It’s finally time for our Lithuania trip recap! We traveled throughout the country and I’m going to spread the highlights of our adventure over the next three posts. Lithuania is the same size as West Virginia and sits above Poland and Belarus and across the Baltic Sea from Sweden. We flew into Vilnius, which is the capital and largest city in the country. Apolinaras was born and raised in Vilnius so I was very excited to finally see where he grew up! His mom met us at the airport and we headed over to his condo, where she had stocked the fridge with all his favorite Lithuanian goodies that just aren’t the same in the states (e.g. pickled herring, pickles, kefir). Apolinaras looked like a little boy opening his Christmas presents as he went through the fridge – it was just about the cutest thing ever and so sweet of his mom.
For the next couple of days we explored the city and visited many of Apolinaras’ friends and family members. I absolutely loved Vilnius. Like many European cities, the juxtaposition of gorgeous cathedrals and old winding streets filled with quaint rows of shops and apartments made me swoon. I also loved all the green space. There are parks throughout the city and Apolinaras’ condo is right next to a large national forest.
We climbed up the tower of a fort in the middle of the city to take in impressive views and also visited several churches where Apolinaras played the pipe organ when he was younger. This particular church is where people like to meet each other in the city center and we kept the tradition alive by meeting a few of Apolinaras’ friends there.
One of the highlights was going to a folk art festival with traditional Lithuanian music, art, and food. We leisurely browsed all stalls and picked up some wooden treasures including hand carved wall decorations for our kitchen and an adorable cutting board shaped like a pig.
Lithuanian artisans are also known for their linens, amber, and ceramics, so I got several gorgeous amber necklaces and linen pouches to store them in.
As you can probably guess, I was especially excited to try all the traditional Lithuanian culinary specialities. Most Lithuanian dishes are centered around the bounty of the farmland and dairy industry and contain sausage, potatoes, mushrooms, eggs, cottage cheese, and butter. They also have the best dark rye breads and amazing beer!
The zeppelins really stole the show for me – they are huge potato dumplings (the size of a regular potato!) stuffed with either sausage or cottage cheese and topped with bacon or mushrooms in a cream sauce – talk about the ultimate comfort food! And yes, they do eat a few veggies too, the most popular of which are beets, cucumbers, and cabbage. Oh, and between the 2000 lakes and Baltic Sea, fish is also on many menus and it’s often smoked or pickled.
Apolinaras’ mom made us several delicious traditional Lithuanian dishes during our stay including crepes stuffed with cottage cheese and topped with jam, potato dumpling soup, and fried potato pancakes, but my favorite meal was this lovely baked cottage cheese tart that also contained rice, eggs, and raisins. We ate it for dinner, but many people also eat it for breakfast and I knew I wanted to recreate something similar once we returned home. I mixed fresh blueberries and lemon zest into my version and enjoyed a big slice for breakfast last weekend. Next up are our visits to the countryside and resort towns by the Baltic Sea!
Blueberry Cottage Cheese Squares
2 cups 2% cottage cheese
2 cups cooked brown rice, at room temperature
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon, finely chopped
1 pint fresh blueberries (about 2 cups)
Heat oven to 350˚F. Mix cottage cheese, brown rice, eggs, sugar, and lemon zest thoroughly in a large bowl until well combined. Gently fold in blueberries and pour mixture into a greased 8×8-inch square pan. Bake at 350˚F for 45 to 50 minutes or until tart is set. Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition: 318 calories, 4.4g fat, 3.7g fiber, 19.8g protein per serving
Cost: $1.20 per serving