Herb Marinated Feta

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According to mythology, the gods sent Aristaios, son of Apollo, to teach Greeks the art of cheese making. This way or that, dating back to the 8th century BC, feta, a brined curd white cheese was born. It is a protected designation of origin product in the European Union, only cheeses produced in a traditional way in particular areas of Greece made from sheep’s milk, or from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk can be called feta. However, similar white cheeses are produced in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans (made partly or wholly of cow’s milk). And I happen to be living around here! #luckygirl

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Seriously, is there anyone on the planet who doesn’t like feta? I think not. And if you have about 5 minutes, I’ll show you how to take your cheese-eating to the next level by marinating it in herb-infused, fruity olive oil. Again, this is a delectable treat you may have encountered in your supermarket before that looks incredibly fancy and comes with a slightly outrageous price tag. Once you try your hands at it though, there’s no turning back: it will leave the commercial kind for dead.

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A Mediterranean-inspired smooth and spreadable delight, this crowd pleaser is sure to bring rave reviews from family and friends. Marinated feta is an impressive dinner party appetizer, an elegant hostess gift or a great addition to your wine o’clock menu, making you look like a culinary star. Spread it on crusty artisan bread, crumble onto salads, scatter over pizza or stick a toothpick in the cubes to serve as it is. Oh, and please, please do not discard of the remainig oil! It is great to toss with pasta, as a marinade for olives, roasting potatoes or vegetables, and as base for a vinaigrette too.

So without further ado, here’s how you do it. Start with a clean, sterilized jar and add chunks of feta (or any other kind of white cheese, use what’s available), the size you prefer. Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and pour olive oil into the jar until the cheese is submerged. This is somewhere you don’t need to use the best, most expensive olive oil. Add dried herbs and/or spices (don’t be shy), seal jar and store in the fridge. Allow flavors to develop at least 24 hours, but patience is virtue – the longer the cheese is infusing the better. Refrigerated, marinated feta will keep for up to a month if completely covered with oil. The olive oil may thicken in the fridge, but will turn to liquid again at room temperature.

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To kick-start your imagination, here’s a not-at-all inclusive list of the wonderful things you can flavor the marinating oil with: rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, chives, dill, bay leaves, tarragon, flat-leaf parsley, chili peppers, peppercorns, cumin, coriander seeds, green olives. Mix and match as you like!

This works with mozzarella just as well. Just sayin’… 😉

Fruzsi

Mentés

Friday Finds

Monday was the longest day of the year. The June Solistice marks the first day of summer and along came the first heat wave of Summer Sixteen. My plans? Sit it out in the shade sipping on some chilled beverage. It was probably my subconscious telling me rosé, s’il vous plait when I was selecting today’s blush images.

Powdery pink wildflowers (credit: Air Kissed):

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Open your eyes and see:

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Palm Springs, CA (image by Monika Tischer):

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Modern fairytale tablescape with amazing stationery (image by Noah ang Holiegh Abercrombie):

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Watermelon mojito spotted on A Subtle Revelry (image by Cameron Whitman):

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 Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Mentés

Mentés

Preserving 101: How to Sterilize Jars

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Welcome back! In the second part of the blog series, we are going to discuss jars, lids and the sterilization process.

According to USDA, glass jars are the best choice for home canning because with careful handling, they may be reused many times. When canning properly, you can achieve an excellent vacuum and glass breakage is very rare. Tempered, Mason-type jars dedicated to home canning are sold widely, but most commercial jars may just as well be used. Every glass jar could be weakened by repeated use however. Seemingly insignificant scratches can cause cracking, and lids get tired after a while too. Make sure your glassware is free of nicks, check the condition of rubber seals on the lids.

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Before every use, wash jars in hot water with detergent and rinse well (or wash in a dishwasher), let dry upside down on a clean teatowel. After this your jars are not ready to be filled yet! Choose from the 3 methods below to sterilize them. Be extra careful not to burn yourself. Jars and lids will be very hot, wear kitchen gloves to protect your hands.

Oven dry heat sterilization. Put pre-washed jars upright on a metal tray not touching each other, transfer to preheated oven for 45 min. on 160°C, 25 min. on 180°C, or 10 min. on 200°C.

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Boiling-water sterilization. Put jars right side up in a large pot with a rack at the bottom, fill with enough water to cover them completely. Bring water to a boil and simmer for 10 min. Remove and drain hot sterilized jars.

Steam sterilization. Some modern, top-of-the-line dishwashers have steam cycles (look for `Sanitize´ option) capable of reaching and maintaining 70°C or above. If yours is like that, simply fill it up with jars and let it do the rest for you.

Sterilizing lids. Use the boiling-water method. Dry heat can damage the rubber gaskets and thin out plastic parts, resulting in bad seal.

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There! You did everything to make sure your containers are safe to fill with all the deliciousness, and it wasn’t even complicated. And now, onto packing processes in the next part of the series. Stay tuned!

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

The heat is on! Some of the best memories are made in flip flops, so go out there this weekend, have fun, relax, eat well and spend quality time with loved ones. Oh and before you do that, check out these airy images:

Ethereal olive branches (photo by Jose Villa):

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Mark these words:

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The lights of sunset:

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This blush outfit from Instagram:

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These textures spotted on Madam Stoltz:

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Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Preserving 101: Principles of Canning

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Summer gardening season is in full swing, and we are starting to enjoy this year’s harvest. For some of us there will be a surplus, and when it comes to what the hell am I going to do with all these {…} (fill in gap), preserving is the answer. I am not an experienced canner, but the women in my family are. Watching the process (and enjoying the outcome) a million times over, I feel the time has come to join the club. Funny, this turning 30 thing. First yeast dough, and now this… 🙂

Home canning is a fulfilling experience and an economical way to preserve quality produce, not to mention a source of pride when the food is enjoyed by family and friends. In order not to let your hard work go to waste, we need to talk about proper canning practices. This topic should not be taken lightly, as all the advantages will be lost when poor quality products are used, seals are failing, and food is spoiling. I’ve read USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning so you don’t have to, and I actually found it fascinating. Am I a weirdo? Sure, but hey, my father is a microbiologist. Certain things just run in the blood I suppose.

And so, I’ve decided to break down the very basics of preserving for you in a series of posts. Preserving 101 is meant to be your (and my) guide for home canning, and I will be referring back to it in future posts. Hope you’ll find it useful!

How does canning work? Due to the high percentage of water in them, most fresh foods are very perishable. Bacteria, mold and yeasts start multiplying quickly on the surface and inside bruised, damaged parts. Enzymes activize, and reactions with oxygen start soon after harvesting. Washing and peeling only reduces the number of germs slightly. Proper canning on the other hand removes oxygen, destroys enzymes and prevent the growth of microorganisms.

Food safety. I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure the destruction of the largest expected number of microorganisms. Consuming spoiled food may cause health issues ranging from a light tummy ache to lethal food poisoning. Botulism, a deadly form of toxication is caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. These spores are harmlessly present in the soil, but when ideal conditions exist (moist, low acidity food and absence of air) they start producing a deadly toxin. Fortunately, health hazards can be avoided by following a few simple routines.

What are proper canning practices? Carefully select and wash fresh, properly matured food, discard of diseased, insect-damaged pieces and bruised parts. Peel, if applicable. Use sterilized, undamaged jars and lids. Always maintain adequate temperatures and processing times. Add preservatives such as citric acid, vinegar, sugar or salt. Form high vacuum in jars to achieve tight seals in order to keep liquid, air and microorganisms out.

If you are not frightened off yet (you shouldn’t be!), drop by later for the next piece on the subject of canning and learn how to sterilize jars. It’s very uncomplicated, you’ll see!

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

Hi guys! Since the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem: my name is Fruzsina and I am an Ikea addict. Today, I am going to share my top picks from this year’s summer sale (in case you haven’t noticed: IT’S ON!):

FULLFÖLJA notepad now 34% off:

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GILTIG carafe now 54% off:

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JACKFRUKT herb scissors now 34% off:

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SOMMAR 2016 apron now 50% off:

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SOMMAR 2016 tray now 41% off:

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Images from Ikea Hungary

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

How to Dry Herbs

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While the herbs from your herb garden are best used fresh, this time of the year there is always more than you can handle. But, there are ways you can make your herb garden last and enjoy the home-grown, summer flavors all year. Read on to learn one of the basic methods: how to dry herbs in a few simple steps. Your own dried herbs will not cost you a dime and will taste better than store-bought because they’ll be newer and more pungent.

If you are interested in preserving foods, dehydrating is the easiest place to jump in. For effective drying, all you need is air circulation and warmth. When herbs are dried, they are safe from bacteria, mold and yeast, and will remain potent for a whole year. It can take a few hours to several days for them to dry fully. Most herbs contain so little moisture that your job is done soon after you’ve harvested them.

What should you dry? Strong leaved herbs tend to be the easiest to deal with. Bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, sage and lavender will usually retain their color and shape without any difficulty. Tender leaved varieties can be a bit trickier. Basil, parsley, mint, tarragon and lemon balm need to be dried quicker to avoid mold.

How to start? Harvest before flowers open. Best time is mid-morning after the dew has dried but before essential oils are burned off by the sun. Washing usually isn’t necessary (if needed, rinse and shake lightly). Remove old, dead, diseased or wilted leaves. Strip large-leaved herbs, such as sage and mint, from their stalks but leave small, feathery herbs like dill, on the stalks until drying is complete.

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image by Parker Fitzgerald

 And now, 3 methods to choose from:

Air drying. Tie stems in bundles. Use rubber bands rather than string, they will tighten around the stems that contract as they dry. Optional: put the bundles in a mesh bag and tie at the neck. Now find a warm, dry spot and hang them upside down. Avoid direct sunlight and humid places such as your kitchen.

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image by Parker Fitzgerald

Making a drying screen is also a good idea. Any wood frame will do (even a picture frame), just staple cheese cloth or mosquito mesh to it. If you are not feeling savvy in this area, ask your SO to help. There’s a great tutorial over at The Herbal Academy to give you an idea. From here, it’s as low-tech as placing the screen outside until herbs are brittle (bring them in at night).

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image by Coleen Codekas

Oven drying. Not an energy-efficient method, but quicker. Lay out herbs evenly on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon to allow ventilation, set oven on low (below 80°C). It takes 1 to 4 hours for them to dry this way.

Drying using a dehydrator. If you don’t have one yet, it is a very good investment. Most dehydrators have adjustable temperature control mechanisms, a fan to circulate air and multiple stacking trays. Follow your machine’s instructions.

How to store? For best flavor, keep the leaves whole until you are ready to use them, then crush or crumble with your fingers. Keep in labeled, dated airtight containers.

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image by Lindsey Johnson

Now you see how effortless drying herbs at home is. I hope you try your hands at it! Be sure to drop by and check the recipes using herbs preserved with this method.

Much love,

Fruzsi

Photo featured in title image by Lucy Akins of Craftberry Bush

Friday Finds

Hi guys! Summer has officially started and it’s getting harder to concentrate on work. Let me help your Friday daydreaming with the following images:

Poppy photographed by Kitty Stevens:

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Be present!

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Vacation vision (found on Tumblr):

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Neutral hues (pashminas as wedding favors) photographed by Jose Villa:

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And this charcuterie plate photographed by KT Merry:

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Happy weekend!

Fruzsi