August 23, 2011

Out For a Ride

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:57 pm by newsurroundings

Saturday mornings have become our time for biking.  Bryan and I have found a delightful 30-km route that is really peaceful and beautiful.  Here are a few pictures from our ride.

All great rides must include a sheep sighting.

Saturday mornings seem to just bring out the bikers.

This is a horse farm where you can stop and exchange your bike for a horse if you like.

Love this canopy of trees.

The beautiful countryside of Belgium.

Time to take a break.

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Monday Market

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:39 pm by newsurroundings

Mondays are especially quiet here in Europe, as many stores are closed on Mondays or, if they are open, they do not open until the afternoon.  Mondays here in Brasschaat would be extremely boring if it weren’t for the local market.  Right in the center of town, every Monday morning throughout the year, there is a bustling outdoor market where vendors offer fresh produce, flowers, herbs, fish, meat, bread, cheeses, clothes, household gadgets, candy, and prepared foods.  It’s a lively scene and a great place to go and fill your basket with good things for the week.

August 19, 2011

Cooking the Flemish Way

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:19 pm by newsurroundings

To learn how to cook like the Belgians- that would be a great accomplishment.  With the help of my new cookbook, Everybody Eats Well in Belgium,  I am trying to at least prepare a few special dishes the Flemish way.  This book, written in English and with standard measurements, is out of print but I was able to buy it off ebay (thanks to my brother, who kept an eye out for it and got it at a good deal).

What could be more Belgian than Belgian endives, or witloof (meaning white leaf)?  They are featured on practically every menu and can be prepared almost any way- raw in a salad, steamed, baked.  This recipe is just titled, “Belgian Endives the Flemish Way” and is vey simple to make.

Core and clean 6-8 endives (I just used 4 and decreased the other ingredients), smear pan with 5 T. of unsalted butter, arrange endives and add juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 T. confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 t. salt, and pepper to taste.

Cover the endives with buttered parchment paper and a plate, and put lid on and cook on medium heat for 30-45 minutes, until tender, turning once.  Remove plate and paper and turn up to high heat and cook to reduce the sauce to a dark syrup.  Turn the endives so they can brown on all sides and then garnish with parsley.

I love how they turned out, tender and carmelized.  They were a little bitter, so I think I would add a little extra sugar next time.

Also for dinner- spinach mashed potatoes.  I love this recipe because it’s simple, colorful, and healthy.  It’s basically just mashed potatoes and cooked spinach, stirred together.  The recipe calls for several herbs also- parsley, chives, and tarragon- but I didn’t have those and it didn’t seem to matter.  They were delicious.  By the way, I have started using butter milk when I make mashed potatoes- butter and milk all in one- how easy is that.

August 12, 2011

A Tribute to Maggie

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:52 pm by newsurroundings

Our little Sheltie, Maggie, died this week.  Even though we knew her health was not good and she may not be around too much longer, we didn’t think it would happen so quickly.  We all miss her.  She followed me around like a shadow, and I have especially missed that.

Maggie was a funny little dog- she would sneeze as many as ten times in a row on command.  I wish now that I had captured that on video.  She had all kinds of problems and quirks- chronic inflammatory bowel, which led to many spots on our carpet and oriental rugs (I’m not sure she ever went on the tile or hardwood), kidney problems that necessitated her going out to urinate every few hours, incessant barking at anything and everything that moved or made a sound, and phobias such as the fear of stainless steel bowls (she refused to eat from them), just to name a few.  She loved long walks, tug-of-war, tummy rubs, and storms (!).  She was member of our family for 12 years and we loved her dearly.

We brought Maggie to Belgium and that was quite an ordeal, so I thought I would take this opportunity to write about what is involved in taking an animal from one country to another- PAPERWORK!  We started the preparations several months in advance.  All the information can be found on the web and each country has different requirements.  Some require animals to be quarantined for several months but, fortunately, Belgium does not.  In order to move her here, we had to have a microchip implanted and a rabies shot, an import form that we mailed off and received back signed by someone in Belgium, and a veterinary form signed by our vet and the USDA office.  We had to take her to the office within 48 hours of moving her here for the final signature and ok.  Of course, we had to have a form filled out by our vet for our airline in order for her to fly.  It was quite a chore sorting out all the forms and making sure she was ready to go, but we diligently followed all the rules and then, surprisingly, no one even checked!  I wanted someone to look at all our perfectly prepared paperwork and say, “Well done, Welcome to Belgium”.  Instead, we just picked her up as if she was another piece of luggage and walked into the country.

Alas, that was not the end of the paperwork.  Maggie had to be registered and have her own passport in Belgium that would then allow her to travel within the EU.  Our vet was very helpful with that and Maggie did get her own little passport (no picture required).

Maggie was with us for 9 months in Belgium before her passing.

August 4, 2011

Biking in Belgium

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:21 pm by newsurroundings

Biking is one of my favorite things to do here in Belgium.  Whether just going to the store or out specifically for a ride on the trails, this is a very bike-friendly country.  Most of the roads have either a bike lane on the outer edge or a bike path that parallels the road.  They even have stop lights that are specifically for the bikes and bikers are usually given priority on the roads.

 I have recently started biking for exercise and have been pleased to discover that Belgium has a “cycle node network”  which makes it very easy to plan my routes.  I can look at a map, choose a route, add up the distances between nodes (knooppunts), and voila, I have my total biking distance.  Then all I have to do is follow the numbered signs.  It can be a lot to keep up with, so it’s sometimes helpful to write down the node numbers.

In this picture, I am at node 39 and can follow the signs to either node 38 or 76.  The sign on top is for walkers.

There are often signs in between the intersections showing what node you’re traveling toward.

Fietsen (cycling) is one of the best ways to explore this very beautiful country and this well-developed system makes it all the better.