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Friday, December 30, 2016

Hungarian Gulyas Recipe

Hungarian Gulyas.

So often I see people post recipes for "traditional goulash" on Facebook, and it makes wish I could introduce them to REAL goulash, or in reality "gulyas".  Goulash is more comparable to refrigerator soup (ground beef, noodles, etc.) whereas gulyas is a hearty, traditionally made by men over a pit, beef-and-potato stew.  It's to die for!

For Christmas this year, Dan decided to make it for our family!  We don't have a fire pit, or a traditional pot called a "bogracs", but the man of the house made it, at it was amazing!  Here is my step-by-step tutorial on how to make your very own, REAL traditional Hungarian gulyas.

1/4 cup olive oil
5 medium sized onions (finely chopped)
1 whole head of garlic (finely chopped)
2 Hungarian wax peppers (chopped)
3 lbs. potatoes
4 lbs. chuck roast (cubed)
1 parsnip (sliced)
5 carrots (sliced)
2 tomatoes (chopped)
Hungarian sweet paprika (1/3 cup)
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Ground caraway to taste
1 bay leaf
Around 5 cups of water (don't add too much at once, rather as needed - start with three, then wait until after you add the potatoes - they absorb a lot of the water, add the rest then)
Yummy crusty bread (we got a sourdough at Panera)

1. First, we prepped all the ingredients.
 Cut the chuck into about 1 square inch cubes.
 Put the cut up chuck in a ziplock, and put in the fridge.
 Chop up the onions (and try hard NOT to cry) and set aside for later.
 We have been able to find Hungarian wax peppers at Publix.  
Cut them in half, remove seeds, and then chop 'em up!
 Dan got a mandolin in his stocking, and was more than happy to cut up the carrots!  Cut them up, and set them aside.
 Slice up the parsnip too.  Bag and set aside.
Chop up the tomatoes, bag and set aside.
Chop up the garlic AS FINELY AS YOU CAN, bag and set aside.
 Chop up the potatoes.  You can use any kind of potato.  Dan got these, because they didn't have to peel them, and they were small, hence less cutting.  You try to cut them to about the same size as the meat.
Dan put the potatoes in water, so they wouldn't brown, since we were cutting them a couple hours in advance.

2. Add ingredients one at a time

Choose a large pot, like a chili pot.  Place on burner, on a medium heat.  

Start with the 1/4(ish) cup of oil.  
 Once it's hot, add the onions.
 Add the garlic.
 Add the wax peppers.
 Mix all the ingredients, until the onions start to look "glassy".
 Add some salt.
 Add the pepper.

Add the beef.
 There it is!
 Start to mix it together.
 Add the paprika.  Make sure it's the sweet paprika, or you will have a VERY spice gulyas!
 That whole packet got put in there!
 Mix it around, until the beef starts to brown.
Add the tomatoes.

Add 3 cups of water.  (One recipe we found called for beef broth.)
One bayleaf.
Add parsnips.
 Put the lid on, but stir often.  After about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, (when the meat is cooked) we'll start adding the last couple ingredients.
Add the carrots.
Strain the potatoes.
 Rinse off the potatoes, to get rid of any starch that may have seeped out.
 Add the potatoes.
 Be careful of splatter!  Add 2 more cups of water.  We careful that it doesn't get too watery.  I'd wait to see how much water the potatoes sucked up.

It's all in there!  Let it all stew for another hour, again stirring it regularly.

A couple things you could add to your meal 
- Hungarians always have some kind of "pickled" veggies.  We opted for some pickles, and then Dan made a terrific cucumber salad!  (Which Aidan ate seconds, and thirds of.)  
- Of course, you'll also want to have that yummy crusty bread, to lap up any broth!
- You can also have out some "Pista", a Hungarian paprika paste, so you can customize the heat.
- The use of sour cream in gulyas varies by region, but as far as I'm concerned, there's always a little wiggle room for sour cream in Hungarian food!


Look at that gorgeous color!

There's that yummy cucumber salad too!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Just A Mom

Moms-issues seems to be a popular topic right now.  Most people don't openly shame stay-at-home-moms anymore, although there does still seem to be some stigma about working moms.
There are mom-against-mom wars: bottle-fed vs. breastfed, preschool vs. staying home, organic vs. McDonald's happy meal, spanking vs. not spanking, baby wearing vs. strollers, forward facing carseats vs prolonged backwards facing carseats... the list goes on and on.  
But there's one thing everyone seems to agree on: being a mom is hard.
Like, REALLY hard.  Want-to-quit-and-eat-cookie-dough-ice-cream-on-the-couch-while-binge-watching-Gilmore-Girls-for-weeks hard.  Most days it's a thankless job.  An "invisible" job.  Honestly I've done both, and I couldn't tell you which is harder - working mom, or stay-at-home mom.  And that's not what this post is about.

This is about the days we feel like "just a mom".  Like all you do is make meals, wash clothes, keep the "tiny humans" alive, help them achieve their hopes and dreams and find the balance between patience and correction.

So, today I want to tell you about 5 "invisible" moms in the Bible.  Some of them you've thought of, some of them you probably haven't.  But, in each case, they were "simply" doing the mundane, everyday mom-duties.

1. Making Meals - The Mom of the boy with the 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread

We all know this story, right?  It's in John 6.  Jesus is preaching to a multitude, when the day gets long, and he tells the disciples to find the people something to eat.  Andrew, one of the disciples tells Jesus there's this boy, with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread, which is obviously not enough for 5000+ people.  But, Jesus blesses the food, and performs a miracle, where there is enough food for everyone, with 12 baskets to spare.
But, do you know why this miracle was even possible?  Because a mama packed her boy a lunch.  Because of her everyday act of love, Jesus was able to feed the multitude.  Sure, I assume had she not packed him a lunch, Jesus would've found another way - but he didn't.  He used something that so many of us do day-in and day-out - feed our children, and showed it to be so much more.
From the moment we find out they're on their way, we worry about what is going into their body.  We take prenatal vitamins and try to eat right while we're pregnant.  We breastfeed, or try to find the very best formula money can buy.  As a working mom, I spent my lunch break, and resource break every day for a year holed up in a storage room, pumping that liquid gold.  Once he moved on to solids, and went to preschool, he was fed a school lunch.  But yet, I got up every morning to make him a fresh fruit salad, so that incase he didn't like it, at least he had something good and nutritious to eat.  I try to make sure every meal he eats has each food group represented.  I get him hummus to dip his carrots in, because I know he likes it.  I get him pouches of yoghurt, because it's how he likes to start his morning.  We do these things to keep them sustained, sure.  But it's more than that.  It's how we show them we love and care for them.  And God cares about it.

2. Laundry - Hannah, Samuel's mom

or hand-made costumes from mommy and grandma
I really love Hannah, and have written about her in the past.  But as I was revisiting her story this verse stood out to me: 1 Samuel 2:18 "In the midst of all this, Samuel, a boy dressed in a priestly linen tunic, served God. Additionally, every year his mother would make him a little robe cut to his size and bring it to him when she and her husband came for the annual sacrifice."
I had never really noticed this before.  I don't recall anywhere else in the Bible where someone sewing a robe made the final cut.  And yet here it is, and important enough to be mentioned as part of what molded his character.  In case you are not familiar, in 1 Samuel 1 Hannah is praying and crying in the Tabernacle for God to give her a baby.  She promises to give him to the Lord in return.  Eli the priest finds her, and initially thinks she's drunk, but then realizes what is going on, and tells her God has heard her prayer.  Hannah does in fact become pregnant, nurses and then weans her son (there the feeding element is again, btw), and then brings him to the tabernacle.  She kept her promise, even though I'm sure it broke her heart.  And although she didn't see him every day, when she came to visit, she always brought him a robe "cut to his size".  This indicates precision and forethought.  The wording is so precious.  Clothes and laundry.  Just another thing we moms do, in what seems like a never-ending cycle.  And yet, this act of nurturing was important enough to make it into God's word.  And, by the way, do you know what happened to Hannah in return?  God blessed she and her husband with more children.  Not that they could ever take Samuel's place.  But what a comfort it must've been to not find her arms empty again.  

3. "Keeping the Tiny Humans Alive" - Moses' mother, Jochebed

Have you seen those mugs that say, "Today's To Do List: Keep the Tiny Humans Alive"?  I think it's hilarious, because I feel like I'm always saving Aidan from himself.  That's why people child-proof! When they bump their heads, we call the doctor.  When they are determined to jump off the furniture, we explain to them why that's NOT a great idea.  Or at least put a pillow in the landing zone.  Well, Jochebed had to ACTUALLY keep her tiny human alive.  The Pharaoh was feeling threatened by the Jews, so he had all the baby boys killed (Exodus 1:22).  First she hid him, for 3 months!  (Imagine if he was colicky!) Then, she created an ingenious, waterproof basket, and placed him in the Nile.  How her heart must've ached!  But Pharaoh's daughter found him, his sister suggested a wet nurse she knew (their mother), and so Jochebed got to keep her son a little while longer.  Although not portrayed this way in stories like the Prince of Egypt, the language in the Bible suggests that Moses knew, and kept in touch with his biological family - because his clever and loving mama wouldn't give up.

4. Hopes and Dreams - Bathsheba, Solomon's mother

I've always had a soft spot for Bathsheba.  Yes, she and David had an affair, but I feel like, in that day and age, if the king decides he's going to sleep with you, and your husband is out of town, and isn't there to kick his butt, there isn't much room to say no.  Anyway, they have an affair which results in a baby, who sadly dies. (2 Samuel 11-12) Later, David and Bathsheba have another baby - Solomon.  As David is getting old, one of his other sons, Adonijah crowns himself king, without his father's blessing or anointing.  Nathan the prophet convinces Bathsheba to go to David, and remind him of his promise to have Solomon as his successor.  So Bathsheba goes before David to plead her son's case.  In the end David names Solomon his heir, and Nathan anoints him.  
Somehow, I missed this part of the story, until working on this piece.  It wasn't like nowadays, where you have a family meeting.  Remember how risky it was for Esther to go before the king?  Judging by the tone in this passage (1 King 1), it would seem that we are dealing with a very similar situation.  So, Bathsheba risked it all to make sure that her son got what was rightfully his, and God's plan for his life. 
How many times as mamas do we set our own needs or comforts aside for our kids' dreams?  The countless hours sitting at practice, or late nights studying for tests?  Or pursuing recommendations, proof-reading essays?  Moms have been doing it since the beginning of time.  And God thought it was important enough to highlight in the story of Bathsheba fighting for her son.

5. Patience and Correction - Mary, Mother of Jesus

Okay, so this mama is definitely not invisible.  But today I want to focus on her parenting, specifically.  Remember the story, of when young Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem, and his parents don't know where he is?  When they finally find him, this is what goes down: (Luke 2:48) "And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”[b] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart."
I always loved that last sentence, it's very poetic.  First off, I'm impressed that it says that she "said" to him.  Had it been me, it would've said she "screeched" at him.  That's the patient part.  So, this is the correction portion.  She doesn't just say, "Oh yay, we found you!"  No, she tells him that he caused his parents great distress.  Jesus responds (which I used to take as Jesus talking back, but I don't think that was the case) saying he was in his Father's house.  They take him home, and it says he was "submissive" to them.  I mean, yeah, he was Jesus, but still.  I think that part is important.  He was obedient to them, which implies there was something to be obedient ABOUT.  This means there were rules and expectations in their household.  And then that last sentence: his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.  I'm not sure if it is referring to his response at the temple, or his obedience, or both.  But whatever the case, it shows that her heart was tuned towards him, which I love.

So, sweet mama plugging through your everyday routine, thinking it doesn't matter, no one cares or notices.  Stories like these in the Bible are made possible because of mothers just like you.  Because of mothers' daily devotion and sacrifice.

So keep on keeping on.  God is noticing, and it matters to Him.  In each of these stories, the common denominator, is that God didn't forget about these mothers, and He hasn't forgotten about you, either.  You have the greatest gift, to be the first and perhaps most influential voice your child will hear.  Your voice becomes their self-talk.  Like from the Yaya Sisterhood, "For better or for worse, she's the voice in my head".  May it be for better.  May we be their inner voice telling them how much they matter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Toddler Fun, Week 15: Letter J, Number 5, Jaguars and Jesus

Merry Christmas, everyone!
This "week", has been more like 2 weeks, intermittently.
Of course, there was Christmas, and Dan had to go visit his mom because she was in the hospital, so all in all it's been a little chaotic.
But!  Let's go ahead and get started.  Before we move on, let's review:

So, this week we had a Jacksonville Jaguars game planned, and with it being Christmas, I thought it would be a nice week to learn more about Jesus too!


1. Jaguars Game
So, it wasn't a very Christmassy thing to do, but on Christmas eve, we went to a Jacksonville Jaguars football game.  And, as a Christmas miracle, they actually won!!!  Aidan was a little disappointed however, because he was under the impression that actual jaguars were going to play football.  Poor baby, haha!  We had a lot of fun though, and spotted the "j"-s wherever we looked.

2. Jaguars at the Jacksonville Zoo
The Jacksonville Zoo has an award-winning Jaguar enclosure, and it's not hard to see why.  I like arriving right at opening, because the animals are really active, as it isn't too hot yet.  Although we visit at least bi-weekly, we hardly ever see the jaguars.
 On this particular visit though, we really lucked out, and got to see two of them; a male and a female.  There is also a beautiful black one, but I haven't seen it in a while.  Because there was hardly anyone else there, we were able to just sit and watch them, which was wonderful!

I know some people have issues with zoos, and I do understand why.  I don't love ALL zoos, but our zoo is accredited with the AZA, and clearly cares about the animals in its care.  Of course, ideally I would prefer the animals were free and in the wild.  But most zoos nowadays take injured animals, or animals born in captivity (who would not know how to live without human interactions at that point), rather than taking hordes of them out of their natural habitats for entertainment.  The animals at this zoo are not forced to do certain things, and they only use positive reenforcement in training (which is important, so they can administer medicine, vitamins, and things like that).  I do not agree with cruel treatment of animals, and for this reason do not do circuses, or SeaWorld.  But well-intentioned, conservation-minded zoos - yes!  I love reading all the information on the animals, but it's hard while chasing a toddler.  So, I took pictures of them, to read later. :)

3. Nativity and Baby Jesus
I have a beautiful Willowtree Nativity, which Aidan helped me put out.  Growing up, we each had our own nativity, but I was unable to find a wooden one for Aidan that I liked in time, so I decided to make one.  I found a kids' nativity puppet set, which I printed out.
I don't have a laminator, so I used clear packing tape on either side, and then cut it out again.  Then, I taped them to some wooden clothespins, and there you have them!  Aidan loved playing with them!


1. J is for Jaguar
To add to our alphabet book, we made this super-cute J is for Jaguar.  For this, I cut out an orange J, a head and 4 legs.  I helped Aidan glue the pieces on, and then draw rosettes and whiskers.  We also glued on googley eyes.  Duh. :)  It turned out really cute, if you ask me.

2. The Legend of the Candy Cane
Back when I taught VPK (K4), I did a whole week one the legend of the candy cane.  One of my favorite things we did was this candy cane craft.  I wrote a J with a pencil, and then dipped Aidan's two index fingers in red and white paint. I had a real candy cane laid out, and asked him what colors he saw.  Then I (very very basically) explained that it was an AB pattern.  Then I helped him make alternating dots with his fingers along the "J".  As we did it we said "red, white, red, white, red, white", etc.  to help the concept sink in.  I also found this cute poem which talks about how the candy cane points to Jesus, which I cut out and Aidan glued on the page.

3. Coloring pages
 I found a coloring page of the Jaguars logo, which we colored on game day.
I also found one of a jaguar in the jungle, with the word jaguar at the bottom.  I asked him to color the letters, and as you can see, he got REALLY into it, haha!!

Books and Media

We Read:

1. Go, Baby Jaguar! by Kristen Larsen
This was Aidan's favorite of the week, he cried when we took it back to the library.  It's a cute, easy reader, which by the end of the week, Aidan was reciting, and "reading" to himself!  It had great repetition, and a mama jaguar, which Aidan particularly loved!

2. Jag's New Friend by Leann Rimes
Don't bother with this book.  The story was choppy, and didn't make much sense, and had words like "dumb" and "stupid".  I didn't care for it at all, but the illustrations were very cute, so that's redemptive. :)

3. A Boy And A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
This book, however is a gem!! I would love to own this one!  It's a boy who stutters, and has a love of animals.  He promises his pets that when he finds his voice, he will help them have one too.  He goes to Belize to study Jaguars, where he is able to convince the government to open the first and only jaguar preserve.  It's a great story about overcoming, and loving animals.

This book is geared more towards elementary aged kids, but I wanted Aidan to see actual photographs of jaguars.  What was REALLY cool for us, is that this book actually referenced the jaguar preserve mentioned in the earlier book!  There was a picture of a poached jaguar's skin, which did bother Aidan, and every time he saw it, he said the jaguar was broken, which in return broke my heart.  He has a very tender spirit.

Every 4-year-old in Jacksonville receives a set of books, to encourage early literacy education.  One of these is about the Jaguars.  Obviously, Aidan isn't 4 yet, but I actually found this at a second-hand-store months ago.  

We watched:

1. Wild Kratts Season 2 Episode 9: Shadow: The Black Jaguar - you can find this on DailyMotion or youtube.  In true Wild Kratts fashion, you learn all kinds of new information about jaguars.

2. Elena of Avalor - this new Disney Junior show has magical creatures called "jaguins", that are a cross between a jaguar and a griffin.  Aidan really loves Elena, but not for her jaguin riding skills, haha!  I think the boy has his first crush!

And that's about it!  I hope you enjoyed our jaguar week!  We didn't do any crazy special snacks this week, but I'll try to catch up next week!  Happy New Year, folks!