summer

Veľký Choč: the most beautiful view in Slovakia

View of west tetras from Choc in Slovakia

It all started with an Instagram picture of a cabin in the middle of the forest somewhere in Slovakia. I decided wanted to go there, basically bulldozed my husband into going for our vacation, and we went. Well, not that exact cabin, but in the area.

Going on annual family vacations wasn’t something I did growing up. And now as an expat, it seems like vacation is either going to visit family (which is awesome and beautiful) or saving up for it.

Just being

But this summer I badly wanted to just get away from it all. Not just from the daily grind of where we live, but from noise and technology and speed of life; I wanted to get away to the woods and just be.

We found a cabin in the hills of the Liptov region and the first day did nothing else but be there – some reading, a hot dog roast, exploring the immediate area. I roamed the hill cleared by a blow-down, picking mullein leaves and flowers. My oldest came along, picking strawberry leaves for winter tea; it was one of her favourite parts of the day. With no electricity we kept our phones on airplane mode, packed water in a bucket from the nearby spring (dear mountain water, how I miss you), and basked in the not-too-hot sun.  Click to continue reading

Chickpea and Barley Greek Salad

Chickpea and Barley Greek Salad - a filling meal salad

It was so hot this summer that I didn’t want to cook at all. Our apartment offers no shade from the sun and we don’t have air conditioning. The air was often hot and heavy, without a hint of a breeze. So adding to the heat with cooking – no thanks.

One system I came up with to minimize cooking during the day was to soak and then cook a big batch of legume and grain in the evening. While soaking grains and legumes helps the nutrients be more bio-available, the major advantage of soaking in the summer is that it then takes less cooking time. Kept in the fridge, I could take some out through the week as a base for various dishes, from salads to sautes (and theoretically soup, but that heat thing) and mix with a variety of vegetables.  Click to continue reading

Cream Cucumber Salad

Slovak cream cucumber salad recipe

Of course it’s nearing the end of summer and I’m only getting out summer recipes now. But then any time is a good time for a super simple and refreshing recipe, like this cream cucumber salad.

I’ve seen similar recipes described as a German salad, but the same is made in Slovakia. It’s warm enough to grow cucumbers easily where I live, and this salad is one of my mother-in-law’s summer staples. Click to continue reading

Radler: a refreshing beer cocktail

elderflower lemon radler

Radlers are not originally Slovak, although they are now popular here. Basically, a radler is a beer cocktail, a mix of beer and a sweet drink. Beer connoisseurs may scoff, but I find radlers very enjoyable and perfect on a hot day.

Radler means cyclist in German. In many areas, cycling around the countryside is very popular, and people stop off for a drink at cafes along their journey. A radler can quench thirst without getting one tipsy, and are not as sweet as pop/soda. A radler is the same as a shandy in British English.  Click to continue reading

Elderflower syrup

Elderflower syrup

There are three items that many Slovaks forage for, even if they aren’t the ‘in harmony with nature’ type of person: ramsons/bear garlic, mushrooms, and elderflowers.

Elderberry bushes with their characteristic large head of small white blossoms are a common sight throughout the western part of Slovakia in the spring, their strong scent filling the air. It’s common to see someone walking by with a basket, or even a huge bag.

What do Slovaks make with elderflowers? Elderflower syrup. I made this recipe with 2 litres of water, but most people make huge batches of 10 or more litres.

If you find the idea of fermenting elderflower wine or cordial intimidating, then this simple syrup is the recipe to try. Instead of juice concentrates, in Europe people buy syrups to make ‘juice’.  Click to continue reading

Cream of Zucchini Soup with Dill

Slovak Cream of Zuchinni Soup with Dill - Almost BananasThis super easy creamy soup is a delicious way to eat abundant zucchini, even for those who don’t like it!

I’m a terrible food blogger. I made this soup a while ago but didn’t write down how much of what I used (because I was going to remember, ha!) and then we went on holiday…and now it’s past dill season. But it will be dill season again, and you’ll have pinned this recipe to try then, right?

My mother in law makes this soup fairly often in the summer. Every year she claims she’s not going to plant as much zuchinni as last year, and every year she does.

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Basil Lemon Walnut Cookies

These delicious raw cookies use basil, normally a savoury herb, to increase the complexity of these easy cookies. Lemon adds a touch of sunshine to a walnut and honey base.

Basil Lemon Walnut Cookies

I recently attempted to do GAPS. Attempted is the key word.

For those who don’t know what GAPS is, it’s a protocol to heal the gut. This does not affect only digestive issues (bloating, constipation, diarrhea), but helps improve other health issues as well. The acronym stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome, as Dr. Campbell-McBride developed the program to help her autistic son.

The idea is that an impoverished digestive system can lead to a myriad of health problems because the food you eat actually becomes toxic to your body. The diet starves toxic pathogens in the gut by not eating disaccharides (like sugar, grains, potatoes, etc), heals the lining of the digestive tract with lots of bone broth (gelatin and lots of nutrients), and replaces the bad pathogens with good probiotics. As the gut heals, you slowly re-introduce foods back in, but it can take anywhere from six months to two years.

It’s pretty intensive, but I wanted to try for a number of reasons for our family, including dairy intolerance, bloating, ADHD, and a few other behavioural issues. (GAPS can also help heal allergies and food intolerances.)

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Zucchini Pizza Frittata

This frittata is layered with zucchini, or courgettes, along with pizza like tastes – tomato, basil, oregano, and garlic. This dish is one of two ways my kids will eat zucchini, and it’s so simple to throw together.

Zucchini Pizza Frittata

My brother-in-law and his family have been put through the wringer this past year, and it looks like they may be starting the journey all over again. Last year, just after Easter, their five year old youngest son was diagnosed with leukemia. He was in the hospital for six straight weeks before he could come home to visit, my sister in law coming home for a visit once a week. Thus began over a year of hospital stays, chemotherapy, low immune system, and a host of other concerns. My nephew lost weight, lost his hair, but retained water due to the cortisone. They just finished the third intensive block of chemo, and are currently down to weekly checkups.

Cancer puts a strain on the whole family. The worries, the fears. Dad and four other children had to learn to get by without mom holding the fort together. There’s an overarching cloud of concern, running through all aspects of life.
But recently their next youngest son, 12, has been exhibiting some health problems. A couple check ups showed something wasn’t quite right, but it could be this or it could be that. His mom worried about cancer, but what are the chances, right? Well, it looks like he does have cancer, in the lymph system. They are currently doing tests to determine exactly what it is and how to proceed.

Bobette, my sister in law, said that she has been sustained by prayers these last few days. They would appreciate any prayers you could offer for them.

It’s sadly ironic. They live in Austria, the country that hates nuclear power, where everything is available as organic. Gaming is in the foothills of the Alps with clean air and pure water. She avoids plastic and cooks real food. Neither parent smokes, the kids play outside. No cell phones allowed. Why, why two kids with cancer??

Which got me thinking about one of the arguments against universal health care in the States, basically, “I don’t want to have to pay for slobs who don’t take care of themselves.” In other words, why should I, who takes care of myself, pay for the health problems of those who smoke/drink/do drugs/eat unhealthy food/are promiscuous/don’t exercise/etc. Click to continue reading

Simple Beef Tongue

Eating beef tongue sounds gross, but once you get over the squeamishness, you’ll discover a cheap, tasty cut of meat that is ridiculously easy to prepare. I’ll let you know the secret to the best way of eating tongue too! 

Simple Beef Tongue

 

Cold sliced beef tongue with sandwich stuff.

Things were quiet here last week as I was gone on holiday. I thought I would be able to get a post up, but decided to relax and enjoy my family instead. We went to beautiful Gaming, Austria (I’ve written about it before) with some friends. Random photos will be forthcoming on my facebook page and instagram (user name: almostbananas).

Driving home, we watched an awe inspiring lightning storm. The whole sky lit up, bolts of pure energy piercing the night sky, and as we got closer to home we could see the silhouette of the hills with each flash.

As long as I am safely at home, I love thunder storms. It never ceases to amaze me that such a display of power can result from electrons jumping around (basically). I love the flashes of light, the thunder, the pounding rain. Here in Slovakia, it’s a welcome cooling to a hot, humid day.  Click to continue reading

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