Sunday, June 06, 2010

All Blogged Out

After four years of cooking and blogging, I'm closing up shop for a while. A huge thank-you to all for reading and commenting.

I may come back some day--who knows? In the meantime, feel free to e-mail me (yulinkacooks at yahoo dot com) with any questions about recipes on this blog.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Tulips and rhubarb cake (recipe here--substitute rhubarb for apples). And here's another rhubarb cake recipe from the archives.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Amish Bread Starter: Free to a Good Home

A few weeks ago a volunteer where I work brought in some delicious Amish breakfast bread (right), and I asked for the recipe. Little did I know that I would be given not only the recipe, but also a batch of bread starter.

I've never worked with bread starter before, but this one's low-maintenance and totally not scary. All you do is give it an occasional stir, and feed it some flour, sugar and milk halfway through the 10-day fermentation process. On the tenth day, you bake. Oh, and you also end up with four more batches of starter.

Being exceptionally generous, I'm willing to share my starter. Anyone interested? Oh, please, tell me you are. I feel guilty tossing perfectly good starter, but I can't possibly tend to four batches of bread.

If you're in the Milwaukee area and you'd like some starter, e-mail me at or leave a comment.

Oh, and here's the recipe for the breakfast bread itself:

Heat the oven to 325. Add the following to the starter, mixing after each addition: 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 cup oil, 2 cups flour [I added just 1 by mistake, but my bread came out fine], 1 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 large or 2 small packages instant pudding mix [I bet you can leave this out with no ill effect], 1.5 tsp baking powder. You can also add raisins, nuts, etc.

Grease two loaf pans [I used one 10-inch, round cake pan]. In a bowl, mix an additional 1/4 cup sugar and 1.5 tsp. cinnamon. Dust the greased pans with 1/2 of mixture. Pour the batter evenly into the pans.  Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture on top. Bake 45 to 60 minutes.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Happy Spring

Coming from a non-religious Soviet culture, my family doesn't truly celebrate religious holidays. So you could call this dinner a "festive spring meal" or somesuch, where Russian holiday favorites ("herring in a fur coat," pickled mushrooms) and remnants of religious traditions (dyed eggs) mingle on the same table.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


So I hear brunch is a pretty popular pastime these days. In Milwaukee, there's at least one blog devoted to full-time brunching and bloody mary-ing: Milwaukee Brunch Reviews.

I'm pretty agnostic when it comes to restaurant brunches, but I do like brunching at home. Brunch is often part of my routine on Tuesday mornings, the day when I work afternoons and evenings. It's also a good time to catch up on blogs, Twitter, e-mail and so on.

My favorite brunch food is pretty simple: spinach sautéed with some bacon and mushrooms, and topped with a poached egg and maybe a bit of cheese. Sometimes I'll toss in leftovers like roasted potatoes. Poaching eggs seems to cause such anxiety for cooks (think Julie Powell's near-breakdown in the movie Julie & Julia), but I've never had much trouble. Maybe I'm doing something wrong?

I bring a few cups of water to a boil in a saucepan, add a splash of vinegar (to prevent the egg white from separating) and then turn the heat to the lowest setting. I break an egg or two into a saucer and slide them into the water. I like my eggs runny, so I fish them out after three minutes.

For the beverage, I go for my recession latte--coffee made in a French press with a splash of hot milk.

Tuesday Morning Brunch for one:

Heat up a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add a slice or two of bacon, chopped up, and sauté for a minute. Add a handful of chopped mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms are done, 4-6 minutes. Toss in two big handfuls of spinach (or half a package of frozen spinach, defrosted), and cook until wilted, 3-5 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and top with some cheese if you like. In the meantime, poach eggs as described above and make coffee.

My favorite side these days is a warmed up tortilla with cream cheese, but if you have more time, homemade yogurt scones are a close runner-up.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chocolate-Covered Sirki

I'm taking a little blogging break while I deal with grad school stuff (to be completed in late March, yay!), but in the meantime please enjoy this updated post about chocolate-covered sirki. Sirki (сырки) are mini-cheesecake bars that are sold in every corner grocery in Russia. They're hard to find in the U.S., but I'm providing a tweaked recipe from Anya von Bremzen's Please to the Table cookbook. I know, I shouldn't have.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Russian Candy Review: Part Two

In Russia, you eat the bear. Oh, okay, you actually eat Mishka Kosolapyi (мишка косолапый), which translates as "clumsy bear," more or less. This is basically a chocolate-covered wafer candy with a picture of a mama bear and cubs on the wrapper. Cute, crunchy and tasty; I give it an A.

This is the second installment of my long-ago promised series on Russian candy (part one is here). You can buy mishkas at most Russian and Eastern-European grocery stores in Milwaukee; go here for locations. Yulinka Cooks endorses Spartak in Whitefish Bay, Wis.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Blogroll Goodness

I revised my blogroll the other day, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the many new Russian/Eastern European blogs. There’s a wonderfully diverse mix out there—from Taste of Russia (an American blogger eating her way through Russia) to Natasha's Kitchen (a Ukrainian twist) to Rich Food for Lean Times (by a Wisconsin-based blogger who’s originally from Azerbaijan).

I’m also a bit overwhelmed by all the great content these bloggers are cranking out. Oh, to be a new blogger, cooking your heart out and writing about it every day. I, too, posted four to five times a week back when I started in ’06. (Exhaustion and burnout will set in soon enough, bwa ha ha!). Anyway, check them out, and let me know of anyone I may be forgetting.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I’m having problems with zapekanka. It’s a kind of Russian cheesecake made from curd cheese (also called farmer's cheese or tvorog in Russian; see my recipe here). I’ve played with recipes from old Russian cookbooks, the kind that don’t have precise measurements or baking times. Normally this isn’t a problem—I never measure ingredients and substitute them at will. This works pretty well for me, except, of course, when baking. It doesn’t help that farmer’s cheese is a soggy ingredient, so some guidelines come in handy here.

Unfortunately there aren’t too many zapekanka recipes out there—this one, by a Russian-born food blogger, is probably the closest to what I’m looking for. I’ve always thought of zapekanka as a breakfast food or a light dinner, not dessert, however. Anyway, I had some leftover curd cheese last week, and I improvised this recipe:

1.5 cups curd cheese mixed with a bit less than ¼ cup sugar, ½ tsp. vanilla extract, 3 tbs. flour, ½ tsp. baking powder and an egg yolk. The egg white was beaten until peaks formed and added to the rest of the ingredients. I also tossed in some raisins (any kind of dried fruit works well in a zapekanka). I baked the whole thing in a buttered, 9-inch pan at 370 degrees for about 45 minutes. The final product was beautifully golden and airy, although it quickly sank once it left the oven. It was also a bit soggy and too sweet, just like two previous attempts.

So, readers, any advice for making a successful zapekanka? Recipes in Russian are welcome. (I don't usually search online in Russian because I can't read it as fast as English--blame first language attrition.)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mid-Week Cooking Notes

Oh, I know the photo is hideous, but that's great comfort food for a cold February night. Feast your eyes on chicken kotleti (Russian pan-fried burgers) and mashed potatoes, with a mushroom-and-red wine gravy.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Product Review: Hren (horseradish relish)

The pink stuff’s hren (хрен). Say it with me: hren!* Hren means horseradish in Russian, and that’s horseradish relish with beets in the photo. Hren is a very popular Russian condiment, and Eastern European groceries sell different varieties that range from mild to bitingly spicy. The beet version is my favorite: sweet-and-sour and delightfully fuchsia. Hren is typically eaten with meats or cold cuts, but I also like it on roasted potatoes.

*By the way, in Russian, the word “hren” and its variants are a milder version of the equivalent to the f-bomb. It’s sort of like saying “freakin’” instead of the real thing in English.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Calling All Blogs

If you write a blog on Russian or Eastern European cooking, please leave a comment or e-mail me at I'd like to compile a list of links to food blogs that cover this topic. Blogs on food from the former Soviet Republics are welcome, too.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cooking Notes

This post takes inspiration from former Milwaukee food blogger Haverchuk, who used to do roundups of cooking that hadn’t made it onto the blog that month, “like the deleted scenes on your DVDs.”

A few weeks ago I made draniki, Belarusian potato pancakes. These are a lot like latkes, but without the onion. You shred about 5 or 6 small peeled potatoes in a food processor; then add 2 tablespoons of flour, a beaten egg, salt and pepper. Be sure to salt the batter generously, or your pancakes will be bland.

Heat a glug of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan, and ladle ¼-cup scoops of batter into the pan. The pancakes should be 3 to 4 inches long, about 2 inches wide, and ¼-inch thin. When frying, you really have to generous with the oil, or the pancakes start burning. Fry for about 30 to 50 seconds, then flip and fry for another 30 seconds; repeat until both sides are golden-brown, about 2 minutes. These are pretty good with sour cream. Tip: Don’t make them on a weeknight when you really don’t feel like cleaning oil splatters off the stove, okay?

I tried these spinach-stuffed mushrooms at a New Year’s party, and have made them about four or five times since then. This is a Paula Deen recipe, and it’s really quite delicious. Unlike most of Deen’s repertoire, it doesn’t even call for five pounds of butter. I did make some tweaks to the original directions. Be sure to sauté the mushrooms caps for about 5 to 7 minutes before stuffing them, otherwise they don’t cook through. For the spinach filling, I subbed some homemade farmer's cheese for the feta. Ricotta would work, too.

Monday, January 04, 2010


Well, this pickled mushroom recipe bombed. In fact, my mushrooms turned out like barely edible little salt bombs. The recipe, which I followed precisely, called for two tablespoons of plain non-iodized salt to one pound of mushrooms. What went wrong here? Is there any way to fix this?

By the way, the recipe, from Anne Volokh's The Art of Russian Cuisine, is very similar to this Deb Perelman recipe, which also turned out unbearably salty when I tried it a few years ago. (Perelman is behind the usually foolproof Smitten Kitchen blog.)
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