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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…

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 Kidscookdinner.com, 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 https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/site/services/food-scraps-and-yard-waste-page/nyc-food-scrap-drop-off-locations

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 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 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.

Ingredients:

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.

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