Goat Cheese & Food Souvenirs

October seems to have been about our Eastern neighbor for me: I’ve been to Romania’s Transylvania region twice this month. First the Negreni Fair with family and also last week, this time on a business trip. Luckily the work was finished with time to spare and we got to do some shopping.

Touristing at it’s best, isn’t it? 🙂 Don’t think roaming the length and breadth of malls or hunting for funny shot glasses though, I’m more interested in experiencing new flavors than blowing hard currency on horrible tees or mugs.

And turns out I’m not the only one: my colleagues were just as eager to try and buy local food as I am so we visited La Colline goat cheese factory (on the DN1 road just outside Turda, towards Cluj Napoca). They have a showroom where you can buy their products for wholesale price.

I like bringing home edible souvenirs from my travels because I believe there’s no better way to experience a new place than by taste: through the distinct regional aromas typical only to that specific area of the world.

Well, chèvre might be a basic for some, but it is a gourmet delight for me. And while nutrition is definitely not the first thing on my mind when I want to indulge in something special, I’ve learnt that compared to cow’s milk products goat dairy is lower in fats, calories and cholesterol, provides more calcium and is easier to digest.

As they say, pleasure is good for health and for the occasional treat, spreading creamy, tangy, rich goat cheese on hot toast is without doubt a very pleasurable thing.

Using local whole milk and traditional French manufacturing techniques (France is the Nr. 1 producer of goat cheeses), La Colline makes all natural, premium fresh and aged goat milk products without any artificial preservatives or additives.

They sell goat milk, yogurt, kefir, semi-mature white cheese in different flavors, spreadable cream cheeses and Camembert-type white mould cheeses. I bought three flavors of the log-like bûche: Classic, Herbes de Provence and Truffle.

la colline chevre

Great for countless dishes both savory and sweet, goat cheese also goes very well with dry red wine and several fruits. It is best at room temperature, so make sure to take out from the fridge and unpack at least half an hour prior to serving.

The Fiance was game as always, the only thing he complains about the goat cheese adventure is he had to wait until I took some photos. (The poor thing!) We started with tasting each off the spoon that turned us into devotees right than and there.

Resisting the urge to binge eat the rest, I made crostinis. The word crostini stands for “little toast” in Italian, and simply it is toasted bread with various toppings. This can be a perfect pre-dinner appetizer and I wouldn’t even call it a recipe because it’s that easy.

goat cheese crostinis

Started off by toasting thick slices of a rustic baguette to make the crunchy, warm base, than spread the cheese and topped it off with Deluxe (Lidl’s premium product range) Fig Spread and a hint of balsamic sauce. This little jar of chutney sat in my pantry for some time now waiting patiently to be utilized and the moment finally came. Oh boy was it worth it! A match made in food heaven. So much flavor! And the texture!

goat cheese crostini with fig chutney

I’m telling you, no fridge magnet will ever have such an effect. And just so you know, we ate all the props too!

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and used services offered by business establishments mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such entities represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

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Friday Finds

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

L.M. Montgomery

Farewell beautiful, colorful October! Time to start preparing for frosty mornings, gloves and candlelit cuddles.

Backyard Berries by Bruce Spencer:

backyard berries

Daily motivation:

anne sweeney quote

Fall in love with burgundy (high waist Paperbag trousers via ASOS):

burgundy trousers

Instomi sideboard by Meyer von Wielligh:

instomi sideboard

Danish butter cookies by Kim Nielsen of Nordic Food & Living:

danish butter cookies

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Baked Oatmeal 3 Ways

baked-oatmeal-3-ways-title

Update: For those of you with lactose intolerance, I’ve made the recipes with almond and soy milk too, they both work fine. Simply substitute 1:1 

You guys over there in the US of A seem to have a national day for just about everything, and I love you for that. Why yes, it’s always a good idea to celebrate and/or raise awareness! I honestly think we should copy-paste your National Day Calendar as-is.

Now I know it’s only Monday, but let the preparations start in time because this Saturday marks not just one, but 3 of your National Days. October 29th is National Cat Day, National Oatmeal Day and also National Hermit Day. Not sure about the latter, but please allow my humble Hungarian self to join in on for the other two.

We share a home with two cats and our feral rescue fur babies are literally the cutest, so that one is obvs. And then, there is oatmeal. Oats, the base for “America’s favorite breakfast” oatmeal, are grown mostly for forage here, but started gaining a footing in our kitchens as well. I personally am a big fan and always keep a few packages of Lidl’s Norwaldtaler or Aldi’s Kunsperone Old-Fashioned Oats in my pantry.

Oats are good for you because they contain a type of soluble fibre that slows down the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream: this slower digestion prevents spikes in blood sugar. Also, oats are a rich source of magnesium, which is key to enzyme function and energy production, and helps prevent heart attacks, aiding the heart muscle and regulating blood pressure.

While all oats start off as oat groats after harvest, there are a variety of table oats depending on how much the unbroken grains were processed. If you need clarification on roasting, steaming, and the difference between steel-cut, rolled and instant oats (like I did), this article will answer all your questions.

For my taste, oats are a little bland on their own, but luckily you can dress this ingredient up nicely to make a warm, delicious and deeply comforting meal to start your day off right. It’s just a texture preference of mine and you don’t need to follow suit, but I buy both coarse and fine oats, and mix the two.

We love oat biscuits (the family fav is a walnut-oat biscuit, a particularly guilty pleasure the recipe of which I plan on sharing as we go deeper into the cold season), and I’ve been making a lot of baked oatmeal as well lately for lazy weekend mornings.

The 3 most popular flavors turned out to be banana, apple pie and pumpkin pie (considering fall is in full swing, no surprise there). They are a total no-brainer and reheat beautifully: just store in the fridge and pop the leftover in the microwave. Enjoy with a huge cup of latte!

You can cut down on the sugar if you like, all the added fruits contain plenty of sweetness. Optionally, toast almonds or chopped walnuts in a dry pan to sprinkle on top of your steaming bowl of a hearty breakfast.

BTW, the HF Coors Shirred Egg French Round chefsware in the pictures? Thrifted at the Negreni Fair for $1.25 each. I can’t help but wonder at the food and the kitchens they’ve seen since manufactured in Inglewood, CA up until they got – undamaged! – to a tiny village on the other side of the globe to be found, bargained at, and taken home by me. All that history!

Without further ado, I give you my baked oatmeal recipes:

banana bread baked oatmeal

Baked Banana Bread Oatmeal

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup milk

2 ripe bananas, smashed

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 medium egg

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F)
  2. In a bowl, mix oats, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla and banana.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to baking dish and bake for about half an hour, until middle is set.

apple pie baked oatmeal

Baked Apple Pie Oatmeal

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup milk

1 cup applesauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 medium egg

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp apple pie spice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F)
  2. In a bowl, mix oats, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla and applesauce.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to baking dish and bake for about half an hour, until middle is set.

pumpkin pie baked oatmeal

Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup milk

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 medium egg

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F)
  2. In a bowl, mix oats, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla and pumpkin puree.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to baking dish and bake for about half an hour, until middle is set.

Love,

Fruzsi

“Healthy cereals for breakfast” photo featured in title image © evening_tao via freepik

 *Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Friday Finds

You are never too old to play in the leaves!

Poppies (photo by Maria Sånge of Green Heart):

dry poppies

It’s an inside job:

happiness is not a checklist Beau Taplin

“Light and mist and dead leaves” photo by Elena Morelli:

autumn forest road

Marbled pillar candles available at Nordic House:

marbled pillar candles

Rosehips on thin wire, how pretty is this? (from Fun Tea Party Ideas)

rosehip heart with twine

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree

make your own pumpkin puree title image

This post was written out of pure necessity. As someone who likes broadening her cooking’s horizon with delicacies from all over the world, incorporating pumpkin and pumpkin spice in my fall meals was obvious. (I mentioned before how in Hungary we don’t really think of pumpkins as dessert. Yet, that is.)

I was determined to make this Pumpkin-Chiffon Pie when, after coming home empty-handed from 3 different supermarkets, I realized canned pumpkin puree is yet another item that might not be available where I live. Major FOMO, right there. After an extensive google search, I found only one place to get it, a shiny gourmet deli for the snobs of Budapest.

The rich snobs, to be precise: a 425 g (15 oz) can of Libby’s is exactly twice as expensive as in the US. In comparison, I paid the equivalent of about $0.4 for 1 kg (35.3 oz) of fresh butternut squash a few weeks back at my local Aldi. That’s such a huge price gap I’ve decided ready-made pumpkin puree is not something I’m willing to splurge on.

No big deal! I will not let such an inconvenience stop me from introducing pumpkin pie to my loved ones, so another google search later I was ready to make my own. Homemade pumpkin puree will do just fine, right until the evil canned Western threat makes its way to the shelfs of our supermarkets. (Can someone start importing it please? Like, now?)

So, if you are lucky to live somewhere so civilized to be able to go to a shop and just buy it, know that we hate you (but keep your eye out for the recipe anyway to avoid colourings, preservatives and stuff like that). But if you are as unfortunate as I am when it comes to canned pumpkin puree, don’t fret because I have the solution.

What you need to make pumpkin puree is – surprise! – just pumpkin. Or squash. There are the sort of people who will be quick to resort to violence over the pumpkin vs. squash question, but since they fall under the same genus and even if ingredient labels read 100% pumpkin, there may also be squash mixed in (full article on the subject here), I hereby declare the debate over. Whichever lifts your skirt!

I find it’s best to roast pumpkin slowly to achieve maximum sweetness and tenderness, without burning it. Depending on the type of pumpkin, the flesh of some are more fibrous. Also, some are moister than others, but these characteristics will not alter the taste of the puree. If you are making a bigger batch using several pumpkins, mix the puree of all the flesh to balance out taste differences of each individual pumpkin.

baked pumpkin chunks

My 4 medium butternut squash filled 2 baking sheets (36×45 cm or 14×17 inch) and yielded 9 cups puree. I froze the batch in cup-sized (250 ml) portions in plastic containers, than turned out the ‘pumpkin cubes’ from the moulds and packed them in individual, labeled plastic bags for convenient use.

baked pumpkin scraped out

Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients

pumpkin or butternut squash

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F), line baking sheet(s) with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Wash pumpkin(s) and cut them to approximately equal chunks. Discard fibrous strands, keep seeds for later use.
  3. Place chunks skin side down on baking sheet and roast until tender, about 1 h 15 min (insert knife to a few slices to check for doneness).
  4. Let cool to room temperature.
  5. Scrape out flesh with a spoon, discard skin.
  6. Pulse in a blender or food processor until puree is homogenous. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed.
  7. Store in the fridge for a few days, or freeze for later use.

Love,

Fruzsi

“Watercolor pumpkin” illustration featured in title image © freepik

Friday Finds

Fall is the time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.

Lauren DeStefano

Moody blooms (photo by Anna Kvarnström):

blooms in the dark

Change is of the essence:

we cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are max depree

Autumn in Paris (Jardin des Tuileries, photo by Rebecca Plotnick):

Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

Sweaters & firewood (photo by Bethany Marie):

sweater and firewood

Glazed, crackly porchetta sandwiches (by Mandy of Lady & Pups):

porchetta sandwich

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

 

Travel Diary: Transylvanian Flea Market

Hey guys! Today’s post is an ode to the semi-annual Negreni Fair, an event famed among connoisseurs for being the biggest antiques market of the region. This place, with a sense of capitalism to it that would make Marx spin in his grave, should have the motto ‘You name it, we sell it’.

blacksmith's bellows
Blacksmith’s bellows infested with wood-boring beetles

Targul de la Negreni, or Körösfeketetói Vásár is held twice a year in a small village in Cluj (Kolozs) county, Romania, occupying the picturesque mountain meadow and both shores of river Crișul Repede (Sebes Körös).

Every second weekend of June and October, the place is host to one of, if not the biggest, but surely the most incredible markets of Central-Eastern Europe, with thousands buying and selling everything imaginable and beyond simply spread out on the ground. The railway runs across the market area, with trains sounding their horns when approaching.

negreni fair and train

If I have to describe this event in a few words, I’d say disorganized, crowded and uncoordinated, yet totally fascinating. A colorful, noisy, busy chaos.

roller printers for wallpaper
Antique roller printers for wallpaper

Also a splendid occasion to study mob psychology, group behaviorism and psychology of mercantilism. It’s amusing to experience the transition from tradition to globalisation, from communism to capitalism, from authenticity to imported knock-offs.

compur old plate camera
German plate camera from the 1920’s

Traditionally, fairs provided opportunity for people from different regions not only to buy and sell, but also to meet relatives and friends. Nowadays most of them are reduced to folklorized kitsch-fests. Negreni Fair on the other hand still maintains its original function on a huge scale.

soviet manpack transceiver
Early 50’s soviet manpack transceiver

Locals both Romanian and Hungarian by nationality, gypsies from all over Romania, antiques dealers, collectors and curious tourists alike show up on the river banks to bargain, eat, drink and socialize the weekend away.

old seltzer bottles
Vintage seltzer bottles in their original crate

Handcrafts, antiques, souvenirs of the past political era, household utensils, second-hand, vintage and new clothing, livestock, furniture, art, relics, all sorts of goods from authentic gems to worthless rubbish are up for sale.

vintage demijohns
Set of old demijohns

In my estimation, a good 2/3 of the merchandise is really just piles and piles of utter, total junk, but with a sharp eye you can dig up true treasure. As they say, one man’s trash…

Mona Lisa reproduction
Junk vs. treasure

Nobody gets out without buying something that’s most probably not needed in their lives. Euphoria kicks in around so much exciting stuff. It’s an addictive frenzy! Once you visited, you are sure to want to go next year. Trust me, it was my 5th time there.

moskvich pedal car
Every Eastern Bloc kid’s dream from the 70’s: Moskvich pedal car

Are you excited to go yet?

These are my top tips & tricks:

  • Book accommodation either at Oradea (Nagyvárad) or Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvár) where you can find decent and affordable hotels and restaurants.
  • Parking is available on the spot for a small fee (10 RON) and they will keep an eye on the vehicles. Admittance is a laughable 1 RON.
  • Try blending in as much as possible, otherwise you’d be spotted for a tourist from miles, and prices will mysteriously double with no chance of bargaining.
  • Layered clothing is best and wear flat, comfortable, sturdy shoes. Don’t expect any pavement, it’s dirt paths all over. Bring a bag with straps that leaves both your hands free, preferably in front of you to always have an eye on valuables. Plus, something to carry the bounty in (hello, big blue Ikea bag!).
  • Have a shopping plan: the offer is so immense it’s impossible to check out everything. My top picks are branded china, vintage glass- and silverware, old linens and candle holders.
  • You will need lots of small change in the local currency. Do not flash out big notes, let alone Euros (see being spotted for a tourist)! Needless to say, there are no credit card terminals or ATMs.
  • Your survival kit should include hand sanitizer/wet wipes. Forget restrooms, even mobile toilets. Not joking!
  • Don’t be afraid to eat at the food tents, it’s mostly freshly grilled meat. Satisfy your sweet tooth (and send your blood sugar over the roof) with the world-famous kürtőskalács (chimney cake) chargrilled in front of your eyes. Local beers are good (go for Ciuc or Ursus), but be careful with pálinka, it has a tendency of causing irresponsible behaviour.  🙂

original chimney cake

See you there next time!

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

 October is about trees revealing colors they’ve hidden all year.

Jm Storm

Look at these robin’s egg blue pumpkins! (Photo by dhrenjilian, via Flickr)

robins egg blue pumpkins

Trust the Finnish architect on this one:

beauty is the harmony of purpose and form quote by alvar aalto

This place… It makes me want to believe in wood nymphs. (Nordvika beach, the Lofoten Islands, Norway via Tumblr)

Nordvika beach, the Lofoten Islands

This grey cashmere sweater looks so cozy. Also, I want the nail color! (Photo source unknown)

light grey V-neck sweater

Love the mood of this photo. Dinner rolls by Kristen of Dine & Dish.

dinner rolls on grey fabric

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Mentés

Pantry Staples: Apple & Pumpkin Pie Spice

pantry staples apple and pumpkin pie spice cover

Ah, apples and pumpkins on the stalls of the greengrocer. A sure sign of fall, and a cheerful one at that. These two offer so much opportunity, and I personally can not get enough of them.

Apple equals pie, that is indisputable. For most of us here in Hungary though, pumpkin pie still sounds kind of exotic.

Not that we don’t eat pumpkin: my relatives have fond memories of fall evenings and the smell of roasting butternut squash emerging from their sparhelt (a typical cookstove every household used before gas was introduced to villages).

But that was about it: roasting pumpkin. Cream soups become popular not so long ago, and we are just getting used to the idea of a vegetable (when it’s actually a fruit) as dessert.

Apple pie and pumpkin pie spice are two blends that seem to be so common in the U.S., they are sold alongside regular spices in the baking isle of supermarkets, and are frequently called for in recipes without much explanation.

Well, we don’t happen to have them here just yet, so I did some digging and decided to mix my own at home. And you can, too! There’s no need to buy packaged anyway when you most likely already have the ingredients sitting in your pantry.

apple and pumpkin pie spice

When thinking of these sweet fall staples, cinnamon pops into mind first and indeed, it is a key component in these spice mixes. We could stop right there, but let’s add more flavor to the equation!

The beauty of making your own spice blend is (aside from being a lot more economical than buying ready-made) that you can tweak ratios to complement your taste perfectly. Use this as a guide and adjust to taste if you prefer.

apple and pumpkin pie spice

Apple Pie Spice

Ingredients

1/4 cup ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground allspice

2 tsp ground nutmeg

2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Ingredients

1/4 cup ground cinnamon

2 tbsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)

Since you’re going to be storing the mix, it is not crucial to use freshly ground ingredients. Measure spices into a small plastic or ziplock bag, and shake to mix well. Store mix in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Oh, and don’t feel restricted by the word ‘pie’ above! Absolutely use these spice mixes in just about every recipe calling for apple and pumpkin, even pears and plums.

Fruzsi

“Store shelves with goods” illustration featured in title image © Redspruce