Relaxing Friday in Gent

Since we knew we were going to travel to Koln early on Saturday, we decided to make Friday a nice, relaxing evening.

For starters, we enjoyed a nice home-cooked meal!  It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of our meals (mostly because Joe’s had traveled a bit and I do have 2 meals a week at school).  However, I found a new recipe and was very excited to try it!

Balsamic Chicken & Mushrooms (from this blog).  I followed the recipe almost exactly (I didn’t have any fresh thyme so I subbed in some remaining chicken spice plust I added 1/2 an onion).  I then made roasted brussel sprouts as a side!  I still can’t figure out when brussel sprouts are in season here…seems like fall and spring?

Yum, I fo sho had 2nds!

After, we decided to check out Gent’s Christmas Market.  It didn’t open until Friday for some reason (perhaps because I heard most Belgian Christmas celebrations happen after Sinterklaas).  The setting was beautiful – right outside St. Baaf’s Cathedral.  It was significantly smaller than the Brussels Christmas Market, but very cozy and quaint.  There was even a band playing!  Here are some pics:

The Belfort tower nicely lit!

The inevitable "Gluhwein" stand!

And of course, AWESOME hot chocolate - can you see the HUGE marshmallows?

We then walked into the Korenmarkt to see the big Christmas tree.  Definitely did not pass the “squint test,” but still very pretty.  I don’t understand all these carnival rides…

Gent's Tree!

Quite a nice night!

Seriously the best…

Stew I have EVER tasted.  (Ok, besides the goulash my babysitter made when I was like 4).

I got the idea from one of my favorite blogs: Sweettoothsweetlife.  She had made a lentil soup and I explored the link she gave and found this bad boy!

Vegetable Lentil Stew: (From Taste of Home)

  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 2 cans (reg size) diced tomatoes (mine had little peppers in them!)
  • 1 can (reg size) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (reg size) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 tbsps chili powder
  • 2 tsps dried basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 bag fresh spinach

Sooo many ingredients!

Combine all the ingredients (except the spinach) into a HUGE pot–mine almost overflowed.  I was getting nervous!  Bring to a boil and then cover, lower heat, and simmer for 35-40 minutes.  Stir occasionally!  At the end of the simmering, the veggie’s, lentils, and potatoes should be tender.  Stir in the spinach until mixed and wilted (like a minute)!

Simmerin'

We enjoyed this with some bread and a sprinkle of cheese!

So freakin' good & great for the cold day!

Obviously, we had a TON of leftover since it was just the 2 of us.  We def froze it for later! 🙂

Pumpkin, oatmeal, chocolate, and raisins!

This morning I made myself a hearty-portion of oatmeal (plain this time).  I’m rationing my flavored Quaker oatmeal from the US as it’s diminishing quickly!  I added some brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and cereal to the mix.

Let's be honest...not as flavorful

So…I had some leftover pumpkin from earlier this week and wanted to make something new.  Enter: Pumpkin, oatmeal, chocolate chip, and raisin cookies!  I found this recipe online and was super pumped about it for a number of reasons.

1.  The missing ingredients that I did not have were “findable” without too much struggle @ the Belgian grocery store (you’ll see below that I’m literally only talking about the flour…yes, pathetic, I know).

2.  It was fat free!  Crazy…I have not told Joe that yet.  I want to see his reaction to the taste first 🙂

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies: (adapted from here)

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (American grocery store)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (American grocery store)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda (American grocery store)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (American grocery store)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (American grocery store)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (American grocery store)
  • 1/3 cup raisins

The supplies! Yea, no mixer...my arm seriously hurt.

Preheat the oven to 350F (177C).  Mix the pumpkin and brown sugar together and then whisk in the egg whites.  Next add the flour (I mixed it in 1/2 cup increments) and the spices.  Lastly I added my “mix-ins.”  The recipe called for 3 cups of oats (which I felt was way too much) so I only added in 1 cup and then 1/3 cup raisins.  I also added chocolate chips since I had some leftover and REALLY think pumpkin and chocolate go well together (remember, these?)!  Mix well!

*Note – the choco chips may nix the whole fat free-ness…whatevs still no butter.

Spray a baking sheet with PAM and drop the dough in spoonfuls!  I cooked these suckers for about 13-14 minutes.

So dough-y!

I LOVE the consistency…very chewy! (I only like chewy cookies…shout out to my faves – chewy chips ahoy).  TBD if Joe likes them…

Dessert!

Update:  Success – Joe liked ’em!

OM all day…

Ah, Tuesdays…where I have class from 2:30-10:30.  Yes, so long!!!  Unfortunately today it is the same class the whole 8 hours.  Usually it is split up, but not today…that means Operations Management all day…wowza.

I had the pleasure of making this again!  I realized I had another can o’ pumpkin in the cupboard.  This time I added some raisin’s and cereal to the mix.  I’m really liking the crunchy-ness of cereal with the creamy-ness of oatmeal.

Of course, my red cup is close by...

After breakfast, I ran a couple errands.  I rarely take things to the dry cleaners here, but had to take some sweaters.  Guess how much they will cost…6.35 euro/sweater.  OMG – do you realize what that is in USD?!  Like $8 something!  I also went to update my “awesome” pay as you go phone.  I can now call out and send texts – welcome to the 21st century Sarah.

Today I had the pleasure of having a work-out buddy!  My friend from the US met me at the gym and we did some elliptical and some treadmill workouts.  Time flies at the gym with other people!  I still think that people at the gym stare at us when we are talking in English…it might just be in my head, but I really don’t think so!

Anyway, I wanted to share this recipe from the other night – it was delish.

Salsa Chicken: (adapted from Allrecipes)

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 cup salsa
  • shredded cheese (any kind you fancy)
This is super easy.  Preheat your oven to 190C (375F).  Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish (spray with PAM).  Then, sprinkle/coat the chicken with the taco seasoning (I only used 1/4 of the bag).  Pour the salsa over both chickens.  Heat in the oven for about 30 minutes (depending on how big your chickens are)!  Then, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the shredded cheese.  Heat again for about 5 minutes (until cheese is melted)!
*I served alongside some sauteed veggie’s and tortilla chips!
We both LOVED the flavor/spicy-ness…of course, we miss Mexican like no other!

YUM!

We both only ate 1/2 as these were HUGE.  I had the rest for leftovers today!
***Yes, I’ve put up some of the Holiday decor!  Don’t judge me…they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here so I feel like decor before Thanksgiving is widely acceptable.

First British “pie” and a Birthday!!!

After our day at the choco-fest and our brisk walk through Brugge (it’s definitely winter here!), we were in the mood for some nice warm comfort food.  Luckily, we had the PERFECT meal!

My friend from the UK had made some pies (I think thats what you call them – maybe pot pies?) with chicken, bacon, carrots, celery, potatoes, etc.  She was so sweet to give us two to try and OMG…they were AMAZING.  When they were cooking, they smelled amazing and looked adorable.  I really didn’t want to break into mine – I think anything looks cute in a ramekin!  Here they are:

Before picture...

After picture...look how crispy!!!

Starting to ooze out of the pastry...

And finally...action shot!

We ate these up rather quickly and definitely scraped as much out of the ramekin as possible!  Thank you so much to Sarah – such a wonderful meal!  I would like the recipe! 🙂

In other news…today is my mom’s Birthday!!!  WOO HOO!  Happy Birthday Mom – love you and miss you!!!

Just hangin in the castle!

First try @ pork in Belgium

Yes…it took me 8+ months to brave buying pork (Flemish – varkensvlees) at the grocery store (yes, I know it’s ridiculous).  With things like horse (Flemish – paard) and pigeon (Flemish – duif), I had to be careful!!!

I used a recipe from Giada De Laurenttis (see the recipe here).  The only thing I changed was not using parmesan cheese (didn’t have any).  I also tried out a roasted broccoli recipe from my ‘Real Simple’ magazine (still from our trip home)!

Roasted Broccoli and Feta: (from Real Simple)

  • Broccoli florets, cut
  • Olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).  Line a baking sheet with tin foil (easy clean-up).  Toss the broccoli with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place the broccoli on the baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes (stir occasionaly – 1 to 2 times).  When they are complete, toss with the feta cheese.  Done – so simps.

Preppin'

Finished...delish!

Joe used the words amazing and awesome…so, I think its safe to assume we can eat pork here.  🙂

*As I mentioned previously, I really wanted some Holiday decor.  So, today I went to IKEA today with my friend Sarah and picked up some GREAT Holiday decor.  Can’t wait to put it up…when is too early?!

**I may or may not be listening to Christmas music right now.  Yes, Michael Buble, you are amazing.  Oh, yea, and Justin Biebs too…seriously, I bought one song…

Happy Halloween!

In honor of Halloween, we watched Scream 4 last night.  I’m not going to lie, I was quite scared and jumped NUMEROUS times.  One time I actually yelped.  I didn’t have high hopes for the movie (4th sequel seems like a lot), but I was very impressed with the shocking twists and turns.  Did anyone else notice that there were a LOT of CW actors in it?!

Love GALE! 🙂

Tonight’s dinner was all about using items up from our fridge.  It turned into a FAVE!!!

Chicken & Peppers with Balsamic Vinegar: (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut in strips)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced (I used red as that’s what I had)
  • mushrooms
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • couple handfuls of spinach

Mmm chopped veggies!

In a large skillet on medium high, heat the olive oil and brown the chicken.  Season with salt and pepper.  I cooked the chicken almost the entire way through (faster simmering time in the end)!  Once browned, set aside.
In the same skillet, add the other tbsp of olive oil.  Then add all the veggies (any that you want really)!  Allow the veggies to cook until tender (about 7 minutes for mine).  Next add the garlic and cook for another minute or 2 (stir a lot).  Then add the basil and balsamic vinegar and cook another minute.
Add the chicken back to the skillet.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is done.  Again, mine only had to simmer about 5-10 minutes since I cooked the chicken longer at the start.  With one minute left, I added spinach!

How pretty is that?!

*The recipe on Allrecipes says to add more balsamic vinegar at the end.  I opted not to – didn’t think it needed it (personal preference)!
We both REALLY liked this meal – so simple (and colorful)!

Plus some multi-grain bread!

COLD

So, yesterday I realized I had come down with my first official cold of the season.  Typical!

I decided to stay in and relax (slept forever) and had some much needed warm comfort meals.  For breakfast, I had my usual oatmeal (always delicious).

Always a go-to.

When I finally got out of bed, I decided I’d work on my Christmas List.  What, do you think it’s too soon?!  🙂  We bought our tickets home for the holidays last week.  And of course, it got me excited about the holidays.  I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS !  Everything about them – decor, shopping, Starbucks red cups, cookies, etc.  Anyway, I digress – my mom has asked me 2x for our list already (yes – obviously we are 2 peas in a pod).  So…it got me thinking…what do I want?

This?

or perhaps something in this?!

Hahaha – yea, in my dreams! 🙂  Those didn’t make the list, but these did:

and anything Lululemon!

Less than 2 months til Christmas! Ha! 🙂

So, by the time night came, I was craving some more warm food and opted to try out a new Campbell’s soup box (yes, it comes in boxes here – not cans) I saw at the store.  It was a delicious mixed veggie + tomato soup  – Joe’s new favorite.  And of course, it was accompanied by bread, oyster crackers (thanks to one of our visitors), and a feta/tomato salad.

See the "Fall" napkins?!

Warm & cozy

Choco Chip and Oatmeal Bars!

I got up early this morning to do a quick workout (Hello, Jillian!) and some baking before I headed off to my friend’s house for the day!

I still had this leftover from my trip to the USA!

How I miss Betty Crock!

I really want to make the cookie’s, but realized that my cookie sheet I bought (for our old apartment) does not fit into my teeny, tiny combo oven.  Sigh.  So, I made bars instead…and honestly, am I glad I did!  I LOVE the thickness and the gooey consistency! 🙂  I think Joe did too…I heard a “mmmhhh, wow, amazing” coming from the kitchen once he got home!

Yea - these won't (ahem, didn't) last long!

Like I said, I headed over to my friend’s house for the day!  As I was walking there, I had to stop for some pictures since it was just such a beautiful (albeit, chilly) fall morning.  The weather site said 4 degrees celsius to which my jaw dropped.  I immediately had to look up what that was in fahrenheit (about 40 degrees).  I’m sticking with fahrenheit – 4 degrees is just psychologically so much worse!

LOVE the "row-like" houses here along the river!

Leaves are starting to change!

We had a LOT of catching up to do!  We both had trips to the US to talk about as well as new food recipes, shopping, etc.  PLUS, she is going to teach me how to sew a skirt and a jacket so we had to discuss the styling and fabric.  I’m a bit skeptical at my “skills” in this area, but she ensures me it will be easy!  Next week we will begin the sewing…yay!  My goal is to impress my fam with a cute skirt over the holidays…ha!

She made a DELICIOUS lunch for us!  Home-made pumpkin soup!  The pumpkin was from her OWN garden (very organic)! 🙂  I will definitely attempt to make this myself – roasted pumpkin + garlic + a little olive oil + pepper + stock!  Simply delicious (as you know pumpkin is one of my fave flavors)!

Cute table setting!

Loved the freshly ground pepper!

And of course, our lunch was not complete without a little dessert.  I brought along the oatmeal/choco chip bars and she had made cupcakes with a delicious buttercream frosting.

Helped myself to a little bit of both!

A great day!!

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries!

This post is a couple days old as I forgot to “publish” it!  I figured I’d still post it since it has a nice recipe for fries!

This morning I awoke and was craving a granola bar (that I thankfully still have from my trip to the US)!  I have yet to find “legit” granola bars here in Belgium!

A choco bar for breakfast! 🙂

Honestly, I was rather busy today as I had class the whole afternoon.  But, luckily, class was not “obligatory” (as they say here in Belgium – as opposed to ‘required’) since I presented my Law stuff yesterday.  SO…I came home and Joe and I got to eat dinner together!

Spicy Sweet Potato French Fries:  Here is the recipe from another website that I love – FitSugar.com  I honestly did not make an adaptions to the recipe – it didn’t need it as they were SO good.  We were worried that they would be too spicy, but not at all.  Of course, we dipped them in ketchup (NOT mayo – sorry Belgians)!

Roastin' along with some brussel sprouts!

Healthy 'french fries!'

A nice change of pace – never made sweet potato anything before.  Will definitely do it again!