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Monday, March 18, 2013

Paprika Chicken- Secret Family Recipe

Let me tell you a story about one of the most spectacular ladies in history, Mary.  She was the second oldest child in a family, that lost their mother and oldest sister in war.  She raised her siblings, and when they were out of the house, she got a professional job.  In her 40-s, she met a divorced man, they exchanged letters, and eventually got married. There was one thing that she felt was missing in her life.  A family of her own.
Skip forward about a decade.  A young couple with a 10-month-old baby leave their lives and families in the States, follow God's call on their lives, and move to Hungary.
They were taking language classes, and needed to find a lady to watch their baby during the day.
Enter Mary.  Varosi Marika, really, but she told them to call her "Mary".  She not only took care of their baby, she loved on her, and on them, she sang to her, read her her favorite stories over and over again, swung her, until she could swing no more, took her into her heart, and didn't let go.  And then, her two brothers came along, and their family was complete.

Dan and I with Mary over Christmas.
God gave a woman who was created to be a mother 2 children and 3 grandchildren.  He gave a young family in a new place the love and guidance they needed.  That, and good food...

So, here is my Mary's Paprika Chicken recipe.  My family's secret recipe.  She taught my mom how to cook Hungarian food, and I was happiest when sitting on her counter "taste-testing" her home-cooked goodness.

This Sunday, our church is having their "Food Fest", where everyone brings dishes from their countries, or family recipes, so I decided to share this dish with my FCCC church family.
It consists of two parts, the chicken in the paprika sauce, and the dumplings (nokedli). 

Paprika Chicken:
Skinless/bones chicken breasts (approx. 1/2 breast/serving) (I used 6 breasts)
1 1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp. paprika
1 large Vidalia onion
2 Hungarian wax peppers (I've been able to find them at Publix)
2 tomatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup sour cream with 2 tsp flour mixed in

Dumplings (nokedli):
2 cups flour
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup water
Vegetable oil

Cut up the chicken breasts into bite sized cubes (traditionally Hungarians will use the legs, and whole breasts, but Mary and my mom adapted it a little to be kid-friendly, and I like it better this way).  Chop the onion as finely as possible.  The first time my mom made chicken paprika with Mary, she cut up the onion "finely", and showed it to Mary.  Mary said "are we feeding the army?".  My mom said "No", and Mary said, "Well, then it needs to be chopped finer".  Mind you, Mary is not a critical lady, but if she says the onions need to be chopped finely, they do.  You may feel like you want to use a food processor, however my mom said she tried that one time, and it didn't work, because the oils and the liquid from the onions separate from the actual onions, and it doesn't have the same taste.
Pour 1/4 cup of oil into a pot, put on med/high heat.  Once hot, add the onions.  
Stir them around in the oil until fully cooked through, but make sure not to brown them, it'll give your paprikas a burnt taste.  

Once they're cooked through, TAKE OFF HEAT.  This is important, because you're going to be adding the paprika, and it can burn easily if added while on the heat.  Also, at this point, you can add the 1 1/2 cup of wine.  Put it back on the heat, and bring to a boil.  

When it reaches a boiling point, add the chicken.  Mix it around, until the chicken doesn't look raw anymore.  

Not raw.
When you've achieved that, cut your two tomatoes and two pepper in half, take the seeds out of your peppers, and simply place them on the top.  Use medium sized tomatoes.  I used some large ones, and they let out too much juice.

Put the lid on the pot, change your heat to a medium heat, and set your timer for 30-40 minutes.  
When the chicken is cooked all the way through, take out the peppers and tomatoes.  Then add the sour cream to the chicken.  That's it!

Start working on your dumplings.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, eggs and water.  Beat well, and adjust measurements until the mixture doesn't "drip" but rather "tears" or "plops" off.  
I have a nifty dumpling cutter that my mom gave me, but I'm not really sure where you can get one. 
This is what it looks like.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and vegetable oil.  Then, set the dumpling cutter on the top of the pot, pour some of the mixture into the cup part, then start moving the cup back and forth, until all the dumplings are cut, and in the boiling water.  
When the dumplings raise to the surface, wait just a few seconds longer, and then fish them out with a hand-held strainer or one of those serving spoons with the holes in them.  
Place them in a dish, and drizzle a little more oil on them, to keep from sticking.
And you're done!
Decorate as you wish, and serve to loved ones.
And here I am, representing Hungary at our church's annual Food Fest.
So, that is the story of a woman created to love with a mother's love, and the family that was blessed enough to be on the receiving end of it.  And were happy to eat her scrumptious food.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Valentine's Day is for... preschoolers!

I've always loved Valentine's Day.  Not the gooey, commercial part of it.  The part where you take time out of your busy schedule to tell the special people in your life how much you mean to them. That part.

So, you know I got my kids involved!  I found these adorable metal pink and blue mail boxes at the Target dollar section (where I would be very happy to live out the rest of my days).  
One of my awesome parents bought me some heart stickers, and they went to town decorating them (with 15 stickers, which was our number of the week).  They turned out absolutely adorable!
Check'em out!

Once they all had their mailboxes, I set up a mail center, printed out a page with their pictures and names next to them, so they would see how to write each others names, and had them all write each other valentines.  They loved it!  It was great practice for them, writing someone else's name, besides their own.

After this, we made melted crayon hearts.
I found this on, however like most things I've ever tried from her website, mine didn't look quite like hers.  Not bad, just not the same.

For these cute crayon hearts, you'll need:
Crayons with the paper taken off (any color, but I went with Valentine's Day colors, reds, pinks, purples)
Wax paper
Pencil sharpener

The first challenge was actually getting the paper off the crayons.  Apparently that only happens when you DON'T want it to. 
Once that was over, I ripped off A4 size sheets of wax paper.  I put one in front of my kids, then had them shave crayons onto.  When they had enough, I put another sheet of wax paper on top of it.  
Here's the tricky part.  The wax leaks.
So, make sure you have at least two rags.  Put one underneath the wax papers, the other one on top, and iron away.  Keep it on medium, going up a little at a time if you need to.  Press the iron on the rag.  If you start to slide it, it'll mix the wax together, and look different.  If you just set it on the rag, then all the colors will stay intact.  Make sure to check the rag, because the crayon will leak.  You don't want to ruin your iron, or the next thing you're going to iron.  Once all the crayon is melted, I drew a heart on it, and had them cut on the line.  
Snip-snip, and...

Everything was so girly this week, that I wanted to do something for the boys that was fun.  So, since we were doing the letter "Vv", I decided to do the classic volcano experiment.
Incase you're not familiar with it, here's what you'll need:
5 tbsp vinegar
1/3 cup water
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp dishwasher liquid
Red food coloring (I actually used sugar sprinkles, because I didn't have any dye on hand)
Brown construction paper

Add baking soda and dishwasher fluid to water. 

(I put it in the vase I used for the inside of the volcano, then I wrapped it in brown construction paper to make it look more like a real volcano)
In a separate container, combine vinegar and red food coloring.

  When you're ready for the eruption pour the vinegar mixture into the water.
And.... volcano!

That day, for our craft we made our own volcanos to take home.  

You'll need:
Brown paper bag
Half pages of red, orange and yellow construction paper
Rubber band

Have the kids cut the pieces of paper in strips (but not all the way through), then open up the bag, blow into it, so it puffs up, stick the cut up paper in the neck, and tie it off with a rubber band.  (I also had them write the letter "V" on it, so their parents would have a better chance of recognizing them. :)

Finally, on Valentine's Day, I put a bunch of my letter stamps out, bought some conversation hearts, and had them copy what they saw on the heart onto paper.
It was great for letter recognition, print awareness and fine motor skills.  They turned out pretty cute:

Then, we had our fabulous preschool Valentine's Day dance, which was so much fun!
They actually danced, and had a good time, and the teachers did a wonderful job decorating.  Here's a picture of my crazy class!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Birthday Pupcakes for Bella!

I love my dog.  Too much.  She has more toys than some children, and gets more love than a lot of people.
I just can't help it, she is so cute, and cuddly, and I don't know what to say, except "don't judge".  She's adorable.  "Nuff said.


So, my Bella turned 1 on February 28th.  (We think. - The people we rescued her from were sketchy on her age (among other things), so we tried counting back.  With our math skills, we're probably way off, but she's a dog.  She won't know.)
I wanted to make her some pupcakes (cupcakes for dogs), but I wanted to make them out of normal, "human" ingredients, so that I wasn't making a dozen cupcakes for a 55 pound dog.
I looked around online for a recipe, and found this one:
I liked the look of it, and I already had most of the ingredients.
Here's what this recipe called for:

Banana Cupcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
1 1/2 cups mashed (very ripe) bananas
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
(makes a dozen)

Honey Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2-3 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In small bowl, combine oil and yogurt.  Add the oil mixture, bananas, eggs, and vanilla to the dry ingredients.  Gently fold to combine.
  3. Divide the batter evenly among the paper liners.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Top with peanut butter & honey buttercream.
Here are some of my tips for this recipe:
I followed the recipe, the only problem was my bananas weren't ripe enough, so it was hard to measure out the right amount.  I simply put in one banana.  If I were making this again, I would use two bananas.  I would maybe add some applesauce too.  As for the frosting, since this is for a dog, I wouldn't use as much confectioner sugar, and probably add more peanut butter.  Those are my only suggestions though, they came out nicely, a little more "muffiny" than "cupcakey", but I think more banana and applesauce would've helped with that.

Well, Bella loved her pupcakes, and of course like every kid, she licked the frosting off first, and then ate the cupcake part. :)  I've ruined her now though, because whenever she sees me open my cupcake container, now she thinks she's getting a treat.  Also, she learned a new word: "cupcake".

Here's her birthday photo shoot (shut up):

The pupcakes turned out really cute, if I do say so myself!

There were people working outside, so it was hard to get her attention...

Then, she was very patient in waiting for her Daddy to say "okay".  She is pawsitively adorable.

Checking it out... 

I love the eyes; "What!!??  For me!!??"

First licks.

Ooh, yeah!
So, happy-happy 1st birthday to my Bella-baby!

If you're looking for this recipe for your doggie, I would recommend it, but I would make a couple changes to the initial recipe.  Good luck, and happy baking!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

I love Dr. Seuss.  
I know that's not a huge confession, as most anyone who's ever read any of his books feels the same way, however I REALLY love Dr. Seuss.
And like I've said before, give me theme, and watch me go wild.

Firstly, I wanted to do my nails in Dr. Seuss fashion.  I checked online, and found many cute ideas, and then realized, I didn't have any of the colors.  However, I do have the most thoughtful husband around. While at Target running some errands, he bought me 3 Dr. Seuss books, as well as matching nail polish.  So, that problem was solved.  
My Dr. Seuss "I love you" care package
I'm not very good at doing my nails yet, it's mostly just something I do while I'm watching TV or something.  So, I don't have a tutorial for the nails here.
All I do, is paint my nails a solid color, and then with a toothpick, I paint on any extra details.
This is how they turned out:
The Lorax, Cat in the Hat stripes, Truffula trees and a Thing 1!
After that, I had to think of some things I could do to decorate my classroom.  
I saw an idea on decorating a class door in Truffula trees on  It didn't say how she made the trees themselves, so that's where my creativity had to come into play. 

For these Truffula trees you'll need:
Colorful tissue paper
Black construction paper
White paint (I actually used white out tape, for convenience sake)

 I found some great, colorful tissue paper in our resource room, and got to work.  I folded the paper on top of itself, then cut the paper into about 2 inch strips, cut it like you would cut grass for a craft.  Then I would open it up, and fold it back onto itself, like this:

Then, I just started taping away, until the trees were the size I wanted.  Then, I added some black construction paper trunks, added some white stripes to them, and they were done.

The teacher in the room next to me, who is wonderful, and we do lots of things together, made a Lorax on her door, who is pointing to the Truffula forest on my door. 

THEN, our director asked me to make Truffula trees on the bulletin board in our drop-off room, which is a total "no-man's-land".  I was happy to do it, and perfect my Truffula tree technique.  Again, my wonderful husband came to the rescue, and came to help me out.  More cutting, taping and stapling, and:

Next, I needed to come up with something for my students to do.  That bulletin board looked like a perfect backdrop to me.  Also, I've been intrigued by the hipster mustache and bow tie craze, and I finally had a way to incorporate it into my lesson plans:

Dr. Seuss hipster photo props!
I found the original idea on and then decided to make it my own.

Here's what you'll need:
Poster board (the number of kids you have, or size of your props will determine how much you'll need)
Black Sharpie
Paint (orange, yellow, red)
Large Popsicle sticks

I drew out with pencil the outline for mustaches and bows.  Then I traced it with black sharpie.  I had the boys cut out the mustaches, and the girls cut out the bows.  Then, the boys painted their mustaches orange or yellow (even though, the Lorax's is yellow, I wanted to add just a little more color), and the girls painted their bows red or red and white striped.  After that, I taped the popsicle stick to the back, and voila!  Hipster Dr. Seuss photo props!  You could use this idea for a class party, like I did, or even a birthday party photo booth!  How cute would that be!?

My adorable kiddos!!!

Now that all that is done, let's party!
But wait!  What to wear, what to wear...?
If you know anything about, you are well aware of the fact, that I will pounce on any chance I get to dress up.  I'm not sure what it's rooted in - cough, cough - mom!!!
And because of said culprit, I am always partial to home made.  
So, when I decided I was going to be "Thing 1", I got cracking.  

What you'll need to be a "Thing":
Red T-shirt
White felt
Black Sharpie
Plastic hairband
Blue yarn
Blue tissue paper (optional)
Hot glue gun
Felt circle

I found a red shirt for under $4 at Walmart, which I was very happy about, and even went back and bought it in a couple other colors, because it was comfortable, and nice and long.  Then, I found some great, heavy-duty white felt, for only $2.77 a yard.  Once home, I traced a circle onto the felt (I used a dinner plate as a guide), traced over it with black sharpie, and wrote "Thing 1" on it (I would suggest writing it in pencil first).  I had roped the same teacher from earlier into being "Thing 2" with me, and she had the genius and adorable idea of adding "Thing 3" to her growing baby bump.  So cute!  So, I also traced hers.
Then I cut it out, and because I wanted to be able to reuse the T-shirt, I only pinned it to my shirt. 

Next for the hair.
I found a great yarn wig tutorial on, but decided it was a little more involved than I wanted.  However, I will be keeping this in my arsenal, I'm sure I will need it one day.
I decided to go for something a little more wearable, and cuter.  I have this clear, plastic hairband that I've had laying around for ages.  Also, I had some blue yarn (that was the perfect color) and some more of that tissue paper on hand.  
First, I covered the hairband in the blue yarn, using a hot glue gun, which wasn't really necessary, I just wanted it to look "finished".  Next, I did the exact same thing to the tissue as I did for the Truffula trees, and glued it to the felt circle I'd already cut out.  

After that, I wrapped the yarn around my fingers:

Then, tied it off with a small piece of yarn:

Finished product!
Then cut the yarn on the other side.  Then, I glued that to the felt circle too.  I kept doing that until it was the size that I wanted, and then:
Done!  (I feel like I should be on my way to a -
crafty, and laid back, but still - English wedding)

Next, a girl's gotta eat!
I found a super-cute idea on, and even a couple other places, for
 "Thing 1" cupcakes.  It's very simple.  It's just a red velvet cupcake, with a little cream cheese frosting and some blue cotton candy sticking out of it for the "hair".  Now, I'm going to tell you something that the other blogs didn't.
I made my cupcakes the night before, and everything was going great, I put the frosting on, and then the cotton candy, and they were adorable!  I turned to do some other things, and... when I turned back around the cotton candy had completely melted.  Now, I wasn't sure if it was because my cupcakes were maybe still a little warm (which they weren't, because that would be an amateur mistake, but I was looking into all the possibilities), or if it was the moisture in the frosting.
So, I wiped off the frosting and sad cotton candy.
I decided that I would frost the cupcakes, and then the next day, I would put the cotton candy on RIGHT before I served them.
So, the next day, I took them to school, and hoped for the best.  I did prepare, though for it not to work.  So, I made cupcake toppers.  I took some toothpicks with me to work.  Then I traced circles, went over it with sharpie, and decorated them.  Then, I taped them to toothpicks.  Really simple, really easy, but a tried-and-true way to spruce up some cupcakes.

Then, right before the party, I added the cotton candy.  (For the kids, I didn't add the toppers, I figured toothpicks weren't something they needed to have access to)

Here's what I had for the party 
(but there are so many more things you could add to a Dr. Seuss party menu):
Strawberry and marshmallow skewers (to look like the Cat in the Hat's hat)
Thing 1 and 2 cupcakes
Rainbow Gold Fish (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish)
Swedish Fish (same)

Then, for the teachers (I figured they could handle the toothpicks), I added the toppers.

Please pardon the ugly pan and backdrop.  There weren't many places I could take a picture of them.

Thing 1 and Thing 2