Monthly Archives: April 2020

Around the World in Your Kitchen

by Debbie Ross founder of the Womens Travel Network

During this time of being asked to stay home I’ve been taking this time to reflect on some of my favourite food experiences from past travel adventures. Luckily, cooking is one of my passions and I’ve lately found great enjoyment in experimenting in my kitchen. Over the last 6 weeks I’ve created some spectacular international dishes to share with my family.

If we can’t currently travel to experience international flavours, we can hopefully enjoy culinary delights in our homes. If we think outside of the box when planning our menus you can travel Around the World in Your Kitchen. Hopefully this whets your appetite and keeps you hungry for foodie travel adventures when this is all over.

It’s really hard to top Sicily when it comes to food. No matter how much I read about the latest emerging food city or about the fact that Tokyo has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, I still think Sicily is one of the best places imaginable to eat. There are quite a few Michelin-starred eateries and a plethora of fine dining locations which are often housed in historical buildings or other breathtaking locations

I fondly recall a memorable meal in Erice, a medieval hilltop town located a couple of hours west of Palermo in the province of Trapani. This picturesque and charming town is one of the most attractive areas not only in Sicily, but throughout the Mediterranean. It is located at the height of 750 meters, from which you can admire all its medieval glory: its intricate alleys and courtyards make you feel like time has stopped. From here, you can enjoy a breathtaking view from Trapani to the Aegadian islands where, at sunset, a fantastic set of colours appears in front of your eyes and the rays of the setting sun are reflected in the whiteness of the saltpans.

This ancient village has the superb Michelin rated restaurant Monte San Giuliano, situated on the pedestrianised street in Erice’s town centre.  This cozy restaurant offers a lovely patio from which to admire the sunset and the chefs prepare delectable Sicilian fare. Sicily is full of these kinds of culinary experiences.

I had the pleasure of dining at Monte San Giuliano while hosting a group of ladies on WTN’s Sicily tour. This is where for the first time I tasted Pasta alla Norma, an authentic Sicilian dinner that’s welcome any day of the week.  This exquisite pasta dish has a multitude of local flavours incorporating roasted egg plant, fresh garlic and oregano then topped with perfectly aged ricotta cheese.

If you are looking to create a delightful Italian pasta dish in your kitchen I highly recommend Pasta alla Norma


– 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
– 3/4 pounds eggplants (2 to 3 small eggplants), trimmed, split in half lengthwise, and cut into 3/8th-inch half moons
– Kosher salt
– 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– 2 tablespoons tomato paste
– 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
– 1 pound dry ridged, tubular pasta such as rigatoni or penne rigate
– Handful fresh small basil leaves, or roughly torn large leaves
– 2 ounces aged ricotta salata, finely grated


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add as much eggplant as fits in a single layer and season with salt. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until eggplant is well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer eggplant to a plate and set aside. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding olive oil as necessary, until all eggplant is browned
  2. Add any remaining olive oil and increase heat to medium-high. Heat until olive oil is shimmering. Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant but garlic is not browned, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly until evenly incorporated and tomato paste starts to fry. Add tomatoes and their juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is thickened into a sauce-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
  3. Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook penne according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.
  4. Add sauce to pasta and toss to coat, adding reserved pasta water as necessary to thin sauce to desired consistency. Add eggplant slices and toss to combine.
  5. Serve pasta immediately, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, garnished with grated ricotta salata and torn basil leaves.


Entertainment: Travel Movies

by Debbie Ross founder of the Womens Travel Nertwork

Staying at home and binge watching movies on the streaming channels has become a way of life for many.  I don’t know about you but I am constantly looking for good entertainment.  Then it dawned on me, why not watch some of my favourite Travel Movies. I can alleviate my boredom and satisfy my wander lust at the same time. Watching these movies stir up wonderful memories and emotions from my amazing adventures. One of my favourites and very sentimental to me is Eat Pray Love. It begins in Rome Italy, which is  where I lead my first Womens Travel Network tour in 2004.  Also, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel filmed in Jaipur India which is one of my favourite places to visit and the most colourful city in Rajasthan.     Here’s a list of some movies about travel or with characters who do the traveling for us and can easily be found on the various streaming services.  I hope you will enjoy them too.

Eat Pray Love: A career woman with a  perfect life that goes sour journeys to Italy, India and Bali, where she discovers those parts of the world and herself as well. Stars Julia Roberts and is available on CBS All Access, IMDb TV or can be rented from Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than advertised, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways. Stars Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Maggie Smith and can be rented from Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.

The Bucket List: Two cancer patients with little in common  both need to make peace with the lives they’ve lived, as well follow up on the things they always wanted to do before they die. These adventures take them all over the world including  Egypt, Africa, China and the Himalayas. Stars Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, and can be rented from Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.

Away We Go: An unmarried couple in their thirties who go on a road trip around the U.S. and Canada to find the perfect place to live. Cities visited  are Denver, Phoenix, Tucson, Madison, Montreal, and Miami. Stars Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski, and can be streamed on Starz or rented from Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.

The Darjeeling Limited: When their father passes away, three brothers come together for a trip across India. Stars Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, and available on HBO or can be rented from Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.

Europtrip: Dumped by his girlfriend, a high school grad decides to embark on an overseas adventure in Europe with his friends. The cities covered are London, Paris, and Berlin and Matt Damon has a supporting role. Can be rented from Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.

Into The Wild: Based on the 1996 book by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild recounts the story of a college graduate from the suburbs, who turns his back on society and material possessions and sets off to the wilderness of Alaska. Stars Emile Hirsch and can be streamed on Starz or rented from Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.

Lost in Translation: In Tokyo, an old movie actor meets a recently married woman who is uncertain about her life. Stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, and can be streamed on Starz or rented from Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Prime Video, Vudu, and YouTube.

Morocco’s delectable delights

by Debbie Ross, founder of the Womens Travel Network

Morocco is a country that has always fascinated me. It has been shaped by various  historical influences and the great dynasties of Morocco, the Almoravides the Almohades, the Merinides, the Saadians and the Alaouites.  It is visible  in the architecture, the historical sites, the people and you can taste it the food.

The Berbers, Morocco’s first inhabitants are responsible for culinary methods and practices that are still alive today. They introduced the tagine utensil more than 2000 years ago and are in fact responsible for the slow cooking and well-known cooking practice. The Berbers are also accountable for the common meat preserving technique still present in Morocco (such as ‘khlii’) and have abundantly integrated to their diet some crucial ingredients to Moroccan cuisine, such as couscous, chickpeas and beans.

The Arabs arrival in the 7th century has significantly influenced Morocco’s culinary heritage. In fact, the Arabs are the ones who brought the famous spices from China, India and Malaysia such as cinnamon, ginger, paprika, cumin and turmeric. Influenced by the Persians, they also brought nuts and dried fruits, which allowed the sweet and sour combination, still present in tagines and dishes like bastila.

The Moors, (Muslim inhabitants mainly based in the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century) from Spain had a strong impact on Moroccan cuisine. They are responsible for the increased production and use of olives and olive oil and the settlement of citrus gardens and fruit bearing trees. The Moors population was followed by the Jewish-Moors who introduced pickling and preserving fruit and vegetables techniques.

The Ottoman Turk presence in the geographical region introduced grills and barbecues (kebab) to Moroccan cuisine.

The French colonized Morocco in 1912 and brought with them a culture of cafés, wine, ice cream and patisserie.

Food is a very important component of a trip and  I love to cook.  Recently I was watching a cooking show which inspired me to learn more about Moroccan food and to create some of the delectable dishes. I didn’t have a tagine readily available but figured I could improvise with my skillet.  I did some research on the various blends of spices and ingredients and created my first Moroccan meal.  My family loved it!  I decided to share my recipe with you. I hope you like it too.

Debbie’s Moroccan Chicken (Vegetarian option with Chickpeas)

2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless cut into bite size pieces
(for vegetarian
substitute, 1 cup chick peas)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp grated lemon rind
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 red pepper, cut into bite size chunks
1/2 cup olives, pitted
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1/4 cup dates, chopped (raisins are a good alternative)
1/2 cup chicken stock (or vegetable if making vegetarian option)
4 springs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried crushed thyme
2 tbsp honey

Spice Blend:
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper (or 1 tsp if you want it a bit spicy)
salt to taste

Heat oil in skillet
Saute chicken pieces on medium heat (5 minutes)
Add onion and garlic and continue cooking until onion is soft (2 minutes)
Add spice blend and continue cooking to bring out the flavours of the spices (1 minute)
Add lemon juice and lemon rind
Add the rest of the ingredients bringing to a boil
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes
Take cover offer and cook for another 5 minutes to reduce some of the liquid, if desired

Serve with couscous, quinoa or rice