Thursday, September 29, 2011

Healthy Pumpkin recipes

The first year I was here I was trying to find a pumpkin , the type I was used to in North America.  I wanted to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.   Well it was impossible!  After a few years yes there were some pumpkins available but for only like 3 days.  You see Hungarians do not eat pumpkin like North Americans , they eat squash mostly when it comes to eating these vegetables.  Pumpkins seem to be decorations only .

Of course making a pie is also difficult as they do not make pies here! I finally bought a silicon pie shell online and I can make my pies. 

But I first need a pumpkin. 

So in October I go out and buy the pumpkins as soon as I see one. I then cut it up , take out the seeds and roast it in the oven, scrap out the  insides and use that in baking.

I have added and article from "A Taste of Home"  with recipes and all about pumpkins for the people homesick for pumpkins in October.

I will be making a pumpkin pie very soon but I have to wait until I find a pumpkin.  Culinaris sells pumpkin pie filling that you can use in a pinch but I like to make my own .

So until I can find my pumpkin enjoy the recipes.

Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

These healthy recipes prove pumpkins are more than just a Halloween decoration

Super Food of the Issue Pumpkin
Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A, which is known to potentially reduce the risk of some cancers. It's also beneficial to vision, especially night vision. Get more in your diet with these seasonal, delightful recipes.
Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
These nicely spiced Pumpkin Streusel Muffins are a great accompaniment to any meal — or try them for breakfast, dessert or a snack. The pumpkin flavor is complemented by a sweet brown sugar topping. You'll never know they're made with egg substitute.
—Connie Pietila, Atlantic Mine, Michigan
Frosty Pumpkin Pie
This Frosty Pumpkin Pie is so delightful that no one will guess it's made with reduced-fat ingredients. My gang actually prefers a slice of this layered dessert to traditional pumpkin pie at Christmastime.
—Janet Jackson, Homedale, Illinois
Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
For a delicious roll at your Thanksgiving dinner table, try these Pumpkin Dinner Rolls. It is a very easy yeast roll recipe and are on the table in no time.
—Connie Thomas, Jensen, Utah
Pilgrim Pudding
With a pleasant pumpkin flavor, caramel and almonds, this rich and creamy Pilgrim Pudding from our Test Kitchen tastes decadent, but it's surprisingly light.
—Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Greendale, Wisconsin
Curried Pumpkin Soup
This comforting Curried Pumpkin Soup is wonderfully warming on an autumn day, and the subtle curry flavor lets the pumpkin star. My family really enjoy dishes like this that have a delightful down-home flavor.
—Eleanor Dunbar, Peoria, Illinois

More Pumpkin Recipes »

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

a Pasta day

The Danube separates Budapest into Buda and Pest.  It was actually towards the end of the 1800 's that Buda, Pest and Obuda were joined to create Budapest and make it a world class city. This was during the Golden Age of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Today Pest is the area of the old buildings , the restaurants, the nightlife, the place where you go to have fun . Buda on the other hand is quiet and reserved.  There are many restaurants here also but the people who live here come for the hills , the scenery, the fresh air, it is more a family place.
It is very quick and easy to get across the river to either Buda or Pest. You actually can get any place in around 20 minutes. The Hungarians complain about the transportation but I tell them to go to any large North American City and compare and they would be happy with what they have here.  Public transportation is amazing considering sometimes in the car it would be an hour.  I used to drive everywhere and complain of the traffic and the parking fees which are crazy in Pest. I started taking the public transportation as driving was stressing me out too much . Now I hardly ever use my car preferring the bus, trams (streetcar) or metro ( subway) . I love taxis also and they are not expensive so depending on where I go I might take one.

OK I started to tell you about the Danube or Duna as it is correctly called.  I get so carried away.  I am fascinated by this river. It is the 2nd longest river in Europe after the Volga and in classified as an international waterway. It originates in the Black Forest area of Germany  where 2 smaller river join and passes through 4 central and eastern European capitals before it empties into the black sea.

The river is calming, it is no longer blue only in the late afternoon when the sun strikes it at an angle and then it turns blue and looks like was 1000's of years ago but still it is mesmerizing. The boats and  barges, the cruise ships and the kayakers all use this river so peacefully. It has only been lately that on some hot days there are speed boats and sea-dos. I never tire of the view of the river and can think of no better relaxation in the late afternoon then sitting on the balcony with tea or coffee and cookies and chilling.

Today as the weather has finally gotten colder (25) I decided to make one of my husbands favorite meals.
It is a typical pasta dish that the Hungarians eat.

250 grams of pasta which is shaped into large squares or sheets.
250 grams of Ricotta cheese
100 grams of sour cream
250 grams more or less of smoked bacon cut into small pieces

Fry the bacon, when crispy take out the pieces and place on a paper towel to dry. Save the oil.

While you are doing this  ,boil the water and add the pasta and a pinch of salt  and cook until al dente , then strain , splash with a little oil so that the pieces do not stick together.

Take an oven pan and put a little oil on the bottom and now comes the layering.

Place one layer of the pasta and on top of that a layer of ricotta , spoon a bit of sour cream on top of this . Then another layer of pasta and repeat with the ricotta and sour cream .
Now you will add 3/4's of the bacon and some of the bacon oil ,drizzle it on . Now the last layer of pasta and the rest of the bacon is sprinkled and the oil is drizzled on top .
 The bacon is mixed in with the cheese. For a vegetarian version  just leave out the bacon....It will still taste great!

This you will cover and place in a 160 pre-heated oven . This dish is so easy that you don't even have to time it , just place it in the oven 1 hour before you want to eat.

When ready to eat take the cover off and slightly cool. When serving this have some sour cream at the table also and a bowl of sugar.

I also have a plate of marintated kosher dill pickles and  cabbage stuffed hot yellow peppers. My husband eats this sweet with sugar and I eat it with the hot peppers!

I was speaking with an old friend and he will come one day and make Slambuc. This is apparently a dish that is similar but made in a pot of boiling water and made by the herdsmen many many years ago. he will be making the thin pasta for that by hand so I can hardly wait for that 'cooking' day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Chocolate chip cookie and all is good again...

Each week has the same amount of time to it , the  same amount of days, hours and minutes and yet some weeks are shorter.  This past week was a very short one for me I do not know where it went. The Danube kept flowing , the boats kept gliding up and down , to Budapest and away from Budapest. It was as if everything was in fast motion, I was unable to catch any of the minutes.
So  I decided that this is a perfect time for chocolate chip cookies the great stress buster! 
Before I give you an amazing recipe I have a little story about them .

After we arrived in Budapest I went out looking for chocolate chip cookies . I knew it would be a very different lifestyle here but I had no idea they did not have chocolate chip cookies then . I had brought  my French's mustard and my  frank's hot sauce in my bag but did not think of the cookies.  Chocolate has a way of lowering stress in a  person  and so I really needed those cookies..... but no matter where I looked they did not have chocolate chip cookies. There were wonderful hazelnut cookies for Christmas but no chocolate chip with or without nuts. I got addicted to the pastries here and so soon chocolate chip cookies were all but forgotten. 
Over the years a few places like Tesco  would sell some cookies in a package that tasted like chemicals but still you could not find the real cookies in the coffee shops that a person from North America is used to  . I remembered  buying these cookies in Toronto and zapping them in the microwave. UMMMM so good, with the chocolate melting all over, they were so moist and so perfect to make a bad day good.  Here the millions of  coffee shops have cakes and biscotti. Now I love biscotti but I needed chocolate chip cookies. I would bring some back  in my suitcase when I came back from a visit. By the time I got them home they were totally crumbled. I gave up.

A little about the history of the Chocolate chip cookie....

"Like many great discoveries...and this is one of the greatest, It was a mistake.
Ruth Wakefield invented chocolate chip cookies in 1930 at the Toll House inn she and her husband Keneth ran near Whitman, Massachusetts. Like a bed and breakfast she made food for her guests. One evening in 1937 she got the idea to make a chocolate butter cookie so she broke up one of the bars of semi-sweet chocolate that Andrew Nestle gave her. She thought that it would mix together with the dough & make all chocolate cookies . Needless to say, it didn't. However the cookies came out decent so she served them. They of course were so good they had to be done again. She published the recipes in several newspapers and the recipe became very popular.
This gem of Ruth's she called the Chocolate Crunch Cookie and she made a deal with Nestle that they could put the recipe on their chocolate bar if they supplied her with free chocolate for her cookies at the Inn.Nestle tried to make it easy for people to make these cookies. They even included a small chopper in the package. Finally, in 1939, the Chocolate Morsels that we know today were introduced.
The Chocolate chip cookie is the most popular kind of cookie in America. Seven billion chocolate chip cookies are eaten annually. The Toll House produces thirty-three thousand cookies each day. Some Vendors only sell chocolate chip cookies. Half of the cookies baked in American homes are chocolate chip." from the kitchen site.

So why are there no chocolate chip cookies here.....?.
Of course the reason could be that there are no chocolate chips!  I guess they did not need them as no one was making these cookies in Budapest. Should I contact Lindt?

I have spoken to friends who are Hungarian about these cookies. They have no idea what a cookie is so they were pleasantly surprised when they tasted one. Everyone wanted the recipe.
Today I will share with you a wonderful chocolate chip recipe .This is after looking at and trying many many recipes. I found this one in the New York Times and it was the BEST and did come out perfect every time.

First I must say that the original recipe calls for bitter sweet dark chocolate. In Budapest I have only found thin dark chocolate so I could not use that as chopping that up would produce slivers that would melt immediately and the cookie would become a chocolate cookie.
So I bought cooking chocolate that is used to melt and cover cakes with chocolate.
 I chopped the baking chocolate and whatever pieces where really small I placed in a jar to be used for Hot chocolate.  It was tough chopping 1 1/4 pounds of chocolate but worth it .

Next time I go to Toronto to visit I will be bringing back pounds of bitter sweet chocolate chips or thick bars.
Ok so lets start .....

8 1/2 ounces cake flour  ( retes liszt in HUngarian)( 1 3/4 cups)
8 1/2 ounces bread flour ( 1 3/4 cups)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
10 ounces of non salted  softened  room temperature butter ( 283.5 grams)
10 ounces brown sugar ( read below about the sugar)
8 ounces of white sugar
2 large eggs room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 pounds bitter sweet chocolate chips ( around 567 grams)

In one bowl add the 2 types of flour, the baking soda and baking powder and the salt and mix.

In another MUCH LARGER  bowl add the sugar and butter and beat until sort of fluffy . I do all this by hand as I do not have a machine which can make dough. It is not that hard.
Then add the eggs slowly one at a time .
Then finally add the vanilla.
It will look like this when everything is added.Now  we will add the flour mixture into the sugar mixture and mix until it looks like dough.

Now comes the hard part! Add the chocolate chips.  You have to blend this slowly .It is a lot of chocolate to add to the mixture.
I use a spatula to mix and then my hands as it is hard to get all the chocolate into this dough.

Once it is all added  cover the dough with a plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 24-60 hours. This will really make a difference in the taste.

About the sugar. If you do not have semi sweet chocolate then reduce your sugar or it will be really too sweet.  I only used a total of  8 ounces of brown sugar and 6 ounces of white. At the end I realized I could even go less. I do not like things too sweet and the amount of chocolate in these cookies is huge.

1/2 an hour before taking the dough out of the fridge you must pre-heat the oven to 180. ONLY take out the dough from the fridge when this is heated.

Now we will take out the dough from the fridge it is quite hard. I made this dough yesterday sometime in the middle of the night so that for the weekend I could be enjoying chocolate chip cookies. I love the fact that the dough can be refrigerated for up to 65 hours  or frozen for 2 months . This means on a day when you have time you can mix everything ( it takes very little time to do that)  make the dough and then pack it all away to use when you are really in the need of a cookie fix but do not have too much time.
Ok so now I divide the dough into 4 pieces.

3 pieces I double wrap and place in the freezer for future use. Each piece will make approximately 12 cookies.

As I am watching my weight  if I made 48 cookies I would eat 48 cookies so I make sure the temptation is not there.

Look at all the chocolate chips in there!

There is no need to roll this out , I tear off pieces and make balls the size of golf balls. These I place on parchment paper and squish a little and sprinkle with a little  SALT.  The salt will make the difference.

These cookies need to be baked in a cold state and placed in a hot oven so work quickly , it does not matter how they look as they will grow! . Bake on the bottom or 1 above the bottom for 16-20 minutes.

Once done , carefully place on a dish and allow to cool for 10 minutes then eat. They are so good you can not just eat one. Take the rest of the dough from the fridge and make another 6 cookies. These cookies are so good , they are a perfect chocolate chip cookie and by making the dough and freezing it you will always have cookies when you need. Just place them in the fridge and defrost.

OK so these are now done , count the minutes that it takes to eat them . I leave out 2 for my husband because if I leave out more they will all be gone .

 So we now have our cookies on a plate cooling, the scent of fresh baked cookies is so wonderful. My husband is peeking in the kitchen to see when he can steal a cookie, such a sweet tooth he has. I give him his plate of 2 , he looks at the large plate which still has 10 on it but does not say a word. I silently place another cookie on his plate and he smiles.

So at the end of this short crazy week, smelling these cookies and biting into the richness of lots of warm chocolate chip is pure heaven . Suddenly the week is forgotten and I am once again sitting on the balcony enjoying the flow of the Danube and all is good!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


 When I was about 7 , I was sent together with my brothers to Hungarian school. Every Saturday we would be dropped off at the Church hall and picked up at noon. I think this served a two fold purpose,  we were taught a bit about Hungary and my parents had a few hours of peace .
In Hungarian school we were taught about " The Kingdom of Hungary" . We learned about the tribes who came to the Carpathian basin and settled, we learned the names and locations of the rivers and mountains, we learned about the great leaders . Of course we were young and the really colorful map which was always present, helped a lot for us to understand, just what a great  huge country our parents and grandparents came from .

I do not remember how many years I went to Hungarian school ( not many) but the only thing I remembered was the big map.  So high school starts and with it my first geography class.  I went to an all girls catholic high school run and taught by nuns. At that time they all wore the black nun outfits covering there heads to their feet...very scary bunch without smiles at all. Anyway the map of Europe was on the board in the classroom and whoever was of European descent had to come and show their country on this map. I think it was just me and Sophie from Poland.  I went up but could not find The Kingdom of Hungary. I looked everywhere , there was no country the shape of Hungary  on this map. The teacher then pointed it out a small little piece of land in the middle . Well ok I was not going to argue with a nun. That night I told my parents that the nuns were stupid because they had a map and the Hungary that was marked on it was different than 'our ' Hungary.
That evening I was told about Trianon and how this changed the whole shape of Hungary. The Hungary  I knew was the OLD Hungary, The Kingdom of Hungary .  Well this was embarrassing .

The past is important and perhaps we were too young to understand Trianon but somewhere along the line we should have been shown a map of the real Hungary even if just to compare the size.
That weekend my parents went out and bought a large map of the world and placed it on a wall. I spent many hours looking at the borders of the real Hungary and imagining  the huge change, what happened to those poor Hungarians who were suddenly not Hungarians!  I realized a sadness , a feeling of loss. I think deep down inside I realized I had very strong ties to the old Hungary even though I had never stepped foot on the soil.
A few years ago a very interesting book was published called  Paris 1919,  by Margaret MacMillan .
It is a very well written , easy to read book  and if anyone is interested in Trianon, I would highly recommend reading this book.

Today I was thinking about the Old Hungary and the shepherds  and herdsmen out in the plains.  There were no stores nearby , no hypermarkets but they still had to eat and they needed something that required little looking after and could be made in an iron pot hanging over a fire. These herdsmen were called 'gulyas' in Hungarian and so this delicious easy food that they ate was called Gulyas. Towards the end of the 19th century ,prompted by rising national awareness this peasant  food was eaten also by the townspeople and the noblemen. In the second half of the 1800's, Hungarian culture , language and food was a treasure to be protected  to save the independence and  national identity of the Hungarian's  from  the Austrian Hapsburg dynasty's rule.  By the second half of the 20th century Gulyas become the number one dish for every tourist who came to Hungary to try and everyone knew Gulyas no matter how it was spelled was Hungarian.

This is a real  Hungarian meal but I have tasted Gulyas made in so many different ways , like chicken paprikas people like to change the original. Gulyas is a food half way between a soup and a stew. On Hungarian menus it is under soups. I am making  this from a recipe that I got from my father who always made the Gulyas in our house. I think it is a Hungarian  guy thing as every Hungarian guy I know  (excepting my husband, his idea of cooking is boiling water and placing in the boiling water 4 eggs from the fridge and hopping one out of four will not crack open and he proudly says he can boil an egg! ) has their own 'special' recipe for Gulyas.

11/2 pounds  stewing beef ( the beef should be fatty )
2 carrots
1parsley root
1/2 celery root
1 tomato
1 onion and 2 garlic cloves
1 tbs paprika powder, 1 tbs caraway seed whole or powder.
1 green or red sweet pepper

 I am making this also to freeze ,the amounts you will see here in the pictures are much more than is required for two or four servings. However the amounts shown in the ingredient list are for 2-4 servings depending if this is a soup and first course or a meal.

I like to have everything chopped up before hand as then it is easy just adding when needed. I have found that by doing this I do not leave out something.

The first step is to saute the finely chopped onions and the pressed garlic cloves. When they become glassy add 1/2 cup water and boil so that you get all the flavor out.

You will boil this until there is no more water BUT not allow the onions to burn.

When the water has  boiled away  you take this off the stove and add the paprika powder, stir to coat place back on the stove and then add the beef, the cut up pepper and tomato, the salt and the caraway seeds. Put a lid on this and simmer until the meat is half cooked . This means you can stick a fork in it but it still feels hard.

When you check and the meat is half cooked ,you will add the carrots, paresley roots and the celery root. This would be around in 45 minutes on a low temperature.
(While you are waiting you will make the dumpling base so that you will be ready to add it, if you will be making dumplings. Many places do not add dumplings as they have added potatoes, it is not necessary.)

You do not need to add water as on a slow heat with a lid the meat will give up enough water.  Look at the picture I have just added the carrots etc and you can see that the water is almost covering the soup. This is all from the meat. Now you just let this cook  for about another 1-2 hours. You should not hurry this , if the meat is cooked slowly then it will soften  up . Do NOT boil, better to cook longer at a slow heat than boil to speed this up and get hard meat that is unchewable. Remember this was on a pot over a fire and cooked for hours.

After the vegetables are soft and you can place a fork in the meat easily   you will add water so that it covers the soup and the potatoes.
Yes there is a lot of fat on the top but do not take this off. It is a beautiful red color from the paprika.
 Slowly cook for about another  hour. The lid will be on but only part way .

Now this is done. The dumplings can be added when the potatoes were added but then you must raise the temperature to a slight boil to cook them . Speaking of making life easy.....

My cousin in Canada asked me to bring her dried  'csipetke' ( little dumplings) . It is something you can not get  there only here. It is a dried small dumpling basically, that you add to bean soup or gulyas instead of making the dumplings by hand. It does not change the taste of the soup, it takes a while to soften but you can add it into the soup with the vegetables and by the time everything is cooked, the csipetke is also soft ,it is a real time saver!  Since she introduced me to this I also use the dried type.

Another item that will help you get the right amount of seasoning  in the gulyas is Gulyas Paste. It comes in a tube and is either csemege (mild) or csipos ( hot).  Once you are finished you can squirt some paste into the gulyas , it is like a seasoning, stir this around and you are done.

So this gulyas was a mild gulyas, when you serve this you can add a small hot pepper on the side and this allows a person to control the 'heat' of their own soup. A few slices of rustic bread and you have a meal!

 I also have 3 containers of gulyas I will be freezing. When they are to be used I will just add some more water and heat up. This is a great time saver. Some how the gulyas tastes better the second day and also from the freezer. If you know you will have many quests you can make this weeks ahead of time. I take out the carrots and the potatoes when this has cooled as they do not freeze well. When I thaw this out I will also boil some carrots to add into the soup to give it the color. The taste is already in the soup so you do not need many.

The worst thing about the Hungarian cookbooks is that it says things like..."when the meat is half done". This has always driven me crazy . You buy a cookbook so that you can learn to cook maybe you are a beginner, how would you know when the meat is half cooked? How would you know when the gulyas is done  " simmer until done" or the usual " make a roux" . As a beginner would you even know what a roux is? When I was watching my dad or mom cook no one gave a name to what was being done. So when a roux was made it was just another step with no name. It took me awhile to find the names that matched the steps and then to learn them in Hungarian. By the way Gulyas does not need a roux.

Maybe what cooking is all about is just doing it , passing recipes down , sharing quality time together over a stove , from grandmother to mother to daughter or son. I certainly remember the recipes I was taught and the wonderful time I had learning them .

So our meal is made, I will cut the bread, pour the red Hungarian wine and we will sit and watch the setting sun. . I hope if you make this  that your gulyas will also turn out perfect!
If you would like me to send you some dried dumplings or gulyas paste just contact me.
Hungary Before Trianon 1939 : View Map : Hungary Old Maps : EN