True Confessions…

…this will be my last confession of 2014…

I have not had much experience in working with yeast doughs or doughs of any kind. I’m going to work on this in 2015. Today on Mennonite Girls Can Cook I posted my first attempts on recreating one of my mom’s wonderful Pirog пиро́г recipes.

The standard shape for my mom’s pirog is rectangular. They can be closed or open-faced with no crust on top.

Sometime in 2015 I will share a savory pirog that my mom used to make with a closed presentation.

Click here to get to Mennonite Girls Can Cook and my Sweet Apple Pirog пиро́г.

1,000,000 Celebrations!

In Celebration of over 1,000,000 hits on my blog I’m giving away our new Celebrations Cookbook to one of you who leave a comment on this post. Oops!! I forgot to mention that the giveaway will close Saturday night and I’ll announce the winner on Monday!

In March of 2007 my brother Steve sat me down and told me he was going to help me start my own blog since I was enjoying visiting so many. Since that time I have learned so much and I understand a few more things about my computer. One of the best things that has happened from my blogging experience are the new friendships I’ve enjoyed. Meeting some of these friends in person has been such a special blessing. One of my meetings resulted in a walking buddy for the years that Dear and I were living in Camarillo, California. Now that we are back in Washington, I miss my walking buddy, Willow.

During my blogging I stumbled upon Lovella’s blog and noticed that she baked Paska at Easter time. I was curious because being from a Russian Immigrant family we always had this same Easter treat year after year. I started following her blog and soon realized a lot of her recipes were similar to the Russian recipes my mom made in our kitchen. Soon Lovella decided to start a cooking blog where recipes were posted every day. She asked if I’d like to contribute. I started slow but then became more regular when I embraced this fun concept and my responsibility of being a contributor. Over the course of time the  Mennonite Girls Can Cook Blog was cemented with 10 contributors and I was one of the 10. After this point Lovella was contacted by Menno Media with the idea of a Mennonite Girls Can Cook cookbook. The ten of us met for the first time all together in Canada and signed a contract and got to work. Even though I’m the one contributor of the 10 that is not Mennonite or Canadian, I’ve been embraced and accepted as their “Russian American Cousin”.

Our first cookbook has been a fun venture and has afforded the 10 of us the opportunity to share all of our royalties to build a greenhouse at the Good Shepherd Shelter in the Ukraine. From the beginning we as the authors agreed that we have all we need and we wanted to help those less fortunate with our portion of profits from our book. The whole story of the Mennonite/Ukranian/ Canadian connection is explained in the book and on our blog. Our first book is still available and you can click over to the Mennonite Girls Can Cook Blog to see where the book can be purchased. It is also available at Amazon.

This is the greenhouse at the Good Shepherd Shelter in the Ukraine. They are already growing food year round in the greenhouse!

Our 2nd cookbook will be published May 1st of this year. For our 2nd book our author royalties will again go to a mission project that we are deciding on together. The photo above was taken during our time together to sign the contract for our 2nd book. These 9 wonderful women of faith have become my partners and dear friends all because of my little blog. Who could have ever dreamed this? It is amazing what God has given to me through “The Happy Wonderer” I wonder who I’ll meet in the future?

We are excited about our new book and the themes and recipes included this time around. I really love the cover and am looking forward to seeing all the recipes and photos put together and having the hard copy in my hands!

If you leave a comment and are chosen for my giveaway please understand that I won’t be sending you our new cookbook till May of this year. Besides your comment you will need to leave a reliable email address so I can contact you to get an address to mail the book. Your email address won’t be visible to anyone but me. Thank you to all my regular readers and bloggy friends for supporting me with your kind thoughts and comments. I appreciate all of you!

Borsch Re-do…

Because it’s almost Fall and still warm here in the Northwest I decided to make Borsch and I wanted to update my photos and technique. It’s a standing joke around our house that I pick the hottest day of the year to make Borsch!

Our version of Borsch growing up was made with green cabbage and not beets. We also do not pronounce it with a “t” at the end.

Stock Ingredients:

1 Chuck Roast or 7 Bone Roast
1 onion
1-3 celery stalks with leaves
2-3 carrots
2 bay leaves
5-10 peppercorns
Salt to taste

Using a large stock pot, cover rinsed meat with water. Add all the remaining stock ingredients and bring to boil. Lower heat to simmer. Simmer until roast is fork tender.  Remove Roast to oven safe pan. Strain the stock.

While stock is simmering prepare soup ingredients.

Soup Ingredients:

1 onion diced
1 bell pepper diced
2-3 stalks of celery diced
1 Jalapeno diced (optional)
1-2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 cans (approx 15 oz. each) stewed tomatoes, blended

1 head of green cabbage cut in shreds
3 carrots grated
2-3 potatoes peeled and diced
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz.)
1/2-small bunch of dill chopped or more according to taste
1 handful of chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste
optional – 1 can of Garbanzo beans rinsed and drained

At this stage you can season the roast well and put in 350 degree oven to cook further and infuse some flavor into it to serve along side the Borsch.

Saute onion, bell pepper, celery, and jalapeno (optional), in oil. When these ingredients are soft blend them in a blender with the 2 cans of stewed tomatoes. In the photo above I used an immersion blender to blend the sauteed vegetables with the stewed tomatoes. I think it is more efficient to use a regular blender. Add this mixture to the prepared stock and then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer until all the vegetables are done.

Serve the Borsch with good bread, a dollop of sour cream, and slices of the prepared roast. I really went overboard and made a huge pot. I ended up freezing 7 containers to share or have at a later date.

We grew up eating borsch. I’m sad to say I really hated it when I was little. I’d sit in front of the bowl trying to get it down and it was difficult. One of the reasons why was the chunks of tomato that were in the soup. That’s why this method is much preferred to me where you blend a lot of the vegetables and eliminate many of the chunks in the soup. Today I don’t mind chunky soup but for Borsch I still prefer this method. There are many variations of borsch. Some people chop up or shred the meat and put it into the soup. My mother always prepared the meat from the stock pot to the oven and added some potatoes to cook with the roast. She then served it on the side. At this point if you wanted to add it into the soup you were free to do so. Instead of adding the sour cream to the soup growing up we’d spread the slice of bread with sour cream instead of butter to eat along with the Borsch.

Give Me My Babushka’s Cooking


For Foodie Friday I’m posting this paragraph my daughter wrote about her Babushka’s cooking and a recipe and how to make my mom’s Borsch following it.

  • Gimme my Babushka’s cooking and I’ll be content

  • The sort of Russian/Persian cuisine that my Baba (Grandma) makes… I would be a happy camper for a year with yummy borscht, galupsi, kulyich, syrny paska, lapsha, varenky, shashlik, and a million other treats that I would butcher just as badly trying to spell in English…I can say most of them but they’re sure hard to type. Just make sure you give me a good supply of sour cream, and can I bend the rules to include my Mom’s “green borscht” which is spinach soup we chop up hardboiled eggs in? I was never entirely sure where that soup’s origins really lay…I could never get sick of all the lamb and cabbage and butter filled goodness, heck I even like the Russian candies my Deda (Grandpa) keeps around though none of my cousins do. My mouth is watering already. ~ Katie
  • borsch-snoqualmie-001
  • Many Borsch recipes include beets in them. The familiar Borsch that we grew up with and that we had at Molokan Church Meals did not have beets in it. Here is my mother’s recipe.

    Nadia’s Borsch

    For the Stock:
    1 Chuck Roast (with bone would be good)
    1 onion
    1-3 celery stalks with leaves
    2-3 carrots
    2 bay leaves
    5-10 peppercorns
    Salt to taste

    In a big stock pot, cover chuck roast with good water. Bring just to boil. Take roast out of water and discard the water. Put chuck roast back in pot and cover with fresh water again. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Simmer and cook until roast is fork tender. Strain the stock. Reserve the roast.

    1 head of cabbage shredded (green is what we use)
    1-3 carrots grated
    1-2 onions diced
    1 bell pepper diced

    2-3 stalks of celery diced

    (saute the bell pepper, onion, celery and jalapeno then blend before adding to stock)
    2-3 potatoes diced
    2 cans stewed tomatoes blended in blender (we have those that don’t like chunky tomatoes)
    1 can tomato sauce
    1/2-small bunch of dill (to taste)
    1 handful of chopped Italian parsley
    salt and pepper to taste
    optional – 1 can of garbanzo beans
    option #2 – add a small jalapeno diced to the saute group above.

    Put the strained broth back into a stock pot. Add all the above ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer until cabbage and carrots are tender. Taste and see if the soup needs more salt or pepper at this time.

    The Borsch is ready now.

    My mother doesn’t include this in her recipe but when she made borsch at my house once I saw her add a half a cube of unsalted butter at the end. :) My mother mashes most of the potatoes to thicken up the soup a bit.

    You can bake the chuck roast with a little of the stock, salt, pepper, and sauteed onions to serve alongside the borsch with a good loaf of bread and of course…sour cream. This was my welcome home meal for my kids on one of my trips back to Seattle a couple years ago.

    I hope you enjoyed this post from my archives. I think it is high time I make borsch again and take some new pictures.

  • Photobucket is holding all my photos that I stored on their site from 2007-2015 hostage replacing them with ugly grey and black boxes and asking for a large ransom to retrieve them. It is a slow process to go through all my posts deleting the ugly boxes.

Cherry Varenya ~ Russian Tea Sweetener

The Russian immigrants I grew up around would make and enjoy this Cherry Syrup made with whole pie cherries in their hot tea. They used this syrup in place of sugar to sweeten their tea. I called my mother this week to get the following recipe from her to share for The-Sweet-and-Savory-of-Yummy.

This is a very simple recipe for Cherry Varenya. This is a syrup made with Cherries to sweeten hot tea with.

Cherry Varenya

1/2 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Whole Sour Cherries (Pie Cherries)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

You would increase the proportions of this recipe according to how many cherries you have on hand that you want to make into Varenya.

Boil the water and sugar to make a clear simple syrup. When the liquid is clear add your cherries and let it boil for 10 to 20 minutes (depending on how hard the cherries were to begin with) At the end of the boiling add 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to help preserve the brightness of the syrup.

You may want to can it at this point. (I don’t know how to can anything so you are on your own here!) 🙂

You can do this process with sliced lemons, too, to make a Lemon Varenya.

Lemon Varenya

When I was young our family would go to a Cherry Orchard somewhere near Lancaster, California in July when the pie cherries were ready to harvest. It might have been in the Leona Valley. We would pick cherries all day and take home upwards of 40 pounds of cherries. That’s a lot of Varenya. When we picked this much my parents would give about half of the cherries away to other relatives and friends who couldn’t make the trek out to the Cherry Farm. Then it was a full day of preparing the cherries for Varenya. Washing, cooking and canning.