Ukrainian Christmas 2014…And a Tribute to Baba

family

Ukrainian Christmas is just around the corner – January 7 to be exact. My love of cooking, and ultimately this blog, was inspired by the two ladies that are in the photo above with me (I’m the one in the middle). The one on the left is Claudia, and the one on the right is my Baba, Claudia’s Mom. And yes, we’re wearing the same sweater but in different colours. This photo was taken almost 10 years ago on Christmas Eve. It is one of my favourite photos in the world. Claudia and Baba were cooking up a Ukrainian food storm in the kitchen and I was trying my best not to get in their way – hence why they are wearing the aprons and I’m not. Food, especially Ukrainian food, is such a big part of my life. A lot of the memories I have of growing up or the holidays has to do with Claudia and Baba cooking in the kitchen.

It gives me great pleasure that the most popular recipes on this blog are the ones that are Ukrainian. I also love hearing all the stories and comments that you, my followers, post here about your childhoods and how these recipes remind you of your family. It really does bring me to tears at times because this was truly a huge part of why I started this blog.

After a long and tough fight, we lost Baba this week. She was by far the strongest lady I have ever met in my entire life and I will miss her dearly. She left behind a legacy of love, humour, and most of all – zest for life and cooking. This post is dedicated to her and the delicious Ukrainian dishes she passed on to Claudia and to me.

Cabbage-Rolls

Nothing beats Holopchi. I mean, nothing. They are the most amazing comfort food ever. Rice, ground beef, and onions all wrapped up in a cabbage leaf. Cabbage is healthy, right?

Find the recipe on our blog here —–>  Cabbage Rolls

Perogies

My Baba used to stand in her kitchen and make dozens upon dozens of perogies in one day for coworkers, family and friends. Claudia makes a ton of different fillings for perogies. Some of our favourites are potato and cheese, sauerkraut, prune and raisin. Blueberry is also amazing as well.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Perogies

Borscht

I actually eat more Borscht in the summer months than I do any other time of the year. Reason? Garden fresh beets make the most amazing Borscht in the world. I am so thankful for my parents huge garden in Saskatchewan where they plant tons of beets for this delicious soup.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Borscht

Nalysnyky

Dill, cheese and butter. I don’t think I need to say anything else. Nalysnyky is rich, savoury and dreamy. This was my very first recipe post on this blog! Again, total comfort food.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Nalysnyky 

Kutia

The attachment that I have to Kutia is not because I love it. I actually don’t like it at all. It’s because my entire family adore this dish and rub it in my face every Christmas. Guilt trip central. I get such a kick out of it. This dish is very traditional and different. It’s almost like a sweet grain pudding. Tradition is that you eat this first before your other courses on Christmas.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Kutia

Pyrizhky

Pyrizhky are little balls of sunshine to me. The dough is so incredibly soft, and the sauerkraut has just the right amount of tang to cut the richness of the dough. I could eat a plateful of these any day of the week. They’re very addicting.

Find the recipe on our blog here —–> Pyrizhky

Enjoy and Kristos Razdayetsya!

Pyrizhky (Ukrainian Cabbage Buns)

Pyrizhky 29

I cannot believe that Christmas Eve is tomorrow. Where does the time go? I’m not gonna lie…I’m pretty darn excited. The copious amounts of delicious food, gift exchanges, and the celebration of family and friends is what I love most about this time of year.

Tomorrow, my family is having quite the Christmas Eve feast. Since we’re Ukrainian, we celebrate by having a huge dinner consisting of 12 meatless dishes. This year is the first in a long time where we will be having Pyrizhky, or cabbage buns. I never really grew up on these delectable little dough balls. My Baba, Grandma and Claudia never made them, so they were never a part of our Ukrainian feasts. This year, I decided to take some action and try to make them with Claudia. My soon to be Mother-in-Law was gracious enough to provide us with her recipe (and a bag full of samples!) to try. For our first attempt, they came out extremely well. Claudia made some tweaks, like boiling the sauerkraut, but other than that, we kept true to the recipe. This recipe makes approximately 13-14 dozen Pyrizhky. You can also use any other filling you desire, such as meat. However, we prefer sauerkraut.

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Kutia

This is by far Claudia’s favourite Ukrainian dish. Kutia (pronounced Coo-Cha) is always served as the first of the twelve traditional meatless dishes during Christmas Eve. Served cold, Kutia is essentially a sweet wheat soup. I’m not going to lie. I don’t like this stuff at all. It has taken Claudia 32 years to get me on board with Kutia and she has yet to succeed. Every Christmas Eve it’s the same discussion:

Claudia: “Jaime, look it’s your favourite – I can’t wait for you to try some Kutia. It’s so good”

Jaime: “No.”

Claudia: “On come ON! It’s so good! You’re Ukrainian, it’s part of your heritage.”

Jaime: “No.”

Don’t get me wrong, everyone else I know loves this stuff. But for some strange reason (probably my stubbornness) I skip this and go straight for the Borsch. It really is amazing that I am still invited over for Christmas every year with my behaviour. So please, do not take my word on how delicious this traditional dish is. If you ask 99.9% of Ukrainians, they love it. I have always had a unique side to me.

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Ukrainian Christmas

Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7. It is tradition that on Christmas Eve (or “Sviaty Vechir”) 12 meatless dishes are prepared as it mimics the Nativity Fast, which no meat, eggs or milk (including cheese) are allowed during the supper. Only fish, mushrooms and various types of grain are allowed as the main offerings.

In our family, we cheat on the cheese, milk and eggs content of our Christmas Eve dinner but still abide by the “no meat” rule with the exception of fish. We have previously blogged about four traditional Ukrainian dishes that we always have on Christmas Eve and would like to highlight them again.

Top left: Perogies – We posted these the week of Christmas and they are by far the most commonly made traditional recipe in Claudia’s cookbook. They can be made with many different filling selections are are by far my ultimate comfort food.

Top right: Borsch – This “Beet Soup” can be made with meat or meatless. I have always preferred the vegetarian variety. It’s hearty, warm and perfect for those winter evenings

Bottom left: Holopchi – Better known as “Cabbage Rolls”, these little darlings are can also be made with or without bits of ground beef in them. Sticky rice wrapped in a steamed cabbage leaf,  topped with tomato soup, butter and onions. You simply cannot go wrong with this recipe.

Bottom right: Nalysnyky – Delicious Ukrainian-style cheese crepes which are super savoury and rich. This was our very first blog post which makes the recipe near and dear to my heart.

Stay tuned to our blog as we soon celebrate Ukrainian Christmas and share with you yet another traditional recipe. One hint – it’s Claudia’s absolute favourite!

Perogies

Today is my Baba’s (Claudia’s Mom) 82nd birthday. There really isn’t a better way to celebrate her life (and Claudia’s essentially) than to post the staple of my Ukrainian childhood (and the best food she ever made) on this day. That being perogies. No one, and I do mean no one, can ever top my Baba’s perogies. They are simply the best. I know there are a lot of you who say the same thing about your own family recipe. But I kid you not, my Baba made and sold hundreds (if not thousands) of dozens of these little nuggets of gold for people just like yourselves after they realized they did not have the best family recipe. Trust me on this one. I grew up on this stuff after all!

Claudia and I spent all Saturday afternoon perfecting the dough and creating dozens of differently filled perogies. We finally came up with what we thought Baba would deem as worthy to share with friends. Perogies are the ultimate comfort food. I have never grown tired of them. My hope is that after trying these for yourself, you won’t either.

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Cabbage Rolls

You don’t get any more Ukrainian than Cabbage Rolls. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was fed these as my first experience with “real food” as a baby. Not one special dinner has gone by in our family without cabbage rolls being served. There are many variations. But I can tell you now that nobody’s cabbage rolls compare to the ones that Claudia makes. They are simple the best. Not too tomato soupy, not too cabbagey. They are perfect little delights. However, I learned in this blog process that I apparently haven’t inherited the Ukrainian cabbage rolling gene, as I found the process extremely frustrating. My 1/4 Slovakian genes took over my hands and rendered me incapable of “tucking and rolling” the rice and cabbage. But do not fret kids….if you weren’t blessed with the Ukrainian cooking gene like me, it just takes a bit of practise and patience. …and Claudia laughing at you when you curse the rice that fell from your hands and onto your clean floor.

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Borsch

Well kids, you don’t get any more Ukrainian than this. Borsch – i.e. Beet soup. Whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the most traditional and delicious recipes my Mother inherited from her own Mother (my Baba).

Claudia typically makes Borsch mid-to-end of summer when there is an abundance of beets in our garden in Saskatchewan, and on every holiday occasion (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas). For a recipe that is relatively simple to make, there are so many variations around. I am pretty certain I’m biased, but this one is truly the best out there.

Growing up we always had meat in our Borsch – usually boiled chicken or pork. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been a boiled meat kinda girl. So when I got old enough and decided it was time to throw a fuss, Claudia only served this vegetarian-style Borsch recipe to our family. Yes, I am a spoiled princess. But I’m still right – this rendition tops the meat varieties any day.

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Nalysnyky

If you haven’t read the Inspiration section of this website prior to reading the rest of this post, I highly recommend you do. Mainly because it explains the copious amounts of sinful butter in this recipe. Well, it sort of does. It more or less justifies it as an essential in Ukrainian cuisine.

Nalysnyky (pronounced NAL-YES-NAH-KEH) is a staple on our family dinner table on all holidays. They are often made ahead of time and frozen until the day of the dinner event. I actually have never had them otherwise until I made this recipe with Claudia for the blog.  I have to admit, if you can, eating them fresh is the way to go. Nalysnyky is essentially cheese filled crepes (slathered in butter of course and baked). This recipe takes a total of one hour from start to finish and truly is worth every minute.

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