Thursday, April 29, 2010

Backyard Beauties

Next week I'll go back to food and travel, but for now I'll leave you with a few more pics of the flora, fauna and fowl from the lake behind my house, all wonderful God-given gifts. At left you'll see my first non-blurry photo of the crane in flight. At right, my artsy version of fungus growing on a tree. Bottom left was my beautiful clematis before my husband decided to trim the bushes and zipped right through its skinny little stem. By the next day, all I had was dead flowers hanging pathetically on the fence.
Stop by in a few days for a new country and a recipe!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hope and a Future

I'm taking a little break from virtual travel this week due to a full schedule, but I won't disappear from cyberspace completely. Enjoy a couple of pics from the creatures who frequent the lake behind my house.
More importanly, I offer you one of my favorite Bible verses as food for thought.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Windmills and Wooden Shoes

Last day for the Netherlands, so here are a few more sights to see if you happen to head that way:

Windmills and Wooden Shoes – No trip to the Netherlands would be complete without these! Try a tour of Zaanse Schans, a popular tourist area in North Holland. There you’ll find the famous windmills, wooden houses and old-fashioned stores, including a wooden clog factory. From there you can drive (or your tour might take you) to the fishing villages of Marken and Volendam. Along the way, stop at a cheese factory, where Dutch cheeses are still being made in the traditional way.
Erasmus Bridge – This amazing architectural delight is shaped like a harp and soars over Europe’s largest harbor in Rotterdam, linking the northern and southern halves of the city. Beautiful by day and dazzling by night!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Dutch Delight

The Dutch aren’t noted for having the most exciting cuisine in the world, but some of the recipes I found really made my mouth water. Farmers Cheese Soup, which contains bacon, onions and more, sounded particularly delicious to me. The recipe, however, had too many ingredients and too many steps, so you won’t find it here. Nor will you find the recipe for Lamb’s Tongue with Raisin Sauce. Need I explain why? Instead, I chose a vegetable – one of my very favorites – with a sauce nearly as popular in the U.S. as it is in the Netherlands. The photo shows it with white asparagus, which is a little more difficult to find and definitely pricier than its green counterpart. My guess is you can make it with either color, especially since the recipe doesn’t specify.

Asparagus Hollandaise
8 -10 asparagus spears per person (approx. 3.5 pounds)
1 tsp. salt
4 whole eggs & 4 egg yolks
8 slices boiled ham
4 Tbs. dry white wine (e.g. Pinot Blanc d’ Alsace)
1 cup melted butter
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Pinch of salt and white pepper
2 Tbs. finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Soak the asparagus in cold water as soon as you get them home. Rinse and peel with a potato peeler (start from the head and work your way down). Cut the woody bit off the end. Place the asparagus and salt in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Take off the heat and leave the asparagus in the hot water for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Meanwhile, boil 4 of the eggs and chop finely. Slice the ham into fine strips.

For the Hollandaise, beat egg yolks and wine until foamy. Place on a low heat and beat continuously until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add the melted butter in a thin trickle, while continuing to whisk. Add the nutmeg, lemon juice, salt and white pepper. Whisk again, and set aside.

Gently drain the cooked asparagus. Be careful not to damage the tender heads. Plate them up, making sure the asparagus are facing in the same direction, and top with the Hollandaise sauce, chopped ham and boiled eggs. Scatter parsley over and serve with the rest of the chilled wine.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fields of Flowers

With tulips popping up everywhere these days, the Netherlands seemed the perfect subject for this week. Though tulips are the big draw in Holland, they are not alone in washing the countryside in a vibrant palette of color. But first, let’s clarify the “what and where” of Holland, as some people mistake it for a country. Holland is a region in the western part of the Netherlands. It’s capital is Amsterdam. One of the largest cities in Holland, Rotterdam, is home of Europe’s largest port.

Okay, geography lesson over. Let’s talk flowers. Each spring, countless tourists come to Holland to view huge fields of tulips. There are many types and colors covering vast areas of land (see the aerial view photo). But tulips aren’t the only flora worth seeing in Holland. Fields of crocuses burst forth in early spring, followed by daffodils and then narcissi. In April, tulips and hyacinths cover the land, blossoming until the middle of May. This is also the time of year when the Bollenstreek Flower Parade takes place. Volunteers spend months creating floats with 1.5 million flowers! Imagine how beautiful they look cruising down the street.

And still there’s more! Come August, the gladioli grow tall, each plant bearing numerous large colorful blooms.

To visit the tulip fields, go from late March through early May. They are located in Lisse between Leiden and Amsterdam. And as you might expect, there are plenty of hotels located in Lisse.

Check back in a few days for a Netherlands recipe!

Monday, April 12, 2010

England's Stony Mystery

Who doesn’t love a great mystery? Our planet has so many: crop circles, the Bermuda Triangle, the Lost City of Atlantis, the Loch Ness Monster and of course, England’s claim to mystery fame, Stonehenge. Theories abound, ranging from scientific and somewhat believable to completely outrageous. It has been excavated, surveyed, measured and x-rayed, yet no solid explanation for its existence has been forthcoming. Maybe a group of prehistoric people simply created Stonehenge for the sole purpose of making future generations endlessly ponder its meaning.

Want to visit this famous site? It is located in the county of Wiltshire in southwest England. Imagine driving for miles through the rolling hills of England’s countryside, then suddenly encountering this strange and somewhat eerie sight. The large standing stones and earthen mounds were set in a circular pattern approximately 5,000 years ago, causing some to believe its purpose was for religious rites, while others think it is tied to astronomy.

Okay…enough about Stonehenge. Here’s one last English recipe before we move on to another country (as yet to be determined!) I couldn’t finish England without a recipe for crumpets – what could be more English than that? And exactly what is a crumpet? By definition, “a porous England bread snack made from flour and yeast.” But check out the picture – it’s just what we call an England muffin, right?


1 (.25 oz.) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 cup warm milk (110 to 115 degrees F)
4 Tbs. butter or margarine, melted, divided
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon butter and egg; mix well. Add flour and salt; beat until smooth. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Brush griddle and 3-in. metal rings or open-topped metal cookie cutters with remaining butter. Place rings on griddle; heat over low heat. Pour 3 tablespoons of batter into each ring. Cook for 7 minutes or until bubbles begin to pop and the top appears dry. Remove rings. Turn crumpets; cook 1-2 minutes longer or until the second side is golden brown. Serve warm or let cool on a wire rack and toast before serving.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

England's Eden

How can such a small country have so many fascinating places to visit? There’s no way to cover them all, so I’ll highlight a couple of England’s quirkier sites today and tomorrow.

At England’s southwestern tip you’ll find Cornwall, famous for its wild, moorland landscapes and dramatic coastline. I’d go just for that, but Cornwall has a couple of other claims to fame as well. Eden Project, for example, attracted more than 6 million visitors to this little corner of the world during its first four years. It is the world’s largest biome and contains, under one roof, the complete range of natural plant habitats found on the Earth. It is run by Tim Smit, famous for another of Cornwall’s famous sites, The Lost Gardens of Heligan (Photo at right). These immense, beautiful and unique gardens have been the subject of television shows and news articles in addition to a book.

Cornwall is also the setting of a novel by author Deb Kinnard. In Seasons in the Mist, American graduate student Bethany Lindstrom is stranded in 1353 Cornwall. She knows she must find a way back to her own time or face a life of falsehoods and peril. But with the stern overlord Sir Michael Veryan, she is swept into the intrigues of King Edward's court, which will test their mettle and their faith in God to the limits -- and forever bind their lives together.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at one of Earth’s mysteries: Stonehenge. And who knows…maybe another recipe will pop in as well!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Enchanting England

Today we begin to taste England, land of Big Ben, Stonehenge, crumpets, Medieval castles and really hot accents. We’ll kick off with an English recipe. Stay tuned for more to come later in the week.

But first…for you readers out there, many wonderful books are set in England and a few of my favorites are written by Linore Rose Burkard, author of Before the Season Ends, The House in Grosvenor Square, and The Country House Courtship. Set in the early 1800s, these regency romances are as beautiful and elegant as their book covers, with plenty of twists and fascinating characters to keep you hooked from cover to cover. All three are rich in detail and historic references that flow seamlessly throughout intriguing plots. You can read my reviews of Season and Country House at For a contemporary novel set in England, try Sisterchicks Go Brit by Robin Jones Gunn. Three women with unfulfilled dreams and wishes take off for England, unaware their little trip will lead them to some life changing decisions. For my review, click on

As I researched English food, I ran across several that sounded good and some that, well…didn’t. Mushy Peas were a definite “no.” I’m not posting a recipe with the word “mushy” in it. Steak and Kidney Pie – might be good, but I don’t do kidneys. And Spotted Dick – I won’t even go there. This one sounded rather delish though, so check it out.

Beef with Wild Mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds beef steak
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup beef stock
9 ounces red wine
9 ounces wild mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut beef steak into cubes. In a pan combine red wine, onion, garlic, and thyme over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and cook until liquid is reduced by about a quarter. Put aside to cool. Meanwhile, melt butter in a pan cook beef until brown on all sides. Remove beef, and stir into cooled wine mixture. Put aside to prepare sauce. Lower the temperature. Sprinkle flour into pan. Cook slowly until flour is browned. Next, stir in beef stock. Allow the mixture to come to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in beef and wine mixture. Cook for another 40 to 45 minutes. Lay mushrooms on top of beef. Cover, and simmer for about 10 more minutes. Transfer beef and mushrooms to a serving dish. Taste sauce, and adjust seasonings. Simmer until sauce thickens. Finally, pour the sauce over the meat and mushrooms.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wild and Free

I’m concluding Sweden with a post on critters. When it comes to spotting wildlife, you’ve probably heard of Africa’s “Big 5,” (lion, elephant, buffalo, black rhinoceros and leapord), but did you know Sweden has a “Big 5” too? Those doing the Swedish version of a photo safari keep an eye out for the following creatures:

1. Brown Bears: Sweden's largest predator dines primarily on berries, ants, shrubs, voles and salmon, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to get up close and personal!

2. Wolverines: These shy predators are members of the otter/badger family, but can get pretty vicious when confronted…so don’t. Mostly, they are hard to find and are Sweden’s most threatened species.

3. Wolves: These beautiful animals were driven to extinction in Sweden in 1970, but started appearing again seven years later. Back from the brink, there are now about 130.

4. Golden Eagles: One of the largest birds of prey, these eagles can be found primarily in the north of Sweden.

5. Lynx: Skillful hunters, Lynx are Sweden’s only form of wildcat. They are as elusive as they are beautiful, and few people have the opportunity to see one in the wild.

Well that concludes the “Big 5,” but I can’t end this post without adding one more creature because it’s one of my very favorites: The MOOSE! Who can resist those deep brown eyes, that big velvety muzzle? So for myself and moose lovers everywhere, here’s a pic!