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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Horthobagyi Palacsinta (Horthobagy Savory Meat Crepe) Recipe

Can you ever have enough Hungarian food?
I'm going to go with a resounding "no".  So, for your enjoyment, I'm am giving you the recipe for "Horthobagyi Palacsinta" or in English, Hortobagy Savory Meat Crepe.

This is a family favorite of ours, and my mom and dad went on a little "day date" a couple months ago, and posted pictures of them eating it.  So, pregnant me wanted what I saw.  But, considering there are no Hungarian restaurants in my area, I figured it was up to me to fill that void.

Horthobagyi palacsintas are basically a crepe, filled with a savory meat filling, with some sour cream/paprika sauce poured overtop.  I have some Hungarian cook books, so I turned to them for help.  I found that you can basically use any meat to fill them, and that you basically follow a recipe for chicken paprikas for starters.  You can find my family's secret chicken paprikas recipe right here, however, just incase you're too lazy to click on the link, I'll give it to you right here.

You'll need:

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 of sour cream with 2 tsp flour mixed in.

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 and discard the peppers and tomatoes.  Then add the sour cream to the chicken.  

Here's where it changes.  After this, separate meat from sauce (as well as you can), and mince the meat (you may want to add some 
of the sauce, to make the mincing easier).

This is where I entered into new territory.  My crepes weren't great.  I probably should've used a bigger (9 inch) pan, but I've never made crepes before.  Is there anything that I should be aware of before trying them again next time?  Is there some trick to it?

Anyway, here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
pinch of salt

Beat eggs, milk and salt in a mixing bowl.

Slowly add flour, stirring constantly.  The mixture should not be lumpy.

Let mixture stand for at least 30 minutes.
Pour tbsp of oil in pan, and fry up some crepes!

Once they're done, fill with minced meat (like a taco)

roll it up, tuck in ends, and pour sauce (that you separated from meat) overtop.

You can garnish with parsley, or Hungarian wax pepper, or tomatoes, or some extra sour cream.

Something that would go really well with this dish is what Hungarians call "savanyusag", which is basically pickled anything.  It's how they used to keep produce around while they were out of season.  Another classic would cut up vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, with some oil and vinegar drizzled on top.  Like this:

Here are a couple tips:
1. Make chicken paprikas for your family (with dumplings), and use the left over chicken to make these.
2. Know how to make crepes.  And then let me know. :)

Hope you enjoy these, and that they're a hit with your family too!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hungarian Sour Cream and Potato Soup

I haven't used the word "crave" yet during my pregnancy, because I'm saving it for when I wake up at 3 in the morning, and make Dan go to Walmart and pick up something for me.
I have, however had a couple hankerings.  Don't ask me what the difference is between craving, and hankering, it's semantics.  But I'm using it.

So, I had a hankering a couple weeks ago for my Mary's (see her story here) sour cream and potato soup.  It's what we got as kids instead of chicken noodle soup when we were sick, and as far as I'm concerned, it's better.  But, I realize I never had YOUR mom/grandma's chicken broth or chicken noodle soup, so if you disagree with me, I will not argue this point. :)

Mary has bought a computer, and learned how to use the internet since we moved away, solely so she can stay in touch with her kids.  So, I emailed her, asking for her potato soup recipe.  

Now, because this stuff is so good, and I'm not a great chef, and can't guess the ingredients in things, I did not expect this recipe to be so simple.  But it is stupid simple.  Seriously.  So, I decided a recipe like this, that even someone as cooking-challenged as I can master, had to be shared.  I already shared it with a friend of mine, and she made it for herself, and it turned out pretty awesome if you ask me.

So, here's what you need.

5-6 (egg-sized) red skin potatoes
4 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
Vegeta (I'll explain)

(Makes about 4 servings, takes about 20 minutes)


1. Pour 4 1/2 cups of water into a pot.  (I've always had it with peeled potatoes, but you can leave them unpeeled like my friend did)  Cut the potatoes into similar, bite-sized chunks.  (My brilliant husband told me that if you put them right into the water after cutting, they won't get brown.)

2. But pot on med-high heat, bring to a boil, and boil until potatoes are cooked through.  (Easy way to tell, is to stick a fork in it, and if you can stick it in, and pull it and with ease, they're done.)  During this time, add salt and a couple pinches of Vegeta.  Vegeta is a European spice, similar to Mrs. Dash.  It's salty, with some bits of dehydrated vegetables in it.  You should be able to find it in the ethnic section of your grocery store, or just an ethnic grocery story.  I've found it in Middle Eastern stores, and also at Rowes IGA in Jacksonville.  This is what it looks like.
3. While the potatoes are boiling, in a small pan, on a low-med heat, combine oil and flour.  This will act as a thickening agent.

4. Once the potatoes are cooked through, add the thickening agent (rántás, in Hungarian) to the potatoes and water, and bring it back to a boil.  

5. Add 3/4 cup of sour cream (that's an estimate, if you want more, go for it!), pepper, and Vegeta to taste.  I'm always afraid of adding too much Vegeta, because I love the stuff.  But you need a decent amount, to give your potato soup some good flavor.

6. Serve with a slice of hard-crust, thick cut bread (for dunking)!

Pardon the color of this picture, my kitchen light isn't friendly.

- If you can't find Vegeta, substitute with regular salt
- This soup warms up really well
- Remember, this is a "get well", "feel good" soup.  You don't want it to be too heavy, or too flavorful.

Hope you enjoy this, and remember it next time you feel under the weather, and need a food hug.

A Life-Long Love Affair With Children's Books

One of the longest and steadiest relationships in my life has been with books.  I'm sure it started at a very young age, because I can't remember the first time I held a book.
We have a favorite family story, where as soon as my parents brought my brother home from the hospital, I sat down next to him, plopped open a book, and started teaching him how to read.  I was 2.  The book didn't have any words.  Needless to say, he eventually needed more help.
I come by this love naturally.  I distinctly remember being on furlough (for missionaries, it's a time set aside after every 4 years, when they go back to the States, and visit their support churches), and being drug by my mother to every used book store from Texas, through Missouri and up on to Virginia.  I remember one summer, she was particularly frantic, trying to find "Snip, Snap and Snur" and "Flicka, Ricka and Dicka" books, by Maj Lindman.  (These are some vintage children's books, both series focus on a set of triplets - boys, and girls.  They're very Scandinavian/Nordic in style, and my mom being of Norwegian heritage, I guess felt it to be her duty to have a complete collection.  If you're interested in these, I found my favorite at

So, I suppose that's where I get it from.  I like to read most any kind of book, but I would rather curl up with a children's book, or young adult book any day!  I know about, and love books that I think most people my age don't, and I feel like they're really missing out.  And now that we're the ones starting families, I think it would be great to bring these books back.  So today, I will compile some of my all-time favorites for you.

1. The Sound Of the Bell by Penny Anderson, 1983
This is a wonderful book about a refugee family that gets separated from each other.  The oldest sister has to take care of her little brother while they search for their mother and the sound of the bell that is sewn into her sleeve.  In case you want to get this book, you can find it at

2. Princess Tales by Nora Kramer, 1971
This was my go-to bedtime storybook.  It has 8 stories about princesses that take charge, use their brains, and do their own saving.  Even though we like to think we portray women's roles in a modern light to our girls, how often do we resort to the Disney-type characterization of princesses, and real beauty?  These stories focus on real value in women - practicality, compassion, and inner beauty.  Love them!  Available at

3. The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco, 1998
It's hard to choose just one Patricia Polacco book for this list, but this is my all-time favorite.  It follows Jewish immigrants to America, where they make a quilt from scraps from their clothes "coming over".  They have many uses for it, and cherish it for many generations.  You can find it at

4. The True Princess by Angela E Hunt, 1993
This story is about a princess whose father goes off to war, and needs her to be safe, and go incognito.  During this time she learns to serve others, entertain herself and do things independently.  When the king returns all the girls in the land try to convince him that they're the princess, but behave in a way unbecoming of a princess - except for his daughter, the true princess.  The same author wrote the story, The Three Trees.

5. The Last Dance by Carman Agra Deedy, 1995
I really commend my mom for having this in our library.  It's a little more serious than parents may be used to, however it deals with life and death in a beautiful and even calming way.  The Last Dance is about a girl and boy, and their friendship, that later blossoms into life-long love.  Throughout the story, they "visit" the boy's grandfather at the cemetery, and dance for him, promising they will do the same for each other when one of them dies.

6. The Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill, 1962
This is a timeless tale of a girl, and her love for her doll.  Betsy is invited to a party, where they will be giving awards for the most beautiful doll, the oldest doll, and the doll that can do the most things.  She has dolls that are all those things, but what about Jennifer?  With her faded dress, bandages on her cheeks, matted hair, and bare feet.  She isn't any of those things, but she's Betsy's favorite. What will she do?

7. Too Many Mittens by Florence and Louis Slobodkin, 1958
Louis Slobodkin has many heart-warming children's books.  This one always makes me smile.  "The twins" lose one of their red mittens, so it gets around, that if anyone finds a red mitten, it must be the twins'.  Everyone brings them mittens, until they have over 10 pairs.  They decide to hang them on a line, for anyone who is REALLY missing their mittens.  This book is bona-fide vintage, so it's hard to find it for a reasonable price, but ebay is probably a good place to start, and carries it as well.

8. Princess Bee and the Royal Good-Night Story by Sandy Asher, 1990
This book isn't hard to find online, but none of the places I found it had a cover picture.  I think more people would buy it if there was, the illustrations are so sweet.  When I was little, my mom travelled some, and this book helped me with separation anxiety. It's about a princess whose Mum goes on a trip, so she's not able to tell her her bedtime story like usual.  The royal big sister, royal big brother and the king all try to help, but it's not the same.  "Mum never runs out of story before I fall asleep", Bee says.

9. Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say, 1993
This story follows the narrator's grandfather's immigration from Japan to America.  It's an excellent portrayal of turn-of-the-century America, and the emotions of being drawn to two homelands; something that I, as a missionary kid struggled with too.

10. Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis, 1998
This isn't an old book, but I don't think enough people know about, or use this book.  As someone who has always been emotional, it was comforting to have a book that said that emotions are okay, and that some days you feel a certain way.  My favorite was "Today I feel quiet, Mom understands.  We went to the movies, and then we held hands." (That was from memory, folks!  The power of books!)  If you have a child that struggles decoding social cues, there's a great wheel at the back where you can match the face to the emotion.  I think this would be perfect for the first week of school as well.

I found a website called, and they have many of the books I listed.  You can borrow physical copies, but many of them also have digital copies you can read.  For example, Princess Bee and the Royal Good-Night Story, Princess Tales and Grandfather's Journey are available to read through your browser.  Perfect for reading to a class!  All you have to do is create an account.  It's a wonderful resource that I'm sure I will be using.

I hope you feel inspired to visit some used book stores, search the web, or maybe give your mom a call, to help you remember your favorite book growing up!  I have vivid memories attached to each one of these books, and I'm sure there are books like that for you too.  So find them, share them, and let's give every child the print rich environment they deserve!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Coming February of 2014... a.k.a. Confessions of the 1st Trimester

Well, hello there!
I apologize for my recent absence, the reason is that there has been a slightly all-consuming change going on, however I have not been at liberty to say.  But I can now!

Dan and I are thrilled to be expecting a baby in February!

So, just to give you kind of an overview, this is how it went down (don't worry, it's all PG).

So, Dan and I had been talking about starting to try having a baby, and decided to start in May, giving us time to ease into it, hopefully get pregnant by the end of the summer, so that the baby would be due at the beginning of the summer, right at the end of the school year.

But the thing about plans are, that they rarely go our way.

First, Bella ate my pills.  Yep.  Ate all the placebo ones, and about 3 hormone ones.  So, I went off a little prematurely.  Nothing life-altering (yeah right), but makes for a good story! :)

A few weeks later, I started to have these awful, and I mean AWFUL cramps in my lower abdomen.  I had the idea of getting a pregnancy test, since for the first time in my life, that was an actual possibility, and the whole notion was very exciting to me!
So, we got one on a Sunday, on the way home from church, and when we got home, I took it!  It was all very unceremonious, because we both figured I wasn't pregnant, but wanted to rule it out before I bought any medicine, or anything like that.

Well, apparently we're a lot more "talented" than we thought, because lo and behold, the little screen came up "pregnant".

So, we hugged, and kissed, and cried, and stood with our mouths open for a while... could this be for real!?  Are we for real pregnant!?

Dan set up a doctor's appointment for me that Monday with my regular GP.  We went in, they confirmed the pregnancy, and then also told me that I had a UTI.  The doctor prescribed me Amoxicillin, because he knew that that was okay for me to take.

Long story short, the UTI was what was causing the excruciating pain.  It was the worst pain I'd ever experienced.  It would last anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes, and the only thing that helped was a warm water bottle (Dan wouldn't let it be hot, he said I was cooking the baby), or laying under a warm shower (because you can't take hot baths, because it gets too hot for the baby, and it can't cool off).  So, an E.R. visit, and a new, terrible antibiotic later, I was finally feeling better.  

And by better, I mean I only had normal pregnancy side effects.  Like nausea, and morning sickness, and food aversions.

Now, at 10 weeks however, I am doing so much better!  Honestly!  But I'd like to share what I've already learned about pregnancy.

1. Even though your breasts growing may be the only pregnancy side effect you're looking forward to, it may not happen for you.  You get everything else.  Just not that one.  Of course.

2. Bad breath is a pregnancy side effect.  Yes it is.  (Apparently your baby is sucking the calcium out of your teeth.)

3. You may have a hard time keeping down prenatal vitamins.

4. Morning sickness does not know what time zone you live in.  You know the saying "it's 5 o'clock somewhere"?  Well, it's morning somewhere! Morning sickness can be all day.  For me, it was worst at night.

5. Constipation.  Need I elaborate?

6. Food tastes funny.  Like, I swear root beer has a chocolatey undertone.

7.  You have the only super power you're ever going to get.  The super sniffer.  Good, bad, you smell it all (mostly bad).

8.  Even though your husband loves you more than anything, and can handle most bodily fluid issues, he may have sympathy-morning sickness, and tell you, after you get out of the car to be sick, "honey, you stink, you have to sit in the back".  

9. You may actually lose weight.  See, all this time, all I needed to do, to drop a few, was get pregnant.  Oh, the irony.

10. You may feel sick while singing in the choir, requiring you to make a swift exit off stage, and therefore alerting the entire soprano as to your "state".  

These are the new and wonderful things my body is doing!
Here's the best part my body is "doing":

Our 10 week sonogram!!!
Baby Blair waving at you!