Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cheesy the Snowman

I was browsing the CRAFT zine blog the other day and came across this post with a cheeseball snowman and I couldn’t get it out of my head!  I knew I had to make one.  I made up my own cheeseball recipe instead of the pickle one she used in the post.  It’s hard to find a decent pickle in this country, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever even SEEN pickle relish here before!

Snowman Cheeseball

My Version of a Cheeseball Snowman

  • 3 blocks (200 grams) cream cheese +100 grams softened and whipped cream cheese, set aside
  • 150 grams shredded cheese (I used a cheddar/swiss/something else that was probably Gouda mix)
  • 50 grams bacon bits (or fry up your own bacon until it’s really crispy and crumble it up)
  • 2 green onions, sliced finely
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced You can add other various herbs and spices to get it to taste how you like, but the above ingredients are a good start.

Mix all ingredients (except whipped cream cheese) together and mold into one large ball and one small ball.  Refrigerate until firm.

Put the small ball on top of the larger ball, snowman style, and spread the softened cheese over the top until it looks smooth and pretty!

Now comes the fun part!  Use your imagination, but here’s what I did:

  • Arms- pretzel sticks
  • Eyes & Buttons- Olives
  • Nose- Teeny Pickle
  • Mouth- cherry tomato, seeded and sliced into a smile
  • Scarf & Hat- long strip of carrot (use your veggie peeler) and small slice from the fat end of the carrot and a slightly larger chunk from the thin end

Check out Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam for more yummy eats!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday- December 28, 2009

This is the last menu plan of the year! Everyone wonders where 2009 has gone to and I am no exception. It seems like when I was a kid a year lasted FOREVER. Now, time zips by so fast. If it's zipping by at this pace now, I'm probably going to get motion sickness from it when I'm 40! I have been SORTA menu planning but not posting it. I need to get back in the habit. If I ask Martijn what he wants for dinner he just says "I don't know, no one made a menu this week..." I think he's trying to hint at something, but it would be okay if he'd make a suggestion every now and then too!

Chicken in the Turbo- We'll probably do this twice since it's easy and the huge package of frozen chicken is too much for one meal. Served with something green and garlic rosemary potatoes!

Gourmet Night for our anniversary.

Pan Fried Paprika Pangasius- I had this recipe on a menu awhile back but didn't get to it. It still looks good, so hopefully I'll get to it this week.

Chili & Cornbread- I think I'm just going to wing this with some beans, tomatoes, little ground beef and taco seasoning. Unless you have an AMAZING chili recipe that you suggest I try instead.

Do you have anything delightfully delicious you plan on making this week?

P.S.  I’m trying Windows Live Writer out, so if you see strange happenings on my blog please forgive me.  This is supposed to be “easier” but I might just go back to my old ways if I hate it. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ugly Roasted Garlic and Onion Soup

The chef for this weeks FNCCC this week is Emeril Lagasse. There are more than 5000 of his recipes to choose from, and I think that 4999 of them either have prohibitively expensive ingredients or ingredients that I can't find here. That's not totally true, but most of the ones I thought looked good had one or two ingredients that were integral to the recipe that I wouldn't be able to get. I'm totally willing to do substitutions, but in most cases nothing I would've subbed would've stayed true to the recipe.

I finally found something that I thought I could handle- soup. What I didn't know was that it was ugly soup. Really ugly soup. There seems to be a reason that this soup didn't have a picture on the website. It's just that ugly. Tricky camera angles and editing have made it slightly less ugly, but I'm really not lying.

Roasted Garlic and Onion Soup

Ugly Roasted Garlic and Onion Soup
Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch, published by William and Morrow, 1993.


4 to 6 large red onions (3 1/2 pounds), quartered
Cloves from 2 large heads of garlic (about 1 cup), peeled
2 shallots (about 1/3 cup), peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Essence, recipe follows
6 cups chicken stock (I used water and veggie bullion)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves (I used about 1/2 tsp dried)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves (I used about 1/2 tsp dried)
3/4 teaspoon salt (skipped this, the bullion powder has enough salt and the reviews on foodnetwork.com indicated it didn't need it)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup cream (I used evaporated milk to cut down on the calories a little)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the onions, garlic, and shallots in a roasting pan just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Add the olive oil and Essence and toss to coat. Roast until well browned, about 1 1/2 hours (1 1/2 hours would've left me with smoldering cinders in the bottom of the pan. I did 45 minutes and even then there was a lot of charring. If you want to roast the garlic and onions for 1 1/2 hours then drop the heat).

Remove the pan from the oven and set over 2 burners on medium-low heat . Add 2 cups of chicken stock, sage, thyme and salt. Cook for 10 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate any of the caramelized bits from the bottom. (I have a flat top stove, so putting the roasting pan on the burners wouldn't work very well. Instead I poured 2 cups of boiling water over the top and scraped up all the good bits from the bottom of the pan. I then transfered it to a stock pot and did the 10 minutes of cooking there)

Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth, about 2 minutes (or use your magical wondrous stick blender).

Transfer the mixture to a large pot over medium-low heat (or not, depending on how you do things). Add remaining 4 cups chicken stock and balsamic vinegar, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and stir in cream. Serve with French bread.

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
* 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
* 2 tablespoons salt
* 2 tablespoons garlic powder
* 1 tablespoon black pepper
* 1 tablespoon onion powder
* 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
* 1 tablespoon dried oregano
* 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup
(Put the rest it in a nice shaker jar)

The Verdict: This was way spicier than I had expected, but not in a bad way. I think if you left out or changed up some of the spices it'd make a really good base for some sort of beef stew.

Martijn thought it resembled Gulash the way it's being served in the Czech Republic and Hungary. He also said it's not ugly, but reminded him of the wonderful goodness that he got served during his holidays there.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Market in Aachen, Germany

On the 11th I went to a Christmas Market in Aachen (Germany) with one of my awesome friends here. Her parents are from Germany originally which was cool because she explained a lot of the "traditional" things to me that I might not have gotten otherwise. It was a blast, and now I'm going to spam you with pictures!

This is the big sign announcing the market. I mean, it's not like you could MISS the market, but I did like the giant cookies standing on the sides.
Christmas Market Aachen

These are the roofs of some of the stalls in a TINY section of the market. This thing was huge I'm telling you!
Stall-tops at the Christmas Market

We were right by a huge cathedral. I wish I would've snooped around it a little more and gotten some better pictures but I was distracted by all of the shiny Christmas things.
Christmas Market Aachen

Here are a couple more with various stalls and people milling about.
Christmas Market Aachen

Christmas Market Aachen

Now for some of the goodies INSIDE the stalls!

Growing up we always had an awesome Christmas village. I don't have anything here, but I think I'm going to need to start my own small collection. It doesn't feel like Christmas without. There were some little cheapie pieces and also some pieces that were up into the several hundred euro range. I was drooling, but decided maybe I shouldn't blow our entire mortgage payment on a tiny house that you can't even live in!
Christmas Villages Stall

There were gobs of ornament stalls. I liked this one because they had them all out in little bowls and they looked so pretty!
Ornaments Galore!

The candy stalls smelled SO good. I just wanted to hang a piece of cotton candy from my nose and smell it the rest of the day.
Candies and Cookies

Martijn thinks I took this picture to torment him (he has this THING about roosters), but I thought the colors were fantastic.
Christmas Market Aachen

I thought this little hedgehog was cool. His spikes are just little branches that have been cut off at an angle. Very clever.
Silly Wooden Hedgehog

This doily stand was amazing. They had these teeny little lace parasols and I was so tempted to buy one for one of my sock monkeys! I kept my wallet in my pocket though and continued on...
Doily Stand

I really should've bought this! I could've used the witch and the cat in some sort of project I'm sure. It totally cracked me up. If I see one next year I'm snapping it up.
Witch Gingerbread House

This wasn't actually in the market, but in a shop window nearby. I want a Christmas tree full of tiny knit sweaters, don't you?
Funny Little Sweaters!

Visit Unknown Mami for more Sundays in My City (or someone else's as the case may be).

Unknown Mami

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fragments- December 18, 2009

Not much to this weeks fragments. Every week I say I'll write things down so I can remember them, and every week I don't do it. Anyhow, onto the fragments!

  • I'm incredibly cross that our fairly young seldom driven car that had "nothing" (according to the garage) wrong with it in July suddenly had a €1200 service bill. I'm so not impressed with anything to do with cars here. I think it's a racket run by the mafia and I feel like going to school to be an auto mechanic to fight back. Maybe I should find out about the witness protection program here first.
  • I had a blast in Germany last Friday. I'm working on editing my pictures and I'll probably post them on Sunday for "Sundays in My City" which I haven't participated in for way too long.
  • I know that women complain about men being absolute babies when they're sick, but I must've found the exception to that rule. Martijn is sick enough that he stayed home from work yesterday (and that means he really feels awful because the man doesn't stay home sick). Instead of laying in bed and moaning and complaining about dying (like I would do), he was apologizing to ME for being a bother. I didn't think that making him tea and pumping him full of Tylenol and Ibuprofen was much of a bother. I do have my fingers very tightly crossed that I don't get sick!
  • Saturday of last week, Santa visited the NAWC kids in Eindhoven. Everyone (including Santa I think) had a really good time. There were a couple of shy children, but no one who was shrieking in crying in horror so I think that was good!


  • It feels weird that next week is Christmas. We have our tree up, the nativity out, and the stockings hung but I'm missing something to make it be CHRISTMAS! I need to figure out a Netherlands Christmas tradition to start in my little family. I'd love to hear what your family traditions are!
Make sure to check out Half Past Kissin' Time for more fragmented fun!

Mommy's Idea

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Crab Salad in Wonton Cups

For this week's FNCCC the chef is Ellie Krieger. She had quite a lot of tasty looking recipes but I finally settled on Crab Salad in Crisp Wonton Cups because I needed something to take along to a NAWC potluck and I had wonton wrappers in the freezer.

Crab Salad in Wonton Cups

Crab Salad in Crisp Wonton Cups
Courtesy Ellie Krieger

For the Wonton Cups:
Cooking spray (Didn't use this, you're already oiling the wrappers, I don't think you need to oil the pans too)
18 wonton wrappers, thawed (if frozen)
2 teaspoons canola oil (I used sunflower oil)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used my salt grinder and just ground a bit of Real Salt on each)

For the dressing:
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (I just used all the juice from the one lime that I zested. I figure it was close enough!)
1/4 teaspoons salt (Just ground in salt to taste)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (You'll be happier if you use freshly ground pepper)
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the salad:
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked over (Since I'm not a gazillionare I used surimi sticks (aka "krab") and it worked brilliantly)
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced mango
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (regular old green onions)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 2 mini-muffin (I used regularly sized ones and skipped the cooking spray) tins with cooking spray.

Brush the wonton wrappers with oil, and place each wrapper into a section of a mini-muffin tin. Gently press each wrapper into the tin and arrange so that it forms a cup shape. The wrapper will overlap itself and stick up out of the cup. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned and crisp. Remove from the tin and allow wrappers to cool.

Meanwhile whisk together the zest, lime juice, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Add the oil and whisk until well combined.

In a medium bowl, toss together the crabmeat, celery, mango, scallion and cilantro. Add dressing and toss to combine. Fill each cup with the crab salad and serve.

The Verdict:I used two wonton wrappers for each since I used a full size muffin pan. Lay one down straight and another on top at a 45 degree angle and press them into the tin. I had a lot of salad leftover after I was done filling the wrappers AND I did full sized cups so more filling would fit in them. Also, these were good on the first day, but I think making the salad a day in advance would make them even better! They got rave reviews at the potluck. The only thing I didn't like about this was cutting up the mango. Stupid mango pits.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge: Salmon en Croute

I failed at getting November's Daring Cooks Challenge of sushi done, so I vowed to get this month's done and I was quite glad I did.

The December 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

Salmon en Croute

Equipment required:
For the Salmon en croute
food processor
rolling pin

Salmon en croute:
Mascarpone or cream cheese 5.2 ounces/150 gr
Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach - 0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr
Shortcrust pastry (recipe below) - 17.6 ounces, 500 gr.Salmon fillet (skinless)- 17.6 ounce/500 gr
egg - 1 medium sized

1.Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.
2. Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don’t have any thick lumps of pastry as these won’t cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

Shortcrust pastry*:
While this is not mandatory to do, I highly recommend making your own shortcrust pastry as it is very simple to do! As mentioned in the notes; please make sure to not add too much water as that is the key to having a successful shortcrust pastry.

450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter
pinch of salt

Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can use that as shown in the above video.
Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.

For best results make sure the butter is very cold.

*I used frozen puff pastry because it was more simple and allowed me to actually get this challenge done!

The Verdict: This was really very good and suprisingly simple. I'll certainly make it again! I couldn't get my hands on watercress so I used another from the garden cress in hopes that would impart a similar flavor. I also squeezed a bit of lemon juice into the cheese mixture. I think 30 minutes was probably plenty of time for the salmon to finish cooking and I'll probably take it out at 25 minutes next time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Fragments- December 11, 2009

I'm going to be gone all day tomorrow and I think if I miss another week of fragmenting my mom is going to start some sort of revolt against me so I'm setting this to autopost at 12:01.

The reason I'm going to be gone all day tomorrow is because I'm going to a Christmas market in Germany. I'm SO VERY excited! This will be my first time so I'm going to take my camera and be snap happy.

I finished up my Christmas tree skirt and put it on the tree. I was too impatient to decorate the tree before I took a picture, thus I "Picniked" in some ornaments so the tree wouldn't feel naked and exposed on top. I'm so happy with my skirt, I want to make a hundred more just because it's so fun to see how they come together and look amazing!

Picture 3102

This Saturday is looking quite busy. Martijn got wrangled into being a jolly old man for a couple of hours in the morning and then we're going to a new friend's house for delicious authentic Spanish food! Inbetween we need to get our Saturday errands done. Normally I'd just take care of the weekend errands tomorrow so we didn't need to worry about them, but I WILL BE PLAYING!

Do you send out Christmas cards? I feel like Scrooge because I don't and I've gotten a whole bunch from people. Maybe I need to change my Scroogey wayward ways? What do you think?

We celebrated Sinterklaas last weekend. It was supposed to be "scaled down" a bit this year, but I'm not entirely sure everyone got the memo because I felt like I made out like a bandit. I got a salad spinner (which I've been wanting for awhile), a silicone muffin pan, a very snuggly warm blanket and bunches of warm socks among other goodies. It's tradition to attach a funny poem to the gifts and my mother in law wrote poems for nearly EVERY gift... we didn't get home until 2 am! I was happy though because I understood at least 90% of them and the other 10% both Martijn and his dad thought were really way too hard!

The Pineapple Upside Down (cup)Cakes were a hit yesterday. I am quite impressed with the photo I got of them too. One of the guys who had seen the picture before they came over said "Oh, was that YOUR picture on your blog? I thought it was professional." Nope, just me and my little pink point and shoot. It does give me some good pictures if I can get the light just right. Having the light just right here in the land-o-darkness is getting increasingly difficult. I hate it when the sun is disappearing at 3:30 in the afternoon. I'm telling you it's just plain ridiculous!

Don't miss out on all the fragmented fun over at Mrs 4444's Half Past Kissin' Time.

Friday Fragments?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Pineapple Upside Down (Cup)Cakes

This week's chef is Duff Goldman, The Ace of Cakes guy. In honor of his awesome cakes, the assignment this week was to make and decorate a cake. I may be good at a lot of things, but cake decorating isn't included in that list. I almost skipped this week, but then I decided I'd cheat and make something that was pretty on its own- Pineapple Upside Down (Cup)Cake! I browsed around online for a good recipe and came to the conclusion that they all made way more than I wanted or used boxed cake mix. I finally stumbled over Coconut & Lime's recipe and decided it had to be the one!

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

I used vanilla sugar instead of liquid vanilla and sugar since I figured it would probably achieve the same result. Maybe more vanillaey, but good. I also used maraschino cherries for a punch of color. My cupcake pans seem to be a little more shallow than US ones, so I got 12 cupcakes instead of the 10 that the recipe says. I also needed to get a little creative in getting the pineapple rings to fit. The recipe suggests cutting out a wedge, but that still didn't give me enough room to use my cherries so I cut the rings in half and then sliced part of the inner circle out.

I don't have a verdict yet, the guinea pigs are Martijn's dinner group tonight. I did sample the corner of one though and it wasn't too shabby. I'll update the post later once the guys taste them!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas Tree Skirt- in progress!

I've been busy working on my Christmas tree skirt. I'm SO pleased with how it's turning out that I can't help but give you a sneak peek!

Christmas Tree Skirt in progress

I think most members of my family have a tree skirt like this, but the original pattern had a ruffle around the edge. I decided to rebel* and do prairie points instead. I AM IN LOOOOVE! I still need to make the ties and sew the backing on but I feel giddy with joy about how good it looks. Thanks to my Grandma M for the fabric to make it.

*Apparently rebel (reb-uhl- the person who goes against tradition or whatever) is spelled the same as rebel (ree-bel- as in the ACT of being a rebel). I kept thinking they must be spelled differently, but they're not. I need to keep things like this in mind when I'm complaining about how confusing Dutch is.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Cauliflower Soup and Parmesan Crisps

It's turned into soup weather, so when I was browsing Dave Lieberman's recipes for the FNCCC and came across the Silky Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps recipe, I decided it was a must make! I pretty much did the entire recipe as written, so I don't have much witty commentary to insert throughout.

Cauliflower Soup

Silky Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps
Courtesy Dave Lieberman


For the Soup:
1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Crisps:
1 cup shredded Parmesan
Chopped chives, for garnish (I realized I didn't have any chives and didn't want to run to the store so I used green onions instead)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the leaves and thick core from the cauliflower, coarsely chop, and reserve. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is very soft and falling apart, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and, using a hand held immersion blender, puree the soup, or puree in small batches in a blender and return it to the pot. Add the Parmesan and stir until smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, make the Parmesan crisps:

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the shredded cheese over the foil in 1 even thin layer. Bake about 10 minutes until golden brown and crisps. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Break sheet of crisp cheese into large pieces and garnish each soup bowl with a couple shards and a pinch of fresh chives.

The Verdict: Martijn said "I'm not sure if this soup was worth all of the effort you put into making it." You see, it wasn't bad at all, but it really wasn't anything remarkable either. The Parmesan Crisps were a bit of a disaster too. They stuck to the foil and didn't add that much to the soup. Since it already HAS Parmesan in it, I think you'd be better off just skipping the crisps and eating it with oyster or saltine crackers.

cheese "crisps"

All that being said, I think this would make a wonderful BASE for a soup. The texture was lovely and I think it would be really good if you added in some other goodies like potatoes, broccoli, ham or maybe even some clams.

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