"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, June 27, 2012

Dutch specialty foods - witlof or Belgian endive

This is a year round favorite in our house. We love any meal where a vegetable takes center stage.

This is Belgian endive or, as we call it here in Holland, witlof. This is a delicious vegetable that can be used in a salad or cooked. Eaten raw is not everyone's favorite as endive is bitter to the taste but, once cooked, it is a mild and tasty vegetable.

To prepare the witlof for cooking, all you have to do is cut off the end and remove the core with your paring knife which does taste bitter if eaten. You can see the core very well on the photo and simply try to score around it to remove. Boil the witlof in a pan full of water to cover. I boil them anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes depending on how large it is. It will go a little glassy when cooked.

Sprinkle some breadcrumbs in the bottom of a baking dish. Witlof continues to release moisture even after being drained and this help soak it up while baking.

Drain your witlof well and wrap each piece in a piece of ham. I like using parmaham but you can use any kind you like. Chop 2 or 3 spring onions and sprinkle over the ham wrapped witlof. Now sprinkle a layer of cheese again using any kind you like. I use Gouda cheese.

Place in an 350F/180C oven for about 25 minutes. Serve hot with noodles or boiled potatoes.

Note: An alternative is to fry some chopped bacon and sprinkle this over the witlof instead of wrapping in ham. If you have never tried this vegetable, I would give it a try. It is a tasty and healthy meal that tastes good in any season. If you still like to eat more meat then serve this as a side dish.

Bon appetit or eet smakelijk!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Christmas book tips

The Bells of Christmas

The Bells of Christmas by Virginia Hamilton is a story of Christmas in Ohio in 1890. The Bell family are preparing for Christmas day. A day that never seems to come to young Jason. But come it does with a covering of snow. The family celebrations can begin...

Christmas Won't Wait (Eve Tharlet)
Christmas Won't Wait by Eve Tharlet is a great gift this Christmas for young and old. A fun and whimsical story about Arthur who makes the gifts for Santa. This year he is far behind but, of course, Christmas won't wait! 

Happy reading!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dutch specialty foods - Spinach with egg and bacon

One of the things I learned as being an old fashioned Dutch dish when I immigrated here many years ago is cooking fresh spinach. It is in season at the moment so we are enjoying it more regularly since it is more affordable. On top of it being delicious, it is also so good for you as it is rich in iron.

Spinach with egg and bacon
bag of fresh spinach (I use a 450g bag for two people - about 1lb.)
2 hard boiled eggs
4 potatoes, peeled and boiled
125g or 1/4 lb thick bacon, diced
3 to 4 spring onions, chopped
grated cheese (I use aged Gouda)
salt, pepper and nutmeg

Place the diced bacon in a frying pan. Fry using the fat of the bacon itself. Add the spring onion. Add spinach by the handfull allowing it to wilt each time before adding more. When the spinach is cooked, mix in salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste. Serve with grated cheese over the spinach and a sliced boiled egg and boiled potatoes.

Bon appetit or eet smakelijk!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Perfect Hero

This book is the second in the Jane Austen trilogy by Victoria Connelly. The Perfect Hero is a modern day romance in true Austen style. I have been melting lately for these light romances while I used to never read them. I think having an Austen connection makes it fun.

Kay has decided to make a total life change after her good friend Peggy passes away and unexpectedly leaves her her estate. She leaves her home and job behind and moves to Lyme Regis where she uses the money she has inherited to buy a run down B&B which she plans to renovate and use for an income. Her choice of Lyme Regis is not by chance. Her favorite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion and when the cast of the latest film version of this novel show up on her doorstep, she suddenly is pulled into their life. She tries to play Emma and do a little matchmaking while daydreaming about a life with the actor of the role of Captain Wentworth. But is Oli a perfect hero?

I will not give away too much about this book but it is a wonderful light summer read. Victoria Connelly has once again captured the spirit of Janites around the world.

Note: This book was released in the US under the title Dreaming of Mr. Darcy.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Quick blueberry tartlet

What do you do with that leftover dough when you cut along the edge of your quiche dish? Make a quick blueberry tartlet with berries left over from last summer's pickings. We pick berries every summer and freeze them. What a treat to have them any time even when they are not yet in season here in Holland...

Quick Blueberry Tartlet
Roll your leftover puff pastry into a circle. Lay the dough on a piece of baking paper on a baking sheet. The baking or wax paper make for quick clean up as the berries will create their own juice and run.

Place the frozen berries in a bowl. Sprinkle with a touch of flour and sugar to taste. I used about a tablespoon of sugar but you may wish them to be sweeter. Mix well and place in the middle of the dough circle. Fold up the sides of the dough pinching as you go to keep it in a bowl shape.

Brush with a milk wash and bake in a 180C/350F oven until dough it golden and berries cooked. I left mine in while my quiche was baking for about 25 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Bon appetit or eet smakelijk!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sage, leek and onion quiche

One of my favorite things to make and our favorite to eat any time of the year is a quiche. Since my herb garden is doing so well this year, I am coming up with more ways to use all the sage I have growing. So I whipped up a basic onion quiche made more special with fresh sage...

Sage, leek and onion quiche
frozen puff pastry
1 leek, sliced
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
grated cheese of choice (I use aged Gouda cheese)
1 egg
milk or half and half
salt and pepper

Thaw the pastry and roll out to fit into your quiche dish. *I am using a small quiche dish for 2 people. You will need to double everything for a larger quiche.*
Clean and slice leek and chop onion. Fry in a pan adding the fresh sage and (dried) thyme for the last minute. Place the onion and leek mix in the pastry shell.
Sprinkle grated cheese.

In a large measuring bowl, break an egg and add enough half and half to bring the amount up to 3/4 cup total. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the quiche.

Bake in a 180C/350F oven for about 35 minutes. If you use a large quiche dish, the baking will take about 45 to 50 minutes.

Note: I will increase the sage to 2 tablespoons next time as we really love the sage and felt there could be more in the quiche.

I like to serve quiche with a salad or sliced tomatoes.

My herb garden.....

The sage is doing particularly well and has lovely large leaves.

Bon appetit or eet smakelijk!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Killer Stitch

A Killer Stitch

Reading the next in line of the knitting mysteries by Maggie Sefton is like coming to meet with an old friend. You catch back up with all those you knew and another adventure begins...

When alpaca rancher Derek Cooper is discovered dead, there is a shock among The House of Lambspun shop as it directly affects his girlfriend Lucy. But it soon becomes apparent that Derek has been murdered. As Kelly discovers more to help Diane who is suspect number one and also Kelly's good friends Jennifer's friends, she discovers that Derek was a man with a reputation and many enemies.

Once again, a really good cozy mystery to curl up with!

Happy reading!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cranberry Walnut Streusel Cake

I sometimes like baking a cake for the weekend so this weekend we are enjoying a cranberry walnut streusel cake. This cake is really good and not so sweet tasting. It was the perfect way to use up leftover cranberries from the winter.

Cranberry Walnut Streusel Cake
Cranberry jam for filling:
1-1/2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tbsp. orange juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Place all three ingredients in a saucepan and boil until the berries are all popped. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Streusel mix:
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter, softened
Combine the dry ingredients and then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. I like to rub this in with my hands but you can use a fork or pastry cutter.

6 tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons orange juice
2 eggs
Cream the first three ingredients together. Add the eggs to the mixture.

Now mix in the dry ingredients alternating with the milk:
1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan.

Place half the cake mix in the pan. Sprinkle half the streusel topping over it and then carefully spoon on the cranberry jam mixture. I spoon on little bits all over and then carefully spread them out being sure not to push it into the cake mixture. Now add the rest of the cake mixture and top with the second half of the streusel.

Bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!