July 14, 2011

Hola Espana & How We'll Save Money While We're There

I am so excited.

Not because I am taking the bar exam in two weeks.  Oh no, nothing exciting about that.

I am excited becasue my globetrotting, brilliant, science expert of a sister just got selected to sail from Turkey to Greece on an ocean expedition with the guy who discovered the Titanic in September!  How cool is that?!  (If you want to read more about her trip I'm sure she'll post on her new blog)


I'm also excited that she can take a week before heading to Turkey to meet me in one of my favorite countries in the world - SPAIN!  Oh Spain, the tinto verano, the sunshine, the olives, the jamon, the siestas, the gazpacho, the beaches, the flamenco, the warmth of the people - I love me some Spain.

Que Furete!

The hard part now becomes where do we go?
Malaga 


Or

Barcelona

I lived in Seville for a summer and loved Andelucia (the region Malaga is located) I would love to go back. It is authentic Spain chock full of bull fights, lazy afternoon by the rio, beautiful fashion, and machismo to the extreme.  However,  I've heard wonderful things from any and all who have visited Barcelona.

Blog readers - which do you think we should visit?
Either way - we plan on staying in a vacation rental instead of a hotel.  They are wonderful alternatives that help you save money and let you feel more at home when you are exploring some corner of the world.  Not to mention you will save money on food costs by having the ability to prepare your own meals and you have an excuse to explore a foreign market - one of my favorite experiences.

Some of my favorite rental websites are:




These great sites have places for rent not only in Europe but in the U.S.ofA. and all over the world.  

Make sure you check out the reviews on a unit before renting and don't be hesitant to contact owners.

What travel tips do you have to save money when you are globetrotting?

July 13, 2011

Global Greats - My Dutch Peppermint Love Affair


Taking a break from my bar exam studying today, I had a conversation with one of my good friends who used to live in the Netherlands and now lives back in the states. 
It went a little something like this...

Shera: "I am so stressed out I  consuming un-godly amounts of chocolate"
Wonder Woman: "Me too"
Shera: "Oh not to mention I seriously ate almost an entire  bag of Wilhelmina Peppermints today."
Wonder Woman: "What are those?"
Shera: "What?! You never had them while you were here?
I'm bringing some back for you, assuming I don't eat them all on the plane."

I couldn't believe Wonder Woman hadn't tried these seriously addictive, amazing, and delicious Wilhelmina peppermints.  As soon as we stopped talking - I realized I couldn't let any of my blog readers possibly pass up the opportunity as well if you happened to live in or stop by the land of wooden shoes.  So I present to you one of the most delicious Dutch delights I know of...

The Wilhelmina Pepermunt

Yes - that is the bag I was literally gorging out of.  
Yes - as you can see the bag is well loved and almost empty, they are that good.  

They are like a can of Pringles, you can't stop popping them.  Everyone I've introduced them to (if they have some kind of liking to mint taste) has raved - co-workers, family, friends.  They are fresh, meaty, and soothing.  A great guilt free treat (as long as you don't binge like I did - I blame the bar).


Apparently "Wilhelmina Pepermunt"'s have been around a while - since 1842 to be exact.  

According to the confectioner Fortuin, who creates these delicious treats, they were named after the then 12 year old princess Wilhelmia - who later became the queen of the Netherlands.

After creating these goodies and presenting them to the Queen in 1896 - the company has since been the official "purveyor to Her Majesty the Queen" for three generations.  So you know they are tasty.


They make a delicious after dinner treat, the mint is good for digestion, and make your breath kissably sweet.

A bag (above) costs about 1.75 Euro and it costs around .89 Euro cents for a tube (above).
Euros well spent.  

I highly recommend trying them if you are in the Netherlands and bringing some home as a souvenir (and skipping the many varieties of licorice candy  - gack ).    You can find them in the candy section of pretty much any grocery store here, Albert Hein always has some in stock.  

Alternatively, if you have an "expat" or "import" market in the states see if you can find a pack - you won't be disappointed.

It's probably the greatest peppermint (that isn't paired with chocolate) on the globe!

July 11, 2011

47 Foods You Should Eat (No Matter Your Global Coordinates)

I came across this great nutritional blogger, Dr. Christopher Mohr, PhD (a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant) on the Men's Health Blog through twitter the other day.  He often shares some really great, interesting, and easy to implement nutritional advice and I wanted to share one (ok maybe two - later :)) of his posts with you.

His most recent post is about the 47 fantastic foods you should try to consume as much as possible whether you are a man or woman - no matter what your global coordinates are - because they are super nutrient rich, delicious, and are great fuel for your body.

  1. Spinach
  2. Wild Salmon (fresh and/or canned)
  3. Blueberries
  4. Raspberries
  5. Swiss Chard
  6. Quinoa (a small grain)
  7. Rolled Oats (old fashioned or quick - sprinkle on your cereal or soak in milk and cocoa powder/top with a banana for a tasty morning pick me up)
  8. Pistachios
  9. Barramundi (a sea-bass like fish, it can be often be found in the frozen section)
  10. Plain Greek Yogurt (this is really delicious w/fruit for dessert)
  11. Apples
  12. Red, Yellow and Orange Bell peppers (capsicum for my Aussie/Euro readers)
  13. Lean Red Meat (grass fed beef is the best)
  14. Whole Eggs (scramble em', boil them, any way you like em'!)
  15. Blackberries
  16. Almonds
  17. Sardines
  18. Carrots (baby carrots make a great snack with peanut butter or salsa)
  19. Black Tea (Lipton's Russian Earl Grey is my favorite with a splash of soy milk)
  20. Green Tea (good for your stomach)
  21. Pink Grapefruit
  22. Turmeric (a spice)
  23. Kale (this is great drizzled in EVOO/sea salt and baked)
  24. Cauliflower
  25. Red grapes (also a great dessert/candy alternative)
  26. Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter - wonder if Nutella counts? :))
  27. Coconut (either fresh, unsweetened, shredded)
  28. Strawberries
  29. Avocados (try it on your salad - it's not just for guacamole!)
  30. Tomatoes (raw and cooked - I snack on ones with salt and pepper/sliced)
  31. Pumpkin (you can add canned, unsweetened 100% pure pumpkin to a smoothie or slice/bake it in the oven with potatoes, squash, and carrots/drizzled in EVOO as a side dish )
  32. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (also great added to smoothies or Greek yogurt)
  33. Pineapple (pampered chef has a great, one step, pineapple cutter)
  34. Sweet Potatoes or Yams (the best kind of baked fries!)
  35. Beans (black, kidney, chick peas, red beans, etc)
  36. Lentils (small bean like)
  37. Garlic
  38. Broccoli
  39. Red and Green cabbage (shredded and drizzled in vinegar w/seasonings is a great side!)
  40. Onions
  41. Cherries
  42. Cinnamon (a great spice and helps curb appetite)
  43. Oat Bran
  44. Beets
  45. Barley
  46. Mushrooms (all types - each really does taste different!)
  47. Canola and Olive Oils (use these to replace other less healthy fats - don’t simply add them to your diet)

Slim and I eat some of these, but there are definitely some that make a less than regular appearance to our diet.  We try to incorporate them in interesting ways - like when we bake fish, we lay the fish on a bed of spinach on the pan - a two for one treat!  I need to get creative and slip some newbies in as well.

Does anyone have a good idea for how to incorporate beets into a tasty meal?

**A great tip for expats who can't find some of these foods in your local grocery store is to try your local farmers market.    Additionally, our city's Asian Grocery Store actually has a lot of the veggies and spices that I can't find in our big commercial grocery store.  That's where I pick up our sweet potatoes.



How many are on your plate today?

July 9, 2011

Weekend Reflections Round Up


Want to participate in a great blog link up and share a story from your blog? 
Head over to this witty and fun blog, share yours, and find some new reads too!

The claws of death caught a mouse last night (no kidding!)... 
too bad it was a different one than we've been seeing (sick).
It was a quick death, I promise.

Love Postcards? You should join Michelle in this fun exchange.
(I already did!)

Traveling? Still need a place to stay? I love this website for great deals & places.

 Random...but Michelle Bachmann = Totally Insane. Wow.

Yoga fan's check out these hilraious mats.
Not your cup of tea? Some really cute mats here.

How sweet does this movie look?
I wonder if they'll run it in Holland.

I got the inspiration for this easy, healthy, & delicious recipe here.

These are incredibly easy to make and really delicious.
I suggest substituting blueberries for dried fruit.

I'll try to think of this and this the next time I reach for a cookie
and grab something much bigger and more fufuilling instead.

Having a bad day? Check out this crazy octomom  clip on the Today show.  
You'll feel better abut your day - I promise.

Finally, a little inspiration for the weekend for my female readers:

July 8, 2011

What the &%$@ is That? Eierslaatje

When I was really little my momma "who voted for Obama" used to trick me into eating things I didn't want to by convincing me I wanted to become a member of "The Tasters Club"

I had no idea at the time that this "Club" didn't exist outside my very tired and creative mom's mind - but I did know that I wanted be part of the club, because as she attested to -  several other famous people and the president were members of this prestigious Club.  I didn't want to be left out.

Fast forward 22 years or so... and I've convinced Slim that we should start our own "Tasters Club" to make sure there aren't any foreign foods we could like but are unaware of because the foods look too "different" or too "weird" for our typical palate.

So to kick the "Tasters Club" into high gear I've convinced Slim (my unsuspecting victim) to take part in the blog by being a participant in the ...

"What the $%#& is That" Series

In these posts we will try food items that are totally foreign to us in an effort to "take one for the team" by joining the "Tasters Club" in an attempt find the hidden culinary gems across the globe for you wonderful readers.

First up - "Eierslaatje"
The Dutch really seem to have a serious love affair with mayonnaise.  

There are more mayonnaise concoctions at my local Albert Heine grocery store then I could ever dream up myself.  So the first post of the series will be one of those concoctions... a yellow one in fact.
This gem is in the refrigerated section of the grocery near a large array of similar, unidentifiable, mayonnaise combinations.  It comes in it's own little foil tin...

My first thoughts: What the %$#& is that? Egg salad? Potato salad? I had no idea what the word "Eier" meant in english - I was guessing "slaatje" meant a salad of some sort.

What is that green thing in the container?  Why are there what appears to be pickled carrots in the container?  This is something I wouldn't normally buy (not fresh fruit/veg, chocolate, or doughy).

First smell: Almost sour and egg like - and definitely like some seriously rich in lactose mayo.

Final Verdict: This stuff actually isn't that bad - it actually isn't that great either - but it didn't make me gag when I ate it so I'll have to give it that.

It tastes like a really mayonnaise-y, non-potato chunk, almost a bit sour version of a typical mustard base potato salad.

My family is of massive German stock - so potato salad is a staple at our family gatherings.  I think then maybe I have high potato salad standards (can you really even have potato salad standards?)... so for the potato salad eating novices who love mayonnaise - this Eierslaatje may serve as a great side to a burger at a cookout.

Upon further inspection through google translate it turns out Eierslaatje is "Egg Salad" dutch style.

 It's more of what us American's would think of a combo egg and potato salad.  Not much egg, not much potato but a lot of mustard and mayonnaise (with some pickles and pickled carrots mixed in).

I felt a little ill after only a few bites - but I am not a big mayonnaise person.  However, you could impress your friends who like mayonnaise by picking this up at the supermarket for a brown bagged lunch if are in Amsterdam as a tourist or are an expat living in Holland.

A little definitely goes a long way with this milky rich egg and potato lunch treat.  Also, the shovel means your utensils are included - no need for a fork (or spoon) to slurp down your Eierslaatje.

July 7, 2011

Delicious Desserts - American Chocolate Chip Cookies (& a sodium bicarbonate expat tip)

I have been looking all over Holland for baking soda to satisfy my recent baking insanity, but all I could find was baking powder... and let me tell ya - you can't make real, soft, moist, American chocolate chip cookies without it (believe me I've disastrously tried).  It must be the special ingredient to the recipe's goodness.

Then a little expat birdy told me a tip ...

Baking Soda a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate - can be found in the Pharmacy here in the land of wooden shoes - not on market shelves.

I must admit I was a little doubtful.  But then, while picking up prescriptions this Friday, I asked the Pharmacist in my "broken non-dutch dutch" if they had any "sodium bicarbonateie" (trying to put a dutch swing on the word?)

The nice pharmacist went to the shelf behind the register where they keep the 1/2 way over the counter meds... and gave me this little gem.  Apparently the term in dutch is "Zuiveringszout" - opps.

Should I be concerned it says "Drogg Bewaren" - could that mean "Drug - Beware"?

I think not - I mean I'm sure she told me "baking" - as in it's for baking right?

Either way I got to baking as soon as I was home.

I used the typical "Tollhouse" Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipie  but broke up a chocolate bar with my pounding mallet because I can't find good reasonably priced chocolate chips here.

Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (cookie flour in the Netherlands)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened (just let it stand out for a bit)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12 ounce of chocolate 
 (usually dark semi-sweet chips are used, but if you like milk go for it and if you don't have chips just break up the chocolate - you'll have chocolate chunk cookies! I even threw in some "toffee" chocolate)
    Directions
    1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C).
    2) Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. 
    3) Combine and beat - butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. 
    4) Add eggs one at a time to creamy sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
    5) Gradually beat in flour mixture with the egg/sugar mixture. 
    6) Stir in chocolate by hand until well distributed. 
    7) Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
    8) BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. 
    9) Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.


    Notice the recipe says use a "large" mixer bowl - it means it.  I've got to buy a bigger bowl - I had the cookie dough-pocolypse in my kitchen after mixing the cookies.  Even the peaches were casualties.


    Thank God, Mary and Joseph for my little "expat birdy" because before I could pour myself a glass of milk, Sweet Home America enducing smells were wafting through our apartment.

    The cookies came out a little weird  and flat looking -  but did they ever taste good.  Slim agreed enthusiastically as he grabbed another from the plate.
     
    Maybe they came out flat because I have no idea what's going on with my oven.
    Do any of you on this side of the pond know what any of these pictures on my oven knob mean?

    Note to self - do not make 36 cookies on a Friday night .... we only had 15 left on Monday.  Opps (hello non-portion control).  I guess that would make it a "cheat weekend" and mean lots of bike riding this week.

    July 4, 2011

    How To Speak Australian - Sports

    Cross cultural marriages, like Slim and I's, are always full of fun and surprises.  For us one of these surprises is although our nations are similar in many ways - our vernacular isn't always similar.

    It can be so different that at times I feel as though i am learning a completely new language.   This considered - Slim and I thought we would share with some of you readers "Aussie"-ism's so that when you travel to the amazing land of Oz' - you aren't like Dorothy... lost and looking for the yellow brick road of Aussie word understanding.

    To start out the series a sports topic.

    On Saturday we went to see one of these....
     What's that you ask?  "Australian Rules League Football" I would say as an American.
    However  Slim would be quick to correct me..

    "No love that isn't football - that is "footy."

    You see - when I think of  "footy" I think of this....

    image via

    A sweet little foot loving and rubbing under the table - something like "footsie"  - but in a different tense.  However, don't be fooled into thinking you are going to go see some under the table foot gesture action if an Australian asks you to come see some "footy" with them.

    Instead grab your sunscreen, sunglasses, and a cooler....
     

    ... because you will be in for a rousing treat of any of several types of "footy" games - depending on when and where you are in Oz'

    July 2, 2011

    Whats for Dinna' ? - (U.S. of A. 4th of July Edition) Corn & Black Bean Salad & K-bobs

    Tonight dinna' is in honor of all my Red-White-&-Blue patriots on the other side of the pond.

    I am really longing to be at the lake in the U.S. of A. this weekend.  In 90 F degree (32 C) heat, laying on the pontoon boat, eating a Drumstick, laughing with my family, listening to my dads wonderfully corny jokes, feeling like I belong with my sisters and cousins, and enjoying the absorbent amount of fireworks our neighbors light off/betting on which one burns themselves this year.

    Instead - Slim and I will be watching our friend play an Aussie "footy" game, in 61 F degree (16 C) briskness, and eating Aussie sausages.  Not a bad stand in (and at least for once it isn't going to be raining in Holland) - but I need some tastes of home tonight to fill in the void (you better bet I'll be calling home tomorrow to get some of those corny jokes as well).

    My Momma "who voted for Obama" - makes this great Black Bean and Corn Summer Salad that is not only delicious, but really good for you.  Every BBQ this lovely dish makes an appearance and I trough eat it for the days following literally out of the main bowl with a big spoon (don't tell my sisters).
      
    It's that good.  

    I wanted to share it's goodness with Slim tonight, but I was missing the "Fat Free Italian Dressing" the recipe called for so I hunted for a substitute recipe and it is pretty dang good.  Slim inhaled the bowl.

    Ingredients:
    1 -14 oz. can of black beans
    2 cups of frozen sweet corn kernels (can use fresh if you don't have frozen)
    1 red bell pepper
    1/2 of a red onion
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (half a palm full)
    2 teaspoons hot sauce (a couple splashes)
    1 lime juiced
    2 to 4 blubs of minced/crushed garlic (either method works)
    2 tablespoons of olive oil
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 - 2 tomatoes diced with the seeds scooped out
    1 cup of chopped cilantro 
     
    • Directions:
    • 1. Rinse and drain beans. 
    • 2. Drain the canned tomatoes. 
    • 3. Dump beans, tomatoes, and corn into medium/large bowl.
    • 4. Chop/De-seed the fresh vegetables and add to bowl.
    • 5. Stir in garlic
    • 6. Add the lime juice and cilantro.
    • 7. Pour in hot sauce (I like tobasco), cumin, and olive oil 
    • 8. Stir to combine.

    • (Alternatively if you are in the U.S. of A. you can hit the "easy button" and substitute 
    • 8 - 12oz. of Fat Free Kraft Italian dressing for the - hot sauce, cumin, and olive oil)
    • You can make this 15 minutes prior to serving and leave it sitting out, the frozen corn will chill the salad.  Or if you want to serve it later stick it in the fridge.
    • Dang that's Good Grade:   5 out of 5
    • Here is a photo of it's colorful goodness before getting all mixed up. I was praying that these little bad boys in a box were diced tomatoes - whatever blokjees means, it is definitely out of my little Dutch vocab range. I was hopping it meant something similar to "blocks."
    I was reminded of a Dutch blunder while I was cutting my goodies for the salad. 

    I went to the store one day looking for cilantro and got so frustrated because I couldn't find it anywhere.  I just said screw it and went home with some ingredients for something else. 

    I told Slim about my problem that night and he nodded and listened.  Then a few days later I was at the store saying, "
    Dang it where is the Cilantro?!"  in my bit over loud American voice.  
    A woman from central/south America standing next to me in the herb section of the store was really sweet and pointed out that here - and pretty much everywhere else in the world - Cilantro = Coriander...opps.  Slim laughed and gave me a hug when I told him later.

    Here is the final product with the work put in (stirring).
    This is the kind of recipe I like - a little chopping, a little stirring, and a lottle eating.  
    Plus it's a great option if you have friends that are veggies - lots of protein and nutrients (Right Alix?!)
    My mom usually pairs it with a bag of scoops tortilla chips.

    I also threw in some "K-bobs" on rice with our dinna' to have some grillin' nostalgic goodness. 
    Here are the nekid' veggies before they were dressed in the sauce.
    Isn't it funny how hairy mushrooms look?
    The marinade recipe, was really good as well as super fast & easy.  
    You can even cut up your grillers and marinade the night before.  Just remember how gross cross contamination is and grab a separate bowl for your veggies/pineapple and meat!


    K-Bob Marinade Recipe
    Ingredients:
    1 cup vegetable oil
    3/4 cup soy sauce
    1/2 cup lemon juice
    1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
    1/4 cup dijon mustard
    1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    Directions:
    1. Mix all ingredients in large bowl and divide into 2 large plastic ziplock bags.
    2. Chop meat and veggies into similar sized pieces.
    (Veggies/Fruit used: Mushrooms, Red Onion, Yellow/Red Bell Pepper, Pineapple)
    3. Separate and place chopped veggies and meat into the two separate bags.
    4. Let marinate for 1 - 24 hrs.
    5. Skewer and Grill your K-bobs.


    Here the K-bobs are frying on our "grill" pan.

    Dang That's Good Grade: 5 out of 5

    Bon Apetit' Y'all and God Bless Amerika'!