Easy Homemade Tomato Soup Recipe

Today is a wet dreary, mid-January day and I just felt like soup. I’ve had zero appetite for the past week and I thought I needed to find a way to eat something (never thought I’d say that in my entire adult life) and perhaps some homemade soup might be a start. A classic tomato soup is easy to make, doesn’t require much effort and I am pretty sure the kids will like it too. And this one served with a grilled bread or even a cheese sandwich will probably go ever well. If they are not fans, well then I’ll toss the rest in my tiny freezer and eat the rest at a different date.

For anyone that knows me at all knows that I LOVE SOUP! Back in Boston, the New England Soup Factory was one of my favorite places to go – with locations at the time in Brookline, Newton & Salem they were close to work and home no matter where I was living. We used to pick up some frozen containers and keep them in the house in case we needed a quick meal. No idea where they have locations now – hopefully they are still booming like they were back in 2012. Before we moved abroad, I even bought their cookbook. For some reason though, I don’t pick it up much and make much of their soups, but rather find more inspiration from posts I see on the Pinterests, bloggers or from restaurants, etc. Maybe this post will inspire to make more?

Marjorie the co-owner, is featured on some How2Hero’s Videos where she makes some dishes and some of her amazing soups.
Spicy Chicken & Rice Flu Chaser Soup
Greek Orzo Lemon & Chicken
Vegetable Minestrone
Chinese Hot & Sour Soup
Creamy Tomato

I didn’t follow a recipe, but just went off how I’ve made it in the past. First create the basic mirepoix, add fresh tomatoes and broth cook – and in the end, I pureed it.

INGREDIENTS:

  •  2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1 chicken and 1 vegetable stock tub
  • 1.5 litres of water
  • 6 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • Laurel Leaf (Bay leaf)
  • Optional: Basil leaves & tinned tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper to season

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Peel and roughly slice the carrots, slice the celery, and peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel and slice the garlic.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add all the prepped ingredients, then cook with lid ajar for 10 to 15 minutes, or until softened. Add bit of salt & pepper.
  3. Add the stock tubs into a glass measuring cup, cover with about 1.5 litres of boiling water. Stir until dissolved.
  4. Add the stock to the veg pan with fresh whole tomatoes. Add tomato paste. Optional: Add a can of tinned tomato.
  5. Give it a good stir, add laurel leaf and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and remove laurel leaf. Optional stir through the basil leaves.
  7. Using a stick blender and pulse the soup until smooth. Taste and check the seasoning, then serve.

Do you have any favorite soups? Jamie Oliver often posts some really nice ones which look so easy and look so delicious! Like his Pistou Soup. I love minestrone soups, so any soups with veggies and beans together, I’m sure will be great!

Book Review: “Guy Stuff the Body Book for Boys”

Over the past couple days, I binge listened on the Libby App to an entire audio book – Decoding Boys.   Written by Dr. Cara Natterson, a board-certified pediatrician and the NY Times bestselling author of American Girl’s Care & Keeping Of™ series for girls. I first came across her when I was searching about puberty and what to do for my son.  It was in her Ted talk and all her books, the one thing she keeps reiterating is that the world talks to girls about puberty and that as parents we need to keep talking to our boys!   Because they shut down and get quiet and retreat does not mean they don’t need us to talk to them!

So as a mom of a soon-to-be 13 year old, whom I think has begun puberty, I needed all the facts and NOW! I don’t ever recall having conversations with adults about body changes, periods, etc. and when I asked couple friends, they too had very limited talks (some not at all) – so I figured, I’d get out in front of it now. Also being that we live in the Netherlands and Europe for the past 9+ years, they see/hear and are given information a lot differently than they would had they been growing up in Boston.

Puberty doesn’t have to be scary. so I bought her book “Guy Stuff the Body Book for Boys– to help guide him (AND ME) through this awkward rite of passage. When I saw she wrote a boy edition, I thought I’d buy it asap. The paperback book is nicely illustrated and divided into 7 chapters:

Chapter 1 – BODY BASICS
This is a general overview – how important it is for you develop healthy habits now which will set you up for healthy habits in your life!  It stresses the importance of asking questions and talking to various trusted adults in your life not a computer. Breaks down basic facts about boys’ bodies and explains the common changes of puberty – you will: grow taller, sprout hair, sweat more, develop muscles, see changes in skin and hair texture, get a deeper voice, see changes to private parts, and experience new emotions. 

Chapter 2 – HEADS UP
Literally covers everything boys need to know to care for their head & neck.  Including hair care, eyes, oral hygiene (like braces), skin care – acne and importance of using sunscreen.

Chapter 3 – REACH
How to care for arms & chest – hands, nails, how to wash and use deodorant, underarm hair that develops.  Managing Stink – controlling body oder, and possible temporary breast enlargement.

Chapter 4 – BELLY ZONE
All about the abdomen – the fact that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Shares detailed info on healthy hydration, food, nutrition, and essential vitamins and minerals. Especially the importance of drinking water and other drinks – both positive & negative and a lot about pee – how to use urine color as an indicator. 

Chapter 5 – BIG CHANGES
Starts out that some changes are clear and some are super private.  Talk about hormones start to circulate in the body and that causes – changes in pubic area and even talks about circumcised penises, different types of underwear – pros & cons.  Erections and nocturnal omission – a wet dream. It even covers shaving – changes in voice and mood.

Chapter 6 – GET GOING
Talks about legs and height.  Growth spurts, pains and importance of exercise and enough sleep, bed-wetting & rest.  Foot care – like athletes foot, blisters and foot odor.  Sports safety and the importance of physical activity.

Chapter – 7th YOUR INNER YOU
This section delves into new feelings and emotions boys may be experiencing during puberty, including topics on peer pressure and bullying, plus letting guys know that it’s not only okay, but healthy, to express their emotions – not bottling up feelings.   

So in may ways the book is very inclusive. The illustrations show a good representation of difference races. Talks well about different rates of development.  Body sizes, explains that all people have hormones – and reviews testosterone and a bit of others. But… it does leave out some things which are essential and need to be discussed in the future. Perhaps because it was written by an American doctor it takes a more medical fact-based approach, but it doesn’t cover gender identity of sexual orientation, masturbation and does not explanation reproduction, consent, pornography, sexual desires – the emotional and/or physical attraction you’ll have with another person. As said above, it does talk about an errection and nocturnal omission – the wet dream, however!

Overall I do think it’s a good first book for boys to get to know about the body and emotional changes – perfect for the younger age range (10-13). I think it’s a good book to have in his room where he can refer back to what is happening to him.  When my 10 year old daughter saw it, she asked if she could also read it. I’ll certainly allow it but want to her also be informed, so I’ll look at getting her the Care & Keeping Of™ series or a different type book which overs things relating to her.

Some takeaways I took from Decoding Boys and Dr. Natterson’s TedX talk include: ask them questions but let them talk.  A tip she gave was don’t make eye contact (makes them more comfortable and be sure no screens are in their hands – they will be 100% distracted!  A little prodding, they’ll open.  In fact, I think my first “talk” went quite well… he was very curious.  I know this is not going to be the norm – but I know I should NOT GO AWAY!   I’ll give him privacy, knock before entering (have to work at that one).  I understand he’ll be moody and needs his own space, lots of food and we all need patience!   

Do you have any books (or sites) which you recommend for helping guide boys (and me) through puberty?

The Dutch Museumkaart: A Must For Museum Lovers!

Depending on where in the world you are from you might be used to having free entry to government-funded museums.  I know in the UK and Ireland that was the case, but not in the US.  But then again, back in Boston, you could borrow museum passes at your Boston Public library – many giving you FREE entry and others giving a significant discount.  But here in the Netherlands you have to pay for entry and warning the prices can be quite steep – around €6-10 for small, local museums to €16-25 per adult for some of the larger, more popular national museums like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Hermitage, Maritime Museum, NEMO and Stedelijk.

If you live in the Netherlands it’s definitely worth investing in the Museumkaart if you enjoy museums and expect to go several times in the year. While the actual museum card isn’t that cheap at (€64.90 for adults and €32.40 for children), but once you’ve bought it, you can freely enter as many museums over the year as you want. After just three visits to major museums in the year you’re getting the full return on your investment. There’s no information on the Museumkaart website in English. You can buy the card online, but will have to pay €4.95 admin costs – which includes insurance against theft or loss. When you renew your card online the next year, you don’t have to pay the €4.95 fee.   It’s also important to note that it’s personalized with your photo.  Occasionally the museum will charge an additional small fee for special exhibits. This fee is the same for every visitor. 

NOT ONLY FOR ADULTS

My kids (at 10 & 12) both have their own cards and really enjoy visiting museums too.   Some can be very crowded on the weekends during the heavy tourist season like NEMO their favorite – so consider going on a Study Day when they are off school.    My kids haven’t done this but kids can become a “Museum Inspector” where they can tell about the museum during and after a visit. Completing the questionnaire, they let other children know how much fun they think this museum is for young people. The museums uses the answers to devise even better children’s programs. Plus they have a chance to win great prizes. Oh and there are games online too!

WHAT IF I DON’T LIVE IN THE NETHERLANDS?

If you don’t have a Dutch bank account or want the card asap, some museums allow you to buy a temporary card at the ticket desk.  The “temporary card” is valid for a month and only allows 5 museum visits. Dutch and EU residents can now officially register the temporary card (photo required) to upgrade to the full annual validity.  So with that said you could technically buy the card, use it 5 times and then re-sell it on for a discounted rate and someone, who lives locally, can then register it online for themselves. Once you register your “temporary pass”, you’ll receive a standard pass within five working day which will then be valid for one year from the date of purchase.  With Covid, some locations stopped selling in person – to limit person-to-person contact, so check before you go!

CAN WE JUMP THE QUEUE WITH A MUSEUMKAART?

Normally you just queue up as usual and present your museum card at the ticket desk. The Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum both have a fast-lane entry for Museumkaart holders though pre-booking online is mandatory; the Maritime Museum has a special desk for Museum cards and pre-booked tickets; at the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk you just get your museum card scanned at the main gallery entrance – no need to queue at the sales desk. Each time the Dutch government has shut down entry to the museums due to the lockdown/Covid restrictions, valid cards have been extended for the periods. In addition, to control the number of guests, pre-booking time slots have become mandatory.  Same day is fine for most museums. Some of the more popular ones – especially the Anne Frank House you should know that you have to book WELL IN ADVANCE. Your pre-booked ticket gives you a specific entry time. Museumkaart holders get free entry but need to pay a €0.50 fee during the online booking process. You only need to show the card (with ticket) when you arrive at the museum. Also one point to note: that many museums have online virtual viewing components now with COVID – click here for Anne Frank House.

MUSEUMS WE HAVE VISITED & PERSONALLY RECOMMEND

While I try to blog about my trips to the various museums, for one reason or another, I don’t always find time to update the blog. Some previously visited include Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Van Abbe in Eindhoven, Noord Brabants Museum in Den Bosch, Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem, Photography Museum & Mauritshuis both in Den Haag and the Nationaal Militair Museum in Soest. Some also do not allow photography inside like the Anne Frank House which Maebh and I visited during our outing in Amsterdam.

Panorama Mesdag  – Den Haag
Philips Museum – Eindhoven
DAF Museum – Eindhoven
Van Gogh – Amsterdam
Royal Delft Museum
TU Botanic Gardens – Delft
Spoorweg Museum – Utrecht
Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) – Amsterdam
Groninger Museum – Groningen
NEMO Science Museum – Amsterdam
Museum Giethoorn – Giethoorn
Oorlogsmuseum – Overloon
Natuurmuseum – Tilburg
Louwman’s Museum – Den Haag
Naturalis – Leiden
Maritiem Museum – Rotterdam
National Monument Kamp Vught

HOW MANY MUSEUMS?

In this tiny country, there are over 480 museums, on almost every topic including water, science, WW2, cars and art and so much more. There are of course museum about sex industry, marijuana, houseboats and cheese – but those are not included in the free entry so you’ll have to pay an additional fee. Just having a look at the SMALL list below there are SOOO many more museums for you to make the most of your time in the Netherlands. I didn’t include them ALL but you can go on the site and search by region, subject – art, history, technical, etc and find what interests YOU! And if, like me, you sometimes need a bit of an incentive to get you out more (especially if it’s cold and wet), once you’ve bought the card, you really feel like you should make the most of it! If we visit a city we have never been, we try to combine it with a museum visit.

Amsterdam (and suburbs)

Rotterdam

Utrecht

Den Haag

Haarlem

Leiden

Other parts of the Netherlands

IS THIS A GOOD OPTION FOR TOURISTS?

For residents it offers a fantastic value over the course of the ENTIRE YEAR. The card is great for the ability to just pop into a museum for 30 minutes and visit a new exhibition – and you won’t feel the pressure to see everything.  The Museumkaart has always been aimed at the local Dutch market and never really been promoted for use by foreign tourists staying a few days.

That said, it is an option but if you are a tourist visiting Amsterdam for a couple days, I think you might find more value in one of the city passes:  iAmsterdam.com pass, Holland Pass or Amsterdam Pass all offer additional discounts which might suit you better like entry to Artis – the zoo, canal boat tours, bike rentals (if you dare) and SOME museums, etc.

Do you have a Museumkaart? What are some of your favorite museums here in the Netherlands which you have visited?

Inburgeringexamen – My Experiences & Tips On Passing The Dutch Integration Exams! “Ik Ben Klaaaar… But Am I “ingeburgerd”?

My heading is a bit of a joke – Ik Ben Klaar! Back story was that a younger woman (I’d say early 20’s) in my first course would irritate the sh!te out of me and the person who sat next to me. Mainly because she had a workbook which was already filled in (clearly by someone else). When the instructor assigned us quiet work, she’d slam her pencil down and scream aloud – “Ik Ben Klaar“! Then when it was time practice time, she couldn’t speak Dutch and would contribute NOTHING! Then would be absent for a few days and then re-appear and begin shouting “Ik Ben Klaar” again – gosh we hated when she’d be assigned to our group. Anyway, wish her all the best … I really do!

I can still remember back to my first days here in the Netherlands – I was one of “those Americans” who didn’t think they had to “inburger”.  Married to a Dutchman, living together for so many years (even inside the EU, I thought I was in the clear until a few weeks after our arrival – a letter came – staying I was, in fact, inburgeringsplichtig!    Wait what?  Me?! I mean, I did agree to start learning Dutch but I now have to take actual exams within a period of 3 years and pass them to be allowed to stay.  I was truthfully a bit scared at this… could I do it?!

What if you don’t pass my exams in the time frame?

Well, if you don’t you can receive a substantial fine ((boete) €1,250 and then given two more years to pass. But really after being through it, I really think you need a very valid excuse to not pass! You have THREE years and it’s a level A2 as of now. Well if you are completely illiterate and have never learned to read or write – than I do think that would be the only real issue. But you can first take a literacy course and then go on to learn Dutch, etc. I met a woman who went this route and she was given a LOT of extra time.

You keep hearing American’s are exempt – Is it true?

Turns out American’s are only exempt from taking the “basisexamen inburgering buitenland” – which is an exam that some people (depending on which country you come from) have to take BEFORE arriving in the Netherlands. This exam is mandatory for non-EU/EEA nationals from countries who require an authorization for temporary stay (MVV); nationals from an EU/EEA country, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, United States of America, and Vatican City are exempt.

That is the ONLY thing we are exempt from.  Well – actually unless, of course, you are not here on an EU/EEA family visa and are here on DAFT or a Highly Skilled Migrant visa (aka 30% ruling) than you also don’t have to take the exams. But but you don’t have the same rights and permanent visa that we have.  If you end up coming on one of those visas and changing, then you will, in fact, have to take the exams too.., so fair warning don’t wait – start learning Dutch.

Essentially the civic exam “diploma” is needed for some nationals to have the right to live and work in the Netherlands, to obtain a permanent residence permit and to apply for a Dutch passport. You may need to renounce your current citizenship when you apply for your Dutch citizenship. Again – exceptions and exemptions to that too.

How long – THREE years to pass all required inburgeringsexamen!

Once you become inburgeringsplichtig in the Netherlands, you have three years to pass all the exams.  “Inburgering” is simply this – integration into Dutch society.  It covers an elementary level of Dutch language (it’s really so you can get around, interact with people, answer simple questions and pretty much survive here), as well as, an understanding of Dutch culture and society.  It’s also a requirement for a lot of people who wish to stay in the Netherlands who are not a part of the EEA/EU.  Due to the ever changing status of the laws, I can’t say whether you will, or will not ever need to sit an Inburgeringscursus.  If you’re like me, and considered to come from a ‘civilised’ country, you’ll probably just have a recommendation to take a couple Dutch courses and take the exams within 3 years of registering with the IND.

What level of Dutch is required?

As it stands today, end of Dec 2020, to pass the tests your Dutch should be at a high A2 level.  Well actually you only have to get a 60% to pass so you could do it with a lower level but if you are like me and you want to have a good score you need a bit more knowledge.  And I say bit loosely – you DO NOT NEED too be fluent in Nederlands to pass.  If you’re starting from scratch I would advise taking an elementary Dutch course.  You need to understand the gajillion rules (so much I still don’t understand and mix up especially when speaking) …. Things like sentence structure, irregular verbs, word order, etc will make your head spin unless you consistently use it.   

When should I take the exams? 

As I said above and often talked about in the new news – it is worth noting that the Dutch government is planning to raise the level of the inburgering exams to level B1. They have been saying this for a while, so I don’t know when it will take effect. I DO, however, really understand why. A2 level is really low to truly function in society.  However, if you have been living in the Netherlands between 2013 – up to July 2021 you do stay in the A2-level inburgering category.  Click here on this link from DUO with a bit more information.   This information changes and there is even talk that even if you passed your A2 level exams, you must be at a B1 level to receive Naturalization!  But just today, December 4, 2020 – I read they are not going to B1 – YET!

Let’s talk about the actual exams.

The Inburgering exam consists of several parts: Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, Knowledge of Dutch Society (KNM), Orientation to the Dutch Labour Market (ONA) for those who came to the Netherlands after 1 January 2013 and Participatieverklaring for those who came to the Netherlands after October 2017.

I wrote out the order which I personally took my tests.  Note: You don’t have to take them in any particular order, and yes, you can take them all on the same day.  Some take this approach, but I wouldn’t do that. Some procrastinate and have no choice but to cram them all in at the end, others, cannot take time off work and find one day suits them best. For me, spreading them out worked best. 

KENNIS VAN DE NEDERLANDSE MAATSCHAPPIJ (KNM)
This is essentially knowledge of the Netherlands – including history, some laws, job hunting, buying houses, famous landmarks, politics, Dutch education system, geography and social behaviour of the Dutch.  All multiple choice. I am certain that one I got wrong was relating to social welfare and education streams depending on which middelbare school level attended – I now know all the ways thanks to my oldest going off to middelbare school in September.   

TOETS LEESVAARDIHEID
Listening exam – basic reading comprehension.   You read a paragraph, answer questions . Again – multiple choice. 

TOETS LUISTEREN
Listening exam – a bit like the reading comprehension – only listening.   You watch a scenario – normally two people talking and you answer questions.   Again – multiple choice. 

GESPROKEN NEDERLANDS
To do the speaking test, you have to respond to short videos using a few sentences of spoken Dutch for each video. You are in a shared room with other candidates. You wear a headset with a microphone which is hooked up to a PC. Your spoken Dutch response is recorded and played back later for assessment.  This was all okay but I found it REALLY distracting when the worker is walking around and stood behind me a lot – talk about embarrassing!  TIP: Answer in SHORT complete sentences.  Don’t blabber on as you’ll have greater chances of mistakes.

TOETS SCHRIJVEN
Written exam – you are given a booklet and a pen with four different exercises which tests your writing skills.  It is important to re-read the question twice to be sure that you write about everything that is asked; do not miss any point asked of you or you lose points.

PORTFOLIO ORIENTATIE NEDERLANDSE ARBEIDSMARKT (ONA)
In addition to the tests mentioned above, you will also have to create a “portfolio” as evidence of your orientation on the Dutch job market. Once you have completed this task, you send your portfolio in online.   Once it has been approved, you then have to come and speak about your portfolio. One or two examiners will ask you questions about your portfolio, mainly to test whether your answers are authentic. All this of course in Dutch. This takes around 35-40 minutes and this was the most nerve wracking to me. Unless you take a specific course (€€€€€) on this topic, you have to have an end interview to review your portfolio.

If you have a permanent paid job contract (which you work so many hours in the past 6 months  you can apply for exemption). I don’t currently have a paid job so I had to do this.  Also they have recently added some additional reasons for exemptions as they have a real backlog in this test for interviewers so maybe you can be exempt from this process. Truthfully I put this one off to the end as I thought it was the hardest and most difficult but when you actually set your mind to it and look what needs to be done, it’s not that difficult – especially if like me you are legitimately looking for a job.   You have to show that you know the Dutch labor market, can make a CV, cover letter, know how to search for jobs, and have a plan.

Same with all the tests, when you arrive at your test center, you check in and you must leave all things in your locker.  Jacket, watch, telephone, etc. You are not allowed to bring anything into the room with you except your ID.  NOTHING! In past exams, they walked around the room with a special hand-held device to test if someone had any electronic recording equipment taped to them. Apparently there was a big scandal some years back.

PARTICIPATIEVERKLARING
When you register at the local Gemeente, you are supposed to immediately get a letter that says you have to learn what is important in the Netherlands and are invited to a two-day workshop. After a 2-day, 3-hour workshop, you have to sign the declaration. This piece of paper is called the participation statement. By doing so, you state that you will actively participate in Dutch society and that you respect what is important here in the Netherlands. 

  • Everybody in the Netherlands is equal.
  • Everybody may choose their own partner.
  • Everybody may choose their own religion.
  • Everybody is allowed to go to school.
  • Everybody can say what they think. But it is not allowed to discriminate against somebody else.
  • We take care of ourselves. But we also take care of each other. The government helps when needed.

My class was very interesting to say the least – we had a mix of different cultures and religions and values so at times conversations became intense.    Largely aimed at Middle Eastern societies as the workshops emphasized the difference between Dutch and Muslim beliefs/practices. For example, here in the Netherlands, parents cannot force you at 16 year old to get married; it is acceptable to wear a bikini on the beach; you don’t have to wear a headscarf (many continue to do so – some don’t); kissing in public is normal; Dutch society accepts same-sex relationships, and so forth.

Results – How & when do you know if you passed?

Typically you know your results in a few weeks for the computer-based exams. You can log into the website and check if you passed, but you’ll always get a letter in the mail with the grade (cijfer). The ones where a human must correct – Speaking & Writing can take up to 8 weeks. (And now with Corona up to 12-15 weeks). Again, you only need a 60% score to pass the exams. You can keep retaking the exams, if you don’t pass, BUT you need to keep paying. I paid a total of € 290 for the tests.

Actually I joked that now that I passed my exams, I need to actually learn real Dutch now.  Which while I’m joking, my intent is there… Not sure what my exact plan is yet, but improving my Dutch and most importantly my speaking is essential.

How do you get your diploma?

Outside of the current “corona time” you would have had to pick it up. But now, once you are finished with the exams, it is automatic. So you don’t have to do anything special to receive your diploma, it will just be sent via registered post and arrive at your house. It is supposed to requires a signature, but I found mine in my mailbox without a signature. Don’t care – just happy I have it in my hand.

Costs & Preparing for the exams.

In the past, the courses for Inburgering were subsidized by the city councils but now you are on your own. Costs are really all over the place. To give you an idea, my first course was €1,300 for 8 weeks (9 hours a week)! DUO offers loans for select schools – but that I was not interested in doing. Truthfully in this day and age of the internet, you can do a lot (if not the entire exam preparation) self-study, if you wish. I think if you know zero Dutch, it’s best to start first with a beginners course (A0-A1) to get the fundamentals down. Check with your local library for free classes and Spreektaal groeps normally it’s for people with A2 or above but that is the level you should be at for the exams so it’s yet another place for “oefenen” practice! Then read, listen to podcasts and use the internet for additional resources if you don’t / can’t take a class.

There are also plenty of resources available on the internet which will help you to prepare and determine if your level is high enough to pass the tests. Just go to Google and see what suits you. The most important place is the OFFICIAL site = inburgeren.nl The practice tests here look EXACTLY as the format of the real exams so that is a huge help.  Of course, the questions differ – but it gives you the score at the end.  Very helpful in preparation. If you pass these exams consistently, then you’ll do okay with the actual exams.

I think Ad Appel is the second-best place to go for help.  They are a language school in Aerdenhout with an online based classes. But they also have so much valuable FREE information on the internet including Facebook groups and loads of Youtube videos!

Curious how YOU would do on these tests? 

Click here and you’ll see all the practice exams on the official site.   They take about 20-40 minutes each and you don’t need a login try them. I’d love to hear how you did if you tried one. HINT: Listening is the easiest!

My Top Three Tips!

Write & Speak in SHORT sentences.
Don’t Wait – take the tests now before the level goes up!
Practice, Practice, Practice on Inburgeren.nl and speaking as much Dutch as you can.

Final thoughts.

Just because you pass your “Inburgering Exam” doesn’t mean you are Inburgered or does it? 🙂 There is a funny blogger – AmsterdamShallowMan which I highly recommend posts some funny things. Here is a post about 10 Ways To Fit Into Dutch Society.

Keep in mind – this is all based on my personal experience. In the end I am glad to have it done over with. My level of Dutch is somewhere between A2-B1 based on the tests I’ve taken. But speaking continues to struggle because I just don’t do it often!! The benefit of the Inburgering is that you know more about Dutch society – so it is all about Integration – hence the name of the exam itself. But the Staatsexamen NT2 is a better choice for those who purely want the language without the fuss of integration! I guess it all depends on your budget, time and visa requirements.

I personally think the Dutch government should invest a bit more in immigrants and offer them packages or a ways to incentivise them to learn the language at a higher level. You are basically left on your own to sink or swim. I do know that they do offer some support for people who never had the opportunity to learn to read and write even in their language, or for people who do not know the Roman alphabet. While I’m sure it’s not perfect, but I think Germany does something great by subsidizing the courses – everyone pays less than €2. per session. So much more affordable than the courses offered here – which can cost several thousand.

What do you think? Did you try the exams above? How did you do? Have you also passed (or in the process) of doing your Inburgering exams here in the Netherlands?

Flessenlikker – A Typical Dutch Item & A Perfect Gift!

Typical Dutch Things

Often during the holiday season, I hear Internationals asking what are some “Typical Dutch Things” which they could bring/send home to their families as gifts. Of course shipping is very expensive and suitcase space is limited so items tend to me small and light weight. So I’m not talking things like bicycles!  Usual replies include drop licorices, bathroom birthday calendars, stroopwaffels, hagelslag, clog slippers, speculaas, Wilhelmina Peppermints and cheese are the most popular items but another one that gets a LOT of suggestions is the “Flessenlikker”

The flessenlikker also called flessenschraper (roughly translated to “bottle- licker“) is an ingenious, yet very simple, kitchen tool that I only just bought after living here in the Netherlands for nearly 3 years!   I knew about it but never actually got around to getting one until last week to be put into the Sint grab game.  

How does it work?  

Just as its name implies, it is used to scrape foods from insides of jars and pots – think peanut butter, Nutella, apple sauce, jams, mustard and of course MAYONNAISE – remember the Dutch LOVE their mayonnaise! 🙂 Without it, bits of mayonnaise or other sauces or condiments stuck to their jars or bottles inevitably end up being rinsed down the drain or thrown into the recycling bin – WASTED!  The flessenlikker’s design allows it to get at food that a flat knife or spoon cannot remove.  

Here is a funny video of Internationals being shown one – and they have to try and guess what the item is.

With this much thrift and cleanliness, it can only be a Dutch invention!

Actually – the tool was created in Norway, it never quite took off there.   It is cited as a quintessentially Dutch tool, as well as, an example of “Dutch thrift”.   In the Netherlands, it was first primarily for vla, a thin, custard-like dessert. Back in the early 1900s, it was sold in glass bottles. And when you got to the bottom of the bottle, you wanted every last drop. 

Is the flessenlikker still so popular?

Yes and no.  Nowadays not every Dutch person owns one. But it used to be in every household. Most people would still recognise it, but you won’t find it everywhere.  I actually had one Dutch person say to me they didn’t know what it was….and two say they didn’t have one at home. Wonder if they’ll get one now?

So when you’re looking for a “Typical Dutch Thing” to give as a gift – consider adding a flessenlikker to it.  I’m sure your family & friends would get a kick out of this invention.  HEMA has them for only €2!   On my next trip back home, I’m bringing some with me! 🙂

So far, I’ve used my flessenslikker only once for peanut butter – but I am certain my €2 was well-spent. Next time, I’ll enlist the kids to help me scrape. And of course, if I end up with something else unique and typically Dutch, I’ll share it. For the record, we don’t own a bathroom calendar – only because I’ve yet to find one that I really like, but I do want one.

Tell me, have you heard of the flessenlikker? Have one or want one now that you’ve seen this post?

How To Make Dutch Stamppot – “Boerenkool Met Worst” Recipe

If you are not new to my blog then you know I tend to write about the places we visit and things we do,  but today I thought it might be fun to share some of the things I cook.  I’m a huge fan of cooking and have a huge interest in a variety of kitchens – I love Italian, Mexican but I’m particularly fond of Asian cooking. I especially love Korean, Thai and Vietnamese dishes and just recently enjoyed a delicious home-cooked Indonesian meal including Rendang,  Kip sate and Nasi.  So my next experiment meal is going to be a variation of those dishes and maybe an additional one so I’m busy gathering recipes.  Not surprisingly I already have a lot of the ingredients here in the house from making homemade Sambal trassi. I will of course share those recipes and the outcome of my mini Indonesian meal.

But for this post which is about tonight’s dinner, I thought why not try something typically DUTCH!  Dutch cuisine you ask? I know – that you don’t hear a lot about.  No one says I feel like grabbing some Dutch takeaway. Not to say it’s not “good” but let’s be honest – the Dutch are known for many things and it’s not their cuisine.  When you think of “traditional Dutch food”, you probably think of Gouda cheese, stroopwaffels, pancakes/poffertjes and possibly even herring, but hands down the most traditional item is Stammpot. Ask a Dutchie the same thing – name a “traditional Dutch dish“, I am certain they’ll say Stamppot or Hutspot!  

When I think back to my first time in the Netherlands in Aug 1999, I ate this dish. Perhaps it was the sausage or the way it was cooked – no idea but truthfully, I have to say I was not a fan.  A bit like Bangers & Mash in the UK & Irish colcannon with sausages, here in the winter this is a staple meal in a lot of households in the Netherlands — just not the case here. I think the last time I made it was probably 5 years ago in Ireland!  Clearly, I’m not yet “ingeburgerd” but trying :).  It was brought up this weekend in a conversation, so when I was planning out dinner, I thought I’d give it a try.  The photos are not the best and most appealing looking images, but it actually came out pretty good and both kids liked it. A bit of the dinner conversation was about Dutch Hema on Youtube. I suspect they meant this one but will have to ask – as we didn’t look it up.

WHAT IS STAMPPOT?

Stamppot is a traditional Dutch dish made from a combination of potatoes mashed with one or several vegetables with a sausage on top.  These vegetable pairings traditionally include kale, sauerkraut, endive, spinach, turnip greens, or carrot & onion. (The combination of the latter two is known as hutspot.  It’s the ultimate “comfort food”. Perfect for a cold, dark & wet evenings. 

There is a variety of stamppot recipes in the Netherlands – and of course that is where personal taste preferences really comes into play but below are some of the most popular versions.

  • Boerenkoolstamppot (kale stamppot) – this is the one I made tonight and (I think) most popular!
  • Zuurkoolstamppot (sauerkraut stamppot)
  • Hutspot (onion and carrot stamppot)
  • Rauwe Andijviestamppot (raw endive stamppot)
  • Preistamppot (leek stamppot)

HISTORY BEHIND IT?

Exactly how the very first stamppot recipe originated is not completely clear, yet historians do know that many dishes were prepared in a large pot during the Middle Ages. According to legend, the recipe came from the cooked potato bits left behind by hastily departing Spanish soldiers during their Siege of Leiden in 1574 during the Eighty Years’ War, when the liberators breached the dikes of the lower lying polders surrounding the city. To this day the Dutch city still celebrates the Liberation of Leiden on 3rd October with a traditional Dutch hutspot.

WHICH TYPE OF ROOKWORST?

Now that you know you basically boil potatoes and veg and combine them you now have to figure out which type of “rookworst” to buy. As I stood in the section of my local Albert Heijn I really didn’t know which to choose, so I picked one from Unox brand. There were a LOT of choices including a vegetarian one. Wonder if you can get turkey worst or chicken worst? I’ve had Dutch friends recommend that I try the worst at the HEMA. But as I said before, I never make this meal so I don’t know a good worst from the bad one – so I just bought the one that was not the cheapest and not the most expensive.  Coming from the States, the best way to explain it (and you’ll see in the photo) is that it is most similar to a Polish Kielbasa – you simply pan fry it or boil it slightly to warm it up.    If there is a next time, I’ll try the recommended HEMA worst! 

I believe that most Dutch cook it all together in one pot, which makes the whole process much quicker and simpler, but I think the kale is a bit more ‘al dente’. I personally cook the kale separately until it’s softer, then I add it into the smashed potatoes.

THIS IS HOW I MAKE “MY VERSION” OF DUTCH BOERENKOOLSTAMPPOT MET WORST.

  1. Peel and chop potatoes (and any veg you are putting in).  I just started paying attention to the type of potatoes and now specifically for stamppot – there is a difference in how they cook – some are more starchy others more waxy. Of course this makes total sense but I don’t use a lot of potatoes in my cooking, so that is quite new to me. As for the kale, you can also chop it yourself but they have handy already washed & chopped kale in bags for around €1, so I just buy it like that. Extras can be used in smoothies and omelettes.

  2. Place all the vegetables in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until vegetables are tender about 20 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, cook the worst until nicely browned on both sides and heated through.  I’ve read you can gently boil the worst or just heat it up – I prefer mine cut and grilled.

  4. Fry one half of onion and two cloves of garlic until brown.

  5. Drain the vegetables well, add a little butter then mash but don’t purée. You want to be a bit chunky. Season the stamppot with nutmeg, salt, and pepper and mix in cooked onion and garlic.

  6. Make a jus – (that’s simply a gravy for those who don’t know. Not sure if this is the traditional way but I like it this way… 

  7. Serve with worst arranged on top of a giant pile of mashed potatoes and some mustard on the side.  Of course, one of my kids asked for mayonnaise on the side! 🙂  

    I’ve read that some add fruit like pears on top!!!  I have NO IDEA why you’d do that… I don’t think it would taste good – correct me if I’m wrong.

Eet Smakelijk! Which means – enjoy your meal!

Another typical Dutch dish is Erwtensoep aka Snert – which is Pea Soup. I also make it a bit different than the Dutch way but next time I make it, I’ll post here. Oh and almost forget – hachee – which is something I learned last year and will make this year – Soren LOVES it!

Tell me have you tried Dutch Stamppot? Sound appealing? Do you make it a different way? You don’t have to limit yourself to the ways above – take mine or another from the internet and tweak it! I know someone who adds crispy spek (tiny bacon pieces into their mashed potatoes.

*Photo credit: lekkerensimpel.com