Learning to cook … one kid at a time

Nana Helen’s ‘Nana Bread January 28, 2011

Filed under: 'Nack! (Snacks!),For Helpers!,Recipes,Things that make me smile — gastromami @ 7:48 am


Nana Helen was my Nana’s mom,

my mom’s “Gram” but we called her Nana Helen.

She lived with my grandparents for years and, although she passed away when I was about 5, I remember her fondly.

Her spirit has always been a part of our lives due to this banana bread.

My mom made it, well, all the time it seems.

Maybe because none of us will eat a banana with even one brown spot?

What can I say, we like them slightly green.



Anyway, it was one of those weeks that I was just looking for a little motivation.

Due to circumstances


** break **

(Ren just threw an entire bowl of cereal with blueberries all over the place – awesome)


Anyway, due to circumstances out of our control (Reny working looooong hours, snow, canceled swim lessons, uncleared sidewalks, nasty colds) this week found us home more often than not.  Those kind of “sweatpants and slippers” weeks tend to leave me feeling a little sedentary and ….

… so, needless to say, when it gets to this point, there is only one thing to do:


Pull out the mixer, some flour, sugar and butter and bake!


I happened to have a ton! of bananas on hand since I picked some up at the grocery store on Monday and then, when finding myself going back through the produce department on Wednesday, a certain little fruit-lover about threw a fit when I didn’t get another bunch of ‘nanas!!!!


I waited until Ren woke up from his nap, because baking together is something both of us look forward to.

This recipe is simple and easy, and, the best part about baking it with a toddler is that there are no eggs so I don’t feel guilty about letting him lick the batter to his little hearts content!



2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, softened

1 3/4 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 ripe bananas, mashed




Pre-heat oven to 350˚





Mash the bananas until they look like this:

Set aside



Sift dry ingredients

Stir to combine, set aside



Grease and flour a bread pan, set aside



Cream butter and sugar

Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients, stirring until just blended

Add 1/2 of the bananas, stir to combine

Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and then bananas.

Pour into prepared pan

Bake at 350˚ for 45-60 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out clean



Our favorite way to enjoy the bread is warm out of the oven, smothered in peanut butter!




Ren’s favorite way to eat the ‘nana bread?

Right off the beater!




We are headed to Connecticut tomorrow for The Sun Winefest

so we will see y’all next week!

(we might, finally!, be linked into the Eastern seaboard’s food scene but I’m having trouble letting go of the y’all … )


I could use a little inspiration … January 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — gastromami @ 11:12 am

To write

To clean

To fold laundry

To pack for our trip to Connecticut this weekend




But for now I’ll sit here with this

A reheated bowl of Pasta Bolognese from my 2nd mom




when Ren wakes up



We will make some banana bread,

Bundle up,

And head out to play in the snow



And look for some inspiration among the crystalized trees


Los Gallos January 22, 2011

Filed under: Philadelphia,Restuarant Review — gastromami @ 11:18 am

When I was pregnant with Ren I could not get enough fruits and veggies

I would literally steam an entire head of broccoli, squeeze some lemon on top, maybe a little freshly grated parm, and call it dinner.

I would eat pasta with vegetables about 3 times a week and Reny would come home from the grocery store with 3 quarts of strawberries.

It’s no wonder that Ren has turned into the vegetable-loving, meat-scorning kid that he is – sometimes I think Dada Reny is a little concerned about his utter dislike for meat.  His intense love for anything green or sitting in the fruit bowl is a trait he inherited from his Nanni.   For as blonde and “gringo” as this kid is, we have always joked that #2 will come out with dark hair, dark eyes and with a Hispanic cry (seriously, Hispanic babies cry differently than American!)  It’s no wonder that some of my initial cravings were for Latin food!

One of the things we have missed the most from Memphis were the plethora of taquerias for our bi-weekly after-Mass lunch.  As anyone who loves Mexican knows, it takes a little bit of trial and error to find that one place that will always satisfy your craving and never disappoint.

For myself, a Mexican restaurant must have:

chips and salsa (duh)

tacos pastor

rice and beans

agua fresca  (i’m not picky but I love cantaloupe, pineapple or mango)




Reny has some Mexican cooks so he got a few names of restaurants and we headed out to try our first taqueria in Philadelphia.

Los Gallos

951 Wolf St.

Philadelphia, PA 19148





The restaurant looks like a corner market from the outside.

Well, it basically is a corner market with a restaurant in back.

Parking was a nightmare as it is in the middle of a neighborhood where, I’m assuming, everyone parks on the street.  We did happen to find a spot close to the restaurant after one circle of the block and headed in for dinner.

The front part of the store is a basic market – boasting a large (relative to the space) central produce area and basic necessities.

Along the wall they had a selection of Latin products, nothing too major that we couldn’t find in the Latin section at most urban groceries but it would be awesome to have it around the corner!

In the back is a deli counter and about 6 tables.

There were a few guys sitting at one table waiting for a to-go order and other than that the space was empty (it was 5:30 on a freezing cold Sunday night).

In fact, for our entire meal, no one else ate in the space but there were quite a few to-go orders being picked up.

We grabbed a table and asked for a high chair:

Big negative:  No high chairs  (i.e. nothing to strap Ren down!)

There is also a large cooler area to get your drinks:

Honestly, this could be trouble if Ren was much older.

Chock full of sweet, HFCS-filled drinks, it would be a nightmare if Ren registered anything but “jugo”

Unfortunately they did not have any aguas frescas so I settled on water and we got Ren a treat:


Ok maybe this kid is Latin afterall ….

Horchata is a rice milk drink with cinnamon – tastes pretty much like a chai latte

However, I love chai, iced or warm, but I can’t drink more than a sip of Horchata

Reny, speaking in Spanish to the lady, determined that they had homemade Horchata and ordered a glass for himself.

Well, Ren drank, drank, drank, all of his and then proceeded to drink half of Reny’s,

But, since our skinny kid has completely fallen off the charts, he can basically have whatever he wants for now until his weight bets back up.

Reny checked with me to make sure I wanted my “normal” tacos pastor, rice and beans and then proceeded to order in Spanish with our waitress.

(I’m guessing they speak English but I never heard any…)

He asked me about Ren and since he had eaten a quesadilla for lunch we ordered him a chicken torta, assuming that whatever he wouldn’t eat we would try and/or take home.

I don’t know much Spanish but I did hear the lady ask if we wanted chips, Reny saying no, so I quickly interjected that yes, we wanted chips and salsa (it turns out they are an extra $3)  Reny also ordered some guacamole with them.  (thought I didn’t hear this ….)

First the chips:

The chips were basic, homemade tortilla chips and served with a salsa verde and spicy chili aoili.

I was eating (well at least the baby’s weight) in chips before Reny informed me that he had also ordered guacamole and to “slow my roll”

The guacamole was awesome!

Fresh, and huge, Ren would’ve been happy with that as his meal

(those are his discarded chips – he basically just uses them as spoons – don’t come eat with us if you have an aversion to double-dipping)

Out next were our tacos:

Tacos Pastor

Tacos chorizo

I would seriously go back just for the tacos.  They were probably some of the best I’ve had.

Served traditionally with 2 tortillas, heaped with perfectly seasoned meat, onions, cilantro and (on the pastor) pineapple they were delicious!

Out next were the rice and beans:

Not the traditional rice and refried beans but they were delicious!  Huge, but delicious.

Although I would’ve preferred refried beans, Ren (the vegetarian) was happy with beans to pick up with his fingers.

Ren’s torta was seriously lagging time wise but it wasn’t a big deal as he was perfectly happy with our radishes (seriously, what is the deal with taquerias and radishes), guacamole, and beans.

The torta (a traditional Mexican sandwich so named for the way the bread is shaped like a turtle (or tortuga) shell) was huge!  It was loaded with chicken, ham (because you have to have pork somewhere I assume), lettuce, roasted peppers, queso fresco and avocado.

While, since eating at Los Tortugas in Memphis for the past 5 years, I am pretty much a “torta snob,”  I have to say that this sandwich was delicious.

Ren, however, didn’t eat more than one bite.  Thank goodness for a pregnant mama 🙂


All in all the dinner was good.



A few negatives:

No high chairs

Extra charge for chips and salsa

A tiny tiny bathroom with space to change a diaper



On a positive note:

The guacamole, tacos and torta were awesome!

And, after all, we went for the food so I’m assuming we will be back (or at least ordering takeout!)



Peanut Butter Hummus January 20, 2011

Filed under: 'Nack! (Snacks!),For Helpers! — gastromami @ 12:57 pm



Some might say,

“Peanut butter hummus?  Gross!”

However, I think,

“What would make (pretty much anything) better?”


That trait comes straight from my father who is famous for his “tummy-curing” peanut butter frosting, among other nutty favorites.  I distinctly remember swirling peanut butter into brownie batter one night – something I have since always done.

That is why I was not surprised when he called me one day about a recipe he had just heard on NPR for “Peanut Butter Hummus.”

“That sounds right up GastroMami’s alley,” he said.

And boy, he was right.

Basically the peanut butter replaces the tahini in hummus — however, Reny doesn’t like tahini so I make our hummus base without it anyway.

This version ranks right up there with my favorite “roasted red pepper hummus,” so I can see it working its way into the rotation.



Why do I make my own hummus?

It’s really quite simple:

Have you ever compared the price of a can of chick peas to a small container of hummus!?!?

It’s ridiculous actually.

Roasted red pepper (yup, easy to make at home)

Roasted garlic (ummm yep, I can do that)

Mediterranean style, Greek olive, Peanut butter – give me a kind of hummus and I can make it for 1/4 of the price.




We have been eating the peanut butter hummus with all of our favorite dippers:

crackers, carrots, celery, pretzels, spread on toast … anyway you want!



2  15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (reserve the liquid)

2 garlic cloves, peeled

4 tablespoons regular olive oil

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

the juice of 2 lemons

kosher salt, to taste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 – 3/4 cup Greek yogurt

crushed or chopped peanuts, to serve





Put the chickpeas in food processor (or blender)



Add the rest of the ingredients and blend



(lick the peanut butter off the spoon)


Gradually add liquid reserved from the chickpeas until desired consistency is reached.






Ren approved!


Chicken Stock January 18, 2011

Filed under: Recipes,Slow Cooker — gastromami @ 10:45 am

Here’s a question for ya:


After you roast a chicken,

what do you do with this?








By cooking the heck out of those leftover bones for a chicken stock you extract the gelatin which is a great source of protein, calcium, amino acids and minerals.  A stock made with chicken bones strengthens the immune system and gastrointestinal tract.  Beyond the incredible health benefits, this type of stock elevates your basic dish to a whole new level.

And, making it is as simple as 1, 2, 3!


After dinner (or after bath/bed/dishes in my case) throw those leftover bones into a crockpot



Add 3-4 carrots and 4-5 celery stalks

(or whatever you want)



Throw in 1 large, or 2-3 small onions

(leaving the peels on gives the stock a nice color)

3 cloves garlic

and some thyme



Fill the crockpot with water

Cover and cook on low overnight



In the morning, after you enjoy the aroma of a rich stock roasting away in the kitchen, strain the liquid

You can toss the vegetables at this point, all of their goodness has been cooked out and is in your stock!



Divide the stock into containers, let cool

Cover and freeze for your next recipe!



Broccoli Bites January 17, 2011

Filed under: 'Nack! (Snacks!) — gastromami @ 3:42 pm

Yay for Broccoli Bites!!



This easy to whip up snack is one of Ren’s, and my, favorites!

It’s healthy and makes a large enough amount that I throw them in the freezer to pull out and pop in the toaster oven for, as Ren likes to call it:


I just went through my email “archives” (since I don’t delete anything but real ‘junk’) and saw that I got this recipe from one of my favorite-in-the-whole-world mommy friends, Greta, on January 29, 2010!

I actually can’t believe I was making these for Ren a year ago, when he was just 8 months old, but I do remember cutting the nuggets into quarters so that he could just gum the tiny pieces.

I like to make up a batch during nap (I don’t recommend much “help” with these – my son loves to eat anything out of a mixing bowl and the raw egg just creeps me out!) so that they are warm out of the oven for an “after-nap ‘nack!”







1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

1 head broccoli (or 16 oz. frozen package) broccoli

Steamed, drained, and chopped

1 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs








I usually make some homemade breadcrumbs – they are easy!

Toast 3-4 pieces of whole wheat bread, let cool and:

Grind up in a mini-prep

For “seasoned” breadcrumbs I add 1 1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning








Sprinkle some parmesan cheese (about 1/4-1/2 cup)

Season with salt and pepper to taste

Add 3 large eggs (for kids 1+)


5 egg yolks (for kids younger than 1!)

Combine ingredients by hand until well mixed

Shape into nuggets and place on a pan coated with cooking spray

(Lightly spray the top of the nuggets also)

Bake at 375˚ F for 25-30 minutes, flipping after 15 minutes




Ren approved!

(Mom too – I love these things!)


King Ranch Chicken (Mexican Lasagna) January 13, 2011

Filed under: Recipes,Things that make me smile — gastromami @ 12:39 pm

This dish is one of my ultimate comfort foods.

Sure, meatloaf with mashed potatoes and carrots is probably #1

but this dish, “King Ranch Chicken,” not only provides food comfort but also wraps my mother’s arms around our table,

no matter where in the world she may be.

I don’t make it often but once in a while it is time to pull out the Campbell’s cans that are a staple in the pantry.

This is a perfect dish to make when you have leftovers from this!




My parents brought this recipe back from Texas (I lived in Texas for the first 2 1/2 years of my life);

The King Ranch is one of the largest land owners in the state.





1 large onion, chopped

1 (10 3/4 oz) can each

Cream of Chicken Soup & Cream of Celery Soup

1 (15 oz) can green chilis, chopped

12 oz. (sodium-free) chicken broth

1 (15 oz) can chopped tomatoes

4 cups cooked chicken


Mix Well






Layer the bottom of a glass baking dish with flour tortillas

Spoon 1/3 of chicken mixture over tortillas

Repeat layers and top with grated cheddar cheese





Bake at 350˚ for 30 minutes or until bubbling

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before cutting

Serve with salsa






Ren approved!