Recent Posts

Baked Crispy Chicken With Citrus Teriyaki Sauce

Baked Crispy Chicken With Citrus Teriyaki Sauce

No deep fryer needed here because this chicken is 100 % baked! That’s right, it’s made in the oven and it comes out crunchy and crispy every time. It’s perfectly paired with a Citrus Teriyaki Sauce that is great for dipping, or even better just poured right over the chicken.

Japanese panko, the flaky and feather-light breadcrumbs, is the key ingredient to the crisp and the crunch. Each piece of chicken is coated with panko, then lightly covered with cooking spray before it is baked at a very high temperature that results in what looks and tastes like its deep fried…but it ain’t.

Make sure you don’t leave out the Citrus Teriyaki Sauce, and definitely don’t substitute it with another sauce. The chicken may have the crisp and the crunch but it’s really the sauce that makes the chicken taste so amazing. Serve it with steamed rice, over a bed of lettuce, or both. Enjoy!

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Spanakopita – Remembering Spinach (CWF: Nadja and Esmee)

Spanakopita – Remembering Spinach (CWF: Nadja and Esmee)

Do you remember spinach? You know, that green superfood that kinda got pushed to the sidelines when foods like kale and chard started taking center stage as the new trendy superfood? Lucky for you I’m here to remind you how tasty spinach can be, that it’s still packed with a wealth of health benefits, and that there is a popular Greek dish called Spanakopita, or spinach pie, that will make you fall in love with spinach all over again.

I still remember the first time I tried spanakopita. It was in a charming Greek restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago called The Athenian Room. My college girlfriend (who happened to be Greek) worked there on the weekends, and it wasn’t long before the rest of us became frequent diners. The Athenian Room is famous for their Kalamata Greek Chicken, their signature dish, but for me it was their Spanakopita that had me going back.

Spanakopita is a very popular savory pastry pie in Greek cuisine. It’s made with very thin layers of phyllo dough that is filled with spinach, feta cheese, onions and fresh herbs, all perfectly baked to a lightly brown crust. It’s traditionally made in a large pan and eventually cut into square pie pieces, but I like to prepare mine in small individual triangle-shaped servings so that I can serve them either as a snack, an appetizer or a vegetarian meal.

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Mango Guacamole – A Winner

Mango Guacamole – A Winner

Every summer I used to have a contest with my nephew to decipher who could make the best guacamole. He was convinced he had the better recipe, and naturally I was convinced otherwise. Our families were always left to judge, and it would end in a 50-50 tie, year after year. Luckily after years of our ‘family guacamole challenge’ I finally prevailed with my new guacamole recipe that even had my nephew asking for the recipe, that being the Mango Guacamole recipe.

The Mango Guacamole includes the addition of a fresh ripe mango. Certainly a very untraditional ingredient in guacamole, but the mango adds an unexpected sweet flavor to the traditional guacamole that balances deliciously with the tartness of the lime and the sharp taste from the shallot. The orange mango chunks also create a beautiful color combination against the green avocados, making it a wonderful presentation for your next dinner guests.

As with traditional guacamole you can serve the Mango Guacamole with corn tortilla chips, add it to your tacos or burrito bowls, or just top it over some very cheesy quesadillas. The Mango Guacamole is also super easy to make and requires just a few simple ingredients.

Go ahead, invite someone for a ‘guacamole challenge’. You are sure to win with this Mango Guacamole recipe. But be prepared because chances are your challenger will ask you for the recipe.

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Tabbouleh Salad With Quinoa – Chop Chop

Tabbouleh Salad With Quinoa – Chop Chop

Tabbouleh Salad (or tabouli) is one of my favorite Mediterranean dishes. It’s tart and tangy with an abundance of herbs, veggies and the healthy craze of quinoa (pronounced ‘kin-wha’). A typical tabbouleh is made with bulgur wheat, but I choose to make mine with quinoa because it’s gluten-free and vitamin-rich.

The star ingredient to any tabbouleh salad is finely chopped parsley, and this recipe is no exception. A lot of parsley goes into this recipe, so don’t be shy with it and definitely don’t scale back thinking I made a typo in the ingredient section. I didn’t.

The secret to making a great Tabbouleh salad is making sure everything is finely chopped, especially the parsley since it’s the star ingredient to tabbouleh. It is the essential method to releasing the strong herb flavors and distributing the proper flavors evenly throughout the salad. Although cucumbers are not traditionally used in Tabbouleh salad, I like to add it to mine as it adds crunch and freshness. You can also cater your Tabbouleh Salad to your liking by adding in your preferred vegetables. Just don’t forget to finely chop and you’ll have yourself a delicious treat.

Try Tabbouleh Salad as a side dish (goes great with chicken or fish), or try serving it on a bed of lettuce or with a side of pita bread for a fresh and light main course.

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Italian Pasta Salad – Make It Your Own

Italian Pasta Salad – Make It Your Own

I fell in love with Italian Pasta Salad the first time I tried it. It’s my favorite kind of pasta salad. I can eat it non-stop and I never seem to get full from it.

Italian Pasta Salad is not known here in the Netherlands, and neither is Italian salad dressing which is the main ingredient you need to make Italian Pasta Salad. But it’s the start of BBQ season, the start of picnic season, and the start of summer potluck parties. I was really starting to crave this Italian Pasta Salad, the salad that I enjoyed so much in the summer season back home in Chicago.

I don’t know why I never bothered to look up the recipe for Italian salad dressing until now. There are tons of recipes to choose from and it is sooooo easy to make. I guess I thought that if it comes in a bottle then it must be the only way you can get it. I was fortunately wrong.  And not only is freshly made Italian salad dressing much tastier, it is much healthier without all the unrecognizable preservatives.

Aside from the favorite choice of pasta for this salad, rotini or fusilli, you can prepare this salad with any of your favorite vegetables. I like mine with broccoli florets and cucumber slices, but you can also add in black olives, sliced pepperoni, carrots, or just about anything you like with Italian salad dressing.  It is, afterall, the kind of pasta salad that is meant to be your favorite.

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Watermelon Feta Salad

Watermelon Feta Salad

The combination of watermelon and feta cheese may sound a little bit unusual, but you need to trust me on this one and try it. It’s the perfect mix of sweet and savory, and it’s going to be your favorite salad this summer.

We’ve had some pretty hot temperatures already here in the Netherlands, and we haven’t even dove into the summer season yet. Luckily, watermelon has already made its appearance in the supermarkets, and I’ve made frequent trips already just for the watermelon, just to make this Watermelon Feta Salad.

This Watermelon Feta Salad is from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. It’s a beautiful cookbook filled with many vegetarian recipes and mouth-watering pictures. I read this cookbook from beginning to end, and good thing I did because this Watermelon Feta Salad recipe is the very last recipe in the book.  I guess you could say Ottolenghi saved his very best recipe for last.

This is a great salad for a BBQ, picnic, brunch, or actually anytime on a hot summer day. With only five simple ingredients you can prepare this Watermelon Feta Salad in no time all summer long.

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Banana Bread – All Year Round

Banana Bread – All Year Round

Whenever I go to the supermarket I always buy bananas. Everyone in my family loves bananas. We definitely eat a lot of it, but in my house bananas means more to us than just a fruit.  It’s a quick snack that’s already pre-packaged and ready to go into the kids’ lunch bags, it’s a natural sweetener for our morning smoothies, it’s that energy boost that I (really really) need right before a run, and with a little dab of peanut butter it becomes my son’s favorite afterschool snack. There are so many ways we enjoy bananas, and as a mom I am happy to know my kids are getting their vitamins from it.  But our ultimate favorite way we enjoy bananas is by using it as the sweet creamy ingredient for our favorite kind of bread…banana bread.

There are countless banana bread recipes available, and trust me I’ve tried many of them, but this banana bread recipe is the one I’ve been making for years, and I have no intention of replacing it with another banana bread recipe. As with all banana bread recipes you must use very ripe bananas, but this particular recipe requires sour cream and lemon juice to further enhance the quality and taste that perhaps not all banana bread recipes have. The sour cream makes the bread super moist every time, and the addition of lemon juice over the bananas not only keeps the bananas from turning brown but it also helps maintain the full sweet banana flavor.

When I make banana bread I always double the recipe and make 2 loaves. It’s such an easy recipe to simply double and everyone will surely love you for making two. Sometimes when I am able to hide the second loaf from my family I like to wrap it up and gift it to a friend, neighbor or colleague. It’s a great way to show your appreciation to someone, or better yet a good excuse to reach out and visit a friend.

Luckily, bananas are available all year round.  Anytime you want banana bread it’s just a matter of letting your bananas ripen. If your family loves bananas like mine does, then you just might have to hide a few bananas to allow them time to ripen.  And if you have leftover bananas that are just too ripe to eat, then you already have the perfect ingredient to make this delicious banana bread recipe.

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Tomato Crostini With Whipped Feta

Tomato Crostini With Whipped Feta

I’m going to help you out with your next dinner party by giving you the best appetizer recipe. It’s called the Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta. It’s fresh, really delicious, and the recipe is very forgiving (meaning it will come out unbelievably tasty every time you make it). All the prep work can be prepared in advance, allowing you to spend more time with your guests and actually enjoy the party too. Best of all these crispy toasts with marinated tomatoes and lemony sharp feta cheese will leave your friends thinking you are not only a great cook but also a well-organized party host.

I’ve made the Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta countless times. It’s my go-to appetizer, especially when I am serving an Italian dinner. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t limit this recipe to just dinner parties where I am serving Italian cuisine. This is my top choice for BBQ dinners, happy hour evenings (or ‘borrel’ in Dutch), or a light lunch or snack. As a family we even like to enjoy it as a dinner course, turning our favorite appetizer into a meal. I just double the recipe when this is the case.

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Spaghetti with (or without) meatballs

Spaghetti with (or without) meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is a classic Italian-American dish.  It’s believed by many Americans, me included, as being an authentic Italian dish, but it’s actually an adaptation of Italian cuisine that has immigrated to the American culture. During my childhood spaghetti and meatballs was always a favorite. I didn’t have it too often since my mom traditionally cooked mainly Korean cuisine, but it was always a treat when I had the opportunity to have it at friends’ homes or at restuarants.

Since becoming a mom I’ve been on the search for the perfect spaghetti and meatballs recipe. I wanted to be able to make it from scratch, the sauce and the meatballs. I knew it would be more work but i also knew it was a healthier and tastier option. Spaghetti and meatballs is such a great kid-friendly meal but also a meal that can be enjoyed by adults alike. It was a must in my dinner rotation. Up until recently, there was always something not right with the recipes I’ve tried, but now I have THE recipe.

Try this recipe for your next family meal. It’s also great for a large crowd as you can make the sauce and prepare the meatballs the night before. Just cover the meatballs and keep in fridge until ready to bake the next day. Alternatively you can freeze them and enjoy it at a much later time. The sauce also tastes better the next day. The extra time allows the flavours to blend and mature.

Unlike traditional spaghetti with meatballs where the meatballs are cooked in the sauce, i like to keep the meatballs separate from the sauce. This allows you to offer a vegetarian meal or include the meatballs for the complete spaghetti and meatball experience. The only problem with this is trying to keep my kids from eating up all the meatballs before dinner is served.

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Penne Alla Vodka – A husband favorite

Penne Alla Vodka – A husband favorite

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Myth or not, I am always happy to make meals that my husband loves and enjoys.  Penne alla vodka is no exception. Personally it never appealed to me, but apparently my husband loves it and I didn’t even know it.

A few years ago my husband and I were in Rome. I noticed that with every opportunity he had, for lunch and dinner, he would order the penne alla vodka. I found this a bit strange because after all we were in Italy, the land of pizza, pasta, and antipasto! Why would you subject yourself to just penne alla vodka? When I finally questioned him about it, his response was, ’I love penne alla vodka…it’s my favorite pasta dish.’  After 10 years of being married to him, how did I not know this about him???

As soon as we returned back home I started researching recipes for penne alla vodka. I must say I found THE PERFECT one, the Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola from the famous East Hampton restaurant, Nick & Toni’s.  It’s a premium twist to the standard penne alla vodka.  It is creamy and velvety, but what makes this recipe exceptionally savory and flavorful is the cooking method used for the tomatoes. The tomatoes are first cooked with 1 full cup of vodka (the vodka helps release certain flavors in the tomatoes that are otherwise inaccessible) and then it’s oven-roasted (this concentrates the flavors and releases the natural sugars in the tomatoes, resulting in a deep rich flavor).

If you’re a penne alla vodka fan (or not) you’ve got to try this recipe.  It’s amazingly packed with flavor and simply one of the best pasta dishes, if not THE best, I’ve ever had.

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Penne with Cherry Tomato Sauce – Can You Say ‘EASY’?

Penne with Cherry Tomato Sauce – Can You Say ‘EASY’?

If you’ve never made tomato sauce from scratch before, then the Cherry Tomato Sauce should be your first. It is unbelievably SUPER EASY, using only fresh ingredients.  In this recipe the cherry tomatoes are cooked just long enough to bring out all their juice, which blends with the garlic-flavored olive oil to make a great-tasting pasta sauce. I’ve been making this for years and I still can’t believe how simple and fast this comes together without sacrificing taste and quality.

I came across this recipe years ago one day during work. Yes, I did have a career before becoming a mom, before moving to the Netherlands, and before managing a foodblog. For over 15 years I worked in the housewares industry as a product developer, creating, designing and developing beautiful products for the home. I worked long and hard hours, but back then with no children, well, I just could. I guess you can say I immersed myself into my work, but is it really work when you are having fun?

Anyways, back to how I found this recipe. Every morning at the office for about 15 minutes I looked through a collection of home and lifestyle magazines for inspiration and motivation. Yes, I got paid to look through magazines! It was in the Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine where I found the Penne with Cherry Tomato Sauce recipe. What attracted me to this recipe was the simple fact that I knew what all the listed ingredients were, and often times this wasn’t the case for me, being then the inexperienced cook that I was. Little did I know that my lack of cooking skills would land me a great pasta recipe.

For a tomato-based sauce that is fresh and light without the added efforts of making a traditional red tomato sauce, this is it! The Penne (or any other short pasta of your preference) with Cherry Tomato Sauce will be your best friend when you’re short on time to prepare a great dinner.

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

French Toast Bake – Happy Mother’s Day

French Toast Bake – Happy Mother’s Day

The French Toast Bake is knock-it-out-of-the-park delicious and it comes out perfectly every time. I am deliberately posting this recipe a few days before Mother’s Day so that you your kids, husband or partner have NO excuse not to make it for this coming Sunday. The ingredients are combined and baked to perfection in a casserole dish so there is no soaking, no frying, no flipping, and no more soggy bread slices. You just put the casserole dish in the oven and forget about it for about 45 minutes.

This is my NUMBER ONE go-to breakfast meal when I need something AMAZING to feed a crowd the next morning (ie. sleepovers, Christmas morning, vacations). It is also something that doesn’t require waking up super early to prepare because all the preparation for this French Toast Bake can be prepared the night before and baked the next morning. No worries though…whether you prepare it the night before (which I highly recommend as it saves you so much time in the morning) or you bake it right away, they both create the same heavenly outcome.

Seriously, if you want to impress a special mom this Mother’s Day, make this French Toast Bake. You can impress her even further by using up some stale left-over bread. Don’t toss it out. Use it up in this recipe. She will appreciate the cost savings efforts, and the taste will be the same, if not better.

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

Good Old Fashioned Pancakes – A  Good Start to the Day

Good Old Fashioned Pancakes – A Good Start to the Day

What is my trick for a guaranteed good start to the day? Pancakes! When pancakes are for breakfast everyone seems to be in a better mood. I’m convinced there is a certain link between pancakes and being happy. Could it be because pancakes are warm, round and golden in color, like the sun? And you have to agree, who doesn’t get happy when the sun is shining?

So whenever possible I make pancakes for breakfast, the good old fashioned big and fluffy American kind with melted butter and pure maple Canadian syrup. Pancakes made from scratch are sooo much tastier than the pancake-in-a-box version. With a little extra effort you get tastier and fluffier pancakes. Best of all, this recipe includes all the basic ingredients that you may already have, so any time you want a good start to the day, or you want to end the day on a bright note, pancakes is the answer.

Try this recipe to make some good old fashioned American pancakes at any time of the day, or use it as a base to make a variety of different pancakes such as banana pancakes or blueberry pancakes. Just remember to lighly powder your choice of fruit with some flour before adding them into your batter.

Have a great day!!

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

Carrot Cake – Celebration of Life

Carrot Cake – Celebration of Life

It’s spring break (meivakantie) here in the Netherlands, hence my excuse for this delayed post for my carrot cake recipe. I’ve been meaning to post it for quite some time now, at least before it was King’s Day, as it was my way of getting into the King’s Day spirit.

Earlier this week, on April 27th, the entire country celebrated the 50th birthday of our Dutch King Willem-Alexander. It is a Dutch national holiday, King’s Day (Koningsdag) and it is considered to be the biggest festival of the year, from old to young taking part in the celebration. Everyone gets into full gear party mode and nothing is allowed except a big fun crazy party. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that the entire country turns into orange madness (orangegekte). Just about everyone on this day dresses in some kind of orange clothing, sometimes from head to toe, and the crazier your outfit the more you will fit in.

King’s Day is also the only day of the year in the Netherlands when you can trade for free without a license. This is known as the vrijmarkt (literally ‘free market’). The streets turn into a massive street market where locals set up stalls in public places to sell and trade their old and unwanted items. Children also take part in this traditional King’s Day activity, selling their outgrown toys, hand-made creations and home-baked goodies. It’s a fun activity the entire family can do together.

As a non-Dutch I never understood why the free market occurs on King’s Day. Why do the Dutch celebrate their King’s birthday by selling their old stuff? What does this mean, and what’s the connection? Shouldn’t we be doing something more appropriate to celebrate the royal family? Perhaps dress rather in our nicest clothes and act more appropriate (doe normaal), especially on this particular day??

Upon this wonderment it occurred to me (just this year) what King’s Day is all about. It’s not just about the birthday of the monarch, nor a day to acknowledge the royal family, and certainly not about patriotism. Despite the name, it’s about community and friendship. For one day we can all be the same, equal, free, and most importantly celebrate life together.

You’re probably wondering how the carrot cake I mentioned earlier has anything to do with King’s Day. It really doesn’t, other than the fact that it is an orange cake. Carrot cake is still new to the Dutch but slowly rising in popularity. Maybe one day it will replace the famous ‘tompouce’, the more popular orange pastry eaten on King’s Day.

After years of searching for the best carrot cake recipe, I have finally found it. I normally tweak a recipe and never follow it precisely, but with this one I did not change a thing. I was disciplined and followed it exactly and good thing I did. It’s really REALLY good. Make it for a birthday, holiday or any other occasion. Enjoy and celebrate life. Cheers!

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

The Kimchi Burger

The Kimchi Burger

Being a Korean-American  living in the Netherlands, you can’t blame me for stopping in my tracks when I came across a recipe for Kimchi Burgers. I mean, how Korean-American can you get? I must admit it’s an unusual combination and not a typical way of eating kimchi, and kimchi is obviously not a typical burger topping, but nowadays I guess everything is possible. So I HAD to try it.

To clarify any misconception, this burger is not your standard classic burger with a simple topping of kimchi. In fact the kimchi is only a small element to what makes this burger so unique and flavorful, yet definitely a very important ingredient in which this burger gets its ultimate flavor from, not to mention its titled name. There are actually many elements to this burger (i.e. marinated beef patty, the special sauce, the seasoned slaw and of course the kimchi) that make it complete and delicious. So whatever your feelings are towards the traditional Korean kimchi, it doesn’t really matter when this burger is concerned.

Take it from me who doesn’t even like burgers all that much (I’m a wrap kind of girl), this burger is the tastiest burger you will ever have, and I’m not just saying that because I’m Korean and I like kimchi. It’s not typical American, not typical Korean, and certainly not typical Dutch, but in my family we are the essence of all the above, and we LOVE this kimchi burger!

You can find kimchi in your local Asian market (even at the Asian market in the Netherlands!). Or if you are lucky enough to have a Korean friend, ask them for a small portion. Trust me, they won’t mind a bit. Koreans love to share their love of kimchi.

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

Homemade Buttermilk – Unbroken Promises

Homemade Buttermilk – Unbroken Promises

Do you ever make a grocery list only to realize later when you are already at the supermarket with your shopping cart ready that you left your list on the kitchen counter? My husband and kids know this very well about me because I often call home to ask them to take a picture of the list and send it to me. They are not always home though, but need not worry because this is the moment when my confidence is at its very highest and I am determined I can remember everything on that list from memory. Going back home is simply not an option at this point.

I do pretty well remembering, depending on how long that list is, but one thing I never fail to forget is buttermilk. Buttermilk is not a regularly stocked item in my fridge so it is usually not in mind. I only buy it when a specific recipe calls for it, such as buttermilk pancakes, coconut cake or buttery biscuits.

I recently looked up buttermilk to learn what it actually is, and to find out if I can make it at home because after all isn’t it just buttered milk? Um….not exactly. It’s more of a soured milk. Buttermilk is the slightly sour, residual liquid left behind after butter is churned. This liquid is then left to ferment overnight converting the milk sugars into lactic acid, and it is this lactic acid that makes it so desirable for baking as it adds tenderness and tang, and reacts to the baking soda to yield light and flaky results.

One thing I did have right though about buttermilk is that I CAN make it at home. Not with butter though but rather with lemons. How nice to know this because in my kitchen milk and lemons are kitchen staples! The very best part about making buttermilk at home is being able to keep my promise to my kids and make them their favorite buttermilk pancakes the next morning, because we all know that once you have tempted your kids with the possibility of pancakes there’s no turning back.

CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

Entrecôte Steak Sauce – A Reason To Share (CWF: Albertien)

Entrecôte Steak Sauce – A Reason To Share (CWF: Albertien)

A few years ago my husband came back from a business trip in Paris and he couldn’t stop talking about a Parisian bistro called Le Relais de l’Entrecôte. The uniqueness about this place is that there is no menu. Aside from the dessert everyone in the restaurant is served the same single course menu: a walnut salad, an extra tender sirloin steak with its famous green sauce, and delicious golden thin-cut french fries. Just simply tell your waitress how you like your steak: blue, rare, medium or well done. That’s it…and moments later you will be served the most delicious steak-frites meal ever. What makes this place even more special is the feeling of home you get. Towards the end of your meal just as you are scraping off the last bit of the famous green sauce from your plate a waitress comes by to serve you seconds!

I eventually had the opportunity to dine at a Le Relais de l’Entrecôte restuarant, my first time being at the one located in the Village of Marylebone in London. I must admit it was pretty darn good, and what sets this menu apart from any other steak and fries dish is indeed their FAMOUS GREEN SAUCE. This sauce has well earned its title. It makes all the difference in the steak, even the french fries, and it can turn an ordinary steak and fries into a gourmet meal. My children loved it too, and I was happy to know there is a restaurant all 5 of us enjoy.

So back home, just like my husband after his Paris trip, I also couldn’t stop thinking about this bistro. I knew I needed to recreate this sauce. I wasn’t going to wait for the next time I was in Paris or London to have it again. When I started to do research on this sauce I wasn’t surprised to see many others out there also loved this sauce, and lucky for me they have already recreated their own version of this recipe. My search was made easy and I soon adapted a recipe that tastes just as good, arguably even better than the famous green sauce from Le Relais de l’Entrecôte itself.

Since today is Dutch-American Frirendship Day I invited my Dutch girlfriend, Albertien van Tilburg, to join me in my next MNSDK Cooking with Friends post. As she expressed a need for a recipe her whole family could enjoy, I immediately thought of the famous green sauce. To be honest I was never EVER going to post this recipe. It was that one secret recipe I was going to keep for myself, and for my family, but I thought this recipe is just way too good not to share, and certainly way too good not to share with a very special Dutch friend.

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

Spring Rolls – The Magic Spell (CWF: Sylvia)

Spring Rolls – The Magic Spell (CWF: Sylvia)

I grew up calling them egg rolls, and then into my adult years started calling them spring rolls. I think somewhere in between I even called them summer rolls. I know there is a difference in the wrapping, filling, size, and whether they are fried or not, but which is for which? Does anybody know? I live in the Netherlands now and luckily the Dutch have just one name for it: Loempia. So that is what I call it nowadays.

Just a few weeks after we moved to the Netherlands it was soon Easter. My in-laws were coming to visit and not knowing what a typical Dutch Easter brunch was (after living here for 7 years I still don’t know) I decided that having égg’ rolls on the menu was a fun idea. So an idea was born, and the search for the best loempia recipe was on.

I did indeed eventually come up with the best loempia recipe. It was honestly one of the few things I knew how to cook at the time, and if you were going to have a prize recipe in your recipe index this one was sure to be it. Everyone loved it. I was proud and happy to see that friends and family enjoyed it. I think I brought it to every potluck, holiday party, and every other event we had where I needed to bring a dish. These loempias actually misled a lot of people into thinking I could cook.

This week my dear friend, Sylvia from Hackbarth Art, came over to help me make (and eat) my loempias for this blogpost and new segment, Cooking with Friends. When I sent her a text asking if she would be interested in taking part of this post it was only a matter of seconds before I got her response. That is how good these loempias are. It works like a magic spell. Make them yourself…and use the loempias to get what you want!

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce – Penny For Your Thoughts

Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce – Penny For Your Thoughts

When I think of Thai food I always have to think about Penny’s Noodle Shop in Chicago. It was there that I had my first Thai food experience. I was just out of college and worked nearby, so it was a popular lunch destination, one where my co-workers and I visited often. And when I think of Penny’s Noodle Shop I am always reminded of how I love their Vietnamese spring rolls. Why they had Vietnamese spring rolls on a Thai menu I really don’t know, but I surely did not mind.

These Vietnamese spring rolls as you may know are not fried. They are made with softened rice paper that is filled with vegetables, noodles and a variation of meat such as chicken, pork, beef or shrimp. What makes these spring rolls so tasty though is the THAI PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE that is served with it. It never failed to have the peanut dipping sauce disappear before I could finish all my spring rolls. I always had to order a second portion of this yummy peanut dipping sauce.

Since living in the Netherlands I haven’t been able to find a good Thai restaurant that serves their Vietnamese spring rolls with a peanut dipping sauce that is as good as Penny’s Noodle Shop’s, but luckily I was able to find a peanut dipping sauce recipe that is equally as delicious. It includes the taste of red curry, so it has an extra authentic kick to it.

Whether you are having spring rolls, chicken satay, salad, or just need a dip for your veggies, this peanut dipping sauce won’t disappoint.

SEE RECIPE

Blueberry Muffin – A Muffin With My Coffee

Blueberry Muffin – A Muffin With My Coffee

I never knew coffee was such a big part of the Dutch culture until I moved to the Netherlands. Just about everyone drinks coffee here, and not just one cup. Actually on average the Dutch consume 1.84 cups/day (6.7kg/capita) according to an article published in Worldatlas. This ranks the Netherlands #3 for top 10 coffee consuming nations, following Finland and Norway taking 1st and 2nd respectively.

Since living here I have learned that coffee is not simply just for drinking. It is also offered to welcome someone into your home or office, and it is used as an excuse to get together with a friend or colleague. Coffee is an integral way of starting a conversation with someone, and sometimes it is a way of bringing a cozy (gezellig) feeling into a room. At my children’s hockey games there is always a line of parents along the sidelines drinking coffee. You can say that coffee is very much ingrained in the Dutch psyche, where a cup of coffee is appropriate and very normal anywhere and at any time.

As for me, an American who used to drink coffee with a lot of sugar and some kind of flavored cream, I now prefer my coffee black. Yes, I’ve drank so much coffee in the past 7 years that I have acquired a taste for just the coffee itself. I still however like my cup of coffee with an American blueberry muffin instead of a Dutch apple pie, but unfortunately the Dutch don’t do blueberry muffins!

So, you guessed it, I now have the tastiest blueberry muffin recipe and can bake them whenever I feel like having them. The ingredients in this recipe are very simple and I usually have most, if not all, the ingredients on-hand. Whether you have access to a bakery that makes blueberry muffins or not, you can’t compare it to a freshly baked version you make yourself at home. The best part about baking them yourself is that you can make a BIG batch, allowing you to treat yourself to more than just one muffin per cup of coffee.

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Orzo Salad With Roasted Vegetables – A Nephew’s Request

Orzo Salad With Roasted Vegetables – A Nephew’s Request

When your 18-year old nephew actually takes the time to write you an email, out of the blue, to ask you for the Orzo Salad with Roasted Vegetables recipe, you know it’s a gooooood salad. So good that i wasn’t surprised that he asked for the recipe. I was, however, a bit puzzled as to how he would cook it in college, in his dormitory. Does he have a pot? measuring cup and spoons? chopping knife and board?? I don’t remember ever cooking during my freshman year of college. I think i survived on pizza and Taco Bell, and frequent trips back home for home-cooked meals.

2 years ago my nephew came to the Netherlands to visit us for the holidays, and without doubt I knew i had to make him his favorite orzo salad (a double batch no less) for his first meal. I think deep down inside he was hoping for some roasted vegetable orzo salad during his visit, and I certainly couldn’t disappoint. Sometimes it just tastes better when someone else makes it for you, especially when that someone else is your favorite auntie. Right, MR??

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

Baking Outside The Box – Strawberry Cake

Baking Outside The Box – Strawberry Cake

Before I moved to the Netherlands in 2010 I never imagined baking a cake from scratch. I thought it was normal to bake a cake out of a box. All the dry ingredients perfectly measured and provided for you. All you had to do is add some eggs, butter and water. My cakes always came out perfect.

Well, in the Netherlands they don’t sell Duncan Hines nor Pillsbury. How was I going to bake cakes then???!! I just didn’t.

Few weeks later while at a friend’s party I was served a piece of her birthday cake. It was my first piece of cake in a while, and it sure was delicious. I asked her where she had purchased it and surprisingly she told me she had baked it herself. Before I left her party that evening she had printed out a copy of her cake recipe and kindly gave it to me. Since then I’ve been baking all my cakes…from scratch!

The recipe is from Ina Garten’s Parties cookbook. The ingredients and instructions are all simple, and the whipped cream filling and the fresh strawberries give this cake a light and fresh twist. And what’s so great about this recipe is that although it makes two 8-inch cakes, you can use just one of them (should 2 cakes be too much) and store the second cake in the freezer for up to 6 months. I usually bake a few in advance and freeze. When I need a cake on short notice I usually take one out of the freezer.  While it is thawing (around 30 minutes) I use that time to make the filling and prepare the strawberries.  Don’t worry, the second cake that was frozen comes out just as good as the unfrozen cake.

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Ranch Dip – An American Thing

Ranch Dip – An American Thing

I have a ranch dip story. It happened in my first week living in the Netherlands. I was at the supermarket and when I realized I forgot to get a bottle of ranch dressing i asked my husband to quickly go get it while I stand in line. He came back empty-handed. He said he couldn’t find it.

Not believing him I told him this time i will go get it while he stands in line. Well, there were surely a lot of dressings that looked like ranch, but OMG no ranch! In my denial I was convinced the store was just out of stock, but later when I asked around I learned that ranch dressing is an American thing and not known to the Dutch.

Since then i found the best ranch dressing/dip recipe. I make it so often that I don’t even need to look up the recipe anymore. I never even knew you could make ranch dressing/dip at home. I thought it was one of those things you just buy, like ketchup. And best of all the ingredients are easy to find and it is just a matter of stirring all the ingredients together. Super easy and super quick!

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Ramen Noodle Salad – My Secret Snack

Ramen Noodle Salad – My Secret Snack

I think the first thing I ever ‘cooked’ was Sapparo Ichiban original flavored ramen noodles. There was always a big box (a box included 21 packages!!) in our kitchen pantry. It was one of my favorite meals as a child.

What I loved the most about ramen noodles is eating them raw, not cooked, just straight out of the package. Sometimes it even tasted better than the warm cooked version. This was my little secret though as this was not the proper way to eat ramen noodles. My older sisters didn’t eat ramen noodles raw (or at least I wasn’t aware of it), and certainly neither did my parents, so I kept this to myself. Thank goodness my parents always bought the large box though. Taking just 1 or 2 packages here and there never went noticed!

In my twenties I had stopped eating these packaged ramen noodles because of my growing interest in eating more whole and fresh foods. I did crave it though, and was often tempted to buy just 1 package. But having 3 small children gave me the willpower to just walk away.

This was only until a few months ago when I landed on a David Chang episode of Mind of a Chef: Noodle. In the preview he explained that while other kids came home to an after school snack of Chef Boyrdee, he ate ramen noodles after school…RAW! He even sprinkled on the little packaged seasoning right over the raw ramen noodles. Mr. King of Noodles and I had the same secret as children. I must definitely be on the right track in my cooking journey if I had the same idea as David Chang!

Since then I’ve found THE BEST salad that includes a sprinkle of raw ramen noodles. I could eat this everyday for lunch. My family rate this the best salad EVER!!

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Cooking with Friends

Spanakopita – Remembering Spinach (CWF: Nadja and Esmee)

Spanakopita – Remembering Spinach (CWF: Nadja and Esmee)

Do you remember spinach? You know, that green superfood that kinda got pushed to the sidelines when foods like kale and chard started taking center stage as the new trendy superfood? Lucky for you I’m here to remind you how tasty spinach can be, that […]

Entrecôte Steak Sauce – A Reason To Share (CWF: Albertien)

Entrecôte Steak Sauce – A Reason To Share (CWF: Albertien)

A few years ago my husband came back from a business trip in Paris and he couldn’t stop talking about a Parisian bistro called Le Relais de l’Entrecôte. The uniqueness about this place is that there is no menu. Aside from the dessert everyone in […]

Spring Rolls – The Magic Spell (CWF: Sylvia)

Spring Rolls – The Magic Spell (CWF: Sylvia)

I grew up calling them egg rolls, and then into my adult years started calling them spring rolls. I think somewhere in between I even called them summer rolls. I know there is a difference in the wrapping, filling, size, and whether they are fried […]