Khrustyky (Ukrainian Fried Cookies)

Claudia's Cookbook - Khrustyky cover

 Merry Ukrainian Christmas Eve! Just when you thought Christmas was long behind us, up pops the Orthodox celebration. We typically do not celebrate Christmas twice in our household. The standard one in December is what we celebrate. Although I would love to celebrate and eat all the delicious Ukrainian food again tomorrow, I think the 10 pounds I gained in December is reason enough to enjoy photos and blog more delicious recipes rather than consume. 

This recipe for Khrustyky, or Ukrainian fried cookies, is the perfect dessert for Ukrainian Christmas, or any day. They are super light and crispy with a hint of sweetness from the icing sugar. They are also fairly simple to make, and don’t require a ton of time. Unlike a lot of other dough in Ukrainian cooking, this dough only rises for about 30 minutes and doesn’t require a ton of kneading.  Some people like to add bourbon to their recipes. I didn’t have any on hand, nor did my Baba put any in her recipe (this one below!), so I decided to use a bourbon vanilla extract instead. This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so it is best to fry, cool and freeze them in plastic bags until you want to eat them. You can then thaw them and dust with icing sugar. I don’t recommend dusting with icing sugar and then freezing. 

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White Chocolate Cranberry Almond Biscotti

Claudia's Cookbook - White Chocolate Cranberry Almond Biscotti cover

I have almost fully recovered from my food coma of Christmas 2014. I had 3 family dinners in the span of 4 days. All of them were filled with Ukrainian food that consisted of dough, butter, onions, more butter and the odd slice of turkey. Don’t even get me started on the sheer volume of chocolate that was also consumed. It was all worth it. But, I am already dreading my triumphant return to the gym next week. 

I’ve been meaning to feature this biscotti recipe on the blog for some time now. It has been a cookie staple in my house for a few years. I really got into biscotti while I worked at Starbucks throughout university. Before that, I had never even heard of it. Biscotti is a twice-baked cookie originating from Italy. They are crunchy and known for their oblong shape. They are also seriously addicting. This is one of my favourite recipes. The combination of orange, cranberry and almond flavours are so delicious. I eat my biscotti with a little drizzle of semi-sweet chocolate and also plain. The recipe is also super simple and worth the calories. 

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Pampushky (Ukrainian Doughnuts)

Claudia's Cookbook - Pampushky cover

I deemed this past Saturday “Deep Frying Day”. Claudia came over early, as we had a lot of Ukrainian cooking to do. All of which consisted of frying dough in hot oil. All of which was absolutely delicious. It had been quite a few years since I have had Pampushky. They are Ukrainian style doughnuts that are traditionally filled with either poppy seeds or prunes. They are little bites of heaven. The dough is sweet, amazingly soft, light and flaky. We make ours on the smaller, bite-sized side, but you can make them larger, like traditional doughnuts. People also tend to dust them with icing sugar for added decadence. My family prefer these au naturale, but there is truly no right or wrong way to enjoy them. They are the perfect dessert for Christmas Eve, which is coming up a lot faster than I’d like it. The dough requires a bit of time – 2 hours in fact. But it’s so worth it. This recipe makes a lot of Pampushky – 12-13 dozen or so. They freeze exceptionally well if you can’t consume all 145 within a 3 day period. I wouldn’t judge you if you did though. They are delicious! ‘Tis the season, am I right?! 

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Melt-In-Your-Mouth Boozy Chocolate Egg Nog Fudge

Claudia's Cookbook - Melt in your Mouth Boozy Chocolate Egg Nog Fudge cover

We never really had Egg Nog in our house growing up. I think one of the first times I ever had Egg Nog was when I worked at Starbucks during university and had to try some in their Egg Nog Latte. It was that Christmas that I had the bright idea to throw a holiday party at my house and make Egg Nog from scratch. I figured it couldn’t be THAT hard, and homemade Egg Nog would be pretty decadent. So, I searched the Internet for a recipe. It was then and there that I was introduced to Martha Stewart and her Classic Eggnog recipe. It was also then that I came to the conclusion that Martha also must have been a raging alcoholic. 

I was so excited when I went to the liquor store and bought all these “adult” liquors, like dark (not light!) rum, cognac and bourbon that was in the recipe. I mean, I was a university student, so my booze selections back in the day mainly consisted of cheap beer and terrible wine coolers. $70 later, I was pumped to begin my egg nog making journey. I hurried home and began making my homemade egg nog that I was certain would catapult me into ‘amazing hostess’ status in the eyes of my friends. After a day of refrigeration, the egg nog was now ready to be tasted and served. I took a sip of the creamy liquid and paused. It took a few seconds for me to realize that my throat was burning and that my breath could cause a fire if exposed to an open flame. Either Martha likes her egg nog STRONG, I couldn’t handle the ‘adult’ liquors, or I did something horribly wrong to the recipe. I quickly called my Dad into the kitchen. I mean, he of all people would be able to tell me if I screwed up the recipe or if his adult tastebuds found the egg nog delectable. He took one sip and couldn’t drink anymore. I think his exact words were “Holy god, what did you put in that?!”

I panicked. Not only did I spend $70 on alcohol that smelt like something you would put on open wounds, but I had guests who I had to dazzle with my homemaking skills. I called in my Grandmother. Surely, she could tell me what I did wrong? She came into the kitchen and took a small sip. I stared at her nervously. She paused, then said “It’s not bad actually”, continued to pour herself a mug and left the room. It was then that I had a new appreciation for my Grandmother’s love of strong liquor, and perplexed ideas of what made Martha Stewart queen of the kitchen. I served the egg nog, and it went over fairly well with my friends. But not as well as Martha’s cupcakes a few years later. 

I still enjoy experimenting with egg nog and alcohol. In small doses, they go together rather nicely. This fudge recipe incorporates my favourite holiday items: booze (bourbon), dark chocolate and egg nog – store-bought of course…I learned my lesson the hard way! This fudge is extremely decadent and soft. Much softer than typical varieties and definitely does melt in your mouth. It is important to keep this fudge in the refrigerator until you want to serve it. The egg nog gives a nice nutmeg hint to the chocolate. The bourbon is very mild in this recipe, and gives the fudge a nice warmth. This recipe is also super easy to make. The hardest part is waiting a few hours before you can dig in. 

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The Best Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Claudia's Cookbook - The Best Oatmeal Raisin Cookies cover

I am a chocolate chip cookie fanatic. I knew this early on as a child. Whenever Claudia would bake cookies with me growing up, they were always chocolate chip. I think it’s because I would demand this for the sole purpose of eating the cookie dough when she was not looking. I got caught once and there is photographic evidence. If you’ve browsed this blog, you’ve probably seen it.

Until recently, I never gave other cookies much of a chance. So when I went over to Claudia’s a couple months ago and was offered some homemade Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that were on the counter, I hesitated. Oatmeal Raisin has never been a favourite of mine. I’m not entirely sure why. Probably because they sound healthy. If I’m going to have a cookie, I’m going all out! I mean, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies I would probably entertain and just pretend they were real chocolate chip cookies. But Claudia insisted I try these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that were staring at me. And at that moment, my world according to disliking Oatmeal Raisin Cookies was destroyed. I took one bite and was in heaven.

These cookies are, without a doubt, the best Oatmeal Raisin Cookies you will ever have. At least in my opinion. They are so soft, chewy and decadent. The key to making these cookies so amazing? Soaking the raisins in an egg and vanilla mixture. The raisins plump up nicely and absorb a delicious vanilla flavour. When Claudia wasn’t looking, I sneaked a plastic bag and took 10 cookies home with me. Some things never change. Hey, at least I never ate the cookie dough…..that time. 

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Overnight Ham and Egg Breakfast Casserole

Claudia's Cookbook - Overnight Ham and Egg Breakfast Casserole cover

I love the weekends for more reasons than just the fact that I can sleep in and not have to drive 45 minutes to work in the dark. I also love weekends because it means I have more time to make something other than a smoothie for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, I love smoothies. But they are a little hard to drink day in and day out when it’s winter and cold in the morning. 

The best breakfasts are those that don’t require a whole lot of effort. That gives me more time to sit in my pyjamas, sip coffee on my couch and watch all the food shows I recorded during the week. This overnight breakfast bake is pretty much the perfect dish for any morning. All you need to do is combine all the ingredients in a pan and put it in the refrigerator overnight. When you wake up in the morning (or early afternoon like I sometimes do), you simply place it in the oven and bake for 1 hour. It’s seriously the best for mornings when you have to feed a few hungry people and you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen – like Christmas morning. Claudia and I actually made this casserole the night before my wedding this past August for my hungry and beautiful bridesmaids. They actually liked it so much, one of my bridesmaids had 3 helpings and immediately asked for the recipe! This simple casserole is warm, comforting and delicious. It also incorporates all the best breakfast items like eggs, cheese, ham and bread. You seriously cannot go wrong with this dish. 

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Perishke – Ukrainian Cottage Cheese Buns in Creamy Dill Sauce

Claudia's Cookbook - Ukrainian Cottage Cheese Buns with Creamy Dill Sauce cover

 There is nothing more comforting on a cold winter day than warm buns. You can interpret that however you like. I mean, whatever floats your boat, you silly animals. But right now, I’m talking about these dough buns above, otherwise known as “Perishke” in Ukrainian. Delicious, soft, warm cottage cheese filled buns smothered in creamy dill sauce. One bite and you will forget all about those other warm buns you were thinking about.

Growing up, we actually never had a lot of these in the house. I recall having them sparingly at community or church functions. This was another recipe that we received a ton of requests for, so it was a great way for us to get reacquainted with this traditional Ukrainian dish. After making these, Claudia quickly proclaimed that these will be on our table every Christmas dinner moving forward. They are very decadent. The cream sauce gives the entire dish a sweetness while the dill reminds you of summer, with a hint of freshness. The cottage cheese filling is rich and super flavourful. I can see why so many people have asked for this recipe over the past few years! It truly is spectacular and super simple! 

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Black Forest Protein Smoothie

Claudia's Cookbook - Creamy Black Forest Smoothie cover

I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of breakfast. Okay, scratch that. I actually really like breakfast foods. I just don’t have the time each morning to make them. I like sleep. I am the queen of the snooze button. That trait doesn’t bode well for me to have the time to make a healthy breakfast. That’s why 90% of my days begin with a protein smoothie. They are super easy to make and take less than 5 minutes each morning. Not to mention, the are crazy healthy and a simple way to get in some protein to start off my day. 

When The Hut Group contacted me wondering whether I would be interested in reviewing their MyProtein Impact Whey Protein Powder, I was happy to participate. I was sent their ‘Chocolate Smooth’ flavour, which I requested as I typically only use chocolate protein powders,  and it would be easier for me to compare to other brands I have used and like. They also carry up to 40 different unique flavours like Tiramasu, Rhubarb & Custard and Lemon Cheesecake.

I do think it is important that I clarify upfront that I am in no way being monetarily compensated for my review of their protein powder. The views expressed in my post are solely mine. 

Impact Whey Protein Powder is made-up of 100% premium grade whey protein concentrate and has over 20g of protein per serving. It also has a comprehensive amino acid profile providing all the essential amino acids and contains over 2g of Leucine per serving, which is a great nutritional profile. The one thing that I immediately noticed about this protein is that this flavour of chocolate is considerably sweeter in taste than the brands I have typically used. Not necessarily a bad thing, but one fact you should be aware of if you are using sweeter fruits or liquids in your smoothies. I also noticed that it makes smoothies incredibly creamy, which is fantastic.

This protein powder truly creates decadent, rich smoothies which are perfect for those people who want a smoothie as a treat but also want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That is why I wanted to use it in this Black Forest Protein Smoothie recipe. The sweet dark cherries and rich chocolate protein powder are the perfect combination for a nice creamy smoothie that will definitely trick your taste buds from thinking that you’re drinking something super healthy.  

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Ukrainian Beef-Filled Pyrizhky

Claudia's Cookbook - Ukrainian Beef Filled Pyrizhky cover

I bought a Christmas CD yesterday. It was the first CD I’ve purchased in legit 3 years. Of course it is filled with Christmas tunes from one of my favourite guilty pleasure TV shows, Nashville. With only a few weeks left until the holidays, I figured I should get into the spirit. Also, the most recent Christmas CD I had was Justin Bieber’s, so it was definitely time for an update. 

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love when we receive recipe requests. Especially for Ukrainian dishes. A few months ago, we posted Ukrainian Cabbage Buns and they were a huge hit. Ever since that post, we have received a ton of emails and comments asking for a meat-filled version. Well friends, here it is.  The ultimate recipe for Ukrainian beef-filled buns, or ‘Pyrizhky’. I would also like to note that because there are so many different crossovers in food and culture between Ukraine, Poland and Russia, that these may be called by a different name depending on where you are from/grew up. In Russia and other places, these are sometimes referred to as ‘Pirozhki‘ or ‘Piroshki’. Regardless, they are beef-filled baked buns that are beyond amazing. The dough is flaky, buttery and soft. Perfect little bite-sized pieces of heaven if you ask me. 

You can definitely make your own fillings as well to go with this dough recipe. You can incorporate mushrooms, ground pork, mashed potato…the options are endless. Not to mention, this recipe is super easy to make. 

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Zucchini “Spaghetti” with Spicy Turkey Bolognese

Claudia's Cookbook - Zucchini Spaghetti with Spicy Turkey Bolognese cover

 I love comfort food. Especially around this time of year when the temperature is dipping and I’m in my comfy socks 24/7. Yeah, I paid $35 for a pair of socks. Don’t judge me, they are worth every penny! So much, I actually bought two pairs. But I digress…

My latest obsession (besides said socks) is trying to create delicious comfort dishes with a healthy spin. So, when Aloha approached me on partnering with them in their “Bringing a Dish to Pass” campaign, and to create a healthy version of a traditional dish, I couldn’t say no. Spaghetti Bolognese is something I enjoyed a lot while I was in Italy last month. It’s warm, rich and seriously comforting. But I don’t need to tell you this as I’m sure you’ve had the pleasure of having it in your lifetime. 

The key to turning healthy ingredients into delicious food is flavour. Using spices seriously ups any flavour profile, which makes you forget that you are actually eating something that is good for you. This can easily be said about this Zucchini Spaghetti with Spicy Turkey Bolognese dish. With such flavourful spices as oregano, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes, you almost forget you’ve replaced your red meat sauce with protein-rich, lean turkey. The zucchini has such a mild flavour that you really can’t tell it’s, well, vegetable noodles instead of starchy pasta. Also, a little red wine has never hurt any dish. It’s full of antioxidants and great for your heart, so in moderation it’s totally healthy. Yes, I tell myself this every time the cork is released from the bottle. 

Again, I used my trusty spiralizer for this recipe. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend you get one. But while you are waiting for your order, you can always slice the zucchini very thin using a mandoline or a julienne tool

If you are looking for other great healthy recipes, please do visit ALOHA’s recipe site. So many guilt-free yummy dishes on there!  
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