Friday, May 28, 2010

Oh Canada!

After nine months away, the de Jongs headed North to visit our friends, the Vriends. (Fun fact: Vriend means "friend" in Dutch). Joel and Carolyn have a little boy, Noah, who is 3 months younger than Daniel. We have high hopes for the second generation of de Jong/Vriend friendship! It was fun watching the boy interact and compare notes on who is doing what. We had hoped that Noah would teach Daniel how to use a cup, but alas, no luck.

Here are a few pictures of our trip:

Monday, May 17, 2010

2010 New far

My cookbook binder is starting to get full so I made a list of all the new recipes we've tried this year...and we still have half the year to go! Where available, I've made links to the recipes, and separate step-by-step instructions where I've made blog entries of my version.

  1. Marc’s Cashew Chicken
  2. Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins
  3. Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese
  4. Vegetable Fried Rice
  5. Baked Ziti (Biggest Loser Family Cookbook)
  6. Chocolate-Peanut Butter Grahamwiches (Biggest Loser Family Cookbook)
  7. Baked Berry French Toast (The Volumetrics Eating Plan)
  8. Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
  9. Dutch Almond Boterkoek
  10. Crockpot Italian Chicken
  11. Wild Rice Meat Loaf
  12. Parmesan Potatoes
  13. Dilly Veggie Pizza
  14. Almond Poppy Seed Muffins
  15. Dutch Letter Cookies
  16. Simple Mediterranean Chicken
  17. Suzy Preston's Ranch-Style Spaghetti Squash (one of the Biggest Loser books)
  18. Pasta with Kalamata Olives and Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
  19. Stampot (Boerenkool met rookworst)
  20. Lemon-Dill Chicken (from Mom's Elk River teachers cookbook)
  21. No-Bake Cereal Bars
  22. Spice Cake
  23. Italian Spinach Bread
  24. Hutspot (step-by-step)
  25. Spicy Chicken and Orzo Skillet
  26. Rosemary-Grilled London Broil (one of the Biggest Loser books)
  27. Spinach Orzo Salad
  28. Broccoli Salad
  29. Steel Cut Oatmeal
  30. Homemade Pop Tarts
  31. Whole Wheat Pasta with Sesame Peanut Sauce
  32. Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken
  33. Pecan-Crusted Chicken
  34. Indonesian Chicken Sate (step-by-step)
  35. Bitterballen (step-by-step)
  36. Dill Bread
  37. Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels (step-by-step)
  38. Broccoli Brunch Braid
  39. Chicken Stuffed with Feta and Spinach

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Daniel at Play

The bookstore at our church (where I used to work) has a children's corner with toys and of course, many, many books. Whenever we got there, Daniel runs to the play with the toys. He has a recent fascination with puzzles and is learning to sit in a chair (instead of the toddler table or his high chair.) He looks so stinkin' cute. I think we might need to look for a toddler chair at the garage sales this summer.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


For three years, Niels and I have wanted tulips in our yard. Finally, last fall, we had some friends and family help us get our act together. Then we waited for spring and the arrival of our tulips.

When the first tulips burst through, I was so excited, and every day Daniel and I would go check them out. Finally one day the first bloom arrived--a purple one! It was a good thing I took a picture because that night some critter came and ATE it! I was so ticked!

After that, we left our front lights on at night and had no further trouble. Except for bad weather and poor health (mine) preventing us from getting pictures of Daniel with the tulips.

Today the weather was overcast, so I rushed Daniel out after his morning nap to take pictures, and at that exact moment, a construction crew decides to set up camp in front of our house. I give up.

Why look at tulips when you can watch TRUCKS!?!

Got him looking, sort of.

This one was good, but of course a car was on the road.

Now he's distracted by the rock.

Sometimes the best pictures are from the back!

Soft Pretzels

The theme of tonight's small group gathering is "cravings." I've wanted to try making homemade pretzels for months. Niels and I don't eat much fast food when we're home, but we have given in to the sweet smells of Auntie Ann's Pretzels. I can't even remember the last time we had one, but that's how long I've wanted to try making them.

Since I double messed up my last attempt with yeast by using hot water with expired yeast (hot water kills yeast--who knew?), we took a family outing to Giant Eagle to get ready for today's experiment.

I used Daniel's playtime to search the web for instructions on how to make the pretzel shape. My recipe was not at all helpful (form rope into pretzel shape--thanks a lot!) I found this very helpful video from, all all places, Auntie Anne's! I even learned some tips not cover explained in my recipe.

So, I combined both to come up with...

de Jong Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110
degrees F/45 degrees C)
5 cups all-purpose flour (note: I used whole wheat, which made the dough harder to work with, I think. Next time, I'll try half and half)
1/2 cup white sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping


• In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot or it will kill the yeast. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Yeast just after adding the warm water.

After 10 minutes. I think I was supposed to stir it more.

• In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt.

  • Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water.
  • Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or warm, damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Before rising.

After rising. (And after I punched it down!)

• Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
I would do this after the pretzels are formed because by the time I was ready, the water was cool and the soda had separated!

• When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces with a pizza cutter.
I think I was supposed to roll the dough out more, but this worked too.

• Roll each piece into a rope, starting in the middle and working out.

I may have just been really slow, but I had to wet my hands a couple times because the dough got try. It might have been the whole wheat as well. I think Daniel will enjoy helping me do this part in the future. He tried to help today. And Bailey tried to help herself when I was with Daniel!

• Twist into a pretzel shape, by looping the rope in half, twisting twice and fold it over.

1. Make a U shape
Twist it twice. (Imagine twisting a twist tie).

Pull the ends up and push down where the dough intersects.

This took a LONG time!

• Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a clean, dry towel to blot extra liquid before placing on lightly sprayed baking sheet.

• Sprinkle kosher salt on the salted pretzels. (I made 5 salted, 5 cinnamon/sugar and 4 almond)

• Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, until browned.

• While pretzels are baking, melt ¼ cup butter and prepare sugar/cinnamon mixture and crushed almonds.

• After baking, follow the directions below depending on the type of pretzel.

For salted pretzels: Dip in butter with tongs (one side), and let drip dry before placing on plate.

For cinnamon/sugar: dip entire pretzel in butter, then immerse in sugar mixture to coat. Do both sides.

Almond: butter, then coast in toasted almonds.

Daniel's hideout

Daniel's new food

Daddy introduced Daniel to a traditional Dutch meal: hagelslag (chocolate sprinkle) sandwiches. Daniel took his with a side of goldfish, naturally.

More Adventures of Daniel and the Spoon

Spinach Cheese Manicotti

Yesterday, I was starting to feel better after the weekend's adventure, so I made dinner. I first tried this recipe last year, but apparently forgot how good it was!

Spinach Cheese Manicotti

1 (15 ounce) container ricotta
1 (10 ounce) package frozen
chopped spinach, thawed and
squeezed dry
1/2 cup minced onion
1 egg
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese,
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1 (8 ounce) package manicotti
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2.In a large bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, onion and egg. Season with parsley, pepper and garlic powder. Mix in 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan. In a separate bowl, stir together spaghetti sauce and water.

Chopped spinach in one of my new mixing bowls from IKEA. LOVE it!

Ricotta cheese, egg, and minced onion in my other new bowl.

All mixed together, with the parsley, pepper and garlic salt. (We didn't have garlic powder).

Tomato sauce and water.

3.Spread 1 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Stuff uncooked manicotti shells with ricotta mixture, and arrange in a single layer in the dish. Cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.

I've read about using a pastry bag to stuff these, and a ziploc bag as a substitute. Actually, I found that using my freshly washed fingers was the easiest and fastest way!

Ready for the oven!

4.Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until noodles are soft.

It looks a little crispy, but it was really good! I've had a harder than usual time with multi-tasking and planning my time this week. Niels was home later than usual and we had to run an errand, so we turned the oven off a little before it was done so we could get back from the store before Daniel's bedtime. So, it might have been slightly overbaked, but at least it wasn't burnt!

Servings Per Recipe: 6
Calories: 547
Amount Per Serving
  • Total Fat: 18.6g
  • Cholesterol: 80mg
  • Sodium: 1310mg
Amount Per Serving
  • Total Carbs: 68.7g
  • Dietary Fiber: 9.2g
  • Protein: 27.2g

The calories are a bit high on this, but the portion sizes are pretty big. We used 8 serving portions so it was a little more respectable! We have plenty leftover. (Mom, there may be some left over by the time you get here!)

This recipe is very generous, so I had quite a bit of extra sauce and spinach mixture after filling the 14 manicotti shells that came in the box. So I looked to see what kind of other pasta I had on hand. I found some pasta wheels from when Daniel was on a pasta kick. I decided to use those for a pasta wheel experiment.

We'll see what Daniel thinks of his new wheels in a few hours!