Olga's Flavor Factory http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com Step by step, easy, homemade recipes Fri, 23 Jan 2015 19:39:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Golden Beet Soup http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/soups/golden-beet-soup/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/soups/golden-beet-soup/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 19:39:18 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15730 Beets are a no-brainer for a Belarussian. It’s an ingredient I grew up with and something our family ate regularly. Borsch will always be one of my favorite soups. I’m very familiar with the vegetable. Not only did we buy it year round, but we also grew it in the garden. I could even recognize... 

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Golden Beet Soup-1-22Beets are a no-brainer for a Belarussian. It’s an ingredient I grew up with and something our family ate regularly. Borsch will always be one of my favorite soups. I’m very familiar with the vegetable. Not only did we buy it year round, but we also grew it in the garden. I could even recognize the seeds even if the tiny paper package wasn’t labeled. We ate beets in soups and in salads and even used the beet greens. However, it was always red beets that we were so intimately acquainted with. Of course, the other varieties always caught my eye. I’m a “lubopitnaya Varvara” (Russian – curious Barbara. Hmmmm…. Just doesn’t sound right translated) so when I saw some beautiful golden beets at the grocery store the other day, they ended up coming home with me. A kitchen challenge just makes me cackle with glee inside, so this was only natural.

I’m a soup fiend, so that was my first approach to these beauties. I also didn’t want a Borsch copycat, so I gave it a bit of a different spin. With a broth, “vegetably” concoction in mind, I browsed through the rest of the produce aisle and picked up a few other things that seemed like a good combination in my mind. This time my curiosity paid off really well and I still have my nose:). (The rest of the Russian proverb states that ”любопытной Варваре на базаре нос оторвали” – literally, curious Barbara’s nose was torn off at market, similar to “curiosity killed the cat”.)

Golden Beet Soup will be a staple in our home from now on. Not only is it very hearty and filling, like a good soup should be, especially in the winter, but it’s also brothy (my personal favorite), light, healthy and tastes phenomenal. Plus, Sergi loved it just as much as I did and it’s a superb leftover. I have very high standards for leftovers. What more can I say? 

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1-2 leeks, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1-2 celery stalks, sliced

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large golden beet, chopped

6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

1-2 cups water

3 medium potatoes, chopped (gold potatoes are best)

1/2 yellow bell pepper (or red bell pepper), chopped

1 medium zucchini, chopped

salt, ground black pepper, to taste

fresh herbs (parsley, dill, green onion) minced

sour cream, to serve with the soup, optional

1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice, optional

Instructions:

Golden Beet Soup-1-34Heat the oil in a dutch oven or a heavy bottomed large pot. Add the leeks, season with salt and cook for about 3 minutes, until they are tender. Golden Beet Soup-1-33Add the carrots, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the carrots have softened. Golden Beet Soup-1-32Add the beets, season with salt and pepper, cook for another 3-5 minutes, until they are starting to soften. Golden Beet Soup-1-30

Golden Beet Soup-1-29Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered for 10-15 minutes, until the beets have softened even more. Since they take a lot longer than the potatoes to cook through, this will give them a head start in cooking, so they finish cooking at the same time. The broth should mostly become absorbed by all the vegetables. Golden Beet Soup-1-28

Golden Beet Soup-1-35Pour in the remaining 5 cups of broth and the water. Adjust the amount of water depending on how thick/thin you like your soup to be. Golden Beet Soup-1-27Bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, reduce to a simmer and cook the soup for about 5-7 minutes. Golden Beet Soup-1-26Add the bell pepper and continue cooking just until the potatoes and beets are both cooked through. Golden Beet Soup-1-25Add the zucchini and cook for 3-5 minutes. Golden Beet Soup-1-24

Golden Beet Soup-1-23Garnish the soup with fresh herbs. Golden Beet Soup-1-22You can also serve the soup with sour cream, just like traditional Borsch. Golden Beet Soup-1-21If you’re not serving the soup with sour cream, it might be a good idea to add a Tablespoon or two of freshly squeezed lemon juice at the end, for a bright note of acidity. Golden Beet Soup-1-20

Leftovers reheat really well, so make sure to make a big pot and you can enjoy it two days in a row, or make it in advance for a convenient and very nutritious meal to serve to your family or guests.

Technically, you can just dump in all the vegetables, broth and water into the pot and cook until the potatoes and beets are tender and cooked through. That would work. However, sautéing the aromatics in the beginning gives so much more flavor to the soup. Also, I like every separate vegetable to be cooked perfectly, not some to be hard and others mushy. Am I a little extreme? Maybe. Since different vegetables cook at different rates, adding them just at certain time points is crucial to achieving perfection in every bite. You are the boss of your soup, so it’s totally up to you. I won’t be standing over your shoulder shaking my head and judging:).

Golden Beet Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soups
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1-2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large golden beet, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 3 medium potatoes, chopped (gold potatoes are best)
  • ½ yellow bell pepper (or red bell pepper), chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • salt, ground black pepper, to taste
  • fresh herbs (parsley, dill, green onion) minced
  • sour cream, to serve with the soup, optional
  • 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice, optional
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a dutch oven or a heavy bottomed large pot. Add the leeks, season with salt and cook for about 3 minutes, until they are tender.
  2. Add the carrots, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the carrots have softened.
  3. Add the beets, season with salt and pepper, cook for another 3-5 minutes, until they are starting to soften. Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered for 10-15 minutes, until the beets have softened even more. Since they take a lot longer than the potatoes to cook through, this will give them a head start in cooking, so they finish cooking at the same time. The broth should mostly become absorbed by all the vegetables.
  4. Pour in the remaining 5 cups of broth and the water. Adjust the amount of water depending on how thick/thin you like your soup to be. Bring to a boil.
  5. Add the potatoes, reduce to a simmer and cook the soup for about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add the bell pepper and continue cooking just until the potatoes and beets are both cooked through.
  7. Add the zucchini and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  8. Garnish the soup with fresh herbs. You can also serve the soup with sour cream, just like traditional Borsch. If you're not serving the soup with sour cream, it might be a good idea to add a Tablespoon or two of freshly squeezed lemon juice at the end, for a bright note of acidity.
  9. Leftovers reheat really well, so make sure to make a big pot and you can enjoy it two days in a row, or make it in advance for a a convenient and very nutritious meal to serve to your family or guests.

 

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Salmon and Rice Burritos http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/main-course/salmon-rice-burritos/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/main-course/salmon-rice-burritos/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 17:27:19 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15728 An all in one meal wrapped in an easy to eat package? That you can make in advance? Healthy and delicious? YES to all three! If you’ve been hanging out with me on this blog for awhile, you probably know that seafood and rice are my “thing”. We usually have one or the other or... 

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Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-35An all in one meal wrapped in an easy to eat package?

That you can make in advance?

Healthy and delicious?

YES to all three! If you’ve been hanging out with me on this blog for awhile, you probably know that seafood and rice are my “thing”. We usually have one or the other or both on our menu at least once a week. Let’s be honest though, usually more. If I go to the ocean, the fish would probably all make a mad dash away from me, screaming to all their friends to get away from her. Not that I’ve ever gone fishing. On my list of things to do.

Whenever I make rice or salmon, I like to make just a little bit extra for simple lunches. Leftover rice makes great fried rice (I have a great recipe for Chicken Fried Rice) – throw in some veggies and an egg and you’re good to go. Cold salmon is also great on a sandwich, salad or on that same fried rice.

Recently, my husband has been into burritos, so I’ve gotten quite creative with different filling options. That’s how I got the idea to use rice and salmon in the filling. Not only would it use up leftovers that I often have, but I can make the burritos ahead of time. I was going for a similar ingredient combination to what would go into Salmon Kulebyaka, except much easier to make.  Wow, was I right! It was 10 times more delicious than either Sergi and I expected. The flavors really come together perfectly and you can eat the burrito cold or heat it up a bit in the oven or microwave. If you want something even more delicious, crisp up the burrito in a skillet until it’s brown on all sides. That is probably my favorite way to eat these. The crisp tortilla really made the burrito all the better. 

Ingredients:

6-8 tortillas (I used flour tortillas)

1/2 – 3/4 lb cooked salmon – I like mine poached

1/2 lb cooked green beans

4 hard boiled eggs

2-3 green onions, thinly sliced

Rice Pilaf:

1 Tablespoon butter or oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup long grain white rice (I use basmati)

1 1/2 cups chicken broth, hot (you can use boiling water or vegetable broth instead)

1 Tablespoon fresh minced parsley

Yogurt Herb Dressing:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 very small shallot or 1/2 of a shallot, minced

1 very small garlic clove, minced

1/2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, optional

1-2 Tablespoons fresh herbs minced – parsley, dill, etc.

salt, ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-16If you have leftover cooked salmon, it works great in this recipe. It doesn’t have to be poached – it can be broiled, roasted sautéed, etc. I have a bunch of Salmon Recipe on my blog, so you can use the leftovers from any of them for this recipe. Keep it cold. Seafood does not reheat well.

I LOVE poached salmon. I could go on and on about how juicy and flavorful it is, but I’ll spare you my gushing. I have a recipe for Poached Salmon on my blog already.

Poaching is cooking by simmering in a small amount of liquid. The method I use is a combination of poaching and steaming.

Flake the salmon with a fork into large chunks. 

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-14

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-15

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-17Make the rice pilaf. 

If you have leftover rice, use it in this recipe.You can also use couscous instead of rice. Since I was recreating everything from scratch specifically for this recipe, I poached the salmon, made the rice, cooked the hard boiled eggs and green beans, but technically, this is the perfect time to use up leftovers, or do all these steps in advance.

In a saucepan, melt the butter or oil. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, just until the onions are tender and starting to turn golden. Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-18Add the rice and cook it for 2-4 minutes, until every grain is coated in the butter/oil and the rice starts to smell toasted. Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-19Pour in the broth. Since it’s hot, it will boil immediately. Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-20Cover the saucepan right away and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook without uncovering for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it stand for another 5 minutes. Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-22Stir in the fresh parsley.

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-24Do you see how fluffy the rice is?

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-25While the rice is cooking, prep the rest of the ingredients. (If you don’t have all the ingredients cooked, you should be able to get it all cooked while the rice is cooking.)

Peel and chop the hard boiled eggs. I have a recipe for perfect hard boiled eggs here.

Cut the cooked green beans into bite sized pieces. You can steam the beans or cook them in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. What do my husband and I eat even more often than rice and seafood? Green beans:).

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-27Stir all the ingredients for the Yogurt Herb dressing in a bowl.

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-21

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-23When the rice has cooked, assemble the burritos.

Warm the flour tortillas in a microwave, in the oven or on the stovetop. I like to do it in a dry skillet on the stovetop. You only need about 10 seconds per side. You just want the tortillas to be heated through and soft, don’t let them get crispy and dry.

Scoop a portion of the rice pilaf slightly below the center of the tortilla, leaving some room on both sides.  Top with some chunks of salmon. Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-29Place the hard boiled eggs, green onions and green beans on top of the rice and salmon. If you have leftover cooked asparagus, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, etc – use them instead of the green beans. Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-30Spoon some of the dressing over all these yummy ingredients. You can also use Ranch Dressing instead of the Yogurt Herb Dressing. Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-31Fold the sides in and while you are holding them, bring the bottom of the tortilla over the filling and roll the burrito tightly, squeezing the filling portion back toward you as you roll, until you have a neat burrito. Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-32

Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-33You can eat it whole or cut it in half. If you use large tortillas, you should have about 5-7 burritos. I used medium sized tortillas from Trader Joes, so those yield 7-8 burritos.

To serve, you can serve it cold, or warm it up in the microwave or oven. You can also brown the burritos on all sides in a skillet with some oil. Serve some extra Yogurt Herb Dressing on the side. Salmon and Rice Burritos-1-35

Salmon and Rice Burritos
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 6-8 burritos
Ingredients
  • 6-8 tortillas (I used flour tortillas)
  • ½ - ¾ lb cooked salmon - I like mine poached
  • ½ lb cooked green beans
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
Rice Pilaf:
  • 1 Tablespoon butter or oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup long grain white rice (I use basmati)
  • 1½ cups chicken broth, hot (you can use boiling water or vegetable broth instead)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh minced parsley
Yogurt Herb Dressing:
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 very small shallot or ½ of a shallot, minced
  • 1 very small garlic clove, minced
  • ½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, optional
  • 1-2 Tablespoons fresh herbs minced - parsley, dill, etc.
  • salt, ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. If you have leftover cooked salmon, it works great in this recipe. Keep it cold. Seafood does not reheat well. Otherwise, poach the salmon. Flake the salmon with a fork into large chunks.
  2. Make the rice pilaf.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter or oil. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, just until the onions are tender and starting to turn golden.
  4. Add the rice and cook it for 2-4 minutes, until every grain is coated in the butter/oil and the rice starts to smell toasted.
  5. Pour in the broth. Since it's hot, it will boil immediately. Cover the saucepan right away and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook without uncovering for 15 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and let it stand for another 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh parsley.
  7. While the rice is cooking, prep the rest of the ingredients.
  8. Peel and chop the hard boiled eggs.
  9. Cut the cooked green beans into bite sized pieces. You can steam the beans or cook them in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
  10. Stir all the ingredients for the Yogurt Herb dressing in a bowl.
  11. When the rice has cooked, assemble the burritos.
  12. Warm the flour tortillas in a microwave, in the oven or on the stovetop. You just want the tortillas to be heated through and soft, don't let them get crispy.
  13. Scoop a portion of the rice pilaf slightly below the center of the tortilla, leaving some room on both sides.
  14. Top with some chunks of salmon. Place the hard boiled eggs, green onions and green beans on top of the rice and salmon.
  15. Spoon some of the dressing over all these yummy ingredients.
  16. Fold the sides in and while you are holding them, bring the bottom of the tortilla over the filling and roll the burrito tightly, squeezing the filling portion back toward you as you roll, until you have a neat burrito.
  17. You can eat it whole or cut it in half. If you use large tortillas, you should have about 5-7 burritos. I used medium sized tortillas from Trader Joes, so those yield 7-8 burritos.
  18. To serve, you can eat them cold, or warm them up in the microwave or oven. You can also brown the burritos on all sides in a skillet with some oil. Serve some extra Yogurt Herb Dressing on the side.

 

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Sushki http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/russianrecipes/sushki/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/russianrecipes/sushki/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 15:01:02 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15781 Sushki are a snack that you can find in any Russian store. They are small, ring shaped, dry and slightly sweet. They look like tiny little bagels. They are often sold tied on a string, like I have in the picture. They are perfect for nibbling on or to enjoy with some tea. During this... 

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Sushki-1-25Sushki are a snack that you can find in any Russian store. They are small, ring shaped, dry and slightly sweet. They look like tiny little bagels. They are often sold tied on a string, like I have in the picture. They are perfect for nibbling on or to enjoy with some tea.

During this pregnancy, I have consumed bags of these little munchies. I have practically survived on toast, tea, soup and sushki. I even keep some sushki in a ziplock bag in my purse. The problem is that the Russian stores in our area are too far and inconveniently located. Whenever my husband would go there to get me a stash, he would stock up and get whatever was available. Sometimes they didn’t have any at all, and half the other times, they would taste stale. Boo. I remembered that my cousin, Natasha, had shared a recipe for homemade Sushki in the past, so I dug up the recipe and gave it a try. The  batter took me only 5 minutes to mix up. Even though shaping them into rings is a bit tedious, you’ll have a big supply once you’re done, so it’s worth it.

Typically, sushki are made with water, egg, flour and salt, but this recipe uses condensed milk, which gives them a sweeter, more cookie-like taste. My husband loved them! I would probably prefer the more bland version, which basically tastes like dry bread, but this one has more flavor.

This is a perfect snack to have on hand for kids. When I was visiting my parents for Christmas, they made sure to stock up on some Sushki for me. When my nieces saw me crunching away at them, of course they had to join in. From that moment on, they knew exactly where to find the “Sushechki” in the pantry and the bag was gone before we knew it. My Mom says that every time they come over, they always ask if Dedushka (Grandpa) bought some more “Sushechki”. Who knew that would become such big fans?   

Ingredients:

1 can (14 oz) condensed milk

2 eggs

4 Tablespoons softened butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups flour

egg wash (1 egg and 1 Tablespoon milk)

Instructions:

Sushki-1-14Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, using a standing mixer with a paddle or whisk attachment or a hand mixer, mix the condensed milk, eggs, softened butter (the butter needs to be really soft, or it won’t incorporate into the batter) and vanilla.

Sushki-1-15

Sushki-1-16In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the flour gradually to the batter and mix until combined. If your eggs are on the smaller side, you might want to use only 3 3/4 cup. The batter will be very stiff, so if you don’t have a mixer with a good engine, you might want to mix the last batch of flour in by hand.

Sushki-1-17Portion out about 3/4 of a Tablespoon of dough and shape it into a ball. Roll the ball of dough into a rope and pinch the ends together. You can make them as thick or thin as you like.

Sushki-1-18

Sushki-1-19Place the shaped sushki onto the prepared baking sheet and brush them with the egg wash. You can also sprinkle them with poppy seeds. You can even add poppy seeds to the batter itself.

Sushki-1-20

Sushki-1-21I normally like poppy seeds, but ever since I’ve been pregnant, it puts me off. Don’t ask me why. My favorite bagel of all time is the sesame bagel, but I can’t even smell it now. Sigh. I can’t wait to get my normal stomach back.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Sushki-1-22The time will depend on how thick/thin you made the sushki, your oven and also how crunchy you prefer the sushki to be. I like mine on the crunchy side, so I made them thin and baked them longer too. If you make them a little bit thicker, they will be softer.

To save time, you can simply roll the dough into thin ropes and bake them into sticks. Much faster, same taste, but of course, they won’t have the “sushki” look.

Sushki-1-23Cool. Store in a ziptop bag or an airtight container.Sushki-1-24

Sushki
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Miscellaneous
Serves: 100 sushki
Ingredients
  • 1 can (14 oz) condensed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • egg wash (1 egg and 1 Tablespoon milk)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, using a standing mixer with a paddle or whisk attachment or a hand mixer, mix the condensed milk, eggs, softened butter (the butter needs to be really soft, or it won't incorporate into the batter) and vanilla.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the flour gradually to the batter and mix until combined. If your eggs are on the smaller side, you might want to use only 3¾ cup. The batter will be very stiff, so if you don't have a mixer with a good engine, you might want to mix the last batch of flour in by hand.
  4. Portion out about ¾ of a Tablespoon of dough and shape it into a ball. Roll the ball of dough into a rope and pinch the ends together. You can make them as thick or thin as you like.
  5. Place the shaped sushki onto the prepared baking sheet and brush them with the egg wash. You can also sprinkle them with poppy seeds. You can even add poppy seeds to the batter itself.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Cool. Store in a ziptop bag or an airtight container.
Notes
The baking time will depend on how thick/thin you made the sushki, your oven and also how crunchy you prefer the sushki to be. I like mine on the crunchy side, so I made them thin and baked them longer too. If you make them a little bit thicker, they will be softer.

To save time, you can simply roll the dough into thin ropes and bake them into sticks. Much faster, same taste, but of course, they won't have the "sushki" look.

 

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Kitchen Remodel http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/miscellaneous/kitchen-remodel/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/miscellaneous/kitchen-remodel/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 11:00:21 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15734 When we bought our house this past summer, one of the big projects that we tackled was a complete kitchen renovation. I am so excited to finally share the before and after pictures! Of course, it’s my favorite room in the house. After cooking in really small kitchens for most of my life, this kitchen... 

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Kitchen Remodel-1-58When we bought our house this past summer, one of the big projects that we tackled was a complete kitchen renovation. I am so excited to finally share the before and after pictures! Of course, it’s my favorite room in the house. After cooking in really small kitchens for most of my life, this kitchen is a dream come true.

Before

When we bought the house, the kitchen was in pretty good shape, but since we knew that we wanted to update it, and eventually replace the appliances and the cabinets, we put our head together and started crunching numbers. We were so pleased to figure out that we had saved enough to afford a remodel, so we decided to do so right away. This way, we were able to do most of the dirty work before we even moved in.  With a budget in mind, we began searching for good deals, buying some things second hand, doing almost all the work ourselves with lots of help from family and selling the existing cabinets and appliances on Cragislist, we were able to do the entire kitchen renovation without going into debt.

Now that I think about it, almost everything in the kitchen was bought used, on sale or for a really good price. I can really see God’s blessing in every step of the renovation. 

Kitchen Remodel-1-46

Kitchen Remodel-1-48

Kitchen Remodel-1-47

 

Kitchen Remodel-1-45

Kitchen Remodel-1-44

Kitchen Remodel-1-49What We Did:

We gutted the entire kitchen! All 17 x 9 feet.

Kitchen Remodel-1-50

As I already mentioned, we sold all the appliances, cabinets and the countertops on Craigslist, which was a welcome bonus addition to our budget. It also was a great way to save on the amount of trash that we accumulated and had to get rid of.

Kitchen Remodel-1-55We also reconfigured the layout of the kitchen. We moved the refrigerator, putting a double oven in its place, and got rid of the existing pantry and installed the refrigerator and a large built in pantry around it.

Kitchen Remodel-1-51While we were working on the kitchen, I had to become creative about cooking meals without any appliances, very little storage and work space and even had to use the sink in the garage to wash dishes. It certainly didn’t help that it was July/August in Florida and I was using the unairconditioned sunroom as my temporary kitchen. You can read more about my experience with cooking without a kitchen here. Cooking Without a Kitchen-1-2

Cooking Without a Kitchen-1-6After

Here it is – the completed kitchen! Looking at this view takes my breath away.

Kitchen Remodel-1-35

Kitchen Remodel-1-34

Kitchen Remodel-1-40The new layout is very functional and looks so much better too.  As you can see, the cupboards are much taller than the previous and make the kitchen look much bigger. I have so much space, I don’t even use all of it.

 Overview of Our Kitchen Makeover:

  • Wall Colors:

Breakfast nook: Behr Ice Folly

The rest of the kitchen: Behr Irish Mist Our dining room is the same color, so they seamlessly flow together.

  • Flooring:

We replaced the dated kitchen tile floor with Peking Antique Click Strand Bamboo flooring from Lumber Liquidators. We used this same type of flooring throughout the entire house. It’s very durable and we love the color. We also got a lot of advice from floor experts that hardwood floors aren’t the best choice for Florida, since the air is so humid and moist that many times the floor will buckle over time. This was a huge project, but well worth the effort. The rest of the house had laminate flooring, which we also carefully removed and sold on Craigslist. Extra cash in our pockets and no trash to get rid of!

  • Kitchen Cupboards and Countertops:

We worked with a local cabinet and stone company, Five Star Stone. The owners are friends that we know from church. They gave us a really great deal on the cabinets and countertops, which is the main reason we could even afford the kitchen renovation. Since the cabinets aren’t custom made, but are bought already assembled, we were able to save a huge chunk of money. Kitchen Remodel-1-37

The cabinets: White Shaker Style cabinets.

I’ve always liked white kitchens, and I really like the simple, timeless look of these cabinets. A white kitchen is so bright and cheerful. I get asked a lot if they are hard to keep clean. I’ve had white kitchen cabinets for many years now, and they are really easy to maintain. I think it makes it much easier to keep clean, since it’s noticable if something gets splattered or spilled and you can wipe it up right away.

The countertops: White Everest Granite.

We really liked the look of Carrarra marble, but were a little apprehensive about the upkeep. Even though marble is very durable and absolutely stunning, it’s also very porous and stains easily. We knew that granite was a better choice, but we had a really hard time finding the color that we wanted. We were thrilled when we found this granite, called White Everest. It looks so much like the Carrara marble that we wanted, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. The light color means that I don’t have to be polishing it all day too, since it’s very forgiving, which is a big plus for me. Dark granite shows every little speck of dust and water stain.Kitchen Remodel-1-59

We also bought the sink through Five Star Stone. I would highly recommend getting a single  bowl sink. Having such a large sink is very useful. I can wash huge pots and cutting boards in it with no hassle and finagling, and can stack tons of dishes in there when I’m cooking up a storm while keeping my countertops free. Kitchen Remodel-1-36

We bought the faucet on e-bay, so it was half the price of what it would cost at the store and it was brand new too. The retractable spray hose is a really convenient feature.

My favorite color is blue. Can you tell:)? My Dad installed all of the backsplash and he did a wonderful job. He is very detail oriented, so every little corner is done perfectly.Kitchen Remodel-1-43

  • Appliances: 

We bought our refrigerator, double oven, hood and dishwasher on Craigslist. I couldn’t find a gas stovetop on Craigslist, so we bought in online. You can read more about why I chose a gas cooktop here. I’ll write a more detailed post about the rest of the appliances in another post.

Refrigerator: Frigidaire French Door Refrigerator 

Kitchen Remodel-1-38Double Oven: Frigidaire Electric Oven Model #PLEB30T9DCC 

This particular model isn’t even sold anymore, but it works great. Here’s a similar model. Having a double oven has many advantages, especially when cooking for parties or making several things at the same time. 

Hood: Whirlpool 30-inch Vented 300-CFM Wall-Mount Canopy Hood 

Kitchen Remodel-1-41Dishwasher: Samsung Top Control Dishwasher Model#DMT800RHS (this model is also no longer sold.) This is a similar dishwasher.

Gas Cooktop: 30 in. Recessed Gas Cooktop in Stainless Steel with 5 Burners. More details about the cooktop  in this post. 

Kitchen Remodel-1-56

  • Lighting:

Another big, messy job that Sergi tackled was stripping the popcorn ceilings in the entire house and then refinishing and repainting the ceilings in every room. That is probably the #1 thing I’m thankful that we completed while we were still living in the apartment. It was very dusty and dirty. Sergi wore a mask and I stayed away with the boys while that project was underway.

Sergi also took out the florescent lights in the kitchen ceiling as well as the ugly ceiling fan above the island and the other equally hideous hanging lamp in the kitchen nook area. With the help of my Dad, they installed recessed LED lighting in the kitchen. It’s a is very bright room now for sure!

Kitchen Remodel-1-33

  • Kitchen Island:

The kitchen island is a nice size, 52 inches long x 28 inches wide. It is twice the size of the previous island that was in the house when we bought it. I use this space more than any other in the kitchen. Sergi also installed an electrical outlet on each side, so I can easily use kitchen appliances on the island, charge my phone, etc.

Kitchen Remodel-1-31

Kitchen Remodel-1-29

The kitchen nook is one of my favorite corners in the house. It’s so cozy. Kitchen Remodel-1-39This is where Sergi and I eat most of our meals when it’s just the two of us. Nathaniel’s high chair will be the perfect addition right in between the two of us:). I can already imagine him keeping us company. I also like to sit here when I’m doing a lot of tedious kitchen prep, like chopping, shaping cookies, etc.

The windows in our whole house had pink and green blinds. I’m not kidding. They were in really bad shape too, so we had to replace all of them. We installed the 2 1/2 faux wood blinds in every window in our house. We were very happy with the customer service that we got from blinds.com and the quality of the blinds is superb. If you’re in the market for blinds, I would highly recommend them. The price for the blinds is very affordable too. Of course, we bought them on sale too:). 

I was so happy that my absolute favorite flowers, pink tulips, just happened to be in the grocery store the same day that we were taking pictures of the kitchen.  Tulips have such a short season, that I don't get to enjoy them too often, but this was perfect timing. Aren't they just beautiful?

I was so happy that my absolute favorite flowers, pink tulips, just happened to be in the grocery store the same day that we were taking pictures of the kitchen. Aren’t they just beautiful?

Whew! That’s quite a bit of information! I hope it’ll be helpful to those of you who are redoing your kitchens too. I will also take pictures of all the kitchen cupboards, drawers, pantry and give you a detailed look of that as well:).

The kitchen is the heart of the home and we are so glad that this intimidating project is complete. Both Sergi and I love how spacious and functional it is. It is so satisfying to use it. Plus, we really like how it looks. We chose the exact style that we prefer – bright, minimalistic and, in our opinion, very elegant.

Kitchen Remodel-1-37

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Chicken Cucumber Wraps With a Creamy Avocado Spread http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/appetizers/chicken-cucumber-wraps-creamy-avocado-spread/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/appetizers/chicken-cucumber-wraps-creamy-avocado-spread/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 19:41:46 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15709 In the middle of a cold winter, when lots of hearty and comforting meals are taking center stage, it nice to break up the routine with something that tastes summery and fresh. Also, who doesn’t like a really easy recipe that is packed with flavor? These wraps taste so crunchy and juicy. The lettuce and... 

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Chicken Cucumber Wraps -1-12In the middle of a cold winter, when lots of hearty and comforting meals are taking center stage, it nice to break up the routine with something that tastes summery and fresh. Also, who doesn’t like a really easy recipe that is packed with flavor?

These wraps taste so crunchy and juicy. The lettuce and the cucumber really elevate the common deli meat and cheese wrap to something special. The Creamy Avocado Spread that pulls it all together deserves a standing ovation all on its own. Talk about flavors and perfect creaminess!

When we were in New York for Christmas, we of course had to visit both of my sisters. It’s still so hard to believe that all of my siblings are married and every single one of us has a spouse and a home of our own. It’s so fun to see each one in their own element, where they are the “hozyain/hozyaika”:). (That translates from Russian to “homeowner/housewife”.) 

My baby sister and her husband Eddie had us all over to their home one evening. Karina whipped up 2 types of sandwiches and these Chicken Cucumber Wraps with a snap of her fingers. That girl is so talented! She’s been coming up with all kinds of treats for all of us since she was really little. As the youngest, she was often asked to come up with some kind of snack, especially by one of our brothers. “Karina, hook me up”, they would say and she would happily start rummaging through the refrigerator and cupboards and come up with something fantastic. She is just so sweet and thoughtful. We all loved her treats so much, I recreated the wraps a few days later with Karina and Sergi’s help at my parents’ house to share on the blog. This recipe is a keeper, either as a lunch or an appetizer.

Ingredients:

Creamy Avocado Spread

1 bunch fresh parsley

thyme, basil, rosemary, optional

1/2-1 Tablespoon pesto, optional

1 garlic clove

1 avocado

2-4 Tablespoons olive oil

juice of half a lemon or lime

1/4 cup Greek yogurt or mayonnaise

salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Yields: Approximately 1 cup spread
Chicken Cucumber Wraps
6  tortillas, any kind that you like
1 cup Creamy Avocado Spread
10 oz chicken or turkey deli, thinly sliced
6 slices cheese, any kind that you like (I used Russian cheese, which is similar to Havarti)
1/4 – 1/2 of a head of iceberg lettuce (you can also use any other lettuce, such as romaine, arugula or even spinach)
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Instructions:
Chicken Cucumber Wraps -1-8In a food processor, pulse the herbs and garlic until finely chopped.
Scoop out the avocado and add it to the food processor with the olive oil and lemon/lime juice, pulsing until the mixture is creamy.
Creamy Avocado Spread-1-8
Creamy Avocado Spread-1-9Add the Greek yogurt or use mayonnaise instead; it works great with both. Season with salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Creamy Avocado Spread-1-10
Creamy Avocado Spread-1-11I like to use a different brand of Greek yogurt that is thicker, but that is the only one they had at the store. Either will work though.
You can also add some pesto to the spread, which Karina added when we had these wraps at her house, and it really gave a lot of awesome flavor to the spread.
You can easily make this spread by hand, without a food processor. Finely chop the herbs and garlic, mash the avocado with a fork and mix in the rest of the ingredients by hand as well.
This spread  is so creamy, fresh and flavorful and very versatile too. Use it as a dip for veggies or chips, or spread it on bread to make many other sandwiches or wraps. BLT sandwiches would be awesome with this spread. 
Creamy Avocado Spread-1-12Top each of the tortillas with some of the avocado spread and then place the deli meat, cheese, lettuce and cucumber in the center of the tortilla. I like to season it with more salt and pepper.
Chicken Cucumber Wraps -1-9
Chicken Cucumber Wraps -1-10Roll the tortilla around the filling ingredients.
Chicken Cucumber Wraps -1-11Serve the tortilla wraps whole or cut them into pinwheels.Chicken Cucumber Wraps -1-12
 Chicken Cucumber Wraps -1-14

Chicken Cucumber Wraps With a Creamy Avocado Spread
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 6 wraps
Ingredients
Creamy Avocado Spread
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • thyme, basil, rosemary, optional
  • ½-1 Tablespoon pesto, optional
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 avocado
  • 2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon or lime
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt or mayonnaise
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Yields: Approximately 1 cup spread
Chicken Cucumber Wraps
  • 6 tortillas, any kind that you like
  • 1 cup Creamy Avocado Spread
  • 10 oz chicken or turkey deli, thinly sliced
  • 6 slices cheese, any kind that you like (I used Russian cheese, which is similar to Havarti)
  • ¼ - ½ of a head of iceberg lettuce (you can also use any other lettuce, such as romaine, arugula or even spinach)
  • ½ of an English cucumber, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, pulse the herbs and garlic until finely chopped.
  2. Scoop out the avocado and add it to the food processor with the olive oil and lemon/lime juice, pulsing until the mixture is creamy.
  3. Add the Greek yogurt or use mayonnaise instead.
  4. You can also add some pesto to the spread and it really gave a lot of awesome flavor to the spread.
  5. Season with salt and ground black pepper to taste.
  6. You can easily make this spread by hand, without a food processor. Finely chop the herbs and garlic, mash the avocado with a fork and mix in the rest of the ingredients by hand as well.
  7. Top each of the tortillas with some of the avocado spread and then place the deli meat, cheese, lettuce and cucumber in the center of the tortilla. I like to season it with more salt and pepper.
  8. Roll the tortilla around the filling ingredients.
  9. Serve the tortilla wraps whole or cut them into pinwheels.

 

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Third Trimester Pregnancy Update http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/miscellaneous/third-trimester-pregnancy-update/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/miscellaneous/third-trimester-pregnancy-update/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 10:00:12 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15683 I have been in my third trimester for the past few weeks, and let me tell you, it feels wonderful knowing how close we are to the delivery day. It sounds awesome to say that the baby will be born NEXT MONTH! As I have already explained before, I will be having a c-section the... 

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30 weeks pregnant

30 weeks pregnant

I have been in my third trimester for the past few weeks, and let me tell you, it feels wonderful knowing how close we are to the delivery day. It sounds awesome to say that the baby will be born NEXT MONTH! As I have already explained before, I will be having a c-section the last week of February, when I am 37-38 weeks pregnant. I am so excited to meet this little guy. I can’t wait to see him and hold him in my arms.

I promised you a pregnancy update, since so many of you are writing e-mails and messages asking how I’m feeling and wishing us all the best. You are incredible. I am so touched by all the support, prayers and encouragement. To be honest, I don’t really like talking about this pregnancy because it feels like I’m whining and complaining too much.  I don’t want to be fake though, so here goes – my attempt to be honest but not moan and groan the whole time.

Even though I am already 7 1/2 months pregnant, I haven’t gained any weight yet. That’s kind of a weird problem to have, huh? There were a few times that I thought I gained a pound or two and would excitedly call Sergi and my  mom, but I always end up losing it. So far, I haven’t gained a single pound. That seems absolutely crazy to me. The baby, on the other hand, is gaining weight just like he’s supposed to and is actually the perfect size. He’s draining it all out of me, apparently. It’s really entertaining to see the faces of the techs when they start doing my ultrasound and are absolutely shocked that the baby is so much bigger than they expected based on the size of my belly:).

atthedoctors

At the doctor’s. 26 weeks pregnant.

I am still having nausea and other GI issues, which is why I’m not gaining any weight and why I desperately need fluids and electrolytes. Right now, I still get IV fluid infusions very day for 5 hours and because of my PICC line and blood clot, get shots every day for that. The doctors are monitoring my labs every week and I also go for office visits every week, from the time I was 28 weeks pregnant and until I deliver. I usually feel good from about 10 in the morning until about 3 in the afternoon. ANY reprieve is a treat though, so I’ll take it.

I am extremely thankful for the days when I feel good and can get some chores done or get out of the house at least for a few hours.

Out and about:). I love looking for new books for our son.

Out and about:). This was at 26 weeks also.  I love looking for new books for our son.

Tea, toast, soups and applesauce are my good friends. Many of you have written me suggestions on what helps relieve nausea. Unfortunately, my nausea is not caused by normal pregnancy hormones, but is caused by my short bowel syndrome, so all the usual remedies don’t work. The pregnancy just really intensified all of my normal GI issues. I think you all are so sweet and thoughtful; it just warms my heart. I have to say it again, thank you so much for your support and prayers.

tea-1

Tea is my favorite thing in the world right now.

It is scary thinking about all the things that could go wrong and worrying that I’m not gaining any weight. I have to remind myself to trust in God and try to focus on the positive, but sometimes, those worrisome thoughts still creep in. Since I’m a nurse, sometimes that makes it even worse, since I know too much. Thank God for watching over our baby and keeping his development right on track. Every week when I go for a doctor’s visit, I breathe a sigh of relief when once again, he looks perfect.

As I look back on this past year, the task oriented, type A personality of mine has struggled to accept that I’ve had to put so many goals and plans on hold.

I had to stop working and go on medical leave. The garden I had planned to start did not happen and I was too sick to care. I can start that later.

The videos I was going to record for this blog didn’t happen either. I got behind in blogging, answering comments, e-mails and engaging in social media.

Cooking has always been therapeutic for me, so it feels wonderful when I can spend a few hours in the kitchen and feel like my old self at least for a little while. We end up throwing away so much food, which is AWFUL, but most of the time by the time I’m done cooking, I can’t even look at the food, much less eat it. We’ve figured out that we can deliver the food to our families so it doesn’t go to waste. A lot of the blogging food from the past month was shared with family, which was a great deal for me and them. At least my husband isn’t starving either.

MakingsoupEvery year I bake lots of cookies to give as gifts to family, friends, co-workers and neighbors for Christmas. This year, I had to realize that baking cookies wasn’t going to be an option.  Besides the few new recipes that I shared on the blog, I didn’t do any holiday baking. Most of those were given away too. The beautiful Mandarin cake? We only ate one slice and took the rest to a family get together. The Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars? Maybe we had 3 pieces, tops. The meatloaf still gives me nightmares, even though I know I would have really enjoyed it normally. The cookies were given away too. Apparently I only like very bland, boring food right now. Having a healthy appetite is so valuable! Don’t forget that, please.

Most house projects didn’t happen either. Not only that, but Sergi had to step in to help with simple home tasks, like cooking, cleaning and laundry.

I really feel like I’ve been hibernating throughout most of this pregnancy and not having any guests over like we normally do or going out for fun outings in the evenings and weekends.

Editing a blog post. Drinking tea, of course. That pretty blue "purse" is actually my IV and pump.

Editing a blog post. Drinking tea, of course. That stylish blue “purse” is actually my IV and pump.

You know what though? Whenever I’m tempted to complain and wallow in self-pity, (and I do complain and feel sorry for myself) I’m reminded of so many things that God has already done and is always doing in my life. There are different seasons in life, and this is just one of them. I know that all of this is only temporary and it’s absolutely worth it for the birth of our Nathaniel – which is why we chose that name, it means “God’s gift”.

I am beyond grateful to be alive, relatively healthy and am so in love with our son and thankful for his miraculous existence. My favorite thing about this pregnancy is the connection I feel with this precious child. I never get tired of feeling him move. Lately he’s been moving so much it’s almost as if he’s turning somersaults in there.

relaxing-1Every day, I realize how incredibly blessed I am to live in this country, in this century and have the benefits of modern medicine. I am able to stay home and receive medical care every day without being hospitalized.

We spent Christmas with my family at my parent’s house in New York. I thought that we wouldn’t be able to go at all this year, but with lots of planning, phone calls  and modern conveniences, it all worked out. We flew instead of driving and all my medical supplies were shipped right to their house. How awesome is that?

Even though I didn’t do much at all while we were there, I loved being surrounded by my family and being in my childhood home once again.

Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner

We had a beautiful Christmas with my family. This year we really kept it simple and tried to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. It was wonderful. Every Christmas seems to get better and better.

Christmas 2014-1-7

My beautiful family. We are really expanding. I can’t believe we are all married.

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 I love this verse from the Bible. I also really love this song; it’s been playing on repeat in my mind for months.

Every day that I feel good is like a generous gift straight from heaven. For me, it’s like a breath of fresh air or a drink of water in the desert. Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones, but I get tearful whenever I get to enjoy a good day, simply because it feels great to feel good.

Even though I sometimes feel like I whine all the time, I also feel extremely thankful, more so than usual, because I don’t take simple things for granted. I really do have “10,000 reasons for my heart to find to bless the Lord and worship His holy name.”

Floridians enjoying the snow! Even though it was only for 12 minutes:).

Floridians enjoying the snow! Even though it was only for 12 minutes:).

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Highlights of 2014 and Happy New (2015) Year! http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/miscellaneous/third-trimester-home-stretch/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/miscellaneous/third-trimester-home-stretch/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 16:42:26 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15575 Happy New Year! I’m a bit late with my holiday greetings, but I hope you all had lovely celebrations. We just came back home from New York and traveling is especially rough for me, so I took an unexpected “vacation”. I can’t help getting a bit nostalgic at the beginning of a new year and... 

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Happy New Year!

Christmas 2014-1-9I’m a bit late with my holiday greetings, but I hope you all had lovely celebrations. We just came back home from New York and traveling is especially rough for me, so I took an unexpected “vacation”.

I can’t help getting a bit nostalgic at the beginning of a new year and recollecting all the events of the previous year. 2014 was such a momentous year for Sergi and myself. It will always be a historic one for us. Full of learning experiences, tears and heartbreak, new adventures, many celebrations – the past 12 months have been rich in blessings.

Highlights of 2014:

Foster Parenting:

One of the most life changing and rewarding experiences that Sergi and I have had not only this year but for the duration of our marriage was becoming foster parents. We started out the year with our little boy, Danny, who joined our family in October 2013, when he was only a few days old. He was part of our family for seven months before he was adopted by another couple. IMG_8108 (500x333)We also had two other boys part of our family, Branden, who came to us in February, also a few days old, and he was later joined by his older brother, Angel, a five year old, who came to our family in June. We also said good bye to both boys in August.

IMG_2976I could go on and on about our experience with foster care.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is something that we are meant to do and I can’t wait to get back to it.

The whole experience opened our eyes in a very real way to the needs of our own community. The children that became part of our family will be engrained deep in our hearts forever. Saying good bye to them was very difficult and heart breaking, but we know that we did everything that we could to give them security and showered them with all our love and attention while they were with us. Even though both Sergi and I had been interested in foster care and adoption for many years, actually doing it  gave us confirmation and reassurance that this was something that we both feel very passionate about and want to be part of.

Other Posts Where I Wrote About Adoption and Foster Care:

Starting Our Adoption Journey 

Russia Bans All Adoptions by Americans and We Start the Process to Become Foster Parents

Our Journey To Parenthood

A More In-Depth Post About Our Decision to Become Foster Parents 

Our Special Valentine’s Day – (where we get a call to get another foster child)

Saying Good Bye to Our First Foster Child

Two More Good Byes

Buying Our First House:

New House-1In June, we bought our first house. It’s so awesome to be homeowners. We absolutely love our new home and the neighborhood that we live in. It is such a blessing and we are really, really thankful for it. Maybe it’s because we waited for 8 years to buy our first home, I don’t know, but we are thoroughly enjoying it.

Renovations/New Kitchen:

New House-1-4I put remodeling in a separate category from buying a house, since I think it deserves it’s own recognition. Wow! What a whirlwind that was. Construction has a way of turning your life upside down. I’m so glad that we only had to deal with that for a few months. We redid all the floors in the house, stripped the popcorn ceiling in every room and then refinished and painted the ceilings, repainted all the walls and gutted and remodeled the entire kitchen. We had SO much help from our wonderful families, especially my Dad and my brother Valentin. I don’t know what we would have done without them.

As soon as I feel up to it, I will take pictures and share a detailed kitchen reveal with all of you. Let me just say…. I LOVE my new kitchen. It’s such a luxury to have so much space and great appliances.newkitchen copy

Weddings/Engagements:

weddings-1This year was especially generous for both mine and Sergi’s side of the family in the love department. We couldn’t be more thrilled. We had a wedding in February, two in August and another in October. Another of Sergi’s brothers got engaged and will be married very soon this year. This year also marks the empty nest stage for my parents, since now all of my siblings are married. It’s hard to believe that we all adults and have families of our own.

New Nieces and Nephew:

We love our babies and we got a chance to enjoy some new nieces and nephew this past year. One of my brothers and his wife had a girl in May, Sergi’s brother and his wife had a girl in September, and my other brother and his wife just had their baby boy in November. Our family got a Christmas surprise just now when my sister and her husband announced that they will have another baby this June! Our families are growing and expanding with both new spouses and new children. What a blessing! We thank God for every single one of them.

Finding Out We’re Pregnant:

The most amazing surprise for us was finding out we were having a baby after not being able to get pregnant for more than 7 years.

Pregnancy Announcement-1-9This pregnancy has been a little bit odd, since on the one hand it feels like we just found out we were having a baby – which was a complete SHOCK, but on the other hand, it feels like I’ve been pregnant for 3 years. Try getting IV fluids and shots every single day, and you’ll quickly see what I mean. I can’t wait to get all foreign objects out of my body and feel good again.

I can’t believe that I’m already in my third trimester. I am 30 weeks pregnant right now.Christmas 2014-1-12We will be having our baby boy the last week of February, when I am 37-38 weeks pregnant. That’s just around the corner! Since so many of you are writing me e-mails and messages, I will give you a more detailed pregnancy update this week:).

The second part of 2014 was a matter of survival due to the difficult pregnancy:). I feel like I’ve been hibernating since summer. Life took a lot of unexpected turns but we are thankful for the blessing of our baby boy and for God’s care during this time. I am especially thankful for a loving and caring husband, who takes such good care of me and is my rock at all times.

Other Pregnancy Posts: 

Pregnancy Announcement 

Pregnancy – The Continuing Story

17 Week Pregnancy Update

Boy or Girl? Gender Reveal

We are looking forward to what 2015 will bring. “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits” Psalm 103:1,2

 

 

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Sparkling Citrus Pineapple Punch http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/breakfast/citrus-pineapple-punch/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/breakfast/citrus-pineapple-punch/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 19:25:45 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15538 I’ve always been a big citrus lover. If you come into my kitchen, you will always find lemon in my fruit bowl and all throughout wintertime, we enjoy oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and lime. I add citrus to both savory and sweet dishes. Of course, when citrus is in abundance, it’s only natural to drink as much of... 

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Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-26I’ve always been a big citrus lover. If you come into my kitchen, you will always find lemon in my fruit bowl and all throughout wintertime, we enjoy oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and lime. I add citrus to both savory and sweet dishes. Of course, when citrus is in abundance, it’s only natural to drink as much of it as possible. Our favorite beverage would have to be Mint Lemonade. Everyone in our family loves it.
For something a little extraordinary, this Sparking Citrus Pineapple Punch is perfect.  You can use any combination of citrus juice and add sparkling soda to give it some sparkle and fizz. Even though I love eating citrus segments, drinking the juice straight up is over the top and too cloying for my tastebuds. Adding sparkling soda to any juice is a trick that my husband and I like to use any time we have juice of any kind. Using mint and the fruit slices gives the punch a really nice fresh and bright flavor. 
Ingredients:
1 cup pineapple orange concentrate
3 cups orange/tangerine juice
1 lemon – juiced
1 lime – juiced
1 lemon, lime, orange and mandarin, each sliced
1/4 of a fresh pineapple, peeled and sliced (or 1 cup pineapple chunks)
1 bunch mint
33.8 oz sparkling soda
sugar, to taste, if needed
Yields: Approximately 2 quarts
Instructions:
Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-14Combine all the juices and concentrate in a large pitcher or a large bowl.
Instead of concentrate or store bought juice, you can use freshly squeezed juice.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-15
Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-17
Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-18When you are ready to serve, pour in the sparkling soda.Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-19
Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-20Add the slices of fruit and mint to a pitcher and pour in the punch.

I'm sure you'll find me in the kitchen making citrus drinks all winter; it's only right to take advantage of the orange tree that grows right outside our bedroom window.

I’m sure you’ll find me in the kitchen making citrus drinks all winter; it’s only right to take advantage of the orange tree that grows right outside our bedroom window.

Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-22The soda will become flat the longer that it stands and the mint will turn gray/brown, so that’s why it’s important to add them only when you are ready to serve the punch. You can also use ginger ale, lemon lime or sprite soda instead of the sparkling soda.

Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-24Sweeten with sugar or honey to taste. I didn’t add any additional sugar, but I don’t like my drinks to be sweet, so use your own judgment. It will also depend on how sweet the juice is. Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-25
Citrus Pineapple Punch
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Miscellaneous
Serves: 2 quarts
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pineapple orange concentrate
  • 3 cups orange/tangerine juice
  • 1 lemon - juiced
  • 1 lime - juiced
  • 1 lemon, lime, orange and mandarin, each sliced
  • ¼ of a fresh pineapple, peeled and sliced (or 1 cup pineapple chunks)
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 33.8 oz sparkling soda
  • sugar, to taste, if needed
Instructions
  1. Combine all the juices and concentrate in a large pitcher or a large bowl. Instead of concentrate or store bought juice, you can use freshly squeezed juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. When you are ready to serve, pour in the sparkling soda.
  3. Add the slices of fruit and mint to a pitcher and pour in the punch. The soda will become flat the longer that it stands and the mint will turn gray/brown. You can also use ginger ale, lemon lime or sprite soda instead of the sparkling soda.
  4. Sweeten with sugar or honey to taste. I didn’t add any additional sugar, but I don’t like my drinks to be sweet, so use your own judgment. It will also depend on how sweet the juice is.
 Citrus Pineapple Punch-1-26

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Panettone Bread Pudding With a Creamy Rum Syrup http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/breakfast/panettone-bread-pudding-creamy-rum-sauce/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/breakfast/panettone-bread-pudding-creamy-rum-sauce/#comments Wed, 24 Dec 2014 12:45:13 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15536 It’s the day before Christmas! Can you believe it? Most of you are probably consumed in a flurry of activities right about now with last minute things on your to-do list. I know that I always try to get everything done ahead of time, so we don’t have to do anything on the actual day... 

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Panettone Bread Pudding-1-14It’s the day before Christmas! Can you believe it?

Most of you are probably consumed in a flurry of activities right about now with last minute things on your to-do list. I know that I always try to get everything done ahead of time, so we don’t have to do anything on the actual day of Christmas but enjoy it. In our family, we have a lovely Christmas dinner, but breakfast is always kind of an after thought. Everybody just sort of grabs something to tide them over until the actual afternoon meal. Nobody wants to spend Christmas morning in the kitchen cooking, but with this Bread Pudding, you don’t have to. All of the work is done ahead of time and all you have to do is pop it into the oven while you make yourself pretty, open presents, get ready for church or whatever else is your traditional morning routine.

Bread pudding is such an amazing treat. It’s simple, comforting and I love the custardy texture and flavor. It’s like a combination of French toast and creme brûlée. You can adjust the flavors to whatever you prefer. The Rum Syrup is out of this world, and you will just want to lick your plate because it’s so delicious. You’ll see just how easy it is to make and when you try it, you will be making this all year long. I love breakfasts that can be prepped the night before, because I like to sleep in as long as possible. I actually make bread pudding a lot as a dessert, just because Sergi and I like it so much.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! 

Ingredients:

Bread Pudding:

1 loaf of panettone bread (you can also use challah bread) 14-18 oz.

5 cups half n half (half whole milk, half cream)

8 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 Tablespoons butter, melted (1 to brush the baking pan, 2 to brush on top of the pudding)

Syrup:

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 – 1/2 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-2 Tablespoons rum

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

I usually use Challah bread for bread pudding, which is a buttery egg bread, but right before Christmas, Panettone is something that is very commonly seen in stores and is a great choice. It’s an Italian sweet bread that has a similar texture to challah, since it’s also buttery and eggy, but it’s also studded with raisins and candied orange and lemon zest. There are lots of different varieties out there. Panettone Bread Pudding-1-23

If you’re using simple Challah bread, you can also add dry fruit to the bread pudding, as well as nuts, chocolate chips, candied citrus peel, etc.

Panettone Bread Pudding-1-24Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the bread into 3/4 – 1 inch cubes. Divide the bread between two rimmed baking sheets. Panettone Bread Pudding-1-22Bake the bread cubes in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through and tossing the cubes. Take out of the oven and set aside.

It’s important to use dry bread for bread pudding, so that it soaks up the custard well.

Brush a 13 x 9 inch rimmed baking dish with 1 Tablespoon of melted butter. Place the dried out bread cubes in the baking pan.

Panettone Bread Pudding-1-20In a large bowl, whisk the half n half, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract until evenly combined. Panettone Bread Pudding-1-21Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Panettone Bread Pudding-1-19Brush the top of the bread cubes with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of melted butter. You can bake the bread pudding after letting it soak for about 30 minutes, or cover it up and refrigerate it overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you stored the bread pudding in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature for about 30 minutes before placing it into a hot oven.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 45-55 minutes. The center of the bread pudding should be 170-180 degrees. Let the bread pudding stand for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Panettone Bread Pudding-1-18For the syrup, combine all the ingredients except the rum and vanilla extract in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking to combine. Turn off the heat and add the rum and vanilla extract. This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cup of syrup.Panettone Bread Pudding-1-17Serve with the bread pudding.

This syrup is great served with pancakes, French Toast, crepes, waffles or ice cream. You can even make it ahead of time and then simply reheat before serving. It stores well in the refrigerator. Panettone Bread Pudding-1-15

Panettone Bread Pudding-1-14

Panettone Bread Pudding With a Creamy Rum Syrup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 8
Ingredients
Bread Pudding:
  • 1 loaf of panettone bread (you can also use challah bread) 14-18 oz.
  • 5 cups half n half (half whole milk, half cream)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, melted (1 to brush the baking pan, 2 to brush on top of the pudding)
Syrup:
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • ⅓ - ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 Tablespoons rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut the bread into ¾ - 1 inch cubes. Divide the bread between two rimmed baking sheets. Panettone Bread Pudding-1-22Bake the bread cubes in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through and tossing the cubes. Take out of the oven and set aside.
  3. It's important to use dry bread for bread pudding, so that it soaks up the custard well.
  4. Brush a 13 x 9 inch rimmed baking dish with 1 Tablespoon of melted butter. Place the dried out bread cubes in the baking pan.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the half n half, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract until evenly combined.
  6. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes.
  7. Brush the top of the bread cubes with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of melted butter. You can bake the bread pudding after letting it soak for about 30 minutes, or cover it up and refrigerate it overnight.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you stored the bread pudding in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature for about 30 minutes before placing it into a hot oven.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45-55 minutes. The center of the bread pudding should be 170-180 degrees. Let the bread pudding stand for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
  10. For the syrup, combine all the ingredients except the rum and vanilla extract in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking to combine.
  11. Turn off the heat and add the rum and vanilla extract. Serve with the bread pudding. This syrup is great served with pancakes, French Toast, crepes, waffles or ice cream. You can even make it ahead of time and then simply reheat before serving. It stores well in the refrigerator.
Notes
I usually use Challah bread for bread pudding, which is a buttery egg bread, but right before Christmas, Panettone is something that is very commonly seen in stores and is a great choice. It's an Italian sweet bread that has a similar texture to challah, since it's also buttery and eggy, but it's also studded with raisins and candied orange and lemon zest. There are lots of different varieties out there.

If you're using simple Challah bread, you can also add dry fruit to the bread pudding, as well as nuts, chocolate chips, candied citrus peel, etc.

 

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Mandarin Orange Cake http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/russianrecipes/mandarin-orange-cake/ http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/russianrecipes/mandarin-orange-cake/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 15:32:13 +0000 http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/?p=15534 Mandarin oranges always remind me of Christmas. When we still lived in Belarus, my parents always gave us mandarins for Christmas and New Years’ (which is a BIG DEAL holiday in all the former Soviet countries). It turns out that my husband’s family always had mandarins for those holidays too. Even though mandarins were expensive... 

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Mandarin Orange Cake-1-29

Mandarin oranges always remind me of Christmas. When we still lived in Belarus, my parents always gave us mandarins for Christmas and New Years’ (which is a BIG DEAL holiday in all the former Soviet countries). It turns out that my husband’s family always had mandarins for those holidays too. Even though mandarins were expensive and hardly ever available any other time of year, Christmas and New Years’ were special, so mandarins were as traditional as the Christmas tree, Father Frost and the presents.

When we came to America, we continued having mandarins for Christmas. Of course, now I know that citrus is in season during the winter – which I can especially confirm since I live in Florida. Don’t be jealous, but I have an orange tree right outside my bedroom window. I plan on adding a mandarin and a lemon tree to our backyard too. My husband and I both love mandarins and as soon as they are in season and cheap, we buy them by the boxes. It’s our go-to snack while we watch some of our favorite TV shows. I often snack on them while I’m editing a blog post too.

What could be better than a tender, juicy cake filled with mandarins and every layer of it soaked in citrusy flavor? I created this cake with Sergi and myself in mind. Citrus zest is really aromatic and I added it to everything. The sponge cake layers have the mandarin zest, then the layers are soaked in a mandarin syrup that not only has the mandarin zest, but also orange liqueur. If you can find mandarin liqueur, use that. The zest and liqueur flavor the cream cheese frosting too. Of course, there are lots of mandarin oranges in between each cake layer. Stunning and elegant, this is the perfect cake for the holidays. 

Ingredients:

Cake:

8  eggs, separated, room temperature

1 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2-1 teaspoon mandarin or orange zest

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Frosting:

3 (8 0z.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (more or less to taste)

2 Tablespoons orange or mandarin liqueur

1 teaspoon orange or mandarin zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

Syrup:

2-3 (15 oz each) cans mandarin oranges (1 cup syrup saved)

4 Tablespoons orange or mandarin liqueur

1/2 Tablespoon orange or mandarin zest

Instructions:

Cake:

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-52

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of 2 round (9 inch) springform pans with parchment paper and spray the sides and the bottom with oil or baking spray.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.

Beat the whites using a whisk attachment on a standing mixer or a hand held mixer until foamy. Gradually pour in 1/4 cup of sugar. Mix the whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-51In the other bowl with the yolks, add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and use the same whisk attachment to beat the yolks until they are pale and fluffy. Bonus Tip: Whenever I do a recipe that includes beating the egg yolks separately from the egg whites, I always mix the egg whites FIRST and then use the same whisk attachment to mix the egg yolks. Egg whites will not whip properly if there is a speck of yolk in the mixture, so you have to start with a clean bowl and clean whisk attachment. Egg yolks, on the other hand, are not that fussy and will whip up with no problem if you use the whisk attachment with egg whites on it. This way, I save myself from having to wash the whisk attachment.Mandarin Orange Cake-1-50Add the milk, vanilla extract and orange or mandarin zest, mixing just until combined.

Adding mandarin zest will perfume the cake with incredible flavor. I love to use orange or lemon zest in all kinds of cakes, pastries and desserts. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-49

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-48Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the egg yolk mixture and fold gently to combine. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-47

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-46Add 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into the cake batter, folding it gently to combine. Add the remaining egg whites and continue folding gently to combine, being careful not to deflate the batter as much as you can. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-45Divide the cake batter into the two prepared baking pans. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-44Bake in the preheated oven until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-43Cool the cakes 5-10 minutes. Run a thin knife or spatula around the edges of the cake layers, then take them out of the cake pans, remove the parchment paper and cool completely. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-42When the cake layers have cooled, cut each cake in half horizontally.

Frosting:

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-26In a large bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, or using a hand mixer, mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, liqueur, zest and vanilla extract until smooth and evenly combined. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-41Add the chilled heavy cream and mix, starting on low speed and then increasing to high speed until the frosting is thick and fluffy.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-40Syrup:

Drain the canned mandarins from the syrup and save 1 cup of the syrup. Set aside the drained mandarins to be used in between the cake layers.

You can use as much or as little of the canned mandarins as you like. I used 2 cans in this cake, which is a balanced amount, I think. However, if you like A LOT of mandarins and wants to taste mandarins in every bite, you will need to use 3 cans. (Which I actually would:), but I know for most people that would be too much.)

Combine the reserved mandarin syrup, the liqueur and zest in a bowl.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-37Assembling the Cake:

You can make this cake it all year long, since you’re using canned mandarin oranges in between the cake layers, and you can use orange zest when mandarins are hard to find, or even lemon zest when oranges aren’t available. 

Line the edges of your serving plate with aluminum foil. This will keep the sides of the plate clean while you’re working with drippy frosting. 

Place a dollop of frosting onto the center of the plate and put the first cake layer on top of it. This helps to “glue” the cake to the plate and prevents it from sliding around the plate.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-36Brush the top and bottom of each cake layer with the syrup. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-35Generously spread each cake layer with frosting, all the way to the edges. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-34

Place the mandarin orange slices on top of the frosting.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-33

Place each cake layer on top of the frosting and mandarin oranges. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-32Spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake, smoothing it out. You may need to let the cake stand in the refrigerator for a little while, so that it’s easier to decorate.

Using the palms of your hands, a stiff piece of paper or a bench scraper, coat the sides of the cake with crumbs, nuts or coconut flakes. (I happened to have some extra scraps from another cake I was making, and used those to make crumbs. You can make crumbs from vanilla wafers or other cookies. Coconut flakes or nuts work really well for this cake too.

Carefully pull out the aluminum foil from underneath the edges of the cake and discard. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-31To decorate the top of the cake, I thinly sliced some mandarin oranges and arranged them slightly overlapping on top of the cake, placing them around the edge of the cake. Then, I put a few slices of mandarin in the center of the cake and sprinkled the center of the cake with coconut flakes. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-30The cake should be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours before serving, or overnight. The cake can be made 2 days in advance, completely assembled and stored in the refrigerator, covered.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-28

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-27

Mandarin Orange Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sweets
Serves: 1 (9 inch) round cake
Ingredients
Cake:
  • 8 eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½-1 teaspoon mandarin or orange zest
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Frosting:
  • 3 (8 0z.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons orange or mandarin liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon orange or mandarin zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
Syrup:
  • 2-3 (15 oz each) cans mandarin oranges (1 cup syrup saved)
  • 4 Tablespoons orange or mandarin liqueur
  • ½ Tablespoon orange or mandarin zest
Instructions
Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of 2 round (9 inch) springform pans with parchment paper and spray the sides and the bottom with oil or baking spray.
  2. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.
  3. Beat the whites using a whisk attachment on a standing mixer or a hand held mixer until foamy. Gradually pour in ¼ cup of sugar. Mix the whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. In the other bowl with the yolks, add the remaining ¾ cup sugar and use the same whisk attachment to beat the yolks until they are pale and fluffy.
  5. Add the milk, vanilla extract and orange or mandarin zest, mixing just until combined.
  6. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the egg yolk mixture and fold gently to combine.
  7. Add ¼ of the whipped egg whites into the cake batter, folding it gently to combine. Add the remaining egg whites and continue folding gently to combine, being careful not to deflate the batter as much as you can.
  8. Divide the cake batter into the two prepared baking pans.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.
  10. Cool the cakes 5-10 minutes. Run a thin knife or spatula around the edges of the cake layers, then take them out of the cake pans, remove the parchment paper and cool completely. When the cake layers have cooled, cut each cake in half horizontally.
Frosting:
  1. In a large bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, or using a hand mixer, mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, liqueur, zest and vanilla extract until smooth and evenly combined.
  2. Add the chilled heavy cream and mix, starting on low speed and then increasing to high speed until the frosting is thick and fluffy.
Syrup:
  1. Drain the canned mandarins from the syrup and save 1 cup of the syrup. Set aside the drained mandarins to be used in between the cake layers.
  2. You can use as much or as little of the canned mandarins as you like. I used 2 cans in this cake, which is a balanced amount, I think. However, if you like A LOT of mandarins and wants to taste mandarins in every bite, you will need to use 3 cans. (Which I actually would:), but I know for most people that would be too much.)
  3. Combine the reserved mandarin syrup, the liqueur and zest in a bowl.
Assembling the Cake:
  1. Line the edges of your serving plate with aluminum foil. This will keep the sides of the plate clean while you’re working with drippy frosting. Place a dollop of frosting onto the center of the plate and put the first cake layer on top of it. This helps to "glue" the cake to the plate and prevents it from sliding around the plate.
  2. Brush the top and bottom of each cake layer with the syrup.
  3. Generously spread each cake layer with frosting, all the way to the edges.
  4. Place the canned mandarin orange slices on top of the frosting.
  5. Place each cake layer on top of the frosting and mandarin oranges.
  6. Spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake, smoothing it out. You may need to let the cake stand in the refrigerator for a little while, so that it’s easier to decorate.
  7. Using the palms of your hands, a stiff piece of paper or a bench scraper, coat the sides of the cake with crumbs, nuts or coconut flakes. (I happened to have some extra scraps from another cake I was making, and used those to make crumbs. You can make crumbs from vanilla wafers or other cookies. Coconut flakes or nuts work really well for this cake too.
  8. Carefully pull out the aluminum foil from underneath the edges of the cake and discard.
To decorate the top of the cake:
  1. I thinly sliced some mandarin oranges and arranged them slightly overlapping on top of the cake, placing them around the edge of the cake. Then, I put a few slices of mandarin in the center of the cake and sprinkled the center of the cake with coconut flakes.
  2. The cake should be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours before serving, or overnight. The cake can be made 2 days in advance, completely assembled and stored in the refrigerator, covered.

 

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