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Announcement: Sur La Table – Croissants
Jun 12th, 2022 by Alex Koster

For Mother’s Day, I bought a Sur La Table cooking class on how to make Croissants from scratch. You may remember that my mom and I did a sushi-making class at Sur La Table earlier this year and since we had so much fun learning to make sushi, I decided to get my mom another class on how to make delicious pastries. 

During the class, we learned how to make morning buns, pain au chocolate, and classic croissant dough. It was a long process (especially for an early Saturday morning) but it was really fun and interesting to create the flaky layers of the ultimate French breakfast treat. (Morning buns are essentially cinnamon rolls made with croissant dough –I’d never heard of them but they are delicious!)

The basic croissant dough process involves making a very buttery batter and then spreading butter across that batter and folding and folding and folding, all while trying to keep the butter from melting (and from escaping out the sides).

I would definitely recommend taking a class at Sur la Table, they are super fun and offer a wide variety for everyone.

Announcement: Banana Chocolate Muffins
May 22nd, 2022 by Alex Koster

I made these muffins a while ago but was going through my camera role today and found them. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the exact recipe I used but this one from spendwithpennies is pretty similar. They are a perfect sweet snack especially if you have some brown old bananas. Also, pro tip: sprinkle your muffins with cinnamon sugar before putting them in the oven.

I might have forgotten to take a few photos but still how amazing do they look 🙂

Final product!!

Announcement: About KidsCookDinner.com
Feb 12th, 2022 by Alex Koster

Welcome to KidsCookDinner.com: a website my brother Max and I (Alex) started in 2015.* Originally we posted about kids’ cooking (usually dinner, but not always) and tried to draw attention to the fact that a lot of people don’t have enough to eat.  Along the way, we won a prize for our domain name, donated over $17,000 to Action Against Hunger, and competed against each other on Chopped Junior on Food Network.  

Max and Alex Cooking in 2015

We have had a lot of fun but recently I’ve become really concerned about climate change and its relationship to food. I’ve learned about food’s carbon foodprint (the greenhouse emissions produced by the growing, harvesting, processing, transporting, cooking, and disposing of the food we eat).

I’ve realized the way I eat (and most Americans eat) has a negative impact on climate change. The mass production of food, especially of animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs generates a really big foodprint. For example, commercially produced beef has a really high carbon footprint because of the methane produced by the animals themselves and the methane from manure lagoons and pits. (Methane is a greenhouse gas linked to global warming.)

I also learned that food waste is an enormous hidden contributor to climate change. The United States wastes roughly 40% of its food, and when it goes to landfills, it breaks down and produces methane. Finally, the warming global temperatures and increasingly violent weather linked to climate change are negatively affecting communities’ ability to grow sustainable crops–resulting in more global hunger. (If you want to learn more about food’s foodprint, I recommend these two sites:

https://foodprint.org/issues/how-our-food-system-affects-climate-change/ and

https://www.earthday.org/our-work/#food-and-environment )

Given all that, I decided I wanted to try to change the way I eat and also use this website to encourage others to be more mindful about the food they eat (and the food we waste). I am trying to reduce the amount of meat and dairy I eat as well as try out more plant-based recipes on this website. And, I want to try to be more conscious of food leftovers. I want to try to find ways to use them in new recipes, and when we do have compostable waste, actually compost it! We used to compost vegetable scraps every week at the local farmers’ market but we stopped during COVID. Now, I’ve started doing it again and want to work with local organizations to raise awareness of the availability of compost drop-off containers in the neighborhood. For example, I found one close to the dog park where we take our dog!

*For those of you who want to learn more about the story of our website, we created it when my mom said we couldn’t keep posting food and cooking pictures on her Facebook page. When we registered the domain, we checked a box to register it in Verisign’s national domain name contest and then had to make a video about the website.  Amazingly enough, we won the contest and $35,000!  Click HERE for more about the story of our domain name. Since we have enough to eat, we decided to donate $17,000 to Action Against Hunger–a charity dedicated to saving the lives of malnourished children and helping vulnerable communities become self-sufficient. We were lucky enough to get to visit the Action Against Hunger office in New York and meet some of their amazing staff. (Below we are sitting with Alex Cottin, Director of External Affairs, and Andrea Tamburini, CEO of AAH-USA, in August 2015)

Max and Alex with Alex Cottin, Director of External Affairs and Andrea Tamburini, CEO, of AAH-USA

Spring Break
May 11th, 2022 by Alex Koster

Hi! I just came back from an eventful spring break… we toured colleges in DC, Virginia and North Carolina then ended up in Florida for a relaxing getaway 🙂 Along the way, we found some amazing restaurants and I wanted to post about some of them!

First off is Luke’s Lobster which is a quick lunch place that we went to in DC (but they have a few in Manhattan). They, believe it or not, serve lobster but more specifically lobster rolls (and some other sides). The rolls were amazing with large portions of fresh lobster that weren’t overpowered by too much mayo, served on fresh bread. As good as the food was what really stood out to me about Luke’s Lobster was their environmental consciousness. They use sustainable lobster fishing to take care of oceans and preserve natural resources. Luke’s is also a certified B corporation meaning they work to achieve social and environmental good, not just profit.

Not only was the lobster delicious, but it was also great to eat at a restaurant that practices “traceable, sustainable” seafood. Luke’s buys directly from fishermen in Maine who they know are working to protect our oceans.

Also, I hadn’t heard of certified B corporations until I saw it on Luke’s menu and investigated. This certification is an international certification that verifies that companies meet the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. When I read Luke’s mission statement (available here), I realized I needed to look out for more restaurants like them.

Besides Luke’s, we had several other great meals…

Rocco’s Tacos serves amazing Mexican food with fresh ingredients and a fun environment. We went to the one in Delray Beach along Atlantic ave and ordered shrimp, chicken, and chorizo tacos, chips & guac, and margaritas (for mom). The restaurant gives an exciting experience with wacky decorations and guacamole prepared in front of you. The food was great, the highlight being the guac! 

Boston’s on the Beach is a beachside restaurant good for lunch or a quick dinner. We got Bibb Lettuce Wraps with marinated chicken and carrots, Ahi Tuna Poke, and The “Power” Bowl with greens, quinoa, and chickpeas.

Baked Zucchini Fries: May 4, 2022
May 4th, 2022 by Alex Koster

If you are looking for a quick and healthy snack then look no further! I was craving french fries but wanted to lighten them up a bit while getting in my veggies for the day so I found the perfect thing… Zucchini Fries! I was honestly very skeptical of this recipe (I’m not a big fan of Zucchini) but it’s definitely legit and definitely worth trying out.

Assembly line”
Fries before oven
Zucchini Fries!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1/4 cup flour (if you are gluten free, recommend chick pea flour)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice (I used almond milk)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs 

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees and slice your zucchini into fries. Then using three bowls set up an assembly line: one with the flour and spices, one with milk in another, and breadcrumbs in a third. Dip each zucchini stick in the flour, then the milk, then the breadcrumbs. Place on a lightly greased cooling rack and bake for about 20 minutes. **Credit to Chocolate Covered Katie for the recipe**

And they were delicious!

Belated Earth Day
Apr 30th, 2022 by Alex Koster

As I’m sure you know, Earth Day was last Friday, April 22, so in honor of Earth Day, I wanted to make a quick post about the importance of food and climate change. We all know that the production of food takes a toll on the environment, but what exactly does that mean? Are some foods worse than others? If so, what’s the worst type of food? Do I have to go vegan to save the world? Well… let’s find out!

It’s meat (particularly red meat) and dairy production that create the most greenhouse gas emissions each year, accounting for about the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships combined. Meanwhile, plant-based foods have the smallest impact on the environment, soooo does that mean you should swear off meat and cheese? Well, not necessarily.

While limiting your meat and dairy intake is a great way to work to reduce your carbon “foodprint”, there’s definitely a middle ground. Cows are a key component in the agricultural cycle, not just for their meat, but because they are used to dispose of massive amounts of waste like corn husk or leave. Additionally, they produce manure that can be used as fertilizer and are also pretty cute (especially the Swiss cows pictured below lounging in the Alps). So while going vegan is great, keep in mind the importance of moderation.

Aside from changing your diet, there are other ways you can work to reduce your carbon “foodprint”, namely by reducing your food waste. Food waste is a HUGE contributor to climate change and is often overlooked. Americans throw out about 20% of the food they buy. Luckily, there are some small steps you can take to address it. First, you can try to compost organic materials. Even in NYC, there are lots of places to drop compost off. Here’s our compost pail, which we will empty at our local Farmer’s Market tomorrow.

Second, there are other ways to reduce food waste: when grocery shopping: plan your meals, make a shopping list and buy what you actually need (and then follow that meal plan!). I realized that our family was wasting fruit like cantaloupe and strawberries because no one wanted to cut them and they went bad before we could eat them. So one of my small changes is chopping that fruit up as soon as we buy it.

Certain items also don’t go bad as quickly as you might think: “Sell by” labels are usually manufacturer’s suggestions for peak quality. Almost all foods can still be safely consumed after that date, so don’t throw out your food just because it’s a few days past its peak quality.

We all have a “carbon foodprint” but with diet changes and limiting our food waste, our gradual changes can add up. A crucial part of battling climate change is recognizing that there’s only so much an individual can do when it comes to making mass changes policy changes are the most effective. Support politicians who are advocating for sensible climate change policies: whether it’s encouraging electric vehicles, restoring public lands and waters or encouraging more environmentally friendly farming practices.

Want to know how your diet contributes to climate change? Take this quiz to find out!

Sunday, April 9, 2022: Cold Noodle Salad with Nutty Dressing
Apr 24th, 2022 by Alex Koster

Tonight I wanted to try out a vegan noodle salad recipe from plantyou.com. The recipe called for rice noodles, veggies, and a nut-based dressing. I also steamed some asparagus as a side because the asparagus looked so good at the Farmers’ Market. My interpretation of the plantyou.com recipe is listed below (their original recipe is available here):

Ingredients:

Two Nut Dressing:

  • 3/8 cup peanuts soaked in water for 2 hours*
  • 3/8 cup pecans soaked in water for 2 hours*
  • Juice/segments from 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup of water from the soaked nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce

*plantyou.com’s recipe called for walnuts as well, but I decided to try just a peanut/pecan mix

Salad

  • 8 oz rice noodles
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot ribboned
  • 2 green onions diced
  • 1 cup red or green cabbage, diced (red looks prettier)
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 cup chopped parsley (optional)

*plantyou.com’s recipe called for parsley but I am not a fan, so I left it out.

The first step is to soak the nuts in water for at least 3 hours.

The next step is to prepare the noodles: I used Thai Brown Rice Noodles so I soaked them in hot water for about 10 minutes (until tender), drained them, and then refrigerated them until they were cool.

Once the 3 hours soaking is up, drain the nuts, reserving 1/4 cup water, and chop your veggies, including the garlic.

Make sure you have all the ingredients for the nut dressing ready to go (drained nuts, orange, garlic, nut water, and soy sauce. If the nuts you use are salted, only add 2 Tbs soy sauce to start so your dressing isn’t too salty.

Then combine the nuts and the other dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until only slightly chunky (or add a bit more water if you want a smoother dressing).

Finally, put it all together: prepare your salad–add the noodles and veggies and top with the dressing. Feel free to substitute or add vegetables (the more colors the better)!

Here’s the final beauty shot! Healthy and pretty!

And don’t forget the asparagus (I just steamed these on the stovetop and then sprinkled them with grated parmesan cheese and a little truffle salt).

Saturday, April 2, 2022: Spring Salad
Apr 2nd, 2022 by Alex Koster

Today I wanted to try something new but also stick with my goal of eating more healthy, plant-based foods. At the farmers’ market, there were beautiful pea shoots and fresh scallions I wanted to use, and I saw a “Herby Rice Salad with Peas and Proscuitto” recipe in The New York Times that looked interesting. The recipe (by Emily Nunn who has a newsletter called The Department of Salad) didn’t actually include pea shoots or scallions so my version isn’t exactly the same as Ms. Nunn’s but it’s still pretty good.

Spring Salad Ingredients (recipe based on Emily Nunn’s recipe mentioned above)

  • 2 cups white rice
  • 3 cups shelled peas (blanched if fresh, raw if frozen)
  • 2 cups fresh pea shoots (optional)
  • 4-5 scallions*, chopped (should be about 5 tablespoons), plus clean green stems from 2 scallions (rough chopped)
  • 2 lemons zested and juiced
  • 1 cup slivered basil *
  • 12-16 slices proscuitto (optional if truly committed to plant-based foods)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt to taste

* Nunn’s recipe had red onions and chives instead of scallions. Cook’s choice. Also, her recipe called for 1/2 cup mint and 1/2 cup parsley: neither of which my family loves so I just doubled the basil.

The first step, if you don’t have leftover rice, is to cook the rice: we have a rice cooker so I used that and then thoroughly rinsed it so it wouldn’t stick together and put it in the fridge. It needs to cool completely.

Then, since I had fresh peas, I blanched them briefly (I boiled a large pot of water, poured the peas in, let them cook for one minute, then drained and put them in an ice bath.)

Next, I zested and juiced the lemons and chopped my scallions, reserving a few of the long green stems (and rough chopping them).

Then I combined 1/2 of the chopped scallions, the scallion stems, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, red pepper flakes and a little salt to make a marinade for the peas.

I mixed in the peas and put the bowl, covered, in the fridge–it should marinate (refrigerated) for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 days.

When you are ready to make the salad, remove the longer scallion stems from the pea marinade. Then add the peas and the marinade to the cooled, cooked rice. (Note, some of the peas changed color, maybe because of the lemon juice, but they tasted fine.) Add the slivered basil and remaining chopped scallions and toss gently to combine. Taste and add salt and lemon juice if necessary.

If you are including fresh pea shoots, quickly saute them (1-2 minutes) in a nonstick pan

Then drape the cooked shoots (and prosciutto if using) on top of the salad. The result is a lemony and bright salad that is surprisingly filling. Great for lunch or a light supper. Enjoy!

Healthy Quesadillas
Mar 28th, 2022 by Alex Koster

Tonight I wanted to make a quick, healthy dinner that focused on being both meat and dairy-free. I decided to make quesadillas with soy cheese and nonmeat chicken. The full list of ingredients is:

  • Whole wheat tortillas (see note below)
  • Soy cheese
  • Chopped scallions
  • Onion salt
  • Garlic salt
  • Non-chicken chicken tenders
  • Avocados (to garnish)

The first step is to chop your scallions, then layer the soy cheese, smart tenders, scallions on top of one tortilla, sprinkle with onion and garlic salt to taste, and then put another tortilla on top. Heat gently in a non-stick pan lightly sprayed with cooking oil.

Flip once or twice, until the tortilla is slightly browned and the cheese is melted, then cut into quarters. I love to serve it with avocados.

The result is deliciously gooey! And healthy!

Also, wanted to call out the tortillas I used (detail below). These are great, low carb and high in fiber, but also taste great.

January 27, 2022: Sheet Pan Shrimp and Veggies
Jan 28th, 2022 by Alex Koster

Welcome to KidsCookDinner.com, a website my brother and I started in 2015 to talk about food and kids’ cooking. Since then we’ve tried to use it to raise awareness about social issues such as worldwide hunger (see post above “About KidsCookDinner…” but now my brother is in college, so I get to choose what to cook!

Tonight I wanted to cook a healthy, meat-free dish so I decided to do a sheet pan roast of shrimp and vegetables. While shrimp is considered a “healthy” choice, after researching it from an environmentally sustainable perspective, I was surprised to learn that a lot of shrimp is not considered a good choice from an overall climate change, sustainability POV. There are a lot of different organizations that list “good” fish to eat, and it’s hard to keep track of them all (and one article I read even said it’s so confusing as to what fish is OK to buy!

(See https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/03/15/520023117/i-want-to-eat-fish-responsibly-but-the-seafood-guides-are-so-confusing)

The shrimp I bought had a sustainability label on them so I hope they were ok. But just be careful, look at labels and certifications from organizations such as OceanicSociety.org, seafood.edf.org, or seafoodwatch.org.

Anyway, the ingredients you need include:

FULL INGREDIENT LIST:

  • 1 pound raw, peeled shrimp (hopefully from a sustainable source)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 red onion chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

NOTE: you can add whatever additional veggies you like: thin-sliced carrots? garlic cloves? cauliflower? peppers (you just may need to add a bit more olive oil if you have more volume)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare the shrimp. For our family, that means making sure they are peeled and the tail is removed! Oftentimes, if you buy peeled shrimp, the tail is still on, which is fine if you are eating them as a shrimp cocktail but not so good if they are part of a dish.

Then put the veggies in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, toss the shrimp with the other tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper.

Spread the veggies on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes until lightly charred, then toss and turn them on the pan and bake for another 5 minutes

Add the shrimp and bake for another 5 minutes until everything looks a bit browned.

Serve with rice if you like, or not! I found it was a delicious, satisfying meal without any additions…

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