Sunday, October 24, 2020: Braised Lamb Shanks
Nov 3rd, 2020 by Max Koster

Welcome to, a site my sister and I started more than 5 years ago.   As the weather turns colder, I felt like something hearty and comforting for Sunday dinner so I turned to one of our favorite family dishes: Braised Lamb Shanks.  I make this the day before I want to eat it so the flavors really combine (and so it’s easy to skim the solidified fat off the top).  Ingredients are straightforward: lamb shanks, carrots, onions, garlic, chopped tomatoes, red wine, broth, and cannellini beans, and I serve it over couscous.


The first step is to really salt and pepper the lamb, and then brown it all over in a saucepan with a little olive oil.  Once the lamb shanks were browned, I put them in our slow cooker.

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Meanwhile, the onions, carrots and garlic had to be chopped.

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Then I sauteed the onions and carrots sauteed in the same saucepan in which I had cooked the meat.  Once they were softened and browned I added them to the slow cooker.

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Then I added the wine, broth and tomatoes to the slow cooker and turned it on high for 6 hours.

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This is what it looked like 6 hours later; the lamb was falling off the bone:


And this is what it looked like the next morning (with the oil and fat solidified).


I spooned most of the yellow stuff (fat) off, and about an hour before we were going to eat, reheated it on a low temperature.  I usually add the canned white beans at this point but forgot this time.  It still tasted great!

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Final product.


Saturday October 3, 2020: Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao) on an unSATisfactory day.
Oct 13th, 2020 by Max Koster

Today I (Max) woke up early to take my SAT Subject tests in Chemistry and Math 2.  After studying for weeks, I was eager to get them done and had chosen a test site in New Jersey that seemed certain to stay open.  (All the ones in New York City were closed or closing.) I checked the testing site the night before and again as soon as I woke up, and it was still open.  Unfortunately, when I arrived at the site, the sign below was on the door…no explanation, no human to explain, just a lot of frustrated high school students!


Once I got home and took a nap, I decided to make the most of the unSATisfactory day by making pork buns.  We still had a lot of leftover pork from the Bo Ssam I made last week, so this seemed a good way to use it up.

The first step was to make the yeast dough for the buns. Ingredients were flour, yeast, neutral oil (canola or grapeseed), sugar, water, and a little salt.


I proofed the yeast by adding it to water and sugar and then combined it with the flour, adding oil at the end. Then I kneaded it and put the dough in a bowl to rise to double its size (about an hour supposedly).

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The next step was to make the filling.  Ingredients were: pork, scallions, ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce.


The recipe said to use a pork tenderloin, cook it and then combine with the other ingredients. But since we had all this leftover Bo Ssam pork, I decided to use that instead.  I just needed to chop it up.  The scallions, garlic, and ginger also needed to be chopped and Alex helped out with that.

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When everything was chopped, I combined it all in a big bowl, added in the vinegar, honey, and hoisin sauce, and mixed well.

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Then I let the filling marinate in the fridge until the dough had risen enough.  Once it doubled in size, I punched it down and divided it into 8 pieces.

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Then I shaped each piece into a ball and rolled it out flat to at least a 5-inch diameter (I even used a ruler to make sure!). Each round got a dollop of filling in the center.

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The next step was the hardest: shaping the pork buns by folding the top inward. That took a while, but eventually, I got all 8 done.

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Then I steamed them two at a time in a double boiler (over parchment paper and with a towel on the lid on top to prevent condensation).

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After 15 minutes, I took them out, cut them in half, and devoured!  Tasted great but next time I need to put in double the filling.  Just a little too much dough to meat for me.






Sunday, September 27, 2020: Bo Ssam!
Oct 5th, 2020 by Max Koster

Today I (Max) wanted to use the Insta-Pot I got mom from Christmas (that she rarely uses) to cook something I’ve never cooked or eaten: Bo Saam (Korean marinated and roasted pork shoulder).  Relying on Melissa Clark’s recipe in Comfort in an Instant (which is based on a dish from Chef David Chang’s restaurant, Momofuko ), I bought the ingredients on Saturday and prepared myself for a big day of cooking on Sunday.  For the pork, only 4 ingredients are needed salt, sugar, 8 pounds of bone-in pork shoulder, and dark brown sugar.  Melissa Clark recommended serving it with a ginger scallion sauce, so for that you need: scallions, fresh ginger, neutral oil, soy sauce, sherry vinegar, and kosher salt (optional…ended up not needing it).


First step was to make a salt/sugar mix and rub it all over the pork, and then let marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours.  Getting up early Sunday was hard, but ultimately worth it.

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I am glad I had gloves.  The salt and sugar started to soak into the pork immediately.


After 7 hours, it was time to put in the Insta-Pot.  As you can see below, after all that time, there is no evidence of the salt or sugar: it has all been absorbed.


I placed the pork shoulder on a rack in the Insta-Pot with 1/2 cup water below.  It needed to pressure-cook for 110 minutes, but the maximum our pot goes is to 99 minutes…so that’s what I used.

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After 99 minutes was up, I set it for another 11 minutes of high-pressure cooking and started making the ginger-scallion sauce.  I chopped scallions and ginger and mixed them with the oil/soy sauce/sherry vinegar combo.  Salt was an option ingredient that I didn’t need: the soy sauce gave it plenty of salt.

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When the 110 total minutes was up, I tested the pork with a fork: it was supposed to be very tender but I thought it wasn’t quite tender enough, so I set it for another 10 minutes of high pressure. When that time was up, I removed the pork and rubbed it all over with brown sugar mixed with salt.

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After that it was under the broiler for about 7 minutes till the sugar carmelized and the skin was crispy.


Voila!  We ate it with rice, the ginger-scallion sauce and stir fried vegetables.  Delicious.



Friday, September 18, 2020: Homemade Bagels
Sep 28th, 2020 by Alex Koster

Welcome to  To learn more about our website and how my brother Max and I started cooking, scroll down a few posts.  To find out what I (Alex) am cooking, please stay right here.

Today I felt like New York bagels but we are not in NYC so I decided to make my own.  Ingredients are pretty simple: flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar, and luckily we had some good toppings in the cupboard (sesame seeds and Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel mix).


The process isn’t difficult but there are quite a few steps.  The first one was to proof the yeast by combining it with warm water and sugar.  This usually takes about 5 minutes, so while that was going on, I combined the flour and salt and made a well for the yeast mixture.

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Once the 5 minutes as up and the yeast was activated, I poured it into the dry mix.

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Then I had to mix everything together and knead the dough for 10 minutes.  It was very stiff: I got a good arm workout!


After that, I let the dough rise till it doubled (about an hour) and then punched it down.  That was satisfying.

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Then I split the dough into 8 pieces, rolled each one into a ball, and then made a hole in the center of each ball to make the bagel shape.

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The next step was weird but apparently essential: I cooked each bagel in boiling water for 1 minute each side.


After that, it was time to top them (with sesame or everything bagel mix) and put in the oven to bake.


20 minutes later, I had fresh NYC bagels!



Saturday, September 6, 2020: Roast Chicken with Homegrown Mashed Potatoes
Sep 20th, 2020 by Max Koster

Tonight Alex and I wanted to try to recreate one of our favorite meals from Trader Joes: Lemon-Rosemary Marinated Chicken and finally cook the potatoes from our garden (we also harvested rosemary from the garden for the chicken).  Ingredients are simple: for the chicken, you need: melted butter, rosemary and lemon; for the potatoes, add butter and milk (or cream if you have it.)

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First step was to wash the chicken and make sure there was nothing in there (sometimes giblets/livers are in there) so after I got the chicken out of its plastic covering…harder than it looks, I put on my gloves to clean and wash the chicken.  (And there were giblets in there…took those out). Not a fan.

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Then it was time to chop the rosemary, melt the butter, squeeze lemon into the butter and add salt and pepper. Alex helped out with the lemon and finishing up the basting sauce.

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Then it was time to baste the chicken all over with the lemon-rosemary-butter mix.  Alex handled that while I started peeling potatoes.

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We both ended up peeling the potatoes, and then put them in a pot of water to wait to cook.  The chicken had to cook for at least an hour so we didn’t want to start them to early.

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After the chicken had cooked 30 minutes, we started the potatoes and when they were fork tender, I started to mash them, with butter, salt, pepper and cream.

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After about an hour, the chicken was done so we served it up with the mashed potatoes. Mom made a quick arugula tomato salad with tomatoes and avocado to round out the plate.

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Everything was delicious, however, I think we should have marinated the chicken in olive oil, rosemary, and lemon before we cooked it.  Our version tasted good but didn’t have quite the same flavor as Trader Joes.


August 24, 2020: Tiramisu!
Sep 9th, 2020 by Alex Koster

Today I (Alex) woke up with a yearning for tiramisu.  I convinced Max that we needed to make it and then convinced my mom to drive to the closest grocery store to get the ingredients.   Tiramisu is a coffee-flavored dessert made up of ladyfingers dipped in coffee with layers of a whipped mixture of cream, vanilla, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, with cocoa powder sprinkled on top.  (Ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese are not something we usually have in our pantry, so that’s why I needed mom’s help.)  Here are the ingredients:


So the first step was to whip the cream, sugar, and mascarpone cheese together.


The next step was to soak the ladyfingers in coffee (the recipe called for coffee and coffee liqueur, but my mom nixed the liqueur.)

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Then it was time to layer: first the soaked ladyfingers, then the whipped mix, then ladyfingers, then whipped mix, and then, finally cocoa powder on top.

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Then we had to let it sit for four hours. (Are you kidding me?) we definitely cut that timeline short to try it.




August 10, 2020: More Homegrown Treats: Simple Bruschetta, Zucchini Taste Test
Aug 21st, 2020 by Max Koster

Welcome to  We have been focusing on food from our garden–like many of you we have a lot of tomatoes and a lot of zucchini.  Today I am trying to use up some tomatoes: by making a quick batch of bruschetta.  This is easy because you don’t have to chop anything.  You just need tomatoes, olive oil, a clove of garlic, basil and some crusty bread.  The tomatoes and basil came from our garden.   We also grew some very light colored zucchini so we did a taste test against our usual dark green version.

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First step for the bruschetta: grate the tomato using the box grater:


Once you have a good amount of grated tomato, add a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Then slice the bread and put it in the toaster.

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Once the bread is toasted, cut the clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side on the toasted bread.

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Then spoon the tomato-olive oil mix over the bread and add some basil leaves

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Finally, time to taste!


For the zucchini taste test, I decided to slice and roast the two squashes.

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(There was extra room in the pan so I added some tomatoes and mushrooms.) Once everything was roasted, I tasted the squash (and served the other roasted vegetables with cheese ravioli).  Honestly, I didn’t like the light green squash….it was almost tasteless but good to know.



July 27 – July 31, 2020: Week of Homegrown Food
Aug 6th, 2020 by Max Koster

Welcome to  To learn more about the history of this website, scroll down a few posts.  Otherwise, if you want to know what my sister and I have been cooking: stay right here.

This week I (Max) wanted to try to incorporate something from our garden into at least one meal a day.    Our garden is doing pretty well: we had a lot of peas early on (they’re done now), and now zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and potatoes are in season.  None of our sunflowers made it (the birds ate the seeds as soon as we planted them); only a few of our zinnias bloomed, and only one kale plant survived.  (I am saving that for mom.)

Monday, July 27, 2020


Today’s yield from the garden was mainly cucumbers and tomatoes, so I incorporated them into a tomato-cucumber salad to go along with souvlaki style chicken, pita bread, and rice.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020


We picked a full basket (almost everything in the garden made it in the basket), so I used the lettuce and tomato in a salad with goat cheese, the cucumbers in a separate salad and baked the potatoes (and served that all with steak sandwiches.)

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After dinner, I decided to use up some of our zucchini to make zucchini bread: so delicious!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020


Today’s yield was a lot of tomatoes, basil and (of course, more zucchini and cucumbers) so I decided to make a tomato-mozzarella-basil salad.

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Thursday, July 30, 2020


Today’s yield was a lot of lettuce and a few zinnias.  However, we had zucchini and basil leftover so I decided to make a zucchini-basil frittata.  This is pretty easy.  You just sautee garlic, thinly sliced zucchini, and basil in olive oil till zucchini slightly soft.  Then pour in 8 beaten eggs.  Cook till eggs are set, sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top and broil until golden brown.  (This is a family favorite.)

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Friday, July 31, 2020

Today’s yield was mainly tomatoes (and very hot peppers) so I decided to make an arugula, tomato, and corn salad.  The peppers are way too hot to put in the salad!

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Saturday, July 18, 2020: Sous Vide Steaks with Chimichurri and Chopped Salad
Aug 3rd, 2020 by Alex Koster

Welcome to! Today I (Alex) wanted to experiment with Sous Vide.  I took an online class with the Institute of Culinary Education at noon that demonstrated how to make a variety of dishes using Sous Vide and decided to try their strip steak recipe.

The first step was to cook a head of garlic (to be used in flavoring the steak).  Apparently, if you use raw garlic as a flavor element in Sous Vide, it can taste a little bitter but cooked garlic is fine and pretty easy to do: cut off the tops of the cloves in a head, wrap in foil and cook in 340-degree oven for 30 minutes.  Then you squeeze the soft cloves out of the head.

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Next step was to sear the steaks (after salt and peppering them well). ICE recommends searing both before and after the sous vide cooking process because if you only do it after, by the time you have gotten the steaks appropriately brown, you will have overcooked them.

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Meanwhile, the water is heating up to precisely 57 degrees Celsius.


Then the steaks go into plastic bags to be vacuumed sealed and placed into the water.  Per the ICE recipe I put one clove of cooked garlic and 1 sprig of thyme in with the steak.  They recommend that the flavor elements not touch the steak because they may get embedded into it.

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Meanwhile, while the steaks cooked, I made a quick chimichurri sauce: chopped garlic, parsley, basil, and olive oil; prepped potatoes for baking; and chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado for a simple salad.

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After 2 hours, I removed the steaks from the water bath, one by one, patted them dry, and seared them briefly one more time to remove any moisture.

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Then everything went on the table and I plated up dinner. The steaks were perfectly, evenly, cooked inside. Yum.

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Saturday July 4, 2020: Homemade Hostess Cupcakes
Jul 19th, 2020 by Alex Koster

Welcome to  To learn more about how this website started, scroll down a few posts.  Otherwise, just to read about what my brother and I are cooking, stay right here. To celebrate the 4th of July, I (Alex) decided to make an All-American favorite: Hostess Cupcakes.  The recipe is pretty easy, but there are a lot of steps so it takes some time because you have to: (1) make the cupcakes; (2) make the filling; and (3) finally make the frosting.  The most important ingredient that you might not have on hand is marshmallow fluff and the most important tool is a cake decorating kit.  We didn’t have any of our cake decorating tips (or piping bags) so we had to improvise a bit, as you will see.

The Cupcakes: the first step is to make the chocolate cupcakes.  You combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and then separate two eggs and then whip them.



Then it’s time to combine the egg yolks and the dry ingredients.


Meanwhile, you beat the egg whites and gently fold them into the chocolate batter.


Then it’s time to divide into 12 cupcakes.  Max gave me an assist on this.


Then into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.



The Filling: while the cupcakes are cooling (they need to cool completely), you make the filling: this is easy: just combine marshmallow fluff, powdered sugar, butter and a little cream.  Then you are supposed to use a cake decorating tip and piping bag to in pipe the filling directly into the cupcakes.  We didn’t have a good cake decorating tip (just a very small one) and no piping bags, so this was kind of a disaster.  We couldn’t get the filling to go into the cupcakes (and the plastic bags we tried to use kept bursting).  Ultimate we sliced the cupcakes horizontally and filled them that way. (It was so messy, we couldn’t take photos)

The Frosting: for the frosting you combine heavy cream, chopped bitter sweet chocolate and butter to make a ganache.  (Frankly, I think it was a little to bitter so next time I am going to do 1/2 bitter sweet and 1/2 semi-sweet.)



Then you are supposed to dip the cupcakes in the bowl of frosting, but we really couldn’t do that because we had split them in half so we just frosted them normally.

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The final touch is the fine, squiggly line across the top.  That was impossible without cake decorating tools so we improvised again by putting a circle of white frosting (the filling) on top.  Slightly unorthodox, but still delicious!



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