Learning to cook … one kid at a time

Chicken Fried Rice with Cranberries April 27, 2011

Filed under: "Fast Food",Recipes — gastromami @ 2:10 pm

His Cuban roots are beginning to emerge

He’s always loved beans (thank goodness because he barely eats any meat!)

but lately, give the boy some rice and beans

and he’s in heaven.

Side Note:

Rice and toddlers don’t mix

Our vacuum is getting a workout!

The thing is,

leftover rice usually stays just that:


in the fridge

until I throw it out

I know, I know

Heat up in the microwave with a wet paper towel

Still, really, it doesn’t taste all that great

That is,

unless you fry it up!

I was flipping through my favorite magazine

Cooking Light

and saw this recipe


3 1/2 cups cooked and chilled long-grain brown rice

(leftover rice works best!  If cook “day of,” let cool in fridge for at least 4 hours)

1/2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2″ pieces

3 cups thinly sliced leeks

1 1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh sage

1/4 cup dry white wine

** I crushed up some pistachios for a little extra crunch on top!

Season chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat

Add chicken to pan and cook until browned (about 3 minutes)

Remove from pan

Add leeks to pan, season lightly with salt and pepper

cook until golden (about 5 minutes)

Remove from pan and add to chicken

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to hot pan

Add rice and stir until well coated with olive oil

Cook 2 minutes without stirring (or until edges begin to brown)

Stir rice and cook again 2 minutes (until edges begin to brown)

Add chicken, leeks, cranberries and sage

Stir to combine

Add wine and cook 2 minutes until mixture is dry,  stirring constantly

Ren approved!!

Mama, however, is getting tired of vacuuming!

What I wouldn’t give to have our hardwood floors back … !


Fiona Kathleen: A Birth Story April 25, 2011

Filed under: Pregnancy,Uncategorized — gastromami @ 7:06 pm

I honestly can’t believe that it has been 12 days since this beautiful little girl entered our lives.

Today is the day she was “due,” but, in true Alfonso fashion this child would not be held back!

So here is the story of our little girl’s fast and explosive entry into our world!

Someone (Nana and Papa?) was looking out for us up there.

On Monday night/Tuesday morning I woke up at 2:15 with some uncomfortable, but not painful, contractions.  Unable to fall asleep I timed them and they were running about 3-5 minutes apart.  Is this labor?  Is this not labor?

At 4:30 I finally called my mom and told her I thought I was in labor and to please come to Philadelphia that day.  I told her not to worry about flights because I could get a sitter, so around 6 am she left Erie.  Once she was about halfway here, and it would have been silly to turn around, labor stopped.


I slept for a few hours and woke up feeling slightly stupid and embarrassed about the 4 am phone calls to my mom and doula;  not to mention the fact that now my mom was in Philly and I felt so bad that she might be just sitting around with us for 2 more weeks – a woman who has never been known to sit around in her life!

Tuesday rolled along with a few, random contractions but nothing registering pain or making me stop what I was doing.

I went to bed around 9:30 that night and slept until about 2:15.  At that point I woke up, mind still churning with guilt and the feeling that this baby was going to hang out for a few more weeks.  I read a little bit and fell back asleep around 3:30.  At 4:15 I heard Reny get up to go to the bathroom (he had been sleeping on the couch) and I asked him to come up and lay with me.  We talked a few minutes and then fell asleep.

At 5:30 I woke up with some cramps.  I went to the bathroom, came back and closed my eyes.  Another crampy feeling.  Around the 3rd feeling I felt the urge to vocalize through the contraction.  Went back to the bathroom.  Came back and laid in bed with Reny.  I had 3 or 4 more contractions that were painful and I held Reny’s hand (I don’t even think he remembers that – in fact at one point he mumbled, “Reny stop” – they have been doing a lot of cosleeping over the past few months!)  Between the need to hold his hand and vocalizing I thought that maybe this was the real thing – but wasn’t counting my chickens just yet.  I decided that I needed to change positions to see if anything changed (or stopped) and start timing.  I got in the shower and had a few contractions but the water felt good.  While I was in there a certain little boy ran up the stairs and my mom followed asking if everything was ok – I said yes, that I was having contractions but they still weren’t too bad and that I would be down soon.  I went downstairs, made a cup of tea and sat down to watch Ren and my mom read some books.  My mom then poured Ren a bowl of cereal and I sat down with them but I didn’t sit too long and the next few contractions were more comfortable on my hands and knees.  At this point I called upstairs to Reny that he better call for someone to open the restaurant that morning – I didn’t think he would be making it!  I had the sudden urge to go to the bathroom – so I did and had a few major contractions while on the “potty.”  I called to Reny and, once I was relaxed enough to move, went upstairs and jumped in the hot shower with him.  The contractions began coming faster and faster at this point and I needed him to apply pressure to my lower back.  We got out of the shower and I attempted to dry my hair

… umm yea   …

At this point I was falling down to lean on the toilet every minute or so and calling for Reny to apply pressure to my lower back.  I had texted Brittany while on the toilet not 20 minutes before and now told Reny he better call her and tell her to meet us at the hospital.

7:48 AM

Reny calls Brittany to meet us at the hospital

While on the phone with Brittany my water broke and I knew that we better hurry up.  I threw my hair in a ponytail, Reny ran downstairs to grab a water bottle and my mom ran up to help me get dressed.  I ran down the stairs and had to stop in the hall with a contraction.  When we got outside, I had to get down on all fours, in the rain, on the sidewalk, with another strong contraction.  At this point I kept thinking/saying “I can’t do this.  I can’t do this,” and I knew then that I was in trouble, that this baby was coming soon!  Reny threw the bag in the car, got me off the ground, into the car, and got out the phone.

8:05 AM

We call the midwives to tell them we are on the way to the hospital.

We then headed out in rush hour traffic.  I couldn’t sit so I leaned over the back of the seat, Reny applying pressure to my back while driving.  When we arrived at the hospital entrance (about 8:15 AM) the entire driveway area was full so Reny parked in the middle of 8th St. and I got out, immediately collapsing onto all fours on the sidewalk.  A (very pretty – very Irish!) woman walking by asked me if I was ok and if I wanted her to get a wheelchair from inside.  I just looked up at her and I guess she took one look at my face and turned to run inside – all I heard was her click-clacking as she ran into the hospital lobby.  Reny came up from behind me, picked me up and helped me into the lobby where, once inside the doors and out of the rain, I again got down on all fours.  The security guard told me he called for a stretcher and, at about that same time, I saw 2 women in scrubs running toward me.  They got me in a wheelchair and ran to the elevator.  We had just gotten on the elevator when I heard “please press 2” and the nurse said, “unless you want to help us deliver this baby on the elevator we are going to 3 first and the rest of you can get off where you need to after”

We got off on three, they ran me into a delivery room (yay!  No triage!)  and starting firing questions at me as they got me undressed like “whats your name?  Who’s your doctor?”  Seriously – it was going super fast.  I laid down and a resident checked me saying “6cm”  Really!?  6cm!?!?  I knew there was no way I was only 6cm!  I immediately rolled over on my knees, holding on to the top of the bed and my midwife, Judy, came in.  She asked “are you pushing?” and I said “I think I am” and she checked me and said “there’s no cervix”  (2 minutes after the resident said 6cm … body knows better than doctor!) and I said “I need to poop” and began to push.  At this point Judy looks around and says, “where’s Dad?” and I think my reply was along the lines of  “I don’t know but I need him!” and at that point I looked up and saw Reny and Brittany running into the room (she was at the elevator when he came in from parking the car)

I said I was hot and Brittany put a cold cloth on my head, took off my gown and I began to push.  I pushed and thought (said?) “I don’t remember how to do this!” and immediately remembered reading in Ina Mays book that when you say/think that, you are doing exactly what you should be doing.  I pushed again and “oh my God” it hurt – it really really hurt but I felt the baby’s head pushing down, every inch of her body pressing against mine, the midwife massaging my perineum and asking me if I could lay on my side (I was on my hands and knees).  I said no, pushed again (ring of fire) and then gush/explosion/force of energy she rushed out.  I was watching between my legs and, while I didn’t see her face, I clearly saw her girl parts and said “it’s a girl?”  It took me a minute or so to relax and roll over and they handed her to me and I asked again, “Is it really a girl?”  I could not believe it!

I got check out – no tearing, nothing.  Beautiful and easy (?) this girl was all ours!  She latched on and nursed for a solid 30 minutes, the midwife came in multiple times looking for a birth weight but the girl would not stop eating!  Must be a Dahlkemper!

Honestly, I still can’t believe she’s here.

All day yesterday (Easter) I kept thinking about the fact that I had planned out a maternity Easter outfit, not a postpartum one and that I expected to be waddling to Church and brunch, not wearing my daughter all wrapped up and cozy in my wrap.

I can’t describe how amazing it felt to push her into this world, to feel every little cue that my body provided, to feel her body and mine working together.  The experience of having a completely natural birth left me in awe and wonder at what my body and mind can accomplish.

There are many more aspects of her birth and 12-day life but this birth story is exactly what I wrote on April 13th.

More to come I’ sure … 🙂

Lots of love from the very blessed and lucky Alfonso family of 4!


Artichoke Salad April 20, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — gastromami @ 7:47 pm

I’m loving loving loving artichokes right now

And salads – weird for me

This salad is easy to whip up – especially if you use canned artichokes

First, clean your artichoke (if you aren’t using canned)


(37 weeks pregnant = lazy)

Add artichoke to boiling water seasoned with 2 halves lemon (squeezed) and salt

Simmer until fork tender

Shock artichoke in ice water and set aside until ready to use


Sliced red onion

Feta cheese

Diced tomatoes

kalamata olives

chopped, fresh oregano and parsley

and quartered artichokes

Toss in a lemon vinaigrette

(1 part lemon, 1 1/2 parts olive oil)



Tuscan Bread and Tomato Salad April 16, 2011

Filed under: Entertaining,Recipes — gastromami @ 9:10 am

Tuscan Bread Salad is quite possibly one of my favorite dishes ever

And, for two very good reasons,

We’ve been eating a lot of it lately

1.  Wegmans has been having great “Club Pack” prices of beautiful tomatoes-on-the-vine


2.  Ren and I, in search of Mama’s Orangina craving a “treat” stopped in Old City Cheese Shop and discovered that they sell beautiful, day-old, crusty bread for a steal!!

In a bowl mix:

1/2 – 1 red onion, thinly sliced

(amount can be altered due to your degree of love for onions)

4-5 large tomatoes, cubed

stale, crusty Italian bread cut into cubes (about 8 cups or so)

In a separate bowl mix:

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Pour over tomatoes, bread and onions


Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes

When ready to serve add:

1 bunch fresh basil, washed and shredded

Freshly ground pepper and salt (to taste)

Ren approved!!

I tend to eat all most of the bread

so there is often just a basic “tomato salad” leftover

And, I love that!


Tomato Salad

Fresh Mozzarella


Cuban Bread

and the Next Day:

Chopped Romaine

Fresh Mozz

(Extra-marinated!) tomato salad


Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs April 12, 2011

Filed under: Recipes,Slow Cooker — gastromami @ 7:38 pm


Rainy and Cold

Time to pull out the slow cooker!!


I love chicken in the slow cooker

It is always tender, flavorful and loved by the kid who doesn’t like meat!

I love using chicken thighs especially for their great flavor and the great price I can get when buying organic!



As I was eating this I thought

“Hmmmm … this would be a great “throw in the blender” baby food recipe”

Must have baby stuff on my mind!




In your slow cooker, layer:


2 medium onions, sliced

1 lb (about 4-5) potatoes, sliced

3 cups carrots



Mix 1 cup chicken stock

3/4 cup white wine

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons thyme



Pour over vegetables in crock pot




2 tablespoons paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper


rub both sides of chicken thighs (about 8) with spice mixture



Set chicken thighs on top of vegetables


Cook on LOW for 8 hours




Ren approved!!


** inspired by Cooking Light


Edible Playdough April 8, 2011

Filed under: For Helpers!,Things that make me smile — gastromami @ 11:35 am


One kid still recovering from the flu with a nasty cold


One 37-weeks pregnant Mama who seems to have caught that same cold


78˚ and sunny quickly turning to 50˚, rainy and windy


What the heck do we do all day!?


A walk is out due to the rain

Playing in the puddles is out due to our colds

And, I’m not the Mama who is going to take my sick kid to the children’s museum and spread germs


So after puzzles, books, cars, the train set, books, bowling, swinging (thank goodness for a living room playground!),  more books, nap, ball, more puzzles … it was still only 2:00!!!

Ok, so let’s bake something

But, we were out of butter – no cookies

Pretzels?  ooops, out of yeast

… so Reny/Dada called and saved the day by suggesting playdough


I have been wanting to make edible playdough for a while, but due to a lack of powdered milk, we hadn’t made any yet.  However, today I was determined to find a recipe that I had the ingredients for and found this following combination:





1 cup peanut butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup honey

(tip:  spray measuring cup with cooking spray to easily measure and pour honey)










** Can store in the fridge, in an air-tight container, for up to 2 weeks


Pasta with Bacon and Asparagus April 6, 2011

Filed under: "Fast Food" — gastromami @ 12:57 pm


Pasta Pasta Pasta


I know, I know, I know


It’s not ALL we eat

(but it’s A LOT of what we eat!)



I didn’t eat bacon until I was pregnant with Ren

Ok, well actually I started eating raw bacon when Reny first got into charcuterie

But the classic, “fry up on the stove” bacon made me want to throw up when I was a child


That said, I can’t even tell you how many BLTs I ate during my first pregnancy

(all that excess salt was probably the reason why I developed carpal tunnel!)


While my desire for bacon is not nearly as strong this 2nd time around,

it still lurks somewhere in my mind

crying out to be satisfied


I know, gross huh?


So, for a “twist” on my pasta and veggie dinner



Cook pasta (whole wheat) according to package directions, omitting salt

Drain and keep warm



In a large skillet, fry up some (4 pieces or whatever is left over from your BLTs!) bacon until crispy

Remove from pan and set aside




While the bacon is frying

dice 1/2 onion

cut 1 lb. asparagus into 1 1/2 inch pieces

shred leftover chicken from last night’s dinner





After removing the bacon,

Add the diced onion to the hot drippings and cook over medium heat until soft





Add asparagus and chicken,

Cook 2 minutes




Add about 1 1/2 cup stock

Bring to a boil

Reduce heat and simmer 5-7 minutes

Generously season with freshly ground black pepper




Add 4 giant handfuls (I know, accurate measurements today, huh?) spinach



The pasta



And 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Mix well




Top with crumbled bacon and some more parmesan cheese




Comfort food at its finest!



Ren approved!