Saturday, February 21, 2015

Borscht 2 Ways

My mother often makes Borscht, or Russian beet soup, as taught to her by my Russian grandmother. The recipe is very flexible based on available ingredients.  For instance, my grandmother could not afford to use much meat.  My mom does not have a set recipe and bases amounts on the size of the pot that she is using, but I have written down an approximation.

1 lb.  or more beef stew meat
8-12 cups homemade beef broth or water with 4 tsp. of beef bouillon
1 medium to large onion, chopped
5 potatoes, cubed (in my recipe below, I use rutabaga instead; I also sometimes increase the other vegetables and omit potato or rutabaga)
at least 2 carrots shredded
1/2 green cabbage, shredded
4 med. or 3 lg. beets, peeled and shredded in food processor
2 T. lemon juice + more to taste
salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, cover the beef cubes, celery, and garlic with water and simmer on low for two hours.  Discard celery and garlic.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 30 more minutes.  Season with beef bouillon and salt & pepper as needed to enhance the broth.  Add a dollop of sour cream to individual bowls.  


I adapted my mother's recipe, using my Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) to speed up the process.  I pressure cook the beets and the beef while cooking the rest of the soup ingredients on the stove top.  Total cooking time = 1 hour 

4 medium beets, stems trimmed, reserving leaves
2 T. fresh lemon juice

Pre-cook beets in pressure cooker (1 c. water in bottom of pot, beets on rack or steamer basket, 25 mins. high pressure, quick release); reserve liquid, slip skins when cool, grate, and mix in lemon juice.  Set aside.

1 T.  oil
1 onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed
2 - 2.5 # beef for stew, 1 inch cubes
2 tsp. salt
stalk of celery
1 cup water or broth
reserved beet juice

Salt the beef cubes. Sautee onions and garlic in oil in electric pressure cooker (optional).  Add beef cubes and water/broth to reserved liquid from cooking beets.  Cook for 35 mins. on high in pressure cooker and natural release steam for 10-15 mins.  Remove celery.  

While the beets and beef are cooking in the pressure cooker, prep and cook the following on the stove top (add the vegetables to the boiling broth in the stock pot as soon as the meat reaches high pressure in the Instant Pot).

10 cups homemade stock or beef broth made with bouillon 
2 large carrots, grated
2  rutabagas, peeled and cut in 1/4 in. thick rounds, then each round cut into 6-9 pieces.
1/2 green cabbage, shredded
beet greens, large stems removed and cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
1 T. more fresh lemon juice to taste
1 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
salt & pepper

In a large pot, bring stock to a boil and add rutabagas and carrots.  Cover and turn heat down to medium.  After 15 minutes, add shredded cabbage, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes.  Add beet greens and cook for a few more minutes.  Add grated cooked beets and heat only at a gentle simmer, adding lemon juice, dill, and salt & pepper to taste.  When the meat is done in the pressure cooker, stir it into the soup pot.  The soup can be served immediately in individual bowls with dollops of sour cream.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Vegetable Beef Soup

  • medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 12 cups beef broth, homemade and/or from bouillon
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can green beans
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Brown ground beef and onion, adding garlic when nearly done.  Set aside to drain.  In a stockpot bring the broth to a boil.  Add carrots, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and spices. Cover and cook for 30 minutes until vegetables are soft.  Stir in green beans, ground beef, and lemon juice at the end and heat through.  Adjust seasonings if needed. Serves 6-8.

  • use fresh or frozen green beans
  • replace garbanzo with diced potatoes or rutabaga sliced thin
  • add thinly sliced cabbage at the 15 minute mark when cooking vegetables

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Greek Pottery Project

Logan and I first attempted to make a Greek-style pot by covering a glass vase with air-dry clay, which worked years ago for his older brothers, but this time the clay cracked as soon as it dried. 

His brothers were younger when they made their Greek pots out of root beer bottles covered in clay.

We went back to the drawing board and decided to make a paper mache Greek-style pot, using instructions in the Story of the World Volume One Activity Book, and gleaning various ideas online. Mixing together one part Elmer's school glue and one part water, we found that smaller pieces of newspaper worked better than longer strips.  Logan got a bit tired of paper mache after one layer on the balloon, and I mostly did the second layer.  However, four to six layers would have been more adequate, because our pot dented in at the top a bit when I cut a hole and inserted a plastic cup, and it dented in at a spot when painted.

Logan painted the pot with terra cotta and black acrylic paint.  We looked up pictures of Greek pottery online for design inspiration, but for the main pictures, he re-drew a picture of the Trojan horse and a picture of Odysseus and company getting ready to blind the Cyclops, Polyphemus, that he had already drawn for his history/literature notebook.  Since the giant proved difficult for him to draw onto the curved surface, I ordered some graphite transfer paper to use to get his image on the pot.  

The handles are made out of Model Magic and hot glued to the pot.

With such a detailed project, Logan did the work off and on over a period of many weeks.  It helped that he is a very detail-oriented kid.  

Apple Cranberry Turkey Burgers


  • 1 package ground turkey (I use Jennie-O 1.25 pound package.)
  • 1/2 cup grated apple
  • 1/4 heaping cup finely-chopped cranberries
  • 1/4 scant cup finely-chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely-chopped celery
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground sage
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried, crushed rosemary
Mix all ingredient together thoroughly.  Form 8 or 9 patties and cook on the grill.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paleo Zuppa Toscana

Serves 8-12

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 lbs. ground Italian sausage *
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 16 cups chicken stock (homemade or from bouillon)
  • 1 large head cauliflower broken into bite-sized florets and pieces
  • 8 cups baby kale, or baby spinach, or chopped kale, stems removed
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
* I like to use Sprouts Italian sausage links, removing the skins, and breaking up the meat.

In a large stockpot, brown the sausage with the chopped onion and garlic.  Set aside the meat and onions to drain.  Bring the chicken stock to boil in the pot, then add the cauliflower and pepper flakes and simmer for 15 minutes* or until tender.  Return the meat mixture to the pot along with the greens.  Cook until the greens are tender: only a few minutes if using baby greens, around 5 minutes if using chopped kale.  Stir in the coconut milk, add salt & pepper to taste, and serve.

*Reduce the amount of time the cauliflower is cooked if using chopped kale which takes longer to soften.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Butternut Bisque

Butternut and Ham Bisque
Yield: 12 servings 

2 T. coconut oil, ghee, or butter
1 very large sweet onion chopped

1 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tsp. minced garlic
10 cups peeled, diced butternut squash
2 c. peeled, diced sweet potato
10 c. chicken broth (homemade, or from bouillon) 

salt to taste (depending on what broth you use)
black pepper to taste
1 c. coconut milk (or milk or heavy cream if you can have dairy)
3 cups cubed cooked ham

Melt coconut oil or other fat in a stock pot.  
Sauté the onion and rosemary over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the squash and sweet potato cubes, chicken stock, salt & pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover the pot. Simmer the soup for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Remove the pan from the heat.

Use a stick blender to puree the vegetables and broth in the pot.  If you do not own a stick blender, buy one immediately puree the vegetables with some broth in batches in  a blender until all the vegetables are pureed and returned to the pot. Stir in the coconut milk and ham, heating for several minutes before serving. 

My son Matthew, upon tasting this soup, once exclaimed, "This is better than ice cream!"