August 20, 2017

I Made Something Yummy Today - Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers


When I see Zucchini Flowers on a menu, I'm often intrigued to try them. While this delicate, soft blossom has been used and enjoyed for many years (Italians have been preparing Pitelle/Pitticelle, as they're known, for ages), I only tried zucchini flowers for the first time a few years ago.

They are somewhat of a delicacy; zucchini flowers are very fragile and tender, and only available for a short harvest. They're special.

Of course, when I saw them today at our local farmer's market, I wanted to try making them. 

There are many recipes for making fried zucchini flowers, or traditional pitelle. My grandmother makes a pancake-like fritter, chopped with herbs and dipped in egg and flour. Others stuff them. Some coat them in egg whites and sparkling water. 

I read a few recipes and naturally, made my own.

Lemon Ricotta Zucchini Flowers

You will need: 

24 fresh zucchini flowers
1 1/4 cup flour
1 bottle beer - I used a Blonde Lager
1 cup ricotta
1 lemon
Grapeseed Oil/Vegetable Oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp Pink Himalayan Salt

Instructions:

Gently wash zucchini flowers, peel petals back carefully and remove the stamen or pistol. Cut stem and set flowers aside to dry. To make stuffing, combine ricotta and the juice of 1/2 lemon, along with the zest of the entire lemon. Sprinkle with black pepper. Mix well and add about 1 tsp of the mix to each zucchini flower. (Ensure the flowers are completely dry before stuffing) 

If you don't want to stuff, move directly to batter. (The unstuffed flowers are equally yummy, and just a bit lighter)

lemon ricotta zucchini flowers

To make the batter, whisk the flour, salt and one bottle of beer. I used a blonde lager. Whisk until all the lumps are removed and the batter is smooth, yet still bubbly. 

Coat the bottom of a pan with 2-3 inches of oil. I use a grapeseed oil as it has a very light flavour and a high burning point. Ensure the oil is very hot.

Gently dip each stuffed flower into the batter, allowing it to drip, before carefully placing into the hot oil. Cook 3-4 flowers at once, being mindful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook on each side for 1-2 minutes. 

Remove and rest on paper towel to absorb any additional oil. 

The outside will be hot and crispy, yet light, and the flower will serve as a silky cushion for the tangy, creamy ricotta filling.

Enjoy immediately. And don't forget to share.

fried pitelle

Do you make fried zucchini flowers? Share your recipe!

August 02, 2017

Building Brainpower at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre


Did you know the name 'LEGO' is an abbreviation of two Danish words leg and godt, meaning "play well"? I didn't. While I did realize LEGO was an "old" toy, I didn't know the company started making the ever-popular plastic pieces way back in 1932. Talk about a vintage toy standing the test of time.

And there are many reasons why, I'm sure: the multitude of colourful collections and sets, amazing and outrageous building possibilities, the variety of accessories and add-ons. LEGO transcends generations -- it's not just an ordinary kids' toy.

What's more: studies have shown that playing with blocks and shapes and construction toys can change the way kids think. Experts say playing with these toys can help develop spacial skills, hand-eye coordination, social skills, problem solving abilities and an aptitude for creative, critical thinking. And these are definitely qualities I want to promote and encourage in my daughters.

Unlike their mother, my girls have had a love of building and playing with blocks since they were babies. (Don't get me wrong, I like building a tower just as much as the next mom, but I don't have the desire to create an entire city. Perhaps they get it from their engineer Dad!) Needless to say, all three of them were super duper hyped when I surprised them with tickets to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Toronto, which just happens to be a fixture in Vaughan Mills Mall.



Of course, I was excited to go inside, too. I had never been to the massive, 34,000 square foot indoor attraction, despite how close it is to our house and how many times I visit the mall. And it's been open for 4 years. But now, I thought, the girls were old enough to be introduced to the facility.

And wow. Just wow.

270 THOUSAND visitors go inside the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Toronto every year, and I now I know why. You get the chance to build, play, practice, innovate, try new experiments, touch, explore, ride, all in one visit.

You start your visit in the LEGO museum, where you see how LEGO is made, and take home a souvenir piece for your collection. Then it's off to take a family photo (you can purchase at the end of your trip) and onto the Kingdom Quest ride. This indoor track ride asks riders to shoot at targets to help save the captured Princess. It's only a few minutes, but it reminded my girls of their trip to Disneyworld, so that's pretty cool in itself.

Following along the path, we entered MINILAND, where there must be millions, yes, MILLIONS of pieces of LEGO assembled into popular and famous Toronto landmarks.


The CN Tower, City Hall, Princess Gates, Casa Loma, the ROM, Rogers Centre -- all constructed out of LEGO. And not only constructed, this mini city moved and changed light (depending on the time of 'day'). Truly a spectacular sight.


But don't spend too much time in here because there are about 3 million LEGO bricks to play with as you move into the Centre! Not even kidding. In the Build & Test Zone, kids can create cars and trucks and other vehicles and test them out on the large ramps to see if they hold together or break apart on landing. This is the perfect chance for little minds to play engineer or innovator. And don't ask me about physics, but I'm sure they're indirectly learning that, too. 
And despite how many pieces of LEGO you have at home, it's never as many as you'll find here. Great opportunity to play and try out some new collections before you buy!
Too many small pieces for you or your littles? Not a problem. Just around the corner is the Duplo area, where kids and adults can play with larger, Duplo pieces and jumbo blocks to create "life-size" structures. The best part of making the tower? Knocking it down, of course!

If you need a break from all that building, there is a small cafeteria nearby, along with some tables to chill out, or, opt to check out one of the 4 movies playing every 15 minutes. Yes, there's a movie theatre inside too. A 3D movie theatre. If that wasn't enough, there's also a large playground area and a kids ride (parents can ride, too). 


New to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre this spring is the Ninjago City Adventure, which opened June 2. This area itself is more than 2,300 square feet of interactive play and puts guests' physical skills to the test as they fight to save Ninjago City. 


Adults and children will test their balance, agility, strength and endurance and practice Ninja moves in the Dojo training room. In the temple, ninjas-in-training will engage in obstacle course challenges. I played ninja-in-training for this one, and it was both fun and challenging, and gave the kids a laugh. 
And that was the end of our visit. We got a LOT done in a few hours, but I wouldn't be surprised if kids wanted to spend an entire day here. Can totally happen. In the end, and as a mom, I felt really proud for introducing my kids to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, and I know we'll be back.

It's a chance for kids to learn and explore all while having fun. (Not to mention make a huge LEGO mess in someone else's space! My feet thank you!) As for helping with their spacial skills, problem-solving and math, I'm no expert. But if playing with blocks now will help them down the road, I'm on board. In the end, and for our family, it's all about creating new experiences that will foster and develop their enthusiasm, energy, excitement and powerful little minds.

*** GIVEAWAY ALERT*** I'll be giving away 4 passes to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre on my Instagram! Head over to instagram.com/simplysuppa to enter!



Disclaimer: I received free tickets in order to write this review. As always, the opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

July 31, 2017

Sticks and Snacks Make Entertaining a Snap #sponsored #PerfectPairings #SummerFresh

If you put food on a stick, people will eat it. 

Yup, there you have it. It's not rocket science, but it's true.

Whether you're feeding kids or adults, there's something about the ease of eating off a little stick that entices people. And with another summer long weekend coming up, I want to share some easy meal and snack ideas (with a stick!) that'll be a hit if you're entertaining, or bringing a dish to a BBQ/gathering.


Of course, to make this even more tasty, I'm incorporating my fave Summer Fresh dips for Perfect Pairings. 


Veggies and Dip. A party staple. Only this time, maybe try some caprese skewers with cherry tomatoes, fresh garden basil, cucumber and bocconcini cheese on colourful party sticks. I've paired the caprese skewers with Summer Fresh Italian Selection Dip combo, which is great for parties. You get 4 dip favourites, all in one container: Sundried Tomato Parmesan Dip, Spicy Artichoke Asiago Dip, Gorgonzola Dip (our fave), and Spinach & Artichoke Dip. 
As soon as I put the plate of skewers on the table, my girls were all over it. If your kids or guests don't like tomatoes and cucumbers, substitute for another veg. Keep it fresh, healthy and raw. That mans you can prepare in advance and save the grill for later. Another tasty suggestion: olives with red pepper and carrots. Yum.


Meat on a Stick. AKA Kebabs. For your "entree", skip the steak or meat that requires and knife and fork and try a kebab. Speducci (or meat on a stick, as it's referred to in my house) is a all-time fave, especially with my kids. Italians will typically enjoy the delicious lamb skewer at summer parties or bbqs, and it makes the perfect midnight snack, too! What are speducci/spiedini? Tiny little morsels of tender lamb grilled on the BBQ. They're mouth-watering and delicious. Don't like lamb? Try chicken. Or pork. Or beef. Or all. I didn't make these kebabs -- they came pre-seasoned and pre-skewered, but if you want to make your own, by all means. But for parties, these are wonderful. And because they're on a stick, they make grabbing and go super easy for kids and adults alike. 

For this perfect pairing, it's all about Summer Fresh Tzatziki, probably one of our ultimate fave SF products. It's thick and garlicky and fresh and oh, so yummy. If you want to take your meat off the stick, dollop some tzatziki onto the chicken and wrap in a naan bread or pita. Otherwise, dip your stick straight up and enjoy!
And I'm all about Double Duty. While you're serving up tzatziki, chop up that naan to serve alongside. Add some Roasted Red Pepper Dip, Hummus or borrow some dip from your Italian Selections.


Do you have any favourite "stick" foods? How do you make your entertaining easy?



Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. As always, the opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

July 08, 2017

Cavalia Odysseo Gallops into Mississauga #odysseosauga

ODYSSEO / CREDITS : ANDREW MILLER
It's more than a horse show.

That's what I was told a few minutes before entering the Odysseo White Big Top.

This week, my family was very fortunate to receive VIP Rendez-Vous tickets to Cavalia Odysseo, which is open near the Hersey Centre in Mississauga, and to tell you the truth, I didn't know what to expect. Was it the circus? An equestrian show? Dancers? There were going to be horses, this much I knew, but I quickly realized Cavalia Odysseo is more than a horse show. Much, much more than a horse show.

It's a performance unlike any I've ever seen. Artistry, athleticism, delicate movements and grace. Odysseo plays out like a ballet, an opera and a comedy all wrapped into one, and without any words. The inspiration for Odysseo came from the ancient relationship between human and animal, and this harmony is played out exquisitely.

There are 65 majestic horses and 50 riders in the cast of Cavalia Odysseo, making it the world's largest touring production and travelling big top. The horses hail from Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Australia, the US and Canada and train at the Cavalia Ranch outside of Montreal. It takes years to train a Cavalia horse, I learned, and horses learn multiple roles in the production in order to prevent boredom for the animal. On average, each horse performs for about 12 minutes. And they certainly steal the show.

LIBERTÉ / CREDITS : JAK WONDERLY
L'ODYSSÉE / CREDITS: PASCAL RATTHÉ
The movements and respect between the riders and horses needs to be noted, because you often forget that while there may only be one person on stage, there are many more horses. Horse and human are a beautiful partnership and the trust each puts on one another during the performance is evident. These animals are graceful and almost balletic in their movements, but each one is also a powerhouse -- galloping at high speeds at various points in the show. They complete rhythmic revolutions, bow, trot and dance. And even occasionally, play tricks on their rider, leaving the audience in stitches. And I have never, ever, seen a horse roll over and toss turn.

There are tricks, too, of course, and some that seem terrifying and dangerous: riders flipping over their animal, standing on the horse, riding upside down. But this pas de deux is not only methodical and trained, it's also seems almost natural. Like the horse would never intentionally hurt its rider and vice-versa.
ODYSSEO / CREDITS : JAK WONDERLY
Of course, as we know already, Odysseo is more than a horse show and the amalgamation of acrobatics in this performance only elevates the already-super impressive spectacle.

CAROSELLO / CREDITS : DAN HARPER
TEMPÊTE | CREDITS : CHRIS WAITS
It sounds cliche, but the acrobats and aerialists in Odysseo defy gravity. They amazingly float through the air, on silks and on rings, while audience members hold their breath until their descent. The choreography is more than simple elements and stunts; the strength of these performers is immeasurable. When one can hold their body hundreds of feet in the air by one limb, the audience is undoubtedly left in awe. Quite literally, too, with mouths open. I may have closed my eyes a couple of times.

Les Anges | Credits : Andrew Miller
Fête du Village / Credits : Chris Waits

And then there were the dancers and gymnasts, who offered beautiful comedic interludes, from their impressive flips and tumbles to their contagious laughter and chants. Whether it's the Carousel scene, or the angels on silks, or anything in between, you're almost left dumbfounded -- is this happening right in front of me?! Is this a movie?! And almost instantly, the crowd breaks out into cheers and applause every single time.

Les Voyageurs / Credits: Jak Wonderly
I'd be doing a disservice to Cavalia and Odysseo if I didn't at least mention the staging of this performance. What starts as a very simple open space transforms throughout the show to reveal a large, sandy, hilly dessert with the horizon in the background. And when you think you'd seen it all, half of the stage becomes engulfed in water for the finale. None of this was an accident, of course. The creators of Odysseo wanted to push the limits of live entertainment and I'm confident they have succeeded.

We brought two children under the age of 6 to this performance and they were focused through the entire show, which is about two hours in length, with one intermission. This energetic, skilled performance is appropriate for audience members of varying ages.

I feel like I use the word amazing and awesome a lot, so how's this: Cavalia Odysseo is spectacular, outstanding, extraordinary, unique and breathtaking. And it's definitely more than a horse show.

Cavalia Odysseo is open in Mississauga through July 23 and tickets are now on sale at cavalia.com/live. Ticket pricing varies from $39.50-$139.50 plus tax and applicable fees. Use PROMO CODE: SOCIAL to save 15% on all Gold and VIP Ticket Categories. Group rates also available. 



Disclaimer: I received tickets to Cavalia Odysseo in order to write this review. As always, the opinions expressed on this blog are my own.

June 29, 2017

Throwback Thursday: My First TV Stand Up

The other day I was speaking with a volunteer at work and I started thinking about my career and how I got started. Many will know that I got my start in broadcasting at the CBC, working at the 2004 Athens Olympics. I also took a short contract at the CBC National after graduating from Ryerson.

But before that, I started volunteering at Rogers Television, now Rogers tv. Yes, the same Rogers tv where I currently work.

In 2003, I started volunteering on a lifestyle magazine show called York Region Living.

And after some digging in our archives, I found my first ever feature.


What a laugh my colleagues and I had! I just had to share this online, cause, you know, back then we didn't do that.

A few things come to mind when I watch this:

  • Woah, I was so young
  • Woah, I was so skinny
  • Not bad for my first go, huh?!
I also think about how grateful I am. Grateful for the opportunity that helped me start my career, develop my love for the craft and the community, and help me connect with thousands of people across our region.

And I'm reminded of this quote I've read time and time again: 

"Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you've come."

Happy Throwback Thursday! Hope you enjoyed mine.


June 26, 2017

Get Grillin' for Canada Day! #PerfectPairings #SummerFresh

We're days away from the first summer long weekend in Canada, and it's a pretty big one. It's Canada's 150th Birthday and unless you're living under the Canadian Shield, you're very much aware. I'm super pumped -- we are definitely proud Canadians and rest assure, we'll will be sporting our fave red on July 1.

One of my favourite things to do on a summer long weekend is to have a BBQ. My family happens to use the BBQ year-round, but somehow everything just tastes better in the summer. Even better outside. Especially with friends.

If you're hosting or attending a BBQ this Canada Day long weekend, I'm going to give you some quick and easy meal ideas with perfect pairing options. I've teamed up with Canadian company, Summer Fresh, to give you some super simple grilling options this Canada Day.








Appetizer: Lemon Dill Hummus Flatbread smothered in Mozzarella, Pistou Basil & Vine Tomatoes


Ooooh, fancy huh? Everyone likes pizza. Call it "Flatbread" and you're rockin'. Top it with a yummy, savoury hummus and you'll have people talking.

This app takes minutes to make, and it's all in the preparation.

After rolling our your dough (as thin as possible), and you've oiled your grill, place the dough directly on your BBQ.

After a couple of minutes, flip, so both sides get pronounced grill marks.

Smother the top of the flatbread with Summer Fresh Lemon Dill Hummus, which is fresh and light with a definite zing. Don't be chintzy either -- coat that baby up.

Then, top with your cheese, vine tomatoes, fresh basil and sprinkle with Parmeggiano Reggiano.

Close the lid to your BBQ and cook on medium heat for a few minutes until the cheese has melted. Cut and serve. This pizza flatbread is perfect right off the grill, and makes excellent leftovers, too.


Entree: Homemade Beef Hamburger topped with Canadian Cheddar and Roasted Red Pepper Dip. 

The King of the BBQ is the Burger, hands down. And there's nothing quite like a homemade beef burger. I make my burgers in advance and freeze them for easy meals, and while I use a typical meatball recipe, this time, I added onion and parsley to my meat mix for extra flavour. 

If you don't have time to make your own burgers, don't sweat it. A frozen burger or store-bought will do just fine. Make sure you have a great bun and excellent toppings.


If you're hosting, this is a great time to have a selection of Summer Fresh products out and have your guests play with flavour. Who wouldn't appreciate a personalized Burger Bar!?

For my custom burger, I smothered my bun in Summer Fresh Roasted Red Pepper Dip and topped my patty with classic Canadian Cheddar cheese. For good measure, a squirt of ketchup and mustard, but that's all. This nearly naked burger was juicy and delicious all on its own.








Salad: Grilled Watermelon Salad topped with Green Goddess Dip

Have you ever grilled a watermelon?! It's kind of cool, actually, and definitely unexpected.

Cut your watermelon into chunks and brush lightly with olive oil before placing it on the grill. BBQ the melon for a couple of minutes on each side until you have grill marks.

For a super simple salad, arrange your watermelon and drizzle with Summer Fresh Green Goddess Dip. If you've never tried Green Goddess Dip -- let me explain its versatility -- it's creamy and herby and loaded with flavour. We're talking basil AND parsley, which gives you a classic Italian taste, but with a twist. This Green Goddess Dip would be excellent in a pasta salad, as a crudite dip, with flatbreads and crackers.

And it's really good on watermelon.


Sprinkle some sea salt for an added kick and enjoy. If you want to jazz it up even more, sprinkle some feta cheese, place the watermelon on a bed of arugula, and maybe even drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top. Or, eat it straight up. It's Canada Day. Enjoy your company!

Summer BBQs are NOT supposed to be fancy or pretentious -- so you don't have to make them that way. Stick to the basics, give your meal a little twist with Summer Fresh, and have fun creating your Perfect Pairings.

Want some more inspiration? Visit Summer Fresh's Perfect Pairing Guide for all your Canada Day meal planning. Happy Canada150!




Disclosure: I received compensation in order to write this blog post. As always, the opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

June 20, 2017

Why Laser and Sun Don't Match

Here we are -- summer in Canada. About a week left before school's out and time to signal the parties, late nights and trips to the beach. It's also almost time to bust out that summer wardrobe if you haven't already -- capris, shorts and dresses! Woo! I love summer fashion.

You know what else comes with all that exposed skin? The need to shave my legs. You may remember earlier this year, I started on my journey to be Hairfree in 2017. Well, I'm afraid I won't be completely hair-free in 2017. I have been quite diligent and have almost finished my laser treatments on my upper lip and underarms (which is AWESOME, by the way!), but as for my legs, I was a little too late. 

Summer's coming and I've heard you can't mix laser with sun or suntans. 

Bummer. 

So unfair, right!? 

Here's the thing: I don't even really tan. Like, I don't roast. But let's be real, I do love sitting outside in the sun after a long day, and there's a chance my legs will get slightly bronzed as a result. But is that enough to make a difference? 


To answer all my millions of questions, I went to the woman I trust with a highly-powered laser inches away from my eyes, Daniela Hoffman at Freedom Medi-Spa in Vaughan: 

J: Why can't I go in the sun once I've had a laser treatment?

Freedom Medi-Spa: If you have completed your treatments – then you are ready to slowly get back into the sunshine, using sunscreen of course!  However, if you are in the middle of your treatments – a tan can really set you back.  The laser doesn’t know the difference between melanin in the skin and melanin in the hair – therefore if you come in with a tan at the start of your treatments – it might not be so bad as we are likely treating darker, courser hair and the laser settings will be quite modest.  If it’s in the middle or towards the end of your treatments – the hair is likely finer and lighter – this is when we need to make sure we are treating quite aggressively to be able to permanently destroy those hairs (which are much harder for the laser to see). If your skin is darker than your hair, the laser will be attracted to the darkest pigment, which can result in surface burns.

J: What is the best way to prevent damage to my skin?

Freedom Medi-Spa: The most successful laser clients stay out of the sun, wear 40 + sunscreen and re-apply every 2 hours in the sun, wear a wide brimmed hat or light coloured clothing to cover the areas, and always be honest with any time spent in the sun – including walking, biking an impromptu patio lunch, etc.

J: Can I use a self-tanner?

Freedom Medi-Spa: Yes – however, you must stop their use a minimum of 2 weeks prior to your laser appointment.  After your laser appointment, we recommend waiting at least 5 days before resuming use. 

J: Oops! I forgot to reapply my SPF! What happens to my laser treatment if I get a tan?

Freedom Medi-Spa: If you suddenly present with a tan during your treatment package, then we would have to reduce your settings so that you do not burn from the laser.  Again, the laser is looking for darker pigment – we only want it to see the hair – however, it’s not always easy.  If there is a substantial amount of colour difference – we would likely test patch the area prior to treatment – sometimes a few days prior.  We want to prevent any surface burns.  They will resolve – however, they can take time, so we want to avoid that. 

J: When is an ideal time/season to start a laser procedure?

Freedom Medi-Spa: Generally we say the Fall – however any area that is not tanned and likely won’t be tanned through Summer, you could begin anytime.  Some people would rather treat through Summer and be hair free for a Winter vacation instead.  It really depends on lifestyle.  Some people are great at using their sunscreens or keeping covered – we can treat them at any time. 

So the verdict (at least for moi) -- while I can complete your laser treatments year-round, to avoid unnecessary risk or burn, I'm going to hold off. But only until Fall when I can guarantee my pasty white legs will be concealed from daylight for months on end.

In the Fall, I'll start lasering my legs.

And it's perfect timing, really -- I'll be Hairfree for a Winter 2018 Holiday!



PS -- Photo Credit: Silvana Marshall Photography