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).

Read More


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…

Read More


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.


Read More


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!

Read More


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!


Read More


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.


Read More



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!

Read More


Great balls of… coconut

(allow me to preface this blogpost by saying that while I could type up a whole apology for not posting in forever, I won’t, because quite frankly, I wouldn’t know what I would say anyway. So let’s pretend that little hiatus never happened and jump right in, shall we?)

A few months ago, Tim and I went to a food truck festival in Amsterdam. Food truck festivals are a bit of a hype in the Netherlands right now, but I must admit, I’m loving it! Everywhere you looked there were all these gorgeous trucks with food you normally wouldn’t dream of eating! And there were the smells, the music, the atmosphere…. Right up my alley. One of the trucks with the longest line was a tiny little truck selling the cutest little things: cocoballs. They reminded me of rounded, puffed-up coconut macaroons, about the size of half a ping pong ball, filled with things like chocolate or rum-raisins. We bought a bag of 5 to taste all of them, vowed to come back before we left to take a bunch home with us, and promptly forgot. I’ve been wanting to remake them since then. After all, how hard can it be? Turns out, not hard at all.

coconutballs2After some searching for a recipe for ‘coconut balls’ that wasn’t talking about the raw superfood things everyone seems to be so thrilled about, I came across a blog post from earlier this year on a Dutch blog that, funnily enough, discovered these delectable little treats in the exact same fashion as we did: from a food truck at a food truck festival. And it literally couldn’t be easier than this. The hardest part: not digging in as soon as they come out of the oven. They’re sweet, have a nice crunch on the outside and are soft on the inside, the chocolate adds a nice touch of bittersweet, and hey, they’re even gluten-free! Not that it matters to me, but with the growing amount of people who avoid gluten altogether these days, it’s a nice and quick recipe to have in your arsenal.



Coconut balls / cocoballs (makes about 10)


125 gr grated coconut (unsweetened)

125 gr fine white sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

1/2 cup chopped chocolate

Preheat your oven at 180 °C. Mix all the ingredients together. Shape into even-sized balls by scooping 1/4 cup sized heaps and forming them into rough balls with your hands. Bake them for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool before you chow down. Enjoy!


Read More



I spent my pre-Christmas weekend in Germany! We went to Cologne for a few days with my in-laws and my sister-in-law and her boyfriend to see all the Christmas markets. I’m not even kidding. I think we missed one, maybe. It was crowded and cold and not quite as wintery as I would have liked, but it was lovely nonetheless! Cologne is a very nice city. It kind of reminded me of Utrecht, so I felt right at home: the old centre is built around a centuries-old cathedral, there’s little squares and markets everywhere, the narrow old streets are criss-crossed with wide new lanes, and there’s bars on every corner. It’s slightly bigger than Utrecht, though. We walked so much we all had no feet, legs and backs left by the end of the weekend!

The Cathedral itself is amazing! It’s huge! I thought it was the size of St. Paul’s Cathedral, but that’s tiny compared to this behemoth of a church. Apparently you can climb the tower, but they were preparing for a service inside so visitors were only allowed in the back. That gives you all the views of the inside you really need, though.

The outside is blackened after ages of standing in polluted city-air, and looks really ominous in the dark, making the interior all the more spectacular.

The stained glass windows in this place are spectacular. So detailed and colourful!

But we didn’t just go to Cologne for the Dom. We came to see some Christmas markets! Germans love their Christmas markets.

They’re made up of wooden stands that are built like tiny houses, lavishly decorated with lights and ornaments, where they sell all kinds of goodies! Candles, statues, Christmas ornaments, jewellery, paper crafts, puppets or toys…

And weird-as-balls art stands.

And let’s not forget the food! Chocolates, candies, cookies, fudge, but also cheeses and sausages.

Even though the crowds were sometimes downright impossible to navigate, overall, everyone seemed very friendly and happy to be there. I spotted a few carollers (not including the drunk British lady who got on the same tram as we did on the way back to the hotel on Sunday), lots of people in Christmas hats, and even dogs wearing snazzy Christmas coats.

There were large stands selling hot mulled wine (Glühwein) and various types of hot cocoa everywhere, and they were without question the most crowded spots on every market. They sold the hot drinks in adorable little mugs, which you paid a small deposit for at the bar. You could then either get your money back when you finished your drink, or get a new drink in the same mug! Or take it home with you as a souvenir, like I did. Cheers, Cologne! I had a great time.

Read More


Not entirely autumnal

Last Saturday was the hottest beginning of November ever, here in the Netherlands. Down in the south, temperatures went up to in the twenties! In November! Over here, it was only around 17°C, which is still a significant change from the 10-12°C we are used to. It was a gorgeous day, though. It was sunny and warm, there was virtually no wind and the sky was a bright, cloudless blue. It almost felt like the beginning of summer instead of an autumnal Saturday.

I took the opportunity to go out for a nice, long walk around town. I’ve been doing a lot of that, lately. Strap on my hiking boots, fire up my GPS app (what can I say, I like stats. My app tells me where I went, how long it took me, how far I went, and what my speed was!) and head out the door. You don’t need much for walking, just a good pair of shoes and a decent pair of legs. You don’t even need company. In fact, I much prefer to go out by myself: I can choose my own pace, I can listen to music or just to the sounds of wherever it is I’m walking, I can stop for pictures along the way without feeling like I’m holding up the group.


But I also like it, because it’s been taking me to places in my own town I’ve never been before. This Saturday, I walked across the golf course to the other side of town along a public footpath, all the way to the other side of town. It was a lovely route to walk! It wasn’t busy on the golf course, I think I saw 10 people in total, but there were an enormous amount of swans and ducks swimming in the ponds and waddling across the grounds (and getting in the way, I’m sure). There were pheasants, and I saw rabbits. And I hadn’t even left town!


You could tell that it was already November though, there was a thick carpet of brown and yellow and red and orange leaves covering the fields and the roads. But the sun was warm enough that I could take my jacket off, roll up my sleeves and soak up some much-needed rays. What a contrast with the walk I just took this afternoon, when it was only a measly 7°C, it was just windy enough that the soupy fog of the morning was just about starting to dissipate, and I kept pulling down my sleeves to stop my hands from getting too cold. I can appreciate the more ‘normal’ November weather, though. There’s something about a gloomy, frosty, grey, fogged-up morning that just fits the time of year.

So I’m happy if this was the last we saw of the summer of 2014. Let Autumn reign for a bit, now. She deserves it.

Read More