Penne alla Vodka
Jan 22nd, 2022 by Alex Koster

Today I made Gigi Hadid’s famous Penne alla Vodka… it was a fairly simple recipe with minimal ingredients: (serves two)

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ green onion
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjusted for preference)
  • 225 grams of shells pasta (anytype)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup pasta water
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese

To make the sauce start by dicing the garlic and green onion (use the white part of the green onion- it has the most flavor and the green part is typically used for a garnish). Then heat a sauce pan with olive oil, add the garlic, and the onion, once softened add the tomato paste. After letting that simmer (don’t burn it!) stir in the heavy cream and vodka. When the vodka has evaporated, add the red pepper flakes. At this point it’s okay if the sauce isn’t fully coming together!

Remove from heat and cook your pasta… you can use any type- I used penne but want to try it with Conchiglie. Save 1/4 cup of the water for later!

Put the sauce back on medium heat and add the butter while stirring until it melts. Add pasta and 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.

Remove from heat and serve with more cheese and fresh basil. The pasta was perfect for a cozy winter night in, and I can’t wait to make it again. Enjoy!

Greek Yogurt Bagels
Jan 19th, 2022 by Alex Koster

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when suddenly I came across an incredibly simpleand healthy bagel recipe, at first I thought it was fake… surely making bagels is a long process- but after some more research I verified the recipe:

Ingredients: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp kosher salt, 1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt, 1 egg white, seasoning of choice

Simply preheat the oven to 375°F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk well. Then add the yogurt and mix with a fork or spatula until well combined, it will look like small crumbles.

Flour a surface and knead the dough a few times enough so that the dough isn’t left on your hand when you pull away.

Divide the dough in 4 balls and roll them into 3/4-inch thick ropes and join the ends to form bagels.

Cover both sides with egg wash and seasoning of your choice (I used Trader Joe’s “everything but the bagel” seasoning). Bake on the top rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting and enjoy!!!!

**I didn’t realize how much they would rise and should have made the hole a bit bigger… still delicious!**

These are an easy, healthy alternative and seriously good, as a bagel enthusiast I would definitely recommend them!

January 5, 2021: Fun with Composting
Jan 9th, 2022 by Alex Koster

Welcome to, a website my brother and I started in 2015 to talk about food and kids’ cooking. We also tried to raise awareness about social issues like worldwide hunger. (See post below, About Kids Cook Dinner, for more info about that.)

I am also trying to educate myself and others about climate change and I’ve learned that the food we eat can be a big part of it. And the food we waste is a huge issue! Not only does it waste water and energy to produce food that is then wasted, but food waste also generates greenhouse gases and the United States is the worst. We discard more food (40 million tons) than any other country in the world.

So instead of talking about cooking today, I wanted to talk about what we can do to help reduce food waste. The first thing is to buy groceries more thoughtfully: make a list before you go to the store about what you need and stick to it.

The second thing you can do is compost some of the food waste. We have always done this at our house in the country because it’s easy there. Our compost bins are close to the house and we just empty our compost bucket into them when it’s full. The things we compost are:

(We have two bins, one is for new compost and the other is aging, and we use that in our garden)

  • fruit, vegetable scraps
  • egg shells
  • coffee grounds
  • dried flowers/leaves
  • old bread, grains or pasta

For the new year, I wanted to try to make sure we tried to compost stuff in the city. So I got another compost bucket and found a compost bin along the Hudson River near where we walk the dog.

If you are interested in composting your food waste, it’s easy to find a drop off spot in New York City. Just check out

The link will show you your nearest drop-off spot and what it accepts. Good luck and happy composting!

December 20, 2021: Crispy Sheet Pan Teriyaki Tofu, Broccoli, and Garlic
Jan 1st, 2022 by Alex Koster

Welcome to, 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 intro post above “About KidsCookDinner…”. And now, since I’m really concerned about climate change, I want to raise awareness about food’s carbon ‘footprint”. I am trying to learn more about it, but what I understand is that the mass production of meat, dairy, and eggs has a big negative impact due to the greenhouse emissions these activities produce. I love meat but I am going to try to eat a more plant-based diet to do my part. Accordingly, today I am going to cook something healthy, high in protein–but with no meat, dairy, or eggs. This tofu dish, loosely based on a recipe in Recipe Runner (I added garlic!), looked delicious.


For the tofu, broccoli, and garlic mix:

  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce*
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10-15 peeled garlic cloves

For the teriyaki sauce

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce*
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sriracha
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch whisked with 1 teaspoon water.

* you can substitute tamari sauce if you have it.

Once you have everything assembled, drain and dry the tofu with paper towels. Cut the tofu into about 50 cubes by slicing the tofu into 5 slabs, stacking them on top of each other and slicing lengthwise and then across again.

Line a sheet pan with paper towels, or a soft clean cotton towel, and lay the tofu on top in a single layer. Place a towel on top and them put something heavy on top and let the tofu rest for at least 20 minutes (longer is better).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and oil a rimmed baking sheet. After at least 20 minutes, toss the cubed tofu with 1 and and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in a large bowl. Keep mixing until no corn starch is visible.

Spread the tofu onto1/2 of the baking sheet. Then add the broccoli to the same bowl along with the remaining olive oil (1 and 1/2 teaspoons) and salt and pepper. Mix and then spread the broccoli on the other half of the baking sheet, leaving a little room for the garlic

Slice the cloves of garlic in half if too big, toss with a little olive oil.

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Bake for 12 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Toss the broccoli and tofu around and add the garlic. Cook for another 12 minutes or until the tofu is gold and crispy on the edges.

Meanwhile, make the teriyaki sauce (this is what makes the dish really good)! Over medium heat in a small saucepan, whisk together all the ingredients listed above, except the cornstarch and water. Bring it to a boil and then whisk in the cornstarch-water mix. Reduce the heat and continue stirring until the sauce thickens.

Once the tofu, broccoli, and garlic are done baking, combine with the teriyaki sauce and serve over rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

December 12, 2021: Holiday Cookies
Dec 18th, 2021 by Alex Koster

Holiday Baking!

Frosted sugar cookies are delicious any time of the year, but are particularly fun for Christmas. Our family always bakes them, and we follow (generally) a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, Feast. This weekend I made our first batch.

The ingredients are as follows:

12 tablespoons soft, unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 scant teaspoon salt

The first step is to take the butter out of the fridge and let it soften! Don’t melt it in the microwave. It just won’t work. Once it’s soft, cream it with the sugar, and then add the egg and the vanilla. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder, and salt with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mix gently and make sure you stop and clean the sides of the bowl so everything is combined, especially if you are using a mixer.

Form the batter into two balls and then press each flat into a cylinder and wrap in saran wrap to chill in the oven for an hour or more.

Once the dough is chilled, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and then roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out your cookie shapes and place them on buttered cookie sheets. Chill the cut-out cookies for 15 minutes while the oven heats, and if you have scraps, form them into the ball and let them chill until ready to cook.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until slightly brown around the edges–the thinner and more pointy shapes will brown faster so keep an eye on those or put them in the middle of the baking sheet. The photo below shows what they should look like.

Let all your lovely cookies cool completely before frosting. (You can see that a few of mine got a bit too brown…just add more frosting!)

For frosting, you can make it from scratch but we like the store brought vanilla frosting. Add whatever color you want and add whatever topping you want. (Gel coloring is always better because it doesn’t add too much liquid to the frosting and makes a more intense color.)

Happy Holidays!


Baked Orange Cauliflower
Oct 3rd, 2021 by Alex Koster

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Recently I’ve been trying to find healthier recipes that don’t use as much meat but are still easy to prepare. I was in the mood for orange chicken and decided to try and replicate it with cauliflower, I used Simply Health Kitchen’s recipe and it was both easy, and fun to make.

  • To make the actual cauliflower you cut it into bite size pieces ( this is honestly based on preference but I made mine smaller so they would be crispier), then set up a work station of sorts, one bowl with panko crumbs, one with a whisked egg, one with the cauliflower and a lined baking sheet. The prep might seem like a lot but I promise it’s worth it and makes everything much easier. Start by dipping one cauliflower floret into the whisked egg, then dip it into the panko crumb, the egg should make the panko stick onto the cauliflower but you can alway use your fingers to help coat it. Once you do that to all the florets, bake them at 400F for about 15-20 min.

Okay, now for the orange sauce, I followed the recipe and actually made the sauce and though it tasted good, I would recommend just buying an orange sauce, because the flavors can be really hard to replicate when you’re trying to make it at home. But in case you do want to make it here are the steps:

  • Whisk together orange juice, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ketchup, sriracha, ginger and garlic and pour it into a sauce pan, bring it to a low boil, stirring constantly. The recipe says to add a water-cornstarch mixture to thicken but I found that that made the sauce clumpy, so instead I recommend slowly adding plain cornstarch while whisking, until you get the consistency you want (about 2 tbsp).

Then just put some of the orange sauce on the cauliflower and you’re done! One great thing about the recipe is that it’s incredibly versatile, you can serve it with whatever you have: I personally used leftover quinoa, but have made it with rice and beans.

Copycat Levain Cookies
Aug 18th, 2021 by Alex Koster

If you’re a foodie and live in NYC you’ve probably had the famed Levain bakery cookies. Today I made them and they taste nearly identical to Levain’s. To make this surprisingly simple recipe you will need: 1 cup cold butter cut up, 1 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 & 1/2 cups cake flour, 1 & 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups chopped walnuts. 


To start preheat the oven to 410 degrees then cream the butter and sugars till creamy. Then add the eggs and mix, meanwhile combine the dry ingredients (flours, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt), then stir into the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Lastly, add the chocolate chips and walnuts. Scoop onto a baking tray and bake for 9-12 minutes, then let them set for 10 minutes.

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  • If you don’t have cake flour you can make it by measuring 1 cup of flour, removing 2 tablespoons of it and replacing the removed flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • Walnuts are optional
  • If you want you can add 1 tsp vanilla extract with the eggs
  • We made pretty big ones so they were more similar to the Levain ones but you can adjust the size.


July 12, 2021: Pasta Night: Penne alla Vodka
Jul 18th, 2021 by Max Koster

Welcome to, a website my sister Alex and I started more than five years ago to talk about cooking, food, and helping hungry people.  To read more about the charities we support, our adventures on Chopped Junior and the website, scroll down to About Kids Cook Dinner. To see what we’re cooking right now, just stay here.

Tonight I wanted to make Penne Alla Vodka, one of my favorite kinds of pasta.  This recipe is based on Colu Henry’s Pasta Alla Vodka available at I really like this recipe because it has pancetta in it.  You can leave it out if you want to, but I really like the taste.

The ingredients for the sauce are straightforward.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta (optional)
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced or 1 teaspoon pre-chopped, bottled garlic
  • One 28 ounce can of crushed or chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving


For the pasta, you need one pound of penne pasta.  (Alex wanted to try a new low calorie, high protein pasta so I made a pot of that, as well as a pot of regular penne, so we could have a taste test.)


The first step is to saute the pancetta in the olive oil  until crispy brown and start a pot of water boiling (or if you are taste testing two kinds of pasta…obviously start two pots of water boiling.)


2. The second step is to add your chopped onions and garlic to the saucepan with the pancetta and cook until the onions are translucent, about five minutes.  Turn off the heat if using a gas stove, add the vodka, and then turn heat back on to low and cook till the liquid is reduced by half,


Stir in the tomatoes and swish about half a can of water in the tomato can to pick up the remaining tomatoes. Add no more than half of that liquid and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Meanwhile, add your penne to the boiling water if you haven’t already.  Note, if you are using chopped tomatoes instead of crushed ones, your sauce will be a little chunky. Either break it up with your spatula or, if you really want a smooth sauce, puree the chopped tomatoes in a blender before adding.


Add the cream, stir, and cook for about a minute (and keep track of your pasta!)


Once the pasta is done, drain and return to the pot to keep warm.  Here are photos of the two types of pasta; they look almost identical but the “light” pasta is actually lighter in color.


Regular Pasta above


Light, Enhanced Protein Pasta above

When the vodka sauce is ready, set up your serving station and let your guests choose their penne and chow down.

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I tried both types of penne and, while they were very similar, I preferred the regular pasta.



Wednesday, June 16, 2021: Turkey Sloppy Joes
Jun 22nd, 2021 by Max Koster

Welcome to, a website my sister and I started five years ago to talk about kids cooking, healthy food, and the issue of hungry people. COVID has only made food scarcity a bigger problem so please consider donating to a hunger-relief charity or even a local food bank.  Scroll down to the About Us  page to learn more about the hunger-relief charities we support.

Tonight I am making Turkey Sloppy Joes because I want to make sure I practice making some of my favorite family meals (since I’m going to college in the fall).  This is a very straightforward, 4-step recipe, especially if you can find pre-chopped onions and carrots:

Here’s what you need:

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And here’s the recipe (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Sloppy Joe recipe)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 carrots, coarsely chopped or grated
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove minced.
  • 3 tablespoons tomato pasta
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 15 ounce cans crushed  tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional, but good if you have it)
  • 4 hamburger buns (brioche = best)

Step 1: chop your carrots and onions (even if you brought them already chopped, they probably need to be chopped more finely.

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Step 2: heat the oil at medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and carrots and cook until soft, then add the garlic (if you add it too early, it may get too brown.) Salt and pepper.


Step 3: add the tomato paste and cook for one minute, then add the turkey, breaking it up with a spatula, until no longer pink (about 4-5 minutes).

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Step 4: finally add the tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and Worcestshire sauce. Cook for 12-14 minutes, stirring once in a while until thickened.


Serve over your brioche buns.  (Note Koko’s photo-bomb)


May 10, 2021: Crème Brûlée
May 11th, 2021 by Max Koster

Welcome to, a site my sister Alex and I (Max),  started in 2015 to talk about healthy food, kids’ cooking, and how to help hungry people. To learn more about why we started the site and what hunger-relief charities we support, please scroll down a bit to the “About Kids Cook Dinner…Chopped Junior” page and consider donating to a hunger-relief charity.  We recommend Feeding America, Action Against Hunger, or if you’re local in NYC, City Harvest.  (Click the name of the charity to donate.) COVID has made hunger even worse both in the United States and worldwide,  so please if you are able to, think about donating to support hungry families.

Although I have been focusing on cooking meals that don’t require many ingredients (since I am heading to college soon), today I really craved Crème Brûlée.  I also wanted to use the butane torch that has been sitting in our cupboard since the last time Alex and I made this dessert. (That was five years ago, for Valentine’s Day, 2016.  I can’t believe my mom let a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old use a butane torch!) Anyway, this recipe is courtesy of Mark Bittman and The New York Times and is simple and delicious.  If you don’t have the butane torch, you can use the oven broiler, but the torch is more fun.

Here are the ingredients you need:

  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 5 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar (plus more for caramelization
  • 1/8 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla


You will also need some enamel ramekins.  The recipe calls for four 6-ounce ramekins, but I used six 4-ounce ramekins since that’s what we had.


The first step is to preheat the oven to 325 degrees, heat water in a teapot, and find a shallow rectangular pan to eventually place the ramekins in.

Then heat the cream and salt on low just until hot.


Meanwhile, separate the 5 egg yolks and beat them with the 1/2 cup sugar until light.

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Stir one cup of the hot cream into the sugar-egg mix, beat, and then pour the sugar egg mix in the remaining cream and beat.

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Carefully pour the combined mix in the ramekins and place in the rectangular pan.


Move the pan as close to the oven (to minimize how far you have to carry it).  Add the boiling water to the pan with the ramekins, about halfway up the sides of the dishes.


Bake for 30-40 minutes till centers barely set.  Remove the ramekins from the baking pan and let cool for several hours.  You could also prepare this a day ahead and keep well covered in the fridge.


When ready to serve, sprinkle each custard with a teaspoon of sugar in a thin layer.  Carefully read the instructions of your butane torch if you are using one!  (If you don’t have a torch, broil in the oven for 3-5 minutes but keep a close watch on them.)


Then fire away! (This was the best part of the recipe)

Our torch was really powerful.  I realized I needed to move it around a bit more: otherwise, some areas would get a little too brown.

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Decorate with fresh berries if you have them (they can also hide brown spots).



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