Thursday, 14 December 2017

HOLIDAY ROUND-UP!


The holiday season is great time to try something new!  So, I've gotten together with some of my favourite bloggers, to give you some ideas and suggestions for great family activities indoors or out!


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Winter Fun Ideas
Blog: Mama Indulgences

Sharing some fun winter ideas to make some memorable family moments this Christmas.




Outdoor Activities to do this winter with your kids!
Blog:  Mama Blabs

Wondering how you're going to get through this winter season without going crazy, cooped up inside all day?  Then don't!  Here are eight awesome ideas to reap the benefits of getting outside, no matter what the weather decides to do.  Click the link to read some fun ideas the whole family will love!



Black Pioneer Village - Festive fun for the little ones

The holidays are a great time to visit new places, especially those that offer festive activities with an educational twist!



December Dolce To-Do List

If you haven't already checked out Viva la Dolce's December Dolce To-Do List, be sure to do so!  It's a great help in remembering all the important things to get done this month!



Simple Winter Crafts your Toddlers and Preschoolers Will Love!

Try this simple toddler or preschooler seasonal craft - a fun craft stick Christmas Tree!



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Hope you enjoyed this holiday round-up!

Monday, 11 December 2017

MUSIC MONDAY ~ N.15

With the first real snow fall of the year and Christmas right around the corner, I couldn't help but choose Andrea Bocelli's rendition of "White Christmas" or "Bianca Neve," for this week's Music Monday!

This song is a classic Christmas carol, and an all-time favourite - including one of my own! Being Italian-Canadian, this version is especially heart-warming as it mixes both Italian and English.

World-renowned artist, Andrea Bocelli, sings alongside Canadian musician and producer, David Foster in the video below.   It was Foster who produced Bocelli's first-ever Christmas album, My Holiday, which was then turned into a PBS television special entitled, "The Andrea Bocelli and David Foster Christmas Special."

I have watched Bocelli perform this song on the special, as well as, live in concert in 2009, when he visited Toronto. Each time, Bocelli performed this song to perfection!  Hope you enjoy it!



Thursday, 7 December 2017

DOLCE VITA BLOGGERS: MY ITALIAN CONNECTION


I am delighted to be a part of the Dolce Vita Bloggers - a community of bloggers who share a strong passion for Italian culture!  Each month, we will be writing on a specific topic and posting them on a shared forum (click on the image above to read the posts from other bloggers).  A big thanks to hosts, Kelly from Italian at Heart, Jasmine from Questa Dolce Vita and Krisite from Mammaprada for inviting me and putting this together.

DECEMBER'S TOPIC: ITALIAN CONNECTION

My connection to Italian culture dates began from the day I was born.  My parents are immigrants from Abruzzo, Italy, and have always maintained a strong connection to their heritage.  Italian was spoken in our home and the culture was included in all aspects such as food, music, school, social events, etc. Although I was born Canadian, I grew up in a very strong Italian-Canadian community.
Growing up, I spent most of my summers in Italy as much of our family remained there. I am grateful for these experiences and consider them a huge part in helping shape who I am today.  
As I grew older, my passion for Italian culture grew even stronger. I continued to study the language and in my early adolescent years, was fortunate to study the language in Siena one summer.  This was a life-changing experience and completely solidified my love for Italy and the Italian culture!
I pursed a career in media in the Italian community, which I continue today, and also decided to get my teaching degree in order to share with others my passion for languages.
My blog, Viva la Dolce, was born out of my love for my Italian heritage.  It is my way of sharing with others, my passion for the Italian language, culture, and most of all the "dolce vita" mentality.  It is also a way of keeping my family traditions alive, as well as the many valuable lessons taught to me through my culture.
I hope you will join me in my journey, and help me in celebrating all that is Italian!  As I always say, Viva la Dolce! ;)

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

December Dolce To-Do List

The Christmas season is upon us!  While there is much to see and do this month, be sure not to miss out on some of the most important things.  To help make sure you don't, check out this month's "Dolce To-Do" below!


1. Write your holiday cards - This year, log off, and put some pen to paper!  Adding a personal touch to your Christmas messages, makes them all the more special.


2. Break out the Christmas carols! - You really can't get away from them, so you might as well join in!  Carols are great to help get into the Christmas spirit, and spread some cheer.  Consider getting together a small group and caroling around your neighbourhood, or even your office! 


3. Eat lots of Panettone! - Don't be afraid to indulge in your favourite sweets or savory dishes.  Yes, we need to be mindful of our diets, but then again, some of these sweets and dishes only come around once a year so ... YOLO!


4. Go out and play in the snow - With the cold weather outside, it's so easy to stay in and hibernate. However, don't forget that fresh air is important all year-round - so bundle up and go make some snow angels!  Besides, you may be pleasantly surprised just how fun it is to act like a kid again!


5. Visit a Christmas market - Christmas markets are full of great finds!  There are so many unique gift choices to discover, as well as interesting on-site experiences (pictures with Santa, fun selfie-walls, giveaways, etc.).  What's more, when buying from a Christmas market, you are helping to support small businesses, so it's a win-win!


6. Reflect on the reason for the seaaon - We all love Santa, but that is definitely not what Christmas is all about.  Be sure to take some time this season to reflect upon the true story of Christmas, and value it's teachings.


7. Host a party -  In the midst of all the hustle and bustle this season, don't forget to actually spend time with your loved ones, instead of just sending them a gift.  Whether you host a party at home, or organize a gathering at a restaurant (or other place of choice), the important thing is bringing friends and family together to spend some quality time.


8. Reflect on your year and prepare for the next - Take some time to think of all your accomplishments this year, goals you still need to work on, and all that you are thankful for.  Then, look ahead to 2018, and make a plan for the new year! Consider what projects you would like to work on, goals you would like to reach, places you would like to visit, etc. 


9. Give to others - Share the joy of the season, not just with family and friends, but with strangers as well - especially those in need.  This time of year can be difficult for many.  Consider helping to alleviate someone's stress or pain by donating or volunteering your time.


10. Make some time for yourself - Whether it's getting a manicure done, doing some personal shopping or sitting and enjoying a nice espresso by the fire, be sure to take a time-out during this holiday season to calm your soul and recharge.






Friday, 1 December 2017

DECORATING FOR THE HOLIDAYS: THE NATIVITY SCENE

Decorating for the holidays is so much fun! While the Christmas trees, the twinkling lights and the lush garlands make me smile from ear to ear, the sight of il presepio, or nativity scene, really warms my heart.

Il presepio has longtime been a huge tradition in my home. We have always enjoyed designing our presepio with the manger scene, alongside a tiny village.  I always love looking at all the intricate details, from the hand painted statues of the holy family to the miniature town hall in the middle of the village. My parents go even as far, as building multi-level platforms, which are then covered by paper, moss and fake snow, to mimic the mountain range from their hometown in Italy.  

While my family enjoys going all out when putting together il presepio, many opt to set up a simple manger with statutes of the holy family, three wise men and animals, which is just as beautiful! After all, that is how the original presepio was designed back in 1233 by Saint Francis.  It was on Christmas Eve of that year that Saint Francis staged a story of the birth of Jesus in the city of Greccio, Umbria. When word got out about his presentation, many churches were inspired to create their own presepio with large realistic statues.

The practice of presepi became especially popular during the 18th century in Napoli, with elaborate representations. Artisans were called to create miniature statues made of wood or terracotta for the presepi of royalty and the wealthy.  Today, Napoli remains the hub for presepio art, as it is known for it's mercato del presepio (nativity scene market).  The street, Via San Gregorio Armeno, which has become known as, "Via dei Presepi" (Navity Scenes Road), is where one will find a multitude of artisan shops, with presepio pieces being created year-round.


Below you'll find some photos from this popular street in Napoli, as well as a variety of  representations of il presepio. 











Images 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

Monday, 27 November 2017

MUSIC MONDAY ~ N.14

This week's Music Monday features Annalisa, with her current chart topper, "Direzione la vita."  This artist has been featured before on VLD, when she collaborated with the duo, Benji & Fede, this past summer.  

Like many other artists, Annalisa shot to fame after participating in a reality television talent show. While, the hit TV series, Amici di Maria De Filippi, helped make her into a star, Annalisa had already made her name on the music scene long before.  She began working as a musician in her early teens, and even spent some time working with two bands, Malavasia and Elaphe Guttata, before starting her solo career.  Since her debut album, Nali, in 2011, Annalisa has enjoyed great success with multiple hit albums, and chart-topping singles.

Check out her latest below:






Friday, 24 November 2017

AN END TO BULLYING

Today marks the end of Bully Prevention and Awareness Week - a week designated by the province of Ontario to help promote safe schools and a positive learning environment.  

Schools throughout the province have been busy with various initiatives and events going on this week in hopes of shedding light and understanding on this very important topic.  While we have certainly made progress in understanding the seriousness and impacts of bullying, I believe many would agree that there is still work to be done. That is why it is so important to remember to continue the anti-bullying efforts year-round.

In spirit of this special week and in honour of all those who have been victim to bullying, I would like to share a song that I wrote and recorded a while back.  I wrote this piece in hopes of lifting up those who were going through some troubled times.  I hope that it can still prove inspirational today.


This song is dedicated to all those who are struggling trying to find their way - no matter what anyone says, just show the real you.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

FASHION : FALL/WINTER 2017 TREND ~ VELVET





One of the hottest trends for the fall/winter season this year is, velvet.  It was on all the major runways, in all different forms and colours. From jumpsuits to dresses to boots and more, there is a little something for everyone's tastes!

With inspiration from Italian designers such as, Valentino and Gucci, I have curated a selection of items highlighting this latest trend.  See the suggestions below:














Monday, 20 November 2017

ITALIAN RADIO STATIONS

Many times when teaching students language, I often emphasize the fact that practice is key.  Since immersion is one of the best methods for learning how to communicate in a foreign tongue, it can often be frustrating when one cannot participate in such an experience.  This leads me to suggest a variety of ways to authentically interact with the second language in one's home country (stay tuned for those in another post!).  Amongst those suggestions is, listening to radio stations in the native tongue. Although one may not understand everything that is being said, the important thing is hearing the accent and intonation of the foreign language.  After all, that is a huge part of the language learning process.  Eventually, one will pick up on the vocabulary as well!

Since Viva la Dolce focuses mainly on Italian language learning, I have suggested below some of Italy's top radio stations to tune in to!  

Happy Listening!


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Wednesday, 15 November 2017

NOVEMBER DOLCE TO-DO LIST!


It's already mid-month, daylight saving time has ended, and holiday prep is everywhere - how are you feeling?  

November is an interesting month: it is a time to mourn the dead (according to the Catholic calendar); it is the time when daylight saving ends, making the days shorter; and it is the time businesses start inundating us with holiday reminders.  While this can all seem very overwhelming, there is a way to look at things positively and make this your best month yet!  See below for some suggestions on how to make the most of the rest of your November! ;)

1. Take time to reflect ~ In the Catholic calendar, November 2nd is observed as "All Souls Day," and is a day to honour those who have passed on.   Whether or not this is your faith, it is always important to take some time to remember those special individuals who are no longer with us.  This month, take a moment to revisit some old photos, share some stories, or simply light a candle in honour of the individual(s); the most important thing is to honour their memory and focus on all the positive moments you shared.

2. Enjoy an espresso! ~ National Espresso day is Novemeber 23rd, so break out your barista skills and make some espresso!  Ristretto, Lungo, Macchiato...the list goes on! Whichever way you choose, enjoy this special treat on this special day!

3. Read a book ~ With the evenings getting darker and colder, it's the perfect time to cozy up under a blanket - preferably by the fire - and indulge in a great read! It is a nice alternative to all the tech most of us are usually interacting with, and allows for some quiet time in your day.

4. Go to an event ~ November is a great time to seek out a new and exciting event.  There are often many fundraisers and conferences going on at this time of year, as well as many artisan shows featuring goodies for the upcoming holiday season!  Check out the local listings in your area to see where you can go!

5. Bring out the cozy blankets ~ With the weather growing colder each day, this is definitely the time of year to change out the light summer sheets and blankets, for the heavier, cozier, winter ones!

6. Make your Christmas list and check it twice! ~ No last minute running around for you!  To avoid the "I don't know what to get them!" anxiety at Christmas, make sure to call or message your loved ones and ask them what's on their wish list this year.  Not only will this allow you to be organized when it comes time to go shopping, but it may also help you secure the item for a cheaper price, as it allows you some time to find it on sale!

7. Enjoy the Santa Claus parade! ~ Here in Toronto, Santa Claus comes to town mid-November.  While this is a great chance to get the kiddies out there for some fun, it's also a time for you to relive your own childhood Christmas memories!  So grab some hot cocoa, bundle up and wave hello to good ol' Saint Nick!

8. Winterize your car ~ Before you know it, the snow will be falling, and you want to make sure you're prepared when it comes.  Be sure to change to winter tires, store a snow brush, scraper, and blanket in the car, and prepare anything else you need to have a winter ready vehicle!

9. Bake (or learn how)! ~  With Christmas visits in the near future, it is always a good idea to have some baked goodies ready to serve or to gift!  If you're not sure of your baking skills, consider enrolling in a holiday baking class, or invite a friend over to help you through the trial and error process!  If baking is really not your thing, take this time to visit your favourite bakeries and start putting in those orders!

10. Christmas Decor ~  Probably one of my most favourite things about Christmas prep is the holiday decor!  It's time to break out the garlands and ornaments, stockings and wreaths, and anything else you have to help celebrate the holiday season!  Don't forget to listen to Christmas carols while you decorate to help really get into the Christmas spirit!

Monday, 13 November 2017

MUSIC MONDAY ~ N.13

This Music Monday, VLD is featuring Italian artist, Biagio Antonacci, with his current hit, "In Mezzo al Mondo" ("In the Middle of the World").

Although Antonacci had a slow start to success, he is now known as one of Italy's prominent male artists.  He has even been recognized internationally, winning "Best Selling Italian Male Artist" in 2005 at the World Music Awards.

Antonacci is well known for his romantic ballads, such as the one featured below.  This song discusses the emotions experienced when one has a "secret crush;" the longing to be with that person, and the sadness at realizing that they don't even know you exist.  The video is entertaining, as it brings to life the many daydreams that this gentleman has of him and his crush.

Be sure to check out the lyrics - both Italian and English - to learn some Italian along the way!




Tuesday, 31 October 2017

ITALIAN HALLOWEEN VOCABULARY

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! BUON HALLOWEEN! 

It is October 31st, and time for all the ghosts, goblins and ghouls to come out and play!  
While this holiday is highly celebrated in North America, it is not traditionally as recognized in Italy. Typically, Italian culture has focused on November 1st, All Saints' Day, and November 2nd, All Souls' Day.  However, due to Western influence on Italian culture, Italians have embraced the fun of dressing up and trick-or-treating as well!

While I have no tricks to play, I do have a treat for you!  I have outlined some basic Italian Halloween vocabulary below, for you to use in your Halloween adventures!  You can be sure your neighbours will be surprised when you say, "dolcetto o scherzetto" tonight! ;)

To practice your knowledge of these and other Halloween words in Italian, check out this Quizlet link for some vocabulary games and activities! 


Monday, 30 October 2017

MUSIC MONDAY ~ N.12

In the spirit of Halloween, this week's Music Monday selection features the amazing, yet slightly haunting voice of Giuliano Sangiorgi - lead singer of the popular Italian music group, Negramaro.

Sangiorgi is known for his unique sound, and multi-talents.  Not only does he perform lead vocals with the band, but he also plays guitar and piano. Furthermore, he is a songwriter with multiple hits, including, "Le Parole Che Non Ti Ho Detto," which was sung by distinguished tenor, Andrea Bocelli.  

The song, "Mentre Tutto Scorre," from the group's album of the same name, discusses a failed love and seems almost like an argument between Sangiorgi and his lost lover.  He dares this other individual to try to take him down, but assures that he won't be so easily beaten.
When asked in interviews the significance of the line, "Green rabbit with a thousand funny faces," Sangiorgi explains that it can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and basically means, whatever you want it to mean.  It can mean hope or disillusionment; it is a mixture of interpretations.




Wednesday, 25 October 2017

WORLD PASTA DAY

Happy Word Pasta Day!  Bring out the gnocchi, the fusilli, and the fettuccine! Whatever the kind, today is a day to celebrate and eat pasta! 

The word pasta comes from the Italian word for, "paste," which is probably due to the paste-like product that results when one mixes pasta's basic ingredients of flour, eggs and water.  With a rich and varied history, it is a little difficult to determine exactly where pasta first originated.  Some believe the first noodles were produced in Central Asia thousands of years ago and made their way westward.  While others believe, pasta made it's way to Italy via Mediterranean trading in the Middle Ages.  Records indicate pasta's increasing popularity in Italy from the 13th century, with the dish even being mentioned in the famous work, The Decameron, by 14th century writer, Boccaccio.

Pasta, which was once reserved for the wealthy in Renaissance times, is now a common dish that can be prepared in a variety of ways.  There are a multitude of noodle types to choose from and endless  ways to dress them up - like a rich ragu sauce, or a simple garlic and oil combination!  Whether you plan on making your own special pasta dish tonight or opt to order "un primo" from the menu, I've rounded up some of my favourite pasta dishes from celebrity chefs to help you make your pick!

Buon appetito!


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Chef Mario Batali



Chef Giada De Laurentis



Chef Lidia Bastianich



Chef David Rocco



Chef Jamie Oliver




Friday, 20 October 2017

LANGUAGE LEARNING BOOKS FOR KIDS






1 ~ Lil' Libros - These books are a great resource for Spanish language learning.  Each book has both English and Spanish translations, and incorporates the learning of elements such as numbers and shapes into cultural stories.

2 ~ Caillou Spanish and French Books - When introducing a new language, it is sometimes best to use a familiar element so that children won't feel as overwhelemed, and may be more eager to engage with the new information.  As such, these Caillou books are a great learning tool for little Caillou fans!

3 ~ Kloo - This award-winning game offers a fun-filled way to learn Spanish, French or Italian! Players learn words and build sentences around a particular theme in order to earn points. After players master the first deck of cards, they  move on to the subsequent deck which builds on the language knowledge they just learned.  (Bonus: There is a version of the game made for adults too!)   

4 ~ My First Book of ... - These  picture books offer a great overview of first words in a foreign language.  Offered in a multitude of languages, these books are a great resource if wanting to create a multicultural library for your children!

5 ~ Tuttle Publishing - The first phrase that pops up on Tuttle Publishing's website is, "bridging the East and the West."  That concept is clear through their collection of books aimed at teaching the languages of Asia.  These books use the familiar A-B-C structure of the English language to outline new words in a variety of Asian languages.  What's more, they include cultural and linguistic notes to help with the language learning experience.     

6 ~ PENpal Audio Recorder Pen - This award-winning language learning tool allows children an alternative "reading" method, by enabling them to listen to content in a variety of languages by simply touching the pen to the book or other language learning resource.  What's more, there are numerous free audio files available, allowing for a multitude of continued learning!  Plus, the recordable feature allows learners to record their language learning and listen to their progress.


Monday, 16 October 2017

MUSIC MONDAYS ~ N.11

Music Monday is back!  If you were wondering where the music was last week, it was intentionally skipped, as this has now become a bi-weekly feature on Viva la Dolce (*the weekly feature edition will resume in the summer*).

Who do we have this week?  It is Giusy Ferreri with her latest hit, "L'amore Mi Perseguita" ("Love Haunts Me"). Ferreri gained her stardom, after coming in second on the first season of Italy's version of the talent show, "X Factor."  Before that, the singer's musical career consisted of experiences with various bands, as well as a solo career attempt.  Ferreri, who is visibly pregnant in this song's video, welcomed a daughter to the world this past September.

The song features another Italian artist as well, Federico Zampaglione.  Zampaglione, leader of music group Tiromancino, directed the official video for this song.




Saturday, 14 October 2017

FALL ROUND-UP: THE VERY BEST IN FOOD, FASHION & FUN!

Fall is such a great time of year for many things, including food, fashion and outdoor activities!  I've gotten together with some of favourite bloggers to put together the ultimate list of fall fun!  Make sure to check out all of the awesome posts below to get inspired this fall!

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Fall Fun for Little Ones 

Fall is such a great time of year to go on family adventures with your little ones.  Here are some of our favourite fall time activities to help you get the most out of the season!



Easy and Fun Fall Leaf Tree Craft for Toddlers 

Fall is such an exciting time, and Pinterest is overflowing with cute toddler crafts.  Here is a fun fall, tree leaf craft you can create with your toddler using leaves you can collect together on a nature walk through your backyard.



Eight Things to do Outside This Fall
Blog: Mamablabs

Looking for new ideas on how to get the kids outside this fall?  Read on for eight fun things to do outdoors as a family, that everyone will love!



Fall Bucket Lists (for moms and toddlers)

It's finally fall!  That means tons of fall themed activities for you and your little one(s).  Check out these bucket lists for toddlers and moms!



DIY Pumpkin Playdough 

Who doesn't love an easy DIY project to do with the kids?  This homemade pumpkin playdough has the sweet smell of the fall season.



Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites (Great for Breastfeeding Moms)

It's officially Fall, which means - you guessed it - Pumpkin Spice Everything!  These Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites are delicious, and the oats and flax seed make them great for breastfeeding moms.  You can even add a little bit of brewer's yeast for an extra boost in your milk supply! Breastfeeding or not, these are delicious, super easy to make and will surely get you in the Fall mood.



Warm up to a Hearty Harvest Stew 

One of my favourite things about fall is the abundance of fresh harvest vegetables that are now in prime season.  With the cooler weather, it is time for me to break out the crockpot and make this delicious hearty Harvest Stew.  So easy to make, and perfect to come home to after a long day.



Fendi Inspired Fall Fashion 

Want to look like you just stepped off the runway?  Check out these Fendi inspired fall fashion pieces!

Friday, 13 October 2017

PUMPKIN INSPIRED ITALIAN RECIPES

As we decorate for the fall season, and upcoming Halloween holiday, there is no doubt an excess of pumpkins lying around!  While there are multiple ways to use pumpkins for decor purposes, there are also plenty of ways to use them in the kitchen!

I've rounded up five great delicious pumpkin inspired, Italian recipes that will not only delight your tastebuds, but be the perfect comforting dish on these cooler fall days! 


Buon Appetito!



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Italian Winter Squash Stew with Tomato, Dry-Cured Olives and Garlic



This recipe was found in an article for Zester Daily on Huffington Post, and is written by Julia Della Croce.  Della Croce is the author of "Veneto: Authenic Recipes from Venice and the Italian Northeast;"  Therefore, it is fitting that she provides a delightful history of the "Zucca" (or pumpkin) and it's uses in Northern Italy throughout her article.  It's a very interesting read before diving into the recipe!


Zucca alla scapece - Roman-style marinated pumpkin and 
Zucca in agrodolce - Sicilian-style sweet-and-sour pumpkin


Rachel Roddy writes a wonderful article in The Guardian, where she describes two wonderful recipes from Central and Southern Italy. Before explaining the recipes, Roddy, who lives in Italy, provides great detail of the wonderful scenes in Testaccio, Italy during the fall season.  She also provides a brief description of the types of pumpkin found in the Roman markets during this time of year!


Penne with Pumpkin, Bacon and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena



This scrumptious recipe was found on the website of Academia Barilla, a corporation which actively supports, promotes and develops Italian DOP-certified products.  What's more, they strongly support youth initiatives in the culinary field, as they hope to promote and spread authentic Italian Gastronomic Culture for the future.  Aside from a mouthwatering recipe, you will also find Chef's Tips and some Food History regarding pumpkin, on their website.


Pumpkin Ravoli (Cappellacci)



Another great recipe found on the Academia Barilla website; this one was just too good to pass up!  Although it's "difficulty rating is at a level two (as opposed to the level 1 for the recipe noted above), don't let that intimidate you!  Roll up those sleeves and try this special dish!


Pumpkin Risotto



I just couldn't leave out one of my favourite dishes - risotto!  Although there are a variety of versions to choose from, this recipe hails from the website of celebrity chef, Rachel Ray.  The seasonings of nutmeg and sage in this dish, add the perfect notes to the flavourful, hearty pumpkin. Yum!  

 

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