Birthday Cooking in Ukraine 101

Saturday was Ezra's birthday!


This was the first birthday celebrated away from family, so I think Jed and I were both feeling the need to make Ezra's birthday extra special. As in, Ez was convinced Hannah came to visit JUST for his birthday. We let him believe that. After all, it's not every day you turn 8!


We asked Ezra what he wanted to eat for his birthday and he said he wanted pizza. Woohoo! I can make pizza! No big deal. He also said that instead of birthday cake, he wanted cherry vareniki. Really??? Okay, buddy, anything for you on your birthday.


So, Friday night, right after her arrival, I roped Hannah into helping me make some vareniki. It's a time intensive job, but much more fun when you have company. 🙂 Vareniki are little dumplings made from butter, flour, salt, and egg. They can be filled with potatoes, cheese, mushrooms, cabbage…or cherries. Mmmmm. That's how we like them best! You top the cherry ones with sugar and sour cream. They really are delish. Jed and I had them the first time we came to Ukraine and I'm pretty sure I experimented cooking them the very day after we arrived home. 🙂

Vareniki/PJ party

Yep, no rolling pin...discovered after we had already begun. Enter, milk bottle!

We rolled out the dough, cut out little circles, then put a spoonful of sugar and a couple cherries in each circle of dough. Then we ran into problems. You have to crimp the dough around the edges to seal it so the cherries don't leak out when the vareniki is boiled. Well, I always just set my cherries in a strainer and work fast. BUT the only cherries we could find were frozen, and as they thawed they leaked like crazy. We had some funky looking vareniki on our hands!
While we worked we listened to the Phil Collins station on Spotify. In my former life (2 weeks ago) I did all my best work (and card-playing) to Phil Collins station on Pandora. Jed, Tom, Emma, and I have worked for years (literally) to perfect our Phil Collins station. It's seriously like a work of art. Occasionally a Coldplay song will get thrown in and one of us will rush over to thumb it down, but that's a rarity. It's pretty spot on in awesomeness. It's been faithfully tended and nurtured to perfection. Let's just say, when it comes to Spotify radio we have our work cut out for us. No Pandora in Ukraine = starting over. Boo.
BUT, Jed had just mentioned earlier in the evening (can't remember why) that it felt like a Top Gun music moment. And while we were in the deep throes of vareniki-making, guess what song came on???

Cool, right?? PS: not sure why the vareniki look hypercolor yellow. Hmmmm

Nothing lifts the spirits like a good 80's mix. 😉
Saturday dawned and Ezra was up with the sun. He was so excited for his big day!!
Hannah and I got busy on the pizza dough fairly early since we had guests coming to celebrate for lunch. As we let the dough rise we walked down to the grocery store to see if, by chance, we could find some parchment paper for the pizza baking. We were doubtful we would find anything, but it was worth a shot! Imagine our suprise when we found just what we were looking for!
We hurried home, rolled out our dough, and got ready to preheat the oven. Then we actually took a good look at the oven and found this:

Ummm this is our oven control. Any idea how to decipher this?? Only three temp choices. I guess we better invest in a thermometer 🙂

We spent some time googling for a way to use the oven and eventually decided to just wing it. The dough baked perfectly! Yummmmm!!!! Praise The Lord!
I took it out, ready to slide it off the pan….and at that point realized we didn't actually buy parchment paper. It appeared we bought some sort of paper that stuck like glue to dough. Hahahahaha

Pizza with a side of paper

Time to clean the dough off the paper in the other pans before the other crusts suffered the same fate!
In the end, the pizza and vareniki turned out delicious and all was well. This adventure is so hilariously fun!!!



  1. Crystal · November 26, 2013

    Our ovens here in the UK are way different too! It’s like our first year of marriage all over again!

  2. Phyllis Hunsucker · November 27, 2013

    Once again, I think you’re amazing. We only ever buy frozen vareniki.

    I had forgotten my struggles with ovens at the beginning. Now I’m just so used to it, that I had forgotten there would be anything else. My first time in a new home, I always burn the first thing I bake, but after that, we’re fine. 🙂

  3. Annie Bittner · November 27, 2013

    I am cozied up in my beloved t-shirt right now! I just read like a million of your posts and had goose bumps the whole time. So happy for you guys and can’t wait to visit! Ukraine is blessed to have all of you!

    • kimnjed · December 1, 2013

      Awww you’re the best! I can’t wait for you guys to visit. Hannah and I were talking about how great that will be. Come come come!!

Share your thoughts!