Flammkuchen – Quick & Easy Rustic German Fare!

Not sure why on my 46 years on this planet have I never made, let alone ate Flammkuchen until today!! There was a bar which specialized in them and speciality beers in Den Bosch but sadly closed down with Covid. If you are a fan of thin crust pizza (which I am) this is a must try. I was inspired when I saw Hugo Kennis making a “Duits hapjes platter on the 5 Uur Live show – recipes are here. In the same episode, he also made curryworst but I’ll totally pass on that but I know the kids would love it.

My plan was to make two types of Flammkuchen. Salmon & Leeks and Spek & Red Onion and both were so good! After the first two, the kids were still hungry so I used the 3rd & 4th sheet – one for a combo of the aforementioned as I still had leftovers. And then for a treat, I made one with apples and cinnamon. Clearly a success as there was not a single piece left!! I look forward to being creative and making new combinations in the the future.

A Flam What?

Flammkuchen pronounced flam-KOOK-en) also known by its French name “Tarte Flambée” comes from South Germany and the Alsace region of France (along the southwestern French-German border).  According to the wikipedia entry, it was made as a way to test the heat of the oven the farmers used to make bread. Then they added some ingredients as topping, and voila – a whole new kind of “pizza” was created.

What is the difference between Flammkuchen and Pizza?

Unlike traditional pizza, Flammkuchen or Tarte Flambée does not have an underlying layer of tomato sauce under cheese (normally mozzarella) and toppings. While you can use any toppings that you like for you flammkuchen, the most traditional combination includes bacon and caramelized onions. And instead of cheese, Flammkuchen uses crème fraîche or cottage cheese (fromage blanc or weißer Käse) seasoned with a sprinkle of nutmeg and black pepper. Your options are endless – just google Flammkuchen or Tarte Flambee recipes and you’ll see soooo many options. Here is one in English from The Guardian. I’ve seen some which look so good including this Green Asparagus, Feta & Red Onion from Jumbo’s recipe guide in Dutch – that is one that I’d make next for sure!

Dough – make or buy?

Like with pizza, you can buy or make our own dough. For me, I never make my own. But this dough is quite simple – a mixture of flour, salt, water, and oil that mixes together well and kneads nice and smooth. But I figure why bother, when you can get a four pack of pre-rolled out, perfectly formed rectangle sheets at Sligo for less than €2. I need to mention that Sligro is my second favorite shop in the Netherlands. And maybe from past posts, you probably know that Amazing Oriental is first. Maybe one day I’ll do a blog post on those two shops. I already did one on Intratuin – being more than your average garden center – it’s another great shop – even for non-green thumbs like myself. Anyway back to the dough and the main difference from your typical pizza is that there is no yeast or other leavening agent. It’s just a pretty simple dough. So it doesn’t rise – just try and get it as thin as you can. Or be like me and buy the base.

Tips when making.

1.) Less is really is more in this dish. Like when you make a pizza, if you add too many toppings, it won’t crisp up and you end up with a soggy base – yuck! So, same concept -keep the toppings light! You are better off with a few an one big mushy one.

2.) If you are using spek (bacon pieces) do first pan from they so they are crispy. If using onions, I recommend you pan fry them too – or alternatively let them soak in water for a bit before putting on, otherwise, they can burn too quickly as your oven is really hot!

3.) If you are in the US or a place you cannot find creme fraiche, you can mix of sour cream and Greek yogurt.

4.) It can be tricky to slide the Flammkuchen onto a baking tray, so just make it already on the baking tray – but be sure you put down parchment paper – so they don’t stick!

So that was my experience with Flammkuchen. One day I’ll finally get to Italy and enjoy their pizza. For now I’ll fondly remember the escargot pizza in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, France which sounds awful to some but really SO GOOOOOD! Of course, I know Italian and Turkish pizza – what’s next to try? Polish Pizza?

Have a suggestion other than better quality food photos 🙂 – do let me know!

DISTANCE DISCO – A Remote Dance Party!

My daughter was invited to a socially distance online birthday disco dance party – so naturally she let brother & I get in on the action. The invitation, which was super creative was hand delivered. It contained an invite, activity sheets, chips, juice boxes, a bouncy ball, glow sticks and naturally a Corona beer for the adults.


A company in Amsterdam created distancedisco.nl – which essentially was a quirky social experiment that combines a dance party with a game. There is one simple rule: you have to find the person who’s dancing to your own song and enter their code. If you enter the wrong code you get minus points – that is where we went wrong a bit at the start. Tip: Read the FAQs online before the party so you know exactly what to do! But all in all it sounds simple right – well if you have a small screen and lots of people dancing around it’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s really hard to see … so you have to get creative – like using your hands to sing and make sings like love, patting your heart or your head. Using your fingers to count and even some props – we brought in a teddy bear for the song I’m a gummy bear. I do think next time, we will hook up to the big screen tv in the living room – only we’ll miss out on the LED “Night Club effect” offered in my son’s room. Dressing up and having a disco ball for atmosphere would be really fun, but our family has never been into fancy dress so we lack crazy hats, wigs, costumes and all that party stuff. So apart from our Oeteldonk jackets and scarves and the 3d-movie glasses (which we were wearing), we don’t have a trunk full of dress up clothes like some families. And with all shops closed in our continued lockdown, getting any of that would require more preparation and ordering online etc.

And we, team Peanut, Butter & Jelly finished right in the middle 8 out of 16 – so not bad for our first time 🙂

Maebh had such a great time that she’s considering doing this for her birthday early April should the Covid restrictions continue as they are going – which might be the case.

Booking is straight forward, you fill in a form online – book a slot with a time, select the type of music and then send a link to your guests. Dancers must be online before the start of the event as they cannot join after it starts.

And for those who are interested in just dancing with strangers, you can do that too for FREE on their platform!

Overall, we had a great time and would definitely recommend doing it with friends and family. We’ll certainly do it again!

Happy 13th Birthday My Boy! I love you to The Moon & Back!

My Dearest Soren!

First off, I won’t write an essay as I’ll tell you a lot of this to your face, but I’ll write something here, so you can look back in the future like you do at my “old lady Facebook posts” which I love to show you – like your first day of preschool back in Boston or your first goal in soccer or your first missing tooth.

It is hard to believe at times that you are now 13 – a real teenager. It seems like yesterday, you were this tiny baby boy everyone was so excited to meet.  Wait, it’s hard to believe you were in my belly and your father was ordering a frigging “Pupu Platter” while I was in labor for two days. Oh wait, I’ve got another story – got ahead, roll those beautiful green eyes, I know I’ve told you this many times but when you are a dad one day you’ll appreciate it. When you were crowning and the Dr. came in the room and asked me if I wanted to feel your head and I replied (very seriously “don’t I have to wash my hands first?”  To think that wasn’t even CORONA time. 

Fast forward many years and here we are about to embark on your THIRTEENTH birthday! While I wish you nothing but an awesome birthday for you and an awesome year, too, I know this year continues to be a hard one for us all. We live in the time of a looonnnggggng lockdown here in the Netherlands, no fun birthday parties like last year’s Karting party, no Oeteldonk carnival, no special events, the country is full of unrest due to “some people” who have made bade decisions to cause havoc. Your Oma Cora just passed last week which was sad for all of us. Over the years, you were tasked with a lot – having to grow up in many countries, changing schools despite not wanting to yet again, starting over with new friends, learning a new language, new houses and new people. I also realize this means you’ve had people you care about enter and exit your life – some at your choice and some not. You’ve had to leave sports teams you really loved, One day, you’ll look back at these experiences and know that you’ll make it through this and like all the other challenges you’ve overcome – stronger. My boy, over the last thirteen years, you have experienced far more than any child your age should have experienced, and yet in the words of someone far wiser than I.  On far too many occasions you dried MY tears, snuggled up beside ME, held MY hand and gave ME the strength that I was lacking. Even now, you still do and I am grateful for that! Right now at 13 we look eye to eye – I know this is the year which you’ll over take there, so now I’ll look up to you both literally and physically.

You’re not perfect, you and I both know that, and there are times when you drive me crazy, and I know vice versa!  🙂 When you fight with your sister, or when I see the state of your homework minutes before it’s due or when you refuse to back down in an argument or insist you know best, but I would NOT change it for the WORLD.

Academically you are doing well despite this independent home schooling in DUTCH (as mum doesn’t speak Dutch)  yet you still have no idea just how clever you are or how far you can go in this life if you apply yourself correctly. I cannot wait to see what the future brings you as you embark in middelbare school. I challenge you to Surround Yourself by People who Make You Better – Seek friends and acquaintances who are as smart or smarter than you and kinder than you, wiser than you, stronger than you. You will learn from them and you will rise to their level, if you are not already there. Don’t get dragged down! I tell you this a lot and I’ll tell you this again – don’t pretend to have confidence and look cool, and then sit at home alone wishing you were so confident. Be strong, put yourself out there – make friends and be a great friend.

Again, I won’t make this a novel, though I could, I talk enough to you daily – probably so much you keep those wireless headphones in to tune me out 🙂 I type that jokingly but I know partly true – I’m always here for you to talk – just say the word and I’m all ears. But I’m also going to keep asking, about your day, life, friends, school, troubles or worries just in the event you want to talk – mom is all ears!!

PS Notice I didn’t mention or tease you about girls 🙂 I’m trying!

Love your biggest fan,

Your Mom!

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?

Update: I was taking with a Dutch friend here about getting a book for my 11 year old daughter and she recommended to me Het Puberbook – written by Sanderijn Van de Doef. I’ve attached a few photos for you see – how it is VERY detailed and also very factual. It touches on a lot of the things the above book doesn’t. One catch, it is only in Dutch, so wouldn’t work well for those who cannot read it.

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?