Thursday, March 23, 2017


Let me preface this post by saying that I am aware that I spelt brusselS sprouts wrong in my book. I will fix it. Promise. #noshame

While updating some recipes and tacking some photos in my cookbook this week, I realized I didn't have much in my recipe collection that fell under the category of "side dishes." So, in my grocery shopping pursuits this week I saw the store had some really good looking brussels sprouts, something I don't eat very often. I usually stick with my basic loves for broccoli, green beans, and asparagus. And so begins another recipe adventure...


+ 1 lb brussels sprouts
+ 2 tbsp sugar
+ 2 cups balsamic vinegar
+ 1/2 cup of bacon, cooked, chopped
+ salt & pepper


1. Cut off the stems of the brussels sprouts and remove the outside leaves that might be discoloured or rubbery. Wash. 

2. Cut the brussels sprouts in half and toss them in a bowl with a generous drizzle of EVOO and a liberal shake of salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350°C for 30-40. At the half way point, turn over the brussels sprouts so they brown on the other side. 

3. While the brussels sprouts are cooking, make the balsamic reduction. In a sauce pan, bring to a boil the balsamic vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Reduce temperature and let simmer until the vinegar has become thick and reduced by half (approximately 20 minutes). Set aside.

4. Remove brussels sprouts and add the cooked, chopped bacon. Plate and drizzle with as much balsamic reduction as your heart desires. I'm generous with my drizzles. I like a lot of that tangy goodness!

I loved the crunchy bits of bacon in this dish. I also loved the crispy leaves on the outside of the brussels sprouts from roasting them in the oven. Next time, I'll definitely roast these with some garlic (like I do when I roast all veggies - still not sure why I didn't do this in the first place. Everything is better loaded in garlic! Am I right!?) 

Cookbook is coming along nicely. I'm edging on the 30 recipes marks. Goal is to be to 40 recipes before summer vacation! I've been experimenting with techniques and flavours I experienced in Italy. I haven't written any of those recipes down yet. Once I do, I'll be sure to share one on here!

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Italy 2k17 - VENICE

I already knew that Venice was going to be a legit "dream come true" moment for me. Venice was my first taste of the "there's more out there then my small little town" mentality. At the age of 13, I vividly remember seeing that picture of Rialto Bridge and saying to myself: "I will get there!" So,needless to say, Venice had high expectations and I was a little bit nervous that it wouldn't meet them. SPOILER ALERT: It met every expectation and MORE!

Venice was my first interaction with the Italian culture. It was my first taste of REAL Italian food. It was my first sip of true Chianti wine. It was my first "Buongiorno" and my first "Ciao." Sigh, take me back?

I will never forget the feeling and emotion that came over me when I rounded the corner and got my first glimpse of the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal. I grabbed Ken's arm as I gasped and I exclaimed over and over again "ohm'god, ohm'god, ohm'god!" Instantly, tears filled my eyes. I had sunglasses on at the time but when I removed them, I looked at Ken and pointed to my face and said "I'm actually CRYING!" We then just stood there and watched the gondolas drift by and I looked at the beautiful buildings along the water over and over again. I didn't want to leave. I could have just stood there for the next 2 weeks of the trip and been content, I'm sure of it!

After standing there a while, we walked up and over and saw the other side of the bridge. Restaurants lined the walkways on either side of the bridge. Docks lined the water where gondolas were waiting to take folks on a journey through the small canals that make up Venice. It was dusk and the sun was setting making the ambiance even more memorable. What I dreamt didn't even COMPARE to the beauty of seeing all of this in person. A feeling I'll never forget. Bucket list item checked. 

We spent 2.5 days in Venice. It's a small city and 2.5 days was good enough to see everything. This isn't to say you couldn't stay longer. We spent our days walking the narrow streets. There's a lot of beautiful architecture and history to see in Venice. And it is so easy to get lost in Venice. You get turned around quite easily while mindlessly twisting and turning through the small streets and alleyways. Thank GOD for the old fashioned paper map! The city is very charming and romantic. I loved walking through the streets and crossing all the small canals. There are over 4000 small bridges in Venice! I'm pretty sure on our walks, we must have crossed at least half of them (I'm only slightly exaggerating).

Now, let's talk food.

It's going to be really hard for me to fully describe how this food brought me the joy that it did. We didn't have a bad meal in Venice. How could you when the people take such pride in their cuisine?! There is so much love and joy put in to every plate of food that is put in front of you. You can taste how the recipe has been developed and shared from one generation to the next. You can see how some restaurants have taken the techniques and flavours they were taught as a child growing up and put their own modern takes on them. Many of the meals had me speechless and all I could do after taking a bite was to sit back and just say "MMM" over and over again.

Fettucine in a porcini mushroom cream sauce.
Vongole (pasta with clams)
All of the crostini with bruschetta, garlic oil, prosciutto, mortadella...the list keeps going
Cheese on cheese on cheese
Ricotta cheesecake
And the meal of all meals in Venice: squid ink ravioli with white fish and a saffron sauce. I can't even. NOPE. There are no words to describe our last night in Venice. Just the "heart eye emoiji" forever and ever.

I fell in love with Venice at first sight. My Italy trip was off to a good start. The weather was gorgeous. We went expecting it to rain every day considering it was the official "rainy" season. Also, we have friends who had visited Italy at the same time of year in the past and they warned us to be ready for rain and stressed the need for extra socks and good waterproof boots and jackets. Our entire stay in Venice (and Italy for that matter) was rain-free! It was like a perfect Canadian spring day every day that we were there.

I'm going to let the pictures do the rest of the talking about my time in Venice. Hopefully my words and these photos will truly express how easily it is to fall in love with this place. I truly hope I can go back to Venice someday. Soon.

Next stop: Florence! Stay tuned...

Friday, January 20, 2017

This is freaky...slash...I DID IT!

Woah, woah, woah!! 

Like I'm a little bit speechless right now. 


Am I over-reacting? 

Ok, perspective. Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at my desk thinking about this blog and past posts. Sometimes I like to travel down memory lane and I'll pick a tag and read through those posts and reminisce and marvel at the growth and journey I've been on. 

So, while daydreaming, I vaguely remembered writing a post when I started this blog 6 years ago (SIX YEARS AGO!) about my travel goals in the future. And GUYS! I literally wrote THIS a little over five years ago. 

Re-reading it again now, my eyes well up with tears. I feel these emotions because tonight I'm taking flight and literally going on my dream trip for two weeks. Two weeks in Italy! First stop is Venice, then on to Florence, and finishing off in Rome. While in Florence, I'll be taking a day trip to Tuscany and Pisa. I'm sharing this journey of a lifetime with one of my greatest friends as well, Ken. It's a bit surreal, but the excitement I'm feeling is unreal!

At the end of that 2011 blog post, I wrote: "So here I am, declaring to you that in the next 5 years I will live my dreams and travel (through Europe)." Ok. So I'm not traveling ALL OVER Europe. But I am doing what I set out to do and I'm taking that trip of a lifetime. The one I've been dreaming about since I was 13.

Amazing where life leads you. Yeah, I wrote that down in my blog - but a small part of me did it half knowing that I'd probably never follow through with it. You know what I mean? One of those BIG goals you say "I HAVE TO DO THIS!" but is it truly feasible? It's a big world out there and 5 years ago at the time when I wrote that blogpost, little ol' small town me was quite comfortable in my little ol' Fredericton home living my comfortable and familiar life. In fact, I still experience a little anxiety when it comes to traveling and the unknown. That "knots in your stomach" kind of feeling when you think you might get lost, lose a passport, miss a flight, do something wrong and piss off the locals.

But, those feelings haven't stopped me yet! There's too much world out there to see for me!

"I often hear of friends and acquaintances travelling and seeing what the world has to offer. Why can't I be one of those people?" Dear 2011 Melissa: You are!