Moving Week Eats


The moving truck in front of our old apartment building.

We are finally in our new home! Last weekend rushed by at breakneck speed and I am happy to announce that we survived.

Moving takes so much time and effort. My organized little mind does not like chaos, and the masses of boxes, stacked up possessions, disassembled furniture and just utter chaos at times have been driving me crazy. However, it also a huge motivation to get everything in order again and get settled in as soon as possible in our new home. I am so excited about getting my closets, drawers and every room organized again. My hands are just itching to get it all down right away.

In the meantime, food has been the last thing on my mind, but no matter how much I wanted to avoid it, we humans have this strange need to eat every day. It would be so much easier to just resume eating in a week, once everything is settled down again:). However, this is not the case. In fact, I think everyone was more hungry than usual, because we were all working so hard…. 

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Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake-1-16How many of you like to eat homemade desserts, but don’t like to spend too much time on the preparations? I’ll raise both hands.

The creator of the bundt cake and I would probably be kindred spirits. What a brilliant concept for a fancy presentation with minimal effort.

I make all kinds of bundt cakes: orange, lemon poppy seed, coffee cake, glazed and marbled. This is a Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake, from a recipe that I got from America’s Test Kitchen. I think that any time you add sour cream or buttermilk to batters it makes it 100 times better. This chocolate cake really rocks, and I am not a chocolaholic by any stretch of the imagination. I crave chocolate cake only a few times a year, and this one is the one of the few recipes that I will make. The chocolate cake is delicious all by itself; it’s so chocolaty, deep, rich and tender. I make this bundt cake a lot of times before work, when I don’t have a lot of time to fuss, but want to have something sweet in my lunchbox. Let me tell you, a slice of this Chocolate Cake with a cup of coffee really hits the spot sometime around 2 in the morning. It’s also something for me to look forward to in the beginning of my shift, when it’s usually really busy.

You can elevate this cake a notch by serving it with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream and some fresh berries. That would be worthy of a special occasion. … 

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Gazpacho-1-18The first thing I want to plant when I have an actual garden of my own will be tomatoes. I can barely contain my excitement and the thought of reaching to pick tomatoes right of the vine in my backyard, almost brings me to tears.

I think I can manage to grow the rest of the ingredients for Gazpacho in my garden too. Won’t that be incredible?

Soup is one of my favorite things to eat. We eat soup several times a week in our family. Gazpacho is absolutely divine during the hot, summer months. It’s cold and refreshing, exactly what everyone is craving this time of year.  Not only is it cold and soothing, but it also has so much crunchiness and freshness. All the vegetables are fresh, nothing is cooked, so you can imagine how bright it is. … 

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Karina’s Bridal Shower

Karina's Bridal Shower -1-14My baby sister is getting married this summer and I don’t even know h0w I feel about it. I guess my emotions are bittersweet. She has always been my cute little baby sister, and now she is going to be a married woman with a home and family of her own. Her fiancé, Eddy, is a wonderful guy and we all love him already. I couldn’t have handpicked a better man for her if I did it myself. Karina is the last one in our family to get married. We are all so thankful for the wonderful spouses that each one of us original Goncharenkos has married. They are all amazing and I genuinely feel that they are part of our family, just as much as all my siblings…. 

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Belorussian Potato and Cheese “Souffle” Babka

Belorussian Potato and Cheese Babka-1-21Mashed potatoes have earned their respect on most holiday dinner tables. They are such a staple, and for good reason. I prefer potatoes over any other side dish. I guess this proves that I’m Slavic and not Italian in origin:).

Today I introduce you to another way to prepare the spud. A “babka” is such a fun way to serve potatoes. Usually, I prepare Belorussian Potato Babka with raw pureed potatoes, but this recipe uses cooked potatoes that are shredded AND, get this…. assembled in layers of potatoes and cheese. Farmer’s cheese is another favorite Slavic ingredient, so I thought it would be a natural combination. You can use ricotta cheese and it will taste just as great. The outcome is so fluffy, it reminds me of a potato soufflé. The crisp and crunchy cheese layer on top contrasts wonderfully with the tenderness of the Babka. Serve this at your next party as a side dish instead of mashed potatoes. Your guests will enjoy the surprise.


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Seared Shrimp and Summer Couscous

Seared Shrimp and Summer Couscous -1-13Moving Week is here! I say this with both exhilaration and trepidation. Part of me wants to sing and dance, and the other part wants to run away and hide until it’s all behind us. Ha ha. Simple dinners have full reign of my kitchen and time consuming ideas are beaten back with a stick.

My luxury meal planning time is practically nonexistent. As I recently sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and scribbled down my weekly menu and grocery list, I closed my eyes and tried to think of something that would be very summery, full of fresh flavor and not take too much time. Shrimp and couscous came to mind and I immediately. Both ingredients scream SPEED to me. Each take 5 minutes to prepare, and it’s hard to find any other kind of full meal that can beat that record.

Put these juicy, plump shrimp with fluffy couscous on your menu. I think the addition of tomatoes, aromatics, fresh herbs and lemon juice really elevate this dish to an elegant and sophisticated meal, even though it’s technically easier to prepare than to take the time to get take out. Nobody said that delicious, homemade dinners that look 100% gourmet need to be difficult to make.

I have to go back to my boxes, but I can’t wait to come back soon and show you our new place:). But before that happens, I need to stay sane for the rest of the week, get all our possessions packed up and transported, all while entertaining a very rambunctious child and an attention hungry baby. … 

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Kale Salad With Roasted Beets

Kale Salad With Roasted Beets-1-10Most people indulge in salads during the summer more than any other time of the year. I am the same way. I guess all the available abundance of fresh produce has a good effect on us. Even though my favorite salads are still the ones that I have been enjoying for years, like Creamy Spring Garden Salad or Cauliflower Tomato Salad, sometimes, I crave something different, maybe even a little bit wierd. This kale salad is definitely unique in both taste, texture and visually too.

One of the small annoyances of kale is that it can sometimes feel like your jaw gets a workout gnawing on something that just doesn’t want to break down. The secret to tender kale leaves is to give it some tough love in the form of an aggressive rubdown. Not only will you be adding lots of flavor into the leaves because you’re rubbing it with olive oil, lemon juice and salt, but you are also softening the kale. I love the addition of roasted beets and caramelized apples. With some crunchy walnuts, sweet raisins, a zesty dressing, and nutty Parmesan cheese, your mouth is in for a roller coaster ride. … 

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Buckwheat and Mushroom Cabbage Rolls

Mushroom and Buckwheat Cabbage Rolls-1-19Admit it, if you are Slavic, sometimes you get cravings for food that many other people would call wierd. Think of Seleyodka (pickled herring), Holodets, Salo, Borsch and many others. I’m sure you’ve gotten some strange looks when you open up your lunch box at work once in a while. Even though cabbage rolls are a bit more popular than the foods that I just named, many people turn up their noses at the mere mention of cabbage.

I had one of these cravings the other day, specifically for Golubtsi (cabbage rolls). I am also trying to cook foods that are great as leftovers, since we are spending so much time remodeling our new place, and days when I don’t have to cook are appreciated more than ever. This time, I decided to use buckwheat instead of rice in the meat filling and also added mushrooms to the filling as well as the sauce. Oh, wow! Let me tell you, the buckwheat adds such a nutty flavor to the filling and mushrooms make everything taste better anyway, so the combination was a big hit.

I was so sure that my 5 year old would never eat the cabbage rolls, so before we sat down to dinner, I made him a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. As I was mentally patting myself on the back for being such a thoughtful and cool Mom, I noticed a rambunctious boy at my elbow, eyeing the cabbage rolls. He was very perplexed that I was only serving it to myself and my husband, and not placing any on his plate.

“Me want some too, Mom”, he adamantly told me. I was shocked. I doubtfully placed a cabbage roll on his plate.

He just doesn’t know what it is, I told myself, as soon as he takes a bite, he will move the plate away. Oh, well. The Grilled Cheese Sandwich is ready and waiting. 

Imagine my surprise when he devoured the whole cabbage roll and told me with lots of nodding and smacking noises that it was “very good”. … 

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Vanilla and Raisin Rice Pudding – Рисовая Каша

Vanilla and Raisin Rice Pudding-1-10I’ve been trying to introduce my 5 year old picky eater to something other than pancakes for breakfast. I tried to remember what my Mom cooked for us when we were all small, and I thought of Molochni Soup, milk soup, which was made with either pasta or rice. We called the rice version Risovaya Kasha, or Rice Pudding, as it is known here. When I was a little girl, my Mom would make it quite often. This is a staple Russian breakfast, especially for children. Whenever I make Rice Pudding, it’s like a walk down memory lane.

Since I like to kick things up a notch, I added raisins, orange zest and a vanilla bean to my Rice Pudding. It was the BOMB! You can’t call it boring for sure, and it’s still a healthy and filling breakfast. Sometimes, I even make it to serve as a dessert. … 

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Nun’s Puffs

Nun's Puffs-1-9When I was an engaged young woman, I knew that I would soon be cooking for my own family. I bought myself a thick hard cover notebook and spent many hours browsing through my Mom’s hand written recipes, rewriting them into my own notebook. I felt so happy with anticipation and also proud to think that soon I would be a homemaker myself.
The very first cookbook that I bought for myself was a bridal edition New Cook Book of Better Home and Gardens. I found it on one of my many trips to Barnes and Noble. I was looking for a good comprehensive book with all kinds of basic recipes, starting from pancakes, and covering all the bases-  salads, sides, entrees, desserts, etc. I also really appreciated all the tips in the book too.
I vividly remember my first few months as a married woman. I loved planning my menu, getting dinner cooked and then waiting eagerly for my wonderful husband to come home from work. I even made sure to put on a cute outfit, do my makeup and fix my hair:). There was something so special about that time.
One day, as I was looking for a new dessert to try, I stumbled upon a recipe for Nun’s Puffs. The name itself was intriguing enough, and I loved how simple it was to prepare with only 4 ingredients. I’ve been making Nun’s Puffs ever since. If you open my cookbook, it will automatically open to that recipe, because the binding is permanently creased there. That’s how much I love this recipe. It is basically a pate choux dough, (the same one used for cream puffs and eclairs) except it’s made with milk instead of water. The texture really reminds me of a popover or a Dutch baby pancake, crisp on the outside and the inside tastes like a crepe. … 

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