Food and Stuff

“Buy a cow” (koopeenkoe.nl)

by Miranda on

Cow

Last weekend Rob and I chatted through Skype.and the conversation turned to meat. Don’t be scared, this article will not be about vegetarianism. Not that anything is wrong with that, but Rob and I both can appreciate some good meat.
But having said that we both also care about the well being of the animals.

Rob told me that someone he knows very well (and sorry, I forgot the name of this lady) who gave him last year some meat from extreme good quality. Very clearly no bio-industry meat, but very well prepared meat and never has been frozen in before.
Believe me, every time you deep freeze meat it loses some of its quality. Often meat from a supermarket has been frozen before you buy it. There are even stories going around that meat in a supermarket can be 2 years old (beware, I said “stories”. I have no idea how true these are). All in all, for me, enough reason not to buy any meat at a supermarket.

For me it is very simple: Something that has been frozen, you never freeze again.

Anyway, Rob really loved this high quality meat that he got last year and he has been looking for a way to buy it for himself. He found one organisation, but you had to collect the meat yourself and only throughout the week during office hours, this was not doable for him.

But very recently he was pointed by someone to another organisation who sounded really good to him AND they deliver at home during two evenings in a week. This organisation is called “Koop een koe” (“Buy a cow”).

People buy a part of a selected cow. When the cow is “completely” sold, the animal will be slaughtered with as less stress as possible (which can be a lot less as in the common slaughterhouses).

These cows are kept in a friendly way. When possible they can walk outside. The sheds are modern, clean and with lots of space. A calf can stay for 8 or 9 months with their mother, which benefits the health of both.
No preventive antibiotics. No not needed medicines at all.
The meat is really pure 100% beef. There are no E-numbers, sugar, colourings or preservatives used.

Some people may not like the idea that you buy a cow that is still alive for its meat, but on the other side you know that this cow had a good life.

When the meat is delivered is it all ready to be placed in the freezer (labelled and all). But I would like to advise to pick one piece of the meat and enjoy for once the wonderful taste of meat that never has been frozen before… it is worth it.

The package meat is marked with an ear tag number, that is the cow’s ear tag, so the meat is always traceable.

The thing is that Rob told me very excited about this organisation, but privately I already often buy my meat through “koopeenkoe.nl”. Apart from the well being of the animals, the meat is of superb quality. And for me, with my background, that is also very important.

Miranda
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“Koetjesrepen”

by Sanne on

Koetjesreep
Yesterday, when I was doing my weekly shopping for groceries and alike, I suddenly saw something in the supermarket that surprised me: “Koetjesrepen”!

I was convinced that they were not made and sold anymore. Turned out I was very wrong.

But maybe let me first explain what “Koetjesrepen” are, because I assume it is something only known in The Netherlands and maybe Belgium. The photo at the top of this article may let people think it is a chocolate bar. But no. It looks like a chocolate bar, but it isn’t. The bar contains less as 35% cacao and according Dutch regulations it isn’t chocolate bar. So they call it a “Cacaofantasie”(cocoa fantasy, which is also in The Netherlands a protected name).
Originally the “Koetjesreep” was made by the Dutch company Promena Boon & Comp (Wormerveer). Currently this is done by the Belgian Chocolate Group.

I will not go into the discussion if the “Koetjesreep” is healthy or not (I am truly amazed about the nonsense that is said about food).

When I was a young girl my parents had always these “Koetjesrepen” as treat, as so many parents I guess. It was a good and cheap replacement of the more expensive real chocolate bars. And I loved them. But just as with Rob when he recently discovered that “Quality Street” still were around, nowadays I find the taste acceptable, but not more as that. Maybe I am spoiled by too much “real” chocolate that contains more cacao.


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Parsley (Dutch: Peterselie)

by Jennifer on

Parsley

As Marion and Rob are currently on Lesbos, it is maybe a good moment to speak about parsley. Oh, there is a connection between parsley and Greece?
Yes, there is! For the ancient Greek parsley was a symbol of joy. Laurel wreaths were made of parsley and worn at festive.
A combination of parsley and oregano was considered a cure against a hang over.

It were the Romans who spread parsley over Europe.

Anyway parsley (Petroselinum crispum), or “peterselie” as we call it in Dutch, is a species that belongs to the family Apiaceae.
Parsley is native to the central Mediterranean (southern Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Malta, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia). There are nowadays many cultivated species available.

Fresh parsley sprigs or chopped leaves are very often used as garnish of many dishes. Chopped leaves are also often used in soups and stews.
Sometimes it is even used as a snack. It has indeed a very nice flavor. Try it someday, you may like it.

Fresh parsley contains relatively large amounts of minerals (especially iron and silicon), as well as B-vitamins and carotene. The vitamin C content is exceptionally high (80-300 mg per 100 grams).
This only goes for fresh parsley. Dried parsley contains a lot less vitamins. So fresh parsley is always preferred over dried ones.

Apart from all mentioned before, parsley is also beneficial for your health.
Parsley is anti-inflammatory. Regularly eating parsley can help to prevent inflammations.
Parsley supports the digestion. If your digestion is not optimal, by, for example, a mostly sedentary existence, parsley supports the digestive process and reduces the risk of stomach ulcers.
It provides a clean, fresh breath.
Despite good oral hygiene you can suffer from bad breath. Eating parsley helps you to get a fresher breath. Parsley contains quite a bit of chlorophyll; a substance with an antibacterial effect. This substance fights the wrong bacteria in your mouth.
And these are just some of the positive effects of parsley.

There, how a simple herb as parsley can be so special!

Jennifer

 

 

 

(Photo was published in the public domain, see Public Domain Pictures)


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Miranda vs supermarkets

by Jennifer on

Miranda vs supermarketsVisiting a supermarket with Miranda is always fun! It is really Miranda vs supermarkets :-)

She really dislikes, how people squeeze hard in a bread to feel it is really fresh. Or how people go through the packages with cold cuts to get the one with the latest “best before date”, not realizing that they take all the other packages out of the cooled environment. And there are so many more examples.

Mir really refuses to buy food items at the supermarket. Things as washing powder is okay with her, but food.. no way! So for the bread we go to the bakery, for meat to the butcher, for vegetables and fruits we go to the greengrocer and so on.
Apart from the reasons mentioned above, the quality of the food at the specialized stores is much better and mostly more free of all kinds of additives to make it longer useable. Sure the prices may be a bit higher, but that is it well worth according Mir (and me as well).

So yes, taking Mir along to a supermarket is a fast way to get her grumpy. This morning again.
Mir went along to the supermarket to get the things that we normally buy there (as washing powder and such things). I warned her not to do so because it would be bad for her mood. She assured me it was okay.

When we entered the supermarket, I saw already that Mir’s face changed. There was a plate with orange segments and everybody was grabbing it. This goes against every hygienic rules Mir knows.
I told her to go and have a coffee at a nearby restaurant and that I would come there when I was done. No need to get in a bad mood this way.

I know that there are people who find this all ridicules, But please realize that “food” is Mir’s profession, she has to be serious about it. And consider what if she wasn’t that serious with the food that she might prepare for you…

And of course, every human is allowed to have his own little piece of craziness :-)

Jennifer

 

 

(Used photo was released to the public domain, please see Public Domain Pictures)


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About black olives…

by Miranda on

OlivesLast week Jennifer and I had a visitor that stayed for dinner. Our quest enjoyed the dinner very much, but there was one thing she had a remark about: The olives that I served with the dinner!
According her these olives weren’t of the best quality. As she always had these shiny uniform coloured black olives. Those were the real good ones and those more greenish pale coloured I had were not.

I had some bad news for her!

The olives I served were brought back from Lesvos by Marissa and Richard, who spent their vacation there.

The thing is those deep dark shiny olives don’t exist, not by nature anyway.

Maybe lets first see what the difference is between green and black olives. The colour shows how ripe the olives were when they were picked. Green olives are picked before riping and black olives when they are ripe, which is when the colour turns black.
Lets right away make a point here: Ripe olives are not black, they are more dark purple and are not uniform in colour (how much depends on the species). So these ripe “black” olives are not the deep black uniform coloured olives you can buy in the supermarket.

The shiny black olives from the supermarket are really green olives that are treated during the curing with calcium chloride salts, iron salts (ferrous gluconate). This gives them the dark shiny colour and they are this way faster edible.

There are some health concerns about calcium chloride salts and ferrous gluconate going around, but I don’t know how serious these have to be taken. But a fact is that olives treated with this salts lose in taste. This special strong taste the olives normally have is lost and that is a big pity. So taste was sacrificed here for how the olives look.
Of course the big Olive Companies in California will try to convince you other wise. But those who have tasted the “real natural” olives from Greece or Italy know better!

Olives

And oh, since our visit to Lesvos the Kolovi olive is my favourite, closely followed by the Kalamata.

For your trivia: Olives are fruits. Yes, they are *SMILE* .

Miranda
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Mountain Tea

by Mel on

What an interest suddenly for Mountain Tea. I would expect interest for well-known Greek products as Olives, Olive Oil, Oregano, Ouzo, Honey, Feta, Kavourmas, Loukaniko or even Manouri. But Mountain Tea?

But okay, Mountain Tea!

Mountain Tea

Mountain Tea (Σιδερίτης) is also known as Shepherd’s Tea, here we have right away a reference to the origin of Mountain Tea, or Ironwort as it also is called.

Mountain Tea is of course not a real tea. Real tea is prepared from the leaves of the tea-plant (“Camellia sinensis”), while Mountain Tea is prepared from the Sideritis-plant. In Greece there are 17 species of the Sideritis-plant (some bounded to a local area, others more common). Among these 17 species is there only one cultivated: Sideritis raeseri, the other species are growing in the wild.
Throughout the Mediterranean other variations are known (mainly in Italy and Turkey).

Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations in the world. In ancient times shepherds resided in remote isolated regions and developed a deep intimacy with their natural surroundings. It is through these conditions they discovered the qualities of many herbs. And Mountain Tea was one of these.

Mountain Tea is rich in iron and antioxidants. It is good for the digestion and it is anti-inflammatory.
There are over 60 chemical constituents in the essentials oils within Mountain Tea that have been shown to be beneficial for a wide array of health ailments, such as common cold, flues and coughs. It is also said that it can have a positive influence on Diabetes, osteoporoses and seasonal allergies, to people who interested in weight loss, dieting, increased performance in the athletic world all the way to those with severe depression, ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease (read careful: A positive influence, not a final cure or anything alike).

One advice on preparing Mountain Tea: It is important that Mountain Tea is boiled and/or steep in hot water for a period of time long enough to extract the essential oils within this plant (at least 5 minutes). It is tough to penetrate the woody Sideritis-plant, because of its evolution to growing out of hard limestone and at times under extreme weather conditions.

The Mountain Tea we drink here is coming from Macedonia, the Greek province of Macedonia and not the Republic of Macedonia (<- Small political rant here).

Mountain Tea tastes the best with a little bit of Honey. Greek Honey of course, as produced around my home town. *SMILE*

Rob, there is a nice portion of Mountain Tea for your colleague and you on its way to the Netherlands *SMILE* .

Mel

 

 

(Credit photo: Mel)


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GemberHow does one get the idea to write an article on our weblog here about ginger (or “Gember” as it is called in Dutch)? Well simple, you walk in the kitchen and look at the shelf were Miranda keeps all her herbs and spices that don’t need special storage. You see there a ginger root and you notice something special about this root. But more about that later in this article.

Lets have a look at the plant that gives us the ginger root. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root or simply ginger, is widely used as a spice or a folk medicine.
It is a herbaceous perennial which grows annual stems about a meter tall bearing narrow green leaves and yellow flowers. Ginger belongs to the family Zingiberaceae. Ginger originated in the tropical rainforest in Southern Asia. Although ginger no longer grows wild, it is thought to have originated on the Indian subcontinent because the ginger plants grown in India show the largest amount of genetic variation. Ginger was exported to Europe via India in the first century AD as a result of the lucrative spice trade and was used extensively by the Romans.
Ginger produces clusters of white and pink flower buds that bloom into yellow flowers. Because of its aesthetic appeal and the adaptation of the plant to warm climates, it is often used as landscaping around subtropical homes. It is a perennial reed-like plant with annual leafy stems, about a meter tall. Traditionally, the rhizome is gathered when the stalk withers.

Apart from the fact that ginger is a very tasteful spice that can be used in many wonderful ways by the preparing of all kind of dishes, there are many other reasons to use this spice.

Chronic (hidden) infections underlie many of nowadays chronic diseases. Often, you do not feel these but they slumber in your body. Ginger is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory inhibitor and can help you with a wide range of chronic complaints and diseases. This active ingredient in ginger is called 6-gingerol.

It has been a herb for many years has been used for all kinds of pain including menstrual pain. Ginger also proved to be a good remedy for muscle ache after sports.

A lot of people get somewhere in their life problems with their joint. Research seems to find more proof that isn’t related to age, but chronic inflammation. Ginger helps to counteract these chronic inflammations, but also combats the pain.

Ginger improves the efficiency of insulin and your insulin sensitivity. It is able to increase the absorption of glucose from your muscle and fat cells, which will decrease your blood sugar levels as well as the insulin content in your blood faster

Ginger stimulates the pancreas to produce certain enzymes which stimulates the digestion. It increases the contractions of your stomach, allowing your stomach contents to go faster to your intestines. This will stop a bloated feeling. Ginger also improves the peristaltic (contractions) in your intestine, which can reduce flatulence.

Flu and a cold can be cured faster if you use ginger. It has also been shown that ginger can slow down the growth of the stubborn bacterium Helicobacter Pylori. This bacterium is present in your stomach and may be the cause of gastric cancer. There are several bacteria and viruses that are sensitive to ginger and like to clear the field if they come into contact with them.

Ginger has traditionally been used to improve memory. In a study involving 60 middle-aged women, a daily extract of ginger improved their reaction rate and concentration and thinking ability. There are many studies with rats that show that ginger can provide protection against the deterioration of brain functions in ageing, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This probably has everything to do with the anti-inflammatory action of ginger.

One warning though: As ginger thins your blood, you should be careful when using blood thinners.

Gember Loot

Well, the thing that I noticed on the ginger in our kitchen was that it is growing a green shoot. And yes, you can grow your own ginger plant and harvest its root.

Just go to a shop and buy a ginger root. It has be a dry solid and undamaged root. Place it with the buds up in soil. Remember that ginger is a tropical plant, so it is need a warm spot. Give it every day water. The soil should be wet, but not too wet.
The plant needs some care, but not real special care. Watch the plant grow and enjoy the flower of the plant. Then during the winter when the plant is in rest, dig up the root. You will see that the root really has grow. Take the best buds to grow new plants and use the rest of the root in kitchen with some delicious dishes!

The ginger root on the photo? It is now in our green house and hopefully it will start soon to grown and give us in the winter our own ginger.

Nothing so nice as to grow your own spices and herbs :-).

Jennifer

 

 

(Credit photo’s: Jennifer)


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About Ouzo & Vodka

by Rob on

Today two surprises concerning alcohol containing beverages, Ouzo & Vodka.

When Mel stayed here last week, she brought us some bottles of Ouzo from Greece (Plomari Ouzo, a very good one, made on Lesvos). One evening our mood was really after some Ouzo. So we opened one of the bottles, but at that moment we discovered that I didn’t really have proper glasses for Ouzo. We managed it with some long drink glasses, so that problem was solved.
But Mel promised that she would make sure that I would get some real Ouzo glasses.

I don’t know how Mel managed to do it, but today a package from Greece was delivered at my house….

Ouzo

And not only 4 wonderful Ouzo glasses were in the package, but also some delicious salami which I enjoyed last year at Mel’s house. She must have remembered how much I liked it.
This “Salado” (Salami) is a dry salami made of pork meat, pork fat, salt, garlic, whole round black pepper and seasonings that is put inside a natural intestine, slightly smoked by burning branches of aromatic herbs and let it mature naturally. This salado has it origin on the isle of Corfu.

And there was also a jar of honey. Greek honey belongs to the best honey of the world. This forest honey is a dark honey, has an intense flavor and comes from the pristine oak forests of Macedonia. It strongly antioxidant and is rich in minerals. Produced in July.

But that was not all. This morning, after being a week off, I found a bottle of vodka on my desk at my work….

Vodka

This bottle was a gift of my colleague Katarzyna Puchalska. We (another colleague and I) helped her with something. That is why. Sadly she will be leaving us end of this month.

Lubelska is leading brand among Polish vodka-based flavoured liqueurs (they have is also a clear vodka). Lubelska Cytrynowka is made from purely natural ingredients. With a cloudy appearance, it has an intriguing flavour of freshly squeezed lemons.

Not a bad way to start a working week. And oh, before going to bed tonight I will enjoy some Ouzo in a real traditional Ouzo glass *SMILE*

Rob

 

 

(Credit photo’s: Rob)


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Basil (or in Dutch “Basilicum”)

by Jennifer on

As people may know plants, herbs and flowers are my big passion. A part of the garden and the green house behind our house is reserved for herbs. It is great fun and very satisfying to grow herbs. Specially when you have, like us, a green house so you can have certain herbs all through the year. This to great pleasure of Miranda, who uses many of the herbs that I grow in the kitchen. I wanted to tell something about a well known herb called Basil (or in Dutch “Basilicum”). As said, a well known herb and yet there is so much to know about this plant.

Basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum), also called Saint-Joseph’s-wort, is a herb of the family Lamiaceae (mints) that is often used in the kitchen. The herb is also called the “King of Herbs” (Dutch: “Koningskruid”). The name “basil” comes from Greek βασιλικόν φυτόν (basilikón phutón), which means “royal/kingly plant”.

Basil is possibly native to India, and has been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. It was thoroughly familiar to the Greek authors Theophrastus and Dioscorides.

Basil

Basil, in particular the species Ocimum Basil is an herb often used for cooking. It has a strong odour and flavour and is mainly used in the Italian cuisine and tomato dishes. Basil is used to make pesto.
But as Miranda always says: Use your fantasy and dare to try. You may discover wonderful combinations with a great taste. And if something really has a bad taste, it is a lesson learned and nothing more then that.

But talking about tomatoes, it is said that it is good to grow basil together with tomatoes. Basil would keep pests and diseases away from the tomatoes. In my experience this is correct.

Basil

Traditionally basil was used for skin problems, for colds and other infections, cough, headache, nausea and as an insect repellent, but also to calm the mind as well as improve mood.

Today, many of these applications are also scientifically explained and we know which components provide certain medicinal effects. See here the top 5 health benefits of basil:

  1. Basil is due to the high amount of eugenol an excellent anti-inflammatory and suitable to kill bacteria and to expel insects.
  2. Good for the heart-and-vascular system because of the high content of carotenoids and antioxidants which protect the cells against the damage of free radicals. Furthermore, the large amount of magnesium in basil it stimulates a good blood flow and healthy veins.
  3. The antioxidants in the form of flavonoids and carotenoids in basil protect the body against certain forms of cancer.
  4. Several essential oils in basil are effective in the treatment of a dry skin, acne and psoriasis.
  5. The tannins present in basil have a germicidal and wound healing effect on mouth, nose, and stomach, intestinal mucosa. Basil is therefore also ideal for use in all kinds of digestive disorders and inflammations in the gastrointestinal tract.
Basil

But whatever the positive effects of Basil and how a nice plant it is to grow, I am afraid that the main use here in our house will be food :-)

Jennifer
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TeaMany of us drink often tea, or something that we like to call tea, and have almost no knowledge about tea at all.

Tea is an aromatic drink prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the tea plant. There are many teas around that we call tea but isn’t tea (because no tea leaves were used). Just like apple wine isn’t wine because it is not made of grapes or white chocolate isn’t chocolate because it doesn’t contain cacao.

Tea has its origin in South west China, where it was used as a medicinal drink. It became popular as a recreational drink during the Chinese Tang dynasty, and tea drinking spread to other East Asian countries. Portuguese priests and merchants brought it to Europe during the 16th century.

There are different kinds of tea.
Green tea is a type of tea that is made from Camellia sinensis leaves that have not undergone the same withering and oxidation process used to make oolong and black tea. Green tea originated in China, but its production has spread to many countries in Asia.
Black tea is a type of tea that is more oxidized than oolong, green and white teas. Black tea is generally stronger in flavour than the less oxidized teas. All four types are made from leaves of the shrub (or small tree) Camellia sinensis.
White tea may refer to one of several styles of tea which generally feature young or minimally processed leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.
Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea (Camellia sinensis) produced through a unique process including withering the plant under strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting. Most oolong teas, especially those of fine quality, involve unique tea plant cultivars that are exclusively used for particular varieties. The degree of oxidation can range from 8 to 85%, depending on the variety and production style. Oolong is especially popular with tea connoisseurs of south China and Chinese expatriates in Southeast Asia, as is the Fujian preparation process known as the Gongfu tea ceremony.
Rooibos (meaning “red bush”) is a broom-like member of the Fabaceae family of plants growing in South Africa’s fynbos. he leaves are used to make an herbal tea called rooibos or bush tea (especially in Southern Africa) or sometimes redbush tea (especially in Great Britain). The product has been popular in Southern Africa for generations and is now consumed in many countries. It is sometimes spelled rooibosch in accordance with the old Dutch etymology. So by definition it is not a real tea. As a fresh leaf, rooibos has a high content of vitamin C. Rooibos tea does not contain caffeine and has low tannin levels compared to black tea or green tea

Tea can be stored for a very long time without losing its quality (when stored in a right way: air-tight, dry and not in direct sunlight). Although some tea can be stored more than a year, replaces Rob once per 6 or 8 months the teas he has. And today he did that. The whole room is filled up with the wonderful scent of tea, herbs, spices and fruits.

Tea

So now we have the next teas here at Rob’s house:

“Greek Mountain Tea”, also known as Sideritis thee or Ironwort and comes from Florina (West Macedonia, main land of Greece). The tea is made from the dried leaves and flowers of the plant Sideritis. This plant with its velvety, greyish leaves and yellow flowers grows to about 45 centimetres high. The tea is rich on iron and antioxidants and it is said that the Greek mountain tea is good for digestion and is anti-inflammatory.
Mel is always kind enough to send us this tea (among other Greek products) directly from Greece.

The other teas are bought at a Dutch webshop and are a good collections of green, black and white teas, all with their own combination with herbs, spices, flowers and fruits.

Tea honey

We always drink our tea with honey and if you have tea of a very good quality, you also want honey of a high quality. We always use thyme honey. Greece is known for it very fine honey. And yes, thanks to Mel we are never without honey *SMILE* .
Honey contains antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agents. Besides honing contains many valuable nutrients-including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Honey is used for centuries as treatment of a sore throat. And of course honey is already used for ages as Outside the product served honing earlier usefull as sweetener.

Tea

And oh, before I forget, the title of this article is taken from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, the book that Rob likes so very much.

Marion

 


(Credit photo’s: Marion)


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