"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

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!