Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Pretty Farewell Cakes

A few weeks ago we said farewell and happy birthday to a colleague.
She bought some beautiful cakes for the occasion.
I especially love the fruit decorations :-)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

French Onion Soup

I bought a big bag of onions for less than a euro.
The first thing that came to mind was onion soup.
Not that I've ever made it before, but I've always been good at ordering it in restaurants.

So I searched the Internet for French Onion Soup recipes and found many, too many.
Luckily I came across this recipe from Nigel Slater.
What I like about it was the short list of ingredients and the clear instructions.
It worked like a charm.

Here is a copy of the recipe, I followed it step by step, except I found that I had to cook the onions for about an hour which is slightly longer than suggested in the recipe. I also used Parmesan cheese instead of the cheeses below.

Serves 4-6
700g onions
40g butter
2 tbsp flour
1.75 litres beef stock
1 glass of white wine
Baguette to toast
Gruyère or Emmenthal
Peel and thinly slice 700g onions, then leave them to soften in 40g butter and a small glug of olive oil over a low to medium heat. Stir them regularly. They are ready when they are soft, sticky, sweet and deep gold in colour. Some add a pinch of sugar at this point to help the onions caramelise. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of flour, cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in 1.75 litres of boiling beef stock and a glass of white wine. Partially cover with a lid and leave to simmer for a good 45 minutes.
Season, ladle into deep, heatproof bowls, place several thin slices of toasted baguette on to each, then cover with thinly sliced Gruyère or Emmenthal. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes or grill until the bread is toasted and the cheese has melted but not browned.
The magic
The trick to getting this soup right is that the onions caramelize – they must cook for at least 35-40 minutes over a low to moderate heat. Only when the onions are soft enough to crush easily between finger and thumb can you add the flour and stock.
The twist
Contemporary versions can involve roasting the onions in the oven to give a more concentrated sweetness. Red onions produce the sweetest version of all, so you might like to add thyme and bay as a balance. Parmesan in place of Gruyère produces a less fatty but just as tasty crust.

Thank you Nigel Slater!!

Friday, 25 November 2011

DWZI - Crazy Mist

It feels like the whole country was covered in a thick blanket of mist this week.
Although it was kind of magical, it was also very scary.
Driving in mist is quite the challenge it turns out.
People do strange things... bicycles appear from nowhere.
I must admit that I am quite relieved that the crazy mist finally seemed to have disappeared.

Now I'm looking forward to a weekend filled with Sinterklaas activities :-)

Happy weekend!

Deze week zag ik... this week I saw
(inspired by DezeWeekZagIk on the blogs by Daan en Roos)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Yakimono in Houten

We met up with some friends in a restaurant called Yakimono in Houten.
It is yet another big wok Asian style restaurant.

The restaurant is tastefully decorated, modern and has a great view of the A27 motorway.

We were 4 adults and 3 children and there was something to eat in every one's taste. They had soups, salads, ready made sate in peanut sauce, a teppanyaki grill, a wok area and lots of ice cream.

I must admit that I find it hard to be overly excited about this restaurant. It does exactly what it says on the label. The wok is definitely the best choice out of all the dishes. The sushi was downright shameful. At least they had really nice ice cream as an end to the meal.

They have baby seats and they have a children's play area. However, the play area is not particularly safe and it would be wise to supervise your children if you allow them to play there.

All in all we had a good evening out - the food was all right, the company was excellent.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Creamy Vegan Pasta Sauce

Yes, you can enjoy a delicious creamy pasta sauce even if you are eating like a Vegan!

The trick is to use a soy cream. I found a product called Alpro Soya Cuisine in my supermarket and it works like a charm.

I used it in my pasta sauce by mixing it into the sauce right before serving it. Just long enough to heat it through. No need to bring it to boiling point.

This was a very easy pasta dinner, with more than enough for lunch a couple of days later.

500gram Packet of spaghetti (I used a pasta which is egg free)
One tablespoon sunflower oil
One big onion, finely chopped
One clove of garlic, crushed
Quorn vegetarian mince (one container, I think it was 275 grams or something like that)
Two hands full of mushrooms, sliced
One jar of tomato and basil ready made vegetarian pasta sauce
One courgette, grated
100ml Alpro soya cuisine

Heat up the oil and add the chopped onion. Saute until the onion becomes translucent and then add crushed garlic. Saute for a minute and then add the mince. Saute for a couple of minutes and then add the rest of the basic sauce ingredients (mushrooms, tomato sauce, courgette). Mix together, season as per your taste and let it simmer on a low heat for approximately 10 minutes. You might want to add a little hot water to the sauce, depending on how wet you like the sauce to be.

Now cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet - in my case it took 10 minutes to be al dente. Drain and set aside.

The final step to the pasta sauce is to add the soy cream. Stir it in and mix well. Just keep it on the heat for about 2 minutes.

The deep red pasta sauce should turn into a creamy, almost salmon coloured sauce.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve.

- Add any vegetables of your choice to the pasta sauce e.g. peppers (paprika), chillies, broccoli, etc.
- Make this a vegetarian dish by using real dairy instead of soy and adding some Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


If you need any material or sewing supplies then the best place to go is to the Lapjesmarkt in Utrecht.

It is on every Saturday morning.

But you have to go early, unless you feel like wrestling little old ladies for the attention of the vendor. It gets pretty busy.

I took a brisk walk this morning to search for a few bargains, which I found.
Unfortunately my talents do not extend to needlework or sewing. Luckily I have quite a few friends with some good skills in this area.

Hopefully one of them will let me use their sewing machine :-)

Friday, 18 November 2011

DWZI - Cake!

We have a longstanding tradition at the project that if you have a birthday, you have to bring a treat.

This week one of my Filipino colleagues celebrated her birthday and she just happens to be a master baker.

She showed up on Tuesday morning with:
- Red Velvet Cake
- Chocolate Cake
- Cheesecake
- Vanilla Cream Cake
and an assortment of cupcakes.

Everyone on the project floor descended on her desk with sweet anticipation of the home baked cakes. We were not disappointed.

Now this is the kind of baking I aspire to do!

Deze week zag ik... this week I saw
(inspired by DezeWeekZagIk on the blogs by Daan en Roos)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Soy Creamed Spinach

My husband is a really good cook. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before.

As a side dish to our dinner, he made creamed spinach.

He used onions, garlic, fresh spinach (washed and the stems trimmed) and soy cream.
The exact method is a secret because I walked into the door and dinner was ready.
Lucky me :-)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


One of my favourite restaurants is Wagamama.
I used to work in Amsterdam Zuid and there is a Wagamama's right by the WTC, the perfect stop for a quick lunch.

We decided to treat ourselves and off to Amsterdam Zuid we went on a cold Sunday evening.

The restaurant is modern and the food is Asian inspired.

I always eat something with chicken and rice here... simply because I really like chicken and rice. But they have glorious soups, tasty noodles and freshly squeezed juices too.

My chicken, courgette, mushroom and rice dish was delicious. Drenched in a warm, slightly salty broth it was perfect for a cold evening. My husband enjoyed a seafood noodle dish. We also had dumplings and some grilled asparagus spears. They have a kids menu so Heidi was catered for too... crumbed chicken breast (not quite chicken nuggets, in her words, but definitely a more healthy and tasty substitute!). Luckily there were some other kids running around the restaurant and Heidi soon joined them, leaving Stella behind to finish the food.

We left the restaurant feeling satisfied. Happy me and happy family.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Butternut Curry

I finally decided to use the butternut patiently waiting in the vegetable drawer.

First I thought of making a butternut soup but then as I walked to the kitchen a curry seemed like a great idea... except that I didn't really have all the required ingredients.

But I like to improvise, how wrong could it go?
Not at all as it turned out!

So, the big problem was that I had no curry paste. I've seen lots of cooking shows where they whip up a curry so I decided to just make it up. Yes, just make it up!

I heated up a tablespoon of vegetable oil and added two cloves minced garlic. To this I then added a tablespoon curry powder, a dash of dried ginger, some cayenne pepper, salt, a tablespoon sugar and some cumin. As the ingredients were heating up, a lovely spicy smell filled the kitchen. I kept stirring and a paste formed within a couple of minutes.

I added some hot water to the pan and let it simmer. Then it was time to pour in the coconut milk. I had a little 250ml box of Thai coconut milk and into the mixture it went, smooth and creamy. I left it to simmer while I prepared the rest of the ingredients. (note to reader - I suggest you use preprepared curry paste!)

The butternut had to be peeled and diced, then I sliced a courgette and an onion. Prep work done.

Next I heated up a tablespoon of vegetable oil in my wok. I added the vegetables and stir fried them for 5 minutes. Then I poured in the curry sauce and let it all simmer for about 20 minutes. This was enough to cook the butternut.

Of course you mustn't forget about the rice! Once the vegetables were simmering away, I cooked my basmati rice as per the package instructions. It was going to take 18 minutes in total. Seemed like perfect timing to me.

At the last minute I decided to serve some vegetarian fillets with the curry - I quickly pan fried them and just piled them on top of the curry.

It was a surprisingly delicious curry, and one I will definitely make again.

Friday, 11 November 2011

DWZI - Dancing in front of the Dom

We had to go to town with the car and found parking in Springweg. From the parking spot we had a wonderful view of the Dom Church.

The gray skies and cold weather did not stop Heidi from dancing on a rooftop.

My little dancer.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Spicy Chicken Wraps

My husband showed up with a grocery bag full of ingredients to make chicken wraps.

Tortilla wraps, diced chicken breasts, chicken spices, mild wrap salsa, tomatoes, onions, garlic and lettuce.

Well, I guess we were having wraps for dinner.

It's pretty easy to make. Just saute the chicken, add the spices and serve with above mentioned ingredients.

It turns out that 'mild' isn't really mild at all. At least, not my interpretation of mild!
After a couple of bites my mouth was on fire!! Not just mine, but my husband's too. We poured ourselves a some milk and read the label on the jar of salsa. The list of hot chillies, jalapeno peppers, chilli powder, etc. confirmed our suspicion that this was indeed not a mild salsa.

We still enjoyed our wraps, just with a little less salsa... In fact, if you have some sour cream then this would be the perfect addition to the wrap to balance out the hot salsa :-)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Baking Cookies

Heidi loves baking.

She is my little helper in the kitchen and as a treat I decided to bake some cookies with her. One of her playgroup friends came for a visit and it turned out to be quite a fun activity for the kids on a Friday afternoon.

Of course I made my life very easy by using a cookie mix from 'de Tafel van 18', and I even had ready made icing too... (yes, you can buy anything ready made these days!). I bought the icing from Pipoos. It came in a tube and had a piping nozzle.

All I had to do was add some butter and water to the cookie mix, beat it until it formed a dough, roll it out and let the kids have their fun with my cookie cutters. Pop the cookies in the oven for 10 minutes, then let them cool down before icing them. Easy peasy and very happy children.

Friday, 4 November 2011

DWZI - KreaDoe!

This week I managed to stop by the Utrecht Jaarbeurs to have a quick stroll through the KreaDoe.

It was crazy busy and I only had an hour so you can imagine I was in a bit of a rush.

So many stalls with so many hobby suppliers and so much to see...

I tell you, this is heaven for the hobbyist.

The best thing about the beurs was running into an old colleague of mine who started a business called Hoooked. It is crocheting with a really cool product called zpagetti made from recycled materials.

She even gave me her first book which is filled with ideas and techniques. I can definitely recommend this to anyone who likes to crochet - go on, get some zpagetti!!

So, all in all my whirlwind of a trip through the KreaDoe was very successful :-)

Happy weekend everybody!

Deze week zag ik... this week I saw
(inspired by DezeWeekZagIk on the blogs by Daan en Roos)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Ginger Carrots a la Naomi!

My friend Naomi made her son's favourite side dish while they were visiting us.

It is called ginger carrots.

The dish is very easy to make and a winner with the kids!

Take three large carrots, peel and slice diagonally.
Heat up two or three tablespoons of butter and add the carrots.
Sauté the carrots for a few minutes then add some ground ginger, a table spoon of brown sugar and mix well.
Sauté for another 5 minutes at most, just until the carrots are tender but not soft.

Serve up as a side dish and enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts.

Not really my favourite vegetable... but my husband really likes them and whenever I open the fridge I tend to find a bag full of brussels sprouts which I don't recall buying.

Now, you can do a lot of things with brussels sprouts but I like stir frying them in some vegetable oil. Just clean them up a bit, heat up about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and add the brussels sprouts. Stir fry for about 10 minutes or until they get a slight brown colour on the outside and are still nice and green inside.

Season with salt and pepper and serve as a side dish.

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