Saturday, April 28, 2012

Queen's Day is fast approaching

This week everyone is getting excited for Queen's Day but today, I just can't seem to fake it... this weather absolutely sucks! American friends, imagine having the 4th of July on a cold, grey, rainy weekend. Sounds pretty lame right? My bad attitude may be attributed to the last few months away from Florida sunshine. But the Dutch always say good weather arrives for Koninginnedag on April 30th...


See what I mean? Maybe it's some kind of orange miracle? Let's see what happens but I'm more than ready for a few bursts of sunshine and picnic weather to last longer than one day.

The last time I celebrated this crazy orange holiday it was ridiculously fun, chaotic and frankly, exhausting towards the end, so I think we'll take things a bit easier this year...

Celebrating Queens Day 2010 in style. (Yes, that means wearing fancy bathrobes and lots of orange)

This year we'll get things started on Queen's Night which happens to be a friend's birthday celebration (Happy birthday, Liz!) Then we'll try for an rise early the following morning to check out goods at the famous vrijmarkt (my Dutchman is always convinced he'll find loads of antique treasures, ha!) To clear up any confusion, you can read a humorous account of the festivities over at the blog Invading Holland.

Check back here next week to see how we survived the wild sea of orange. In the meanwhile, take a few minutes this clip from the Dutch series Nederland van Boven (Netherlands from Above). We've been watching this interesting series together after dinner, adding Dutch subtitles helps improve my vocabulary!

Sure, it's in Dutch but you'll get the essence of how wild this holiday celebration can get!

Have a great weekend and for those of you in Holland enjoy your Koninginnedag!

Friday, April 20, 2012

White Wine + Mint Sangria

Last week's girls night started out in the kitchen and subsequently we were so caught up with cooking and chatting that we stayed in there almost the entire evening. Sure, our bruschetta was scrumptious but, let's be honest, the proximity of the booze also had a lot to do with it!

This white wine sangria was fruity, fizzy but not too sweet. And since it's filled to the brim with fruit can I go ahead and say it's even border line good for you?? Well, maybe not but it sure is delicious! Adding a few leaves of fresh mint makes each serving crisp and refreshing. I'd even go far enough to say it's my favorite drink at the moment and will probably become one of your favorites too. This is a perfect picnic party drink, if only the weather would hurry and warm up!

Photos via Anja- I was too busy sipping sangria + munching bruschetta and forgot to snap a pic!

All you need...
2 bottles pinot grigio (or your favorite white wine)
350ml Cointreau (orange liqueur)
500 grams (bite size piecesof fruit such as...
mango, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and apple 
1 liter sparkling water
Fresh mint leaves
Hint: use frozen fruit, it's inexpensive and keeps the sangria chilled!

Four simple steps...
1. Combine wine, liqueur and fruit in a large pitcher or container 
(a big soup pot works just fine, why not?!)
2. Mix well and refrigerate for a few hours
3. Fill individual glasses half full with sparkling water, add sangria
4. Garnish with fresh mint

Booze free alternative: Combine bits of fruit + Orangina + mint, yum!

Let me know if you try this recipe! And don't forget to check the Friday List Link-Up with Company of Clever. Have a happy weekend!

Company of Clever

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bruschetta Smörgåsbord

Remember how excited I was to finally host a ladie's night? Well, it turned out to be perfectly delightful and delicious evening full of international expat friends. Actually, this weekend was so much fun it's left me feeling really lucky to have rounded up such a nice group of ladies to wine, dine and explore the city with!

For our menu... I thought it would be fun, simple and budget friendly to create a few varieties of Bruschetta. We all brought a different toppings like soft goat cheese, bright red tomatoes, caramelized onions, mozzarella, smoked salmon, feta, courgette, basil and of course fresh baguettes. Everyone pitched with cooking, so the kitchen was filled with gossip, laughter and free flowing white wine sangria!

You can't go wrong with a classic! 

While my gal-pals sliced and diced, I made a simple oil with crushed garlic + pepper + herbs to drizzle on top of the baguette pieces before adding the toppings. We all voted (haphazardly) on which toppings to use and then rotated rounds of eating and preparing while another batch of carb creations baked in my little oven.

What's great about this dish is the diversity- with so many toppings everyones preferences were satisfied.

Goat cheese + Honey + Herbs

Here are a few combinations that we loved: 
Garlic + Basil + Tomatoes + Mozzarella (the original) 
Caramelized onions + Courgette + Goat cheese (a favorite!)
Roasted courgette + Feta (+ smoked salmon for some)
Goat cheese + Honey + Herbs (of course!)

Towards the end, we mixed this and that together until practically every crumb had been devoured. Then we moved on to brownies for dessert and somehow rolled out stuffed bellies over to the couch to watch Dirty Dancing. What a flavorful, fun night, I can't wait for the next one!

PS. Check back here tomorrow for the white wine sangria recipe. It's refreshing and especially perfect for once the weather warms up (hopefully that will happen soon??)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Around Amsterdam: Love the place you live

Now that the sun is shining in the late afternoon it's nice to go for early evening walks. This a great little time to slow down and catch up before or after dinner.

Sometimes we like to grab a few Belgian beers and sit along the water. I snapped a few photos the other day while wandering our 'hood, enjoy!


A few weeks ago I joined Design Mom's Love the Place you Live link up. I love the idea and want to do a little spin off of my own. A few things I love about living here in Amsterdam: famous museums, public parks, picturesque buildings, scenic canals, quaint neighborhood cafes and bustling markets all just a little bike ride away!

Sometimes I feel so lucky plus you know lately, I'm all about finding simple pleasures to be thankful for. So, in upcoming posts I'll be sharing some more of my favorite spots around the city (yup, that might be a fancy excuse to visit museums and go out for cakes and coffees more often :)

Tell me, what do you love about the place you live?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Around Amsterdam : Walking Through History

We enjoyed the long weekend relaxing at home with friends and wandering the city together. My Dutchman discovered that historical World War II guided maps were available at the Verzet Museum (Dutch Resistance Museum) for only fifty-cents! So we headed through the Plantage neighborhood and began our walking tour...

The Dockworkers Monument commemorates a large strike against the Jewish arrests in 1941

The tour takes about 90 minutes and set to begin at the Anne Frank Museum in the Jordan then wanders through the city center over to the Verzet Museum in the east (except, we did things backwards for convenience). 

Did you know that Amsterdam was under German control for five years? We were really absorbed into the history of the city and the Dutch resistance. The tour includes some of the more gruesome moments of WWII, it was truly wake up call that these events happened right where we live. There were spots here and there I pass almost every day and didn't even realize were tied to the war. Being surrounded by history is something I find so interesting about living here in Amsterdam!

I'd really recommend this for anyone interested in related topics, plus, you simply can't beat the price of this walking guide!

Do you know of any other cheep (free?) self guided walking tours of Amsterdam? I'd love to know!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Rainbow Risotto with Fresh Veggies

Our recent, refreshing spring weather and an afternoon stop to the Albert Cuyp Market inspired me to whip up some risotto with fresh veggies. Unfortunately, the sun has fled Amsterdam but this satisfying dish is easy to make and perfect for dinner on a cold, grey evening. I love how the bright veggies add a bold garnish to this dish!

First, prepare lots of colorful fresh veggies and then add in some garlic and Italian herbs, I love using basil from our biological plant that sits on our kitchen window.

I start with onions, garlic and carrots in a deep pan with medium-low heat and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Then add the red peppers, courgette and mushrooms (in this case, I ended up skipping the tomatoes). After sauteing the veggies (about 5-8 minutes) add the vegetable broth and 300 grams of risotto (following the box directions). Serve immediately and top with goat cheese (Parmesan also tastes great too).

This cooking tip made the risotto creamy to perfection. (I used a few tablespoons of olive oil instead of butter). Once it's completed, top with more basil and a sprinkle of soft goat cheese.

Try serving a scoop of the veggie risotto with an arugula + tomato + mushroom salad. Add a touch balsamic glaze for tinge of sweet and tangy.

Leftover risotto can be served chilled as a salad, lekker!

I think it would be fun to make a risotto primavera and use fresh spring veggies like asparagus, carrots and peas. Do you have any favorite spring time recipes to share? I'm always curious for new inspirations!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Twenty-Six + Cakes

And just like that, I'm twenty-six! Having first moved to Amsterdam at age twenty-three, it's crazy to think I'm still here, turning the page on another year. There seems to be enough said already about birthdays, getting older, hopefully wiser, setting goals, moving forward with life and on and on (besides, I already posted lots of happy positive thoughts here and here)...

... So, today I'd rather focus on what's really important when it comes to the pleasure of birthdays... cakes! All kinds of cakes make me happy, especially birthday cakes. And I bet they make you happy too. Unless you're some kind of anti-birthday cake person and in that case may I suggest you donate your unwanted cake to me, I'll eat it up! Everyone I know in Amsterdam is busy today and the weather isn't too great, so here I am hanging out at our apartment, browsing fancy cakes and chatting with friends back home. Tonight, we're heading at my favorite Belgian bar for biertjes and happjes! Funny enough, this is my first birthday celebration in Holland (last year in Florida and before that, Madrid) Hoera!

Let it be known that my mom makes the most amazing almond poppyseed cake (with fresh whipped cream and strawberries!) which happens to be my favorite birthday option, of course. The only one exception to this rule was on my 5th birthday when I begged and pleaded for a mint-chocolate-chip-ice-cream-cake with the Little Mermaid on top. Because it was the 90's and Ariel is awesome, duh.

My mom's almond cake will always remind me of home and special occasions. Do you have any foods that stir up important memories?

I wholeheartedly agree!

I hope you're hungry because everything mentioned in this post is looks pretty delectable.
Instead of twenty-six let's just stick to six delicious, lovely cakes that I'm dreaming of baking and eating with friends some day (birthdays or not). 

Poppy seed + Strawberry Cake via Not Without Salt
This one reminds me so much of my mom's special recipe for my favorite birthday cake!

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Cake via Smitten Kitchen

Amelie's Famous Plum Cake via WhiskFlipStir

Wow, organizing all of those fancy cake pictures made me pretty hungry and reminded me that here in Holland it's common to bring your own birthday cake to work! In the States, everyone celebrates you for that special day, no effort necessary, ha!

The Dutch birthday song and typically Dutch birthday calendar are interesting little cultural differences I'm adapting to here in my second home. Sometimes though, these little things still make me giggle!

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Around Amsterdam : De Bloemenmarkt

Hello April! I love that it's the time of year when bulbs are popping open with little bursts of colors all over the city. Just outside of our kitchen window pink, purple and white blossoms are beginning to fill the garden. You know spring has officially arrived once Keunenhof Gardens has opened their gates for the season.

The other day it dawned on me that I've never posted about Amsterdam's floating flower market. So, I grabbed my camera, hopped on my bike and headed into the city center to fend off tourists wandering aimlessly through the city's most overpriced famous flower market.

Fact: Originally, the bloemenmen rode up the Amstel river and sold their flowers from their along the Single on a daily basis before permanent stalls were added.

These flowers really go through an ugly duckling transformation from bulb to bloom.

Located in the heart of the city, between the Muntplein and Koningsplein, visitors won't have a hard time finding this floating garden market. Each stall is loaded up with bumpy, brown bulbs and pots filled with bright, bold narcissus, lilies, tulips and everything in between.

Never trust the prices in a tourist trap, just sayin'. 

I'm afraid we Amsterdammers may have spoken too soon and jinxed our luck because the skies are back to grey and rumors are swirling that snow may on the horizon for this week. 
Please sunny spring, come back soon, especially since my birthday is tomorrow!