One woman's adventures in cooking for her Dutch-American family.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Paasbrood (Dutch Almond Raisin Bread)

A few weeks ago, my friend Jen made a special trip for us to one of the Dutch stores in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I used to live. She picked up a new "NL" sticker for The Hubs, and asked if there was anything else we'd like. The Hubs requested some almond paste because it's hard to find around here. When it arrived, I asked him what he wanted me to make with it. The verdict: Paasbrood.

Paasbrood, which means "Easter Bread" is a very popular Dutch raisin (or currant) bread that includes a large log of almond paste in the center. The authentic Dutch almond paste is a little less refined that what you find in the states, but it tastes the same. The bread also often includes bits of fruit. Think of it as the Dutch version of fruit cake, only much, MUCH better!

I've been looking for a good recipe for quite some time, but haven't been able to find one that wasn't too complicated or intimidating. Since I've been having so much luck with BudgetByte's Cinnamon Raisin Bread, I thought I'd use her recipe as a starting point, and then improvise.

That said, here is my version of Paasbrood.

inspired by Budget Byte's Cinnamon Raisin Bread

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2.25 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1.25 tsp salt
  • .75 Tbsp yeast
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 Tbsp orange peel
  • handful of slivered almonds (optional)
  • approximately 1/3 pound almond paste
  • 1.25 cups warm water
  • In a large pot or bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, salt, yeast, orange peel and raisins.
  • Stir everything until evenly mixed (break up any raisin clumps).

  • Add the warm water and stir. If the dough does not come into one cohesive ball (with no dry bits left at the bottom of the bowl) add a little more water, one tablespoon at a time, until it all comes together.
This is my secret to not killing the yeast.
  • Loosely cover the bowl and let it rest for 2 hours at room temperature. (Jen says: I'm not sure why the dough is supposed to be covered and I've read that the towel should be wet, dry, hot and cold. I usually use a warm, wet cloth.)
  • Let the dough rise for two hours. After two hours, it should be roughly double in size.
  • Turn it out onto a floured surface. Give it maybe one or two turns or "kneads" in the flour just to work in enough flour to keep it from sticking to your hands. Flatten and stretch the dough into a long rectangle. The short side of the rectangle should be the same length as your bread pan, the long side double that.
  • I sprinkled the dough with slivered almonds. This is the not traditional, just my own improvisation.
  • Next, roll your almond paste into a log the same width as your dough, and place it close to one end. It doesn't have to be perfect.
Roll the rectangle up and place it in a bread pan coated with non-stick spray.
  • Let the bread rise for 1.5 hours or until it has risen up and out of the pan.
I love how the sun shines on my pretty loaf!
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Brush the top of the bread with water to give it a nice crunchy top.

  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  • After baking, turn it out of the bread pan onto a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing.
Eet Smakelijk!

Menu Monday: Week of March 28

This is a picture of my pretty kitchen. I love that a have a nice big kitchen with lots of counter space. What I don't love about my kitchen, is that the stove was never properly vented. Shortly after we moved in, I made something for The Hubs and was blown away by the piercing sound of the smoke alarms. I opened the windows and they still screamed. I got a chair and yanked out the batteries. Sweet silence.

That was my solution for about four years. Then we started getting our house ready to sell. Apparently, dangling smoke detectors do not impress potential buyers. Back in they went. And back to their uber-sensitive ways they went....terrifying my toddler in the process. We had the smoke detector nearest the kitchen moved to the front door. Still went off anytime I touched my oven. I used my crock pot and sulked.

Finally, we gave in and decided to install an over-the-island hood. Last week, the drywall guys tore up my beautiful flat ceiling. Then the duct guy came, drilled a hole in the wall and put in the ductwork for the new hood. This Friday, my new hood is due to arrive and shortly thereafter, I look forward to cooking in silence.

Here's what's cooking this week:

Frittata. I totally improvised on this one this week. I used kale and spinach instead of chard. I used ham instead of sausage. And I added sundried tomato, oregano and basil. YUM!

Chicken Stew with Dumplings. Hmmm....I was thinking this was a crockpot recipe, but looking over it right now, I see it's now. It looks delicious though, and Megan hasn't steered me wrong yet, so I'll battle the stove for it!

I didn't make my Almond Raisin bread last week because I've been really dragging, so I need to make some bread this week.

Indonesian Pilaf. Just can't get enough of this!

Broccoli Brunch Braid. I deep cleaned my frig this week and noticed that I have a few Pillsbury doughs that need to be used up. This is a really easy recipe, but looks impressive. Love those.

Greek Chicken Pasta. I also deep cleaned the freezer this week and realized that our leftovers (aka lunch for The Hubs) are running low. This looks like a good meal with leftover potential. I love Greek food!

Pasties. This classic UP recipe was a big hit last time I made them. I had some leftover veggies all cubed and ready to go, so this will be an easy meal.

Spinach Lasagna Roll Up. I have lots of leftover ingredients from the last time I made this, so I look forward to making it again.

Eet Smakelijk!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Staple List

One of the best ideas I've come across as we've tried to get a handle on our spending is the idea of a staple list. I've also heard them called stock lists. The basic idea is that you made a note of how much you spend for items you buy often. If you shop at a couple of different places, it's quite eye-opening to learn how prices vary from store to store.

My actual list is five pages long. A bit overboard, I realize know, but part of my process. I have every item I stock (or have stocked in the last year or so) in my pantry, frig, freezer or chest freezer on the list.

How I Got Started:
  1. I made a spread sheet with my week's shopping list and made columns for the stores we tended to visit. In our case, that means Giant Eagle (a local chain), Acme (another local chain), Beillers (a farmer's market-meets-Horrocks store for my Michigan friends), Target and Sam's Club. We originally had a few other local stores, but it became clear very quickly that their prices were way more than we wanted to spend, so we stopped going to those places.
  2. As I shopped, I noted the cost of each item. Usually I go with a price per pound for veggies or bulk items, and price for average jar size (with weight noted) on other things.
  3. We spent maybe 3-4 months doing this. Not doing anything different, just adding to our list and shopping wherever it was convenient to shop that week, and noting prices.
  4. As the list grew, I started grouping items in categories: Produce, Dairy, Meat and Bulk first (because those are the items I buy every week), as well as Frozen, Packaged, and Home Goods.
  5. After several months, we started to see where it made sense to shop.
What I Learned:
  1. Produce and bulk items are MUCH cheaper (and fresher...and local) at Beiller, so we always start there. In fact, making that little switch cut our weekly bill almost in half!
  2. Even with coupons, Target tends to be cheaper for cereal and bread, so we usually get those when we get our household items, which are also cheapest there.
  3. Giant Eagle and Acme have the best loss leader prices on the few packaged items we still buy, so we usually make a quick trip there most weeks as well. If we run out of time, that's the first place we drop.
  4. After I had a general idea of the regular price of an item, I started tracking the lowest sale price I found
  5. It took probably 6-8 months to build up my pantry to the point where I have pretty much anything I need to make any meal I want...with the exception of fresh produce or dairy.
  6. Once my pantry was filled to satisfaction, I've made it my goal to only stock up when an item is on sale.
  7. We're very fortunate to live close to Amish country, where it's easy to buy locally grown food. We found a place to buy meat in bulk, so now we have locally grown, hormone-free meat for the price of that stuff you buy in the grocery store.
  8. A chest freezer (or even a separate freezer) is a great help in lowering your grocery bill.
  9. Meal planning is the single best way to make sure I buy what I need when I need it.
Does anyone else keep track of prices? Any tips you'd like to share?

Crockpot Jerk Chicken

One of the easiest recipes in my arsenal is Money Saving Mom's Crockpot Italian Chicken. When I'm under the weather, or busy, or don't really feel like cooking, this is the recipe I use. A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out my frig and looking at all the marinades and dressings we have, and got the idea to experiment. And so, Crock Pot Jerk Chicken was born.

Crock Pot Jerk Chicken

  • 5-6 chicken breasts (enough to fill up the bottom of your crockpot)
  • 1 bottle of your favorite jerk chicken marinade (in the future, I have aspirations to learn how to make the marinade myself. (I found a recipe here).

  1. Place chicken breasts in crock pot.
  2. Cover with marinade.
  3. Cook on high for 4-6 hours.
That's all, folks!

Now, it's not really a balanced meal, but you can easily shred the chicken when it's done and serve on buns with some veggies.

Or, after a little websurfing, I might try this recipe for Island Rice next time.


I found a new recipe for Jerk Chicken, that's a million times better. Check it out here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menu Monday: Week of March 21

I'll be taking it easy this week. I have a little surgery on Tuesday. Historically, I'm pretty slow to come out of anesthesia, so I don't imagine I'll be hoping right back into the kitchen.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Beef Stew. This is still my favorite beef stew recipe. We were out running errands all day. When we got home we were famished and the house smelled amazing. YUM!

Rustic Tortellini Soup. Have to make some soup before my surgery tomorrow. If I wasreally thinking, I would have planned to make a double batch!. Love, love, love this recipe.

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake. Not quite the souffle on my challenge list, but when I read about this simplified recipe on one of the boards I follow, I had add it to my list. Especially now that I picked up some cute green ramekins at Homegoods last week!

Surgery day. I'm thinking dinner will be 7 up and saltines. The boys will have leftovers.


Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken. I'm going to make it easy on myself this week, and this is a super easy way to get a tasty dinner on the table.

Kale Frittata. Can't go wrong with a little protein as you recover from surgery, right?

Almond Raisin Bread. One of my best friends sent me some almond paste from one of the Dutch stores in Grand Rapids, MI, where I used to live. I asked The Hubs what he wanted me to make with it, and he suggested that I try to make paasstol (a traditional Dutch Easter bread with raisins and almond paste) using BudgetByte's cinnamon raisin bread recipe. Sounds like a fabulous idea!


Eet Smakelijk!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cut the Grocery Bill Challenge - week 4

It's Sunday night, the end of an expensive week. We're in the process of getting our house ready to put on the market. Seven years ago, when I put my townhouse on the market after a crazy staging frenzy with my mom, I vowed that NEXT time, I wouldn't wait until I wanted to sell my house to my make it all pretty. Yeah, well, NEXT next time... We actually started working on the house last summer and have done all sorts of things like landscaping, finishing the deck, painting, etc. Now we're in the final stages with getting a few new pieces of furniture, as well as pretty pricey renovation to our kitchen (putting in a hood over the range so the smoke alarm doesn't go off every time I cook, aka, every day!) and new carpet in the bedrooms. I hate spending the money, but love the way our house has come together.

One area where we are NOT spending obscene (to me) amounts of money is our grocery budget. I'm thrilled that we just bought our fourth week of groceries and are still under my goal of $400!

To recap:
Week 1: spent $6.02 $393.98 remaining
Week 2: spent $151.30 total spent: $188.57 $242.68 remaining
Week 3: spent $53.80 total spent: $242.37 $157.63 remaining
Week 4: spent $74.85 total spent: $317.22 $82.78 remaining

I'm not exactly sure why I still have another week left in March when I thought I started this challenge at the beginning, but I'll go with it, and add next week's groceries to this challenge.

I was reading on another blog that someone had a goal of $25 per person per week. For us, that would be $75/week, although one of those persons is only 2, so I think $60 is a better ultimate goal.

As I was tallying up the receipts tonight, I was thinking about how I could have saved more. I spent $5.00 in chicken broth this weekend. I know I should have been able to get it for no more than $4.00 if I had waited for a sale, and even less if I had coupon, but I had run out and since I'm having surgery on Tuesday, I knew I'd want soup. So, not smart shopping, but logical.

Another big expense this week was pine nuts. I LOVE pine nuts, they are a staple in several of our favorite recipes. But they are pricey. A few weeks ago I happily discovered that the organic section of one of our grocery stores sells them for $15.79/pound, which is decidedly less than the $26.95/pound we've been paying at our local farmer's markety place. Yeah, we loaded up today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cut the Grocery Bill Challenge - week 3

We're in the home stretch! We kicked off the month with a "Cut the Grocery Bill Challenge." To review, here are the rules for our new Cut the Grocery Bill Challenge.
  • Our goal is $100/week ($400/month) for groceries only. We'll move on to household goods another time.
  • We will start using cash to pay for groceries. It will be a little awkward, but we'll pay for the food items first, with cash, then any other items with our debit card.
  • At the beginning of the month we'll take the full $400 a month out of our bank account, in order to take advantage of any surprise deals on our staple items.
  • When the money is gone, we stop spending. This means that if we do find some great deal and spend ahead, we need to make sure to reserve money for our son's milk.
  • Whatever money we have left at the end of the month gets deposited into our savings account.
We're doing great on the budget part, even though we haven't been doing well about the spend with cash part. I keep forgetting to go to the bank.

One discovery we made this week was Aldi's! We aren't bound to brands, so we were quite pleasantly surprised by what we found at our local store, and were able to spread out budget out a little farther.

Three weeks in, here's where we are:
Week 1: spent $6.02 $393.98 remaining
Week 2: spent $151.30 $242.68 remaining
Week 3: spent $53.80 $$157.63 remaining

I'm feeling pretty good about this, and think maybe our eventual goal of $300 a month is do-able.

Menu Monday: Week of March 14

So March 2011 will not go down as my favorite month. This week, the flu struck our house. First our son, the The Hubs, then me. Bleh.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Ice chips, 7Up and Pedilyte. The Hubs had leftover Indonesian Pilaf.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. I'm bummed I didn't get to make this last week, and I'm thinking soup is a great re-introduction to solid foods!

Spaghetti di Pesto alla Genovese. I didn't to make this "Pesto Pasta" a few weeks ago, so I'm going to give it go this week. Really!

Hachee met Hutspot. I've been slacking on the Dutch dishes, so I was happy to find this recipe for Hachee (pronounced "ha SHEE"). Hachee is a thick beef stew often served with mashed potatoes, or huspot. The Hubs bought me some Hachee seasoning for Christmas and I've been wanting to find a good recipe. In truth, the Hutspot (glorified mashed potatoes) part of the recipe seems a little sparse, so I'll follow it for the hachee, and use this recipe for the hutspot...OOH! I just found a recipe for it on my favorite Dutch food blog, so I may try this one instead.


I know, I know, it's St. Patrick's day and all so I should be making Irish stew or something, but well, I didn't think about it when I was making the menu. I will try to redeem myself to my Irish mom by making Irish Soda Bread.

I'm also going to try an experiment with my crockpot. We are about to put our house for sale, so I was trying to think of something we could make that would make the house smell all nice and homey without the risk of burning down said house. I found this recipe for Apple Coffee Cake--made in the crock pot. I'm so excited to see how it smells...and tastes!

Crock Pot Marinade Chicken. After the success of my Jerk Chicken based on this recipe, I'm going to experiment with yet another marinade in our frig. Not sure which one yet. It'll be a game time decision. I'll throw some veggies in for the last hour, and serve on rice.

We're being treated to dinner on Saturday by the Tech/Worship team at church.

Eet Smakelijk!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cut the Grocery Bill Challenge

Many moons ago, before my TBI, I followed Dave Ramsey's financial baby steps, and I'm so grateful I did. Before my accident, I was on step 3, building up an emergency fund of 6 months. I was already debt free except my house. Even though I still ended up losing everything, not having any other debt and some money in my account helped me make it a good while.

It's taken awhile to get back on my financial feet, and that's why I've been reading a lot of books on frugal living. It's not that I don't want to have fun or spend money, it's just that I want to be mindful on what I spend, so I can use our money for the things that are really important to us.

I've also been reading about healthy eating, so it's been interesting reading from two trains of thought. I could probably cut our grocery bill in half if I wanted to eat processed foods and meals in a box or bag, but quality food is important to me too and really, now that I have a fully stocked pantry and freezer, I can make most anything I want without having to spend much money at all.

I mentioned before that the average American family of four spends $771/month in groceries. Our family of 2 and a toddler spends about $500 a month, including diapers and household items. I think we can do better.

Last week, we didn't do any grocery shopping, other than 3 gallons of milk, for my son, since he doesn't get to vote in the family financial discussions yet. We spent $6. And we had more than enough good food for the week. Even more if we needed it. So we will continue our new tradition of shopping out of the pantry for the first week of the month. I think it will save us money and force us to be creative.

One of the discussions I frequently see on blogs that discussion average monthly grocery spending is whether or not the average amount includes household items or just food. I've been too lazy to separate them out, but I'd like to try to hone it on that for awhile.

So here are the rules for our new Cut the Grocery Bill Challenge.
  1. Our goal is $100/week ($400/month) for groceries only. We'll move on to household goods another time.
  2. We will start using cash to pay for groceries. It will be a little awkward, but we'll pay for the food items first, with cash, then any other items with our debit card.
  3. At the beginning of the month we'll take the full $400 a month out of our bank account, in order to take advantage of any surprise deals on our staple items.
  4. When the money is gone, we stop spending. This means that if we do find some great deal and spend ahead, we need to make sure to reserve money for our son's milk.
  5. Whatever money we have left at the end of the month gets deposited into our savings account.
Here's where we are so far:
Week 1: spent $6.02 $393.98 remaining
Week 2: spent $151.30 $242.68 remaining
What kind of grocery challenges have you done?


Note: My note yesterday about The Hubs having Hutspot for dinner last night prompted me to pull this modified post from our family blog. This was posted there on May 6, 2010.

In our household, every year has had a theme. 2006 was "Fall in Love." 2007 was "Adjust to Marriage." 2008 was "Pregnancy." 2009 was "Adjust to Parenthood."

2010 is "Family Fitness." In addition to making an effort to be more active, both The Hubs and I are trying to get to a healthy weight. This makes meals interesting, because he is trying to gain weight, while I am focused on losing it! And, now that our kiddo eats what we eat, we've been much more mindful of what we serve. Last year we started a habit of trying three new recipes a week. We didn't always make our goal, but we did greatly expand our menu options. We've continued this tradition this year, and as my confidence has grown, so has the variety of our meals.

One of The Hubs' favorite Dutch meals is hutspot, which is basically potatoes and carrots mashed together:

(follow the link for nutritional information)

1¼ hours | 20 min prep

SERVES 8 -10

6 onions
6 carrots
8 potatoes
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter

  • Dice & boil onions and carrots 20 minutes. I actually found some rainbow carrots. They come in shades of red, orange and yellow. I thought they'd add a festive look! Aren't they pretty?!
  • Drain.
  • Boil peeled and quartered potatoes 20-25 minutes, til tender. We use red potatoes because they taste great even with the skins on them, and I'm all about saving the time of peeling them!
  • Drain and dry thoroughly.
  • Add onions and carrots mash well.
  • Add salt, pepper, butter and milk.
  • Mix.
  • Warm all together and serve hot.
In Holland, this is usually a meal by itself. Occasionally, it is served with sausage, but that's more for stampot, which is a recipe for another day. I've started playing this recipe by substituting sweet potatoes, rutabega, and parsnips for some of the potatoes to make it a little healthier. Eventually, I will figure out a way to make it in the crockpot.

Fun (kinda somber) fact:
Hutspot is more then just an answer to mashed potatoes - it is a dish full of history and tradition. The ever-helpful Wiki says: According to legend, the recipe came from the cooked bits of potato left behind by hastily departing Spanish soldiers during their Siege of Leiden in 1574 during the Eighty Year's War, when the liberators breached the dikes of the lower lying polders surrounding the city. This flooded all the fields around the city with around a foot of water. As there were few, if any, high points (and September in the Netherlands is not exactly a warm month), the Spanish soldiers camping in the fields were essentially flushed out.
The anniversary of this event, known as Leidens Ontzet, is still celebrated every October 3 in Leiden and by Dutch expatriates the world over...During the Nazi occupation the dish came to represent freedom from oppression since its ingredients could be grown beneath the soil and thus somewhat hidden from sight, and the carrots gave the dish an orange colour, which represents the Dutch Royal Family.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Menu Monday: Week of March 7

First off, last week was one of the worst weeks of my adult life, up there with my two miscarriages and realizing that I would never fully recover from my brain injury. I had plans to post our dinner each day to show what we were able to scrounge up despite not shopping for groceries last week. Instead, I spent the week at the vet with my sweet Shih Tzu, Bailey, who, in less than 3 weeks went from being pretty healthy to a bit under the weather to dying of liver failure. We said goodbye less than 48 hours ago.

Cooking was not a priority this week.

This week the shock is wearing off and the grieving begins. I plan to divert my thoughts with a lot of playdates for my son and a lot of cooking for me.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Too sad to eat.

Had an appointment with my neuro-ophthalmologist at 5 due to some recurrent vision problems I'm having. Between the grief, the mental fatigue and eye pain, we had leftovers. I had Raisin Bran Crunch and my hubs chose Hutspot, which he embellished with hot pepper mustard and Frank's Chili.

Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups. Beth's BudgetBytes blog is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I think these look so pretty and would be a great meal when we have company. Hope it turns out!

Speaking of BudgetBytes, since y flour bins are full again, I'll be making some cinnamon raisin bread again.

By special request, we'll be having homemade tortilla chips again.

***updated 3/8/11: we will be having tortilla chips, but in honor of Ash Wednesday, we had homemade Shamrock Shakes tonight instead. Super easy to make, and even though I try to avoid food dyes, I splurged out of nostalgia.

Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup. Still, really love this soup!

Raspberry Oat Bars.
A good friend of mine had a baby this week, and has been having a rough time recovering. I'm hoping these will left her spirits. (And yes, this is ALSO from BudgetBytes!)

I'm really excited that a friend is coming over for a play and cooking date. I'm going to show her how to make cinnamon raisin bread and we'll make oatmeal lactation cookies for the new mommy mentioned above. These cookies have lots of brewers yeast and flaxseed for milk production. I also add a good amount of cinnamon, which also helps. And no, men do not produce milk if they eat them. They are just really yummy, mostly healthy, super helpful cookies for new moms.

Elegant Orzo. Along with the sweets, I'm also bringing dinner for my friend and her husband.

Indonesian Pilaf. Since I don't know how well I'm going to feel this week, I'm doing mostly recipes I know, and this was a big hit when I first tried it.

Homemade English Muffins. I found this one on Facebook and I had to try it. We've done away with most processed foods, but I still buy Cheerios and Raisin Bran Crunch for the boys and I. I'd like to have a few other non-processed options, so I'm curious to see how these turn out.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Growing up in Minnesota, it's pretty much mandatory that you have to like Wild Rice. Did you know it's the state grain? You betcha! Oddly enough, I found this on "What's Megan Making?" Megan lives in Michigan.

Oh, and as a follow to last week's Fiscal Fast challenge, grocery edition. We spent a total of $6 on food items for the week. This week, we spent about $100 again on food items, which is still $25 under budget. We could have done better if I hadn't run out of white flour, wheat flour and bread flour this week. I've been making lots of bread foods lately!

Our new grocery challenge is to go with cash. Each week, we'll take out our budgeted $125 for groceries in cash. Then, we'll do our shopping, always starting at our farmer's markety store for the produce and bulk goods. Then we'll hit the other stores we frequent: a grocery store and Target. We'll pay for our groceries with the cash, and household items with our check card for this challenge. Any cash we have left over will go back to the bank, in our savings account.

I think we do pretty good as a family of 3 (and our two year old eats like an adult!) on $500 a month (groceries + household items like diapers and wipes), but I know we can do better, and I think by separating those food from non-food items, we'll have a better idea of what we're spending.
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