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

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.

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Heart-shaped Cookies and Happy Orthodox Christmas

Heart-shaped cookies with pearl sugar

I really wanted to bake something Russian for Orthodox Christmas, but I couldn’t think of anything simple enough. I knew I’d be alone with Ivanka all day and I just couldn’t make yeast dough AND make dinner AND then bake. Mom is making her traditional cabbage Pirozhki for our family dinner, while I had no other choice than think Scandinavian. Why Scandinavian? Because their recipes are always simple and precise, focused on convenience, time-saving, and often thrifty. Lagom är bäst. This cookie recipe can be found on any Dansukker pearl sugar package. I only altered the cookie shape - I had absolutely no time to make four baking sheets of pretzels, so I armed myself with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and soon I had 200 crispy hearts sprinkled with beautiful snow-white sugar. They’re lightweight, they’re flaky inside, they’re lagom sweet and they’re utterly easy to make! Margarine, flour, sugar, and some whipping cream are four ingredients that are always at hand. In fact these are shortbread cookies with margarine in place of butter.

Now I’m wondering why I had never visited Dansukker page before to see their recipes?! Just have a look at their collection of citrus marmalades for example. They’re minimalist and economic, and they’re all about pure, bright, basic flavours - flavours of our childhood, of a sunny winter morning, of a grandmother’s pantry. They’re inspiring!

Last but not least, I would like to wish a happy Christmas to anyone Orthodox who’s reading our blog, and I will also try my best to finally write about those Slovak cookies soon. I couldn’t have a more supportive baby than Ivanka, but still - a baby is a baby :)

Heart-shaped cookies with pearl sugar

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Cottage Cheese-Apricot Rolls

Cottage Cheese Apricot Buns

To sum up things, our Christmas was wonderful. It was a very white Christmas, yet not too cold; we had a delightful dinner with my and Stano’s parents; our Christmas tree was beautiful; we all got great presents (Ivanka got the most - she’s now supplied with clothes for years ahead). Of course about one half of my gifts were food-related. I got another two Slovak cookbooks (one of which is solely about desserts and baking, wahoo), a pastry tube, funky muffin liners, and Stano gave me… maple syrup! I was in seventh heaven, because I had never seen maple syrup in Riga. And I’ve been craving crepes with maple syrup!! Well, Stano also gave me a much valuable gift, but I guess I was most emotional about the syrup… haha.

Slovak cookbooks
My humble collection of Slovak cookbooks

And here’s our perfect holiday morning treat: cottage cheese and apricot rolls, served warm for Christmas breakfast. We made tons of these, so we had to freeze the excess rolls - you can thaw them and easily re-heat them any time later. I loved the combination of cottage cheese and vanilla pudding in the filling - it made the filling very smooth and creamy. There’s a belief in our countries that you have to be in a good mood while baking; you could even try singing as you knead your dough… Apparently we felt very happy while kneading, because our dough kept rising and rising and rising…

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Kapustnica - Slovak Christmas Soup

Kapustnica

Merry Christmas to everyone! We are enjoying the second day of Christmas, watching Morozko - a Russian fairytale, known as Mrazik and shown on TV every Christmas in Slovakia. We had a Slovak-style Christmas this year, with all the authentic foods and traditions. In the beginning of our Christmas meal, there was just an apple, garlic, and honey on the table, and Oblatky - very thin, lightweight Christmas waffles. We cut the apple crosswise to see if it was clean and white inside, which meant we’d be healthy during the next year, and then we rubbed our Oblatky with garlic to be even healthier, and drizzled them with honey to have a sweet life. Then we could begin our meal.

Oblatky, apple, honey, garlic

Slovak Oblatky

Kapustnica is a traditional Slovak soup made with sauerkraut, ham, spiced sausage, and dried porcini. If the sauerkraut is very sour, it can be balanced by a spoonful of raisins or prune jam. The soup  resembles Russian Shchi, but is much spicier. I love the sour, sweet and spicy Kapustnica! Last winter Stano’s Mom made a vegetarian version of this soup specially for me, but this year I tried it with ham and sausage. I have to say that it tastes great also without meat! Just add more porcini and don’t ignore the prune jam. I’m sure you would enjoy the intense, spicy flavour and the beautiful brick-red colour of Kapustnica. Serve is with Garlic Rolls, and you couldn’t think of a winter treat more comforting and warming! Read the rest of this entry »

Slovak Christmas Baked Goodies

Slovak Christmas cookies

As I already wrote, we have guests from Slovakia for Christmas. Stano’s Mom brought us tons of homemade cookies, gingerbreads and mini cakes that all look and taste delicious. My favourite are Parižske rožky (Paris Horns), petite walnut meringues topped with chocolate cream and dark chocolate glaze. I would never have the patience to make them, and we got two (!) boxes of these cakes. I also love tiny pig- and flower-shaped crispy shortbreads. Orechove Kolieska (Walnut Rings) are made with the same walnut shortbread dough and then each is dipped in dark chocolate. Then, we got Slovak gingerbreads - golden-brown and glossy Perniky, and also Kokosky - beautiful coconut meringues on a chocolate-coated pastry base. These coconut meringues can actually be made as a standalone dessert, and then they’re called Kokosove Pusinky (Coconut Kisses).

Our kitchen is crammed with food from Slovakia. There’s ham, butter and cheese in the fridge, honey, tea, and spices in the pantry, beer, mineral water, and homemade preserves under the kitchen table, plus we have fruit and sweets in large bowls all around the house. Oh and I finally got rosemary in a pot, so we’ll always have fresh rosemary now!

I’ll be posting new Slovak recipes one at a time, now as the grandparents are looking after the baby and I have more free time. But, we’ll be busy cooking as well: we’ve got to prepare traditional Slovak cabbage soup, potato salad and (hopefully) cottage cheese and peach buns. I’m pretty excited about all these new culinary experiences, the more so because it’s the first Christmas that we’ll host as a new family. After two years of travelling all around Europe to see each other, we finally have our own (okay, rented) apartment and our own Christmas tree…

Slovak Christmas baked goodies

Slovak cookies and cakes for Christmas

Parižske Rožteky (Paris Horns)

Parižske Rožky (Paris Horns)

Kokosky (Slovak Coconut Meringue)

Kokosky (Coconut meringues)

Slovak Christmas shortbreads

Walnut shortbread cookies

Perniky (Slovak gingerbreads)

Perniky (Slovak gingerbreads)

Orechove Kolieska (Walnut Rings)

Orechove Kolieska (Walnut Rings)

Korbačiky (Slovak String Cheese)

Korbačiky

Korbačiky (Slovak string cheese)

Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffins

Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffins
It’s good to have Orthodox Russians and Catholics in the same family, you know? Our Christmas season began on December 6th, when we celebrated the Slovak holiday of Mikulaš and filled each other’s boots with sweet goodies (or you can get an onion or a piece of coal if Mikulaš thinks you behaved badly during the year). Now Stano’s parents have come over and we’re getting ready for Catholic Christmas (everyone gives presents to Stano and his family) and the New Year (everyone gives presents to me and my family), and then Orthodox Christmas (no gifts, just a family get-together). Wahoo! Stano’s parents have brought along several boxes with Christmas cookies and mini cakes, so I’ll be posting some Slovak recipes and photos soon. Until then, I would like to present you my Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffins that I also made for the Christmas season. I find these muffins quite perfect - not too buttery, not too sweet, very chocolatey, with specks of red and green translucent marmalade candy, they kept their shape perfectly, and I finally didn’t feel like coating them with some kind of glaze to make them look puffier. I think the inclusion of melted dark chocolate added some extra firmness to muffin texture, so perhaps if they would have lasted for 3 days, they would be a little bit chewy; but they were polished off in a day.

Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffins
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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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