Thursday, September 29, 2011

Starbucks fever

I have to admit that I have Starbucks fever. The smell of a Starbucks coffee shop makes me crave a frappuccino. When we first moved abroad, I was sure I'd still have access to Starbucks. What I did not realize was how expensive that mint mocha frappy is in euros! And I certainly didn't think the closest one would be in the Amsterdam airport- a 1.5 hour train ride! Sometime after we'd been here about a year, a Starbucks opened up at the train station in Utrecht and my husband convinced me to ride the train from Eindhoven to Utrecht with the promise that we'd stop to get a frappy.
Check out my baby-wearing, frappy-carrying, stroller-pushing self. You might wonder why I have a stroller if I'm wearing the baby, but I tell you, you need one- for all the baby accessories!

But this is a food-blog, not a baby blog, so I'll continue... What was neat about this Starbucks was the stroopwaffles for sale at the counter. So Dutch! And so tasty. Good idea, Starbucks.
The next time I got a chance to inhale the sweet smell of a Starbucks shop was in Germany, at the most American-looking mall I'd ever seen in these parts. Thanks to Tracey for taking me there and indulging my need for a frappy while our toddlers munched on Starbucks chocolate chip cookies.

But here is the killer. When I lived in the US (back in 2008) I used to get my signature frappy: tall mint-mocha frappy with 2 pumps of mocha and 1 peppermint. No whip. and I'd pay less than $4.00. Honestly, I didn't get this beverage very often (maybe twice a month?) but I felt like it was reasonable, in some first-world way, to pay about $4 for a small, special (addictive) beverage. I was so excited to see a Starbucks at the Brussels airport last year when we flew to the US! I just couldn't wait to taste that frappy again. Couldn't wait. Uh-huh. No line there, either.
Oh, and I found out why: I ordered my frappy, pulled out a 10 euro note and handed it over. He handed me just over 3 euros in change. I did a double-take and looked at the price list closer:
Yes, you read that right: a TALL Mocha Frappy is 5.60 euros. With my extra shot(s?) that came to over 6 euros. That's about... oh.... NINE DOLLARS.

Now, when I pass through Brussels I have absolutely no interest in buying a drink at the Starbucks that awaits those weary travelers. But I still inhale the fumes as I walk by.

My fabulous mom gives me Starbucks gift cards, (which, unfortunately only work in the US) so I can feed my addiction when I'm back state-side.

Monday, September 26, 2011

American Brownies in the Netherlands

For those of you reading back home in the USA, I'm sure you are all set with your Ghiradelli boxed brownie mix at your local grocery store. But for those of us craving a quick and easy dessert here in Eindhoven, we're in luck! The Genneper Park Molen (Watermill) has brownie mix! And chocolate chips! And mini chocolate chips!
Above, on the top shelf, you can see the chocolate chips. They have semi-sweet (puur), milk, and white chocolate and it is Callebaut chocolate. You can't get any better than that.
 Here on the top shelf is the "American Brownies" mix. It is a 1kg bag, containing sugar, flour, oil, cocoa, milk, starch, glucose syrup, potato starch, salt, rice flour and flavoring. You get two batches of brownies from one bag and it costs 4.50 euros.

Wait! Don't make the recipe listed on the bag! For crying out loud, it calls for raisins!! In brownies? Ick! After some experimenting, here is the way to make brownies as good as Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker boxed mixes. Can't say that they are as good as a Ghiradelli boxed mix, but I'm still working on it. The total time to make these is about 30 minutes start to finish. A mere 7 minutes to mix the ingredients and 23 minutes to cook the brownies. Totally my go-to dessert when I forgot someone was coming over... oh! hi! I was just about to put some brownies in the oven! Give me 5 minutes and I'll bring you a cup of tea while they bake!

American Brownies in the Netherlands
500g "American Brownies" mix from Genneper Park Molen (remember, HALF the bag!)
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil - 125ml (you can even use olive oil but NOT extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 cup water - 125ml
130g mini chocolate chips - a couple of handfuls if you're in a hurry

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (UPDATE: sorry I didn't mention it before for my friends here that is 176 degrees C). Mix egg, oil, and water in a bowl. Add the brownie mix and mix for less than 30 strokes. Add the chips and mix until just combined. Pour into a greased 9x13" baking dish. Bake for 23 minutes (more or less depending on how accurate your oven is). Toothpick test should show a crumb or two, or almost clean.

If you are feeling Dutch, you can add Speculous Pasta(paste). If you've never heard of it, I have to tell you: it is one of the best products ever made. Tastes like liquid cookie and my friends in Rochester can now get it at Wegmans! You guys, check it out!! The best way to add it is to drop teaspoon-fulls onto the unbaked brownies, and swirl it in before baking.  Rochesterians, you can try this with your boxed brownie mixes! My dear sweet husband only lets me do half because he is a purest when it comes to brownies.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chicken Divan - without the can of soup!

My grandma's recipe for Chicken Divan goes like this: place thawed frozen broccoli and cooked chicken in a casserole dish. Combine a can of cream of mushroom soup, some spices, mayo, milk and pour the mixture over the chicken&broccoli. Heat in an oven until hot and sprinkle with paprika. Easy, but don't you wonder: what is in that can of soup?  You don't want to know. Even if the ingredients are organic and fabulous, a recent study found BPA in the can liners of kids foods- never mind non-kid marketed soup!

Since I was creeped out by the ingredients in canned soup, I developed my own recipe. If you've never made a roux before, do not fear, it is simple and can be 'fixed' with lots of whisking, even if it seems hopelessly lumpy. I usually use a pre-cooked chicken bought at the market, and strip the meat off the bone the night before, putting the meat in the fridge overnight. If you are feeling decadent you can substitute heavy cream for half the milk. If you are feeling vegetarian you can substitute tofu for the chicken. Cube tofu and fry in a tiny bit of oil, so each side is a bit crispy before using.

In the Netherlands, you can find Worchester sauce at Jumbo in Veldhoven, and my friend tells me the AH XL has it. The American Goodies store in Amsterdam also has it. Don't leave this out, as it imparts a 'kick' to the flavor of the dish.

Chicken Divan

·       A large bunch of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces, cooked aldente (about 350 g)
·       Cooked chicken (2 or 3 breasts) or a combination of dark & light meat cut into pieces
·        2 cups chicken broth (500ml)
·       ¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks (60g)
·       1/3 cup flour (60g)
·       ½ cup mayonnaise (125ml)
·       ¾ cup milk (187 ml)
·       1 tsp curry powder   (2g)
·       ½ tsp cinnamon
·       1 ½ Tbsp Worchester sauce (24g)
·       2 packed cups grated gruyere cheese (200g)
·       Paprika to sprinkle on top
·       Optional, but recommended: 1 Tbsp lemon juice & 3 Tbsp dry white wine & 1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Prepare chicken broth with boiling water and a bullion cube, or open your favorite box broth. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, add the flour and cook the mixture (roux), stirring with a whisk for 2 minutes. Slowly add the broth, stirring (mixture will clump, just keep whisking) and bring the mixture to a boil and stir often for approx 10 minutes.  You now have gravy. Fold the mayonnaise, milk, curry powder, cinnamon, Worchester sauce, Gruyere cheese and if using the lemon juice, wine and Parmesan cheese into the mixture and stir until the cheese melts.
Using a 2 quart casserole dish (or a 9x13 baking pan), spread the cooked chicken pieces, top with the cooked broccoli, and pour the gravy mixture over the top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Can be kept in a 175 degree oven for up to an hour. Just before serving, place under the broil if desired.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rice Kiss-Me Treats

My daughter, Dina (2.5 years old) calls these Rice Kiss-Me treats.
Super easy to make, they only require Rice Krispies cereal, marshmallows, and butter.  You can find the standard recipe on the Rice Krispies website but I prefer to use a bit more marshmallows and butter. The standard bag of white marshmallows is about 300g, 10oz or about 40 marshmallows. Don't use the 'giant' ones. The fact that these exist at all is disturbing to me. For my friends in the Netherlands, do not use pink, green, or other colored marshmallows. Two problems exist with the non-white marshmallows: they will result in very unappetizingly-colored treats, and they have a strange artificial flavoring that reminds me of perfume. Just buy a bag of the plain white ones, not intermingled with other colors. Thanks. The 375g box of Rice Krispies will yield 2 batches of treats. Or one batch and a bunch of bowls of cereal.

Rice Kiss-Me Treats
1 bag of marshmallows (300g or 10oz)
5 cups of Rice Krispies (188 g)
6 Tbsp butter (86 g)
Grease your 9x13" (23x33cm) pan. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the marshmallows and melt them, on low heat, stirring often. Once the marshmallows are melted, take the pan off the heat and add the Rice Krispies.  Stir to combine and pour into the prepared dish. Pat with a spatula to make a compact structure. Allow to harden for a couple of hours and cut with a knife into squares. Keep covered because humidity will affect the texture.

If you are having a hard time finding marshmallows and Rice Krispies: "American Marshmellows" are found at Jumbo in Veldhoven and also often found at Xenos in Eindhoven. The Rice Krispies are at the AH XL and also at Jumbo. Don't use the jar of marshmallow fluff to substitute. Ugh. And if you are lactose intolerant you can substitute margarine for the butter with good results.

Mmmm... lekker!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pancakes- American style

Pancakes are one of my favorite breakfast foods. When else can you drizzle maple syrup over something until it is completely saturated? Not to mention the fruit toppings! Fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, plums, bananas (of course!)- the list is endless and I'm pretty sure there isn't any fruit that does not enjoy being on top of a pancake.

When we were in the USA this summer I made pancakes using a plug-in griddle and it was so easy: 8 pancakes at a time! Here at home I use my trusty square skillet and can do 4 at once.
My recipe is based on the Joy of Cooking classic pancake recipe. For best results use all-purpose flour. The vanilla is optional, but adds a nice flavor. If you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute regular milk but leave out the additional 1/4 cup of milk. If you don't have buttermilk, but you have plain yogurt you can substitute 1/2 yogurt and 1/2 regular milk and get just as good results. Don't 'make' buttermilk by adding lemon juice to milk because it wont be thick enough.

American Style Pancakes
Whisk together:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (228 g)
3 Tbsp sugar (38 g)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder (6 g)
1/2 tsp baking soda (3 g)
1/2 tsp salt (3 g)

In another bowl, whisk together:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (375 ml)
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (63 ml)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix until not quite combined. Add 3 Tbsp melted butter and mix until combined. Do not worry if there are a few lumps. Heat your griddle or pan until hot enough. Test the heat level by sprinkling droplets of water on the surface of the pan and seeing if they 'dance'. If they evaporate instantly, your pan is too hot. If they sit on the surface and don't move, your pan is too cold. Pour the batter onto the pan using a 1/3 measuring cup to make each pancake. You can make them smaller or larger if you wish. Watch the pancake, waiting until you see some bubbles and the underside is a bit brown (peak to check) before flipping. The second side will take less time than the first side. Serve immediately or you can hold them until you're done by placing a wire rack on a baking sheet in your oven and placing the cooked pancakes on there (single layer if possible) as you finish each one. Cover with a towel for optimum moisture retention (but not necessary).

If you wish to add fruit to the pancakes, I don't recommend stirring it into the batter- just sprinkle onto the just-poured pancake before the first side is cooked. Take care when you flip it, and watch for 'leakage'. If you end up with fruit juice on your pan, wipe it off before pouring the next pancake.

Serve with maple syrup and butter and if you are feeling decadent, whipped cream!

An approximation of the heat setting on my gas stove.
 These are ready to flip!

These are almost ready to serve!
And the final product (okay, I forgot to take a photo before we started eating.)
 Wait a minute... where is the whipped cream?