Sunday, March 7, 2021: Slow Cooker Turkey Chili and Buttermilk Biscuits
Mar 7th, 2021 by Max Koster

Welcome to, a website my sister Alex and I started 5 years ago to post about learning to cook healthy food and the issue of world hunger.  With COVID-19 the issue of hunger has gotten even worse, so please consider donating to a hunger-relief charity such as Action Against Hunger (AAH): DONATE HERE.  To learn more about why we started the website and AAH, scroll down a few posts.  To see what we are cooking today…stay right here.

Turkey Chili

Today I decided to make turkey chili in the slow cooker. It’s really easy and only takes about 15 minutes of prep time.  (The recipe is loosely based on Laura KKH’s recipe on


Here are the ingredients you need:

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 (15 ounces) can of chopped tomatoes, juice included
  • 1 (15 ounces) can of red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounces) can of white kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounces) can of black beans, drained
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika*
  • 1/2 Teaspoon red chili flakes*
  • 1/2 Teaspoon garlic powder*
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground cumin*
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*If you don’t have all these spices, just use 1 Tablespoon of chili powder instead, and if you want it spicier, double the chili flakes. The amount of red chili flakes here (1/2 teaspoon) will give you a little heat but not too much.

The first step is to heat the oil and cook the ground turkey until evenly brown.  I like to use a stainless steel pan because then I can use a metal spatula to break up any chunks.

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Meanwhile add the beans, tomatoes, and onions to the slow cooker pot. I bought pre-chopped onions which really made this easy.

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Using a slotted spoon, add the turkey to the slow cooker (to prevent too much of the cooking oil in there)

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Add your spices.


Let cook! 4-5 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

About 1/2 hour before serving, add the frozen corn.

Serve with rice and whatever toppings you like: we usually have it with sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado or guacomole.


Buttermilk Biscuits

Hi, this is Alex.  Today I decided to make buttermilk biscuits because we had leftover buttermilk (I made red velvet cupcakes two days ago, which called for buttermilk, and we had a lot leftover.) There are a lot of good recipes online but I used one I found on Other than buttermilk, all the ingredients are typical baking ingredients.


Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Teaspoons sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 Cup cold buttermilk, plus more to brush tops of biscuits

The first step is to preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Then chop the cold butter into small cubes and put the cubes in the fridge to keep cool while you do the next step.


The next step is to whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt) and line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper).


Then add the butter cubes and cut them into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter.  If you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can use 2 blunt knives working against each other.


Once the butter is mixed into small pea-sized pieces, add the cold buttermilk and gently work it until the dough comes together. I started with a spoon but ultimately had to use my hands. Form a ball, trying to incorporate all the crumbs.


Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Gently roll it into a rectangle and then fold it in thirds.  Turn it, flatten it into a rectangle and fold in thirds again. Repeat this one more time.


Then pat or roll it into a 1/2 inch rectangle.  Cut 2.5-inch rounds and place on a baking sheet.  When you are cutting, try not to twist just go straight down.  Combine any scrap pieces to make additional rounds but try to cut as many out the first time as possible as the more you work the dough, the less it may rise.  These will be a little free form but will taste great. You should get about 10 to 12 biscuits.

Brush the top with a little buttermilk and bake for 15 minutes.


Serve with butter, jam, or honey (or even with chili!).  For dessert: red velvet cupcakes which started this whole buttermilk episode.



Monday, February 23, 2020: Chicken Tikka Masala and Baked Feta & Veggies
Feb 26th, 2021 by Max Koster

Welcome to, a website my sister Alex and I (Max) founded several years ago to talk about good food, kids’ cooking, and the fact that so many people are still hungry!  To learn more about why we started the site, and the charities we support, scroll down a couple of posts to About Kids Cook Dinner.  To see what we are cooking tonight…stay right here.

Tonight I had grand plans to make Chicken Tikka Masala in the Insta-pot, accompanied by baked feta cheese with baby broccoli, tomatoes, and lemon.  However, given that it was a school night, and the Tikka Masala recipe looked like it actually was going to take a long time, I decided to try Trader Joe’s Tikka Masala “simmer’ sauce and focus on the sheet-pan baked feta.  This recipe is based on a recipe that was recently published in The New York Times (Yasmin Fahr).  The photo of it looked so delicious and really healthy, so I had to try it.  There is a bit of prep work but it’s otherwise pretty easy.

Baked Feta


Ingredients for the Baked Feta + Veggies are as follows:

  • 1 bunch of baby broccoli, thick stalks split lengthwise
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, quartered into 2-inch wedges
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 (6 to 8 ounce) blocks of feta cut into 3/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 cup basil (optional)

The first step is to preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prep the vegetables.  The original recipe called for halving the grape tomatoes, but that’s not necessary.  They cook just fine if they are whole.

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Then on a sheet pan, spread the baby broccoli, tomatoes, onion, and lemons and toss with the olive oil,  cumin, (red pepper flakes if using), and salt and pepper.   Put the feta slices in with the vegetables.


Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring about halfway through, and then cook another 10 minutes until the broccoli is lightly charred and the tomatoes are starting to burst.


Top with the basil if using.


This can be served with orzo, farro, or rice: I chose rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala


Ingredients for the Tikka Masala are 2-3 pounds of chicken cut up into bite-size pieces and two jars of Tikka Masala sauce (obviously you can half the recipe if you don’t want leftovers, but we always want leftovers.)

This is pretty easy: really the only thing I had to do was cut up the chicken into bite-size pieces.


Then I combined the Tikka Masala simmer sauce with 2 cups of water, added the cut-up chicken, and simmered for 30 minutes.


I served the chicken with rice along with the roasted feta and vegetables.




Sunday, February 14, 2021: Valentine’s Day Cookies
Feb 17th, 2021 by Alex Koster

Welcome to, a website my brother Max and I started five years ago to share our thoughts about food and cooking and helping hungry people.  It’s also a digital cookbook for our family to make sure we remember the meals we love (as well as the ones that didn’t work out so well…)

To learn more about the website, scroll down a few posts to About KidsCookDinner.  But to see what we are cooking today, stay right here.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I decided to make Valentine’s Day cookies as my valentine to my family.  I used a traditional sugar cookie recipe (this one is based on Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her cookbook, Feast) and then go crazy with the frosting.


Ingredients are as follows:

  • 12 ounces softened butter (unsalted if possible, if not, reduce salt by 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1  cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

The first step is to make sure the butter is soft so it’s easy to cream.  If you want to take a shortcut you can microwave it, but for no more than 15 seconds.  It needs to be soft, not melted.

Then you cream the sugar into the butter and beat it till it is well blended and pale yellow.


Beat the egg and the vanilla, and add to the butter mix.

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Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir with a whisk


Add the dry ingredients to the butter-egg mixture and stir well. The dough will be pretty stiff and crumbly.

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Form into two balls and flatten into discs.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour (the dough needs to rest.)

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees and then roll out the first ball of dough and cut your cookies out and place on greased tray (or one with a silpat).  I mainly cut out hearts but I threw in a few frogs in the valentine spirit of frogs being kissed and turning into princes.  Put the cut-out cookies in the fridge while you roll out the second disk of dough and cut shapes from that disk.

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Bake until just light gold around the edges and let cool completely. Watch carefully so you don’t burn them!


(Now the fun part).  After the cookies are cooled, get your frosting and decorations ready.  I used 2 cans of store-bought white vanilla frosting, mixing red gel color into one.  We also had assorted sprinkles and M&Ms to decorate.


Max even helped frost, but I think that was mainly so he could eat the ones he over-frosted.




Sunday February 7, 2021: Super Bowl Sunday!
Feb 8th, 2021 by Max Koster

Welcome to, a website that I (Max) started with my sister Alex five years ago to talk about food, encourage kids to cook, and raise awareness of world hunger.  To learn more about the history of the website, our adventures on Chopped Junior, and the charities we support, scroll down a few posts.  To see what we’re cooking tonight….stay right here.

Tonight we are celebrating Super Bowl Sunday.  We usually have a bunch of people over but obviously that’s not going to happen today thanks to COVID.  Nonetheless, we are making some excellent food and face-timing with some of the people with whom we usually celebrate.  I’m in charge of nachos, Alex is making brownies and mom will probably make something healthy (salad) that no one will eat.

I decided to make chicken nachos, and after looking at a few recipes online, decided to make the chicken in our Instapot.  If you don’t have an Instapot, you can make it in a slow cooker (but adjust the time), or you can buy an already cooked rotisserie chicken and use that.


For the chicken you will need:

  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups mild salsa
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
  • salt and pepper.

The first step is to squeeze the limes and add the juice to the Instapot.

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Then salt and pepper the chicken all over and add to the pot.

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Finally, pour the 2 cups of salsa into the pot, stir, and cook for 7 minutes at high pressure.  Standing back from the Instapot, quick release the pressure and check to see if the chicken is done by slicing into it.  If it is still pink, return to Instapot and cook for another 2 minutes on high pressure.  (I needed to cook mine for 2 more minutes)

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Once the chicken is fully cooked, shred it using two forks and return to the pot so it picks up the salsa flavor and stays moist.

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If you are using a rotisserie chicken, shred the chicken and mix with 1 to 1-1/2 cups salsa. You won’t need the limes.  I made the chicken in the morning and then waited till right before the game to put the nachos together:


To actually make the nachos, you will need:

  • One 15-ounce can of black beans
  • 12 ounces of cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1-1/2 pounds chicken (preferably the salsa cooked Instapot chicken, but rotisserie chicken mixed with salsa will also work)
  • One  jalapeno pepper
  • One 16-ounce bag of tortilla chips
  • 4 scallions (optional)
  • Sour cream, guacamole or avocados for serving

The first step here is to preheat your oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.

Then prep the ingredients: drain and rinse the beans, grate the cheese if not already shredded, half the tomatoes and thinly slice the scallions and jalapeno.

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Build the nachos, arranging about half of the 16-ounce bag of chips on the baking sheet in an even layer.  Top with half of the salsa chicken and a handful of the cheese.  Put the remaining chips on top, followed by the rest of the chicken and cheese. Sprinkle with black beans.

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Bake the nachos in the preheated oven until the cheese is melted and the chips on the edge are starting to brown (about 8 minutes).  Just before serving garnish as you like…with additional beans, tomatoes, jalapeno, scallions and serve with sour cream and avocados or guacamole.

Here’s the before and after photos:



Hi, this is Alex.  I was in charge of brownies.  This recipe is amazing and very simple.  It’s originally from my grandmother Jean, who passed it to my mom, who tweaked it a bit and has passed it along to my brother and me.

Here are the ingredients you need:

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup flour* (see note below)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 to 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

*if you want very fudgy brownies, only use 1/3 cup flour.  If you want brownies with a little more structure, use 1/2 cup flour.


The first step is to preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease an 8 x 8 square pan. Then melt the butter and the bittersweet chocolate on very low heat, watching all the time (put the butter in the pan under the chocolate). You do not want this to burn.  Let cool till warm but not hot.


Beat the eggs together and then whisk in the sugar.  Once the chocolate-butter mix is cool enough, add to the eggs (if it is not cool enough, it will scramble the eggs, which is not what you want)

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Then mix in the vanilla and flour and pour into the greased pan.


Into the oven for 20 minutes.


Then once out of the oven, immediately sprinkle the top with the chocolate chips.  (Or, if like in our family, people have strong and divergent feelings about whether brownies should be frosted, only put chocolate chips on half the pan of brownies.)


The heat from the warm brownies will melt the chocolate chips and you can spread easily, making a wonderful chocolate frosting for the brownies.

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Voila!  Note, it’s usually a good idea to keep these covered in the fridge…otherwise, they are very very sticky.





Saturday, January 30, 2021: Slow Cooked Korean Beef
Feb 2nd, 2021 by Max Koster

Welcome to  I (Max) started this site with my sister Alex five years ago to talk about our cooking efforts and to raise awareness of world hunger.  We won $35,000 in a website contest and donated over half to Action Against Hunger, a hunger-relief charity.  (Our parents told us we had to save the rest of the money for college.)  To learn more about the history of the site, and the charities we support, scroll down a few posts.  To see what we’re cooking today, just keep reading.

Today was another cold January day and dad had bought 3 pounds of chuck roast, which is pretty inexpensive and has a lot of connective tissue in it.  It needs to cook a long time to dissolve that tissue so it’s traditionally used for pot roast (beef cooked with carrots and potatoes).  I didn’t want to do a traditional pot roast so I found a couple of recipes for Korean Pot Roast/Slow Cooked Korean Beef to try.  This recipe uses a slow cooker for this but you could probably also cook it in a large saucepan over low heat (or in the oven in a Dutch oven).  Note this recipe is inspired by Chungah’s recipe for slow cooker Korean been found here.


Ingredients were as follows:

  • 3 pounds of boneless chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated or minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds (optional)

The first step was to prep everything: cut the beef, mince the garlic, grate the ginger and measure everything.  The meat was tough to cut up: will definitely need to cook for a while in the slow cooker.


The next step was to whisk together the beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar onion powder, and pepper.


Then put the cut-up chuck roast in the slow cooker and pour the beef broth-soy sauce mixture over the top and give a good stir.

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Cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, stirring from time to time.  When the time is up, and meat is very tender, turn off the cooker and let it cool. (The meat will have reduced in size dramatically)


Refrigerate overnight, if possible, so fat hardens (there will be a lot of it).  This is what it looked like in the morning. All the white stuff is fat.


Remove the fat (it’s about 1/4 inch thick and solid, so easy to do with a big spoon) and reheat.


I  served it over rice, sprinkle with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.  Delicious!




Saturday, January 24, 2021: Beef Bourguignon with Noodles
Jan 25th, 2021 by Max Koster

Welcome to — a website my sister Alex and I (Max) started 5 years ago to talk about cooking, food, and world hunger.  To learn more about how this started, and the hunger charities we support, scroll down a bit.  Otherwise, to see what we’re cooking for dinner today…stay right here.

Today was a typical January day:  cold and very windy.  The whole family wanted something warm and hearty.  I looked online and found a recipe for Beef Bourguignon with noodles that looked good (it had bacon in it so how could it be bad?).  I went to Trader Joe’s and found all the ingredients except pearl onions.  I wish we could have found them but I substituted a cup of chopped onions instead. This recipe, sort of based on one found at (found here) calls for a fair bit of prep but there is nothing difficult about it.

Here are the ingredients (except for the bacon, which I unbelievably forgot to put in the photo):


And here’s the exact amounts you need:

  • 2 to 2.5 pounds of beef stew meat
  • 4 slices of bacon halved
  • 1.5 pounds halved mushrooms (or quartered if mushrooms are large)
  • 1 cup carrots sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups dry red wine
  • 14 oz. beef broth
  • 16 oz. frozen pearl onions (or 1 cup rough chopped white onion)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (total)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped FRESH thyme
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt (total)
  • 3/4 teaspoons black pepper (total)
  • 16 oz wide egg noodles

The first step is to prep all the ingredients.  That means chopping the onions and carrots, mincing the garlic, washing and quartering the mushrooms, and cutting up the beef chunks if too big.  My parents got me an onion chopper for Christmas which was supposed to make chopping onions easier.  (Chopping onions is my least favorite part of cooking.) Y0u are just supposed to have to cut the onion in half and then push the cutter down on top of it.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work.  It took all my strength to push the chopper down on the half onion and then I still had to pull out each piece of the onion from the chopper.  It was more work than just using a knife!

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Even when I tried chopping just a SLICE of onion (versus the half onion), I had to pull the chopped onion through the other side.  Definitely do not buy this gadget.

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OK, enough about onions.  Chef’s tip, when chopping up mushrooms, remember they cook down a lot but if they are large (more than 1-1/2 inch diameter), cut into quarters not halves for this dish.  The idea is that this is a stew that you should be able to eat with a spoon, no knife needed.  Similarly, cut up the chunks of beef to be bite-size.

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After everything is chopped, combine the flour with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl.  Add the stew meat and toss until the meat is coated lightly with the flour mix.

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Then cook the bacon in a large saucepan on medium heat.  When it’s crisp, remove it from the pan but leave the bacon drippings in the pan.

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Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the bacon drippings and then add the beef stew meat.  Brown on all sides.  (You may need to do this in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan).

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Put the browned beef into the slow cooker, add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the saucepan, and then add the chopped onions, sliced carrots, and minced garlic.  Saute for 5 minutes.


Then stir in red wine and 1/2 of the broth.  Scrape the pan to loosen all the browned bits stuck to the pan. And the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, chopped thyme, and tomato paste and bring to a boil.  Pour over the beef chunks in the slow cooker.

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Add the remaining beef broth to the saucepan to get all the browned bits out of the pan.   Chop up the bacon a bit more (again, think bite-size bits).  Then add the mushrooms, pearl onions (if you have them, if not the roughly chopped cup of onions), and chopped bacon to the slow cooker. Then pour the remaining beef broth (with the last browned bits from the saucepan) over the mix in the slow cooker.


Here’s the “before the broth” picture:


Cook on high for 3 hours (or low for 6): here’s what it looked like the half-way through.  (I gave it a good stir here to make sure the meat and mushrooms on top got cooked)


After 3 hours (high) or 6 hours (low), turn off the heat and let it sit.  If you have time refrigerate overnight: the flavor will be better and it’s easier to remove extra fat.  We were too hungry to wait 24 hours, but I did let it cool in the fridge for two hours, then removed the extra fat.


For dinner, I prepared wide egg noodles and served the Beef Bourgignon on top.

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(While the water was boiling for the noodles, I roasted some leftover kale and baby zucchini for snacks. We were all getting hungry!)


It was delicious (and frankly, even better for lunch the next day)



January 10, 2021: Sunday Dinner: Sheet-Pan Salmon and Broccoli with Brown Rice
Jan 15th, 2021 by Max Koster

Welcome to, a website I (Max) started with my sister (Alex) 5 years ago to document our cooking adventures, encourage kids to cook more (and not just re-heat junk in the microwave) and make people aware of the huge issue of world hunger.  To learn more about why we started the site, and the hunger-relief charities we support, scroll down a bit. Otherwise to learn what we cooked this week, stay right here.

Tonight I wanted to cook something healthy…it’s the New Year and with COVID surging, I thought that our family should focus on “good” food.  Since Covid, The New York Times has had a weekly section called At Home that suggests a variety of coping mechanisms, lock-down survival recommendations, and delicious recipes.  One of those was for Sheet-Pan Salmon Broccoli with Sesame and Ginger, and I decided to try it out, along with some brown rice. Here’s my final plate.


There are a lot of ingredients but everything cooks on one sheet so it was a surprisingly simple recipe.


Here’s what you need to have on hand:

  • 4 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 3 scallions: 2 of which should be peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch segments and the other finely chopped for garnish
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 Six ounce skin-on salmon filets, or as we did 6 Four ounce filets
  • 1 Tbs. Sesame seeds (optional, for garnish)

The first step was to pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees (the NYT recipe says 425 degrees but I am always worried about overcooking fish so I lowered the pre-heat temperature to 400 degrees). Meanwhile, while the oven is heating, I rinsed 2 cups of brown rice and started the rice in our rice cooker.  I’m not sure why but whenever we rinse rice until the water runs clear, it is much fluffier. But if you don’t have time…just cook it.


I also peeled and chopped the ginger and garlic.

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Once everything was prepped for the salmon glaze, I whisked  3 tablespoons of the sesame oil with the soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, ginger, and garlic ingredients until smooth, and set aside.

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Then I chopped the scallions into 1-1/2 inch segments and tossed with the broccoli and the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil, along with the olive oil and salt and pepper, and put in the oven to roast for 10 minutes.  (NYT says 5 minutes, but that’s not enough time, the broccoli just won’t be cooked enough.)   Once the broccoli and scallions were in the oven, I chopped the remaining scallion into small slices for garnish.

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After 10 minutes, it was time to add the salmon to the sheet pan. Salt and pepper the fillets, brush with glaze, and then position them in the center of the sheet pan.

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Here’s the beauty shot of the sheet pan going into the oven:


And here’s the shot of the pan coming out of the oven:

(And here’s our dog Koko chasing her tail because she thinks she might get some salmon leftovers…she loves salmon.)


Ultimately, we plated the dinner and it was both delicious and healthy (and we did give Koko some salmon). Here’s to a happier and healthier 2021!



January 2, 2021: New Year’s Train Cake
Jan 9th, 2021 by Alex Koster

Happy New Year and welcome to, a website my brother Max and I (Alex) started 5 years ago to post about food, kids’ cooking, and the serious issue of hunger in the world.  Unfortunately, the need for hunger relief has only gotten worse since then, so if you have time, check out Action Against Hunger’s website here.  To see what we cooked today, read on.  As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Max is pretty busy with his college applications so I have been doing most of the holiday baking.

One of our annual traditions is a holiday train cake.  The end result is cute and delicious but this does take all day to make.  Here’s a teaser photo of the end result.


Here are the ingredients: the most interesting one is sour cream.  I was very skeptical about including it, but it made the cake very light and fluffy.



  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract

The other key element is a train cake mold.  Mom got our mold from Williams & Sonoma maybe 8 years ago: it’s really cute with 9 cars, including an engine, coal car, and caboose.  When we were younger, we pretended it was the Polar Express.  The recipe is from W&S as well.

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The first step is to preheat the oven and grease and flour the cake pan (this is tricky because there is so much detail, but super important, otherwise you will lose those details when you flip the cake out.  The second step is to sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and, in a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, sour cream, 4 eggs, and vanilla.


Then with an electric beater (using flat beater if you have it), gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat on low till the dry stuff is just moistened.


Scrape down the bowl and increase speed to medium for 30 seconds.  Make sure everything is combined but don’t overbeat.

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Then per the W&S recipe you are supposed to divide the batter in half and set half of it aside.  (Then after you’ve cooked the first half of the batter, and the mold has cooled and been cleaned and greased and floured, you cook the second half of the batter.  From prior experience, we know that 9 cars are a lot of train cars to decorate so we decided to make cupcakes instead of 9 more cake cars.) Anyway, once the batter is complete, you spread it evenly in each car mold and bake 18-22 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).


Do not, do not fill the molds all the way up as we did. The recipe says to spread the batter so it reaches the top edges of each mold with the batter a little lower in the center of the mold….that is what we tried to do (see photo below) but this is still too much batter.  We found out the hard way.


As you can see, this resulted in overflowing cake cars.


Fortunately, I was able to slice off the extra cake with a large bread knife (which left us with good snacks while we waited for the cake to cool).  You should let the cake cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack and then invert and let cool for at least an hour before frosting.

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When I finally flipped the pan, I was delighted.


Once the cakes were cooled, I mixed up red, green, and white frosting and got out holiday sprinkles and M&Ms. The M&M are ideal for the train wheels.


Then it was frosting time.

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And here’s the final, full train cake — it tasted great.


PS: the cupcakes turned out nicely as well and were a little easier to decorate. 🙂

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December 30, 2020: Lamb Riblets
Dec 31st, 2020 by Max Koster

Welcome to, a website that I (Max) started with my sister (Alex) in 2015 to talk about our cooking experiments and encourage kids to cook more.  We are fortunate enough to have plenty to eat in our family, so we also founded it to draw attention to the issue of hunger.  Especially as this challenging year draws to an end, if you are able, consider donating to a hunger or poverty relief charity.  Two of our favorites are Action Against Hunger and City Harvest.  To learn more about, scroll down a few posts.  To see what we’re cooking today…stay right here.

Tonight I decided to try to cook Lamb Riblets.  I had never heard of them, but my family bought a whole lamb from Herondale Farm (an organic farm in the Hudson Valley).   We love lamb but it’s not always available in the grocery store, and when it is, it’s often very expensive, so we thought it made sense to buy one.  We also wanted to support small farmers like Herondale’s.  However, when you buy a whole lamb, you get everything, including heart, liver, and riblets.  Fortunately, it comes butchered, frozen, and in vacuum packs.

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Riblets look sort of like beef short ribs and when I looked up recipes, I found a simple recipe for garlic roasted ribs. It looked delicious and the ingredients were straight forward:

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Here’s the recipe:

  • 1-1/2 pounds lamb riblets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon  paprika

After preheating the oven to 375 degrees, the next step was to chop the 4 cloves of garlic.


Then I combined the paprika, onion powder, olive oil, salt, and garlic and rubbed the mix all over the lamb.  I added a bit more olive oil because there wasn’t quite enough of the mix.

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This is what they looked like before I put them in the oven:


After 45 minutes, I took the riblets out:


Dad had bought Indian food from Ozone Park in Queens, where his office is, and we combined that with the riblets. The nan, rice, and chicken masala were a good complement.


To be honest, the riblets were good but the Indian food was better.  The lamb meat was delicious but there was a lot of fat and sinew around it. Next time I cook them, I think I will braise them–cooking them for a long time in a slow cooker– to dissolve all that, and then remove the fat.  Live and learn (and happy new year!)


December 25, 2020: Merry Christmas! Yuletide Log
Dec 26th, 2020 by Alex Koster

Merry Christmas and welcome to, a website my brother Max and I (Alex) started in 2015 to share our love of cooking and encourage more kids to cook.   To learn more about the website, scroll down a few posts.

To see what we cooked today, stay right here.

Today, I (Alex) am doing the cooking or at least the baking.  Max is busy finishing his college applications and mom is cooking most of the other parts of Christmas dinner, so I took on the fun job of making dessert.  Yuletide Log, or Buche Noel, is our traditional Christmas dessert, and Max’s favorite, so I decided to make it.  The batter is a traditional light sponge cake but the frosting is unusual and delicious (we use a raw egg yolk!).  The first step is to make a sponge cake.

Here are the ingredients for the cake:


After you butter and flour a 15 inch shallow pan, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees, you need to separate the eggs and mix 1/2 cup flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder.


Next step is  beat the 4 egg yolks with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a mixer on high speed for 5 minutes until they are a thick, lemon-colored consistency. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and beat till dissolved.


After thoroughly cleaning the beaters, you then beat the 4 egg whites till soft peaks form.  Then add 1/3 cup sugar and beat till stiff peaks form.


Gently fold the egg yolk mix into the egg white mix (I first mixed 1/2 cup of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolks to lighten them, and then folded the yolk mix into the whites mix). Once that’s combined, sprinkle the flour mix on top of the batter and again, gently fold in until just combined.


Spread the batter over your buttered pan and bake for 15 minutes until just light brown and the cake springs back when you touch it.


Loosen from tray immediately and place on a clean dishtowel sprinkled with powdered sugar.

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Gently roll up in the towel, and let cool in that position.


When the cake is cooled unroll from the towel, and prepare to frost!


I think the frosting is the most unique thing about this cake: it’s certainly the tastiest.  Ingredients are:

  • 12 oz of semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons of cognac or rum (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk.

Melt the chocolate and once cooled, cream in the softened butter. Then add the vanilla and, if you choose (and the frosting is not too liquid), add the cognac or rum.  Finally, mix in the raw egg yolk.  I didn’t add the cognac because the frosting seemed liquid enough and I didn’t want to thin it out too much. If you are worried about the raw egg yolk, you can leave it out; the frosting just won’t be as rich or glossy, but it will still taste good.

Then you spread 1/3 of the frosting on the cake and roll it up.


Then you frost the outside (and the ends).

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The final step is to take the back of a fork and run lines down the frosting (to make it look like bark).  Then into the fridge the roll goes so the frosting can harden.


Just before serving, I like to decorate it with holiday figures.  Although the plastic deer on top is out of proportion, it’s an important holiday feature (we have so many deer around our house that we like to include them (symbolically) in our Christmas celebration.)

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(Here’s our friendly fawn, about 4 feet away from our house this morning, considering whether or not to eat our holly bush…seriously, that can’t taste good!)


Finally, in case you’re wondering, here’s the rest of the holiday feast prepared by mom: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roasted Brussel sprouts and English peas. Merry, Merry Christmas!

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