Sunday, March 23, 2014

Another Russian Dish--Belyashi (Pronounced Belashe)

Natasha, my daughter-in-law’s mother, prepared an unforgettable dish called Belyashi just before she left for Mother Russia. The recipe for Belyashi, a fried meat pie, originally came from Belarus, an area northwest of Moscow.  My husband said it reminded him of food he had eaten at his maternal grandmother’s home when he was a boy—in fact Natasha herself reminded him of his Russian grandmother.

This little meat pie is made with a crust that’s pretty much like pizza dough. So I’m sharing my pizza dough recipe. If you want to use your own pastry dough or buy it at your friendly grocery, that’s fine.

1. Pastry:  First, in a small mixing bowl combine ¼ cup tepid water, 2 teaspoons yeast, and a pinch of sugar. Stir and set aside. Go on to next step

2. In medium mixing bowl combine 4 cups of unbleached flour with 1 teaspoon salt. Spread the dry flour mixture up the sides of the bowl to form a hollow in the center.                                                 

3. Pour 1 cup warm water, yeast mixture, and ¼ cup olive oil into center of flour mixture. Use fork to pull flour into liquid to form stiff dough.  Remove dough from bowl to floured bread board and knead for about 10 minutes or until dough is no longer sticky. Oil the surface of dough and place in clean large bowl. Allow to rise in warm place until double in bulk, about an hour.

4. Filling: While dough rises prepare the meat. Combine ½ pound ground pork, ½ lb. ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt, a pinch of ground black pepper, ½ medium minced onion, and ½ teaspoon crushed garlic. Add a small amount of water to mixture to make filling the consistency of oatmeal.

5. Forming Belyashi: After dough is kneaded pinch into pastry balls the size of biscuits. Role each ball into circles about four inches in diameter. Place a heaping tablespoon of meat mixture on dough. Pull the dough up around the meat to form into a pie with a small circle of filling showing in center. Pinch sides together.

6. Pour about ½ inch of oil in a large skillet and heat to medium temperature. Carefully place pies, two or three at a time, meat side down in the skillet. Fry until golden brown then turn over and complete cooking on other side. Place pies on paper towels to drain fat. Serve Belyashi while hot for a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal.

Natasha recommends it with a cup of tea or coffee on a snowy day.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Russian Beef Perogies (Cheburekis)

Have you ever tried Russian Perogies? I hadn’t until my daughter-in-law’s mother came to visit. It was great meeting her and finding out that we not only share a new grandson but also a love of cooking.

I don’t speak Russian and she doesn’t speak English, but that hasn’t stopped us from communicating. We use sign language, a cheat sheet of Russian basic words, and if that doesn’t work we run for Yulia, her daughter, to act as interpreter.

The morning after she arrived, I followed my nose downstairs to the aroma of ground beef, garlic, and onion simmering on the stove.

“What’s cooking?” I asked.
To which she replied, “Cheburekis,” and pointed to the skillet.

And so it began, we looked through the pantry and the refrigerator, smelling contents of jars and spice tins until we found everything she needed. I watched as she kneaded the simple dough, rolled it into circles and filled them with the meat mixture. Then she sealed the dough edges with a fork and dropped them into sizzling oil. My mouth was watering and I couldn’t wait to sample the turnovers.

Hot and juicy; the Cheburekis were delicious. This was a totally new breakfast addition to the menu. I never had ground beef for breakfast before, but it seems in the frozen north lands of Russia, they eat a lot of protein to keep warm. I made a bowl of fresh fruit and a cup of coffee—a perfect Russian breakfast or a camp out meal to never be forgotten. Thank you, Natasha, my new Russian friend.

                                                       Russian Perogies

Ingredients for dough:   

2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2 cups flour
Extra flour to form stiff dough

2 tablespoons cooking oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup water
2 pound hamburger
1 egg
Cooking oil for frying

1. Beat eggs in a medium mixing bowl with salt and water. Add 2 cups of flour and mix with wire whip. Add more flour until stiff dough is formed. Knead dough for about 10 minutes. Cover with a dish towel and let rest until the meat is ready.

2. In a medium skillet, combine 2 tablespoons oil with onion and garlic, saute on medium heat until soft and light brown. Cool slightly and combine with  salt, pepper, water, and egg in medium mixing bowl. Mix in hamburger by hand then set aside.

Finish the dough by cutting it into16 balls about the size of biscuits. One at a time, flatten and roll each into a circle about 6 inches in diameter with a rolling pin. Spread hamburger mixture over dough leaving about ½ inch clear around edge. Fold in half and seal edges with fork tines. Turn each perogie over and seal other side then poke a few holes in it with a fork.

Pour one inch of cooking oil into large skillet on medium heat. Fry two Perogies at a time until brown and done, turning them half way through. Place on paper towels to absorb oil. Serve while warm with ample napkins—they are quite juicy.

Children can help you with this project especially when they get to knead bread. Just make sure an adult does all the work with heat.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Molasses Sugar Cookies

Recently we went to visit two of our grandchildren, ages four and six. Even before we left for our seven hour trip I got a text message from my granddaughter:

Grandma, how about baking cookies?
Cutie Pie

To which I replied:

How about making Molasses Sugar Cookies?

Her answer was a happy face!

I smiled as I put my suitcase in the car. While Grandpa drove, I looked at pictures of our grandchildren on my old cell phone— trips we had taken, playing in the park, visiting their favorite museum, playing with friends at birthday parties, and my favorite pictures—food and cooking with my grand kids.

I could hardly wait to get to their house. When we arrived we got hugs and kisses, then Mom had dinner ready and I got to read books and tell stories until bedtime.

At last it was time to make the Molasses cookies. We searched for ingredients and found most of them, but the main ingredient, molasses, was no where to be found. I did however find a box of gingerbread mix and everybody knows it contains molasses. On the side of the box was a cookie recipe that we made into sugar coated molasses cookies.
In no time at all the kids and I had the cookies in the oven. Before we left that afternoon most of the cookies were devoured. We did manage to sneak a few to bring back home.

Our son and his wife ate the cookies and kept asking for more. So a few days ago I found my original Molasses Sugar Cookie recipe that I found on a bottle of molasses, when I was a teenager. I made a big batch—chewy and delicious and already gone. I did make a few changes. The original recipe called for ¾ cup of shortening. I haven’t used that stuff in years. I substituted ½ cup butter and ¼ cup organic coconut oil—much healthier but just as tasty. Try this updated recipe and tell me what you think.

                                             Molasses Sugar Cookies


½ cup butter (1 stick)
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup molasses
1 cup sugar, ½ cup extra sugar for coating cookies
1 egg
2 cups flour 
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt


1. Melt butter and coconut oil in medium sized saucepan. Remove from heat and add molasses.
2. In medium size mixing bowl put flour, baking powder, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and salt then combine.
3. To contents of pot add 1 cup sugar and egg, stir.
4. Then add flour mixture to pot one cup at a time. When thoroughly combined, set in the refrigerator to cool until the consistency of clay (about 20 minutes). Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Role walnut sized balls of dough in sugar and coat evenly. Place about twelve cookies on an  ungreased cookie sheet and bake about 8-9 minutes. When done remove and cool on dish towel covered with wax paper. Repeat process until all cookies are baked. This recipe makes about 2 ½ dozen.

These cookies smell fabulous while they bake. If you want to sell your home, have an open house while you are baking these. Home, sweet home! Sold!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

My daughter-in-law, Yulia, is pregnant and has some serious cravings. She didn’t ask for any expensive presents for her birthday. All she wanted was a birthday cheesecake—not just any cheesecake, but a caramel pecan cheesecake. Well, it sounded good, but none of my favorite recipe books had that recipe.

I never let a little thing like a recipe get in my way. I looked on the cream cheese carton and found a basic recipe for cheese cake, but it didn’t have a crust. Next I checked the cover of the graham cracker box. There it was.

I headed for the refrigerator hoping my final two ingredients would be there. The pecans, already chopped, were waiting in the crisper. Now if I could just find some caramel syrup. I looked up and down the door where the sauces and dressings were stored but no caramel syrup. Since I didn’t want to go shopping, I would just have to make my own. Why not? I’ve made plenty of sauces in my time. I found the perfect caramel sauce recipe in an old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. If you can imagine it, you can make it. Let’s get started.

Graham cracker crust:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place 8 whole graham crackers in a large zip lock bag and crush them with a rolling pin.Pour crumbs into a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and half a stick of melted butter. Stir until combined. Press onto the sides and bottom of a 9 inch ungreased pie plate. Place in preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, but leave the oven heat on.

Cream cheese filling:
In a large bowl combine 2- 8oz. packages soft cream cheese until smooth. Add ½ cup sour cream, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 2 slightly beaten eggs,  Then combine ingredients until creamy. Pour into graham cracker crust and return the cheesecake to the oven. Bake 25-30 minutes, until set. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool completely.

Caramel sauce:
In a heavy saucepan, combine1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Add ¼ cup of water, 1/3 cup milk, and 2 tablespoons corn syrup. Cook at medium temperature and stir until it comes to a boil. Lower temperature to simmer and continue to stir for 2 minutes until it begins to thicken. Remove from stove, and add 1 tablespoon butter and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Toast ½ cup chopped pecans, sprinkle on top of cooled cheese cake and drizzle with plenty of caramel sauce. Refrigerate leftovers—if there are any.

This scrumptious cake calmed the cravings of a pregnant woman and was half eaten before we could take a picture.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pumpkin Cookies

Recently, my six-year-old granddaughter called me with a special request:

“Grandma, could you give me your recipe for pumpkin cookies? I want to make them for Thanksgiving.”

“I’d love to, Sweetheart.” And so the search for pumpkin cookies began.

Then I looked in the memoir cookbook that I’m writing. In the chapter about Halloween—there it was—pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin is a popular vegetable October through December so you have time to bake with pumpkin before the year is over.  

I emailed the recipe to my daughter and granddaughter so they could make pumpkin cookies and decided to make some myself. I smiled all the way through the process thinking they were making pumpkin cookies just like me.  If you are lucky enough to have grandchildren or children to bake with, thank your lucky stars and have fun with these yummy cookies. We did.

                                                   Pumpkin Cookies
1 cup of oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon each:
ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and salt
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups flour
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)


1. Combine first four ingredients and mix in a large bowl.

2. Then sift together and add: ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, salt, cinnamon, soda, flour.

3. Add pecans if you choose.

3. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto greased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes until light brown. Remove when done and allow to cool 10 minutes before removing to towel covered with wax paper. Cool completely then frost with cream cheese icing. This recipe makes about 31/2 dozen cookies. Let the children decorate with colored sugar—in December try red and green. Top with orange sprinkles in October and November. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to Make Potato Latkes

Hanukkah really caught me by surprise this year.  Never in my lifetime has the holiday come so early. In fact, the last time Hanukkah came this early in the year was during the late 1800’s.

I certainly don’t want to make potato latkes (potato pancake) for Thanksgiving dinner. We always make the same potato dishes every year, at that time, and they have become a tradition.

So I’ve decided since Hanukkah comes at sundown this evening, this will be our latke day—tradition demands it. We will light the 1st Menorah candle, say our blessing, and have our latkes with applesauce, or sour cream. Perhaps some barbecue chicken, steamed broccoli, and a salad would work well.  It won’t interfere with the preparation of cranberry relish or Waldorf salad which need to be chilled for Thanksgiving dinner.

Tomorrow’s dinner should be finished when it’s time to light the second Hanukkah candle. We will celebrate with a dessert—Pumpkin-Pie Cake (posted on this blog last year).

Then time to spin the dreidel!
Potato Latkes
      5 medium potatoes
      1 medium onion
      2 medium eggs
      3 tablespoons flour or matzo meal
      Salt and pepper to taste
      Vegetable oil for frying

  1. Peel potatoes and place in bowl of cold water until ready to prepare latkes.
  2. Grate onion and potatoes alternately using large holes in grater.  Press out as much liquid as possible.
  3. Blend potato mixture with eggs, flour, salt, and pepper.

  1. Heat skillet with 1 inch of oil to medium high. Drop mixture one tablespoon at a time into skillet. Brown on both sides and drain on paper towel. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

  1. If there are leftovers place on a cookie sheet and freeze. Store in zip lock bag and keep frozen until ready to use.

  1. To prepare later, heat oven to 450 degrees, place latkes on cookie sheet and heat until crisp. Do not store in frig or they will become soggy.

                                                 HAPPY HANUKKAH!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bananas Foster

 October is still a good month to have a cookout in Virginia. Recently we had a nephew from out of town come to visit. He is single and eats out all the time, so he jumped at the chance to have a homemade meal.

When he arrived, at our home, the steaks were marinating in the refrigerator. The pasta salad—one of our favorites—was soaking in a succulent sauce of homegrown herbs, homemade purple basil vinegar, and olive oil. The green bean casserole was sizzling in the oven sending off the aroma of mushroom onion gravy.

All day long I had procrastinated the making of an apple crisp. That new bag of crisp apples would just have to wait for another date. Too late to bake anything and so I opted for a quick but delicious dessert I hadn’t made in years—“Bananas Foster”. While the guys tossed the steaks on the grill I set up the ingredients for my opulent dessert. This easy surprise is prepared start to finish in 10 minutes!

3 tablespoons of butter
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup of your favorite rum
3-4 golden ripe bananas
Good quality vanilla ice cream
Whipping cream

In a medium size saucepan melt butter and add brown sugar. Stir until bubbly and pour in the rum.  Slice bananas the long way and add to the saucepan. Saute the bananas until soft and slightly browned then remove from heat. Place two scoops of ice cream in each of 4-5 stemmed dessert cups and top with your decadent Bananas Foster sauce. Add some whipped cream if you wish, and serve.

This mouth-watering dessert will hit the spot and everyone will want seconds or the recipe, so they can try it at home. You know, I bet it would be good made with peaches instead of bananas. What do you think? If you try it with peaches let me know how it turns out.