Archive for 2017

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Women’s Day is a holiday when women of all ages are spoiled with attention, love, and flowers, lots of flowers. Even though spring blooms are quite popular this time of the year, the timeless beauty of roses, the queen of all flowers, still remains the number one choice for a Women’s Day gift to Russia. This is not only because of how they look and smell, but also the special mood they create. While red roses traditionally symbolize romantic love and passion, white roses stand for purity and humility. A pink rose is a sign of innocence and undying love and a yellow rose does not have any romantic connotations and means friendship and joy.

Roses bring us lots of joy and an element of classic beauty to any space. Watching them fade and wilt is sad, and throwing them out even more depressing. But you don’t have to throw them out, since there are a number of simple and exciting ways to preserve and reuse your roses in ways you never thought are possible. See it for yourself!

ROSE OIL

There is more to roses than their beauty, as rose petals can also be used to make rose oil, which offers several benefits including a very calming effect on the mind. It can be used as a face moisturizer, massage oil, hair oil for strengthening roots, and so much more.

What to do:

  1. Fill a jar ¾ full with dried rose petals and buds.
  2. Fill the jar to the top with oil of your choice (extra virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil would work best). Cap and shake.
  3. Allow the jar to sit in a cool, dark place, shaking daily for 1 month.
  4. Strain the oil into a clean jar or bottle.
  5. You can add rose essential oil if you want a stronger scent or make a double or triple infusion, where you would use the filtered oil as the base for a fresh batch of rose petals.

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ROSE WATER

Rose water is not only a beautifully fragrant mood enhancer but also an extremely versatile addition to your daily life and skincare routine. It has an extensive range of uses including homemade cosmetics (facial toner, hair perfume, shampoo or hair rinse, facial scrubs and masks), as an astringent for normal to dry skin, cooling mist, linen freshener, and even as a flavor enhancer used for herbal teas, yogurt and lemonade.

There are several different ways to make Rose water, but let’s keep things simple and start with the easiest and the least time consuming among them.

What you need:

1 quart size glass jar with wide-mouth
1 cup (roughly) Rose petals (fresh or dried)
1/3 cup Witch hazel
2/3 cup Distilled water

What to do:

  1. Fill a jar with about 1 cup of rose petals.
  2. Mix water and witch hazel and pour over the rose petals. Be sure the flowers are covered by an extra 2 inches of liquid.
  3. Cover with a lid and place in a warm area out of direct sunlight.
  4. Leave it for 2 weeks.
  5. Strain out the flowers and pour rose water into a clean jar or bottle.
  6. Keep refrigerated and use within 1-2 weeks.

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Rose Petal Ice Cubes

Surprise your family and friends, and bring a special loving touch to the plainest homemade drinks by creating rose petal ice cubes. They will add some fun and color even to something as simple as a glass of water. And they are so easy to make too!

Just fill ice cube trays 3/4 full with water, then freeze. Place one rose petal on each cube, then pour one teaspoon of water over each petal. Freeze again. This step anchors the petals to the cube so they don’t float to the top but stay inside the ice. Quite easy, isn’t it?

Cooking With Roses

Did you know that rose petals are in the same plant family as strawberries and apples and are completely edible? While serving them to your kids for breakfast might be not the best idea, using them in some recipes is definitely the way to go!

A little trick before cooking rose petals is to clip off the white part at the bottom since it’s the only part of the petal that has a bit of a bitter taste (exactly like the whitish part of a not-fully-ripe strawberry). Also, make sure to use only fresh petals that do not look wilted or damaged. Following the simple route, we’ve picked out three unusual rose petal recipes that can be done as easy as 1-2-3. Oh, and just be sure the roses have not been sprayed with any type of insecticide or chemical!

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Rose Scented Sugar

  1. Chop up ½ cup of fragrant rose petals in 2 cups of sugar in a covered tin.
  2. Place in a cool dark place for about a week.
  3. Sift the sugar through a sieve into a clean glass jar to remove the petals (it’s ok for some to remain) and enjoy with your tea.

Rose Butter

  1. Chop up rose petals and mix into softened butter.
  2. Pack into a small ceramic bowl and chill until ready to serve.
  3. Perfect with muffins and pancakes.

Rose Petal Jam

  1. Take equal amounts of fresh rose petals and superfine granulated sugar and alternate them in layers in a large glass jar with a lid.
  2. Cover the jar tightly and place in the sun for 10 days (until the color darkens).
  3. Enjoy spreading on a toast or with your cereal.

Now you don’t have to watch your beautiful roses fade away, but can breathe a new life into fresh blooms with a little bit of experimenting. Try one (or more!) of our recipes next time somebody gives you a bouquet of roses and make sure to share your experience with us!

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Russia is the biggest pancake loving nation in the world, and when we say Russians love pancakes we really mean it. It’s the only country that not only has a holiday dedicated to crepes but an entire weeklong festival called Maslenitsa.

For seven days straight, somewhere between February or March, Maslenitsa festivities take place all across Russia and its many regions to celebrating the passing of Winter and the arrival of Spring. Also known as ‘butter week’ or ‘pancake week,’ the traditional Russian festival is famous for its pancakes (blini) with various fillings and toppings from traditional sour cream and honey, to gourmet caviar and salmon, as well as all things sweet.

If you’ve never tried Russian crepes before, you’re missing out, because they are exceptionally delicious and unlike any other kind of pancakes you’ve ever had. You might have been wondering what is a blini, is it a crepe, is it a pancake? Well, it walks the line between both! They differ from French crepes since they are slightly thicker, but about the same in diameter; they are also different from American-style pancakes since they are much thinner and wider. The typical toppings and fillings used for Russian pancakes are also quite different. You will never see pancakes served with syrup at a Russian restaurant, or cheese, fruit, or ham and bacon. It’s common to make a burrito-style wrap out of them. Sweet fillings include jam, cottage cheese, honey, and condensed milk. Savory fillings are often things like potatoes, meet, sautéed cabbage, smoked salmon, or caviar. But the most common – and traditional – way of eating them, is simply served with a side of sour cream and jam. Hot black tea or milk is a must-have to go along with Russian pancakes, although coffee is an acceptable option.

February 20, 2017 is the beginning of Maslenitsa festival in Russia and a great reason to finally try this delicious and versatile treat. It’s quite easy to make at home too! You only need a few very simple ingredients to make traditional Russian pancakes – milk, eggs, and flour form the basis of the recipe.

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Russian Pancakes “Blini” in 10 easy steps:

Ingredients:
(makes 10-15 crepes)

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of whole milk room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. sugar for savory pancakes or 2 tbsp. for sweet
  • 1/3t salt
  • approx. 2 cups of flour
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Butter (for frying and oiling the pancakes)

Instructions:

  1. Whisk eggs, milk, sugar and salt
  2. Gradually start adding flour in equal parts to the milk and egg mixture; mixing well until no lumps are visible and batter is runny like kefir or thin sour cream (but not as thin as milk). Don’t stress about this step, you can always adjust as you go.
  3. Stir in oil
  4. Let rest for 20-30 minutes in a room temperature.
  5. Preheat a medium 10″ or 12” non-stick pan over medium heat and rub with butter.
  6. Use a 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup measurer to scoop the batter into the center of the pan and quickly tilt the skillet from side to side to spread evenly and make a thin layer.
  7. When small bubbles form on top and the sides of the pancake start to look dry and a bit golden (1-2 minutes), flip the pancake over with a thin spatula and cook for 30-60 more seconds. Flip the pancake onto a large plate and spread a pat of butter on top. You can either fold the pancake over or keep them all in a flat stack.
  8. Repeat until batter is used and remember to rub the pan with butter each time before you pour the batter.
  9. Serve warm and enjoy with the toppings of your choice.

Sure, making perfect Blinis sound easier than it actually is and if you didn’t nail the recipe from the start, don’t worry, you are not alone. Even a lot of Russians are not natural blini makers themselves. But while it doesn’t take an experienced cook to make Russian crepes, it will definitely require some practice and these tips below should help you troubleshoot any problems you might face.

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Tips:

– Using a heavy cast iron skillet or a good non-stick pan will prevent batter from sticking

– Using butter for cooking instead of oil adds to the taste, just make sure to rub the pan with butter every single time to prevent dryness and sticking to the pan

– Every stove is different. Some won’t get hot enough on medium while other will get way too hot. So don’t be afraid to play with the heat.

– Start with 1/4 cup and see if the batter seems too thick, then add some milk. If it’s too thin, add more flour instead. If it flows freely but doesn’t properly cover the pan, use 1/3 cup per blini. The right consistency for batter is runny like kefir or thin sour cream, only in this case your crepes will turn out thin and delicate. If the batter is too thick the pancakes will have a more “rubbery” texture to them.

– Letting your batter rest for 20-30 minutes before cooking is an important step that will make your pancakes fluffy and “bubbly”.

– A good trick for making your pancakes softer and fluffier is adding a teaspoon of soda to the milk and egg mixture (before adding flour). But first you have to “put it out” with a teaspoon of vinegar in a separate small bowl.

– It’s all about technique and practice. It’ll take a minute before you master a perfectly round thin crepe. So, be patient, practice makes perfect.

True, it might take a few blinis to get the hang of it, but once you do, you’ll be banging them out like a pro. Happy Pancake Week!

Image #1 by Un Bolshakov
Image #3 by Catherine Bulinski

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Valentine’s Day is upon us. When you think about the “most romantic day of the year” (at least according to marketers), hearts, flowers, chocolates, and romantic gestures are the first things that pop in your head. These days, society’s expectations for Valentine’s Day put way too much pressure on couples, especially men. Often, they feel pressured to spend more than they reasonably can to impress their special someone. Worse yet, some feel pressured to make promises they aren’t ready to make and keep, including the Big One: a marriage proposal.

About 10% of all marriage proposals take place on Valentine’s Day which is like killing two birds with one stone, you stretch your gift budget and you won’t struggle the rest of your life trying to remember the date of your engagement. It’s also true that some women (35% to be more precise) will consider this adorable. But what if your significant other is not a ‘Hallmark girl’? Unless you’re 100% sure that your girlfriend is dying for a Valentine’s Day proposal and will find it sweeter than cotton candy dipped in honey, topped with chocolate sprinkles, don’t do it for these 5 reasons:

1. It’s Unoriginal

In general, it’s not the best idea to propose on Valentine’s Day, simply because it’s unoriginal and totally overdone. 4 million Americans are expected to propose on February 14th. By doing the same thing you will be joining literally legions of people who can’t think of anything better than to ask the most important question on the most obvious day of the year.  It’s so predictable, in fact, your girlfriend should question if she really wants to spend the rest of her life with someone who can’t think outside the square box that holds the ring you bought.

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2. It’s Fleeting

Don’t let anything steal your moment in the sun! Big romantic gestures will be happening left and right on Valentine’s Day, and you don’t want yours to be just one among many. Besides, the expectations are way too high, and you don’t want to be compared to other “creative” romantics because you can never win.

You think you’ve thought it all through – romantic gift, flowers, dinner at a fancy restaurant — until you sit down at your table and realize there are at least five other guys who have planned exactly the same surprise as you. By the time your Valentine discovers a diamond ring at the bottom of her champagne glass, you’ve already heard two women squealing with delight after their boyfriend has pulled the same exact stunt. Congrats, your engagement happened five minutes ago and it’s already old news.

3. It’s Not Personal

Women don’t like to share, period. Let this special day she’s been waiting for belong to her and her alone. If you decide to propose on Valentine’s Day, she will be forced to share it with thousands of other women. This won’t be just her day, it’s everyone’s romantic day, thus reducing the real value of the moment. Really, think this through because you want this occasion to feel special for both of you and not as a bandwagon to the holiday.

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4. It’s Unforgettable

You’ll have to tell the story of how you proposed for the rest of your life whenever anyone asks how you got engaged. So, instead of the overdone answer of “I proposed on Valentine’s Day,” wouldn’t you rather have a more exciting story to tell? Besides, you might be positive she will say YES, but there’s still a slight chance you’ll get a NO. If that’s the case, there is really no way to recover your (very expensive) evening. Even if you move on and find another special someone, February 14th will be forever marred by the memory of the rejection. And who would want that?

5. It’s Overpriced

And last but not least, proposing on Valentine’s Day is expensive, way more expensive than during any other season. Everything will cost you double or more. It’s a couple’s holiday, so every service and item associated with it will be marked up. This will include everything from flowers and chocolate to restaurants and vacations. The prices for rings also skyrocket before Valentine’s Day and it’s quite a shame to let all those big stores with annoying commercials profit from your sincere love.

Save yourself a lot of trouble and money better spent on a vacation together (check out the list of the most unusual and romantic places for couples to stay around the world) rather than making a mistake by proposing on Valentine’s Day. Go with a romantic surprise that also includes classic chocolates and flowers and reserve your marriage proposal for some other less obvious day!

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Image #1 by Andrew Abogado
Image #2 by John Varghese
Image #3 by Liz West
Image #4 by Jinterwas
 
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