Everything’s Coming Up Vanilla Beans….At Nielsen-Massey!

Every baker knows that Nielsen-Massey vanillas are synonymous with quality.  I recently had the opportunity to tour the plant which is located in Waukegan, Il.    From the moment I stepped inside the Nielsen Massey plant, I was hit with the wonderful smell of vanilla.  It was almost enough to make this home baker swoon with delight!  

Matt Nielsen, one of the three Nielsen siblings who now run the operation, was kind enough to take us around the plant.   

Matt Nielsen

Our happy group of foodies donned our white hair nets and stepped into the pristine stainless steel world of vanilla production.  We saw tank after tank processing vanilla extract right in front of us.  Matt explained the origins of the various vanillas Nielsen Massey produces.  One of Nielsen-Massey’s specialties is their single-source vanilla extracts made from beans grown in just one region.  They produce specialized extracts from Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar — each with a special and unique flavor.    As we stood with the stainless steel tanks in front of us, I was overwhelmed when I saw the crates and crates of whole vanilla beans stacked behind us.  Matt opened one of the crates and passed around a bundle of vanilla beans for us to touch and smell…..


Vanilla beans are the fruit of the vanilla orchid – which must be pollinated by hand in order to produce the vanilla beans.  This is a very time and labor intensive crop and can only be grown in a very limited portion of the world.

Matt Nielsen graciously educated us on the vanilla extract process and also on the history of this century-old , family run company.  He proudly explained that Nielsen uses a “cold extraction” method, with alcohol as a solvent, so different concentrations of alcohol and pure water are added to and then taken off the crushed beans.  The entire process is automated and takes 3 to 5 weeks.   

Matt explained that the home cook should store vanilla out of direct sunlight and heat.  If properly stored, vanilla will last almost indefinitely.  Vanilla beans should be stored at room temperature – never refrigerated.  

 With the holidays fast approaching, check out Nielsen-Massey vanillas and flavorings for your baking needs!   


Nielsen Massey “Tart It Up!” Event : Big Success!

I had the opportunity to attend  the “Tart It Up!” event which was hosted by Nielsen Massey Vanilla company in Waukegan, Il yesterday.  The famous UK pastry chef, Eric Lanlard demonstrated  two recipes from his latest book, Tart It Up!.

Tart It Up!  by Chef Eric Lanlard


I think I was as excited about meeting Craig Nielsen, Beth Nielsen and Matt Nielsen as I was about Chef Eric’s baking demonstration.  The Nielsen Massey story is quite remarkable and this third generation Nielsen team has continued the Vanilla legacy.


Craig Nielsen, Beth Nielsen, Matt Nielsen

As soon as I stepped into the front door of the Nielsen Massey plant, I was greeted by Craig Nielsen and given a warm welcome.  The Nielsens were such gracious hosts —I felt like I was attending a party in their home instead of a presentation at their plant.  Beth Nielsen also promptly welcomed me and later gave us all a tour of their new state-of-the art commercial kitchen.  As I listened to Beth talk about the kitchen – how every detail was carefully selected by her – I came to realize that this is more than vanilla to the Nielsens.  This is a family history over three decades strong.  Matt Nielsen hosted a tour of the plant at the end of the day.  The plant tour can be found under my post, ” Everything’s Coming Up ….Vanilla Beans at Nielsen Massey”.

Now back to Chef Eric….

Vickie Meets Chef Eric Lanlard


Chef Eric’s baking demonstration covered the basics of making a crust as well as a sweet pie ( Pecan)


And a savory tart,  Salmon with Mustard and Dill Tart


I learned a new technique for pastry making… what Chef Eric referred to as “rubbing the flour”.  He used his hands to mix the butter and flour together – instead of a pastry cutter as we have all learned to use in pie crust making.  He said that a good pastry chef has to learn how the dough “feels” and that can only be done with your hands.  He said that pastry making is not cooking — it’s chemistry.  And, because it is chemistry, a pastry recipe should be followed closely and not altered.  I loved his stories about being a pastry chef.  He said, “We bring smiles to people’s faces!  Pastry chefs create cakes for weddings…birthdays….special occasions…and people always smile when they see the cake!”.  

Chef Eric said that the home “pastry chef” can create every recipe in his book.  And, if your pastry turns out less than perfect — just tell everyone it has the new “rustic look”!  I think the whole point is to try new things and learn to be comfortable doing it.  The kitchen is a place to enjoy with your family and friends.

We all got to sample the Pecan Pie and Salmon Tart before the much anticipated tour of the Nielsen Massey plant.

 The Tart It Up! tastings were wonderful and so was the event!  

Many thanks to Nielsen Massey Vanilla for hosting “Tart It Up!” 





Vickie Meets Chef Eric Lanlard

Chef Eric Lanlard, famous UK bakery chef who is also known as “ Cake Boy“, has been on a whirlwind  U.S. book tour promoting his latest book, Tart It Up!.  I must admit, even the name of the cookbook intrigued me.  But,  when the chance to meet Chef Eric was coupled with the opportunity to tour the Nielsen Massey Vanilla plant in Waukegan, Il AND meet Beth, Matt and Craig Nielsen–this girl was in the car, headed to Waukegan!

Vickie with Chef Eric Lanlard

Chef Eric’s new book, Tart It Up!, is full of over 75 savory and sweet pie and tart recipes.  Chef Eric says, ”  In this book you will find not only great recipes and tips for making the best pastry but also the inspiration for delicious tarts and pies that I’ve collected over the years…..I hope you will like them as much as my friends do.”

 The Nielsen-Massey event was attended by media and food bloggers along with a bus load load of French pastry students from the Culinary Institute.  It was so exciting to watch Chef Eric create his baking masterpieces and listen as he shared his passion for pastry with us.    

The Tart It Up!  Event and the tour of the Nielsen Massey plant can be found under my other posts.

“Nielsen Massey Event:  Tart It Up! :  Big Success”

“Everything’s Coming up Vanilla Beans….At Nielsen Massey!”

Tart It Up!   by Eric Lanlard. ( Octopus Books:  July 2012)  $ 19.99 



Nielsen-Massey Vanilla and Flavoring Review

As you all know, I LOVE to bake and I was thrilled when I was asked to review the Nielsen-Massey Vanillas and Flavorings.  Nielsen Massey has been known as a producer of  top quality vanillas for over a century.  The company was founded in 1907.  They have always been, and still are, a family-owned business and are now run by the third generation of the Nielsens.  The line of Nielsen Massey products is extensive – with vanillas from Madagasar, Tahiti and Mexico;  vanilla powders, sugars and pastes and  flavorings including pure chocolate extract, pure almond extract, pure orange extract, pure coffee extract – just to name a few.  My daughter, Nicole, uses the Nielsen Massey Vanilla paste and absolutely loves it.   Whatever your baking needs — Nielsen Massey has a flavoring or vanilla for you!

I decided to use the Nielsen Massey  Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and bake my Mom’s Old Fashioned Pecan Pie.   For the complete recipe, click here:  Vickie’s Mom’s Old Fashioned Pecan Pie.   This recipe has been in my family for years but I have to say it tasted even better with the Nielsen Massey Madagascar Vanilla! 

To watch the step by step tutorial video on how to make this recipe featuring the Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, Click here:  Vickie’s Mom’s Old Fashioned Pecan Pie

I have only started playing with the other samples they sent me:  Pure Almond Extract, Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract, Pure Chocolate Extract and Mexican Pure Vanilla Extract, but I am amazed at how much each one adds to a recipe. 

The Nielsen Massey website has lots of information about all of their products and a wonderful section packed full of great recipes.  If you want to get inspired, click here to check out their recipe section:  Nielsen Massey Recipes.  Here you will see recipes ideas from appetizers and baked goods to drinks and entrees.  My favorite was the Ribs with Smoky Vanilla BBQ Sauce!

And speaking of recipes, Nielsen Massey has a great new cookbook out :  A Century of Flavor  Nielsen Massey Vanillas.  It is a beautiful cookbook with tons of full color pictures and many delicious recipes.  I can’t wait to try the Vanilla Caramel Corn Crunch this weekend!

Cooking and baking is so enjoyable for me and I love to use quality products.  The Nielsen Massey line of vanillas and flavorings will help you create all kinds of flavorful foods!

Thank you to Wilkspr for the Nielsen Massey gift set which I received in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other manner.  The opinions expressed above are my own.


Nielsen Massey Vanilla and Cookbook Giveaway

This contest is now closed

I LOVE to bake!  Here’s my Old Fashioned Pecan Pie —hot out of the oven.  I used the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure  Vanilla Extract in my pecan pie and you can really taste the difference!    I have learned that it is so important to use quality ingredients in your recipes because that one tip makes a big difference in the success of your finished product.  

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas are premium vanilla products that are known worldwide.  They have always been, and still are, a family-owned business and are now run by the third generation of the Nielsens.  The line of Nielsen-Massey’s Pure Vanilla products include:  Vanilla Beans and Extracts from Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexico; sugar and alcohol-free Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder; Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste ( which my daughter, Nicole, absolutely loves) ; Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar and Certified Organic Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract and Beans.  They also have an amazing line of pure flavors:  Pure Chocolate Extract, Pure Almond Extract, Pure Orange Extract, Pure Lemon Extract, Pure Coffee Extract, Pure Peppermint Extract,  Orange Blossom Water and Rose Water.  Whatever your baking needs — Nielsen – Massey has a flavoring or extract for you!

Nielsen-Massey also has a cookbook, A Century of Flavor Nielsen-Massey Vanillas.   I read cookbooks like some people read novels and this cookbook took me on a journey of exciting flavors and dishes.  It is packed with 50 delicious recipes and full-page color pictures of every dish!  Just reading the book made my mouth water  with recipes like Vanilla Apple Pudding, Savory Pork Tenderloin, Vanilla-Infused Balsamic Vinaigrette and Vanilla Caramel Corn Crunch!

One lucky Make Life Special reader will win a Nielsen-Massey Gift Set:

2 oz Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract

2 oz Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract

2 oz Mexican Pure Vanilla Extract

2 oz Pure Almond Extract

2 oz Pure Chocolate Extract

A Century of Flavor cookbook

Win it!!!


To enter the giveaway, just answer the following question in the “Speak Your Mind” section at the bottom of this post:

” What is your favorite recipe you bake using vanilla?”

Maybe it’s your grandma’s recipe for sugar cookies or your favorite pie or cake recipe.  Whatever bakery creation that makes  your taste buds dance with delight, please share!


One entry per person, please.

Giveaway starts Tuesday October 16, 2012.

Giveaway ends Saturday October 27, 2012 at 8pm CST.

The winner will be chosen by Random.org and announced October 28, 2012.

Winner must email MakeLifeSpecial@Gmail.com  with their name and mailing address.

Note:  Giveaway sponsored by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas.


Make Life Special
2 Cypress Rd Litchfield, IL 62056 US
Phone: 217-556-8297 Website: http://www.makelifespecial.com