Dutch Treats?

!Dutch Food collage

Sometimes I think my husband wants to return to the Netherlands just to eat the food ­čÖé┬á There are so many foods here that he just can’t get in the US. Even if there is something like it – even if we bring ingredients back with us – it is just not the same. There are plenty of things for the boys and me to enjoy as well! Here’s a rundown of all the things we’ve been eating this past month. Some are real treats. Others … maybe not so much. You decide!

BREAKFAST

It’s common enough to eat bread or toast with meat and/or cheese on it for breakfast. PER especially likes something called filet americain. It’s steak tartar mixed with spices that is eaten kind of like a spread on bread or crackers. Yup, raw beef. Available at every grocery store in the Netherlands! I have to say, the color alone kind of grosses me out! PER, on the other hand, will eat this for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night snack.

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filet americain

For the kids, there is hagelslag (sprinkles) or vlokken (flakes). Sprinkles are essentially jimmies, like you put on ice cream in the US. They come in different colors. The flakes are more like chocolate curls, and you can get dark, milk, white, or a combination. There are also muisjes, which are made from aniseeds and coated in colored sugar. The application is the same for all: you spread butter on bread or beschuit (zwieback) and then pour on the sprinkles or flakes (the butter is just so they stick). It is very common to have pink or blue beschuit met muisjes to celebrate the birth of a child! Hippo loves the vlokken, but Froggy prefers Nutella on his bread.

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chocoladevlokken

LUNCH & DINNER

Pancakes, of course! They’re not for breakfast around here! There are pancakes houses (pannenkoekenhuis) all over the Netherlands. And don’t get the wrong idea! They are NOT anything like IHOP! These restaurants usually have plenty of character. And they mostly – though not always exclusively – serve pancakes! Dutch pancakes (pannenkoeken) are much thinner than American pancakes, and are usually as big as your plate. They can be sweet (zoet) – with┬á Nutella or fruit – or savory (hartig) – with meats and cheese. The tables usually have powdered sugar and stroop (a thick syrup, much like molasses). Our boys like it best with Nutella. I’m a fan of strawberries and cream. Although apple with cinnamon and sugar is delicious, too. I’ve never gone for the savory. The pancakes themselves are a bit sweet, so that doesn’t sound like a mix I’d enjoy. We ate pannenkoeken at least once a week, I think! They had them at the Efteling and Zaanse Schans. And you can also search for pannenkoekenhuis, such as Hans & Grietje.

Here you see my pancake with strawberries & cream; Froggy’s kid-sized pancake with nutella; the boys like to roll them up and pick them up to eat them; then there is the stroop; finally, you can see one of the pancake ovens: it rotates to cook the pancakes from the top and the bottom! More info on this post.

A cousin of the pancake are the poffertjes – a small, round puffed pancake. To get these, you need to look for a poffertjeskraam (or hut). They have a huge cast iron griddle, specially designed to make 240 at one time! (Yes, we counted!) I have a pan at home, but it only makes 15 at a time! For more on the poffertjes, see this post. Below you see a poffertjeskraam, the griddle, and if you look closely, you’ll see the poffertjes buried under a blanket of powdered sugar and a slab of butter.

If you can’t get either of these breakfast-for-lunch/dinner options, another easy choice for the kiddos is a tosti. It is essentially a panini or grilled cheese. They often come with ham and cheese, but you can always get just cheese. Luckily, PER has raised our boys on Gouda cheese, so they are used to the taste. It’s generally pretty mild, though. See this post for another tosti in Amsterdam.

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Tosti – this one came with ketchup?!

I’m not sure, but PER’s favorite thing to eat in the Netherlands just might be shoarma (spellings vary, but this is how we see it in the NL). It’s similar to gyro – giant meat on a spit and slowly grilled, then shaved off. It’s usually lamb, but you can also get chicken (kip). It’s often eaten in a soft pita (seriously, I’ve never had a pita like this in the States!) with a sauce. I don’t even know what the other sauces are, because we always eat ours with garlic sauce. This year, even Froggy liked it!

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schotel shoarma – comes with pita, salad, and fries

PER complains that the pizza in the US is just not the same. He’s right. Pizza in Europe just tastes different. The crust is nice and thin – but not like thin-crust pizza you get in the States. I can’t explain it! It often comes on a plate, uncut. And you eat it with a fork and knife. But here’s a tip: if you want pepperoni on your pizza, DO NOT order peperoni – get salami instead! Just like in Germany, peperoni is a hot pepper, not a meat! Below, you see PER’s ham & mushroom, my caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil), and Hippo’s margherita (plain cheese and sauce) pizzas.

I was surprised when we went to lunch in Muiden, and my dad ordered a sandwich with smoked eel (gerookte paling)! He enjoyed it – said it left a smell on his fingers like when he’s been fishing all day and cleaning the fish. Mmmmmm! PER also enjoys smoked eel. But it might not be for everyone. See for yourself:

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smoked eel

Before you even get to your main meal, you might want to try the brood met kruidenboter (bread with herb butter). The butter has garlic and other simple herbs. If you like bread, you’ll probably like this! (Sorry, no photo!)

SNACKS & SNACK BARS

The Dutch love their frietjes (French fries)! And they make delicious fries at that! You can even find a snack bar that just serves fries! Of course, the Dutch like to eat them with mayo. But I’m still a ketchup girl.

Other snack bar items include burgers, chicken (kip) nuggets, lumpias (egg rolls), shoarma, frikandel (PER calls this mystery meat – but it’s kind of like a minced meat hot dog), and other breaded & fried foods. PER’s favorite is the kroket. He usually gets broodje kroket – or kroket on a roll. They are made with meat ragu, breaded, and fried. And you eat them with mustard. I’m not a big fan of mustard, so once I ate one with ketchup. Big no-no! I thought our friends might throw me out of the country! ­čÖé┬á Snack bars can be open for lunch, but sometimes do not open until late afternoon and stay open into the night. They are often a place you go after you’ve been out dancing or to a bar.

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broodje kroket met frietjes

A variation of the kroket is bitterballen. They don’t have exactly the same filling, but something similar, I think. And they are small and round. (Sorry, no photo!)

DESSERT & OTHER TREATS

How about some apple pie? Here it’s called appeltaart. And it’s quite different from the pie you eat at Thanksgiving. The crust is denser, almost cake-like. It can have different dried fruits in it, too, like raisins or cranberries. If PER wants something small for lunch, sometimes he just has appeltaart!

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appeltaart met slagroom

In every town, you can find a shop that sells ice cream (ijs) – usually several. Snack bars also offer ice cream, too. And often you’ll find soft ice cream. Usually when I’m in the Netherlands, we get soft ice on a regular basis. Somehow on this trip, it didn’t happen. Maybe it was too cold ­čÖé┬á Don’t expect some mammoth scoops here – if you order one scoop, you get one small scoop. Here is Froggy’s almost- eaten cone of vanille:

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vanille ijshorn (vanilla ice cream cone)

Then there are stroopwafel – a kind of cookie made from two very thin waffles and a smear of stroop in the middle. We found a stand at the market in Delft where they were making them fresh. And they were enormous! Some were also dipped in nutella, but I have to say, I didn’t care for it. The two tastes seemed to be competing with one another. Froggy liked it, though!

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fresh stroopwafel

Finally, I will mention one of my favorite Dutch treats: oliebollen. Usually, they are only found around New Year’s. But we got lucky and found them being sold at the Efteling. They are balls of fried dough, covered in powdered sugar. Much like a doughnut – but different, of course! Heel lekker!! (very tasty)

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oliebol

I’m sure there are plenty of other foods I didn’t get to here. How about vla (custard, or pudding) and vlaai (tart, originally from Limburg)?

And what about the cheese?! See my post on Clara Maria for info on a small, local dairy farm. We still haven’t made it to a cheese market … next time??

There are drinks, too… That’s going to have to be another post!

Eet smakelijk!

A Month in the Netherlands … with Kids

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Last summer when I wistfully declared, “Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a whole month in the Netherlands???” – well, I never imagined it would actually happen! But within a few weeks of returning from our 2-week trip to Europe, my darling husband started showing me houses we could rent for this summer!

It’s not exactly what I was picturing…. I thought we’d get a house close to a town, so we could walk to the shops and really live in Europe for a month. Maybe take a Dutch class or get a tutor to help the kiddos and me learn some of the language….

Instead, we rented a big, beautiful home out in the forest. And we’ve been on-the-go tourists. Part of that had to do with my parents visiting for 2 weeks. And that was fantastic!

Now that Froggy and Hippo are older (7 and 4), we can do so much more with them, too! So here is a recap of all the fun places we’ve been to in the Netherlands, with links to the blog posts about each one.

Places to Play and Learn for Kids
Cultural Attractions
  • Canal Tour in Amsterdam
  • Clara Maria: cheese farm and wooden clog factory
  • Madurodam: the Netherlands in miniature
  • Muiderslot*: castle
  • Zaanse Schans: a step back in time – visit working old-fashioned windmills, the first Albert Heijn, a cheese shop, a pewter foundry, plus a museum of the area’s history and tour a chocolate factory (and don’t forget to stop for pannenkoeken for lunch!)
Museums
*Tip!

If you’re planning to go to a number of museums, you might want to invest in the Museumkaart. It can get you into over 400 museums around the Netherlands! If we had known our boys were going to be so interested in museums, we definitely would have gotten one this summer! The pass lasts for one year. Adult passes cost ÔéČ59.90. For children 18 and under, passes cost ÔéČ32.45.

I’m going back to update the posts with a final review of whether or not it was good for kids. I’ll also try to make sure I have info on the locations. I’d love to give some information about the cost, but once again, my darling husband has been doing all the planning! If I have anything to offer, I’ll put it in the posts ­čÖé

I’m also collecting a list of all the yummy and interesting foods we’ve eaten here in the Netherlands! Here is the link to that post!

2017 NL: Hansel, Gretel, and Pancakes

We’ve been trying to slow down, as we are in our final week in the Netherlands (before heading to Germany for a few days). But we had to fit in just one more adventure!

We had heard about a pannenkoekhuis that was fairy-tale themed and had a large playground. It’s called Hans & Grietje – or Hansel and Gretel. I’m sure you can imagine what it looked like! But I’ll show you some pictures anyway ­čÖé

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Outside there were all kinds of things to do for all different aged children. A sand pit to dig in and a small bouncy hill for the little ones. A huge bouncy hill for older children (who often needed a boost from parents to reach the top!), along with a spook house, swings, jungle gym, and “race track” with tricycles.

Inside, there was so much to see! An entryway with a covered book-way, an upside-down room with furniture on the ceiling, a cauldron for … well, you know what that’s for! There were┬á witches doing laundry, playing an organ, and flying a plane. In one dining room, the floor actually moved! It was hinged down the middle, so all of a sudden, it would lift up, and your table would be leaning one way. Then it would go back down, so your table was leaning down! Oh, and those tables – they had witches legs! There were also fantastic slides for the kids.

Oh yes, they have delicious pancakes, too!

Is it good for kids?

Of course!! They have something for children of all ages.

What about the cost?

There is no charge to get in. Just pay for your food and drinks!

Where is it?

For some reason, the google map is not working today. Here is the address: Hans & Grietje Pannenkoekhuis –

Dutch Food: Pancakes

Our boys always look forward to eating pancakes (pannenkoeken) when we’re in the Netherlands. They are not like American pancakes. For one thing, they are GIANT! As big as a plate! And they are much thinner.

Dutch pancakes can be sweet (soet) or savory (hartig). The boys always get nutella on their pancakes. And if it’s not on the menu, they go for plain (natuurlijk) with powdered sugar. I almost always have strawberries and cream, which is usually only available in season. Good thing we’re here in season! I’ve been trying out apple with cinnamon sugar, but it kind of depends on the place. I prefer it when the apples are in small pieces, as opposed to the big ring slices (see image below). I don’t choose the hearty pancakes, because the pancake itself has a touch of sweetness to it, so mixing it with cheese and/or meats doesn’t taste quite right to me.

Sometimes the pancakes are made in numerous individual pans on a large stove. But most often, they are individually baked in a special circulating oven (see image below). The batter goes in the pans as they slowly turn, like on a turntable. As they go through the oven, they are baked from above and below. So clever!

So where do you get these Dutch treats? Well, first of all, they are not for breakfast! You eat them for lunch or dinner. You can go to a pannenkoekenhuis┬á– a pancake house, such as Hans & Grietje. And there are chains, like Dickens or De Pannekoekenbakker. We’ve only been to one of each, so I don’t know how they differ from place to place. Personally, I prefer Dickens. It just more like homemade. You can always do a quick Google search to find out what’s near you, too!

You can also find pannenkoeken at touristy places like Zaanse Schans or attractions for kids, such as the Efteling.

Wherever you go to get them, don’t miss out on this Dutch treat – whether you have kids or you’re just on your own!

Click on the pictures below to see larger images and individual descriptions:

I’d love to hear from you! Was this post useful to you? Did you take any of the advice? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!

2017 NL: Monkeys and Marbles

Today was another special day for our boys … because it involved a marble run! They have been following the enormous and astounding marble runs created by the young Dutchman, Jelle Bakker, for a few years on his YouTube channel. Two years ago, we wanted to go and see one of them. But alas! it was not working and in the process of being fixed. Well, today, we finally made it to Gouda to see the Knikkerbaan Tsunami! It’s an appropriate name for a marble run that has over 13,500 marbles!! It’s really hard to capture on film, but I tried:

The marbles collect on one side, and when it gets to over 10,000, the whole table tips to send them rolling on their way!

The marble run is a permanent feature at the indoor playground Monkey Town in Gouda. You have to go back behind the large climbing structure to see it.

Monkey Town is a chain of indoor playgrounds in the Netherlands. It’s a great option for when it’s raining ­čÖé┬á They have seating in the center for parents to sit and still be able to keep an eye on the kiddos. They also have a small menu of lunch and snack items. This particular one in Gouda was a little tricky to find. It shares a building with a gym.

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Is it good for kids?

Well, of course! It’s made for kids! The adults on the other hand…. Well, it’s a good way to let the kiddos burn off some steam ­čÖé

What about the cost?

Adults are free. Kids cost ÔéČ7 each. Food is extra. (This was at the Monkey Town in Gouda. I don’t know if prices differ in other locations.)

Where is it?

Check out the main website to find your nearest location. We went to the one in Gouda:

2017 NL: Escher’s Illusions

Today we spent the day in the Hague – or den Haag. It is the seat of the Dutch parliament. It is also the city where the king does his work, in the Noordeinde Palace (16th century). It is the home of the U.N.ÔÇÖs International Court of Justice, headquartered in the Peace Palace, and the International Criminal Court.

But it is also home to the M.C. Escher Museum, located in the former palace of the queen: the Lange Voorhout Palace.

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This museum also had a kind of scavenger hunt for children. It was really well done. They asked you to take pictures of certain pieces of artwork and then you could see the inspiration or the study from it in another piece elsewhere in the museum. See the study of the plants that was later used in the “Waterfall”? And look closely at the artwork that the man is studying!

As you move along the three floors of the museum, the optical illusions increase. Most of them are Escher’s, but there are a few others, too.

If you make it to the museum, be sure to stop and look at this piece (sorry I don’t know who did it – and that it’s crooked!):

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Doesn’t look like much, right? Stare at it straight on, and then sway a little from side to side. After you experience the movement in the piece, move toward the fireplace while still keeping a close eye on the artwork. That’s all I’m going to say! We were all shocked by what we saw!!

After experiencing all the fun in the Escher museum, we had lunch and then took a walk through the city to see the parliament buildings.

 

Is it good for kids?

Hippo (age 4) was probably still too young. Froggy (age 7) might have enjoyed it more toward the beginning of our month, but he was starting to wind down. He did enjoy the optical illusions. And if your kids like scavenger hunts, there is a special guide for them to look and learn as they go.

What about the cost?

Adults cost ÔéČ9.50. Children ages 7 – 15 are ÔéČ6.50. Children 6 and under are free. The Museum Card is not accepted here. They do have other discounts, including a family pass (2 adults + 2 children) for ÔéČ25.50.

Where is it?

The Weather in the Netherlands

The weather in the Netherlands, as you may expect, can be very … wet. There were days during our month when it just poured from morning until night. Luckily, those happened to be days we’d planned to have a quiet day at home anyway. Good timing!

Mostly, the rain isn’t really a big deal. You see the clouds coming, get out your umbrella, and continue on your way. The rain stops, you fold up your umbrella, and continue on your way. It certainly doesn’t stop the Dutch! There are still just as many cyclists on the road, even in wet weather!

PER says his mother always used to tell him and his brother, “You aren’t made of sugar. You won’t melt!” We tell our boys that they are more than half Dutch, so they will be just fine in the rain ­čÖé┬á (I myself am 1/8 Dutch, and so I tip the scale for them a bit!)

Sometimes if you are really lucky, you might even see a rainbow! When we first saw this one, it was just a faint streak in the sky. And it wasn’t even raining on us yet. As we got closer, the color intensified. Then it started to rain, quite hard, but we could still see the rainbow. And then we got a real treat – it spread over the street into a full arc! I took several dozen pictures, but of course it was never captured quite as brilliantly as it appeared in real life.

Usually, if it rained at all, it was just a short time. And the sun would come out from behind the clouds and warm us all up. It would often start out at around 70 degrees – or cooler – in the morning. But by the afternoon, we were shedding our jackets and glad we’d chosen to wear sandals, as it warmed up to about 75. Not exactly the stifling heat and humidity of the Philadelphia area in August!

Most of the time, I wore cropped pants, short sleeves with a light sweater or rain coat, and shoes or sandals. We did have some hotter weather when we first arrived, and we were wearing shorts and tanks. The bottom line is, you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather in the Netherlands! And layering is key!

Now, if you know anything about the landscape of the Netherlands, you may know that it is flat. Very flat. One of the reasons it’s so ideal for cycling! But it is also good for harvesting wind. The modern windmills are peppered across the green acres of land. But sometimes, you see so many, you can’t even begin to count them. When we were on our way to Hans & Grietje in the Flevoland region, we were gaping at the number of them! Again, you just can’t really capture that on film. But I tried!