Slovak Stuffed Peppers (with cooking poems)

stuffed peppers blog

Instead of being baked, Slovak stuffed peppers are stewed in a rich tomato sauce for a juicy flavour-packed meal. 

To be honest, getting food on the table day after day can get to be a bit of a drag. And have you seen the amount of food kids can consume? I remember when my brother was a teen, I swear pans of cookies just got inhaled.

It’s certainly a luxury to be able to complain about the burden of cooking though. In the not so distant past, Slovaks had a handful of meals they cooked over again and were glad for it, as most of them knew the gnaw of hunger. And we know that in various parts of the world, people are starving.

But still…what am I going to cook for dinner tonight? I now marvel that my mother laid out a feast for us every evening, although as a child I didn’t think anything of it. I do remember, however, on one occasion my father went back to Japan for a visit and we ate a lot of eggs and toast (my father can’t eat many eggs).

A friend recently wrote a poem on Facebook to share her conundrum of shopping vs. putting crazy ingredients together, and it prompted a number of humorous responses with impressive poetry writing skills.  Click to continue reading

Kôprovský štít and Veľké Hincovo pleso: a jeweled lake in the grandiose High Tatras

Velke Hincovo Pleso in Slovakia - Almost Bananas blog

As long time readers of my blog will know, I run to the mountains at any chance I get. At the end of August my husband and I were able to get away for a night to the Vysoké Tatry, the High Tatra mountains. (Another weekend without children in one summer! The luxury of older children and teenage nieces and nephews.)

This time we’re off to the Vysoké Tatry, the highest mountains in Slovakia and the highest range in the Carpathian mountain system that stretches from Austria to Ukraine and down to Romania. As much as I love hiking, I haven’t hiked here much because of so many years of having children too big to pack but too small to hike far.

Štrbské Pleso

We arrive in the evening at Štrbské Pleso, one of the towns used as a base to go hiking from. A pleso is a tarn, a lake carved from glacial movement that leaves behind a valley/hole that fills with water. Štrbské Pleso mostly consists of hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Click to continue reading

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

Chata pod Borišovom: an unknown mountain chalet

Sunrise from the top of Borišov

Ten steps in, my legs were burning and my lungs were going double time. It was rather steep, and we were only just beginning our hike. I’ve been exercising more regularly, but there is nothing like a steep hill to bring the ego back to reality.

My husband and I had a weekend away and he had planned where to go – Chata pod Borišovom. Chata means cottage, cabin, or even chalet; basically a house that isn’t lived in full time but visited. He had read that Chata pod Borišovom was where Pavol Barabáš, a documentary film director, takes international visitors. If it is a favourite of his, we had better check it out.  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

Heľpa Folk Festival: beautiful beautiful textiles

Putting gulky into the water

This weekend I was so fortunate as to visit two folk festivals. As I took about a million photos at each one, I’ll divide them into two posts.

Heľpa has held a festival for the past 52 years, Horehronské dni spevu a tanca, the region Horehronie days of singing and dancing. It was a wealth of folk costumes and, this year, textile arts.

I was looking forward to the trip, to take as many pictures as I wanted without running after kids or hurrying up for bored companions. On Saturday, I woke up before the crack of dawn to get an early train, and met a friend on the way to HeľpaClick 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

The “Lazy” of Central Slovakia

trees in autumn glory

Last fall our family went for a weekend to a chata, a cottage, in the middle of Slovakia. It was amazingly gorgeous: rolling hills with swaths of meadows, brilliant fall colours and bell ringing herds.

Farm in Central Slovakia

In most of Slovakia, houses are clustered together surrounded by fields. When she was a child, my mother-in-law had to walk 3 km to the family’s field. In some parts of central Slovakia however, family farms are spread out, sometimes solitary, sometimes in a group of two or three houses. These solitary farms in the hills are called lazy (la-zee), although other dialects have their own names.  Click to continue reading

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