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Russian, Eastern European and international cuisine brought to you by a mother and a daughter

Happy Birthday to Ivanka and Roxana’s Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

Ivanka has turned 2. Times flies? Just the opposite, it feels like she’s always been here with us, and I can hardly remember life without her. And compared to little Milena, Ivanka seems so grown up and clever that I probably expect too much from her. But she really does a lot! She can draw a face with eyes, nose, mouth, and a funny tuft of hair on the forehead. She watches the Swan Lake ballet every single day (!) and dances along (sometimes I just can’t fall asleep at night as the music keeps on playing in my head - I guess I know the entire ballet by heart now). She says funny things, for example ipk for the Russian word chleb (bread). She loves “totik” - “cake”!

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake with Fresh Berries for Ivanka's Birthday Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: Chocolate Chip Cookies

American Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hello Russian Season readers!

This is Amanda. Since Alina’s been busy these days with redesigning her other website, I offered to do a guest post for her. Before I go any further, let me introduce myself: I am 15 and live near the American capital – Washington D.C. I have a huge passion for food too. Whether it’s baking, cooking, eating, or anything else that deals with food, I love it (okay, maybe except for dishwashing). I also have my own food blog – softandstiffpeaks.blogspot.com.

Without further ado, let me introduce what I’ll be blogging about today: the chocolate chip cookie. Yes, this usually is not found in Eastern European cuisine, but Russian Season also covers international foods as well. The chocolate chip cookie is the quintessential American comfort food. These are extremely popular – grocery stores sell different varieties and brands of this cookie (original, double chocolate chip, chewy, etc.); they can also be bought during lunchtime at my school. Also, they are enjoyed as an after-school snack for many school children. Perhaps what makes it so popular (besides how delicious it is) is that it is commonly associated with grandmothers, family, and warmth. It is common for young children to bake this cookie with their grandma over summer vacation or during the holidays. To some, these cookies evoke nostalgia.

Chocolate Chips

A bag of chocolate chips

The story of how these popular cookies originated goes like this: Ruth Wakefield was baking chocolate cookies for her restaurant, but she ran out of baker’s chocolate. So, she substituted chocolate pieces in. However, the chocolate pieces did not melt and incorporate into her cookie like how the baker’s chocolate would have. Instead, the chocolate pieces stayed intact. This was how the chocolate chip cookie was born. From an accident. A yummy accident, I might add.

Creaming the butter and sugars together

I have used this recipe (found below) for several years now. It is originally from my middle school Family and Consumers Science (also known as Home Economics) teacher. Every time I make these, they come out perfectly. It’s slightly crisp on the edges, and soft and chewy in the center. Studded with chocolate chips, these light brown cookies are delish! And when the cookies are baking, your entire house will fill with a glorious, glorious smell. Chocolate, brown sugar, sweet oatmeal, and vanilla all combine together to form a wonderful aroma. Best of all, after you have popped these in the oven, you can lick the remaining cookie dough off the bowl and whisk. (Of course, there is the risk of salmonella from the raw egg, so do what you think is safe. You may use pasteurized eggs as an alternative or forgo it all together.)

Shaping and flattening the dough with plastic wrap

After they are baked, let them cool a tad bit before biting into them. These cookies can be enjoyed both warm or at room temperature. Whichever way you choose to enjoy the cookies, make sure to dip them in a glass of milk – it is simply the best way to eat these. Read the rest of this entry »

Mini Rogaliki

Chocolate Applesauce Rogaliki

Rogaliki are small crescent rollls filled with jam, marmalade, Tvorog or even raisins. I think the most common filling for Rogaliki however, is jam/marmalade. I’m not sure we ever had them at home when I was a kid, but some of my friends’ mothers and grandmothers used to bake these very often. Rogaliki are very good with tea or coffee, and they are budget-friendly. It’s been my dream to have warm Rogaliki for breakfast for many years now, and today this dream came true.
I made the dough ahead and refrigerated it overnight. Chilled dough was very comfortable to roll and cut. The unsweetened dough made with sour cream and a pinch of baking soda is flaky and soft, even though my Rogaliki were tiny. I was in the mood for something petite and delicate, so these crescent rolls came out more like soft filled cookies. Of course this means you have less filling in the centre - just for flavour - and it takes you longer to make them. Classical Rogaliki should be larger in size, with more filling inside; the original recipe yields 3 times fewer rolls than I made.
At first I was thinking of filling them with dark, rich apricot jam made by Stano’s Mom, but then I remembered about three little jars of a wonderful chocolate applesauce she gave to us, and used it instead. I must ask Stano’s Mom for the recipe when we are in Slovakia in summer; chocolate applesauce is something amazing! First you taste the chocolate, then the juicy tartness of apples comes through; there’s a lot of surprise in it! It’s great on crepes, pancakes, ice-cream, whatever. As a filling for Rogaliki too. It smelt like a chocolate factory when the rolls were baking!

Mini rogaliki
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Chocolate Paskha

Chocolate Paskha

This Paskha recipe that I adapted from March edition of a Russian magazine “Moy Rebyonok” is quite different from what we make every year. Our traditional Paskha is super-mega-extremely rich and loaded with intense flavours of dried fruit, nuts, and boiled egg yolks. In comparison with it, the Chocolate Paskha I made last night seems to be something light and delicate. But it’s just an illusion, muahaha. Because the Orthodox Easter table sets the end for the 40-day long Lent with its restrictive menu. And an Easter meal must be rich and satisfying. So, my first suggestion for making this Paskha is to use Tvorog (or closest alternative) that contains 15% milk fat. Another tip is to use high-quality dark chocolate such as Lindt, 70 to80% cocoa. A very dark chocolate is less likely to get mushy while you grate it and it won’t melt when incorporated into the Paskha mix. The original recipe, however, suggests that you stir grated chocolate into whipping cream until the chocolate dissolves. I chose to keep those tiny crunchy crumbs of chocolate in my Paskha rather than just flavouring it with chocolate. With a little bit of extra texture to it, not overly sweet, moist and rich, this Paskha is pretty flawless. Happy Easter!

*The XB letters on top of Paskha ar for Христос Воскресе - the traditional Russian Easter salutation that translates as Christ is Risen.

Chocolate Paskha

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Banana Chocolate Swirl Muffins

Banana Chocolate Swirl Muffins

I came up with the idea of these muffins when I wanted to bake something as a little “Thank you” gift for a friend of ours who is helping us with choosing and buying a car. Of course the idea of banana chocolate swirls is not new, but I didn’t really follow any recipe except for using my Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffin recipe as a reference for making chocolate batter. I generously complemented the banana batter with vanilla in order to enhance the contrast between the moist, sweet banana swirls and the dark, rich and dense chocolate swirls. The batter was very quick and easy to make, although of course adding mashed banana and melting the margarine involves some extra bowls. I haven’t actually tried to just cream margarine instead of melting it - I suppose the batter would be  plastic enough with creamed margarine, so if you don’t want to wash an extra saucepan, try using creamed margarine at room temperature.

I was very content with the result and was happy to give these muffins away as a gift. I also gave a couple of them to my parents and left two for me and Stano to sample. I am trying to follow a healthier diet these days - five months of breastfeeding are making themselves felt and my skin and hair are starting to suffer (although I’m still getting off lightly I believe!).  One of my latest hits is an easy salad made with arugula, baby spinach, canned cannellini beans, walnuts, and blue cheese (yes, blue cheese again!). I’ve also bought a pack of organic wheat, so soon I’ll be able to jazz up my salads with wheat sprouts.

Banana Chocolate Swirl Muffin

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Parižske Rožky (Paris Horns)

Parižske Rožky (Paris Horns)

When I was pregnant, I often thought about how my mind would change after I’d become a mother. I wondered if I would become wiser, more patient and tolerant, more thoughtful and conscientious… more grown-up. A mother is a person you look up to, after all. So what does it take to become a mother? After I gave birth to Ivanka, I realized that nothing had changed. There certainly are external signs such as tired look or imperfect waistline, but the inner me… it hasn’t changed. It’s just like when my Mom says “I still feel like 30″ or when my Grandmother recalls anecdotes from her school years (well, Stano says she sometimes behaves as if she were 16). Because she hasn’t changed inside since she was 16. So, I’m a mother and yet I’m still the same. And for the first two months, it was as strange and hard to say “I’m a Mom” as it is to say “I love you” for the first time.

Why am I talking about this? Just because I feel like I’m still interested in my former activities like food blogging or running my other website, and sometimes it’s hard to juggle all this while staying sane. I am very attached to our daughter (to such extent that I’ve cried a few times when someone from the family went for a walk with her and I stayed home), but I’ll never become a parent obsessed with natural parenting, or any other parenting trend, or just parenting as such. It’s just a (huge and significant) part of our life, isn’t it?! I want to keep in touch with my friends, and we usually have someone to visit us on weekends, but most times I feel tired afterwards. I’ve also noticed that whenever we make a plan of watching a movie after the baby goes to bed, she won’t fall asleep for hours, so we usually end up watching the movie in bed, sharing a pair of earphones, with happy Ivanka sleeping between us.

I haven’t had the energy to bake or cook a lot of new things recently; besides, I’ve decided to eat more healthfully (seems like after 4 months of breastfeeding, I’m finally starting to lose my hair - I need vitamins badly). Thanks to Healthy Mamma, I’ve found a collection of fabulous smoothies - I want to try them all, well maybe except for those with veggies, I’m still not used to drinking vegetables. I made a Banana-Oat smoothie this morning and it rocked!! Why have I never added rolled oats to my smoothies before?!

So now I finally have the time to write about Parižske rožky (Paris Horns), which are my favourite variety of baked goodies Stano’s Mom makes for Christmas. These tiny cakes are a true masterpiece. There’s a generous triple swirl of luxuriant chocolate buttercream on top of a fragile walnut meringue, and each cake is glazed with dark, glossy chocolate. It’s a heavenly combination of three textures - the brittleness of meringue, the silkiness of buttercream, and the subtle crisp of chocolate glaze. It takes a while to make them though - bake the meringues, make the buttercream, decorate each cake and dip each one in melted chocolate - so I am not sure I’ll be able to recreate them in near future. But if you have a free evening, they’re really worth it. And here’s the recipe.

UPD We also have a brand new fan page on Facebook! Please “Like” us if you enjoy reading our blog! Thank you :)
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Are you curious to learn more about Eastern European cuisine?
RussianSeason.net is a food blog run by two Russian-speaking women - a mother (Natalia) and a daughter (Alina) - living in Latvia. Natalia is a professional artist and Alina is the co-owner of a web directory of Russian-speaking businesses in Europe. We both cook and Alina writes posts and takes photos.
In our blog you'll find a range of (mostly tweaked&adapted) recipes from Russia, Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and former USSR. But we can't restrain ourselves from experimenting with other cuisines too :)
Stano is the guy behind the Slovak version of this blog. He is currently living and working in Latvia and is also known as the Man Who Makes Alina Eat A Lot Of Cakes, because he hardly ever eats cakes or pies she bakes. He doesn't have a sweet tooth, you see. Stano also provides us with traditional Slovak recipes - such as Halušky that he's been promising to make for 7 months now :) Just be patient - we're sure he will eventually do it!
Ivanka is the largest cross-cultural project Alina and Stano have been ever involved in:) We hope she will be a foodie too when she grows up!
Our email address is: russianseason@gmail.com

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