Lazy Eats: Pasta Salad – The Perfect Summer BBQ Bring Along

                ‘Tis once again the season for outdoor gatherings. As the sunsets linger and the warm evening air beckons us to sit around fires, summer get-togethers start to pile up. If you are like me, you enjoy getting together to share good times and good food. But, if you are indeed like me, sometimes your best intentions fall short. Sure, you said you were going to make those delicious cookies, but then you remembered that it takes ages to get them right, and vigilance is necessary to avoid setting off the fire alarm, making a mountain of dishes, or heating up an already uncomfortably warm house. Well, no need to worry anymore! I’m here to share my secret tomaking somes homemade and delicious for a get-together and still having the energy to join the party afterwards! 

                I present the signature “I’m Lazy Pasta Salad.” It’s great for indoor and outdoor events and helps to fill a niche between too many desserts and a whole ton of meat. I’ve prepared two varieties, and you can customize them as you see fit without much trouble, depending on your taste!

Prep time: 30 minutes

Serves: Lots of people (a backyard full)


+ 1 Box pasta (I use bowtie or fuscilli, but penne would work as well)

+ 1 Bottle salad dressing (really up to you, I’ve gone with classic Caesar and Greek Feta)

+ Vegetables (anything goes, crunch is nice though, and the colour really brightens it up). I’ve decided on sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, and some green onions. You could definitely also use a purple onion if it’s to your taste.

+ Cheese (again, to your taste, I prefer sharper harder cheeses, or really salty brine cheeses. I paired the Parmesan/Asiago mix with the Caesar and the brined feta with the Greek)

+ Dash of salt

+ Some extra virgin olive oil

+Optional: Black Olives, and/or bacon bits. Of course, if you’re more organized and less lazy, you could also take the extra step of making your own dressing or picking up some specialty bacon and making your own bits. Again, this is really for everyone, at any experience or energy level in the kitchen.


1. Fill a large pot with water. Ignore everything on the side of the pasta box except for how long the pasta should cook.

2. Add some salt and olive oil to the water, you know you want to, it brings some flavour.

3. When the water reaches a boil, add in the entire box of pasta. Cook to al dente as per box instructions, stirring occasionally and checking to make sure it’s not getting too soft.

4. When done, empty the pasta into a colander and run through with cold water. Set aside to cool. You can pat it dry a little to avoid excess moisture in the next steps.

5. While the pasta cools, take your vegetables and give them a chop. I recommend larger pieces so that there is equal pasta to vegetable ratio when dishing up the salad. Again, any vegetables you want are fair game.

6. Set aside your veggies. When the pasta is fully cool, empty it into a large bowl, breaking it up gently if it has stuck together. Grab your chosen bottle of salad dressing and squeeze/pour/spoon a liberal amount onto the pasta. I started with about ¼ of the bottle. Once on top, pick up the bowl of pasta and give it a few gentle swirls/shakes to start getting the dressing to spread around, it shouldn’t take much but you’ll notice the noodles start to move more easily. Once you have this, grab a big spoon and start turning the pasta over, spreading out the dressing evenly.

7. Once your pasta appears to be coated in salad dressing, you can add your cheese. I recommend adding it a bit at a time and stirring it around, to be sure there is an even distribution throughout. You’ll know you have enough cheese when you look at the bowl and say “yeah, I can see that cheese, which looks good.”

8. To finish it off, I cut up some green onion ends, as they have a nice flavour and a great colour. Now all you have to do is pack it up, and get your butt out the door to the get together with your tasty contribution.

Option 1: Caesar

Option Two: Italian

Now it’s all up to you! Once these steps are accomplished, you can add in bacon bits or olives, change the type salad dressing or vegetables, or whatever else your heart desires. Pasta salad seems a little dry? Add more dressing. You see a noddle without some cheese adjacent to it? More cheese!

You may wonder: Did I add too much cheese? The answer to that question I, unequivocally, no. There is no such thing as too much cheese.

Phenomenal Cinematic Power: Disney’s Live Action Aladdin

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   The first time I was swept away by a magic carpet still comes vividly to mind. It was winter of 1992 when I saw Aladdin; my mother and I made the trip to the movie theatre that used to be in the basement of the Cornwall Centre. I was 6 years old. It made such an impact on me at the time they for years after, I would still Genie out, singing “Never Had a Friend Like Me” to myself on any given day (the lyrics are still ready and waiting in the chamber should the music start), including the necessary invisible hand trumpet. It also cemented my love for Disney movies. I had seen Disney movies before (I have a vague memory of seeing the Jungle Book at the same theatre, after which I am pretty sure I annoyed my entire family with my unending and amateur stylings while singing “I wanna Be Like You” over and over again) and had a VHS collection of the best of the best, but Aladdin was the first one that really stuck with me.

The recent wave of live-action adaptations of long-loved classics (which, if we’re honest, really started back with the Glenn Close 101 Dalmatians in 1996) had been a bit of a sticking point for me. Then again, some of today’s Disney movies just don’t bring back the same feelings as their older works (this, of course, excluding any and all Pixar joint pictures, because those are gold!). Of late my favourites have been Zootopia, Tangled, and The Princess and the Frog (Oh Ray, you sweet swamp hillbilly, I’m so happy you got to be with you Evangeline!). So, it was with an open mind that I agreed to go see the recent live-action relaunch of Aladdin. The hardest leap going into it was to suspend my memory of the Genie, endeared to so many of us through the humour and amazing talent of Robin Williams, and prepare myself to embrace something new. The movie, and Will Smith, holds its hand out and with all its heart, and asks us, the audience if we will trust it, and make the leap.

Jasmine and Aladdin in the market

We find ourselves drawn in by the same charm we’ve held in our hearts all these years since we first roamed the sands since the Cave of Wonders first asked for the Diamond in the Rough. Will Smith kicks off the story with the old and time honoured “story-within-a-story” approach. Agrabah is expansive, lively, and colourful; it is charming and enchanting in all the right ways.  The writers have taken the chance to flesh out the world more, adding distant lands, far away conflict, and back story where previously there was none. All of this serves to give the story a more grounded feel, elevating it beyond a simple remake. Where this comes out the most (and I believe in the best ways) is in the expansion of the characters of Jasmine and Jafar. They become more than just a secluded princess and scheming vizier; without giving away too much, the changes to their stories serve to connect them not only to the world which they inhabit but with the audience. It was a very nice touch. Among the additions is a very lovely and empowering song by Jasmine, who previously did not have her own, and was instead only ever part of the duet (and hey, even Megara in Hercules got her own song) and the record for Disney leading ladies rocking their own songs continues with Jasmine’s “Speechless”.

Overall, the casting selection was enjoyable. It felt like a very strong selection of talent. Each delivered in their own way. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and Jasmine (Naomi Scott) were a hit, the chemistry between them came across quite well, as did their own individual drive. Neither fell flat, and you wanted to cheer and celebrate with them.  The CGI contingent, with Carpet, Raja, Iago, and Abu also felt extremely well integrated and made it very easy to suspend disbelief. Without them, the movie really would not have been quite the same, so the fact that they worked so well is another feather in the Disney cap. I personally very much loved Iago’s voice, which was parrot enough to seem grounded, but its lack of mimicry definitely gave the unsettling feeling that he was up to no good. This was absolutely perfect! No offense, Gilbert Godfrey, but I definitely think this Iago unseats you from your parrot-y throne.

Of course, now it comes to the most difficult bit. Genie and Jafar. At first, I was unsure of how I would feel about a somewhat young and, according to the chatter of the internet, attractive Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), but I was pleasantly surprised at how much it worked. Jafar steals the scenes he is in and makes you believe in the darkness hidden just below the surface.

I said before I was having a hard time preparing myself to embrace a new Genie, but Will Smith had a way of taking something iconic and adding his own twist. All at once his portrayal of Genie felt fresh and also like a thank you note to Robin Williams, for bringing him alive. Smith musical chops bring a fresh twist to the whole desert scene, and his playful and heartfelt exchanges with Aladdin, his gentle encouragement and sometimes not so gentle embarrassment, make it easy to accept him as being the new face of infinite cosmic power. It also helps that the writers chose to add a new character, Dahlia, handmaiden to Princess Jasmine, to bring out some of Genie’s more human side, which serves to give even his magical character an expanded connection to the world and the story.

So, Disney’s new live-action Aladdin has swayed me to its side with good music, wonderful visuals, and a reimagined story that rings with the notes of the old while weaving in the chimes of the new. All of our favourite songs are present, with new twists. Think you know the next verse of “One Step?”, think again! Ready to make way for Prince Ali? You’d best pay attention because he’s got way more than golden camels this time. This movie was a joy to watch, it played the fine line between nostalgia and reinvention expertly, and delivered everything you could possibly hope for. Disney’s next stop after Toy Story 4 will be The Lion King, so we’ll have to see if they can keep this remake streak alive. If Aladdin is anything to go by, they know how to play their hand just right to keep us filling the seats.

Detective Pikachu: The Case of Cuteness

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              What do you get with your cross Ryan Reynolds smart mouth and a mouse with the ability to electrify your heart? Detective Pikachu, the long-awaited, much-hyped live-action/CGI movie that had Pokémon fans going wild. Based on the much loved and expansive Pokémon Universe, Detective Pikachu takes its audience into a world they had only previously dreamed of (or wished for), and delivers action, cuteness, and witty dialogue that leaves you laughing, crying, and wanted to squish the fuzzy little faces of the most adorable creatures you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Bulbasaur overloads our cuteness meter!

So let’s launch with a little bit of background here. Pokémon or Pocket Monsters began as a series of video games for the handheld Nintendo Gameboy console in 1995. The goal of the game was to become the best trainer in your region. To do this you had to solve puzzles, go on a long journey, and battle bosses, all with the help of your Pokémon companions. Pokémon are animals that live in the wild and can be caught, each with their own series of strengths and weaknesses, and evolutions. From the first games, Red and Blue, the series became a long-lasting hit. From handheld games, it grew to comics books, light novels, animated television series (which are still being produced), animated movies, merchandise, trading cards, and spin-off games. From its original premise of traveling the world and capturing Pokémon, it expanded; at one point you stopped being the trainer and could become a Pokémon Photographer, a Rescue Ranger who asked Pokémon for help to solve natural crises, to the Pokémon themselves in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. Recently the world has been taken by storm by Niantic’s release of the phone app Pokémon Go! This takes real-life activity and Augmented reality, and pairs it with capturing, training, and battling Pokémon. As Detective Pikachu enjoys its ride at the box office, The Pokémon Company and Nintendo are already announcing and starting the hype for their latest installments, Pokémon Sword and Shield.

Jigglypuff does not appreciate you falling asleep!

               Set in Rhyme City, Detective Pikachu revolves around one young man’s search for his missing father, and the father’s Pokémon side-kicks search for his memories. Part mystery and part immersive world exploration, Detective Pikachu’s story depends as much on its ability to sell the emotional investment of the characters as it does on the ability for the CGI to make us feel as if we are truly entering a world where Pokémon and human lives alongside each other.

               The movie achieves this realism magnificently. From the very first encounter that the main character, Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith), has with a Pokémon ( an adorable yet tragically sad Cubone) to the massive encounters with fan favourites like Charizard, each Pokémon feels grounded and real within the world that Detective Pikachu has created. The fur on Pokémon like the titular Pikachu, looks so soft you just want to run your hands through it, and the Bulbasaurs look so adorable that you just want to hug and squish them. They also remain very true to the nature of the creatures that they draw their influences from. A major point in the movie is Pikachu’s obsessions with not stressing out a Psyduck, whose known to explode with telekinetic power whenever it suffers a headache) to having to play an amusing game of charades with a very dedicated Mr. Mime (who is . . . a mime, whose attacks and special abilities all revolve around miming . . .). The creature design, which is astoundingly appealing and at times maybe a little too real (Lickitung is just a bit…..ah, too much tongue), as well as the city design and location shots, really go the extra yard to immerse the audience in the ideal fantasy world, were their childhood dreams seem just within their grasp (I personally always wanted a Vulpix, I mean, talk about awesome).

               So, Detective Pikachu fully delivers on the most important part of the whole premise of the world. It makes us believe that these creatures, even the most frightening of them, feel and look real. The marriage between live action and CGI is at its very best here, ranking right along the lines of Avatar and Battle Angel Alita for making us believe that the fantasy we are experiencing is real enough for us to reach out and touch.

Addicted to coffee? We can all relate to that, right?

               Of course, it wouldn’t be a movie with Ryan Reynolds if there wasn’t a ton of tongue and cheek. The dialogue delivered by Reynold’s as the popular and much beloved Electric Mouse type Pokémon is spot on, going from gritty and emotional, to off-the-cuff and hilarious. From witty jokes to sometimes very risqué exchanges; Reynolds embraces the plucky role of amnesiac coffee dependant like a champ. His emotional investment was also a major drawing point, which serves to pull the audience further into this world of imagination and fantasy. Furthermore, the fact that motion capture was used to help the animators sync Pikachu’s face to Reynold’s expressions really goes the extra mile, selling us on a smart-talking, non-nonsense Detective who happens to be a cute, fuzzy, loveable, yellow mouse that we just want to pick up and cuddle, even if it might result in electrocution. Added to this, Justice Smith’s character, Tim, was the only human who was able to understand the words coming out of Pikachu’s mouth, making for some great comedic play. All in all the performances were pretty amazing, from the major stars to the smaller roles. By far the best hat tip was the fact that they managed to conceal Bill Nighy’s role in the movie ( Victor from Underworld, Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean) until he appeared as the founder of Rhyme City, a place where humans and Pokémon could live in harmony.

               The one place where some individuals had commented on a shortfall has been with the mystery plot. Some have said it feels contrived and shoehorned. In all honesty, it mattered very little for me. While the story may not have had dark twists and turns to rival a British Murder Mystery Show, they delivered on the emotion and experience, while tying it together with a story that everyone in the audience, from child to adult, could follow, maximizing their ability to connect with the fantasy world of Rhyme City, and enjoy the Pokémon that we have all secretly wanted to be real for the majority of our lives.

Pikachu Vs. Charizard

               All in all, Pokémon Detective Pikachu delivered a fun, enjoyable experience, which left me feeling happy, overjoyed, and a little emotional. It brought dreams of my childhood just a little bit closer, and I think what it has done to bring generations of fans together to experience their dreams and the emotions and excitement they have over their Pokémon friends go beyond box office numbers. It definitely makes me want to become the very best and to have the integrity, determination, and friendships that withstand even the greatest challenges.