10 Absolute Steals from Aliexpress

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right away: I’m no fan of copyright infringement to say the least, and I am well aware of the bad rap Alibaba Group is getting. Asia’s biggest Internet company has, on multiple occasions, been labeled a haven for knockoffs and put on the blacklist for fakes, surely not entirely without grounds.

Despite their damaged credibility in the U.S. though, I’m determined to demonstrate to you how AliExpress can still be your go-to for scoring pretty cool (and not fraudulent) stuff by showing you some of my favorite purchases on the global retail marketplace.

To call the following items affordable would be an understatement, dirt cheap explains the case better. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder, how on earth is it possible to maintain such offers? And it’s not just the prices either!

It’s true I could get some of these items locally from brick-and-mortar shops, but why would I really, when I can order from the convenience of my home to be delivered – with free shipping! – right to my doorsteps.

You might argue the importance of keeping local enterprises in business and I wholeheartedly agree, especially when it comes to the food economy (see my thoughts on honey). These products however are not made here. Stores are just re-selling them, probably sourced from the very same place anyway.

I don’t mind the waiting either, because what I buy from the site is never needed acutely. It arrives when it arrives, usually within 2-3 weeks (20-60 days being the official estimated shipping time).

But what about buyer protection? In hundreds (oh my!) of transactions, the few problems I had so far were all satisfyingly resolved. With full refunds if you don’t receive your order, and partial or full money-back guarantee if your item is not as described, you are covered.

Still not convinced? Check out these products and remember, you’re just a few clicks away from such bargains. Thank me later 🙂

10 Absolute Steals from AliExpress:

Chalkboard stickers. Reusable and removable in different shapes, 8 pcs from $0.37.

chalkboard stickers

Paper cupcake liners. Many shapes, sizes and patterns, 20-50-100 pcs starting from $0.63/lot.

paper muffin liner

Paper straws. For all your soirées from $0.86/25 pcs, in many colors and patterns.

 

paper straws

Glass vials with cork. I’m thinking favors! Different shapes and sizes available, per piece or per lot.
glass vials with cork

Baker’s twine. 4-8-12 ply, over 40 colors available (even metallics!) by yard or spool.

baker's twine

Kraft paper tags. Many shapes and sizes starting at $0.16, from 10 up to 1000 pcs.

kraft paper tag labels

Silicone moulds. Unbelievable selection for ice cubes, chocolate, fondant or even candles.

silicone heart mould

Tea bags. Empty, with a string seal. Get 100 pcs for as low as $1.12

tea bags

Satin ribbons. With different widths, a variety of length and all colors of the rainbow.

satin ribbon

Cookie cutters. The cutest, funniest and weirdest you’ll ever find, starting from $0.46

jigsaw cookie cutterLove,

Fruzsi

All images via AliExpress

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and/or 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, commissions or gifts.*

Friday Finds

April, April, laugh thy girlish laughter, and the moment after, Weep thy girlish tears, April.

– Angus Wilson

Dusty rose peonies (via Ma Sérendipité):

dusty rose peonies

You are responsible for your own happiness:

her own world

DIY modern pom pom pillow (by Molly of Almost Makes Perfect):

pom pom pillow

Ivory Farmhouse Canisters from Pier1:

ivory farmhouse canisters

Content and comfy (via Tumblr):

comfy cat

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Crème de la Crème: Mom’s Liptauer

hungarian liptauer

Quick and easy to prepare, körözött is a tangy cheese spread very popular in Hungary. Such a word must be close to impossible for most of you to pronounce, but good news: it’s also known as Liptauer (pron. lip-tower).

The name derives from Liptau, German for the Northern Slovakian region Liptov that is also called Liptó, for it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Why yes, it was quite busy around here in the last 1100+ years 🙂

I’m sure after this brief lesson in history it will come as no surprise that Liptauer appears in cuisines of all our surrounding countries. And if you guessed it’s made a little different everywhere, you were right. Let me tell you how much so!

Not every nation, not every region, not even every family, but each household has a very own recipe. Liptauer is a highly personal matter, regardless of the fact that all are variations on the same theme. Now good luck determining the „original”!

One thing that’s sure: the recipe was based on Bryndza, a type of sheep milk cheese but nowadays it’s usually prepared with quark (the same cottage cheese-like dairy product that makes my country’s favorite dumplings).

Liptauer is traditionally eaten on an open sandwich or toast, but is equally delicious as a dip with crackers or raw vegetables. An essential to every picnic basket and a great side to your leftover Easter ham as well.

hungarian liptauer on bread

The recipe below comes from my mother. I was spooning it straight out the bowl not once – that is how deep my love for it goes, but don’t tell her that. She is from Veszprém county so we could consider it Liptauer à la Balaton-Highlands, but other family members from the same region would surely disagree. So why do I still think it appropriate to raise this one a little above others?

Because we have been asked to share the recipe on multiple occasions and some friends specifically ask us to bring this to potlucks. It must be hard for the uninitiated to understand the full complexity of this high art, but in a country where everyone’s fully convinced of the superiority of their own recipes, this is quite a big deal.

hungarian liptauer

So, Liptauer: seasoned quark with onion, sour cream and butter. Did you just say margarine? I’d heard rumors to that effect but as your informal representative in this matter, I would strongly advise against that. Oh and no cumin in this one either. #sorrynotsorry

Hungarian Liptauer Spread

  • Time: 10 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A tangy cheese spread popular in Central-Eastern Europe.

Ingredients

250 g quark

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black peppecorns, ground

2 tsp paprika powder

1 small onion, or half of a medium one

2-3 tbsp sour cream

1 1/2 tbsp butter, cold

Directions

  1. Peel and very finely chop onion.
  2. Put quark in a medium bowl. Season, add paprika, onion and thin slices of the cold butter. Give it a good stir with a fork.
  3. Add sour cream 1 tbsp at a time, and mix until you reach desired consistency (quark can be creamier or more crumbly depending on the producer and fat content).
  4. Let rest for 1 hour before serving.
  5. Keep refrigerated, but it won’t spoil if you take it on a picnic).

What is your favorite schmear?

Love,

Fruzsi

Easter Ham With a Shortcut

easter ham platter

Gadget of the Day: the pressure cooker. I was planning on raving about this device for some time and what an opportunity presented itself: the crown jewel of the Easter table, no less!

Definitely not in my top 5 when it comes to frequency of use and not the cheapest cookware either, a pressure cooker is an item well worth investing in nonetheless. But what the heck does it actually do?

Glad you asked! If you’re into science to some degree, you’ll find this interesting. If not, feel free to skip the next paragraph or, you could read on and tick the ‘Today I Learned’ box.

Invented in 1679 by French physicist Denis Papin, the pressure cooker is a vessel with a lid that seals airtight, fitted with a regulator valve for the slow and safe release of steam. The method is quite simple: during the cooking process, pressure builds up inside the pot increasing the boiling point of the cooking liquid.

Why is this any good? Because the cooking time shortens – you get the same result as if the food has been braised long and slow, but much quicker and with less energy used.

As I mentioned my pressure cooker isn’t out very often, but there are a few dishes I haven’t made in any other pan since I bought it. And Easter Ham is one of them.

cooked easter ham

BTW, have you ever wondered why we eat ham on Easter when under Jewish dietary laws pork is strictly forbidden? The answer is actually quite profane: it’s in season. Just like fruits and vegetables, meats also have seasons even if this fact is mostly shielded from us by modern storage techniques and efficient food supply chains.

So the tradition of eating pork instead of lamb to celebrate Christ’s resurrection started for practical reasons. Salted, smoked and cured hams of pigs slaughtered in the winter are ready to eat in the spring. And what a reward to think about during a long period of Lent!

easter ham slices

In Hungary, we cook our ham for Easter. Traditionally I mean as I, for one, love to prepare the roasted and glazed variety too. For this dish I buy boneless, cured, smoked and netted shoulder cuts with the skin on. These are smaller pieces around 1,5 kg / 3.3 lbs, but would still feed an army (remember to leave room for all the other holiday delicacies!).

Naturally, you can make this in an average pot, but this way the cooking won’t take up half a day. Just put all ingredients in the pressure cooker, set the stove on high to reach boiling, than reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Steam and pressure will do the rest in less than an hour. Top tip: the remaining broth worth its weight in gold and it’s freezable!

I like to do the cooking the night before. After the meat has cooled slightly in the stock, I transfer it to a tray and carefully remove the netting. After a night’s resting, we eat it thinly sliced on Easter morning with hard-boiled eggs, radishes, spring onions, tangy horseradish sauce and fresh braided challah.

When I am to roast ham, I cook it the same way first. What if this year you stopped at that stage too?

Hungarian Easter Ham

  • Time: 1 h 15 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Cooked, not roasted: the Hungarian Easter classic.

Ingredients

smoked, netted ham around 1,5 kg

2 bay leaves

1 medium onion

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp whole black or mixed peppercorns

cold water

Directions

  1. Put ham, peeled onions and spices in the pressure cooker, fill up pot with cold water to cover ham.
  2. Close lid. Cook on high until boiling, reduce heat to low.
  3. Counting from reducing the heat, simmer for 40 min.
  4. Switch stove off. Let cool for at least 30 min, open pressure cooker.
  5. Transfer ham to a tray, remove netting.
  6. Strain cooking liquid through a sieve and keep for later use.
  7. Let ham cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

easter ham with egg

easter ham with egg

Do you also eat ham come Easter? How do you do it in your country? What do you eat it with?

Happy Easter!

Love,

Fruzsi

Opening Grill Season With Langalló, the Hungarian Pizza

hungarian langallo flatbread

Grill season is here and I couldn’t be happier! I’ve a smile on my face just thinking of all the F&Bs we’re going to consume this year on the patio. Our back yard is not huge by any measure, but that’s not stopping us from doing cookouts. Let the good times roll!

It’s true the weather can be quite unpredictable in April around here (it’s sunny and then a minute later there’s a shower) so to open garden season, I thought we’d play it safe. In the time Husband mowed the lawn and I tended to my awakening herb garden, a batch of langalló dough has risen nicely.

Langalló (pron. laan-gaallow), also called kenyérlángos (pron. ken-yeer-laan-gosh) is a type of flat bread baked with various toppings. Traditional Hungarian fast-food, or our take on pizza if you please. Let’s start with a brief lesson in history. I promise to keep it short!

hungarian langallo flatbread

Still with me? Great! So according to the Hungarian Baker Association, we eat langalló since the 14th century. Round and somewhat thicker than the Italian cousin, it was the typical meal of bread baking days: prepared from the leftover dough after loaves were shaped, eaten fresh out the furnace.

Today, we don’t have to bake bread to eat langalló, it’s available at bakeries and is a favorite of fairs, markets and festivals. The shape changed to rectangular over time to fit commercial baking trays, but it’s still best eaten fresh and warm.

Baked in a hot oven until golden, langalló smells and tastes like fresh bread. Crust should be crunchy outside and soft inside. Classic toppings include cottage cheese with dill, sour cream with garlic, smoked sausage slices, bacon or pancetta, red onions, grated cheese and – although not as often as I would like – bone marrow or duck cracklings.

A very filling meal high in simple carbs and fats of not exactly the best kind. Precisely what was needed in the times people worked on the fields from dawn till dusk, but not exactly what we call healthy these days.

But it’s OK to indulge sometimes when you’re on an otherwise balanced diet, and making langalló is doing it good while you’re at it. Just wait until you smell the baking bread and roasting garlic!

hungarian langallo flatbread

Sadly, I don’t have a wood-burning furnace and while that would be peak hygge for me, the oven is an acceptable compromise. Surely, smoke adds more flavor to any food but it adds more clothes to the laundry as well, so let’s just count our blessings on this one shall we. 🙂

Back to the dough: it’s not at all complicated, basically just flour, water, salt and yeast. Additionally, almost every recipe calls for boiled potatoes and I use them too to soften the dough (remember reserving the cooking water to add extra starch).

Whichever topping you decide on, be it traditional or something entirely let’s-see-what-we-have-in-the-fridge kind of spontaneous, I’m warning you: beer and wine spritzers go equally well with langalló. Are you drooling yet?

Hungarian Langalló

  • Time: 2 h 30 min total
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

A type of flat bread baked with seriously sinful toppings.

Ingredients

For the dough:

500 g (4 cups) bread flour

1,5 tsp salt

1 medium potato

300 ml (10 fl oz) of the boiling water reserved

3 tbsp vegetable oil

20 g (0.7 oz) fresh yeast

Toppings:

250 ml (1 cup) sour cream

2 garlic cloves

50 g (½ cup) grated cheddar

2 medium red onions

200 g (7 oz) bacon or smoked sausage

Directions

  1. Peel, cube and boil potato. Reserve 300 ml of the cooking water, set aside. Mash potato with a fork and let cool.
  2. Sift flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer attached with the dough hook, add mashed potato, oil and lukewarm boiling water, crumble yeast on top.
  3. Start kneading on low until dough comes together, then increase speed to medium. Knead until dough is shiny and not sticking to the side of the bowl.
  4. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 45 min.
  5. While dough is rising, prepare toppings: season sour cream with salt and pepper to taste, add crushed garlic. Grate cheese, peel and thinly slice red onions, cut bacon or sausages. Set aside.
  6. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.
  7. Turn dough on a lightly floured surface, roll out and fit into baking tray.
  8. Top dough: cover with sour cream, pile on cheese, onions and bacon or sausage.
  9. Preheat oven to 200°C / 400°F, let dough rise until oven is heating up.
  10. Bake until crust is golden, about 30 min. Serve warm. Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite foods to prepare outdoors during warmer months? By the way, grill or BBQ? Store bought spice mixes (which brand?) or secret family concoctions? I’d love to hear it all!

Love,

Fruzsi