Christmas is T-6 days, and just 11 days to go until New Year. Are you ready for the celebrations and gift-giving??

We’ve come up with the top 5 items that probably have not yet made your Christmas shopping list.

Ushanka1. Traditional Souvenirs make great gifts for those interested in all things Russian. From Faberge-style decorated eggs, to Matryoshka themed kitchen accessories and decorative plates we’ve got a complete collection of the most sought after Russian souvenirs. Pick up an traditional woolen shawl or scarf, or an authentic USSR military“ushanka” hat hat – complete with ear flaps and a red Soviet star. We’ve even got classic Russian toys like the adorable “kolobok” or “Nevalyashka”.

2. Caviar is the ultimate indulgence for the Holidays! Whether you like the rich, nutty flavor and firm texture of black caviar or the salty goodness of red, treat yourself and your loved Caviar on breadones to a traditionally Russian caviar sandwich spread. Gentle and smooth, the Osetra Black Caviar “Malosol” comes from the wild Hackleback Sturgeon (aka Paddle Fish) and is incredible when spread thinly on a piece of buttered bread.

3. Holiday Chocolates are a sweet way to show appreciation for your colleagues, friends and family. Treat yourself and your loved ones to the superior taste and quality of Russian chocolates, presented in limited edition Winter Season packaging. TIP: Drop a few pieces of chocolate into a warm glass of milk for a delicious, home-made hot chocolateNatura Siberica!

4. Natural Skincare from Russia’s most popular organics brand – Natura Siberica. Made from plants, herbs and flowers harvested in the ecologically pure regions of Siberia, these lotions, creams and serums will do wonders for your skin without bankrupting your pocketbook. Buff away imperfections with the popular Northern Detox Soap made with lemongrass extract, or try the complete Caviar Extract line of anti aging masks, creams and serums intended for regenerating and restoring your skin’s firmness and vitality.

5. Russian 2015 Calendars fun and functional, these calendars will infuse your home (or office) with a bit of Russian culture. Whether you’re looking for fun-facts on Russian tea drinking, a collection of humorous vintage Soviet posters, or breathtaking shots of Russia’s most beautiful cities – the calendars will give you something to smile about all year long.

From our family at Russian Food Direct to YOURS — Happy Holidays!!!

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.

 

Ded Moroz or santa

 

 

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. 

 

During Soviet times, Ded Moroz became the epitome of the New Year Holiday which replaced Christmas in Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe. He traveled around lighting up fir trees (“Elka”) and brining presents to millions of kids. Following the collapse of Soviet rule, many local characters were resurrected to replace Ded Moroz. In Kiev Ukraine for example, Saint Mykolay instead of Ded Moroz was introduced as the main figure during the city’s winter festivities.

 

In modern Russia however, Ded Moroz is more popular than ever. The government has invested resources to boost old Grandpa Frost’s ratings even further. At the end of 1990s, then Mayor of Mosco officially declared the small town of (ironically named) Veliky Ustyug (population 31,600) in Vologda Oblast, Russia as the home of Ded Moroz. Since then, the tow has received just over 2million letters for Ded Moroz, from Russia and around the world.

 

Ded Moroz and Snegurochka2

 

 

Santa, while still popular is so last year. This year it’s all about Ded Moroz. Look for Holiday items with the iconic image of Ded Moroz and Snegurochka

 

Shop RussianFoodDirect save on all purchases throughout the Holiday season. Want to get an early start on Holiday weight loss? Use promo code SLIM to save 40% on entire collection of products in our Weight Loss and Massage Cabinet.

Year after year we follow traditions of gifting, tree decorating and family togetherness, but where did these rituals come from? Here are THREE things you probably DON’T know about Christmas.

 

Queen victoria

 

Christmas Trees were Illegal

Until the late 1800s, Christmas trees were seen as a pagan symbol and not accepted by most Americans. In fact, in the state of Massachusetts Christmas was pretty much illegal. Trying hard to stamp out any signs of pagan traditions, the Puritans fined people for hanging decorations, decorating trees and even caroling. This changed when the fashionable Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert appeared in a newspaper sketch standing with their kids around a Christmas tree. The Queen set a new trend with the Brits and the fashion-conscious East Coast American society: the Christmas tree had finally arrived.

 

 

December 25th a Merry Un-birthday

 

 

The Bible doesn’t mention a specific date for Jesus’ birth. In fact, most scholars today believe that Jesus was actually born sometime in the Spring. So why is December 25th so significant? Before Christianity, this date was a significant in several cultures. In Northern European traditions, people celebrated the season of Yule, usually on December 25th as a way to honor the Winter Solstice. In pre-Christian Rome, Saturnalia was also celebrated on the 25 of December to honor the return of the gods. Evidence indicates that the origins of celebrating Jesus’ birth on this date lies in a deal made between the Catholic Church and a Roman emperor sometime during the 4th century. As Rome accepted Christianity, the government replaced the pagan festival with a Christian holiday to make the transition easier for their subjects. 

 

Roman Christmas

 

Extreme Gift Giving

 

During the month of December, ancient Romans celebrated a holiday known as Saturnalia. Holding a festival in honor of the deity Saturn, people celebrated with wild parties, public banquets and extreme gift giving ceremonies. Yet unlike today’s craze of gifting lavish trinkets, the Romans gifted extreme experiences. Wealthy landlords, for example, were expected to pay a month’s rent for those who could not afford it, while masters and slaves exchanged clothes.  Emperors even insisted that their most despised citizens bring gifts and offerings as a way to mock them while celebrating the changing of the seasons. 

 

In America, extreme gifting became a staple of Christmas around the 1930 and ‘40s. Advertisements for products began to appear more frequently in newspapers and on TV, capturing attention and prompting an entirely new tradition of quantity over quality. 

 

Around the same time, people in the Soviet Union were embracing a simpler but no less important tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year’s Eve. As religion was pretty much stamped out in the Soviet Union, most Christian Holidays were replaced by neutral celebrations like New Year. Yet the traditions of gift giving and tree decorating remained. While there was a “deficit” on most of everything, people still managed to find and barter gifts. The most common gifts exchanged between adults were food items including chocolates, fine liquors, cheeses and teas. 

 

This year, consider gifting as a way to exchange experiences and show appreciation rather than status. Savor the Holiday spirit with a box of delicious Russian chocolates or a cup of traditional Russian tea as a way to bring joy and spend quality time together. 

 

Russians are known to drink two things: vodka and tea. The number one hot drink in Russia, tea consumption tips at over 170,000 TONS per year. So what are some Russian teatime traditions?

 

Tea Drinking

Looseleaf tea is brewed in a small teapot with high concentration of tea to water. The concentrate, called “zavarka” is poured into individual cups and hot water is then layered on top. Traditionally, a “Samovar” (literally a ‘self-boiler’) was used to maintain the temperature and volume of hot water. It remains of the most iconic and widely recognized image associated with Russian tea-drinking culture.

 

 

Samovar

 

Russians often visit each other for “a cup of tea”. These social gatherings can last for hours, and as conversations flow so does the tea. During the Soviet days when loose sugar was scarce, sugar cubes were used to sweeten the tea. 

 

 

Sugar Cubes

It’s considered rude to serve tea without an accompanying sweet or small snack.

 

Typical teatime sweets include waffles, cookies, gingers biscuits, chocolate candy and cake. “Sushki” (small hard dried bagels) are often accompanied by a home-made marmalade or jelly preserves made with the berries harvest during the autumn months.

 

 

Crackers, bread, cheese and dried meats or sausage can also be served as a savory snack in the morning or afternoon.

 

 

KP10-15102 spusk.indd

 

Our 2015 Calendar features beautifully illustrated Russian Tea Drinking Traditions. Get yours today!

http://www.russianfooddirect.com/2015-Wall-Calendar-Russian-Tea-Drinking-11.8-x11.8-30×30-cm/

Risotto Serving

 

Risotto is a classic Italian dish made with arborio rice that’s cooked to a creamy consistency. Unlike Russian versions of rice porridge (kasha), Risotto is made without milk. The warm, rich texture of the dish makes it a perfect appetizer or entree for the cold winter months.

 

While it’s relatively simple to prepare, it does take some practice to get the balance of the ingredients just right.

 

Risotto is very sensitive to timing and requires attention during the cooking process. That said, the end result is well worth the work you will invest. Follow the instructions below to get started with a basic chicken and wild mushrooms recipe. As you perfect the dish, try to experiment with various herbs, spices and veggies to make it uniquely YOURS.

 

 

 

Risotto Ingredients

 

Ingredients 

 

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion or 2 shallots, finely diced

1 cup wild mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (can re-hydrate dried mushrooms)

1 cup button mushrooms, quartered

4-6 cups chicken broth

1 chicken breast (cleaned and cubed)

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped basil (or dill)

1 tbsp Rosemary and Thyme (finely chopped)

 Prep Time:  15min

Servings:     4 – 6

 

 

Sauteed Chicken and Mushrooms

 

Directions

 

1) Wash mushrooms and finely dice the onion or shallots. Set aside a portion of the mushroom to cook add at the end. Cube chicken breast and sauté with onions, and mushrooms in a medium sized pan coated with extra virgin olive oil. Once fully cooked, remove from heat and set aside.

 

2) Pour chicken broth into a sauce pan and heat until almost boiling.

 

 

 

Rice with Mushrooms

 

 

 

3) Add arborio rice and portion of diced onions to a pan coated with olive oil and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent and rice grains appear opaque white. Add 1/2 cup of white wine. Slowly add warm chicken broth, one ladle at a time.

 

 

4) Continue to cook rice, adding more chicken broth as the liquids evaporate. Stir continuously to prevent clumping.

 

 

Chicken and Rice

 

 

5) Add cooked chicken-mushroom mix, and reserved mushrooms to the rice and cook for 3-5 minutes, adding liquid broth as necessary. 

 

6) Stir in freshly grated Parmesan cheese and herbs and mix well. The rice should be thick with a creamy consistency.

 

Serve and garnish with fresh herbs and a bit of grated cheese on top.

 

Cooking Time:  About 20min

 

Try using all-natural dried Porcini mushrooms (re-hydrate before cooking) to add flavor and texture to the Risotto. Dried mushrooms have a longer shelf life than fresh mushrooms, so stock up for the winter to use in soups and stews.

Authentic Russian Food