Friday, January 22, 2010


This past weekend we took advantage of both an Easyjet sale and my in-laws' hospitality and hopped a plane to (less-than) sunny Brussels for some frites, waffles, touristing, beer and family togetherness.

We arrived a couple hours later than we had planned thanks to flight delays but all of our travel-stress vanished as we were greeted with a Southwestern-inspired meatloaf and cheesy-chili-rice - mmmm!

The next day we all slept in a bit late. Once everyone was awake and dressed and fed, we ran some errands and did some shopping. We ended up at a huge culinary store that sold pretty much every food-related item available in the history of all things nom-worthy. Behind the butcher counter, a hoof beckoned from the Spanish ham it was still attached to. The muddled scents of the cheese counter almost knocked me blissfully out. Rumor has it the chocolate aisle glows with an inner light and someone mentioned hearing harps while passing through... but I couldn't make it past the cheese and chips and crackers. Among other things, I found red onion chutney kettle chips that were luscious as well as bacon-cream-stuffed crackers that we actually forgot to eat!!!

On Saturday we awoke in a more timely manner as we had "things to do" and "places to see." We figured out the bus and the subway and headed to the downtown area. We checked out the Grand Place before heading to the Musical Instrument Museum, which was really well done. Upon arrival, you're given a pair of headphones. As you walk from exhibit to exhibit, the headphones play bits of music related to the display you're looking at. In an effort to stall on our return to the cold just a bit longer, we had lunch at the museum's restaurant, where Mr K learned that "filet americain" is Belgian-French for "steak tartare" which is Switzerland-French for "MEGA raw cow - moo moo." Mega-tasty raw cow, that is...

After lunch, the parents headed back home to care for the doggies while Mr K and I went off in search of a brewery my touristy book mentioned was worth touring. We only had a vague idea of where to find it, so we did some wandering through some of the more colorful parts of the city before finding it. The first thing that hit me was the smell - like plants and rain and peppery mold, but in a pleasant, nose-tingling way. The tour was self-guided and finished with a taste of two of their beers. I'm not a beer drinker, so Mr K won out on this one as I took a sip of my two beers, made the requisite "yucko" face and passed them to him. We got a tee shirt and a pack of beer to take back and share with the parents and made our way home for dinner - mmmmm veggie soup!

On Sunday, we headed back out in search of the Comic Strip Museum. It was fascinating to see so many original pages by so many different artists - the shrunk-down printed page does not even begin to do justice to the colors and lines and details in these originals. Comics (generally of the non-super-hero variety) seem to be much more popular here. The book shop in our mall has a whole hallway of the large-sized hardback format that is the most popular here. Sadly, they are expensive - usually 15-20 dollars/francs per book - a far cry from the 2.50-4$ soft copies in the US. Despite the price, I'm tempted to pick up a few for the French practice. After the museum, we met a friend who showed off the Mannekin Pis before taking us to a pub, where Mr K tried a variety of beers while I sipped a couple of the fruitier variety. I was interested to find that each beer comes in its very own distinct glass, no two beers alike. Our favorite was the Kwak glass. After a couple hours of sipping and catching up, we went for a short, waffle-punctuated walk before heading home for some hot chili and a rousing loss-er-game of Trivial Pursuit, Ancient Edition. I forgot how much fun that game is, even when you have no idea what the answers are!

The next day we headed back to Switzerland, stopping first at possibly the greatest art supply store I have ever seen in my life. We left with only four new pens, thanks to our already-stuffed backpacks. (Oh yeah - I forgot to mention we took only backpacks this trip - I felt so Euro-backpackerly!) At the airport we took advantage of Switzerland's not being part of the EU to hit duty-free for some chocolates. Back home, we cuddled the cats and collapsed to dream of frites.

And waffles.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Swiss Cookbook "Vegetable Soup"

One of the treats Christmas brought me this year was the fabulous Betty Bossi Swiss Cookbook - in English, even! Betty Bossi, it was explained to me, is sort of like the Swiss equivalent of Betty Crocker - think home-cooked meals that are hard to mess up. The recipes in the book are divided by region and ranked by flags - three flags is what your Swiss grandma might make while one flag is a more modern take on traditional ingredients. Two flags is somewhere between those two. The first thing I did was flip to our region, where this vegetable soup recipe, a three flag, immediately caught me eye. As far as I can tell, this is basically Soupe de Chalet, which we absolutely love. Pasta, cheese, cream, spinach - what's not to love?

Vegetable Soup
Prep time - 40 minutes or so

1 TBSP butter
1 leek, white and light green thinly sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 kohlrabi, diced (I substituted a waxy potato, diced small)
1 carrot, diced
2 cups vegetable stock
2 ounces dried macaroni (about a quarter cup, uncooked) [I used whole wheat - it was tasty]
2 tablespoons milk
1 can of white beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup cream
3 1/2 ounces of baby spinach
2 ounces grated Gruyere (It's all about the cheese, so definitely spring for the Gruyere... though, honestly, cheddar would probably be nice, too - just not American Swiss cheese)

Melt butter. Cook leek and onion over medium-low until softened. Add kohlrabi (or potato) and carrots. Add stock and turn up heat. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about ten minutes. Add pasta and milk and bring back to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for another ten minutes. Uncover and add beans, cream, spinach, cheese and warm through over low heat.

Season with pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

PS I changed the measurements to a more US-friendly version... if you want the original grams and mls, let me know!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Resolutions are so boring...

... nonetheless, all two people who read this blog are about to be subjected to mine. Honestly, I've never been much for resolutionifying and this is probably the first time I've taken the trouble to write any down in years. The main reason I'm writing them here is to remind myself - feel free to send reminders of your own if (when) you catch me slacking off.

I want to read a new book every month - fiction or non-fiction, but I'm not talking grocery-store-best-sellers. I'll try to remember to tell you what I've picked and, afterwards, if it's any good.

I am going to roast a chicken - it's silly that I've never tried, but it's true! Feel free to send any tips and recipes if you have them.

I'm going to find something to blog about at least twice a month. I'll try to make it interesting.

I'm going to create something every week - be it a doodle, painting, crafted project or piece of writing. When my whatever doesn't turn out perfectly, I'm not going to worry about it.

I am going to hunt down and perfect "my" from-scratch go-to dessert. Then I'm going to make it all the time. Again, suggestions welcome.

I'm going to break my long-walk record of 12 miles in one go... 18 would be nice.

I'm going to visit three countries I haven't been to yet. (Already have two planned, so maybe this one is too easy?)


I'm going to try to learn a little German while I'm at it because I should. Genau.

I'm sure I'll think of some more - and you?


I'm going to make a skirt - and actually wear it.