Sing and dance like no one is watching.

Sing and dance like no one is watching.

My daughter hosted a sleepover last night. I am tired. The tired where you can’t recall what you just said. Last night, reminded me how great the world is when you’re fourteen. I remembered the days when you could make someone laugh so hard that food came out their nose.

We all recognize how important and rewarding friendships are in the lives of our children. The friendship bonds that teens form with their peers can be among the most important and rewarding relationships of their lives, vital to their overall development and success. In an age of social media, conversations are 24/7 and yet only 33% of these friendships are face to face. We worry about whether our kids aren’t making the kinds of lasting friendships we valued growing up. Their way of connecting are new, but what I’ve learned is that being a fourteen-year old girl is still the same.

The night was planned as a scary “movie-thon”; in reality it began and ended as a music dance party. I-pods were plugged in and the singing echoed throughout the house, fueled by “Just Dance 4” (the X-box game which scores your dance moves to a particular song). The noise levels remained high as everyone scrambled to talk over one another. Bags, which were scattered everywhere, held all the sleepover essentials: a thousand shades of nail polish, I-pods, pillows, mobile phones, and pajama’s.  All night long, through all the chatter and laughing, they only watched one scary movie. Really, who wants to watch movies when your “bff’s” are around? The girls danced, sang and took group photos (known as “selfies”) filled with smiling happy faces. The party stopped at dawn to break for a few hours of sleep (much to my relief).

Sound familiar? I recall similar gatherings with friends: the ghetto blaster blaring, singing the latest tune into a candlestick, dancing without a care.
Much later, a dear friend gave me a pair of silver candelabras after being in her wedding. She included a note, which read: “Now we can sing in style”. It’s funny to think back to those times. Life was all about boys, school, and what we should wear to the upcoming dance. Good times. Today, I still sing in the shower, “Here I Go Again”, by Whitesnake or some new pop song (yeah, I am just that cool).  But I don’t dance without a care with the hip swinging, fist pumping, hair-raising kind of dancing that shakes a house. I need to dance like I am fourteen more often.
Like my daughter, my girlfriends are still as important to me today. A gal needs her girlfriends. Research suggests having a close group of friends reduces stress, anxiety and depression.  Having a girlfriend helps teens feel connected, boosts self-confidence, and teaches loyalty and selflessness.  They help each other feel valued and important. A recent Dove ad went viral suggesting that only 4% of women think they are beautiful. As a mom of a daughter, I am saddened by this statistic.  Thankfully, companies like Dove are trying to educate women and boost self-confidence among teen girls.
Sleepovers are a great opportunity to encourage teens to connect face-to-face. In reality, I was not at the gathering; merely the person who prepared and served the food. Given that stopping to sit down for dinner is unheard of on a girls’ night (until you get to my age), they had a progressive dinner. We began with nibbles, then a delicious potato and rosemary pizza, and, later in the night, homemade margarita pizza, pasta and ice cream in a mug. These teens were not afraid to try something new. I love that this generation embraces good food. It’s not always about junk food. The potato and rosemary pizza was a hit, devoured in minutes. I didn’t plan on writing a column about it, I just can’t help but share what a great night it was – a timely reminder of how much fun it is to be fourteen and have the whole world in front of you.

Last Saturday night an awesome group of young women, with plans and dreams for their future, danced and sang till dawn at our house. I hope these girls never forget to remind each other that they are beautiful and to always sing and dance like no one is watching.

Potato Rosemary Pizza
For ease, you can purchase pre-made pizza bases at Pasta Genova, located on Wellington Street downtown Kingston and simply create the homemade toppings. I wanted to share my friend and fellow foodie lover Tony’s pizza base recipe, as it’s delicious!

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Pizza Base Recipe
Makes 4 medium sized pizza bases.

Ingredients:

600 g all purpose flour

430 ml warm water

20 g fresh yeast

1 tsp. of liquid honey

1 tsp. sea salt

2-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Mix yeast, honey, salt and half of the olive oil and 2 handfuls of flour into the warm water, mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Leave for approximately 15 minutes until it froths and foam appears on top.
  2. Add remaining flour and blend with a wooden spoon or dough hook. (It should be sticky in texture) Mix until its smooth and stretchy, add remaining olive oil and blend in.
  3. Cover mixing bowl and leave for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
  4. Once doubled knead it together again, leave for another 2 hours or until dough doubles again.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 F. (Ovens should be hot for pizza making.)
  6. Remove doubled pizza dough from bowl and divide into 4 pieces and place on a greased baking sheet, cover until ready to use.
  7. Lightly flour counter and roll out one pizza dough per base, to desired thickness and size (thin or thick base).
  8. Top with favorite ingredients (see below)

Potato and Rosemary Topping

Ingredients:

2 med sized red potatoes – peeled and sliced thin about 1/8 inch thick

Olive Oil

Fresh rosemary

Fresh thyme

Sea salt and pepper

Sauce:

5 tablespoons of unsalted butter

¼ cup minced shallot

2 tablespoons of mined garlic

1 tsp. of fresh thyme leaves

1/3 cup of white wine

¼ tsp. salt

Pinch of ground pepper

1 tsp. chicken base or bouillon (no MSG)

2 cups of grated Mozzarella cheese

Instructions:

Cook the potatoes in advance.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. (I also cut my potatoes in advance and left them in the fridge in a bowl with cold water to keep fresh.) Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Spread the potatoes on the baking sheet, rubbing them into the oil, salt and pepper. Then flip them over. Place the potatoes into the pre-heated oven at 400 F for about 15-20 mins. The potatoes are down when they are slightly soft and brown. Set them aside until you are ready to assemble the pizza.

For the sauce:

  1. Slice and dice the shallot, chop the garlic quite fine or use a press if you have one.
  2.  Strip the thyme and rosemary from the stem and roughly chop. (it smells so good…)
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of the butter. (Only 1 tablespoon NOT all of the butter)
  4. Add the chopped shallots and sauté for 1 minute.
  5. Add the garlic and fresh thyme – sauté until the shallots and garlic begin to brown.
  6. Add the white wine.
  7. Squeeze in tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.  (Not bottled, cut into a fresh lemon and squeeze)
  8. Add ¼ tsp. of salt, pinch of ground pepper. The sauce should reduce to about a ¼ cup.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the remaining butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Whisking after each addition. The butter will melt and thicken the sauce. If you add of the butter at the same time it doesn’t thicken as well. Trust me.
  10. 10.  Spread ½ the sauce on the pizza, sprinkle with ½ of the mozzarella. Arrange the potato slices on top of the cheese and top with fresh thyme and rosemary.

11. Gently slide the pizza onto the hot stone or keep on a baking tray. Bake the pizza for about 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is turning golden brown.

There should be left over sauce and potatoes to make another pizza. I used the left over sauce to add to the pasta I made later in the evening. It was easy and scrumptious!

Email me at ladydineslot@gmail.com with recipe or restaurant suggestions.

Is there a food that reminds you of home?

Far from home, Kraft dinner in a box can sell for over thirty dollars at our annual expat events. When you live on the other side of the world, this cardboard boxed, macaroni with cheese is comfort food from home.

When I was a kid, my grandmother made the yummiest homemade macaroni and cheese. It was creamy and delicious. I loved our visits. I can still see her standing in the kitchen, petite and full of hugs.

Is there a recipe that reminds you of home? That one thing, that can take you back to a moment, a memory. I would love to hear your stories.

Cloudy with showers, absent friends and sexy pie.

EMC Lifestyle – The holiday in New Zealand is over, and apparently so is spring. We said goodbye to our island friends and just like that arrived home again to snow in April?

I hate the end of a good holiday. Whether it be skiing the slopes or returning from a warm sunny spot over March/ Easter break, the weeks ahead feel endless until summer arrives. I am certain I am not alone. My circadian clock is in disarray as I try to make sense of work, my teen’s homework and daily routine with muddy output. These hourly changes in weather patterns do little to make me feel happy to be back. Mother Nature, give us a break. Cloudy with showers and possible scattered flurries: take me back to the beach!

It’s never easy unpacking and settling back into routines. Our last days spent on Kawau Island felt bewitching.

The island is located in the Hauraki Gulf, close to the northeastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand, 40 kilometres from Auckland. Access is by water taxi or ferry from Sandspit. About 70 people live on the island. This increases to hundreds during peak holiday seasons. We accidently ended up with another guests’ food bag. It’s an easy error given the number of travellers to the island. Dinner looked pretty good until we realized the mistake.

On the island, there are many native birds, walking trails, and at dusk you may even hear a moorpork or see a kiwi.

Six adults and seven children, no phones, email or gadgets to play with, we drank in the warm sea air and enjoyed each other’s company. We spent days and nights playing card games, reading books, swimming, and fishing. It was an ideal holiday, spent on a sub-tropical island with good friends and very little to do aside from eating and reading. On our last night there, I watched the full moon rise, huge and red above the sea. I gazed at my daughter with our friends and their children. As the nocturnal animals began their evening chorus, I mouthed one word to myself: home. I don’t know whether I meant New Zealand, the moon in the sky or the friendships that never die. I believe it’s all of the above.

Now back in Canada, I am haunted by that which I left behind, I am confused. Awake at night and asleep at my computer by day, is it spring or winter? The fire is crackling and I decide we all need a little treat. Pumpkin is generally associated with autumn weather but this recipe is the easiest, sexiest pumpkin pie to make. With the meringue topping and ginger crust, it’s unique and different, kind of like the weather. Since spring has decided it’s over just as abruptly as my trip, let’s eat pie!

Sky-High Pumpkin Pie (recipe from Chatelaine Magazine)

Crust ingredients

2 cups – ginger crumbs

º cup – unsalted butter, melted

Filling ingredients

5 egg yolks

2 cups pure pumpkin puree*

æ cup coconut milk

* cup brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

º tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Meringue Ingredients

æ cup granulated sugar

º tsp. cream of tartar

5 egg whites

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350F/176C

Line a baking sheet with parchment. (Helps with spillage when cooking- trust me) Have a nine-inch pie plate at the ready.

Mix gingersnap crumbs with butter in a bowl until moist. Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of pie plate. Bake in centre of oven, covered with foil, for 10 min.

Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl. Add pumpkin, coconut milk, brown sugar and spices. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Pour filling over warm crust. Smooth top.

Bake in centre of oven, covered with foil for 30 min. Remove foil and continue baking until filling is slightly jiggly in the centre, about 20 min. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Preheat broiler. Combine æ granulated sugar with º cup of water and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high. Simmer until sugar is dissolved and mixture turns syrupy. Remove from heat. Beat egg whites on high in the bowl, until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 2 min. Slowly pour hot syrup in a stream down the side of the bowl, beating until still peaks form, about 2 more min.

Spread meringue on pumpkin pie to the edges, leaving a high mound in the centre. Using the back of a spoon, form swirls on meringue.

Broil meringue in centre of oven, rotating every 30 sec, until peaks turn golden brown, 2-3 min. Let cool. Garnish* and serve warm or cold.

Serves 8

* I garnished with pecan crumbs over the meringue topping. You could also add sugared pecans too.

If you have a recipe you’d like me to try or a restaurant suggestion, email me at Ladydineslot@gmail.com, or follow me on Facebook.Image

Coffee at 2020 m above sea level, April 11, 2013

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EMC Lifestyle – Lying in the southwest Pacific, New Zealand consists of two main islands – the North and South Island. Situated on the North Island, the family and I left the city of Wellington (NZ’s capital) to travel towards Auckland. The awesome landscape of NZ has spectacular glaciers, fiords, rugged mountains, plains, rolling hills, subtropical forest, a volcanic plateau, and miles of coastline with gorgeous beaches. I always say that it has all my favourite parts of Canada, in one small package. The best part: everything is within driving distance, and the people are as warm and friendly as “Canucks”.

Our road trip continued through the centre of the North Island, stopping for a swim in a hot thermal spring. The warm water is soothing and relaxing for the soul. Settlers used the pools for bathing and cooking. These geothermal springs sprout up hot steam from deep beneath the water’s surface. If you want to experience the overall wellness and relaxation in a premier destination, visit the Polynesian Spa of Rotorua. Set amongst native bush and overlooking Lake Rotorua, it’s blissful and peaceful. For over 130 years, people have been swimming in these natural therapeutic waters. We enjoyed a private pool and soaked in the rich mineral waters.

That night we stayed in the National Park Village, which has panoramic views of Mount Tongario, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. Built in 1929, the historic Chateau Tongario Hotel is a wonderful rest stop, surrounded in timeless beauty, art and music filling the air from the piano man in the lounge. My favorite spot is sitting in the wing-back chairs huddled by the fire, although at this time of the year the fire was not lit. The large windows offered a beautiful view of the surrounding ski fields and mountaintops as I enjoyed a “flat white” coffee (a drink similar to a latte). In the last decade, NZ has enjoyed a coffee revolution. While we Canadians have our love of Tim Hortons, NZ has a passion for “flat whites”. The drink is an espresso coffee with half the frothy milk of a latte. Cafes can be found everywhere, from “holes in the wall” to mobile cafes or wherever a knowledgeable roaster can brew. In fact, NZ claims they have more coffee roasters per capita than any other place in the world. Just like us, “Kiwi’s” will go along way to get their daily caffeine fix, which is why when I discovered the ‘Knoll Ridge Café’ high above the mountaintop, we had to visit.

The morning after checking into the National Park Village, hungry for breakfast and coffee, we travelled up the ski lifts to NZ’s highest café. I dislike heights. As you know, I attempt to ski, but ski lifts and I are not friends. The only way to the top, however, is to hop on the rotating lifts to take you 2020 metres above sea level. The ride was amazing. My feet dangled above the volcanic terrain of Mount Ruapehu as we climbed higher. Once at the top, I took in the breathtaking views across the horizon. We hiked around the rocky surface of ancient lava flows and craters, took some photos and then went inside. Rebuilt after a fire in 2009, the new award-wining café is a wonderful structure in this unique alpine location. The licenced café has a full lunch and dinner menu but hours vary in summer and winter (for obvious reasons). There is a cost to take the lifts, but I encourage you to try it out if you are travelling to NZ. We enjoyed a “flat white” and toasted banana bread sprinkled with icing sugar. Toasting banana bread is a must try. Pair with a hot espresso coffee and views overlooking the mountain range, and it’s the best start to any day.

For more information about New Zealand Travel and Tourism visit newzealand.com

Toasted Banana Bread

2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 170° c (330° F) 2. Spray the inside of a loaf tin, lightly dust with flour or use baking paper. 3. Sift the flours and salt together and set aside. 4. Beat the butter and sugar and vanilla together until light and creamy (approx. 3 minutes). 5. I then beat in one egg at a time beating well after each egg. 6. Then beat in the yoghurt (I only had the kids full fat vanilla) and the mashed banana. 7. Mix the flour through the creamy banana mix. 8. Pour into loaf tin and bake for approximately one hour. *Insert a wooden skewer that comes out clean proving it is baked through. To serve toasted, let the cake cool then cut thick slices, small enough to go in the toaster or simply use a Panini press. Serve with butter or top with icing sugar, roasted walnuts, ice cream or cream cheese. Any recipe or restaurant suggestions email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook

Cambodian Thai Village – good food, great taste_March 3

Upon entry the wafts of fresh basil, coriander and chilli fill your nose. This week, I ducked in for lunch at Cambodian Village Restaurant. A great place made even better with a friend.

After living in Toronto, Lesli and I crave our “Thai fix”. Having so much choice in the metro area, it’s nice to discover a local restaurant that measures up. I’ve been raving about this place for months. When I worked downtown, my office was blocks away. This was the takeout. Arriving back to work without enough forks for everyone, was career limiting. It’s a small place; a table during a busy lunch can prove difficult. After juggling work and kids, we manage to secure a seat, for a long overdue catch up.

The family owned Cambodian Village, located at 347 King Street, (next to Bubbas) offers dine in service, takeaways and delivery. Traditional county style South East Asian food with loads of choice from appetizers, soups and thirty six mains such as: Phanaenh Kai, Chicken with Coriander, Spicy Chicken, Pad Thai, Green & Red Curry, Fish Curry and Masaman Curry Chicken and much more.

Lesli and I started with spring rolls, unanimously agreeing, these were not to be missed. I had the coriander chicken, which is served with jasmine rice. I generally go for a hot dish, such as spicy sour red curry. But, this was very good and the coriander was just enough. My friend had the tom yum soup. She enjoyed it so much, she wished for a larger bowl.

Quoc Tran is the owner of both Cambodian Village and Cambodiana Restaurant on Brock Street. His brother, Cuong Tran and his wife, Tu work at both locations as well Quoc and the rest of the family. I met with Cuong and Tu following my lunch date.

Long time residents of Kingston, Cuong Tran previously worked at the legendary Chez Piggy as Seuz chef before Cambodian Village. For thirteen years, he has been creating delicious dishes served within five to seven minutes. (At busy times the wait is no more than fifteen minutes) The secret is in the heat control and ingredients, which are hard to repeat at home. Special mixed spices along with fresh local ingredients make each dish unique.

Tu takes pride in delivering good service. She welcomes the customers with a smile, and for the “regulars” knows their order before they say.  Among customers the most requested are the Green Curry, Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup, Spicy Sour Red Curry and the Cambodian Soup. They have many customers from downtown employees, students and weekend take-outs. Some are out of town visitors and a few even drive from Ottawa and Toronto for a special stop at Cambodian Village. Tu jokes, that while they don’t offer free delivery to Ottawa, they do in Kingston for order’s over thirty dollars. Open Monday thru Friday (11 am- 9pm) and Saturday (12pm -9pm), closed Sundays.

While, I enjoy the boutique style Thai restaurants with mermaids and bronze elephants. I like this place. It delivers a quick meal, good service and is reflective in the cost. A great place for takeout. If you haven’t tried Thai or Cambodian food before, I encourage you to do so. Anytime of the year, the warm creamy dishes are a satisfying.

Lesli and I will be back and next time won’t forget our friend, Helen. Who still hasn’t forgiven us for not picking her up a Pad Thai and dropping it in, on our way home.

To share your favorite recipes or let me know a local restaurant that you’d like me to check out email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com

On a cold winters day, nothing is more satisfying than a comforting meal_Feb 27

I am one of those annoying people who love the snow. After living abroad, it makes me appreciate it more. A heavy snowfall can make leaving the house, incomprehensible, a reason not to leave and spend time indoors.

On those snow days, we read, watch movies and break out board games. When we play, we go in no holds barred. A card game can be an intense session. We are not quiet about winning. All in jest, it’s hash-tag “good-times” as my daughter would say. (This is of course after I tempt her away from Wi-Fi. In fact, my daughter claims no Wi-Fi is more incomprehensible than driving in snow.) This day, the storm forecasted didn’t materialize into much. We decided to hit the hills.

We like to ski. Admittedly, I am not a great skier. I like the idea of skiing. The view assenting up the lift, the sun as it cascades across the hill, the fresh mountain air. I like that my family enjoys skiing. I am getting better. But, I fear for the ole’ joints. My daughter has no fear. Today, she follows me up the “bunny hill” for her warm up run. Really, it’s to watch me as I disembark from the lift. I appear to know what I am doing. Until, I reach the top, raise the bar, glide down the ramp, head first, into the closest snow bank. Sometimes, it’s even a scramble to get up in time, so the person behind doesn’t land on me.  I am confident, after the first few runs, I should remain on the beginner hills. The lift supervisor would rather I went to the bar. Especially, when he has to stop the lift to hoist me up off the ground, again. By now, the family has left me, and are tackling the black diamonds. They find me at the end of the day; grateful I am still in tact.

Lets face it, on a cold winter day there is nothing more satisfying than a comforting meal. My daughter gave me “the Ski Country cookbook” this Christmas. I’ve enjoyed many creations from its pages. After a day on the hills, I decided to whip up an old family favourite. When I was in my youth, “cacciatore” was one of the first things I learned to cook, oddly enough from a friends’ older brother. This recipe, Italian chicken alla cacciatore is basically an Italian style chicken stew. I amended by adding diced celery and chunks of green pepper. The real hit was the whole pieces of chicken. The meat is tender, falling off the bone. If you were making the recipe for children you may be keen to replace with diced chicken breast. The shitake mushrooms were lovely and meaty, making the gravy that much richer. Enjoy with a bottle of red wine and crusty bread.

 Italian-Style Chicken Stew (Chicken alla cacciatore)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

One 3-½ pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces                 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper           1 cup of dry white wine

2 tablespoons of olive oil                                               2 tablespoons Marsala wine

1 medium onion, thinly sliced                                     1 can (15 ounces) peeled plum tomatoes, coarsely

1 cup thinly sliced white mushrooms                        chopped with their juices

1 cup thinly sliced shitake mushrooms                    1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves

                                                                                          ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

  1. Pat the chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper. In a large skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium –high heat. Add the chicken (in batches if necessary) and cook, turning until browned, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the white and shitake mushrooms and the garlic and cook, stirring until the mushrooms are softened about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour in the white wine and Marsala and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits form the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and their juices, broth, and thyme. Bring to a boil again and return the chicken to the pan along with its accumulated juices.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for 40-45 minutes. The chicken should be very tender and the sauce slightly reduced and thickened. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Garnish with parsley and serve. (I also added spring onions and parmesan to the garnish.
  5. To share your favorite recipes or let me know a local restaurant that you’d like me to check out email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook.