Archive | January, 2013

Ukrainian Nalysnyky (Crepes) with Chicken

31 Jan

Ukrainian Nalysnyky with Chicken

Toronto hit record high of 14 C yesterday and but winter returned today.  Nice weather roller-coaster! Here comes the snow again, high winds and the high of -7 C.

The cold mid-winter weather makes me gravitate towards anything that makes me feel cozy.  Thick soups, hearty stews, creamy risottos and hot chocolate.   I always try to adjust these dishes so I won’t pack on the pounds – we are performing in 2 weeks!

I was flipping through my favourite cookbooks, searching for something different to make when this caught my eye:

My handwriting wasn’t the best as I was scribbling notes over the phone 🙂

My cousin makes the best Nalysnyky!   They are thin, lace-y and airy.  Nalysnyky (pronounced: Nah-less-knee-key) are the Ukrainian version of crepes. This is a lighter version of one my favourite cold-weather comfort food.

My cousin’s original recipe, yields 19-20 crepes:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 eggs

This is what I used to make Nalysnyky lighter and healthier.

Crepe batter:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose white flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp raw organic sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg

Crepe batter in a blender


  1. The blender makes it super easy.  In a blender, combine all of the ingredients for batter and pulse for 10 seconds.  Let it rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high.  I find my cast iron pan works the best for this recipe.
  3. Coat with butter or oil.
  4. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl/tilt the pan to spread it evenly.
  5. Cook until edges look dry and flip – about 30 seconds.
  6. Cook for another 10 seconds and transfer to a plate to cool.
  7. Continue with rest of batter.
  8. After crepes have cooled you can stack and store them in seal-able plastic bags in fridge for several days or freezer for up to 2 months if making in advance.


  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cup shredded cooked chicken (white meat, no skin)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth


  1. Fry onions in olive oil until golden brown.
  2. Grind the chicken, fried onions and broth in a food processor.
  3. You will end up with a pudding-like substance – this is your filling!

To assemble:

  1. Place 1 crepe on a smooth surface.
  2. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of chicken filling near one edge of the crepe.
  3. Start rolling the crepe over the filling, tuck in each side to prevent the filling from falling out, and continue to roll.
  4. Continue to fill and roll the remaining crepes.
  5. Serve hot with melted butter or a dollop of sour cream

Finished product!

Why People Fall in Love with Salsa

28 Jan

Our Team at the 2011 Vancouver International Salsafestival

My friend and a fellow dancer Christian P. from Regina posted this question on his Facebook page.  It made me think why I fell in love with this dance and this is what I came up with:

  1. It is a beautiful dance, very elegant and explosive at the same time.
  2. I love Salsa music – it always puts a smile on my face.  
  3. Helps to manage stress.
  4. Builds self-confidence.
  5. You get a complete body workout while having fun.  Some researchers claim you can burn up to 400 calories per hour!  
  6. It improves balance and coordination.  Try doing multiple spins without falling over 🙂
  7. Sharpens memory – I love learning new routines, it requires to memorize very intricate footwork.
  8. I love performing and everything that comes with it  – beautiful Salsa costumes, creative makeup and hair.
  9. I have lots friends that I met through Salsa.  I met my amazing boyfriend through Salsa!
  10. Makes you part of a global community.  I’ve danced Salsa in Germany, Israel, Ukraine and the United States.  It’s wonderful to see people of all  ages, backgrounds and cultures dancing together.

Your Aunt From Canada Is Here! More on stereotypes and cultural differences.

23 Jan


Back in December I wrote about stereotypes and cultural differences that I’ve experienced living in Canada.  Click here for a refresher .

Stereotypes are never one-sided!  There are just as many misconceptions about Canada and Canadian people (or rather Canadian-Ukrainians) in Ukraine.

I am very excited about our upcoming trip to Ukraine.  My trips back home never feel like a vacation as we MUST visit all  family members or we run a chance of seriously offending them.  It always means that we have to eat 20 huge lunches and repeat the same stories 20 times 🙂  We always count on hearing this:

“Aren’t you lucky you are in Canada, it’s a second Ukraine” – while there are many Ukrainian-Canadians in Canada I still have to speak English almost all the time.
“Say something in English” – as if the person who’s asking me this speaks flawless English with an Oxford accent.  However I tremendously enjoy helping my little cousins with their English homework.
“You must be so proud your daughter graduated from the University of Toronto.  Btw, does she speak English?” – No,  she was speaking Japanese all this time (she came to Canada when she was 7) 😛
“So, how much money do you make?” – I am avoiding (very politely) answering that.  I know that it’s acceptable there to ask about finances but after almost 20 years of living in Canada this question makes me uncomfortable. Yet my family just won’t give up and somehow manages to get the number from me which leads to:
“And how much would that be in US dollars / Euros?” – I still don’t know why they need this info.  It’s not like I get paid in Canadian dollars but my local grocery store accepts Euros only.  Then it leads to another classic:
“So, if Canadian money is worth less than Euros than everything is much cheaper?” – Logical, right?  People are in disbelieve when I mention the prices on wine, beer, liquor, cigarettes and housing.
“How much did you pay for your flight?” – I am avoiding to respond for as long as I can.  If they do manage to pull an answer out of me, then expect the following:
“Both ways??? That’s way too much!” – Hmmm… Should I be swimming across the Atlantic ocean so I can save some money?

“You are too thin!– a blunt assessment from the family followed by some extra generous helping of salo at lunch.

 “Well, you don’t have good food in Canada.  Look at you!”  – count on “care packages” to be taken “Do Kanady” (to Canada) with some mandatory homemade smoked meats, sausages, cheese and pickled mushrooms.  My pleads of “Please don’t pack anything for me.  I can’t bring any animal or farm products to Canada!”  are falling on deaf ears.

During my last two trips I’ve experienced these situations that made me feel like now I am a stranger at home:

In a taxi:

The driver: “Welcome to Ukraine!  Where are you from?”
Me: “We are speaking Ukrainian.  How do you know I am not from here?”
The driver“You fastened your seat belt as soon as you got in the car” (local people don’t do this)

In a clothing store:

Me: “May I please see that yellow blouse on the very top shelf?”
The salesperson: (somewhat annoyed) “Are you going to buy it?”
Me: “Well, I’d like to see it first”
The salesperson (mumbling): “Foreigners… don’t touch the merchandise if you are not going to buy it”


How To Make The Best Meatless Cabbage Rolls (Holybtsi)

21 Jan

Cabbage rolls aka Holybtsi (“Голубці”)

I don’t even have a picture of the finished product – they were gone as soon as I served them.

My mom was a cabbage rolls queen and she used to make amazing cabbage rolls for the holidays.  They always bring great memories of my childhood.  They are usually made with meat and are full of flavour.  It doesn’t get more Ukrainian than that!

If you wish to make tradition cabbage rolls with meat you will need a pound of ground pork (or beef, or turkey) and 1/2 cup of rice.  These cabbage rolls freeze well; do so before baking.  Recipe can be doubled.


  • 1 small head Savoy cabbage (regular green cabbage stays tough)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (arborio, short grain or sticky rice work well too; basmati rice – not so much)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can tomato juice (low sodium)


  • Using a sharp knife, cut around the core and remove it.  Separate the outer leaves  – Savoy cabbage works best.
  • Bring a pot of water to to a simmer over high heat.  Place 2-3 leaves at a time into the water and cook for up to 2 minutes, just until they are pliable.  Remove and set aside.

  • Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add onions and carrots and cook for 10 minutes until they are tender.  

  • Stir in tomato paste, salt and pepper.  

  • Add this mixture to rice and mix it well with dill.

  • Trim large centre vein of each leaf.  

  • Place the rice mixture in the centre of each leaf.  

  • Fold bottom of of each leaf up over the filling, then fold each side up and over.  Roll up snugly 🙂

  • Transfer rolls to pot and add tomato juice.  

  • Cover and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes.
  • Serve with sour cream.

Beet Salad Vinaigrette (“Vinegret”), Ukrainian style

18 Jan

Salad VinegretSo you read the word “Vinaigrette” and you think “Pleeeeaze, I don’t need to know about another boring oil-and-vinegar dressing”.

Well, to many Eastern-Europeans this word is associated with a beet salad.  You’d be able to find it at any Eastern European stores/delis – just look for the label “Salad Vinegret”.

There are many variation of this salad – some make it with dill pickles, some use sauerkraut instead.  I say – use both if you like!  Some recipes don’t call for beans.  To me, the real Vinegret is the one with beans! Also, back home we made it with aromatic unrefined sunflower oil.  My local Russian store was all out of sunflower oil 😦


  • 3 red skinned potatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 medium beets
  • 3 spring onions
  • 3 dill pickles (pickles made in a brine are the BEST; avoid the sweet variety)
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed well
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 tbsp white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped dill (optional)


  1. Boil vegetables and let them cool.  Peel and dice.
  2. Add diced pickles and chopped green onions
  3. Finish with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Add chopped dill if using.
  5. Let it sit for 1 hr at least.  I let it sit in the fridge overnight.


Homemade Ukrainian Varenyky (aka Pierogi) – a Step by Step Recipe

16 Jan

Cabbage (Kapusta) Varenyky

Potato & Onion Pierogi

Potato & Onion Varenyky

What are varenyky? They are the Ukrainian version of filled dumplings.  People in North America are more familiar with a term “pierogi”.  Commercially made pierogi are available in the frozen section of all major supermarkets in Toronto.  I personally can’t eat the store-bought dumplings – they are too thick and heavy, and have no flavor.  You can’t even taste any filling in them.  The homemade varenyky are very delicate, with a thin dough and should have a good amount of flavourful filling.

Varenyky (or pierogi) are comfort food for many people across Eastern Europe and they are such a treat.  We made these for our Christmas Eve Meal.

Many people have their own version of the dough but the one below is our favourite.  Yields 20 to 22 pieces.

The Dough

  • 1 ½  cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup hot water

The Filling

  • Cabbage (Kapusta) Filling: finely chop a small head of cabbage, about 1/4.  Fry in oil oil with onion until very tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Potato & Onion Filling: Boil 2 large baking potatoes.  Sautee 1 finely chopped large onion in olive oil (or butter) until golden brown.  Mash the potatoes with sauteed onion adding salt to taste and lots of pepper.

The Toppings

  • Butter
  • Sour Cream
  • Fried Onions
  • Crispy bacon and sauteed onion


Mix all 3 ingredients together, and knead just a bit.

The dough should not be very smooth, and it will be quite sticky.

Cover it with an inverted bowl and let it stand for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the working surface with some flour and roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.

Use a drinking glass or a round cookie cutter to get the perfect round circles.

Potato and Onion Filling

Potato & Onion Filling

Cabbage Filling

Cabbage Filling

Add about a teaspoon of filling to each circle.

Seal the edges tightly together with your fingers.  At this point you can freeze them.  Or if you are ready to eat them right away place them carefully in the boiling water.  Varenyky will be ready when they float to the surface, in about 5 minutes.

Serve with a topping of your choice.

Old New Year Celebration – Ukrainian Malanka

14 Jan


Photo Credit: my childhood friend Oktavian K.

Happy Old New Year!

The New Year by the Julian calendar is still informally observed, and the tradition of celebrating the coming of the New Year twice is widely enjoyed: January 1 (New New Year) and January 14 (Old New Year).

Across North America, Americans and Canadians of Ukrainian origin celebrate Malanka or Malanckyn Vechir, the New Year’s Eve celebrations, on January 13th. It falls one week after Christmas Eve, January 6th by the same Julian calendar, and is an occasion which, with the exception of the religious note of Christmas, resembles it in several ways. It commemorates the feast day of St. Melania hence the name Malanka.

Like many Ukrainian traditions, this celebration existed long before the adoption of Christianity in 988 where Malanka was a mythical figure, a girl of many talents and of exceptional beauty  Who actually this Malanka girl was, and what she did to earn a public celebration, nobody knows for sure. Some ethnographers believe it symbolizes the beginning of Spring being released from captivity and on her arrival bringing the flowers and greenery to life again.

In Ukraine this tradition varies from city to city.  On this night carolers went from house to house playing pranks or acting out a small play.  In the evening before the Malanka night, young men put on all kinds of costumes, some of them weird and bizarre — Devils, Warriors, Police, Witches, Old Women and Men, Death, Blacksmith, Jews, Gypsies, Turks, Hutsuls and representatives of other nationalities.  All of these people in their disguise move from house to house performing their little plays and improvisations for those who would care to see their performance. They make very much noise, and in addition to music, they play practical jokes on people — but no one ever gets harmed in any way. Well, the celebrants can attempt to kiss a beautiful girl, or do some mischief, but it’s all in jest.

Photo Credit: my childhood friend Oktavian K.

Vashkivtsi, capital of Malanka! Photo Credit: my childhood friend Oktavian K.

Malanka traditions have been preserved best in western Ukraine.  Malanka is also called there Pereberiya and has acquired features of a true folk carnival.  The climax of Malanka celebrations is best to be watched— or participated in— in the city of Chernivtsi, my home town.  Hundreds if not thousands of people wearing masquerade costumes of Devils, Gypsies, Bears, Goats and other creatures pour out into the streets engaging the passers-by and spectators in their boisterous and sometimes wild fun. The participants and spectators let themselves go— but there is never any violence or “violations of public order” to such an extent that it would require the police interference.


Whole Roasted Stuffed Fish

12 Jan

Whole Roasted Stuffed Fish

Elegant dish for your holiday table.
Don’t be afraid that it would be difficult to skin the fish!  This is done easily and quickly if you lightly salt the whole fish and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

I always ask the fish guy at the store to clean the fish.


  • 1 whole rainbow trout, 1.5 to 2 lbs.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil for sauteeing
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs.  You can use buckwheat flour or cream of wheat or matzo meal.
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill (or any other herb you like), finely chopped. 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Leave the head intact.  With a sharp knife cut the skin close to the head.  Insert your finger (or a knife)  and separate the skin from the flesh going in the direction of the tail.  I find my fingers are the best tool for this job 🙂

  • Trim the fins and cut the bone when you reach the tail.  
  • Separate the flash from the bones and set the skin aside.  Sorry for my peeled nail polish 🙂

  • In a food processor finely chop the fish together with sauteed onions and carrots.  Transfer to a bowl.
  • Add some chopped dill or parsley or any other herb of your choice.  Add minced garlic, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and mix well.
  • Take the skin and fill it with the mixture that you just made. Do not fill too tight, otherwise the skin may burst during baking.

  • Line a cookie sheet with some foil, lay out a line of bay leaves and put your stuffed fish on top of them.

  • Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and squeeze some lemon juice on top.
  • Bake for 25 minutes in the oven that was preheated to 375F.
  • Let it cool a bit, slice it and arrange on a platter.

I didn’t add any eggs to the stuffing as it was our Christmas Eve dinner which requires dishes with no meat, dairy, and eggs.  For any other occasion I would definitely add 1 egg.

Wonderful Team Readership Award and Liebster Award

11 Jan


Thank you, Chef Mimi for nominating me for the Wonderful Team Readership Award.  Check out Chef Mimi  Blog – you’ll find tons of wonderful mouth-watering recipes there.

The Rules:

1 Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.

2 Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.

3 Nominate 14 blogs for the award, a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.

4 Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

My Nominees Are:

  1. Corina Lazarescu 
  2. Belladonic Haze
  3. What’s Cooking
  4. Source of Inspiration
  5. Kocsiska
  6. Michael Terrazas
  7. Prego and the Loon
  8. Pursuit of Life
  9. The Tarnished Spoon
  10. Marking Our Territory
  11. Living by Olivia
  12. Dear Ferrero
  13. Theflamboyante
  14. Monarch Mentoring


I was nominated for this by Paul Edward “Birchpoet”, here is a link to his lovely blog: Birchpoet’s Blog

Thank you!

The Rules: 

Answers to questions:

1. What makes you happiest?  To see others happy.
2. Do you love the Ocean or the Mountains more?  Both.  I grew up near mountains (Sub-Carpathian region) and love being the by ocean.
3. What has been your favorite moment of 2012?  My daughter’s University graduation.
4. What is your favorite quote and why?  “Dance as if no one were watching.  Sing as if no one were listening.  Love as if you’ve never been hurt.  Live every day as if it were your last”.  This quote covers it all in life 🙂
5. Do you like yourself?  If you can’t like yourself, you won’t be able to pleasant around people.
6. Do you stay up till the Stroke of Midnight on New Years Eve?  Absolutely!
7. Something you wish you get it done ASAP?  Learn a new Salsa routine.
8. What was your favorite class while still in school? Russian Literature.
9. What musical instrument have you tried to learn to play?  Piano – my parents made me do it but I wasn’t passionate about it.
10. Anything you wish you had learned earlier?  I discovered Salsa Dancing in my early 30s and wish I would have learned earlier.
11. Do you like to do crafts or draw or even paint?  Crafts.

My Nominees Are: 

  1. Boomdeeda
  2. borscht and babushkas
  3. Animalcouriers

Authentic Ukrainian Borsch

9 Jan

Ukrainian Borsch

Yes, I spell it without the “t”!  Ukrainian and Russian people pronounce it  “Borsch”, Polish people  –  “Barszcz”.  The English way of spelling  “borscht” just doesn’t sound right to me.  How do you feel if you were to hear someone say “Soupt”?  Sounds odd, isn’t it?  I also will claim that this version is authentic since this is how my family in Ukraine made it for generations; this is as hard-core Ukrainian as it gets 🙂  The only substitution I made was to use olive oil instead of vegetable oil.

This borsch is meatless as I made it for our Christmas Eve meal on Sunday.  I personally can’t eat this dish where beets lost their colour.  So if you follow each step in the directions below your borsch will have this deep ruby colour even after you’ll reheat it several times.  It always tastes better the following day!

If you are a meat-eater – make it with some succulent pork ribs, it will take your  borsch to another level of deliciousness 🙂


  • 3 medium beets (or 1 large beet), boiled, peeled and grated
  • 3-4 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 green or red pepper, grated (I do it in a food processor)
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 5-6 cups water
  • 1 medium cabbage, shredded
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream and fresh chopped dill to garnish


  1. Boil the beets with their skins on until tender.  Let them cool, then peel and grate.  Add the vinegar, mix well and set aside. The vinegar will preserve the red colour in the hot borsch.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and pepper and cook until tender for up to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cabbage, diced potatoes, the can of diced tomatoes, and water until well blended.  Let it boil for 20 minutes or so.
  4. Now you can add the beets, beans, and the raw garlic.  Cover and turn off the heat, let stand for 5 minutes.
  5. Garnish individual bowls with sour cream and dill.
%d bloggers like this: