While I generally have no trouble consuming cheese before it goes bad, occasionally a piece will get hidden in my refrigerator and remain undiscovered until it is pretty far gone. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to revive that hardened chunk of deliciousness, making it even better than it was the first time around? I am happy to tell you, there is!
I was delighted to learn about a preservation technique for cheeses that are well past their prime. It has been used for centuries in Spain where it is called queso en aceite, or cheese in oil. The fat in the oil acts as a barrier to bacteria and keeps the cheese fresh despite not being refrigerated. It is rumored that Christopher Columbus brought oil-cured cheese on his transatlantic voyages.
The cheese must be a hard or semi-hard cheese, such as parmesean, peccorino, aged cheddar, or manchego. When I stumbled across this information, I just happened to have two such specimens in my refrigerator, a parmigiano-reggiano and a manchego. I had to give it a try!
First, trim off any rind and/or wax.
Slice the cheese into sticks or slices. Use a heavy duty knife for this and be careful! It may require some effort to slice through very hard or dried out cheese.
Place the cheese in a jar that has a tightly fitting lid. If desired, you can add additional flavor to the cheese by adding a clove of garlic, a few peppercorns, a spring of rosemary, some dried red pepper flakes, or other spices. Pour in enough olive oil to completely cover the cheese. It is important to use good quality 100% extra virgin olive oil as the flavor of the oil will transfer to the cheese.
Put the lid on tightly and place the jar in the back of a cabinet or other cool dark place where it will not be disturbed or exposed to light. Let it sit for at least one month and up to four months. The cheese will soften as it absorbs the oil and will become infused with the flavors of the olive oil and seasonings.
I added a sprig of rosemary and some black peppercorns to my manchego, and a clove of garlic and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes to the parmigiano-reggiano. I also put a note on my calendar to remind myself to check them a month after putting them up.After one month in the olive oil, the oil had begun to permeate the cheese, but because my cheeses were quite hard, I decided to let them marinate for a second month. After the second month, the cheese had become softer and creamier. The parmigiano-reggiano had absorbed the garlic flavor and had a bit of heat from the red pepper flakes. The manchego was infused with the flavor of the rosemary and black peppercorns.
Preserving cheese takes only a few minutes and turns a pricey food item that might have been discarded into a delicacy. The next time you are ready to toss out that hardened piece of cheese, I urge you to give this technique a try.
The start of a new year is a good time to re-think old habits and ways of doing things. I began this blog at the beginning of last year and made it my goal to post every Monday morning for one whole year. This goal was intended to help build up a catalog of posts which would cover a wide range of “eclectic” topics. I accomplished my goal and am proud of this accomplishment.
However, in evaluating my work, I realized that there were some weeks that I didn’t have much to say. I found myself in a frenzy on Sunday night to write something just to meet my self-imposed goal. Because this blog is intended to be inspirational, and perhaps occasionally even aspirational, I believe this is best accomplished when true inspiration strikes me.
So this year I’ve decided that I will continue to post regularly, but not necessarily weekly. I want posts to be of interest to my readers and to contain information and photos that I am consistently proud of. Realizing that inspiration doesn’t always strike in a consistent or predictable manner, I hope my readers will appreciate this effort to improve the quality of Eclectic Girl Lifestyle Designs.
I sincerely appreciate all of you who read this blog and I hope you will keep reading. As always, I welcome your feedback. Happy 2018!
My sweet husband recently returned from a trip to New Orleans and was so thoughtful as to bring home a big bag of beignets from the famed Café du Monde in the French Market. If you’ve ever been to this landmark destination, you undoubtedly enjoyed hot beignets doused in confectioner’s sugar with a steaming cup of cafe au lait. While I truly appreciated my husband’s good intentions, I knew that even after a few hours in the bag, the beignets had lost much of their original yumminess.
I tried to restore their original soft pillowy texture by reheating them in the oven, steaming, and microwaving, but found all of these techinques lacking. They came out either too hard, too chewy, or gummy in texture.
I decided that making bread pudding from the beignets was probably the best way to redeem these treats. Paying tribute to New Orleans, a creamy whiskey sauce seemed the ideal accompaniment.
While you may not be able to make this recipe with beignets from Café du Monde, it can be made with any type of day old sweet bread–donuts, pastries, panettone, or even croissants. If you use a bread that is not very sweet, croissants, for example, add 1/4 cup of sugar to the recipe.
5 from 1 vote
Beignet Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
10-12beignets, donuts or other sweet pastries
1cuphalf and half
Cut beignets into 1" x 1" pieces. Whisk together eggs, half and half, milk and vanilla together. Add spices and salt and incorporate.
Pour over beignets and allow to sit at room temperature for at least one hour or until the beignets have fully absorbed the custard mix.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes or until set.
5 from 1 vote
2cupshalf and half
Over medium heat, combine the half and half and sugar. Mix the cornstarch with whiskey in a small bowl and whisk to blend until the mixture is smooth. Add whiskey mixture into the cream mixture and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the salt and stir in the butter.
Pour warm sauce generously over the top of the beignet bread pudding.
For some reason it took me longer than usual to get my home decorated for the holidays this year. While I usually get it done over a weekend, this year it seemed to evolve over several weeks following Thanksgiving. I’ve shared my holiday toy truck, shirt pillow and snow globe projects with you in previous posts. In this post, I thought I’d show you a few other things I’ve done around the house to decorate for the holidays.
Rolled up red and white hand towels are displayed on the bamboo shelf. A cinnamon spiced candle surrounded by pine cones and cedar adds festive color and fragrance to the bathroom.
A red velour pillow, a scented candle and a faux fur throw cozy up the master bedroom.
I’d like to sincerely thank all my dear readers for your support and encouragment during my first year as a blogger. Every comment, like, share, pin, or repost means the world to me. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. Merry Christmas!
Snow globes and terrariums have been around forever. These miniature worlds under glass have always seemed to capture the imagination. And why not? They have a magical quality that evokes childhood memories and wonder.
I recently purchased a glass cloche for the purpose of creating my own holiday-themed miniature world. Going through my collection of Christmas ornaments, I found a couple of ceramic figurines of ice skaters which were the perfect focal point for my scene. Using a vintage silver serving bowl as my base, I filled it with fluffy fake snow. A few bottle brush trees of varying sizes were nestled in around the figurines. A wooden sleigh ornament added another texture to the scene. This little world requires more than a glance to take in, and brings detail and whimsy to my holiday decor.
I enjoyed creating this little scene and once I got started, there was no stopping me! I realized that just about any clear glass container could be used for such a project and set about my home to find other vessels from which to make more snow globes.
I learned a few things the hard way while working on this project. I had to disassemble and re-do my globes several times, so I’m sharing my tips in hopes you won’t make the same mistakes.
Tips for Making Snow Globes
The wider the mouth of your jar, the more space you will have to create your scene, so look for jars with large lids.
A pretty ribbon around the jar lid edge covers any printing and adds a bit of elegance. Glue ribbon around the edge of the jar lid first.
Test your scene inside the jar (with the lid screwed on) to make sure everything fits before adding snow. I made the mistake of putting everything perfectly in place only to find my tree was too tall to fit inside the jar!
In order to lift the scene enough to be clearly visible above the snow, you will likely need to elevate your pieces. I used a wine cork sliced into rounds to raise my ornaments a bit. Adhere your ornaments to the cork with glue.
Once you are satisfied with the appearance and fit of your scene, secure the ornaments to the lid with glue.
Place the snow inside the jar.
With your figures upside down, place the lid onto the jar. Then turn it upright so that the snow falls onto your scene. You may need to shake it a bit in order to settle the snow evenly between your figurines.
This is a project that can probably be made with things you already have on hand. While Christmas ornaments make great focal points, don’t limit yourself to them. A bird’s nest, pine cones, or other natural elements also look lovely surrounded by snow and placed under glass.
So I urge you not to toss that pickle jar when the pickles run out! Use it to create your own snow globe for the holidays. I think you’ll find this project will spark your imagination and fill your home fill with a touch of magic.
For me, a big part of decorating for the holidays includes changing out pillows in nearly every room of my home. It’s an easy and inexpensive thing to do that infuses the house with the Christmas spirit. When the season is over, I simply remove the holiday pillow cover and put a different cover on the pillow form. Storing pillow covers takes up little space and allows me to continuously change up the look of my rooms.
Last year, I made holiday pillow covers from a place mat, sweaters, a skirt, a flannel nightgown, and even a velour bath robe. This year, I added to my collection with a pillow cover made from a flannel shirt.
I found this bold red and black buffalo check men’s flannel shirt at the thrift store and knew the print would be perfect for my holiday decor. Here’s how I transformed it into a pillow.
Measure first. This shirt was exactly 20″ across and my pillow form measured 20″ X 20″ so I was able to use the existing side seams without having to cut or sew them.
Button the shirt completely and spread it out on a table so that it lies flat, making sure there are no wrinkles on either side.
Cut straight across the top of the shirt just under the sleeves. Then, cut straight across the bottom so that the total length is approximately an inch larger than your pillow form. If your shirt is larger than your pillow form, cut 1/2″ larger than your pillow form on each side. This shirt’s checked pattern made cutting a straight line rather easy.
4. Now, turn it inside out so that the right sides of the fabric are together. Pin across the cut edges and then sew the edges together.
5. Unbutton the shirt and turn it right side out. Ironing the seams open before turning creates a more professional look, especially if your fabric is stiff. With the tip of your scissors, poke out the corners so that you get nice sharp points on all four corners.
6. Insert your pillow form, button it up, and ta-da–you’ve just made a pillow from a shirt!
Would you believe this pillow only took about 15 minutes to make? It’s a fun, easy way to recycle old shirts. When the season is over, I’ll remove this cover and put on a different one, but right now I’m enjoying the cozy look it brings to my living room.
Do you have any old shirts that would make great pillows? If so, I encourage you to give this project a try. It’s easier than you think.
I recently read the book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. It opened my eyes to the shocking process by which most of the world’s olive oil is produced and sold. While we know much about the health benefits of olive oil, these benefits convey only via fresh, pure, unadulterated olive oil. Unfortunately, there is little chance the mass produced olive oil you buy at your local grocery store actually contains “100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil” as the label claims. Because of lax standards in regulating the industry abroad, and due to lack of truth-in-labeling requirements for imports to the United States, most commercially available olive oil is mixed with other cheaper and less healthy seed oils (e.g., cottonseed, sunflower, canola oil).
Furthermore, due to lengthy shipping times and dubious storage conditions, these inferior quality oils are often rancid by the time they make it to grocery store shelves. Consumption of rancid oils can be deleterious to health. But because the American palate has become accustomed to the taste of these inferior oils, we hardly notice the “off” taste or the adulterated flavor of the olive oils we typically consume.
Mueller educates the reader about how small olive farms can hardly survive in the cut-throat world of international olive oil production. The average consumer tends to base purchasing decisions on the lowest available price and does not realize that the product they are paying for is inferior. As long as consumers are unaware of the poor quality of olive oils they purchase and are unwilling to pay the true cost of quality olive oil, the industry is unlikely to change. And unlike the wine industry in Italy, which became highly regulated after a number of deaths occurred from adulterated wine produced in the 1980s, the olive oil industry has had no such calamity that has forced governments to pass laws and enforce regulations which would implement higher standards.
Now, The Good
In spite of all this bad news, there is hope! As consumers become better educated about the issues surrounding olive oil, small specialty shops have opened throughout the United States that specialize in the real thing. And if you are lucky enough to live in or travel to California, where 99% of the olive oil in the US is produced, you might even be able to visit an olive oil ranch and purchase it directly from the grower.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the 140 acre Pasolivo Ranch in Paso Robles, CA. Not only did I see the olive orchard where the olives are grown, I also received a tour of the milling facility. Afterwards, I was able to taste fresh oil from these very trees and purchase some high quality olive oil to bring home.
Pasolivo harvests their olives by hand in the fall. (It should be noted that most large industrial growers use machines that voilently shake the trees, damaging the trees and bruising the olives in the process.) After harvesting, the olives immediately go through a sorting and cleaning process before they are pressed. The olives and pits are pressed together in one ton batches, creating a thick paste. This pomace undergoes treatment in a centrifuge to separate the oil and remove any naturally occurring water. The oil is then transferred to stainless steel vats. Over the next several months the remaining sediments settle to the bottoms of the tanks and are drained off. Finally, the unfiltered oil is bottled.
The early oil produced in the first two weeks of pressing is called “olio nuovo” or “new oil.” It is highly prized by Italians for its robust grassy flavor but is extremely difficult to come by because of its short-lived and fragile nature. I was lucky enough to get to taste three of Pasolivo’s olio nuovo blends from the 2017 harvest. Comprised of different olive varietals, these very special oils were among the most delicious olive oils I’ve ever tasted. They were all dark green in color, with a fresh, grassy flavor.
The Tasting Room
Pasolivo also produces flavored olive oils, all made with fresh, local ingredients. For example, the lemon flavored oil uses lemon peels that have been pressed to extract the essential oil which is then incorporated into the olive oil. The basil flavored oil is macerated with fresh locally grown basil leaves for a short period of time to impart the wonderful flavor of basil to the oil.
In Pasolivo’s tasting room, visitors are given a complimentary tasting of all eleven types of oil they produce. In addition, they mix up their tasting repertoire with various flavored vinegars and herb/spice/salt mixtures from local producers to give visitors a unique tasting experience and to display the range of uses for their products.
This olive oil was fresh, fruity and pungent, far superior to any mass-produced supermarket olive oil. While its spicy, robust flavors might require a palate adjustment for some people, I loved the intense flavor and the kick in the back of my throat that this oil produced. In fact, knowing that this “kick” is exactly what honest olive oil is supposed to provide, I relished it.
As one might expect, this is not an inexpensive product. The labor intensive process involved in producing these small artisanal batches of liquid gold demands that consumers pay a fair price. Pasolivo offers a membership program where a 15% discount is provided to those agreeing to receive three shipments per year. Knowing that I am getting pure unadulterated olive oil makes this membership well worth the splurge. For more information on their Press Club, click here.
Since reading Extra Virginity I have not looked at olive oil in the same way. And now that I’ve found a great resource for truly excellent olive oil, I will gladly support this industry. I encourage you to seek out local sources for high quality olive oil near you. Let us help create demand for the real thing so that oils of a dubious nature are not allowed to continue to flourish.
For more information on this topic, see the 60 Minutes expose, “AgroMafia” here. Also, Tom Mueller has compiled a list of the best supermarket olive oils at reasonable prices. To see his list, click here.
Note: I have not received any compensation of any kind from Pasolivo for this blog. All opinions are my own. I do wish to express my appreciation to Pasolivo for the tour and special tasting of the olio nuovo I received.
The holiday season is in full swing and it’s always a good idea to have a go-to drink on hand that can be served when guests drop by. Nothing could be easier than sorbet mimosas! This drink requires only two ingredients which can be kept stocked in your kitchen and served up at a moment’s notice.
The two ingredients are:
A bottle of your favorite bubbly
For the bubbly, you can use champagne, sparkling wine, or even non-alcoholic sparking cider or ginger ale. Tailor the flavor and color of the sorbet to the holiday you wish to celebrate. In this example, I am using mango sorbet because the orange color is a nice compliment to my current fall palette. For Christmas, a pretty red raspberry sorbet or lime green sorbet would be fitting. Gourmet shops often stock more exotic flavors so feel free to experiment, coordinating the color and flavor to your occasion.
Served in fluted glasses, and garnished with a sprig of mint and a fun polka dotted straw, this is a pretty cocktail that takes mere minutes to whip up.
I can’t think of a better way to welcome visitors during the holidays!
Are you a Pinterest addict like me? I can spend hours drooling over beautiful photographs and gathering ideas. Last year around the holidays, I came across a decorating idea I loved and decided that I would start looking for a way to replicate it. It was an old toy truck that had been decorated for the holidays as a table centerpiece.
A few weeks ago I found my truck! I visited a new-to-me thrift store and sitting right at the front of the shop was my toy dump truck. Best yet, the price had been marked down from an outrageous $75 to only $6. I’m not sure why it had been marked down so drastically but I don’t ask questions when I see these kinds of deals–I just do my inner happy dance and snatch them up!
While I initially intended to use it only for Christmas decorating, I quickly realized that it could be outfitted for fall as well. I immediately filled the bed of the truck with fallen leaves, dried foliage, sprays of orange berries, an acorn squash, and white mini-pumpkins for a natural fall display. I even placed one mini-pumpkin at the rear of the truck to make it appear as though it had fallen off during transit.
After enjoying it decorated this way for a while, it was time to look forward to Christmas. The truck’s original bright yellow color had been painted over with black paint and while it wasn’t terrible, I knew I wanted the color to be a little more vibrant for the holiday season. I was leaning heavily towards red but ultimately decided that green would be more versatile.
Knowing that milk paint adheres well to metal and makes for a old fashioned matte finish, I decided that this was the type of paint I wanted to use. I like its chalky texture and knew from a previousproject that it was easy and forgiving to work with. I researched my options on line and purchased a fairly bright Tavern Green color.
After the first coat, I could tell the color was going to be a little brighter than I had hoped so I added a second coat and then brushed on a brown antiquing glaze to tone it down a bit. To add more detail to the truck, I added an accent of cream colored paint on the tires to create “white walls.”
I love how it turned out! I tucked in some evergreen cuttings and placed a small artificial Christmas tree in the bed of the truck. I added a string of fairy lights to the tree to enliven it and filled the bed with a load of tiny wrapped gifts. A couple of the packages were placed at the rear of the truck to create the impression that they had fallen off during transport. To decorate the front grill, I added a tiny spray crafted from a sprig of rosemary, a brass bell, and some faux berries.
The toy truck adds a spirit of fun and whimsy wherever it is placed and I just love how versatile the piece is. I can envision it filled with a pretty spring flower arrangement in the summer or pots of succulents in the summer. I may even use it as a serving platform for party favors, drinks or utensils at an outdoor party. Rest assured, you’ll likely see it again in a future post!
Perhaps you have an old toy truck that once belonged to your children–or maybe you saved one from your own childhood. If you’ve got one packed away somewhere, I urge you to bring it out and use it in your seasonal decor. It is likely to bring smiles to the faces of everyone who sees it.
Fall is my favorite season. I love to take advantage of the ideal combination of warm days and cool nights by hosting an annual outdoor dinner party. It is the perfect excuse to gather friends around a beautifully decorated table and serve up some delicious comfort food. In this post, I share my thought process for creating the decor and table setting for this dinner party.
Several years ago, I purchased a set of antique English transferware at an estate sale. It provided just the sort of rustic elegance I desired for this dinner party. Its cream colored background and floral pattern consisting of brown, gold, and orange colors perfectly reflected the fall theme and became the starting point for the entire table setting.
Because nothing is more elegant than a white linen tablecloth, this was the table’s first layer. Another vintage tablecloth with a yellow-orange damask border was positioned diagonally across the center. Overlays such as this create an opportunity to introduce additional color and texture while giving the table a luxe feel. Matching napkins were gathered up in the wine glasses to add height and dimension to the setting.
Because my tables are somewhat narrow, I needed a centerpiece that would not interfere with the flow of food or conversation. I placed a rustic lantern in the center as an anchor and created a “runner” of greenery consisting of eucalyptus and other leafy clippings from my yard. I topped this base with branches of ornamental eggplant, also known as “pumpkin on a stick.” These cute mini-pumpkins added color and texture while giving the table a whimsical touch. Tiny white fairy lights and votive candles were dispersed throughout the plant material for extra sparkle.
I recently started collecting mismatched vintage silverplate flatware and I set the table with it. Though tarnished, worn, and imperfect, it was a nice compliment to the antique china which was also crazed and imperfect. Incorporating older pieces, even when in less than pristine condition, can add loads of character and personality to a table.
As a party favor, each guest was given a loaf of homemade cranberry-apple bread in a ceramic baking dish. Wrapped in cellophane paper and banded with dotted orange craft paper, a name tag that doubled as a placecard was attached with jute string. After guests were seated, the breads were removed and placed off to the side so that the table would not get too crowded. The favor was returned to each guest at the end of the evening to take home as a memento and perhaps to be enjoyed for breakfast the next morning.
Menu cards stood in little slices of tree branches to announce the coming meal. I designed the menus and name tags using clip art I found on line.
In anticipation that the weather might turn chilly by nightfall, cozy polar fleece blankets were folded over the backs of the chairs. A patio heater was positioned at one end of the space and the fireplace was lit at the other end so that warmth would be evenly distributed. I purchased a few white plastic tablecloths from the local dollar store, gathered them up, and stapled them to the top of the beams at the entrance of the patio. These easy, inexpensive makeshift curtains created a sense of intimacy, as well as helped hold in the heat.
Once the meal was over, we lingered around the table enjoying one another’s company. While the glow of the candles, the crackle and warmth of the wood fire, and the jazz playing on the stereo created lovely ambiance, it was the company of good friends gathered around the table that made it a truly enchanting fall evening.