Sleepless nights for a lot of Dutch children this week! Will Sinterklaas arrive savely in the Netherlands? Every year it’s a matter of anxiously waiting, will he come sailing in on his “present boat” again this Saturday? Lets hope he will! Celebrate his arrival with this delicious and healthy “Sinterklaas” trail mix with home-made healthy “pepernoten”.
Sinterklaas has always been my favourite holiday. It’s not just about the actual celebration day, though! More important and way more fun are the weeks leading up to the festive night. It starts three weeks in advance, when Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands from his summer residence in Spain. I love to watch the arrival, for there is such a festive and merry atmosphere everywhere in town on that day. As a child, but even now, I hardly ever miss watching Sinterklaas arrive. There is always a bit of suspense whether he will make it again this year or not. But when he does, there is music and “pepernoten” (typical small cookies) all around.
A shoe full of goodies
As all children do during the weeks between the arrival and the 5th of December, when I was younger, I faithfully placed a shoe near the fire place every Saturday. Together with my mum and dad, I used to sing a couple of songs and fill my shoe with some snacks for the horse, most of the time hay and a carrot. Then, long after bed-time, Black Peter would come around to bring small presents to every child that had set its shoe and take the snacks to the horse. The next morning, I always woke up very early and sneaked downstairs to find my shoe and the treasures it might contain.
5th of December
When finally the 5th of December comes around, it’s time to celebrate the birthday of the holy st. Nicolas (Sinterklaas). On that event, his helper, Black Peter, drops off a big bag full of presents at every house. When I was younger, I always made a wish-list well in advance, so that Sinterklaas would have enough time to buy those things. Although I have to admit he could have guessed what I would ask after my list had started with “1. a horse 2. a pony 3. a care pony” for three consecutive years. Although nowadays the focus has shifted more to the poems that go along with the presents, I still celebrate Sinterklaas with my parents, as well as with some friends. Such an evening of Sinterklaas celebrations is always a guarantee for a lovely night!
So, that was a very short recap of what Sinterklaas is all about. I hope it has made it a little bit clearer for those of you living outside the Netherlands. If not, feel free to ask! I love talking about my favourite holiday!
A healthy Alternative for all Those Sweets
As for the food, usually there are a lot of sweet snacks involved in Sinterklaas traditions. Since I stopped eating refined sugar, a lot of those delicacies have fallen away. But here is a healthy option I came up with. I hope you like it!
Recipe: Sinterklaas Trail Mix with Healthy Pepernoten
- A batch of home-made healthy pepernoten (see recipe below)
- A handful of cranberries
- A handful of almonds
- Some dark chocolate chips (I subbed with raw cocoa nibs in my mix)
- Mix everything together.
Note: you can adjust the ratios of ingredients. If you feel like adding more of a something, please do so!
Home-Made Healthy Pepernoten
- 100 grams of whole grain flour
- ½ tablespoon of “speculaaskruiden” or apple pie spice
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
- A pinch of salt
- 20 grams of maple syrup (see notes)
- 4 tablespoons milk of choice
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Preheat your oven to 175° C (convection).
- Mix all of the dry ingredients together.
- Add maple syrup and oil, stir.
- Add about three tablespoons of milk. Mix a bit with a spoon, then go on mixing with your hands.
- You want to end up with a ball of slightly sticky dough, if you think it is still too dry, add some more milk. (Be careful, a little bit can make a lot of difference!)
- Form small balls of dough and place them on a baking tray.
- Bake for about fifteen to twenty minutes (depending on the size of your pepernoten).
- Remove from oven and let cool. (They might be a bit soft when they are just out of the oven, but they will get crispier after cooling.)
Note: I’m not quite sure how many pepernoten this batch will make. Some dough disappeared quite mysteriously in the process…
Note 2: Mandy from the blog Mandysharon tried using honey instead of maple syrup and found out that also works perfectly!
Do you know the traditions of Sinterklaas? What is your favourite part of the festivities?