INTRODUCING NEW ROOKS TO COOKS FREE ONLINE COOKING COURSES!
** Cooking Videos lovingly prepared for children and parents by our amazing chefs! **
We have been working hard in the Rooks to Cooks kitchen to come up with a way to keep our families cooking and your kids engaged during this challenging time. After countless hours of preparing and filming we are super excited to announce 2 new initiatives that we have been working on: The Rooks to Cooks Lunch Club and Rooks to Cooks Baking Bash!!
First, what is the Lunch Club you may ask? Starting Monday, March 23rd and running until Friday, April 3rd, Rooks to Cooks will release a new instructional cooking video at 11:00 a.m. teaching your family how to prepare a different lunch item every weekday (Monday to Friday)! Videos are easy to follow along and feature recipes that are not only nutritious and delicious but also utilize ingredients commonly found in the pantry. Our recipes were created to welcome substitutions in case not all ingredients are on hand.
Join us EVERY DAY for a brand new Lunch Club Cooking video via YouTube. Children can follow along at 11:00 am and have lunch prepared and on the table for the whole family by 12:30 p.m.
Please see BELOW for the Schedule and the Recipes that we will be preparing for the Lunch Club.
Monday, March 23
Roasted Chickpea Caesar Salad Wrap
Tuesday, March 24
Millionaires Minestrone Soup
Wednesday, March 25
Thursday, March 26
Crispy Chickpea and Quinoa Salad
Friday, March 27
Monday, March 30
Tuesday, March 31
Buffalo Cauliflower or Chicken Bites
Wednesday, April 1
Charred Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese
Thursday, April 2
Scrumptious Sloppy Joes
Friday, April 3
Creamy Tomato Pasta
If you haven’t participated in one of our cooking camps or programs, then we suggest that you purchase a cut-safe glove for your aspiring chef. We supply the gloves to our campers when they sign up for camp and we consistently use them and recommend them to parents to keep children safe in the kitchen. Click on the link below and you can order from Amazon:
If you haven’t already done so, please FOLLOW us on Instagram and Facebook as we will be posting the recipe and a reminder to tune in the DAY BEFORE the Video goes live. Feel free to share the Rooks to Cooks Lunch Club news with your friends and family; TAG your friends and they can join in on the fun!!
SHARE your Photos or Videos of your child with Rooks to Cooks!! Seeing their pupils cooking away in the midst of everything would help brighten our days and continue to motivate our chefs to continue working hard developing more content! Share on FB and / or Instagram with the hashtag #R2Clunchclub. We look forward to seeing your creations!!
Also, we are Announcing WEEKEND BAKING BASH with Chef Mistry, our Lead Chef in Thornhill! On Weekends, you can tune in to Instagram LIVE and Chef Mistry will be teaching you all awesome baking recipes for your kids and families to try while isolating at home. PLEASE NOTE: Baking Bash Recipes will be posted during the week of March 23 in a separate post. We will notify you via social media when they are available online.
Chef Mistry’s BAKING BASH SCHEDULE:
Saturday, March 28
Not All Alone Scones
Sunday, March 29
My World Won’t (Fruit) Crumble
Saturday, April 4
Bananas for Friend-Chip Cookies
Sunday, April 5
Bring Me Joy Bars
We hope that our Lunch Club videos and our Baking Bash live show help to teach your family new skills and recipes while at the same time bringing you entertainment, joy, and, of course, delicious food to enjoy all together! Stay tuned for more information coming this weekend via our Social Media Channels.
In a small mixing bowl whisk the egg yolk, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic together. Add white wine vinegar. While whisking vigorously, VERY SLOWLY add the canola and olive oil in a thin stream. DON’T STOP MIXING.
When all oil has been added, add the Worcestershire sauce.
Fold in the finely grated parmesan cheese.
Season to taste and serve.
If the dressing is too thick, add some lemon juice, 1 tsp at a time until the desired thickness is achieved. Alternatively, if the dressing is too thin, add more oil (slowly) until the desired thickness is achieved.
Roasted Chickpea Caesar Salad Wrap
Yield: 6 Wraps
¾ cup Rooks to Cooks’ Signature Caesar Salad Dressing
1 can chickpeas
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
2 carrots, grated or sliced julienne
½ cabbage, kale or romaine lettuce finely shredded (300g)
½ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
6 whole wheat tortilla wraps
To roast the chickpeas, preheat the oven to 450F and coat chickpeas in oil, salt, garlic powder and pepper. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking.
In the meantime, prep your veg.
In a medium bowl, mix together half of the dressing, and all of the chickpeas, carrots, shredded cabbage, sunflower seeds, and parmesan. Leave the other half of the dressing to the side.
Spread a bit of the leftover dressing onto the wrap to coat the surface. Place half of the mixture in the centre of each tortilla. Wrap as per chef demo.
OPTIONAL: Heat a fry pan over medium heat. Place the wrap, seam side down on the pan and cook for about one minute, or until the tortilla wrap is secured.
Cut wrap on a bias to serve.
Millionaires Minestrone Soup
Yield: 6 servings
40ml olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 large carrot carrots, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
1 – 28oz can diced tomatoes, tomatoes hand mashed
1 – 15oz can of crushed tomatoes
1tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 can kidney beans strained and rinsed
1 cup cooked macaroni or alternative pasta
⅓ cup French beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
In a medium pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add tomato paste and cook for one more minute.
Add tomatoes, carrots, celery, tomatoes, dried herbs and bay leaves. Cook for 10 minutes or until carrots are soft.
Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes.
Add kidney beans and French beans and simmer for 10 more minutes or until the French beans are soft.
Add macaroni and season to taste.
Yield: 6 servings
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 small onion, thinly sliced
2 potatoes, grated
1 green pepper or vegetable of choice finely diced
¼ cup of chopped bacon or sausage (optional)
¼ cup of milk, cream, yogurt or dairy-free alternative
2 tbsps of fresh herbs
¾ cup of cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F.
Heat oil into a medium cast-iron pan. Sauté onions until clear. Add potatoes and veggies in the skillet and sauté until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, whisk eggs with milk and season with salt and pepper. Add the potato mixture, bacon, cheese and fresh herbs to the bowl.
Oil cast-iron pan. Pour mixture in and cover with tin foil. Bake until firm (approximately 25 minutes).
Once frittata is springy and firm, remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Slice and serve hot.
Crispy Chickpea and Quinoa Salad
Yields: 6 servings
1 cup canned chickpeas strained and rinsed
1 Tbsp oil
Salt and pepper to taste
100 mL of Lemon juice, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
200 mL olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, or any oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
5 cups of uncooked quinoa
3 cups water
½ cup dried cranberries, raisins, apples (optional)
¼ cup g toasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans or almonds
½ cup of feta, crumbled
¼ bunch of fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1 small red onion, white onion or shallots finely diced
1 tsp olive oil
Put chickpeas on a sheet pan and bake at 450F until crisp (Approximately 25 minutes).
In a small pot, bring 3 cups of water to boil, and season with salt. Once boiling, add quinoa and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the water is fully absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside off the heat for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing.
Add dressing to taste to the cooked quinoa, dried fruit, seeds, herbs, onions and feta cheese. Toss to combine.
Enjoy your salad at room temperature, or chill in the fridge for 1 hour to allow the flavours to combine.
Protein-Packed Quesadillas with Pico de Gallo
Yield: 6 Servings
½ Tbsp olive oil or an alternative oil
450g ground meat or cooked lentils
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp stock or water
3 cups shredded cheese
6 x 8-inch diameter flour tortillas
Pico de Gallo
4 tomatoes, halved
1 sweet onion, quartered
1 lime zested and juiced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste (optional)
Preheat oven to 450F.
In a medium pan, heat olive oil. Once hot add ground meat or lentils, spices, salt and pepper. Heat until cooked through and fragrant (will take longer for the meat than lentils). Stir in tomato paste and stock and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
Remove mixture from pan and put in a bowl. If there is any excess grease, drain and dispose.
Lay tortillas on a large sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Distribute 2 cups of the cheese evenly among all the tortillas (only on one side). Reserve the 1 cup for later.
Distribute the ground beef or lentil mixture on top of the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly on top and fold the tortilla over so you have a half moon shape.
Bake at 450F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
In the meantime, prepare the pico de gallo.
To make the pico de gallo place the tomatoes and onion in a food processor. Pulse until evenly chopped, NOT PUREED! Add cilantro, sugar, salt, lime juice and zest and pulse again to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Remove from food processor and set aside.
Remove quesadillas from oven. Let sit for 2 minutes to cool slightly. Cut each moon into 4 equal wedges and serve with pico de gallo and sour cream.
Traditional Shakshuka Recipe
Yield: 6 Servings
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium green pepper, finely diced
2 – 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 can chickpeas strained and rinsed
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 pinch cayenne (optional)
Sugar to taste (if needed)
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Heat olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, and sweat until clear. Add garlic and continue to sauté until clear. Add spices and cook until oil changes colour.
Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened. Add tomatoes and chickpeas to pan, stir until blended. Stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preference. Add salt and pepper to taste, more sugar for a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka. Create wells for eggs. Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. Cover the pan and cook the eggs to taste (shorter for a runnier egg, longer for a stiffer egg).
Serve with crusty bread.
Buffalo Cauliflower or Chicken Bites
Yields: 4 servings
1 cup of all-purpose flour (120g)
250mL of milk, canned coconut milk or water (1 cup)
1 head of cauliflower, broken down into bite-sized florets
¾ cup mild hot sauce, or barbecue sauce (187mL)
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Set up your breading station for your cauliflower. One bowl for your flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder, and another large bowl for your milk or alternative.
First, dip your cauliflower into the flour until fully dusted. This will help our batter to stick!
Whisk your seasoned flour into your milk or milk alternative until a thick batter forms.
Dip your flour-dusted cauliflower into the batter, letting any excess drip off before transferring to your prepared baking sheet.
Bake your cauliflower bites in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
While the cauliflower is baking, stir together the hot sauce and melted butter.
When your cauliflower is golden brown, remove from the oven and toss with your prepared sauce then bake another 5-10 minutes.
Chef’s tip: These tasty buffalo cauliflower bites go great with a bowl of grains like rice or quinoa, on top of a salad or even inside a taco alongside some fresh salsa. You can swap out the cauliflower for 350g of chicken breast or tofu cut into bite-sized pieces for more tasty variations.
Chef Shai’s Charred Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese
Yield: 2 servings
1 Red pepper, charred, peeled & de-seeded
1 large onion, medium diced
30ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1-28 oz can of whole tomatoes unsalted
500ml vegetable stock
1 sprig basil
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and sweat until soft and clear. While onions are sweating, open a can of tomatoes and measure stock. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.
Add tomatoes, pepper, vegetable stock and basil. Bring contents of pot to a simmer and let simmer for 15 minutes or until peppers and tomatoes are very soft.
Remove basil and puree with an immersion blender.
Season to taste, serve hot.
Yield: 2 servings
150g old white cheddar sliced thinly OR 1.5 cups shredded cheddar
4 Slices of sourdough bread
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Heat butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
Assemble sandwiches as demonstrated in class.
Place sandwiches carefully in the butter and fry until crisp and golden brown. Flip and continue frying until second side is crisp and golden brown and cheese is fully melted.
Remove sandwiches from frying pan and slice in half. Serve immediately.
Scrumptious Sloppy Joes
Yields: 6 servings
2 cups water
250 g dried green lentils, well rinsed or ground meat of your choice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ red pepper, finely diced
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp smoked paprika
6 hamburger buns or toasted slices of bread
To a small pot, add water and rinsed lentils and cook over medium heat.
Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until lentils are tender, around 18 minutes. Once cooked, drain off any excess liquid and set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat vegetable oil and sweat onions until translucent. To the onions, add garlic and spices and cook stirring constantly for 1 minute until very fragrant.
Stir in the diced pepper, and cook for 2 minutes until beginning to soften.
Next add the tomato sauce, sugar, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine, then mix in the cooked lentils.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook over medium heat until it’s beginning to thicken.
Taste and adjust the seasoning – sloppy joes should have a little bit of heat and a little bit of sweet! Serve these with your favourite buns or bread, or try your hand at making your very own hamburger buns.
Chef’s tip: these sloppy joes are easy to adapt with ingredients you have in your pantry. You can swap the lentils out for 250g of any ground meat, or even crumbled firm tofu.
Heat the oil over low heat in a large frying pan, then sauté garlic until fragrant.
Add the tomato paste to the garlic, stir to combine then cook until the tomato paste turns a deep red colour.
Add the coconut milk and salt, stir once more to combine and bring to a simmer, occasionally stirring the bottom.
While the sauce is simmering, cook your pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Be sure to save 100mL of the starchy pasta water to finish your dish!
Toss your cooked pasta with the simmered sauce and your pasta water. The starch in the pasta water will help the sauce stick to your pasta and create a glossy sauce.
Chef’s tip: Once you have this pasta sauce made, you can add in any extra vegetables you may have! I like to throw in some halved cherry tomatoes and fresh arugula for pops of fresh colour and flavour.
Given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) and the continued spread of the virus, Rooks to Cooks is making changes to our policies and procedures and enhancing our current regulations to reduce the risk of spreading any illness. We know this can be an anxious time, but we are positioned to work together to stay calm and collected, to ensure all our chefs and participants stay healthy.
The good news is that our environment is already optimal for superior hygiene due to the nature of our program. We consistently impose the following standards in all of our camps:
All our staff members must hold a food handler’s certificate which is earned through extensive training in food sanitation, food handling and personal hygiene.
This training and knowledge is passed on to our students. At the start of all programs and throughout the programs these sanitation and safety standards are strictly enforced.
We strictly enforce participants to regularly wash their hands with soap and water and to cover their mouths and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Finally, our class sizes are small and the facilities we operate out of are low traffic areas, meaning the risk of exposure and spread of infection is very low compared to other facilities.
Our team will remain vigilant in following proper hygiene etiquette as is the current advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Additionally, we have updated our program procedures in response to the virus, as follows:
Before camp procedures will now include:
Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all objects and surfaces that are regularly touched (door handles, elevator buttons, counters, etc.) before families arrive on site.
Hand sanitizer will be stationed outside the main doors for parents and campers to sanitize their hands upon arrival prior to sign in.
All staff will be instructed to stay at home if they are exhibiting symptoms or have recently travelled to high-risk countries.
Campers or staff who are feeling unwell with symptoms of a fever or a cold will not be permitted to participate.
During camp procedures will now include:
On top of our typical sanitation and safety demonstrations, we will initiate an intensive sanitation overview for the campers. This will include how to cough and sneeze into elbows and general personal hygiene skills to use in the Rooks to Cooks environment and beyond.
We will have non-contact thermometers on site to verify temperatures of campers and staff daily. In the case that campers have a high temperature or are exhibiting any symptoms, parents must be prepared to pick up their child from the program.
Hand washing will be strictly enforced among the campers and staff at all times. This will include asking campers to wash their hands every time they touch their face or any of their personal belongings.
All dining utensils, plates, bowls, etc. will be washed and disinfected in an industrial dishwasher after each use.
In lieu of handshakes and hugs, we will be encouraging elbow bumps or a friendly hello at all of our programs.
After camp procedures will now include:
Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all objects and surfaces that people touch regularly prior to the start of any program. All door handles, elevator buttons, counters, etc. will be sanitized before leaving each day.
Once again, we want all our families to know that we are taking all appropriate measures to ensure our camp facilities are safe. The health and well-being of our campers and staff is our top priority. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will provide ongoing updates as required.
Please feel free to contact us if you have further questions.
Rooks to Cooks would like to announce the March Madness Contest! Register for any Summer Camp session during the month of March and you could WIN a FREE Rooks to Cooks Birthday Party Package for your child and up to 5 friends ($500+ value). Multiple entries for multiple registrations!
How to Enter:Simply REGISTER for one (or more) of our summer camp programs on our website and you will automatically be entered in the contest. All registrations received during the month of March will be eligible to win!
Contest Period: The Rooks to Cooks March Madness Contest will run from March 1, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and to March 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Prize value is $500, not redeemable for cash. We will announce the winner via Facebook and Instagram and we will contact the winner in private via email.
Be sure to register soon before the contest ends and to get the summer camp session that works best for you! Good luck to all the entrants!
Here is an overview of this unique Birthday Party experience:
2+ Chef instructors will arrive at the space of your choice 1 hour prior to your party to set up.
Chefs will bring all the necessary ingredients, equipment, uniforms and loot bag materials
Parties range from 1.5 hours to 2 hours
Following the class, chefs will clean up your space completely.
The birthday child will receive a birthday card from CEO Chef Shai Mandel
The Winner can choose from one of the following party themes:
For more information about our Birthday Parties, please visit our Birthday Parties page.
Special Contribution By: Chef Taylor Lewis, Camp Director at Rooks to Cooks
Happy New Year everyone!
As we are now three weeks into a new decade, this is a great time to reflect on traditions we want to carry forward into the next 10 years and beyond. For those of us who follow the lunar calendar, the lunar new year is just around the corner, falling on January 25th this year, making this a time for celebrations!
Lunar new year, sometimes also referred to as Chinese New Year is widely celebrated throughout China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Tibet. The exact day that the celebration begins depends on the first New Moon that takes place between January 21st and February 20th. With the celebrations to welcome in the new year comes many traditions and customs which are carried out for 16 days following the new year leading into the Spring Lantern Festival.
On the evening before Chinese New Year, it is a tradition for families to gather together and share a meal. This dinner is considered one of the most important meals of the whole year, and everyone is expected to join in! Every dish that is served during Chinese New Year has a special significance which varies from region to region, but there are some plates no Chinese New Year dinner would be complete without.
In Chinese, the word for fish sounds like the word for surplus, which is usually represented by serving steamed fish. It’s important to serve the fish as the last dish on Chinese New Year, and have a little leftover to represent the surplus the family carries into the new year.
Dumplings and spring rolls are said to bring wealth to the family, while noodles are served to welcome happiness and prosperity. My favourite legend says that the more dumplings you enjoy, the more wealth you’ll gain in the new year, which is a message I fully stand behind!
While my family does not always celebrate Chinese New Year, and my Chinese father may no longer hand me the small red envelopes filled with money for good fortune, my passion for this part of my heritage has grown stronger over the years. The month of January represents many things to different families, can be both a new start and a time for reflection on the year that has passed. Whether you celebrate the Lunar New Year or not, there’s no better way to welcome the future and honour the past than sharing a meal with loved ones.
I know you will enjoy my favourite Dumpling Recipe. Try this recipe as a family; there are lots of different steps to involve children of all ages!
Chef Taylor’s Recipe for Jiaozi (pork dumplings)
Yield: 20 dumplings
100g green cabbage, grated
30g carrots, grated
110g ground pork or beef
1 green onion, finely chopped (10g)
10 g of chives, finely chopped
4g ginger, minced
¼ tsp ground pepper
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
½ egg (25g)
20 round dumpling skins
Put the green cabbage and carrots in a food processor. Pulse until fine and well combined. Remove from food processor and place in a medium bowl. Squeeze any excess water from the vegetables with your hands into a small bowl.
In a medium non-stick pan, heat half the cooking oil over medium heat. Saute the ginger for 1 minute, until very fragrant. To the ginger, add the ground pork and sauté for 5 minutes until cooked through. To the pork, add pulsed vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove filling from heat. Once slightly warm, add egg, salt & pepper,sugar chives and green onion.
Now assemble dumplings as shown by chef. Wet one edge of the dumpling wrapper, and place a spoonful of filling in the middle. Fold the round wrapper in half, and pinch the centre point together. Fold the ends in, creating a pleat on each side and pinch to seal. Make sure there are no holes. At the end, your dumpling should have a flat bottom – this is important to frying the dumplings so they have a crispy texture on one side.
Fry the dumplings:
Coat a frying pan with oil and heat over high heat. Place in the dumplings, carefully making sure not to splash the oil. When the bottom becomes golden brown, pour in water (approximately ½ cup or just enough to coat ⅓ of the dumplings). Cover the pan with a lid immediately. Uncover when the water evaporates completely, about 3-5 minutes.
Chef’s tip: These dumplings can also be enjoyed steamed or boiled! Try preparing them different ways at home to find your favourite way to eat them.
The new year is upon us and we feel inspired to explore new learning opportunities or make changes to our lifestyle. Whether we create resolutions or set goals for the coming year, it’s a lot easier to make small changes to stay on track. For example, if you choose to eat healthier and cook your meals from scratch, then start small and make simple tweaks to your daily routine to be successful. We always encourage parents to cook as a family and get everyone involved at any age.
Learning to cook and prepare meals is an important skill for all kids to possess. We know that it helps them build confidence, self-esteem, and become more independent. It also fosters stronger relationships with family and helps children learn about nutrition and gain an appreciation for healthy eating.
Daily meal preparation has many steps and children can be involved at all stages. Check out our TIPS and try using some or all of these suggestions at your home this year! Be sure to start small and talk to your kids about how they can help in the kitchen.
TRY OUR TIPS:
1. Communication is key! Have a family meeting and get your kids on-board with the plan. Talk to them about the importance of learning to cook and how they can assist with meal preparation. Encourage children to discuss how they would like to help out and then you can work on assigning daily responsibilities. A family functions best when everyone works together and everyone contributes. Use the time in the kitchen to learn new skills, share and build strong relationships with family members.
2. Plan your meals as a family. What’s on the menu this week? Why not sit down with your kids and find out what they like to eat and search for some great recipes to try. When your kids are involved in meal planning, it gets them interested in the food they eat (which helps tremendously with picky eaters) and sparks excitement in the cooking process. For example, ask your kids to grab a favourite cookbook or search online for a dish that they would like to try. Create your shopping list and then take them shopping! A trip to the grocery store is a great way to teach them how to pick out your food and perhaps find some new and interesting produce to try!
3. Try the Duty or Chore Wheel! We love the idea of including children in all aspects of the cooking process. The Duty Wheel enables you to assign kid-friendly duties to help with meal preparation. You can spend quality time together in the kitchen while getting your little ones to help with many low risk cooking activities. Depending on the age of your children, you can create a wheel with all family members and a list of kitchen duties. Turn the wheel daily or weekly so that everyone is responsible for a different activity. Here are some examples of key duties that your children can help with; and then feel free to create a more specific list that works best for your family members:
Prep work: wash produce, measure, pour, whisk or stir.
Set the table and pour water glasses: a task for little ones that gets them involved in the family meal.
Clear off the table and load / unload dishwasher: children learn that cleaning is part of the cooking process.
Wash the dishes that do not go in the dishwasher; clean countertops and stovetops.
Get all your leftovers packed up and pack lunches.
4. Establish the “Cook or Clean” Rule. As we all know, cleaning up is part of the cooking process. We think that the “Cook or Clean” Rule is another great way to educate kids about the entire cooking process. You can teach them responsibility by asking them to help clean up spills and messes made while cooking. And there is also the task of putting food items back in the fridge or in the cupboards after we are finished using different ingredients. Ask your children which cooking or cleaning duties they would like to help with and that way they can feel involved and responsible for part of the meal preparation process. If you cook, then you don’t clean and vice versa.
5. Teach Safety! Be sure to explain to children that the kitchen is a place with potential danger, from sharp knives and utensils to hot ovens and stoves. By introducing your children to the kitchen you have the opportunity to teach them about safety. Remember to always supervise in the kitchen. Younger children can do tasks that do not involve knives or the stove, such as measuring, stirring, whisking, and washing. Older children should be taught the proper way to use knives and electrical appliances; under parental guidance. This is also a good time to teach about hygiene in the kitchen. Ensure that everyone washes their hands and anyone with long hair pulls it back in a hair tie. Children are always watching, so be a good role model in the kitchen.
6. Inspire discussions about food at the dinner table. Sitting together and eating as a family is a great time to talk about the food you are eating. What do you like or dislike? And talk about the ingredients and seasonings. You can teach kids about healthy food choices, the correct serving size and show them that healthy food can be delicious. This dialogue not only helps your children develop a greater understanding of food and cooking, but by sharing positive feedback and perspectives of the meal, picker eaters may want to join in both the discussion and the consumption of the meal.
We hope that you can incorporate some of these small changes into your lifestyle in the new year. Although change is not an easy task, we know that there are so many benefits when you get your kids helping out in the kitchen. We are confident that even small changes will bring your family together and teach children many valuable skills, such as responsibility and independence, and it may lessen the load on parents too!
We are super thrilled to announce the addition of Chef Taylor to the Rooks to Cooks family. Chef Taylor steps into the important role of Camp Director and will be working alongside our dedicated head office team. Taylor has been busy cooking up some amazing programming for the year ahead! We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Taylor and we are sharing our Q&A below.
Interview with Chef Taylor:
What’s your background and how did your career path lead to Camp Director at Rooks to Cooks?
Chef Taylor: I’ve always been passionate about food and I could always be found in the kitchen when I was younger. Beyond food, one of my other passions that I discovered in high school was teaching. I pursued any opportunity I could to work with kids, both in and out of the classroom. I tutored, worked at camps, did my co-op with a local music class and even taught ESL to international students. After high school, I attended Queen’s University and earned a degree in French Linguistics and Psychology. Following that, I was all set to go to teacher’s college until my love of food drove me towards a change and I enrolled in a culinary program at George Brown College. Once I stepped foot into my first culinary lab at George Brown, I was hooked. I jumped headfirst until all things cooking! Since that first day of culinary school, I’ve worked for catering companies, bakeries, restaurants and even teaching private cooking lessons in my spare time. It was the private lessons that inspired me to find a way to combine my love of education and cooking, and that led me to Rooks to Cooks. After one summer of working as a Lead Chef at our Annex location, I knew that I had found a job more inspiring than anything I had ever done before. Becoming the Camp Director at Rooks to Cooks is my dream job and I couldn’t have imagined a position that fits more perfectly with all my past experiences teaching and cooking.
What are you most excited about for Rooks to Cooks this year?
Chef Taylor: This year, I’m most excited about our new PA day camps. We’ve designed these new programs so that we can keep cooking together all year long. Each day has its own set of recipes inspired by the time of year, and featuring seasonal produce. I can’t wait to share these new dishes with our Rooks to Cooks’ families!
Tell us about your vision and how you will bring your personal touch to Rooks to Cooks?
Chef Taylor: My vision for Rooks to Cooks is to inspire youth to get cooking, and share their love of food with their friends and families. Cooking is a valuable life skill that is meant to be shared with others, whether that’s making someone’s favourite pasta for dinner or a cake for a celebration. By inspiring and empowering kids to make their own meals, they build confidence and find themselves ready to take on new challenges, like feeding their loved ones. My own passion for food comes from my family traditions of gathering together around a table to share a meal, and this is my main motivation behind all my cooking. The best recipes and meals are always the ones that we enjoy with others.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Chef Taylor: My favourite part of the job is getting to meet all the children enrolled in our programs. So much dedication and hard work goes into designing these programs and recipes, and getting to cook these recipes with our students is the greatest reward. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of growth that the kids in our programs demonstrate after just a few days of cooking their own meals. This kind of empowerment is something special, and I’m absolutely honoured to get to be a part of it.
What’s your favorite Cooking Show on TV and why?
Chef Taylor: My absolute favourite cooking show is Good Eats with Alton Brown, which is making a comeback after a long hiatus! I watched the show a lot when I was younger, and it really taught me about food. Alton Brown goes in-depth into the science behind cooking and baking, how flavour combinations work and how chemistry is responsible for fluffy cakes and beautifully risen breads.
If you could have dinner with any famous person from any time in history, who would you choose and why?
Chef Taylor: I would love to have dinner with Julia Child and cook with her out of her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She revolutionized the world of cookbooks and expanded home cooks recipe repertoires to include French classics like coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon. I’d love to fill a table with her creations, served with a generous side of bread and butter and simply declare Bon Appétit!
If you would like to reach Chef Taylor, please feel free to send her an email anytime!
#WorldVegetarianDay originated back in 1977. It’s a great way to raise awareness about the benefits of a plant-based diet. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, try it for a day. Prepare a vegetarian meal for family or friends!
Canada’s Food Guide recommends half your plate should be vegetables and fruits. Include them throughout the day in meals and snacks. Choose different coloured vegetables and textures to fit your taste. And remember that some of the freshest and most delicious vegetables and fruits can be found at your local farmer’s market.
Why not give Chef Shai’s delicious Greek Salad recipe a try?
Rooks to Cooks’ Greek Salad Dressing
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 medium lemon juiced
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp honey
Salt & Pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together.
Rooks to Cooks’ Signature Rustic Greek Salad
Yield: 4 Servings
2 vine-ripened tomatoes cut into 8 wedges
½ English cucumber cut on a bias
½ red onion, sliced
Up to 200 grams crumbled feta
Rooks to Cooks’ Greek salad dressing recipe
Optional: 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
Mix all the contents of salad together in a bowl. Pour salad dressing over the vegetables and toss lightly. Let sit for about 30 minutes and serve. ENJOY!
Today, let’s celebrate the importance of cooking! Teaching kids to cook is my passion and I have had the privilege of working with thousands of children in our cooking camps, school programs and workshops. I know it can feel daunting to take on the task of teaching your kids to cook, but there are so many valuable skills to be learned in the kitchen!! At Rooks to Cooks we have your recipe for success and here are my Top 5 Reasons to Get Cooking with your kids:
Learn about Food and Nutrition together. Cooking from scratch teaches children about the food that we eat. Go grocery shopping and spend time picking out your produce and planning your meals. When you’re cooking show them different examples of the key food groups that we need to fuel our bodies. Talk to them about how they should fill half their plate with fruits and veggies that have nutrients that will help their bodies grow. The other half should be whole grains and lean protein that gives them energy for all the activities they do all day long. Since parents and instructors can be a big influence on children, it is important for us to share our knowledge and teach them how to make healthy choices.
2. Expand their palate and an appreciation for different foods. Variety means exposing children to different cuisines and preparation methods. Many of our cooking programs introduce kids to new spices and foods that they may not have tried before. Through tasting, hearing, touching, smelling and seeing, children will be exposed to different ingredients and food combinations – some they will like and some they won’t but that’s okay. When we encourage children to smell and taste various types of foods and flavours it enables them to experiment and find something new to add to their repertoire.
“I dined at Rooks to Cooks’ pop-up restaurant, the Chef’s Platter. … I felt like I walked into an episode of MasterChef and it was glorious.” ~ Monica Wong, blogger, foodie2luv.com
3. Emotional development. Hands-on cooking activities help children develop confidence and skills so that they can learn to make meals for themselves. Following recipes encourages children to be more independent and develop a positive self-image. It also teaches them to follow directions and work on their problem-solving skills. Remember to have fun with the children when they are experimenting with cooking and then they will learn about the joy of cooking, eating and sharing their delicious creations!
From a kid’s perspective: “I think that what resonated with them was the fact that they were given a tremendous amount of responsibility right from the moment they arrived.” ~ Mala Joshi, parent and blogger, unpackingthemeal.com
“These cooking camps really created true friendships, along with a sense of accomplishment and a newfound sense of confidence. I wish more parents knew about this kids cooking summer camp.” ~ Monica Wong, blogger, foodie2luv.com
4. Teamwork and Communication Skills. Working together in the kitchen will give kids a sense of sharing and cooperation. They feel like they are contributing to the family and helping with meal prep and cleaning up, everything from washing vegetables to setting the table. Team building is also about learning how to voice your opinions, listening to others and practicing being a leader. Children learn to work as part of a team and use effective communication skills to achieve the finished product – a delicious home-cooked meal!
“These campers ages 8-12 showed real talent in the kitchen and picked up important life skills like teamwork and communication – in just one week!” ~ Monica Wong, blogger foodie2luv.com
5. Safety in the Kitchen. As parents and teachers we must take the time to explain and demonstrate the correct method to use kitchen tools or appliances when working in the kitchen. As you work through a recipe together, be sure to identify the steps that your children are able to do based on their age and maturity level. Our chef instructors fully supervise your children and determine their readiness for various cooking skills. Because each child learns at their own speed, we will assist them, as needed, to work on their specific goals. Similarly, parents can provide children with different opportunities in the kitchen and build on their successes.
Parent perspective: “... they gained a level of culinary confidence that continues to translate at home. They can confidently operate a gas stove, chop vegetables, use a scale to prepare ingredients, follow recipes, and also understand the importance of mis en place.” ~ Mala Joshi, parent and blogger, unpackingthemeal.com
Hey kids, grab your aprons and let’s get cooking! At Rooks to Cooks, we are all about teaching kids the skills they need to feel confident in the kitchen.
For #KidsTakeOverTheKitchenDay, we want to help you get your kids involved in mealtime food preparation. You want to get them excited about cooking. The more involved they are, from start to finish, the more likely kids will want to help cook and, of course, eat their creations!
Check out our handy tips below and an easy recipe to encourage your young chefs to “Take Over the Kitchen”:
Safety first! Be sure to supervise your children in the kitchen and gauge which tasks are appropriate for your child’s age and maturity level. Initially, it’s best if the recipes are simple and require some repetitive steps to help kids practice and feel more confident with their abilities.
Try to make meal prep fun and stress-free. Kids love to use kitchen tools, like a lemon squeezer, rolling pin, whisk, garlic press, or ‘painting’ using a pastry brush. Recipes that involve various steps are great to keep kids interested and focused. Be patient and supportive and let them know they are doing a great job!
Have your kids pick the recipes and go shopping with you. Children are more likely to help with meals if they can take ownership and are involved in the entire cooking process. Look through recipe books and find healthy choices with menu items that they would like to try.
Check out Chef Shai’s recipe for Spanakopita … Soooo delicious and kids will enjoy making this one for sure!!
Spinach & Feta Spanakopita Triangles
Yield: 15 Triangles
12 Phyllo pastry sheets
500g feta cheese
450g frozen spinach, thawed & strained
20ml olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced (150g)
2g ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Sweat onions in a pan until translucent.
In a food processor, blend spinach and sweated onions until fine. Add feta, egg and pepper. Process until well combined.
Season to taste.
To Assemble & bake spanakopita triangles:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Prepare your phyllo dough. Lay 1 sheet down, brush with canola oil. Top with another sheet. Brush second sheet with canola oil. Lay the 3rd and final sheet on top.
Using a pizza cutter, slice the phyllo widthwise into 5 equal strips.
To assemble spanakopita triangle. Top the bottom of the strip (end closest to you) with approximately 1.5 Tablespoons of filling. Fold as shown in the images below.
Prepare a sheet pan lined with parchment. Arrange spanakopita triangles on sheet pan. Egg wash and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.