Fermented Cabbage Stuffed Peppers

Fermented Cabbage Stuffed Peppers

If you’ve been around Almost Bananas for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of fermented foods. All the probiotics are beneficial for your health in so many ways, confirmed by science. Fermenting preserves food, and tastes amazing while it’s making us healthier.

Fermenting food is kind of like having a running science experiment in your kitchen. Jars full of bubbling mixes, smells that we are no longer used to. Guests will wonder what on earth is going on in your kitchen.

Once upon a time these were normal foods. And now, we often have to accustom our taste buds to fermented foods, as many grow up without tasting them at all.

Here in Slovakia an old and common ferment is cabbage stuffed peppers. It’s warm enough here to grow peppers and this is a great way to preserve them for the winter. Read More

How to Live as a Big Family in a Small Space

6 people in 70m2

A few years ago I returned to Canada for a visit. I woke up at my sister’s house and looked out the window – everything seemed so BIG compared to Europe. Beefy trucks with bulky snowmobiles were parked in front of massive houses.

Now, I admit that I miss trucks. On the very rare occasion that I see one here, I wish I could buy one. I would seriously love some snow (although my type of sledding usually involves walking uphill).

But the huge houses…I’ll leave them. My dream house, for our family of 6, is about 110 m2 (1180 ft2). My dream house also has innovative furniture, like a desk on hydraulics that transforms into a guest bed without disturbing the stuff on the desk. (You can find more of my house aesthetics on Pinterest on the That Someday House board, as well as some separate bedroom boards.)

Right now though, I don’t have the fancy furniture or even custom storage. I’ve got 6 people in 70 m2 (750 ft2). I’m not crazy organized or a great housekeeper, but we manage to live in our home fairly comfortably. Read More

Toasted Vanilla Bean Powder

Toasted Vanilla Bean Powder

Vanilla is one of the most popular flavourings, and for good reason. Somehow it smells sensual, exotic, and elegant all at the same time. And the taste!

In Slovakia, where I live, vanilla extract is not available, but vanilla sugar. Most vanilla sugars are made using artificial flavourings and even the ones using real vanilla have miniscule amounts of vanilla in it. (If you happen to understand Czech, here’s an investigative video into the rip off of buying vanilla sugar.)

Sometimes I get sent a bottle of vanilla extract and I dole it out carefully, torn between increasing the heavenly taste and using up the bottle quickly.

It’s possible, of course, to make your own vanilla sugar or vanilla extract (or tincture?). The problem is that you have to plan and wait, while the vanilla bean steeps it’s goodness into the sugar or alcohol. I’m not very good at getting around to making it until I need it for a recipe, and then it’s too late and I don’t have time to wait. Read More

4 Easy Origami Toys From 1 Piece of Paper

4 Simple Origami Toys from One Piece of Paper

Origami is both an exacting art and simple form of fun. As a child, we always had books on origami around the house and, even though we couldn’t read Japanese, we could follow the illustrated directions. The only origami I ever managed to memorize, however, is a crane.

Before our wedding, my family sat around a few nights before folding a couple hundred origami boxes.  We wanted to include the Canadian tradition of British wedding cake (a dense fruit cake), which we placed inside Japanese origami boxes on plates. We sat around folding paper, recalling stories, and singing songs all evening.

These origami toys are simple to make but full of fun. And you can make all of these from one piece of paper. For more fun you can use coloured paper, although construction paper is probably too thick.

These would make a perfect small gift for a child. For a younger child you can just make them, for an older child you could include instructions so that they can make their own as well (links to printable instructions linked at the bottom). These toys are quiet, require no batteries, and are soon ruined so no clutter.

This is also suitable for a child to make as gifts. The two older girls and I had a lot of fun folding all together.

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November 17: The Velvet Revolution

Velvet Revolution

In Slovakia, the 17th of November commemorates the Velvet Revolution, the protests that eventually brought down the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. This year, 2014, celebrates 25 years.

In a very brief nutshell, after WWII it was stipulated in the constitution of Czechoslovakia that the Communist Party had to be the leading party in the government. Funny thing is, they still had elections. Everything was set up formally, with screens and ballot boxes. There was, however, only one option to vote. When my mother in law went to vote behind the screen, the officiator said, “Lady, where are you going?”

For 40 years the Communist Party governed with varying degrees of severity. In 1988 was the first mass demonstration in Bratislava against the Communist Regime since 1969 in Czechoslovakia called the Candle Demonstration.

On Nov. 16, 1989, encouraged by the success of Poland, Hungry, and East Germany, students in Bratislava organized a peaceful demonstration to commemorate Jan Opletal, a Czech student killed by the Nazis, and sent a delegation to the Slovak Minister of Education to discuss their issues. Though viewed as problematic by the Party, it ended peacefully.

On Nov. 17, students in Prague gathered to commemorate the death of students by the Nazis, and while they had permission to gather they did not disperse afterwards as ordered, but began to march towards the centre of the city about 15,000 strong. The police blocked off all the exits and began to beat them.

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25+ Ways to Use Sauerkraut

25+ Ways to Use Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut seems to be all the rage in healthy food circles recently. Fermented sauerkraut is full of probiotic and other benefits, as opposed to the canned vinegar variety which might taste alright but does not have the same health impact.

It’s easy to get excited about eating sauerkraut, but then when sometimes I’m at loss as to what to actually do with it. Just put in on the table in a dish for a condiment?

Yes, you can do that, but there are so many more options! Below are over 25 ideas and recipes for using sauerkraut. Some of the recipes may need some adjusting to fit your idea of healthy. Read More

Nuts in Honey: a handmade gift

Nuts in Honey sweet Christmas gift

When do you start getting ready for Christmas?

In general, I start thinking about gifts in September but then do nothing until the last ten days beforehand. I want to make all sorts of cutesy crafts with the kids and get into that holiday spirit, but we’re lucky if we get some paper snowflakes cut out and taped to the window. I plan handmade gifts for everyone I know, and then end up with none.

This year, I’m going to get it all done in a timely manner. And trim my expectations to be a little more realistic.

Now, however, is a good time to start thinking about handmade gifts. If you feel intimidated by the idea, it can actually be quite simple They don’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to be crafty. Read More

Glowing Cemeteries: November 1 & 2 in Slovakia (All Saints and All Souls Days)


All Saints and All Souls Day in Slovakia

The atmosphere is hushed, despite the number of people. Families walk slowly, stopping for a moment here or there with a candle or flowers. Candles and more candles flicker in the dark, illuminating a portion of chrysanthemums or the leaves on the tree above.

“May perpetual light shine upon them…” Prayers for the dead waft heavenward.

I’m in a cemetery. So are many others. Read More

Creamy Sauerkraut Stew (Slovak Segedinsky Gulash)

Creamy Sauerkraut Stew (Slovak Segedinsky Gulas)


Sometimes it’s easy to get enthusiastic about fermenting, and then not know what to do with the work of your hands.

“Yes! Probiotics are healthy! Let’s make super easy sauerkraut! Oh, wait…how am I going to eat all this?”

Fortunately vegetable ferments stay good for a long time. In the fridge, sauerkraut can keep for years even, although it will continue to sour.

I’ll have a post with more recipes for eating sauerkraut soon, right now I have a Slovak stew that uses sauerkraut. Sauerkraut in soups or stews was totally new to me when I came to Slovakia, but they quickly became some of my favourites.  Read More

Super Easy Sauerkraut

I’m a huge fan of fermenting foods, for probiotics benefits and more, but I’m an even bigger fan of healthy being simple and easy. This method of making sauerkraut utilizes time in place of work, making health and food preservation that much easier.

Lazy Sauerkraut

So, I totally and completely blew my 31 Days of Probiotics and Fermenting. It wasn’t for lack of ideas. I had more than 31 ideas of both information and recipes.

I was unrealistically enthusiastic. I forgot that I have kids, and that time management is still an area where I have room for much improvement. I still want to write on both topics though, so I’ll continue to update that page as an index.

Right now I have a recipe for super easy sauerkraut. If you have a food processor, you could even call it 5 min sauerkraut, because that’s about how much active time is involved. I don’t have a food processor, therefore cutting all those strands by hand takes a little more time (aren’t they lovely and thin strands?).

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