Archive for the ‘cooking school’ Category

A few years back, I took some cooking lessons on smartkitchen.com. I really liked that experience, and would like to study with them again some time. (I learned, for example, what “julienne” means.)

Here’s one thing they taught that changed what I do: To measure flour, it is incorrect to simply scoop the flour out in the measuring cup, then shake it flat–which is pretty much what I always did. This packs the flour too much and the dough will be heavy, theoretically.

The correct way is to sprinkle/pour the flouring into the measuring cup, then use a knife to smooth the top. Like this:



I think this was when I started storing my flour in this wide, plastic box– it gives lots of room to sprinkle and smooth.

There you go. (And the world won’t come to an end, if you want to just want to scoop and shake 😉 )

About laundry.

I’m great at regularity. Laundry has been an easy thing for me. But partly because I’ve done it in a simplified way– almost no stain remover, not sorting colors–I just put it in and go. Folding and ironing are harder for me to get done, but I’ve been trying to consistently get a load washed and folded each day. (Ironing is still almost non-existent, I admit. Small children and ironing don’t mix well. And the outlets here drive me nuts– so hard to plug in and unplug from. Weird barriers, huh?)

But I’m wanting to expand my laundering a bit. Stain remover. Shucks, I loved what my mom used–Simple Green, spray bottle, shick, shick, throw it in and it comes out clean. I’ve considered having her ship it here.

Here, I found liquid Vanish, but it’s so thick and the bottle lids are so wide it just dumps out all over the place. I tried putting it in a spray bottle, but it’s too viscous to go through that.

So, for this year, I’m experimenting. I bought powdered Vanish, for colors and whites. I’m using it on our clothes, and I’m trying to go slower at loading time and look for stains and apply the powder.

Today I rescued Vika’s one winter turtleneck from the rag bag. Stains came out nicely. It’s more of a process than just spraying, but it’s what I have for now.



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Since I did a more American-ish meal yesterday, I decided to do Ukrainian today: borshch. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail–I’ll mostly just share what Vitaliy’s mom taught me to put in at the end.

My borshch ingredients:

Boil for 20 minutes: shredded cabbage, beans (optional, soaked), and meat (usually pig, nice if it has a bone, but not essential, sometimes I braise it a bit in the pan, sometimes not. Sometimes I cut it up at the end when it’s already soft and cooked, sometimes at the beginning). Salt to taste.

Add: cubed potatoes and keep boiling another 20 minutes (sometimes I salt at this stage, rather than the first).

Cut up and fry in oil: onion, carrot (I use the small size of the grater and about carrots generally…. add a bit more, they have a good taste), and beet (I use the big size on the grater (the small size tastes funny).

When the pot has boiled now for 40 mintues, I put in the fried ingredients. You can turn the burner off at any point now. Then, I add what V’s mom showed me–all of this is measured by your tastebuds:

Tomato paste: an idea of how much: in my 5 liter pot, I add 3-4 big spoonfuls.

A medium-sized spoon of honey or sugar.

A lot of lemon juice or a small bit of citric acid (лимонная кислота). The acid is a great twist, I’ve found, that kicks off with the sour cream then added to the individual bowl to counter it.

A dried bay leaf or two.



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Breakfast is my favorite meal to make. So, I have an idea for this year. It combines health, simplicity, and what I like to do.

For the year, our breakfasts will be either yogurt (homemade, with syrup), eggs, or oatmeal. These are simple, good foods to put in first.

Then, for either lunch or dinner, we’ll have the option of having another breakfast-ish meal (pancakes, sausages, whatever).

Vitaliy’s into yogurt making, and I’m getting into it, too. I want to take it over from him. I don’t understanding it scientifically, but our pressure cooker has a “yogurt” button, so that makes it easy enough.

(In the days before our pressure cooker, Vitaliy did yogurt by heating milk, putting in the bacteria, wrapping it all up in a blanket and keeping it on the warmed floor of our village house bathroom. That was intimidating to me.)

So, here it is in pictures–these are the bacterias to buy–they are in the supermarket or pharmacies. I haven’t actually bought them myself yet, but I’m going to start!

20160108_114410 Then, I pour 1-3 liters of milk into the pressure cooker, add a packet from those bacteria, put on the lid and push “yogurt.” (This part I’ve done myself now for a while.) It takes 6 hours. I finally realized that it doesn’t actually pressurize–it just warms it for 6 hours. I also sometimes put the milk in and start the yogurt cycle, then add the bacterias after 15-20 minutes of warming. I’m not sure if this helps out or not.

Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the first 6 hours. So I just add another packet and push the same function, and it turns out (after 12 hours all together).


At this rate, we consume a liter or so a day. Photo of two one-liter jars of yogurt–they look so beautiful to me:


Strawberry or cherry syrups:

20160108_061944Looks so pretty! And the kids love pouring in their syrup and stirring it around. It’s very tactile and visually interesting.



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So, I’m making quite a few revisions in life and testing new things as I’m studying homemaking and hospitality this year. There will be a lot of posts about this, I think.

So, meal(s) of the day.

Doula clients (who cook wonderfully) gave me their Betty Crocker cookbook, so I looked up a pork chop recipe (as I had bought pork chops). Buying pork chops is a new thing for me, I don’t really do it a lot. But, I’m expanding my repertoire. I also have been craving glazed carrots for a while for some reason. And I decided on mashed potatoes as a side.

HOWEVER, the pork chop recipe I liked required 3-8 hours of brining the chops. Well, it was Christmas Day here yesterday, so there was a service, and Vitaliy and Vika would be coming home hungry, and I needed to have something ready. So I decided on a light, half-way meal. Which, as I was making them, morphed into toasted sandwiches with a cucumber/tomato salad. On the pan for toasting: American bread slices, buttered, with scattered ham bits, and a slice of cheese.


Actually, this lunchette was a big hit.

For the special dinner, I julienned the carrots and boiled them, then paused to do the glazing later while the pork chops were cooking. And Andre and I made a bunch of mashed potatoes.


Andre peeled his first potato all by himself! … But the second one, he didn’t want to keep trying. So, one was enough for him.

Andre also loves to take pictures on my phone. I thought this was a good shot.


I also played magnets with Una– she loves hearing animal sounds.


Note: for mashed potatoes–it’s important to boil them in salted water—I know “everyone” knows this, but there was a point in my life when I didn’t know this! Also, for yum, yum mashed potatoes–I mash them up in the mixer (learned that from my mom), and I add butter and chicken broth (or rabbit broth, or turkey broth).

I won’t elaborate on the pork chop recipe, but I put them in the oven to cook and glazed the carrots. Then we were ready to go. To eat.




Now, the meal was fabulous. Vitaliy and I loved it. But. Real Life. Skyla opted only for mashed potatoes because she is our final child dealing with oral thrush and it hurts to eat. Andre also wanted only mashed potatoes — the pork chop was too spicy, and the glazed carrots, well, I made him eat a few bites, then later, asleep on the bed, I fished them out of his cheeks (he was quite the hamster). Vika was emotionally overwhelmed from being at a friend’s house all afternoon, didn’t want to eat at all, and cried through a few bites that took about an hour to insert into her mouth.

So hey, the food was great! The company was great too, because they’re my kids, but needy. 🙂 ❤

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So, I was praying a few months or years ago that I’d have opportunities to practice hospitality. And I’ve had them. And this weekend is a big one.

I’ve been using Gina Garland’s prayer journal/organizer for a few years now, and she has listed to pray for myself (as a wife) “to be a good cook… willing to learn.” And it’s being answered in ways I never thought of myself.

Here’s her video, by the way, and you can email her to get the pdf file for your own journal:

So I noticed that instead of just following recipes, I like learning the tricks and understanding behind cooking. So I signed up for SmartKitchen lessons for a few months and that gave me a good bit of insight.

The War in Ukraine started, and that really somehow motivated me to express patriotism through cooking Ukrainian. In my teenage-hood, I really enjoyed making breads, too, and still today my bread-y things (like challah, pelmeni, vareniki) turn out well. I remember observing how Vitaliy’s mom does some things, too, like her borshch tricks (adding a spoon of sugar, for example).

So anyway, This Weekend.

It’s my test.

Saturday we’re having a baby shower at our place, and I’ve signed up to make pizza (practiced that) and peach cobbler (practiced that, too). And I want to cut a watermelon to look like a basket or baby stroller or something, but not sure about that yet.

It’s all about timing, too, because then  on Sunday we have 2 older Ukrainian couples coming for lunch (probably but not for sure). And I want to make zharkoye (Ukrainian dish with meat, potatoes, carrots– kind of like stew) and salad (tomato, cucumber, onion) and another peach cobbler for desert.

So, I’ve carefully made my shopping list and today is my buying day. Then tomorrow, I’m starting with pressure cooking the zharkoye meat and getting that cooked up (for reheating Sunday). Then the pizza and cobbler for the evening shower. Then getting the rest cut and ready for quick Sunday prep.

And then to see if it all can look fairly effortless … 🙂

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Yesterday when I wanted to find a youtube video showing how to fold the hinkali, I found this man who does this cooking show in Russia, and I love his style! So I started watching, and I made his pizza today. It was so good!

Here’s how it turned out:


I’m learning new ingredients, too! I bought real mozzarella cheese for the first time, red wine vinegar, and used the homemade tomato sauce a friend had given me here. It was so wonderful, Vika and I scarfed it down!

Also, I cooked the pizza on the bottom side of the cookie sheet (sprinkled with flour) as he recommended, and it was a great tip!





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Vitaliy had hinkali in Georgia (the country) and wanted me to try to make it.

So today I did! Thin dough (flour, water, salt) pinched around ground meat (made with onion, garlic, spices and water)20150825_181745

(These are the extra that I’m freezing.)


Boiled then eaten.


My only problem was that I made them too big at first. We didn’t realize how much they expand when they cook. So when I saw that, I made the rest smaller.

Turned out pretty good for the first try!

Here’s the mess:


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