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Wednesday, December 13, 2017: Cauliflower Challenge
Dec 16th, 2017 by Katekoster

Tonight we wanted to figure out if different colored cauliflower tasted different so we bought three types: white, purple and green.  We love the purple and green colors but weren’t sure if they would taste better (or worse) than regular white cauliflower. Our taste test was pretty easy.  We chopped all three kinds up, tossed them in olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted them in a 400 degree oven.  Then the whole family tasted them.  (We didn’t do a blind taste test so results are not 100% scientific.)

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And the winner? Purple!!! But not by much….everyone agreed that all three colors tasted pretty similar but the purple was slightly more tender and tasty.  Mom was convinced that the green cauliflower would taste different because it’s really a mix of broccoli and cauliflower (called romanesco) but it didn’t.  Next time we will add in orange cauliflower and taste with blindfolds. Then we will report back our “scientific” findings. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017: Cupcake Decorating Fun
Dec 13th, 2017 by Katekoster

Today I (Alex) wanted to experiment with decorating and make a cool cupcake for one of my best friends for her birthday so I made some delicious vanilla cupcakes (from scratch! no box).  Then I made butter cream frosting.  I had never made or worked with butter cream frosting and it’s amazing how well it holds its shape.  However, I think I like chocolate frosting better (next time I am going to make chocolate butter cream frosting).   I ran out of cupcakes to frost so I just practiced on a plate.

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The recipe for butter cream frosting is really easy: butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, but the key to making it is to make sure the butter is softened!

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Anyway, happy birthday to my bestie!

Monday, December 4, 2017: Dinner No. 101: Braised Lamb Shanks and Apple Tart
Dec 6th, 2017 by Katekoster

Tonight since it was December (and getting colder), we wanted to make one of our favorite winter dishes: Braised Lamb Shanks.  We make this in a slow cooker, letting it cook overnight and then we let it sit in the fridge during the day so we can easily skim the fat before we reheat it and serve it with couscous.  We also made a butter lettuce salad with goat cheese, walnuts and cranberries.  And then, because I (Max) finished up my homework early I made apple tarts and assorted cinnamon pastries.

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The ingredients for the braised lamb are straightforward: 6 lamb shanks; chopped onion, carrots and garlic;  chicken broth and red wine; a can of chopped tomates and some tomato paste;and some chopped thyme and a bay leaf. First you brown the lamb shanks in olive oil and then put them in the slow cooker. Then you sautee the onion, carrots and garlic, add redwine and chicken broth and let cook a bit–and then add that to the slow cooker. Then you add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped thyme and bay leave and let cook for 8 hours on low (preferably overnight).  When you wake up the house will smell delicious (if you like the smell of lamb), and the lamb will be falling off the bone.  You can skim some fat of now but the easiest way is to refrigerate it and then remove the solidified fat.  Reheat and serve with couscous.

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Look at the difference between when we started cooking the lamb shanks (first photo below) and how they cooked down (second photo). Aand the last photo shows all the orange colored fat you remove after you have refrigerated)

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Here’s the final meal before plating:

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For the apple tart and cinnamon pastries, first I peeled and sliced 2 gala apples. Then I rolled out a sheet of (store bought) frozen puff pastry that I had let thaw in the fridge for a couple of hours.  I cut 4 squares to make apple tarts and then put the rest of the pastry back in the fridge to keep cool.  I mixed the sliced apples with a little cinnamon sugar and then layered them in each square, folding in the edges a little. Then I brushed the exposed pastry with egg wash.  I put them in the oven to bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

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Meanwhile I took the remaining pastry out of the fridge. I cut half into long strips that I brused with egg wash, dipped in cinnamon sugar and then twisted as I laid them down on another baking sheet.  These were my cinnamon twists.  With the remaining rectangle, I brushed one side lightly with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and rolled up.  Then I sliced them into mini cinnamon roll pastries.  Both went into the 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017: Dinner No. 100: Pulled Pork and Chunky Applesauce
Dec 1st, 2017 by Katekoster

Hey, we had a great Thanksgiving in Dallas with our cousins and grandparents and lots of other relatives and friends.  Thank you Rick and Carla for hosting such a great Thanksgiving Dinner!  And thanks for sharing some of your family recipes!  We were inspired by your recipes for crock-pot pulled pork and chunky applesauce to make that for tonight’s dinner.  We also added baked potatoes and an arugula/goat cheese salad… just to make the meal that much better.

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For the pulled pork, we followed the “Dallas” recipe but added a chopped onion, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to both spice and sweeten things up.  We also had to cut our pork butt in half because it was too big for our crock pot.  We froze the other half for another day.  We let the pork cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low and then removed it and shredded it.  (We started this Wednesday night and shredded it in the morning before school.)

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There was some liquid in the crock put that looked like it had a lot of fat so we poured it through our de-greaser and then we added the liquid back to the crock pot along with the shredded pork and barbecue sauce.  We let it cook for an hour or so (and then mom put it in the fridge until dinner time)

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For the apple sauce, we followed our cousins’ recipe except we used the microwave…it was a weeknight so Mom said we had to do our homework!

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Then we made baked potatoes and a quick but tasty arugula salad (with goat cheese, tomatoes, pine nuts and proscuitto (optional).

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The final meal looked like this:

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Thursday, November 23, 2017: Happy Thanksgiving! And Consider Giving Back!
Nov 23rd, 2017 by Katekoster

Hi, we are visiting family in Dallas, Texas so we aren’t actually cooking today.  We did want to give thanks for all that we have and remind everyone to think of people who aren’t as lucky as a lot of us.  Before we left for Texas, we emptied our charity jar and made a donation to Action Against Hunger. We had over $100 in it and donated it all.  Feel free to do the same: RIGHT HERE! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 20, 2017: Dinner No. 99: Quick Chicken Souvlaki with Snickerdoodles
Nov 21st, 2017 by Katekoster

Hi for tonight we wanted to use up some left overs — we are going away for Thanksgiving — but also make something tasty and quick.  (It was a weeknight so we both had a ton of homework!) In our fridge we had chicken breasts, tomatoes, cucumbers, naan bread and tszatiki sauce.  In our freezer we had some frozen french fries.  The tzatiki sauce inspired us to go Greek and make souvlaki — one of our favorite meals in Greece was when we went to little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Athens and ordered souvlaki.  We loved that the put french fries in the pita bread along with the chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.  And then for dessert, we wanted something sweet and quick (and that we could take on the plane) so we made snickerdoodles.

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For the chicken, first we cut it up into 1 inch chunks so it would cook faster. Then we combined a bunch of dried spices that reminded us of Greece: oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, along with some flour and salt and pepper. We tossed the chicken in the spice-flour mix and then sauteed the chicken in olive oil.  Meanwhile, we chopped up some cucumbers and tomatoes and put the frozen fries in the oven.  When the fries were done, we put the naan in the oven to heat for a minute or two and then we put everything on the plate, along with the tzatiki sauce. Quick and delicious.  We just wish there were a few more french fries…

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For the snickerdoodles,  we made what is basically a sugar cookie recipe (butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, flour, baking powder) and then you also add cream of tartar.  Then you form the dough into little balls and roll them in a mix of cinnamon sugar.  Our twist on it was to add a little salt to the cinnamon-sugar mix.  Otherwise the snickerdoodles can be REALLY sweet.  We also sprinkled them with more cinnamon sugar as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Sunday, November 11, 2017: Dinner No. 98: Lamb Ragu, Kale & Pumpkin Pie
Nov 16th, 2017 by Katekoster

Today I (Alex) was in charge because Max had to study for a big biology exam.  I was really in the mood for lamb but didn’t have a lot of time so I decided to make lamb ragu.  It tastes great and doesn’t take nearly as long as most other bolognese or ragus because the lamb already has so much flavor.  For vegetables, I just sauteed fresh kale in olive oil and salt and pepper.  And then mom and I worked together on a pumpkin pie (since it’s almost Thanksgiving!)

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The ingredients for the lamb ragu are very simple:

1 pound ground lamb

1 small onion chopped fine

1 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup pecorino romano

1/2 cup cream or milk (we prefer milk)

12 oz. dried pasta (fresh is good if you have it)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

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First you sautee the chopped onion in the olive oil until translucent.  Then you add the ground lamb and break it up.  Cook until no longer pink. At this point if there seems like a lot of oil in the pan, remove 1 or 2 tablespoons of it (depending on the fat content of your ground lamb, it may create a little too much oil.).  Start salted water boiling for pasta. Then add the chopped tomatoes and simmer the sauce for 15-20 minutes.  When pasta is cooked, stir in 1/2 cup milk to the pasta sauce, combine with the pasta and mix in the grated pecorino romano. Voila.

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For the kale, its just so easy: clean the kale and then sautee it.  It’s amazing how much is shrinks down!

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Saturday, October 28, 2017: Dinner No. 97: Veal Milanese, Cacio et Pepe and Halloween Cupcakes
Oct 29th, 2017 by Katekoster

Tonight Alex was out of town so I (Max) got to cook without her.  I made veal milanese (breaded veal cutlet, topped with argula and tomatoes) and one of my favorite, easy pasta dishes: cacio et pepe (pasta with salt and pepper).

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Pasta Cacio et Pepe

The ingredients for cacio et pepe are pretty straight forward: dry pasta, butter, pecorino romano, parmegiano, and freshly ground pepper.  We used perciatelli No. 6 pasta (which is a medium size tube of pasta: it’s pretty cool because the buttery cheesey sauce gets inside of it).  Essentially you cook the pasta and then melt a lot of butter, add the cooked pasta, along with some pasta water and then mix in your grated romano and parmigiano cheese.  Final step, lots of freshly ground pepper.  DON’T add salt until you have tasted it (the pecorino romano can be super salty and if you just add salt without tasting the pasta, it can way toor salty.  (Sorry there aren’t more pictures, but it was just me and I forgot to take photos of the boiling water…)

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Veal Milanese

For the Veal Milanese, I did a classic breading mix: first dip in flour, then in a mix of egg and milk, and finally in panko breadcrumbs mixed with grated parmesan.  Then I sauteed them on top of the stove for one minute each side (till brown) and finished them in the oven for 20 minutes.  To plate I squeezed a slice of lemon on top of the cutlet and then topped with argula and chopped grape tomatoes.  I had never had veal before and while I liked it, honestly I think I like breaded chicken better.  The veal was much chewier than chicken (but also had more taste, which was a plus).

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For dessert, we had Halloween cupcakes (mom made the cupcakes; I decorated them) and chocolate chunk cookies (Alex made those yesterday…and unfortunately she gave most of them to her soccer team!! Fortunately mom set aside a few for us.)

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Sunday, October 22, 2017: Dinner No. 96: Classic Rack of Lamb
Oct 26th, 2017 by Katekoster

Tonight we really wanted lamb lollipop chops (the ones that have a long handle, like a lollipop) so we decided to make a classic rack of lamb (with salad and couscous on the side)

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Although it takes a little planning, the actual recipe and cooking for a rack of lamb is very simple.  First buy your racks of lamb.  We bought two racks, each about 8 chops, and that was plenty for our family of four.  Then you prepare a simple marinade.  Ours was just chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil.  If you had fresh rosemary or thyme that would be a good addition too.  You salt & pepper the lamb, rub the chopped garlic (and herbs if you have them) into the lamb and then put the lamb in a ziplock bag with olive oil (and squeeze as much air as you can out of them.)

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You let the lamb sit in the marinade (in the plastic bag) for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours at room temperature.  You want the lamb to come to room temperature BEFORE you cook it.  Then you score the fat side of the lamb and put it fat side down on aluminum foil.  We wrapped the bone handles in foil too, so they wouldn’t burn. You cook the lamb for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, before lowering the heat to 300 degrees for another 10-15 minutes.  (Check temperature with a meat thermometer: we cooked it to 135 degrees for medium rare.)  Let sit for at least 10 minutes and then cut the lamb chops away from the rack.

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We also made couscous and a frisee salad (with pancetta, walnuts, goat cheese, and fried egg).  For the salad we sauteed the pancetta until crisp and then when the pancetta was done, we removed it from the pan and fried eggs in the left over pancetta oil.  We also toasted some croutons with goat cheese on top.  When everything was done we tossed the pancetta and walnuts with the frisee, put the two eggs on top and then arranged the goat cheese croutons around the top.

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Everything was delicious!

 

Sunday, October 15, 2017: Dinner No. 95: Pasta Night with Pie on the Side
Oct 17th, 2017 by Katekoster

Tonight we wanted to have pasta but couldn’t decide whether to have spaghetti and meatballs (Alex’s choice) or pasta all’amatriciana (Max’s choice).  So we decided to make both.  Then, because its apple season and our friends Russ and Erica had given us some excellent apples (that they picked while cycling upstate), we decided to make an apple pie.  Mom helped out by making a pear/walnut/cranberry/goat cheese salad.  Dad was out of town…he missed a good meal.

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Apple Pie

After we made the pastry and put it in the fridge to chill, we peeled and sliced 6 apples.  Then we tossed them with cinnamon, a little sugar and flour.  If you are using tart apples, you might need more sugar but ours were pretty sweet.  Then we put the apples in the pastry shell and rolled out the pasty top.  We decided to be fancy and used a star shaped cookie cutter to cut out stars in the pastry top.

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Then we draped the star-cut pastry over the apples and brushed it lightly with egg wash (beaten egg with a little water).  We also glued a few of the cut out stars to the top with the egg wash to give it a little 3 D effect.  Then it was in the oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  We lowered the temp to 350 degrees and let it cook for another 35 minutes.

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Pasta Two Ways

Meatballs Part 1

For the pasta, first we made the meatballs.  This was just a quick throw together recipe based on what we had in the fridge, which included a pound of ground meat, 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, 1/3 cup grated parmesan, 1 egg and salt & pepper.  We also make them with ground turkey sometimes.  We made little bit size meat balls, and put them in the fridge to chill.

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All’Amatriciana Part 1

While the meatballs were chilling, we started on the amatricana.  We sauteed chopped pancetta until crispy, removed it from the pan and then sauteed a chopped white onion until it was very translucent.  Then we scooped out 1/4 of the onions to use with the meatballs.  Then it was back to the Meatballs…

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Meatballs Part 2

So for the meatballs, we sauteed them in olive oil till they were brown all over, then we added the 1/4 cup onions we reserved, plus tomato sauce and a little water.  We just let them cook for a bit while we finished the other pasta.

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All’Amatriciana Part 2

For the All’Amatriciana, had to make the sauce: we added chopped tomatoes to the onions and let simmer and reduce.  Then we combined it with the pasta, sprinkled pancetta on top and grated fresh parmesan on top of that.

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