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!

Christmas in Belgie, Part 1

With the start of December, comes the start of the Holiday season in Belgie!  This weekend, we decided to see what Gent & Brussels had to offer!

Up first, Gent!  

I have to start out with the fact that Joe brought home dessert from work…

Yup, on his desk @ work!

We decided to make dinner (salsa chicken – recipe to come later) and then venture out for a walk to see the lights and the festival we had heard (and saw – HUGE ferris wheel) about.

We were sad to notice that most of the lights hanging down all the streets and the Christmas tree in the centrum were not yet lit.  I’m assuming it is because the Christmas Market in Gent does not open until next Friday.  However, I knew the Graslei would never let me down!  As we turned the corner, here is what we saw!

Beautiful!

The Graslei still amazes me at how beautiful it is…even when I see it everyday!

We then made our way to the “Winters Dream” Festival at Sint-Pieters Square.  I had rather high hopes of this considering the beautiful email I received from the Marriott promoting the fair.  Well, lets just say we walked through it in about 10 minutes.

The entrance!

What is a Christmas festival without a ferris wheel?!  There were many other rides (for those of you in Milwaukee, think ‘carni’ rides at State Fair).  I’ve never felt that “carni” rides were trustworthy – so, we did not partake.

Next we came to the second part of the entrance and what most would say, the appeal of carnivals to adults.  Enter, the Gluhwein stand!

Gluhwein!

This (no surprise) was the busiest of areas at the festival.  Gluhwein is like hot, spiced wine and is DELISH!  It is the drink of choice at all the Christmas markets in Europe (at least what I’ve heard).

We then came to my favorite part: the ice skating rink.  I just love them (no, I can’t skate), but I think they are so beautiful.  It reminds me of the one in downtown milwaukee and of course, NY.  I mean, nothing compares to Madison Garden, but still.

Does that say "Winter's Droom?"

We watched the skaters for awhile and particularly enjoyed the guy wearing women’s skates struggling.  I know, we’re so mean.

Not a shabby start to the holiday season in Gent.  Next week starts the Christmas market by the church, so we’ll be sure to go there.

My next post will be about the Christmas Market in Brussels…it was AMAZING.  Coming soon…

Broccoli Pasta Night!

Happy Friday everyone! 

Started the day off right with my OMG mug!  It finally made an appearance again after I finished the dishes!  Oh, so happy.

Mmm, oatmeal/cereal concoction!

I have to admit that today has not been very exciting.  I devoted the entire morning til about mid-afternoon to school work.  I haven’t really done much work since school started over a month ago and so today it really hit me…I’M IN SCHOOL.  It just seems so weird!  I haven’t done HW since, oh, I don’t know, like Nov 2005.  That’s ALMOST 6 years!!!  I’ve come to 2 realizations:

1.  I’m somewhat of a procrastinator.

2.  Facebook is just as distracting now as it was in 2003 when I signed up!  Remember when you could only sign up when you had an email with .edu?  Ha, the good ole days!

I just finished my law presentation and I was so excited to dive into my “reward.”  My father-in-law and his fiance gave us a bag of American trick or treat candy before we left the USA.  AWESOME.  So…I promised myself a treat once the work was done (ok – it seriously sounds like I’m treating myself like a dog who just completed a trick).  Anyway, I opened up the 2-pack of Starburst…and what to my dismay…A YELLOW & AN ORANGE.  UGHHHH, the WORST colors.

I would LOVE this:

Starburst Favered Fruit Chew Candy

Tonight I am trying another new recipe from my latest blog obsession: Gina’s Skinny Recipes.  We are going to have the ‘Pasta w/ Roasted Broccoli w/Oil & Garlic.’  Of course, I will be making 2 sets of pasta since Joe will not eat whole wheat and I will not eat white pasta.  Stupid of us, huh?

Here it is!  YUM!  I swear there is a lot there…in proportion to the wine? hmmmm

Yes, the wine glass looks huge!

We also opted to go out for a drink at our fave spot…the “Trappisten huis.”  I had my usual Cava and Joe his Sint-Bernardus.  Not going to lie, it was a nice, relaxing Friday evening back in town! 🙂

Sooo happy!

Back to Belgium - where champagne is acceptable on a daily basis!

A week in photos!

Have I been slacking or what?!?!  I’ve been very busy with our visitors so I’m going to do a ‘week in photos’ post to catch up!  Here we go!!!

Tuesday

Of course, I had class, but was able to grab dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Downstairs.  You may remember it from the review!  I opted for the Gent specialty – Waterzooi.  

Like a delish chicken soup!

Followed up by a round of jenever at t’ Dreupelkot!

Pinky's up!

Wednesday

Today was a day of Gent.  We went to the castle, cathedral, had wafels, etc.

Queens! 🙂

Atop the castle!

Wafels anyone?!

Or coffee with freshly whipped cream?!

And then…we had lunch at the Stropke restaurant outside the castle.  I must say that this was a pleasant surprise…you never know how restaurants will be in extremely tourist areas.  VERY delish!

Tomato soup + multigrain bread!

Gent stoverij!

AMAZING brie+pineapple salad!

Wednesday night was pizza and relaxing.  Unfortunately, I do not have a pic of the pizza, but it was really good.  Yes, all we do is eat here! 🙂

Thursday

No pics today…forgot my camera on the way to Antwerp.  But, we took the train to Antwerp, walked the city, ate some mussels and chocolate, grabbed Starbucks (yes!), and shopped ’til we dropped!  I am the lucky new owner of a beautiful striped sweater and Joe has a very nice (stylin) shirt!

Friday

Last night we hosted a dinner at our condo with ingredients from the fresh markets!  On the menu – halibut, brussel sprouts, salad, and bread.  The halibut was cooked on the stove top with a squeeze of lemon and some spices.  We broiled the brussel sprouts in the oven for about 30 minutes on 200C (tossed with salt, pepper, and olive oil).  A VERY nice evening in with our guests :-)!

Cheers!

Yum, a home-cooked meal!

Off to enjoy the rest of the weekend!!!  Up next…beer tours and bike rides!

I love…Friday’s

Another Friday…I used to love Friday’s because it meant I had the weekend off of work.  Of course I technically have all days “off” so…now I love it because Joe has the weekend off from work.

And because of this…

Friday Appy's!

I decided to try a new recipe tonight.  I’ve found that I’ve not been cooking as much since school started (school provides my meal on Monday and Tuesday nights).  Anyway, today grabbed this recipe from my daily “Allrecipes” email that I get…

Baked Chicken and Zucchini: (Allrecipes – I modified it for 2 people)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • shredded mozzarella
  • basil (fresh if you got it, I didn’t…so, hello spice cabinet)
Preheat your oven to 400F or 200C (in my case, I pre-heated my combo micro, oven, grill…seriously still in awe of this machine)!
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water, 1/2 tsp salt and the pepper.  Then, dip the chicken in the mixture and place in a re-sealable bag (Ziploc brand prefered of course…ah, the SCJ days)!  Add the bread crumbs (reserving 1 tbsp) and shake it up!
Spray your skillet with PAM and cook the chicken over medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side.  Set aside.  Toss in the sliced zucchini and cook for about 1-2 minutes.  Next, add the zucchini slices to the bottom of a greased (PAM) 9×13 baking dish.  Sprinkle the reserved 1bsp bread crumbs over the zucchini and top with the tomato slices.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the veggies (I didn’t measure this but can tell you that I was VERY generous with the cheese)!  Lastly, add the chicken on top and cover with foil.  Cook in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove cover and sprinkle MORE cheese on top and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  DING…it’s done!

Mmm, cheese.

SO GOOD! 🙂  After dinner, we decided to go check out a new bar that Joe’s boss recommended.  We were really skeptical because it is a movie theater…but he did NOT lead us astray.  AWESOME, definitely a new fave!  We can’t wait to show our friends:  Studio Skoop  Check out the link!  The decor is great.  If you can see in the pic, the chairs against the wall are old movie theater seats.  Plus, the menu has movie trivia!  Score!

Check the chairs!

Obvii...trivia was in English.

 

A taste of FALL!

We decided to make a nice hearty breakfast this morning.  It may not technically be Fall yet, but its felt like Fall for about 2 months in Belgium…so, I figure I’ve waited long enough!  One of my favorite Fall things is pumpkin (pumpkin picking, carving, gourds, pumpkin bread, pumpkin choco chip muffins, etc).  So, when I saw a post on one of my favorite blogs for “Pumpkin Banana Oatmeal,”  I HAD to try it!

(If you recall, I picked up some Libby’s 100% Pumpkin at the American grocery store last week)!

Here is the recipe from her Blog (check it out…it’s great)!

Pumpkin Banana Oatmeal:

  • 1 cup oats (we used Quaker Oats – quick cooking since that’s all I can find here)
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar (from the American Grocery store)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin (from the American Grocery store)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (from the American Grocery store)
  • Nutmeg (sprinkled on top) (from the American Grocery store)
Bring the water to a boil on the stovetop.  Add the oats and cook for about a minute (again, this is a shorter time period since I used quick-oats).  Once cooked, stir in 1/2 banana, brown sugar, pumpkin, and cinnamon.  Cook for another minute or so to let the ingredients warm and combine.  Transfer to bowls (this was a big serving for both Maggie and I) and top with remaining banana and sprinkle on nutmeg, if desired.
Some notes:
  • Maggie said the American Heart Association classifies 1/2 cup oats as a serving size.  Thanks for the tip! 🙂
  • I classified what ingredients I got from the American Grocery store to make a point (yet again) how hard it is to find “common” ingredients here!  Are you feeling my pain yet?!
  • I would DEFINITELY add a little more pumpkin.  I like the pumpkin taste to be extremely prevalent.  I think that the cinnamon (which I love) over took the bowl a little.  Personal preference…but just a tip if you LOVE pumpkin!

YUM - see the nutmeg sprinkles?!

This oatmeal has got me thinking a lot about Fall and I just have to comment on some of my favorite fall things…(even if they are gaggish)!
  • The smell of Fall – the leaves, cool air, etc.
  • How the cottage and lake looks up north + Shack in Sterling
  • Sweatshirts
  • Back to School fashion (um, hello boots and scarves)
  • Pumpkin (obvii)
  • Chili (I feel like chili is a colder weather meal) + Oyster crackers (OMG, I miss those)
  • Decor – at our condo we have a HUGE box of “fall-like” decor (candles, table runner, fake leaves, halloween garland)!  Sad that we cannot use it this year!
  • Last but not least…the anticipation of returning to the USA VERY soon!  Ahhhh
Ok, moving on, Maggie and I decided that we indulged quite a bit the last couple days (with our meals, drinks, and of course, Julie’s House yesterday), so we wanted to do a little exercise.  Out came the Jillian DVD!  We opted for Level 3 of “Ripped in 30.”  And yes, side by side we finished it (both sweating like crazy) and both cursing Jillian during the infamous “duck walk.”  *I really hope the person living below us was not home…I can’t imagine what they thought we were doing!
Finally (this post is getting rather long), I will conclude with what we did this afternoon.  After our strenuous work-out, we rewarded ourselves by sitting outside St. Bavo’s Cathedral listening to a street musician and…indulging in…a Belgian wafel!  And, here it is…

A lil mid-day snack!

 

 

 

 

 

Marinated Shrimp Skewers + Marinated Veggie Skewers

I gave you a little teaser yesterday about my means night out!” href=”https://expatsinghent.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/last-friday-of-freedom-means-night-out/” target=”_blank”>Friday night dinner…

And, here it is!  I am proud to announce that this is my favorite and perhaps most delicious meal I’ve made to date.  Honestly, I think it has a lot to do with how much time it took…when you spend a lot of time preparing, the reward is greater.  Joe came home after  a long month-end close to this delicious meal (he LOVED it)!

Side note – I really wanted to try the “grill” feature on our combo microwave/grill/oven heating unit (not sure what to call it really).  I was skeptical if all these settings were legit.  Yes, yes they are.

Marinated Grilled Shrimp Skewers:

I followed the Allrecipes.com site to a T (substituted a little dried basil for the fresh since I didn’t have any).  I marinated the shrimp for about 1.5 hours in the fridge.

Have any of you ever bought shrimp that hasn’t been de-veined or peeled?  Well, I haven’t until today and all I can say is OMG…I never want to do it again.  First, it takes FOREVER (like took me 45 minutes…went a little bit faster after I got fed up and googled a youtube video on how to do it).  Second, it’s disgusting, I’m pretty sure one of the veins is like the shrimp’s waste tube…it was brown.  Ugh.  Next time…I will GLADLY spend the extra $$$ for the good-to-go shrimp.

Anyway, here are some of the prep pics…and yes, it was worth it!

Marinated Veggie Skewers:

I followed another Allrecipes.com recipe for the veggie marinade, but opted to use our favorite veggies for the skewers (various-colored bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and mushrooms)!

*We really liked the lemon-zesty taste this marinade had in combo with the herbs.  SO good.

Here is what my plate looked like to start (of course, we ended up eating 2 veggie skewers a piece + 1.5 shrimp skewers)…everything was GONE!  HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Last Friday of “Freedom” —> means night out!

Today is the last Friday before I start MBA school…so, my summer (ahem, I mean 7 months) of doing nothing in Belgium is about to be over!  Some people in my position might be sad about this, but I could not be more delighted.  I am really looking forward to challenging my brain again, meeting new people, and seeing what school is like in Europe!  Of course, I am VERY nervous too.

Anyway, I had a lot of errands to run today so I got up early and headed to the gym.  By early, I mean that I was at the gym at 9am on the dot (which is when it opens…seriously).  Side note – the busiest time at the gym is between 10-11 (I have no idea why people aren’t working).  I opted for an interval workout on the treadmill + 10 minutes on the elliptical.  My treadmill interval was essentially this:

  • Warm up – 1 mile (about 6.5 miles per hour speed)
  • Sprint/jog – 1.5 miles (alternate between sprint and a steady jog every minute)

Not too shabby…I was enjoying my workout even more because the US open was on (albeit dubbed in French).  I watched Djokovic essentially destroy his competition in 3 straight sets – the match was less than 1.5 hours!

When I got home I was STARVING!  So I whipped up this nice little lunch (hummus sandwich)!

Now, for the best part of the day…whipping up dinner and our Friday night appy’s!

Appy’s: I tried a new bakery in the “mall” in Ghent and bought a fabulous nut bread and multi-grain bread (seriously amazing, but no surprise there)!  We had hummus and the remaining raw veggies that were not used for the skewers.  Of course, the obligatory wine and Belgian beer.  YUM!

*See the little duck napkin holders?  So funny…our table was set like this when we moved in…another reason I love it here!

Main: Grilled marinated shrimp skewers + marinated vegetable skewers (I will devote an entire post to this as I have a LOT to say about it + a LOT of pics)!  Here is one to get your taste buds going…

Joe had a long week and I was ready to celebrate my last night of “freedom” so we decided to go to the ‘Trappistenhuis’ bar.  This bar is VERY well-known in Ghent and happens to be one of Joe’s favorites.  Actually, after last night, he made the very bold statement that it has the BEST beer menu in Ghent (not an easy honor to win in Belgium).  Of course, that was exclaimed after a couple beers…so we’ll see if it still holds true today! 🙂

The interior and bathrooms are very nice and clean.  Take a look at all the glasses hanging by the bar (again, each beer has its own glass).  You can see by our beer pictures as well…my Orval beer bottle + my Orval branded glass.  Bonus – free peanuts! Joe opted for his favorite Sint Bernardus 12 and tried a Watou beer.  I opted for Orval as it has a lower alcohol content (6.2% still isn’t that low, but whatevs it’s Friday)!

Here are some pics!  Prost (cheers)!!

Restaurant Review: Downstairs (Ghent, Belgium)

While we are living abroad, Joe and I have a goal of trying as many different restaurants as possible.  That being said, here is my first restaurant review!

Restaurant: Downstairs

Location: Ghent, Belgium (Korenmarkt 6)

  • Ambiance – GREAT (I love it).  It is a cute (smaller) restaurant located beneath an old building in the main center of town.  You walk in and it looks like a cave (curved ceiling with exposed brick).  There is a nice bar to the left with nice tables/chairs.  The lighting (candles) is very nice too – kind of romantic actually.
  • Drinks – GOOD.  I ordered a glass of red wine and it was decent (no complaints).  Joe ordered a Duvel.  The only reason I don’t rate it great is that they don’t offer as many beer selections as some other places.  They also have aperitifs, juices, coffee, etc.
  • Snacks – Ok (not my taste, but Joe likes them).  Drinks come with BBQ pork rinds…
  • Food – GREAT.
  • Price – GREAT.  Average priced (main meal 12-25 euros), but the portions are huge!
  • Service – GREAT.  Fast and friendly.  We’ve been here a couple times with our families since we like it so much and the owner recognizes us and always shakes our hands.  Also, they are always willing to help us with the menu since it is in Dutch.
  • Overall – GREAT, I highly recommend!
What we ate:
  • Joe had the specialty pasta of the day – Tortellini stuffed with cheese and spinach in a white wine sauce.  Excellent.
  • I had my go-to meal here – the goat cheese salad (check out how HUGE it is)!  The goat cheese salad has endives, walnuts, apples, raisins, tomatoes, and carrots!
  • Plus, each meal comes with delicious rolls!
Unfortunately, the pictures of Joe’s food did not turn out, but here is mine!

*Disclaimer – I am NOT a professional food critic/reviewer,etc.  Simply my observations based on my tastes…

A happy Friday of Fitness and Food!

I awoke to ANOTHER thunderstorm this morning, but it’s Friday and I am NOT going to let the weather get me down!  I had quite a nice day planned, so I got right down to it:

MorningI continued to dwindle down our food supply in preparation for our move with a nice bowl of oatmel, All-Bran cereal, and the wonderfully discounted raspberries (only 1 euro – still don’t konw how to make the euro sign on the computer)!

Since it’s pouring again, I’m not going to run to the gym.  I’m going to do another trusty ‘Jillian’ Itunes purchase.

What I did:  ‘Jillian Michaels 6 Week Six-Pack (Level 2)’

What I thought:  This is one of my favorite workouts as it is fast (30 min) and so effective.  I swear I feel my tummy tighten like 20 minutes after.  It’s combines cardio, abs, and weights (or in my case wine bottle) so I feel like it gives me a total body workout.  Level 2 (in my opinion) is really hard.  I’ve been doing this workout for a couple months and I still can’t do ALL the moves (um, mogels?)!  So, I’d recommend Level 1 for beginners – I did Level 1 for a couple weeks before trying Level 2.

AfternoonI was very excited for my lunch date with my friend from the UK.  We hadn’t seen each other in a month or so due to our different holiday schedules (‘holiday’ is just normal vacation in Europe).  We met for lunch at one of my fave restaurants, Le Pain Quotidien, for a “natter.”

Side note:  I’ve discovered that British English versus American is VERY different.  I absolutely LOVE their fun words and accents (especially when little kids talk)!  Anyway, when she first asked if I wanted to get together for a “natter,” I had NO idea what she was talking about.  Joe had to email some of his UK colleagues to determine if I even wanted a “natter.”  UM, YES, I DID – it’s basically a gossip/chit chat session (hello, that’s me, I love talking)!

We had a great 3+ hour lunch talking (lots of laughs) and enjoying our delicious food.  ‘Le Pain Quotidien’ is essentially a restaurant/bakery with wonderfully fresh organic food.  I CANNOT recommend this restaurant enough – you must go to one (it is chain and I do believe there are locations in the US)!! 🙂

Our menu

For me – Coffee (how cute is the little chocolate on the spoon and isn’t it funny the cups have no handles)!+ open-faced grilled chicken, grilled zucchini, and dill sandwich on organic whole grain bread

For her – Coffee + salad of the day (grilled chicken, tomatos, rucola, and capers)