Christmas

Wild Rice Stuffing with Apricots, Almonds, Sage

Wild Rice Stuffing with apricots, almonds, and sage
Ever since I can remember, my mom has made turkey stuffing with wild rice. In fact, I didn’t even know that most people made stuffing with bread. In grade 8 Home Ec, we made stuffing during class. “Why are we getting out bread?” I wondered.

The quality of bread determines the texture of the stuffing, and I remember being disappointed at this soggy smooshy mass made of wonder bread, because I loved my mom’s stuffing. While I’m sure a sturdy sourdough bread would be delicious, I’m partial to a rice stuffing.

The wild rice (or long grain brown rice) is slightly chewy, the almonds provide a creamy bite. Aromatic sage complements the bursts of sweetness from dried apricot. And it just happens to be gluten free, if that’s an issue.  Click to continue reading

Slovak Roast Goose (or Duck)

Slovak Roast Goose (or Duck) at Almost Bananas

Roast goose and roast duck are common meals in the fall and winter in Slovakia. Through the fall, restaurants hang signs declaring “Husacie Hody!” or “Kačacie Hody!” – Goose Feast! Duck Feast! The word hody has connotations of fall or of an originally religious event of the feast of the local church.

Commonly served with roast goose or duck, or a goose-duck breed as my mother in law often does, is lokše, Slovak potato flatbread. Lokše is basically mashed potatoes with a little flour (including gluten-free flour, as the potatoes hold it together), rolled flat and cooked on a dry skillet. The lokše are then generously brushed with the fat from the goose or duck, although butter or lard can work as well. Click to continue reading

Winter Markets, Fog, and Misc. (Winter 2015/16 photos)

Winter in the Small Carpathians of Slovakia

Now that spring has finally come, at least to my town, I’m finally posting photos from the winter. I blame it on my family genes, always late for everything.

November begins with one of my favourite traditions, visiting the graveyards and honouring the dead. I can’t even come close to capturing the atmosphere. I’ve written about it before: Nov. 1, All Saints Day

All Saints Day in Slovakia

All Saints Day in Slovakia

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Medovníky: Slovak Spiced Honey Cookies

Medovniky, a Slovak Spiced Honey Cookie, is a favourite in the winter months - Almost Bananas

Slovak medovníky is translated as gingerbread, but it is a very different cookie, in my opinion.

Medovníky can but doesn’t have to have ginger in it, never has molasses, and has a much drier texture than gingerbread cookies. Instead of molasses, medovníky are sweetened with honey.

They are sold beautifully and elaborated decorated by artists wielding an icing bag. More medovníky cookies are made and given around Christmas time, as they are full of warm spices. The cookies can be hung as a tree decoration, as I have done here with the decorated cookies.

The cookies themselves aren’t super sweet, probably because they are usually caked in icing. I actually like them plain and are perfect tea or milk dunking cookies.  Click to continue reading

Medovniky or Perniky Spice Mix (simple and elaborate versions)

Spice mix for making Slovak medovniky or perniky, simple and elaborate versions - Almost BananasMedovniky (recipe) are Slovak spiced honey cookies eaten year round but made especially during Christmas and the winter season. Perniky are soft cookie ‘sandwiches’ with plum butter and uses the same spice mix as medovniky. Available to buy prepackaged in Slovakia, this spice mix is for those who don’t have medovniky spice mix in their store, or for those who just want to experiment and make their own.

One of the adjustments of moving to a new country is getting used to different packaging and availability of foods, including spice mixes. You would never find pumpkin spice mix in Slovakia, for example, even though all the spices are common here.

I’ll never forget the time I first made chilli here. It was within the first few months of coming to Slovakia and I bought a package of ‘chili’ and liberally dumped the contents into the pot. But it was pure chili pepper, not chilli powder like I assumed. It was a spicy mistake (although I think I realized my mistake before it was too late and managed to scoop out a good amount of the pepper).  Click to continue reading

Cream of Lentil Soup with Prunes

Prunes are added to Christmas soups in Slovakia. They have a festive sweetness that melds well with the lentils and cream.

Cream of Lentil Soup with Prunes

As I mentioned in my post about how Slovaks celebrate Christmas, each area of Slovakia makes a different type of soup for Christmas. Some make a sauerkraut based soup, others split pea, and still others cream of lentil. What all the soups have in common is the festive addition of prunes.

When I first heard about prunes in soup, I was sceptical. Prunes? In Soup? Weird, I thought. But I’m game to try anything at least once, and so my first Christmas in Slovakia found me discovering a whole new way of eating a childhood food. Click to continue reading

A Slovak Christmas

opening gifts on Christmas

I know, I know, I’m breaking every blogging rule in the book. It’s January and I should be writing about new beginnings and positive thoughts, and here I am still on the old year. I wanted to share how a Slovak Christmas is with you though, and real life means it’s already January before I sit down to do it

A Slovak Christmas begins on štedrý Večer, literally bounteous evening, which is Christmas Eve. Christmas trees in Slovakia are traditionally put up on this day, although now some families put them up a few days before. The day is spent cleaning and cooking in most households, while burning incense (frankincense and myrrh).

Some families still take a walk to the cemetery before supper, to pray for deceased loved ones and ancestors. It’s also a chance to slip the presents under the tree. When you return, Ježiško has already brought the presents. Click to continue reading

Spice Cookies (AIP Paleo, GAPS) nut, grain and egg free

These spice cookies are perfect for dunking in tea (if you can’t dunk them in milk). These are very allergy friendly, without gluten, grains, dairy, nuts, or eggs.

AIP Paleo Spice Cookies

Eveyone knows there are 12 days of Christmas, but did you know that they start on Christmas day? Meaning that today is the 5th day of Christmas.

For me this works out well – I had a whole list of goodies I wanted to make gifts with and it didn’t get done before Christmas actually happened. I’ve been planning to make gingerbread houses as well, and, well, that hasn’t happened yet either.

But the good thing is that there are still 7 days of Christmas left. “Merry 10th day of Christmas…here is your Christmas gift. I’m not late, really.” Click to continue reading

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. Click to continue reading

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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