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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Padlizsánkrém a.k.a. Hungarian Eggplant Spread Recipe

Padlizsánkrém, a.k.a. Hungarian eggplant spread.
This stuff is delicious! For me, it conjures up all kinds of nostalgic feelings, as my Hungarian adopted grandma made this all the time. It always felt very "grownup" to eat it, and I've loved it ever since.

Every Hungarian housewife has their own version of the stuff, and there are even differences between regions. The three ingredients everyone agrees on are eggplant onion and salt. I searched the internet, asked my mom, and then Dan and I came up with a hard-to-beat recipe.  

Dan recently found a local farm that delivers fresh produce. We were eager to try it and see what our first crate comprised of. We were excited to see three eggplants - one most-commonly-known purple one, one white one, and one gorgeous fairytale one.

I mean, look at that!!!

Anyway, we decided to attempt our very first batch of padlizsánkrém/Hungarian eggplant spread. It turned out perfectly, so I'd love to share the recipe with you!

3 eggplants
1 small red onion
salt to taste (we used 4 pinches)
pepper to taste (about 1 tsp)
1 tsp smoked paprika (because Dan doesn't think a Hungarian dish can be made without it)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I read one recipe that used sour cream, but I think I've always had it with mayo. I'd love to hear how it turns out using sour cream if you try it!)
3-4 tsp lemon juice


1. Grill eggplants until all the skin is black and blistery. (If you don't have a grill, you can bake them at 180 C/350 F for 45-50 minutes.) We really liked the grilled, smokey flavor that doing it this way gave.

2. Place eggplants in a plastic bag and allow to sweat for 10-15 minutes.

3. Peel off the black "crusted" outside (careful, they're hot!), cut off the prickly green stem and leaves, but keep everything else - seeds and all. (Fair warning, it's a pretty weird texture.)

4. Use a blending wand or food processor to blend it up to the desired consistency. You can leave it chunky for a more "rustic" feel, or make it as creamy as you'd like. 

5. Finely mince (or blend up in a food processor) the onion.

6. Add onion, seasonings, mayonnaise and lemon juice to the eggplant. Taste, and see if it needs anything else. (Some recipes called for garlic, but honestly, I think it would take away from the eggplant's flavor.)

7. Place in a container, and chill for a few hours.

8. Serve with bread/toast, bagel bites, tortilla chips, etc.

- This amount filled this large jam-type jar, plus another baby food sized jar that we gave to our neighbors.
- Should keep in the fridge for about 5 days.
- Use as a dip at a party (like you would hummus or a spinach artichoke dip), or a spread on an open-faced sandwich.
- Although I did not try it, my mom said that if you make a bigger batch, you can freeze the eggplant, and then add all the other stuff to it when you're ready to eat/serve it.
- This spread is vegetarian, but you could easily make it vegan by using vegenaise instead of mayonnaise.

We added our delicious padlizsánkrém/eggplant spread to that evening's "European" style dinner. We cut up some yummy crusty bread, put out different cold cuts and lunch meats, cheeses, nuts, veggies, and fruit. Our son loves getting to "make his own sandwich", and we love all the delicious options!

Soooo scrumptious! It's a perfect way to celebrate eggplants and those couple weeks between summer and fall. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Honeybee Themed 1st Birthday Party

This past weekend we celebrated our littlest cutie's 1st "bee day"! I love planning any kind of party, especially one with a fun theme. For Aidan's birthday we went with "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", so I kind of wanted to go with another Eric Carle book for Jocie's party. I found one of his books called "The Honeybee and the Robber", and it was so cute! Slovenia is really into beekeeping, so it just seemed like the perfect choice.

Here are some snapshots from the sweet day:

Danish Lagkage - I decorated the cake with peaches, nectarines, apricots, mangoes and blueberries. Then I added a few fondant flowers and candy bees. I made the cake in a smaller pan, so it made 4 layers. I used a round cookie cutter to cut out three smaller circles and made Jocie a mini version of the cake. It worked out perfectly!
Sugar Cookies - I bought cookie cutters from Ann Clark. I used the beehive one for the cookies. I decorated them with royal icing, candy bees and flowers. If you plan on making these, I suggest watching a tutorial on youtube, it was a big help.
- Sandwiches - My mom helped by using a hexagon shaped cutter to cut out sandwiches. Then my dad cut bees out of bell peppers. It looked so adorable!
- Melon Flowers - We cut flowers out of melons, put them on kebab sticks, and topped them with blueberries. So cute!
- Oreos - my parents brought back these Oreos from the States that have yellow filling.
- Cereal - we had some flower shaped cereal (Honeycombs would work well too). Perfect for a party for babies!
- Food pouches - another great addition for a baby party!
- Lemonade - we added some of the cut up fruit left over from the cake to it.

Decor/Other stuff :):
- We used sunflowers and craspedia (billy balls) for flowers.
- We found the bee lights at IKEA.
- The banner is from Amazon.
- Jocie's super cute dress from her grandparents is from Mini Mioche.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

When the Cracks Start To Show

I can see this building from my apartment. It's a pretty nondescript building. On most days it just kind of blends in with the surroundings - apartment buildings on one side, a church and cemetery on the other.

But then it rains.

The building becomes patchy, showing all the different, half-thought-through paint jobs. Places where it's maybe had a little work done, places it still needs some, and places where water is clearly seeping in through the walls. 

The building is a mess.

But you wouldn't know it on a sunny day. Rain brings out the building's true character. The rain isn't what caused the (initial) damage. It was there all along - the rain only made it more visible... and caused more destruction.

When life's rainstorms come - that is when who we really are comes to the front. It's easy to look happy and content when the sun is out and the birds are singing. It's easy to be creative at work when everything is great at home. It's easy to stay patient with the kiddos when no one is sick, everyone is getting full nights of sleep, and money isn't a concern. It's easy to go about your day when you're healthy and happy. It's easy to be involved in people's lives around you when you feel fulfilled in your personal life. It's easy to act okay (even if you're not) when - to those around us - everything seems to be going well.

But when things aren't going our way, or tragedy strikes - that's when who we really are on the inside comes to the forefront. It's easy to botch a project at work when you and your spouse are arguing. It's easy to snap and yell at your kids when you're sleep deprived, the kids have the flu, and you just got a credit card bill in the mail. It's easy to get discouraged when you're overwhelmed and exhausted. It's easy to shut people out of your life when it feels like too much of an effort. 

The cracks... they start to show when the rain begins to fall. 

So what do we do? Because the rain is going to come, whether we like it or not. Do we find a giant umbrella? Do we cover ourselves up in scaffolding? Do we hang a "condemned" sign out on the front door?

No. We put the work in to fix the cracks. We use the time when it's not raining to fill in any gaps, rebuild walls, hire professionals if we don't know how to do it ourselves (go see a doctor, talk to a therapist, take a class, join a gym, get your nails done), fix any leaks, and admit that you're "under construction".

 We all have things in our lives that make the "rainy season" hard. That may be anxiety, a heath concern, friction at work, stress at home, or financial troubles; and if we don't deal with these things, they begin to define our character. They leech into how we feel about ourselves, how we treat others, how we relate to God and the world around us.

Thankfully, the answers don't lie within ourselves.  Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Psalm 46:1-3 says, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." 
Contrary to common misconception, nowhere in the Bible does it say "God won't give you more than you can handle." There are plenty of times where God gives us more than we can handle. In fact, we are supposed to get to a point where we realize that we can't handle it. We were never meant to handle it. We were meant to give it over to God. God is the one who is there to carry those things that just feel to heavy and like they are going to crack our foundation. That is why we are called to build our "house"/our lives, on the rock.

Matthew 7 tells us the story of two men; one wise man who built his house on the rock, the other a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. When the rains and floods came, the one that was built on the rock stood firm, while the one built on the sand collapsed. We are called to be like the wise man, with his foundation on the rock. It is not because of the builder that the house didn't fall, it was because of the strong foundation - Christ.

We are living in a very self-satisfying and self-centered society. There are "Christian" self-help books that barely mention God, let alone leaning on Him rather than our own understanding (girl, your face is washed, move on). If we build all of our hopes and dreams on ourselves... who is there to turn to when the cracks start to form, and it all starts to fall apart?

We all have cracks, bruises and stains. But unless we deal with them, they become real problems that eventual shape and form our character. 

There is a loving and gentle God, who doesn't look at your imperfections as justification to bulldoze you. He takes the hurt and overwhelming feelings, uses them as part of your story, and helps you to become whole again. So, when the cracks start to show, and you can smell the rain in the air, know that you are not alone.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Momming On the Edge...

... of sanity, that is!

Dan has traveled a lot this summer. Like, a lot a lot.
Which leaves me home alone with the kids. Alone. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. It wouldn't be so bad, except our youngest is kind of a handful, especially in the late afternoons and evenings - which happens to be the same time our oldest is also home. (He's at his kindergarten's summer program during the day.) She still isn't consistently sleeping through the night (although it's much better than it was). She cries a lot. She's really needy. And then there's the 5-year-old, who is great, but also... you know, a 5-year-old. There are meals to prepare, clothes to wash, the apartment to clean, kids to keep alive, all while not completely losing it. There are bodily fluids and smeared snacks all over the place it seems. There's crying - and not just from the kids. There are missed showers and crack-mom ponytails. 
My parents are not nearby this summer, and all of my friends here are also mommies of small kids, and facing the same struggles I am.

This has left me feeling pretty lonely and overwhelmed at times this summer. 
And yet, we're surviving.

So, here are my 5 "Momming on The Edge" tips, if you find yourself in a similar situation.

1. Multi-tasking
When my 11 month-old has made a complete mess of herself and the highchair, I stick them both in the shower. Together. I hose down the highchair, plop her out, bathe her, badda-bing, badda-boom, they're both clean. She gets a kick out of it, it's quicker than getting out her baby bath, and the high chair is ready for the next day, too. I'm calling this a win!

2. Easy Meals
I cook. I cook well. My husband cooks better, and does most of the cooking. So when he is out of town, I try to make it as easy on myself as possible. Here are some of my go-to meals, feel free to steal them - 1) spaghetti (enough for leftovers), 2) thicken up some of the remaining sauce (that's in the jar, not made into Bolognese) with some tomato paste, buy toppings and cheese and a pre-made pizza dough - pizza night!!! 3) boneless/skinless chicken breasts and a Patak's simmer sauce - butter or peanut chicken! 4) My kid prefers raw veggies to cooked - score!!! Wash, chop, serve, done! 5) Hot dogs. Done and done. 6) since my son gets a multi-course, nutritional meal at kindergarten, some nights we just have sandwiches - and you know what? He loves it. No need to make it harder than it needs to be.

3. Go Out Or Stay In
Whichever is easier. Don't feel pressure to do something every day, unless that's what you want to do, and it's easier for you. For us, some days it's easier to head into the center, and let the baby take a nap in the stroller, and hope I can get a hot coffee in before she wakes up. Other days I binge watch on Netflix. It's called balance, and I'm here for it.

4. It's Okay To Admit Defeat
One of the Saturdays I was alone, I headed into the city center with the kids. I had grand ideas for the day that included a playground, fun lunch, and adorable "I can do this" selfies. Jocie wouldn't fall asleep as I planned, but I sat down at a cafe for a coffee anyway. Aidan was on a fish statue/jungle gym thingy right next to me. Jocie was screaming at me for a snack, and Aidan was asking if he could have an ice cream, and I was so overwhelmed, I knocked my coffee into my lap, after only getting one sip. (see first picture) I let Aidan get his ice cream, paid for everything, got up, and scrapped the plans I had for the rest of the day. I looked at Aidan and said, "I am wet, uncomfortable and embarrassed. We're gonna head home now." So, we bought sandwiches, went home, changed into jammies (it was like 11 am), watched TV and called it a day. But the kids were alive, they were fed, and actually pretty excited to just hang out at home. So... yeah. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat, and be okay with it.

5. Loosen Up With the Rules
We're kind of sticklers about bedtime. But when it's just me, and I'm trying to get the baby to sleep, I'm not getting hung up on what time Aidan goes to bed. It's never later than 8:30 anyway, and it's summer, so... I'm giving myself a break on that one. He wants a snack, even though he just ate? Fine, whatever, here's some pop corn. Jocie doesn't want to lay down long enough for a diaper change AND clothes? Fine, chill in a diaper. It's hot anyway. You want a donut after school? You promise not to whine about taking a shower if I get you one? Super, the donut's all yours.

This obviously does not reflect our normal, everyday routine. But, in an effort to all be alive and well when Dan gets home, these are some of the coping skills we've picked up.

The point is, if you're at a place in your life where getting by and surviving equals winning, stop beating yourself up about it. Today, after we got Aidan a donut after school, he said "this is the best day ever"! It's clearly not "the best day ever", but to his mind it is, because mommy was happy, and he had icing dripping off his fingers.

So, if you find yourself "momming on the edge" today, know you're not alone, and this too shall pass.

Friday, August 9, 2019

6 New Book Lover's Favorites

Our family loves books.

It almost seems to be written into our DNA. My Gran wrote books, my mom was a voracious reader, my brother studied journalism and has written a book of poetry, I... taught kids how to read? Lol. The point is - we love books! So today is for us. Today is National Book Lovers Day!
So here are some of my "new" favorite children's books! 

1. Home by Carson Ellis                                   
As a family for whom the concept of "home" can be a little fluid or even confusing at times, this book is a great reminder that homes look different for everyone. It is beautifully illustrated - so much so, that I actually have it displayed, rather than hiding on a shelf. It invokes a kind of thoughtfulness, which I appreciate. 

Yes, I'm on the Joanna Gaines bandwagon, and I don't care! We love this book and how it sweetly follows a family's journey into the ups and downs of gardening. Since we read the book, my son has been on the lookout for worms, a.k.a. detectives of the soil. Again, this book has lovely illustrations in somewhat muted colors.

This is the perfect book for those of you out there with boys who have sensitive souls. It paints a beautiful picture of a full and simple life lived by the ocean. I'm a sucker for illustrations, and once again the pictures are breathtaking. We have this book up on a (reachable) shelf in our son's room, and I often catch my eyes resting on the face of the sweet boy on the cover.

We really love the BabyLit books! They are board book primers based on some of the classics - such as The Jungle Book, Sherlock Holmes, Emma, The Secret Garden, etc. Each one has a theme, such as "opposites" or "numbers". I honestly can't recommend these highly enough!

I am a big fan of Eric Carle! When starting to plan our little girl's 1st birthday party, I knew I wanted it centered around one of his books, just like her big brother's. I'm on kind of a "honeybee" kick, so I was thrilled to find this interactive book! I don't think it's been printed many times, as I was only able to find used ones of it on Amazon. The copy I bought was in wonderful shape, looked as good as new!

I was so thrilled when my mom got this book for us! I loved the original She Persisted, and was eager to read the "Around the World" edition. I was very happy to see Malala Yousafzai, one of my personal heroes in it. This is a terrific book for both boys and girls, to see the kind of impact you can have when you won't take "no" for an answer.

So, there you have it. From one bibliophile to hopefully another - what are some of your favorite books you've recently discovered? 

Early literacy is so important. There are numerous studies that show that children who are exposed to books from a young age grow up to be stronger readers, more empathetic, have a healthy imagination, and enjoy reading into their adulthood.
Reading allows us, as well as our children to travel to places they couldn't otherwise. It teaches them to look at people and situations from a different point of view. It opens their minds to new possibilities - what a beautiful gift to give our children.

So, celebrate today by curling up with a new book, or an old favorite. You can't go wrong.