Spanish Sunday

On Friday night, G returned home from a week-long business trip in NYC and Paris.  During my ‘single’ week, it was pretty quiet in the kitchen preparing very simple meals for myself.  With G back home, I was ready to dirty some pots and pans and make a mess of the keuken.

Despite the freezing temperatures which began this weekend, we bundled up and biked to the markets and grocery store to prepare for some weekend cooking.  Saturday’s meal wasn’t very fussy.  Rosemary butter chicken, hand-mashed potatoes and some fresh green beans made for a cozy night in by the fire.  Super Lekker!

On Sunday, we spent our lunchtime at the gym building up our appetites for our Spanish Sunday meal:  Gambas Picantes and Tortilla Española.  After our long holiday in northern Spain this summer, I continue to be inspired to try to replicate all the tasty meals we enjoyed there.  It also helps that G bought me a Spanish cookbook with tons of great recipes.  Today we found two more keepers.

The Spanish tortilla can be served so many different ways—a starter, main course, sandwich filling, or tapa and either warm or cold.  It’s one of the most common tapas and I can’t remember how many times we ordered one during our trip.  While there are several variations and different ingredients can easily be added (various meats or veggies), the basic ingredients include potatoes, olive oil, onion, eggs, salt, pepper, and butter.   Easy.  The tricky part is the cooking, it’s all about timing…which is while I let G take the reins on this first stab.  He can make a mean omelette, so logic told me he was well suited for the tortilla.

Pan fry the boiled potatoes

Off heat: let the potatoes, caramelized onions , & eggs "marry" for a few minutes

Back on heat, gently swirl to cook the egg

The flip for cooking side two...and my cue to start the shrimp

Last night I began marinating the shrimp in olive oil with chili peppers and garlic.

 

Since shrimp are so quick to cook, I waited until G was on side two of the tortilla before tossing the gambas on the hot skillet.

Perfectly pink and ready to eat!

 

Paired with a fantastic Chilean Shiraz and a garlicky wheat roll, there was no doubt we had happy tummies tonight.

Great job G!

Full of flavor and not overly spicy

Eet smakelijk!!!

 

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An American Sunday in A’Dam

I love living abroad, but sometimes miss the Sunday Funday’s I used to have in NYC with my friends.  Some Sunday’s were “healthy”:  run a 5 or 10k race in Central Park and then ingest twice the calories at brunch that we had just burned off.  Other’s were “holier”:  morning mass at the neighborhood church and then off to any bar that was televising the Saints football game (not always an easy find in NYC or Hoboken).  And in the summertime when it was too hot for a run and too early for football watching, we could easily make a marathon day out of eating and drinking.  Really.

I was thrilled when I heard about the Sunday pop-up brunch in Amsterdam called lovefood; click here to check it out.  I went once in the spring and have been eager to return.  Jason Hartley, an Englishman living in Amsterdam for 10+ years is a consultant during the week and a chef during the weekend cooking up a fantastic brunch and satisfying tummies of all cultures.  It’s a solid brunch menu with my favorite brunch beverage, the Bloody Mary.  Lovefood has had several pop-up homes in A’Dam and is currently serving up Sunday’s in the canal ring on the Prinsengracht.  Today was the 2-year celebration for lovefood which featured a special birthday pop-up at Tommy Hilfiger’s People’s Place; a new restaurant/bar/event space which  is exclusive to TH’s staff and business customers.

 

 

J at the Bloody Bar

Me and J mix our Bloodys

super lekker bloodys

Proost with J & E

With beverages in hand, it was time to order.  I love breakfast food.  And I appreciate the American breakfast more now that it is not at my disposal.  While my mom can make some fabulous dinners, I loved when we were in need of a trip to the grocery,  and she made breakfast for dinner because somehow there always seemed to be enough eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage or biscuits for a satisfying meal.

My patient friends can attest to the fact that I could never make up my mind when time came to place my brunch order.  Sweet or savory, sweet or savory?   Which begs the follow up question, ‘mimosa or bloody, mimosa or bloody?’.   Fortunately lovefood’s menu is equipped for i-want-my-cake-and-it-eat-too people like me.  It’s called The Full Mikey.  (catchy, eh?)  And this morning I was Mikey and I would eat anything, anything that Jason Hartely was cooking.

The Full Mikey

The Full Veggie & Eggs Florentine

Complimentary birthday cupcakes

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A few hours later it was time to change gears.  The NFL championship games were on and I was ready to support my Packer friends.  I had a gold scarf, but lacked a single article of hunter green to show my support for the cheese heads.  J had plenty of green in stock and happily loaned me a green shirt and dubbed me an honorary Packer fan for the night.  We are 7 hours ahead of U.S. CST, but found an Aussie bar in Rembrandtplein showing not only the Packers/Bears game, but the Jets/Steelers game as well as long as you were in the door by midnight.  It proved to be a game worth staying up late for.  I’m tempted to find a cheesehead hat for the big game.  After all, this is Holland…land of kaas.  Veel success to the Packers in two weeks!

Happy Fans!

Game Over!

 

A Halve + A Kwart = Pain

On Sunday, G and I were up at 7.30, out the door by 8.30, and knew it was only hours before we were subjecting ourselves to torture.  I’m not sure about the exact temperature yesterday, but I am certain it was not above 40F/4.4C.  A few months ago, we signed up for the Egmond Halve (half) Marathon.  I’ve had a half marathon on my bucket list for a few years (for me, a half is my “marathon”) and while training in October and November, I was getting really excited about crossing that one off.  Then December came.  And went.  And I didn’t run a single day.  I’m not making excuses, but two trips to the States and a week of being sick didn’t exactly help keep me on schedule.  Fortunately I didn’t have to be a total quitter and there was a kwart (quarter) marathon race before the halve to which I could switch.  While G’s December training regime was almost as non-existent as mine, he’s wayyyy better conditioned as a runner than I am so he still ran the halve marathon.

The quarter run is 6.5 miles/10.5 km and the half is 13.1 miles/21.1km.  My course is outlined in black, G’s continues with the black and white dots:

Given the Netherlands is a relatively flat country, they like to kick it up a notch in other ways with their road races.  The Egmond race was in January (brrr!) and part of the course was on the beach (read: major winds from the North Sea).  And after you have given your heart and soul pounding the sands of the beach trying to keep your race pace, you are required to run/hike/crawl—whatever means will get you to the top—up one heck of a sand dune hill.  Seemed more like a mini-mountain to me.

Me during my bad decision to toss G my gloves

It was absolutely grueling and I was cursing every four letter word I could think of at myself for having failed with my training schedule.  I had breathing cramps in my sides, not enough potassium in my body which caused my leg muscles to lock up, and ice blocks for hands since I dumped my gloves prematurely.  During the last mile, nearly every step was painful since my knee was throbbing and I was eager for the finish line.  My time certainly wasn’t a personal record, probably more like a “personal worst” if I cared to compare it against prior race times.  As I crossed the finish line and was handed my partcipation medal,  I promised myself to find another half marathon this year AND properly train for it!

G waiting to start and the wind fills his jacket

G’s race started after mine, but since my finish line and his start line were a good distance from each other, I wasn’t able to see him start the race.  And he didn’t realize my race’s finish line was different than his race’s finish line, so he didn’t see me finish the race.  He and our friend A were at the half marathon finish line wondering “where the heck is that slow-poke R?” and thinking maybe I had fallen into the North Sea and was floating out towards the east coast of England.

Thousands of runners waiting & shivering

G didn’t have a great race either.  The wind was equally as brutal, his sinuses were a mess, and his right foot had major pain towards the latter part of the race.  Not to mention he was running twice the distance I just ran.  A and I waited just in front of the finish line and high-fived G as he whizzed by. Afterwards, G and I were both walking at a much slower pace and I’m sure A thought we had morphed into an oma and opa (grandma and grandpa).

G (red hat) was so fast that my photo was from behind

Faking a smile to mask the pain

Thanks to A for braving cold temps to cheer us on!

Since I had a few hours to recover (and ran the shorter distance), I offered to drive home.  Sounds like an easy task except for the fact our car is a manual shift, my legs were in pain, and we hit gridlock traffic along most of the A9 en route back to Amsterdam.  I just can’t win.

34 miles/55km until we get home:

 

If you are new to the blog, you can click here and check out photos from our 12k in Zandvoort (March 2010) which had similar conditions.

German Christmas Markets


It’s Epiphany!  For some of you (like my nanay) it’s the day the Three Wise Men ended their journey in Bethlehem.  The Christmas season has concluded and it’s time to take the tree down.  For those of you in my beloved New Orleans, its Twelfth Night, y’all and the Carnival season has begun.  Did your slice of king cake have a baby in it today?  Ohhhh, how I miss the king cake!!!  And if you’re in Amsterdam, it was another typical Dutch day biking around in the rain.  While the baked good here are super lekker, it’s the land of licorice and stroopwafels so not a king cake in sight.  And with the New Year holiday now behind us, the oliebollens and appelflappens stands left town with the holiday tourists.

As every holiday owns a unique tradition, Germany is THE place to go to experience the authentic Christmas Markets.  My first visit to Germany was five years ago for a business trip.  It was during the month of November and while the States where preparing for Thanksgiving, Germany was gearing up for their Christmas markets.  Our client took us to dinner in a medieval town called Rothenburg.  It sounds cheesy, but it was like I stepped into a European snow globe.  With timber homes,  cobblestone streets and beautiful decor, I felt like I traveled back in time by a few hundred years.  Our client told us, “You should see it when the markets are here.”  Sadly, I had to return to the States before I had that opportunity, but mentally added the German Christmas Markets to my Bucket/Travel List.

Five years later, I was finally going to cross it off the list.  Or not.  Well maybe.  Or maybe not.  Two weekends before Christmas, major snow storms were sweeping through Germany and travel by car or train was not looking very optimistic.  We decided to make a game time decision on Saturday morning, but hotel choices were becoming scarce.  On Saturday morning, the weather looked better and we were muti-tasking with showers, packing, and hotel searching.  We buzzed our friends A&A and they were game to join our last minute excursion.  With an overnight bag packed and a not-our-first-or-second-choice-but-you-have-availability-so-we’ll-take-it-room, we were off to Cologne.

 

The drive was pretty smooth until the outskirts of Cologne.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one determined to hit the markets this weekend.  It was such a tease as we were so close, but yet stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.  Our first mug of glühwein was well deserved.  While it didn’t make the list of my Top 10 favorite drinks, it did mean we had finally arrived and the warm spiced wine ignited my Christmas spirit.   Our first market stop was in the town center at the Cologne Cathedral.  Here I made another mental note to return to Cologne and appreciate the history the city had to offer beyond the markets.

It was a bit of madness with thousands of people mashed into the city center.  But we made our way around to eat, drink, shop, and eat and drink more.  The next stop was the Alter Market where we found live Christmas music, gifts for our family, and a bier garten—for more, food, drink, and a thankfully a spot to sit down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning, we stopped at a few other markets in Cologne before driving to the town of Aachen. Not surprising, it was pretty crowded as well and after a few hours we all felt like pinballs bouncing around nonstop.  The guys were shopped out and it was time to make the drive home. 

 

When I lived in NYC, no one batted an eye if your day involved activities throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.  The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium are not much different…except for the fact you can say you were in three countries in one day rather than three states.  We would be hungry for dinner long before we reached Amsterdam and agreed that a slight detour to Antwerp, Belgium was a perfect idea.  G and I love the Kathedraalcafe just off the Grote Markt and after several bratwurst sandwiches; we were keen to some seafood.  With happy bellies, we had a quick peek at the Christmas markets and then piled in the car for the trek home.

Special thanks to A&A for contributing photos.  Click here to see a full slideshow.  Tot Ziens!

Good Times!

 

 

A Feasting Weekend

With a year of “domestication” under my belt, I am finally finding my groove in the kitchen.  I was so excited about hosting NYE dinner and trying out some new recipes.  Beef tenderloin, cheesy mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus with artichoke hearts hit the spot to bid farewell to 2010 with a few friends.

Beef tenderloin with Maker's Mark marinade

Mashed by hand with love

 

Roasting artichoke hearts

Artichokes marinating

Roasted veggie delight

Voilà, dinner is served!

 

In additional to the  traditional midnight champagne toast, the Dutch also enjoy oliebollens (oil balls)  or appelflappens (similar to apple fritters).  Throughout the day, there were pop-up stands in front of every shop and bakery selling fresh made oliebollens and appelflappens.  Since G doesn’t like fruity pastries, I had the appelflappens alllll to myself for my New Year’s Day breakfast.  Super Lekker!

 

After nearly a two hour bike ride down the Amstel River and back through Amstelveen, we were starved and ready for the obligatory New Year’s Day grub. Despite G and I are not frequent cabbage eaters, every good southerner knows that black eyed peas + cabbage + pork is a must for starting off the new year (and side of leftover mashed potatoes hits the spot as well!).

A toast to luck, prosperity and progress in 2011

On Sunday, we lightened it up and made our first batch of udon noodle soup.  It turned out well, but will need to add some heat to give it more kick for next time.  We love the spicy food!

Click here for Food Network’s Bourbon Beef Tenderloin recipe.  Send me a comment or email if you would like any of the others.  After all of this feasting, it’s definitely time for some exercising.  Hope your New Year started off with some good eats as well!  Eet Smakelijk!