure prosciutto and sage to the meat with a toothpick:

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable) in a pan over medium heat. Add the meat to pan, sage side down, and agitate to avoid sticking.  Cook on this side until golden brown, or about 3 minutes.
Set the timer!

Flip the cutlets over and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Set aside and let rest, but keep the pan juices. 

Meanwhile, let's make some gravy.  
Add white wine to the sauté pan and simmer until it becomes syrupy.  Add 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1 tablespoon of mustard, 2 tablespoons butter, and salt/pepper to taste.  If a thicker gravy is desired, sift a tablespoon of flour into the sauce. 

Place the meat on plate, sage side up and drizzle with the delicious gravy.  
Everyone is going to LOVE it! 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Eating with Children

Healthy Eating Habits

A Parenting Journey

When my family eats together in a restaurant, it is not uncommon for me to receive compliments from fellow diners about my daughter's interest in fine food. Most of these diners are parents who find it challenging to get their own children to eat well.  This is surprising to me. My child eats well, but don't most?

Like many youngsters, my daughter perks up when I make plans to dine at the local pizza parlor or burger joint, (those french fries -- oh boy!)  But she is equally excited about enjoying pad thai, or chicken vindaloo, or hearty Vietnamese pho, or pork saltimbocca, or ramen. And at home, her big request these days -- baked cauliflower; it's on our dinner menu 2-3 days a week (try it -- just drizzle with olive oil, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper, and bake for 20-25 min, so easy, so good!).

When I receive comments about my daughter's impressive eating, I am never sure how to react.  There is no special trick to getting her to eat well, she does so simply because she has only been exposed to foods that are healthful and well-prepared. I have long believed that children's food should not be that dissimilar from adults. And yes, I will admit that I am one of those parents that proudly boasts about having a daughter who has never had fast food (at rest areas, when traveling, I always opt for the healthier sandwiches and fruit cups at the Starbuck's kiosk). But, that said, my daughter's eating habits are by no means a great stressor in our lives. She eats what we eat, and we eat well.

It's simple:  if given a choice, children do not naturally gravitate to the most healthy options.  But, if healthy options are the only options offered (mostly) then that is what they will learn to love. Like everything else, eating is learned behavior.

In my family, when eating dinner at home, I serve a protein or a pasta -- chicken cutlets, pot roast, pasta marinara, and so on.  But, always included with these main dishes are a dark green vegetable; I prefer bitter greens such as Kale, Swiss Chard or Broccoli Rabe.  After this, there is always a large salad course.  So now, at home or otherwise, when my daughter looks down on a plate that does not include both a vegetable or a salad, she thinks it is unusual. And it is unusual, for her.

Children seem to receive a lot of messages --  from peers, from the media, even from adults -- that they shouldn't enjoy vegetables, that they should be suspicious of them. But this can be turned around, and can be easily, by ensuring that our children are inheriting our vibrant eating habits. And then, without sounding silly, we should expect to hear comments like "there aren't enough vegetables here" or "when is the salad course?" when the balance is off.


Like everyone else, I love a tasty dessert.  But, as a forty-something year old, if I expect to remain in my current pant size, I have to limit myself. So, in my house, aside from the occasional box of organic vanilla wafers,  there aren't many dessert options in our pantry at any given time. On weeknights/school nights, dessert is limited mostly to a bowl of yogurt or better yet, fruit. Ice cream is a treat that is reserved for a weekend night, as a special treat. This is our normal, isn't it everyone's?

And, if you ask my daughter, candy is a VERY special treat.  Hard candy, in particular, is simply dangerous for children -- it's a huge choking hazard, especially when eaten while running around.  So, on the rare occasion that my daughter is allowed to eat hard candy, I require that she remain safely seated at a table. An added benefit to this rule --  the candy is usually discarded long before it is finished.

Also, before taking a pieces of candy, my daughter must promise to  "double brush" -- meaning that she must brush her teeth twice as long as normal later, or before bedtime.  This not only makes her conscious of the effects the sugar can have on other parts of her body, but also on what it can have on her dentals.

So the next time someone makes a comment to me about how well my daughter eats, I can share this (somewhat didactic) post with them, it's simple -- that my daughter eats what we eat.

And that worked for us.

Be well!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Candy Holidays

The Forgotten Valentine

When our daughter was in Kindergarten, I was on top of everything -- birthday parties, school projects, fundraising, piano lessons, whatever was thrown my way, I had it covered. With pride, I can say that I still have it all covered. It's my job. But, somehow that year, her first year in school full-time, I missed a big one, a really big one -- Valentine's Day.

On that February 14th morning, just like every other weekday morning, I walked my daughter to school. We were as chipper as could be, skipping down the sidewalk, hand-in-hand, whistling and singing her favorite songs, making up silly stories, with characters that had silly names (like the little girl called "window"), giggling the whole way.

Quickly, that all changed!  As we approached the school's imposing front steps, I stopped suddenly and became alarmed, red-faced alarmed! All the other buttoned-up parents were proudly carrying elaborate Valentine surprises -- colorful home baked treats with delicious swirly icing, hand crafted, sparkling cards, fancy bags of hearts, bright red balloons, and other very involved Valentine paraphernalia.  I had nothing, absolutely nothing -- nada!

Darn pagan holidays, they get me every time! And a candy holiday, at that -- no wonder I forgot.  Do candy holidays even make sense any more? Aside from all that sugar being permantly cemented into our kid's psyche, isn't it also becoming permanently cemented into their beautiful young teeth?

Kids love making tissue paper flowers, a great alternative to candy!

Back to the story...

While my daughter remained chipper, not recognizing all the intricate efforts her classmates (well, their parents mostly) had put into their perfect little creations, I knew that very soon, once the celebration began in the classroom, she, as the only one without anything to give, would be absolutely reduced to tears.  My heart sank. Way to go dad, you'll never live this one down, I thought to myself. Don't panic -- act quickly.

I could have sworn I heard a group of my mom friends whispering "he's usually so much more gentlemanly" when they saw me sprinting out of that school like a demented mad man, nearly knocking over a feeble lady slowly walking with a cane, and then racing across three lanes of oncoming traffic and into the local Duane Reade, hoping to find any remaining Valentine trinkets. Out of breath, I rummaged through the paltry remains of the store's stock.  I found some tattered, flimsy cards, a bag of mostly broken heart shaped lolli-pops, and some pale red(ish) stickers. This will have to do, I thought.

At home, fully aware that the clock was ticking, I tore into my prized and very organized closet of wrapping papers, ribbons and gift boxes.  In seconds, it was spread out all over the bedroom floor. There, found it -- the red ribbon.  20 perfectly professional, frayless mini bows, tirelessly weaved together with the little red treats, and then knotted into each of the cards -- done!

Minutes later, I burst back into the school and soon found myself interrupting what appeared to be a very serious meeting between my daughter's head teacher and some distinctive, earnest education specialists. Luckily, the kids were somewhere else, gym class I think. After pulling herself away from that dour group, the head teacher (reminiscent of the curt, disapproving nuns I had in elementary school) smilelessly asked what was the matter, clearly annoyed. After explaining the Valentine oversight, she (Sister Julianna's tone here) reproachfully expressed reluctance in handing out cards that were not produced by my daughter (as if, I thought to myself). After a few terse words (something about how confusing this may be to my child -- seemingly inferring permanent, lifelong mental scars) she unenthusiastically took the cards.

Phew, I really dodged a bullet this time! I think.

After a highly-anxious rest of the day, I hesitantly approached the school for pick-up. I didn't know how my daughter felt about the Valentines, the ones that she had not made herself. But, those worries were quickly put aside. At dismissal, she burst out of the classroom, jumped into my arms and gave me the biggest, warmest, prize-worthy hug. It seemed that Sister Julianna, I mean her head teacher, had indeed misjudged her. My daughter's friends loved the cards and the treats, but more than that, my, precocious, all-knowing daughter seemed to understand everything that I had been through to make it happen. It was the best "thanks dad" I ever got!

What did I do to deserve such an gem?

Needless to say, I have not forgotten Valentine's Day ever since. We did our Valentine's Day cards this past weekend, and it was a blast. But, every year, I think of the holiday that I forgot, and how I miraculously saved it from disaster.

I am only just now able to talk and write about that day. Crazy -- we get to a certain age and we should know there is no sense laughing about it later, why wait! Laugh now!

Today's photos are some of the creations my little Valentine and I  constructed yesterday.

 Happy Valentine's Day!!

The tissue flower making kits are great fun, you can find them at:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Brooklyn Experience

Why Brooklyn?

We just purchased our third townhouse in Brooklyn (as mentioned in prior posts).  After selling our Park Slope limestone, I contemplated leaving Brooklyn, of taking New York money and using it to live grandly, really grandly, almost anywhere else.  I dreamed about a house with some land, a pool,  a gym, and maybe even a cutting garden.What a resplendent life we could have!

 But, that didn't happen, we didn't depart Brooklyn, we stayed. Actually, the thought of leaving Brooklyn was, well, fleeting, at best.

 But why? 
Why can't we get New York, or better yet, Brooklyn, out of our system? 
While only scratching the surface, here are a few of the many reasons...

Grand Army Plaza in beautiful Park Slope

First : There is no getting bored in Brooklyn.

On any given weekend, it is not uncommon for our family to take a quick morning walk and somehow not return until late in the evening. Without a plan, we can wander from one park to the next, stopping at restaurants (with renown chefs in the kitchen), shopping in various neighborhoods, buzzing into the Brooklyn Museum to visit our friends Rothko, Degas and Mondrian, and then, without fail, running into another family who, likewise, were out on a "walk."

This encounter invariably turns into an improptu afternoon playdate which then leads to someone darting into the local market (where specialty items such as imported D'Affonois cheese or obscure ingredients for a recipe from the newest Ottolenghi cookbook can be procured). Time flies, and soon dinner for 10 is being prepared in the kitchen of whomever lives closest.  Unparalleled worldly conversion transpires around a well laid tabled, all the while, children run around, having the time of their lives,  in the rear yard. That's how it is here, a typical Saturday in Brooklyn, and it's hard to give that up.

View from a Brooklyn Heights roof terrace

Second: Manhattan!

With 2.6 million people, Brooklyn would be the 3rd largest city in America, just behind Chicago, if it were separated out from the rest of New York City.  By itself, it is its own electric metropolis.  But, it's not by itself. In its front yard is Manhattan, full of theater, culture, music, style, and maybe some mischief.  While there is no getting bored in Brooklyn, Manhattan's hustle and bustle can be a pleasant diversion.

Park Slope

Third: The rich diversity

Every nationality is represented in Brooklyn.  On our daughter's short walk to school every morning, she is likely to encounter an Indian person, a homeless person, a gay person, a Muslim person, a billionaire, a disabled person, a Guyanese person, and maybe even a Schiek!  She doesn't understand prejudice in the same way that other kids her age, living in more segregated areas, might. Moreover,  people do not see her same-gender parents as being unusual. So, for us, diversity enriches our lives, gives us a wide range of cultural experiences and can be wonderfully inclusive and protective for all types of families. 

Historic homes in Brooklyn Heights

Aside from various religions, skin colors and types of families that can be found in Brooklyn,  there are various neighborhoods. Brownstone Brooklyn comprises of a cluster of towns, all linked together, each having their own small-town feel. Here are a few:

Blending old and new,  in cavernous DUMBO

  Park Slope -- almost an Edwardian feel, popular with athletic types, and celebrities
Windsor Terrace -- quiet, eclectic, lots of young families
Brooklyn Heights -- tasteful, almost colonial, and expensive
Carroll Gardens -- old world Italian mixed with yuppies
Fort Greene - diverse, mature, multi-cultural
Williamsburg -- indie art, trendy,  and young. 

Chandelier in the Brooklyn Museum

Fourth - The Style

Much like the rest of New York City, in Brooklyn, everyone has their own style -- and it's all acceptable.  What sets Brooklyn apart is that the style is slightly less polished than in Manhattan, it is a bit more eclectic, and a little more irreverent.  But, like its people, Brooklyn style is still smart,  just a little more rolled up. This applies to more than what is worn on people's backs. It carries over to how homes are furnished and how the gardens are tended, and how restaurants and shops present themselves. It's beautiful. 

Fifth -- The Food

Simply put, Brooklyn continue to dominate as the food capital.  If the food is not good, it doesn't make it here. Enough said! 

Saturday in DUMBO

Brooklyn, with all its rich history, and familial roots (everyone seems to come from here), is easily the best borough to wander and mill about at random. Having lived here a good part of my adult life, I find it surprising that I can still chance upon sites that I had not experienced previously. It's truly a place for everyone, even if only for a day.