Cheesy Oregano Chicken & Broccoli Pesto Panini

This panini is cheesy, savoury, deliciousness, chock full of greens! I got it from the Half Baked Harvest cookbook. The broccoli, Greek yogurt and arugula gives it a healthy, fresh taste and makes me feel less guilty about eating it πŸ˜‰ Now I will say these paninis are a bit more time consuming than I would like. It is a special treat and something I would be more apt to make on a weekend. I hardly ever use my panini press so it has inspired me to try more panini recipes!

Time: 38 min prep + 15-20 min in the panini press

Servings: 4

Calories/Panini: 754


  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*
  • Oregano (fresh or dried)
  • Broccoli, cut into florets and coarsely chopped
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Shredded fontina cheese**
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Basil pesto
  • Ciabatta rolls or loaf
  • Fresh arugula***
  • Extra-virgin olive oil


*I had shredded turkey on hand. One of my favourite things to do is cook a whole turkey, shred the meat and put 1 cup bags in the freezer. It is so handy for casseroles or recipes where they ask for shredded chicken or turkey. When turkey is on sale its more affordable than buying a rotisserie chicken from the deli.

**I couldn’t find fontina so I used provolone slices as a substitute.

***I had spinach on hand so I used that instead.

If you want detailed quantities or instructions on how to make it you can purchase the cookbook here. Or view her video here. Otherwise, I’m sure you get the idea with the ingredients listed above.

Equipment Required:

  • Mixing bowl
  • Mixing spoon
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Cheese grater
  • Panini press or cast-iron skillet & grill pan

Recipe Review:


  • Steps: 4
    • Rating: Easy
  • Involvement
    • 38 minutes prep time
    • Rating: Moderate
  • Ingredients & availability
    • 12 ingredients
    • Most ingredients are normal but I was unable to find fontina cheese
    • Rating: Moderate

Root Vegetable and Sage Pesto Baked Salmon

I made this recipe from Half Baked Harvest Cookbook. You can purchase it on Amazon. I highly recommend. Or you can check out recipes on her blog.

This recipe is great for winter and has a delicious earthy and citrus notes. I even have a wine pairing for you that I think is fantastic!

Time: 1 hours & 10 min. including cooking time

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients: 16

Calories/Serving: ~ 477

This is the wine I paired with the salmon. It is a Pinot Noir from Oregon. It was $24.95 at the LCBO. You can find it here. It went perfectly with the citrusy salmon and earthy sage pesto. Highly recommend!


  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 3 small beets, halved
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 small to medium sweet potato, diced
  • 12 baby potatoes, halved
  • 12 Brussel sprouts, halved
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Sage Pesto

  • 1 cup fresh sage
  • 1 cup baby kale
  • 1/3 cup pistachios
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup grated manchego cheese*

*I couldn’t find manchego so I used Pecorino Romano


Preheat oven to 425F

Toss all vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake on a baking sheet for 20 minutes or until tender.

In a food processor, combine sage, kale and pistachios and pulse until finely chopped. Add in Parmesan and re-pulse. Then drizzle in olive oil with motor running. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.

Remove the veggies from the oven and push them to one side. Put salmon on other side and rub the sage pesto over each fillet.

Return pan to oven for 10-20 minutes more, until salmon is done and veggies soft. Remove pan from oven and top with Manchego.

Serve with roasted veggies and extra sage pesto alongside.

Reprinted from Half Baked Harvest Cookbook. Copyright 2017 by Tieghan Gerard. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Equipment Required:

  • Food processor
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Spoon
  • Baking sheets

Recipe Review:


  • Steps: 6
    • Rating: Moderate
  • Involvement
    • 40 minutes of prep
    • Rating: Moderate
  • Ingredients & availability
    • 16 ingredients
    • All ingredients are fairly easy to find with the exception of the Manchego cheese which I used Pecorino Romano in its place
    • Rating: Moderate

Days of Wine & Chocolate in NOTL

For any of you who haven’t done Days of Wine & Chocolate, I highly recommend it!! Wine and food pairings….need I say more?!? It is on for the month of February in Niagara-on-the-Lake and we went for the long weekend (family day weekend) with my brother and sister-in-law. We stayed at an Airbnb in NOTL which you can find here. Ken is the best host and his location was perfect. Close to downtown NOTL and within driving distance of the wineries.


So what is Days of Wine and Chocolate? 24 wineries in NOTL participated this year and you get a 1 ounce wine tasting with a sweet or savoury chocolate-infused food pairing. Are you convinced yet? πŸ˜‰ The pass is $55. There is also a pass for DD’s which is $30. Also….fun tip!…they have other events like this throughout the ear. In May they have Sip n Sizzle and in November Taste the Season. These events are the same idea but one has BBQ fare and the other is tasting the seasons bounty with more fall/cozy inspired pairings πŸ™‚Β 

So did we make it to all 24 you ask? Of course we did! We did 12 on Saturday and 12 on Sunday. Below you will find a review of each winery we went to. I am no sommelier but I hope you enjoy this review and I hope it inspires you to go!


STOP # 1: Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery

2017 Grand Reserve Pinot Noir paired with dark chocolate chicken mole tostada.

RATING : 7.5/10

The flavour of the chicken mole was delicious but the temperature was luke-warm and the chips were incredibly salty.Β 

The Pinot Noir wasn’t the most superb I’ve ever tasted and fairly weak tasting. Although Pinot’s usually are compared to the other reds.

Overall it was an ok pairing to start off our tour!

STOP # 2: Ferox by Fabian Reis

2017 Elements RosΓ© paired with cocoa and buckwheat blini duck Confit and pomegranate.

RATING: 7.5/10


This was by far the most sophisticated and interesting pairing for me. I hardly ever have duck. The duck confit on the cocoa pancake with pomegranate was an interesting bite! I can’t say I love duck confit but I give this winery A+ for creativity! The rose was delightful and it really brought out the pomegranate notes.

STOP # 3: Joseph’s Estate Wines

2019 Arancia skin-fermented white paired with dark chocolate Panna Cotta shooters with mixed berry coulis.

RATING: 6/10


This was an interesting pairing. I don’t usually think of pairing a white wine with dark chocolate and let me tell you I think there is reason for that after this tasting. The Panna Cotta shooter didn’t wow me and the chocolate flavour wasn’t very sweet. The wine was too sour to pair with the dark chocolate. Therefore, this was probably one of my least favourite pairings.

STOP # 4: Pillitteri Estates Winery

2015 Exclamation Merlot paired with a dark chocolate Ganache tart with a raspberry duo.

RATING: 7.5/10


The Merlot was superb! The tart was, well, just a tart. Nothing special. However, this winery gets extra points b/c they did free tastings of 2 of their other premium reds. So if you want more tastings go here πŸ˜‰

STOP #5: Pondview Estate Winery

2017 Cabernet Merlot paired with our delectable spiced cocoa rubbed pork back ribs with a rich and smooth chocolate infused BBQ sauce.

RATING: 9/10


Hands down one of our top favourite stops! The Cabernet Merlot was fantastic, so fantastic that we bought a bottle! And the ribs were to die for…. soo good! They also provided free cheese and chocolate tastings. A winner in our books for sure πŸ™‚

STOP # 6: Trius Winery at Hillebrand

2018 Trius Cabernet Franc paired with Chef Dodd’s sweet chocolate & almond pretzel.

RATING: 8/10

I laugh when I remember this tasting because their pretzels where so huge! They were a meal in itself! The pretzel was decent but I think I could find a better recipe πŸ˜‰Β The wine was average. Trius always has such fun merchandise and I always want to buy the whole store!

STOP # 7: Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery

2016 Wayne Gretzky Estate Series Red paired with a dark chocolate and chilli beef stew with Smoked Cheddar and sour cream with a cocoa nib.

RATING: 7/10

I did not like the wine, I would give it a 6. I found it fairly weak but the chilli was pretty good! The only thing I will note is watch out when eating the cocoa nib b/c I think there is pepper mixed in there and I made the mistake of taking a bite of all of it and it was very unpleasant.Β 

I give Wayne Gretzky winery an A+ for their environment. They have the cutest outdoor bar with patio heaters and a skating rink which would be such a fun activity to do with your family on a weekend. They also have a separate building for whisky tastings which is a very neat experience. I would definitely recommend checking it out. I’m not a huge fan of whisky but my husband is. The only whisky I absolutely love of theirs is the Canadian Cream Whisky. You can get it at the LCBO for $34.95. I would argue I like it more than Baileys!

STOP # 8: The Lakeview Wine Co.

2017 Serenity Baco Noir paired with a locally crafted dark chocolate Lakeview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine truffle.

RATING: 5/10


This was probably our least favourite tasting of all. The wine had that overly alcohol taste and the ice wine truffle wasn’t anything special. I also wasn’t a fan of the environment or look of the winery. It felt like I was walking into a big warehouse and it had a very cold vibe. So if you’re trying to decide which wineries to go to this weekend safe to say you could skip this one.

STOP #9: Small Talk Vineyards

2015 β€˜Uplifting’ Cabernet Merlot paired with sea salt shortbread dipped in dark chocolate.

RATING: 7/10

I absolutely loved the environment at this vineyard! They have such fun colours and sayings all over the place. They also have my favourite cider! Its an apple cider w/ pinot noir and it’s delicious! You can find it here. Another fun thing they had going on was an Etsy market which I thought was so cool! What a concept! Shopping while sipping wine…I think they’re on to something πŸ˜‰Β 

As for the pairing the wine was okay. Once again I find Niagara reds quite weak and not as full bodied and rich as wines from California for example. However, the shortbread was excellent! Loved the sea salt flavour and of course it was dipped in chocolate. It was delicious!

STOP # 10: Palatine Hills Estate Winery

2017 β€˜1812’ Red paired with cocoa Beef Bourguignon. Beef slowly braised in our famous 1812 Red with bacon, mushrooms, onions and rich unsweetened chocolate.

RATING: 9/10


This winery was one of our favourites! The wine pairing was on point. The red was delicious and more flavour than some of the other wines we had tried and the beef bourguignon was so delicious and tender. Truly a perfect pairing. What topped it off was that they were also giving complementary tastings if you had bought a pass so that was a bonus!

STOP # 11: Konzelmann Estate Winery

2018 Merlot Reserve paired with a decadent, melt in your mouth 70% dark chocolate shortbread cookie created by Cafe Fifty-Four.

RATING: 8/10


The wine was good and had good flavour but the cookie wasn’t that great. The sea salt shortbread at Small Talk was much better. This cookie was just too dry and simple.

If you ever do a tasting at Konzelmann ask for Donna! She was fantastic! So knowledgeable and fun! She gave us a blind tasting based on our favourite types of wine and had us guess what it was. It was so fun! They have an excelled sparkling Riesling you should try if you are ever there!

STOP # 12: Strewn Winery

2018 Strewn Robust Rose paired with a chocolate cheesecake-filled strawberry garnished with chocolate wafer crumbs.

RATING: 6/10


Not going to lie this pairing didn’t wow me. The Rose was pretty weak and the chocolate cheesecake filling in the strawberry tasted more like a mousse than cheesecake. Probably wasn’t the best pairing to end with but overall we had a fantastic fun-filled day!


STOP # 13: The Hare Wine Co.

2018 Jack Rabbit Red Cabernet Sauvignon paired with seared flank steak topped with Jack Rabbit Red jelly, dark chocolate dust and Maldon sea salt.

RATING: 9.5/10

This was probably #1 of all 24. The Cab Sauv was so smooth and flavourful and with flank steak how can you go wrong? It was a perfect/classic pairing. The meat was perfectly cooked with a beautiful pink center. It’s a relatively new winery and I have been once before this and have never been disappointed with the results.Β 

STOP # 14: Southbrook Vineyards

Canadian Framboise paired with chocolate bread pudding, drizzled with chocolate/framboise sauce.

RATING: 9/10


This was another great pairing. The Framboise was delicious and sweet and paired so well with the chocolate bread pudding which was to die for! We were pleasantly surprised.

STOP # 15: Niagara College Teaching Winery

2018 Balance Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Cabernet Sauvignon infused vegan brownie bites with dark chocolate curl from our very own Benchmark Restaurant.

RATING: 6/10


The wine was pretty good but the brownie was not superb. I feel like you could really tell it was vegan. It tasted dry and much more cakier than we expected a brownie to taste. However, it was a place we would never think of going for a tasting and was a unique experience.

STOP # 16: ChΓ’teau des Charmes

2017 Atelier Red, Estate Grown & Bottled paired with dark chocolate tart topped with Atelier Red and sour cherry jelly with smoked sea salt.

RATING: 8/10


Chateau des Charmes is always a lovely experience. It’s a very beautiful and classy venue. The wine was good but once again didn’t wow me. But the tart was fantastic! Melt in your mouth sweet and salty goodness!

STOP # 17: Queenston Mile Vineyard

2018 Mile High Sparkling RosΓ© paired with Chef Rossco’s White Chocolate and Strawberry Trifle. Miles of white fluffy cream, fresh custard, homemade sponge cake and strawberries.

RATING: 9/10


The trifle and sparkling rose was the most delightful pairing. The venue is beautiful and bright with nice large floor to ceiling windows. The trifle was nice and light and I loved that it was white chocolate vs. regular. The rose was perfection! Definitely check out this winery!

STOP # 18: Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

2018 Sand & Gravel Cabernet Franc paired with a Chocolate dipped pretzel with mole spice.

RATING: 7/10


The Cabernet Franc was mediocre and the most interesting thing about the pretzel was the mole spice. It was a fun twist on the chocolate dipped pretzel. It’s a quaint winery with an old school house vibe. There was also a cute farm style deli/shop in the back.

STOP # 19: Riverview Cellars Estate Winery

2019 Gamay Nouveau paired with chocolate infused BBQ pulled pork on a bao bun.

RATING: 8.5/10


The winery ambiance isn’t anything to rave about but the BBQ pulled pork on a bun was! Definitely one of my most favourite food pairings. The wine was good with it. I would recommend this winery mainly for the food pairing.

STOP # 20: Inniskillin Wines

2018 Discovery Series P3 (Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir blend) paired with passion fruit tart with lime and white chocolate.

RATING: 8.5/10


Inniskillin is always a fun experience. However, it also feels very commercialized to me. The pairing was delicious so I’ll give them that. The P3 was a bit acidic for my liking but the passion fruit tart was to die for.

STOP # 21: Marynissen Estates Winery

2016 Cabernet Merlot paired with a duo of dueling doughnuts; one filled with a raspberry jam and drizzled lightly with white chocolate, the other with chocolate creme dusted with cocoa powder.

RATING: 7/10


This wine pairing was highly underwhelming. I was pretty excited for the raspberry jam doughnut but it just wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I don’t know if both doughnuts were stale or what. The doughnuts were average at best and so was the wine.

STOP # 22: Reif Estate Winery

2016 Estate Bottled Semillon paired with a mini ravioli filled with white chocolate and parsnip in a brown butter truffle sauce.

RATING: 7.5/10


This one was another tasting I was super excited about but the ravioli wasn’t as flavourful as I would’ve hoped and also not warm enough. However, I truly loved the wine. The Semillon was a nice rich white and I really enjoyed it! Also, Reif is always a fun experience. The building and interior is cool and it is always bumping with people.

STOP # 23: Lailey Winery Ltd.

2016 Amabilis paired with dark chocolate cherry cinnamon bark.

RATING: 8/10


The wine and chocolate was both very good! I would’ve bought the chocolate if I could. I really enjoyed it. The winery was very simple looking on the inside and there was a lot of white.Β 

STOP # 24: Peller Estates Winery

2017 Late Harvest Vidal paired with a mouthwatering chocolate brownie drizzled in Late Harvest Vidal Caramel.

RATING: 6/10


Our last stop was once again one of the most disappointing. They ran out of the brownie and started serving chocolate cake which tasted like boxed mix. The Vidal was well…a Vidal. I also find Peller extremely commercialized and busy. So it wasn’t a favourite but once again a very successful and fun day!

Overall, everyone really enjoyed the tastings! It’s so fun to try different wines and foods. The duck confit particularly opened my eyes to the wealth and opportunities of food combinations. We had so much fun in fact, we decided to go to Sip n Sizzle in May. I’m sure you’ll see it on the blog πŸ˜‰ Anyways, I hope this is helpful for anyone tasting this weekend and I hope lots of you will consider going in May, November or next year! ❀ 











Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

I made this recipe from a cookbook Half Baked Harvest Super Simple Cookbook. You can purchase it on Amazon. I am cooking my way through it and loving it so far!

This recipe is sooooo gooood! If you love mushrooms, garlic and parmesan then you’ll be in heaven. It is so savoury and comforting. But be warned it’s enough to feed a village so you better like leftovers πŸ˜‰

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Yield: 16 cups

Calories/Serving: 190/cup

Ingredients: 20

Equipment Required:

  • Instant pot, slow cooker or stovetop
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Food processor (optional for chopping vegetables)
  • Cheese grater
  • Forks
  • Skillet

Recipe Review:


  • Steps: 5
    • Rating: Easy
  • Involvement
    • 1 hour 45 minutes of prep
    • Rating: Difficult
  • Ingredients & availability
    • 20 ingredients
    • All ingredients are normal and you can easily find at your local grocery store
    • Rating: Moderate – Difficult

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

Ok seriously, who doesn’t love chocolate and peanut butter! These bars are so simple to make and have only 5 ingredients! The only thing that takes time is letting it set in the fridge. I am writing this as Valentines Day is coming up and this could be the perfect indulgent treat for that special someone ❀ You could even cut the squares out with a heart shaped cookie cutter!

Warning…you won’t be able to eat just one bite πŸ˜‰

Time: 35 min prep work, 25 min baking, 2.5 hours chilling = 3.5 hours total

Yield: 2 dozen

Calories/Bar: 390


  • 1 package fudge brownie mix (13×9-inch pan size)*
  • 1-1/2 cups chunky peanut butter
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies

*I just bought Great Value Fudge Brownie Mix from Walmart. You can find it here.

Link to recipe directions can be found here:

Equipment Required:

  • Mixing bowl
  • Mixing spoon
  • Measuring cups
  • 9 x 13 pan
  • Microwave or stovetop


Recipe Review:


  • Steps: 3
    • Rating: Easy
  • Involvement
    • 35 min prep work
    • Rating: Moderate
  • Ingredients & availability
    • 5-8 ingredients (depends on what extra ingredients your brownie mix calls for)
    • All ingredients are normal and you can easily find at your local grocery store
    • Rating: Easy

Chicken Khao Soi Noodle Soup

This recipe is sooooo good!!! If you want a Thai spin on chicken noodle soup and you like a bit of kick, this is phenomenal! It’s so flavourful and relatively simple to prepare. I made it from the Half Baked Harvest Super Simple cookbook.

Time: 43 minutes total (including prep time and cleanup while food is cooking :))

Servings: 6-8

Calories/Serving: 333 (based on 6 servings)

The recipe below is a slight variation on ingredients and you could substitute the meatballs for chicken breast. You’ll just need to cook the chicken a little longer!

Link to the recipe and ingredients is here:

Cookbook can be purchased here:

Equipment Required:

  • Stockpot or deep frying pan
  • Mixing spoon
  • Can opener
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Large pot for noodles

Recipe Review:


  • Steps: 4-5
    • Rating: Easy
  • Involvement
    • 30 minutes prep time
    • Rating: Moderate
  • Ingredients & availability
    • 12-16 ingredients
    • All ingredients I was easily able to get at Walmart but some of them may be ingredients you’ve never cooked with before and may be more difficult to find
    • Rating: Moderate

Peanut Butter-Dipped Cookies-and-Cream Cake

This cake is decadent! The Peanut Butter Frosting is divine! It also is fairly time consuming but what 3 layered cake isn’t? I made it for my husband’s 28th birthday. Safe to say he gave this recipe a 10/10. It makes so much! So be sure to invite some friends over to share!

I made this recipe from a cookbook so unfortunately I can’t share the ingredients or how to make it but I can tell you where to buy the book. I highly recommend it! It is the Half Baked Harvest Cookbook. You can purchase it on Amazon and I am cooking my way through it and loving it so far!

Time: 3 hours plus cooking time

Yield: 16 servings

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY – DIFFICULT (mostly b/c it’s time consuming)

  • Steps: 9
    • Rating: Moderate
  • Involvement
    • 3 hours
    • Rating: Difficult
  • Ingredients & availability
    • 17 ingredients
    • All ingredients are normal and you can easily find at your local grocery store
    • Rating: Moderate – Difficult


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