This weekend marked two great holidays: Victory Day (May 9th) and Mother’s Day (May 10th). To honor our moms and our Veterans, we’ve created a special video recipe for a beautiful and delicious dessert — apple roses with puff pastry and raspberries.
As the weather gets warmer and fresh veggies are once again plentiful, we’re officially calling it open season on summer soups. This week, we’re making Okroshka! With a few twists on the traditional recipe, we hope you enjoy this delicious homage to fresh garden veggies.
Okroshka comes from the Russian word “kroschit'” which literally means to crumble into little pieces. The classic soup is a mix of (mainly) raw veggies including radishes, cucumbers, and spring onions, and usually include boiled potatoes and eggs.
It’s no secret that traditional healing and homeopathic therapies have steadily grown in popularity. Around the world, more and more people are turning to herbs, homemade elixirs and folk remedies to treat common colds and body ailments.
An overwhelming shift in perspective towards the combination of modern and traditional medicine has once again opened the doors to time honored cures from the past. Nearly every culture has recipes and remedies that have been passed down from one generation to another.
Easter is the most important Holiday in the Russian Orthodox tradition. In fact, for the vast majority of Russians, Easter is more than a question of faith – it is a celebration of their national identity.
Laced with symbolic meanings of pagan ancestry, Russian Easter traditions can be traced back to folk rituals that date back to pre-Christian times. As we enter the week of “Red Hill” (Красная Горка), we’d like to reflect on some of the lesser known customs associated with these Holidays.
No Easter table is complete without a classic Kulich. Famous for its traditional shape and exquisite taste, Kuliches take center stage in traditional Easter baskets. Baked fresh in cylindrical tins and decorated with white sugary icing and colorful sprinkles, Kuliches are look very similar to Italian panettone bread. What makes Kuliches different from panettone is the light and airy dough. (Full recipe here).
Following Eastern Orthodox tradition, Kuliches are decorated with icing and often include the letter XB which stands for ‘Christ Is Risen’ (Христос Воскрес). They are taken to the Church in an Easter basket filled with decorated Easter eggs and blessed before consumption. Kuliches are eaten for 40 days following Easter as a symbol for atonement and suffering of Jesus Christ.
Today is Willow Sunday, also known as Blossom Sunday, and in Russian Orthodox tradition as ‘Verbnoe Voskresenie’ (Вербное Воскресение).
One week before Easter, this Holiday marks the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. Christ’s entry Jerusalem.
Biblical accounts mention that in Jerusalem Jesus was greeted by crowds of people waving and laying down palm branches as a symbol of victory and triumph, as well as the resurrection or re-birth of new life.
In colder climates where palm trees do not grow, branches of other trees – like olive and willow – were thought to depict new life.
Across Russia, and other former Soviet Republics, Verbnoe Voskresenie is named for verba (pussy willow). The fuzzy blossoms known as catkins are one of the first spring buds to bloom after long and harsh winter.
And so for hundreds of years Russian tradition holds that bunches of pussy willow branches are brought to Church and distributed, along with candles, during Verbnoe Voskresenie as a way to mark the beginning of Verbnaya Nedelya (Willow Week).
Essential oils are some of nature’s best kept secrets. A natural and chemical-free alternative to traditional moisturizers and cosmetics, essential oil mixes can be used to treat skin problems, reduce stress, sooth muscles, and strengthen hair and nail cuticles. This week we’re sharing a few basic recipes to make your own essential oil mixes at home.
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We’ve all seen them, or at least pictures of them, the beautifully crafted Faberge Easter eggs made famous in the late 19th century. But what’s so special about them anyway? This week, we’re exploring how a young goldsmith’s art pieces became mini monuments of Russia’s past.
Happy International Women’s Day to all the lovely ladies around the world!! Celebrated every March 8th, the holiday was first observed in the early 1900s in the United States as a way to bring political and social awareness to the struggles of women worldwide.
Over the years, it blended the cultures of many countries and took particular hold in Europe and the former Soviet Bloc. In many regions the holiday lost its political edge and simply became an occasion for people to express their love and appreciation of women. Think Mother’s Day meets Valentine’s Day.
In Russia and many other former Soviet countries, traditional gifts given to mothers, daughters, grandmothers and aunts include flowers and chocolate. Delicate spring flowers like yellow Mimosas and Lily of the Valley have come to symbolize femininity and are often associated with March 8th.
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Spring is almost here! Soon the birds will begin chirping again. Butterflies will flutter their beautiful wigs, and leaves will once again start budding. Just as mother nature creates a nurturing environment for new life to spring forward, our bodies and minds are ready for a spring cleanse and rejuvenation.
As we peel the layers of warm winter clothes, our bodies are ready for a cleanse and rejuvenation. We’re sharing a few helpful tips to cleanse, detox, and rejuvenate your body.
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The Great Lent is a 40 day spiritual preparation for Pascha (Easter) marked by reflection, personal improvement, repentance and fasting. Much like the Greeks and other Eastern European cultures, Russian Orthodox Christians begin observing Great Lent on “clean Monday”, a time to cleanse and purify everything from the clothes we wear, the pots and pans we cook with and most importantly, our bodies and souls.
Yes, Lent is the time for making auspicious changes. But it doesn’t have to be about complete deprivation. In Slavic tradition, the ritual of fasting for six weeks involves a progressive giving up of certain foods, beginning with meat. Fish, eggs and dairy, as well as olive oil are not allowed after the third week. Without getting into the nitty gritty of the Church rules, we’re helping you navigate through foods you CAN eat and sharing delicious recipes for Russian mushroom soup, cabbage soup and traditional eggplant ikra (veggie spread).
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Maslenitsa is a Holiday of indulgence and reverence before the Great Lent. As far back as Kievan Rus’, people celebrated Maslenitsa by indulging in food and fun for seven days. According to Orthodox tradition, this is the last week people can consume milk, eggs, and butter before embarking on a 40 day lent.
Each day of Malenitsa has a special meaning and reflects a hybrid of Christian traditions and pagan festivities of ancient Rus’. The Holiday is a bidding of farewell to harsh winters and welcoming in of a new and plentiful Spring season. A week-long journey of family, food and fun, Maslenitsa starts with an official welcoming of the Holiday on Monday.
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Cupid’s arrow is about to strike the hearts of lovers once again. Yet as every woman knows, cupid is secondary if you can keep your honey’s stomach satisfied. This year, skip the Valentine’s Day dinner date and go straight for a romantic breakfast with your amour. Treat your partner to a luxuriously tasty creation of Russian mini blini with black caviar and fresh red mimosas with retro “Sovetskoe” champagne.
Borscht is one of the most recognizable words in the world. A hearty soup served in all regions of the Former Soviet Union. From the nobles to the peasants, borscht has graced the tables of generations of Russians, Ukrainians and many other Easter European cultures.
Regional politics aside, the history of borscht is quite difficult to trace. Most gastronomic historians do agree that it likely originated in ancient Kievan Rus. Back then Kiev was the capital of greater Russia and likely was the birthplace of this marsh of beets, carrots, onions, potatoes and cabbage.
The name is derived from the Slavic word “borschevik” translated as “hogweed” in English. Hogweed is a sturdy plant, and distant cousin of modern-day carrots, that still grows in many parts across Russia and Ukraine.
Its shoots have been used for hundreds of years as a sugar substitute due to their sweet flavor. The leaves were often used for salads or as a side dish of greens. Boiling the leaves produced a wonderfully aromatic stock for soups, adding a distinct mushroom aroma. It’s not far fetched to think then, that original recipes of borscht called for borschevik, rather than beets, as its main ingredient.
Braised cabbage (tushyonaya kapusta) is a deliciously Russian dish, made by slowly cooking finely shredded cabbage with carrots and onions. During the Soviet days of limited food supplies, braised cabbage was one of the most popular and hearty dishes. It was indeed the Soviet version of comfort food. But what’s so special about cabbage anyway?
Cabbage has been cultivated for thousands of years. Ancient Romans loved it for its nutritional value as much as a remedy for hangovers, and even healing wounds. That’s right, cabbage soaked in vinegar was consumed before embarking on a evening of heavy drinking as early as 8th century BC. Caesar’s armies are known to have carried cabbage leaves to treat wounds and reduce infection and inflammation. Indeed, modern studies have confirmed that cabbage has antibacterial properties.
On January 6th, many Orthodox countries including Russia will celebrate Christmas Eve — also known as “Sochelnik”. While the date of Russian Christmas has always been on January 7 many traditions have changed over the past 200 years. In this post, we explore a number of folkloric rituals, and illuminate the differences between Russian Orthodox and Western Christmas customs.
What is “Sochelnik”?
Sochelnik comes from the Russian word “sochivo” – literally a liquid made from soaking wheat grains, and used instead of butter since no animal products are allowed to be consumed during the holiday. A simple porridge dish made with sochivo is known as “kutya.” The porridge is prepared with honey, poppy seeds, nuts and dried fruits – symbolizing immortality, success and happiness. Eating the grain porridge on Christmas Eve is also an homage to Daniel’s Fast on his journey to discovering God. (See a simple recipe for authentic sochivo at the end of this post). According to Orthodox tradition, on the eve before Christmas it is customary to fast until the first start is visible in the night sky.
New Year is the most beloved and celebrated holiday among Russians. Full of rich history, fascinating traditions and amusing customs, New Year celebrations trace back to Pagan Rus’. Back in those days, the year’s beginning was celebrated with the beginning of nature’s revival — usually in mid-March.
Sometime in the late 14th or early 15th century, came the Christening of the Great Rus’, and with it a new set of chronology and traditions. Adopting the European Julian calendar, the Orthodox Church officially moved the beginning of the year from March to September as a way to conform to the Nicean canons.
This shift signaled the growing importance of Christianity in the Old Rus’. And so it was that the New Year was now celebrated on September 1st with organized festivities and decoration of trees.
If you haven’t gotten everything you want for Christmas, there is still time. We’ve compiled a list of five MUST HAVE items to keep you warm, satisfied and beautiful for the New Year.
1. Russian Souvenirs are the perfect gifts for anyone interested in all things RUSSIAN. From Faberge-style eggs, to themed kitchen accessories and decorative plates – you’ll find a gem or two in our collection of the most sought after souvenirs. For the fashionistas in your life, we’ve got traditional woolen shawls and scarves. If you’re feeling adventurous, spring for the USSR military “Ushanka” hat, complete with ear flaps and emblematic Soviet red star. Classic Russian toys like “Kolobok” and “Nevalyashka” are a fun way to introduce traditional children’s characters to the little ones in your life.
2. Caviar is the ultimate Russian indulgence for the Holidays! Luxuriously rich and nutty, black roe caviar is derived from the wild Hackleback Sturgeon (Paddle Fish) and is a perfect pairing to your hors d’oeuvres platter or mini sandwiches. Tsar’s Red caviar makes a great garnish for deviled eggs or small toasts — uber popular and fit for royalty.
Around the world children are familiar with a “gift giver” that arrives magically on Christmas or New Year’s Eve to bring them presents. In America, Santa Clause has been a prominent figure since mid-19th century. The iconic symbol of Christmas, Santa’s modern image as a jolly old man in red clothing was popularized by none other than Coca Cola as a way to capture the magic of the Holidays.
Every year postal operators in many countries receive letters for Santa. Children around the world send their requests and wishes for Holiday presents. France leads the way with 1.7 million letters received in 2012. In the U.S. just over 1million letters are received, while in Russia about 300,000 children are writing to Santa. Perhaps it is because in Russia, Grandpa Frost “Ded Moroz” still dominates the scene.
Born from old Slavic folklore as a grumpy winter dweller who liked to freeze and kidnap children, Ded Moroz was rehabilitated under the influence of Christian Orthodox traditions and cultural elements adopted from the Belgian and Dutch character Sinterklaas.