Run to the hills

I am a runner.

You know how hard it is to say that out loud? But it’s the truth! I’m a runner. A runner who doesn’t go far, or very fast, who only runs short amounts of time before taking a walking break, a runner who looks like she’s having a really hard time when she runs, but a runner nonetheless. I’m a runner. A real runner.

It took me forever to consider myself a ‘real runner’, though. The first time I took up running was back in 2012, when it seemed like a good idea to strap on some shoes and race out the door for a run around the lake with my mother. A week later, I was at the physical therapist, getting my calves treated because I wanted too much, too fast, on bad shoes and with terrible form. Something most of my recent injuries have in common, actually. I dropped it for a while, until I was cleared to go again, and I bought good shoes and started to read up, but it didn’t stick. Somewhere along the way, my runner-self fell by the wayside. I wasn’t a runner. Not yet.

I picked it up again a year later, but my good intentions to run twice a week sizzled out within a month. It happened again, a few months later, and again, after the summer, when the temperatures dropped and I could bundle myself up against the cold and not worry about looking like a sweaty, gross mess of a person when I ran. I didn’t really feel like a runner yet, though. I felt like an impostor. An impostor who read running blogs and daydreamed about marathons, while sometimes not even making it out the door for a leisurely walk, let alone a run, for weeks on end. I thought blogging about it would help me get out the door so I started a blog. I think I wrote 4 posts. Slowly but surely, my weightlifter’s heart started beating louder again and before I knew it, my fledgling runner-self got benched and I spent all my workouts at the gym. I wasn’t a runner. Not yet.

Fast forward to 2015. In August, I threw my back out in the most spectacular way possible. (actually, I can’t even remember what I did. It may have even happened getting up out of a chair.) For months, I went back and forth between not being able to walk, let alone exercise, and working out even harder and more relentless to catch up in my training. Going lighter on the weights felt like giving up, and I wasn’t giving up. But it tripped me up again and again. I was a weightlifter, but I wasn’t lifting weights. I was barely lifting myself! And I started to feel worried about never being able to lift weights again. Hell, I was afraid of never being able to walk upright again! Finally, in an attempt to still get out there and exercise, I started walking. Then I started running again, when I could, in intervals that were barely more than a minute of running at a time. On January 6th of 2016, a friend challenged me to run the 5k here in town on March 6th. I had two months to train, that were still regularly interrupted by a relapse of my back injury, so I was thoroughly unprepared for a 5k race. But we ran the race, and something clicked. It felt right!

I finished in 40:08, with a smile on my face. I think the winner of the 10k finished in about the same time. So I was slow, and I probably looked like I was dying, and I dressed for far colder weather than we actually had so I was boiling, but I ran the race, and finished, and felt like a runner.

I threw my back out a couple of times after that before we finally got the right treatment in May, and running once again got placed on the backburner, but there was a difference this time. I bought new shoes, I subscribed to a magazine, I got books, watched documentaries about running. I was a runner, even if I wasn’t running.

I’m running regularly again. Before, it took a lot of willpower to go out there and run. I wasn’t a runner, even if I did run. But it feels different this time: it excites me. I’m not fast, I don’t go far, I still run intervals and still haven’t run a full 5k without walking breaks. But this time, I’m not worried whether I’ll ever make it that far. I’m a runner, and for a runner, the next step is only a matter of time.



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Nobody is an indoor person

If you’re Dutch, and you listen to the radio or watch TV every so often, you may have caught the latest advert campaign from a major outdoor sports retailer: Niemand is een binnenmens, or Nobody is an Indoor Person! Do what you want, but do it outside. It’s a great slogan! How many of us spend all of our time indoors and on our butts? And seeing as the weather today was absolutely gorgeous, I grabbed my bike and went out the door for a breath of fresh air. With my camera, of course!


It’s a national holiday today (liberation day), and everyone has the day off, so the roads were busy with people who had the same idea as me. Catching a moment when the road was actually empty was pretty difficult!


Bright greens and yellows and blues: summer is really just around the corner. Last weekend I was at a festival where the temperatures didn’t rise above 10 °C, today it was around 18°C and lovely. Such a difference!


I’d love to chill out on a boat on days like today. There’s mooring spots all along the canal and lake over here.

4It wouldn’t be a national holiday without waving flags everywhere!

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The best brownies in the world

That’s quite a title to live up to, isn’t it? But trust me on this one.

I’ve had a subscription to a food box for a while now. They send me a monthly box of foodie goodies that never fail to light up my day. Who doesn’t like presents, right? Especially if they’re delicious! This month’s box was especially spectacular and it came right on time too, as I was having a downright shitty week: it was packed full of baking goodies! And what else can you do when you’re handed an edible treasure trove than to use those powers for good?


Since my box came with chocolate, vanilla extract, nuts and evaporated milk plus a recipe for brownies with dulche de leche, I kind of had no choice but to make those. My hands were tied! (not really, that would make baking brownies a bit of a challenge)

These bad boys are unbelievably chocolatey. They’re also incredibly filling, which I’m blaming on the metric ton of butter and sugar that’s in them. Believe me, this is not a healthy recipe. Pretty much the opposite! I wouldn’t have it any other way though, healthy brownies are an abomination. Despite the amount of sugar, they’re not particularly sugary. But that’s where the dulche de leche comes in! I’ve eaten it before, a friend once made it for me, and I thought it was more complicated to make than simply plonking a can of evaporated milk into a pan of water, bringing it to a boil, and simmering it for 2 to 3 hours! That simple process turns this creamy liquid into a stellar, thick, spreadable caramel that’s almost impossible to not shovel straight into my face with a spoon.


The best brownies in the world

(recipe inspired by Food We Love)

225 grams butter

125 grams of good quality chocolate

300 grams of sugar

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

a pinch of salt

125 grams flour

25 grams good quality cocoa

30 grams of mixed nuts

1 can of condensed milk

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees and grease a brownie tin or small baking pan, and line it with baking paper. Melt the chocolate and the butter au bain marie, let it cool slightly. Whisk the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla and salt until very light and fluffy. Gradually spoon the chocolate through the eggs. Whisk the flour and cocoa to get rid of the lumps, and fold it through the eggs. Add the nuts, then pour into the tin, spread out evenly, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the dulche de leche, place the can of milk in a large pan and fill it with water until the can is completely submerged. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 2 to 3 hours (I cooked it for 2.5). To stop the can from dancing around in the pan or even damaging the bottom of the pan (my pan now has a ring burned into the bottom!), put it on its side. Check occasionally to see if the can is still properly submerged. Once done, take the can out of the pan and let it cool completely before opening the can to avoid burning your hands on overly excited caramel (you can quickly cool the can down by placing it in cold water).

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Good old tomato soup

It’s been terribly dark and dreary over here lately. Now, I know I’ve said that I love autumn, but I also adore winter and would very much like to see at least some cold and snow before March, thank you very much! Right now there’s a strange divide in the weather in the Netherlands: the north provinces are all covered in ice and snow, so badly that they have had a consistent weather alarm since Monday and people have been ice skating in the streets, while down here in the west it’s 6°C. It’s unfair, really. Forget ice and snow; down here, it’s raining. And grey. And dreadful. One of the reason my blog has been quiet for so long is that weather, in fact! It gets dark early, and during the day there’s barely any light, so I don’t see the point in setting up my camera for what will  inevitably be a disappointing picture. I post the least disappointing ones I can make with my phone on my Instagram, though. (So you’ll have to forgive me for using one of those, instead of my usual not-so-crappy quality ones.)

In order to give myself a tiny bit of wintery satisfaction, I made roasted tomato soup this week. Nothing quite says ‘winter comfort food’ to me like soup does. All it needs is a crusty piece of bread to become a filling meal that warms you to the bone. And all it takes is a bit of time to really get that dark roasted flavour in your onions and garlic and tomatoes. I made parmesan crackers to go with it but it didn’t even need those, to be honest: just a spoon! And some basil to top it off. The recipe I used is an older one that I’ve made a fair few times, and I’ve changed it slightly by leaving out the cream and adding a dash of chilli flakes to spice it up a notch. Gives it a nice kick!


Roasted tomato soup (based on a recipe from A Wooden Nest)

1-1.5 kg tomatoes, crowns removed and chopped in half horizontally

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped

6 cloves of garlic, rough ends removed

0.5 – 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (to taste)



olive oil

2 cups /500 ml chicken stock

(optional: honey)


To roast your vegetables, preheat the oven to 225 °C. Place your tomatoes cut-side up on a cookie sheet or in a sizeable baking dish, place the garlic and onions in between, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the chilli flakes and salt and pepper to taste over the top. Roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until your onions are getting dark edges and your tomatoes are nice and wrinkly. Not too long, though: don’t let the juices evaporate. That’s where the good stuff is hiding!

Take the tomatoes out the oven and let cool slightly. Fish the garlic cloves out the bottom of your dish, and (carefully, they might be hot!) squeeze out the garlic into your heavy-bottomed pot. Then wash your hands, because roasted garlic is sticky! Add the tomatoes and the onions and all the juices from the baking dish or cookie sheet and your chicken stock.

Bring the pot to a boil. Once it’s boiling, let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and either by using a stick blender or by transferring the contents to a standing blender, purée the soup until smooth. Taste: if your tomatoes were not as sweet, you can add some sweetness to the soup by adding a bit of honey. Don’t overdo it, though! Add just a little at a time and stir and taste in between.

To serve, sprinkle some roughly chopped basil leaves over the top and dig in!


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I might talk shrooms, but we’re not cooking today

Oh man, do I love Autumn. It’s the feeling of cold, crisp air on my face and the colours in the trees and the leaves on the ground. And it’s the prospect of cozy evenings curled up on the couch with a blanket and a hot coco. The smell of home baking which always features a lot more cinnamon when the weather turns colder (at least it does in this house!). Oh man, do I love Autumn.

Part of it is because I love to go for walks in the forest. We drive out to just past Utrecht, park our car at a visitor’s centre, and hit the trails. We don’t even have to go far! And it’s the best when it’s cold and slightly misty. My mum and dad agree. So this morning, we did just that! And there’s proof, too! We saw the strangest mushrooms, the prettiest trees, the best coloured leaves… Take a look.


A real red and white mushroom! We didn’t find any gnomes, though. They probably weren’t at home.


These were massive! They were the size of pancakes!





There was a real abundance of chestnuts this year! Which made up for the complete and utter lack of beech nuts.
This was a shroom! Can you believe it? It looks like someone left a loofah lying around in the middle of the forest!

The only downside to walks in the forest this time of year? I have so much mud to clean off my shoes…

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Ham and leek quiches

Who doesn’t love quiche? Show of hands, please. Nobody? Thought so, because quiche is delicious! Quiches are hearty, great with any filling, and they’re delicious warm from the oven and cold the next day. And so easy! All you need is some pastry, some eggs, cheese, milk or cream, some filling, and an oven! When we make quiche for dinner, we tend to stuff it with a plethora of seemingly-random ingredients that normal quiches don’t usually have (trust me, though, when I say that a leek and shoarma quiche, spiced with curry powder, is absolutely delicious!) because that’s the beauty of them. They’re like giant, pastry-encased everything-but-the-kitchen-sink omelettes.

But what I always love the most about the way we make quiche? The pastry. We use puff pastry; it’s airy and buttery and less hard than a crust. It crumbles so nicely and almost melts on your tongue.


These small quiches were made in a large muffin tin. They’re about the size of a 1 cup measurement-cup, so the perfect size for a small meal with a salad on the side (or, if you’re like me and Tim, you omit the salad and just eat two) or as a hearty, delicious lunch in case you have leftovers! Not only do you get lots of crisp little pastry bites by overlapping the puff pastry squares, it gives your quiches a cute flower-like edge, and everyone knows that cuteness ups the deliciousness factor of any type of food by about ten thousand.

We filled them with leeks and ham cubes, but anything goes, really. We’ve also made them with shredded zucchini (just make sure you squeeze out as much liquid of the shredded zucchini as you can otherwise they might get soggy!) and salmon and broccoli florets also sounds delicious.


Ham and leek quiches (makes 5)


1 packet of puff pastry (ours come in 12×12 cm squares, 10 to a packet)

about 300 grams of leek (2 medium-sized ones)

150 grams of ham cubes

125 ml crème fraiche

2 eggs

90 grams of parmezan cheese

1 clove of garlic

salt and pepper


Preheat your oven to 225 °C and grease your muffin tin well, both inside the cups and around the rims. When using frozen puff pastry, lay them out to soften up and defrost.

Halve the leeks lengthwise and chop relatively fine. Quickly sauté the leeks and ham cubes until the leek is soft but hasn’t lost its bite. Set aside to let cool a bit.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs well and mix in the crème fraiche. Stir in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Add the leek and ham mixture to the bowl, squeeze in the garlic through a garlic press, mix well, and set aside.

When your puff pastry has softened, take two squares and place one on top of the other at an angle, creating an eight-pointed star. Place over the muffin tin cup and gently push down into the cup, lifting and easing it along with your fingers as you go, essentially creating a puff pastry cup. Poke some holes in the bottom and put in the oven to bake for 8 minutes.

Take the half-baked pastry out of the oven, gently push down the puffed-up pastry with the back of a spoon, and fill the cups with the mixture. Bake for another 20-25 minutes or until firm.


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Banana bread

Like an awful lot of people, I am of the ‘must eat healthier’-variety. I’ve been working on that for years, but every so often I slip up, slapstick-style, face-first into a pie. And since that happened again over the summer, I decided that it was again time for me to go into ‘must eat healthy’ mode. So on a whim, I bought a bunch of bananas, despite knowing deep down (and being told as much to my face by Tim) that I despise bananas. They have only the tiniest of windows where they do taste decent, but the rest of the time they taste like the wrong end of a monkey and the smell! Oh god, the smell! My whole kitchen became a banana-flavoured hellhole while they were lying on my counter!

So what’s a girl to do with too many smelly bananas reeking up the kitchen? Why, make a banana bread, of course! And if you’re going to do something, better do it right, so I opted for a Nutella swirl banana bread with pecans. Sounds decadent, and it really is.

In case you’re wondering: yes, that is a radiator under the board. The weather yesterday was positively autumnal, and the only bit of light I could find was right under the window in the living room! A great day for some baking, a terrible day for photography.

The original recipe comes from Food52 and contains cocoa nibs, but I hate those little buggers so I swapped them out for chopped pecans for a bit of texture and bite. Much better, in my opinion!



Banana bread (makes 1 loaf)

5 bananas, mushed

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

85 grams of butter

1 cup of sugar

1/3 cup yoghurt

1/2 cup chopped-up pecans

2 large tbsp Nutella (or more to taste)

2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 heaping tsp cinnamon (or more, if you’re like me and cinnamon-inclined)


Pre-heat your oven to 175 °C and grease a regular-sized loaf pan. I floured it too, but if your greasing skills are up to par, you don’t have to bother.

Mix the flour with the salt, baking powder and cinnamon and set aside.

In a different bowl, mix the butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla extract, yoghurt and bananas. Stir in your chopped pecans.

In batches, spoon your flour mixture through the wet mixture until just combined.

Scoop half the mix into your loaf pan and top with a spoonful of Nutella, spreading it out to create an even layer. Use a silicon spatula if you have one, it makes it a whole lot easier!

Fill your tin with the rest of the batter and top with another layer of Nutella, spreading it out and swirling it through the batter.

Bake for 75-90 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Unless you hit a patch of Nutella, then it won’t come out clean. Keep an eye out on the top: if it browns too quickly, tent it with some aluminium foil. The original recipe says to cook it for 90-120 minutes, but mine was done in about 75 minutes, so cooking time may vary depending on your oven.

Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before turning it out. Eat warm and prepare to be amazed that bananas could taste like anything other than bad things!

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A day at the zoo

Tim and I took 2 weeks off this summer for a get-together with friends in the UK and some much-needed downtime from work, and on our final real vacation day, we took a trip to the Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam. I can’t remember ever having been there, since our family usually went to the Burgers Zoo in Arnhem (and I may be biased here, but that still is the best zoo in the Netherlands), but Blijdorp is an adorable, well-planned little zoo that was well worth the visit! Even though we took our time, it only took us about 3.5 hours to see all the animals, so it’s a nicely sized zoo for an afternoon visit.

I brought the camera, of course, and felt a bit self-conscious about hanging it around my neck until I saw what some people drag along in terms of equipment; their mega-sized zoom lenses and special heavy-duty tripods made me feel wholly undergeared! But also less awkward about taking pictures. Which is what I did. A lot. I took well over 250 pictures in those 3.5 hours! Don’t worry, I know how to trim down to a more bite-sized collection. Here, have some cute animals (and animal butts) to brighten your day!


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FO: Orchid Cowl

It’s been such a while since I finished a knitting project, even though I had plenty of WIP’s lying around to choose from. I bought the yarn for this cowl originally for a different project, a shrug to go with my wedding dress, but failed to even cast on in time for my wedding to make that happen. After that, it lay around for a year until I cast on for the Orchid Cowl. A lovely little project made of alternating patches of lace and stockinette, with little bumpy ridges of garter stitch to break it up. It looked like a quick little knit, and it should have been, but I kept putting it down after a few rows and forgetting it for weeks, sometimes months on end.


The lace pattern is easy to memorise but I messed it up several times anyway: I mixed up the patterns, lost my spot in the pattern sequence, accidentally ended up adding stitches, even managed to forget rows entirely. I’m a champ, I know. Even the stockinette parts weren’t without its faults. I’ll just chalk it up to not paying attention to my needles enough, and as a learning experience, because despite all that, I consider my first lace project a success! It’s a lovely, soft little cowl that snugly fits around my neck twice but isn’t bulky in the least. It’ll offer some cozy warmth when the weather turns colder.


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Hummus. Is delicious. And anyone telling you otherwise is a great, big liar who cannot be trusted. Or they just haven’t had decent hummus yet. I’ll admit, the first time I had hummus, I was pretty underwhelmed: it was weird in texture, it tasted musty and old, it was a pale, weird colour not unlike old egg salad, and the top layer was slick and icky with old oil. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan. But then I tasted home-made hummus at a friend’s house, and my life has never been the same! Creamy, thick and silky-smooth, sharp from the garlic and pepper, slightly acidic from the lemon juice, I fell in love!

Now, people say that there are tricks to making the perfect hummus at home. In fact, there was a fervent discussion on the perfect way to make hummus on a forum I’m a member of not too long ago, that boiled down to skinning the chickpeas or not. Personally, I am in the skinning camp, as I find that it makes for a smoother texture. But a lot of people seemed to think that the difference in texture was not that noticeable. See for yourself! Skinning the chickpeas takes some time, if you do it my way. I rinse the chickpeas under the tap, and then pick them up between my thumb and index finger and squeeze them out of their skins. I’ve heard that there are tricks to skinning them quickly, but so far, this is my preferred method.


This recipe is more of a guideline to making hummus the way you like best. You can adjust pretty much every ingredient in this recipe to your liking: want more acidity? Add some more lemon juice. Add more garlic for a more powerful punch or some more oil if you think it’s too dry. You can even add some other herbs or spices to give it a bit more kick: I once made this with a big handful of fresh parsley added at the same time as the garlic. It made my hummus bright green and tasted amazing! And the beauty of it all is that this is done in a matter of minutes, as all you do is put your ingredients in a blender or food processor and whizz until it’s creamy and delicious!


1 small (200 gr) can of chickpeas

1 heaping tablespoon to a 1/4 cup tahini paste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove of garlic

1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

paprika powder to serve


Rinse the chickpeas under the tap. Skin them if you like, then put aside.

Put the tahini paste in the blender or food processor (I use a small one that attaches to my hand-held stick blender) with a bit of olive oil and either stir with a spoon or give it a quick whizz through the machine to loosen it up. Add in the chickpeas, the olive oil and whizz until fairly smooth (at this stage, it can still be a bit crumbly). Squeeze in the garlic through a garlic press and add the juice of half a lemon. Whizz until smooth. Taste: if it needs more liquid, add some more oil, unless it needs more acidity, then add some more juice. Add salt and pepper and whizz to combine.

To serve, scoop into a bowl, drizzle on some olive oil and dust with paprika powder. Enjoy!

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