August 24, 2016

Back to School Idea: Add Hummus to It #FreshBTS

The Back to School countdown is on -- we're less than 2 weeks until the kids are back to class. Last week, I gave you some suggestions on back to school lunches. Thank you to those who wrote to me to share their tried-and-true lunches. I will definitely add them to my list.

You may have noticed that I had a few "leftover" dishes on my list. I'm a fan of leftovers; in fact, I eat leftovers almost every day at work. The beauty of some leftovers is they don't have to be served warm; and sometimes, the meal is even better the next day. Quite often, I take my leftovers and turn them into a dish of their own -- cook once, enjoy twice. It's like double duty dinners. And that saves me time, which makes me very, very happy.

In addition to double duty dinners, I like double duty sides. Hummus is a side dish that is so versatile and it's ideal for Back to School. It's thick and creamy, nut free, loaded with protein and very good for it.

My favourite hummus on the market comes from Summer Fresh. Summer Fresh is a Canadian owned and operated company (actually, Vaughan based!) that specializes in hummus, dips and salads. The company is celebrating 25 years of creating recipes using simple ingredients. They are the masters of hummus, in my opinion.

They make everything from a classic hummus, spicy hummus, roasted eggplant hummus, avocado hummus, lemon dill hummus (HAVE to try this one!), topped hummus, spinach and artichoke, sundried tomato and so much more. They actually do make a Snack'n Go size and a mini size,  but I want to show you just a couple of the ways you can buy one container and use it in various forms in your lunches.

As a dip, duh. It goes without saying that you can use hummus as a dip. I prepare a platter of fresh veggies for my kids and let them pick what they want to dip. No chips here. If you're a meal planner, you can do this in advance. Scoop out your desired hummus flavour into a little container or bento-style box and add your veggies. So long as you refrigerate, you can prepare this days in advance.

OK -- so that's pretty obvious. But how do you take a spread, like hummus, and have it jazz up a leftover that both you and your kids will enjoy? Turn it into a quesadilla.

Start with a soft taco and smother it with your favourite hummus. I opted for Avocado Hummus -- it's creamy and has a bit of a Mexican flavour to it. Take a leftover chicken breast and slice it up and lay it on top. You can choose to stop there, or perhaps, add some cheese. Top it with a second tortilla. To heat, either put it in the oven on low for 5 minutes or so, or pop it into the microwave so the cheese glues to the tortilla. Cut into wedges and add to your child's lunch!

Add a few more veggies for good measure and you can feel relieved and proud that your kids are getting all four food groups in a lunch that took minutes to make. Not even kidding.

What else can you do with the ever-nimble hummus? Toss it in leftover pasta and make a tangy pasta salad. Hummus Pizza anyone? Switch out messy sauce for a yummy hummus and top with pepperoni and any other toppings your kids want. What about as base to a wrap? Summer Fresh has dozens of Back to School ideas for you. For more inspiration on how to incorporate their products into your lunches, visit the Summer Fresh website.

Summer Fresh has generously gifted one Simply Suppa reader with a Summer Fresh prize pack, just in time for Back to School. To enter, fill out the recipe below.

Good luck!

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Disclaimer: I'm a part of the Summer Fresh Back to School/Back to Reality Blogger Campaign and receive special perks as part of my affiliation. As always the opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

August 20, 2016

Who Has Time for Laces? Get in Gear with #Skechers #BacktoSchool

Let's face it: people are lazy. In fact, we're getting lazier and lazier. Even too lazy to tie our own shoes. True story.

OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, but by and large, I don't have time for laces. Not for myself, and definitely not for my kids. It's not that shoes with laces take forever put on, but they do, quite often, unlace. Not a huge deal for anyone who is capable of lacing their own shoes in less than 30 seconds, but for kids, laces are just silly and add even more time to the already arduous feat of "getting out of the house". And come on, once you get a good lace-up job, you really just shove your foot in as best as possible so as to not re-lace -- am I right?!

A few months ago, I was invited to a Skechers Media Preview and got the chance to take a look at their latest collection and one of the things that I noticed was that a solid bunch of their shoes come lace free. Skechers has actually found ways to create slip on shoes that actually LOOK like lace ups, without compromising style or comfort. 

These lace-free sneakers are called S-Lights: Lumos, and are available in toddler and kids sizes. They have a bungee lace across the top of the foot and one velcro strap. They stretch width-wise to get on the foot and feature the Skechers signature memory foam foot bed. S-Lights are available in a variety of colours and styles for girls and boys and are an amazing shoe for back to school, play, park, amusement trips, big walks or hanging out. They are light-weight and as Isabelle commented, "They feel very soft on my feet, mommy, like a pillow." I'm sure parents will also be happy to note that these are very reasonably priced ($30-50 CAD depending on size and style), have non-marking soles, and can work for kids of all ages. 

What my girls loved the MOST though, is the three-colour light up midsole. With every step, they blast out colour. While I think this is utterly adorable, when it's dark, these shoes give quite the light show -- so be warned! My girls have worn these sneakers -- with or without socks -- for about a month straight. They love the look, they must feel really good, and of course, they love the lights. 

But it's not just kids shoes that Skechers is mastering the art of the non-lace. How about a casual sports shoe that looks like a cute runner, sans string?

This is the Women's Glider in Posies.

Similar technology to the kids shoe above, with the bungee lace built into the shoe, but this ladies shoe doesn't have a velcro at all. It's a slip on runner that looks like it's been laced up.

The Glider is simple to slip into and out of, is super cushiony and soft and has a great rubber sole.

I love the floral pattern on the shoes which really makes them pop. If we're talking back to school, these Gliders are perfect for the student who still needs to change shoes indoors, wants something easy and slip on, carefree and fun.

The style really shows off your individuality and is still a practical, comfortable shoe for your feet.

OK -- if you weren't impressed already -- let's talk about Mens shoes. Last winter, I discovered the Mark Nason line, made exclusively for Skechers. Well, they've expanded this line and really upped the style factor, too.

The Knoxville is a breathable, lace free sneaker that features the ever-trendy perforation along the entire shoe. There is a solid skate-style sole and cushioned arch and memory foam foot bed. Donny has a long, narrow foot and these fit him incredibly well. Style-wise, they are perfect with a pair of jeans and a tshirt, for that teen or pre-teen who wants a comfortable sneaker that looks really good, too.

I'm really impressed by the Mark Nason collection and know that fall is full of brand new styles (both with laces and without), like booties, three straps, slip on, lace up oxfords and more. Ideal for men, young and old(er), who need and want comfort as much as (or more than) they need and want the look.

Simply Suppa is so honoured to be working with Skechers Canada and to be able to share these amazing finds with you. Skechers has a generous prize for one lucky Simply Suppa reader. To enter our Skechers Back to School contest, fill out the Rafflecopter below.

What do you look for in a pair of Back to School shoes?

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Disclaimer: I received Skechers shoes in order to write this post. As always, all opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

August 16, 2016

I am a Changemaker -- you can be, too

It's that time of year again where I come to you asking for money.

Here are some things you need to know about breast cancer: It's estimated that 1 in 9 Canadian women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. That means 68 women TODAY are being told they have the disease.

Cancer, and Breast Cancer, does not have prejudice. It doesn't pick and choose who it targets. Doesn't matter if you're young or old(er), married, single, divorced, white, black, tall or short. And I haven't met one person in my life who doesn't know someone who has been touched by it.

This is my 6th year volunteering my time as Co-Run Director for the Woodbridge/Vaughan Run Site. Together, our Run Site, in 3 years, has raised more than $550,000 for breast cancer research. I think that's pretty outstanding.

I'm also participating and fundraising as part of our Family and Friends Team -- now named Carmela and Nadia's Angels. This year, we have two honourees who will be proudly wearing pink shirts and no doubt, will be leading our pack.

Please take a moment to donate to our cause. Your generosity and kindness is truly appreciated.

Thank you for helping me be a Changemaker. 

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure is the largest single-day, volunteer-led event in Canada in support of the breast cancer cause. The money raised goes towards mission-related work including breast cancer research grants, fellowships, community health grants, health promotion, education and community/peer support programs. Since our inception in 1986, CBCF has invested over $360 million in breast cancer research; funding more than 1,400 scientific and community grants. 

August 14, 2016

Back to School Lunch Ideas #bts #backtoschool

In just a few short weeks, Isabelle starts Junior Kindergarten. As much as time has blown by and I can hardly believe we're here, starting "big girl" school is a huge milestone and I know she's ready.

Back to school has always been one of my favourite times of year; as a child, I remember being excited to learn whose class I was in; fast forward to high school and Back to School meant new shoes and school accessories; and in university, my excitement actually revolved around what cool class I would be taking. As a mom, Back to School excitement/nerves is a little bit different. I've been prepping for a while now -- uniform pieces have been purchased, a book about starting kindergarten is on the bookshelf. Not only do I need to make sure she's ready, but I need to be ready, too -- if not emotionally, then logistically, at least.

One of the major responsibilities of parents is packing lunches. This is the first time I've ever had to do this, so I've been thinking about it for a while. And so, like I usually do, I made a list of all the things I could pack in her lunch on any given day. Lunches (& snacks) need to be healthy and easy to pack, simple to eat and something she likes. Of course, they can't contain any nuts or nut products.

When it comes to packing my own lunch, I typically take leftovers to work, and I plan my meals in advance. So, I'm thinking/hoping, this will be our system for JK. I'm also a fan of Isabelle helping with the meal selection, so at least she feels involved and will eat what is packed for her.

If you're looking for Back to School Lunch Ideas, I'm happy to share. Here's my far:

Care to share your tips, tricks and any other meal suggestions? I feel like a newbie again!

August 10, 2016

Fiesty Merida is this month's Princess #DreamBigPrincess

Every month, I'm so fortunate to be able to test and play with a new Disney Hasbro Princess. It's sounds cliche even as I'm writing it, but Isabelle is in LOVE with every single one. Even little Maddie has been able to share in the fun.

This month, the Princess I'm featuring is Merida from the Disney film, Brave. I didn't know how Isabelle would react to Merida because she hadn't seen the movie yet. But as soon as I opened up the box, she was won over. Merida has beautiful auburn hair and a silky blue dress with a belt. Each month, we discuss the qualities of the princess. I explained to her that Merida is passionate and brave. She loves being outdoors and is an impressive archer and swordfighter (which led to a whole lesson on archery and swordfighting; to my surprise, she knew about it already).

Isabelle and Merida have similar feisty qualities; they're strong and strong willed, courageous and smart. I like that Isabelle and Madeline can see some of their own qualities in the Princesses -- a great way to make connections.

If you have a Merida lover at home, there are a few options when you get to the store:

The Disney Princess Merida on the left is your standard doll, without accessories, and the Merida on the right is a special "Merida's Magical Story Skirt". Use the water want to add a story to Merida's skirt. And of course, there is a Little Kingdom Merida Collection, which is always Isabelle's favourite:

The Little Kingdom collection doll fits into the palm of a 4-year-old's hand and comes with lots of teeny tiny pieces (caution if you have younger kids at home). Merida's dress can come on and off, and she can shoot her bow, play dress up, have a snack and hang out with her brother bear.

Of course, I want you to be able to play with this Merida collection for yourself! Simply Suppa is giving away a Merida Prize Pack. All you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter below.

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August 08, 2016

Book Review: The House Between Tides

It's been a while -- make that YEARS -- since I've read a real, tangible book. Don't get me wrong, I've read quite a few "beach books" as I call them: highly entertaining, often romantic, sarcastic and light. Basically a rom-com on paper. Or in my case, in an e-book.

When a copy of The House Between Tides appeared at my house, I thought, "OK, Simon & Schuster, I can do this."  The book was at a disadvantage, frankly. It described itself as a thriller (I don't like scary), and with parallels to Daphne du Maurier (University flashbacks of Rebecca!).

But if you like CSI type dramas or detective mysteries, this is a great book for you. Highly descriptive, the story revolves around Hetty Deveraux who inherits a family home, and then discovers bones inside. How's that for a synopsis!?

Hetty must try and find the story behind the bones and ends up intertwined in her family's history, while living her own life.

The story flip flops between past and present, which can sometimes get confusing, admittedly. There is a century that separates the periods -- 1910 and 2010. This is a book that requires focusing, as you don't want to miss a detail.

That said, there are a lot of details -- settings and scenery are meticulously described and even Hetty's character is often slow moving and stagnant. "MOVE!," I wanted to shout at her, many times in the book.

I would best describe The House Between Tides as a historical mystery, if such a classification exists. Readers who love Old English dramas would appreciate this eloquently written book. And for those who still love their rom-coms, there's even a little romance, too. Because of its vivid and lifelike description, I can easily see this Sarah Maine novel converted to a film, sometime soon.

August 03, 2016

Proof Everything Tastes Better with Cheese

I have a theory: everything tastes better with cheese.

I absolutely LOVE cheese. Asiago, Mozzarella, Provolone, Swiss, Pecorino Romano, Gorgonzola, Gruyere, and of course -- Parmeggiano Reggiano.

I keep a block (yes, a block) of fresh Parm in my fridge at all times. Most days, I grate it on some sort of vegetable, or I cover my pasta, sprinkle in soup, or just slice off a piece and savour it. Both my girls love it too; they're not afraid of its picante flavour. 

Cheese is likely the reason I will never be skinny again. 

Recently, I came across a roasted broccoli recipe that I wanted to try. It's pretty simple, actually. Toss cut up broccoli with salt, pepper and EVOO. Roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the broccoli starts to go brown. Remove from the oven and squeeze fresh lemon juice (or lemon juice from the bottle as I do!) and then,  the pièce de résistance--the Freshly Grated Parmeggiano Reggiano. 

If you're thinking -- big deal, Suppa, I do that already with Cheese Sauce -- GET OUT OF HERE. That is not cheese. Not. Cheese. Not REAL cheese, at least. Eat some real cheese and then come back.

Let me tell you -- my kids gobbled this dish up and I didn't have to blend up the broccoli and hide it in a smoothie or something like that. I love that they can take an entire piece of vegetable and eat it. Proof: everything tastes better with cheese.

We love this dish so much we have it at least once a week, and sometimes substitute broccoli for cauliflower. And with broccoli and cauliflower officially in season in Ontario, you can pick it up fresh at the Farmer's Market for just a few bucks!