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The Netherlands

European Dinner Parties for The Netherlands


Welcome to Caroline Nijenberg's Dutch Dinner

Caroline NijenbergDutch meals often include meat, potatoes and fresh vegetables. In winter, when it's cold, "stampots" are popular. They are mashed potatoes and vegetables mixed together for a hearty meal. See "stampot boerenkool" in the Dutch menu.

Caroline went to live in The Netherlands for a year before she married her Dutch husband who was still working in New York. She lived in a room in an apartment in Buitenveldert, a suburb of Amsterdam. At that time it was the common thing for single people to do.

During that first year, Wim's mother taught her Dutch and gave her many “tried and true” Dutch recipes she had used for years. His sister took her under her wing and taught her about the Dutch customs and traditions. Some things were very different for this young girl who had just spent 8 years living in her own apartment in Manhattan, USA!

Because The Netherlands (often called Holland) is known for its flowers, Caroline also got "plant mania" during her five year stay. Just like many Dutch people have, inside her house in Lexington you can find over 50 plants. This love of plants also brought her to the Lexington Field & Garden Club. Presently she's second Vice-President of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts. Now living in Lexington with her Dutch husband she still treasures Dutch food and flowers. For more details of Caroline's experience as an expat living see the Netherlands Learning Experience below.

And talking about flowers what famous Dutch person said "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process." See the Dutch Learning Experience listed below.
Smakelijk Eten:
Caroline Nijenberg's Dutch Winter menu
Groentesoep met balletjes - vegetable soup with ground meatballs
Stampot boerenkool met worst - curly kale with sausage
Vanilie vla - Dutch vanilla custard

(download printer-friendly recipes and nutrition tips)

Ingredients and cooking tips
Appetizer: Bitterballen anytime with drinks (or ‘borrels’ in Dutch)

bitterballenBitterballen are not “bitter”. The name comes from “gin and bitters.” They are often eaten with Dutch gin, beers or other drinks in cafés, bars and at home.


One cup thick white sauce*
Two cups chopped cooked meat – beef, veal or ham
One tablespoon minced parsley
Pepper, salt, Worcester sauce, cooking oil, mustard
One egg
Fine dry bread crumbs
Cooking oil

Mix sauce, meat, and parsley. Add pepper, salt and Worcester sauce to taste. Chill.
Shape into balls and roll in bread crumbs. Allow to dry for two hours in refrigerator.
Mix egg with 2 tablespoons of water
Dip balls in egg and again in bread crumbs.
Cook in hot deep fat (400 F) for 1 to 2 minutes
Serve piping hot on a toothpick with mustard

* To make the white sauce yourself:
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add cream and simmer for 5 minutes, then add garlic and cheese and whisk quickly, heating through. Stir in parsley and serve.

Soup: Groentesoep met balletjes – vegetable soup with small meat balls (serves 6-8)

Groentesoep (vegetable soup with meat balls)Soup ingredients:

3 cups diced fresh vegetables – leeks, carrots, beans, peas, parsley, celery (no tomatoes)
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rice

Sauté the vegetables lightly in butter and add 6 cups of water, the salt and rice
Cook until they are done.
Add the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 10 minutes

Beef meat balls ingredients:

2 slices of white bread without crusts, soaked in very little milk
1/2 pound of ground fresh beef
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Mix all ingredients well and roll into small balls.

Stampot Boerenkool met worst - curly kale with smoked sausages (serves 4)

stampot boerenkool met worst (curly kale with smoked sausages)Not fancy but this easy to make dish is a great meal in cold weather like right now in New England. “Stampot” means that vegetables and potatoes are mashed to a smooth consistency. Can also be mixed with sweet apples, sauerkraut, endive or carrots with onions. Served with gravy.

3 pounds curly kale, washed and cut up very finely
3 pounds of potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup of milk
Salt and pepper to taste
One smoked sausage
4 tablespoons fat, butter or margarine

Cook the kale in a little boiling water with salt for about 40 minutes, then drain well.
Add potatoes and sausage and enough water to prevent burning for 30 minutes over medium heat
Remove the sausage and drain the kale
Mash the remainder well and stir in the milk and butter until smooth.
Season to taste with pepper. Serve with the sausage on top.

Vanilie vla – Dutch vanilla custard (serves 4)

vla (Dutch vanilla custard)A very common type of dessert in the Netherlands. Although a close resemblance to English custard, it is thickened not only with eggs but also with cornstarch. Can also be mixed with chocolate or coffee powder.


Two cups of milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1/3 cup of cornstarch
1/4 cup of sugar
2 large egg yolks

Bring 1 2/3 cups of milk and vanilla bean to a boil. Simmer gently over a low heat for a few minutes.
Mix the cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl, add the egg yolks and sir until very smooth.
Stir in the remaining milk and strain into a clean bowl.
Bring the vanilla-flavored milk back to boil and remove the pan from the heat.
Stir the cornstarch mixture into the pan and return to a very low heat.
Cook stirring for 3 minutes.
Remove and discard the vanilla bean.
Cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool.
Use a hand-held mixer and beat the mixture with cold milk to create the required consistency - a cross between a sauce and a dessert. Chill before serving.

vla on grocery store shelvesNote:
In the Netherlands commercially made “vlas” in many different flavors are now available in grocery stores (see picture below) My husband still misses this dessert very much!

Smakelijk Eten!



For more Dutch recipes visit Nicole Holten's The Dutch Table at http://the

Wine and Food pairing suggestions for the Dutch menu by Jack Korpi of Berman's Fines Wines

Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
Chateau de Fontenille White Bordeaux
Antonelli Grechetto (Umbria)

Groentensoep met balletjes

Alphonse Dolly Pinot Noir (Loire)
Les Roches Bleues Cote de Brouilly (Cru Beaujolais)
Stefano Accordini Valpolicella Classico

Stampot Boerenkool met worst

L'Ameillaud Vin de Pays de Vaucluse
Sainte Desirat Syrah
Chateau Sainte Eulalie Minervois

Dutch Vanilla Custard

Domaine J. Laurens Blanquette de Limoux (sparkling)
Marcel Hugg Gewurtztraminer


Tips for your friends with dietary restrictions by Shari Solomon, certified nutritionist and owner of Cocoa Plum Nutrition in West Concord and Arlington, MA.

(download printer-friendly recipes and nutrition tips)

Ahh the Dutch meal.  The appetizer, soup, entree and dessert all look delicious.  

There are only a couple alternatives and/or suggestions I would make.  If you are watching your saturated fat intake then replace the beef, veal, pork products with turkey or chicken.  Ground beef usually comes in a leaner version up to 90% lean. Perhaps just half turkey and half your choice. You may find turkey meatballs and sausages are lighter on the stomach.  

The amount of salt in this meal can be reduced by using low-salt sausages and eliminating salt from the recipes.  Or just cut the amount used in half.  Although parmesan cheese does not come in a low-salt version different brands have different amount of sodium.  Check the nutrition labels, always a good habit to have. Supposedly, fresh grated parmesan has less salt then the pre-grated kind.

For those of you watching your weight watch your intake of carbs. The breadcrumbs and bread found in the meatballs are small so the only place to watch is the amount of potatoes scooped into your bowl from the Stampot.  Let the amount of potatoes equal a small baking potato or you can think of it as no larger than a tennis ball.  

And of course, for those of you watching your fat intake or weight then a slight taste or two of the dessert or if filled up enough by then know it is okay to just skip the dessert. Enjoy!

The Netherlands Learning Experience and Travel Information
The Netherlands Learning Experience

The goal is to give you a better idea of the country and its citizens. Some items are listed on this page. Direct links offer more information. It's educational and fun.

Caroline experiences as an expat in the Netherlands

The Dutch are very punctual and programmed. Dinner was at 6 PM. It started with soup, then progressed to the main dish of meat, boiled potatoes, two fresh vegetables, and usually applesauce. Dessert often was a vla, a Dutch sort of custard with fruit and sometimes laced with rum. (See menu above)

At that time (35 years ago) Dutch gatherings were different from American “get togethers” or cocktail parties. They were called “visites.” All the guests sat in a circle so there was generally one all-inclusive conversation. Naturally, the gatherings were usually small.

Birthdays are very important. Family members are expected to attend and it is not uncommon to turn down a nice invitation from someone because you must attend a “visite” for an aunt or other member of your extended family.

These “visites” started with a cup of coffee or tea and a “gebakje” (Dutch tart or pie) usually with “slagroom” (whipped cream). After a second coffee is offered it's time for a “glaasje” - usually gin, wine, sherry or non-alcoholic beverage accompanied by small “bitterballen” (see menu above.)

“Visites” are usually held after the regular dinner meal. There are special little individual bowls for the peanuts (with the drinks) and small individual tart plates with small forks for the pastry.

Nowadays often the Dutch buy their “gebakjes” and fancy pastries from a “banket bakker” and their fresh breads and rolls from the “warme bakker.”

Many Dutch foods were cooked on top of the stove, not in an oven. Roasting was done in heavy stove top pans with lids. The term “Dutch oven” comes from here. Ovens were used for baking breads, pies and tarts.

This was Dutch life in the 1970's. With the advent of TV and Internet, the Netherlands has become far more international and many of theses things have been replaced by traditions from other countries. But you can still find the former ways if you visit someone in the smaller towns and villages in the countryside.

Quotes from famous Dutch people

The quote "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process" is from the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh whose "Irises" painting (link) sold in 1987 for almost $54 million. Van Gogh painted it while living at the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It's now at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Other Vincent van Gogh quotes:

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?

Famous Dutch proverbs and expressions

Na regen komt de zonneschijn - after rain the sun will shine (Every cloud has a silver lining)

Hoge bomen vangen veel wind - high trees catch a lot of wind (Important people attract a lot of attention)

Nou breekt mijn klomp - that breaks my wooden shoe. (Well I'll be darned)

For more dutch proverbs with English translations and meanings visit:

Famous Dutch people

Most of you have heard about Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt and undoubtedly Vermeer (The Girl with the Pearl Earring). But what about others that were born in Holland or were of Dutch Ancestry…including three US presidents.

Dutch Folktales for children…and maybe adults as well

You probably know the story about Hans Brinkers and the Silver skates or the boy "who put his finger in the Dike!" written by an American author. (Although there are now several "finger in the dike" statues in Holland.)

The story about Sinterklaas (Santa Klaas) and Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is more important to all Dutch children. Read the story here.

What happens on the 5th of December?
It's the country's best loved custom. People give each other presents instead of at Christmas.
Click link:

Here are more typical Dutch stories

Customs and Traditions in Holland

Like any country the Netherlands also has it own customs and traditions - click here for some that may help you understand the Dutch better.

The Culture of Holland

We mentioned already several well-known Dutch painters, however, the country is also known for many others types of cultural actives. Music lovers undoubtedly have heard about the famous Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Dance enthusiasts have probably seen the Netherlands Dans Theatre (click links.)

For all details click - at the end of the page click for the full article.

Facts about the Netherlands

For most people the Netherlands is called Holland, however, for the Dutch who are not from the two major provinces (North Holland with Amsterdam and South Holland with The Hague and Rotterdam) the name is Nederland or "low country". Read more interesting facts about this small but very populated country at

The Netherlands Travel Information

For the Netherlands travel pages in the European Travel Resource Center click

In 2012 we designed a 10-day trip through the Netherlands for 10 couples who wanted to have a relaxing overall tour of The Netherlands, not just the larger cities.

Here are pictures of the highlights. Note that several links go to "Google Images" about the subject, probably showing a lot more pictures than you might want to see. However, it gives you a good idea of a trip through The Netherlands. Have a great trip, too! (Click the direct links or cut+paste them in your browser)

Aalsmeer Flower Auction - close to Amsterdam.

The world's largest flower auction is close to the airport. Flower and plants sold in the morning will be on their way to you in the afternoon.

Note that springtime (April / May) is high season for tourism because of all the flowers, especially tulips, hyacinths and daffodils.

Delft, city known for the Vermeer's paintings, with a visit to a Delft Blue Pottery visit.

Google images:

Dordrecht for lunch at the Villa Augustus Hotel (in a former water tower) in the middle of a vegetable garden. (Several participants were gardeners) Click slideshow.

The Floriade World Flower Show - only every 10 years. You'll have to wait until 2022.

Google images from 2012.

Asparagus and Mushrooms Museum in an old Dutch Farmhouse near Venlo (where the Floriade was in 2012.) White asparagus are very popular.

Royal Castle Het Loo in Apeldoorn with spectacular gardens.

Google images:

The Hoge Veluwe National Park for bike riding and Kröller Müller Museum with the second largest Van Gogh paintings (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam - see below)

Google images:

Kröller Müller Museum and sculpture garden

Driving through the polders (reclaimed land from the sea) - 1/5 of The Netherlands is below the sea level

Google images:

Interesting YouTube video -

Mien Ruys Gardens, a little off the beaten path in the province of Overijssel, but very interesting for gardeners.

Google images:

Giethoorn…a small village with no streets, only canals. Enjoy a relaxing boat ride.

Google images:

The Big Dike (Enclosing Dam.) It's 19 miles long and connects two provinces. On one side is the North Sea. The other side the IJsselmeer (Lake IJssel)

Google images:

Medemblik - A pleasant Dutch town…nice for walking and popular with sailors.

Google images:

Hoorn…Caroline's (the Dutch menu designer) favorite town in The Netherlands

Google images:

A working water windmill in Schermerhorn, north of Amsterdam. Many climbed to the top. Watch the YouTube video and experience it yourself.

In Amsterdam

Boat ride through the canals (try not to miss it) - many options
Google images:

Vincent van Gogh Museum

Google images:

Rijksmuseum (click English)

Google images:

Anne Frank House

When in Holland try to eat...

Dutch Pancakes
They are much bigger and thinner than in the USA. They are available in every town town…served with apples, fruit, ginger, syrup or many other toppings. Click menu and scroll down for all your options.

Google images:

An Indonesian Rijsttafel dinner
Indonesia was connected to The Netherlands for many years. Note: If you feel a complete rijsttafel dinner is too much…order a simple Bami Rames dish. It's like a small rijsttafel. (Most popular drink with Indonesian food is beer, of course!)

Google images:


Next month...Let's eat Spanish!