Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers


You will need:

8 large bell peppers (any color you like, I used red ones)
1 smallish zucchini, diced finely
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ripe tomatoes, diced finely
1 tsp dried oregano
125 g mozzarella, shredded or chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked couscous (use veggie broth instead of water to cook it for more flavor)
1 1/2 cups garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and Pepper, to taste

How to make it:

Slice the tops off of your peppers. These will be your "lids." Scoop out the guts and seeds and discard.

Now, there are a couple of ways to do the next part. You can boil your peppers for about 5 minutes to soften them up. This will reduce your baking time to about 20 minutes, however I don't think it gives the peppers the nice roasty flavor that you get if you bake them for longer. If you want to boil them, then go ahead and do it at this time.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a big pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini and fry until tender. Don't fry it until it's completely limp and floppy because it'll finish cooking in the oven. Stir in couscous, chickpeas, tomato and oregano. Mix well and then stir in the cheese.

Stuff each pepper with the mixture and cover with the pepper "lids."

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes if you boiled your peppers. If you didn't boil your peppers, bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes (or until the peppers are done).

This is a vegetarian recipe, but I think it would be terribly tasty with a little chorizo tossed in. I'm also going to give it a try with bulgur instead of couscous.

Check out Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays for more yummy recipes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bell Pepper Bounty

I love to cook with bell peppers (paprikas in Dutch). One of the sales fliers here had them on sale for €1.75 per kilogram so I thought I'd better restock my supplies.

Picture 2138

However, if you've only got two people to feed, what are you going to do with piles and piles of bell peppers?

Picture 2141

Slice them up and freeze them of course! As with onions and garlic, the only prep needed is a good wash and chop. I like to cut mine into strips, but dicing also works well. After you slice them up, pat them dry and put a convenient for you amount into your baggies. I put about 150 grams of peppers into each bag, which is about a pepper and a half (depending on their size). Freeze them flat and use at your leisure!

Don't slice up the entire bounty though- save a few for stuffed peppers!

Check out Tammy's Recipes for more Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday- February 23, 2009

click the banner and "Menu Plan Monday" for more menu planning ideas

Last week went according to plan. A Jerky Chicken and Aloha Chicken are going into the "will make again" file. Martijn made a really nice pasta dish and I think we'll make it again too.

This week:

Chicken Schnitzel and brussels sprouts

Black Bean Burritos and salad

Won Ton Tacos- I'll have lots of leftover beans from the burritos so this will be a good way to finish them off.

Baked Falafel Sandwiches- I don't really care for tahini, so I'll just make some tatziki sauce to put on them.

Shoarma in pitas

Friday, February 20, 2009


Every once in awhile, it's worth waking up early.

Picture 2121

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cheap Phone Service with magicJack

Living in another country can mean having expensive phone calls if I want to call home. Martijn was concerned about this and set us up with a VOIP (internet telephone) service that usually works okay. It has some quirks though and if my mom wanted to call me, she still had to make an international call.

Enter the magicJack.


The magicJack is a USB device that has a regular old phone jack on it. This way you can plug a regular telephone into your computer and make free domestic phone calls (and very cheap international ones!). It's quite small -- about the size of a Zippo lighter and a little bit thicker.

My dad started carrying these in his store, and brought one home for my mom to activate and test. She got it going with no problem and started telling me how wonderful it was. The international rates to The Netherlands (and much of the rest of Europe) are 2 cents per minute which is quite a lot less than the phone card rates she was getting previously. I was really only half listening to her about how wonderful it was because we already had the other VOIP service and I wasn't really sure this would be any better.

We ended up meeting the guy that invented the device when we were in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show. It somehow came out that I didn't actually have a magicJack for myself and they gave me one to try out.

I gotta say, I am impressed.

Here's how to get started:
  • You purchase your magicJack through the website (or a retail store such as RadioShack) for around $40.
  • Try not to swear as you cut open the impossible to open package (seriously guys, why must the packing on this kind of thing be SO ANNOYING).
  • Plug the magicJack into an open USB port on your computer and let the software install.
  • Follow the prompts on the software to set up your account and choose your phone number.
  • Verify the e-mail address that you signed up with.
  • Plug any old telephone into your magicJack and make your first call!
I had absolutely no problems getting mine up and running (neither did my mom, and she's not as computer savvy as me). In about 5 minutes I was able to register and select that I wanted a Utah telephone number. You must be running Windows XP, Vista, or an Intel based Mac in order for the magicJack to work. You also need to have a high-speed (broadband) internet connection.

As with anything, you'll have both your pros and cons. Here are the main points I noticed.

  • Quick and easy to set up
  • Really inexpensive- the purchase of the device for $40 includes a years worth of service ($19.95 to continue after the first year)
  • Local phone number for my parents to call me on
  • You can take your magicJack with you wherever you go. I have a Utah telephone number but will be using mine in The Netherlands. It's not tied to any one computer so you can take it to a friends house and use it there if you need to as well.
  • Call quality is pretty good. I did hear a little bit of an echo at the beginning of a couple of my phone calls, but I get that with my other service too so it's more of a VOIP problem than a magicJack problem.

  • You must have the computer on to use this device. One of the things I liked about our other VOIP service is that we've got a little box that connects to the router which allows us to call even when the computers are off.
  • If you have a slow or dodgy internet connection, your call quality can suffer.
  • Doesn't work with Linux
  • Chat-based web only support

I don't know that I would advise dumping your landline in favor of the magicJack, but I do think that it's wonderful for long distance and the fact that I can have a local to my parents Utah telephone number!

Cheap phone calls Work for Me! I'd love to hear what others do for long distance, especially for international calls.

click the graphic to see more Works for Me Wednesday posts

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dutch Comfort Food- Hutspot

I think one of the best ways to describe many of the "typically Dutch" meals would be as comfort food- a warm hearty dish to enjoy on a wet and cold grey day.

Stamppot is a pretty traditional Dutch dish made from boiled potatoes and vegetables. Boerenkool (curly kale) mashed with potatoes and a little bit of bacon is a common stamppot dish. You can also use zuurkool (sauerkraut), andijvie (endive), spinazie (spinach), and any other number of veggies. The version of stamppot that uses carrots and onions mashed with the potatoes is called hutspot.


It seems to me that every person has their own version of hutspot. People use different ratios of the vegetables to suit their own particular tastes. This is how I make it.

You will need:

500 g carrots, coarsely chopped
500 g onions, diced into big chunks
500 g potatoes, diced into big chunks
1 bullion cube (flavor of your choice- I usually use chicken)
instant mashed potatoes (optional- depends on what the consistency is)
brown gravy (from a mix or some that you've made yourself)

In a big pot, combine the carrots, onions and potatoes. Cover the veggies with water and drop in the bullion cube. On a high heat, bring the veggies to a boil. Turn the heat down a little so you don't boil over and let them cook until soft (20-30 minutes). If you have a pressure cooker, you can cut the cooking time to about 5 minutes after it reaches pressure. You want the vegetables to be soft, but not so cooked that they've turned to complete mush and slide through the strainer when you drain the water off. After they're soft you can drain them, but save a little bit of the water.

Using your handy dandy potato masher, mash the veggies together. It doesn't need to be totally smooth, so you don't need to whip out the immersion blender, but mash until everything is mixed together pretty well and you don't have great big chunks anymore.

Now, the consistency that you want is such that you can stick your spoon in the top and have it stick straight up without falling over. You want it a little stiffer than normal mashed potatoes, but no so stiff it will stick to the roof of your mouth and clog up your insides as it goes down. If it's too runny, you can add in (a little bit at a time) some instant mashed potatoes. If it's too thick, add in (a little bit at a time) some of the water you saved when you drained it off earlier.

The most important part (I'm told) of eating hutspot comes next. You need to dish it up onto a plate and make a huge crater in it with a ladle. Then carefully pour the gravy in the crater. I'm told by someone that looks and acts a lot like my husband that if you don't do this then it just won't taste the same. I take his word for it, who am I to mess with a PROVEN METHOD!

You can serve the hutspot along side a nice rookworst (smoked sausage) or another small piece of meat. I usually do rookworst since it's "tradition."

Every once in awhile I'll fry up a little bacon (not much, a slice or two) and crumble it in after I've mashed everything together. Many people use less onions and more potatoes, but I can remember the recipe easier if I just use equal amounts of everything!

Check out Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays and Kitchen Tip Tuesday for more yummy recipes and kitchen tips!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday- February 16, 2009

click the banner and "Menu Plan Monday" for more menu planning ideas

We had tons of leftovers last week, so I am carrying over a few things from that menu!

A Jerky Chicken-- Didn't get to this one last week, and it still looks interesting enough to try!

Aloha Chicken-- Another carryover from last week.

Pork "Stroganoff"-- You know, I really did cook last week, even though I'm carrying over most of the menu *L*

It's Martijn's turn to cook for his weekly dinner meeting, so he gets to plan for Tuesday and he hasn't decided what he wants to do yet!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Gadgetry

I feel like I've probably got plenty of things to write about, but I'm not writing about them!  Jetlag this time around is really kicking me in the butt and it doesn't help that I've gotten sick (yes, again). 

We celebrated a month-late Christmas when we went to Utah and basically I got spoiled rotten.  I'd been eyeballing a new camera for a few weeks, but decided I really just needed to wait until my current one died.  There wasn't anything wrong with it, but I was hoping for something with image stabilization because I don't have the steadiest of hands and the flash took forever to load.  Still, it was serving the purpose and buying a new camera was a bit of a luxurious thing that I didn't really HAVE to do. 

I was pretty suprised when I opened up a box containing this little beauty!
My New Toy

It's a Nikon S550 and I'm pretty sure it's smarter than I am. I've been using a Canon for the past several years, so I'm getting used to the slightly different controls and menu system. One of the really awesome things about this camera is it has a smile detection feature! You can set it so that it will automatically shoot when your subject smiles, you don't need to press anything. The downside to this is your husband can tell you he's got it set on smile detect when he really doesn't and you end up with some rather interesting results.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Freezing Onions and Garlic

One of the things that I tried to do before we left on vacation for a month was eat up the food we had in the fridge and as much as we could out of the freezer.  As good as my intentions were, I still had about 2 kilos of onions and 3 or 4 heads of garlic.  I know onions and garlic keep a long time, but with the humidity here I wasn't going to take my chances on coming back to a heaping slime mold of grossness.

Freezing Onions and Garlic

I minced the garlic and put it in the zipper bag which I then sealed most of the way. I left a tiny opening so that the air could escape while I pressed it out into a very thin layer with my hands.  I then sealed it up and tossed it into he freezer. You can do onions the same way.  Just leave a little hole in the bag while you flatten the air out and make a nice flat bag.  Since we usually use red onions in slices rather than diced, I just sliced them and did the same thing.  I find that if you freeze them in flat layers it is a lot easier to break off a corner rather than trying to chunk away at a big ball of onion or garlic.  I think they freeze faster that way too!

For more great tips check out Kitchen Tips Tuesday, hosted by Tammy

Monday, February 09, 2009

Menu Plan Monday- February 9, 2009

click the banner and "Menu Plan Monday" for more menu planning ideas

I'm trying to get back into the swing of things after being gone for a month.  I figure a good way to do that is to get back to my menu planning so I've got some sort of schedule! We're going to be without an elevator this week so we did grocery shopping on Saturday and I need that to get me to Friday since I don't fancy carrying heavy groceries up 9 flights of stairs (and I've done it before, so I -really- know how much I hate it).

Fabulous Freezer Chicken Drumsticks -- Love this recipe, and drumsticks were on sale. I can make one batch to eat and one batch to freeze.

Marinated Sausage-- My mother in law graciously made us some food to get us through the weekend and Monday and these sausages are one of the things she made us! We'll have soup and a veggie to go along with them.

A Jerky Chicken-- The recipe list on this is insane, but it looks like it's mostly spices and if it tastes good I can make a small jar to keep on hand. I'm going to cut it down to two servings since it's the first time we've tried it.

Hutspot- No recipe for this one. It's a pretty traditional Dutch dish (one of the few) made with carrots, onions, and potatoes and served with a smoked sausage.

Aloha Chicken-- Another one that looks quick and easy. I'm going to add some onions and bell peppers to it as well.

Pork "Stroganoff"-- We discovered this yummy mix that you just need to add bell peppers and strips of pork to, so I decided to make it again since we've got some hamlappen (similar to boneless pork chops) in the freezer.

If you're reading this on a feed reader and are getting weird posts that just say weird unintelligable things like this:


I sincerely apologize, I'm trying out a new post editor and I think it's still got some issues that need to be ironed out!
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