A Bit of Cultural Flavor – Hungarian Food

This is the month for German food, I know. I’ve had my bratwurst, schnitzel, sauerbraten and strudel. I decided to be a little different this year and try to add a different flavor to our Oktoberfest. Hungarian food is similar to German foods. They both serve dumplings or spaetzle, just pronounce it differently. (spetzl vs. spetzla) They both believe in hardy meals that fill you up without needing a ton of ingredients. They also enjoy putting sour cream in their gravies for an added hint of comfort. There are plenty of differences, like all cultures. However you won’t know for yourself until you try.

In my hometown, there’s a Hungarian restaurant that has the best chicken paprikas and spaetzle I’ve ever had. What is it? Chicken paprikas is chicken cooked slowly in broth with onions and Hungarian paprika. Once the chicken is cooked, you remove it and add sour cream to the broth to make a gravy and serve it over the spaetzle or Hungarian dumplings. Sadly, I haven’t had good chicken paprikas for possibly ten years. I’ve tried recipes before, but they never worked. I was about to give up when I found an authentic Hungarian recipe passed down through the generations on Food.com. Thank goodness for the internet!

I decided to celebrate a successful week and give this recipe a try. It was delicious! My husband loved it and didn’t mind that we had the meal three times in one week. It’s going to be a very welcome addition to our meals, which means I’m one happy camper. The flavor is exactly like I remember it. The best part, it isn’t expensive or hard to make.

Small shopping hint – if you don’t make your own chicken broth, which is so much healthier and cheaper, stock up during the holidays. The closer we get to Thanksgiving, the more it will be on sale. After the New Year, the price practically doubles.

My Cooking Tips

  • This recipe takes a long time to make. It says it only takes two hours. Mine took three to get the broth right. (Probably because I didn’t use all of the heavy cream. See tip #2.) I put the leftovers in the fridge and it was so much better the second time. You might want to consider making it the day before.
  • The recipe calls for a whole pint of heavy cream. I didn’t use that much because it’s expensive and it’s really fattening. I simply let my gravy warm up slowly and thicken naturally. This way I didn’t need as much of the cream and still reached the perfect consistency.
  • You can use light sour cream to save calories, but not lose the flavor.
  • Make sure your spaetzle are around the size of a quarter. Otherwise, the center doesn’t cook properly. I have butchered spaetzle before and this is the best recipe. Just take the extra time and keep it small. You can use a colander to feed the mixture through, but that tends to get very messy.
  • If you are like me and can’t manage to make small spaetzle, don’t worry. Just cook them like the directions say. Cut them into small bite size pieces and toss it in the gravy. Let it warm up for 5 minutes while you’re multitasking and they’ll be perfect.
  • You do need to purchase the Hungarian paprika. You’ll find it in a red and white metal box in some grocery stores and all specialty stores. The Hungarian paprika is sweeter than regular paprika. It’s the only specialty ingredient you’ll need, but it is worth it. You can use it in other recipes, so it won’t be wasted.
  • Try the Hungarian salad included in the recipe. Each country has their own version of a sour cream/yogurt cucumber recipe. This is simply another variation. You won’t know if you like it until you try it.
  • If you want to know the perfect dessert to pair with this, make apple strudel and serve it warm with vanilla ice cream. If you want an easy foolproof recipe for apple strudel just let me know!

Please take a moment to give a little feedback:

Do you like learning new recipes from different cultures? Have you ever had Hungarian food? Is there a kind of cultural food you’ve always wanted to learn? Please post your comments below.

 *Photo by Baby Kato

True Hungarian Chicken Paprikas

By Paprikamama on November 29, 2006

Ingredients

    • 2-3 lb frying chicken, cut up
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
    • 1 1/2-2 cups chicken broth
    • 1 teaspoon salt ( to taste)
    • pepper ( to taste)
    • 2 -3 tablespoons flour
    • 2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
    • 1 pint heavy cream

Directions:

Wash and cut up chickens into pieces. Heat butter in large skillet and fry chicken pieces till browned. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Pour off most of fat from skillet and add chopped onions and garlic, saute till tender, add paprika and cook for a minute, add salt and pepper to onion mixture. Add chicken broth and stir well to remove mixture from bottom of pan. In a large dutch oven or cooking pot, add broth mixture and bring to a boil, add chicken. Make sure there is enough liquid to just cover all the chicken (if there is not enough, then add some water or more broth.) Cook covered on low heat till chicken is so tender it will fall off the bones. Remove chicken to a platter when fully cooked. Combine flour and sour cream, mix into the pot, cook slow, stirring often until thickened and smooth. At this point if sauce is not thick enough, add cream slowly while still cooking on low until desired thickness. You want to achieve a sauce that is a consistency of gravy, but not too thick. Once this is done you will need to make some dumplings as follows:

Spaetzle:

  • 3-C. flour.
  • 5 eggs.
  • 2 teaspoons salt.
  • 1/4 C water.

Mix ingredients together until smooth. Drop batter by teaspoons into boiling salted water. Cook 10 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Serve on plates and top off with sauce and chicken. This can also be served with the traditional Hungarian Cucumber salad.

Hungarian Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream:

  • 2 cucumbers.
  • 1 lg clove garlic, pressed.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
  • 2 T. vinegar.
  • 1/2°C sour cream.
  • Hungarian Paprika.

Pare cucumbers and slice into thin slices, place in bowl, add garlic, toss with salt. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Drain cucumbers very well. Blend vinegar with sour cream and add cucumbers, mix well and sprinkle top with paprika generously, and serve.

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Worth it or Not – Crab Rangoon

I don’t know about you, but there are some things that I cannot resist at a Chinese restaurant. Those delicious cream cheese filled puffs of crab happiness fried to perfection is one of them. They’re horrible for your body, but good for your soul.

As I continued on my little quest of curiosity, it only made sense to reexamine these as well. Surely there was a way to cut back on some of the calories as well as the price. It only took a matter of moments to find exactly what I wanted. The recipe is ridiculously simple. It does take time to put together your rangoon, but if you do them with a movie on in the background you won’t notice the time pass. I find it fun and the results are completely worth it!

Price comparison: In the freezer section, you can get a little box of 8 crab rangoon for $5.00 or you can make over 24 for $4.50. The ingredients you will need to purchase –imitation crab, (I prefer the flavor of this over canned and it’s normally on sale) cream cheese, (I picked the reduced fat option) wontons and green onions. All of the remaining ingredients you should already have at home. You put together your filling, assemble your rangoon and freeze them. We absolutely love them! We had guests over and they were amazed.

My favorite part is that you don’t deep fry them. They’re baked. The recipe does call for some butter on top. It’s mostly for presentation so you’re not serving wontons with flour still on the outside. You can serve them as is or put a dash of cooking spray on top. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

Tip: When you freeze wontons, the best thing to do is layer them in a freezer bag with wax paper. This way your rangoon don’t stick together and putting a batch in the oven is easier.

My Math:

  • Imitation crab $2.00 – you only use half so I count $1.00
  • Cream cheese $2.00
  • Wontons $2.50 – you only use half so I count $1.25
  • Green Onions .50 – you only use two so I count .25

If you double the recipe to use all of the crab and wontons, it would cost you $9.00 for 48 wontons. Talk about a bargain! If you have the freezer space, it’s best to make a double batch. The rangoon will keep and it’s nice to have the perfect appetizer on hand. My obvious conclusion: definitely worth it!

Baked Crab Rangoon

By Charmie777 on July 25, 2005

35 Reviews

  • Prep Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 45 mins
  • Yield: 24 rangoon

Ingredients

    • 8 ounces neufchatel cheese, softened ( low fat cream cheese)
    • 1 (3 ounce) cans crabmeat, drained and flaked
    • 2 -2 1/2 green onions, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
    • 1 (24 count) packages wonton skins
    • 1/8-1/4 cup melted butter

Directions

  1. In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except wonton skins and butter.
  2. Mix until well blended.
  3. Place 1 teaspoon filling in center of each wonton skin.
  4. Moisten edges with water.
  5. Fold in half to form triangle, pressing edges to seal.
  6. Pull bottom corners down and overlap slight; moisten one corner and press to seal. (Usually there is a diagram on the wonton package. I think they look like little kerchiefs.).
  7. Arrange on baking sheet that has been coated with vegetable spray.
  8. Brush with melted butter.
  9. Bake in 350º oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. Serve hot with sauce if desired.

Worth it or Not – Caramel Apple Spice

Sorry I didn’t post anything yesterday. I managed to catch my husband’s cold. We’ve been lounging together in a sense of shared misery. I’ve had to pick my cooking battles since I can only concentrate for so long. I figured the perfect pick-me-up would be a nice cup of caramel apple spice.

What is that? It’s a delicious combination sold at Starbucks of warm apple juice, a squirt of cinnamon syrup and caramel syrup – the syrups you put in coffee – and whipped cream (optional). I love caramel apple spices! They’re the perfect way to celebrate fall. However, they cost $5.00-6.00 per cup, which meant I was very limited on my intake. I fell so in love with the beverage that a couple of years ago I looked up the recipe. It’s so cheap and easy to make, I haven’t bought a cup at Starbucks since.

So, why am I trying to change my recipe if the original was so good? Because finding cinnamon syrup is a real challenge. The only way to purchase it is to get it from Starbucks, which means you’re charged the Starbucks price. I paid around $15.00 a few years ago for a large bottle of the syrup. It lasted a very long time, but I wasn’t a fan of the original investment for a beverage I only want once a year.

Thus the online research began. I found a recipe to create your own cinnamon syrup so hypothetically, you can create your own caramel apple spice without spending as much. Why wouldn’t I look into it?

Making your own cinnamon sauce is simple. Put ½ cup of brown sugar, ½ cup of water and a tsp of cinnamon in a pan and simmer it for 5 minutes. The mixture should reduce in half. Once you’re finished, you can assemble your caramel apple spice. Take 12 oz. of apple juice, 3 tablespoons of the finished cinnamon syrup and add the same amount of caramel syrup and warm up the concoction either in the microwave or over the stove. If you use the stove, your whole house will smell delicious! Add whipped cream on top and serve.

Now, my only side comment about the caramel sauce: you can use the caramel sauce found in the dessert aisle or you can use the syrup you put in coffee. Both will have the same effect. One could be more concentrated than the other, so use and adjust accordingly. I did make my own caramel sauce and will post a review about it this week. It’s pretty much up to you, there are plenty of cost effective options.

The big conclusion you’ve all been waiting for: is it worth it or not. I happen to think it’s completely worth it to make your own cinnamon sauce. I’m sick and was still able to make it because it takes very little concentration. You put it on the burner, stir it once and turn it off after it’s reduced in half. That’s it! It’s so much cheaper than buying it at Starbucks and it’s delicious. That’s a huge win in my book!

                                           *Photo provided by Starbucks.com

Worth it or Not – Granola Bars

I am in the process of researching different breakfast possibilities. As always, I’m trying to find something nutritious, filling and inexpensive. Yes, I have considered eggs for breakfast. It’s by far the cheapest and most filling option. I’m always on the go in the mornings though. So, having something that I can grab and eat at my desk is my preference.

I normally eat some oatmeal, however two hours later I’m ravenous. The hungrier I am, the more likely I will nibble on many random bits of unhealthiness. So, I have been looking into alternatives. I found a great recipe for homemade granola bars. It uses mostly ingredients I already had at home. I modified the recipe slightly and LOVE it! The brilliance is that you can work with what you have in your pantry.

Making granola bars doesn’t take very long and they taste delicious. The first time I made these, mine were overcooked mostly because my oven tends to be overly opinionated. Ever since then, they have been soft and delicious and slightly crumbly. My husband loves them! They are the perfect, filling breakfast solution. My favorite part is that I make them ahead of time and am set for the week.

Onto the ultimate decision: is it worth it financially or not to make your own granola bars? I say it is definitely worth it! One box of granola bars is around $5.00 for 6-12 small bars that aren’t very filling. You can make an entire 9×13” pan of approximately 12 large granola bars for a lot less. The only things I had to purchase were oats and almonds. The oats cost $2.50 for a very large canister and around $5.00 for a pound of whole almonds. I use a small handfull of the almonds, break them up and save the rest for future recipes. I still save a lot of money using my own ingredients and actually feel full after I eat two bars. It’s a very nice change.

My alterations: I used Honey Nut Cheerios because that’s what we had instead of the Rice Krispies. I also put in a big scoop of peanut butter. I can’t help it. Peanut butter and chocolate are a perfect combination. I do like having the cup of almonds in the granola bars, however they are a slightly more expensive ingredient. This can be left out if you want to save a little more of your overall price.

 

Chewy Granola Bars

By Manda on food.com

Ingredients

    • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 1/4-1/2 cup butter or 1/4-1/2 cup margarine, softened
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 large eggs
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/4 cups crisp rice cereal ( Rice Krispies)
    • 1 cup chopped almonds
    • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
    • raisins (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and lightly grease or spray 9 x 13 pan.
  2. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, sugar, and butter until light and fluffy.
  3. Blend in honey, vanilla and egg.
  4. In separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add flour mixture gradually to sugar mixture and beat until combined.
  6. By hand, stir in almonds, chocolate chips and oats until well mixed.
  7. Press mixture firmly in bottom of greased pan, and bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden brown.
  8. Cool and cut into squares.

Worth it or Not – Chocolate Syrup

             Hershey’s Chocolate syrup is a staple in most households. It retails at $4.00-$5.00. If you get the off-name brand, you’ll pay approximately $2.00-$3.00. If you want the thick syrup to put on ice cream, it’s closer to $3.00 on sale for a very small jar. However, making your own chocolate syrup – thick or not – is ridiculously simple. It’ll take you only 15 minutes and costs you very little. Why? Because you already have the ingredients at home. What does it take? Cocoa powder, sugar, water, and vanilla extract. That’s it!

             All you do is combine your ingredients, bring it to a boil and stir. Turn off the burner when it’s thick enough to your liking. I love to use the syrup on ice cream, so I let mine boil for 20 minutes. I put it in a mason jar and placed it in the fridge. I officially achieved something beautiful and delicious!

            Now, I know what you’re thinking. A whopping $2.00 profit is hardly worth the time and energy. However, if you save $2.00 here and cut out a few dollars there, you’ll be racking up savings a lot faster than coupon clipping ever will. The best part is that you get a genuine product free from preservatives. You know exactly what went into it and what didn’t. It is so much healthier for you and your family to get rid of those preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and several ingredients added to the Hershey’s syrup sold in the store. Don’t believe me? Read the label sometime. You’ll be willing to donate 15 minutes of your time in a heartbeat. I should also mention that the homemade version will always taste better because you’re using better ingredients.

             My easy conclusion – this is definitely worth it. It doesn’t take very long, isn’t very complicated and tastes delicious. I put mine on the burner while I had something going in the oven. I was already going to be in the kitchen, might as well spend that waiting time stirring some delicious chocolate!

Chocolate Syrup

From Food.com by wildheart on March 18, 2002

  • Prep Time: 2 mins
  • Total Time: 7 mins
  • Serves: 32, Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients

    • 1 cup cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 dash salt
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Stir together.
  2. Boil 2-5 minutes, stirring rapidly, until sauce begins to thicken.
  3. This must be stored in the fridge.