Learning to cook … one kid at a time

Soft Pretzels January 23, 2012

Yes – I have posted a recipe for soft pretzels before

It is the recipe I grew up making with my mom – the smell of which brings back sweet childhood memories of shaping our pretzels into letters & smelling the rising yeast as the snow fell outside

Fiona was sick (for the first time poor girl) this week so Ren & I were experiencing some mad cabin fever

The kind of cabin fever that has you skip the “fast and easy” recipe in favor of the more involved kind

Since these pretzels achieve their crispy, brown crust from a quick boil in water & baking soda, this recipe comes from Mr. Kitchen Science himself: 

Alton Brown

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

In your stand mixing bowl combine water, sugar & kosher salt

Sprinkle the yeast on top and let stand for 5 minutes, to form a ‘sponge’

Measure out the flour & melt butter

Add flour & butter to the sponge and, using your dough hook, mix on low speed until combined

Increase speed to medium and knead until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl – 4 to 5 minutes

Remove dough from bowl & wash bowl

After drying the bowl, coat the inside of the bowl with vegetable oil and place dough inside

Cover with plastic wrap and let sit, in a warm spot, until dough doubles in size (about an hour)

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease with vegetable oil

Pre-heat oven to 450˚

Bring 10 cups water and baking soda to a rolling boil on the stove

Once dough has risen, split into 8 equal pieces and let your helper roll into “snakes”

Make a pretzel shape by crossing each “snake,” twisting and doubling back over the ‘loop’ end

Place pretzels on oiled parchment paper

Drop pretzels, one at a time, into boiling water

Boil for 30 seconds

Remove with a slotted spatula (a fish spatula worked great for me!)

Return the pretzels to the baking sheets lined with oiled parchment

Brush each pretzel with the egg yolk & water mixture

Sprinkle with pretzel (or kosher like I did) salt

Bake at 450˚ for 12-14 minutes until dark, golden brown

Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving

Ren approved!


Cinnamon Breakfast Bites September 7, 2011

Filed under: 'Nack! (Snacks!),Dessert!,For Helpers! — gastromami @ 2:34 pm


First off …. a GastroMami FYI

I know that the “tool doesn’t make the artist” but in the restaurant world we do say “how good a steak is depends on the sharpness of your knife”

and here I’m going to say,

My good camera is broken so all pictures are being taken with my very-handy-love to have with me-waterproof camera and, although sufficient for my needs, it doesn’t always produce the best shots, especially in our windowless kitchen!



Although I don’t ever want him to become a chef (I’d love to have him around for holidays!) it is one of our favorite things to do together when Fiona is sleeping!

Last week I had totally forgotten that we had a playdate scheduled and our cupboards still looked like we were on vacation.  I found this recipe on Lovin’ from the Oven and it was perfect since we had everything on hand!

The best part of this recipe – Ren, seriously, did almost everything “all by self,” as he likes to say

Honestly, I was amazed but hey, with his father, I shouldn’t have been surprised!

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup crisp rice cereal, coarsely crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted

(with little fingers doing the dipping – we had to modify the original recipe in response to spillage!)

Put the rice cereal in a plastic baggie and let your little helper crush away!

In a bowl mix the flour, crushed cereal, 2 T sugar, baking powder & salt

Let your helper mix in the butter, with their hands, until the mixture is crumbly

Slowly add the milk

Mix until just moistened

Roll into balls

While your helper is rolling the batter into balls, melt 1/4 (or 1/2) cup butter and mix together 3/4 cup sugar & 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Dip balls into butter & then sugar/cinnamon & place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper

(we were out of parchment paper so I lightly greased a cookie sheet – but, due to the stickiness of the melted sugar I would use parchment!!)

Bake at 425˚ for 15 minutes

Ren (and friends!) approved!


Nutty Maple Granola June 30, 2011

Filed under: 'Nack! (Snacks!),For Helpers! — gastromami @ 3:35 pm

As part of my “heal my brain” strategy, I am trying to incorporate as many good fats as I can into my diet.

This means that, although I usually balk at the high price of nuts, I had to have some almonds, walnuts and pistachios on hand at all times.

(Fine with Ren, he’s an almond-freak!)

While I am perfectly content to eat them by the handfuls, I couldn’t resist this recipe from Eco.Logical.Mom that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed.

It had 3 things going for it:

I had almost all the ingredients in my cupboard

It looked yummy

Ren could eat the “dough” and I didn’t have to worry about it

Preheat the oven to 300˚

Roughly chop:

1/2 cup unsalted almonds

1/2 cup unsalted walnuts

1/2 cup unsalted pecans

Put it a large bowl and add:

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup quinoa flakes
1/2 cup flaxseed meal (or wheat germ)
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 oz apple sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins


Spread on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray

And bake at 300˚

until golden (about 45 minutes)

Ren approved

(yep – we wear snowman pj’s around here when it’s 90˚ out!)


Pistachio-Chai Muffins June 6, 2011

Filed under: 'Nack! (Snacks!),Breakfast — gastromami @ 11:49 am

I love muffins.

Usually I just make my favorite Dutchy Crust Muffins

but when Cooking Light had a section on Healthy Muffins I just had to try these Pistachio-Chai Muffins

I actually had read this article and though – my mom would love these.

In fact, my in-laws were here and my father-in-law, Reni senior, loves bread so I thought this would be a great time to make some muffins!

The only problem is that I wasn’t sure whether it would be too much chai to enjoy with my normal afternoon chai latte?

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 chai blend tea bags, opened
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1/3 cup shelled dry-roasted pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt in a large bowl

Stir well with a whisk

Cut open 2 chai tea bags

Add tea to flour mixture and mix well

Combine buttermilk, butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 lightly beaten egg

Stir well with a whisk

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk mixture

Mix well

Divide batter evenly between 12 muffin liners, lightly coated with cooking spray

Top each muffin with pistachio nuts

Bake at 375˚ for 15 minutes, or until pick inserted in the center comes out clean

Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes

(place a pan or liner under the rack to catch any extra glaze)

In a small bowl mix 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, powdered sugar & 1 tablespoon water

Stir until smooth

Drizzle the sugar glaze evenly over the muffins


Ren approved!


Kale Chips May 31, 2011

Filed under: 'Nack! (Snacks!) — gastromami @ 2:34 pm

Ren (and I) are loving us some kale chips

I had picked up some Brad’s Raw Chips:  Vampire Breath at Whole Foods a few months back but knew that, however yummy they might be, the $7 or $8 they charged (I can’t remember exactly) was hardly worth the meager serving that made our breath stink to high heaven for 3 days.

I bunch of organic kale runs about $1.99 and so I knew that I could make them just as easily, and cheaper, myself!

Remove the kale from its stem and tear into “chip-sized” pieces

In a large bowl toss one large bunch of torn kale with:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

a light sprinkle of salt

the zest of 1 large lemon

(I also love to add some freshly ground black pepper/garlic blend – can buy together in a mill)

Bake, on a baking sheet, for 30-40 minutes at 250˚ or until crispy

You can store in an air-tight container for a few weeks – if they last that long!

Ren approved!


“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!)










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 … )