Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

Karen’s Apple Pie

November 20th, 2014





It’s holiday time – the time of the year where you try to show your loved ones that they are special and mean the world to you.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, holiday parties, family, friends.  SANTA!!! This time of year is amazing, and adds a hop to all of our steps.  But it can also be particularly hard for me as it brings back memories of my mom passing just before the holidays last year.  Those memories get amplified by olfactory senses … that part of your brain hooked up directly to your nose that smells something and jolts back memories.  We all have them … for me it brings back memories of playing Legos on the floor in St. Louis, running around the neighborhood playing kick-the-can or Laser Tag, and most of all cramming my face with every dish my mom put on the table.  Holiday dinner was never about moderation – a mantra my mom always followed the rest of the year.  I’m pretty sure my mom felt holiday dinners were about adding a layer of fat for the brutal midwestern winters 😉

My mom, Karen, was the person that inspired me to cook.  She loved it, and watching her always amazed me.   I guess that happens after raising three hungry boys!  Here is her famous Apple Pie recipe.  As long as I can remember, mom’s friends would ask her to make it for their holiday parties.  It will blow you away.  Don’t substitute any ingredients – keep it genuine.


Karen's Apple Pie


Preheat oven to 425.


Crust (alternative Vodka Crust)

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (scant)
  • 1/2 cup Cristo (generous)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbls water

Mix the ingredients in a bowl with your hands, roll out on a wooden board using a rolling pin to the size of your pie dish.  Don’t fret it being perfect, and it should be maybe 1/8″ thick.  Place in the pie dish and press into the corners, fold over and ruffle the edges a bit.  Remove any serious excess.


  • 6 cups apples – halved and then thinly slides
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Prep the apples, add the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well absorbed.  Spread evenly into your pie dish.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix in a bowl, and spread topping evenly over the pie up to the edges of the crust.

Bake in the preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Turn down oven to 325 and continue baking for 30 minutes.  



Karen’s original recipe card – this one got some love didn’t it?


Mom was never big on the details.

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Keifles (Hungarian Cookies)

November 22nd, 2009

Another family favorite, making these little guys is not for the weeknight chef – it really takes a holiday to invest this much time.  That said, it’s almost impossible to screw them up!

Prep Time: ~3-4 hours (1 day ahead for dough)

Cook Time: ~2 hours

This makes about 14 dozen so I suggest you cut it at least in half. It takes me over 4 hours of baking for the entire recipe.

Dough – Make this the night before

  • 1 pound butter (cannot substitute margarine…..must be the real deal butter)
  • 1 dozen large or xlarge egg yolks (between the first 2 ingredients, a good excuse not to share them with anyone with high cholesterol!!)
  • 5 1/2 c flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream (I use regular …..why use lot-fat when you started with a pound of butter?)

Cream the egg yolk and butter, vanilla and sour cream. Put in a large bowl and add the flour (don’t add all of it at once so it will be easier to work with). Knead the dough until it pulls away from the bowl… about 20 minutes (at least when you are working with the full recipe).  Roll them into balls about the size of a large marble (but round!):  Refrigerate over night. I use a glass baking dish and cover them with saran wrap.

Filling – Do this the day of

You need a nut grater which is hard to find… if you have a cuisinart-type of machine, you may be able to get a blade for it to grate nuts, or perhaps a cheese grater will work. With a grater the nuts come out light and fluffy almost like saw dust, but with a cuisinart blade it releases more oils so the nuts seem heavier and maybe a little crunchier, but it will probably turn out ok either way. You may be able to find a nut grater on the internet, look for a ‘rotary nut grater,’ usually mounts to a table and has a handle you turn to grate.

  • 12 egg white stiffly beaten
  • 5 c sugar
  • 2 1/2 pounds grated walnuts
  • Juice of a lemon

Beat the egg whites, beat in the sugar to make a merange. Add lemon and then fold in the nuts. Here is the best part……taste it….add more sugar or nuts as needed to taste.


Now it is time to roll out the keifle. The important part is to ‘size’ the board and the rolling pin. To do this you have to sacrifice one of the dough balls. To start, take only 1 ball out of the refrigerator and roll it out on the board. Pull it up from the board and put it into a ball again. Roll it in the same spot, using the same are of the rolling pin. What you are doing is getting all the butter out of the ball and into the board and the rolling pin so that the dough won’t stick when you roll the others.

Once the board is sized in once spot, take 4-6 balls out of the fridge at a time. Start with fewer at first until you get the hang of it. The idea is that when the balls are cold, the butter is stiff and you can work with it. Once the ball softens it will be harder if not impossible to get off the board.

Roll out one ball so that the dough is thin and you can peel it off the board. It will take practice. If it is sticking to the board you are probably taking too much time rolling it or getting it too thin. Thick/thin – who cares? With these ingredients, how can you go wrong?

<2016 update> Make sure you don’t overfill them, or roll them too tightly!  Also, I like to press the rolling pin into one ball, then rotate it and roll it out.  I find this helps me get a wider shape which I think is better than long and thing.

I roll one of the balls out and lift it off the board and set it to one side. I do about 6 at a time and them I fill them. when you rolled them, they probably turned out to be oval in shape. Take about a teaspoon of filling and glomp it across the short end of the oval, in the center.


|      X                      |

|      X                      |

|      X                      |

\ ___X__________/

Where the X’s are the filling. Then gently flop the ends over the filling, place on the baking sheet (no need to butter the baking sheet).

Bake them

Bake at 350 degtres for about 16 minutes, maybe a little longer. You don’t want them pale, but a little golden brown.

I keep them in a tupperware container to keep them fresh. If you have room, keeping them in the refrigerator will help them stay fresher. As you probably remember, Grandma kept them in the breezeway!


Serve dusted with powder sugar.

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Tarhonya and Paprikash

November 21st, 2009

Prep time: ~ 2 hrs

Cook time: ~1 hrs

The Tarhonya – Make 2 to 3 days ahead

Makes about 4 servings.  I usually triple this recipe (6 eggs) and it’s enough to feed 4 to 6 people and then have leftovers for two for a couple of days.  When in doubt, make more!  (For Friendsgiving I make enough for 8 people and I use 8 eggs)

  • 2 c flour
  • 1 t salt (update 2016: mix with the egg yolks not the flour!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/8 T water (updated 2016: I used 10T for 8 eggs and this was almost perfect)
  • 1 1/2 T water (updated 2012)

Make the flour into a volcano shape… flour in a ring.  I use the bottom of my mixing bowl to make a solid imprint.  Mix the eggs, salt and water with a fork and then pour into the center of the volcano of flour. Start mixing the flour into the egg mixture with your hand in a circular pattern trying to keep all the egg mixture from running out until it is pretty well mixed. Knead the dough until all the flour is incorporated ( or at least most of it).

The trick is to have the dough pretty dry. Cut the dough into 4-5 pieces. Have extra flour available on the board. Get a hand grater you would use for cheese (usually they are 4 sided). You want to use the side with the bigger holes rather than the 2 with the smaller (the cheese side rather than the side you would use for an onion). Grate the dough on the grater. If the dough is too moist, dip it in some flour to coat the outside. Turn the ball of dough to grate all the sides. Grate each side a couple of times and then go to the another ball and do the same. Rotate among the balls, this way they will dry out a little in the meantime. Continue until all the balls have been grated. As you grate the dough, toss it with some flour so that is does not stick together. each little pellet of dough should be a little smaller than the size of a pea (+/-)

Once it is grated, put it in a baking pan (i.e. a 9×12 cake pan). Use a couple of them if you have them, you want the layer thin so that the noodle will dry. I preheat my oven to the lowest possible temp and then turn it off. I put the noodle in and lightly stir them around every 30 minutes or so to help them dry. This is not a process to cook them, just dry them (and may take several hours). My grandma used to spread them out on a tablecloth and let them dry overnight, but I have never had a surface I was willing to give up for that period of time.

Torhunia should be a little smaller than a pea

Torhunia should be a little smaller than a pea

When it comes time to make them, put some in a strainer and shake as much of the excess flour off as you can, too much flour and they will end up pastey when you cook them. Do this in small batches until you have shaken the flour off all of them.

Browning then boiling the tarhonya might take longer than you expect – start this about 1.5 to 2 hrs before you want to eat.&nbsp; I always underestimate this.

Measure the amount of noodles you are going to cook, it will determine the amount of broth you will need. Remember this number for later. Melt about 1/2 stick of butter or margarine in a heavy pan. Get the butter fairly hot but not brown. Add the noodles, stir and brown , stirring occasionally on low heat. Can’t really say how long this will take… I continue until I reach the color I remember! I’ll try to post pictures.

In the meantime, heat about 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth per cup of noodles. Heat to boiling (this is reallllllllly important to do!). When the noodles are brown enough, add the boiling broth to the noodles. Bring back to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, taste it to see if its done. Stir it very occasionally (like when you’re checking it) and let it cook the rest of the time.  Add more broth if needed. The longer you have dried the noodles, the more broth you will need and the longer they will need to cook. I think the secret is to have the broth really hot when you add it and to get it boiling again as soon as possible. If not, they can get pastey.

The Paprikash – Start the night before – On day 2, start the Paprikash at the same time as you start browning the Torhunia

  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 chicken breast, 1 thigh, 1 leg (or some mixture of white and dark; remove skin) (I cut up a half chicken)
  • ~1 T margarine
  • 5 t paprika (updated 2012)
  • 1 quart water (4 to 5 cups)
  • 2 t salt
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • corn starch (1T per cup of water put in above; plus add one for good measure). Make sure you add the corn starch when the broth is COLD (eg right out of the fridge)

Mom usually does this the night before and allows it to cool in the fridge overnight.

In a medium-large pot, get margarine to be very hot (sizzling) then add chicken and brown.&nbsp; Can cut large breasts in half, but otherwise leave as big pieces.  This will take a few minutes per side on high heat.  Remove chicken and set aside.  Add the onion to the pot and saute, adding more margarine if you need to.  Remove from heat then add the paprika (paprika burns easily, when it does it is bitter). Stir.  Add the chicken, salt and water and heat to boiling, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender.

Before straining, you should get a nice dark color

Before straining, you should get a nice dark color

Let cool.  Strain the chicken, onions, etc. out of the broth.  If you have time, put in the fridge overnight and allow to cool.&nbsp; The next day…  Thicken the broth with cornstarch.  To do this, measure out the paprikash.&nbsp; For each cup of Paprikash you’ll need 1T corn startch.  Put the corn starch in a bowl and mix in some water, set aside.  Bring paprikash up to high temp (but not to a boil), and then add the corn startch. It will thicken in the hot liquid. In the meantime, take the sour cream out of the frig and let it get to room temp (if it is too cold and the liquid too hot, the sour cream can crudle.)

Just before you are ready to serve it, take 1/2 the sour cream and put it in a bowl. Add some cooled thicken broth and stir it to thin the sour cream and then add it to the rest of the broth. Taste it, if it needs more sour cream, add more, thining it in the same way. Heat the Paprikash and serve.

Serve it!

We usually serve the tarhonya and Paprikash in seperate bowls. Each person can decide their tarhonya to Paprikash ratio. It’s best when you use a spoon to create a volcano shape in the tarhonya, then pour the Paprikash into it. But then again, this is really a matter of personal preference! The Paprikash also tastes great poured over turkey.

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