sweet Tag

Hey! The blog has been really quiet for ages (years!), I know. But we’re back in Slovakia for a few weeks, so we thought we’d share some thoughts and pictures from the old homestead. We’ll try out some recipes as well.

yogurt granola parfe 4

One of the first things we noticed was how much the food culture here has improved. Score! I used to tease Valerian because he always reads the supermarket circulars that come in the mail (which go straight to recycling in California). But they’re actually worth a look these days; while the pictures of raw chicken are still a feature, there are so many new products! There’s chia seeds, hummus, fancy cheese, and yes, that’s Ben & Jerry’s!

Circulars

Really, though, we’ve come for nostalgia: utopenci, Mila, kifli/rožok, lángos, yogurt and all the candy. There’s even a retro version of the local beer, isn’t it cute?

Pheasant by bowl

When we moved to our house in Slovakia, we were so excited to have a huge garden. We went a little crazy planting trees, which were still skinny saplings when we left. No longer! We have a jungle out there.

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The plums were sadly shut out by a late frost, but the cherries are loaded–we have a long-suffering old tree in the front of the yard, and back in the orchard, we have several varieties of both sweet and tart/cooking cherries. Apples and Asian apple-pears are on their way, and possibly even before we leave there will be peaches ready to eat.

Valerian created a “berry alley,” which is now overgrown into more of a patch, with plenty of raspberries, some struggling gooseberries, and rampaging currants both black and red.

yogurt grnola parfe 5

Years ago when I visited a Swedish friend at her home near Stockholm, she served an amazing dinner and afterwards, took us out to her back yard where she had a thicket of red currant bushes at the edge of a lake. We filled a bowl in the late twilight of the far north, and then brought the berries back in where my friend crushed them with a little sugar and served them over vanilla ice cream. It was a simple and splendid way to finish the evening.

yogurt granola parfe 2

We do love our European yogurt, so I was inspired to layer up some parfaits to celebrate our summer return. Easy and festive! Maybe you’ve had red currant sauce at Ikea, or tried black currant jam; if you see some in the produce section, snap up a pint and try this recipe (or just substitute another berry). If you can’t find currants, raspberries or blueberries are just as delicious, and probably need less sugar.

Granola and currant yogurt parfaits
Serves 4
Crispy granola, creamy yogurt, and sweet-tart currants make a satisfying breakfast or, with a drizzle of honey, a festive dessert
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
For the granola
  1. 2 cups oats
  2. 1 cup slivered almonds
  3. 1 1/2 cups puffed rice
  4. 1/2 tsp. salt
  5. 1/3 cup olive oil
  6. 1/3 cup honey
For the parfaits
  1. 2 cups red or black currants, or a mixture (about a pint), or another berry
  2. 2 tsp. granulated sugar or to taste
  3. 4 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
First, make the granola
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in oil and honey. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, stir gently, then bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before stirring to get nice chunks of granola.
While the granola bakes, prepare the currants
  1. In a medium bowl, gently crush the currants with the back of a spoon. Stir in the sugar.
Create the parfaits
  1. When the granola is cool, layer the yogurt and currants in four jars or glasses. Top with the granola (you'll likely have leftovers). Top with additional honey, if you like a sweeter treat!
Notes
  1. Granola adapted from Megan Gordon, A Sweet Spoonful
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/
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Summer! How I miss you. If you’re like me, you think of summer as a relaxing, low-key time; you imagine lazy days, long evenings, letting the schedule slide. But then there’s: reality. The kids lay waste to the house, starting endless glue or paint related “craft” projects, then squabbling, then wanting to play Minecraft instead, until HOORAY, the camps begin. But wait – now it’s making sure everyone has swimsuits and goggles and sunscreen, who’s getting picked up when? Who needs a plain white t-shirt to tie-dye NOW? And the inescapable lunches. So many lunches. In fact you have to redouble your efforts because the long, active days call for extra sustenance. Luckily, summer also means fruit and plenty of it, which makes it much easier to fill up hungry kids.

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So here’s one thing that’s easy. These bars originate on a recipe card my mother gave me many years ago, but every few years I come up with a variation. These days, I’m using fresh fruit instead of a layer of jam, because who can pass up the tumbled piles of stone fruit and the gleaming berries that are everywhere in summer? Not me, that’s certain. These bars are sturdy enough to hold up in a lunch box or even for scarfing in the car as a quick breakfast. They’re full of whole grains and not too sweet either.

To bring out the juicy best of the fruit, I like to dice it up and let it macerate with some sugar for a few minutes while I assemble the other ingredients. And it really is just a few minutes – this recipe is supremely unfussy, mixes in a single bowl and can be modified any number of ways to suit your taste or what you have in the cupboard. Now that school days are here again, make the most of the last fruits of summer and make a quick batch of these bars for snacks. They pack well, or are the perfect after-school treats, and easy enough the kids can make them with just a little help.

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Fresh Fruit Crumble Bars
Yields 16
Quick and easy snack bars loaded with whole grains and fresh fruit.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound fresh fruit - strawberries, apricots, blueberries, peaches, plums are all good.
  2. 1 Tbs granulated sugar
  3. 1 cup flour
  4. 1 cup rolled oats (regular or quick cooking)
  5. 1/4 cup almond meal
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  8. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  9. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  10. 4 Tbs water or fruit juice
  11. 1 Tbs honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line an 8" square baking pan with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Prepare the fruit: pit and chop larger fruit into fine dice, toss with the granulated sugar in a medium bowl and allow to sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Stir in the oil and honey, and add the water or juice, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is uniformly moist and beginning to form clumps.
  4. Reserving about 3/4 cup of the mixture, firmly press the remaining mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Spread the fruit evenly over the oat layer, making sure to get all the collected juices in as well.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the top of the fruit.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is brown and toasty and the fruit is beginning to bubble.
  8. Allow to cool completely before slicing into bars.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

When I was a kid approximately one million years ago, my parents gave me a Donvier ice cream maker. When we moved back to California four years ago, my mom revealed that she had been hanging on to it all this time, and gave it back to us; I promptly put it in the bottom of the freezer and forgot about it.

You’ve probably seen this type of ice cream maker, which has a bowl that you freeze for 24 hours and then use to chill and churn your mixture. I remember being super disappointed as a kid, because despite cranking the handle furiously, I didn’t immediately get perfect scoopable ice cream. Remarkably, however, my mom managed to save the instruction booklet that came with the machine, and when I, you know, actually READ the directions thirty years on, I understood that you need to just turn the handle once every few minutes, and when the mixture is thick but not solid, decant it to a separate container to freeze to the right consistency. Armed with this knowledge and the lowered expectations of middle age, I have made some really great ice cream.

Because you don’t churn a lot of air into it, the ice cream is very creamy. My one failure was when I made a rice pudding and tried to freeze that – it was so thick I could barely turn the crank! But I have overwhelmingly relied on the recipes in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and have had amazing results. Jeni Britton Bauer’s basic method uses cream cheese and no eggs, and the flavors she thinks up are so unexpected and delicious.

I wanted to come up with a Central European riff on her technique, and was inspired by miláčik for the base, with a swirl of chocolate and crispy wafers in homage to our beloved Tatranky and Mila snacks.

The directions here are what works well for our little Donvier. It can’t hold a full recipe so I have to churn it in batches, but it stays cold enough. Adding chocolate drizzle directly into the maker has never been successful, so I’ve taken to layering it in the freezer container. Just be patient, because the ice cream really isn’t at its best until it’s had a good 4-6 hours to firm up in the freezer.

Tangy ice cream with a chocolate wafer ripple
A Central European twist on ice cream - with sour cream, wafers, and chocolate swirls
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Prep Time
5 hr 15 min
Cook Time
17 min
Total Time
5 hr 30 min
Prep Time
5 hr 15 min
Cook Time
17 min
Total Time
5 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups whole milk
  2. 2 Tbs cornstarch
  3. 2 ounces cream cheese
  4. 1/8 tsp salt
  5. 2/3 cup sugar
  6. 2 Tbs light corn syrup
  7. 1 cup sour cream
  8. 1 1/2 cups wafer cookies (I used Loacker hazelnut flavor), chopped
  9. 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  10. 1 Tbs milk or more as needed
Instructions
  1. Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and add a splash of the 2 cups of milk to moisten and make a paste.
  2. Put the cream cheese and salt in a large bowl, and set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining milk with the sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil; boil for 4 minutes taking care to stir from time to time.
  4. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and whisk smooth; return to a boil for another minute or so, or until slightly thickened.
  5. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl with the cream cheese, and whisk until smooth (I sometimes find an immersion mixer is helpful). Stir in the sour cream.
  6. At this point, I prefer to just allow the mixture to cool in the bowl in the fridge overnight. Jeni Britton Bauer's instructions call for pouring the mixture into a Ziploc bag and cooling it in an ice bath, but whatever time I've saved that way I've regretted, since it's messy and I wonder about the wisdom of having hot liquids against the plastic. The main thing is, you want the base to be really cold before you put it in your ice cream maker, so whatever method you prefer, make sure it's fully chilled when you start to churn.
  7. Pour the base mixture into the frozen canister and churn until thick and creamy.
  8. While you're churning, melt the chocolate chips either in the microwave or on a double boiler on the stove. Stir in the tablespoon of milk to get it to a drippy consistency.
  9. When the base has reached the consistency of soft serve, layer the ice cream: put about 1/3 of the mixture at the bottom of your storage container. Drizzle about 1/3 of the chocolate sauce over the top, and sprinkle a third of the chopped wafers. Spread half the remaining ice cream over the top, and repeat the drizzling and sprinkling. Spread the final portion of ice cream and toppings, place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper against the surface, seal with a lid and put in the freezer.
  10. Allow the ice cream to freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

While I was growing up eating Jell-O pudding cups,* halfway across the world Valerian was snacking on miláčik. Now, miláčik means “darling” or “dear” in Slovak, so if you run a search on it, you’ll get a rather surprising selection of results, particularly pet photos.

Last time he was back in the Old Country, Valerian noticed that miláčik is basically sweetened, flavored sour cream, and so when he returned to California, he decided to whip us up a batch himself. It’s not quite as firm as the kind you buy in the store, which sometimes is called tvarohový miláčik because it’s made with tvaroh, the local cheese that’s similar to ricotta. Valerian’s recipe here couldn’t be simpler, though, and while the vanilla bean gives you those authentic little speckles, just bump up the amount of good quality vanilla extract if that’s what you have. Sour cream makes a perfect consistency to top or fill crepes, or, honestly, just slurping it up all on its own. Good thing I’m wearing these elastic-waist pants.

Sour Cream Desert
This creamy delight falls somewhere between a pudding and a sauce. If vanilla seems, well, too vanilla, sift in a tablespoon of cocoa powder and make a chocolate version instead. Could you use yogurt instead of sour cream? Sure, but then you'll have flavored yogurt.
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 16 oz. container sour cream
  2. ¼ cup brown sugar
  3. 1 vanilla bean
  4. ½ tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and their surrounding paste.
  2. Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and vanillas in a medium bowl.
  3. Serve in small bowls, as a topping or filling for crepes or pound cake.
Notes
  1. Your kids will fall in love with this. It is easy to make so let them do the work.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/