Sunday, March 6, 2016

Food for thought


Today I am grateful. I am grateful for having encountered the TED-talk of brother David Steindle-Rast. It will change my life, I'm sure of that.
After watching the talk ( I realised that his words are true. The times in my live where I was the most happy, were also the times where I was the most grateful. And probably I was happy because I was grateful.
Usually I am quite grateful, and to be honest also quite happy, but it is not a conscience state of gratefulness. It is just there.  Probably, that's also something to be grateful about, but it gets shoved aside real easy when I get annoyed about something.

I can hugely appreciate small things, like this morning. It had rained and even snowed a lot the past couple of days, so everything was extremely wet. But this morning the sun got out and heated up all this moist, to become a kind of steam coming of the wooden poles in our garden, magical! Seeing something so beautiful makes me very happy.

But then, the everyday life gets in the way of this gratefulness. I get annoyed by my husbands 'laziness', get annoyed by my children screeming or interrupting whatever it is I want to do at that moment, and boom, there goes my happiness...

So, after watching brother David today, I realise that there are two important things I need to do to ignite my life into a more conscious happy life.
First, I am going to challenge myself to stop whenever I get annoyed by something. Look.  And then find something I am grateful for at that very moment. Then I will be ready for doing something, and probably this will not only make my life happier, but also that of the people who surround me. Creating a ripple.

The second thing I want to do, is give gratitude to my children. Somewhere in the process of losing our religion we also lost the time where we collectively pray and say our thanks. My grandfather was a reverend, but somewhere after my 7th birthday my mother stopped going to church. Life was busy, lot's of other things to do, not quite a conscious choice, but we somehow just stopped going after a period of infrequent church visits. However, we kept our tradition of saying grace before our meals. 

I stopped that tradition when I went to university. It just didn't make sense at the time, the people I lived with did't say grace and I was a long way from being religious. 
But even though we as a family are not religious at this moment, we can still make saying grace to each other a daily routine and a new tradition for our family. It will be something I can give to our children, so hopefully they will grow up to be grateful and happy people.
With these thoughts, I am grateful to fall asleep in a bed freshly made up by my 'lazy' husband. Lucky me!

Tell me, what is it that you are grateful for? Let's share our stories!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Dutch Classic

It has been raining all weekend. As most parents with small children will experience, I too am extremely prone to all kinds of colds. So when it starts raining, and the children come home with a only a tiny bit of a cold, I immediately start sneezing.

Time for some soup! I know, I should have been making chicken stock... It just is the best when you are having a cold, but this Vegetable Soup with Meatballs is sooo comforting and warming on rainy days.
It takes a while to make, but most of the time is waiting time, so can be spent with (in my case) the children.
In these rainy weekends we spent a lot of time in our big 'living kitchen', working on childrens art projects such as making a house out of cardboard boxes, painting, cutting and pasting images from magazines etcetera.

I find it comforting to hear the delicate bubbling sounds of the soup in process next to the tapping sound of the rain on the roof and the windows. Not too mention smelling the soup, which already warms me without even tasting it.
Probably it is in my genes, as my mother and also my grandmother would allways make their own broths as well. I must have passed the 'love of this soup' genes to my children, because both my children love this soup and are even eating the veggies in it!

Vegetable Soup with Meatballs
A Dutch Classic

Ingredients for 1 pan of soup:
2 marrowbones (1 with and 1 without meat),or more if you like.
1 very small tin of tomatoconcentrate
1 celery
2 big carrots
2 onions
1 leek, green parts
1 hand of parsley

Finishing the soup:
1 leek, white parts
1 spring onion
250g of mushroom
250g of minced meat
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 egg

Put on the oven-grill on highest temperature. Spread a spoon of tomatoconcentrate on the marrowbones and roast them for about 10 minutes in the oven. Put the bones in a pan and fill with cold water. Put it on the stove at a low heat. Chop the celery, 2 onions (washed, but unpeeled), the green part of the leek and 2 1/2 carrot in big chunks and roast for a few minutes in the oven as well, after which you toss them in the pan. Also add some parsely, peppercorns, and of course whatever vegetables/herbs you furthermore like to put in.

Leave it on the low heat for a few hours, preferably the whole day. Strain the soup into another pan, squeezing out as much fluids as you can from the vegetables. Throw away the vegetables from which the soup was maked, but save the meat.
If you want to save the broth for later you could reduce it now untill you only have about a quarter left, cool it and freeze it in small portions ready to use whenever you need a broth as a basis for soups or sauces.

If you are ready to make the soup, you'll go on by pulling the meat in small pieces and add it to the strained soup. Season with salt & pepper.

Finely chop an onion and the clove of garlic and put in a bowl together with the minced meat, egg, breadcrumbs salt & pepper. Make a lot of small balls from the meatmixture.
Finely chop the white of the leek, the remaing 1/2 carrot and the spring onion. Roughly chop the mushrooms.

Add mushrooms, meatballs and vermicelli to the soup and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the vegetables 2-3 more minutes.
Taste and season some more if you like. Put in bowls and dress up with a little fresh parsley if you like.

Score: 5 out of 5, but only if you take enough time to let it simmer!
Tip: Make a large pan full of the broth, reduce half of it and freeze it in small portions (icecubebags are perfect) use the other half to make the soup. You can throw in just about any vegetable you like a few minutes before serving. A mix with small pieces of cauliflower, leek and carrots is a popular choice in the Netherlands. And don't forget the meatballs, without these it wouldn't be a Dutch Classic!
Time: to make it perfect, you'll need at least one day.
Amount of work vs waiting: Low.
About 30 minutes to start it up if you roast your meat and veggies, which I would recommend. But you could also make a lazy version by just putting all ingredients in the pan, fill it up with water and be ready to let it simmer within 5 minutes.
Finishing the soup will take about 30 minutes, making the meatballs and chopping the veggies.
Ideal for: Simple family dinner, Autumn, Winter

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Vietnamese Salad

Years ago, before we had our children, we went to Vietnam. It was quite an impressive traveldestination. Straight out of our busy jobs we flew for many, many hours to arrive in an extremely busy Hanoi.
It wasn't a luxury trip, since we wanted to see and do as much as possible with a tight budget, so we stayed in a low budget hostel in the centre of town. Motorcycles racing through the streets at literally every hour, day and night.

The only thing I can remember from these first days was that I needed to get away from all of this noice and I desperately needed some fresh air and space. We decided to take the nighttrain to the northern mountains and from there went to a very small town with only a handful of tourists. In my memory this town had one hostel and a small hotel that was being expanded/renovated at the time. In preparation of the expansion they were advertising (on a printed/typed black and white A4 paper) a walking/culture trip for 3 days and 2 night where you would stay at local families in the small farmingvillages surrounding this town.

This was the best thing we ever did! We walked through the misted mountains in the morning, watched the clouds break for some sun and had more than amazing views throughout the whole trip. What a peace and quietness, just what I needed... Everywhere the people were friendly and hardworking. And they too, were an amazing sight being traditionally dressed in colourful clothes. What made the trip even more worthwhile were the homestays. The first night we were invited to sleep in the house of the chief of the village we visited.

We were asked if we wanted to join the family for dinner or if we wanted to eat separately. Of course we wanted to join them. The organizing hotel had brought a big amount of food, so that our guide would prepare a meal for us. They added the food that was being prepared for the family and on a small open wood fire in the kitchen our guide transformed the seperate ingredients into numerous wonderful small dishes which we all shared.
Our guide only spoke a little English, and our hosts didn't speak any English at all, but nontheless we had such a nice and engaging evening, with supertasty food!

Since then I am a huge fan of Vietnamese food. Vietnamese salads are delicious, they usually have a good bite and delightful freshness. One of these days I will describe some of my cookbooks in more detail, but for today I just wanted to mention my Vietnamese cookbook which has been my inspiration for this recipe. It is an interesting reading book as well as a book full of wonderful Vietnamese recipes. It is in my possession for a few years already, so I am not sure it is still available, but if you happen to stumble across this book I would definitely recommend purchasing it.

Vietnamese Salad, side dish 2p
Inspired by:
bún với rau thơm, salade van rijstvermicelli
Geheimen van de Rode Lantaarn (Secrets of the Red Lantern), pg 118
Author: Pauline Nguyen, Luke Nguyen & Mark Jensen

Ingredients for 2p:
1 small hand of unsalted peanuts
1 shallot
3 dl vegetable oil
1 spring onion
100g rice noodles
1 cucumber
1 baby romaine lettuce
1 hand of mintleaves
1 hand of cilantroleaves
50ml Nuoc nam cham (You can make it yourself, this book has a great recipe for it, but this time I just used a store bought version)

Stirfry the peanuts in a dry wok at medium heat untill they have a light shade of brown. Roughly chop them and leave them to cool.

Slice the shallot in thin rings, rinse and dry them on a paper towel. Heat about 2 dl oil in a small fryingpan or wok untill it is so hot that when you put in a piece of bread it inmediately start to brown. Fry the rings of shallot in small batches untill they are goldenbrown. Take them out with a skimmer and put on another papertowel.

Cut the spring onion in diagonal rings. Put 1dl oil and the spring onions in another pan and bake untill they are getting soft. Let it cool.

Cook the rice-noodles according to the instructions. (A few minutes in boiling water) Cool it down under running water. Let it drain out.

Julienne the cucumber. Finely slice the lettuce. Tear the mint and cilantro leaves. Mix these 4 ingredients.
Put the rice-noodles on your plate, add the lettuce mixture and the spring onions with the oil. sprinkle the nuoc nam cham over it. Dress with the fried shallots and roasted peanuts.

Score:4 out of 5
Tip: You can add some tauge. Nice side dish to any oriental spiced meat or fish, try it with Thai Styled Mussels
Amount of work vs waiting:high
Degree of difficulty:medium
Ideal for:Side dish, salad, asian food

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Thai Style Mussels

It is summer, which means that there are new mussels again! Zeeland, a province in the southwest of the Netherlands provides one of the most tasteful mussels of the world. Strangely, most of these mussels are exported, probably to countries that have a higher standard of foodculture than we have here.

There are quite a lot of foodies in the Netherlands, but unfortunately the average Dutch person cares more about the price of the food than the quality...

When we go to our southern neighbours (Belgium), we suddenly find food with a much higher quality, even in the supermarkets. I love living in the Netherlands, but I really find this a disadvantage!

Although, when you look a little further than your local supermarket, you can find great food here as well, you just have to look a little harder.

But luckily we could get our hands on some of the Zeeuwse mussels, and they do taste great!
I usually simply cook them in white wine with finely cut vegetables and herbs. That way the taste of the mussel itself is the star of the show and I love it this way. However this week I wanted to experiment with our beautiful mussels and made up an Asian version.

I am not sure if I will ever be able to make the simple mussels again and get a smile from my husband again. He absolutely loved these experimental Thai mussels, and if he could give a rate above the 5 out of 5 I gave these mussels, he would absolutely take that advantage.

Thai Style Mussels

Ingredients 4p:
2-3kg of Zeeuwse mussels
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
3 small red chili peppers, fresh and/or dried (chiliflakes)
1/2 of a lemon, juice and zest.
2cm of ginger
1 spoon of oil
200ml of coconut milk
1 hand full of cilantroleaves (and stems)

Throw away all mussels with broken shells. Put the rest of them in cold water. (I usually put them in a blocked sink full of water). Leave them for a while.

Finely chop the onion, 1 clove of garlic and the peppers. Cut the other cloves of garlic in half, and make some chunks of the gingerblock. Lightly fry the onions in a little oil in a highwalled pan until they are translucent. Add the garlic, chili peppers, lemonzest and ginger for a few minutes. Pour the coconut milk in the pan, add the lemonjuice and the cilantro and heat it up.

Throw away all mussels that haven't closed in the cold water. When in doubt you can give them a little knock on the shell. If they close, they are fine, if not: throw them away. Cook the mussels in different batches in the coconut mixture. Throw away the ones that haven't opened up and serve steaming hot!

Score: 5 out of 5, or more if it were up to my husband...
Tip: Serve with some nice bread for dipping the heavenly sauce, or make it even more oriental by serving noodles. Also serve it with a fresh salad, I served it with a delicious Vietnamese salad I plan on telling you about later this week.
Time: 15 minutes
Amount of time vs waiting: 50/50 when you include stirring once in a while in the waiting period.
Degree of difficulty: Very easy. However, you will have to pay attention to selecting the good mussels, even if you buy the best quality mussels. When in doubt, throw them out!
Ideal for: Romantic dinner, dinner party, summer/autumn meal.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Herbs

Italy is my favourite country in the world. It is beautiful, diverse, has a nice climate but most of all the food is great! With only a handfull of ingredients Italians are able to make simple meals that often are beyond delicious.

I absolutely adore antipasti, especially the grilled vegetables. The grilled flavour combines so well with the salty slightly acidic flavours of the dressed vegetables. Although I think that putting herbs like mint and cilantro on these antipasti will be seen as an incredible sin in Italy, I definitely think that they add a lovely freshness to this salad. So, if not forgiven by the Italians, I am totally forgiving myself for this delicious sin!

Making large portions of these, asks quite some time grilling. Your guests however, will be pleasantly surprised and impressed with this work!

2 zucchini's
3 spoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of lemonjuice
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
1 hand of mintleaves
1 hand of cilantroleaves
Salt & pepper

Make long slices of the zuchini about 3-5mm thick. Cover in salt for 10 minutes, wash, let dry on some kitchenpaper. Meanwhile cut and squeeze half of the garlic clove with a little salt. Make a dressing with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemonjuice, vinegar an garlic.
Brush some olive oil on the zucchini and fry them on both sides in portions on a very hot grill pan or BBQ. Take them out of the pan when they are goldenbrown and rub them with the other half of the garlic clove while they are still hot.
Pour the dressing over the grilled Zucchini, add the fresh herbs and sprinkle with a little extra oil.

Combine it with grilled eggplant for an extra festive salad!

Score: 4 out of 5
Tip: Really impressive salad for a dinner party or a BBQ party. Also very nice with Eggplant. For a spicy touch you could add some chiliflakes to the dressing.
Time: Depending on how much you are making, about 30 minutes for 2 zucchini's.
Amount of work vs waiting: High, a little waiting time which you can partly fill with making the dressing.
Degree of difficulty: Moderate
Ideal for: starter, side dish/ salad, BBQ, dinner party.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Making quiches always brings back good memories to me. When we were dating I often planned a biking or walking picnic trip into nature. Usually I would bake a savoury quiche, make a small salad, pack a bottle of good wine and we were of for the day. Enjoying the nice weather, beautiful nature, a nice meal and of course each other.

With small children and fully booked agenda's this belongs to the past, and only the sweet memories stay with us. But nothing to be sad about, there is room to make plenty more sweet memories that do or do not involve quiches! Having a family picnic isn't as lazy, and we usually go to a park nowadays where we meet up with friends instead of making trips into the woods, but they are just as memorable as the old days. 

Talking with friends while watching the children all play together, drinking a good glass of wine and enjoying the same old quiche... Life evolves, but with some sun on your face, good company, a nice glass of wine and good food, it still treats us very well!

Ingredients for 1 quiche:
1/2 package of puff pastry. (You can make it yourself, but I like the one we have in the freezer here, and it is so much easier...)
A spoon of butter
250g creme fraiche, mascarpone, double cream or something comparable
1 or 2 eggs
200g grated cheese
Salt (a little) & pepper

Other ingredients:
Basically you can variate all you want with the other ingredients inside. See some suggestions below.

Heat the oven at 210 degrees Celsius. (410 degrees Fahrenheit)
Defrost the puff pastry. Whisk the eggs and put most of it through the creme fraiche (or whatever alternative you use) in a large bowl, save some whisked egg for later. Finely slice or press the garlic and add to the mixture, add a little salt, some pepper and the cheese.

Spread the butter on the baking mould. Cover the mould with the pastry, letting it hang slightly over the edges.
Put in the other ingredients of your quiche and cover with your cheesy/creamy mixture. Fold the edges in. I sometimes (as in the picture above) like to make a roof of puff pastry, adding a bit more pastry to close up the pie. But you can also choose to bake it without a roof. Spread the little bit of whisked egg over the pastry roof or edges and put in the heated oven for about 40-45 minutes. Let it cool for a picnic or serve hot for a simple family style dinner.

A few of my favourite quiches:

My Basic quiche, super simple but preferred by my husband:
Bacon, leek and mushrooms (I bake the mushrooms with salt &pepper before I put it in, but put the leek and bacon in raw, they cook inside the quiche)
You can keep it in the fridge overnight and eat again the following day. It is also nice when eaten cold, and is also nice without the mushrooms.

Sweet onion & goatcheese quiche
Shallots, goatcheese, honey, thyme. Gently bake the shallots for 15-20 minutes. Add the thyme to the cheesemixture. Devide the shallots and half of the goatcheese over the pastry, add the cheesmixture put the rest of the goatcheese on top and sprinkle some honey over it.
Serve hot or cold, you can keep it overnight in the fridge.

Chicken- Tauge quiche
Chicken, mushrooms, tauge, more garlic. Cut the chicken into pieces and shortly bake them with some salt and pepper. Bake the mushroom with salt and pepper in another pan, add the finely sliced garlic for another minute and put all of it together with the chicken and tauge on the pastry. Add the cheese mixture, put a pastryroof on this one and serve it immediately when it comes out of the oven. The tauge gives a nice fresh bite to this quiche, but when you leave it to cool down and or reheat it, I don't like it any more. So no picnicfood...

I can think of a thousand other nice quiches to make, ingredients that you can add to the quiches above, but I suggest you start experimenting for yourself!

Score: 4 out of 5
Tip: nice for picknick's. Quiches are also very good partyfood, especially a lot of small (different) ones in bright cupcake forms. They are easy to make and everybody just loves them.
Time: 1 hour (15-20 minutes work, 40-45minutes oven-time)
Amount of work vs waiting: low
Degree of difficulty: easy-moderate
Ideal for: Picnic, simple family dinner, party

PS, curious what I put in this one? It was my husbands favourite with bacon, leek and mushroom, but I also added a few baked onions.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spicy Champagne Shrimp & Spaghetti

A Celebration!

This week for the first time I made a meal inspired by a recipe from a blog. Through Pinterest I started to look around at other foodblogs and I found Rasa Malaysia! I am really excited about that. Although I'm new at blogging and reading blogs, I am almost a pro in buying cookbooks and cooking magazines and Bee from Rasa Malaysia is amazing... She has so many recipes that look and sound so delicious that I inmediately want to start cooking.

I love asian food, but I don't often cook it. I will definetly try to make some of her asian food one day, but with a husband training for the marathon there was a need for a pastadish tonight. And I found this wonderfull fusion recipe which of course I altered a bit to my liking and to our spirit! Afterall today was a milestone in his running 'career', he ran half a marathon today! And believe it or not, when he arrived home I couldn't even tell. He looked like I look when I have to hurry home from doing groceries, half a kilometer away...

One of the things I love to do in life is to celebrate small victories, so this victory of my husband needed celebration. Champagne had already been chilling in the fridge, and this was the perfect moment for a festive pastadish. Inspired by Bee's Spicy Shrimp Pasta recipe I made this heavenly champagne dinner for two, and I don't think my husband will be running too far tomorrow...

Spicy Shrimp Spaghetti & Champagne
A celebrative dish
Inspired by:
Rasa Malaysia's Spicy Shrimp Pasta
Author: Bee Yinn Low

Ingredients for 2p:
150g spaghetti
Splash of olive oil
2 spoons of butter
3 cloves of garlic
1 tomato
200g of peeled shrimps
1 lime
1 glass of champagne (or cava)
1 teaspoon of chili flakes, plus a little more for the finishing touch.
A bunch of flat parsley
A bunch of cilantro leaves
Fresly grounded pepper
Some grano padano (or parmesan)

Boil your spaghetti in salted water, save some water for the sauce. Finely chop the garlic. Chop the tomato in small pieces.
At the end of the cooking time start making the sauce by putting oil and butter in a wok and add the garlic. Be carefull not to let it brown as it will then turn bitter. After a minute add the shrimps and fry for 1-2 minutes.
Cut the lime in half, use half for the sauce and slice the other half in parts for decoration.

Add the champagne, chiliflakes and tomatoes to the wok. Let it cook for another minute. Add the juice of half a lime, spaghetti and a little bit of the boiling water as well as the fresh herbs. Season with salt & pepper to your own liking. Plate up and make it look pretty by putting some grano padano flakes, shrimp, fresh herbs and chiliflakes on top.

Score: 5 out of 5
Tip: If you are not in a festive mood, don't want to open up a bottle of champagne, or you want to use this recipe on an ordinary day: a glass of white wine makes for a very nice dish as well.
Time: 20 minutes (if you buy already peeled shrimps)
Amount of work vs waiting: 3/4 work, 1/4 waitingtime
Degree of difficulty: easy
Ideal for: a celebration, pastadish, romantic dinner