Christmas Season is unarguably the biggest among all public holidays in Lithuania - much like in most Western countries. What may surprise you, however, that not Christmas itself, but rather Christmas Eve ("Kūčios") is more anticipated and has more traditions, both cultural and culinary, attached to it.

Authentic Christmas Eve celebrations encompass a variety of ceremonies and rituals, some of which date as far as Lithuania's pagan times before the end of the 14th century. Today, Christmas Eve is mostly regarded as an annual occasion to gather family and friends around the dinner table.

As the festive season is approaching, it may be time for a filling, heavy and incredibly delicious winter meal. I am talking, of course, about the national dish of Lithuania - potato zeppelins ("cepelinai").

Zeppelins are large dumplings made of potato dough, stuffed with (usually) meat and generously drowned in rich creamy bacon gravy. Yes, millions of calories per serving - but who counts when it is sooo good!

If you are reading about Lithuanian food, chances are that you do so because you know somebody who is Lithuanian, or maybe are planning a trip to Lithuania sometime soon.
In either case, I thought you may find the following article interesting. "How to Piss Off a Lithuanian" is a piece written on Matador Network by a travel journalist with whom I share my first name - Milda Ratkelyte. It gives you tips on how to really piss a Lithuanian off or avoid these faux pas - whatever your goal actually is :)

PictureFree on Kindle Store: Nov 29-30, 2013
One of my cookbooks, “Quick Fix Comfort Food” will be given away for free at Amazon Kindle store on November 29-30*, 2013. You are cordially invited to pop by the Kindle store to download it!

*Both dates are based on the US Pacific Time.

Recipes in this book are designed for quick & simple preparations. While working on my
Lithuanian recipe book, I realized that I have lots of simple and great tasting recipes, which would make a book on their own. That is how "Quick Fix Comfort Food" came to be. 
The recipes are not strictly Lithuanian, but a few of them were inspired by Lithuanian cuisine. Many would recognize apple or cottage cheese pancakes, crusty bites or mini fluffy cheesecakes as definite versions of Lithuanian food. And how about that rice & crab salad - most of its ingredients are so non-Lithuanian, but the salad has been wildly popular in Lithuanian for a couple of decades now.
Hope you'll enjoy it!

A couple of months ago I did a post about a very exciting Lithuanian pastry - the tree cake (šakotis). And just recently I received an email from Carl Pendle, a UK-based freelance lifestyle photographer & filmmaker, who shared a fascinating video he created about the process of baking this cake.

My collection of the most loved Lithuanian recipes
I have previously mentioned that I was working on a Lithuanian food cookbook. I'm so happy to announce that it has been completed and is now available on Amazon Kindle store!

The book includes a brief intro to Lithuanian cuisine, its ingredients and kitchen tools. A bunch of popular traditional recipes follow, arranged into breakfast food, soups & snacks, main courses and desserts sections.

The preview of the first pages (including the table of contents) is available Amazon. com or Amazon.co.uk.

For the lack of a better term you may call this food a cheese cake in chocolate. Its original name, "glaistytas vaškės sūrelis", literally translates "little cheese of curd cheese in chocolate" (OK, not so much literal, but I told you - cheese is big in our kitchen, and we even have cheese made of cheese - a curd cheese cheese!)

In Lithuania, it is popular as a dessert, a breakfast item or a snack to have with tea.

PictureSmoked pig ears
Continuing the topic about unusual food, let me introduce another favorite crunchy snack: pig ears. Crunchy because of the cartilage inside, the ears are usually eaten smoked and served as a cold cut. Similar to garlic bread, it is another popular snack to have with cold beer.
Try it - the smoky munch tastes great and is quite addictive. One might say it is a low-carb alternative to potato chips.
You can order it in restaurants or buy in Lithuanian supermarkets.

Tree cake (šakotis) is a unique-looking hollow cake with spikes, with flagrant flavor and the taste to die for . Served usually for large events and parties (such as weddings), tree cake is ordered from specialized bakeries, which are equipped to bake it. It is baked by pouring egg & butter-rich batter in layers on a rotating pole, one side of which is exposed to fire. Sounds complicated? It is.

PictureMindaugas, King of Lithuania (1200-1263)
... that today (July 6) Lithuania celebrates the day of its Statehood? On that day back in 1253 the first King of Lithuania, Mindaugas, was crowned. Mindaugas (read min-dow-gahs) was the first to unite the Lithuanian territories into a state, which gave rise to the powerful Grand Duchy of Lithuania - the largest country in Europe at its peak in the 15th century.

Mindaugas remains a well know historical figure - an a popular name for boys up to this day.

On the left you can see a somewhat "Lord of the Ring"-ish artist's impression of the Lithuanian King.