Learning to cook … one kid at a time

Do you like Pina Colada (Cupcakes)? August 30, 2011

Filed under: Dessert!,Entertaining — gastromami @ 1:27 pm

My oldest and best friend Liz is getting married in 18 days!

We have been friends for as long as I can remember and spent probably thousands of hours playing with Barbies, jumping in the pool, laying out at the beach, sharing dinners & listening to “Chicken Man” on our way to school

Liz is now a special ed teacher which comes as no surprise to anyone that knows her;  her kindness, patience and generosity (along with her stunning beauty) are her greatest attributes – and the reason that she has been able to put up with me for all these years!  She teaches, she’s a runner, she’s an amazing mother to her (soon to be) step-kids and on top of all that she is attending the University of Virginia for her masters!  She is quite the amazing woman & an amazing friend and I am so excited to be a part of her and Stephen’s day!

Their wedding will be on the beach so it was only appropriate that I made these Pina Colada cupcakes (found on The Cupcake Project) for her “Cocktails & Cupcakes” bridal shower.

For the cupcakes:

1/3 C coconut rum (or any rum you have on hand)
3/4 C coconut milk
1/4 C pineapple juice (reserved from the crushed pineapple)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C + 3 tbsp sugar
3 large eggs
1 C shredded coconut
1 C crushed pineapple

Drain the crushed pineapple and reserve 1/4 cup of the juice

In a bowl combine the rum, coconut milk, pineapple juice & vanilla

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt

Cream the butter and sugar

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition

Slowly add 1/3 of the flour mixture – beat well

Add 1/2 of the rum mixture – beat well

1/3 of the flour – beat well

Remaining rum mixture – beat well

Remaining flour mixture – beat well

Fold in the crushed pineapple and shredded coconut

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and

bake at 350˚ for 25 minutes

For the Cream Cheese Coconut Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
2 C powdered sugar
3 tbsp coconut cream (such as Coco Lopez)

Beat cream cheese & butter until light and fluffy

Slowly add powdered sugar

Add coconut cream

Pipe (or spread) onto cupcakes

Top with toasted coconut

(bake at 350˚ on an ungreased cookie sheet until lightly toasted)


Ren & (my adorable niece) Charlotte approved!!



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


“Lara Bar” Truffles April 4, 2011

Filed under: 'Nack! (Snacks!),Dessert!,Entertaining,For Helpers!,Pregnancy — gastromami @ 4:09 pm


Thanks to my wonderful husband

I was able to sleep in this morning!


The blissful morning took a 180˚ turn, though,

when, after coming home from Smith Memorial Playground‘s Opening Day Celebration

my poor kid came upstairs in new clothes,

asked for “leche,”

curled up next to me

and promptly passed out.


With a fever of 103.5˚


Poor kid.


Besides a few ear infections

which are pretty much a given in the Dahlkemper family

this kid has never been sick like this.


After refusing food all day,

I finally got some ibuprofen in him to lower his fever for a bit

and we had to make a Whole Foods run for some chicken soup, bread and coconut water

in hopes of getting something in him!


I’ve actually been meaning to stop by WF for some labor food and drinks so,

as I was writing Luna/Lara Bars down on my list

I remembered a recipe that I saw for recreating Lara Bars.

A quick search turned up this post by The Nourishing Gourmet

so I added dates and coconut oil to my list (the rest we had in house!)



These decadent treats are a guilt-free way for me to give (both) of my kids a (pretty much) healthy snack!

(And Mama her chocolate fix!)

You can easily forgo the chocolate for little kids – which I might just whip up for Ren to ease my guilt a bit!


20 dates, pitted
1 cup of coconut flakes, fine
1/4 cup of coconut oil
Heaping 3/4 cup of walnuts, pecans, or nut of choice
2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
A few dashes of unrefined salt




Pit your dates




In a food processor combing:

pitted dates


coconut oil




Process until finely ground




Toast nuts over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning

Add to food processor and process until nuts are finely ground




Add chocolate to the warm pan you just used to toast the nuts and allow to slowly melt

(if you need extra heat, place over warm on the stove but do not let it burn!)




Add to food processor along with vanilla and salt

Process until smooth




Place mixture into bowl and refrigerate until firm enough to shape into balls

(about 30 minutes – 1 hour)



Roll into balls and refrigerate until hard

Will keep in a container in the fridge for a few weeks (if you can resist that long!)










New York Style Cheesecake! January 11, 2011

Filed under: Dessert!,Entertaining — gastromami @ 12:02 pm

Alternatively Titled:

Reny’s Birthday:  Part 3


Ahhhh …. Birthday cake

The dimmed lights, the burning candles, and a toddler attempting to change his fingerprints



This recipe comes from and good ol’ Emeril ….


1 cup graham cracker crumbs

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/2 lbs. cream cheese, softened

1 lemon, zested

1 orange, zested

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

5 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sour cream

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from the pod and reserved

(I didn’t have a vanilla bean so I substituted 3 teaspoons vanilla extract)

1 teaspoon bourbon





Preheat oven to 375˚

Butter the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan

In a food processor (or mixing bowl), combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Mix well

Press onto bottom of springform pan and bake until golden, about 8 minutes

Set aside to cool

When completely cooled, butter the sides of the pan

Lower oven temperature to 350˚

Combine cream cheese, 1 1/2 cups sugar, vanilla, and zests

Beat until light and creamy

Add the flour

Then the eggs and yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition

Add the sour cream, bourbon and vanilla bean seeds (or extract)

Mix until smooth

Pour into prepared pan

Wrap the pan in foil and place in a roasting pan

(I made a mistake here and covered the top of the cake, leave the top uncovered and only wrap foil around sides)

Fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the cake

Bake for 1 1/2 hours

Cool completely

Refrigerate overnight




Serve with berries or your favorite topping!






Ren approved!


Boeuf Bourguignon January 10, 2011

Filed under: Entertaining,Recipes,Things that make me smile — gastromami @ 3:41 pm

Alternatively Titled:

Reny’s Birthday:  Part 2



It is hard to cook for my husband.

It is even harder to cook for him on his birthday – you know, to get the meal “just right.”

The first time I attempted dinner I spent ALL DAY going to the grocery store, to the butcher, browning and braising short ribs, savoring that warm smell that fills the kitchen and anticipating his smile when he walked in the door and tasted what I had slaved over.

Except I used rosemary.

Reny hates rosemary.

Didn’t know that and I have basically never gotten over the stress of cooking for my (now) husband.

Sure, I make things and he eats them, but actually cooking for him, like on his birthday, stresses me (insert expletive) out.




That said, Reny is hardly, if ever, off on his birthday.

Last year was the big 3-0 and we spent the hours after he got home from work in a tizzy packing up for a flight to Hawaii the next day.

This year, however, his birthday fell on a Sunday and we had all day together!

I started out the day with my little helper making Pastelitos Guayaba y Queso, we hit up a local pizzeria for lunch (funnily enough, the night before I had jokingly told my dad that I’m sure all Reny really wanted to eat for his birthday was good pizza — do I know that man or what?), and I had dinner and dessert (basically) already made so we could just hang out and play all day!

The night before the “big day” I pulled out my new favorite cookbook:  Simply Suppers by the fabulous and talented Jennifer Chandler, and decided to try her recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon.  Basically, this tried and true recipe hasn’t changed much since the days of Julia Child but I’m in love with Jennifer’s book (Reny jokes that they will make a movie soon called “Gretchen and Jennifer”) and I knew her recipe wouldn’t fail!

(click on the Simply Suppers link and buy her book!  I promise you it will become a new classic in your kitchen!)






4 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup finely diced yellow onion

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots

(I used at least 2 cups – Ren loves carrots!)

6 springs fresh thyme

3 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (14.5 oz) whole tomatoes with juice

1 bottle (750 ml) good red wine (burgundy or pinot noir)

2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered

1 1/2 cups frozen small whole white pearl onions


A good loaf of bread (you’ll want it to soak up all the yummy juice!)


Preheat the oven to 250˚

Pat the beef dry with paper towels (anyone see Julie & Julia?)

Generously season with salt and pepper

In a large dutch oven, warm the oil over medium-high heat

Cook the meat until browned, about 8-10 minutes

(do in two batches so you don’t overcrowd the boeuf!)

Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside

Add the bacon and cook until crispy (over med-high)

Add the carrots, onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaves

Stir and cook until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes)

Add the tomatoes, wine and stock

Stir to combine

Return the beef to the pot and season with salt and pepper to taste

Bring the mixture to a boil

Cover and place in the oven

Cook for about 2 hours, until the beef is tender



* If eating that night, place the dutch oven on the stove over low heat to keep warm

** If making ahead for dinner the next day, let cool completely and refrigerate until 30 minutes before you are ready to serve




Discard the bay leaves

Melt the butter over medium-high heat

Add the mushrooms and saute until soft and golden (about 4 minutes)

Add the onions and cook 2 minutes

Add the mushrooms and onions to the stew and bring it back to a boil

Adjust the seasonings as needed.








Ren approved!




* Since the “hard work” of this dish can be done the day before, it is an ideal option for dinner guests!