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! 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Inked in Beijing.

On October 7th, I got a new tattoo.

This is something I've wanted to do now for about a year. I wanted to have a memory of these very important years of my life that I've spent living in China. I knew immediately that I didn't want anything in Chinese writing. Not my style. Too cliché. (Then again, I have a compass on my ankle. Soooo, who am I to judge being cliché!?) So, I started to think about things that reminded me of China, specifically Beijing. A lot of my thoughts, of course, went immediately to food. But, I can't say I was ready to jump at the commitment of tattooing a dumpling on my body. 

My absolute favourite time of the year at home in Canada is fall. No question! The colours, the smells, the feelings, the coziness, the flavours. I. Love. AUTUMN! However, Beijing's autumn isn't quite the same. My favourite season in Beijing is spring. The colours, the smells, the feelings, the coziness, the flavours. I. Love. SPRING (in Beijing)! 

After a lot of thought (like, almost a year of thought) I decided that I wanted to get something connected to my love for spring in Beijing. And I came up with Chinese plum blossoms. These beautiful pink flowers come out in full force around April/May in Beijing. They brighten the place up after a grey, smoggy, and dark winter.

There's also the symbolism that comes with spring: rebirth, new life, and growth. Which is exactly how I see the symbolism of my life (so far) in Beijing. I've discovered a lot about myself over these four years - I've grown as a person, as a teacher, as a traveller, as a global citizen. I've opened my mind to many different lifestyles, cultures, and ways of life. I've seen a lot of things I never imagined I would. I've been reborn as someone who is internationally minded and aware, as opposed to my closed minded, small town self from six years ago.

I asked the tattoo artist to design the image with closed buds at the bottom of the branch, opened flowers in the middle of the branch, and then closed buds again at the top. To me, this represents the transformations I've experienced while living in China. The bottom buds symbolizing the me I was before moving abroad, the flowers representing the change and growth I have experienced, and the buds at the top of the branch symbolizing the growth and transformations I will continue to experience later in my life.

I love my new tattoo and what it represents. I love that it's unique and original. I love that'll always be a constant reminder of how important it is to discover yourself, to grow as a person, and to experience all that life and the world has to offer.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


As promised, I'm making cooking a priority again in my journey to #bebetter and focus on what makes me happy. I'm really good at telling other people to take care of "Number One" that sometimes I forget to heed my own advice. 

Over the last two weeks since making my presence again on the blog, I've created three new recipes, documented some "oldies by goodies" in my cookbook journal, and brainstormed some ideas for future kitchen adventures. Most of the time, my recipe ideas come to me when I'm walking the aisles of the grocery store. I LOVE the grocery store and fruit and veggie markets. I love looking at all the ingredients, trying to come up with inspirations and ideas, thinking about what food adventure I could go on next. 

Ok, so who doesn't love tacos?! Seriously though. Tacos are AMAZING. And very versatile. Hard shell or soft shell. Corn or flour. Chicken or beef. Or fish! Salsa or sour cream. Or dare I say BOTH!? The options are endless. These tacos came from...well...a walk through the grocery store. I knew I wanted to make a taco recipe for the book, but wasn't sure what direction to go in. I have had this pico de gallo recipe in my back pocket for a few years now. So I knew I wanted it to have that. As I walked the produce section of the grocery store I go to here in Beijing, I saw the avocados. And the rest is kinda, sporadic. I just grabbed ingredients and went with it. And this is what I came up with: 


Avocado Creama
+ 2 avocados 
+ 1/2 cup greek yogurt, plain 
+ juice of 1/2 lime 
+ cilantro 
+ salt & pepper 

Pico de Gallo
+ 2 tomatoes, seeded, diced* 
+ 1 clove garlic, minced finely 
+ 1/2 red onion, finely diced 
+ 3 tbsp cilantro, chopped 
+ juice of 1 lime 
+ sugar
+ salt & pepper 

Shredded Chicken 
+ 2 chicken breasts
+ 1 tsp garlic powder 
+ 1 tsp chili powder 
+ 1/2 tsp paprika 
+ salt 
+ juice of 1/2 lime 

+ 1 cup purple cabbage, julienned 
+ juice of 1/2 lime 
+ hard corn taco shells 

*If I had my choice of tomatoes for pico de gallo, they'd be roma tomatoes. Not as juicy, which means your finished product won't be watered down. I haven't found roma tomatoes yet in Beijing, so I opt for "hot house" type tomatoes. If you have access to romas and you are making this recipe, use 4 tomatoes as they are generally smaller in size than hot house.  


1. Poach chicken in 4 cups of water for 12-15 minutes. Remove and shred with forks. Add garlic powder, chilli powder, paprika, pinch of salt, and juice of 1/2 lime. Mix with hands. Taste and add seasoning as needed. 

2. While chicken is poaching, assemble pico de gallo. Combine chopped tomatoes, garlic, red onion, cilantro, lime, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Mix together and let sit for 5 minutes. Taste and add lime or salt as needed. 

3. Now, assemble avocado creama. In a blender or food processor, add avocado, lime, greek yogurt, and a handful of cilantro. Pulse until the ingredients have combined together into a smooth mixture with no lumps. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix with a spoon. 

4. In a small bowl, combine julienned purple cabbage and the juice of half a lime. Toss together. 

5. Once all components have been made, it's TACO TIME! 


7. Serve with a side of creama, pico, and a lime wedge. 

I'm pretty proud of this recipe. The flavours work really well together. The tangy bite from the pico, the sweet & smooth flavour of the creama, the crunch from the cabbage and hard shell, the spice from the chicken. I ate three...and I'm drooling again thinking about the idea of getting to eat the leftovers for lunch! 

Something I'd like to try next time is adding cheese. Maybe crumbles of queso fresco (if I can find it in Beijing) would add another depth of flavour? I'm a woman on a mission for Mexican cheeses now! Watch out, Beijing! 

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cookbook • UPDATE

May 18th. The last time I posted on this blog. 5 months ago. I don't feel guilty about it, but I also don't want to quit blogging. I love writing down my thoughts! I love being reflective. And I am in a very reflective mood this week. I need to hit a big ol' red reset button and get back to focusing on ME. And the one thing that never fails to make me happy - COOKING

Yes, I am still writing my cookbook. Not as often as I'd like to be. I've never stopped creating. I just haven't been writing down my recipes as promptly and frequently as I would like to be. 

I cooked A LOT this summer. I had so many amazing summer recipes I wanted to try. A lot of them I never got to, but some of them I did. I documented a few, but I also forgot to document a lot of them. But what I am certain of is I had a wonderful summer back home in New Brunswick (blog post coming SOON!) 

So, tonight I am sitting with my good friend Amanda at one of our favourite restaurants, Moka Bros, sipping wine by candlelight, writing recipes and blogposts. Getting back to working on me. Because that's what I need to do right now. For me. 

Stay tuned for recipes of some of my favourite recipes I'm making right now, including my homemade Greek Pasta Salad, Sundried Tomato Stuffed Chicken, and Mango Pineapple Salsa. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom!

It's my Mom's birthday! I've written many, many posts about how amazing and loving my mother is, and you should read them (here, here, here, AND here). I always read through them again prior to writing these birthday posts, and it just reminds how lucky and truly blessed I am to not only call her my Mom, but also one of my best friends!

Kind, thoughtful, supportive, loving. These are just a couple of the many words that can be used to describe who my mother is. But one word that stands out above the others: selfless. My mother constantly puts others before herself. She is always there when you need her, even when you're on the other side of the world. Life is tough sometimes, and something I know to be true is that no matter how old you get and how independent you are, sometimes you just need your Mom.

I could honestly go on forever about how much I love my mother. Family is extremely important to me, and it is the values that have been instilled in me by my parents that have really influenced the person that I am today. What I love the most about the relationship that I have with my mother is how open and honest I can be with her, and I always know that she will be there to listen, give advice (even if it isn't what I want to hear), and to no matter what love me through thick and thin. I can't emphasize enough how truly grateful I am to consider my mother a friend.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I so wish I could be there to celebrate with you! But alas, we are 36 days away from being reunited. I miss you, I love you, and I appreciate you! xoxo