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Desserts

Nielsen-Massey review and giveaway: baking dreams of crème brûlée!

Ask me about my earliest baking memories, and I’ll tell you they revolve around mom making spice cake in the kitchen of our small apartment. With the patience that always characterized her, she would gently mix the batter with a wooden spoon (spatulas were non-existent), and would slowly pour it in an age-old baking pan with smooth edges and black interior. I would watch her lost in the beauty of colors and aromas, and ready to devour the copper-hued cake brimming with cinnamon and juniper berries, if we were lucky enough to get hold of the latter.

Ask my husband about his earliest baking memories, and he’ll have two words for you: crème brûlée. The first thing he remembers about the baking process is the smell of fresh caramelized sugar – and his trepidation in anticipation of the forthcoming treat. His mom (my mother-in-law) would make crème brûlée in a big enamel pot, capable to feed an army – and thus definitely capable to feed four small children! As the years went by and the children grew up an left home, MIL had to reduce quantities and to give up on her humongous crème brûlée enamel pot – and yet, everyone’s love of her dessert (myself included!) never subsided.

I thought crème brûlée would be the perfect dessert to make using Nielsen-Massey Vanillas products. I have been incorporating Nielsen-Massey extracts into my family’s recipes for two years now (some of my previous reviews can be found here, here, and here). Nielsen-Massey Vanillas contacted me again recently and offered to send me one of their vanilla extracts to review as part of their latest “Better Your Bake” campaign. Baking dreams of crème brûlée? Yes, please! 🙂

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2019 Sweets & Snacks Expo: mindful eating, part #2

Torie & Howard organic hard candies, on display at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo

Is there a better time to talk, taste and enjoy sweets and snacks than during the summer months? I reckon there isn’t. I don’t know about you, but we’ve been gorging on berries – nature’s best sweet snacks, available in abundance as we speak 😉 Indeed, summer produce offers plenty of options to indulge while keeping an eye on the environment and your own well-being – and that’s exactly what US consumers have been craving lately. Sweet and snack manufacturers have been trying to capitalize on the increased demand for mindful, healthier, closer-to-nature products, and this trend has been on full display at the latest edition of the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held in Chicago recently. Keep Reading

Nielsen Massey giveaway: a spring ode to vanilla crêpe casserole!

There are many scenes in Hector Malot’s classic novel Sans Famille (English translation Nobody’s Boy) that have stayed with me over the years, but none are as memorable as those where the main character Rémi helps his foster mom to make crêpes on Shrove Tuesday. Rémi’s descriptions of these moments are pure sensory joy: from the cracking of the eggs to their whisking with the milk and the sizzling of the butter, every word tells a vibrant story about food seen through a child’s eyes. Growing up I was fascinated with the crêpe-making scenes in Malot’s book. Maybe it was because they were about butter, eggs, and milk – items which were in very short supply in our family. Maybe it was because I was hungry a lot back in the day. Or maybe, just maybe, it was because I loved crêpes – I always had, I always will 🙂

I started thinking about the crêpe-making scenes in Sans Famille again recently, after I was asked by Nielsen-Massey to review their Tahitian Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. I have enjoyed reviewing Nielsen-Massey products and incorporating them into my family’s recipes for close to two years now. What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than with a deliciously aromatic dessert, a classic in our family which pays homage to my childhood fascination with crêpes and gets elevated by the addition of pure vanilla? Vanilla crêpe casserole, here I come! 😉

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Nielsen-Massey Holiday Flavors Bundle review and giveaway: blueberry cake for Christmas? Yes, please!

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, then you know I love to bake. I might be all about panini and quick lunches, but when it comes to baking, I commit to the process wholeheartedly – and for good reason. Whenever I bake my mind goes back in time, all the way to my childhood. Growing up, I would watch my mom and aunt scramble to find baking basics such as flour and sugar, improvise with the limited supplies they had, and finally work hard day and night to make baked good for their loved ones. With almost no baking ingredients on hand, these women somehow always managed to make cookies and cakes that had outstanding flavors. They were amazing! 🙂

Those days are long gone, and now I am lucky enough to have plenty of baking supplies to recreate my mom and my aunt’s recipes. The cake in the pic above comes straight from my mom’s recipe book. We usually make it with pitted sour cherries, but you can use other fruits when sour cherries are hard to find or not in season. For this post I decided to use blueberries – their fresh fruit flavor and natural color are simply unbeatable, in my opinion. Moist, buttery and delightfully light, this blueberry cake benefits from the addition of Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract. Keep Reading

Nielsen-Massey end-of-summer review and giveaway: Can you smell the vanilla?

Update: This giveaway is closed.

A touch of flour, a dash of sugar, a few cracked eggs – the baking season is upon us, and I’m loving it! Now is the time to bake cakes and to make memories, a time like no other, when sweetness and storytelling capture the hearts and mind of adults and children alike.

I wish I could tell you my family did a lot of baking when I was a child, but that would not be true. My mom and aunt had plenty of ideas and recipes but limited baking supplies, and had to rely on neighbors’ generosity or a stroke of good luck to get the most basic necessities of life. As such, baking came way after vegetable stew on the list of priorities, and when we baked we used very few ingredients and hardly any spices. Thankfully, times have changed and getting baking supplies is no longer an issue, which means that nowadays I bake a lot. Simply put, we missed many opportunities to create memories when I was little, and now I’m playing catch-up 😉

As part of my baking, I have enjoyed reviewing Nielsen-Massey products and incorporating them into my family’s recipes (check out my previous reviews of Nielsen-Massey products here, here and here). Nielsen-Massey contacted me again recently and offered to send me one of their products to review. I chose their Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract – and the rest was history, as they say 🙂
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My Memorial Day dessert ideas: ice cream, ice cream, lots of ice cream!

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s just the perfect treat for your Memorial Day weekend: ice cream! With the soaring temperatures Chicagoland has seen these past few days, many of us will likely stay under the shade and look for ways to remain cool and refreshed. Ice cream is the perfect decadent treat to enjoy from time to time, especially when you need a respite from the heat. I may have gone overboard when it comes to the size of my Memorial Day Dessert, but that’s OK: I will use the age-old excuse that I’m eating for two – just this once 😉

The dessert above is a combination of a homemade cake I wrote about awhile ago, some crispy thin cocoa cookies I had in my cupboard, and lots of delicious Hudsonville ice cream. Keep Reading

The perfect pre-Mother’s Day afternoon: cooking with Michelle… and Nellie!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I hope this day brings you lots of happiness and peace, and you celebrate it with your loved ones 🙂

I’m happy to report the school semester is now over and I can go back to cooking – and what better way to celebrate my return to all things foodie-related than with an easy yet super-decadent lemon pastry cream French toast, just in time for Mother’s Day? Truth be told, I had plenty of help to bring this recipe to life – first from my daughter Michelle, and then from Nellie. Nellie is the brown hen mascot behind Nellie’s Free Range Eggs brand, whose reps have recently contacted me to review their products. With May being National Egg Month and with Mother’s Day right around the corner, I thought this was the perfect moment for an “egg-ucation” refresher – so I said yes, and I embraced the challenge 😉

I ate a lot of free range and organic eggs when I was growing up. There was famine in the cities and eggs were scarce, which meant that my family would always arrange for me to spend the summers in the countryside. Local peasants were so poor they just couldn’t afford to buy expensive cages for their hens, which meant the hens were kept outside and only fed natural food – lucky me! Keep Reading