Slow Cooker Sweet Potato, Carrot and Red Lentil Soup

This particular morning was a bit of a shit show. Not a “scream at the kids because they won’t put shoes on, end up late for school and realize I’ve forgotten the backpacks” level shit show thankfully, though those mornings happen. Mostly the kids just required my full attention this morning. We were at school on time with no screaming from mommy, but Iimg_20180927_085945 wasn’t able to do anything else I normally do. I came home from drop off to a disaster of a kitchen, night clothes scattering the floor and the contents of yesterdays backpack on the table.

I also had the very annoying realization that I had nothing ready for dinner and I would have no time to prepare anything. I had agreed to represent Eindhoven News at the Eindhoven Library on Thursdays so my day was full.  I had a parent teacher conference after school and I spoke at a Braincandies event later. I had about an hour in between to get the kids settled and fed and make myself look presentable. So that left me with about an hour this morning to get things sorted.

I’m not going lie, I kinda panicked. My first thought was premade poffertjes. Fortunately, I realized that I had everything I needed to make my sons favorite soup. He calls it the “orange soup”, and for good reason. It’s sweet potato, carrot, red lentil. and some spices. I also put in onion, garlic and the juice of half a lemon.

I don’t usually measure soups out but this morning I made a bit more of an effort because I was planning on writing this.

I used:

  • one large sweet potato
  • 6 big carrots
  • 3 small onions
  • 2 (ish) cups of red lentils

 

Really, don’t overthink it. It’s going to be delicious.

I cut everything up and toss it in. Cover it with water. The amount of water takes some getting used to because if you don’t put in enough the vegetables will absorb it all and nothing will cook properly but if you add to much then it will be really thin and runny. My general rule is to add enough water to cover everything and then about an inch on top. If you have the opportunity to check in on it during the day you can always add more water if needed.

As for seasoning I like to use a curry powder. For some reason when I think red lentils curry powder goes with it naturally. No clue why, but it works. I also add cumin and coriander. Lots of salt. I don’t add to much of each because my son doesn’t like foods that taste of much. He generally likes things pretty bland. I always have extra salt and hot sauce on hand. I would say about 2 tablespoons of each to start.

So what does your delicious soup look like when you come home?

img_20180927_143119
raw…

Well, if you are like me on this particularly hectic day it looks raw. I, apparently, forgot to turn it on.

Shit.

Luckily it’s not meat so nothing in it will get gross sitting at room temperature all day. Also luckily, kinda, the kids had parties at school and were full of cupcake so they didn’t really want dinner anyways. Fruit for dinner!!!

Don’t judge.

So I turned on the crock pot before I left for my event. Double check, yes it’s on..

I came home and the house was starting to smell amazing. I let it cook on low though the night. My crock pot will automatically switch to a “warm” mode after the preset time is up and that’s super handy.

img_20180928_074152
I woke up to a pot full of happy!

I woke up to some amazing soup.

I used my stick blender to make sure everything was nice and smooth.

My kids have a half day Friday so we had the soup for lunch. As expected, I needed to add some salt and hot sauce. You can also add extra seasoning at the end but put it in a little at a time and give it a moment and then put more in. As my chef mentor always said, you can always add but you can never subtract.

This soup is a staple at my house. My son doesn’t like soup “with bits in” so no chunky vegetable soup for us although sometimes he will eat chili. Plus these are ingredients that I have on hand and you don’t have to be worried about amounts of anything really. More carrots, more sweet potato, regular potatos that need to get used, whatever, toss it in.  This literally takes me about 10 minutes to get ready. It’s going to cook all day and get blended later so you can leave everything in big chunks so it is super quick with little clean up. Week night dinner for the win!

Enjoy!

img_20180928_124055_01

Hoeve de Nachtegaal: Wintelre

As anyone who follows me on FB or Instagram knows, we spend a ton of time at Bosschuur De Meren. It’s a great nature reserve in Wintelre with a water pump, sand pile and lots of nature. We love it there and go generally once a week when the weather gets nice. But, good or bad, Boschuur comes with an added ritual: ice cream on the way home at Hoeve de Nachtegaal: Wintelre. The kids call it “the cow place” and its not hard img_20180718_144028to understand why. It’s a little dairy. I think. It’s a bit unclear, honestly. But they have lots and lots of cows…..

It’s actually a really cute little cafe with an indoor and outdoor play area so it’s good in any weather. My kids love it there and it has become our post Boschuur ritual. There is a really cool playground outside with play equipment, a trampoline and a wooden play house. Slides are set into the little hill and there are plastic trucks and such. Lately there has been a bouncy castle outside on pretty days.  It’s awesome, but the play ground is plenty even when it isn’t up. There is lots of outside seating so on pretty days I sit outside and have a glass of wine or a beer and the kids play and have an ice cream.

On really pretty days I generally tell the kids that they are to dirty to play inside. This probably isn’t true but on pretty days they should play outside, damn it! This is the Netherlands! It’s pretty for like 3 weeks!

I have brought the kids here for a play on not so pretty days as well. On these days we play in the indoor play area. It is upstairs from the main cafe seating. There is only one large table so if there is more than one family there it can get a little cozy, but it has img_20180718_142020always been fine. I have never been there with more than one family. There is a little ball pit, cars, a play store, bins of toys, that sort of thing. You can sit up there and eat but tell the waitress that that is the plan because they won’t just come up and check on you. Also upstairs is a little room with a big window overlooking the cows. The kids think its great. I think it smells like cow and I’m glad there is a heavy door protecting me from the smell.img_20180718_141336

The menu: So it’s pretty basic and totally Dutch. I think most of their business is from old people and selling kids ice cream so it’s not much of a surprise. They have a brie, honey and walnut sandwich that I really enjoy, it’s an open faced number best eaten with a fork. I am also fond of the cheese and pesto sandwich, sounds weird but it’s really good. I love the fact that they don’t have chicken nuggets and fries on the menu, it kinda forces my kids to eat something new. They have sausage rolls (worstenbroodje) and grilled cheese/grilled ham and cheese (tosti) for the kids. Pro tip: on the menu there is a “maxi tosti”, this is three halves of a grilled cheese sandwich. that’s perfect for my 2 kids because neither will rarely eat a whole one. We don’t often eat here, honestly. Only  when we have spent a super long day at Boschuur and I either don’t have the time or motivation to cook a dinner. Or if my kids eat all the food I packed and are still hungry. Generally we go for the ice cream. It’s really good ice cream!

The staff is always super friendly. They have always been very tolerant of my crazy dirty and often shoe less kids running through the place to get to the indoor play area. The ice cream is in a cooler by the door so that’s super easy as well.

It’s a very pretty area. It’s really popular to do a cycle tour of the area and this is a great stop. I would go without the kids for a quite cup of coffee. Who am I kidding, I don’t cycle for fun and I’m far more likely to have a glass of wine than a coffee but go for it. It is a nice place.

 

Some Helpful Information:

  • This is the website (sorry, it’s in Dutch): Hoeve de Nachtegaal
  • This is their address: Merenweg 1A, 5513 NZ Wintelre
  • There is free parking on site. The parking lot is kida confusing the first time. There is a little building at the road next to the car park. there is a sneaky exit just behind it. It’s hard to explain but you will get it when you get there. I’ve seen some interesting things from people trying to get out of that car park.
  • They aren’t open in the evenings but the hours can change depending on the season.

img_20180718_140222

Looking for some other places with both indoor and outdoor options?

Zwembad Den Ekkerman: Veldhoven

All of a sudden my kids LOVE to swim. They have always enjoyed swimming but before it was mostly playing in the water. Since my son began swim lessons swimming has gotten much more important. He has confidence now and loves practicing what he has learned img_20180721_151254in class. Zwembad Den Ekkerman is a great little pool in Veldhoven. It is our favorite place for a swim outing. My kids like it because there is a lot to do there, slides and fountains and such. I like it because it it relatively small and I can see the entire pool from any spot. And it’s close to where I live, this helps.

There are 3 pools in the complex. A small pool used for swim lessons, a large pool used more for sport (they do have a diving board if that’s something you are into), and the recreational pool. This is the one that I’m going to write about because it is the one to take the kids.

Can I take a moment to complain about swimming? It’s not that I hate swimming, I just don’t enjoy swimming. We spent a lot of time in lakes when I was a child but never in a pool. I think I went to the local swimming pool twice in my life and it was with a friends family both times. It’s just not something we did. And the fact that I never learned to swim doesn’t help. Que all the Dutchies gasping in horror (to all my non Dutch friends, I’ll explain later.), my school took us for a few hours of swim lessons one afternoon but I learned how to float and tread water. I can doggie paddle like a pro but I never learned to swim. We have a much more “well, she probably wont die” stance when it comes to swimming than Dutchies.  But, despite my dislike of all things swimming, I take them as regularly as I can stomach. I smile and play keep my thoughts on that beer that is waiting for me at the end. Hey, I totally earned it! Ans since Den Ekkerman is within walking distance from my house I can even have two!

img_20180721_151314Honestly, Den Ekkerman makes taking the kids swimming a bit easier. Like I have said, it’s not a very large pool so I can see everywhere. They manage to pack a lot of fun into that space, however. There are 2 fountains, a ledge that bubbles come out of, and a lazy river style bit, a whirl pool, and a bit with super big bubbles that come out of the wall. I feel like I’m not describing things very well. Am I making sense? Bit with bubbles? I’m sure it’s fine.   They are on a rotation so only one “special thing” is going at a time. It’s so fun to see the the kids realize that there is something new and they all  rush over. “THE BUBBLES ARE BACK!!” That sort of thing.

There is also a really fun tube slide. It’s actually pretty big and spirally, it even goes outside the building. It ends in a little pool dedicated to the slide. I said fun. If you are into this sort of thing it is fun. I, however, am not. Like I said, I’m not a huge fan of swimming in general and slides are the worst! My son loves them but isn’t old enough to go on his own so it’s a full day of “mommy, will you take me on the big slide?”. “Sure sweets, there is nothing I would rather do” gggrrrrrrrrr….. But it’s cool, anything for the kids, right?

img_20180721_151329

 

There is also a small baby pool with little water features. It’s really cute and perfect for little kids to play on their own.

Another nice thing about Den Ekkerman in the little indoor play area. I don’t know of another pool that has one. There are those giant Lego blocks and some other play things. It’s nice to let the kids take a break from swimming and they can still play with something.

The play area and the little pool are next to the seating area. There are plastic picnic tables and chairs. They are generally stacked up at the back wall and you can grab a table and as many chairs as you need.

Food: There is a small shop that sells some snack foods and drinks. I have always brought my own food and drinks when I take the kids swimming. It is permitted to bring in outside food unless its a birthday party.

Speaking of practical stuff: changing rooms. I seriously don’t know whats worse, getting the kids into their swim stuff or getting them out of them after a day of fun. Seriously, it’s like trying to put clothes on a hyperactive monkey. There are a few changing options. There are large family changing rooms. They are open to everyone and there is no lock so be prepared to share. There are different rooms for men and women, though. There are also small private rooms. When I say “small” I mean it. These are very typical in pools in The Netherlands. I can fit in with my two small kids no problem, though. There are lockers you can rent near the dressing rooms if you are so inclined but I’ve never bothered. There are baby changing tables in the family changing rooms and also by the pool.

So changing with the baby can be intimidating. Here is how I used to manage it. I would keep the little in the stroller while I changed then take the whole thing to a table next to the pool. Then I would change the baby at the changing table there. When we were done swimming I would change the baby back into their clothes and strap them back into the stroller and we would go into a dressing room and I would change into my dry clothes. It is so much easier this way. No one has ever minded me bringing the stroller poolside, just make sure that the wheels are mostly clean.

After taking the kids swimming I always feel like parent of the year. Seriously, I deserve a beer! Just next to the pool is a cafe called Brasserie Ludiek: Veldhoven that we go to for a beer for me and an ice cream for the kids. It’s a nice tradition.

There are a lot of pools in the area but this is my favorite. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Some Helpful Info:

  • This is the address: Wal 152, 5501 HP Veldhoven
  • This is the website, Dutch and English is available: Den Ekkerman
  • Their opening times are kinda weird. Wednesday is the only week day they are open in the morning. Generally they are open in the afternoon and close and reopen in the evening. Saturdays they are open in the afternoon and Sundays till 4:00. The hours change during school breaks. I really recommend checking the website before you go.
  • There is payed parking very close.
  • Kids in The Netherlands are required to wear floaties unless they have their  swim diploma so don’t forget to get your child a pair. You can also buy them at reception if you forget.
  • I haven’t ran into any member of the staff that didn’t speak English so if you have any problems or questions don’t hesitate to ask.
img_20180721_172723
Such tired Kids!

 

Looking for other places to take the kids swimming?

Inside:

Sterren Strand: Eersel

Outside:

Witven Lake and Beach: Veldhoven

Billy Bird: Hemelrijk

Speeltuin de Kievit: Nuenen

Klimbim: Waalre

Klimbim: Waalre is a great little park. It feels very mishmashed but I think that’s why my kids love it so much. It’s like they started with any and all playground equipment they could find and went from there. The stuff ranges from vintage play, to wooden and natural to shiny new. All in one space. It’s really something special.

The main center of the park consists of a sand pit and a tiny house. They have lots of plastic sand toys scattered about so there is no need to pack anything extra. Then there are all the random play equipment. Slides, see saws (whip whap in Dutch) climbing structures, you name it and they have got it. There are also some wooden play houses and climbing structures. These are my favorites. They look slightly old and so well loved. They are great for imagination based play, my kids had a sand ice cream shop there at one time. On the other side at the back there is a super huge climbing structure with tube slides. Like I said, anything and everything.

The best thing about this park is that it feels great to be there. It is a play sanctuary in the middle of the woods. It’s completely fenced in with only one exit so it is really safe and it is tucked away in the forest so you get the feel of nature. They have also kept a lot of trees inside the park so there is plenty of lovely shade. I just love the feeling and the atmosphere.

It is a pay park. It costs one Euro per person. Totally worth it, in my opinion. There are clean toilets, and a fence so I don’t have to worry about the kids wandering off. That’s not so much of a problem now but last summer it was. My kids were 2 1/2 and 5 so I didn’t have to follow them around but I did have to keep track of them. I have reached that amazing period where my kids love parks but are completely free to roam on their own and I know that if they need me they will find me. I can ***GASP*** read a book! Don’t worry, it will happen to you as well. Be patient. Your days of lounging around will come. You will have to continue being a full time snack bitch, that will never end….. but, anyways. We accept our fate as moms.

I will say that unless your super little kid likes playing in the sand, this is not the best img_20180502_171158place for kids who have just started to walk. There isn’t an awful lot for little kids to do. I found that this park was perfect when my kid was crawling because anything was awesome and then again when they were really sure footed and could walk well and maybe even climb a bit. Well, maybe a more fair thing to say is that you will have to follow your kid around all day and watch them get really frustrated. But the sand bit is really nice so maybe your little will love it. Give it a try.

Klimbim is a really nice park and I really recommend it. Even on the hottest of days it is really nice because of all the shade. Check it out, I think you will love it!

img_20180502_170934_01

Some helpful information:

  • This is their website (sorry it is in English); klimbim
  • This is the address: Eikenlaan 11, 5581 HA Waalre
  • There is some parking but on street free parking all around the park
  • The opening time changes depending on the season. generally spring and summer it is open most days in the afternoon and all day weekends, during summer break it is open all day most days. Make sure you check the website before you head out if you are unsure
  • It is one Euro per person to get in. In my experience there are a group of volunteers sitting at the building to the left and you pay them. Don’t worry, they are super chill old dudes. They may or may not speak much English but they are always nice and friendly. Best to pay them on the way in.
img_20180502_170526
There is totally not wine in the plastic cup 😉

 

Brasserie Ludiek: Veldhoven

I generally avoid going out to eat with the kids because it just isn’t fun. I spend the entire meal trying to keep them calm and entertained so they don’t annoy everyone. Luckily, though, in the Eindhoven area there is no shortage of nice places to eat that have a play space for the kids. Brasserie Ludiek: Veldhoven is a really nice option. Well, now it is. To be honest I always felt it was fine. It was convenient for me as I live very close. It had a small play area. The food was decent. Like I said it was fine. Nothing to complain about but not much to draw me there. I would have lunch there occasionally if I had the kids around. It is very close to the local swimming pool so we would often stop by and I would enjoy a beer while the kids had an ice cream. It’s wasn’t somewhere I would go without the kids and it was never my first choice even with them.

I’m so happy I ventured in last week with my daughter! It was her last day of preschool img_20180705_114842and I wanted to take her out for a girly lunch to celebrate but I didn’t really want to very far. It wasn’t going to be as nice as I would have like but, you know, fine. It has been remolded and now it looks great! Open and modern and cozy feeling. Gezzellig as the Dutch say. It’s a hard one to translate, like a warm and cozy feeling. Things can be gezellig, gatherings, or places can all be described in this way. If you go to a Dutch persons house for any reason, call it gezellig. Instant smile. Your welcome.

img_20180705_130955That got away from me there.

So, back to Ludiek.

New and open. They changed the play area and it’s now a little house with a TV inside. OK, so it’s not the grandest but it works. It’s just inside to the right. Generally the tables just around it are occupied by the parents of the small kids. This is really perfect because the kids aren’t generally having to run through the place.

If you sit to the back you should be able to enjoy your meal or a cup of coffee relatively kid free.  This little area was perfect for my nearly 4 year old but I’m not so sure about my 6 year old, although he does love his TV. Just out the back and across the bike path there is a playground. I could easily sit at the back or on the patio and the kids play outside in the park, no problem. It’s pretty perfect, actually.

The food: This is another great improvement. The menu is really great. There is something vegetarian on nearly every page. I would always get the goat cheese salad but they added a vegetable wrap that was so delicious! Riley had a pancake and they even have cucumber on the menu so, of course, my daughter had to have a side of cucumber. If you aren’t familiar with Dutch pancakes they are more like a crepe. The best way to eat one is to roll it on the plate and cut it into sections. Its like Dutch class today! Perhaps I should add a section on the blog: Culture Shock Dutch Style…. HHHMMMM..

Again, that got away from me there….

Their signature dish is a monster hamburger. I don’t eat meat but I asked the manager if I could take a picture of one for the blog and he agreed. I kinda felt a little weird doing it but it occurred to me that not everyone is a vegetarian (shocker, right!) and that maybe a pic of their signature dish was a good idea. The manager was a really good sport about it all. So was the waitress, I asked to speak to a manager and had to say “everything is great, I’m not going to complain”…. I have worked in horeca (Dutch for service industry) and I know how stressful it is for someone to ask for the manager. Everyone was super nice.

On this particular day we finished our meals and Riley went off to play some more. She was so happy that I drank a beer and read until it was time to walk home and pick up my son at school. It was great!

So check it out. It’s in City Passage, the little mall in the Veldhoven city center. There are img_20180705_114739also some cool shops so have a look around.  This is what it looks like from the outside. There is also plenty of seating here.

The staff is super friendly and everyone I spoke to spoke English with little or no problem. Honestly, I would go there for a lunch or dinner even without the kids. I just can’t get over the change. They did an amazing job!

Some helpful info:

  • This is their website: Brasserie Ludiek
  • This is the address: Meent 36 (city passage), 5501 JK Veldhoven. Like I said it is inside the little mall so park at one of the lots.
  • There is plenty of paid parking around the city center
  • Brarrerie Ludiek is a really great place for people with diet restrictions. The have loads of gluten free and lactose free options. If you have trouble just ask and they will be very willing to answer any questions.

img_20180705_120434

 

Gouden Woud: Liempde

Gouden Woud: Liempde is a cool place for indoor and outdoor fun. We spent a great afternoon there last week. At first glance it’s not all that exciting, honestly. There are bigger play places around. I knew my kids would have fun, but they always do. They are pretty easy like that. We got in and off they ran while I found a table.  I was really surprised by how much fun Guoden Woud actually is.

img_20180629_180122

The indoor play space is much bigger that it looks from the tables. The space is all sand with shallow water and play structures. The water isn’t deep at all but it is probably a good idea to bring a swim suit for the kids because they will end up completely wet. My kids were in their skivvies within about 15 minutes of walking in the door. What makes this place really cool is digging for gold. Scattered throughout the sand are these little bits of fake gold. The idea is that you gather them and when you have enough you can trade them in for an ice cream or candy. It’s a really nice combination of busy work and img_20180629_155827_01play time. Look for the carved wooden bear and just to the side you will find a table with a scale on it. Under it there is shelf with bowls. They are your basic IKEA plastic numbers but they have little holes drilled into the bottom so the kids can wash the sand out. Clever, right? When you think you have enough (10 ounces, if I remember correctly) you weigh it on the little scale and if you have enough a staff member gives you a coin and you can exchange that for a bag of sweets. I just realized I have typing “you” instead of “your child”. I was about to correct it but decided that the original is probably more accurate. You know you are going to be “helping” and by that I mean, be prepared to get a little sandy. The fact that I have to help would normally bug me but I didn’t mind here. It was oddly therapeutic so play in the sand. Plus I was there with a friend so we were still able to chat, that always helps.

 

The Food: The menu is small but really well done. The kids had a tosti on real bread that didn’t look like it began it’s day frozen. I had the salmon salad and it was DELICIOUS. I couldn’t even finish it and that’s saying something. My friend had the burger and told me that is was very good. They even have a fruit and veg platter on the menu! The dips contain milk, unfortunately but even without the dips  out kids devoured it.

There is a large playground outside as well as a patio with tables. It’s a nice playground. we went on a nice warm day and the kids spent nearly half the time outside.

I really recommend checking out Gouden Woud and plan to go back really soon. It’s a little gem!

Some Helpful Info:

  • This is their website: Gouden Woud
  • This is their address: Hamsestraat 18, 5298 NA Liempde gemeente Boxtel
  • They are open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. If you are unsure if they are open or not please check the website before you go.
  • The cost to get in is 5 Euros for kids from the age of 1 till the age of 13. Before and after those ages are free.
  • I’m really not sure how much English is spoken by the staff, honestly. I was relying on my basic Dutch abilities but you should be able to manage fine. There is plenty of parking on site

Enjoy!

img_20180629_160108

Looking for other places to take the kids? Check out some of my other top picks!

Sterren Strand: Eersel

Vossenberg Speelboerderij: Tilburg

Aardbeienhof: Gemert

Maritime Museum: Rotterdam

Beer Yoga in the Park

What happens when you put two gym rats in the park with beer? Beer yoga. It’s something you never knew you needed until its there and then it completes you.

So a bit of background: My dear friend Marta and I used to go to yoga every Monday night. Lots of reasons why we sYoga in the Park. With Beertopped. The class started at 9:00. The weather was far to pretty to be inside. And to be honest, it got a little boring. So we started to meet in the park for some nibbles and beer, and hopefully some yoga or other sport.

Really, we just wanted to work out a little so that we could justify the fact that we are skipping yoga. Like “We totally aren’t skipping yoga, just moving it outside” but then we keep bringing beer… so beer  happens. Then beer yoga happens..

I have seen adds on Face Book about yoga studios combining these two seemingly incombinable things and I have always loved the idea. Why shouldn’t working out be fun?  I don’t find yoga particularly fun, to be honest. But in the same way that I really don’t enjoy Pilates. Slow repetitive movements tend to bore the crap out of me. I get Image 03-07-2018 at 20.29 (2)distracted and end up mentally preparing my grocery list and getting more and more annoyed that everyone seems to be better at this than me. I totally understand the health benefits, though. Yoga is great for you body (as is Pilates) and I saw a real improvement in myself when I was going regularly. The park, however, kept beckoning me to drink beer and enjoy the summer. I would have been happy to just do that but Marta insisted that we, after 2 beers, should do some yoga. I’m always down for some silly time so I gleefully agreed and I’m so happy i did. I’m so happy she insisted. And as I have said before I’m so glad she uses her powers of persuasion for good and not evil.  It was so freaking fun! I learned that I am much more flexible after a few beers but my balance is compromised, no real surprise there! I’m also happy that Anouk was there to capture these moments on film and make fun of me relentless because I split the back of my skirt open during the beer yoga. It was an old skirt but I liked it. The worst was having to get home with my butt literally in full display (I’ll spare you the pictures that were, of course, taken). Oh well, I’m sure this wasn’t the first clothing malfunction resulting from half drunk yogaing. Or maybe it is!

So, this should totally be a thing! The next Vegan Picnic in the Park is scheduled. Anyone know of a yoga instructor who wants to come drink and do some yoga with us? Or, another idea: If Marta and I organize a beer yoga in the park would people actually want to come and be silly with us? Let me know!

Yoga in the Park. With Beer

Want to read about other silliness Marta and I get up to?Of course you do!!

Vegan Potluck in the Park

Zumba Party!!!