Why I loved 2016

My initial thought is “But I didn’t love 2016?!?” because there was so much sadness, stress and general unease over the course of the year. HIM’s brother passing away in December, the stress of purchasing property, having it renovated and then moving (while the renovations are still not completed), being sick for a good portion of the year and learning to adapt to a life with a little monkey around.

But in reality – life is good and I am SO blessed. We bought an apartment, had it renovated (the positive side is that it is almost done and it is what we liked/wanted) and moved in with the help of my mother who flew over from SA to help us. We got to watch Monkey embrace her first year (you can read about it on my mommy blog here) and I realized how much my life had changed and the new friends that we have been lucky enough to make. We travelled to Portugal & South Africa to introduce Monkey to her extended family. We were lucky enough to attend 2 beautiful weddings of people we love and cherish. We celebrated 3 years of marriage and I am so grateful to God for giving me the worlds most amazing husband (& father to our daughter).

And through it all – I still managed to publish 53 blog posts here on my food blog, start a Mommy blog called Monkey and Me Web where I published 31 tongue-in-cheek mommy-type blog posts.

A recap of 2016 showed me that these are my (and your) favourite food blog:

Top 5 recipe posts of 2016:

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  1. Crunchies (Oat Flapjacks)
  2. Rhubarb Cake with Dr Oetker
  3. oven baked Zucchini Fries
  4. Pumpkin Fritters
  5. Banana Upside down cinnamon cake

My Top 5 Finds in 2016:

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Your top 5 most read posts (since my blog started):

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  1. Flapjacks or Crumpets?
  2. Paul Hollywoods Traditional Scones
  3. My Granny’s chocolate-coconut Biscuit Recipe
  4. Pineapple fluff dessert
  5. Sugar Free Carrot & Apple Cake

And finally, my wish for 2017 is that you all embrace each & every day; tell those who you care about that you love them and find forgiveness in your heart (and soul) to avoid any ill feelings. May you endure the rain to appreciate the rainbow and more than anything – share good food!

xxx

Eat! Brussels Drink! Bordeaux 2016 edition

That is right folks… today is the first day of Eat Brussels! Drink Bordeaux! 2016 edition – which is currently in its 5th year!

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Once again it is being held in Parc Royal (which was a huge hit with me last year… read 2015 review here) – this year however, the concept has changed (sad face :() but I have been assured that it will still be VERY tasty!

Previously – you bought a package with X number of tokens and each restaurant stand would have a selection of starters, main courses and desserts with their own price (set # of tokens) – sometimes you could get a hamburger for 10tokens (10€) and sometimes you paid 12 tokens (12€) for a fancy-schmancy starter. While this year, the concept is simple – several dozen great Brussels chefs will take turns to offer you a signature dish from their restaurant each day (which is at the set price of 9tokens (9€)).

Therefore – if you buy a Solo Pass – you get 2x signature dishes along with your Wine Pass.

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Which brings me to my favourite part (and the part I had to miss last year because I was pregnant)… the Wine Pass for a mere 18€ – you get an engraved wine glass, wine glass pouch (which is super handy as it hangs around your neck while you stand and eat), a tasting book for 11 wines (hallelujah!); 1 session at wine school & a Duvel beertasting! I know many people who purchased one of these and came back over the course of 2 or 3 days last year… so a REAL bargain indeed!

I know that I will be heading there on Saturday… will you?

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for more details – check out the website here (and don’t forget to pre-purchase your passes, although they can be bought on the day)

Lemon Icebox Pie (SRC)

Yippee yeah, yippee yeah… it’s SRC (Secret Recipe Club) monthly reveal time again!

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For those who haven’t been up to speed on what SRC is – it is a Secret-Santa blog swap, whereby each blogger receives another bloggers website to check out & make a recipe from – then the entire group reveals their post on the same day at the same time… TA DA!

This month, I got A Spoonful of Thyme – how brilliant is that name??? I love the playfulness of Thyme versus Time 🙂 especially when we talk about a cooking blog! Kate follows in her Grandma’s (and mothers) footsteps by embracing the kitchen and cooking for others with her whole heart. And I love how Kate says as a child she was given the “important job” of sitting on the porch swing to watch her Grandma’s pies cool down – something she took very seriously. I have to be honest… I couldn’t be trusted around my Grandma’s baking… I used to steal her fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuits and go & sit (ahum *hide*) in the backyard tree to eat them… hee hee… So KUDU’s to Kate!

Did I mention that she has been part of a *gourmet group* for 33years?? *RESPECT*

I had so much fun reading her blog and scouring her recipe index – wondering if I should make her coconut cream bars (because I also have a lifelong love affair with coconut), sprinkle pudding cookies (because I have never even considered using pudding in a cookie!!), this beef & beer pie (because the picture alone had me drooling) and cheesy stuffed pull apart bread (aka crack bread) – because who doesn’t love bubbly melted cheese, bacon & bread, eh?

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But I finally decided on making her Lemon Icebox Pie… because this warm summer weather in Brussels has me screaming for fresh, tangy types of desserts… and also because I am a sucker for any lemon based desserts as well 🙂

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Lemon Icebox Pie

130g crushed biscuits (Marie or digestive)
9 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup cream
1 tin (340g) sweetened condensed milk
2 large lemons, juiced (& zest of 1)

  • Line in a loaf pan with greased parchment paper
  • Combine biscuits and melted butter in a bowl and press into pan to make a base and place in fridge
  • Beat the cream until you have stiff peaks
  • Add condensed milk, lemon juice & lemon zest & mix well
  • The mixture will be thick (as the lemon juice reacts with mixture)
  • Pour over the crust
  • sprinkle more lemon zest over the top
  • Cover & refrigerate until set (at least 2hours)
  • Cut into squares and serve

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C O C O Donuts in Brussels

I had already been stalking checking out their Instagram and Facebook feeds for a while, drooling over their donuts and begging HIM to visit to fulfill my donut craving…

So finally… while Michelle of Very Hungry Explorer was visiting us in Brussels for a day… we finally made our way to Petit Sablon and settled down outside the shop on some outdoor furniture to devour their sugary goods and sip on their homemade lemonade.

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C O C O Donuts was started by 2 ladies, Chloé & Candice who thought up the idea while in Sydney, Australia. They make the most of organic & local ingredients and bake their donuts Tuesday to Sunday in their workshop.

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Salted caramel, chocolate and berry donuts for us

Offering conventional flavours like lemon, sugar & cinnamon, salted caramel, berries or chocolate to more adventurous flavours like maple syrup & bacon, pistachio & white chocolate, oreo or peanut butter & jam… there is something for everyone!

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We enjoyed them so much that we bought a box of 4 for HIM to take to work to share with his co-workers… (Image below: top left in clockwise: pistachio & white chocolate, lemon, speculoos & crunchy chocolate)

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So yes – you can pop into the shop, sit down & enjoy the sugar rush right there and then, or you can purchase to take away (either in store or order in advance via their website, email or telephone). Cost for 1 donut is 3,50€, or you can buy a box of 6 for 20€ or a box of 9 for 30€. They even offer a delivery service (for a fee)

Wondering about the name? C(hloé) O C(andice) O with the “O”‘s being Donuts… pretty clever, eh?

Visit them….

C O C O Donuts

address: rue de Sainte-Anne 36, 1000, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 498 57 43 16

email: cocodonutsbrussels@gmail.com

website: http://www.cocodonutsbrussels.com

Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 12h00-19h00 (or until they are sold out!)

Why I loved 2015

How is it February 2016 already??? Where did 2015 go… and how have we already rushed through a month and a half of 2016??

I loved 2015… so many good memories, so here is a quick recap: I continued to post as regularly as I could, but due to pregnancy and new babies… there were times that I didn’t manage it, however, I did manage to schedule a few posts – one of which happened to go live the day that I was in labour and I remember a friend of mine being shocked that I had published a post while in hospital 🙂 Hee hee.. What the blog does show, is that I managed to write & publish 77 new blog posts (bringing my total to 522 since I started in Feb 2012).  And here are a few of my (and your) favourites:

My top 5 favourite Restaurant Reviews in 2015:

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Takumi Donburi Rice bowl

My Top 5 favourite Recipes in 2015:

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YOUR top 5 posts (most read):

  1. SA style Flapjacks/Crumpets
  2. How do you spell Hummus/Humus/Houmus?
  3. Scones (Paul Hollywood’s recipe)
  4. Broccoli & Courgette soup
  5. Pineapple fluff dessert

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And finally, on a personal note:

  • In Feb 2015, HIM and I found out that we were going to be growing our family from 2 to 3
  • March & July => Hosted 2 more events with Brussels Food Friends (which was nominated & in the running for a Visit Brussels Award)
  • May was busy with a trip back to Cape Town, a silent retreat weekend in Wepion, Namur & a girly shopping day at Maasmechelen village
  • Throughout the year, we were happy to welcome friends who were visiting from afar: HIM’s friends Rita & Ricardo as well as Paulo & Angela from Portugal, Jon from South Africa – plus meeting up in London with one of my Besties, Kirsty and her new born baby boy (all the way from SA)
  • October saw our Little Miss enter into this world … after a brief & somewhat easy (thank goodness) & natural labour – as a beautiful, bouncy and healthy baby
  • November was when we celebrated our 2nd year of marriage (forever to be known as the amazing HIM)
  • And finally, December was when both my parents visited us in Brussels… where we got to celebrate Little Miss’s baptism with friends & family

all in all – a fully and happy 2015… How was yours???

Wishing you all an amazing, happy & healthy 2016….

The Sisterhood of World Bloggers

Monday 8th March was my blogs 4th Birthday… I published a post about *butter dips* (think golden butter crusted bread that has *tasty* written all over them) and it got me thinking about the last 4years… and why I still love pouring my heart & soul into this “unreal” world.

So when Sandy from S Marks the Spots invited me to be a part of The Sisterhood of World Bloggers chain I knew that I just had to do it! And here are my answers…

What’s your all-time favourite destination?

This is a really difficult one…. Because living as an South African expat in Brussels means that I often refer to 2 different cities as “Home” – namely, Cape Town & Brussels. I love living in Brussels because my heart is here (otherwise known as the wonderful husband HIM and my Little Miss), the amazing travel opportunities from here, an amazing group of friends plus financial support because of my job.

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But I do so love visiting Cape Town… the mountain, the ocean, the nearby winelands, Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens (Boomslang walk way pictured above) and of course my family & friends that are there.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party, alive or dead?

Freddie Mercury (all time favourite singer … from the band Queen… if you didn’t know that, then I am seriously concerned), Pope Francis, Hugh Laurie (especially as his Dr. Gregory House character), Trevor Noah (South African comedian), Julia Child (for the love of cream & butter!) and of course HIM (my wonderful husband)

Which post are you most proud of?

Probably one of my earlier recipe posts (2012) for Pronutro (a type of South African cereal) Chocolate Biscuits that I submitted to a South African food magazine called Woolworths TASTE that they actually published in their July 2012 printed magazine. (“I got published!!” Twice….)

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Do you have a favorite travel app?

No, I don’t actually… I often check out Trip Advisor or use the google box before travelling, otherwise I like to leave a little bit to chance … oh, wait! This is me – OCD (or CDO) at the absolute limit – which means that I research the interweb about where we are heading and what we can do! But a specific travel app… nope.

What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about blogging?

My favourite is definitely the people that I have met through the blogosphere… the most amazing, wonderful bloggers who I have engaged with on social media platforms and had the joy of meeting face to face. This sense of camaraderie … the only other people who understand why you can’t eat your food until I have taken a photograph of it 🙂 And why recipes need to be done during the day in order to be photographed in natural day light….

My least favourite thing about blogging is that I don’t have enough time… being wife, a new mommy, a full time employee and hopefully a good friend, means that I don’t have as much time as I would like to make, taste & photograph. But for the time being I am happy doing 2 published posts per week – every Monday & Friday!

Is there anything in particular that you like to do when you visit somewhere new?

eat…. as simple as that. (with or without the local alcoholic beverage :))

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Which destination have you visited that has surprised you the most?

Mykonos in Greece! I never considered myself a beach or pool kind of gal… so spending 3days on an island with beach/pool access was a real eye opener and the first time that I felt like I had had a proper holiday!

We stayed at the Myconian Ambassador Hotel and our days started with champagne buffet breakfast, followed by lounging at the pool before ordering cocktails and nibbles for lunch, an afternoon nap, sundowners on our little terrace balcony and dinner at one of the beach side restaurants…. plus a detour for spa treatments and testing out their salt pools in the hotel basement.

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What’s your pet peeve?

When someone says that they will do something and they don’t and I have to chase after them for an explanation. I am pretty understanding normally… if you can’t do something, just say so and I will be ok with it – promise! I know that everyone’s lives are busy and we all have the right to say *no*… but please don’t let me down.

What’s your most treasured possession?

Besides my husband, daughter, family & friends – all of whom are treasure to me. My material treasured possessions would be my collection of rings… probably a strange set of items to treasure – but they each have their own story. From the ruby ring my grandmother used to wear, to the diamond ring my Aunt Jules wore, to the engagement & wedding bands from HIM (worn next to my great grandmothers weathered & worn wedding band) to the sapphire & diamond pinky ring that my mom had made for me when I graduated from university… and the amethyst ring that was made recently using up gold & stones from other family heirlooms. I treasure them all!

Now… to keep the ball rolling – I nominate Michelle of Very Hungry Explorer, Alexia of Must be Yummie and Iris of SWonderful Notebook

Bagels at APDM

Our lovely group from pre-natal met up again recently… this time we descended upon APDM (Au Pays Des Merveilles) in Ixelles for bagels….

Can you just imagine? 6 pregnant ladies with trailing spouses… catching up over 3hours – eating, drinking and laughing? Well – that was us!

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Staff wise – our lovely waitress took no time at all to get us settled and started taking drinks orders and continued to pay us loads of attention (switching deftly from French to English and back again when needed!)

We ordered a whole range of bagels… from the vegetarian suggestion of the day to the bacon & eggs option… to chicken & guacamole (mine) to bacon cheese & burger meatballs….

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We even had a few plates of pancakes doing the rounds – as well as a version of French toast.

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All washed down with glasses of juice, cups of coffee….

Would I go back? Yes – all in all – the bagels were tasty & super filling (which is something when you talk to a pregnant woman :)) – and service was good. What more can you ask for when looking for a spot for breakfast/brunch?

APDM (Au Pays Des Merveilles)

address: Avenue Louis Lepoutre 6, 1050, Ixelles, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 2 345 4244

email: apdmbagel@gmail.com

website: http://aupaysdesmerveilles.be

Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 10h00-15h30 (closed Tuesday); Sat-Sun: 10h00-17h30

eat Brussels 2015

Last weekend – I attended the eat! Brussels drink! Bordeaux with HIM, M & my greek colleague (who is replacing me while I am on maternity leave)… and even though it was pouring with rain on the Saturday and I couldn’t partake in any of the wine tasting (because, duh, I am almost 9months pregnant)… I loved it.

Of the 4 events – I have attended 3 of them… and although at first I was a bit disappointed that the venue had changed from Bois de la Cambre to Parc Royale… and that the tents were set up with more space (not as compact as previous years)… I can totally understand how if the weather had been sunny and beautiful – the extra park space would have been magnificent!

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M had been the night before (Friday) and was already ooh-ing & aah-ing over the Ethopian Stand for Toukoul – but by the time we sauntered over there on the Saturday around lunchtime, they had already sold out of their samosa offering. So we moved on.

HIM & M started off with a cone of Frites from Brasserie Rose….

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While I had the brilliant idea to start with dessert (cos pregnant ladies can get away with that :)) – chocolate dome from Truffe Noire.

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And then we moved on to my personal favourite – O’ Liban –

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trying out their falafel sandwiches

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their Plate (which I had and it was AWESOME)

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While HIM opted to try out the Portuguese restaurant, Tiago’s, Bacalhau a braz dish (something which he says is very difficult to get right as you need to have the eggs ” just so” )

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And finally – we headed to the international district and ate ice-creams… I had a strawberry, mint & pepper tub which was exactly what I needed!

All in all – we probably spent about 90 odd euros on food… plus using 3 wine passes that we received thanks to Brussels Food Friends last #BxlFF5 event.

Thanks to M for some of the photos…..

Blueberry Lemon breakfast bread (SRC)

That’s right – it is Secret Recipe Club time again!

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For those who are not aware – SRC is a Secret Santa kind of blog swap – whereby bloggers are given the blog address of another blogger and on a specific day (depending on the group you belong to) you “reveal” whose blog you had and which of their recipes you tried out! It is super fun and the support in each group is just overwhelming!

This month I got Famish Fish, Finicky Shark as my blog – written by Saundra, mom of 3 boys & a little girl – and partner to Johnny – high school sweetheart, true love & soul mate (when people write things like this it makes my heart all warm and fuzzy… and you just know that you are going to enjoy “working” with them!). Her blog was born because her middle son, Jesse, was diagnosed with autism & ADHD and his diet plays a big role in how well he manages… so the food on her blog is healthy, happy & appealing!!

If anyone deserves a “wonder woman” award – it is Saundra! She not only works a full day, but also actively participates in therapy sessions for Jesse, spends quality time at Bible Study, attends her children’s soccer/karate, makes sure that there is date night… AND cooks dinner most nights. (And did I mention that she is a fan of the outdoors)… hello!! Bring the awards over to her now!

Saundra had my blog in February SRC – and made my sticky Chinese chicken marinade along with fried rice

I spent a long time reading her blog… in fact – I started reviewing her recipes the day that I got given her blog as my assignment – which was a month ago! I drooled over the Garden Ginger apple dumplings, Asian style stuffed zucchini, Tea rose macarons & chocolate churrovers ….

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but I finally decided upon the healthy blueberry lemon breakfast bread… which I made and took to our church’s meet n greet. I didn’t add the flax or the apple sauce… and it still came out perfectly (in my opinion). Would I make it again? Yes… super easy and a great sunday afternoon (or morning) kind of treat.

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Blueberry Lemon breakfast bread (cake)

2 cups self raising flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of one lemon
2 cups blueberries (I used fresh)
2 eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup oil

  • Sift dry ingredients
  • Stir in blueberries & lemon zest
  • Mix eggs, oil, lemon juice & milk together
  • Carefully fold in wet mixture to dry mixture
  • Pour batter into a greased baking pan
  • Bake for 45-60min at 180C
  • Cool before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely
  • Cut into 12 squares

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Introducing SmartMat

I recently got the pleasure of being invited to a SMARTMAT launch in Brussels.

The concept is pretty simple – Smartmat helps you & your family to eat healthy & tasty food by supplying the ingredients and recipes to your home each week. That’s right – they do the shopping, provide the meal planners and deliver directly to your home… so all you have to do is the actual cooking (and eating of course).

They offer formula’s for 1, 2 or 4 people for 3, 4 or 5 meals… even offering Vegetarian, Quick/Easy & breakfast choices.

The meals are at least 25% organic, have no unnecessary additives or preservatives and focus on providing sustainable fish and local meat choices to create varied, healthy & original recipes.

I will be receiving a box from them in the next few weeks – so stay tuned for more details about the contents…..

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So that is what SMARTMAT is all about… and as I mentioned – I was lucky enough to attend one of their launch events at the Yoghurt Farm in Ixelles, Brussels in the middle of June (hosted by the PR agency Nightingale).

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Firstly – the venue was decked out in a Swedish MidSommar theme (as the date was correct and of course, Anders, the head of Smartmat is originally Swedish although having lived in Belgium for the last 20years)

That is Anders telling us more about the evening and the SMARTMAT concept
That is Anders telling us more about the evening and the SMARTMAT concept

Think cosy, country feeling …..

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After enjoying a home-made vodka cranberry cocktail (virgin for moi)

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We settled down on the outdoor terrace to enjoy a slice of Smörgåstårta – which is a Scandinavian savoury cake (slices of bread spread with avocado, carrots, leeks and cream cheese and decorated … even with edible flowers!)

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Some enjoyed it with a shot of schnapps (while I looked on … jealously… but at 38% alcohol content, I was probably better off not drinking it!)

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And then we moved inside for our mains… home-made Smartmat hamburgers…on a guacamole bed, nestled in a soft hamburger roll.

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What started out as a simple, humble burger was easily “pimped” out by the add-on bowls on the table – featuring leaves of green (aka lettuce), slices of tomato & onion, crispy onion pieces, pickles, sauces which included a delicious homemade ketchup… and BAM… the makings of a KING burger where there.

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For those who were still hungry… a second round of burgers was distributed… but I had my eye on the prize…

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The Yoghurt Farm provided dessert… home-made frozen yoghurt which could be uniquely topped based on the individuals preference! I opted for freshly chopped pineapple, berry coulis (which is made on site), chocolate granola and chocolate chips (don’t judge me on the amount of chocolate… I use the excuse that I am eating for two… and my little girl has a sweet tooth 🙂 – plus I have to confess that I could have consumed my body weight in this dessert it was SOOOO good!)

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Not only was I super impressed by the Smartmat concept and the amazing frozen yoghurt – we were also allowed to build our own bouquet to take home (7 flowers, that were supposed to be placed under my pillow that night in order to dream of my future husband… I still joked and asked if I would dream of my 2nd husband!) before leaving with our goodie bag (co-organized with Dille & Kamille)

Once again – an enormous thank you to The Yoghurt Farm, Nightingale & Smartmat for a truly memorable evening!