Chickpea Pasta!

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photo taken from choosechickapea.com

I have recently fallen in love with this pasta and just had to let the world know my latest obsession so here is my quickie review!

This pasta is made of only 2 ingredients: Organic chickpea flour and Organic red lentil flour. Each 227g box contains a significant amount of folate (Hello pregnant mamas..so good for you!) Iron, zinc, vitamin B5, and magnesium are a few others that make it big. No artificial flavours, colours or added sugar…literally just 2 ingredients.

I first discovered this pasta at my local Longos and knew I just had to try it! I have tried all kinds of pasta and my family currently eats spelt, whole wheat and Catelli Greens. Being of Italian decent I just can’t get pasta out of my diet. I have tried on numerous occasions to eliminate it, eat less of it, and pretend I don’t like it anymore and I have to face reality that it’s just not going to happen.

At $5.99 a box for 227g I would not recommend using it at your next dinner party but in my opinion it is a small price for huge nutritional rewards for you and your family. All it really means is you can stop buying a bunch of .99 cent pasta bags and splurge a bit on a quality box of Chickpea Pasta once in a while. I have to confess that I bought a couple boxes and have almost entirely replaced my pasta stash.

How does it taste?

Hmm…good question. It definitely doesn’t taste like normal pasta. It tastes like a mix of bean, whole wheat and spelt. I have made it with my homemade tomato sauce and it is perfection! (see pic below)

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Chickapea Pasta Spirals with my homemade tomato sauce

The best part of this product? Created by a Canadian Mama. I love supporting Canadian anything.

The pasta comes in 3 varieties: spirals, penne, and shells. You can purchase it online or check out their website to find your local grocery store that carries it.  If you sign up for their newsletter you will receive 15% off your first order. You better believe I am taking advantage of that!

All thoughts and opinions in this blog post are 100% my own. I purchased Chickapea Pasta from my local Longos at $5.99/box. I have never seen it on sale, but just deal with it and buy it already! 😉

Food Bloggers of Canada Featured Member!

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Hi all!

I am super thrilled to be a featured member on the Food Bloggers of Canada website! If you haven’t had a chance to check out my interview with FBC you may do so here:

http://www.foodbloggersofcanada.com/2016/08/fbc-featured-member-books-love-and-lattes/#comment-154906

For those of your who are unfamiliar with FBC, check out their website at foodbloggersofcanada.com. I have been a proud member for a couple months now. When I first started to blog, I really didn’t know where to start and what to do. I knew I wanted to write about cookbooks and food as it was my passion so I turned to FBC for help. They provide a network of other food writers throughout Canada and much inspiration may I add for creating my own blog.  They also have a ton of resources for food bloggers like myself.

A huge thank you to FBC for this wonderful feature!

Much love! Xo

 

 

 

“Fish & Seafood” By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen Cookbook Review

 

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I was super thrilled when I was asked to participate in the “On The Table” Blog Tour from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen (Simon & Schuster Canada). If you read my blog post on Canadian Living’s “The Ultimate Cookbook”, you know how much of a fan I am of The Canadian Living Magazine!

Canadian Living recently released a series of Cookbooks all highlighting various themes including the following:

  • Essential Salads
  • Pasta & Noodles
  • Make it Ahead
  • 400 Calorie Dinners
  • Sweet & Simple
  • Fish & Seafood

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Canadian Living recipes, let me tell you they are some of the absolute best! Each recipe is Tested-Till-Perfect, which means little to no errors when you reproduce it in your own kitchen with zero professionals around you. Each recipe is tested using the same ingredients you find in the grocery store yourself and the same household appliances you use at home. This is precisely why I love Canadian Living recipes. The Canadian Living test kitchen puts us readers first and thinks about convenience, availability, and practicality for the average person at home.

I have been fortunate enough to review the “Fish & Seafood” Cookbook, which features 110 of the tastiest recipes in this category. The beginning of the book takes us to some Fish and Seafood Basics then jumps right into to recipes with the following categories:

  • Appetizers
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches & Wraps
  • Pastas & Noodles
  • Rice Dishes
  • Fried & Seared
  • Broiled & Grilled
  • Steamed & Boiled
  • Stews & Curries
  • Baked Dishes

The Recipes

Recipes in this book are super easy to follow with most recipes having a decent and doable amount of ingredients. Directions are simple to follow and appropriate for the beginner home cook. Each recipe includes hands-on time, total time, amount the recipe produces, nutritional information, tips from the test kitchen as well as serving recommendations. Recipes in the index at the back of the book are cross-referenced making it super easy to locate your favourite recipe. If you can’t remember the name, just look up a main ingredient. Perfect!

I managed to recreate the Cioppino Soup recipe on page 34. I can’t lie, I called my mother over to help me out a bit with this one as I am 9 months pregnant and was afraid the scent might have bothered me. To my surprise, it smelled AMAZING as it was simmering away on the stove! My husband absolutely went nuts for it and the recipe was ridiculously simple to make. It has already become a staple recipe and thanks to its simplicity, I have made it twice! Scroll below to find the recipe and pictures from my experience recreating it. I think the only tweaks I would have made would be to add a bit more salt and pepper. I ended up using Haddock as my white fish. Be sure not to skip or replace the clam juice. This gives the dish A LOT of flavour.

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CIOPPINO SOUP

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Makes: 4 servings. (or if your husband or yourself or anyone you are making this for is anything like my own husband the serving is probably for 2….or 1)

What you need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup bottled strained tomatoes (passata)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 225 g jumbo shrimp (21 to 24 count), peeled and deveined
  • 225 g skinless firm white fish fillet (such as cod or halibut), cut crosswise in strips

How to make it:

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook onion, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Pour in wine; cook, scraping up browned bits, until liquid is slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, oregano, pepper and clam juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in shrimp, scallops and fish; cover and cook over medium heat until shrimp are pink, and fish and scallops are opaque throughout, about 5 minutes.

TIP FROM THE TEST KITCHEN

If your scallops are more than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick, halve them horizontally to ensure they cook in the same amount of time as the shrimp and fish.

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Cioppino Soup cooking
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Cioppino Soup completed

Overall this book was fantastic as are the rest of the books in the newly released series mentioned above. You may purchase Fish & Seafood” By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen at Amazon.ca for the current price of $19.73 CAN (price is subject to change). But better yet, you could win all the books in this series thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada!! Click on the link below to enter!

CONTEST LINK:   http://www.simonandschuster.ca/pages/on-the-table

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A huge thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending over this fantastic cookbook in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own.

Launch of My Sweetie Pie Pyjamas!

Hello dedicated followers!

I am super thrilled to announce the launch of my pyjama company, My Sweetie Pie PJs! As you all know I am a stay at home mother of a 2 year old with another on the way (coming very soon!) I have been working very hard on this project for the past couple months and I am super excited to provide Mamas with super comfy jammies to match their little one. I decided to start this company after searching online and in my community for cute matching pjs for myself and my little girl. I couldn’t find anything! When I did find something I liked, it would be coming from the United States and the shipping costs would be outrageous and downright unaffordable.

I am proud to say that these pjs are 100% Made in Canada and designed by myself.  Currently I ship to the United States and Canada but will most definitely expand to international in the future. They are made of 100% cotton flannelette and are SUPER COMFY!! I carry women’s sizes small, medium and large and baby sizes newborn to 12 months. There are plans in the near future for toddler and children sizes as well. (yay!)

Please feel free to check out my Etsy Store!

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/MySweetiePiePJS

**MY SWEETIE PIE PJS SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS. Kindly follow and support! xo**

INSTAGRAM:

https://www.instagram.com/mysweetiepiepjs/

TWITTER:

https://mobile.twitter.com/mysweetiepiepjs

FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/My-Sweetie-Pie-Pyjamas-1680648062146967/

E-MAIL: mysweetiepiepjs@yahoo.com

Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me any questions you may have! I’m super friendly..promise! 🙂

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Cookbook Review: Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook

I’ve had a subscription to The Canadian Living Magazine for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my mother always had a subscription and I would pour over her magazines staring at all the pictures of food, dreaming of the day that I would be able to make them all in my own kitchen. Each month when a new issue arrives at my door, I read every article (yes I’m that dedicated!) and tear out my favourite recipes.

I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly thrilled I was when I started to see advertisements in the magazine that a cookbook filled with the ultimate recipes would be hitting the bookshelves. As I flipped through the book, I started recognizing recipes that I have seen in the magazine that I kept (bye bye tear outs!) all neatly laid out in this perfect cookbook!

For those of you who are not familiar with Canadian Living recipes, let me tell you…they all turn out amazing. The Canadian Living Test Kitchen is composed of industry professionals, food experts, home economists, recipe developers, and food writers. I have been recreating their recipes for years and there is not one recipe that has gone wrong. As a busy mom who cannot afford to lose time, I can trust that each recipe will go right without any errors. Every recipe is tested till perfect, which means they have tested every recipe using the same grocery store ingredients and regular household appliances as we do. No surprises, no strange “where in the world do I find this??” ingredient. Perfect for the everyday cook and busy parent.

The collection of recipes you will find in this cookbook are the ultimates of everything. The ultimate appetizers, the ultimate fish and seafood, the ultimate sauces, seasonings and preserves, and so much more. This means you are getting the best recipes of everything. I have this book tabbed to the max and my dinners planned out for the next couple weeks (no word of a lie!).

I love that this cookbook bypasses most of the usual do’s and don’ts, techniques and ingredients that are typically located in the beginning and cuts right to the recipes. The recipes are so simple you don’t even really need anything else.

The Recipes

The recipes are categorized with symbols above each recipe into the following categories:

  • 30 minutes or less
  • Canadian classic
  • Vegetarian
  • Complete meal (balanced meals containing protein, starch and vegetables)

Recipes are super easy to follow with ingredients listed in order of use. Directions are also simple and uncomplicated. Each recipe lists hands on time, total time and how much the recipe yields. Also included at the end of most recipes are storage directions, any make-ahead steps that can be done ahead of time (thank you Canadian Living, all busy parents are thanking you!), any variations of the particular recipe and nutritional information per serving. Recipes are cross-referenced making it super easy to locate your favourite. (yes…perfection!)

Chapters are divided into the following:

  • Appetizers, dips, & spreads
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Side dishes
  • Poultry
  • Beef & Lamb
  • Pork
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Pasta, Noodles & Dumplings
  • Eggs & Breakfasts
  • Quick Breads
  • Yeast Breads
  • Sauces, Seasonings & Preserves
  • Pies & Tarts
  • Cakes
  • Desserts
  • Kitchen Reference

I have created several of the recipes in this book thanks to my monthly subscription of The Canadian Living Magazine. For the purpose of this blog post, I recreated my favourite Hazelnut Moose Cake that has become a staple for birthdays in my family. Every one loves it! I get compliments every time I make it and the best part…it contains one of my favourite ingredients, Nutella! This would also be a perfect cake to make for your significant other for Valentine’s Day, I promise you will not be disappointed! (Recipe & pictures below) I also recreated (for the first time) a super tasty and healthy Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup that was a hit in my family as well.

Chocolate Hazelnut Moose Cake (pictures below)

Prep Time: 1 hr       Total Time: 4 ½ hr       Portion Size: 16 to 18 servings

Ingredients

  • 175 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) whipping cream 35%

 Chocolate Cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
  • 4 tsp (18 mL) cider vinegar

 Hazelnut Meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) ground roasted skinned hazelnuts, (about 1/2 cup whole)
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla

 Mousse:

  • 1 pkg gelatin
  • 1 cup (250 mL) hazelnut chocolate spread
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) whipping cream 35%

 Candied Hazelnuts:

  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) roasted skinned hazelnuts

Preparation

Chocolate Cake: Grease 10-inch (3 L) springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper. Set aside. In bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Whisk in 1 cup water, oil and vanilla; stir in vinegar. Scrape into prepared pan.

Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Run sharp knife around edge. Remove from pan; let cool completely on rack.

Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 24 hours.

Cut cake in half horizontally to make 2 layers.

Hazelnut Meringue: Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using 10-inch (3 L) springform pan as guide, trace circle onto paper. Turn paper over. In bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar, 2 tbsp at a time, until stiff glossy peaks form. Fold in hazelnuts and vanilla. Spoon onto circle, smoothing top.

Bake on bottom rack in 225 F (110 C) oven until dry and crisp, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Turn off oven; let cool in oven for 2 hours. 

Make-ahead: Store in airtight container in cool dry place for up to 5 days.

Mousse: Meanwhile, in small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 2 tbsp water; set aside. In heatproof bowl over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt hazelnut spread with 3 tbsp water until smooth; stir in butter.

In microwave, warm gelatin on high until dissolved, about 20 seconds; whisk into hazelnut spread mixture. Set aside and keep warm. (Mixture may separate while standing; whisk to combine.) Whip cream; whisk one-third into hazelnut spread mixture. Fold inremaining whipped cream.

Line bottom of 10-inch (3 L) greased springform pan with parchment paper. Place bottom cake layer in pan; pour 1 cup of the mousse over top. Place meringue layer in pan, trimming to fit if necessary; pour 1 cup of the mousse over top. Top with remaining cake layer; top with remaining mousse. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Make-ahead: Wrap in plastic wrap and overwrap in foil. Freeze for up to 2 weeks. Thaw overnight in refrigerator; continue with recipe.

Meanwhile, place chocolate in bowl.In small saucepan, bring cream to boil; pour over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until ganache is thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Run sharp knife around cake; remove from pan and set on rack over parchment paper.

Pour ganache over top, smoothing top and sides with palette knife. Refrigerate until almost set and ganache is still shiny yet no longer jiggles, about 30 minutes.

Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Candied Hazelnuts: Meanwhile, in shallow saucepan, dissolve sugar and salt in 3 tbsp water over medium-high heat. Add hazelnuts; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is light golden, about 8 minutes. Spread nut mixture on parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

Let cool. Coarsely chop; sprinkle over top of cake.

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I had to show this picture first to entice you to make this gorgeous cake! This is the finished product. Hazelnut Moose Cake topped with a Ganache frosting and caramelized Hazelnuts.
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Making the meringue
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Candied Hazelnuts
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Spreading the moose over each layer of cake
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The assembled cake pre-ganache

 

The end of the book takes us to the Ultimate Kitchen Reference including a table of equivalents (measurments), cooking equipment, baking equipment, an extensive and most useful list of ingredient substitutions, food safety, meat doneness temperatures & visual cues, and a fruit & vegetable buying guide.

I loved this cookbook and it just might be the cookbook of the year for me. It includes anything and everything and would make the most perfect Valentines gift for your loved one (or for yourself of course) I know that in the next couple of years the pages will get stained with sauce and oil and may get a little dog-earred but I can’t wait to place this ultimate collection on my bookshelf and eventually share these classic recipes with my kids.

** All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. I received a copy of Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook from the most generous Simon & Schuster Canada to give an honest review. You may purchase this cookbook through Chapters.Indigo.ca for $40.00. Price is subject to change.

Join myself with Simon & Schuster Canada on Valentine’s Day and cuddle up with your favourite book!

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Simon & Schuster- Social Media

Canadian Living- Social Media

  • Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/canadianliving/?hl=en
  • Website: http://www.canadianliving.com
  • Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/canadianliving/
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/canadianliving/

Cookbook Review: The Prairie Girl Cupcake Cookbook

I was so incredibly excited to learn that my favourite local cupcake hotspot, Prairie Girl Bakery located in Toronto, Ontario was coming out with a cookbook with all the recipes of their cupcakes! I have been a huge fan since its opening back in 2012 and an even bigger fan throughout my pregnancies! For those of you who do not live anywhere near a Prairie Girl location, this is your chance to make these phenomenal cupcakes right in your own home.

The cookbook begins with a section outlining a couple pantry item staples to recreate these recipes, baking tools and equipment. If you want to create quality cupcakes and have the best outcome possible, I would highly recommend reading these sections as there are some very helpful tips. Recipes are divided into the following:

  • Everyday Cupcakes
  • Everyday Icings
  • Treats of the Week
  • Fruity Treats
  • Decadent Treats
  • Adults-Only Treats
  • Seasonal Treats
  • For the Kid at Heart
  • Gluten-Free Cupcakes
  • Vegan Cupcakes & Icings

The end of the book takes us to a useful mini section on toppers, favors and gifts, and displays all appropriate for the home baker.

The Recipes

Recipes are easy to follow and well organized. Ingredients are listed in order of use. All of the icings are made with brick cream cheese. (which I love!) My husband hates cream cheese (childhood trauma) but I just wont tell him it’s in the icing and he likely wont even know the difference. Ha!

Majority of the fruit icings require freeze-dried fruit in powder form. Since I am obsessed with the raspberry icing I went on a mission to find out where I can purchase it. It was a little more challenging than I had expected. I did seek out the recommended site in the book, nuts.com, which did carry all the powders. The downside- the shipping costs almost the same as the amount of product I was going to purchase and I just couldn’t justify it. (Cost of products:$16, shipping: $13) However, if I do have a special occasion to bake for, I would definitely consider purchasing…or better yet I’ll just call the bakery for the exact same price! I have also had issues finding malted milk powder in the past and likely wont attempt looking again as tasty as those Malted Milk Cupcakes look! One last ingredient that may be a challenge for the home baker to locate- all the extracts mentioned in various icings including natural coffee extract, toffee extract, caramel extract, maple extract.

That being said, you must know that Prairie Girl Cupcakes are among the highest quality, best tasting cupcakes you will ever have. These ingredients all attest to that and if you go out of your way to grab them, you will recreate the best cupcakes you have ever had in your life!

I managed to tackle the Dark Cocoa Cupcakes with Classic Vanilla Bean icing. Recipe and pictures below! The outcome was PHENOMENAL. They tasted EXACTLY like the famous Prairie Girl Cupcakes and they were ridiculously easy, which is why I only ended up taking pictures of the finished product. Comment below if you try.

DARK COCOA CUPCAKES

Yield: 36 minis, 18 regulars or 12 Prairie Girl-size cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the guar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Blend on low speed for 1 minute or until well mixed.
  3. With the mixer stopped, add the eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla, then beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer twice during that time to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. With the mixer stopped again, pour in the boiling water. Blend at the lowest speed until combined, stopping the mixer once to scrap down the sides of the bowl. This batter is fairly thin.
  5. Place cupcake liners into the cupcake pan(s). Using a large measuring cup with a pouring lip, pour the batter into the liners. If making mini or regular cupcakes, fill each liner three-quarters full. If making Prairie Girl-size cupcakes, you can fill each liner right to the top (the “crown” in the pan allows the cupcakes to rise and not overflow)
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 14 to 16 minutes for mini cupcakes, 17 to 18 minutes for the regular size, and 21 to 23 minutes for the Prairie-Girl size cupcakes. When done, the cupcakes will be rounded and the tops will spring back when lightly touched. If there is a raw circle in the centre, the cupcakes need a minute or two of additional baking time.
  7. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan(s) for 10 minutes until they can be easily removed to a rack. Cool the cupcakes completely on the rack before icing them.

 

CLASSIC VANILLA BEAN ICING

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups salted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 oz (3/4 of a 250g package) brick-style cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp whipping cream (35% fat)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod
  • 6 cups icing sugar

Directions:

  1. Place the butter, cream cheese, cream, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds, and 3 cups of the icing sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, beat on low speed until all of the ingredients are combined, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  2. With the mixer on medium speed, add the rest of the icing sugar 1 cup at a time. Stop the mixer twice to scrap down the sides of the bowl, folding from the bottom until everything is blended together. This should take about 5 minutes in total.
  3. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the icing for an additional 4 minutes.
  4. Frost or pipe the icing onto the cupcakes and enjoy.
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Dark Cocoa Cupcakes with Classic Vanilla Bean Icing. I love that the vanilla bean seeds are visible!
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Dark Cocoa Cupcakes with Classic Vanilla Bean Icing

Overall, I absolutely loved this cookbook and I was super pleased with the quality of ingredients that go into each cupcake. I think The Prairie Girl Cupcake Cookbook would be a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for the baker in your life..and if you live in Toronto, pick up a box of cupcakes, attach this cookbook, wrap in cellophane and voila, you have the perfect Valentine’s Day gift!

**All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. I received a copy of this cookbook from the most generous Appetite by Random House to give an honest review. You can purchase The Prairie Girl Cupcake Cookbook by Jean Blacklock from Chapters.indigo.ca for $17.75 CAN. Price is subject to change.

To learn more about Appetite by Random House and other books they publish:

http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/imprints/appetite-random-house

Prairie Girl Bakery:

“Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook” Review

I am a lover of all things Disney. I have a massive cabinet filled with Disney snow globes of all characters and every Disney DVD that has ever been released. When I noticed this adorable cookbook combined with the classic literature of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland I knew I had to get my hands on it!

In “Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook”, Julie Van Rosendaal creates the most sumptuous Wonderland delicacies based on the storyline. Pierre Lamielle creates modern, whimsical and beautiful illustrations that are unlike any other interpretation of Alice that I have ever seen (and probably one of my favourite parts of the book, other than the recipes themselves!)

It never occurred to me how many references there are to food items throughout the story, despite reading and watching the movies several times. What a brilliant idea to create this most adorable keepsake book. Something that I look forward to passing on to my daughter once she’s old enough (and passes the “ripping pages out of books” stage)

With recipes like Alice’s “Eat Me” Cakes with Blackcurrant Icing, The Queen of Hearts’ Red Velvet Cupcakes with Regal Cream-Cheese Frosting, and the Milky Mystic Matcha we can bring ourselves and our imaginations deep into Alice’s Wonderland and feel like we are there right beside her sharing the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Speaking of which, there is an adorable Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Section that outlines each of the following 4 characters: the Dormouse, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter and Alice and their own versions of a scone, a savory, a sweet and a unique tea concoction. How sweet!

Included is a section on brewing a proper pot of tea; assembling your cups and saucers, stirring your tea “never clanging the sides of the cup or spilling over the sides”. Another cute little section on tea sandwiches including a visual guide of different kinds.

Another notable (and adorable may I add) 2 pages on Tasseography. I actually had to Google this when I was reading it as I wasn’t sure if it was made up or actually real! For those of you who aren’t familiar, Tasseography is the ancient art of reading your fortune in tea leaves. “The finer the tea, the more detail you will find in the images.” Instructions on how exactly to do it are included along with the creative illustrations with Alice characters on interpreting your fortune wherever the tea leaves may land. Loved it and it is something I would definitely incorporate at my next tea party/brunch with the girls!

It was nice for a change to open a cookbook and not have a thousand pages on equipment and ingredients, etc. Not that I don’t appreciate what authors write (I actually do learn a lot despite being an avid cook and baker myself) but just nice to cut to the chase and see simple recipes that anyone can recreate without a boat load of Do’s and Don’ts.

The Recipes

Each recipe begins with an adorable little “Alice in Wonderland” description of what is to come. The recipes range from savory to sweet including specialty drinks. They are easy to follow and are appropriate for the beginner cook/baker. Ingredients are listed in order of use and instructions are simple, organized and well laid out.

The book is divided into the same chapters you will see in the classic story as told by Carol Lewis. Under each chapter you will find a collection ranging from 1-5 recipes that reflect that particular chapter. Here is an example:

Chapter 4: Rabbit sends in a Little Bill

White Rabbits Cucumber Frames with Three Fillings

Bill’s Brandy Snap-to-Its

Alice’s Little Cake Pebbles

I managed to recreate the Mock Turtles Chocolates, which consisted of pecan halves topped with square caramels and a piece of dark chocolate. They were ridiculously easy to make despite the fact that I left them in the oven too long (opps!) This is a perfect quick dessert to make if you have last minute guests coming over. I didn’t have pecan halves at home but rather pecan pieces that were already chopped so I tried my best to recreate what I saw in the picture.  My picture below isn’t the greatest but hey..they tasted awesome regardless and I can’t complain. For presentation purposes, buy pecan halves!

Mock Turtle’s Mock Turtle Chocolates

Makes about 2 dozen tasty turtles

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (250 mL) pecan halves
  • 24 individually wrapped square caramels
  • 1 bar (3 oz/90g) dark chocolate, broken into about 24 pieces

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees (180 C).
  • On a parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange the pecan halves in groups of four, all pointing away from eachother, like the legs of a turtle. Unwrap the caramels and place one on top of each cluster, right in the middle.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the caramel softens and starts to melt. Remove from the oven and place a square of chocolate on top of each caramel, pressing lightly so that the caramel oozes out a bit on the sides. If the turtles have spread out too much, you can push the pecans back together while the caramel is still soft.
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Topping the pecans with carmel squares. Please don’t mind my not-so pecan halves!

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This picture doesn’t do justice! They were so so good! This picture comes from the second batch I made. Can you tell I was running out of good looking pecans? Ha!

Tips from Melissa’s Kitchen:

Use the cooking times above as simply a guideline and not an exact duration to bake/melt. Each oven varies in temperature so it is best to keep your eye on these turtles very often as the carmel melts. I had expected that the carmel was supposed to be oozing in the oven prior to taking them out but I was wrong! I ended up making 2 batches of these because I I had waited for the oozing and by then it was too late…they had started to burn. They only need to be slightly softened when you top them with the chocolate, otherwise the carmel will harden too much causing a much difficult dessert to eat and possibly some broken teeth!

Comment below if you try these out, I would love to know!

** All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. A big thank you to White Cap Books for sending over this gorgeous cookbook!

“Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook” may be purchased at http://www.whitecap.ca for $34.95. For more information on this cookbook, click on the following link: http://www.whitecap.ca/Detail/1770501916

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“Per la famiglia” Cookbook Review

 

“The recipes in this book represent a love of food and family”, author Emily Richards writes in her new cookbook “Per la famiglia” and I couldn’t agree more. In this cookbook, Emily lets us into her heart and her home and shares with us her most treasured family recipes. I come from a Southern Italian family myself and as I was reading through the recipes and short stories, it brought back so many memories of my own life growing up in an Italian-Canadian family. I’ll admit I shed a tear or two looking at the food pictures. Yes…food pictures! Food is more than just food. Food represents memories, good times and big celebrations shared with family. As I read the recipe for Cudduri, I thought of my Zia Rina. I would walk into her home at Christmas Eve and the smell of fried goodness would fill our noses (and our clothes) and all the good times that came along with sharing this food. Beautiful! I love it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the food photography that accompanied almost every recipe in this cookbook. As I’ve said in other blog posts, I’m a huge fan of great food pics! Pictures are what entice me to recreate a recipe. This cookbook is not short on pictures and I think it’s great that Emily styled her own. It shows how talented she is in addition to creating this beautiful book.

In the beginning of this book you will find a food glossary that includes bread, cheese, cured Italian deli meats, peppers and more. This is a great guide for those who are not of Italian decent, not familiar with Italian culture, and who would like to pick up a few Italian staples. She also has a section on kitchen staples. Foods you should have stocked away, ready to eat at any given time. This section is particularly helpful for the busy Mama or Papa. If your ever in a pinch and need a quick meal, you have a perfect tasty homemade meal ready at your fingertips. These meals are easy to make and can be made in large quantites to freeze or jar for a later date.

Another notable section in this cookbook is the outlined menus for Italian celebrations. Here she goes over some popular celebrations for Italians including St. Joseph’s Feast, Easter, Baptism/First Communion/Confirmation, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day and sample menus you might have on each of these occasions. The rest of the book is divided into the following chapters with recipes included in each: Easter, Christmas, Antipasti, Pizza e Pane, First Courses and Light Meals, Main Courses, Vegetables and Salads, Desserts, and Cookies. Everything you need to know food-wise if you want to celebrate Italian-style.

The first recipe I was inspired to make was the brodo (chicken soup). No pictures beside this one but it didn’t need any. I know exactly what brodo looks and tastes like. This was something I ate at least a couple times a week growing up as I was a super picky eater and my poor mother struggled to find a meal I would like every day. When I first got married, as good Italian mothers do, my mother would pack us frozen homemade brodo for myself and my husband. I don’t know why but I never asked her for the recipe. I remember attempting a Martha Stewart vegetable broth in the early years of marriage that turned out absolutely tasteless. Since then, I had no motivation to make brodo until now. This recipe was ridiculously easy and I am so happy that I made it….well I should actually credit the husband for this one. Sadly as I was cutting a leek, my knife slipped and I sliced 3 fingers. As I was at the hospital, my hubby gladly finished the rest of the soup for me and he did a fine job! When I walked back into my condo, the smell of brodo filled my home and a flood of memories went through my head. I was thrilled that it smelled EXACTLY like my mamas and almost (almost) shed another tear!

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Homemade Chicken Soup (Brodo)

The second recipe I was inspired to recreate were the arancini (rice balls). It is something I’ve also never attempted to make but absolutely love eating. These were also very easy and completely doable for the beginner cook. I found the arancini must tastier in a homemade tomato sauce but completely up to you how you would like to eat them. Here’s the recipe:

Arancini (Cheese-Filled Rice Balls)

Filling

2 ½ cups water

1 tsp saffron threads

1 ½ cups Arboro rice

½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

2 tbsp butter

1 egg

 

Coating

6 oz Mozzarella, Provolone, Asiago or Havarti cheese

2 eggs

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs

4-6 cups canola oil for deep frying

Filling: In a large saucepan, bring water and saffron to boil. Add rice; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until tender but firm. Add cheese and butter. Let cool completely.

Coating: Meanwhile, cut cheese into 16-18 cubes; set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk eggs; set aside. Divide rice mixture into 16-18 balls. With fingers make indentation into each ball and fill with a cheese cube. Seal indentation. Roll balls in flour; then egg; then in breadcrumbs. Set aside on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. In a large deep saucepan or deep fryer, heat oil over medium heat to 375 degrees. Fry balls, in batches, about 2-3 minutes or until golden crispy. Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Makes 16-18 balls.

Make ahead: You can make the arancini up to the point of frying them; cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Let come to room temperature before frying in oil.

A couple notes on my experience making these: 

I did not have saffron so I obmitted it completely. I couldn’t find any at my local Longos grocery store and I don’t keep it at home as it is quite expensive.

I made the mistake of not boiling the rice at a lower heat setting for a longer time. The problem with this is that the rice had too much moisture in it therefore making it difficult to roll the rice into balls. I countered this problem by adding a little extra flour to my hands when rolling in order for the balls to stay in place and it worked out perfectly. I also made the mistake of putting the balls in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap prior to rolling them in the coating. This did something to my mozzarella cheese filling…it stayed quite solid even after frying. Note: I have a toddler running around me during the day and for those who do not have children, this translates to unfinished work all the time! Things that are completely out of my control. I also did not have 4-6 cups of canola oil. I had maybe 2 cups or so and used this amount to fry the balls. This required turning them once throughout the frying time. I would recommend either making or buying a tasty tomato sauce to accompany the arancini. All in all, these were amazing! They will definitely become a regular recipe in my family and my toddler and husband loved them!

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Arboro rice after adding cheese & butter.
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Cutting the Mozzarella in cubes..It was a challenge to cut them evenly into 16-18 cubes. I realized I didn’t cut them big enough when I had a lot left over! (Thus doubling up!)
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Flour, eggs, breadcrumbs. My little coating assembly line. These onion soup bowls were perfect for dipping the arancini in to coat.
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Ta-da! The tastiest arancini you will ever have over a homemade tomato sauce.
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Pardon the quality of this picture. These are the eggplant meatballs that were super delicious. I also put these in my homemade tomato sauce as I would regular meatballs.

 

I really wish I could have tried the super tasty looking Nutella Pizzelles! I have yet to purchase a pizzelle maker…it’s on my Christmas wish list this year.

Some other great recipes you will find in this cookbook: Homemade Tomato Sauce, Fresh Creamy Ricotta Cheese, Ricotta Ball Soup, Cream-Filled Doughnuts, Cheese-Filled Sicilian Cake, Genetti Cookies, Mussel Soup, Fried Mixed Fish, Tiramisu Trifle,  Panettone Bread Pudding, Christmas Cookies, Balsamic Glaze, Grilled Sausage Pizza, Fried Calzones, Olive and Rosemary Bread, Roasted Squash Agnolotti,  Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi, Spaggetti Carbonara, Easy Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce, Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni, Slow Cooker Lasagne, Nonna’s Meat Sauce with Polenta, Fresh Pork Sausages, Roast Pork, Pickled Hot Peppers, Garlicky Green Beans, Tomato Cucumber Salad, Ice Cream Roll Cake, Celebration Custard Cake, Amaretti Cookies, Nutella Tie Plates (Pizzelle), almond biscotti and many, many more!!

The only thing I would have liked to see that wasn’t there were subtitles under the family pictures! I would look at them and smile and think to myself “wow this is such a great picture, this reminds me of so and so..I wonder who this is!” It was truly heartwarming to see Emily’s family pictures throughout the book and made it all that more personal.

Reading this beautiful cookbook reminds me of how important it is to keep culture and family traditions and pass them on to my children. Italian or not, traditions help to keep certain things that are important to you, in your family. Every family has their own and will create new ones as the years go by. A big thanks to Emily for reigniting the passion in me to recreate, keep, and pass on some recipes that are familiar to my upbringing. The recipes that remind me of big family get-togethers, intimate weeknight dinners, warmth, love, and compassion.

**I received this book from the generous Whitecap Books to give an honest review. All opinions and thoughts on this blog post are 100% my own. You may purchase “Per la famiglia” from chapters.indigo.ca or amazon.ca for $18.77 (price subject to change)

“3 Times a Day” Cookbook Review

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“3 times a day” is written by Marilou and Alexandre Champagne, a husband and wife team who are also the creators of a blog called “Trois Fois Par Jour”. Marilou created this blog after overcoming a recent battle with anorexia in which she named her blog after eating 3 meals a day. Alexandre has a passion for photography and as Marliou begun her blog, he started taking beautiful pictures of her creations. If you have not had a chance to check out this blog, I would suggest you do so now. It is just lovely! http://www.troisfoisparjour.com/en/accueil There are plenty of easy to follow recipes, videos, and more all in a clean layout.

This cookbook is simply beautiful. The introduction is touching and the food photography is stunning. As you read it, you can feel the passion and the love that has gone into every recipe and every word on each page.

One of my favourite parts of this wonderful cookbook is the introduction, which speaks of Marlilou’s struggles and passions in life. She went from being a popular pop sensation in Quebec to food blogger and author. I think that a lot of us can relate to her words, which I absolutely love. How many of us want to change careers and are too afraid to do so?! How many of us don’t listen to what we want and listen to what other people want for us? Marilou speaks about finally following her heart rather than other people and what others wanted her to do and thus begun her journey and passion for cooking.

In the beginning of this cookbook you will find a page dedicated to tips and tricks for cooking, as well as recipe categories. Each recipe has a couple categories listed underneath so that you can easily identify and anticipate what type of recipe it is or what it can be used for. Categories include: economical, entertaining, gift, gluten free, indulgent, lactose free, quick and easy, raw and vegetarian.

This cookbook is beautifully laid out with pictures for every recipe. I absolutely love this! I know some people argue that pictures are deceiving and “it doesn’t always turn out like the pictures!” But for me it is what lures me into recreating the meal and I don’t care what it looks like in the end when I make it, as long as it tastes good.

Contents of the book are divided into the following:

  • Breakfast & brunch,
  • Snacks & small bites,
  • Lunch & salads
  • Soup & stews
  • Fish & seafood
  • Meat
  • Pasta, rice & pizza
  • Desserts

I can’t lie, my favourite recipes in this book all fall under the “indulgent” categories, mainly the pasta, rice & pizza section (which is probably the Italian in me). Everything just looks so succulent I couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen! The recipes in this cookbook are simple enough for a beginner and only require tools that you likely already have in your kitchen. One of the dessert recipes even uses mason jar lids as a mini tart pan with a removable bottom. Genius! (This particular recipe is actually the pie you see on the front cover of the book but in mini form.)

I managed to recreate the ricotta gnocchi (which were out of this world!) and the Oatmeal, espresso and dark chocolate cookies. I have made Martha Stewart’s ricotta gnocchi before but they definitely did not taste like these! I am of Italian decent so please trust me on this one…they were phenomenal. My 2 year old and my husband devoured them. The recipe says prep time is 25 min but they took me 10 minutes and I’m generally a slow cook. They were super simple and this recipe will definitely be a staple in my house. Since the gnocchi were my favourite of the two, I have provided the recipe below.

RICOTTA GNOCCHI

Quantity: 30-35 gnocchi

Prep time: 25 min

Categories: economical, vegetarian

Ingredients:

1 cup ricotta

1 egg

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg *I used the dry spice as that is what I had in the pantry.

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients until the flour is fully incorporated and a smooth dough forms.
  2. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  3. Sprinkle a baking sheet with flour. Set aside.
  4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it in half.
  5. On a floured surface, roll one portion of the dough into a rope, about 1 inch diameter. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  6. Cut the ropes into ½-inch pieces and place them on the floured baking sheet. Using your thumb, make a small indentation in the centre of each gnocchi.
  7. Freeze the gnocchi for later, or cook them immediately in a pot of boiling salted water just until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. Serve with the sauce of your choice. *I served with my homemade tomato sauce and fresh basil and it was perfection.
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Ricotta gnocchi dough (step.1)
Step.6 , Cutting the ropes into 1/2-inch pieces.
Step.6 Cutting the ropes into 1/2-inch pieces.
Ricotta gnocchi in tomato basil sauce.
Ricotta gnocchi in tomato basil sauce.
Oatmeal, espresso, & dark chocolate cookies dipped in 70% Lindt chocolate.
Oatmeal, espresso, & dark chocolate cookies dipped in 70% Lindt chocolate.
Oatmeal, espresso, dark (Lindt) chocolate cookies... perfect with a cup of coffee!
Oatmeal, espresso, dark (Lindt) chocolate cookies… perfect with a cup of coffee!

I made 2 batches of these since my tub of ricotta was 500 grams. (and thank God I did because the family devoured them) I accidentally used Pecorino Romano cheese for one of the batches. Initially I panicked but they ended up being just as tasty!

If you purchase this book, please take the time to read the acknowledgements. I know most of you probably bypass this section but it really was so beautifully written. Marilou and Alexandre’s note of thanksgiving to each other was so sweet and endearing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it really just validates how much heart and soul they put into the making of this cookbook.

**I received this book from the generous House of Anansi to give an honest review. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. You can purchase it from chapters.indigo.ca or amazon.ca for $25.

**Stay tuned to my social media accounts as I recreate more of the recipes in this book. Pictures will be posted!

the life-changing magic of tidying up- the japanese art of decluttering and organizing.

This book is written by Japenese decluttering guru, Marie Kondo.  Marie is a decluttering expert and has helped thousands of people in transforming their lives. She calls her method the “KonMari Method”. This method of decluttering is so effective, she currently has a 3 month waiting list in which she physically goes to people’s houses to assist them in decluttering. In my opinion, this book is so effective at getting her point across of how to declutter, I wouldn’t even need Marie (sorry Marie!) In addition to the long wait for her services, none of Marie’s clients have lapsed into decluttering ever. This is powerful!

I think a lot of us to some degree have cluttering issues. I certainly have and let me tell you as I was reading this book, I became slightly obsessive over decluttering my condo. I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning just throwing stuff out.  I love things. I love keeping things, I love receiving things and I find it hard to throw stuff out. My husband absolutely hates clutter and sees how different of a person I am now that I have read this book. Any time we are trying to figure out where a certain item should go whether its new or old my husband now says to me “Well…what would Marie do??” or “What would Marie say to this?” I love it. Marie is now an imaginary character in my home.

Here are some chapters and subtitles of what you can expect if you pick up this book (note: I have only included the first 2 chapters):

Chapter 1: Why can’t I keep my house in order?

  • You can’t tidy if you’ve never learned how
  • Tidy a little a day and you’ll be tidying forever
  • The moment you start you reset your life
  • Storage experts are hoarders –(LOL)
  • Sort by category, not by location

Chapter 2: Finish discarding first

  • Start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely
  • Selection criterion: does it spark joy?
  • One category at a time
  • Starting with mementos spells certain failure
  • Don’t let your family see
  • If your mad at your family, your room may be the cause
  • What you don’t need, your family doesn’t either
  • What to do when you cant throw something away

What I got from this book: The only way this method will work is if you do it her way and she has good resasons supporting this to which I strongly agree. I myself have tidied my place only to keep tidying the same areas over and over and it becomes a never ending stressful cycle of “my home is never clean” The issue is that I have too much stuff. You can organize all you want but you will still have the same volume of items. Things need to be thrown out. I know this can be hard for some people but as you read the book, you will become more comfortable doing so as Marie puts things into perspective. Each item that you decide “sparks joy” as Marie says, has to have a home. When items don’t have homes, they end up in piles. These piles become disasters and this is how clutter is born.

A couple of my favourite quotes from the book:

“I have only two rules: store all items of the same type in the same place and don’t scatter storage space.” P.138

When you are choosing what to keep, ask your heart; when you are choosing where to store something, ask your house” p.144

The lives of those who tidy thoroughly and completely in a single shot, are without exception dramatically altered” p.178

letting go is even more important than adding” p.177

But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future” p.181

In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their posessions, and the house they live in.” p.190

It’s a very strange phenomenon, but when we reduce what we own and essentially “detox” our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well”. p.193  **towards the end of the book, Marie discusses the effect decluttering has had on her clients. People have lost weight, found jobs, found new passions in life. Just amazing.**

And these are only just a few. There are so many more that were great.

This book completely changed the way I think about every single thing in my life.  I think twice about buying something new. I think twice about what the purpose of each item I own is to me in my life, and best of all, I am now enjoying experiences more than materialistic things. Marie’s words of wisdom have put my life into perspective and they will for you too, I promise. Even if you are not a self-help book type of person, I promise you will love this book, you’ll never look back and you will thank me and Marie later.

One thing I’ll never get rid of…my collection of cookbooks. Sorry Marie, they spark too much joy.

**I purchased this book from Amazon.ca for $15. All opinions are my own.