Pretzel Bark


You might want to call this pretzel crack, because it is totally addictive!!  We make it for a Christmas treat to share with family and friends, but I’d advise you to make enough to keep for yourself too …

Pretzel bark


  • About 8 ounces (half of a 1-pound bag) mini pretzels, broken into smaller pieces, more or less to cover the pan
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups (one 12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
  • Sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 11X17-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Cover the bottom of the pan in a layer of broken mini pretzels. Set aside.
  2. In a small or medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and brown sugar. When the mixture starts to gently simmer and bubble, let it cook for 3 minutes without stirring. Immediately pour the hot caramel mixture over the pretzels in a back and forth motion to cover most of the pretzels (a few empty/dry spots are ok as the caramel will fuse together during baking).
  3. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of the hot caramel and pretzels. Let the chocolate chips sit for 2-3 minutes until they melt. Use an offset spatula or rubber spatula to gently spread the melted chocolate over the toffee. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Let the toffee cool completely at room temperature then refrigerate if needed to help the chocolate set up. Break the toffee into pieces and try not to eat the whole batch.

(I found this recipe on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Grilled Shrimp and Cauliflower with Romesco Dipping Sauce

Cauliflower & Shrimp with Romescu
The first thing you need to know is that this sauce is A M A Z I N G.  Put it on your sandwich, toss hot pasta with it, fresh veggie dip or meat skewer dip …. it wins every time.  Today’s appetizer included these grilled cauliflower florets, lightly marinated shrimp and green onions.

Ingredients for Romesco


  • 1 large roasted red bell pepper from a jar
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Pulse first 8 ingredients in a food processor until very finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add oil; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Romesco can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.


To use as a dipping sauce, heat through until easy to stir and warm.


Shrimp and Vegetables

  • 1 head of cauliflower – cut into florets
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lb jumbo shrimp – tails and shells on
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 bunch green onions

Lightly steam cauliflower until just tender crisp – be careful not too overcook it.

Season with salt.

In a large bowl, toss shrimp with vegetable oil and lime juice.  Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.

Grill cauliflower, shrimp and green onions just until heated through (and shrimp is fully cooked) – try to get some pretty grill marks on there!

Arrange on a serving platter with the Romesco and dip merrily away.



Pickled Mexican Vegetables

Pickled Veg

I don’t know if any dinner featuring the tastes of Mexico would be complete without this dish … in Mexico it is often found sitting on tables just waiting for you to nibble.

This keeps for weeks in your fridge and is a great accompaniment to sandwiches or burgers and always perfect for tacos.

Like many pickled recipes, this is just a guide.  Use whatever vegetables are fresh and ready at hand.  Today’s version included garden fresh cauliflower, zucchini, green & yellow beans, carrots and sweet Walla Walla onions.  Prepare vegetables in bite size portions, i.e., cauliflower florets, wedges of zucchini, carrots sliced on diagonal … you get the idea.  I like to prepare everything ahead of time, and have them ready on the cutting board so I can see the colours and shapes together to make sure it is a pretty picture.  (yep, I’m that weirdo)  If you like a bit of spicy kick, slice up a jalapeño or two as well.

Start by heating up some good olive oil, (a generous portion – more than you would normally use to sauce) sauté onions until soft.  Add garlic, carrot, and any veg you think might take a while to soften.  You are only looking for crisp tender as your finished product, not soft and overcooked veg.


2 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp peppercorns

1 tbsp dried mexican oregano

4 bay leaves

Simmer just until heated through and remove from heat.  Store in glass jar (or non reactive container) in the fridge for weeks!





Basil Chive Vinaigrette

Nothing smells like fresh basil – definitely my favourite herb.  Summer is the only time of year I make this vinaigrette, when the basil is plentiful and salads grace every meal.

Basil Vinaigrette 1

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 oz (45 g) fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups leaves)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup really good quality extra virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients, except for the olive oil.  Give it a good whiz, until all the herbs are bright flecks of green, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil until creamy and smooth.

Basil Vinaigrette 2

I really think this needs either an immersion blender or food processor to get the consistency.  If you don’t have either, chop herbs very fine and whisk it all up.

This will yield about 1 pint jar, and I’d suggest trying it in a variety of ways …

Basil Vinaigrette 3

salad dressing   ~   vegetable dip   ~   blend with cream cheese for a spreadable bread topping   ~   toss with zucchini ribbons   ~   brush over grilled chicken or seafood


Baked Sticky Spicy Chicken Wings


chicken wings 2

I don’t think I can have enough chicken wing recipes.  These are perfect if you are looking for a sticky, slightly spicy, chicken wing.  Make sure you have plenty of napkins handy, you will need them.  If you like them extra spicy, just use more of the chile paste.


  • 2 pounds chicken drumettes
  • 1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 TBSP chile garlic paste (sambal oelek, or Korean chili paste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger

Using a ziplock bag, mix all ingredients except chicken wings.  When all ingredients are blended add the chicken and give it a good massage.  Put entire bag in the fridge for at least 3 hours.


  • 3 TBSP honey
  • 1 tbsp of the same chile paste you used in the marinade
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
  • 1 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

GARNISH (if desired)

  • sesame seeds
  • slivered green onions

Preheat oven to 425.

Spread wings out on a parchment lined baking sheet.  You will thank me later for reminding you to use parchment …

Bake for 20 minutes.

While chicken is baking, whisk to combine all sauce ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to thicken.

Brush over chicken (or toss in a bowl to evenly coat) and return chicken to oven for another 5-10 minutes until crispy and browned in spots.

Garnish with sesame seeds and slivered onions.

Gazpacho, Morelia style

The gazpacho we encountered in Morelia was unlike anything we had tried before.  Certainly not cold tomato soup.  We loved that each bite hit all the notes we were looking for; sweet, sour, spicy, salty and refreshing.  Versatility is key here, and in my opinion, so is hand chopping the fruit and vegetables.  Sure, a food processor would make short work of it all, but you might not get such great flavour in every spoonful.


We first tasted this in Morelia, Mexico – where everything is fresh and delicious!  Even at home though, we have loved the refreshing dish.  Try serving it in small dishes as a palate cleanser for a Mexican fiesta ….

Everything finely diced:

2 cups jicama

2 cups cucumber

1 cup watermelon

1 cup mango

1/2 – 2/3 cup red or white onion

I say 1/2 – 2/3 cup of onion because it will depend on how pungent your onion is, and how much you love onion flavour, play with it.

1 tsp chile flakes

1/2 tsp salt

juice of 1 lime

juice of 1 orange

Stir this all together, and taste!!!  Every little bit of fruit and vegetable should be in each bite and you should love the way it all comes together.  If not – adjust!


As you can tell, this is no small bite!  – Small version in the market in Morelia.



Pizza Pockets & Hand Pies


Following is the recipe for a basic, soft and easy to work with dough.  I used this recipe for making pizza pockets for my granddaughter Sloan’s first week of Grade 1, and then turned leftover dough into meat hand pies for 93 year old Auntie Elsie, who is kind of tired of cooking these days. Leftover dough you say???  Well I didn’t think 8-10 small pizzas would give me enough dough so I doubled the recipe … which yielded 25 pizza pockets, 10 hand meat pies and 1 pizza for our dinner.  Significant yield!!!

Pizza Crust: (makes 8-10 small pizzettas)

  • 750 g white flour (use Tipo ’00 flour if you can or a strong bread flour)
  • 200 g semolina flour
  • 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. (or 1 x 8 oz packages) yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil


  1. Place your flour(s) and sea salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Create a well in the center.
  2. In a large measuring cup, mix together your lukewarm water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it sit for approximately 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to ferment.
  3. Pour the water/sugar/yeast mixture into the well along with the olive oil and stir together with a fork or large spoon until it is well mixed. Once it becomes too difficult to mix together with your fork or spoon, sprinkle extra flour on the dough and your hands and mix with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball.
  4. Place the dough on a well-floured flat surface and knead, pushing the dough using the palms of your hands, for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and stretchy. You may need to add extra flour as you go, being careful not to add too much to keep the dough from being too stiff.
  5. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, dust the top of the dough with flour, and cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm draft-free area for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down.  At this point you can either refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 2 days, covered with plastic wrap and occasionally punched down) or divide the dough into 4-6 portions (depending on how big you want your pizzas).  I highly recommend making your dough in advance and letting it sit in the fridge as the longer ‘proof’ really makes a difference.   Ensure that your pizza dough comes to room temperature before cooking (bring it out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before you are ready to cook).
  6. Once ready to cook, heat your oven to the highest heat setting (500F for most ovens) and place your pizza stone in the oven for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Portion the dough into 8-10 balls and place on a well-floured surface. Using your hands, with your knuckles, (dusted with flour, along with the counter to prevent the dough from sticking) form your pizza crust 15-20 minutes before cooking your pizza on a flat surface dusted with semolina flour until it is nice and thin. Keep stretching it with your hands to make a flat pizza base (it doesn’t have to be round or perfect!).
  8. Remove the pizza stone from the oven, lay your rolled dough on the stone, and add your ingredients ….

If you are using this dough for pizza pockets or hand pies, after step 5 skip to step 7 and form circles of dough.


For pizza pockets, layer on pizza sauce, your chosen ingredients and cheese, closing the pockets with a fork.  Make sure to prick the top surface with the fork so steam can escape.





For the meat pies I used an ice cream scoop to get a consistent amount of the meat mixture – centered on the dough, and then brought up the edges to crimp over the middle of the circle.  Brush with beaten egg and poke with a fork.

Bake pizza pockets or meat pies at 400 until golden brown, about 20 minutes.


1 onion, minced finely

1 garlic clove, grated

2 carrots

2 stalks celery

1/2 cup each frozen corn and peas

1 small zucchini, diced

1 lb ground beef

1 tbsp each dried oregano and basil

Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is lightly carmelized, add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are almost cooked through, then add zucchini and saute for another few minutes.  Remove from heat and place in bowl.  Add frozen corn and peas.  Return pan to heat and stir in ground beef – cooking until lightly browned, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Add beef to vegetable mixture and season with dried herbs, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  At this point, if you feel like it needs a bit more flavour, add 1 tbsp of tomato paste.  Stir well and set in fridge to cool down.  When cool, continue on with forming your hand pies.

These pies are only limited by your imagination – use whatever you feel like to fill the pies, making sure to taste the mixture before filling the dough rounds.  Made in a smaller size they make a great appetizer too.