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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! πŸ™‚

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-upΒ 😉

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 πŸ™‚
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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 πŸ™‚

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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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

Book reviews, part 2: healthy eating this spring, from breakfast to dessert

An assortment of vegan treats from Heather Saffer’s latest cookbook

Too stuffy clothes, too long a winter, too many chicken wings (see my previous post 😉) – put these together and the first few months of 2018 have been a real downer for a sun-loving Chicagoan like myself. Add a pregnancy with swollen legs and plenty of food restrictions, and the question becomes even more stressful: what should I eat to stay healthy and well nourished this spring? Part #2 of my book review (you can check out part #1 here) focuses on this topic because I believe it’s important not just to me – the ever-tired mommy-in-waiting, lol – but to many of you as well. Want to discover tips and recipes to help you stay well-fed and energized? Read on πŸ™‚

If you’re into healthy eating as a lifelong choice, Devin Alexander’s You Can Have it!: More than 125 Decadent Diabetes-Friendly Recipes fits the bill perfectly. 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 πŸ™‚

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 β€œegg-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

Book reviews, part 1: It’s time to read great life stories and to fire up the grill!

It’s almost May 1st – time to fire up the grill, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of this long winter, and now I’m ready to put the heavy coat back in the attic until next year. So is my family: DH and our daughter are both “outdoor creatures,” who would rather share laughs in the warm spring/summer glow than languish in front of the TV waiting for the air conditioning to start. Isn’t it wonderful that the weather is finally giving everyone a break?

Now is also the time to rethink your diet, and cookbooks are a great place to start if you’re looking for recipe ideas or straight-up inspiring storytelling. This is part #1 of a bigger roundup book review I intend to write (there are so many good books out there, and so little time!) Stay tuned for part #2 over the next week or so 😉

Good food and good storytelling go hand in hand, and the recently published book Treated Like Family is a case in point. Keep Reading