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Spaghetti Squash and Zucchini Parmesan

With the approach of fall, leaning towards cozy sweaters and comfort food is the norm- and nothing says comfort like spaghetti!

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy hot meals and delicious treats! It can be challenging to stay on top of healthy habits once the cooler temperatures set in!

It takes all of this author’s motivation to get up and go to the gym when the cold sets in! I find making meals with healthy bases helps me to stay on track, and not to mind so much when I don’t make it to that spin class!

Here’s a twist on a classic homemade meal that is one of my favorites-you know, the one your grandmother used to force you to eat more than 2 helpings of! This time though, it’s incorporating more plants, healthy fats and tons of good taste! I dare you to try this and not have 3 servings…at a fraction of the calories!

 

Spaghetti Squash and Zucchini Parmesan

When cooked, spaghetti squash separates into strings that can be covered in sauce, much like

pasta – a grain free alternative! It is full of fibre, vitamins and nutrients that help build up those

antibodies -definitely something that’s good to increase with the onset of cold season! The

squash and zucchini hold up well together, while the cheeses create a mouthwatering finish.

This warm fall classic will have you and your loved ones asking for more-make sure to double

your recipe if you like to have leftovers! The portions outlined below makes 4-6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 large zucchini, grated
  • 1/3 cup caramelized onions (see below for these instructions)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parimigiano-reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Pierce the spaghetti squash with a fork in several places. Microwave it on high power for 12 minutes, rotating every 3 minutes. Let the squash cool, then cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Add the zucchini, onions and tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a shallow baking pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
  3. Remove the baking pan from the oven and turn the oven to broil. Top the vegetables with the grated cheese and place under the broiler until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Caramelized Onions

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 large onions, thinly sliced

Instructions:

Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add the onions and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often, until they are soft and brown. Let cool and then store in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

These caramelized onions are easy to do and are a great addition for any of your favorite dishes! Add them to meals like salads, sandwiches and more!

Enjoy this plant based meal which is guaranteed to taste better the next day!

That is, if you manage to have any leftovers!

 

Tastes to try in Colombia

Showing up in Medellin, Colombia, an adventurous traveller best be ready to get a good taste of local flavours. From its traditional recipes to its fresh, tropical fruits, Medellin doesn’t come up short when it comes to offering visitors delicious flavours. When I first visited the city in the spring of 2016, I fell in love with the flavour of a crunchy, beef empanada with a cold, refreshing beer on a hot afternoon. Now, two years later, I live in the South American city and my list of favourite foods and drinks has grown. Below, my recommendations on the most mouth-watering menu picks that a tourist simply can’t miss out on.

Trout: For me, you can’t go wrong with an order of trout in one of Medellin’s traditional restaurants. Always one of my go-to choices, the trout here is fresh and filling and in a region of the world that skews towards rich, red meat mains, trout is a great lighter option when the appetite isn’t raging.

Buñuelos: To a Canadian, these spherical, doughy treats look like Colombia’s answer to the timbit. These deep-fried desserts are a great morning treat with a cup of coffee or, when peckish, they make for a great on-the-go snack. The region where I live – Sabaneta – is known for having giant buñuelos. Just don’t make a habit of these treats… they don’t exactly score a lot of health points.

Aguardiente: Don’t dare leave Medellin without having a proper night out with friends and shots of aguardiente. This local spirit tastes a lot like black liquorice and will be found in every single bar. Those from Medellin will say it’s supposed to be shared with friends so make this known to pals ahead of time.

Empanadas: For me, empanadas are the perfect snack after my morning Spanish class. The novelty from two years ago never quite wore off…

Guanabana: Personally, I feel this spiky, green fruit looks more like an alien than the delicious fruit that it is. Guanabanas are large, nearly watermelon-sized fruits that are delicious in juices or smoothies. Flavour-wise they taste tart but slightly coconutty at the same time.

Chicharron: Boarding the return flight home from Medellin without having tried chicharron would be a terrible mistake. This fried pork belly delight graces the menus of most authentic Colombian restaurants. Bacon lovers won’t know what hit them.

Limonada de coco: In my opinion, this is the best beverage on the menu. Period. On a hot day, it’s a refreshing drink to sip on and it’s worth the extra pesos. When done right, a limonada de coco is creamy like a milkshake with the zesty, tartness of lemonade.

Soup’s on!

Soup’s on in my kitchen no matter what season, and it is easy to make and cheap to make as well.

I love chicken noodle soup as it is my comfort food, served with/without crackers or baguette bread! The soup also stands perfect alone. I find using leftover pre-cooked chicken is the best for flavor and then adding the broth.

It is my mother’s recipe. No matter how hard of a day I have at work, or a hard run, having some chicken soup makes me feel better.  I am told I make a mean soup!

Christine Blanchette’s Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients: 

Chicken pieces.

1 container of Chicken Broth

2 whole carrots

1 small onion

6-8 white mushrooms

Pepper

Pasta – your favorite noodle shape

Directions:

I use left over chicken pieces from a pre-ready cooked chicken.

Take a medium sized pot and cook the whole pre cooked chicken carcass in boiling water

Remove from the water the carcass, and remove the chicken pieces

Add chicken broth

Cut carrots into small pieces

Cut onion into small pieces

Cut mushrooms into small pieces

Add the vegetables to the soup

Add about a handful of pasta or enough to make it thick

Add lots of black ground pepper or to taste

You add whatever other vegetables.

Serves 6 depending on how much you like

Serve and enjoy!

 

 

Summer salads, ace healthy eating

Summer is right around the corner and BBQ season has begun, but not everyone becomes excited about burgers and steaks straight off the grill. It’s also summer salad season. Let’s be honest, salads are a tad better for the waistline and there are many options when it comes to this food form. Here are a couple of healthy and delicious options for those who want to mix things up and bring some unique flavours to the next neighbourhood get-together.

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

 Ingredients:

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. sea salt

3 c. cubed seedless watermelon

1 c. medium cucumber, chopped

1/2 c. coarsely chopped mint

1 c. crumbled feta

Whisk olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine cubed watermelon, cucumber, and mint. Pour contents from the small bowl over the watermelon mixture and top off with cubed feta and sea salt.

Fresh Broccoli Salad

 

Ingredients:

2 heads fresh broccoli

1 red onion

1/2 pound bacon

3/4 cup raisins

3/4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Place bacon in a deep skillet and cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Cool and crumble. Cut the broccoli into bite-size pieces and cut the onion into thin bite-size slices. Combine with the bacon, raisins, your favorite nuts and mix well. To prepare the dressing, mix the mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar together until smooth. Stir into the salad, let chill and serve. This makes 9 servings.

Southwestern Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 (16 ounce) package rotini pasta

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic

crushed1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves1 cup chopped roma (plum) tomatoes

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. In a large bowl combine oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, salt and garlic. Stir in pasta and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn, beans, green pepper, red pepper and 1/2 of the cilantro leaves. Spoon onto a platter and garnish with tomatoes and remaining cilantro. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

When ghosting leads to gratitude

I met Jake at his restaurant. He owned my favorite brunch place that I’d go to all the time (they made a duck confit hash that was to die for). Whenever I came in for breakfast, he’d step out from behind the counter to take my order personally. I liked him right away — and not just because he supplied me with two of my favorite things: bacon and coffee.

Tall with a neatly trimmed beard and intense dark eyes, Jake was cute in a sexy lumberjack kind of way. He seemed to like me too. When he opened another restaurant right next to my house and I found myself looking for any excuse to go in to see him, I knew I had to ask him out. He said yes.

Along with sizzling chemistry, Jake and I shared a passion for good food and collecting vinyl. The conversation was great and the sex was even better. We dated for four months, until one day when he stopped returning my texts and disappeared off the face of the earth.

(Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Jake still owned a restaurant next to my house. If there’s a prize given out for the most awkward ghosting, he would surely win.)

Jake re-emerged 79 days later to apologize (his excuse: he was in a “weird place”). He asked me out for dinner. When I agreed to meet up with him to talk, he ghosted again. Go figure.

While I’d like to say I never saw this coming, the signs were there from the beginning. Jake was unable to make plans more than twelve hours in advance (“the restaurant business is so unpredictable,” he’d tell me) and often I’d wait up to 24 hours for a reply to a text. It made me feel off-balance, like I never knew where I stood with him. Last but not least, he was petrified of commitment. Even a passing mention of marriage gave him a look of utter terror.

When Jake ghosted, I was confused and hurt. It was months before I felt ready to date again. Eventually though, those feelings gave way to something else: gratitude. Although I lost my favorite brunch place, Jake did me a favor. Thanks to him, I know the warning signs to look out for in the future. By breaking up with me in an immature manner, Jake cleared the path for better, more suitable people to walk into my life.

 

 

Open letter by a former seafood-hater

It’s embarrassing to admit, but the first time I had sushi I hid it in my purse when no one was looking.

Late in high school, I finally decided to give this raw cuisine a try after hearing my gaggle of best friends rave about California rolls and fresh maki. At that point, I’d never eaten sushi or shellfish of any kind. I sat in the restaurant waiting for my meal to arrive. One bite and I’d be in their sushi-loving club… or so I thought. When my fishy meal came, I could barely tolerate the sight of it. The slabs of slippery, raw salmon on my plate before made me gag. Their texture made my stomach churn. Who was I kidding? I wasn’t a cultured eater at all. I didn’t even know how to use chopsticks. While there way no way I’d be feasting on this seafood dish, I was faced with an even bigger dilemma: all-you-can-eat sushi spots charge extra for that which you do not devour. So, I did something that only a picky eater could understand: I scooped up fistfuls of cold, gooey fish, stuffed them into my purse and left. I must have reeked of fish on the bus ride home.

A few years on, I was living in Toronto still successfully avoiding seafood (and especially the raw kind) when I started dating a man with a Portuguese background and an affinity for shrimp, lobster and, you guessed it, sushi. This person introduced me to the world of seafood, in gradual steps – first serving me the cooked kind. In time, I grew to love a plate of shrimp with a beer or a Friday night out eating lobster. Eventually, I tried a less offensive sushi meal and learned it wasn’t so bad at all.

Learning to love a type of food that I had previously dismissed came in handy when I traveled to new spots, like Brazil, for instance. This nation with its Portuguese roots was obsessed with all the foods which that past boyfriend of mine loved. I’ll never forget the day when, sunbathing alone by the ocean, I managed to order a small bowl of freshly-caught shrimp from a fisherman walking along the beach. My delight of being able to order this snack despite the language barrier quickly waned when I realized the shrimp came with the heads still attached. The freshly-peppered morsels caught just that day were a treat too good to pass up as I sunned myself on the beach though. So, without a second-thought, I removed the heads, doused the rest in lime and enjoyed the perfect Brazilian lunch.

Seafood and sushi are now favourite foods of mine. I’m glad I learned to become open-minded rather than dismissive of these dishes. That goes especially when travelling to places where these sorts of foods are the region’s pride and joy. I’ve found that being open to them while away from home has enriched vacation experiences. I gobbled mini octopus in Cuba on a white sandy beach with my brother. I munched on barbecued conch at a Bahamian cocktail party. I swallowed back ice-cold, butter-flavoured oysters in Boston after a long day spent reporting on the Boston Marathon. I fueled a Cape Cod relay race with a lobster roll and when I visited Nova Scotia, armed with a bib, ample napkins and tools for the occasion, I learned to crack my first lobster. More recently, in Vancouver, I sat by a sunny street and ordered a plate of sushi because you just can’t go to the west coast city without doing so. After I finished, I ordered an extra serving of two pieces of salmon sushi. My favourite.

The girl who once hid raw fish in her purse to avoid eating it has grown to be much more adventurous with fresh ocean foods. The menu items that once caused me to grimace have become a routine part of my diet – and a luxury when travelling. And so, I write this as a sort of open letter to the picky eaters out there because these are the ones I hope to convince to say yes to new flavours. Though it cost me a purse, my introduction to seafood has allowed me to better experience tastes from abroad.

Healthy eating tips to complement your workout

As a runner, following a proper program and eating healthy is the perfect recipe for optimum performance and life long running. When I started training for my first 10k, little did I know how important what and how much I was eating could hurt my training.

At the time, I wasn’t making good food choices or eating well balanced meals. I would also skip breakfast or not make the time to eat. This was a huge mistake as I was often depleted after a workout. I also felt low in energy before the workout. The end result my running had suffered and this unmotivated to run.

Taking some time off not from running, I instead looked carefully at my diet. I realized running 5 days per week my body needed more nourishment. Skipping breakfast wasn’t working and eating creamy sauces the night before a long training run had given me an upset stomach.

If I wanted to continue training and see the finish line I needed to change my eating habits.

After doing some research into how to properly fuel my body and seeking advice from a dietitian I began to change my eating habits.

Here are my top 5 healthy eating tips 101 that I still use today:

1. Eat breakfast on a regular basis

Having breakfast fuels my body. I have a lot more energy before the run. Here is what I have on a regular basis – oatmeal with a bit of milk, brown sugar and some fruit. Give yourself a couple of hours before running.

I enjoy having one cup of coffee before heading out the door. I would have though a glass of water to keep hydrated.

2. Make the time to eat – your body will love you

Sometimes it is hard to make the time to eat. If you don’t have the time, bring a snack with you. Snack bar or granola bar and a piece of fruit to get through the workout or afterwards depending how much time you can digest it.

3. Follow a proper meal plan – eat carbs, protein and unsaturated fats. Carbs like a bagel gives me a lot of energy and having pasta, plain sauce with no creamy sauce the night before a big run.

4. Avoid foods that will upset your stomach. If you are not sure try it before the race. I love yogurt but discovered having some before a run upsets my stomach.

5. Keep hydrated. Bring a water bottle with you and drink sips of water throughout the day. Suggested to drink at least 2 liters a day or 8 glasses of water a day.

After a hard effort in a race, my stomach cannot handle food. What I have is a sports drink instead which has electrolytes.

Listening to your body is the key to knowing what foods work for you. See a registered dietitian for advice or more information about following healthy eating for your training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Pairings: Enliven your food with the right choice of wine & spirits

Food is most certainly at the centre of any holiday get-together in my household, and runner up to a delectable meal, are the delicious beverages to complement. Wines and spirits are the perfect option when pairing with that Easter spread. So when determining what will go on guests’ plates, take some time to consider the wine pairings that best bring out the flavours of the foods you’ve taken such care to prepare (or simply plate-if you’re anything like me and are not exactly a top chef in the kitchen.)

Fiona Buchan, Director of Marketing at Lakeview Wine Co., shares how the right pairings can bring your dinner party to new heights.

“Wine and food pairings are not just for the elite and the wealthy. Anybody can pair a wine with their food to build new flavour profiles and enhance the dinner. The key is understanding the wines that pair best with the foods you are cooking.”

Read Buchan’s tips on the subject of the perfect pairings, below:

The Aperitif — Welcome your guests properly. Before dinner is served and people are arriving, serve a nice sparkling wine. The bubbles help stimulate the palate to get people ready for the meal to come. If you (or your guests) are not a fan of the bubbly, pour a light white that stands well on its own, such as a Pinot Grigio.

Honey Glazed Ham – The staple of the Easter dinner is the glazed ham, in all of its sweet and salty deliciousness. The ham calls for a lighter, somewhat sweeter, white wine. FRESH Beginnings Moscato has peach and citrus notes on the nose, with pear, honey and fruit salad flavours on the palate — ideal for the sweet glaze and salty meat of the ham.

Turkey – While not a traditional Easter main course, the turkey is growing in popularity as a catch all dish for big family dinners. Key to pairing wine with turkey is to find a wine that is rich and flavourful without overpowering the seasoning of the bird and its stuffing. For red wine drinkers, the soft tannins of a Pinot Noir are ideal. For fans of white wines, go with a Gewurztraminer.

Cheesy Potatoes – Some sort of cheesy potato dish is a must, whether they are simmering scalloped potatoes smothered in cheddar or a creamy mashed potatoes with the cheese whipped inside. The gooey, salty goodness of the potatoes and cheese calls for a sweeter wine, like an off-dry Riesling.

Asparagus — Easter is a sure sign of spring and if the calendar cooperates (this year is not likely one of those years) the early crops of local Ontario asparagus are in market to bring some of that spring freshness to the dinner table. Fresh, crisp asparagus needs a fresh crisp wine. The mineral and grassy nots of a light, refreshing 20 Bees Sauvignon Blanc is ideal for this side dish.

Milk Chocolate — If nothing else, religious symbolism aside, Easter is associated with chocolate. Little chocolate eggs. Bigger chocolate eggs (with rich fillings inside), chocolate rabbits, and chocolate shaped into the characters of whatever movie is hot at the time. Key to pairing chocolate with wine is ensuring your wine is sweeter than the sweet dessert. For the milk chocolate that is most common in Easter confectionaries, pair with a sweet Riesling or a dessert wine.

For more information, please visit lakeviewwineco.com. Stay engaged on Facebook at /LakeviewWineCo, follow it on Twitter @LakeviewWineCo and on Instagram @lakeviewwineco.

 

Why you need to visit Lamma Island

Beyond the concrete towers that encapsulate Hong Kong’s skyline lies a hidden gem in the South China Sea. Originally known as Pok Liu Chau, Lamma Island is the tiny 13-square-kilometer destination that everyone should add to their bucket list. Although, sadly, there are no llamas, as the name may imply, this island is a true haven away from the dense commotion of central Hong Kong.

Lamma Island boasts some of Hong Kong’s finest natural landscapes, complete with thick greenery, swimmable beaches and a refreshing dose of ocean air. You can catch a ride to the northern village of Yung Shue Wan, or the eastern Sok Kwu Wan in just 20 minutes from Victoria Harbour, or 40 minutes from Aberdeen.

Whether you’re planning a day trip or a weeks-long getaway, here’s why this island will provide you with the perfect change of pace:

The Beaches

A spacious, tidy beach is a relic that’s hard to come by along the coasts of Hong Kong and mainland China. Lamma Island, however, has plenty of swimmable beaches with white sand and (mostly) clean water. Hung Shing Yeh is the island’s most popular beach in the main town of Yung Shue Wan, and despite being ordered to get out of the water due to a nearby oil spill during my own beach day, it’s definitely worth a trip. If you’re looking for a quieter spot, Lo So Shing beach is a must-visit, or you can explore the island’s coast, which is speckled with a ton of secret sandy shores. There is one beach, however, on the southern tip of the island that’s reserved for our marine animal friends. Although accessible by foot or private boat for some of the year, Sham Wan Bay is closed to the public from June to October, as it is the only remaining nesting site in Hong Kong for endangered sea turtles.

The Food

Hong Kong is internationally renowned for its seafood, and some of its best can be found on Lamma Island. Home to one of the territory’s oldest fishing villages, Sok Kwu Wan was once the liveliest fishing centre in Hong Kong. The village residents have been practicing this art for centuries and continue to use traditional fishing techniques to this day. Both of the island’s main towns are lined with seafood eateries, most of which come equipped with patios that overlook the ocean. And if fish isn’t really your thing, not to worry! Lamma is home to a hefty population of expats, many of whom have opened their own restaurants with an international flare. You can find delicious Spanish tapas, traditional British pubs, aromatic Indian grub, and plenty of cozy vegan and vegetarian cafes.

The Hiking Trails

With no cars or buses, Lamma Island can only really be explored by bicycle or by foot. Luckily, there are numerous trails traversing the island’s landscape.The most popular trail is known as the Lamma Island Family Walk and takes you between the major towns of Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan in about one and a half hours. The trail is mostly paved with clear markers and fresh fruit stands along the way, and it’s easily doable for beginners. It will bring you through the rolling green hills of the island to various lookout points where you can catch the sunset and see the glitzy shimmer of Hong Kong’s concrete jungle across the channel.

For the history buffs, Lamma’s trails are also decorated with remnants of the past. Along the way, you’ll find one of many small caves that were built by the Japanese during their occupation of Hong Kong in World War II. The caves were dug to hold speedboats that would be used in suicide attacks on enemy ships. Although they were never fully in use, the caves are untouched to this day, and are now known as the Kamikaze Grottos.

The People

Lamma Island is home to approximately 6,000 residents– not many, compared to the millions of people that populate the rest of Hong Kong. Some locals have lived here for generations, with roots reaching back to the island’s booming fishing days. However, Lamma’s laid-back energy and undeniable charm has attracted expats, artists and wandering nomads from all corners of the globe. It’s also been a recent draw for many workers who’ve opted for a daily ferry commute over the dreaded apartment hunt in mainland Hong Kong. The apparent multiculturalism has infused the island with a free-spirited vibe that makes it one of the best corners of Hong Kong if you’re looking to meet new people.

The Peace & Quiet

Lastly and, in my opinion, most importantly, Lamma Island is a slice of serenity in the foreground of cosmopolitan chaos. There are no cars and no skyscrapers to pollute its natural beauty, in fact, government restrictions forbid any units to be built over three storeys high. This not only curbs the number of residents, but it also opens the view to the skies above- something that’s quite a rarity on the mainland. If you really want to bask in the silence, avoid the island’s busiest time, which is summer weekends when a wave of mainland citizens come rushing in for the prime beach-lounging hours. But, just as quickly as they appear, they vanish at the call of the last scheduled ferry.

If you want to experience Lamma Island and all it has to offer, I suggest planning your trip soon. As the island gains popularity with visitors from near and far, an increasing number of developers are setting their sights on this relaxed hideaway. It may not be the same place in ten, or even five years from now, so hurry up and pack your bags!

St. Patrick’s Day: How personal tradition defines the way we celebrate our holidays

 

By Sinead Mulhern

When St. Patrick’s Day rolled around each year while I was growing up in Alberta, my mom and I would get to work whipping up batches upon batches of clover-shaped cookies. In the middle of March, winter showed no signs of letting up in the Prairies and so it only seemed natural to stay inside, roll out the dough and fill the house with the agonizingly sweet smell of nearly-baked goods. In our prep, we’d throw into the bowl flour as powdery as the snow heaps outside and whirl it together with crystals of white sugar. While they baked, we mixed up the icing – green of course – ready to coat each little clover with a generous layer. Then, I’d proudly bring them to school to share with my classmates. Being  the Irish kid in the class, it was my special treat.

As traditions go, this possibly was simply an idea one year, before carrying on to the next and the next. Eventually, supplying my peers with these shamrock treats became part of my St. Patrick’s Day routine. Once, I even remember when Paddy’s Day eve rolled around and we had both forgotten so we woke up extra early and baked a double batch together in the indigo blue pre-dawn hours.

At school, I’d pass around the green snacks,  press play to an accordion tune and perform one of the jigs which I learned at dance practice in Edmonton’s Irish club. During those years, St. Patrick’s Day was the celebration of the country where both my parents were born and lived in until their mid-twenties. For me, it was green cookies and dancing and, of course, church and Irish brunch.

The latter would be standard for many Irish households living both in the stocking-shaped emerald isle or abroad – like us. The former though, are traditions we created ourselves. When the calendar turns to March 17, many in Canada will celebrate by clinking pints of Guinness or green-dyed beer. Packs of university students in North America will wear obnoxious amounts of green with probably at least one top hat and kiss-me-I’m-Irish sash in every group. In Ireland, some relatives of mine will take in mass and a breakfast of eggs and sausages after. Green sugar cookies will be few and far between, I know.

Though we religiously kept up our tradition for years, it eventually faded. I grew past the age where it would have been appropriate to pass around baked goods in class and we moved across the country,  well away from our Alberta kitchen with the snow piles out the window. While the sugary clover cutouts became a thing of the past, my mother’s and my love for working with food didn’t wane. Out were the cookies, in was the baked soda bread (a classic) or a piping hot pot of Irish stew (even more classic). Together, we busied our hands putting together recipes that were, this time, symbolic of the place where my mom grew up.

When I left home and moved to Toronto, I kept up our tradition of making food on this day even though we no longer lived in the same household. Just as I did when I was seven, I again made a point of sharing it with school friends. For a few years during this chapter in my life, I avoided the tacky party celebrations and instead whipped up a pot of Irish stew and a fresh loaf of bread for my best lady friend. Together, we drank beer well into the evening.

The food that I now make on this day is traditional, yes. But my tradition of working away in the kitchen on (or just before) March 17, and sharing with friends has nothing to do with Paddy’s Day really. That habit stems from the days I spent mixing sugar cookies with my mom. The food has changed over time, the activity has not. This is how I, a daughter of two Irish immigrant parents, choose to spend this day. It’s interesting, how the customs we make for ourselves somehow have the most importance. Our personalized celebrations often trump how holidays are typically celebrated by the masses.

This year, the tradition, for me, has changed yet again. For the first time, I won’t be in Canada for this Irish holiday. I now reside in Colombia – over 6,000 kilometres away from that Alberta home and 4,000 kilometres away from my mom. The traditions I’ve set for myself will continue to evolve as I celebrate this holiday and the ones to come. As we head into Paddy’s Day, my mom and I have already discussed our menus. She’ll make her St. Patrick’s Day stew on the weekend whereas I’ve made mine already. The difference: mine contained a cup not of Guinness, but a local beer: Club Colombia Negra.