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…


Update:  Success – Joe liked ’em!

Armistice Day ~ Holiday in Belgie

So…we were lazy last night and did not want to cook a dinner.  Enter: frozen pizzas from the nacht-winkel (night shop)!  And, not just any night shop, the night shop close to us…which just so happens to be in the middle of the red light district.  Suh-weet…

Pretty impressed that my little combo oven can cook these bad boys at the SAME time.  Now no one has to wait.  Um, yea, it’s only the 2 of us, but we needed 2 pizza’s.

Not so patiently waiting...

We opted for a very spicy (had 3 chili’s on the front of the box) and a goat cheese chicken type.  We split each pizza so we could sample both.  And, if I might say so myself, not too shabby for a frozen pie!

My fave

3 chili's on the spice scale!

Totally brought me back to college...Monte Cristo anyone?*

*This seriously brought me back to my college days.  In particular, the countless frozen pizza’s at the Monte Cristo (Joe’s old apt)!  Of course, we had a pizza pizzazz maker (thanks Kelsey) that made the pizza’s a MILLION times better than an oven.  Ahhh, those were the days!



Today is Armistice Day – i.e. the end of WWI.  Many European countries have this day as a holiday in remembrance of the soldiers from both WWI and WWII.  Since Joe is home, we’re off to spend the day in Brugge…I happen to know there is a choco-fest in the bell tower!

Happy Friday everyone!

We’re baaaackkkkkk…to Belgium!

OH MAN!  I AM EXHAUSTED.  We had such a great trip to the USA, but, I’ll be honest, it was very nice to sleep in our own bed last night!  It’s weird to say, but, we got off the plane and got to our apartment and we’re like: “Whew, we are home.”  Home.  Definitely did not know when we would start saying that…I guess 7 months did the trick.

Back to life…work for Joe, class for me.

Last night we went grocery shopping (for the first time in about 1 month)!  September was CRAZY with visitors and trips, so, we were legit excited about going back to normal!  On the menu for dinner last night?  Some comfort food: Tomato soup and Grilled Cheese!

Can you tell whose bowl is whose?

Joe or SARAH?

JOE or Sarah?

Um, would you like some soup to go with those crackers?

Also, if you are thinking – “hm, I didn’t know Belgium had fishy crackers” – you are correct that they do NOT.  A perk of having lots of visitors and a trip to the USA…mmm, American snacky snacks!

Off to bed EARLY to watch to catch up on our Itunes shows! 🙂

Happy Monday!

First full day in Tosa!

And, we’re starting it off with:

Homemade Banana Bread!

As I said before, my mother is the best.  She made us a mini-loaf of homemade banana bread for our hotel.  YUM!

I am so excited for today.  Why you ask?  Because I get to see Gma Sue!  She is coming into town so that we can have lunch together.  When I was working in Racine, we’d have lunch at least 1x per month (either at her house, Panera Bread, or Out of the Pan).  Today, I’m opting for good ole’ Panera (definitely one of my most missed restaurants)!

She picked me up at lunch time and of course, there were tears involved! 🙂  Happy tears, that is.  As usual, she was so cute and put together (no red,white, and blue – just leopard this time)!  She’s so stylin.

We headed over to Panera and I ordered my all-time fave:  You Pick 2 (Greek Salad + Garden Veggie Soup + french baguette).  As always, it was delicious.  I will note, however, that I might be a bread snob now.  The French baguette was good…but, it is NO French baquette.  Oh no…Europe, what have you done to me?!?!

After spending a great time with my Grandma, I was picked up by my mom and was off to spend the rest of the day/evening at the house for another home cooked-meal!  But first, it was time to clean out my mom’s closet.  We’re shopping tomorrow and she NEEDS some new key items.  I wish I would have taken a picture of the heaping pile of clothes on the bed we are getting rid of…one sweater was from over 25 years ago!!!  Side Note:  My mom dresses very cute…don’t get the wrong idea.  We just had to do some “fall” cleaning.

Dinner was another delicious meal: Asian Marinated Chicken + Couscous + Baked Brussel Sprouts + Steamed Carrots

Oh so good!

And, as promised yesterday, here is a pic of the fabulous graham cracker dessert.

She's weird.

I opted for a nice helping of the remaining choco frosting + my fave animal crackers!!

Yes, I'm weird.

Another great night was almost complete…but I still had one very important thing left to do.  Make a TARGET run!!!  OMG was it so fun.  I think I almost walked down every aisle.  And of course, the saying that you “can’t get out of Target without spending $100” is totally true!  Here are a few of my prized purchases!

See the red Target circles...so happy.

When I look at this pic, I expect some grand finale song to be playing.



AND…she’s here!

After a couple flight changes and re-routes…she is here!

*In order to pick her up at the airport, I took my first ever bus ride.  I’ve only had to take the trams (which I like), but today called for a bus.  Not really that much different.  And, also, my first train ride to the airport…not too shabby!  It is RIGHT under the terminal…talk about convenience.  Seriously, USA needs to talk to Europe about public transportation!

Back in Gent…we were off to do “Gentenaar” things!  (Gentenaar = locals…while we might not be that yet, I like to think we do not come off as tourists anymore)!  First stop, the Graslei for some lunch!  We sat outside (despite the windy/cool weather) and had some lunch…soup/bread for me and Gentse waterzooi (a traditional chicken stew) for Maggie.  Of course, we shared a side of Belgian frietjes (fries)!  Yum.

We then walked the city and stopped at our favorite bakery, fish market, and the “mall.”  Had to pick up some wine, bread, and of course, a couple desserts (which I totally forgot to picture…sorry)!

We had dinner at our place tonight (you might remember the recipe from this post).  It was as delicious as the last time!  Then we were off to the means night out!” href=”https://expatsinghent.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/last-friday-of-freedom-means-night-out/” target=”_blank”>Trappisten Bar for a night cap!

Mmmm European baguette!

Oldy but goody!

First beer in Belgium!

*I should mention that we walked home the “long” way to show Maggie the red light district of Gent…seemed like a slow night tonight…many of the window chairs were empty…or does that mean a busy night?  OMG

The American Grocery Store!!!

I’ve been slacking on my picture taking this past weekend.  I don’t know why, but I failed to take a picture of Saturday night’s dinner AND Sunday morning’s eggs.  But, if you refer to this and this, you know what we had (and it was delish, as they always are).

However, I did nab a picture of us enjoying the BEAUTIFUL weather on Saturday.  It was about 28C (80’sF) and sunny all day long (which it hasn’t been in MONTHS).  Joe and I had a great time walking around, getting ice cream, and enjoying a cocktail by the river.

*I had cava (Spanish champagne) and Joe had a Chimay Blauw (one of his new faves).  Did anyone know that you can’t actually call a drink ‘Champagne’ unless it comes from the small region in France – I didn’t…seems a bit ‘hoity-toity’ to me?!  I know I didn’t spell that right…

Note the bb in the pic - texting his BBM group, of course.

Yes, there is Red Bull here...

I almost forgot to mention the MOST exciting thing that happened as we were walking home on Saturday.  A group of young people (probs 23ish…ah, remember those days) asked us for directions.  We LOVE when people pass us off as Belgians since it means we aren’t standing out like sore thumbs.  Anyway, one of the girls in the group was American (we could tell right away).  We asked where she was from…MILWAUKEE!  I about died, I was so excited.  What a small world!  Joe joked that I was going to ask to give her a hug…which would have been great actually.  I didn’t, but anyway…it was exciting (sorry, I’m sure many of you may think, wow, they get excited over weird things, but trust me, when you are this far away and you meet someone from “home” – instant connection)!

On to the second most exciting thing this weekend…along the lines of “home”…a trip to the AMERICAN GROCERY STORE!  As I mentioned while making “Funfetti,” there is an American grocery store in Antwerp (about 40 minutes away driving) called Grare.  We decided to head over there on Sunday to pick up some “essentials.”  And…here is what we got!

You KNOW I only put 1 bag of Goldfish in the pic...but there are DEF more! 🙂

Again, you may not know this, but these items are VIRTUALLY impossible to find unless you are at an American store.  I was VERY excited to find canned pumpkin as my mom always makes these AMAZING pumpkin choco chip muffins.  Thought I’d give it a go…but that’ll be another post.  I was also really excited about the ‘Shake n Bake’ as it’s one of my all-time faves for an easy week night meal.  So, we grabbed our purchases, got in the car, and proceeded to eat on the way home (granola bars for me and PB bars for Joe).  Success.

Joe’s specialty – Wok!

Wok is one of our newfound fave’s here and just happens to be Joe’s specialty – he discovered it and he cooks it!  It’s become a weekly staple that we have the night we go grocery shopping (it’s quick and easy – in no way meant to belittle his skills).  There are various sauces that Joe’s experimented with:

  • Tandoori
  • Sesame
  • Curry
  • Marinara
  • Sweet n’ Sour
He’s even added eggs to it…but last night we kept it simple with tandoori sauce.  It was delish (the entire bowl was gone and any remaining juice soaked up in bread).  While Tandoori is good, my fave is still marinara (Joe likes sesame).  We also had a side of rice and a whole grain baguette from a new bakery I tried, ‘Panda.’
*For my Belgian friends, it’s ‘Delhaize’ brand, so it’s only found there…highly recommend!

Another rainy day! + more Jillian love

“Hi, I missed you yesterday.”  ~OMG mug 

So glad to have my fave mug today.  I haven’t been running the dish washer the last 2 nights since we’ve been sleeping on the futon on the bottom level of our apartment.  No, there are no quiet dishwashers here and no, we do not have air conditioning.  Actually, many of the places we’ve been in Europe do not have a/c.  In fact, stores and restaurants will advertise in their window that they have a/c…hahaha.  Sorry, I found that shocking and very different than the States!  Of course, in their defense, it’s rarely warm here…so I suppose it’s unnecessary.

Ok, this is going to be a bit of a digression, but the A/C thing got me thinking.  I know I can be somewhat sarcastic about the differences here in Europe (Belgium, in particular) but it is all in good fun.  I actually applaud their go-green attitudes – smaller cars, smaller apartments, no dryers (ok, this one applause not so much, but figured I’d give ’em a shout-out), smaller fridges/freezers, abundance of fresh/local produce, required recycling, and last but not least – reusable grocery bags.  The USA could certainly learn a thing or 20!  *I vow to use re-usable bags at the grocery store when we move back – but, I’ll greet the Metro Market baggers with open arms.

Now that I’m off my “soap-box,” back to my day.  It’s raining again (thank goodness no one is visiting this week), so I’m going to continue my love for Jillian.  Need a change of pace, so opted for the ‘Banish Fat Boost Metabolism’ DVD (another great Itunes purchase).  This DVD requires no equipment (great since I have none)!

What I thought:

  • TOUGH – all cardio focused and is on the longer side (45 minutes), but I like how the workout is broken into different circuits like her other DVDs…seems more do-able.
  • Love the alternate moves for beginners/advanced.
  • Important to note her DVDs are different (some moves are similar, but not all)!
  • Great workout – I was dripping in sweat by the end (and did curse her under my breath – not sure why under my breath since she’s not in my apartment)
  • Overall, definitely recommend but will admit I was quite sore from her ‘Ripped in 30‘ yesterday, so probably won’t do her DVD’s two days in a row again.

NOW, I’m STARVING so I whipped up this nice little lunch (trying to use up the miscellaneous food in the fridge before we move next week – I’m SO excited about that)!

Egg white sandwich with tomato slices, salsa, and mozzarella cheese:

No cooking dinner tonight (Joe will have to fend for himself – pasta, again? :-)) because I have a happy hour!  I am meeting with a woman who graduated from Vlerick Management School (where I will be going in 12 days)!  She is an expat as well and we met via Facebook.  I have a TON of questions for her:

  • What should I expect the first day/week/month?
  • How are the professors?
  • What are the tests/projects?
  • What do people wear (very important que)?!
  • How to become a student representative (I REALLY want to do this as I believe he/she plans the extracurricular get-togethers…happy hours, holiday party, etc.)
  • Any tips/advice, etc.
Can’t wait!

Le Pain Quotidien bread + Bacon-wrapped cod

Took the day off from working out today and instead walked around the city to the various grocery stores to pick up dinner.  I decided to stop at one of my favorite restaurants in Gent for bread (Belgium has the BEST bread) and I love this organic restaurant/bakery.

Grocery stops

  • Whole Grain Baguette – ‘Le Pain Quotidien’ (http://www.lepainquotidien.be/) *1 large baguette so Joe and I could share (next time I’m getting 2 as I caught him sneaking bites of my 1/2)
  • Cod – ‘De Vis’ fist market (http://www.devis.be/)
  • Vegetable Market for salad

I spoke in Dutch all day today and was pret-ty proud of myself.  I only stumbled once when the fish market lady said something as I was leaving.  I think she said have a nice day.  I panicked and just mumbled incoherently in English as I walked out.

Bacon-wrapped Cod:

  • Cod for 2 people (halibut/trout is good too)
  • 5-6 slices of bacon (could use turkey bacon – Joe’s not a fan)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Coat a skillet with cooking spray.  Salt and pepper the fish. Wrap 2-3 slices of bacon around the fish.  Cook on medium-high until bacon and fish are preferred done-ness (yes, it’s a word).
Ours took approx 8-10 minutes – I would have argued to keep them on a little longer, but we’ve been down that road (about every other night) and it always ends at “I’m too picky.”  Fine, if I eat raw meat and get sick…you know who to talk to. 🙂

Belgian Grocery Stores…

Grocery Store (first week)-

The first trip was a disaster.  We rushed to the Colruyt grocery store right after Koen got home from work.  Side Note – grocery stores are only open until about 6pm and are NOT open on Sundays.  So, we get to the store and we have 30 minutes before closing time.  We run around the store with our cart trying to decipher the different brands, logos, and languages.  Long story short – we emerge from the store with about 15 items.  Barely any of the items are edible – except for the Special K bars and….ok I cant remember anything else edible.

Thankfully we only found 15 items (cleaners, garbage bags) because when we roll up to the checkout, they would not accept our US credit card.  This is not some funky credit card, this is a legit VISA card.  Nope, no dice…and there goes all our cash.  In addition, no bags…so we stumble to our car with our arms full.

I almost start to cry at the fear that…what if this is the only store?  Overly dramatic, but a thought nonetheless.  Koen and I look at each other in complete annoyance of the situation…and then thankfully, laugh as opposed to cry.

Grocery Store (sixth week and beyond)-

I finally now know how to shop in Ghent for groceries – only took 6 weeks.  In Belgium, you are categorized as a “Delhaize” person or a “Colruyt” person.  As seen from my comments above – I’m most definitely a “Delhaize” person.  But, it does not stop there – here it is common to go to 4595435 different stores for food.  So now…I actually go to 6 different stores a week for my groceries (talk about inefficient).  Here’s the deets:

1.  Himschoot Bakery – hands down the best baked bread I’ve ever had.  So, here we get bread.

2.  Starts with a “t” – mustard (not kidding – I go here strictly for their home-made mustard).  It’s amazing – you pick out a pot size and they spoon the fresh mustard (from the wooden keg where it is cooking) and then they cork it.

3.  Delhaize – your typical cereal, toilet paper, chicken

4.  Vismarkt – for any fish (salmon/cod/shrimps seem to be popular here)

5.  Produce! – fresh market for fruit and veggies

6.  Aula – cheese, salsa, and crackers

Whew, glad I don’t have a job.

*Oh and I have since bought large plastic shopping bags that I carry with me everywhere I go now…so I don’t look like a stupid American when I ask – why aren’t you bagging my groceries?