Latvia: Rūpjmaizes Kārtojums (Latvian Rye Bread Dessert)


When I was researching Latvian foods, I came across this layered dessert.  It fascinated me because I’ve never heard of using rye bread in a sweet dish like this.  When sweetened with sugar and cinnamon, it almost tastes like graham crackers.    The original recipe I found called for cranberries instead of raspberries, but according to Wikipedia, “Raspberry, strawberry and apricot are each favorite preserves for preparing Rupjmaizes kartojums among Latvians, as are the more peculiarly Latvian aroniasea buckthornlingonberryrose hip andred currant varieties.”

If I were to make it again, I think I’d layer it in parfait glasses to get the full effect.

Latvia: Rūpjmaizes Kārtojums (Latvian Rye Bread Dessert)
  • 10 slices coarse rye bread, dried
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp.cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 container mascarpone cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. cream
  • 1 can (I used SOLO) raspberry filling
  1. Combine rye bread, sugar, and cinnamon. In a medium-sized bowl, combine cheese and cream. Whip until smooth. Layer in parfait glasses or a trifle bowl and chill well, or overnight to let the flavors meld.


Thanks, Russian Season!

Poland: Chocolate Babka

chocolate babka

If you’re like us, you know Chocolate Babka from the episode of Seinfeld called The Dinner Party.  Jerry and Elaine make a stop at Schnitzer’s Bakery on their way to a dinner party to purchase a Chocolate Babka.  They forget to take a number, and as a result the bakery is sold out when they reach the counter.  They’re forced into buying a Cinnamon Babka, which Elaine considers ”a lesser babka.”  Here’s a clip:

Chocolate babka is a Jewish dessert popular in Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Czech Republic, Belarus and Poland. Babka is sweet yeast bread, popular in most of Eastern Europe, similar to coffee cake. Arthur Schwartz, author of Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking wrote, “Babka, in its original form, was stout and round, just like grandmothers used to be before they went to aerobics classes and practiced yoga.”

Chocolate Babka
  • DOUGH:
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 4 C. flour
  • ¼ C. butter
  • ¼ C. white sugar
  • ¼ C. water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ C. butter, softened
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used chocolate chips)
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ C. sugar
  • ¼ cup confectioners' sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup butter, chilled
  • 1 egg beaten with
  • 1 tablespoon water for glaze
  1. Add yeast to warm milk and allow to foam for 5-10 minutes. Next, add flour, butter, sugar, water, eggs and salt. Mix using a dough hook until smooth. Set aside to rise for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough in half and roll each section into 10x18 inch rectangles. Spread butter evenly on both halves. Spread chocolate pieces, cinnamon and sugar on top of the butter. Roll lengthwise, sealing ends shut. Place each loaf in a parchment-lined bread pan.
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, butter and egg/water. Brush the tops of each loaf with glaze before placing in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

chocolate babka chocolate babka chocolate babka chocolate babka chocolate babka chocolate babka

Lithuania: Kugelis


lithuanian kugelis

lithuanian kugelisKugelis is a Lithuanian baked potato pudding consisting of shredded potatoes, bacon, milk, onions, and eggs. It really doesn’t get much more frugal than this dish, so if you’ve got a tight budget this is a good one to try.  Traditionally, Lithuanians top this with applesauce or lingonberry jam.  When topped with sour cream and scallions, it’s delicious.  It reminds me a bit of the Spanish Omelets I love.

Scott said, “This is really good!” and the kids ate it up too (sans sour cream and onions).  I’ve got photographic proof for that one skeptical friend who said the kids wouldn’t like it. They did… and this photo to the right here was NOT staged (I’ll admit the one below was).  Sydney was picking up the crumbs off her plate (she gets her manners from Scott).

Lithuania: Kugelis
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • ½ lb. bacon
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • ½ C. milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a box shredder, shred the potatoes. Place in cold water in a bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet. Drain, reserving a tablespoon of grease to use to sauté the onions. In a kitchen towel and twist to remove excess water from the potatoes. Grease an 8x8 casserole dish and add potatoes, eggs, milk, and crumbled bacon bits. Season to taste. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown.


Lithuania: Kugelis - Kim Cooks the World

Lithuania: Kugelis - Kim Cooks the World

Lithuania: Kugelis - Kim Cooks the World

Lithuania: Kugelis - Kim Cooks the World


Lithuania: Kugelis - Kim Cooks the World



Thanks, Serious Eats!



Ukraine: Varenyky

ukranian varenyky

My family LOVES pierogies.  I can’t remember the first time we tried them, but I’m guessing it was in the Chicago area when visiting my grandmother.  We found a Polish market that sold fresh pierogis and always loaded our cooler up with them before heading back to Minnesota.  When my grandmother passed away and we no longer visited that area, I figured out how to make homemade pierogies that tasted pretty much the same (if not a tad bit better).

Last night, we tried the Ukranian version, known as Varenyky.  According to AllThingsUkranian they are, “One of the twelve traditional dishes for the Sviat Vechir (Christmas Eve Holy Supper).”   Since I’ve now made both, I’d say the main difference was in the dough.  Varenyky recipes use some sort of milk or cream in the dough, while pierogies contain potato in the dough and no dairy.  The end result, however, is nearly identical.

Like pierogies, Varenyky are kind of time-consuming to make.  If you’re going to make them, make a double batch to save for later.  The frozen ones can go directly in the skillet without thawing.  I was going to freeze the rest of mine for another meal, but my family liked them so well they wanted me to cook them up instead.  I’d say that was a clear indication of their success.  The kids gave them two thumbs up.

Don’t have a 3″ circle cutter?  A wine glass works well.

Ukraine: Varenyky
  • DOUGH:
  • 5 C. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1¼ C. evaporated milk
  • ¼ - ½ C. water
  • 6 medium potatoes, diced
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • ½ C. butter
  • 1¼ C. Cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the butter and evaporated milk. Stir until combined. Begin to knead dough, adding water only as needed. When dough sticks together, place in a greased bowl and set aside while you make the filling.
  2. For the filling, place potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes, until tender. Drain. Melt ½ cup butter in a medium skillet. Saute onions in butter until tender. Add the potatoes back in, along with the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Roll dough to ⅛" thick (if you have a pasta roller, it works well). Cut 3" circles. Add 1 teaspoon of the filling to the center of the circle and seal shut.
  4. Over high heat, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add varenyky and boil 4 minutes. Drain. Saute varenyky in a skillet with butter until golden brown. Serve with sour cream.


ukranian varenyky dough ukranian varenyky dough ukranian varenyky filling ukranian varenyky dough ukranian varenyky potato filling ukranian varenyky potato filling ukranian varenyky potato filling ukranian varenyky potato filling ukranian varenyky potato filling

ukranian varenyky dough ukranian varenyky dough ukranian varenyky dough ukranian varenyky ukranian varenyky

This recipe was adapted from

International Theme Feasts: Germany

Last weekend I planned the second of my International Theme Feasts.  This time, it was a German meal in honor of my sister-in-law, Sarah, who was visiting from Las Vegas.  Like myself, she is German (or at least a large percentage German).  Time for us to celebrate.  Besides, who doesn’t love sausages, beer, kraut and Black Forest cake?  In my humble opinion, it’s one of the best cuisines out there.  I should know.  I gained ten pounds when I visited Germany in the summer of 1992 (That’s me next to the Ferrari below.  The only thing bigger than my ass was my hair).



Since I was planning another feast, I felt I deserved a new flag for my collection.  My first flag was in honor of my Norwegian Feast.   From now on, every time I do an entire theme meal for guests I will treat myself to a new one (friends – just let me know when and what you want me to cook for you!).   I’ve got them proudly displayed on my dining room table.

German Wine With our German Feast I also got to add a couple new corks to my collection.  Sarah gave me a hu-MON-gous bottle of German Riesling.  Sa-weet!  (Riesling definitely is sweet).  Not to be outdone by his wife, my brother-in-law also brought me a bottle of fine wine.  Boone’s Farm Wild Cherry.  He likes to keep it classy.  Thanks, Mark.

On the Menu

Main Course:

For Dessert:

german feast

Germany: Red Cabbage with Apples

Germany: Red Cabbage with Apples
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 C. sliced green apples
  • ⅓ C. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • ¼ C. sugar
  • 2¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  1. In a large pot, add all the ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 1-1½ hours until tender.

red cabbage and apples

red cabbage and apples

England: Cornish Pasties

Cornish Pasties

Cornish Pasties

I grew up eating pasties, so it surprises me that some people have never even heard of them.  Last week I made them for our Norwegian Feast.  Pasties are definitely not Norwegian, but I wanted my friends could get a little taste of my heritage as well.

My grandmother’s ancestors came from the Cornwall, England area, where pasties are thought to have originated.  Grandma grew up on the Minnesota Iron Range, where they were also a common meal.  Pasties were a hearty and satisfying lunch for wives to send with their miner husbands.  The crust acted as an insulator and kept the insides warm, and he could eat it by holding it in his hands.

Nearly 100 years later, I’m still making them for my family. Making pasties is not a quick process.  The chopping of the veggies and dough preparation can turn it into an all-afternoon project.  However, you can make lots of them at once.  I make a double or triple batch so I can enjoy pasties all winter long.  Cook them partially (about halfway) and freeze for later.

downton abbey

How to Make Pasties

For me, the dough is the hardest part of the pasty.  I have never quite been able to get it right.  I either overwork it and its tough, or not enough and it tastes good but is too crumbly.  One of these years I’ll get the hang of it.

I actually don’t mind chopping the veggies.  While that part can be time-consuming, it’s easy.  Put a good show on TV and chop while you’re watching.  I happened to be watching Downton Abbey while I chopped.  Oh, such a very British night.  I was definitely channeling Mrs. Patmore.  We almost look alike, don’t you think?

England: Cornish Pasties
  • Ingredients
  • Cornish Pasty Crust Recipe
  • 2 C. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ⅔ C. lard or vegetable shortening*
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 6-8 Tbsp. ice water
  • Cornish Pasty Fillings
  • 1½ C. minced onion
  • 3 C. diced potato
  • 1½ C. sliced carrots**
  • 1-1/2 lb. beef steak, cubed (sirloin or round)***
  • 1-1/2 lb. pork steak, cubed***
  • Parsley, chopped (fresh)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter wedges
  1. For Crust: Mix dry ingredients together, then add shortening bit by bit until mixture becomes mealy. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time until a dough has been formed. This makes enough dough for three large pasties or four medium-sized pasties. Form dough into a ball and cut into three or four equal sizes. Roll out each ball and then add pasty fillings below. For Filling: On top of the dough that you’ve just rolled out, layer minced onion, potatoes, carrots, beef steak, pork steak, parsley. Add a couple butter wedges and season with salt and pepper. Fold the top of the pasty dough over the filling ingredients and seal the edges (mine was not fancy, but if you’re a skilled pastry chef you can do fluted edges). Bake your pasties at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and cook one hour more. If you’re going to be freezing them to eat later, cook for 45 minutes instead of an hour. When ready to cook, heat them for about a half hour at 375 degrees. *The original recipe that my grandmother used called for lard, but I substitute Crisco. **Many other traditional pasty recipes call for rutabaga or turnip, but we’ve never used that. It was a recipe that my grandmother handed down to my mom, and now to me. ***For me, packs of beef and pork sirloin came in 1-1½ lb. packages. That was enough for a double recipe of pasties, or save half and freeze to use later.


How to make pasties How to make pasties How to make pasties

Pinterest, You’re a Fickle Bitch (aka Black Forest Cake)

black forest cake

Pinterest, You’re a Fickle Bitch (aka Black Forest Cake)

The gorgeous Pinterest images of the Black Forest Cake made me think I could re-create the same thing at home.  It’s EASY they said.  It’s SIMPLE they said.  Silly Pinterest.  She’s a fickle bitch.  She’ll lure you in with her pretty pictures and promises of the good life then leave you on your own when things don’t work out quite the way she promised.

What’s pictured above is a my version of the REAL WOMAN’S Black Forest Cake.   It’s not quite Pinterest Fail bad, but not nearly what was promised me.  Still as tasty, just not as pretty (kind of like real life). She may not win any beauty contests, but this one won’t abandon you when you need her most.

PicMonkey Collage


The “Pretty” image source:

Germany: Black Forest Cake
  • 2 C. flour
  • 2 C. sugar
  • ¾ C. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C. milk
  • ½ C. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 jar pitted cherries
  • 1 C. sugar
  • ¼ C. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 C. heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ C. confectioners' sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch, round, cake pans; cover bottoms with waxed paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla; beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen edges, and remove to racks to cool completely.
  4. Drain cherries, reserving ½ cup juice. Combine reserved juice, cherries, 1 cup sugar and cornstarch in a 2 quart saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool before using.
  5. Combine whipping cream and confectioner's sugar in a chilled medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.
  6. With long serrated knife, split each cake layer horizontally in half. Tear one split layer into crumbs; set aside. Reserve 1½ cups Frosting for decorating cake; set aside. Gently brush loose crumbs off top and side of each cake layer with pasty brush or hands. To assemble, place one cake layer on cake plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting; top with ¾ cup cherry topping. Top with second cake layer; repeat layers of frosting and cherry topping. Top with third cake layer. Frost side of cake. Pat reserved crumbs onto frosting on side of cake. Spoon reserved frosting into pastry bag fitted with star decorator tip. Pipe around top and bottom edges of cake. Spoon remaining cherry topping onto top of cake.

This was inspired by a black forest cake recipe I found on

Denmark: Aebelskivers

danish aebelskivers

Danish Aebelskivers

Aebelskivers are a Danish breakfast pancake that are popular around the holidays.  Traditionally, they included apple filling which is how they got their name.  Whipping the egg whites make them fluffy.  They’re almost like little mini popovers.

I’m not quite sure how I decided to make these.  It could be that I thought the aebelskiver pan was just really, really cute.  Pans like this aren’t the most practical thing to keep around the house, but I do love collecting them.  My dream home has not only a huge kitchen and walk-in pantry, but a special place for me to store all the pots, pans and cooking collectibles that I love.

The aebelskivers were pretty easy to make.  The batter itself isn’t very sweet, so you need to either dust them with powdered sugar or fill them with fruit.  Mine tended to stick to the pan a bit, but I don’t think it was seasoned well enough before I gave it a go. Next time I make them I want to experiment with some fruit fillings. I’ll update this post when I do.

Denmark: Aebelskivers
Danish pancake balls
  • 2 C. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 C. buttermilk
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  1. In a bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, sugar, egg yolks, melted butter and buttermilk at one time and beat until smooth. Gently fold in the egg whites.
  3. Put a small amount of vegetable oil in the bottom of each aebleskiver pan cup and heat on medium. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each cup. As soon as they get bubbly around the edge, turn them quickly. For turning, you can use a skewer, knitting needle or a fork. Continue cooking, turning the ball to keep it from burning.
  4. Serve immediately.


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Germany: Sauerbraten

How to make German Sauerbraten

German Sauerbraten

This week homemade sauerbraten was on the menu. I’ve wanted to make it for many years, ever since I had it in Cologne, Germany when I was 21.   Since authentic sauerbraten has to marinate for three days, and I am not good at planning ahead, it took me 20 years to finally recreate it at home.

That’s me with the unfortunate perm in the photo below.   What can I say.  It was 1992.  I was in Cologne with my friend Katja and her sister.  I was lucky enough to spend a month with her that summer traveling and hanging out in Europe.  We had just toured the incredible Cologne cathedral and were moving on to Kölsch (a local specialty beer brewed in Cologne) and sauerbraten.  Too bad this photo shows more of my bad hair than the food itself.  The food is what I really want to remember from that day, not my frizzy perm and the ten extra pounds I had packed on up eating and drinking my way through Europe.

gaffel am dom cologne germany

After making the sauerbraten back home, I’ll tell you the only tricky thing about it is having the foresight to get the marinade going three days ahead of time.  Some other sauerbraten recipes tell you to marinate the meat even longer.  However, it’s a really simple dish.  The meat is tender and the gravy is fabulous.  The gingersnaps are the thickening agent, and give the gravy its distinctive flavor.  Plus, the cousins had fun crushing them.

Germany: Sauerbraten
  • 2 C. water
  • 1 C. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 C. red wine vinegar
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt, additional for seasoning meat
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 12 juniper berries (found in the spice aisle)
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 (3½ to 4-pound) bottom round
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • ⅓ C. sugar
  • 18 dark old-fashioned gingersnaps, crushed
  1. In a large saucepan combine the water, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper, and mustard seeds. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Rub the vegetable oil on the bottom round. Spread the salt on all sides and rub in. Heat a large skillet and brown the meat on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  3. Place the meat in a one-gallon Ziplock freezer bag and pour marinade over it. Remove all the air from the bag before sealing and marinate in the refrigerator for three days.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the meat in a glass baking dish. Add sugar to the marinade, cover and cook until tender, approximately 3½ - 4 hours.
  5. Remove the meat from the baking dish. Strain the remaining marinade to remove the solids. In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk the gingersnaps in with the marinade and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  6. Serve with potato dumplings or spaetzle noodles



sauerbraten marinade

 sauerbraten marinade

 sauerbraten marinade

sauerbraten gravy sauerbraten gravy sauerbraten gravy




This recipe was inspired by Alton Brown’s recipe on