Learning to cook … one kid at a time

Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili September 30, 2010

Filed under: "Fast Food" — gastromami @ 12:31 pm

(Yep!  That’s a dollop of sour cream (lite)!  I LOVE sour cream!)

This recipe comes from my Aunt Colleen Zematis as part of the Steenberge Cookbook.

I was flipping through the pages looking for something yummy and fall-y, and this looked perfect!

I love sweet potatoes, I think mostly because they were such a treat growing up.  My mom, and my dad, don’t really care for sweet potatoes so I used to love going to my Nana’s where she would load them up with butter and sprinkle with a little bit of brown sugar!  Yum!

This recipe calls for 1 can of sweet potatoes but I had fresh lying around so I just peeled 2, cut into cubes, and par-boiled for 15 minutes.  Even with the “extra” work of using fresh potatoes, this recipe still took less than 30 minutes!

I love a less-than-30-minute dinner that is as good as this recipe!  It was so yummy with a little bit of spiciness, a little bit of sweetness from the mango and the heartiness of beans and ground turkey!  Also – this is healthy and full of  the good stuff my, and your, body needs!

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1-1.5 lbs. ground turkey breast

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15 oz) can sweet potatoes (or 2 fresh, peeled, cubed, and par-boiled)

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion

1 (14.5 oz) can reduced sodium chicken broth

1 cup mango nectar

1 packet (1.25 oz) chili seasoning mix (I used spicy but would suggest mild for most kids!)

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Peel 2 small sweet potatoes and cube.  Boil for 15 minutes, drain and set aside

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over med-high heat.  Ad ground turkey and garlic to the hot oil;  cook and stir about 5 minutes or until turkey is cooked through.

Add 1 packet chili seasoning mix and 1/2 teaspoon allspice

2 cans black beans

Cooked sweet potatoes

1 can diced tomatoes

1 cup mango juice

1 can chicken broth

Stir to combine.

Bring mixture to a boil;  reduce heat.

Simmer for 10 minutes or until liquid thickens.

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and/or cilantro (not pictured)

For Ren, I stirred in 2 tablespoons of whole-milk yogurt.

Ren approved!

I know, I know, he looks pretty pissed in this picture.  And he is.  I wouldn’t let him have my phone while he ate.  After 2 trips to the Apple store in the last few months, who can blame me?  Me, he wasn’t so happy with.  Dinner, however, was a hit!


What is YOUR favorite chili recipe???


Mexican “Peanut Butter” September 29, 2010

Filed under: "Fast Food" — gastromami @ 12:53 pm

Reny laughs every time I say Mexican Peanut Butter, but really, you can put this “dip” on anything:  toast, chips, quesadillas, bagels, etc., so it really is like peanut butter!  So easy to whip up, this was a staple snack during high school and college.

I remember the first time I had this dip, we had headed down to Texas to spend some time at my uncle’s ranch – ride the horses, sleep in the barn, feel like we were “roughing it” in the country, and my vegetarian aunt made this for a snack.  I was probably 10 and hooked.

1 can (15.25 oz)  fat-free, vegetarian refried beans

1 box (8 oz)  1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened

1 can (5 oz) chopped green chilis

1/2-1 cup medium salsa (to taste)

ground cumin (lots!)

garlic, onion powder and chili powder to taste

one to four jalapeno peppers (however hot you like it!)

  1. Finely dice jalapeno peppers
  2. Mix all ingredients at high speed until smooth
  3. Enjoy!

Ren approved!


Ham & Tomato Mac-N-Cheese* September 28, 2010

Filed under: Recipes,Things that make me smile — gastromami @ 10:15 am

I think I’ve mentioned that this baby is begging for calcium!

I went a little crazy in the cheese section at Whole Foods so some homemade Mac N Cheese sounded perfect!  While I’m not a huge lunch meat fan, I think the very fact that I am not allowed to eat cold lunch meat had me craving some ham.  So, I grabbed some nitrite-free ham, whole grain noodles, fresh and plump tomatoes and headed home to cook up some good soul food!

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 lb. whole grain noodles (spiral or elbow)

2 1/2 cups milk

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

4 cups cheese (I like to use a combination of white cheddar and gruyère)

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 lb. nitrite-free ham, cut into cubes

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

2 large tomatoes, sliced or diced (in retrospect, I should have diced!)

For the crust:

Homemade breadcrumbs or panko

1/2 cup grated cheese (cheddar, gruyère or parmesan)

1 tablespoon melted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 350˚

Butter a casserole dish and set aside.

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water.  Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Dice ham

Grate cheese

Heat milk until just before boiling and set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Once the butter foams up, add the flour and whisk for 1 minute.  While still whisking, slowly add the hot milk.  Continue whisking for 6-8 minutes until the milk mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and stir in some fresh ground black pepper, nutmeg, and cheese.

Stir in the thyme

Stir in the pasta

Stir in the ham

Place into casserole dish

Top with fresh tomato

Mix 1 tablespoon melted butter, breadcrumbs and cheese

Sprinkle over the casserole and bake …

… until golden brown!  (about 45 minutes)

Ren approved!

** A slight variation on Jennifer Chandler’s recipe in Simply Suppers!  While I have not gotten my hands on a copy yet I would highly recommend doing so!  I’m hoping for one wrapped up under my tree this December!


Reny, Jose, and Kelly … Oh My! September 24, 2010

Filed under: Restuarant Review,Things that make me smile — gastromami @ 9:38 am

Have you ever had one of those nights when you just can’t decide where to go to dinner?

Have you thought, “I would love to go out and have a nice meal at one of the best restaurants in Memphis,” but couldn’t decide whether to indulge in the bistro-fare of Master Chef Jose Gutierrez at River Oaks, the New Orleans flare of Chef Kelly English at Restaurant Iris, or the Latin spice of Chef Reny Alfonso at Chez Philippe?

Well, now you don’t have to decide!

Months ago, these three chefs met for lunch; talk turned to food, and the three began to think about working together on a dinner.  As talk often does with chefs, ideas grew, and grew, and grew and this collaborative dinner became a

3 night, 3 chef, 3 course dinner series

On September 12th we gathered for the first night of the series and it went well beyond even my own expectations.  You see, I am married to Reny so I know how well he cooks (why do you think I married him!?);  and, I actually met Reny while I was working for Jose at Encore – so I know just how spectacular everything is that he puts on a plate.  I knew that with these three, dinner was going to blow me away … and well, it blew me straight to the Milky Way.

Upon entering River Oaks for the 6:00 PM dinner guests were greeted with a glass of Aria cava, sweetened with a little cassis and fresh raspberries while the servers roamed the room with tastes of rabbit confit, goat cheese fritters, salmon croquettes with creme fraiche, and potato and basil wrapped shrimp.

1st Course by Reinaldo Alfonso

Shrimp and Salmon Terrine, Wild Mushroom and Rice Salad, Spiced Tomato Coulis, Cracked Cumin Seed Tuille

paired with:  Twomey Savignon Blanc

Wow!  Moist, delicate, sweet, savory, spicy … this light and beautiful dish was the perfect start to our meal.  Paired with the delightfully crisp Twomey sauvignon blanc

2nd Course by Kelly English

Lamb Sirloin “Vin Cotto” with Andouille and Truffled Gumbo Jus

paired with:  Silver Oak Cabernet

*disclaimer – Reny was in charge of taking pictures in the kitchen and said he got too busy plating to get the final products!

Beautifully cooked, tender lamb served over a bed of flavorful andouille complimented by the earthiness of truffles.  Yum!  This dish was huge (perfect for the pregnant lady and all meat lovers) and no, that wine was not a misprint, we were really given SILVER OAK CABERNET (Alexander Valley) with the second course!  One of my favorites, the wine was the perfect balance to the gaminess of the lamb.  It is rare that I get to drink Silver Oak and I, for one, have never seen it featured at a wine dinner like this!  (and at this price!)  Oscar of Star Distributors did an excellent job, as always, visiting each table to talk about the wines and I can’t wait to see what he has coming for the next two dinners!

3rd Course by Jose Gutierrez

Almond, Fig & Honey Galette with Mascarpone Ice Cream

This dish was perfect on a hot summer night;  warm, light, and paired with beautiful mascarpone ice cream and the flavor of almond and the sweetness of the figs jumped on your tongue.  This dish was paired with a muscato but I’m sorry I can’t remember which wine!

This third course rounded out the meal by “The Master” himself and didn’t disappoint!

If you were unable to attend the dinner at River Oaks, you still have two more chances to dine with these three chefs!

Each dinner is held on a Sunday night at 6:00pm and includes 3-courses, 3-wines, and 3-chefs for $65!

Restaurant Iris

2146 Monroe Ave.

Memphis, TN 38104

October 17, 2010

6:00 pm

for reservations call


Chez Philippe

149 Union Ave.

Memphis, TN 38103

November 7, 2010

6:00 pm

for reservations call


Here is a sneak peak of the menu at Chez Philippe

1st Course:  Kelly English, Iris

Hifalutin Shrimp “Boil,”  Sauce Meuniere, Andouille, Corn

2nd Course:  Jose Gutierrez, River Oaks

Coq au Vin, puree de celeri-rave, and les petits oignons au vin rouge

3rd Course:  Reinaldo Alfonso, Chez Philippe

Dulce de Leche Mille-Feuilles, crisp pastry, dulce de leche mousse, poached apple and caramel sauce


Peaches! September 23, 2010

Filed under: Things that make me smile — gastromami @ 11:40 am

I think this might have been one of the defining moments in Ren’s life.

What is this mom?  Can I have it?

I could just see his little mind working as he took that first, marvelous bite of his peach (way under-ripened by the way!  Peaches ripen off the tree and well, we were picking them!)

Yes, I had fed Reny peaches before.  In fact, it was the one food he refused to eat as an infant.

But this day, the first time he held that warm, fuzzy, fresh peach directly off the tree and took that first bite, he was smitten.

He loved them so much he had one in each hand at all times.  And kept trying to share his half-eaten, half-slobbered on peach with everyone.  Oh, what love that boy has …

Look at that pure joy!

Thank you Mama!  Can we pick peaches every day?

That day, at the peach farm on Route 20, my son became OBSESSED with peaches.  He stands at the counter grunting “dis dis dis” at the fruit bowl.  He beeeegggggs for peaches.  And once he gets one, well, pure happiness!

When we buy peaches at the farmer’s market, we must either

A.  buy them while Reny isn’t looking


B.  head immediately to one of the tables so he can devour the fresh, juicy peach

Pure. Joy.

I’m gonna miss peach season ….


Easy, Fast, Crustless Quiche September 22, 2010

Filed under: Breakfast — gastromami @ 3:07 pm

This is the easiest quiche recipe e.v.e.r.

My dad made this quiche all the time.  It does take longer to cook, than say, pancakes but it was always a good Sunday when we woke up and these were cooking in the oven.  The base of the quiche is three simple steps, with ingredients I always have in the house (eggs, milk, bisquick).  The key is just using whatever is laying around to always make it new and interesting.

Since iron-rich food is on my meal plan for the next 7 months, I used TONS of spinach in mine, cheese and tomatoes!

Pre-heat the oven to 375˚

Spray a pie pan with cooking spray and add your ingredients:

(i.e. cheese, tomatoes (here), ham, mushrooms, zucchini, you get the idea….)

I used a combination of gruyere and cheddar

one large tomato, chopped

In a blender add:

1 cup Heart-Healthy Bisquick

4 eggs

2 cups milk

That’s the base!  1 cup Bisquick, 4 eggs, 2 cups milk!  So easy!

I like to add my seasonings into the blender also;  be generous!

Today I used oregano, sage, salt and pepper

If I am including spinach in my quiche I like to also throw that in the blender.  Why, you ask?  Because I can get A TON of it in there if blended and, if blended up with all the yummy stuff, little fingers can’t pick it out!

See, a LOT of spinach!  I used almost an entire bag of spinach for one quiche!  Yum!

Pour the egg and milk mixture over your ingredients in the pie pan

and bake at 375˚ for about an hour

until golden brown and firm in the middle!

Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving!

Ren approved!


Autumn Vegetables and Pork Loin September 21, 2010

Filed under: Recipes — gastromami @ 3:10 pm

I love fall and if you know me at all, it is no secret that I am totally over these 95˚ September days.  I am pining for Fuhrman’s apple cider and kuchen cinnamon bread, Friday night football games with hot chocolate in styrofoam cups, crunchy leaves under my feet, a new scarf and hat and sweaters …

… and bundled babies!

So despite the hot hot days I am baking pumpkin-cranberry muffins, drinking hot tea and using sage as much as possible!

This pork loin recipe was super easy to make, super yummy and made the house smell wonderful!

Chop up 6 stalks of carrots, 4 potatoes, and 3 apples and put in roasting pan.

Toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil,  generously sprinkle with paprika and sage;

finish seasoning with a dash of garlic, salt, and pepper.

Bake at 400˚ for 30 minutes.

Coat the pork loin with olive oil and generously season with salt, pepper, garlic, sage and oregano.

Heat a dry saute pan over medium-high heat and add pork loin.

Sear pork, 5 minutes on each side, until browned.

Place the browned pork loin on the half-cooked vegetables and bake an additional 30-40 minutes until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 155˚ F.

Once the pork has reached the proper temperature, remove the pork loin and let rest for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, turn off the oven but leave the vegetables in the closed oven to continue cooking and stay hot.

Carve pork and serve with vegetables!


Ren approved!