Monthly Archives: August 2010

My Top 11 Roadie songs

Ok, confession time. I love to sing in the car.

I don’t sing well and I have a tendency to sing in a high voice (really high), but you don’t have to be good to enjoy it, right? If you’ve been following my posts, you know I have spent considerable time driving over the last year. Between driving from Montreal to Vancouver, Vancouver to San Francisco, San Francisco to Vancouver and Vancouver back to London, I’ve totalled over 11,000 km (7,000 miles).

Singing on the road

So what does this all mean? Well, I’ve been doing some serious singing throughout Canada and the United States and I have assembled my Top 11 Roadie songs. Don’t be shy, click on the link and sing along with me. Oh and why Top 11 instead of Top 10, because I wanted to.

Please don’t judge me.

In no particular order…

The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Nylons (a capella version) – I start with animal sounds, I move to my own back-up vocals and belt out the lyrics. This song is normally saved for late at night driving when I need an extra boost of energy. A big thank you to Susy for not jumping out of the car somewhere in South Dakota when I belted this song out. I don’t think she knew what she was getting herself in to. Say hi to Susy, she’s blogging about food and doing an amazing job!

Get Out of My Dreams by Billy Ocean – Hey, I said, don’t judge me! How can you not have fun singing this classic song?

Humpty Dance by Digital Underground – Fun, ridiculous song that is better if you try to do the actual dance in the car.

Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane – Enough said.

Stir It Up by Bob Marley – Usually saved for late night driving after belting out The Lion Sleeps Tonight. But honestly, Bob is chill and is perfect company regardless of when you’re on the road.

Respect by Aretha Franklin – Umm, so this is one of those songs that I go ridiculously high for some reason and I just rock it with Aretha. This song usually overtakes me and whoever is in the car gets the full performance. My friends are laughing as I sing because I’m so good, right?

I Wish It Would Rain by The Temptations – I’m a huge fan of Motown music and to me The Temptations are the pinnacle. Listen for the line “Cause rain drops will hide my teardrops and no one will ever know that I’m crying” and tell me that’s not amazing stuff.

Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins – Sometimes you need to bring it down a notch and go smooth and slow.

Bust a Move by Young MC – I used to listen to this song going to the hockey arena waaayyy back in the day. I still get pumped listening to it for some reason. Probably the song i’d rock if I had to choose one for karaoke.

Fantasy by Mariah Carey – Simply put, I love singing to Mariah Carey songs. And yes, my voice goes crazy high and I normally see people shake their heads in disbelief.

Twist and Shout by the Beatles (I hear this song and I picture Ferris Bueller) – Go nuts on this one and go especially nuts at around 1:27, just let it all out!

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Filed under Aretha Franklin, Billy Ocean, Bob Marley, Digital Underground, Mariah Carey, Nylons, Phil Collins, Roadie, The Beatles, The Temptations, Tom Cochrane, Young MC

Jam-jams (aka Butterscotch Jelly Cookies)

In a previous life, I worked 100 hours a week. When you’re in an office for that many hours a week getting paid not nearly what you’re worth, you tend to create special bonds with your colleagues. Misery loves company, right?

Well, the positive of that exploitation emerged great friendships with even greater people. And when one of these friends has a family cottage and I get invited to enjoy their own private lake, even better! You may remember I thanked them for their hospitality a couple of months ago by putting together a little S’mores action.

Well, I got invited back for a baptism last weekend and amongst all the food was a cookie made by my friend’s grandma that all the grandchildren affectionately refer to as jam-jams. After having one (or three) of these delicious jam-jams, I politely asked grandma (which is what I also call her) for the recipe. Without hesitation, she said yes and even offered to write out the recipe by hand for me. Honestly, when are you going to turn down a hand-written recipe?

A postcard of jam-jams

So what are jam-jams? Well, the official recipe name are Butterscotch Jelly Cookies and yes, jam-jams do sound better than jelly-jellies. In speaking with grandma, she prefers to use jelly (red current is her preference) over jam as it doesn’t make the cookie too wet like them jam does.

So how did I do? Well, I think a couple of them turned out how I remember them tasting, thin and chewy with just the right amount of jelly. But I’ll be the first to admit that mine didn’t look or taste quite as good as grandma’s. I definitely need some practice.

jam-jams in the making

So…this recipe involves a rolling pin. I haven’t used a rolling pin in about 25 years and I was a little freaked out! Let’s have a look at what I need to improve on after a little self-assessment. Here is the initial list as I’m sure there’s a bunch of other things that I can improve on.

  • I under-rolled the dough so the cookies were too thick.
  • So I think on the second batch, I over-rolled them so they were too hard.
  • I did not sprinkle enough flour on the counter to begin with, so it was tough to get the off the counter.
  • I need to be more liberal with the flour on the rolling pin.
  • I used the smallest glass possible to make the hole in the middle, but I’ve been informed it needs to be smaller for it to be an authentic jam-jam.

Recipe

Butterscotch Jelly Cookies (or jam-jams as the kids call them nowadays)

Grandma's Recipe

Thanks grandma, I hope I did you proud and looking forward to our next game of euchre!

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Filed under Butterscotch, Cookie, Grandma, Jam-jams

Beet Chutney From a Train

So where do you get your recipes? You get them through cook books, friends, family, blogs, right?

Well, I got this beetroot (or just beet) chutney recipe a slightly different way. How’s this for random…

I’m on a train heading to Montreal and this fellow visiting from the UK named Martin sits down beside me. He tells me he’s excited to try poutine (as he should be) and somehow we’re talking about this recipe his grandmother has for Beetroot Chutney. At some point during the train ride, he is on Skype with his father and he asks his father for the recipe. Within a few minutes, it’s sent to me via email and poof I’m now the proud recipient of a delicious family recipe and I got a story to go along with it. How’s that for technology?

Beetroot Chutney

The Recipe for Beetroot Chutney (straight from the UK )

Stage 1

1. Boil 3 lbs of beetroot in salted water for approximately 1 hour, then skin, cut into small pieces.

Stage 2

2. Cut 1 1/2 lbs of baking apples into small pieces and place into a large pan.

3. Chop 2 large onions and place into pan.

4. Add 1/2 lb of sugar – equals 1 cup .

5. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger

6. Add juice of 1 lemon

7. Add 1 teaspoon of salt

8. Add 1 pint of white vinegar – equals 2 cups

Stage 3

9. Boil the ingredients from step 2 to 8 (everything but the beets) for 20 minutes

Stage 4

10. Add the beetroot and boil for a further 15 minutes

Stage 5

11. Allow to cool and store in resealable containers

Stage 6

Enjoy the pleasure of it!

So a few of my own notes from this experience. It was the first time I’d ever used beets and I decided not to wear gloves to see how powerful the red stains would be on my hands. My hands were pink for a couple of days, no big deal!

I used Empire apples because they are firm and hold up well to being boiled and baked. Oh and you may be wondering why are the stems sitting there? Do you remember the apple stem name game when you were younger? Each twist of the stem represented a letter of the alphabet and that would be the first letter of the person’s name you would marry. Well, I had six apples and I felt like entertaining myself. For inquiring minds, I recorded 2 A’s, 1 B, 2 C’s and 1 E. Sorry to all the Danielle’s of the world!

Empire apples and the name game

So once I got to stage 6 of the recipe, I tried it and it was good. The beets were soft and sweet, but the vinegar taste and smell were very overwhelming. There was also a lot of liquid left that I was assuming would be absorbed by the beets and apples. I tossed it into a container that once held a 2.5 pound block of feta cheese (so with that logic, the recipe makes about 2.5 pounds of chutney!) and figured it would be much better the next day.

The next morning, my oh my, the beets and apples did indeed soak up all the liquid goodness and the vinegar taste was virtually gone and I was left with a sweet and delicious beet chutney that I am sure to make again. I’ve had them on their own and I’ve had them accompanying chicken, they are great on their own or paired with something and that color is incredible.

Chutney from a train, go figure!

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Filed under Beet, Chutney, Empire Apple, Recipe

Where are my sheep?

When I don’t sleep well, it’s because I got something on my mind. But there’s good not sleeping and bad not sleeping, right? Like when it’s giddy anticipation because you’re off to Hawaii in the morning, well, that’s awesome. But there’s also the worrisome, restless sleep that have nothing to do with Hawaii.

Well, I’m not going back to Hawaii anytime soon, so I must have something else on my mind these days. I had the typical staring at the ceiling moment last night, trying to figure out how to make my sheep appear.

Well, I know why I’m not sleeping, I’m just trying to figure out how to correct the situation. I’d simply like to know where my next address will be. Moving to Vancouver last year was an easy decision, I didn’t like a bunch of things personally happening to me in Montreal and I had the chance to change my situation. So I did.

By moving to Vancouver, I had an opportunity to make 1) more money 2) be a part of the Olympics 3) experience West Coast life and 4) as a potential bonus, I thought maybe, just maybe the girl of my dreams was somewhere in Vancouver.  I had an incredible time and I’ve never regretted the decision and well, I’m still single, so 3 out of 4 ain’t too bad, right?

Moving to Vancouver was the gutsiest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life up to this point. Now, the question I have to ask myself is what do I want next? The answer, I’m just not sure!

Right now, it’s probably a 50/50 chance (those darn work permits) that I could get a job in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which would be an amazing experience! But am I facing the same decision in two years time? Probably, unless my dream girl is hiding in the UK somewhere and I do like fish & chips.

So if I want a little bit of stability with a non-contract job, what are my options, especially in the sports industry? Well, the United States is the mecca of all things sports and I’d love to live in the United States. I think at this point in my “career”, I am conceivably relevant enough to be permitted to work in the United States (again that darn permit).

So where is the next question, the additional benefit of Vancouver was its “winter”. I’m not a fan of cold weather, so I’m intrigued by California, Texas or some other state where I could retire my winter boots and integrate some white linen pants into my clothes rotation?

And lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about New York. I love it there and I’ve always felt it’s a city that everyone should live in their life for at least a year. I might spend all my money on a 400 square foot closet in Manhattan, but it would be for the experience, right? Maybe the girl is riding the subway…

Maybe I am focusing too much on location and just let the best job offer determine where I end up? Hmm, well, I drove through Montana a few months ago and nothing against Montana and some of the other less-sexy states, I’m not quite as excited by that prospect.

Or, the other option is if overnight I find myself with a readership of hundreds of thousands of people waiting to see my next cooking or travel adventure or some picture of my dog eating out of his bowl. That’s possible too, right?

So after all this, have I resolved anything? Will my sheep show up tonight? I’d be happy with even a couple that have strayed from the herd. On a positive note, I feel better after writing this out, life doesn’t seem as hopeless as it did at 2am last night. Maybe I should buy a pair of white pants just in case!

Thanks for hearing me out and one final question…can’t life just be this easy?

Contemplating Life

Life is good


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Filed under Life, Sheep

My own Italian Pizza & Life journey inspired from Eat, Pray, Love

About a week ago, I posted a story about my experience in Italy. For fun, I wrote it in the 3rd person. After reading it, a friend (thanks Jenn) suggested writing it in my own voice and see the difference it would make. So I did and made some changes along the way and guess what, I liked it better this way! How much did I prefer it? Well, I submitted it to Facts & Arguments of the Globe & Mail (thanks again Jenn), who knows, maybe it’ll get published. And if that’s the case, consider this the advance screening. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy it.

Picture it… Napoli , Italy , Pizzeria Da Michele. Although Napoli was never on my original Italian itinerary, my love of food and the suggestion of a friend brought me fork-to-mouth with a pizza experience I’m unlikely to ever experience again.

I turned 30 back in January of 2008 and since 30 was one of those milestone birthdays where you’re supposed to evaluate life and your accomplishments, I did just that and it bothered me that I hadn’t yet traveled and specifically hadn’t been to Europe. I honestly could not envision myself starting anywhere but Italy.

My itinerary was set, two weeks in Italy, arriving in Roma, than hoping to figure out how to take the train to Venizia, Parma, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Firenze, Roma and if time permitted, Napoli. Napoli was always a possibility, but even more so after my friend Sandra gave me a copy of Eat, Pray, Love to read on the plane since the “Eat” part of the book takes place in Italy . Although, the book was now over two years old, I hadn’t really heard too much about the book, but with a six hour flight ahead of me, I had more than a few hours to spare. Sandra had raved about the book and thought the “Eat” part would be of particular interest to me, especially the orgasmic pizza encounter.

To make a long story short, I read the “Eat” part and there was no doubt about it, Napoli and that pizza were now on my to-do list. As a matter of fact, the “Pray” and “Love” parts were pretty inspiring as well and I enjoyed every page, more so than I probably realize even today. Here I was in Italy, back-packing by myself and to be totally honest, pretty sketched out and nervous about traveling in a country where I could sort of get out an awkward “grazie”. But as the days went on and as I got more comfortable in my surroundings, I had a strange sensation of feeling like I was able to conquer whatever was ahead of me, be it Italy , work, life, you name it.

With an address and hope, I trained it to Napoli early in the morning. The rumor was Pizzeria Da Michele often ran out of pizza dough! Nothing would get in my way, except maybe only one thing. I had done pretty well getting around Italy up to this point and I’d always considered myself an expert jaywalker, but this was a crossing the street thing was a problem. See, in Napoli , there appeared to be a lack of traffic lights and an over-abundance of cars driving really fast. After evaluating the situation and observing others, it seemed that pedestrians simply walk with purpose and the cars drive around them. I had come too far and was getting hungry to let this be a speed bump in my journey, so off I went and sure enough, some cars stopped and some swerved but I crossed the street just fine.

It was 11am and thankfully they hadn’t run out yet! I looked at the menu on the wall, but I knew what I wanted, the Pizza Margherita. As I was waiting, I looked around and took the place in.  Everything just fit, the cook making the pizza had probably been doing it for 60 years, the wood fire oven probably had probably been there since the place opened and the pictures on the wall of Mr. and Mrs. Da Michele overseeing it all made it feel authentic and added to the experience.

Then came the moment of truth, I was presented the long-awaited pizza and if food can be art, this would be the David of pizza (which I also visited in Firenze), simple presentation, yet complex in its taste.

I savored that first bite, trying to taste the history of the pizza. I honestly did not think the pizza would live up to expectation after all the hype, but somehow it did and then some. The dough was fresh and aromatic and had the tear factor that is necessary in a good pizza. The tomato sauce was sweet and full of flavor. The presentation of the cheese surprised me since it was not grated, but rather it was slices or chunks (when they are that thick) and it was pure magic. And lastly, the basil, it was baked into the pizza and that single leaf managed to perfume the entire pizza with the scent of sweet basil. I did not even have to bite the basil to taste it within the pizza and to this day, anytime I smell basil, it brings me back to that pizzeria.

Leaving was bittersweet; I was euphoric in having found something that good and that memorable. I hope I’m wrong, but I realized this was probably the pinnacle of my pizza eating journey. Oh, I’ll eat more pizza, but I have my doubts it will measure up to my morning pizza Margherita in Napoli once all the factors are taken into account.

Now, how does Eat, Pray, Love factor into this? I will never know. But I do know the book was a part of my trip, so it’s likely it had an effect. I often look back at my trip in Italy with a smile. That trip sent me on a path that has since seen me quit a job many would and have viewed as a “dream” job working with the Montreal Canadiens. I moved to Vancouver only to take another “dream” job working for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), I started a blog (https://tastesbetterwithfriends.wordpress.com) went back to Europe, vacationed in Hawaii, drove across Canada and the United States and realized, as clichéd as it sounds, can pretty much do whatever I set my mind to!

And yes, I ate the whole pizza and even considered ordering a second one, but everything had been perfect and I wanted it to stay that way.

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Filed under Eat Pray Love, Italy, Napoli, Pizza Margherita, Pizzeria da Michele

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pesto Burger

Stuffing cheese inside a burger isn’t a new-fangled sensation. It’s been around for a while and I’ve done it a bunch of times, but now with this blog thing-a-ma-jig, why not take pictures and share it, right?

The craving for dinner was to combine a bunch of awesomeness into a burger. With that in mind, I went to work on a blue cheese stuffed pesto burger.

As you would expect, the blue cheese is the glue that holds the two patties together to make it a reality.

So let’s do some tasty math…2 patties with blue cheese plus 2 patties without blue cheese equals…

The Before - Blue Cheese Stuffed Pesto Burgers

You knew the answer didnt you? 2 big patties with blue cheese in the middle.

Visualize the blue cheese bubbling away...

I’m proud to announce that the end result was a moist, juicy burger with a great hint of warm blue cheese in each bite and the pesto was a nice touch.

Dinner is served

Recipe (makes 2 blue cheese stuffed pesto burgers)

  • Approximately 0.5 kg (1 pound) of fresh lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons of pesto
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Danish blue cheese
  • Hamburger buns
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the beef with the pesto and season with salt and pepper. Form into 4 equals patties and sprinkle blue cheese on 2 of them.
  • Here’s where the magic happens, place a non-cheese patty on a blue cheese patty and pinch the edges to seal the cheese inside. Pinch it really well, because I thought I had and I was concerned for a while when they were cooking that they would split apart.
  • Once placed on the BBQ, grill them for slightly longer than normal since there is really one patty on either side of the cheese.
  • Grilling the bun is optional, but I will always take a grilled bun.
  • Slice it in half while it’s on a bun so you can delight in the visual before you bite into it.

Oh yea, grab some of that summer corn right now!

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Filed under BBQ, Blue Cheese, Blue Cheese Burger, Pesto

Homemade Coleslaw with Mexican Flair

When you think about it, you can pretty much make anything from scratch. Bread, pasta, grow your own vegetables, even make your own ice cream. Of course, some are more complicated than others and take a lot of time that we don’t always have. That, of course is the beauty of the grocery store, anything you could make at home, they already have it there for you and it may be just as tasty.

Approved by Liam!

But what type of pleasure do you get from walking into a store and just buying something that is totally doable at home and will taste 100 times better if you do it yourself? Well, on our way to a BBQ last weekend, we were picking up some beer and someone suggested picking up some coleslaw. I grabbed the container of creamy coleslaw (don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of store-bought creamy coleslaw, but not if I have the option to make my own) and put it back into the fridge. From there, I made a straight line directly to the produce section where I picked up a head of green cabbage. Everything else I needed would be found in a pantry and fridge.

Did I have any idea what I would put into this coleslaw? Nope! Was I confident that it would be delicious? Yep!

So what did I find?  Well, as you can see, since I didn’t know what I was looking for, I found everything I needed. For the creaminess factor, I went with a mix of mayonnaise and yogurt, well, because I felt like it and didn’t want it to be overloaded with mayonnaise. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory, except maybe for the green salsa. I was inspired to use the green salsa since I was at the house of a Mexican family and you know what, it totally worked!

Coleslaw with a Mexican twist

No recipe for this entry, I want to provide you with a small nudge to have fun in the kitchen and throw things together and see how they turn out!

Just one quick warning if you have never cut up a cabbage before, it’s a lot of stuff! Just a warning, you better be serving up a party of ten people and have one big massive bowl or two somewhat massive bowls.

I can’t say that I measured the dressing with any precise measurements, because I did not. But I went with my instinct…something like this.

Homemade coleslaw dressing

So the end result on the impromptu homemade coleslaw with a Mexican twist was a hit. The homemade version with fresh cabbage will always give you extra crunchy coleslaw which for me is always a plus. Although, I wasn’t sure about the salsa with the mayonnaise, yogurt and mustard, it actually was really nice and added a little kick right at the end on your tongue.

It was a perfect afternoon combination of homemade coleslaw, cold beer, hot dogs on the grill, summer, backyard and friends. After a day like that, I might change the name of the blog to “Tastes Better With Amigos”.

Homemade Mexican Coleslaw

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Filed under Cabbage, Coleslaw, Mexican