Monday, December 25, 2017: Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding and Yule Log
Dec 29th, 2017 by Katekoster

Merry Christmas! For dinner tonight we stuck with tradition and made roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roasted brussel sprouts and a sponge cake yule log.  Everyone helped (even Dad…he carved the roast beef).

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Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

Roast beef is actually really easy to make, assuming you have a good piece of beef.  You cover it with salt and pepper and then roast in the oven at 325 degrees.  Depending on how big your roast is it takes 1- 1/2 to 3 hours for medium rare Our roast was 5 pounds so we figured it would be 2 -1/2 hours to 3 hours.  We started testing with a meat thermometer at 2- 1/2 hours. It was only 122 degrees internally so we let it cook another 30 minutes.  By 3 hours it was 142 (we like it 140-145).  We removed it from the roasting pan, covered it with foil, and poured off all but 1/4 cup of the drippings in the roasting pan.

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Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire pudding is a simple, eggy mix (4 eggs, 2 cups flour, 2 cups milk) that you cook in either the roast’s drippings or in butter. Either way you want to pour it into a hot pan and cook at high heat.  As soon as we took the roast out of the oven, we increased the heat to 450 degrees. Then we poured our mix into the hot roasting pan with the drippings and let it cook.  It puffs up and is delicious!

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Yule Log

The key to making a yule log is making a flexible sponge cake and then as soon as it is out of the oven, rolling it up in a clean towel dusted with powdered sugar.  Then when its cooled you unroll it, spread the inside with chocolate frosting, roll up again and cover with more chocolate frosting.  We used a fork to draw bark lines on it, sprinkled powder sugar on it (to look like snow) and also decorated it with plastic animals we had saved from a yule log someone gave us last year.  (Ours was better.)

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Brussel Sprouts

Not much to say here (we really made these for mom).  Hardest part is coring and cleaning them.  We got a new brussel sprout cleaner for Christmas (see photo below) but honestly it was easier to use the knife because our sprouts were pretty small.  Once they were FINALLY cleaned we just tossed them in olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted them.

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December 22, 2017: Happy Holidays: Snowflake Cookies
Dec 23rd, 2017 by Katekoster

For the holidays, we always make sugar cookies and this year we decided to make snowflake cookies in different sizes.


Making sugar cookies is actually a lot of work.  First you make the cookie dough (very simple ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla).  Then you shape it into discs, wrap them in plastic and let the dough rest in the fridge for at least an hour.  Then you roll it out flat and cut out the shapes and bake.  You can use the scraps left over to cut out more cookies but sometimes you have to put the dough in the fridge again if it gets too sticky. Then you have to let the cookies cool and finally you get to frost them (and eat them).  We made the dough the night before we baked and frosted them.

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Happy Holidays!!

Saturday, December 16, 2017: Dinner No. 102: Steak and Potatoes
Dec 19th, 2017 by Katekoster

Tonight I (Alex) got to cook just for myself (because mom had to go out to dinner and Max and dad were away) so I cooked one of my favorite meals: filet mignon and mashed potatoes.  Although I am half Swiss (from my dad), my mom is from Iowa so I am half mid-Western…and I love beef!  I cooked 2 filets for myself and made quick microwave mashed potatoes…this is when you microwave potatoes as if you were making  baked potatoes (unpeeled) but then you peel them while they are hot and add butter and milk.  Maybe not quite as good as the traditional way of making mashed potatoes but they are quick and tasty.  Here’s what my final plate looked like:


And here are the steps:  1. salt and pepper the filets both sides. 2. Wash potatoes and prick all over with fork. Microwave in 4 minute intervals until mashable. 3 Heat your grill pan (it will be ready when a flick of water on it sizzles).  4. Cook 4-5 minutes each side, flipping a couple times to get grill marks.  5. Test for doneness…if your filets are thick you may want to finish in a 375 degree oven for a couple of minutes. 6. Peel the cooked potatoes (careful they will be hot!). 7. Mash potatoes with butter and milk. 8. Salt to tasted.  9. Plate and enjoy!!!

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PS: Since I was cooking just for me, I skipped the vegetables. Don’t tell mom…

Wednesday, December 13, 2017: Cauliflower Challenge
Dec 16th, 2017 by Katekoster

Tonight we wanted to figure out if different colored cauliflower tasted different so we bought three types: white, purple and green.  We love the purple and green colors but weren’t sure if they would taste better (or worse) than regular white cauliflower. Our taste test was pretty easy.  We chopped all three kinds up, tossed them in olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted them in a 400 degree oven.  Then the whole family tasted them.  (We didn’t do a blind taste test so results are not 100% scientific.)

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And the winner? Purple!!! But not by much….everyone agreed that all three colors tasted pretty similar but the purple was slightly more tender and tasty.  Mom was convinced that the green cauliflower would taste different because it’s really a mix of broccoli and cauliflower (called romanesco) but it didn’t.  Next time we will add in orange cauliflower and taste with blindfolds. Then we will report back our “scientific” findings. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017: Cupcake Decorating Fun
Dec 13th, 2017 by Katekoster

Today I (Alex) wanted to experiment with decorating and make a cool cupcake for one of my best friends for her birthday so I made some delicious vanilla cupcakes (from scratch! no box).  Then I made butter cream frosting.  I had never made or worked with butter cream frosting and it’s amazing how well it holds its shape.  However, I think I like chocolate frosting better (next time I am going to make chocolate butter cream frosting).   I ran out of cupcakes to frost so I just practiced on a plate.

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The recipe for butter cream frosting is really easy: butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, but the key to making it is to make sure the butter is softened!


Anyway, happy birthday to my bestie!

Monday, December 4, 2017: Dinner No. 101: Braised Lamb Shanks and Apple Tart
Dec 6th, 2017 by Katekoster

Tonight since it was December (and getting colder), we wanted to make one of our favorite winter dishes: Braised Lamb Shanks.  We make this in a slow cooker, letting it cook overnight and then we let it sit in the fridge during the day so we can easily skim the fat before we reheat it and serve it with couscous.  We also made a butter lettuce salad with goat cheese, walnuts and cranberries.  And then, because I (Max) finished up my homework early I made apple tarts and assorted cinnamon pastries.

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The ingredients for the braised lamb are straightforward: 6 lamb shanks; chopped onion, carrots and garlic;  chicken broth and red wine; a can of chopped tomates and some tomato paste;and some chopped thyme and a bay leaf. First you brown the lamb shanks in olive oil and then put them in the slow cooker. Then you sautee the onion, carrots and garlic, add redwine and chicken broth and let cook a bit–and then add that to the slow cooker. Then you add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped thyme and bay leave and let cook for 8 hours on low (preferably overnight).  When you wake up the house will smell delicious (if you like the smell of lamb), and the lamb will be falling off the bone.  You can skim some fat of now but the easiest way is to refrigerate it and then remove the solidified fat.  Reheat and serve with couscous.

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Look at the difference between when we started cooking the lamb shanks (first photo below) and how they cooked down (second photo). Aand the last photo shows all the orange colored fat you remove after you have refrigerated)

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Here’s the final meal before plating:


For the apple tart and cinnamon pastries, first I peeled and sliced 2 gala apples. Then I rolled out a sheet of (store bought) frozen puff pastry that I had let thaw in the fridge for a couple of hours.  I cut 4 squares to make apple tarts and then put the rest of the pastry back in the fridge to keep cool.  I mixed the sliced apples with a little cinnamon sugar and then layered them in each square, folding in the edges a little. Then I brushed the exposed pastry with egg wash.  I put them in the oven to bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

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Meanwhile I took the remaining pastry out of the fridge. I cut half into long strips that I brused with egg wash, dipped in cinnamon sugar and then twisted as I laid them down on another baking sheet.  These were my cinnamon twists.  With the remaining rectangle, I brushed one side lightly with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and rolled up.  Then I sliced them into mini cinnamon roll pastries.  Both went into the 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.




Thursday, November 30, 2017: Dinner No. 100: Pulled Pork and Chunky Applesauce
Dec 1st, 2017 by Katekoster

Hey, we had a great Thanksgiving in Dallas with our cousins and grandparents and lots of other relatives and friends.  Thank you Rick and Carla for hosting such a great Thanksgiving Dinner!  And thanks for sharing some of your family recipes!  We were inspired by your recipes for crock-pot pulled pork and chunky applesauce to make that for tonight’s dinner.  We also added baked potatoes and an arugula/goat cheese salad… just to make the meal that much better.

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For the pulled pork, we followed the “Dallas” recipe but added a chopped onion, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to both spice and sweeten things up.  We also had to cut our pork butt in half because it was too big for our crock pot.  We froze the other half for another day.  We let the pork cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low and then removed it and shredded it.  (We started this Wednesday night and shredded it in the morning before school.)

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There was some liquid in the crock put that looked like it had a lot of fat so we poured it through our de-greaser and then we added the liquid back to the crock pot along with the shredded pork and barbecue sauce.  We let it cook for an hour or so (and then mom put it in the fridge until dinner time)


For the apple sauce, we followed our cousins’ recipe except we used the microwave…it was a weeknight so Mom said we had to do our homework!

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Then we made baked potatoes and a quick but tasty arugula salad (with goat cheese, tomatoes, pine nuts and proscuitto (optional).


The final meal looked like this:




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