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Hope & Sesame review and giveaway: Happy Mother’s Day!

I don’t know about you, but I always start the day with oatmeal and coffee – and when I say coffee I mean 4.5oz coffee and lots and lots of milk to top it off. We drink plenty of cow’s milk in this house, and we are fortunate that none of us is lactose intolerant. Drinking cow’s milk is something I truly enjoy – which should not come as a surprise if you consider my life’s story. Milk was always in short supply when I was a kid. My dad would queue for hours to get a couple of bottles of curdled liquid that barely qualified as milk. I still remember the long lines of bottles left on the pavement on purpose, to hold someone’s place in line. Sometimes, we would get lucky and my aunt would bring us some milk from the countryside. That really was a reason for celebration. As we poured the thick, yellow liquid into glasses, my family’s faces would light up, as if witnessing a miracle. Drinking milk and eating bread was so good!

Gone are the days when barely drinkable milk was the only option for me and my family. Thankfully, nowadays not only is cow’s milk pretty much everywhere you look, but you can also find plenty of non-dairy alternatives to milk if you’re lactose intolerant or you just simply want to enjoy a plant-based diet, for a variety of reasons. There’s soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk and rice milk, to name a few. This is the beginning of an interesting food trend, whose dynamic growth has been reported by the media. The possibilities are truly endless. Enter Hope & Sesame, the world’s first line of organic sesamemilk 🙂

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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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Martina McBride cookbook giveaway: Home is where the memorable food is!

They say home is where the heart is – I say it’s where a good plate of food awaits you. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to require hours of your time or endless trips to the grocery store – but it does have to feel authentic, and to be good enough for you to want to savor it with your family, and to cherish it in your thoughts forever. Home is where great memories are made, and that’s one of the best things about food: that it’s an excellent “memory maker.” Food is not just sustenance, but also human emotion – not just chemistry, but also love, or so I think.

To me, memory making is one of the greatest assets of the recipes featured in Martina McBride’s latest cookbook, Martina’s Kitchen Mix: My Recipe Playlist for Real Life.  After a 4-year break, country music star Martina McBride returns to the food publishing world with a book that is not only gorgeous, but also inspiring. What to win a copy of her cookbook? Read on 🙂

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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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CLOSED Nielsen-Massey review and giveaway: the citrus connection!

Update: This giveaway is closed.

There’s something utterly delicious and refreshing when it comes to citrus fruits. In the midst of summer, when the heat goes up and the appetite goes down, who wouldn’t go for a glass of thirst-quenching orange juice? Who wouldn’t crave an aromatic lemon-infused ice cream? Who wouldn’t dream of getting their teeth into a blood orange and wipe their face of the juice bursting through every tiny pocket of ruby red orange goodness? Yes, yes, yes: I’m a big fan of citrus, and I’m very loud and proud about it 🙂

Cooking with citrus is a great way to add an extra layer of flavor to both savory and sweet dishes, and if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know that I use citrus in my recipes extensively (here’s one example). And yet, buying fresh citrus from the grocery store is sometimes impossible, for various reasons. The weather might be so hot that you don’t feel like getting out of the house and driving to the grocery store. On other occasions, you simply cannot leave the house because family members need your undivided attention. This is when citrus extracts from your spice cabinet can actually come in handy! Being housebound due to the squelching heat across Chicagoland and to the new addition to our family, I can definitely vouch for that 😉 Thankfully, my citrus extract collection has got bigger recently, when I was contacted by Nielsen-Massey to review an item from their new line of organic products. As someone who had collaborated with Nielsen-Massey in the past (check out my previous reviews here and here) and as a big fan of lemons, I was definitely interested to review the latest Nielsen-Massey pure lemon organic extract. What follows is my full review of this new item.
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Nielsen-Massey & McCrea’s Candies giveaway: We have a winner!

Thank you all for entering my Nielsen-Massey & McCrea’s Candies giveaway and letting us know your foodie gift ideas. The winner is Donna DePaolo, who wrote, “As an event coordinator, I get to attend a variety of food events in my local area and sample the latest “hot” items. I give my foodie friends a sampling of what I’ve found to be the latest “hot” food as their Christmas present. Your giveaway basket would be a hit!”

The winner has been notified and has 72 hours to respond to the winner notification email. Congratulations! 🙂