Saturday, November 19, 2022: Chicken and Pearl Couscous + Pumpkin Pastry Twists
Nov 27th, 2022 by Alex Koster

This weekend my friends and I organized a “Friendsgiving” where we each brought our own dish. I decided to make my classic chicken and pearl couscous recipe which was definitely a hit and also brought along pumpkin pastry twists. The original chicken and pearl couscous recipe came from Martha Stewart’s Living magazine years ago and is both healthy and delicious–it’s one of our family favorites. I’ve adjusted it a bit and the ingredients are listed below.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups pearl couscous (aka Israeli couscous)
  • 1 and 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 strips of lemon peel (about 2 inches each)
  • Pinch of saffron
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth (have more in case you need it)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup frozen peas

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add couscous and cook, stirring for
    1-2 minutes till slightly browned. Transfer couscous to a bowl, and return the skillet to
    heat. (OK to add a little bit more oil if the pan seems dry)
  2. Cook chicken, smooth side down, until browned (3-5 minutes), flip, and cook 3
    minutes more. Transfer to a plate, leaving drippings in the skillet.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, add onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring. Add
    tomatoes, garlic, lemon peel, and saffron. Cook, stirring, till tomatoes begin to
    break down (about 3 minutes), add wine and cook a few minutes more.
  4. Return chicken to skillet, and add stock, salt, and couscous. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 12-14 minutes until couscous is tender and chicken is cooked
    through. NOTE: at this point, I taste the couscous and if it still a little crunchy
    (and all the stock is absorbed), I add ½ cup of chicken broth. Once the couscous is
    tender, stir in peas, cook till peas heated through (about 1 minute) and serve!

Note: if you are lucky enough to have leftovers, it’s even better the next day.

Pumpkin Pastry Twists

For dessert I made Pumpkin Pastry Twists using the ingredients listed below–along with these simple instructions.

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet. Whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Then on a smooth, workable surface, unfold or unroll your puff pastry until it’s laid out evenly. Spread the pumpkin puree even across all of the puff pastry. Sprinkle on the brown sugar mixture until the pumpkin is well covered. Cut your puff pastry into thin strips. Grab the ends of one strip and start twisting the pastry then lay the twisted strip on your prepared parchment paper and repeat with the remaining strips. Bake the pastries for 15-20 minutes and sprinkle them with powdered sugar. These twists are so easy but look impressive (and taste delicious) so I definitely recommend them.

Saturday, November 11, 2022: BBQ Shredded Tofu/Cabbage Slaw Sandwiches with Two Salads (Warm Corn Salad+Simple Green Salad)
Nov 15th, 2022 by Alex Koster

Tonight I wanted to be really healthy and make an utterly non-meat dinner for the family. I researched a bunch of recipes and found one that seemed like it might even satisfy my dad (he likes veggies but also thinks meat should be meat.) I found this recipe at and despite my dad’s skepticism, I think he ate more of this than anyone else! Here are the ingredients for the Shredded Tofu:

  • 1 350g block extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (I used chili flakes)
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup BBQ sauce
  • ¼ cup water

For the cabbage slaw: just toss shredded red and green cabbage, sliced carrots, and a bit of mayonnaise to taste.

First, drain the tofu and shred it using a cheese grater, you don’t have to press the tofu because the water will dry off in the oven. Mix the oil, soy sauce, chili powder, smoked paprika, and garlic powder in a large bowl then add and coat the shredded tofu with the seasonings. Spread the tofu evenly on a pan with oil or parchment paper. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring the tofu halfway through, until the tofu is browned. Heat the BBQ sauce and water in a pan, and then stir in the baked tofu. Heat the BBQ sauce and water in a pan, and then stir in the baked tofu. For the cabbage slaw: just toss shredded red and green cabbage, sliced carrots, and a bit of mayonnaise to taste (definitely add salt and pepper).

I served the bbq tofu on a bun with cabbage slaw and a side of warm corn salad + a simple green salad.

For the warm corn salad, I sautéed corn with butter, chopped red onion, cherry tomatoes, and chopped red pepper (add cumin if you want a bit more flavor). And for the green salad, I tossed romaine lettuce, avocados, and tomatoes (but add whatever else you feel like).

Plating this was fun because there were so many bright colors, and the tastes were just as bright!

For desert I made low sugar, fluffy chocolate chip muffins. I made an adjusted version of this recipe.

The ingredients are: 1½ cups all-purpose flour, ¼ cup sifted cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt, ⅓ cup maple syrup 2 eggs, ¼ cup unsalted butter (melted and cooled), 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, ½ cup chocolate chocolate chips (I used mini ones).

Start by setting the oven to 375 degrees and greasing a muffin pan. Stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and once combined add the yogurt, maple syrup, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Gently fold together and finally add the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the muffin pan and bake for about 15 min. Let cool and enjoy!

These were honestly perfect because they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet and are made with whole, healthy, ingredients. They just disappeared too fast!

Saturday, November 5, 2022: Frittata with Corn, Tomatoes and Basil
Nov 9th, 2022 by Alex Koster

Today for lunch I wanted to make something healthy and light–but still tasty. I found a couple recipes for frittatas, including epicurious’s Fresh Corn Frittata with Smoked Mozarella and heynutritionlady’s Vegetarian Frittata with Corn and Tomatoes. Based on those two recipes I came up with my own version. Frittatas are pretty forgiving so if you don’t like a particular ingredient — or don’t have it, you can always substitute. For example, feta would be a good substitute for the cheese I used. In any event, here are the ingredients I used:

  • 1-1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic, diced
  • 1-1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh is best, but frozen ok)
  • 12 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded smoked mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

The first step is to preheat your oven to 350 Degrees. Then prep all your vegetables.

Next, heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet and cook till translucent (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds (do not let brown).

Then add the corn kernels, stir in and let cook for about 4 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add in the tomatoes and cook until starting to soften.

Whisk the eggs, add the milk, salt, and pepper, and 1/2 of the cheese, and chopped basil. Use a spatula to even out and gently lift the corn and tomatoes up. Let cook for 3-5 minutes on low heat until eggs begin to set. Sprinkle the top of the frittata with the remaining cheese. You can also add additional parmesan cheese if you like.

Place the frittata in the preheated oven. Bake for 5 minutes and then switch to the broil setting. Broil the frittata for about 5 more minutes, but watch as you don’t want it to get too brown. The frittata is done when it’s nicely browned and only jiggles a little. (If you don’t want to risk burning it with the broiler, you can just bake it for an additional 5-7 minutes but it won’t puff up as much.)Let cool for a few minutes before serving–garnish with extra basil, avocado, cheese…and whatever else you feel like.

Brown Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

For dessert I made Brown Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies from HandleTheHeat. This was the first time I’ve ever used brown butter in cookies and I won’t be going back. Not only did it completely elevate the taste but it also made the kitchen smell like caramel. For these cookies you will need 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1.5 cups flour, .25 teaspoon salt, .5 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, .25 teaspoon ground ginger, .25 teaspoon nutmeg, .125 teaspoon cloves, .75 cup white sugar, .25 cup light brown sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, .3 cup pumpkin puree, and .75 cup (or more!) semisweet chocolate chips

First you brown the butter by melting it over medium heat, swirling occasionally until brown bits form at the bottom. Then remove from heat and pour into a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugars to the hot butter and stir to combine. Let cool.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Then egg yolk, pumpkin puree, and vanilla to the cooled butter mixture. Slowly add the flour mixture in until a soft dough forms. Then fold in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough in the fridge until firm and place on the lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees, let cool and enjoy!

Saturday, October 28, 2022: Shrimp and Pearl Couscous with Harissa; Easy Banana Bread
Nov 3rd, 2022 by Alex Koster

Tonight I wanted to try another of The New York Times one pan dish recommendations and found this easy recipe for shrimp and pearl couscous with harissa. Harissa, a hot chili pepper paste with herbs and spices from northern Africa, is definitely the key ingredient for the dish and because it can be very spicy, I suggest going easy the first time you try the recipe. I also made sure to buy sustainable shrimp from Fresh Direct!

The recipe (with my modifications) is below:

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined*
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon harissa sauce (NYT calls for 3-4 tablespoons, but 1 was enough for me!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cup pearl couscous
  • 3-4 fresh garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves rough chopped (or left whole)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  1. The first step was to toss the shrimp with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of harissa (or less, if not a fan of spiciness…I added 2 teaspoons). I also took off the tails of the shrimp because who wants to chew on tails when they eat dinner?
  2. The next step was to sauté the diced onion in the olive oil and butter, until translucent.
  3. Then add the couscous, chopped garlic, and cumin and cook for 3-4 minutes, until couscous is toasted.
  4. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and cook until evaporated, scraping all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. If you like heat in your food, add another teaspoon (or tablespoon) of harissa and 2 1/2 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. There should still be a little bit of liquid.
  5. Add the shrimp to the couscous, pushing them under the surface a bit, and add the tomatoes. Increase the heat to a simmer and cook for 3-4 minutes until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  6. Add the chopped basil (and more salt and pepper…and harissa if brave).

Serve in shallow bowls and enjoy!

For dessert, I needed something comforting (and cooling for my taste buds!) We had a couple of ripe bananas so I decided to make banana bars from an adjusted a recipe from WellPlated. They were surprisingly easy and disappeared very quickly.

  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted and cooled unsalted butter 
  • 2 tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° and line a 8×8 pan with parchment paper. Mash the bananas and make sure this is exactly a cup. Stir in the sugar, cooled butter, milk, egg, and vanilla. Then in a different bowl mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt). Next, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine. Lastly, add in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the baking pan. Bake for 15- 20 minutes then cut into squares and enjoy!

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