"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." ~ Charles W. Eliot
"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook - try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" ~ Julia Child
"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." ~ Louisa May Alcott

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Tree

Cover of: Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon

This is a book I want to read each Christmas season. It is The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon. I first found out about this book after having seen the movie years ago while visiting my mother. My aunt had taped it for me to see. I just had to read the book and found it at a bargain price at the bookshop. This little hardback book is charming not only for its story but also for the little illustrations.

Sister Anthony and Tree have been friends since she was a little girl so when she is approached about giving the tree to be used in New York City at Rockefeller Center, she has much to consider. The chief gardener of the Center befriends Sister Anthony and learns what is so special about Tree but also finds his life changed by the nun's stories in a way he had never expected.

Happy reading!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mary's Son: A Tale of Christmas

Mary's Son: A Tale of Christmas

Today I finished a really wonderful tale called Mary's Son: A Tale of Christmas by Darryl Nyznyk. When I first downloaded this to my Kindle (yes...I finally got a Kindle), I was not sure I was going to like this book. What a surprise. This was again a book who's description on Amazon does not do it justice!

Sarah Stone is a spoiled little rich girl. Jared Roberts is surviving in the slums. Both of their lives are effected by the arrival of Nicholas who takes them on adventure which will change their lives forever.

This is a short review but I would not like to reveal too much of this book. If you enjoy the reason for the Christmas season, this is a must read. It is book that will touch your heart and make you want to read it again each year.

Happy reading!

Friday, December 16, 2011

I Saw Three Ships

The Christmas carol I Saw Three Ships has always been a favorite of mine. When I found the book of the same name by Elizabeth Goudge, I ordered it having just read Linnets and Valerians. I was not disappointed and am glad I saved this short read for December!

I Saw Three Ships

It is a sweet story about Polly Flowerdew who lives with her two aunts Dorcas and Constantia. Against their wishes, Polly leaves a window open on Christmas Eve in the event that the Three Wise men decide to visit. The words to the carol come to life on a magical Christmas morning...

This book will become a classic that I read over and over during the Christmas season.

***  ***  ***

I love looking up the story behind Christmas carols. This one is very old finding its origins back in the 1600s. Here is a little information from whychristmas.com:

The tune of this carol is a traditional English folk song and the words of this carol (of which there are several versions) were written by wandering minstrels as they travelled through the country. In the original version of the carol, the Three Ships were the ones taking the supposed skulls of the wise men to Cologne cathedral in Germany. However, since the Middle Ages when it was first written, there have been many different lyrics with different Bible characters being on the ships. The most common lyrics used today are about Mary and Jesus travelling to Bethlehem.

Happy reading!

Friday, December 2, 2011

3 Harvest style appetizers

These are three of the harvest table appetizers I used when guests came over. These are also a great idea for around the holidays if you have people coming over for drinks or before dinner.

Fallen log celery sticks
Peanut butter
Dried cranberries

Clean and cut up celery sticks. Cut each stick into 3 sections. Fill with peanut butter and add some dried cranberries on top. I tried this combination and it turned out so well that I will line the entire top with the dried cranberries next time.

Stuffed mushrooms
Fresh button mushrooms
Herb cream cheese

Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems with care. Fill each mushroom with herb cream cheese. Back on a cookie sheet in a 400F/200C oven for about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Pesto-ham rolls
Frozen puff pastry
Raw ham
Green pesto
Parmasan cheese

Thaw a sheet of frozen puff pastry. (We are able to get it in little square sheets about 6 inches square. If you need to do so, roll out to a square of 6 inch.) Make pesto from a dry herb mix or use ready made from a pot. Spread a thin layer on the dough. Lay raw ham over the pesto. Sprinkle with some parmasan cheese. Roll tightly into a long spiral roll. Using a serrated knife, cut into 8 slices and lay onto a piece of wax paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in a 350F/175C oven.

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Sacrifice

The Sacrifice by Beverly Lewis is the third in a series called Abram's Daughters. I had read the first two books a number of years ago. It is a good series but I will not read the next book for the time being as the story has not grabbed me enough. In this part, we find Hannah becoming baptized into the Amish church while her twin Mary Ruth has chosen her way in the Mennonite faith. Leah goes through life changes finding herself wanting to keep a promise made on her mother's death bed. Sadie contacts the bishop but will she start making a path back home to her family?
Beverly Lewis' description of the surrounding countryside and wooded areas were well done but I found the story less griping as the first two books in the series. It became too predictable for me.

Happy reading!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Butternut-Apple Harvest soup

I have been adding recipes under the theme of 'Taste of Autumn' and will continue this throughout the month of November. These are recipes that really give us the taste of an autumn day. You can find them all by using the side bar catagory 'Taste of Autumn'.

Butternut-Apple Harvest soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in leeks and onions, and cook until the onion softens and turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add potato, squash, carrots, apple, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Carefully puree the soup in batches in a blender, or use a stick blender to puree the soup right in the pot. Once the soup has been pureed, return it to the pot and stir in wine and cream. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper; simmer gently for 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped chives.

Recipe found on Allrecipes.com

I had some friends over recently and made an autumn harvest buffet. It was snacks and soup for our afternoon coffee and drinks. It was fun putting together things with an autumn theme. I included small diced olive cheese which is a special cheese from the north of Holland which contains Italian spices and olives. A basket of fresh and warm ciabatta with Tuscan cream cheese which again is a fresh product from the north of Holland. The first of the recipes I want to share from my buffet is the butternut-apple harvest soup. It is the most delicious soup. I served it in small mugs to start off our buffet.

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mistletoe Murder

Mistletoe Murder (Lucy Stone Mysteries)

I have finished reading my first seasonal themed book for the coming holiday season. I was in the mood for something with talk of Christmas so grabbed this book which is in my stack of books to read before the end of 2011....Mistletoe Murder by Leslie Meier.

Lucy Stone is a busy wife and mother who works evenings at a mail order company called Country Cousins in Tinker's Cove, Maine. While taking a break, she discovers her boss dead in his car. She works to create a perfect Christmas for her family while also working with local police officer Barney Culpepper to find the killer before the killer finds them.

This books was building up excitement and suddenly it was ending. I think it must be a sign of being good although I would have liked more. I enjoyed meeting Lucy Stone in this first book of the series. I want to spend time this year making space for new books but the next in the series will be on my list for 2012.

Happy reading!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Brown sugar applesauce

A favorite each autumn in apple season is eating fresh homemade applesauce. There is just nothing like it. Apples are readily available for low prices at this time of year. So if you are used to eating canned applesauce, try this recipe.

I switched to using dark brown sugar as we really like the taste but you can use white or light brown sugar if you prefer. I do not measure often when I cook as I just see and smell if it is correct. Try this recipe as it is so simple to make your own...

Brown sugar applesauce

7 or 8 sweet apples (I used Elstar)
3 or 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 or 2 tablespoons white sugar
cinnamon to taste (I put in about a teaspoon I think as we love this spice)
1 tablespoon water

Core, peel and cut apple into chunks. Place in a pan with a heavy bottom. Mix in dark brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon and water. Bring the mix to high heat almost boiling. Now turn back the heat to simmer low until apples are soft and so tender that they mash as you stir the applesauce. 4 servings

It really is that simple and tastes amazing. Once you eat homemade applesauce, there is no going back. *grins*  Turn this into a wonderful dessert by placing a serving from the applesauce in a bowl. Add a ball of vanilla ice cream and drizzle with maple syrup. The apples combined with the nuttiness of the maple syrup make this a taste of the autumn harvest.

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roasted chestnuts

It is autumn and time to gather things that give us the taste of the season...

We took a walk in the woods in the north of Holland and found chestnuts aplenty.

Luckily, I had a rain hat in the pocket of my coat. I turned it inside out and we filled it with our harvest. Be careful of the prickly shells while you get out the chestnuts.

Once home, I cut a cross into the side of the chestnut and put some in a 200C / 400F  oven to roast for about 15 minutes or until they pop open as shown in the photo. Be sure you do check on them as they can burn easily. Let them cool slightly and peel them. 

That evening I added them to our meal. Combine Brussel sprouts, potatoes, onion, bacon bits and chestnuts all tossed in a hot pan with olive oil for a truly autumn taste. 

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bess's Log Cabin Quilt

Bess's Log Cabin Quilt

Another children's literature book and just a delightful one! This story by D. Anne Love tells the tale of a girl Bess who is alone with her mother in the west while her father is taking families on the Oregon Trail. Her father has not come back when expected and she anxiously awaits his return with her mother. Mother has come down with swamp fever and it falls to Bess to help nurse her back to health while fending off Indians and a man who comes to collect a loan to her father. Bess has only just learned from her mother how to make a quilt...a log cabin quilt. She decides to enter it into the town fair quilt contest to try and win the money needed to pay her father's loan and save the farm.

This is the second time I have read this sweet story of a little girl's courage and I can highly recommend it for its endearing characters.

Happy reading!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Behind the Attic Wall

Behind the Attic Wall is child's fiction by Sylvia Cassedy. A little orphaned girl named Maggie is sent to live with her great aunts Harriet and Lillian after being sent away from yet another boarding school. She is thin and pale and not very versed in being social. Her Uncle Morris seems to have a very special understanding of her. She hears voices from behind the walls and eventually discover a secret room in the attic where two dolls and a china dog are alive. I do not want to say much more to spoil the story in the off chance that you would want to read it.

The books started off to seem a fun read but turned very eerily strange to me. If I had a child, I would not want her to read it. The book ends abruptly and unclear I think for the ages of children it is intended for.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Daily Life in a Victorian House

I am working on making space in my bookshelves by reading some books that have been there for a longer period of time. I picked up this book which I bought from a museum in England by The National Trust. It is a look into the life of The Smiths who live in London. It shows life in detail both upstairs and downstairs. There are timelines of many of the things that happened with innovations during this time period. A small book packed with lots of fun facts and social history!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brussel sprouts with rice

Come autumn, you will find fresh Brussel sprouts on the menu in our house often. One of our favorite ways to eat them keeps them very healthy indeed...

Brussel sprouts with rice

400g / 1 lb. fresh Brussel sprouts
3/4 cup rice
bacon chunks or bacon cut into strips
1 onion, chopped in large chunks
1/2 tsp thyme
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh ground garlic flakes

Prepare your sprouts by cutting a slit into the core and removing any bad outer leaves and cook until just tender. Cook the rice as instructed.

Fry the bacon is a scant tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and when cooked transparent, add the thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Freshly ground garlic flakes is optional but adds kick to the dish. Now mix in the cooked Brussel sprouts and rice. Stir together well and be sure it is heated through. Enjoy!

This recipe is enough for 2 people. If you like larger portions, you may want to increase the amounts.

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Summer of Roses

I had read Summer's Child by Luanne Rice a while ago. While my mother had given me this book, I had not realized it was a sequel to Summer's Child. It was nice to be back in Cape Hawk with Lily and Marisa....Liam and Patrick....Rose and Jessica. This book is a story about the strength of woman who can overcome even physical or emotional abuse. It is a story about mistrusting love and learning to trust it once again. It is a story about endings and new beginnings. It is a story that in the end, right can win.

This is my third book by Luanne Rice and I must say that I really do enjoy her work.

Happy reading!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Forgotten vegetables...Tuscan cabbage

Jos and I enjoy going to a farm in the north of Holland called De Cuynder. They sell their own vegetables including forgotten types or old varieties that are slowly disappearing. We bought a cooking pumpkin, two ears of sweet corn (they were only 25 cents which was an amazing price) and a crop of palm cabbage also known as Tuscan or black leaf cabbage. It is similar to kale but has a stronger taste. We tried it yesterday and it was delicious! Luckily, I have enough left to make another recipe which I will share in my next post but this is what I did with some of it for last night's meal.

Spaghetti carbonara with Tuscan cabbage for two

150 gram / 1/3 lb. spaghetti
1/4 lb. bacon, cut in chunks
3 spring onions, chopped roughly
1/3 lb. Tuscan cabbage, remove center vein and chop
3 eggs
1/4 lb. parmasan cheese
olive oil
pine nuts
freshly ground sea salt and pepper

Cook the spaghetti as directed on package. Roast the pine nuts if a dry pan and set aside. Fry the bacon in a little olive oil. Add spring onions and cabbage to the bacon until cooked.

In a bowl, mix the eggs with 3/4 of your parmasan cheese. When spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to the bacon and cabbage mixture. Now stirring constantly, add the eggs and cook until the spaghetti is coated and slightly cooked. Place the pasta onto two plates and add the remaining cheese and pine nuts, salt and pepper. Mix together and serve immediately.

If you are unable to get Tuscan cabbage, you can use kale in its place. It was fun trying a new vegetable and it really had a much better and more intense flavor than regular kale.

Bon appetit or eet smakelijk!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Murder is Binding

Cozy mysteries are great fun to read and this one is one of the best I have read. From the first page, I wanted to slap a character who was just too mean and cantankerousness to live in the quaint town of Stoneham, New Hampshire. Well, by the end of chapter one, there she lay sprawled out on the floor of her bookshop. But when neighboring mystery bookshop owner Tricia is accused by the sheriff of committing the murder, what else could she do but find the real killer. Add to that mix, her sister has moved to town, like it or not, the sweet Mr. Everett who is a daily regular customer she hires to work for her and her bookshop cat Miss Marple and you have the recipe for a very good cozy read!

I loved the twist of an exciting ending and know I will be reading more in this series now. Maybe it is because any book lover is attracted to a village like Stoneham and its variety of bookshops selling old and new books. The second in this series is already on my wish list.

This has gone up high on my list with my favorite cozy authors like Laura Childs, Susan Wittig Albert, Monica Ferris or Nancy Atherton. A must read for mystery lovers!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Provencal Chicken in Cream Sauce

This recipe is from the book The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher. It is a 4th generation Provencal recipe from Sara Wilford. I tried it last week while reading the book and it was divine!

My own changes are written in parentheses. I made this for two people by using two large skinless and boneless chicken breasts as we were only have meat and vegetables.

Provencal Chicken in Cream Sauce
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small chicken, cut into eight pieces (I used two large skinless, boneless chicken      breasts)
16 whole baby onions, peeled (I used two regular onions chopped in chunks)
1 cup heavy cream (I used about 3/4 cup and it worked very well)
1/4 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Chopped fresh parsley

Coat the chicken pieces in flour, salt and pepper.

Heat butter in heavy large skillet (I used Dutch oven) over medium-high heat and lightly brown onions. Set aside. Add olive oil to butter and raise heat.
Add chicken to skillet and cook over medium heat until brown on all sides.
Add cream, wine, thyme, and the onions. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning the pieces once. (Sauce should be slightly thickened by the flour used to coat the chicken.)

Transfer contents of skillet to cocotte or other deep seerving dish if desired, sprinkle with parsley and freshly ground pepper, and serve with rice. (I wilted some fresh chopped andive leaves in a pan and then placed it as a bed for the chicken. We did not even have any pototoes or rice with it as it was enough on its own.)

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted

Provence Cure for the Broken Hearted, The

I was really looking forward to reading this book. It is summer...okay, more like autumn here in Holland...so what better book to read than one about widow Heidi taking her son Abbot and niece Charlotte to the family home in the Provence for six weeks during summer. The house has had a fire and Heidi goes for her mother to start making decisions and renovating. What is not to love?

I was totally disappointed by my thinking the book was about the house. This was aided by reviews such as that from People magazine saying..."Fans of Under the Tuscan Sun will adore this impossibly romantic read.". I started this book thinking the house would be a main character in the book as in Under the Tuscan Sun, On Rue Tatin or The Olive Farm. Instead it took me until page 259 to forgive the book for being only about Heidi, Abbot, Charlotte and the French neighbors who live next to the house. I was anxiously awaiting some beautiful descriptions of the home but they did not come. Once I got past this, I started to get into the story of these broken hearts who were mending while in the south of France. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of simply romantic fiction. I need something there to pull me into the story.   I enjoyed reading The Summer Season as the gardening was a major part of the book to explain what I mean by something pulling me through the story. The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted became a bit too long for me and parts too popular romance. I read reviews about this book in which people said it was too predictable and yes they were right. 

That being said, if you like romantic fiction, this would be a book you will enjoy. It was simply not the right book for me. However, I have tried two recipes from the end of the book and will be sharing one with you for my next blog post. It was delicious!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fried rice with vegetables

Fried Rice with Vegetables for two
1 cup of rice (I use whole grain or brown rice)
1 celery stalk
1 carrot
2 spring onions
5 mushrooms
half of a red pepper
1 stone leek
1 chili pepper
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
crispy fried onions

Cook the cup of rice as instructed on the package. Dice the celery and carrot and precook them in a little water to desired tenderness. Slice the spring onions keeping them bite sized. I do not chop them finely as you want to taste the onion in the mix. Wash and slice the leek into half rings. Finely chop the red chili after removing the seeds. Chop the red pepper and mushrooms.

In a non stick pan, add a little olive oil and begin frying the leeks, red pepper and chili. Add the mushrooms and spring onions and salt and pepper to taste. Add thyme and cooked celery and carrots. Last, add your cooked rice and fry together. This can become dry but do not add more oil...instead just sprinkle a little water into the mixture.

When serving, sprinkle crispy fried onions over the rice.

Note: You can add bacon or ham. Simply fry it along with the leeks, red pepper and chili.

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!

Friday, August 26, 2011

I love speculaas!

I adore speculaas! Speculaas are windmill cookies in the US. It is not only my favorite cookies but I love the cookie molds too. I use them in my kitchen for decorating. They are just so much fun to see each day as I cook or bake.

And I love to dip a speculaas cookie in a cup of hot tea...pure heaven for my taste buds! What better and more stylish way to store them than in this cookie jar? It has little speculaas men all around it! I found this at a web shop but....oh my....it is so expensive. I would so love to have this for my cookies but for 49 euros. *gulp* Wonder if they will ever mark it down???
Speculaas Voorraadpot - Hollandsche Waaren
Have a great weekend with a good book and some good food!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Banana-peanut butter fluffs

I was experimenting with banana substitution for butter again and came up with this light and fluffy cookie which I have called...

Banana-peanut butter fluffs
1 overripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1-1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the banana, peanut butter and both sugars with the egg. Add the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Mix well. Spoon dough on to a piece of baking paper and bake in a 375F/180C oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen cookies which are light and cake like in texture.

Happy baking!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A tomato with heart!

Recently, they started selling this new tomato in our Lidl supermarket. After talking about varieties of tomatoes with some online friends in a homekeeping list I am in, I decided I was going to buy one of these tomatoes and give it a try. It is called "coeur de boeuf" or the heart tomato. But what it really is? A tomato with the old fashioned full flavor I remember from my Aunt Janey's neighbor, Mr. Weaver's garden. Since my own tomatoes have rotted due to our cool and rainy weather, this was a wonderful treat yesterday for our lunch.

I baked some ciabatta bread, took a little of the last fresh lettuce leaves from my garden along with my parsley and chives. I sliced up the lettuce then layered on the tomato slices with mozzarella cheese. Topped off with my chopped parsley and chives and a drizzle of olive oil, it made a wonderful lunch of very fresh and wholesome ingredients.

Sometimes, the most simple combinations that speak of a garden's bounty are the richest of tastes.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Linnets and Valerians

Linnets and Valerians

Some children's books are just as or even more magical to read when you are an adult. They take on a dimension that you miss as a child. I reread some of my favorites like Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden but author Elizabeth Goudge was totally new to me. One of the things that pulled me to buying this book had been the sweet cover showing Robert, Nan, Timothy, Betsy and Absolom the dog running away over the garden fence.

They are taken by their father to live with their grandmother while he is off to India to serve in the army. Very unhappy, they see no other alternative to escape by running away. They end up at a home of a stern old man who dislikes children. But this old man turns out to be their Uncle Ambrose who is the vicar of the village. They begin on an adventure of being educated by their uncle while also being taught some special lessons of good over evil by his all around man and gardener Ezra. In learning these lessons, the entire village will never be the same again.....

This is a delightful book that you are never too old to read!

Happy reading!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Roast beef rosettes

This is a simple yet elegant looking appetizer to serve. It could not be easier to make and yet has great flavor due to the horseradish and parsley. In Holland, we are able to buy "amuse lepels" which are these special spoons to serve the appetizers. A regular spoon will do also. Arrange them on a plate to pass around when served.

Roast beef rosettes 
Thin slices roast beef (lunch meat)
Cooked red beet, diced
Creme fraiche
Fresh parsley

Mix together 1 tablespoon of creme fraiche with a rounded teaspoon of horseradish. Taste as you may want more horseradish for a stronger taste.

Fold one piece of thinly sliced roast beef in half and then roll up to create a rosette. Place on a spoon and be sure there is a space in the middle of the meat rosette. Now fill with small diced red beetroot. Top with a little dollop of the horseradish cream and garnish with parsley.

Bon appitit or, as we say in Holland, eet smakelijk!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grilled tomatoes

We are big vegetable eaters in my house. While not vegetarians, we often have meals with no meat simply because we love all vegetables. Here is a wonderful and easy way to have tomatoes which can be eaten alone or as an accompaniment to a meat dish...

Grilled tomatoes
1 to 2 whole ripe tomatoes for each person
olive oil
dried garlic
salt and pepper
mixed herbs to taste
mature cheese or Parmasan cheese, grated

Wash the tomatoes and cut in half. Place cut side up in a shallow baking dish. I use a small quiche dish for this. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with milled dried garlic (optional) and salt and pepper. Now bring up to taste with a mixture of herbs. I used a pinch of tomato bruschetta mix which I can buy dried so this is optional. Often I make them without this and they are also very tasty. I then added some thyme, oregano and basil. Now sprinkle grated cheese over the tops of the tomatoes and place in a hot oven (200C/400F) for about 20 minutes. I switch to grill for a further 5 minutes. Do not place them too close under the grill or you will have to stay with them to watch they do not burn. Serve hot.

Bon appitit  or, as we say in Holland, eet smakelijk!

Friday, August 12, 2011

No bakes with a healthy twist

I love No Bake cookies! Some days I have such a craving for them and then whip up a batch. I had already drastically reduced the amount of sugar in my mother's recipe. Lately, I have been reading about using applesauce and bananas to replace butter in recipes. I made a batch of No Bakes but replacing the butter and they were delicious. I teased my mother that I have turned them into health food as I am getting me fruit (bananas) and fiber (oats). *grins*

No Bakes with a healthy twist
1 overripe banana (mashed well)
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocao
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar (you can use vanilla extract)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups oatmeal

Mix and boil all the ingredients together in a large pot (Dutch oven) for one minute. Take the pan from the heat and quickly mix in the oats. Spoons large teaspoons full onto baking or wax paper. Allow to sit until the cookies are set.

No Bake cookies (original recipe)
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocao
1/2 cup milk
1 stick oleo (1/2 cup butter)
Mix and boil ingredients together for one minute then remove from heat and add:
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups oatmeal 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Mix in peanut butter until it melts and add the oats and vanilla. Spoon onto baking or wax paper and allow to set.

Happy baking!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Books and real life.....

Sometimes reading a book brings things to mind in my home. This is my antique cradle. I handmade a ticking mattress for it and a tiny quilt. The quilt was sewn from tiny cut off corners of another quilt that would normally be thrown away.

Why did I think of this cradle and quilt you ask? Because of this book quote...

" 'Er ladyship will be pleased to lend ee two truckle-beds, two goose-feather mattresses, an' two patchwork counterpanes. I be to take the trap to the manor this afternoon an' Moses Glory Glory Alleluja will give 'em to me."

When I read this in my current book Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge, I just had to share it with you.

Happpy reading!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Key Lime Pie Murder

Key Lime Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen Mysteries)

Many years ago, I discovered the author Monica Ferris and her cozy mysteries set in a cross stitch shop. This started a love affair with cozies. I got my mother hooked and we started buying many of the cozy mysteries and swapping them with each other. One of our favorites has been the Hannah Swensen Mysteries by Joanne Fluke.  She brought me two that we had not read yet when she came to visit last year. While at first, we were getting them as they came out, we lost track as we started to add more and more cozy mysteries to our lists.

Hannah owns a cookie shop called The Cookie Jar in Lake Eden, Minnesota. She has a cuddly big tomcat called Moishe and not one but two men in her life who both want to marry her. The inhabitants of Lake Eden come to life in these books. If you have never read one, I would recommend you get a hold of them to read in order as the characters do build up in each of them.

Hannah finds herself being a judge for the baking contests at the county fair. There are two other judges, Pam and Willa, who test taste with her each day as the fair progresses. But one evening after closing Hannah witnesses pieces of a murder...that of her fellow judge Willa. As she starts to investigate Willa's death, many secrets begin to come to light but will she discover the final secret in time to escape from the hands of Willa's killer?

This was once again a wonderful, light and fun mystery to read. Joanne Fluke uses humor in her books as well as building up the suspense of an old fashioned whodunit. Any cat lover has to appreciate her friendship with beloved Moishe and there are recipes galore to boot. All around another great Joanne Fluke book!

Happy reading!

Friday, August 5, 2011

German noodles (Spätzle) with spinach

We take a drive to Germany once in a while for a grocery store run. We go to three stores and stock up on things we love in Germany. One of those things is spaetzle (spätzle) which is a type of noodle. Here is a recipe for one of the ways I prepare these tasty noodles...

German spätzle with spinach
approx. 150g / 1/3lb. spaetzle or a thick egg noodle
olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
500g / 1lb. fresh spinach
1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs
1/2 cup grated parmasan cheese
3 tablespoons cream
salt and pepper
parmasan flakes

Cook the noodles according to the package. You can use another egg noodle if you cannot get spaetzle. Chop up the onions and fry them in a little olive oil until they start to turn glassy. Start adding the well rinsed spinach with the onions. Once all the spinach is cooked (wilted) drain the pan well. Spinach releases a great deal of water when cooked. Add the herbs, salt and pepper to the spinach mixture.

Drain the noodles and add to the spinach and onions.  Now add 3 tablespoons of cream (you can use half and half) and add the grated cheese mixing well to be sure the cheese spreads through the dish.

Top with parmasan flakes before serving.

** I served this with a marinated chicken that I buy at our butchers. You could serve this as a vegetarian dish or add any meat you like. Sprinkled with crispy bacon and parmasan is tasty if you do not want a piece of meat with the dinner. **

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk (as we say in Holland)!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Summer Season...

When I decided to start this new blog, it was due to my belief that two things are essential to life...food for the body and good books for the soul. I am a member of an online book club and enjoy the banter we have over books as well as in depth discussion of our selected reads. Why not also share my thoughts on books on a blog? So my newest blog was born.

I just finished reading a book by a new to me author, Julia Williams. She will no longer be new to me. As soon as I finished reading the last sentence of The Summer Season, I came online and placed two of her previous books in my shopping basket.

The Summer Season is a book to enjoy while sitting in my own new garden. The perfect setting while dreaming of the village setting in the book. It takes places in an English village called Heartease where Victorian gardener Edward Handford had lived with his great love Lily in their home called Lovelace Cottage. Living there now is his great grandson Joel with his small son Sam. The house and garden have been run down but as the knot garden of this beautiful home is restored by Kezzie, more than the garden ends up touched by caring. While reading the story of the current residents of Hearstease, we also reflect back to Edward and Lily's story. We meet many of the people living in the village including Lauren, Kezzie, Joel and Eileen whose lives are affected by the summer season.

If you want to enjoy a light, happy and romantic story which gives you a feeling of summer sunshine, I would recommend The Summer Season by Julia Williams. Chick lit with a gardening theme so what could be better than that?

Happy reading!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Look what is for dinner.....

Mexican style pasta salad
340g / 12oz     can of corn, drained
420g/ 15oz    can of red kidney beans, drained
handfull of green olives
2 cups spiral pasta
300g / 11oz   jar of chunky salsa
French dressing
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
olive oil
chopped parsley

Cook the pasta as directed on the package and drain.

Drain the corn and kidney beans. Cut a hand full of green olives in half lengthwise. Mix the pasta, corn, beans, olives and salsa in a large mixing bowl.

Add enough French dressing to moisten the pasta salad as desired. I used 3 large serving spoons of dressing. This may be more or less depending on the thickness of your French dressing.

Fry the cut up chicken in a pan with olive oil until browned and cooked through. Add the chicken to the pasta salad and mix well. Chop a hand full of fresh parsley and mix again. Serve chilled.

Serve chilled.Wine to go with this dinner is:
Vega Del Cega Valdepenas
Tinto Tempranillo - Garnacha 2009
Bon appetit or, as we say in Holland, Eet smakelijk!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My succulent chicken

This chicken recipe comes out very moist and melt in your mouth soft every time.

Mozzarella stuffed chicken
4 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
1 vegetable bouillon tablet
olive oil
mozzarella cheese
finely chopped rosemary
ground chili flakes

Drain mozzarella and cut into 8 chunks.Roll in finely chopped rosemary and ground chili flakes. Carefully cut two little slit into your chicken breasts being careful not to cut all the way through. Stuff a chunk of flavored mozzarella into each slit and weave a wooden skewer through the breast to hold the cheese in. In a flat baking dish (I use a quiche dish), rub the bouillon tablet into olive oil. You will need at least two tablespoons of oil to ensure you can coat the chicken breast. Roll the chicken in the bouillon oil to coat the chicken and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can do this in the morning to enable to have minimum work at dinner time.

Remove chicken from oven and brown in a pan for about 2 minutes each side. Place chicken back in the shallow baking dish and bake in a 180C / 375F oven for about 25 minutes to cook through. The baking time may vary according to how large or small your chicken breasts are. Serve on a bed of leek and potato puree.

Leek and potato puree
1 small leek, cleaned and sliced in half rings
2 green onions, sliced
450 to 500 g / 1 lb potatoes
100dl  / 1/2cup lowfat yogurt

Measure the yogurt and allow to sit at room temperature while you peel and cook the potatoes. Slice the green end off the leek. Slice lengthwise from the root end so that the leek is open fan wise and rinse under cold water to ensure all the sand is removed. Slice into thin half rings and lightly fry in olive oil. Add 2 sliced green onions (you can substitute a finely chopped regular onion) with the leeks.

When the potatoes are soft, press them through a ricer. You can use a mixer if your prefer but I find a ricer makes wonderful puree which is something I learned from my father. Mix in the leeks, green onions and yogurt. Using yogurt gives the potatoes a very nice taste and make them lower in fat. I serve the potatoes as is allowing people to salt and pepper them according to their own taste but you can add the salt and pepper now if you like.

Bon appetit or, as we say in Holland, Eet smakelijk!