Cooks Menu Ideas and Recipes

Suggested Dishes and Cooks Tips –

  • Soups like Borsch or Shchi served with hearty breads
  • Piroshki (meat and/or vegetable pies) are traditional fare in Russian homes. They are easy to make and are delicious. Make these ahead of time before your visit
  • Potatoes cooked any number of ways: in a stew, creamed, or boiled with sour cream or churned butter on top
  • Marinated beets are often a new and interesting food to try, and are fun to make
  • Kasha or grains can also be served in a variety of ways.  Different grains can include a 9-grain cereal, wild rice or buckwheat. Try roasting them on the fire before cooking.  For a tasty breakfast, add nuts and dried fruits or berries to the grains, serve with cream if you wish
  • Pancakes or blinis made on-site are not a good idea for breakfast. They can drip and make a mess on the fireplace stones. Please consider other options for breakfast
  • Dark Rye Breads or “Mission” style grain breads can be ordered from your local bakery. It is most important that the bread be different from the bread that the children usually eat. Using round loaves of bread can add to the difference
  • Coffee can be a different experience when you bring green coffee beans. Roast them on the open fire, grind and then pour boiling water on top. Then let grinds settle. It makes great coffee and will help parents and teachers get through chilly afternoons and night watch
  • Herb teas are a treat for the employees. Herb teas could replace cocoa for night watch
  • Russian Tea Cakes can be served with herb teas or cocoa for night watch. Chinese Tea Bricks can be found online or at times at Cost Plus

Menu Ideas –

Snacks –

  • Dried fruit – cranberries, apricots, pineapple, etc.
  • Mixed Nuts Beef jerky Piroshki
  • Soft cheese with crackers and/or bread
  • Whole fruit – apples, pears, grapes
  • Sliced Veggies – carrots, cucumbers, green beans, radishes, etc.
  • Pickled Mushrooms
  • Hard boiled eggs

Dinners –

  • Pick at least three items
  • Soups – borscht, shchi, stews
  • Fresh fish – Salmon when in season
  • Piroshki
  • Potatoes
  • Green Beans
  • Whole Grain Breads
  • Churned Butter
  • Salad
  • Berries over sweet grain
  • Tapioca or Pumpkin Porridge

Night Watch Snacks –

  • Russian Tea Cakes Hot Cocoa or Hot Tea

Breakfasts –

  • Kasha – Mixed grain hot cereal served with butter, Brown sugar, yogurts, and molasses to drizzle on the cereal
  • Scrambled Eggs –  4 ½ dozen + 1 C milk
  • Breads, Bagels & Cream Cheese
  • Fresh Fruit – 5 apples, 4 pears, 3 persimmons
  • Nuts Dried Fruit Butter Jams
  • Sliced cheeses Scrambled eggs Fruit
  • Tea and/or Coffee

Sack Lunches –

  • This could be a repeat of the layout of foods mentioned under snacks
  • Hard Boiled Eggs, Sandwiches, Whole fruit, Crackers

Lunch  Day Two – Keep this simple and plan for no cooking or dishes

  • Sandwiches
  • Carrot sticks
  • Fresh fruit
  • Mozzarella cheese sticks
  • Nuts

Recipes –                                                  

Russian Borscht – Serves 20

  • 1 Cube Butter
  • Caraway and Dill Seeds
  • 5 Onions Peeled
  • 4 Veggie Cubes
  • 4-6 Cups Water
  • 10 Potatoes Peeled
  • 8 Tbsp Vinegar (or to taste)
  • 24 Beets – Canned or Fresh
  • 8 Tbsp Honey (or to taste)
  • 6 Carrots
  • Fresh Dill
  • 2 Small to Medium Cabbage Heads
  • Sour Cream
  • 4 Cloves Garlic

Put all ingredients except sour cream and fresh dill in one big pot.  Cook for a few hours on the open fire. Top each serving with sour cream and dill.  That is the Fort Ross way.


Alaska Native Beef and Berry Stew – Serves 30

  • 15 lbs Stew Meat
  • Flour for Dredging Beef
  • Olive Oil
  • 9 Medium White Onions
  • 13 Small Cans Beef Broth
  • 10 cups Berries
  • 6 Tbsp Honey
  • Salt to Taste

Roll meat in the flour and brown in olive oil in large spider pot. Then add the sliced onions and more oil. Add some broth to deglaze the pots and then add remaining broth and berries. Add water if needed. Stir in the honey. Cook over a low fire until all is tender and blended. Salt to taste.


Vegetable Shchi Soup – Serves 10

  • 4 oz Dried Mushrooms          
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
    3 Onions                                
  • 2 Tbsp Dill
    2 Leeks                                   
  • 2 Carrots
    2 lbs Sauerkraut      
  • 3 Medium Potatoes              
  • Sour Cream

Add all ingredients except sour cream to 3 quarts water, cook until tender. Add sour cream to taste on top of each serving.


Kasha – Buckwheat Groats – Serves 6

  • 1 Cup Buckwheat Groats
  • 2 Cups Boiling Water
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Oil

Brown buckwheat in an ungreased skillet (cast iron works best), let cool. Bring water to a boil and add salt and oil.  Stir in the cooled groats.  Cover tightly.  Reduce to low heat and continue cooking on low heat, stirring carefully once or twice.  Allow to simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. When water is all absorbed and kasha looks fluffy it is ready to be served with butter, milk or as a side dish.


Green Beans with Yogurt – Cook green beans.  Let them cool and add 1 cup of yogurt per 1 lb. of beans.  If you like, spice up the flavor with sautéed onions and garlic. This is a very typical Russian fare.


Churned Butter – We have a butter churn on site. Depending on the size of your group and your needs (snack, dinner, breakfast) you will use from one quart to a half-gallon. Click here for more information.


Soft Cheeses with Herbs – Serves 20

  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1 Cup Cottage Cheese
  • 2 Cups Cream Cheese

Minced fresh herbs like basil, dill, garlic, chives, parsley, thyme and pepper are all good. Combine all ingredients into one bowl.  This is great with dinner or as an afternoon snack.


Syirniki (Cheeses) – Serves 20

  • 4 Cups Yogurt Cheese or Ricotta
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 to 1 and 1/4 Cups Flour
  • 1 Cup Sugar

Beat eggs. Add sugar and cheese, stir well.  Add flour and stir until blended.  Form into balls using a rounded tablespoon to measure each.  Roll balls in flour.  Flatten into patties about 1 inch thick.  Fry in a little butter until both sides are deep and golden and seem set.  (If they are brown but not set, try covering.)  Eat hot with sour cream or cool.


Camp Coffee – Yields 14 eight oz servings

Purchased one pound green coffee beans, roasted them in ‘spider pot’. Smashed them with antique coffee masher or mortar and pestle.  Make coffee as you would with other grounds – French Press, Drip, etc.

  • (Optional)Large handful of crushed eggshells

Cranberry Kvas – This must be made off site, ahead of time.  Kvas deemed yummy by kids. Had officer cooks pour so each person got a 2-3 oz splash…not a glassful.  Yields approximately 2 wine bottles

  • 4 lbs Fresh Cranberries
  • 4 Quarts Water
  • 1 Cup Fresh Peppermint Leaves
  • 1 Tsp Baking Yeast
  • 3 ½ Cups Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla

Puree cranberries. Place in large enamel or heat proof glass container. Add 3 quarts boiling water. Cover & let set 24 hours. Strain. Soak peppermint leaves in 1 quart boiling water for 7 hours. Strain. Bring liquids to lukewarm temp (about 100° F). Stir in yeast, sugar & vanilla. Cover & let stand overnight. Pour into glass bottles, cork & store in refrigerator.


Limony Kvas – This must be made off site, ahead of time.  Yields 5 wine bottles

  • 1 Lemon Cut in Half, Seeds Removed
  • 3 ½ Quarts Boiling Water
  • 1 Cup Raisins
  • 1 Tbsp Each: Flour, Sugar, Dry Yeast
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • Juice of Three Lemons

Chop up the lemon & place in large enamel or heatproof glass dishes. Do not use metal. Add raisins & boiling water. Cover & let cool to lukewarm (approx. 110ºF).  Dissolve in flour, sugar & yeast. Cover and let stand overnight. Strain, being careful not to get sediment. Add sugar & lemon to taste. Strain again through muslin or a very clean tea towel. Bottle (sterilize wine bottles in dishwasher), cork & refrigerate, standing upright!!


Pelmeni (A Siberian Recipe) – Bake off site, ahead of time.  Pelmeni are filled dumplings made of noodle dough, similar to ravioli.  You can assemble pelmeni ahead of time and freeze it.
Meat Filling –

  • 1 lb Ground Pork
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • Spices to Taste: Salt, Black Pepper, Garlic and Onion
  • 1 Cup Boiled Water with 3 Bay Leaves

Dough (Make ahead of time) –

  • 2 lbs White Flour
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Milk

Assembly – On a lightly floured surface, roll out one ball of dough into a circle of 18 inches in diameter and a little less than 1/16 inch thick; be careful not to tear it. Cut 2 1/2-inch circles with a round cookie cutter.  Fill each round with 1 tsp of filling, pushing it lightly to make a compact mound.  Fold in half to form semicircles, fit the edges together and pinch well.  Bring the corners together to form a loop and pinch to seal.

Cooking In a wide pan bring 4 quarts of water, 1 Tbsp salt to a boil.  Add bay leaves. Drop in as many dumplings as will fit easily in one layer and return to boil.  Lower the heat and keep the water just at a simmer, uncovered; do not allow to boil vigorously or they will be ruined.  The pel’meni are done when they rise to the surface.  With a slotted spoon transfer them into heated bowls, sprinkle with melted butter to keep them from sticking together.  Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, perhaps vinegar, and serve immediately.


Piroshki with Meat, Cabbage and Potato – Serves 10, Bake off site, ahead of time.

  • ½ lb Cooked Beef – Chopped Small
  • ½ lb Potato – Boiled and Chopped
  • ½ of One Cabbage
  • Onions, Boiled Eggs, or other Ingredients appropriate for Fort Ross. Your Favorite Pastry or Bread Dough.

Saute all filling ingredients together.  Roll out circles of dough, add the filling, fold dough over.  Brush edges with milk and pinch.  Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.


Pashka Easter Dessert – Bake off site, ahead of time.

  • 3 lbs Cream Cheese
  • 2 lbs Cottage Cheese (squeeze until dry)
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1 1/2 Sticks Butter
  • 2 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla
  • 3 Tsp Grated Lemon Rind
  • 3 Tsp Grated Orange Rind
  • 1 Cup Chopped Pistachios
  • 2 Cups Golden Raisins

Put first 4 ingredients into a large bowl and beat together well. Add sugar, vanilla, lemon and orange rinds, then beat well. Fold in nuts and raisins.  Line mold or colander with a double thickness cheesecloth. Fill with mixture. Place a weight on top, and deep pan underneath to collect the liquid seeping out.  Leave in cool place overnight. Stand upright on a serving cloth.


Russian Tea Cakes – Bake off site, ahead of time.  Serve the Russian Tea cakes with a cup of warm cocoa and it makes for the perfect night watch.

  • 2 Sticks Butter
  • 2/3 Cups Sugar
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla
  • ½ Cup Confectioners Sugar
  • 1 Cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ Cup Cornstarch
  • 2 ½ Cups Flour
  • 2 Cups Confectioners Sugar for Rolling Baked Cookies

In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugar, salt.  Add egg yolks and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add the confectioners sugar, nuts, baking powder, cornstarch, and flour gradually until all is used.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and arrange them ¾ inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake the cookies for 14 to 16 minutes, or until just firm and beginning to brown.  Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the sheets. Put the confectioners sugar in a large bowl and while the cookies are still warm, swirl 6 cookies at a time in the bowl until they are coated with sugar. Transfer them to sheets of wax paper to cool completely.


Additional Sample Menu with Recipes – 

(Mary Collins School Cherry Valley Charter School) – Serves 26 kids, 17 adults

Early Afternoon Snack –

  • 3 carrots cut into sticks, 1 cucumber sliced, 1 ½ lb green beans, 1 bunch radishes, halved
  • 10 apples, 8 pears, 3 persimmons, 1 bag each green & red grapes, pomegranates cut into 1/8ths for lunch
  • Nuts  – walnut and almonds
  • Soft herbed cheese (Fort Ross recipe) with 2 Boxes Ak-Mak, 1 Box other Crackers         
  • 1 Jar Pickled Mushrooms

“Griby v Marinade” –

  • 1 lb Small White Mushrooms
  • ¾ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • ½ Cup Water
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 10 Peppercorns
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • ¼ Tsp Salt & Pepper
  • ¼ Cup Olive Oil

Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth. Bring vinegar & water to a boil. Add bay leaf, pepper, garlic & return to boil. Add mushroom & simmer 5 minutes. Let cool; then put in glass jar & top with olive oil.


“Syrnye Palochki” – Bake off site, ahead of time.

  • ½ Cup Soft Butter
  • 10.5 oz Grated Cheese
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 4 Tbsp Vodka
  • 1 TspSalt
  • 4 ½ Cup Flour

Mix well. Wait one hour. Roll dough out ½ inch thick. Cut into small sticks. Bake 350º F 10-15 minutes. Store in airtight container.     


Fat Honey Cookies – Serves one cookie/person, Bake off site, ahead of time.

  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 ¼ Cup Honey
  • ¼ Cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 4 Cup Flour
  • 1 ½ Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Each: Baking Powder & Soda
  • 2 Tsp Each: Cinnamon & Ginger
  • ½ Tsp Ground Cloves

Melt butter, honey & sugar together. Let cool. Beat in egg. Sift dry ingredients & add to dough in batches. Place 1 ½ inch balls of dough 2 inches apart in greased cookie sheets. Bake in 350° F oven for about 15 minutes. Let cool on racks. Store in airtight container.


Dinner –

Borscht with 2 pints sour cream  & ½ bunch chopped dill on side.

  • 2 Sticks Butter
  • ¼ Cup Olive Oil
  • 5 Onions, Chopped
  • 10 Yukon or Red Potatoes, Diced
  • 3 lbs Beets, Grated
  • 6 Carrots, Diced
  • 2 Small Red Cabbages, Chopped
  • 5 Tsp Each: Caraway & Dill Seeds
  • 8 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • ½ Cup Each: Balsamic Vinegar, Honey and Vegetable  Broth Powder

Saute onions in butter & olive oil. Add everything else. Cover with water, bring to a boil. Cook for several hours. Serve topped with sour cream and fresh dill.


Pelmeni (Star Downey)  Served with choice of sour cream, vinegar or soy sauce, Bake off site, ahead of time.

Filling –  yields ~ 400, about 8 per person; some will come apart in the water.

  • 2 lbs Ground Lamb
  • 4 lbs Ground Beef
  • 6 Tbsp Corn Flour
  • 2 Yellow Onions, Grated
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Dill, Chopped Finely
  • ½ Tsp Garlic Powder

Mix filling well. Keep in fridge. Work with only 1 pound at a time.

Dough – (made 6 or 7 batches) make one at a time as you work with filling

  • 2 Cups White Flour
  • 3 Tbsp Vegetable Broth Powder
  • ¼ Tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 Egg Plus 1 additional Yolk
  • ½ Cup Water

Blend dry ingredients. Whisk eggs & water. Make a well in the flour, stir in egg water. Knead dough until smooth, not sticky. Roll out very thin on lightly floured board. Cut into 2 ½ inch rounds. Tuck 1 tsp filling onto round, moisten edge & seal. Freeze until use. Layer with parchment paper as you make these; not wax paper. Gently boil, lift with slotted spoon. Drizzle with butter & olive oil  to prevent sticking.


Whole Grilled Fish – Hunters ‘caught’ an 8 lb whole salmon, (purchased at Bodega Bay for best price).  Parent with experience expertly filleted salmon. Bring sharp fillet knife. Pieces were wrapped in foil w/slice lemon, salt & drizzle of olive oil; then cooked on edges of fire or on elevated grate.


Carrot Apple Salad – Serves 20

  • 8 Carrots
  • 4 Apples
  • 2 Tbsp Each: Olive Oil, Vinegar, Sugar
  • ¼ Tsp Horseradish
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • 1 Handful Chopped Walnuts
  • Mixed Greens (two one pound boxes)
  • Oil & Vinegar Dressing
  • 6 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Minced Garlic Clove
  • 4 Tbsp Herbs
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil

Grate carrots & apples.  Whisk all dressing ingredients together. Toss everything together.


Pear Pie “Pirog s grushami” – Make 2 Pies, Bake off site, ahead of time.

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 ½ Cup Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 5 Tbsp Sugar
  • ¼ Cup Vodka
  • 6-8 Pears, Peeled and Sliced

Cut shortening into flour & salt. Mix egg, sugar & vodka. Stir into flour/shortening mix. Do not overmix. Cut wax paper pieces to cover a cookie sheet. Spread dough onto cookie sheet evenly. Top with sliced pears. Bake 375ºF 10 minutes.

Topping –

  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 5 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla
  • 5 Tbsp Flour

Cream butter & sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add sour cream & vanilla, then stir in flour. Spread topping over pears. Reduce heat to 350°F. Bake one hour.


Pumpkin porridge – Made in spider pot – stir, stir, stir!!

  • Two 10 oz Cans Pumpkin or Fresh Cooked
  • 1 lb Brown Sugar
  • 1 Quart Cream (used buttermilk leftover from churning butter instead, plus ½ cup water)
  • 6 Eggs
  • 2 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 ½ Tsp Ginger
  • ¼ Tsp Ground Cloves
  • Two Boxes Graham Cracker Crumbs

Combine ingredients, but reserve ½ box Graham cracker crumbs to thicken if necessary. Stir continuously over low heat until cooked. Burns very easily. Can be served straight from ‘spider pot’.


Hot Russian Honey Drink –

  • 6 Tbsp Each: Cinnamon, Whole Cloves
  • 12 Tbsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 3 Quarts Water
  • 1 ½ Cups Honey

Tie spices in cheesecloth bag. Boil all together 15 minutes.


Breakfast –

Cherry-Berry Kissel –

  • 24 oz jar Cherries in Syrup
  • 1 Bag Frozen Blackberries
  • 6 Tbls cornstarch

Drain fruit, set aside. Ddd water to make 1 quart. Mix together. Bring to a slow boil. Cook until thick. Serve over kasha.


Honey Cake –  Make Two of these Cakes, Bake off site, ahead of time.

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Honey
  • ½ Cup Strong Black Coffee
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 3 ½ Cup Flour
  • 1 ½ Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Each: Baking Soda & Cinnamon
  • ½ Tsp Each: Salt & Ginger
  • ¼ Tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 Pinch Ground Cloves
  • ½ Cup Each: Raisins, Chopped Walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp Orange Zest

Beat eggs & sugar until fluffy. Stir coffee into honey. Let cool, add oil. Sift dry ingredients together & add alternately with wet to sugar/egg mixture. Stir in walnuts, raisins & zest. Bake 300°F in greased, lined 9 x 13 inch pan for one hour (or until toothpick comes out clean). Flip onto rack to cool.