Category Archives: Food

Eating Nettles to Survive (February Foodie)

IMbG_6045We hadn’t lived in Belgium long when I decided to weed the back fence area. If you’ve ever had a brush against a nettle, you know the surprising shooting fire that burned my hands when I encountered this weed. The  exact path of the leaves ran in red welts across my thumb and up the wrist. There was a pain that held on, longer than any bee sting I ever had. The rest of our days in Europe, I kept a sharp eye for these stinging plants.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.22.24 PMWhat I didn’t know then was how nutritious those painful plants were. Potassium, dietary fiber, even a bit of protein are there, not to mention almost half your daily calcium and 40% of your vitamin A. How did this come to my attention?

I met a remarkable woman named Irene who was born in the same year as Anne Frank and lived under the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. She made it through World War 2 only to be caught behind the Iron Curtain under Soviet Russian oppression. Hidden as a boy for three years, she provided for her family. One item they could find to eat, eating to survive, was nettles.

Nettle soup. Nettle tea. Nettles were sometimes all they had.

When I read Irene’s memoirs I knew her incredible story had to go public for future generations. She escaped from East to West Berlin in 1953, and today lives in Maryland where her doctors and dentists are always amazed by how strong her bones are. I can’t help but think it’s all that Nettle calcium she had in the lean years as a child and young adult.

February foodies try out the nettles when you get a chance. I’ve got mine in a baggie with the other loose teas–the same baggie Irene gave it to me in.



SLB kindle face

How did Irene survive? You can get the whole story at the link below.

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Posted by on February 17, 2016 in Food, Travel


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Happy Valentine Shroom

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 11.55.03 AMNot sure where I ate this one or if it even is a mushroom. Does any one know?

It tasted like one and looks like a heart. Thus I wish you a very shroomy Valentine’s Day.–Kristin

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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in Food, Travel


Naked Nuts (February Foodie)

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 2.14.34 PMHappy Saturday everybody. I wanted to say I’m sorry I did not get a new food post out yesterday. Events with our sons took over at the end of the week. Then again, one of our sons provided me with brand new food experience this morning.

This particular foodie moment caused my eyebrows to knit. My son thought it would be helpful to pre-shell the pistachios in our nut bowl.

These shriveled, bruised and discolored nuts accosted me before breakfast. Eeww–not very appealing are they?

I always thought pistachios were a little more expensive because they were sold by weight with the shells. Maybe frugal moms wanted them that way to slow down fast eaters.

The truth emerged for me this morning. If pistachio packages featured the naked nuts on the containers, sales would nose-dive. I doubt I could get my children to even try these things no matter how good I said they tasted. It’s better for us all if these nuts keep their shells on till the last minute.


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Posted by on February 13, 2016 in Food


Gateway to Chocolate and Cookie Delights (Brussels)

IMG_7297If you are looking for Brussel’s best chocolates, look no further than Elisabeths, the artisan. Just a few doors down from the Grand Place on “Butter Street” you’ll find many more than 31 flavors of chocolate-melt-in-your-mouth pleasure. Some of these chocolates are so pure (think no paraffin or preservatives), they recommend you eat them within three days. (And in case my family is wondering, that’s why I didn’t mail any of these home!)

What became my tradition when we lived in Belgium and entertained guests was to take them to whatever sights they wanted to see in Brussels first. We would end at the Grand Place where we slipped down the side street to Elisabeth’s for chocolates and then further down on the left to Dandoy’s.

Oh how I miss Dandoy!

What’s Dandoy’s? In my opinion, it’s the finest dedicated cookie shop you will ever enter. No, there are no huge Mrs. Field’s chocolate chips cookies. The cookies here come much larger–that is if you order speculaas baked in one of their handcrafted wooden molds.  IMG_5994

Want a cookie soldier three-feet tall? They’ve got it. Speculaas cookies are all over these days though.

What you really want to get from Dandoy is a selection of their small cookies. Most are only half-dollar sized. Even so, each one is packed with a Tyson-like punch of flavor. You simply must try the Earl Gray tea cookies. Amazing.

At Maison Dandoy, we want to make your senses twinkle and dance. With oven-fresh biscuits rich in flavor, sweet in scent and capricious in figure. All our guilty pleasures are handmade in our Brussels’ atelier, with 100% natural ingredients just like our great-great-great grandfather did 180 years or so ago. Made with skill and care in a truly artisanal way. These are the biscuits that will love you back.

They love me! They love me!

If you see the large Dandoy shop on the way from Mannikin Pis to the Grand Place–just keep walking. That’s the new tea room for tourists which won’t have half as nice a view as further on. When you come to the Place (and you’ve petted the arm of the reclined statue as you entered), orient yourself. Across the Grand Place and all the way down on the end exactly opposite of you is your gateway to chocolate and cookie delights. What you want to experience is the antique hole-in-the-wall past Elisabeth’s. Worth a look-see for the antique staircase, leaning interior, stained-glass, and dozens of cookie molds. Atmosphere means a lot when eating abroad.IMG_7299

With a bag in each hand, one of chocolates and one of cookies, return to the first cafe on the left as you re-enter the famous town square. Great hot chocolate, coffee, or traditional Belgian beer can be had while people watching at their outdoor seating area.

Relax and enjoy.

Every trip needs a splurge of decadence at least once, and in Brussels this is where to have it.



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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Food, Travel


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Real Blackforest Cake


Never having been a fan of chocolate cake, I would not have thought to stop in the Black Forest for this chocolate, cherry, creamy confection. My cousin Donna is part German and part Italian, though, so she wanted the original cake in the place of its birth. That’s what this one claimed to be, and she thoroughly enjoyed it. I had my bite and enjoyed the view sitting on the open balcony of the chalet-like restaurant looking out over the beautiful hills.


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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Food, Travel


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Koln Bretzel Surprise


My favorite place to go in Germany is Bakery, Everywhere. Walking down the street the scent of fresh-baked goods in the air entices me. Maybe I’m a bit of a carb addict. My husband thinks I can nose-navigate from inside the car to the local backerei. Here’s the thing, though. If you drive 15 minutes down the road, there will be something different on display. Yes, you’ll always find kaiser rolls, but you may find a delight you’ve never seen anywhere else in Europe.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 4.36.24 PMSuch was the day I drove into Koln (Cologne) with my cousin. We navigated straight into town for the towers of the Dom (cathedral) and parked underground central. We came up on a beautiful square outside the church, saw the grand interior, and came back out to order tea and people watch on the platz. Low and behold, there was a bakery with something I’d never seen elsewhere. Bretzels (pretzels) are fairly common across the country, but his one was glazed with icing, striped with chocolate and covered in toasted almonds.

Another little bit of baked perfection abroad.



Posted by on February 6, 2016 in Food, Travel


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Not-So French Fries (Belgian Snacks)

When I moved to Belgium, I quickly became convinced that this little French-speaking corner of Europe was the originator of the so-called “French Fry.” Why? Because they have the best fried spuds in the entire world. Sorry Mom, your fresh cuts were darn good, but these…mmm.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 11.48.17 AM

Check out the guy tossing the frites, as they call them, to perfectly coat them with salt. Master Chef’s got nothing on this fella. I am convinced the secret to these bar-none top-of-the-line fries is three-fold. 1) Always fresh never frozen (at least at the better places), 2) pre-fried, drained, and re-fried to serve, and 3) sauces galore.

Now I buy my own pre-fried frozen cuts at the Holland grocer, and they are a cut above most. In fact, my Dutch neighbors and I can pay extra for the “Belgian” cuts. I must not be alone if this is the choice for savvy marketing.

My older sons still recall fondly their favorite Fry Shack in the Belgian Wallonie Province. Only aged five and six at the time, they remember their favorite sauces as well. You may see a dozen sauce choices elsewhere in the EU, but in our stellar deep-frying establishment with seating for 16 at four tables, there were near 50 sauce choices. Top 3 with the Kings?

1. Andalouse

2. Samurai

3. Hannibal

So integral are these dips to our home-fry experience, that I replenish our supply regularly from across the border. Are there good sauces in The Netherlands? Certainly. These others just can’t be beat. Skip the croquettes, sausages, and other meat options when you hit the Fritteries from Brussels to the southwest of this lowland country. Make a meal solely of the Belgian Fries. They are worth the focus, and besides…you want to save room for your afternoon snack…the Belgian Waffle.


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Posted by on February 6, 2016 in Food, Travel


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