Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

When I was a kid we used to eat chocolate hazelnut spread (specifically Nutella!) everyday after going to the corner store to buy fresh Italian bread. My friend Kim’s Mom would slice big fat slices of bread and we would slather on the Nutella every afternoon as soon as we got home from school.  My Dad would make crepes (“Palacinka” – which are a Slovak version) and he would sprinkle lemon and sugar or Nutella on them for me and jam on them for him! Of course you can buy spread in the store but, I like my version because I know the quality of ingredients is higher and I know what’s not in them! preservatives.

I was just recently in Milan and Genoa and when in Eataly I found an entire shelf of better quality versions but in most North American places it might be difficult to find anything other than the basic versions. I did find an Organic version in my local grocery story but why not try making your own. It makes a nice gift and can be used in Crepes, on Croissant or even melted and poured over Ice Cream!!

If you want to use a different type of nut or a combination of nuts go ahead !! experiment away!

You will need:

  • 1 cup of hazelnuts  (if you have hazelnut butter you can use that instead)
  • 12 oz of Milk Chocolate (or of course you can make the dark version)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used Bondolio from California
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract (pure never artificial)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup

I made both a milk chocolate and a dark chocolate version.

Step 1: place hazelnuts ( also sometimes called filberts) on a baking sheet and toast for 8 -12 minutes – turn them halfway and be careful to watch they do not burn. Once they come out of the oven place in a clean tea towel (kitchen towel) and try to rub some of the outer husk off- I never get them clean if the hazelnuts are fresh so don’t worry if there is lots left on. I leave the husks and place the somewhat cleaned nuts in the food processor or a good quality blender to make into butter. If you happen to find hazelnut butter you ca use that and skip this step.

 Step 2: I like to line up all my measured ingredients  so that I don’t forget anything. Remember this was a double recipe because I made one in the traditional milk chocolate and the other dark chocolate.

Step 3: I washed a few little jars for my finished spread. Although these are cute I would suggest a plain glass jar so that you can microwave for 10-30 seconds to get the spread more liquid when you want to use it. Because there are not preservatives in the spread it will thicken and harden especially if you keep it in the fridge. You can microwave for a few seconds before spreading which brings it back to is almost liquid consistency. It is essentially a nut butter with chocolate.

 Step 4: you will need to be patient for this step. The nuts will turn into a powder and you should stop the machine every 30 seconds to 1 minute and scrape down the sides until eventually it will turn into a thick butter. This takes about 5 minutes in total.

Step 5: in a heat proof container melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute then stir, melt again for 30 seconds and stir and only if necessary melt for a final 30 seconds.

 Step 6: Mix in a large bowl the nut butter, the melted chocolate, the Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or you can add melted butter) pure vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon and maple syrup.

 Step 7: place in a glass jar (so that you can melt safely when it solidifies. It is not safe to melt things in the microwave in plastic containers.

 This is a better glass jar because there is no metal (you have to remove the metal from the other jars so they are safe to microwave) They are not as pretty but way easier to melt so that the spread becomes like a thick melted chocolate butter.


Fire Roasted Salsa

You can make this salsa anytime! It is a simple salsa made with canned fire roasted tomatoes and a few other ingredients. Get out the food processor and in a few minutes you are done!

You will need:

  • 1/2 -1 fresh jalapeno pepper (ha- la payn-yo! pepper)
  • 1/4 -1/2 white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • a handful of fresh cilantro/coriander
  • 1/2 tsp canned chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1 fresh lime juiced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste – it needs more salt than you think- so taste!
  • 1 8 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • tortilla chips

Step 1: I add the jalapenos, onion, garlic and cilantro to the food processor first. I do chop most things at least a bit before adding it to the machine. Chop.

Step 2: add the salt and chipotles (you can buy them in a can or a jar typically) they are very hot so start with less and add more if you like.

Step 3: add the lime juice, olive oil, and finally the tomatoes.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as necessary. I also like mine with lots of lime.

Serve in a pretty bowl and get the Tequila baby!!

Socca or Farinata -Chickpea pancakes

In the Ligurian region of Italy Farinata is a typical snack and Socca is a street food snack found near the Italian border in Nice. There are slight variations all over and you can make these plain with the basic ingredients or I like them with the addition of lots of pepper, some garlic and even a sprinkle of fresh Parmesano Reggiano on top. They are often made in a wood fired oven and in order to add a bit of smokiness to these homemade versions I have added a bit of cumin.

Perfect with a glass of sparking Prosecco or Rose as they do in France. They are typically served in paper cones to soak up any excess oil.

You will need:

  • 1 cup Chickpea flour (also called garbanzo bean flour)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp good sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used Viragi from Italy. (lots more to fry with)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic -minced very finely

To finish

  • more salt and pepper
  • a bit of finely zested lemon
  • a few gratings of freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano

Step 1: In a large measuring cup (which makes it easy to pour) add chickpea flour, water, lemon juice, salt, cumin, olive oil, pepper and garlic. Whisk and leave at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Step 2: Heat oven to broil and make sure rack is close to the top element. I make these in a small regular fry pan (not a non-stick pan or any pan that cannot safely go into the oven) Many people use a large pan or even a round pizza pan. I use the small pan because I want to easily flip the pancake over to get it browned on both sides and the small pan is just easier to control. Heat your pan in the oven or on the stove to get it very hot. Once the pan is very hot I pour 1-2 tbsp best EVOO in the pan and swirl. Pour in an even layer of batter and swirl as if you are making a crepe. The batter should immediately start to sizzle around the edges like when you make Yorkshire Puddings or Popovers.

Step 3: cook under the broiler until the pancake starts to get brown spots – you need to watch these or they will easily burn.

Step 4: Carefully remove your pan from the oven and flip the pancake. Return to the oven and cook until it is as browned as you like. Remove to a cutting board and sprinkle with more salt and pepper, lemon zest and some grated Parm! Cut into pieces and eat while hot!

Step 5: continue making the rest of the batter in the same way.

PS I have also made them in a hot non-stick pan on the stove and although they do taste better in the oven they are much easier to make on the stove. It is like cooking crepes. Always remember to add lots of oil and make sure the pan is very hot before you start to add the oil and batter. 

Chicken Bahn Mi Meatballs

This is my simple version of a Vietnamese favorite street food. My Bahn Mi (Meatball) sandwich is made with ground chicken and served on a soft roll. Make lots they will want seconds!

You will need:

  • 1 lb ground chicken – dark and white is best
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped white part of lemongrass
  • 3-4 cloves garlic – chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro/coriander
  • 1 small fresh chili – chopped finely (use 3/4 in the meatballs and 1/4 in carrot topping)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • enough good extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of pan while cooking the meatballs (you could use peanut or another oil but. I love olive oil so I use it for everything!)
  • a bit of ginger ale to deglaze the pan
  • 2-3 small carrots -sliced into fine matchsticks
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1.4 of the chopped chilies
  • 1 tsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 mini English cucumber – sliced into matchsticks
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh buns
  • more cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • sweet Thai chili sauce

Start with a good quality ground chicken. I like a blend of dark and white meat for a more tender meatball.

Step 1: in a large bowl combine chicken, lemongrass, chopped garlic, cilantro, chili, brown sugar, salt, fish sauce, sesame oil and breadcrumbs.

mix to combine

Step 2: form into balls and you can store in fridge for a few hours or heat oil and prepare right away.

I used a Planeta Olive oil from Sicily to cook on medium heat until browned and cooked through.

At the last minute I pour over a good glug of ginger ale to add a bit of sweetness and also to deglaze the pan.

Step 3: While the meatballs cook I prepare the vegetable/quick pickle

Chop carrots into think matchsticks

Chop chili, cilantro and cucumber. Add rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve a few meatballs on a soft roll top with a squeeze of lime,  the vegetables, more cilantro and some Sweet Thai Chili sauce if you like or even a bit of sliced mango!!

Parmesan Olive Oil Popcorn

Ok, this is not really a recipe but, a different way to think about making popcorn. You don’t need to buy microwave popcorn in those awful little pouches for it to be delicious and made in the microwave. First you need to buy some decent popcorn (which is not easy to find in your grocery store, most is tiny and poor quality) then you need some good extra virgin olive oil (not the stuff you buy in the grocery store for $8, bring out your good stuff!) and some Parmesan cheese. You need to grate it fresh but we are talking four ingredients total!! come on try it.

You will need:

  • a cup of best quality popcorn kernels (not always easy t find!)
  • a container to cook the popcorn in the microwave
  • a drizzle of your best quality extra virgin olive oil – I used Planeta which is a nice blend from Sicily.
  •  sea salt
  • freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano

Note: I had to try 3 bags of popcorn before I found this one that was pretty good. Most grocery stores in my area carry this giant bag of popcorn but, it is poor quality with tiny popped corn and lots that remained un-popped. I found this one at Whole Foods.

Step 1: gather all your ingredients. Use a container that has a lid and can be microwaved. Add a single layer of kernels on the bottom of the container. No oil required, you pop it dry!! I put it on high for 3 minutes in my microwave but you will have to try it in yours because they are all different machines. I stand by the machine and listen for the popping noise to slow down and then stop the machine as soon as it does. You can also use the time you typically use on those bags you buy from the store as a guide. Don’t let it go too far or that smell of burnt popcorn will stick around for ages!!

Step 2: drizzle on some buttery good quality extra virgin olive oil over your popcorn just like you would drizzle butter!! Honestly, it tastes great!!

Step 3: sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt over the popcorn and grate some fresh Parmesano Reggiano cheese. Mix it in a big bowl with your hands and lick your fingers after.

 Divine! and much better for you than the stuff in the bag that is most times full of crap and preservatives or colouring.


Dukkah is an Egyptian blend of nuts, seeds, spices and good extra virgin olive oil. It is such a versatile condiment that you can make it thick like a paste, thin like a dipping oil or mixed into some fresh herbs and made into a pesto for tossing over hot pasta. I like to make a batch and tuse some and then freeze the balance for another date. There are many combinations, traditionally they use hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper but, I have added a few touches to make my own.

Don’t forget to use your best quality extra virgin olive oil here!

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios (salted or unsalted)
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts or I used heaped 1/4 cup fresh mixed nuts (easy to find and salted is ok.)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds (whole)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds (whole)
  • 1 tbsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • approximately 1/4 cup medium to a robust extra virgin olive oil – I used a beautiful Cetrone Colline Pontine made from Itrana Olives from Lazio, Italy

Step 1: gather all your ingredients.

Step 2: in a dry pan add pistachios, other nuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Toast for a few minutes until fragrant and lightly browned to release their oils.

Step 3: add contents of your pan to a food processor and process until ground but there is still some pieces. You don’t want this to be like a uniform powder but, a rough mix. Add salt, pepper, garlic clove and thyme and pulse again for a few seconds.

Step 4: add some dukkah to a small dish and add as much olive oil as you like to make either a thick paste or thin out like a dipping oil with bread or vegetables. You can also use this mix over chicken or fish as a dry rub or wet paste.

If you have any mix left I would store the dry mix in a small container in the freezer. I actually store all my nuts in bags in the freezer because they go rancid quickly if left in the bag or even a sealed jar on your counter.



Smoked Salmon with Lemon Dill Spread

This is a simple appetizer, snack or even part of a great lunch. Smoked salmon, some great crackers and a smear of tasty cream cheese and finally topped with a few sliced red onions. Perfect and elegant.


You will need:


  • 2 tbsp slice of cream cheese – 2 cm slice if you are slicing a bar of cream cheese
  • 1 spring onion – finely diced
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped dill
  • 1 tsp finely zested lemon
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp chopped capers
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • sliced smoked salmon
  • wasa crackers
  • thin slices of red onion




gather your ingredients. Chop onions, capers and dill. Zest lemon and add all other ingredients to a small bowl. Mix well.



Add a few slices of smoked salmon to a great cracker, top with some smear and a few onions. You can also add a bit of salt and pepper if you like.



Easy and delicious. Add a nice salad and lunch is served.







Lemon Pepper Kale Chips


I was inspired by Becky Rosenthal’s recipe for Kale chips . I made mine with some different seasonings and you might be pleasantly surprised at how easy and delicious these are! Big Pete snacked on them all weekend and he is pretty picky. Mine have a great lemon, garlic and pepper flavour added to a bit of olive oil.


You will need:

  • a bunch of Kale – I used Tuscan and Red- stems removed and ripped in small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil


Step 1: wash and remove stalks from your Kale. I used two different varieties but, you can use the kind you prefer. Tear into smaller pieces. They will also shrink  when baked.



Step 2: dry your Kale on a clean towel.



Step 3: pour on some olive oil. Toss with your hands so that Kale is coated with oil. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, lemon pepper, grated lemon zest and granulated garlic. Try to sprinkle seasonings so they are  spread as evenly as possible. Place on a large baking sheet in one layer if possible.



Step 4: bake in a 350 degree F oven for approx 15 minutes. Check on them halfway and remove any really crunchy ones early if necessary. You are looking for the Kale to be crispy and crunchy and the toppings make these a nice crunchy alternative to chips.


You think it sounds weird but just try them!!







Soft Pretzels



My husband Big Pete begs me to make these. When you serve them warm their chewy exterior and salty tops taste so good with a cold beer!  You boil them in water much like making bagels to achieve this yummy outside.



You will need: for 8-10 pretzels


  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 cups flour (might need additional for kneading)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp butter – melted
  • pretzel salt or kosher salt for top of pretzels
  • 10 cups boiling water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 2 tbsp honey




Step 1: in a large bowl add water , yeast and honey. Stir and wait 5 minutes until it gets foamy. If it doesn’t start again with new yeast (your yeast might be expired and no longer active)



Step 2: add flour, salt, butter and mix in bowl until dough becomes too stiff and you have to pour contents on counter to knead. Knead the dough with your hands until all the flour has been absorbed (you might need a bit more depending on the humidity in your house) Once the dough is smooth and no longer sticky to the touch you are done. Place in a covered bowl and let rise 1 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.



Step 3: Scrape contents out of bowl and onto counter. Use a bit more flour to knead a few times however, I find it is easier to roll out long pieces without flour (or with very little)  Divide your dough into 8 – 10 pieces, roll out long pieces approximately 15-18 inches long. Take both ends, cross over each other and bring ends down like you are forming a heart, press ends into dough to seal in place. If you mess up, just roll it and try again. Once it is formed place pretzel on some flour  to counter and place formed pretzel on it to avoid sticking. I form 4 pretzels then boil them and form the  last four. This prevents them from puffing so much they lose their shape.



Step 4: add water, baking soda and honey to large pot and drop each pretzel into boiling water for 30 seconds. Carefully remove and drain for a few seconds (I use a Chinese spider/strainer to lift out of water) Place on a lightly oiled parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle tops lightly with kosher salt or pretzel salt.




Step 5: bake at 375 degrees F for 12-14 minutes. I like to finish baking for the last-minute or two on my pizza stone because I like when the pretzels have a nice brown bottom. Let cool a few minutes



Create a honey mustard by mixing equal parts Dijon mustard and honey or just use plain old mustard for that ballpark feel.



Get your favourite beer and enjoy!














Nutty Granola


Granola is so easy to make why would you ever buy it. Pick all the things you like and use it in pancakes or just simply with fruit and yogurt.


You will need:


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup almonds (whole or chopped)
  • 1 cup hazelnuts/filberts
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit (I used cranberries and figs)




Step 1: add all ingredients except the dried fruit. Toss to coat and bake in 325 degree F oven for  15 – 20 minutes. Stir and rotate pan every 5 minutes until lightly browned.



Step 2: chop any dried fruit you want to add.



Let cool 5 minutes, scrape pan and cool completely. Add your dried fruit and use or store in a sealed container.




store in an airtight container and if you are not using within a week store in the freezer to preserve the freshness of the nuts. Use on top of fruit and yogurt drizzled with more honey or try some in your next batch of pancakes. Hello breakfast!