Learning to cook … one kid at a time

So Easy, So Yummy Tortellini Salad February 23, 2011

Filed under: "Fast Food",Recipes — gastromami @ 12:13 pm


This pregnancy is starting to kick my butt.


I barely have the energy to shower after a day with Ren,

much less make dinner.

(Or write about it!)


So, when I came across “Easy Vegetarian in under-20 minutes, while browsing through the other day

I grabbed a few ideas before heading to the store.


This super-fast, super-easy salad was awesome for dinner warm and just as good for a healthy, post-workout, filling lunch.

My only issue with it?  Ren begged and pleaded for all of my tomatoes and asparagus!

Note to self:  double the veggies next time!





Put a large pot of water on to boil, omit salt

Slice 1 pint grape tomatoes in half

Thinly slice 1/2 red onion

Thinly slice 1/3 cup basil

Grate 3/4 cup parmesan cheese

Cut 1 lb. asparagus (about 1/2 bunch) into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Open 1 (14-oz) can of quartered artichoke hearts


Wash 4 cups arugula



Boil 1 9-oz package of tortellini according to directions, omitting salt and fat

(The recipe called for 2 packages, I only used 1 and it was plenty for us!)


2 minutes before the pasta is finished, add the asparagus

Drain after 2 minutes


While the pasta is cooking, mix up a simple vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

some freshly ground black pepper to taste


Mix it all together!


Ren approved!



Tuscan Chickpea Soup February 11, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — gastromami @ 8:49 am



Reny loves to make fun of the fact that, while I can barely identify a restaurant I want to eat at in Philly,

I can tell him which chef is leaving which restaurant, what wine dinners are being held, and who is closed due to snow – in Memphis.

I can’t help it.

Along with Facebook updates from our friends,

and the fact that both

Whining and Dining


I Love Memphis

are still sandwiched between my (other) favorite bookmarks,

I can’t help but know what is going on!

(This might also be the reason for my daily “I miss Memphis” pains – note to self, remove Memphis blogs, or at least move to bottom of bookmarks!)



For all the “I want to move back to PA” talking I did during the past year, I myself can hardly believe the deep longing I am having to move back to the “oh so dirty but beautiful” South.  But honestly, while I was raised in Erie, PA, I grew up in Memphis.

Moving to town just a week before my 21st Birthday, it was the city where I made, and lost, some of my best friends.  The place where I could show up, by myself, at Blues City on Sunday, The Bucc on Monday, Newby’s on Wednesday and be surrounded by scores of friends.  Memphis is where I fell in, and out, of love numerous times;  the place where I met, then fell for, my husband.  It is the place where my bosses became my good friends and leaving them, or them leaving us, was just as painful as moving away from, or losing, a relative.  It is the place where I made, by far, some of my stupidest mistakes and decisions, but also the place where I chose to bring a new life into this world.  I boogied my butt off in Memphis, barefoot in gross bars and then barefoot outside at Rock-N-Romp and The Shell with my groovin’ son (with many of the same folks who were once at the bars!).

And, while I always knew that I wouldn’t be in Memphis forever, moving away has left an empty hole in my heart.  It is a hole that I know, in time, will be filled with new experiences, friends, and places, but the past 6 years will always have their tender spot.



So, until some more relevant Philadelphia-related blogs come across my radar, I will continue checking in to see what is going on in M-town.

Jennifer Biggs of Whining and Dining has been posting “Soup Friday” during this fall/winter season.  A recent recipe for Tuscan Chickpea caught my eye as a perfect dish for my “vegetarian” son.

His aversion to meat, while baffling, is fine with me, as my waistline (and bank account!) could deal with going meatless more often!



2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups onion, diced

8 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups of water

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 (15 1/2-oz) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 (14 1/2-oz) can of diced tomatoes

1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste

freshly grated parmesan cheese




Heat the oil over medium heat

Add onion and garlic, sweat

(about 5 minutes)



Add rosemary, salt, pepper, water, chickpeas and tomatoes



Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, 20 minutes



Place 2 cups of soup in a blender and puree


** when pureeing something hot, remove center of blender cap to allow steam to escape.  Place a towel over the opening to prevent the soup from flying everywhere, and from getting burned!


Return puree to soup and repeat with 2 more cups of soup.


(Don’t puree the whole batch, though maybe not a bad idea to set some puree aside for baby food!  Just puree 4-5 cups)



Add balsamic vinegar (acidity “brightens” the flavors)

Bring back to a boil and remove from heat


Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated parm!



I paired the soup, though hearty enough on its own, with asparagus, caprese salad, and fresh bread.

I figured, if Ren rejected the soup, he’d still get a pretty balanced meal.


At first, he rejected the soup in favor of the cheese and tomatoes (duh)

I pointed out the beans, told him they were beans and kind of like uvas (grapes)

Well, that was it!  The kid devoured the soup and asked for seconds!

After picking out each chickpea, he then sopped up every last bit of soup with some bread …







I’m gonna go ahead and say this meal is

Ren approved!


Creamy Spaghetti with Pine Nuts February 9, 2011

Filed under: "Fast Food",Recipes — gastromami @ 12:32 pm




As a woman, you always hear “calcium”

As a nursing mom you hear, “calcium, calcium”

As a tandem nursing mom you hear, “calcium, calcium, calcium, calcium, calcium … “

I was thumbing through some old Cooking Lights magazine in search of recipes and came across this  calcium-rich 30-minute meal.  A twist on my classic “shrimp and pasta” go-to meal, I already had all of the ingredients at home.

I have to say, though, that this may become one of my new favorite meals!

It was so good that I saved a plate for Reny to try!



8 ounces uncooked spaghetti

12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 cup low-fat milk, divided

1 tablespoon AP flour

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup finely chopped basil

1/3 cup torn fresh basil leaves



Add pasta to boiling water and cook 7 minutes.

Add shrimp to pasta and water;  cook 3 minutes

Drain;  keep warm.



While pasta is cooking, heat a small, nonstick skillet over medium heat

Toast pine nuts until lightly browned (about 3 minutes)



Combine 1/2 cup milk and flour in a large saucepan

Whisk until well blended over medium heat

Gradually whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup milk



Stir in mustard and nutmeg

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly

Stir in salt and pepper, cook 1 minute



Add drained pasta, shrimp, cheese and chopped basil

Toss gently and serve immediately

Sprinkle with torn basil and pine nuts


Wilted tomatoes with balsamic were the perfect pairing!




Ren approved!




Ren’s Favorite Veggie (Right Now) February 8, 2011

Filed under: "Fast Food",Recipes — gastromami @ 8:13 am


My kid seriously loves veggies.

And fruit.

He really loves veggies that look like fruit.

Like tomatoes.

And cherry tomatoes?

They look like “uvas” (grapes) to him and well, it’s all over when a pint gets pulled out of the fridge.


These quickly fixed cooked tomatoes are easy easy easy to make and pair with pretty much any dish!




In a nonstick skillet, heat about 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add grape tomatoes and cook for 3-5 minutes until skin starts to blister


You can stop there and serve


I like to add some balsamic vinegar (about 1 tablespoon) and a quick dash of salt and pepper






A Birthday Post: Papa’s Raspberry Pie February 6, 2011

Filed under: Dessert!,Recipes,Things that make me smile — gastromami @ 9:02 am

Today is my birthday

It was 6 years ago  today my birthday last fell on Superbowl Sunday

(I also didn’t watch it as my birthday gift to myself)

6 years ago today, just a week after moving to Memphis, I turned 21 and spent my first night (of many) on Beale St.

3 years ago I celebrated my birthday with a trip to Paris and Spain,

I had an incredible (actual) birthday night with my sister Tricia

and my dad (thanks Dad!  Best trip ever!)



1 year ago today my Papa died

As unplanned as Reny was, I know that everything happens for a reason

And his reason for being here was so that my Nana and Papa got to meet my son

My Nana passed away 4 weeks after Papa on March 6th

I guess after 63 years of marriage, they just couldn’t live without each other



And here it is, Birthday 2011

I’m pregnant (again)

However, as much as I LOVE birthdays

And, as much as I LOVE making a big deal on birthdays

(and having mine be made a big deal)

After the whirlwind of the past year

All I want to do is stay in with my family,

Have my husband cook for me

And eat some raspberry pie



Raspberry pie

We are more of a “birthday pie” kind of family rather than a “birthday cake” family




In fact,

we served both pie and cake (for tradition only) at our wedding



And raspberry pie,

Well it was Papa’s favorite

In fact,

at his funeral

a raspberry pie was brought up to the altar during the Offertory

And, when the Bishop (’cause that’s the kind of man he was – the Bishop celebrated his funeral)

came forward with incense at the end of Mass,

my grandmother, in spite of her grief,

whispered to my cousin to go save the raspberry pie so we could still eat it!



So, it is only appropriate that today,

On my birthday,

One year after losing one of the greatest men I will ever know,

We celebrate my life, his life, and our life,

With a raspberry pie

(and homemade crust – of course.  He wouldn’t have it any other way)




Nana’s Pie Pastry


2 cups sifted flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup shortening

4-6 tablespoons cold water


Sift dry ingredients, add shortening


Add 4 tablespoons water and mix with a fork or pastry tool

Add more water until mixture forms a ball


Divide into 2 parts,

wrap in plastic wrap

Chill for easier rolling



Raspberry Pie


20 oz (or more) frozen berries

2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca or 4 tablespoons corn starch

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 lemon, juiced



Mix ingredients and let stand 15 minutes before adding to pie shell



On a floured surface, roll out 1 ball of dough and gently place in pie pan


Fill with raspberry mix


Roll out 2nd ball of dough and place on top of raspberries

(or lattice)


Using a fork, crimp the edges and prick the top


Trim the edges and back at 450˚ for 10 minutes

Reduce heat to 350˚ and bake an additional 45 minutes or until golden brown:



Serve with vanilla ice cream and enjoy!!!



From my family to yours …

May you enjoy each and every year you have with your family;

may you find your soul mate and spend 63 marvelous years with them!


Ok, I’m off to eat some pie with mine:




Dumpling Soup February 2, 2011

Filed under: "Fast Food",Recipes — gastromami @ 8:55 am




The other day we were in desperate need of food and, after an appointment at AAA, I found myself close to Trader Joe’s.

What TJ’s lacks in a meat counter and produce it greatly makes up for in the taste of its soymilk (my favorite!) and prepared food products.

Yes, yes, I know that I’m not a huge fan of just heating up stuff out of the freezer (not to mention the salt – especially as any extra water weight at this point is severely disheartening), used creatively, the pre-packaged foods can make, not break, a night.



Funnily enough, the one thing I have had no desire for this pregnancy is Asian food.

I always have the makings for curry in the house – but haven’t made any in months.

We are in walking distance to Chinatown – but haven’t had any dim sum for lunch.

However, on this cold and blustery day, the pork dumplings and egg rolls were calling my name.

I had chicken stock, ginger, garlic and carrots on hand so I picked up some green onions along with the dumplings and voila!  Dinner.





Thinly slice 2 large carrots

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 small onion, diced

Ginger, peeled and minced (about 2 tablespoons)

Thinly slice 1/2 bunch (about 6 stalks) green onion



Heat about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over med-high heat

Add onion and garlic, cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes)



Add ginger, cook 1 minutes



Add carrots and green onion, cook 2-3 minutes



Add 3 cups chicken stock

Bring to a boil

Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes


(While soup is simmering, bake frozen egg rolls if you are so inclined!)



Add dumplings (3 per serving) and cook until they float to the surface (8-10 minutes)


Season to taste with chili-garlic sauce (sambal)

(I only put in about 1 tablespoon and it was plenty spicy – I would omit for heat-sensitive kids)



To round out our meal I included my egg roll-craving and some edamame (Ren’s favorite!)



Ren approved!



** I’m cutting this week short and heading to DC for an early-birthday celebration with Tia Tricia and the DC Dahlkemper clan!  I do, however, have my numero uno dessert waiting in the wings for Sunday – in honor of my Papa on my birthday … Steenberges, I bet you can guess what it is!


February ONE February 1, 2011

Filed under: ONE — gastromami @ 9:19 am