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Saturday, February 24, 2018: Dinner No. 107: Saffron Chicken with Pearl Couscous & Goat Cheese Salad
Feb 26th, 2018 by Katekoster

Tonight we combined forces to each make one of our favorite dishes: Alex made chicken with pearl couscous (which is a lot like paella) and Max made goat cheese/walnut/cranberry salad.

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Saffron Chicken with Pearl Couscous (Alex)

Ingredients are chicken, pearl couscous, tomatoes, onions, garlic, saffron, lemon peel, plum tomatoes, white wine and chicken broth:

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The first step is to brown the couscous in olive oil. Then you remove the couscous and brown the chicken (we use chicken thighs because we like the taste).  Then you remove the chicken and sautee onions, plum tomatoes, garlic, 4 long strips of lemon peel and a pinch of saffron.  Once the tomatoes start to burst you add back the chicken and 1/2 cup of wine and once that has cooked down, you add chicken broth and the couscous.  It simmers for 12-15 minutes…sometimes we add more chicken broth if the couscous is a little crunchy.  Finally you add frozen peas.

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Butter Lettuce Salad with Goat Cheese, Walnuts & Cranberries

The first step is to tear the butter lettuce into bite size pieces.  Then you toast the walnuts (but keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  Then, while the walnuts cool, add goat cheese and cranberries to the lettuce and make the salad dressing (3 parts oil/1 part sherry vinegar).  Finally add the walnuts and, just before serving, add the dressing and toss…yum!

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Saturday, February 10, 2018: Cake Decorating Class
Feb 12th, 2018 by Katekoster

On Saturday, February 10, my mom and I took a cake decorating class at the Institute of Culinary Education. It was really fun and we learned how to make modeling chocolate, swiss meringue buttercream, and chocolate covered strawberries. We also learned how to pipe different shapes and how to work with fondant. The most fun part was decorating cupcakes using all those different techiques.

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Modeling Chocolate

To make modeling chocolate, you melt the chocolate (we used white) over water and add corn syrup. Then you mix and spread out thin to harden. After about 2 hours you can color it and shape it into different things.  Ours wasn’t set enough to use in class but we saved it to use later.  We wrapped in in saran wrap and put in the fridge.  Then on Sunday, we softened it up a bit, rolled it out and cut out fun shapes to put on top of our fudge brownies…we didn’t think the fudge brownies could get any better but they did!!

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Swiss meringue buttercream is like regular buttercream but much lighter because it has egg whites.  To make it you mix eggwhites and sugar and then heat over water till the mix becomes very liquid.  Then you put in the electric mixer and beat until very stiff and cool.  Then you switch the mixer’s attachment to a paddle and add in butter that has been cut into small pieces.  You mix that on low until the butter is all incorporated, then you add vanilla. You can also add color if you want.  We split our frosting into two batches and colored one blue and then one green.  Then we practiced different ways to pipe the frosting.  We made stars and flowers, rosettes and shells and different types of borders.  Lots of fun and, just being honest here, I am a lot better than my mom.

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Chocolate – covered Strawberries

To make chocolate for dipping strawberries or other fruit, you melt 8 oz of your chocolate of choice over water, and when it is melted, stir in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.  The oil helps the chocolate counteract the moisture in the fruit.  Then you just dip away.  The instructor also showed us how to use cocoa transfer sheets.  They are sheets of plastic that have cocoa patterns on them.  You put them on the chocolate-covered strawberry while the chocolate is still melted and then, once the chocolate has hardened, you peel of the plastic and the pattern stays. (In the picture below, the white dots are a result of a transfer sheet).

Strawberries

The Cupcakes

Not much to say here except that we decorated cupcakes, using all our new techniques, including fondant.  Fondant is sort of rolled sugar: it looks really cool (you can wrap cakes in it our cut shapes out, but I didn’t love the taste. )  Anyway, here are some more of our “masterpieces.”

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Sunday, February 4, 2018: Superbowl Sunday: Enchiladas Suiza & Salad
Feb 8th, 2018 by Katekoster

We were hosting a small Superbowl party and decided to make Enchiladas Suiza and kale salad.  We wanted to have Mexican food (since we won the right to host the party when we celebrated Three Kings Day with a Rosca) but also wanted to celebrate our Swiss heritage.  Enchiladas Suiza are chicken enchiladas topped with Swiss cheese…and they are delicious.  Our guests, the Coronas brought tamales, chips and guacamole,and Russ & Erica brought avocado-deviled eggs.  Oh and we also made fudge brownies (of course)

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Enchiladas Suiza

The ingredients for Enchiladas Suiza are pretty straight forward: chicken breasts, green chili sauce, onions, jalapenos, and grated gruyere cheese.  And they are pretty simple to make.  It just takes a lot of steps.

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First we prepared the chicken.  We poached the chicken breasts in water (with salt and pepper) until they were cooked through.  We let them cool a little bit and then we shredded them.  At first we used forks but then we just used our (clean) hands.  (We actually prepared the chicken on Saturday so we covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge over night)

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The next step was to chop the onions and jalapenos.  For the jalapenos we took out most of the seeds (because we don’t like the texture and they add heat). When we were done chopping, we washed our hands really really well.

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Then we chopped the onions, sauteed them, added some chili powder and cumin and finally then added the green chile sauce.  Note we decided not to make it from scratch because we needed so much of it.  At this point we split the sauce in half and added the jalapenos to one half.  (We wanted to make two versions: one spicy and one normal).  We also added a mix of chili powder and cumin to the spicy version.

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Finally it was time to assemble the enchiladas.  We poured a little sauce in our pan and als0 added some of the sauce to the chicken to keep it moist.  Then we set up an assembly line: chicken, tortiallas, pan and cheese.  We warmed the tortillas, put a little chicken in the center, sprinkled a little cheese inside and then rolled up.  Then we put them seam side down in the pan, covered with more sauce and then lots of grated cheese.

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The final step was putting dollops of sour cream on top and baking at a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

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Kale Salad:

We have made this many times so I won’t go through all the steps.  But basically you have to chop kale, brussel sprouts and almonds, then grate and add pecorino cheese and finally dress with a mustard vinagrette.  It’s a good idea to “massage” the kale too (otherwise it’s a little tough).

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And here are the brownies.

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It was a fun game to watch, but the food and the company were better!

 

 

Monday, January 29, 2018: Dinner No. 106: Skirt Steak and Mashed Potatoes
Jan 31st, 2018 by Katekoster

Today I (Max) decided to make dinner for Alex because she had to go to school and I had the day off (since I had finals last week). I also did it because she made dinner for me last week when I was studying.  Anyway, I made one of her favorite meals: skirt steak with a Texas spice rub and mashed potatoes.  I also made one of my favorite salads: butter lettuce, goat cheese, cranberries and walnuts.  For dessert we had homemade snickerdoodles (that I made over the weekend)

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Skirt Steak

The key to this recipe is letting the steak marinate in the spice rub for a couple hours before you cook it.  For the spice rub I used onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and salt and pepper.  I noticed that the steaks were a little thick so I pounded them thinner (which also tenderizes them) before I rubbed in the spice rub.

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Sides

About 30 minutes before I was ready to cook the steaks,  I peeled the potatoes for the mashed potatoes, put them in cold water and heat until the water was boiling.  Then I let them cook until soft.  I also prepped the salad ingredients and make the salad (except for the dressing):

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Then I cooked the steaks on high heat, let rest for about 5 minutes and cut against the grain.  Delicious!

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Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are perfect when you want to make cookies but you don’t have chocolate chips (so you can’t make chocolate chip cookies) or you don’t have raisins (so you can’t make oatmeal raisin cookies).  They just require stuff you almost always have in your kitchen: butter, sugar, flour, eggs, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar and cinnamon.  You let the butter soften and then cream in sugar. Then you add the rest of the ingredients (except the cinnamon) and let chill for 30 minutes.  Next step: mix more sugar with cinnamon and roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll the dough in the cinnamon-sugar mix.  Finally you flatten the dough balls on a cooking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes.  PS: I am sure you are wondering what cream of tartar is and why you add it (most cookies just have baking powder or baking soda but this has cream of tartar and baking soda…why? Well cream of tartar is actually a powdered acid used as a leavener so when it is added to baking soda it creates carbon dioxide gas … which makes the cookies rise.  Also because it’s an acid, it makes the snickerdoodles taste a little tangy.  Without cream of tartar in there, you would just have a regular sugar cookie with cinnamon on top. And that’s my science lesson for the day. 

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After yo

Tuesday, January 23, 2018: Dinner No. 105: Home Made Pasta and Lamb Ragu
Jan 26th, 2018 by Katekoster

Tonight I (Alex) wanted to make something delicious for Max because he has finals all this week and is studying all the time! So I decided to make pasta from scratch and top it with lamb ragu–a quick but tasty meat sauce.

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The ingredients for pasta are simple: flour, eggs, salt, and a little water if the dough seems to dry.  Some recipes also suggest adding olive oil but I decided against that. You blend them all together in a mixer, form into a ball, and then let sit in the fridge for half an hour covered in plastic wrap. Then you split the ball into 4 pieces and roll out one to about 1/4 inch thick (put the other pieces back in the fridge to stay cold).

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After you have rolled out the dough,  you use your pasta roller to gradually thin the dough out. I start out on the lowest setting: 1 and fold the dough over a couple times and keep putting it through 1 till it is elastic with no holes.  Then you decrease the thickness setting by setting.  I took the pasta sheet to setting no. 6, which is pretty thin.  Now it’s time to make the noodles.  I chose fettucine noodles so I switched the pasta attachment to that; cut my long, thin pasta sheet in half and ran it through the pasta cutter….very cool.  I put a bowl underneath to catch the noodles, and if you have corn meal, it’s good to dust them with it so they don’t stick together.  Also if you decide to roll out all the pasta pieces in sheets before you cut them into noodles, make sure you put them on a flour covered (or corn-meal covered) surface or pan. Otherwise they will stick together.

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For the sauce, the ingredients are minced onion, a pound of ground lamb, a can of chopped tomatoes,  1/2  cup of milk or cream and salt and pepper.  First you mince the onions (of course). Then you sautee the onions till translucent and add the lamb and cook till its no longer pink.  At that point check to see how much oil is in the pan (lamb can be very fatty) if there seems like a lot, scoop out the excess.  Tonight I scooped out about 3 tablespoons. Then add the tomatoes and let simmer.  Right before serving, add the milk or cream and add salt and pepper to taste.  (Because the lamb has so much flavor, you don’t need to let the sauce cook as much as a normal ragu or bolognese). Plate with the fresh pasta and grated pecorino romano (parmesan is ok, but pecorino is a little better because it’s made from sheep’s milk….and you are eating lamb ragu).

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Saturday, January 20, 2017: Baking Bread and Chocolate Rolls
Jan 22nd, 2018 by Katekoster

Today we decided we were just going to have a simple dinner of burgers and salad but we realized we didn’t have any burger buns (we had burger meat, etc.) so we decided to make our own sesame seed burger buns. In addition, we made a loaf of bread and our own creation: chocolate rolls! We rolled out rectangles of bread dough and put chocolate chips inside, sealed them and baked.  The burger buns were ok but the chocolate rolls were AMAZING–filled with gooey delicious chocolate.  We decided we should have made more of them and less burger buns.

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Making bread is pretty simple, you just have to make sure your yeast is newish and that you have time to let the dough rise twice. The ingredients are milk, butter, yeast, flour, a little sugar and salt.  You heat the milk and let the butter melt in it.  Then you combine the dry ingredients with about half the flour and add to the milk mixture.  You can use a mixer to mix these together, but as you add the second half of the flour you have to use a spoon and eventually your hands to mix and knead it.  After you have kneaded it for 8-10 minutes you shape it into a ball and let it rise for at least an hour, until it’s doubled in size.

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Then the fun part: Punching the dough down!  After that you knead it a litte more and split the dough in half: half is for a normal loaf of bread and half is for the burger buns and chocolate rolls (or you could just make two loaves of bread…but that’s a little boring). To make the loaf shape, you roll out one of the halves into a rectangle and then roll it up again and put it in a bread pan.  The burger buns are easy: just balls of dough that you flatten and for the chocolate rolls, after you’ve rolled out the dough into a small rectangle and sprinkled with chocolate chips, the trick is to pinch the ends togther so they seal (so the chocolate won’t escape).  Then you have to let everything rise again for about an hour.

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Just before we baked everything, we brushed the burger buns lightly with milk and sprinkled them with sesame seeds, then into the oven!  There is nothing as good as the smell of baking bread! All of the chocolate rolls disappeared within minutes of coming out of the oven…we barely had room for the burgers

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Monday, January 15, 2018: Dinner No. 104: Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes and Chocolate Ice Cream
Jan 16th, 2018 by Katekoster

Today we didn’t have school so we had time to make a special meal for our dad.  We wanted to try to recreate one of our dad’s favorite dishes from when he lived in Texas: Chicken Fried Steak.  We also were in the mood for chocolate ice cream despite it being super cold outside so we made that from scratch.  For sides we had mashed potatoes and a kale/avocado salad.

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The first step was to make the chocolate ice cream batter (because it needs to sit and chill in the fridge for a while).  The ingredients for this simple recipe are brown sugar, white sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, heavy cream, vanilla and milk.  You combine the dry ingredients and add the milk and vanilla, then you slowly pour in the cream…then you whisk it until all the lumps disappear.  Then you let this sit in the fridge for a couple hours. Pop it in the cream maker and voila…amazing tasting chocolate ice cream. (Also, it’s really cool to watch the cream being whisked into the chocolate mix…click here for that: HERE

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For the Chicken Fried Steak, we bought thin sliced top round steaks and then got to tenderize them by hammering them with a meat hammer…that was fun!

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After we got out all our agression by pounding the steaks, we dipped them in a batter of seasoned flour and sauteed them in a mix of butter and canola oil.  (Max and I set up an assembly line to dip the steak in the flour mix, then into egg/milk, and then back into the flour mix.)

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We made mashed potatoes as a side, a lot of gravy to go with the steak and a chopped kale and avocado salad.  We had never really made gravy before so it was interesting to brown the flour in the oil/butter left in the pan and then add milk.  Ours was a little to thick but it was our first time.  Next time we will remember to save some water from the potatoes we boiled to thin out the gravy.

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Anyway, dad loved the chicken fried steak.  We liked it too but honestly we like chicken fried chicken better.

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January 12, 2018: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Jan 16th, 2018 by Katekoster

Today I (Max) wanted to make one of my favorite cookies: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies.  The recipe is a simple cookie batter (butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, milk, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda) with the two very important additional ingredients: oatmeal and chocolate chips.

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The first step is to cream the butter into the white and brown sugar.  This is a quick and simple process so long as your butter is soft.  If it’s not soft, then you should just want 1/2 hour to do this.  Then you add an egg, vanilla and a little milk.  Combine that, and while that’s mixing, combine your dry ingredients:  flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and then add that into the butter/sugar mix.  I asked my mom why we added both baking powder and baking soda, and what the difference was between the two and in her typical annoying mom fashion she said to look it up.  So I did and here’s the answer:

Baking powder and baking soda have a lot in common in that they are both chemical leaveners (they both generate gas during mixing/baking that raises the dough or batter). The big difference between baking soda and baking powder is that baking soda only has ONE ingredient: sodium bicarbonate. Whenever it comes into contact with both a liquid and an acid (buttermilk,  yogurt or vinegar for example) it produces gas which creates the lift (or rising) of a batter.  The important thing to remember about baking soda is that the reaction starts immediately (think about when you add vinegar to baking soda to make a volcano model) so you need to get that batter in the oven fast.

Baking powder on the other hand contains sodium bicarbonate with another powdered acid mixed in.  That means all you need is moisture to activate it. And most baking powder is double acting, meaning there is a two part reaction: one immediately when moisture is added and a second reacton when the batter/dough is heated.  So baking powder allows a little more flexibility (you don’t have to put the batter in the oven right away)  So why not just use baking powder?? Because every recipe has different acidity levels and sometimes you need to balance them out. Baking soda neutralizes the acid when it reacts with it so often you need both baking soda and baking powder to have a balanced recipe….so that’s my science lesson for the day. PS: And don’t ever substitute one for the other.

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The next step is to add the oatmeal and chocolate chips.  I usually do this by hand (easier to taste test).  Then you drop teaspoons of cookie dough on a baking tray and cook for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

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Finally, you enjoy!

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January 8, 2018: Baked Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
Jan 11th, 2018 by Katekoster

You know when you are stuck at the airport because your flight is delayed…and you’re bored and miserable? The one thing that always makes us feel better is Auntie Annie’s Pretzels, especially the cinnamon sugar ones. So we decided to try to recreate those pretzels at home.  We like ours better! And we didn’t have to sit in the airport waiting for a flight to get them!

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First we made a quick yeast bread. It only has to rise for an hour.  We combined yeast and milk, along with a little sugar, flour, salt and softened butter and kneaded it for about 5 minutes. Then we let it rise for an hour while we did homework.

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After the dough had doubled in shape, we cut it in half and made half into little pretzel shapes and half into four pretzels.  To make the pretzels we rolled a piece of dough into about a 15 inch strip, then we shaped it into a pretzel. The next step was an interesting one…we dipped each pretzel bite and pretzel into a mix of baking soda and water. We think this added the hard shiny texture to the pretzel as well as little saltiness. Then into the oven till golden brown.

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Final step: dip the pretzels into cinnamon sugar and enjoy. YUM!!

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January 6, 2018: Happy Three Kings’ Day.
Jan 8th, 2018 by Katekoster

We didn’t have a chance to cook much this weekend  (we both had soccer games and exams to study for), but we did celebrate Three Kings’ Day with our good friends, the Coronas. They provided this amazing Rosca de Reyes.

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Rosca de Reyes is a traditional sweet yeast based cake with a baby Jesus figurine hidden inside. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is king (or queen) for the day and is supposed to bring the tamales to a party on February 2 (Candlemas Day).  We have changed that tradition slightly so that the family who finds the baby Jesus has to provide tamales for (and host) the Super Bowl party!!

 

This year there were four baby Jesus figures in the cake and both the Kosters and the Coronas found them. So we struck a compromise on the Super Bowl party. Kosters will host and be in charge of Enchiladas Suiza and the Coronas will bring the tamales.  We are still negotiating on who is bringing the guacamole and chips. 

 

 

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