Happy Russian Maslenitsa!

It’s Maslenitsa week! Actually, it’s the end of it. Maslenitsa means butter week, if you look at the word in the literal way. Tradition-wise, it’s an old pagan holiday to wave winter goodbye during the last week before Lent officially begins. For seven days, Russians would eat all kinds of crepes (called blini) or pancakes (olad’i) with butter, sour cream, preserves and honey. Maslenitsa becomes a nice transition to leaner, mostly grains and vegetables, vegetarian dishes to be served during the Lent period. In the old days, peasants would go around villages singing songs, sledding, tasting blini and honey beer. Nowadays, it’s all about street fairs with songs, dancing, sweets, blini, hot tea and alcohol – Russian Mardi Gras. 😜

Speaking of winter, the weather is totally crazy this cold season. It’s 60 degrees outside as I’m writing it, and it was up to 75 for the past two days. We had days when it’d be 60 today and a blizzard tomorrow. Winter is bipolar this year! We may get more snow next week, supposedly. But, I think most people are kind of done with winter already, so, if that snow bypasses NYC somehow, we won’t be crying.

We do need to properly celebrate Maslenitsa though so I made sure I set some time aside today to make pancakes. I think they taste so much better under the warm spring-like sunrays shining through the windows!

 

What’s Cooking This Week

Yeast-based pancakes are thicker and denser than the traditional ones. It resembles a cross between a pancake and a roll or a biscuit. It makes a hearty breakfast or a light supper. It’s actually great any time of the year, not just on Maslenitsa. If you use instant yeast, they’re ready in just 40-45 minutes. They’re lightly sweetened so you can add as much syrup or jam as you want, and buttermilk adds a nicely tart flavor to counterbalance whatever sweet toppings you choose. Everything in my recipe is gluten free of course, as usual, so, if using regular flour, you may need to slightly adjust the amount of flour, therefore, add it in portions to see the dough consistency. Hope you enjoy these traditional Russian pancakes!

Buttermilk Yeast Pancakes

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Makes 14-16 medium pancakes:

1 1/2 cup of flour (I used King Arthur gluten free)

1 cup of buttermilk, warmed

2 egg whites, room temperature

1 packet of instant yeast

2 Tbsps of sugar

1 Tbsp of olive oil

1/2 tsp of salt

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Warm up buttermilk till it’s slightly hot but not boiling. In a large bowl, combine together flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast. Slowly add warm buttermilk and mix together. Slightly whip, with a fork, egg whites and fold into dough. Cover the bowl and place it in a warm spot to rise for at least 30 minutes.

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Once the dough is ready, heat up some oil in a deep pan. Carefully lift a spoonful of dough (you may need another smaller spoon to help in shaping the pancakes) and drop each onto the hot pan. Cook on each side on a medium flame, flip a couple times if needed.

Serve right away with toppings of your choice. These pancakes are thick and make a great meal any time of the day.

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They make the best breakfast in bed (even if you had to get up to cook them)! 😊

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Not So Wordless Wednesday – The Big 10!

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I’m having cheesecake for breakfast. And I totally deserve it!

I had a check up and a chat with my oncologist yesterday, and he told me “See you in a year”. 10 years ago this month, we had a very different conversation, we were setting up my cancer treatment for the following 9 months.

Today, he sent me off and said “There are no symptoms or warning signs, and you’re still in NED (no evidence of disease) zone; let’s hope for many more like this”.

That means that I’ve officially reached my 10 year cancer-free anniversary!!

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The past 10 years have not been easy but they were also amazing! I’ve tried to live each day to the fullest. The degrees on that fullness scale have been different, not according to some abstract point of perfection, but rather whatever fullest meant on each particular day: some were spent on doing, serving, creating or participating; and others were laying in bed but holding on to hope that tomorrow would be better.

My head is bowed in remembrance of those who lost their cancer battle, the ones I know of, and the ones who are dear to your heart! I will carry a spark of their fighting spirits for as long as I live.

But, today, cancer and I have an understanding, we don’t step on each other’s toes and respect each other’s tenacious desire to never meet again. I let it roam in its dark realms where no human wants to exist, and cancer let me stomp the Earth to see my child grow and become a man.

I don’t know what the future holds, of course, but, today, let’s just say “Cheers to The Big 10″!!

Unicorn Love

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Valentine’s Day has come and gone but Unicorn Day is forever! Valentine’s love is fleeting and made of cheap flowers and dusty stuffed toys. Unicorn love, though, is full of true emotions and brings plenty of happy adventures.

I’m pro-raw feelings, authentic laughter, tasting all the colors of the rainbow, spinning words into endless conversations, being strange, celebrating your unique weirdness, getting lost in a constellation of my own creation, wrapping up the Universe as your next birthday gift, believing that all the impossible things are more real than reality itself…

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I know… But, don’t you also believe in Unicorns?! Everything that has ever been invented or thought of had already existed on the energy level and was brought up to life (again) by the power of imagination.

You can say I’m crazy. I won’t even argue. Or you can say I’m afflicted by sugar, alcohol and not enough sleep: I went to a party yesterday where some of today’s dessert were making a grand appearance, after being carefully injected with single vodka shots; I used all my surgical precision to distribute alcohol evenly inside without ruining the outer shells. We had too many desserts (shots) yesterday, didn’t get to bed till almost dawn. Yes, I’m definitely afflicted today, with Unicorn Love.

Dive into the fluffiness of Unicorn magic and definitely make the today’s recipe!

 

What’s Cooking This Week

Zefir, or zefyr (pronounced zefeer) is a traditional Russian dessert that reminds of a harder meringue-like outer shell and fluffy marshmallow-like center. It’s soft, sugary and full of childhood memories. This dessert doesn’t require baking, not in a traditional sense that you’d expect with a meringue, but it does involve pouring hot liquids into whipped egg whites, which technically cooks them, so, do not fear that you’ll be eating raw eggs. Zefir requires at least 8-10 hours resting, to harden the shell, so plan on making it the night before if you need it for some kind of an event. I’m adding strawberry flavor here, you can substitute it for any other you want. Zefir keeps well on a countertop, just make sure to place it in an air tight container to preserve freshness. After it’s made, you can leave it plain and sprinkle extra powdered sugar or dip it in chocolate. Either way, it’s absolutely delicious!

Strawberry-Rum Zefir – Marshmallow Meringues.

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Makes 40-60 zefir halves, size depending

5 egg whites, room temperature

1  3 oz box of strawberry jell-o

3 1/2 cups of sugar

3 Tbsps of rum

3 tsps. of agar agar flakes

1 cup of cold water

3 oz of boiling water

powdered sugar

optional: melted dark chocolate and edible rose petals

tools: large disposable frosting bags, open-star piping tips

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 Mix together jell-o powder with 3 oz hot water till it’s completely dissolved, set it aside.

Separate egg whites, or used whites liquid, place them into a large mixing bowl and start whipping at a medium speed.

At the same time, in a pot, combine 1 cup of water with agar powder and heat it up on medium heat stirring constantly. Once it’s boiling, gradually start adding sugar mixing through, continue boiling for another 2-3 minutes till it becomes a thick mixture.

Reduce egg whites whipping speed to low and carefully pour in hot sugar agar mixture, continue whipping, then add dissolved jell-o and rum. Pick up the whipping speed to high and whip until stiff peaks appear.

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While it’s whipping, prepare piping bags. I suggest using large bags with open star tips and prepare 2 as you’ll have to pipe very quickly before the mixture sets in and is too hard to pipe. Line baking sheets with plastic wrap.

Fill each bag with mixture and pipe large rose-like flowers about 2.5-3 inches in size. Once all rosettes are piped, sprinkle all with powdered sugar. Zefir needs to air-dry for at least 8-10 hours to let the harder outer shell to set (do not cover it).

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After 10 hours, carefully peel them off the plastic wrap and stick bottom halves together.

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Sprinkle more powdered sugar on top. Alternatively, you can dip the tops in dark chocolate and add edible rose petals the way I did.

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A terrific dessert that’s light and fluffy and is ready to satisfy your sugar cravings.

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Foodie Friday – Delicious Treats

 

 

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One lucky blog follower received Peddler mail with these treats for Valentine’s Day: strawberry marshmallow meringues (recipe is coming up), cherry chocolate loaves, black currant scones, and apple-farmers cheese gnocchi (not pictured).

Nope, it wasn’t you!

You had whatever it was you ate on Valentine’s Day instead of enjoying my delicious goodies!

Because you remained silent and didn’t express your wishes!

Communication is the key and will get you everything you want in life! 🙂