Friday, December 17, 2010

The Christmas Tree Conundrum

Time for the seasonal Christmas Tree Conundrum - fresh or fake?   Purists will always choose a real tree and those worried about the environment or who do not want the mess of watering and sweeping up dead needles go for the fake tree.  I think our heritage also plays large part in the decision.  Traditions call us this time of year in particular and it's hard to not feel the call.

My earliest memories of our own family Christmas trees always involved a fresh one.  My mum and dad would bundle us into the car and head off to the lot to pick out one both suitable and in our price range (actually quite conflicting requirements).  I was a difficult child to say the least and looking back still cannot believe they put themselves through this ordeal every year.  We started out walking through the large lot and I would quickly hone in on THE TREE.  The next 30 minutes or so were spent trying to give everyone else a say while I very firmly held my ground until the tree was purchased. 


One year, much to my mum's horror, I decided that we had to have a flocked tree - the newest rage.  We couldn't afford one from the lot so she unfortunately thought the fight was over.  How could she so underestimate me?   When flocked trees first came out they actually sold a DIY can in the hardware store that you could spray on your tree and that's what we eventually did.  It only took one year for me to realize what a stupid concept it was.  The flocking made it hard to hang the ornaments and fell off like dandruff over the few weeks the trees was up.  Dead needles and dry powdery flocking rained off as we tried to move the tree out of the house.  However, I would never in a million years admit I was wrong.  Fortunately at some point I grew up a bit and the hunt for a tree became a little easier.


At age eleven my family moved from South Dakota to Sacramento, California.  The church we attended there had the best holiday tradition.  Each year every family that wanted to help pick out the enormous tree for the sanctuary would hop in their car and we would all head up into the local mountains.  There some enterprising soul had purchased a large track of forested land.  Who actually picked out the tree for the church and how they got it back into the city, I have no idea.  We all trudged through the snow, axe or small chain saw in hand, to find that perfect tree for our own homes.  Something about being out in the actual forest hiking through the snow and the smell of chopping down a real live tree imprinted this occasion on my memory like no other.  It is to this day my fondest Christmas memory.   All I remember is the mountains, the snow and smell of our own freshly cut tree.

When my parents moved to Los Angeles, the family Christmas became far removed from those type of memories.  Let's face it, by the time the trees make it to a lot in LA (temperature sometimes in the 80's F), it's been a long time since it was been cut down.  The family tree began to get smaller and smaller and was perched up on a small table.  My mum always held onto the tradition of a real tree no matter how small and, fortunately for me, both my husband and I are of the same mind.  Glen is the total Christmas Bah-Humbugger (a new term I invented just for him), so anything that helped him get in the mood was a great thing.  He loves a trees that is not too dense - just even branches with open space between so that you can see the ornaments.  Decorating the tree is a dad and kids event which I help with by laying out the ornaments and keeping the fire stoked.  Some years we waited too long and ended up with the Charlie Brown special and one year I mistakenly got my tree from Ikea.  It came in the house dead and showered pine needles the whole time, but it was a real tree and that's all that mattered.

I had always wanted to take Glen and the kids (we had three) to the Los Angeles for Christmas with my family. Finally I saved enough money one year for the plane tickets.   Now the question was a difficult one - real or fake.  We finally broke down that year and bought a tacky two foot fake tree.  It had sprays of optic fibre throughout that rotated through a rainbow of colours.  It sat on the hearth next to the fire and when we turned off all the lights, it was actually a bit hypnotic.  This fake tree has wormed it's way into my heart.  We all still want the real tree if we are having Christmas at home, but the small, plug-in one has become a part of our holiday traditions in a way that has surprised me. It still has a place of honour on the hearth and at some point each year we put on the holiday CD's, light a real fire, plug in both trees and turn the lights off.  I could sit there for hours.


The Christmas Tree Conundrum will always be one each family has to face.  Despite the horror I felt the first time I walked through one of those weird fake Christmas tree stores at the mall, I could see the writing on the wall.  Concerns for the environment, our very fast paced lifestyle and praticality will probably take us down this road more and more.  Once established, it will be the new holiday tradition.  I will always feel grateful I had the opportunity to do it old school, to trudge through the mountains in the snow and breathe in the wonderful scent of a freshly cut tree.

Christmas One - Liners

Q: Why did the elf push his bed into the fireplace?
A: He wanted to sleep like a log

Q: Mum, can I please have a cat for Christmas:
A: No. You'll have turkey the same us the rest of us

Q: How do chickens dance at the Christmas party?
A: Chick to chick!

Q: Why would you invite a mushroom to a Christmas party?
A: He's a fun guy to be with

Q: Who sings "Love Me Tender" and makes Christmas toys?
A: Santa's little Elvis

Q: What did the Gingerbread Man put on his bed?
A: A cookie sheet

Q: Which of Santa's reindeers needs to mind his manners the most?
A: "Rude"olph

Q: What can Santa give away and still keep?
A: A cold

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pearls, Pearls and More Pearls - The House of BUN

Lately there seems to be an explosion of jewellery designers.  I am always amazed at the range of creativity and how they each manage to find a way to stand out as unique.  November held a few fashion events, produced by Vernard Goud of LuvNGrace, where several of these talented artists had displays for guest to peruse and shop.  One that stood out from the crowd for her luxurious pearl necklaces was The House of BUN by Carola Alder.   She had only put the final touches to her first line - christened The Tutu Collection - a few months earlier and followed shortly there after with the creation of her own signature parfum - Lady Godiva.  In early December, Alder held her official launch (also produced by LuvNGrace) at Club 560 lounge.  Well-heeled guests, some adorned with their own House of BUN creations, were able to turn their focus exclusively to this elegant line.  The evening closed with an intimate fashion show, emceed by Meena Mann, which filled us in on the thought behind each of the pieces presented.

Photo Courtesy of Patrick Parenteau
Adler had an idyllic childhood growing up on a farm in Alberta and busy was her middle name. She trained in ballet starting at the young age of two and went on to compete on horseback, train in synchronized swimming and diving and perform in musicals.  By age 12 she was accepted into the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and at age 13 was modeling. She opened her very first business, a summer juice stand call "Juice on the Goose,"  at the tender age of 14.  Business became a family affair in 2005 when her mother joined her to launch Paint the Town Red Productions and co-host their hit TV show, "Mother and Daughter Paint the Town Red."  She is also a professional esthetician and massage therapist and explored the world of eCommerce as a distributor for NoTime Skin Care.

 

It was her mother and grandmother who exposed Alder to the world of fashion.  Both had been trained by French coutiers and passed on their passion for beautiful things.  It was her desire to launch a clothing line that provided the original spark to launch the House of BUN.  She remembers, "The making of jewellery came to me after sewing multiple pearls on flower-like chiffon gowns.  I decided to create a single strand of pearls.  Elegance hit me in a way nothing else had before, I was so inspired.  After that I can't say what happened.  I got obsessively lost in a dream world, my BUN world."  The decision was made to work with exquisite glass pearls, semi-precious gems and Austrian Swarovski Crystals.  Hours were spent in research to make sure the pearls were of the highest quality.  


Inspiration for the Tutu Collection came first and foremost from Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel - simple, sophisticated, elegant and timeless. The impetus for individual pieces usually starts with a dream.  "Often times I'll wake-up in the middle of the night to scribble down some new idea.  I spend a great deal of time perfecting the concept on paper, choosing what colours of Swarovski crystals, how many strands, how long, etc.  I then move on to working with the pearls in order to create a perfect setting.  This can often mean re-stringing the pearls over a dozen time."  One particular necklace that stood apart from the rest was created in honour of Coco Chanel and has a pair of decorative silver scissors as a focal point.  Every design is given it's own name - Berlioz, Madame Darling, Mademoiselle BUN, etc. - and the BUN blessing.   

Photo Courtesy of Patrick Parenteau

Necklines are diverse to make sure there is a look to compliment every ensemble and the number of strands vary from necklace to necklace.  Some looks are simple with only a few strands, others make a stronger statement with multiple strands and some have pearls in graduated sizes to show off collar bones.  All have crystal details that catch the light. Clasps are a part of the overall design and sparkle with a life of their own allowing the wearer to rotate the necklace to show off this unique detail.  They are elegant, luxurious and remind me of 40's - 50's Hollywood glamour.  To wear one of these pearl necklaces is to make a statement.  You couldn't have one on and walk into a room without garnering attention.  Best of all, the price point makes them affordable.

Photo Courtesy of Patrick Parenteau
Photo Courtesy of Patrick Parenteau
Always one to explore new directions, Alder spent many months creating her own signature parfume - Lady Godiva.  Originally she felt she would just take all her favourite scents and mix them to come up with a finished product.  It turned out to be so much more complicated.  A perfume starts with a base note and then the scent is built slowly trying different combinations of middle and top notes.  While working to create that perfect scent Alder "...began formulating varieties of all kinds.  Most days I could no longer smell as the sents of so many essential oils would begin to get in my head.  After having a lab set up in my kitchen for two months, I finally created an award winning parfum! Immediately after taking in a wee sniff, I knew this was it!"  

What is next on the horizon for this talented designer?  She will be taking the House of BUN to the global community.  With her experience in marketing and her well-honed business sense, I am sure we will see her explode onto the international scene in the near future. For more information on this line you can visit the Facebook group page at www.facebook.com/iambun or email Carola Alder at bun@houseofbun.com.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Simple Pleasures To Fight the Season's Doldrums

This last year has been a very stressful, busy one.  In talking with friends and business acquaintances, it seems to be an epidemic.  As we head into the holiday season, I feel weary and the spirit of fun has been alluding me.  When the kids were young it was so much easier as their raw enthusiams filled the air and I could just breath it in.  Now that they are adults, they have a whole different outlook on the season.  It's time for desperate measures and I started a couple days ago

A Fire A Day Keeps the Blues Away - An old fashioned fireplace still has the place of honour my in home.  While finding a regular supply of wood is a problem, I have discovered the second best option - Crackle Logs.  They have small seeds that pop and crackle as the log burns.  It's such an easy choice, I have put in a supply and light a log every chance I get.  Add in some great background music (NEVER under estimate the power of music to lift one's spirit) and it's my first line of attack to fight the winter blues and get ready for the upcoming festivities.


Hot Buttered Rum - It's been years since I've had a hot buttered rum so it brings in that nostalgic element.  When I first moved to Seattle, there was a restaurant near my workplace we all frequented at lunch time.  This drink was one of their standard offerings during the holiday season.  It warmed you up in body and spirit.  I have decided this is the year I'm pulling out all stops and going to try to make it at home from scratch.  Here is a recipe found on the internet that has a alcoholic version and a non-alcoholic version (for kids and those who don't drink). I have never seen one with ice cream in it, so have my doubts, but adventure is my middle name.   It's not tested it yet, so try it at your own risk.  According to the source, one recipe makes a ton.

NON-Acoholic
1c.granulated sugar
1c.firmly packed brown sugar
1c.sweet cream butter (Land O Lakes)
2c.vanilla ice cream, softened
Rum or rum extract
boiling water
nutmeg

In 2-quart saucepan combine granulated sugar, brown sugar and butter. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved (6-8 minutes). In large mixer bowl combine cooked mixture with ice cream, beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until smooth (1-2 minutes). Store refrigerated up to 2 weeks. For each serving, fill mug with 1/4 cup mixture, 1 ounce rum or 1/4 teaspoon rum extract and 3/4 cup boiling water; sprinkle with nutmeg.

Here is what I think is probably a more traditional recipe for those faint of heart from TV chef Emeril Lagasse.

With Rum -
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch salt
  • Bottle dark rum
  • Boiling water
In a bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Refrigerate until almost firm. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into 12 small mugs. Pour about 3 ounces of rum into each mug (filling about halfway). Top with boiling water (to fill the remaining half), stir well, and serve immediately.



Create a Few Yearly Traditions That Are Easy to Maintain - It is so important to keep this simple or they will just fall by the wayside one year never to return.  I knew a family that decided to have Chinese food on Christmas Eve as a yearly tradition.  It could be shared with others or eaten just with their immediate family.  Dinner could be made from scratch, ordered in or eaten in a restaurant (reservations obviously needed.)  I always thought this was a brilliant idea.  For my family, when the kids were young and my mum was visiting, she suggested roasting hot dogs in our old fashion fireplace (real wood is a must for this).  We spread a big blanket on the floor to protect the carpet and went to town. Just for a special treat I added Home Made French Fries.  It was a such a hit that it quickly became our Christmas Eve meal which we still enjoy to this day - grown kids and all.  Some years we also make Smores.

There are lots of other great ideas.  Have a special book, tape or movie that the family enjoys each season.  I LOVE the Opus book, A Wish for Wings That Work. It has such a great holiday lesson.  Some fun movies are listed below as well if this one calls you.  For my husband, he started a couple years ago to listen to a famous recording of A Child's Christmas in Wales read by Dylan Thomas.  Glen finds this offsets the commercialism that can creep in this time of year and he loves the image of an old fashioned holiday season.  Last of all - Christmas day at our house would not be complete without a jigsaw puzzle.  It is placed on the coffee table in the living room. Not everyone works on it, but it draws everyone to the same place.  Those not as comfortable just sitting and chatting find themselves still in the middle of the group listening while they try to be the one who puts the last piece in place (my kids used to hide one piece in their hand).


Smaller Get Togethers - We all have many people we mean to get together with over the year and don't.  For some really dumb reason, we decide during the holiday season to have a mammoth party that includes everyone.  Not only is this stressful, you get very little time to talk with any one person.  Yesterday I held a birthday lunch (short and sweet) for a friend who became an honorary family member many years ago.  Instead of inviting everyone, the day was focused just on her.  We lit the fire and gave her our undivided attention.  The side benefit was we all took that afternoon to finally sit down and enjoy each other's company instead of being ships passing in the night.  Lunch was an easy stew that cooked in the oven in a large roasting pan while we all visited and homemade cornmeal muffins were popped in at the last minute.  The birthday cake was store bought, but no one cared.  It was short, intimate and utterly worth it.  Other options might be meeting for lunch with just a few close friends or a quick drink after work with a couple of co-workers.  Whatever you choose to do, keep it small and try to keep it as simple as you can.

Enjoy Some Comfort Food - Cold winters mean you need to be warmed by the food you eat.  While you can't do this every meal, be sure and include a wide variety of home made soups and stews with fresh quick bread.  A crock pot is a godsend for those that work, but with a litre of store bought broth, you can pretty much just add whatever vegetables, leftover meat and herbs you have to come up with a quick soup.  For stew, just have less broth, more ingredients, and thicken at the last minute with a mix of cornstarch dissolved in cold water.  Fresh Quick Breads can include anything from muffins to scones to 9 x 5 loaves.  An upcoming blog with have a few recipes including Brethren Cheese Bread, Cornmeal Muffins and more.

Watch some fun holiday movies - There are lots of sentimental favourites during the holiday season, but if you're struggling with the doldrums you really need to laugh.  Fortunately there are many movies to rent that can bring a little lightness to the season.  An oldie but goodie is always How The Grinch Stole Christmas - you have the choice of the short and sweet original animation from 1966 (my favourite) or the longer Ron Howard movie offering from 2000.  For something a little different, Tim Burton lovers can sink their teeth into the Nightmare Before Christmas.  Other options include - The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Santa Claus, The Polar Express and A Charlie Brown ChristmasI did find a site that listed their own top ten funny Christmas movies, many which I have not seen - Deck The Halls, Jingle All the Way, Eight Crazy Nights, Four Christmases, Bad Santa, Fred Claus, Elf and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.


Limit Present Buying - While this won't be popular with retailers, my entire family has cut back in this area.  All adults in our extended family just exchange cards and we truly get a kick out of trying to find the one that makes everyone laugh the most while not being mean.  My newly adult kids find this a great way to participate without having to by expensive, unwanted presents for older relatives.  We still purchase small gifts for the kids (and they for us), but  if any other family member wants to give gifts, they do it either for a birthday or just because they want to. No one feels the pressure of having to come up with a lot of gifts all at once.  Present buying is not longer dictated by the season, but by the moment and I for one enjoy this direction.  My only worry - my kids will marry into a family where it's really important to get lots of expensive gifts at Xmas.  I have no idea how they'll cope.


Bailey's Irish Cream -  Last year I had someone introduce me to a new way to drink this fabulous liqueur.  I thought I would end this column with it as it's one of the newest additions to my recipe book.  Take a beautiful glass coffee mug, the kind with the pedestal.  Fill half way with Bailey's and half with boiling hot water.  It's a bit like a hot chocolate and yet seems a bit more festive.  Okay, it is a bit high on the caloric side, but so is egg nog.  It just means you only have it occasionally when you need an extra boost and if you can sip it in front of the fire with a few family members or friends it's a bonus. For a recipe to make your own Bailey's from scratch click HERE.

Take time to step back from what is expected of you this holiday season and find a way to make it your own.  Invent some new traditions that are just yours, or find a new way to participate in the festivities that are more in line with what makes you happy.  Most of all, find it a way to celebrate the good things in your life including the family and friends that support you.

Happy Holidays!!






Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Tasty Touch of Rachel Ray

With the dumbing of TV lately (think reality TV), I've caught myself following some of the Food Network's cooking shows when I needed a short diversion.  None are as impressive as Rachel Ray's.  What I love about watching her show is that it's all about freedom.  You can be sure that no dish is ever prepared the same way twice.  It's always full of terms like, "About a handful" and "You could use that instead."  Each recipe I looked up would be one way in a cookbook, another on the internet and a third way on the TV recipe site.  After watching a few of her shows I found myself much more creative in the kitchen.

Given my fascination with her show, it was no surprise that I had to pick up a copy of one of her cookbooks - Rachel Ray's Book of 10.  In this large, easy-to-read book has more than 300 recipes that include her top 10 - Family Faves, Comfort Foods, $10 Meals, Great Rollovers, Most Requested, John's Faves (her husband), Pasta, Vegetarian and more.  It pretty much just sat on my shelf for the first couple of months until my daughter returned from Australian and acquired a new beau she wanted to cook for.  She had a previous cookbook of mine that originally took centre stage, but this one knocked her socks off.

Based on her feedback, I decided it was time to take a walk through its wide range of choices and try a few recipes.  Most were fairly easy to pull together and none disappointed - although a few need some adjusting to match my family's taste.  But if you have ever watched one of her shows you realize that's the beauty of what she is trying to teach.  She encourages you to substitute ingredients with things you have in your cupboards (or just like better) and to adjust a recipe to make it your own.  Here are just a few either Danielle or I tried with success and one I think works as a concept, but I need to experiment to find the right mix for me.  The best part?  If it says four servings they are usually very generous. I have always hated to try a recipe and find out the hard way that their four servings barely served three. One recipe alone from this book easily provided seven servings.

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Spanakopita Chicken Meetballs with Spicy Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
This was one of Danielle's hits that I haven't had a chance to try yet.
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for liberal drizzling
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 10 oz. boxes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted.
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoons grill seasoning (recommended: McCormick Montreal Seasoning)
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek style plain yogurt
  • 1/3 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 T Ground cumin
  • 1/2T Ground coriander
  • Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F. 

Wring out the spinach completely dry.  Separate the spinach as you add it to a mixing bowl.  Add the feta, chicken, onions, 2/3 of the chopped garlic, the grill seasoning and a liberal drizzel of olive oil to the bowl.  Mix the meat with the veggies and feta and form 18 1-1/2" meatballs.  Place the  meatballs on a rimmmed non-sick baking sheet and bake them for 10 to 12 minutes until they are golden and the juices run clear.

While the meatballs back, place the yogurt, remaining chopped garlic, the cucumbers, dill cumin, coriander, lemon juice and a little salt in a food processor and process until until smooth. Adjust seasonings and transfer the sauce to a serving bowl.  Serve the meatballs with a bowl of the sauce and toothpicks for dipping.

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Spicy and Sweet Chicken and Couscous Pot
Danielle and I have both made this one and we agree it's a keeper. As it said 4 serving, I made a little extra to serve my family of five.  Yet again we had lots of extra - I shouldn't have worried!  Don't let the long list of ingredients put you off.  It cooks very quickly and if you are experienced in the kitchen you can chop as you go along.  Sorry - couldn't find a proper photo. :(

CHICKEN & COUSCOUS INGREDIENTS:
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup mango chutney (I have allergy to mango, so I used peach)
Salt & black pepper (I did not add salt)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large bite-size pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded & thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups plain couscous (I used whole wheat)

MINTY, CILANTRO SAUCE INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
10 fresh mint leaves, from several sprigs
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 scallions, trimmed, coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 of the piece of ginger from the 3 inch piece

I made the minty sauce; but tasted it and hated it; so I did not even offer it to anyone else. So you can leave the sauce part out. The chicken and couscous is delicious without it.

Directions:
CHICKEN AND COUSCOUS
In a sauce pot over medium-low heat, combine 2 cups of the chicken stock with the chutney and salt (if using) and pepper, bring to a bubble, and then turn down the heat to low to keep warm.
Heat a large skillet, add oil. Once the oil is hot add the coriander, cumin and red pepper flakes and "toast" the spices, stirring constantly for about 15 seconds. Add the chicken and toss it in the spices until well coated. Spread the chicken out in an even layer and season with salt (if using) and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes and then add the onions, red bell pepper, garlic and three fourths of the grated ginger. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock and continue to cook until almost all of the liquids have evaporated, about 2 or 3 minutes.
Scoot the chicken and veggies to the sides of the skillet, creating a crater in the center of the pan. Add the chicken stock-chutney mixture and the lemon zest and juice, bring up to a bubble and then add the couscous to the crater. Give the skillet a shake to get the couscous to settle into the liquids but still try to keep it in the crater. Use the back of a spoon to spread it out into the liquids if the shaking doesn't do the trick. Cover it with a tight fitting lid or with a piece of aluminum foil (I put foil on first and then the lid) to hold in the steam. Turn off the heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes, to cook the couscous.
To serve, mix the couscous with the chicken and veggies and spoon into bowls. If you are making the minty, cilantro sauce drizzle over the chicken and couscous.

DIRECTIONS FOR MINTY, CILANTRO SAUCE:
In a blender combine the yogurt, mint, cilantro, scallions, lime juice, the remaining grated ginger, and a small splash of water. Turn the blender on and puree until the mixture is smooth. Add more water if necessary. Season the sauce with a little salt & pepper. Drizzle over chicken and couscous. 

==============
Renaissance of Tuna Casserole

Easy, easy, easy.  Although very mild in taste, everyone liked it (a real plus in my house). It really is more of a stove top pasta dish than the more traditional baked tuna casserole and I did a little substitution "a la Ray" style.  For the white wine I used some chicken broth I had laying around that needed using up and I used sundried tomatoes in oil, slightly drained.
  • Salt
  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 turns of the pan
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans Italian tuna in water or oil, drained
  • 1/2 cup tender sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced, available in small pouches in produce department
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, a couple of turns of the pan
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, a couple of turns of the pan
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls
  • Couple handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 cup fresh basil, about 20 leaves, shredded

Directions

Place pasta water on to boil. Salt water then add pasta and cook to al dente.

While pasta cooks, heat a deep skillet over medium heat with extra-virgin olive oil. Saute garlic and onions until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tuna and sun-dried tomatoes and stir to heat through, another 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine and cook it down a minute then add cream and season sauce with salt and pepper. Toss hot pasta and peas with sauce and cheese. Serve on dinner plates and top with shredded basil.


===============
Spinach-Artichoke Ravioli-Lasagna

Last but not least is a recipe I loved the idea of, but felt it needed a few small changes to suit my family.  It's called - Spinach-Artichoke Ravioli-Lasagna.  In general I really loved the mix of white sauce, ravioli, spinach and artichokes.  It had great flavour, but I found it a bit too heavy for my taste.  That said, it would make a great party buffet dish as it was so filling you only needed a small piece.  I would use less ravioli and more filling to start with. The idea of experimenting with different varieties of large stuffed ravioli with other types of sauces (traditional meat/tomato or maybe a cream pesto?), cheeses and filling combinations is intriguing.  Because I consider this a starting point recipe rather than a final product I am just including the link - http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/spinach-artichoke-ravioli-lasagna-recipe/index.html.  I would use this recipe as a launching point to create something uniquely your own. What's next on my list to try in this cookbook?  It's called Smokey Chipotle-Chicken Corn Chowder with Salsa SaladIt sounds like a perfect warm meal to serve on a cold winder night.

If you want to pick up a copy, here is a link to order online from Chapters, but I would suspect you could find it in any bookstore - http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Rachael-Rays-Book-More-Than-Rachael-Ray-John-Cusimano/9780307383204-item.html?ikwid=book+of+10&ikwsec=Home.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cartoons, Comics, the Muppets and Animation - I Don't Wanna Grow Up

I admit it - from the time I was very young I have always loved cartoons, newspaper comics, claymation and animation. From Hanna Barbara to Scooby Doo to Disney, I've watched it all.  Add in the Muppets and I was in junky heaven.  As a teenager I tried to be grown-up and walk away from the genre, but still started each morning reading the daily newspaper comics to fill the void.  By the time I was out of university I gave up the charade and began to scratch that itch.  I even had a roommate that used to join me on Saturday mornings to watch the Tarzan cartoon on TV - we both commented on his buff body - and we laughed our way through Scooby Doo's antics together.


I think the whole genre is a guilty pleasure for many adults.   The boss at one company I worked for arranged a film party at his home.  He had an antique gold movie projector and a pile of very old 16mm cartoons to show on it.  The house was packed and everyone was enthralled.   Even now, every time I am in the theatre for the latest release, I look around.  There are many of us slunk down in our seats with no young ones in tow.  Fortunately the film industry is beginning to realize there is a market for this type of film with a more adult focus.  For me it's about letting my imagination run wild.  I can look around everyday and see reality.  I want illusion, something I can't get on a daily basis.


One of the BEST parts of having kids was the excuse to take them to every movie I wanted to see under the guise that I had to take them.  The Muppets had two great movies I still love - Muppets Treasure Isle and Muppets Christmas Carol - in fact I think I'm going to pull out the old VHS and have the family rewatch the second one to get us in the holiday spirit.  We sat through all the Disney offerings as well - I can still sing most of Kiss the Girl from The Little Mermaid - and rented anything from the past I thought the kids would like. In looking back over all the older offerings one still stands out.  What animated movie can ever top Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


All three kids learned when very young to pick up the newspaper every morning to peruse the comics and two of the three still do to this day.  My oldest son and his father expect a Dilbert desktop calendar in their stockings every year that they place on their desk as work.  Supper discussion can turn to what the daily offering was if exceptional.  I am considering buying the old Muppets TV series so I can re-watch them.  Hopefully the kids will want to make it a family night as they were too young to see most of the episodes when they were on TV.


While I still love all the old cartoons and animation, in recent years the genre has come into it's own as an art form.  3D IMAX can be credited with adding a great deal to the viewing experience for us addicts.  Avatar in particular floored me.  For all the criticism it received for plot, I don't think anyone who saw it in 3D IMAX could not be astounded by the level and maturity of the animation.  I also loved the story lines and humour in Wall-E and Despicable Me.  Just a few favourites from the last couple of years include Avatar, Wall-E, Despicable Me, Ratatouille, Up, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and Horton Hears a Who. I have seen these and more - most with my adult children.  Yup, it's now a family addiction.  What we love is the chance to stretch our imagination and, more than anything else, laugh! 


So take a step back to your childhood, relax and enjoy. Get up every morning and peruse the daily comics.  Quit feeling guilty about going to see what the industry continues to label as family movies. I have one on my list that has been out for awhile and I haven't seen yet - Megamind.  I'm still hoping it's showing somewhere in 3D as the experience is so much better.  And think about a animation party.  Bring out some of those old favourites, have a few friends over, some nice food and a few choice drinks.  It can only mean an evening of laughter which is always welcome.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Fashion Godsend - My Wardrobe Stylist Shannon

If you had ever told me growing up that I would have any contact with a wardrobe stylist I would have laughed.  Let's face it, I grew up in meager circumstances to say the least and left home at 17.  Not the recipe for even having a decent wardrobe.  Time does, however, change things.  One day I turned around and the kids were taking care of their own expenses, the house was paid off and suddenly I had a little extra income to purchase clothes from somewhere other than Value Village, Zellers and Costco.  Unfortunately other things had changed as well.

I had always been a very thin person from a very thin family who ate and drank pretty much whatever I wanted - no exercise required.  That all changed during the five years I spent creating over 200 dance costumes a year.  The stress was unbelievable.  While there were many things I loved about designing costumes -  I revelled in the creative process, enjoyed watching dancers in my costumes, had costumes on stage for the Attorney General and actually won an award - the business was not a good match for my organizational skills.  All the work is accepted at one time with no real knowledge if there will be a delays along the way.  If you don't finish on time, a dancer (or a whole class of dancers) will be on stage naked. More than once I was up all night so I could deliver costumes for a dance competition the very next day.

Thomas & RozeMerie Cuevas, Shannon and I, Natalie and Steelie

No matter how much I was aware you needed to eat a regular diet when stressed - I honestly couldn't stomach food and believed my genetics would save me. WRONG!  The day started with coffee and Gravol - bad, bad, bad - and food just didn't find it's way into my system until well after 8 p.m. at night.  Each year after the season ended my weight set point was up another five pounds.  When I finally walked away from the business I realized I had a weight issue for the first time in my life.   All those years of knowing what looked great on me were now gone.  I struggled to find a look that went with the new body, but shopping became a depressing experience. I would take 20 items into the change room and at least 19 would go back on the racks.

Shannon, myself, Natalie and other JC clients

Added into the mix was the unexpected passing of my mum (age 85) in February 2009.  I had to go not only to a small family funeral, but a large memorial service at the university where she was still working at the time of her stroke.  I was in a quandry emotionally and needed help.  In sheer desperation I walked into JC Studios and put myself in Shannon's capable hands.  The requirement?  Find me something conservative, but not boring, that looks good on my current silhouette.  I didn't want to be somber as my mum had a wonderful life and an exceptionally easy passing.  I also didn't want to stand out as disrespectful.  Shannon came through in spades and that outfit is still in my closet.  As it is a bit more conservative, it's not one you will often see on me out at fashion events, but I still wear it today and continue to get compliments on it.  My favourite was from another designer, "Whoever put that together for you knew what they were doing!"

This is the event I showed up with jewellery for her to choose from. :)
Over the course of the last couple years I have learned to lean on Shannon to help me slowly build a wardrobe with depth and versatility.  Each season I come in for pre-booking and we work together once the clothes arrive to decide what works best.  The designer for the Jaqueline Conoir line, RozeMerie Cuevas, shared with me in an interview that her stylists try to keep a client's wardrobes up to date by encouraging them to try one new look each season.

Keeping this in mind, I am always open to a new silhouette whether I think it will look good or not.  Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised.  Colour is another area I have broadened my tastes.  I actually did know my best colours, but as you age the hue of your skin changes.  There are a few I have had to let go and a few new ones that can now be added to the palette.

For the first couple years Shannon would adjust my garments at events, or in studio on my way to events, to make sure I looked my best.  I even showed up at the JC Studio launch one season with several jewellery choices in my pocket and had her help me decide what was best as I wasn't sure. When I did a great job putting together a new combination she was always the first to let me know. I loved the mothering - it made me feel cared for and special!  Suddenly it all started to blossum and I began to regularly come up with different combinations on my own that received her stamp of approval.  I knew I was finally getting there when we were both at the same event and she didn't take a moment to adjust my garments even once.  That said, I hope she always keeps her keen eye out for me.

Love you Shannon!

What should you look for in a stylist?  I think a personal connection is  probably most important.  Someone who garners your trust and really listens when you talk about your likes and dislikes is your best bet (let's face it we all have personal fashion dislikes.)  If your life has changed, your body has taken on a life of its own or you just want to get out of a fashion rut and give your wardrobe a new start, a wardrobe stylist is a godsend who can even make the process fun.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let's Take This Video Viral!!!!

I received an email with a link to this music video in it.  After watching it three times I am still getting goosebumps.  Today, rather than a blog of my own ideas, I want to share someone else's.  Kudos to the person or team behind this concept, kudos to their hard work and more than anything kudos to the final product.  For anyone who loves street muscians, live music in it's purist form, it is a joy to listen to.  This is the intro that came with the email.

Below is a link to one of the best pieces of sound engineering you are likely to hear.  This is a video of street singers from around the world being recorded, overlayed and mixed with one another while singing the song "Stand By Me".  It is fabulous to listen to and watch - they all deserve to be heard. The finished product is tremendous!


I am more than proud to share with you - Stand By Me!!!!

https://vimeo.com/2539741

Update -

I want to thank Garry Kettleson for sending me the following background information on the above video as well as a link to the organization that recorded it - 

"This video is actually part of the Playing for Change Project ( and foundation ) started by American Producer and Sound Engineer Mark Johnson in 2004 ..the project has gained international participation and recognition with Playing for Change artists collectively playing at various International Music Festivals over the past few years..." Here is the link he sent me with full information. http://www.playingforchange.com/journey/introduction.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Where Are They Now #1 - Kayleen

This is the first in what I hope will be a new series suggested by a model's mother - updates on models who have been in past issues of Vancouver Fashion eZine and gone on to successful international careers.  I want to start with VFE's inaugural issue which went online in September 2007.  Kayleen was covered as our very first New Face and modelled for two photo shoots in the October 2007 issue.  With a mixed ethnicity (Caucasian and Filipino) that is increasingly in demand, she has moved out into the international arena to become a super star in Asia. In 2007 she shared that her inspiration came from models like Daria Webowy and Gemma Ward as well as fashion designers such as Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen.  Past times she enjoyed back then included learning to play guitar, drawing in her sketchbook and keeping in shape with a "Twinkie" diet.  She's come a long way from that early interview!  Here is her journey - from then to now.




Kayleen always wanted to be in the fashion and has defied the odds.  Her measurements are perfect, but at 5'7" it was a challenge to break into the industry. Growing up in a small town in Northern BC meant early opportunities to model were limited, so the day after high school graduation she headed to Vancouver.  Studying Fashion Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, work and participating in over 100 non-paid creatives and test shoots with wide range of photographers filled her days.  A fellow classmate and friend directed her to the John Casablancas Model Agency and, although they did give her a chance, it was not with out hesitation. Kayleen's drive and determination to succeed were the deciding factors that finally opened the door.  She recalls,  "There have been so many people that turned me down because of my height, but there are also many people who had faith in me.  Those are the people I have to thank.  I was lucky to have started out in Vancouver...It  is a great small community of creative go-getters."


Her first big break was a fall campaign for AG hair products shot in Vancouver by Waldy Martens that received nation-wide exposure. The following spring she landed a campaign for Plenty. Aritzia is also on her client list. Local bookings kept her busy, but it was her first contract to work in Tokyo, received almost three years ago, that launched Kayleen's career onto the international stage.  "I think that was the moment when everything changed for me.  It was a really hard and scary thing to do.  I left my apartment, my friends, my family, my school and my boyfriend and came to Japan by myself to do a three month contract.  It was the best decision I ever made. There is no way I could work full-time modeling in Vancouver. I love Japan! The money is good, the food is amazing and the people are so nice.  I'm glad to call this place home."


Japan is a country of consumers making Tokyo a very busy market to work in. New products are always being launched creating a steady demand for models.   Days are long and can be stressful. A model might attend 5 to 10 castings a day, driving around the large city in a van with a manager and other models from around the world.  Navigating the narrow streets takes patience, a GPS is mandatory and you absolutely CANNOT be late for castings.  For Kayleen, "My work situation in Tokyo is really like no other.  The day usually consists of a 6 or 7 a.m. call-time, around 1.5 to 2 hours of hair and make up prep and 8 to 12 hours of shooting, depending on the job.  An average work week for me ends up being around 4 or 5 jobs, but in some cases I've done 15 or so [jobs] in a row and sometimes two in one day."  Over the last 3 years she has also worked in Thailand, Hong Kong and Shanghai, usually for 2 to 3 months at a time, with her home base in Tokyo.  Living out of a suitcase is hard and she looks forward to her yearly trips back to Vancouver to reconnect with family and friends.


For Kayleen, modeling is just one area of fashion where she intends to make her mark.  With two years of fashion design already behind her, she hopes to incorporate all she is learning and eventually create her own line.  "I love my job.  I'm extremely lucky to have the opportunity to live and work overseas, I know how rare these things are.  But my overall love for fashion is in design...and I can't imagine life without a sewing machine.  My current job lets me see a side of the fashion industry you don't always get to see...I'm constantly learning every day and eventually, when I do my own thing, I will have a bigger insight on the production, fit, quality and creative concepts that go into the clothing.  It really is all about networking and teamwork."


For those hoping to enter the world of modeling Kayleen has some great advice - don't sell yourself short, make it happen, practise, build a portfolio with the tears necessary to be taken seriously, put yourself out there, don't be afraid of rejection and don't take no for an answer.  "Even if no one else thinks you can, as long as you know you can, that is all that matters.  Believe me!"  She was also willing to share a few of her beauty tips. "Moisturizer for the airplane is a must.  No matter where you are going, the air is so thin and dry up there.  There is nothing like a freshly moisturized face in the morning...nothing!"  Other tips include - limit the amount of foundation you put on, use a water based one (better for your skin) and travel light by only bringing one or two of your favourite eye shadows.


With five years of modeling already under her belt and her career still on the rise, it may be awhile before we see the launch of her own collection.  That said, given her determination it is sure to become a reality. The following quote really defines Kayleen's personal statement of who she is and where she is headed.  "I am a creative individual and I think of myself as an artist before anything else.  I'm very emotional and feel I have a way of looking at things that not a lot of people can see.  I have to lot to say.  My impact in the fashion industry needs to be self-propelled.  I need to challenge myself and find a route that is right for me - I believe I owe it to myself."  Beauty, talent and determination are all an integral part of this home-grown talent and these qualities will definitely propel her to even greater success in the future.

For bookings or to see Kayleen's portfolio go to the JCI website at http://www.jcvancouver.com/portfolios/women/kayleen/gallery.htm.  To read the original VFE 2007 article go to http://vancouverfashionezine.com/magazineissue01/newface.html.  Her blog can be found at kayleenfranklin.blogspot.com.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't Make Me Date You!

This blog came about after a discussion on dating, marriage and divorce over drinks at the curling club last night.  Somewhere during the course of this discussion I started telling a few dating horror stories - an art form I never learned to enjoy.  Some people seem to love the process, at least they talk like they do.  I always found it really forced.  Someone picks you up to take you out and YOU WILL HAVE A GOOD TIME, whether you like it or not.  If for some reason you realize that the date just isn't that much fun, you have to try and finish the rest of the evening with a smile on your face.  Why not just call it quits?  I guess it feels rude.  I also found it hard sometimes to tell how the other person felt it was going and who wants to hurt someone's feelings.

Then there are those occasional dates where you find out you lucked into a truly strange human being.  Usually this turns out to be someone a friend has told you to go out with.  If anyone set me up on a date that weird, it was pretty much the end of our friendship because it obviously said something very disturbing about our relationship.  Most fun of all was the pathological liars, a species from the dating pool that loves the game and seeing how far they can push it.  I have been pretty lucky to have only one in my dating journal (see story below), but I have heard some doozies from friends.  One room mate really believed her current boyfriend when he said he was going to downtown LA on Saturday night to play pick-up basketball with his friends.  The clue that this might not be the case?  He took along a change of clothes fit for a king in a garment bag.  I guess in the end it was about lying to herself as she wanted to believe the fairy tale.


There were some really great times dating, but it wasn't overall something I enjoyed.  I actually found it more fun to meet a new guy out somewhere so either of us could easily escape if we needed to and I was freed by paying my own way (no obligations of any kind).  In the end, however hard marriage has been at times (and no lie, there are rough moments), I am utterly happy to be out of the dating loop.  Here a few "fun" moments from my past.  If you make it to the end of this long column, you can try and guess which date said the final quote I included.


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It all began in high school.  There is that first magical time someone asks you out and you say yes, delighted you're now in the dating game.  No thought is put into if you even like this person or if you have any thing to talk about.  So there we are at the school football game (big deal in the U.S. - stadium, lights and a half time marching band) with absolutely nothing in common and unable to find anything to talk about. What was I thinking? I am stuck sitting in the stands instead of running around socializing, both of us are miserable and neither knows how to deal with it.  So what does my lovely date do??? He starts announcing to everyone he's out with the minister's daughter - nudge, nudge, wink, wink.  Total torture for me as I am humiliated. Unfortunately we had to attend a party after the game too, where he began in utter high-school mentality to do those annoying little verbal pokes.  I didn't think that night would ever end.

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First love!  This guy was special and we went out for a long time.  One day things started to change and he began to slowly pick at my self-esteem in a way only a family member usually can.  Thinking I was doing something wrong, I finally offered to break up saying, "I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but I'm obviously not what you need."  He finally confessed that he'd had an affair with an old girlfriend and was feeling guilty so took it out on me.  WHAT?!?!??!?  Bad enough to have an affair, but why make me feel bad about myself.  I kicked his booty to the curb and then in what I can only say was mental illness due to being in love the first time, I felt guilty.  I mean - he had been honest, right?  Like an idiot I went to apologize for my reaction, have an honest conversation and see if the relationship could be salvaged.  Not at home - HMMM!  In his grief and despair he wisely chose to head over to the ex-girlfriend's for a booty call.  I am ashamed to say I left a kind note on his windshield - really - but realized by the next morning that it was truly over and done.  The funniest thing?  This girl called to let me know he really loved me and I should forgive and forget. Not!

=========================

San Diego was an amazing place to live.  A girlfriend and I moved down from L.A. after graduating from university and we rented a great apartment east of the city. She was working at a psychiatric hospital which should have clued me in.  The phone rang one night and after answering, I heard my room mate say, "No, I can't go, but maybe Marilyn can."  With no information at all she handed me the phone and I was asked on a date by a mystery man she worked with.  The guy had amazing tickets to hear a concert by the singer who played the lead role of Tevye throughout Europe.  He had a four octave range and the show promised to be one-of-a-kind.  Intrigued, and reassured by the fact my roommate knew him, I said yes.

SIGH!!!!  All I can say when I opened the door is the guy seemed to be someone who was living at the psychiatric hospital rather than working in it.  The concert was wonderful, but the time in the car was torture.  We ended up stopping for food on the way home.  He ate BBQ with his hands and it was everywhere.  I bravely stared at my plate trying not to notice.  When the waitress gave him a finger bowl (hint, hint) he looked at her and said, "What's that for?"  The look I got was - what a loser you must be to be out with this one.  He even had a way of driving with his arms through the steering wheel - "Look ma, no hands!"  Needless to say I didn't room with that person a lot longer and I never looked at her the same way.  What was she thinking?  Her response - she started dating my youngest brother.

====================

Probably my favourite story of all time came when I moved to Seattle.  There was this guy that just was easy going with amazing blue eyes that came into where I worked.  We slowly began to hook up and things were moving along nicely.  He seemed down to earth, intelligent and most of all, kind.  I loved staying at his place because it was so peaceful.  Then he let me know he was quitting his job and was going to do a stretch on a fishing boat.  He worked at a supplier for the boats and had many contacts in the industry, so this made sense, especially from a financial point of view.  The house he lived in was going to be sublet while he was gone, so the odd thing started to appear in the bathroom vanity, but nothing changed in the way of furniture or decor.

I really did miss him when he went.  Assuming there would be a forward on his address, I sent him a lovely card telling him how much I missed him and our nights together.  Imagine my surprise when his wife called me.  That's right wife.  He didn't have one when we started dating, but he certainly did when we stopped.  Somehow he had managed to get married during our time together and hide it from me.   This has to be my all-time topper when it comes to dating.  I have never met anyone who played the game better and how he managed to move a wife into his house and not allow her to make any changes is beyond me, but somehow he did it.  Needless to say I was pretty disgusted after this and decided that I was changing tactics.

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The new direction for me was to look at men as company - period, lower the bar and expect little so I couldn't be disappointed.  Unfortunately, where ever you set the bar there is someone willing to come under it.  Enter my last dating experience before meeting my husband.  I guess the current term would be more friends with privileges, although we were exclusive.  I had no vested interest in this person other than we enjoyed hanging out together and ran in the same circles.  My only requirement was to let me know when he was moving on.  How simple is that?  For some men it's just too much freedom.  Out of the blue one night he just didn't show up.  That had never happened before and it didn't seem his style, so I could only assume the worst - an accident.  When he finally called four hours later, his first comment was, "Oh you're still home.  I didn't expect you to sit there and wait for me."  I am an absolute hothead, but somehow kept the lid on as I suspected he wanted the big blow-up as ammo to break it off.  I just laid out my concerns, how out of character this was for him and how he could honestly have just told me he didn't want to see me anymore.  Not the tactic he wanted and VERY effective as it took the wind out out of his sales and left him drifting.

===============

Life moved on and I met Glen.  When he started to come down from Vancouver, I again said what I really wanted was just to be honestly told when it was time to move on.  Imagine my surprise a year later when we were getting married and I was moving to Canada.  I don't think you could ever find a more fearful bride. On our wedding day I asked what he would do if I just couldn't go through with it and ran out of the room in terror.  He had the perfect response, "I'd just come and get you."   An old boyfriend shared a thought with me once.  "Life's like a bowl of Raisin Bran.  You have to go through a lot of flakes to find the other raisins."  I certainly went through my flakes, but in the end, raisin it was.  The only funny thing is - one of the above guys shared that with me. Can you guess which one??????

Friday, December 3, 2010

Coleslaw Fast and Easy

Be sure and check new postings - new salad and coleslaw recipes are being added all the time!

I needed a quick column this morning and food is always a great subject.  I actually love all brassica vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, kale and more - but cabbage is a real favourite and one that seems to have fallen out of favour. It's also a super healthy addition to any diet for tons of reasons that can be easily accessed on the internet - I leave you to do your own research.  Coleslaw for me is any salad with shredded cabbage as a base.  When I was growing up in the Midwest, the standard dressing my mom made was Miracle Whip (or mayonnaise) and sugar.  Crushed pineapple was a common addition.  I was never really a fan.

When I go back to South Dakota, there are still a lot of these sweeter salads as well as many jello concoctions, but on the West Coast times have changed.  Salad has become almost and art form here and healthier versions of old favourites have stepped forward to take centre stage. What I love about coleslaw in any form is that it stands up to a little sitting around and most versions can be eaten the next day (although any with a vinegar type dressing, while still edible, will be wilted.)

I am including four below.  The first is an adaption from a recipe I found in a cookbook.  The second was my first experimentation at an easy, but home-made coleslaw dressing.  I don't often make it anymore, but still love it.  Next is a recipe still in development that cries out for input - what would you add?  Lastly is one I haven't made yet but is on my list of things to try. It was invented by sous chef, Courtney Swenson at the Lake Travis restaurant.  It was used to top the Hot 'n' Crunchy Chicken Cone (another recipe I am dying to try, but is extremely complicated and takes a lot of prep.)

As my life is so crazy, I do tend to try and find bottled substitutes for the dressings to make them easy to throw together.  If your life has a little more time in it, I challenge you to invent a fresh dressing with similar flavours. 

Coleslaw #1

1 regular size bag of coleslaw mix from the grocery store.
1 Red or Orange Pepper diced
4 green onions diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup Parsley loosely chopped
1 cup Crumbled Feta Cheese (about 4 oz.), or to taste
 Kraft Sundried Tomato and Oregano Dressing to taste
 Note - for a more rounded vegetarian meal salad add 1 - 19 oz. can of kidney beans (rinsed and well-drained of course.)

This one is easy to make, has a great flavour and is really filling.  I never measure anything, just toss it in based on my mood that day, so most of these are estimates and you should vary it until it tastes the way you like it.  I love fresh parsley and tend to put in lots, but have put a range for those who are not as enamoured.  Same with the feta, if you love it put in more, I often do. The really tough instructions are - put the first 5 ingredients in bowl, add dressing and stir.  The one note I would make is watch the amount of dressing.  It's easy to add too much. This dressing will make the salad wilt, so don't add it until the last minute.

For those who want the original fresh dressing (a LOT milder), it's 1 clove minced garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  I make a lot more salad, so you will probably have to double it.

Coleslaw #2

1 regular size bag of coleslaw mix from the grocery store.
Low-Fat Mayonnaise
Plain Yogurt
Dijon Mustard
Red Wine or Balsamic Vinegar

This was my first attempt at a non-sweet coleslaw and I still love it.  I have a feeling not everyone will, so don't try it for a party until you have personally tasted it.  As I eye all ingredients, it's a bit tough to give exact amounts.  Basically you want an equal amount of yogurt and mayonnaise (probably around 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup), then about 1 T of Dijon and Vinegar - taste and add more of whichever flavour you think needs it.  This is a recipe you really need to make your own.  It's simple, easy and very healthy.

Coleslaw #3

AHHH - my work in progress.  I needed a salad with a bit of ethnic flavouring one day and it started there.  Still not settled on what should be added to this concoction to take it to the next level, so open to suggestions.

1 regular size bag of coleslaw mix from the grocery store.
Slivered Almonds, roasted
Fresh Bean Sprouts
Kraft Asian Sesame Dressing

Add whatever ingredients you think will make it special.  Toasting the almonds in particular will really bring out their flavour.  Dressing is always to taste - always err on the under-dressed side.  It's healthier and doesn't overwhelm the other flavours.

Coleslaw #4 - Mango Jalapeno Slaw

New Note - FINALLY had the chance to try this recipe and it was a hands down favourite with EVERYONE! Although it was originally meant to be a part of Chicken in an Cone, it's definitely in my list of must make again recipes.  I also found halving it only made 4 fairly meagre servings, so am doing the entire recipe next time.

1/2 cup diced mango
2 large jalapeños, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup mayonnaise (use kraft or homemade NOT miracle whip!)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
7 cups shredded coleslaw mix

This look like a LOT of slaw.  I would try a half recipe the first time and then increase if needed (that is unless you have a huge dinner party).  If I ever make the chicken in a cone, I will share it here.  Just want the chance to try it first.

Step out on the wild side today and bring cabbage back into the mainstream.  Brown's Social House has already done it with their Red Cabbage with Goat Cheese - unbelievably amazing!!!  Coleslaw is just an easy way to start.