Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday's In My City..

Welcome to snowy,cold,when is spring going to get here Holland :) Please head over to Unknown Mami and check out what she is doing this sunday aswell as everyone else. I couldn't bring myself to post anymore snow pictures. I'm officially boycotting it and winter all together.

   However, I really do love bird tracks in snow! We've got rabbits and hedgehogs around here but I haven't been lucky enough to spot either one.

     Yesterday I bought myself some new slippers...I just love dutch clog slippers. They make my feet look ginormous and holy smokes do I need a tan!!!

   I also bought some beautiful yellow tulips. One of the things that I love about The Netherlands is how amazingly cheap their flowers are. I've never been able to buy myself beautiful flowers on a regular basis..over here you can. Incase you didn't know it, the netherlands is the largest exporter of all flowers. Tulips are big here and I can buy them in colors I didn't know they even came in. Once spring hits everyone starts planting beautiful bulbs and flowers into their yards in every color combination you can think of.

     This morning I baked up this cinnamon coffee cake..come back tomorrow if you want the recipe. It's sooo good! Thanks for stopping by everyone!     Unknown Mami                                                                                                                                     

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mishmash Friday

Fridays I will try and bring you a piece of dutch news for you that I find funny,interesting or irritating and I will include anything else that comes to mind. First up we have my washer..and I hate it. I miss my double capacity washer from home. There wasn't anything that I couldn't put in there. Those days are loooooong gone my friends. This is a small washer and most people have these here. Do you know how long it takes to do one load? 1 hour and 15 minutes. If I wanted to do a short wash, it would take 30 minuntes and never cleans the clothes. Now back home we have the lovely comforters that we can stick in our double capacity washers with no problem what so ever. It doesn't work like that here. Infact there is no way it would even fit in half way.
   Over here we have Duvet Covers. Now I have to say that this is an excellent and super handy item to have. All you do is slip off the cover and throw it in the wash. The actual comforter wont fit so people stick them out their windows to air them out. What I love about the covers is that I can change up the style and colors at any time without having to buy a whole new comforter set. I remember how much those cost and I like this version much better. Lets talk about drying. Oh lord how I hate drying here aswell. My dryer won't fit in the house.
 After washing I have to walk outside (wich is always really fun on days like this where it's snowing..oh and on the days where the rain is beating down..thats soooo much fun too). We keep the dryer in a shed with the bikes and garden tools. I have a condensation dryer wich means it collects the water in a plastic container below and I empty it out when it's done drying. It's as small as my washer and it takes over an hour to dry aswell. I've learned that having a dryer here is something alot of people don't have.

Alot of the homes here have big attics(we don't) and they simply hang everything up in the winter and during the nice days they stick their clothes out to dry. My neighbors does that. When I walk out into my back door her balcony is right above it. So when she hangs out her bed sheets I can get smacked in the face. I love it when she puts her grannie panties out. There is a brick fence that seperates us but the sheets are hung up high and go all over the place when they wind hits them. I don't know about you, but Im not all about hanging my junk out for people to see and can't imagine not having a dryer. Dutch homes can get cramped and sometimes there is no room for both a washer and a dryer.

Ok on to some news! There was a girl who worked at a McDonalds here who was fired on the spot for putting a slice of cheese on a co workers burger. The co worker bought a burger and then asked the girl for a slice of cheese, wich then turned it into a cheeseburger wich costs more. So the girl was let go. Now over here you can fight being fired. It then goes to court and the judge felt like that was to harsh of a punishment and could of been handled with a write up. McDonalds said they have strict rules about giving family and co workers items like that. The judge said the girl wasn't trying to do wrong by putting the slice on there but it was more the co workers fault for asking her to do so. So the girl gets 5 months worth of wages because of this and is free to look for other work. Take that McDonalds!! When you get a job here they start you out on a limited contract. Alot of them are only 3 months..wich is what this girl had. So they were not going to renew her contract anyway wich is why I think she was awarded 5 months worth of pay. The dutch system of working is alot different than the american way of doing it. You feel more protected and the benefits and job security are a thousand times better than anything I've ever witnessed in the U.S.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!                                              

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I like 'Em Big, I like 'Em Chunky


I realise the title to this post could be taken many ways..however with this being a baking blog for the most part, you should probably get your mind out of the gutter and more into the baking mode:) I love big, fat, chunky, chewy cookies.  Infact while making these cookies you need to do it while listening to THIS song...I did:) I can not believe how funny animated movies have become!!

 While in the kitchen I was suddenly blinded by a bright light. Could it be...the sun? oh yes my fine blogging friends, we had sun! This is not something you see a whole lot of during a dutch winter. Infact I had just enough time to snap two photos before it went poof! it was replaced by dark grey skies that followed with both rain and snow..sigh..will spring ever get here?


       Back to baking I went. I like bigger cookies myself. If you like that too then you should try this recipe. You use 1/4 cup worth of dough..and you could go bigger then that if you wanted. The last batch I made really really big ones and they turned out fine. These would be great for a school bake sale or you can enjoy them alone...while watching the darn snow fall and wondering if you will ever see the sun again. 

Big and Chunky Cookies..1-1/2-2 dozen cookies
2 cups Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
3/4 cup Butter; Melted
1 cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 cup White Sugar
1 TBL. Vanilla
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
2 cups Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 325 or 165 celcius. Grease or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt; Set aside.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the melted butter, and both sugars until well blended. Beat in vanilla,egg and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in flour mixture just until combined. Turn mixer off and mix in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. At this time I popped the dough into the fridge for 25 minutes. You don't have to but I like to use cooled chocolate chip dough..I noticed the cookies don't spread as much.

Take 1/4 cup worth of dough and roll into a ball. Place 3 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Bake 15-17 minutes or until the edges are a nice golden brown and toasted. Cool on cookie sheet for one minute; Transfer to wire rack.                                                       

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes


I was supposed to have 3 recipes to share with you. I made a point to make one chinese recipe a week and then I wanted to share a fast ice cream recipe and a chicken recipe. However while making my fast ice cream recipe my blender broke..I so want a food processor. Then I read the chicken recipe wrong and it came out sickingly sweet and THEN the chinese recipe looked nothing like the photo and tasted horrible. Well..it tasted horrible to me and although my husband and two sons loved, it I didn't feel right blogging about a recipe I couldn't stand.

So onto these pancakes. The first thing you'll notice is that there are no bananas in the photo..funny thing about bananas and how if you freeze them and take them out again..they turn really brown. So I left those out. However I will totally add them next time because this recipe is worth making over and over again. The batter smelled like lemon cupcakes :) They are fluffy and you feel like you are eating something naughty for breakfast. If you don't have bananas please make them anyway..they are so worth it and a treat from the everyday pancake mix. Thanks Obviously Omnivore for the recipe. The original comes from Ina Garten.

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes..makes 12
1-1/2 cups Flour
3 TBL Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1-1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt..I used regular and only 1 tsp.
1/2 cup Sour Cream..or Creme Fraiche
3/4 cup plus 1 TBL Milk
2 Extra Large Eggs..I used regular
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Grated Lemon Zest
2 Ripe Bananas; Diced,plus more for serving.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour,sugar,baking powder, and salt. Whisk together the sour cream, milk,eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix only until well combined..lumps are ok. 

Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter into a large skillet over medium-low heat until it bubbles. Ladle 1/4 cup of batter into pan and sprinkle rounded tablespoon on bananas onto each pancake. Cook 3-4 minutes or until bubbles appear and the bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add more butter for each batch. Serve with additional sliced bananas and maple syrup.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday's In My City..


Hi everyone! Thanks to the super duper popular Unknown Mami, we can travel around each sunday and peak into everyones world. Please head over there and check her out aswell as everyone else who signed up. This weeks theme is "Killing time before the video store opens up" First up we have a gas sign! I keep forgetting to take a picture to tell you about it. We pay a poop load for gas. Infact as of right now we pay a little under 8 american dollars for one gallon of gas. When the gas prices got really bad we were paying 10 for a gallon. I suppose it shouldn't be a shocker to understand why almost everyone bikes to work. 

   Here is a photo of some bikes that are parked next to a train station. There is another section that holds hundreds and hundreds of bikes but on the weekends everyone is home. I hope to catch a photo of that soon.

      Here is a photo of the train station..usually this is one busy spot but again it's sunday and everyone is home. I was hoping for some brighter photos but this is a classic dutch winter day" Grey and dark.

  Now if you have some free time, you could always swing by Erotic Land and rent a cabin for a few minutes. You can rent one or two person cabins. Can you imagine living above that?


       Last up we have the City Center. Every tuesday and saturday they fill that spot up with an open market. You can buy cheese,clothes,flowers,meats,veggies,whatever you like. Again this is usually a super busy place but on sunday's nothing is open..nothing. You can buy some gas and now there is one grocery store that opens up from 4-7 and thats where everyone goes. I hope you enjoyed your time here. I'm off to watch some rented movies with the family. See you next sunday!                   Unknown Mami                                                                                                                              

Friday, January 22, 2010

Underrated Meal: Meatloaf

I seriously believe meatloaf gets a bad rap. I love it, always have. I espically love it the next day when you make it into a cold meatloaf sandwich. I've had bad meatloaf before,alot of times actually wich is why I think alot of people have issues with it. I've had it all; Dry meatloaf, squishy meatloaf, and my favorite: what in the hell is in there meatloaf. I still like it though. I've never seen meatloaf in the netherlands; they always make meatballs wich taste like a mini meatloaf to me. I asked my husband one time what springs to mind when you think of american food. He said casseroles and meatloaf..two things you don't find here. He was right..lol
       We love this meatloaf because it's moist and comes with a killer sweet and tangy topping..wich makes the whole thing in my opinion. It holds it's shape while being baked and sliced..(I used to make meatloaf that came out looking like a giant blob). Incase you have extra buttermilk laying around you can swap out the milk in the recipe for buttermilk. I did that lastnight and it came out perfect. You can also put this into the crockpot but I've never done it. I made meatloaf in the crockpot once and it was just so slimy and creepy. I won't ever do it again. I think it you go that route you should use lean beef so it's not slowing cooking in the fat for hours and hours. The original recipe can be found Here. If you have a meatloaf recipe that you love, I would love to try it! either leave the recipe in the comments section or post a link in the comments where I can get it.


Moist Meatloaf
2 Eggs
3/4 cup Milk..or Buttermilk
2/3 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs
2 tsp. Dried Minced Onions..can use fresh
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Minced Garlic
1 tsp. Italian Seasonings
1/2 tsp. Rubbed Sage
1-1/2 to 2lbs. Ground Beef


Topping
1/4 cup Ketchup
2 TBL Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Mustard..I never have that so I use regular mustard
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce.


Pre-heat oven to 350 or 180 celcius. In a large bowl combine the first 8 ingredients; Crumble beef over mixture and mix well (mixture will be moist and thats ok!) Shape into a loaf and place into 13x 9 pan. Combine topping and spread over top. Bake for 1 hour or until no longer pink. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing.


The reason I put 1-1/2 to 2 pounds beef is because it can be made either way while still using the same measurments with everything else. I usually use 2 pounds but I have 2 growing boys and a husband who love beef in all forms..lol

                                

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mashed Potato Fail and The Po-Po Shut Us Down


So how many of us have gotten excited over a recipe only to have it turn out like complete crap?! See that mashed potato mound? Can you tell what it's supposed to be? a freaking rose. I was all excited to come on here like a Miss Smarty Pants telling you all how with just a little effort you too could make a mashed potato rose to surprise your family. I mean Valentines Day is coming and what a sweet way to present it. Well not only does it not look like a dang rose but it tasted like complete crap aswell. I guess I'm not a smarty pants after all.

Yesterday my husband and I went out driving. We went to our local fishing spot to scout out a new area. We love catch and release and wanted a new spot. So I guess this area is also known as a haven for the local druggies. When we went down the dirt road we see two motorcycle police officers passing us up ahead we see an american 70's van. Now if that doesn't say hey Im snorting lines then I don't know what does. Those things stick out like a sore thumb here because noone drives such a monster. As we go by sure enough I could see what they were doing. So we scouted our new spot and left. As we rounded the corner there was the two motorcycle officers and one police van parked infront of the road. They came over and started questioning us as to what we were doing. My husband said..we're looking for a new fishing spot and you could tell they didn't believe us. They just looked at us..what did they think we were going to say? "Uhm yeah we thought we'd you know,do some smack before picking the kids up" So after explaining it 3 more times they let us go but that was after copying every single bit of info they could from us. I guess they were getting ready to confront the people in the van and asked if we were there to see them..like we would of said yes..


I always have these moments when my brain says"You know you're living in The Netherlands when..." So each week Im going to bring you a wacky piece of info I hear on the news. This week: There is a Sex Fair coming and they are setting up a Swingers Bar with a dark room..incase you wanna go ahead and give it a try. I'm thinking that would make one hell of a post for Sunday's In My City...not that I'm going. I'm one of those people that still laughs like a kid when someone says penis so I can only imagine what a sex fair might do to me. In middle school I had to say penis and vagina in health class until I stopped laughing..it didn't work and Im laughing right now. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Buttermilk Chocolate Muffins


Here is a typical look of dutch weather in the winter..foggy,grey,rain,and you have to turn your lights on in the early afternoon sometimes. Sometimes it's hard to be happy when it looks like this day after day.. So what do you do? Well you bake these babies...

        Chocolate cures almost everything..Im almost certain of it. When the weather is total crap out, there is nothing better than baking up something chocolately. I found this great recipe over at Lynn's Cooking Adventures. These can be made several different ways. Her original recipe started out as a quick bread and then she tried it out as a muffin..such a cool idea. I went one step further by making them in a mini muffin tin. These two bite beauties are moist and chocolately and go so well with a cup of coffee. You can freeze these aswell..wich is what I did. I got 52 mini muffins. I froze over half to be enjoyed at a later date.

Buttermilk Chocolate Muffins
1/2 cup Butter; Softened
1 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 cup Buttermilk
1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder..I used dutch cocoa
1-3/4 cup Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Chocolate Chips..I used half chocolate and 1/2 vanilla chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 or 180 celcius. In a bowl combine the flour,cocoa,baking powder,baking soda,and salt;whisk and set aside. In a large bowl with a mixer cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Turn off the mixer and stir in the buttermilk with large spoon. Pour in flour mixture into buttermilk mixture and mix just until combined; Mix in chocolate chips.
To make a quick bread grease the bottom only of a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 15minutes before removing from pan and cooling completely on wire rack.

To make regular muffins or mini muffins,lightly spray cupcake pan with nonstick spray. Fill cups 2/3 full and bake for around 15-18 minutes. My mini muffins were done in 15 and larger ones would be around 18.                         

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday's In My City..


YAY It's Sunday and you know what that means..Thanks to Unknown Mami we can travel all around the world. Please head over to her site and see what she and the rest of us are up to this week. It's another mish mash of photos this week. It's pretty ugly out right now. I love snow but Im not a fan of it once it starts melting. So here are a bunch fo photos I have taken from 2009. 

Up first is the lovely town of Rectum..yep you say it just like it looks. Can you imagine the travel brochures to this place?


         Here is a lovely country house in rectum. I love the way the homes look here. I never get tired of looking at all the brick homes. I think since living here I have seen one wooden built house and even then I'm not totally sure it's all wooden. The urge to knock on their door and ask if I can come in is getting out of control.


         We went sea fishing one weekend and had to buy these special sea worms. They were so alien like. You arent allowed to handle them without gloves. This worm you see was split in two..and he fought it the whole time..YUCK!


       On another fishing trip I snapped this photo of a dragonfly. I never realised just how beautiful they are. I hope to capture more photos with my new camera this summer.


        Don't forget to make a wish! I loved these as a kid..well I sorta still do!


       Lastly we have Mr. Sexy Rooster who strutted right over to me while pushing his chest out as far as he could. The hens just loved him. Thanks for stopping by. See you all next sunday!                 Unknown Mami                                                                                                

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chinese Lemon Chicken


I've made a decision to post one new chinese recipe a week. One of my goals this year is to learn how to make all of our favorite chinese dishes from back home. Since there is no way I will beable to get it over the only logical choice is to hopefully re-create it in my kitchen. I hope to expand into other chinese dishes since in reality I only need to make one more item to complete my list. What I would love to do is make it all at once..however if you saw my kitchen and my teenie weenie counter space you would understand why I haven't yet.

Lemon chicken is another of our favorites. This recipe was a real winner. The lemon sauce is very subtle and isn't goopy. The recipe comes from the same place I found my sweet and sour chicken and the original can be found HERE. I went ahead and used the same coating I did for the sweet and sour chicken and then went ahead and just made the lemon sauce. It has a really nice lemon flavor,not fake tasting at all. The original recipe calls for 3 slices of lemon and I didn't have any. I'm not sure if that down played the flavor of the lemon but at any rate if you don't have it, don't worry about it. Next time I am going to bump the lemon juice up to 3 tablespoons to get a bit more flavor out of it. The sauce coats the chicken perfectly and reminds me of home :)

Lemon Chicken
6 Boneless chicken breasts; cut into 1 inch cubes
Flour
4 Egg Yolks
2 TBL Soy Sauce
Oil

Sauce
1/3 cup Sugar
1 cup Chicken Broth
1-1/2 TBL Cornstarch
2 TBL Lemon Juice
3/4 tsp. Salt..forgot to add in and it was fine without it.
3 Slices of Lemon; Peeled
2 TBL Oil
Yellow Food coloring; Optional

Mix egg yolks and soy sauce with a bit of water in a bowl(I used 1/4 of a cup and added a little more later on to make sure I would beable to coat all the chicken). Roll chicken in flour, then into egg mixture,and back into flour again. Either deep fry in small batches for 2-3 minutes and drain on paper towels or like me use a large skillet with oil and fry the chicken that way. You can also use a wok. Place chicken in large bowl when done.

To make the suace,combine the sugar,broth,cornstarch,lemon juice, and salt; Add in food coloring at this time. Mix until well combined and pour into saucepan(or like me dump it all in the pan to begin with). Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and stir in lemon sauce. Bring it up to a boil and begin whisking it. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook it until it become clear and is thickened. The mixture will start off cloudy but will turn a pretty clear yellow when done. Pour over chicken and gently mix until all chicken is coated. Serve along side fried or white rice.

On a side note I noticed any left over chicken almost lost all of it's lemony taste the next day. The same happend with the sweet and sour chicken. I suspect it's because the sauce is not goopy thick like they serve it in the resturants. If you want the full effect it's best eaten the night you make it...however none of us complained when we ate the left overs:) 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dutch Caramel Cashew Cookies


I have a love/hate thing with dutch food. It takes a bit of getting used to when you come over from the states. Edwin warned me of alot of things but until you experience it for yourself you just nod your head and say "Yeah ok". The first thing you notice about foods over here is that they are no where near as processed as they are back home. The bread has a shelf life of only a few days because of this. Edwin told me american bread was loaded with salt and sugar. When I tasted dutch bread, I was like where is the salt! now I love it. The eggs I buy at the store are brown like the organic ones and unwashed..you can seriously tell if a chicken had a hard time pushing one of them out. The shells are paper thin and the eggs taste wonderful. The fruits and veggies when you can find them ripe, taste like someone picked it for you...nothing is enhanced to get it to grow quicker.

I however get bored quickly with the dutch version of baking. The cookies all taste the same to me after awhile and the same goes with the cakes...nothing is ever over the top with any one main flavor. It's really low key and always missing the one ingredient that would make it actually worth eating again. The first time I bought Vanilla extract here, the cashier asked what it was used for. I said you know..to bake with? she just stared at me. I had a small bag of cashews that I wanted to bake with. I went hunting online and stumbled upon this recipe from Technicolor Kitchen.  I thought to give it a shot since the recipe came from a dutch farmer and I noticed there was no salt in it. I actually wonder if the original recipe really had vanilla in it since over here they are more likely to use vanilla sugar instead. The flavor comes from the cashew mixture wich reminds me a bit of peanut brittle. It's cooked over the stove and then spread out onto a sheet to cool.

    Make sure you use salted cashews and roasted if you can find those. The added salt is a nice addition and one that needs to be there. It has a nice chewy texture to it wich comes from the caramel like brittle. If you like cookies with just a caramel flavor with nothing else going on, then you might like these:) Soon I will be having a giveaway filled with dutch treats that I do love very much and think others will also:)

Dutch Caramel Cashew Cookies..18-24 cookies

Cashew Mixture:
1/2 cup Sugar
2 TBL Water
Pinch of Cream of Tartar
1/2 cup Finely chopped Salted roasted Cashews

Dough:
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter; Softened
1/3 cup Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1 cup Flour

Start with the cashew brittle. Place a large piece of foil over baking sheet; butter it and set aside. In a heavy skillet cook sugar ,water and cream of tartar over moderately high heat, washing down any undissolved sugar thats clings to the sides with a brush dipped in cold water. Cook until mixture is a light caramel. You will notice the edges starting to bubble and then they will start to turn color. Give it a stir and the color really starts turning. Take off burner and quickly pour in and combine the cashews. Pour mixture onto buttered foil and using a buttered spatula quickly spread it out into a thin layer. Let cool until hardens and chop it coarsely.

Pre heat oven to 350 or 180 celcius. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a bowl of an electric mixture, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Stir in flour and chopped brittle. Roll a rounded 1/2 tablespoon of dough and place onto sheet. Lightly flatten top of each cookie with moistened fingertips. Bake 12-15 minutes or until they are light browned on the bottoms. Let cool for one minute; remove to wire rack.                                                

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kun je het zout even aangeven?


The translation to the title basically means "Can you pass the salt?" We are in a salt shortage over here! seriously a salt shortage!

I ran out of salt this weekend and I went to the store today with my husband to quickly pick some up...but there wasn't any to buy. So we went to another store and my husband ran in. I waited and waited. He came out with this container of salt and told me it cost 3.50 american dollars for it! There was no other salt and this was one of the last two they had. Was this magical salt and why in the hell don't they have any in the stores!

We've been hit so hard with the snow that they have run out of salt for the roads. In one town they even spread 18 tons of colored scented bath salt all over the roads!!.  The only salt we could find in the store is some "healthy" type salt that costs more. All I could do was laugh because some things sound so odd to me even now. There is also talk of a possible egg shortage in the years to come and the egg prices will rise. I need a farm to raise  chickens for the eggs and a little out building to harvest my own salt.  I need to learn how to mass produce my own bread, become friends with a farmer/butcher to purchase a roast worthy of cooking instead of laughing and asking what is everyone else going to eat because this certainly won't feed 4 people. Anyway incase anyone has nothing better to do, I sure would love some salt(kidding of course). In the mean time Im going to take my healthy salt and bake some really naughty things with it to validate the crazy price for it:)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sundays In My City....


I can't believe it's Sunday already! The weekends seem to fly by. Thanks to Unknown Mami, every weekend we can peak into other peoples lives..don't you love that? If you are visiting me for the first time..My name is Sonya and Im an american living in the netherlands:) This weeks theme is " A little of this and a little of that" I've stored several pictures over the last few weeks. First up is the Grolsch beer brewery..wich is the main factory here in the netherlands. If you drink this beer in the U.S. there is about a 99% chance it comes from here. My husband got excited when he found this in Oregon because it's one of his favorite beers to drink. 

    While taking a weekly drive in the country I spotted this beautiful horse. We pulled over and I started snapping away with my new camera. Im already in awe of how vivid the colors are with this camera. Im equally aware of the fact that I have so much to learn. If you breath while taking a photo,it comes out blurry! If you make this picture larger you will see what I mean. It's hard to travel around with a tripod and expect a horse to hang around while you set up. He got bored when he figured out I wasn't going to give him any food.

      However when you want to take close ups,using a light box and tri pod, it comes out beautifully. This is my wedding ring. My husband designed it himself and took the drawing to a well known jeweler and had it made. One of the neat traditions when getting married in the netherlands is that you put an engraving on the inside of the ring. I have my husbands name and the day we were married in mine and he has my name with the date on his.

      Another thing I love is night photos! I can take those now and they come out looking so neat. We've had a bunch more snow lately and I ran upstairs and started snapping away. Everything looks so neat when it's covered in snow.

        Last but not least is the snowwoman we built this morning. I realise she looks a little evil with reddish candle eyes..but it was cold..and I couldn't find any rocks to use. I havent built a snowman in forever and it amazes me how much we let go when we become adults. I had to convince my husband to get out there..even if it was to cold and we had no gloves. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed your time here and see you next sunday.       Unknown Mami                                                                                        

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cheddar Ham Soup



It's annoyingly hard to photogrpahy soup sometimes. When my husband made my light box we bought the wrong lights for it. I need a certain color for it and most pictures come out fine but others do not. Like soup! Oh well. I opened the curtains up all the way and snapped away. Someday I will tell you why I don't open up my back curtains anymore.


Soup is such a cheap and easy meal to make. I like to make it atleast once a week. It makes a great main meal with cheesy garlic bread and makes perfect lunches the next day for the kiddos..or even yourself! The boys come home for lunch here and that took some getting used to. I am used to them staying at school all day. They come home from 11:45-12:30. If you can't be home for your kids then you pay extra for them to walk over to eat lunch at a play ground thats right by the school and then can walk into a small building and eat there.  There are no cafeteria in the schools. A few schools might have them but in general you won't find it. So when the boys come home I like to serve them something warm on those cold winter days. 


This is soup is thick and has a nice cheddar flavor to it. It's a really harmless soup..in the sense that there are no bold flavors to worry about,no extra spice and goes down well with kids. I think next time I am going to cut down on the peas. I've finally come to the conclusion that peas over take all the rest of the flavors and I don't like that. I have pea issues..tee hee Im going to add in some garlic,mushrooms and a few more seasonings since I think it lacked that. I don't like spicy soup but this could use some seasoning salt for sure.


Cheddar Ham Soup..7 servings
2 cups diced peeled Potatoes
2 cups Water
1/2 cup Sliced Carrot
1/2 cup Chopped Onion
1/4 cup Butter, Cubed
1/4 cup Flour
2 cups Milk
1/4-1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
2 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1-1/2 cups Cubed fully cooked Ham
1 cup Frozen Peas; Thawed


In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes,water,carrots, and onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook 10-15 minutes or until tender.


Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add the milk,salt,and pepper. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cheese until melted. Stir into undrained potato mixture and add the ham and peas; Heat through.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


Lastnight I had a whole big can of pineapple slices that I never used for my sweet and sour chicken. I actually ment to get the crushed kind but didn't pay attention when I bought it. Anyway I hate letting food go to waste so I went hunting around for a recipe to use some of it up. I was thinking of pineapple cookies and first but that quickly got tossed to the side when pineapple upside-down cake came to mind. I know you are looking at the photo and thinking this doesn't look like the traditional kind with the pineapple rings and cherries in the middle. Well I wanted it that way. I do not like canned cherries, only fresh..and I really dislike hot cherries..blech. So when I spotted this over at Coleen's Recipes, I knew it was for me. She actually used fresh pineapple but I used canned instead. I really loved the difference of having the crushed pineapple. I hated  eating either a really big piece of pineapple or hardly any at all depending on the how the cake was sliced. By using the smaller pieces, you can evenly spread them out and are able to enjoy it in every bite you eat.

     The cake itself had such a nice vanilla/butter taste to it. You add in not only a teaspoon of vanilla but also a teaspoon of butter extract. In germany they sell tiny little bottles of vanilla butter flavoring and I used that. The whole house smelled wonderful..they need to make a candle scent in vanilla butter! The cake was so moist and was a real winner with all of us. On a side note, it calls for a 9 inch round cake pan. I don't have one of those. What I do have is an 8 inch round silicone pan so I used that. I was so worried that it was going to spill over. It didn't and works just fine incase you don't have one either. The silicone pan worked beautifully. I don't even need to grease it. It popped right out with no effort at all and the topping was still intact. Thanks Coleen for another keeper of a recipe! Also her instructions are for using fresh pineapple. I blotted my rings on paper towels before slicing them and everything came out fine.


Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

  5 tablespoons of melted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
3 cups fresh pineapple cut into 1" cubes (see note)
maraschino cherries cut in half
1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 & 1 /2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon...(I left out)
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup pineapple juice (or milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter extract
1/2 cup pecans chopped medium-small

Mix melted butter with brown sugar and spread evenly in prepared 9" round cake pan. Set aside.

Cut pineapple into 1" chunks and blot them dry between several thicknesses of paper towel (press on them a little to extract excess juice).

For the batter, cream the butter and sugar until it is really fluffy. Under-beating the butter at this stage will give you a poor quality cake. When it is nice and fluffy, add the eggs (one at a time) and extracts and beat until its fluffy again.

Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, alternately with the pineapple juice (or milk) starting and ending with the flour. Set aside.

Assembly: Nestle the pineapple, pecans and cherry pieces down into the brown sugar mixture in the cake pan (arrange in pretty fashion because this will show). Pour the cake batter over the top and very gently spread it out.

Bake in 350 oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean (my oven took exactly 45 minutes). Remove from oven and sit pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, run a thin bladed knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a serving plate. Serve cake warm or at room temperature.

NOTE: Traditionally, pineapple upside-down cake has pretty rings of pineapple with red cherries in the center of each ring. However, when the cake is baked like that, it is hard to eat. You either get a big unmanageable hunk of pineapple on your piece of cake or no pineapple at all (does that make sense?). Instead, I cut the pineapple into very small pieces (almost a dice) and arrange the cherries randomly over the cake. It is much easier to cut, serve and eat (even if it ISN'T traditional). If you use this diced pineapple style, it only takes two cups of diced fruit instead of three.     
                             

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I hit the homemade chinese food jackpot tonight. I am so over the moon happy with this sweet and sour chicken. It's just like the one I bought from my favorite chinese resturant back home. Everyone seems to have their favorite version of chinese food. The more fluorescent the colors are, the more Im going to love it..and I'm not even one bit ashamed of typing that either. Love, love, love, the goopy mess of it all. After trying several other recipes and failing miserably, I stumbled upon This blog. This site has the neatest collection of recipes, including several chinese ones. I plan to head over there and make as many as I can.

Sweet and sour is all about the sauce for me..not about the veggies that come along with it. I like peppers and pineapple but I don't want it messing with my chicken. So in this recipe I left out the addition of onions,peppers, and pineapple, but I will include those in the recipe incase you want to add those to yours. This makes alot and I'm not even gonna lie..you are going to dirty up several dishes. You can cut the prep time down by cutting the chicken into cubes along with the veggies the morning you plan to make it, or like me, the night before. The most time consuming part is double dipping the chicken..after that it's smooth sailing. I served it with homemade fried rice and we all had huge smiles on our faces as we talked about our day while we ate. I love these times with the boys.

Sweet and Sour Chicken..6-8 servings
6 Boneless skinless breasts; Cut into 1 inch cubes
Flour
4 Egg Yolks
2 TBL Soy Sauce
Oil
3 firm Tomatoes; Cut into 1 inch chunks
2 Onions; Cut into 1 inch chunks
1 Green Pepper; Cut into 1 inch chunks
I can Pineapple pieces; Reserve juice for sauce

Sweet and Sour Sauce
1/2 cup Vinegar
1/3 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 cup Orange Juice
1/4 cup Pineapple juice
1/4 cup Ketchup
2 TBL Cornstarch
1/8 cup Juice for Cornstarch

1. Mix egg yolks and soy sauce together with a bit of water in a bowl. In another bowl add the flour. Roll chicken into flour then into egg mixture, and then back into flour again. Deep fry in small batches for 2-3minutes; Drain on paper towels. ** I do not deep fry anything so I put oil in a large skillet and cooked the chicken that way..worked perfectly. Place chicken in large bowl and set aside.


2.Stir fry peppers and onions for about one minute..you want them to be crisp and still retain their color. Remove from pan and pour on top of chicken.

3. Make sweet and sour sauce by mixing vinegar,sugar,salt,orange juice, pineapple, and ketchup. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. Mix the 2 tablesppons of cornstarch with either 1/8 cup or orange juice or pineapple juice; Mix together and pour into sauce. Stir until thickened wich only takes a matter of seconds.

4. Add tomatoes and pineapple chunks to the sauce and heat thoroughly. Pour sauce over chicken and veggies and gently stir to coat everything. Serve on top of rice or along side.

If you are a multi tasker like me then you can get the sauce going when the chicken is almost done and that way everything comes together quickly. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stuffed Peppers Question..Help!


        I will never ever take another food photo again without using my lightbox. I get a beautiful new camera for christmas and this is what I do with it..take crappy photos because I am to lazy to go upstairs and use the lightbox. If I had more space downstairs I would put my lovely lightbox down here..but I don't. So thats it. Im just going to take the 5 minutes to walk up there and snap away. Atleast then I will have a clear picture to be proud of! Ok now that I have that out of my system!

I need help..I made these stuffed peppers tonight and they were just alright..nothing worth posting the recipe for. I was wondering if anyone out there makes there's and what you add to it? Here's the kicker..it can not contain the usual tomato sauce in it. My husband and I have a love/hate thing with red sauce. It's to acidy for me and my mouth breaks out. So here is what I added to mine: 1lb of ground beef,1 cup of cooked rice,mushrooms,garlic, italian seasoning,onions, onion powder and 2 cups of cheese. It needs to be more,moist or something. We all ate it, and it wasn't bad my any means, but it needs more taste of some kind. I was wondering if maybe I added some beef broth to it,to kind of bind it all together a little better? I'd love to hear what you all do when you make them. Thank you kindly:)                                              

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sundays In My City....


Happy New Year to everyone stopping by from Sunday's In My City! Thanks to Unknown Mami we can travel around the world. I woke up this morning to 4 inches of snow! it's the most we have gotten yet. I took a walk with the boys so here is my neighborhood.

       This is across from our place. It's a spot of green with an area to walk behind. What drives me crazy the most about living here is that every square inch of available greenery is used as a toilet for the local dogs. Now Im all for giving these wonderful creatures a spot to poo in..however CLEAN IT UP! I've never seen so much poo in my life. You can not sit anywhere. There was a time when you would walk down the normal streets and have to dodge dog poo left and right. They have designated spots to let your dog go and you can even leave baggies full of poo for someone else to come and pick it up..sadly in my neighborhood that is ignored.

        This is when we are walking in back of the green area. It has a path that circles around it. My oldest son took me to see his "Fort" wich is a big deal you know! girls and moms espically are not allowed in..but I was able to look at it and he said I could bake them cookies anytime I liked..smarty pants.

    This is the street down from mine. I used to love these houses until I discovered that they are basically one house split in two(every bottom front window you see belongs to another home) and the price is insane. For one of these houses on this street  it will run you about 200,000 euros(a little under 300,000 dollars) and if they made the inside really nice you will pay more. It's basically a 2 or 3 bedroom townhouse and they are very small. You don't see a whole lot of free standing homes and when you do, you pay a pretty penny for it. Thats why in a few years we're jumping the border into Germany. We can get a free standing home with land for a fraction of what we would have to pay here. I love the looks of the homes though and love seeing how they decorate the insides.

     Here is a picture of another house..and this one looks to be free standing but Im not sure. I've never grown up seeing brick homes and thats all you see here. The idea of having a wooden house seems so old fashioned and not pratical to people here. Besides that, the netherlands was made from re-claimed sea and building from brick instead of trees they didnt have like we do makes more sense.

      I hope you enjoyed the walk around my neighborhood. Please head over to see what everyone else is up to and I will see you next sunday!             Unknown Mami