So after a few nights in Vilnius, we headed out on a road trip to see the rest of the country. The Lithuanian countryside is just gorgeous. Rolling cow pastures and farmland are interspersed with forests full of pine trees. We couldn’t resist stopping a few times to stretch our legs and take in the scenery.
Our first official touristy break was a visit to Castle Island in Trakai, where a castle built in the 1400s has been restored. I worked up quite an appetite as we roamed the grounds and climbed up all the towers.
Apolinaras couldn’t resist punishing me for whining that I was hungry.
I was in luck though because next up was a fabulous lunch with his family friends who spend their weekends in a traditional Lithuanian village. Their property is protected by national heritage laws, which means they must keep the house and barn in their original working condition. This means no upgrades – including no indoor plumbing! They have a well right outside their door and an outhouse in the barn. I’m not sure this is the way I’d want to spend all my weekends, but we really enjoyed checking out their home.
They served a very tasty lunch of beet soup, sausages and potatoes, and banana sour cream cake. Cold beet soup is a staple of Lithuanian cuisine and is packed with buttermilk, pickles, and dill.
It’s not my favorite, but I did my best with it and then quickly switched bowls with Apolinaras who slurped his down quickly. I hope our hosts didn’t notice! The banana cake was absolutely amazing though.
After lunch we took a long stroll and visited the neighbor’s cow. She was very sweet but I think the clicking of the camera made her a bit nervous.
After thanking our hosts we drove to Druskininkai, which has many mineral water springs and is considered a place of healing. Several of the springs are tapped on public grounds and you’re welcome to drink to your heart’s content. The mineral water was delicious directly out of the ground…
Haha, undiluted mineral water actually has a very strong pungent taste. Apolinaras kept encouraging me to drink more for my health, but I think he was really just amused by the faces I was making after each sip. Druskininkai was one of my favorite places though because the town is full of spas and I got a traditional mud bath and a lovely massage!
Next we headed to the Hill of Crosses, which is a spiritual place where people bring crosses representing their hopes. The first crosses were placed on the hill in the 1800s and now many Catholic pilgrims visit every year. It’s estimated there are well over 100,000 crosses! It was a beautiful and inspiring site, but a bit eerie since we went at dusk when no one else was there and the fog had rolled in.
In my next post I’ll be telling you about our time by the Baltic Sea, but first I need to share today’s sweet treat, which was inspired by that incredible banana cake we devoured. There was a chocolate cake layer covered by a banana cheesecake which was smothered in chocolate cake crumbs. I decided to make mini cheesecakes and give them an American twist by topping Oreos with slices of banana.
Then I topped the bananas with a layer of peanut butter cheesecake and crumbled Oreos. Mmm, these were definitely a winner!
Peanut Butter and Banana Mini Oreo Cheesecakes
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 medium bananas, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
Heat oven to 350˚F. Make the peanut butter cheesecake by beating together cream cheese and sugar with a mixer until fluffy. Mix in egg, peanut butter, and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Line 12 cups of a muffin pan with paper cups and place an Oreo in the bottom of each cup. Add three slices of banana on top of each Oreo. Pour peanut butter cheesecake batter on evenly on top of the banana layer.
Crush remaining 4 Oreos in a bag with a rolling pin or pulse in a food processor until crumbled. Sprinkle Oreo crumbs evenly on top of peanut butter cheesecake layer. Bake at 350˚F for 25 to 28 minutes or until set. Remove from pans and let cool to room temp, about an hour, and then place in fridge until chilled, about 1 more hour. Remove mini cheesecakes from paper muffin cups. Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition: 182 calories, 11.5g fat, 0.9g fiber, 2.8g protein per serving
Cost: $0.29 per serving