Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Chocolate Brownies

I went on a baking spree for the girls' birthday party. At the last moment I decided to bake brownies, you know, just in case the rest of the cakes were not enough... so off my husband went to buy more eggs and I found a Jamie Oliver recipe that looked perfect.

As usual I adapted the recipe and let me tell you I was very happy with the result! The brownies were rich and sticky and every so decadent. Definitely a winner.

So if you need something sweet for your new years eve (or any other day of the year) then make these brownies!

I found the recipe on jamieshomecookingskills.com which I must admit is a very user friendly website with lots of step by step instructions and photos.

You can find the original recipe on the website above. Here is my version with the modified ingredients:

• 200g good-quality dark chocolate (I used 100gram 71% cocoa solids and 100gram 80% cocoa solids)
• 250g unsalted butter
• 100g walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)
• 100g chocolate chips (optional)
• 80g cocoa powder
• 65g plain flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 350g caster sugar (I used 150 gram light brown sugar and 200 gram caster sugar)
• 4 large eggs

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4
Line a 20 x 30cm rectangular baking tin with greaseproof paper
Smash up the chocolate into small pieces
In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth
Add the nuts, if you’re using them, and stir together
In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar
Add this to the chocolate and nut mixture
Stir together well
Beat the eggs and mix in until you have a silky consistency and lastly add chocolate chips (if using)
Pour your brownie mix into the baking tray, and place in the oven for around 25 - 35 minutes
You don’t want to overcook them so, unlike cakes, you don’t want a skewer to come out all clean
The brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle
Allow to cool in the tray, then carefully transfer to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares

Monday, 30 December 2013

Stella's 3rd Birthday

Yesterday my sweet Stella turned 3 years old.
We had a few friends over for cake and it was lovely.
I baked a lot. A butter cake, Victoria sponge cupcakes and brownies.
Yes, I might have gone a little overboard... but it was so worth it!

Heidi and Stella both loved the cakes and the party. I just loved having so many friends over to share in the fun and eat the cake!

Here is the rose birthday cake which I thought turned out pretty well:

It was actually quite easy to do the icing - here is a link to a tutorial from iambaker.net.

I made a very simple butter cake and the buttercream icing was made with a ratio of 1:2 butter to icing sugar. I used food colouring and baked three cakes in three shades of pink and then coloured the icing accordingly. Fun!!!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Onion Soup with Red Wine

I had red wine.
I had lots of onions.
I felt like having soup.
So yes, I made french onion soup with red wine instead of the usual white wine.
Will I do this again? I'm not sure. It was a good soup but somehow I prefer white wine version... The recipe was supposed to be quick onion soup but trust me, you need to cook the onions over a low heat for at least an hour because that is the only way you will get them to be soft and sweet.
Here is a little illustration I made with pen and water colour of the BBC recipe ingredients:

Friday, 20 December 2013

Cologne Christmas Market - Part 5

I went to Cologne with the IWCU and we went on a chartered bus. Lately I've not been taking the bus since my bicycle gets me pretty much everywhere in town. It was quite relaxing sitting on the bus, especially on the way home since I was exhausted. Walking around outside all day certainly took its toll.

I couldn't resist taking out my camera and shooting a few photographs of the cars passing by. And it was a good opportunity to play with my shutter speed!

Here are my final photos after a busy day at the Christmas Market. I'm already looking forward to going again next year :-)

Here's wishing you a great weekend ahead!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Cologne Christmas Market - Part 4

I must admit that I am most enamoured with the Christmas Market when night falls. All those pretty lights... Here are a few photos before I had to head home:

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Cologne Christmas Market - Part 3

Although I managed to consume quite a bit at the Cologne Christmas market I did not manage to take any photos of the food. It's just one of those things. Sometimes you want to eat the food while it is hot and not bother to get the camera out of the bag to get a few shots.

I also went into the Dom cathedral to sit down and rest for a bit. It was very busy and very cold inside so I did not stay long but it really is beautiful:

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Cologne Christmas Market - Part 2

Let's take a look at what the stalls had to offer... and I must admit that I did not actually buy anything except food stuff. Mostly cookies. I enjoy browsing but somehow I never actually buy things from the stalls. Probably because I have enough trinkets at home!

Here are a few photos of the stalls and their 'goods':

Monday, 16 December 2013

Cologne Christmas Market - Part 1

I went to a Christmas Market! It was more than two weeks ago but the memory remains very fresh. I still smell the bratwurst in the air... well you know what I mean!
The Christmas market in Cologne was packed. You could barely walk and that my friends is not ideal. It did not stop me from shamelessly indulging in delicious treats with quite a few hot chocolates along the way. If you can't beat them, join them.

This week I'm dedicating all blog posts to the Christmas Market - I'll share a few photos every day. Let's start the week with a few day time photos:

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Pretty Things

I love pretty things. Don't we all?

Lucky for me I have a friend who makes the most beautiful things with her laser cutter. She even has her own shop filled with goodies in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her business is called Green Grass Design and if you happen to be in Parkhurst then please drop by the Green Grass Shop. If you are looking for some Christmas gifts then I am certain you will find something there or in her webshop!

Here are a few photos of some items of hers that I have in my house. Fridge magnets, a chopping board, wooden spoons and a decorative cage with birdies. Not only am I in awe of my friend's talent but it serves as a reminder to me that anything is possible.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


I love cucumbers. We pretty much eat it at every meal. It's green so it is good for you!
One of my favourite dips has to be tzatziki. It is great with so many dishes and we tend to use it in pitas, with grilled chicken and I do love dipping veggies and chips in it!

The trick is to make sure you deseed the cucumber and then once you grate or finely chop it up you need to salt it lightly and let it rest. Draw out the moisture so that it doesn't make your dip watery. You might also want to go easy on the garlic since it can be a bit sharp but this depends fully on your own personal taste!

1.5 cups plain Greek yogurt (I used a 0% fat version)
1 cup grated seedless cucumber
1.5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed (use more or less depending on your taste)
0.5 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill / dash of dried dill
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (I tend to just drizzle some in until I think it is enough)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place the grated cucumber in a bowl, salt it and let it rest for about 1 hour.
2. Drain the juices from the bowl and then squeeze the rest of the cucumber with your hands until you removed most of the moisture.
3. Combine the Greek yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and dill. Stir until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
4. Chill an hour or two before serving but it can also be enjoyed straight away!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Back to Reality

What a week we had last week. Sinterklaas came to visit multiple times. We ended our celebrations on Friday evening with our neighbours. The kids were running around, playing games and the grown ups enjoyed a glass of prosecco.

I made dinner which consisted out of bread, cold meats, snacks, crudités, home made hummus and tzatziki, chips and lots of cheese. My kind of dinner - easy and you can snack for hours!

After dinner we went to our neighbours house where we had dessert... chocolate brownies, assorted muffins, cookies, chocolates, pepernoten and hot chocolate with baileys. Sweet indeed. Sinterklaas knocked on the window and delivered a big bag of presents for the kids!

It was a week of overindulgence so this week the husband and I will do our best to take control again. In other words there will be lots of salad on the menu this week. Hopefully we get a chance to put up our Christmas tree because once Sinterklaas leaves the country you are finally allowed to get into the Christmas spirit!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Dinner at Niven

It's been a few weeks but I finally put together some photos of the dinner I enjoyed at restaurant Niven. Looking at them makes me hungry... tonight we're celebrating Sinterklaas with our neighbours so there will be lots of food but it won't be this pretty!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Orange Loaf Misadventure

So I decided to bake an orange loaf. Not something I've tried before but you know me, I'll try just about anything when it comes to baking. Well perhaps Sunday was not a good baking day for me because things went wrong.

Turns out the oven was too hot and the batter burst through the crust half way through baking. That was a first for me but google tells me that's what happened. OK. I decided to just let the loaf continue baking and added 10 minutes just to be sure. When a skewer came out clean I figured the ugly looking orange loaf was done. Ugly indeed.

I kind of followed two recipes using the batter from this one and the glaze from this one and perhaps that was also a mistake? My glaze just did not work either. I drizzled it over the still warm loaf and let it rest for a while. Then I cut it open because I had to try it, I just had to know what it looked like inside. It was fine, in fact it tasted fine but I felt like something was missing... The kids enjoyed it and that is a good sign.

Will I make it again? No way. I'm all done with oranges in baking and that's that.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Micro Herbs on my Lunch

I never used to think twice about micro herbs. They didn't really exist in my world.
Until I went to restaurant Niven where they use it on almost every dish!
I was surprised to learn that it actually adds to the taste experience and is not just something to make the plate look pretty.

Luckily I have some great shops in my neigbourhood where I could find a fine selection of herbs. Here I used them on my lunch last week: open sandwiches with home made hummus, cream cheese, beet, feta and herbs. Delicious!

Now all I need to do is start growing them myself...
Hope you have a happy Monday!

Thursday, 28 November 2013


I am in need of a little warmth and sunshine... at least I have flowers.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Taking Stock

I follow quite a few blogs and I saw this list on Meet me at Mikes which I thought was an excellent idea - taking stock of things... she provided a blank list for anyone to copy and paste so I couldn't resist filling in the blanks!

Making : Bunting (or thinking about making it!)
Cooking : Bobotie - I am a little obsessed with it and just made it for friends this past weekend who loved it... anyone want to come over for dinner so I can make it again??
Drinking : Water, and lots of it
Reading: Flow magazine - the kids keep interrupting me so it is taking me forever to get through the latest edition!
Wanting: New pans since the cheap ones I bought suck. I want BK or just anything better than what I have now!
Looking: forward to Christmas. I do love being 'festive'!
Playing: Sarah McClachlan's Wintersongs
Deciding: on what to make for Sinterklaas dinner with our neighbours.
Wishing: that the sun would set a little later so I can take better photos.
Enjoying: the festive Nespresso blend which I bought last week. Cherry & chocolate in my coffee!!
Waiting: for my grocery allowance.
Liking: the Nijhof in Baarn which I have only just discovered. They have an awesome outlet store too!
Wondering: whether I will ever lose some weight.
Loving: my kids.
Pondering: what to do about my future... work / study / just be creative?
Considering: going somewhere hot for Christmas, if I can find a very cheap deal.
Watching: Breaking Bad season 1 on netflix - intense!
Hoping: that we sell our house soon.
Marvelling: at the sheer fun my kids have and how they make me laugh.
Needing: to sort out the pain in my shoulder.
Smelling: Sabon's Pink Rose home scent.
Wearing: my new winter coat from GStar-Raw - guess which one!
Following: too many blogs / pages.
Noticing: that autumn this year is much milder than last year - no complaints here.
Knowing: that it will probably snow and I don't have winter tyres.
Thinking: about pretty things for my house - preferably in pastels.
Feeling: tired. Will I ever get a full night's sleep again?
Admiring: my neighbour - she is a pretty amazing woman.
Buying: lots of little gifts for Sinterklaas and Christmas (I love, love, love gift shopping!)
Getting: impatient for summer. I want sun.
Bookmarking: ideas for Heidi's birthday party - the theme is 'baking' this year.
Opening: boring mail *yawn*, looking forward to sending and receiving Christmas cards!
Giggling: every time I think of Stella trying to fly. She has wings and everything and I promise I'll make a video of it one of these days.

Wow, lots happening right?
Hope you have a great Tuesday. Here are some photos of my sweet Stella with her favourite Nutella to cheer you up:

Monday, 25 November 2013

Coffee Time

Let's take a break.
Make yourself a cappuccino.
It is my special treat about twice a day... you know, to start and end the day right.

Friday, 22 November 2013

A Day at Restaurant Niven

By now you know that I have bought my fair share of Groupon vouchers... it is usually a game of hit and miss with Groupon but spending a day in a Michelin star kitchen seemed like a great idea to me! My husband thought I should definitely do it although he thought it was quite funny that I'll be paying for the pleasure of 'working' in a kitchen.

Restaurant Niven is located in Rijswijk which is about an hour away from Utrecht and on a rainy Saturday morning I met my friend Lisl there. We were completely clueless as to what would happen that day but we walked in the door and was met by a friendly waiter offering us a delicious cappuccino. Then the fun started.

We were handed kitchen outfits and aprons and were literally ushered into the kitchen. All day long we helped the staff prep food. They were very friendly and worked together like a well oiled machine. They patiently answered our questions, and kept us busy. Slicing cucumbers and then putting a blow torch to them was definitely a new thing for me to do!

Chef Niven spent a lot of time in the kitchen, making sure everything is perfect. He is very young and it is quite an achievement to be so successful at the age of 32!! His team in the kitchen is also young and energetic. It was a little strange to be the oldest person there...

After a busy lunch time service we started prepping for the dinner service and let me tell you, working in a kitchen is not an easy job. You stand all day long and there is also a lot of cleaning to be done. You always have something else to prepare, from slow cooked beef cheeks and finely slicing tiny radishes to making dough for the cookies which customers get when leaving the restaurant.

We were surprised by a 10 course dinner after our 'hard' work and it was delicious! It is pretty amazing to know exactly where the produce came from and what it looked like before becoming a piece of art on a plate.

Thank you Chef Niven and team for a lovely experience!

Here are a few photos I took during the day... as you can image it was pretty hard to select only a few! I'll post the photos of our dinner next week :-)

The Niven kitchen
Chef Niven in action!
Michelin style 'pizza' - amazing, right?
Team work! Chef Niven and his sous chef Bas

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Upside Down Pear Cake

I bought a lot of pears and the kids decided not to eat them.
Why? Well who knows.
The pears were sweet and delicious and I should know because I had to eat a lot of them.
So instead of cleaning the house I decided to bake a cake with the last three pears.
Good idea right?

The cake turned out delicious! I could probably have baked it 10 or 15 minutes longer to caramelise the pears more, but I was worried that the kids might not like it if the pears became too dark.

And did I mention this is a weight watchers recipe?
Yep, I'm trying to be very good so there you have it.
It also means that I have to restrain myself from eating the whole cake...

Here is a copy of the recipe in Dutch. If you want an English version then you'll have to mail me or leave me a comment!

1 koffielepel(s) Olie, zonnebloem
2 eetlepel(s) Bruine suiker
2 koffielepel(s) Kaneel
400 g Del Monte Halve peren op sap, drooggedept
6 eetlepel(s) Margarine, 60% vet  (I used butter and not margarine)
125 g Basterdsuiker, wit
2 middelgroot/middelgrote Ei
125 ml Zure room
125 g Zelfrijzend bakmeel

Verwarm de oven voor op 180 ºC. Vet een cakeblik in met een klein beetje olie. Bedek de bodem en de zijkanten met bakpapier. Bestrooi de bodem van het cakeblik met de bruine suiker en 1 koffielepel kaneel. Snijd de peren in schijfjes en verdeel ze over de besuikerde bodem.

Gebruik de mixer voor het mixen van de margarine met het suiker. Voeg één voor één de eieren toe, blijf mixen. Doe de zure room en het bakmeel bij het geheel en roer ook de resterende koffielepel kaneel erdoor.

Schep de cakemix bovenop de peren in het bakblik. Strijk glad met de achterkant van een lepel. Bak 1 uur in de oven of tot de cake gaar is. Test dit door een sateprikker in de cake te prikken. Laat de cake 5 minuten afkoelen voordat je deze op de kop uit het bakblik laat glijden.

Snijd de cake in plakjes en serveer warm.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Monday, 18 November 2013


Sinterklaas arrived in Utrecht yesterday!
We braved the masses to get a glimpse of him.
The kids were very excited... I suppose when you are young it is wonderful to believe in something like Sinterklaas, especially given the prospect of the gifts 'he' will bestow on the kids.

I've been assembling lots of little gifts all year long - you know, cheap and cheerful stuff. Now we'll make sure the kids leave out a shoe a few times before 5 December and I guess we better make sure to have enough carrots in the house for the horse of Sinterklaas! :-)

Friday, 15 November 2013

Kids Art

My kids have such imaginations.
The main after school activity in our house is drawing and painting.
Picture the three of us at our dining table and it should include a stack of paper, pens, water paint and brushes while we create 'art' by the bright light of my big kitchen glass doors. I love that.

Here are a few more pieces of art by my girls.
Trust me, every drawing has a long story behind it and both girls just love telling stories.

Next week I will tell you all about the day I spent in the kitchen of a Michelin star restaurant - it was awesome!! So expect lots of photos...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Yoghurt Barn

I can think of few things as good as yoghurt and cruesli with berries for breakfast. So I was pretty happy to meet some friends at the Yoghurt Barn in Utrecht on Tuesday. Not only because it was great to see my friends but also because I do love their yoghurt. Since I'm trying to be thrifty it helps that they have a breakfast special before 10 am: free coffee with a medium yoghurt! Happiness!!

This time I managed to take a photo of the yoghurt before devouring it.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Basic Muffins

Two weeks ago I had two friends drop by for coffee.
It was wonderful to catch up and chat and exchange ideas.
I whipped up a batch of muffins before they arrived and it went down very well with our cappuccinos. Since I had a few strawberries just hanging around I decided to chop them up and throw them in the batter. Not sure that it worked that well although nobody complained. Especially not my kids when they came home from school and devoured the remaining muffins!

Here is a link to the recipe which I found on King Arthur Flour's website.
Here is a copy - I added a handful of diced strawberries and my baking time was 25 minutes:

King Arthur Flour's Basic Muffins

2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil or softened butter (optional)*
2 large eggs

*If you leave the oil out, you can reduce the calories in your muffins by about 30%; the flavour will still be excellent, but muffins won't be quite as tender, and won't keep as well should you happen to have any left over.

Preheat your oven to 500°F (250C).

Blend together the dry ingredients as long and as vigorously as you want. If you use a little whole wheat flour in your mixture, it's easy to tell when everything is thoroughly mixed.

Beat the liquid ingredients together -- milk, oil or butter, and eggs -- until they are light.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Take a fork or wire whisk and blend the two for 20 seconds -- no more! The secret to light and tender muffins lies in this final blending. It's OK if you've left some lumps that look as if they want more stirring; they really don't. So, no matter how hard it is, resist the impulse.

Fill cups of a lightly greased muffin tin two-thirds to three-quarters full. Place muffins in the oven and immediately drop temperature to 400°F* (200C). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until muffins test done. Yield: 12 muffins, 24 mini-muffins, or six "crown" muffins.

*When you put muffins in a very hot oven and immediately drop the temperature, you help create the high peaks that make them so appealing.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Hamburger Illustrated Recipe

Let's start the week with a little illustration (good old fashioned pen on paper with bad spelling) of a basic hamburger recipe we had for dinner last week. If you can even call it that because making hamburgers is mostly a matter of stacking stuff on a bun. I like to mix a few herbs and spices into beef mince and then shape the patties myself but hey, I'm not judging anyone for buying them ready made!

Personally my own view is the more stuff you can pile onto a hamburger the better... you know, lettuce, onion, tomato, gherkins, ketchup, mustard, cheese, bacon, etc.

Have a great week!

Friday, 8 November 2013


This kid.
She is so damn cute.
I tried getting her to sit still for a quick photo but all I got was funny faces while she stuffed a muffin into her mouth. That's my girl.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Mmmm... Illustration

I'm trying to figure out this year's Christmas cards and it is not as easy as I want it to be...

I played with watercolours and pen drawings and I'm just not happy. Maybe I'll do a lino cut again. But whatever I do better happen soon or else I'll be buying Christmas cards this year!

Lentil Soup

I'm a big fan of soup.
It is one of the easiest ways for me to actually get vegetables into my kids.
The only condition being, and I've mentioned this before, the soup has to be green.
Heidi is a big fan of green soup, most days.

I've been adding lentils to all my soups lately.
It's so pretty and good for you too.
Just a hand full of dried lentils, lots of vegetables, water or stock and about 30 minutes later your soup is done.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Mushroom and Asparagus Quiche with Sesame Pastry

My mom brought a feta, mushroom and asparagus quiche recipe with her which she loves to make.
The funny thing is that she found it in a magazine about 10 years ago and she still has the page with the original recipe... impressive right?

Well we made it for dinner and it was lovely.
I especially love the sesame seeds in the crust.
My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
I guess I'll be making this quiche again very soon...

Here is a copy of the recipe from the January 2004 Woman's Value magazine:

Serves: 6
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Oven temperature: 200 C

270g cake flour
50ml toasted sesame seeds
125g butter, cut into cubes
125ml cold water
100g asparagus spears
20ml sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
200g mixed mushrooms
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g feta, crumbled
100g Gruyere (or mature Cheddar), grated
125ml milk

1. Sieve the flour. Add the sesame seeds. Rub in the butter and mix in about 125ml cold water. Knead lightly, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge.
2. Boil the asparagus in a little water for one minute. remove from heat, drain and cover with cold water. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat the oil and add the onion. Saute for one minute. Slice larger mushrooms and leave small ones whole. Add to the pan and fry for two minutes.
4. Set aside to cool. Mix eggs and milk. Season to taste.
5. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and line a 22cm quiche tine or pie dish. Prick base with a fork several times then add the cooled ingredients and the cheeses. Pour the rest of the mixture on top. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden and set.
Serve warm or cold.

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