A Progressive Dinner of Awesomeness

It’s been a while since my last post, and I miss you guys! Funny enough, despite the lack of new content on here, my site traffic continues to climb. It’s like you don’t even care that I’m not here anymore! Amsterdam & Beyond is thriving without me, which is both flattering and alarming. When did my baby go and get so grown up?!

On a more serious note, it really has been a while. I don’t want to make excuses, but real life has been pretty freakin’ awesome lately, and so that’s what I’ve been doing. Living. And my neglect isn’t focused solely on Amsterdam & Beyond – it’s all social media. I used to be a Pinterest queen and an Instagram junkie, with the occasional Facebook post just for giggles. Now, I rarely spend down time on my computer. I prefer to laugh, dance, kiss, talk, drink wine, eat sweets, run, and explore. I have a backlog of photos from the past few months, but have barely made a dent in editing them. My *goal* is to blog once a week. If I can keep up that pace, I will be happy :) So let’s see if I can get any better in April!IMG_4036These photos are a few snaps from a dinner the girls and I concocted last weekend. Have you ever heard of a progressive dinner? It’s a food tour through several houses, where one course is enjoyed at each stop! We thought it would be a fun idea for a Saturday night, as a prequel to some dancing :) And so we rallied eight ladies, four bringing beverages and four offering up their homes to host and cook! Read through to the end for some tips if you’re looking to throw your own progressive dinner party :) Continue reading

Cheesy Breakfast Boats

Whenever we have a catered lunch at work, we order from the delicious Uliveto. I’ve literally had clients say, “Hey, can we have the meeting at your office so you can order that AMAZING Italian?!” The food from Uliveto is hearty, drenched in olive oil, and seasoned with fresh herbs. They have one dish – a sweet potato and ricotta pie – that is comparative mouth-crack. A crispy, flaky crust engulfs a cheesy mixture of broccoli, sweet potatoes and onions, all swimming in a soft blend of Italian cheeses. I would eat this addictive concoction for breakfast, lunch and dinner, day in and day out if I had the chance, however, I have NO idea how to re-create this delicacy at home. Next weekend I’ll probably march on down to Uliveto to pick the chef’s master mind, but in the meantime, I’m left craving soft broccoli with an abundance of cheese crammed into small, green florets. And thus breakfast boats were born – an easy, quick creation of mine that eliminates the need for a homemade dough or crust, but still captures all the delightful magic of vegetables smothered in cheese.IMG_9234This recipe takes about 10 minutes to construct, and a a mere 15 minutes in the oven. So in less than 20 minutes, you can have a delicious, cheesy bread boat meal, without hours of labouring over a hot stove. To get started, you’ll need a few key ingredients. Continue reading

Baked Macaroni n’ Cheesecake

There’s really nothing I can say or do to prepare you for this blog post. It’s cheesy. It’s bacon-y. And it’s probably the most delicious one-dish-wonder you will fork into your mouth this week. Saliva glands, prepare! I proudly present to you, in partner with my hungry stomach and my fat-kid imagination, baked Macaroni n’ Cheesecake:Macaroni and CheesecakeBefore I dive into the recipe, I want to tell you how this cheesy brainchild was born. I invited the girls over for a roast on Sunday, and promised them, well, a roast. However, the night before I drank just a littlleee too much, so instead of a pan roasted chicken and baby rosemary potatoes, all I could think about were carbs. And bacon. And cheese. And so I walked through the grocery store, collecting my hungover cravings. By the time I got to the checkout counter, it became apparent – we were having mac n’ cheese. But as this was Sunday dinner, I had to try and make it a little fancy, right? So I whipped out my bundt pan, buttered her up, and took your standard macaroni and cheese to a whole new, fancy-pants level! Continue reading

Rolo Pancake Kebabs

My last recipe post, 5 Simple Tips for Making Sashimi at Home, was logged on April 10th, 2014. That means it’s been almost a FULL YEAR since I’ve gabbed to you about a new food concoction. What’s up with that? I could blame the lack of sunlight – it’s hard to photograph recipes after work in the winter when it’s dark. I could blame life – I had a rough summer, and blogging wasn’t really my focus. I could blame work – I’ve had a lot more responsibly, which means longer office hours and less time for fun. But really, the truth is, I just haven’t felt inspired to blog. I’ve wanted to be out with friends, dancing, eating, drinking, and socializing. The thought of being at home alone, arranging plates and jotting down new recipe ideas on a weeknight just felt . . . sad.

However, I’m happy to report that the ‘old Ali’ is back in all her boring glory. I’ve been painting after work, dancing inanely to Taylor Swift for hours at a time, organizing cupboards, surfing Pinterest for recipe ideas, and eating way too much dark chocolate while wrapped up in a afghan on the living-room couch. I’ve gone into full-on winter hibernation-homemaking-hideaway mode, and it feels great :) So here is the product of my first recipe back in the saddle, and ohh god, it’s a good one. Are you ready for a whole lotta fluffy, melting, chocolaty, breakfast goodness? Please meet my new best friend(s), Rolo Pancake Kebabs: Rolo Pancake Kebabs 2This recipe came into existence on Sunday, as I was strolling through my local (Dutch) grocery store. My thought process went something like: I’m craving pancakes. I should buy mini pancakes. I bet I could do something cute with those. Put them on cupcakes? Haha pancake cupcakes. Or what about mini pancake sandwiches? Yum! With camembert and bacon and maple syrup drizzled on top?  OR WHAT IF I MAKE mini pancake kebabs!! It felt right, and soon enough, I had a pack of 50 poffertjes in my shopping cart while excitedly wandering through the grocery store, looking for the perfect pancake-kebab accompaniments.

Continue reading

Sir Hummus, Amsterdam

I’m super sleepy, but before I retire for the night I need to tell you two things. 1) I’ve re-named Pressed Words (like how I drop that in here all casually?!) As mentioned a few weeks back, I really want to get back into the swing of blogging. To kick-start this resolution, I purchased a domain name and re-branded the space. I’ve been blogging since 2012, and it’s been a crazy ride (life, blogging, everything) with so many ups and downs I could never have predicted. But in these kooky past few years, two constants remain. I love Amsterdam with all of my heart. This city is a huge source of happiness in my life, and right now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. The second constant is my thirst for travel and adventure. Sure, I may call de Pijp home, but every corner of the globe I uncover becomes a permanent fixture in my heart, and writing about my travel adventures here, in this living, breathing storybook, is incredibly gratifying. So welcome to Amsterdam and Beyond, my space for life, love, food, friends, fuck-ups, laughter, learning, and everything in between. I’m going to continue making small tweaks to the site over the next few weeks, but expect things to get better, more epic, more personal, and more fun :) And please, comments and critiques are SO welcome!

Now, the second thing I want to tell you is slightly more scrumptious. And it’s BIG news. Ready?? A NEW HUMMUS RESTAURANT HAS OPENED ON MY STREET. Yes, I really did just shout that. Behold the chickpea and tahini glory:IMG_5788How often does a hummus restaurant open in Amsterdam? Um, like never. What are the chances of one opening up on my street? Pretty slim to none, I would say. However, de Pijp continues to be one of the coolest places in the entire world, so in addition to amazing Italian eateries, Javanese restaurants, and sushi spots, I now have a local hummus hang out. Welcome to Sir Hummus. Not only is their website adorable, but their restaurant is super cute too. Continue reading

Cookie Party

Note: Wrote this yesterday, forgot to hit publish! So . . . .

Merry (belated) Christmas blog friends!! I hope you’re all celebrating, eating, and enjoying the company of loved ones today. I’m currently sitting at the kitchen table in my parent’s house, drinking a Blue Moon and savoring the taste of home. Guests will be here any minute, and I’m surrounded by platters of Italian appetizers. But before I run away to change out of my slippers and put on my green suede heels, I wanted to share a few photos of an early Christmas celebration in Amsterdam. Last week I had a handful of awesome ladies over to decorate Christmas cookies.

IMG_4869Typically, I decorate Christmas cookies with my good friend Bex. But as Bex moved to San Fran at the end of the summer, I was shy a cookie partner in crime. So I invited friends from work and beyond over for an evening of mulled wine, sprinkles, frosting, and cookie fun-times.  Continue reading

5 Simple Tips For Making Sashimi

There are three reasons my posts have been scarce lately. One. Work has been hella busy. Two. I signed up to an unlimited month of Bikram yoga and have been going four times a week, leaving me incapacitated and way to yogi-zen to blog. Three. I started watching True Detective and have been slurping the series up like a sugar-sweet milkshake. I just can’t get enough!! I have one more episode to go and don’t know what I will do with my free time once I’m through. Perhaps go back to blogging I guess ;)

This past weekend (which feels so far away already) B was out of town. I missed him, but having the bed to myself for three whole nights kind of rocked. Other than being a shameless pillow hog, I had a total self-respect weekend. On Saturday morning I ran errands around the city. Instead of biking I walked, and as the morning went on the sun slowly burnt through the clouds. All of the trees are blooming in Holland, and lately the sun has been poking around until well past 8pm. So I think it’s safe to say it’s officially spring, and I’m loving every moment.IMG_6175 IMG_6187IMG_6205When my errands were done, I decided to continue the self-respect and try something a bit out of my comfort zone. I’ve lived on the Albert Cuyp Market for three years. And I LOVE seafood (see here and here). But I’ve never actually gotten around to buying fresh fish from the market, despite the many stalls pushing fresh seafood. It might sound silly, but as an American I’m intimidated by purchasing food that’s priced per kilo, as I didn’t grow up with the metric system. No thank you am I accidentally paying €35 for one piece of fish. I also don’t speak Dutch, and the fish market is usually quite crowded and loud, which can be somewhat overwhelming for a short (by Holland standards), non-Dutch speaking American.

But on Saturday I said screw it. I wanted a big plate of raw fish, and no way in hell was I chancing the stuff from the grocery store. So after running errands, I ventured to the market and pushed my way up to the smelly fish counter. I boldly asked for €8 worth of salmon and tuna. I told the fishmonger that I was making sushi, and he helped me pick out a few pieces that were especially fresh. The experience wasn’t half as bad as I had imagined – in fact it was quite pleasant – and I think my local fishmonger may have a new regular!IMG_6216I got home and was excited to unpack my bounty.IMG_6220I opened up the packaging, stomach growling.IMG_6224And then . . . I stopped. Because I didn’t know what to do. I’ve never prepared sushi at home, and despite just wanting a simple plate of sashimi, I didn’t know what to do next. Did I have to wash the fish? Was there a special way to cut it? Did I have to refrigerate it first? Would it be weird to eat it with a fork and knife as-is? Yes, it would. So I did the next best thing. I did some research.5 Simple Sashimi Tips

If you’re planning on making sashimi at home, here are the key things you need to know:

1) Make sure you tell the grocer or fishmonger you’re buying fish to make sushi. There’s no specific grade or standard for selling sushi-safe fish, so you’re going to have to be careful. Not all fish is created equal, and you’re going to want the freshest stuff they have. Ask for a recommendation. The fish should smell like a salty ocean (not dead fish) and should be moist, with bright skin and a firm flesh.

2) Once you’ve got your fish, you’re going to need a very, very sharp knife. You don’t want to have to saw back and fourth with your knife as you cut the fish – this will crush the cells. You want a very sharp knife that will cut straight through the fish in one firm slice. IMG_62293) When you’re ready to cut your fish, slice it into long strips that are about an inch wide. Now, cut your fish against the grain into ¼-inch thick slices. You should be left with an even pile of bite-sized sashimi. For taste and freshness, you’re going to want to serve your sashimi immediately after slicing. IMG_62314) The last step is serving. Pickled ginger, wasabi, soy sauce, and daikon radish are all great sashimi accompaniments. Garnish a plate with you favorites, and then lay down the sashimi. I made my own dressing with sesame oil, soy sauce, and wasabi, and served my sashimi with a big helping of ginger and some mango.

IMG_62445) Get creative! Once you’ve mastered the basics of sashimi making, you can then start to make some really delicious and unique dishes. Typically sashimi is served as a starter, but you could make it into a delicious tuna and seaweed salad, as seen here, or a sashimi-cucumber skewer, as seen here. Keep in mind that the fish flavors are so powerful, so you want to pair your sashimi with light fragrant fruits, vegetables, and grains that compliment the meal. IMG_6254Bon appetite!

Dinner at Marathonweg

I really, really dislike flying. When I was younger I was prone to anxiety. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better at taking a deep breath and finding balance in life. These days, the only time I get that I’m-crushed-I-can’t-breathe-I’m-going-to-die feeling is when I’m on a plane. Usually I squeeze B’s hand so tight, pumped up on drugs and adrenaline. But lately, I’ve been flying more and more for work. At least once a month. This means I can’t take my happy-flight pills because I have meetings. And I can’t squeeze B’s hand because I’m flying solo. So I’m dealing with it, but not in the best way. Every time I get in a plane I have to come to terms with death, which really sucks. I hate not being in control, and the thought of being tossed around in a helpless box way up in the sky with no power over my destiny is a panic-stricken thought. I hate that my mind goes there, I hate turbulence, I hate being scared. But I’m can’t help it, so I’m doing the next best thing – dealing with it. And the best method I’ve found to deal with this fear is via distraction. I read magazines, I snuggle deep into my coat hood, and I write blog posts. So the good part about flying is that I have some spare time where I can catch up with you. Because there’s no wifi or phone reception, I’m not expected to send work e-mails or take business calls. And so it really is a retreat from the real world. A death box sky retreat.

Anyways, now that you know a bit more about me and my biggest fear (which is very ironic for someone who is addicted to traveling!) let’s move on to the point of the post. Last weekend B’s friend Marshall was in town. B and Marshall went to university together. They’re lad friends who get up to mischief and reminisce about the good old days – before Marshall was a financial hotshot in London and B was a pot-smoking strategist in Amsterdam (I kid). Despite living a 45 minute plane ride away, Marshall has never been to visit us – and it’s been more than three years! But he made up for it by kindly taking us out to dinner, to congratulate us on our engagement, and I think also secretly get B drunk enough to rave with him until 5am. Boys will always be boys.

IMG_1773A Friend had recommended Marathonweg, saying ‘Ohh! They have really good sides!’ I’m a sucker for sides (and condiments!) so Marathonweg made it on the to-try list. After an online poke at the menu, we decided it was just the place to take an out-of-town guest – good wine, good food, and good atmosphere, for good company.

Upon arrival we were taken into a back room and seated at a large booth. At first I thought I might be the one with two dates. But after a while, it became clear B and Marshall were the lovers. They cuddled in the booth, split a meal, and went out together afterwards – so I guess I was the third wheel!!

IMG_1753Although the food (which I will get to momentarily) at Marathonweg was good, the atmosphere was even better. The room was illuminated by candlelight, the space was roomy and comfortable, and there were a lot of natural accents – wooden beams, tall plants, and fresh flowers. Just my kinda place.IMG_1772As I said, Marshall and B slid in on the same side of the booth. Two dates for me?IMG_1745Nope. Clearly these two are the ones on the date!IMG_1746IMG_1747Water was brought to the table in a cute Marathonweg branded carafe. IMG_1751And wine was brought to the table as well.IMG_1755Followed by a platter of fresh bread, with homemade butter, homemade aioli, and a tea pot filled with olive oil.IMG_1759We all got starters – I think B had a salad, Marshall had a meat platter . . .  and I had sardines! Served straight from the can with a few lemon wedges. Smeared on some fresh bread with a drizzle of olive oil, this was a fantastic starter. I often wonder why I don’t try to make such simple and delicious meals myself at home!
IMG_1760And then came our dinner.  B and Marshall ordered the steak for two – it was gargantuan piece of meat – the free range kind that is fed delicacies and massaged every day, before being brought to a humane death and aged gently for 30 days. I don’t know if I buy into the cow crap. ‘Ohh, this cow comes from this valley, and lives by this river and eats this diet.’ Sure, the cow’s heritage plays a small role in the taste, but it’s really about what you do with the meat that matters. How it’s cooked, stored, aged. Anyways, point of the story is that this cow was fan-frickin’-tastic. I don’t know what they did with it in the kitchen, but I must learn how to replicate this at home!
IMG_1766I had the much smaller pork belly from a Limburg abbey, served with pulled pork and potatoes.IMG_1770The whole meal was complimented with fries, green beans, and eggplant. Ahh, the delicious sides :)IMG_1768IMG_1756We cleared our plates and then moved on to coffee, and more wine. Between the three of us we had two bottles, so the cab ride home was giddy to say the least. The boys, fueled on the biggest steak known to man, then went out and danced until 5am. I had a slightly different evening and was in bed, sound asleep by midnight. I’m such a snooze sometimes!

If you’re interested in a meal at Marathonweg (which is currently one of my top five Amsterdam picks) you can find them here: Marathonweg 1-3-5 1076 SW Amsterdam. I recommend calling and making a reservation ahead of time: 020 370 3731.

PS. I have a contributor article on The Blog Wander this week, you can read and check it out here. It’s quite insightful if you’ve ever wondered how I met B, and what it’s like living abroad, being away from family.

xo Ali

Paris Part 1

I had another Radisson Blu post to share. It was cheerful, boozy, and delicious. But I’m hot off the train from Paris, and I want to tell you all about our Parisian fun while it’s still fresh in my memory. My feet are so sore and I’m quite surprised we managed to fit so much into two short days. I told you all about my big long Paris to do list. I really did not think we would manage to tick through half the list, but the blisters on my poor feet will tell you otherwise!

We got into Paris late on Friday night. We took the Thalys train down from Amsterdam. If you’re traveling to Paris from Amsterdam, the Thalys is the way to go. You don’t have to fuss with security or passports, and the ride is smooth and relaxing. The Thalys train travels at about 200mph, so it’s just over three hours from Amsterdam to Paris. If you book in advance, you can usually get a round trip for less than €100. Taking the train is cheaper than flying, and you don’t have to worry about arriving at the airport two hours early to clear security, queue up, packing light, etc. To pass time on the train we drank beer and played on B’s iPad, and we arrived at Gare du Nord like clockwork three hours later.

After an uneventful cab ride we came to our flat. We stayed in the 16th which is a lovely neighborhood, adorned with beautiful 19th century buildings, large avenues, and some stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. The staircase in our apartment was my favorite (left) but we didn’t dwell in the building for too long. We literally dropped our bags, had a quick wardrobe change, and then popped downstairs to catch another cab.
Paris1Funny story – when we walked downstairs, we headed to the street and threw our hands in the air wildly, in attempt to hail a cab (you have to remember, we’re Amsterdam biking natives). After a minute or two of looking silly (and at least four available taxis passing us by), a cab driver finally pulled over –  only to point out that there was a taxi stand RIGHT next to us. Embarrassing! We had a blushing stroll to said taxi stand . . . .

IMG_0903From the back of our cab we had some gorgeous views of the Eiffel Tower. At this point I think my mouth was plastered into a big Paris smile – excited and ready for the adventure to begin, despite the late hour. Although this wasn’t B’s first choice for a weekend city trip (he’s lived in Paris so it’s a bit ‘eh’ for him) I think he had the big smile on at this point too :)IMG_0946Our selected dinner spot was Au Pied de Cochon – a round the clock French pig joint.IMG_0944Au Pied de Cochon are open 24 hours a day, so you can get a big plate of fries and a pig leg at 3am. Our reservation was a bit more modest and and fell at 10.30pm. Despite the somewhat unconventional dinner hour, the place was packed and we were glad we’d made a reservation.IMG_0941Everywhere you looked were little pigs, big pigs, pig cartoons, and pig statues. Paris3IMG_0936IMG_0908 IMG_0910We went super French and started with snails. I’m a big fan of snails, but I’m an even bigger fan of melted butter and french baguette. Luckily, all of the best snails are swimming with fresh herbs, garlic, and butter. So you start with a warm, garlic bite of snail, and then sop up the remaining butter with baguette. Bon Appétit!IMG_0915 IMG_0918Our mains were also very French-classic. I went for duck breast . . . IMG_0919. . . and B went for ‘St. Anthony’s Temptation’ . . .IMG_0920. . . a breaded pig’s tail, ear, snout, and trotter – the famous, (and some would say) delicious Au Pied de Cochon special. I really wanted to like this dish. Hell, I had snails for my first course! But every bite just tasted like farm wax. B on the other hand loved the pig and scarfed it down in seconds. Despite not loving the pork, it was served with the BEST béarnaise sauce I’ve ever tasted. I was literally dipping fry after fry into this sauce, and the waiter had to bring us a second basket of bread because I used the first as a dipping vehicle. (I just googled the ingredients and am shocked to find it’s all butter and egg yolk, and I’m pretty sure I ate at least half a cup!)

Anyways, I still had my big Paris smile on when I went to the bathroom, and just thought everything looked so lovely, from the faucet knobs. . . . IMG_0927 . . . to the door handles . . . which were little pig feet!Paris2After eating six snails, a duck breast, a pig ear, tail, snout, and leg (doesn’t that all sound so disgusting when lumped together?!) we hit the streets for a long walk home. IMG_0976It was 1am and all the roads were deserted. IMG_0980No one was at the Louvre. There were no tourists snapping photos at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.IMG_0959Except me.IMG_0971If you’ve never explored Paris after midnight, you’re missing out. It might not be as fun as a Woody Allen movie, but it’s peaceful and romantic.IMG_0983And really, really pretty.output_GqcSCvOn that note, it’s been a few late ones so I’m going to hit the hay. More Paris adventures to come!

xo Ali

Muhallabieh

On Monday I told you about two of my favorite cookbooks – I rely on Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain and Jerusalem by Ottolenghi on a weekly basis. Both of these books focus on a specific regional cuisine, and boast of rich photography and hearty flavours. Earlier this week I posted one of my favorite recipes from Jamie (Scottish shortbread), and today, I wanted to share one of my all time favorite Ottolenghi dishes – Coconut & Pistachio Muhallabieh.IMG_9997 copyAlthough I’m sharing a sweet dish, I don’t want to imply that Jerusalem is a confectionary cook book. While there are a few sweet dishes here and there, it’s Ottolenghi’s warm and savoury dishes that really shine. However, most of these savoury dinner recipes call for twenty to thirty ingredients! They’re beautiful, but they take a lot of time and love to cook. I like this Muhallabieh recipe because it’s one of the shorter recipes in the book. It only calls for a few major ingredients, most of which are in your cabinet already, and you can whip the pudding up in five minutes flat.

For the pudding you will need 50g of cornflour, 500 ml full fat milk (however I used semi skimmed and it came out fine – I just skimped on the water a bit), 200ml water, and 80g castor sugar.

Pudding IngredientsStart by whisking together the cornflour with 100ml of the milk to make a smooth paste. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining milk, water, and sugar. Bring to heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the cornflour paste. Keep the saucepan gently heated and continually stir the pudding as it warms. Once small bubbles start to appear and the mixture is thick, remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the contents into 4-6 small bowls or cups. Cover the top of each pudding with cling film to prevent a skin from forming (the cling film should touch the top of the pudding). Let chill for a minimum of three hours.

I have to admit, I ate a good third of the pudding while it was still warm. It was a sweet and sugary delight, a warm pudding, ideal on a frosty day. The thought of putting this warm treat in the fridge to chill did not bode well on such a nippy day, but alas, I wanted to follow the recipe as instructed. So in the fridge (actually, on the balcony) these pudding cups went. And it was time to make the topping.

IMG_0024This is where I veered from Ottolenghi’s recipe slightly. Instead of making a syrup of bay leaf, vanilla pod, and rose petals, I simply chopped up some pistachios and coconut, and used a bay leaf as a garnish.IMG_0029Once the pudding had cooled, I placed a bay leaf in each cup.IMG_0033And then added a sprinkle of pistachio and coconut to the top of each pudding.IMG_0051Next, I took a billion photos. I love the color purple in the winter (see these beautiful eggplant photos) and I especially appreciated how the green/purple of the pistachios popped against the white of the pudding and the light dusting of coconut.IMG_0076IMG_0037IMG_0071IMG_0055IMG_0046I had to hold out on sampling the finished product, as these beauties were made to take to a friend’s for afternoon tea. Once there, everyone agreed that they were unique and delicious, and equally beautiful!

v v And for your pinning :)Muhallabieh


Enjoy my sweets!

xo Ali