Bits & Bites: Nutrition News from Summer Camp Week 3: Sweet & Savoury Sr.!

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

Last week, we taught a group of young chefs some of our favourite basic sweet and savoury recipes – but we had WAYYY more than just a week’s worth of recipes to share! So, we decided to host a Sweet and Savoury Sr. camp – with a few extra techniques in our back pockets, we took our recipes to the next level (and boy were they tasty!).

Homemade hamburger buns

Day 1: We kicked off the week with a few “oldies but goodies”. We repeated some of our crowd favourites including; homemade hamburger buns, black bean-and-corn patties, baked sweet potato fries, and caramel corn. The kids absolutely LOVED the hamburger buns, and were surprised by the intense flavours from the vegetarian burgers! Of course, no one was disappointed with the caramel corn – the sweet and salty treat was an easy crowd-pleaser. YUM! 

Day 2: We discovered some warming Moroccan flavours. Our Lentil and Butternut Squash Moroccan Stew was a nice little surprise – not only is it packed with flavour, but it’s also filled with nutrients! Let’s just take a quick minute and look at the nutritional value of one serving of this deliciousness. (Nutritional Information was calculated using myfitnesspal.com)

  • 31g fibre – that’s 125% daily intake!
  • 272% Vitamin A
  • 73% Vitamin C
  • 22% Calcium
  • 60% iron
  • 26% potassium
  • 25g protein
  • 3g monounsaturated fat

Honestly, with all of that goodness packed into such a delicious bowl of stew, it’s no wonder our young chefs gobbled it all up! For some, it was a tad on the “too-spicy” side, but after I added a dollop of 2% Greek yogurt, they were alllll gooood! 

After tasting the nutrient-filled Moroccan stew, I asked our campers what their favourite part of the dish was. Surprisingly, many of them said they really liked the LENTILS.  I was expecting them to like the sweet butternut squash or the warming spices – but not the lentils! This made me so happy because lentils are SUPER nutritious and great for those who are vegetarian and gluten-free. Lentils can replace ground meat in many dinner recipes, and they can sometimes replace flour to make ooey-gooey brownies and cookies. I could easily write an entire book on the health benefits of lentils, but I’ll save you the reading and just lay out the major points…

  • Protein – One serving of green or red lentils provides 12g of protein (BONUS: pair lentils with rice and you have yourself a complete protein!)
  • Iron – One serving of green lentils has 10% of your iron, and one serving of red lentils has 15%. Iron helps carry oxygen to the cells (this is why low iron levels cause fatigue and tiredness).
  • Fibre – One serving of green lentils has 32% of your fibre, and one serving of red lentils as 14%. High fibre intake is associated with low blood cholesterol and a lower risk of diabetes.
  • Potassium – One serving of green or red lentils has 6% of your potassium. Potassium helps counteract the negative effects of sodium, and helps to keep your heartbeat regular!
  • Folate – One serving of green lentils has 10% of your folate, and one serving of red lentils has 15%. Folate helps form blood cells and assists in nerve function. It also helps reduce the risk of damage to arteries, and reduce the risk of anemia, cancer, heart disease, and dementia!

Since our young chefs enjoyed the nutrient-rich the lentils, I decided to challenge them to think of other ways to use them. I was surprised by their amazing suggestions, and I’m definitely looking forward to trying a few out at home. Check out these ideas from our campers: 

  • Chicken soup with lentils
  • Lentil salad
    • Caesar salad with lentils
    • Root vegetable lentil salad (with assorted potato varieties and beets)
  • Lentil “meatball”
  • Lentil tacos
  • Lentil penne with tomato ragu
  • Lentil stuffed ravioli
  • Lentil stir fry with rice and assorted vegetables
  • Chef Larissa: Lentil dal (with yellow split peas), topped with cilantro 
  • Chef Rebecca: Lentil risotto 
  • Chef Kenzie: Lentil gluten-free fudge brownies (add a little kick of nutrition to those ooey-gooey brownies!)

Is it just me, or do these meal ideas sound sooo good!? I know I’ll definitely be trying them in the weeks to come (and I really think you should too!). Each one has some great nutritional benefits, and could possibly be an easy lunch/dinner to prepare ahead of time for the work (or school) week!

Enough talk about lentils – the stew certainly wasn’t the only nutrient-rich and tasty recipe on the menu! Here’s a rundown on some of our other creations: 

  • We paired the stew with our simple one-bowl Cucumber, Mint, and Red Onion Salad. This salad is a refreshing summer side dish that has a subtle flavour with a cooling hint of mint! 
  • Our young chefs were very excited to make their Lemon Meringue Pies. This recipe is made entirely from scratch – homemade dough, lemon creme and, of course, a whole lot of meringue topping! 
  • We also made homemade Coconut Coffee Gelato. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to taste this one, instead, we saved it for our lucky guests at the pop up restaurant. But now that they have the skills, they can certainly whip up this yummy treat at home to cool down on a hot summer day! 
Stuffed Pepper

This week sure whizzed by fast! Day 3 featured a Stuffed Pepper (Dolmeh Felfel), Herb kuku, and a Decadent Chocolate Cake. Although our chefs weren’t all on board with the dolmeh felfel’s strong tomato flavour, they all agreed the stuffed vegetable idea was a good one. So I challenged them to think of some other stuffed-vegetable (or fruit) ideas, and here’s what they had to say:

  • Stuffed zucchini with ground beef and onions
  • Stuffed potato with apple-carrot coleslaw
  • Stuffed pepper with beef, onion, green onion, and sharp cheddar cheese
  • Stuffed potato with chicken, tomato sauce, and Italian spices
  • Grapefruit “bowl” stuffed with oranges, blueberries, strawberries, and mango
  • Chef Rebecca: Baked jalapeno poppers (delicious! If they’re too spicy try stuffing them with a honey and ricotta mix for a sweet and spicy killer combo!)
  • Chef Kenzie: Roasted sweet potato with peanut butter (mash the peanut butter with the flesh of the sweet potato), trail mix (or toasted nuts and seeds), and extra peanut butter and coconut milk sauce (just bring the peanut butter and coconut milk to a boil on the stove – as soon as it boils, take it off and whisk quickly for a minute or so until thickened and combined – then drizzle over top of the roasted potato).

Stuffed vegetables are a great choice for a weekday lunch or dinner. Using a vegetable or fruit as a vessel for other ingredients is a quick way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, without worrying about how to actually use them in a dish! Some other great vegetables to stuff include: eggplant, potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, acorn squash, tomatoes, onions, cabbage cups, any variety of pepper and squash/zucchini blossoms. Experiment in your own homes to see what creative combos you can make – there are so many possibilities, and so many delicious creations to discover! 

Empanadas 🙂

Day 4: The chef’s treated themselves to made-from-scratch Black Bean Empanadas and Summer Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad for lunch. The day ended with baking up some Chocolate Wafer Cookies (for our lucky pop up guests to try) and, of course, some Deep Fried Churros for the ride home. Our chefs enjoyed most of the food on days three and four, but they especially seemed to like the chocolate cake. The chocolate cake was ooey and gooey, and so much fun to decorate!! After talking wayyy too much about cake (and turning our chef whites into a chocolatey mess), the campers took their layered masterpieces home with huge smiles and hungry stomachs! 

CHEF KENZIE’s RECIPE: Lemon Coconut “Funfetti” Cake

While doing the cake demo at camp, I promised a few of our young chefs that I’d share a recipe for a Lemon Coconut “Funfetti” Cake. So, without further ado, here it is… 

Ingredients:

For Rooks to Cooks Vanilla Cake (or, use your own recipe – but let me warn you, this one is hard to beat!):

  • 390g all-purpose flour
  • 15g baking powder
  • 2.5g salt
  • 4 eggs (200g) room temperature
  • 113g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 15ml vanilla extract
  • 120ml canola oil
  • 300ml milk room temperature

Icing:

  • Use your favourite buttercream icing! 

Filling: (this is my special berry jam – use any berry you want, it doesn’t have to be raspberries!)

  • 1 cup raspberries (frozen)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Topping ideas:

  • Shaved dark chocolate
  • Toasted coconut
  • Toasted almonds
  • Candied lemon rind
  • Fresh raspberries
  • Or, serve with our coffee-coconut gelato recipe! (try baking the cake batter and making an “ice-cream sandwich” dessert by using two slices of cake with the coffee-coconut ice-cream in the middle – YUM!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease two 8-inch cake pans.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined. Whisk in the canola oil until fully incorporated.
  5. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
  6. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk, folding together with a spatula between each addition. Mix the batter until JUST BEFORE combined – over mixing will lead to a tough dense cake.
  7. In a few separate bowls, use the food colouring to colour the shredded coconut. Once coloured, fold the coconut into the cake batter (again, do not overmix!)
  8. Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes (check for doneness by touching the top of the cake – it should spring back when it is done)
  9. Invert the cakes while cooling – let cool completely before filling and icing! 
  10. Meanwhile, prepare the jam. Heat 1 cup of frozen raspberries in a saucepan until softened. Put in a blender with 1 tbsp honey. Pour blended raspberries into a bowl and mix in 1 tbsp of chia seeds. Let rest until thickened (about 15 minutes).
  11. Lay one layer of cake on a cake board (or clean table). Pipe buttercream on the outer ring of the bottom cake (to prevent the jam from leaking out of the cake). Spread the jam in the centre of the buttercream ring. Top the jam with a layer of fresh raspberries, if desired. Top with the second layer of cake. 
  12. Finally, spread buttercream icing to cover the cake layers. Top with whatever toppings you desire (some ideas are listed above) and ENJOY!

Alright folks, there you have it! Week 3 at Rooks to Cooks Cooking Camp was certainly a success! Our young chefs learned so many techniques and filled their bodies with a whole lotta nutrients. We couldn’t be more excited for our young chefs to share these healthy, delicious recipes with their families at home. Next week, we’re travelling around the world! Stay tuned for some AMAZING international flavours – different cuisines in the world have so much nutrition to offer and so many unique flavours! From all of us at Rooks to Cooks, have a fantastic (and food-filled) weekend!

** If you have any specific questions regarding the nutritional information of a meal (or you would like to know how to make substitutions for vegan, gluten free, or other dietary restrictions), feel free to reach out to me (Chef Kenzie) by sending an email to: Kenzieosborne08@gmail.com. If you are interested in more general nutritional information, head on over to my personal blog at:  thrivingonnature.wordpress.com!

Bits & Bites: Nutrition News from Summer Camp Week 2: Sweet & Savoury Jr.!

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

Wow, this past week was absolutely INCREDIBLE! It was the grand opening for many of our camp’s pop up restaurants, and our young chefs certainly didn’t disappoint! Our talented kid chefs cooked up a storm and served their families and friends some amazing dishes, including:

  • Homemade focaccia starter
  • Roasted carrot, fennel, and lentil appetizer
  • Eggplant braciole with salsa verde
  • Cucumber Mojito, and 
  • Mixed berry pie with homemade ice-cream.

Plus, let’s not forget about all the nutritious and satisfying lunches they gobbled up throughout the week AND the delicious treats they got to bring home to their families each and every night! From international-inspired salads to vegetarian burgers to apple upside down (and right-side-up) cakes – our chefs-to-be really showcased their incredible culinary talents. My favourite thing about this week was the focus on savoury AND sweet. This program demonstrates what a balanced and healthy lifestyle looks like on a daily basis. The program encourages our students to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, homemade grain products, and whole dairy ingredients, while still occasionally indulging in a few freshly baked sweets. 

The first day of camp started with a bang! Many of our young chefs were skeptical about the vegetable fajitas and summer avocado salad. They weren’t too enthusiastic about the thought of eating a plate full of veggies. After a little encouragement, our fearless young chefs were brave enough to take a few small bites – and after that, they were hooked! Almost all of the students LOVED the fresh vegetables on their plates – and many came back for seconds and thirds! Seeing all of our young chefs appreciate the amazing flavours of fresh produce made me so happy! Even better? They were excited to have the chance to cook the same dishes for their families at home – now that’s a BONUS! If you haven’t already done so, please ask your young chef about their favourite vegetable dishes. I’m sure they’d love to teach you what they learned, and together you can enjoy a yummy and nutritious meal!

Sincr our chefs loved the fajitas and summer salad so much, I asked them for some of their own recommendations – what would they add to their fajita at home? Below are some of the camper’s ideas for Healthy Fajita Toppings (and we think they’re pretty awesome!). I’ve also added in a few of my own recommendations for specific dietary needs!

  • Chicken
  • Lentils
  • Fresh tomato (or cherry tomatoes)
  • Corn
  • Black beans
  • Cucumber
  • Edamame 
  • Duck or turkey breast (thinly sliced)
  • My recommendations:
    • General: Add some sauteed pineapple chunks with black beans (a pineapple and black bean salsa sort of thing) – it’ll add a nice hint of sweetness, and some extra vitamin C, potassium and fibre! 
    • Higher Protein: Try adding tofu, beans, or a sliced meat product to the recipe. Marinade and cook the protein the same way you marinade and cook the mushrooms. 
    • Gluten Free: Try substituting the tortilla with a lettuce cup, or serving the fajita mix on a bed of brown rice, a scoop of quinoa, or one-half of a roasted sweet potato. 
    • Vegetarian: This recipe is already vegetarian, but if you want to boost the protein add some tofu, edamame, or black beans. Alternatively, keep the same fajita mix, but serve it on top of a black bean tortilla or a scoop of quinoa and top with a handful of toasted almonds.
    • When you have leftovers: Try mixing the fajita mix in with a batch of scrambled eggs. Serve in a warm tortilla or on a piece of toast for a quick and healthy breakfast!

Whatever you choose, you really can’t go wrong with the Rooks to Cooks fajita and tortilla recipes – they’re SO yummy and super easy to whip up in a flash. Have your young chef help you out, and you’ll be enjoying a delicious dinner in no time.

On the second day of camp, we made an impressive menu featuring a soba noodle salad, crispy tofu, and sprinkle cookies! Our young chefs absolutely LOVED the soba noodle salad and crispy tofu – again, they came up for two or three servings! They were amazed by all the nutritious ingredients in the soba noodle salad, for example: 

  • Cabbage – rich in vitamin A, C and K, calcium, and magnesium
  • Carrots – packed with vitamin A
  • Edamame – filled with protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and phytoestrogens that may aid in preventing some cancers
  • Soba noodles – made with buckwheat and high in protein and manganese! 
Our young chefs learning proper knife skills.

Without hesitation, they gobbled up the salad (and all of its nutrients) to fuel their bodies for the rest of the day! The crispy tofu was also a crowd pleaser. The protein-packed vegetarian tofu cubes were dredged in cornstarch and shallow fried for a crispy texture. They were served with a bit of homemade sweet and spicy sauce for a perfect (and quick) way to enjoy a serving of complete protein. The cool thing is, tofu contains ALL essential amino acids and plenty of iron – so you’re not missing out on the nutrients you would get from meat products! The last recipe of the day was our famous Sprinkle cookies! This one was obviously DELICIOUS – sugary cookies topped with fun and colourful sprinkles will never disappoint. The only thing that could make this dessert even better is if it had a fun and healthy twist. I challenged our young chefs to come up with a healthy cookie topping to try out at home (to replace the sprinkles). We had some very creative ideas that sounded soooo good, we’ll have to try them out for ourselves – STAT! Check these out: 

  • Mix dried cranberries or dried mango into the cookie mix
  • Top with homemade strawberry jam and fresh mint (Tip: to make a quick at-home jam, heat up one cup of frozen fruit in a pot until it is soft. Blend until smooth, then add 1tbsp chia seed. Let sit until thickened and cooled, then chill and enjoy!)
  • Top with fresh squeezed lemon and basil leaves
  • Fold blueberries into the batter
  • Serve with sliced grapefruit
  • Roll the dough in shredded coconut (you can even use food colouring to make coconut “sprinkles” for a little fun)
  • Replace the water with coconut water for a few extra vitamins and minerals
  • Chef Rebecca: Use two cookies and spread a homemade mixed fruit compote in between – YUM!
  • Chef Kenzie: Make an “ice cream” sandwich with two cookies and banana “ice cream” (blend a frozen banana to make a smooth ice-cream-like texture). Roll the sandwich in dark chocolate shavings (for added antioxidants and polyphenols) and enjoy!

All in all, there are endless possibilities for a fun twist on a classic cookie dessert. Play around with ideas with your young chef and create your own special healthy combo. Your body will thank you, and your heart will be filled with joy – I promise! 

Day three rolled around with yet another delicious lunch menu!  Our young chefs worked hard in the morning to prepare a Quiche from scratch (the dough was prepared earlier in the week), and a refreshing apple, fennel, celery salad. Once again, we had some skeptical campers who were hesitant to try the vegetable-rich salad – but they were pleasantly surprised by the bright and refreshing summer-inspired flavours! There wasn’t much hesitation about the quiche – our young chefs couldn’t wait to try the cheesy, rich pie (they didn’t even mind the spinach and onions snuck inside). Many chefs came back for seconds and thirds, and were enthusiastic about sharing their food with their friends and families at home. We couldn’t be more excited to be introducing all these young and talented chefs to a wide assortment of fresh vegetables and fruits, homemade whole grains, and healthy fats that they can incorporate into their diets each and every day. 

Below is a quick recap of the recipes we made this week and a few featured healthy ingredients. In addition, I’ve included some of my own suggestions to bump up the nutritional value of each meal just a tad more. If you have any questions regarding substitutions or replacements for ingredients, please feel free to reach out to me at kenzieosborne08@gmail.com. I can offer some tips and tricks to make the recipes suit your dietary restriction – so you can enjoy the same recipe, and of course, get all of those essential nutrients!

  • Crispy tofu: Tofu is a complete protein AND contains plenty of iron. Try dipping it in an egg wash followed by crumbled unsweetened cereal – bake for 15 minutes at 350F (or until nice and crispy) and enjoy! Throw some veggies in the same pan for an easy baked one-pan dinner. Of course, don’t forget our delicious sauce to top!
  • Spinach and Feta Quiche: Eggs are one of the best protein sources! In fact, eggs have ALL the essential amino acids your body needs, and it scores 100 on the biological value rating (a measure of protein quality). The quality of other proteins is compared to an egg to determine it’s protein quality how easily your body can utilize the proteins from the food). If you want a quick and easy gluten-free crust, you can use sweet potato slices! Simply slice some sweet potatoes, toss them in a bit of olive oil and arrange them to cover the bottom of a pie pan. Bake at 450F for about 10 minutes, until crisp. Add the quiche filling and follow the rest of our recipe for a delicious gluten-free quiche (with an added dose of vitamin A).
  • Cinnamon buns: Cinnamon is packed with antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory effects. Studies show cinnamon may reduce the risk of heart disease and can improve sensitivity to insulin (which may, in turn, reduce sugar cravings). Try adding some apple slices into the filling of your cinnamon bun for a bit more vitamin C and fibre.
  • Baked sweet potato fries: Sweet potatoes are jam-packed with vitamin A, vitamin B6, fibre, and potassium. This recipe also uses olive oil (a fat that has a balanced omega-3:omega-6 ratio to promote heart health). Enjoy this as a perfect side for a yummy summer family BBQ.
  • Black bean burgers: Black beans are high in protein, fibre, and iron. The combination of black beans and brown rice makes a complete protein (meaning together, they contain ALL of the essential amino acids your body needs). So, this burger is PERFECT for vegetarians who are looking for ways to get enough protein into their diet. But, even if you’re not a vegetarian, you certainly won’t be missing the meat with this recipe – it’s so darn good! Serve with fresh guacamole and a poached egg for some healthy fats and a bit more protein (and a delicious summer burger!)
  • Mixed berry pie: Just look at all those antioxidants and vitamins! Be creative with your favourite fruits and mix it up – try replacing the berries with strawberries and mango, strawberry rhubarb, banana coconut, or blueberry almond! Or, simply sprinkle on some trail mix, toasted coconut, or roasted seeds for some added healthy fats and a nice crunchy finish!

Alright folks, there you have it! This week was definitely one that I was super-excited about and I knew it was going to be DELICIOUS with all the fresh salads, make-it-from-scratch recipes, and wholesome ingredients. I was so happy to see all of our young chefs devour their nutritious lunches with BIG smiles on their faces. I hope you and your chefs-to-be continue to make these meals at home, and maybe even come up with your own spin on our classic recipes! From all of us at Rooks to Cooks, we thank you for joining us for this fun-filled (and yummyyyy) week – we look forward to seeing you again soon to whip up some more delicious treats!

Stay tuned: More Bits and Bites coming next week with highlights from Sweet and Savoury Sr.

Bits & Bites: Nutrition News from Summer Camp Week 1 – Budding Bakers!

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

One of our Budding Bakers!

The Rooks to Cooks summer day camps are all underway now, and we couldn’t be more excited to bake (and, of course, eat) all of the delicious sweets, treats, and decadent dishes that our young chefs will be making all summer long! We cannot wait to share our passion for food, and teach our young chefs about the many mental, physical, and social benefits that cooking and baking can have on our well-being.

Each week, I will be writing a quick review of the week to share some nutritional tidbits about the food we made, as well as share a few special healthy snack/meal/dessert recommendations from our young chefs! If you have any specific questions regarding the nutritional information of a meal (or you would like to know how to make substitutions for vegan, gluten free, or other dietary restrictions), feel free to reach out to me (Chef Kenzie) by sending an email to: Kenzieosborne08@gmail.com. If you are interested in more general nutritional information, then head on over to my personal blog at: 
https://thrivingonnature.wordpress.com/

Now, let’s get to talking about this past week at camp and trust me when I say, it was definitely a delicious one! Our camp theme was “Budding Bakers” and we baked everything from cookies to cakes to butter tarts to cinnamon buns (and a whole lot more)! I know, you’re probably thinking “How is this going to be nutritious? It’s just a bunch of sweets and treats packed with sugars and fats”. There is SOME truth to this as most desserts do contain larger amounts of sugars and fats than other foods. However, it is important to note that desserts are still an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet; and we must remember that our bodies do need some sugar and fat to function at its best. It’s important to incorporate a wide variety of foods into your day-to-day routine – including fruits, vegetables, grains, meats/alternatives, dairy, fats, and sweet treats. Additionally, when we prepare desserts from scratch, rather than choosing a processed or store-bought version, they often contain more essential nutrients to help build a healthy body (for example, vitamins and minerals from fruits, fibre from whole grains, protein from dairy and eggs, etc.). 

At Rooks to Cooks, we always try our best to make everything from scratch – the dough, the creme filling, the icing – everything! This means our finished products are made from REAL food – none of that “I can’t pronounce this ingredient” nonsense. Therefore, we can provide our young chefs with good quality food to fuel their bodies in the best way possible. Let’s take a look at some of the recipes we made this week…

1. Vanilla Cake

This is a classic – and there are SO MANY variations to make something truly unique and special. This week, we challenged our young chefs to share what fruit they would fill this classic vanilla cake with … and we got some pretty cool ideas! At home, try filling this classic vanilla cake with some of these fruit combinations that our chefs thought of themselves! Not only will you be adding delicious sweetness and extra flavour, but you’ll also be treating yourself to a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – BONUS! 

  • Our young chef’s suggestions:
    • Lemon curd filling with lemon zest icing
    • Raspberry mango filling
    • Pineapple rings on the outside (this would make a super cool design!)
    • Watermelon used as cake slices (what a cool way to make a yummy and nutritious “cake”)
    • Strawberry jam 
    • Blueberry “pie” filling
    • Mixed berries (throw them all in)
    • Cut out a circle in the center and fill with a bunch of fruit – it’ll spill out a big ‘ol serving of fresh fruit.
  • Chef Rebecca: Baked peach filling. In the summer, Chef Rebecca’s favourite way to add a little sweet surprise into her vanilla cake is to use fresh, local and seasonal peaches.
  • Chef Kenzie: Make a chocolate chip vanilla cake filled with a banana-coconut cream filling. Simply mix cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips into the vanilla cake mix batter prior to baking, then fill the cake with mashed bananas mixed with a few tbsp of coconut cream. The nutritional benefits? Cacao nibs contain large amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, and fiber, making it a great addition to any sweet snack. Bananas are packed with potassium to help your heart function optimally, and coconut cream contains plenty of healthy fats to keep you satiated throughout the day.

2. Lemon Tart

Oh my, this one brings back SO MANY memories! As a child, my grandpa baked this gigantic “Mountain Meringue Pie”. It was his “specialty” – and my family would always fight over the biggest slice! YUM! When I was younger, I didn’t really think about what was in each of the desserts that I ate – I loved the taste so much that I didn’t really care! Little did I know, each tart had nearly a full serving of fruit per slice, AND none of them contained much added sugar (there was plenty enough sweetness from the mounds of fruit). This makes tarts the perfect way to finish off any healthy meal. You can easily sneak in a few fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts/seeds (for healthy fats) to make a delicious dessert that benefits your body! This week, we challenged out young chefs to come up with their own ideas for healthy tarts. I was SO impressed with their ideas, I have to share a few. So, without further ado, here are some of their brilliant ideas (we had many more ideas than just the ones below, so ask your child what they came up with and try it out at home):

  • Dark chocolate tart with sliced strawberries
  • Potato crust with mashed potato filling and garlic spread (savoury)
  • Banana filling with coconut topping
  • Dark chocolate tart with mango slices and coconut topping
  • Tart with layered strawberries, kiwis and banana slices
  • Lemon and strawberry filled tart
  • One of my favourites: Sweet potato tart topped with roasted nuts (or coconut) and dried fruit
Mmmm … lemon tart!

2. Mixed Berry Sorbet

It’s the summer, and we all know what that means: popsicles, ice cream, and frozen sweet treats! At Rooks to Cooks, we LOVE a good frozen dessert to cool us off when we’re cooking in the kitchen, and this mixed berry sorbet is EXACTLY what we crave! The best part? One serving of the sorbet is packed with vitamins and minerals from the frozen mixed berries PLUS you don’t have to add much sugar because the natural sweetness from the fruit is plenty enough to satisfy! Additionally, sorbets are VEGAN! So, if you have any dairy allergies or if you have other dietary solutions, sorbets tend to be a safe bet! If you’re looking to get creative, try out one of these ideas from our young chefs. They’ve come up with some excellent combinations to try with a scoop of sorbet! 

  • Top with dark chocolate, blueberries and toasted whole wheat waffle bits
  • Sandwich between two chewy oatmeal cookies
  • Top with freshly made whipped cream, cinnamon, and a mango-strawberry sauce
  • Serve in a chocolate and coconut dipped whole wheat waffle cone, and top with strawberries and a cherry
  • Serve in a whole wheat waffle cup and top with fresh peaches
  • Serve in a whole wheat waffle bowl and top with banana slices, coconut, and dark chocolate
  • Chef Rebecca: Serve the sorbet in a grilled peach half
  • Chef Kenzie: Serve the sorbet in a dark chocolate balloon cup (make this by simply dipping a blown up balloon into melted chocolate – place on a tray lined with parchment and let set in the fridge for about 10 minutes – pop the balloon carefully and slowly peel it away from the chocolate – now you have a chocolate bowl!), top with bananas, peanut butter, and dark chocolate chunks!

All in all, these three recipes (plus many more in the Rooks to Cooks Budding Bakers Recipe Booklet) are great ways to sneak in a little nutrition, without losing the smiles and the laughter! Having the opportunity to bake with these young chefs this week brought me so much joy and happiness. Watching our chefs learn different baking techniques, practice their decorating skills, and create innovative new dessert ideas was truly inspiring! I hope that our young bakers enjoyed learning about how to incorporate desserts into a healthy and balanced diet, and I hope they feel confident enough to share some of their own ideas with their family and friends. 

Before I go, I’ll sign off with a few final thoughts…

  • Sweet treats are certainly a part of a nutritious diet, and there is no reason to eliminate them from your day-to-day eating routine.
  • If you’re really looking to make more nutritious desserts, try focusing on incorporating fresh fruits, using real ingredients, sticking with healthier oils (like flaxseed or canola), adding in coconut flakes or cacao nibs (or nuts/seeds if there are no allergies in the family), or slightly reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe. TIP: usually reducing the amount of sugar in a recipe by 25% – ex. from 1 cup to ¾ cup – will not change the outcome of the product, and there is unlikely to be a detectable change in the flavour of the treat.
  • Whatever you choose, keep encouraging your young chefs to experiment in the kitchen, make meals from scratch, use fresh ingredients, and most importantly, cook (and eat) for the LOVE and JOY of food!

Stay Tuned: More Bits and Bites coming your way after the Sweet and Savoury Session!!

Mmm … National Doughnut Day

Fun Facts about Doughnuts aka Donuts:

  • The exact origins of where the first doughnuts were made is unknown. However, in ancient Rome and Greece, cooks would fry strips of pastry dough and coat them with honey or fish sauce.
  • The first doughnut machine was invented about 100 years ago, in 1920, by Adolph Levitt (in New York).
  • Utica, New York holds the record for the largest doughnut ever made. It measured 16 feet wide, 16 inches high and weighed 1.7 tons! The record was set in 1993 and still has not been beaten.
  • The Guinness World record for doughnut eating is held by John Haight — he ate 29 doughnuts in just over 6 minutes. That’s about 12 seconds per doughnut!
  • The two most common types of doughnut are ring doughnuts, which are shaped like rings, and filled doughnuts, which are round and have jam, jelly, custard, whipped cream, or chocolate inside them.
  • Per capita, Canada has more doughnut shops than any other country.

We definitely have a recipe for you to try!! Check out our Delectable Doughnut Recipe, including Chocolate and Vanilla Glazes …

Brioche Doughnut Dough

Yield: 1 dozen doughnuts

Ingredients:

  • 750g all purpose flour
  • 7g salt
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 20g instant yeast
  • 200ml milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 135g butter (cold in cubes)

Directions:

  1. In a bowl combine flour, salt and icing sugar and whisk together.
  2. Warm the milk to 110F or just above body temperature, whisk in yeast and a handful of the dry ingredients, let sit.
  3. Once foaming, add dry ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add milk and eggs. Starting on low, incorporate all the ingredients then turn mixer to medium and mix until dough is smooth.
  4. Add butter, piece by piece, while mixer is on medium. Mix until dough comes back together and begins to climb the hook.
  5. Roll out dough approximately 1/2” thick cut into desired shapes, let rest 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  6. Heat oil in fryer or pan to 375F. Cook for about 2 – 3 minutes, depending on size of doughnuts. Remove doughnuts when golden on both sides. Quickly drain on paper towels or newspaper. Roll in powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar or try one of our Glaze recipes below. Enjoy immediately!

Chocolate Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 4oz semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp milk

Directions:

  1. Over low heat melt chocolate and butter in saucepan stirring constantly. Add in sugar and enough milk to make it a nice spreading consistency.

Krispy Kreme Copycat Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups icing sugar sifted
  • Approximately 1/2 cup milk – add to consistency
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients until combined.  

Hiking Your Way to a Healthy Lifestyle

Special Contributor: Somia Zafeer, Marketing Intern at Rooks to Cooks

International Trails Day is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of June. In Ontario, we are so fortunate to have an abundance of natural trails that showcase the most glorious views. Hiking those trails is a great way to combine outdoor enjoyment and living a healthy lifestyle.

In order to explore nature, you need to hike for it. Hiking enables us to become immersed in nature by exploring turbulent rivers and meandering streams, hidden waterfalls, majestic trees and unbelievable wildlife! From the smallest birds that make the loudest chirp, nature has mysterious talents that are yet to be discovered. We believe that hiking is an amazing everyday routine that helps us relax, reflect upon life and rejuvenate ourselves. It gives us the opportunity to connect with nature and its’ hidden beauty.

Hiking provides us with many benefits! We are sharing our TOP 5 Reasons to Hit the Trails:

  1. Great for your mental health! Walking down a trail with a river flowing beside you, helps soothe and clear the mind. Hiking has been proven to be a natural treatment for unclogging the mind with unnecessary stress by focusing on the bigger picture.
  2. Improves Fitness Levels: Hiking allows an individual to become stronger by challenging yourself. Unconsciously, our body is burning calories from top to bottom through pumping our arms and continuous legs movements. Hikings is one of the best cardio workouts and burns lots of calories.
  3. Social Activity: The experience of hiking is much more enjoyable and memorable with your friends and family. At the end of a busy week, parents can take time to go for hike with their children, enjoy nature and make their bond stronger.
  4. Inexpensive: The best part about hiking is that it’s inexpensive. We are not buying nature’s beauty because its already given to us through locals trails. We would recommend that you purchase a pair of hiking boots to provide good grip, keep your feet dry and protect your feet from rocks and debris on the trail..
  5. Enjoy the beauty of nature and explore beautiful landscapes. No matter how small the trail is, it’s the experience that counts.

If hiking is a new challenge, then we need to properly prepare ourselves. Here’s a few suggestions on How to Get Ready to Hike:

(a) First, prepare yourself physically. We will need to prepare our physical body by walking 2 to 3 times a day to bring up our heart rate. Small regular workout sessions like lunges, crunches, squats and cardio will help the hike become easier. The important thing about hiking is that it will help you to become stronger as you continue to challenge yourself on different trails and longer distances;

(b) The second step is to research the trails. It’s hard to prepare for a hike if you don’t know what to expect on the trail. Research guides, trails guides, internet are all the basic information to gain knowledge about trails. Hike Ontario has a Trail Finder that helps you locate trails in your area: http://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/trails.  

(c) The third step involves essential items to bring with you. This includes maps, extra food and water, flashlight, first aid kit and sun protection.

(d) To help you get started, some organizations offer Training Courses to learn to hike safely. We suggest that you check out Hike Ontario. You will also want to learn about hiking etiquette. For example, hikers going downhill yield to those hiking uphill, don’t feed the wildlife, never throw your garbage in the woods as this can harm the animals. Lastly, we hope you enjoy the hike!

This year, on June 1st, bring forth your families to celebrate International Trails Day by spending quality time connecting with nature and rejuvenating yourself. We found some great hiking challenges to try with your friends and family on Hike Ontario Website Trail Finder.So let’s go outside, get active and explore all of nature’s hidden treasures by going on a hike

One final recommendation … Bring along a container of our delicious Trail Mix to keep up your energy levels. Try this amazing Trail Mix recipe provided by Kenzie Osborne, Sous Chef at Rooks to Cooks!

TRAIL MIX

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup nut of choice (peanuts, cashews, walnuts, or a mix of a few kinds)
  • 1/2 cup seed of choice (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds)
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dried berries (raisins, dried cranberries, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the rolled oats, nuts, seeds, and honey or maple syrup.
  3. Spread the mixture onto the baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes (or until oats, nuts, and seeds are slightly browned and toasted). If you are using coconut flakes, add them to the pan after 10 minutes (they only need about 5 minutes to toast!)
  4. Take the pan out of the oven and let cool completely. Mix in the berries, fruit, and cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips. Store in a mason jar or air tight container and enjoy!

Spring Flavours ‘N Recipes to Savour!

Contributor: Kenzie Osborne, Sous Chef @ Rooks to Cooks

It may have taken a little longer than we’d hoped, but yes, spring has finally arrived! The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining bright, and of course, our favourite springtime ingredients are popping up in grocery stores and farmer’s markets. There’s nothing quite as exciting as the aromas and tastes of fresh berries, citrus fruits, green vegetables, and herbs. Incorporating these fresh, seasonal ingredients into your meals is sure to take your cooking to the next level. The natural sweetness of spring berries, the bright bursts of flavour from citrus fruits and the comforting aromas of herbs never fail to put a smile on the faces of family and friends. Not to mention, you’ll be fueling your loved ones with plenty of nutrients to power their bodies and improve their health (bonus!). This year, instead of serving up a classic spring salad or a typical jam-and-toast combo, try something a little different to impress your guests (and add a little excitement to your dishes!). This post is all about incorporating springtime ingredients into childhood favourites – in creative ways that BOTH you and your kids will love. Spend a weekend with the kids preparing some of these delicious recipes, then indulge in your goodies while enjoying the warm spring weather.

Our first recipe combines fresh raspberries or strawberries with a classic childhood favourite: grilled cheese – WHAT!? Yes – you read that right… The same ooey-gooey, cheesy goodness of a grilled cheese pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the fresh berries. Together, the cheese and berries combine to form what we like to call “The Ultimate Dessert Grilled Cheese”. It might be unexpected, but trust me when I say, it’s definitely a delicious twist on the traditional meal. All you’ll need a few staple pantry items, some basic culinary skills, a big imagination, and a whole lotta love.

Ooey-Gooey Dessert Grilled Cheese

What you’ll need… (Yield = 1 Sandwich)

  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 28 grams of gouda cheese (1 ounce) – you can just eyeball this by using enough gouda to cover the slice of bread, at about ½ cm thickness)
  • ¼ cup fresh raspberries or strawberries, halved
  • 1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup
  • ½ tbsp. butter

What you’ll do…

  1. Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
  2. Butter one side of each slice of bread
  3. Place the gouda cheese in between the two slices followed by the fresh raspberries and honey.
  4. Place the sandwich on the saute pan and cook until golden brown. Flip, and cook on the other side until golden brown. TIP: If the bread is browning too quickly, and the cheese isn’t melting, reduce the heat and cook at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.
  5. Slice in half and indulge in the ooey-gooey sweet ‘n salty sandwich!!
  6. TIP: Feeling extra indulgent? Replace the whole wheat bread with a homemade lemon or vanilla pound cake. Use the same stuffing and prepare it in the same way – you’ll get a delicious dessert, that has the same fun ooey-gooey cheesiness as a grilled cheese sandwich. Trust me, this is a gouda one … I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist 😉
  7. Variation: Try an open-faced version! Simply toast a slice of bread or pound cake and top with cheese, berries, and honey. Broil until the cheese is nice and melted and serve up (this way, you can see all the gorgeous colours from the fruit!)

We all love sweet treats, but trust me, there are far more delicious uses for spring fruits than just desserts! There are plenty of savoury dishes you can make with fruit (and no, i’m not talking about those “superfood” salads with strawberry slices on top – we can be a little more creative, right?). Our favourite? A warming plate of “fried curry chicken nuggets” with dried cranberries or raisins and a curry mango sauce – YUM! This recipe takes less than an hour to make, and it’s a perfect way to bond with the kids! They will love the chicken-nugget-inspired dish, and you’ll love the unique sweet and spicy flavours from the curry and fruit!

Fruit ‘N Spice Chicken Bites

What you’ll need… (Yield = 4 Servings)

  • 4 chicken breast, cut into strips
  • ½ cup oat flour (or regular all purpose flour)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup dried fruit of choice
  • 1 mango
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ onion
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • ½ cup chopped nut/seed of choice (optional)

What you’ll do…

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Prepare 3 separate pans – one with ½ cup flour, one with 2 eggs (whisked), and one with ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs.
  3. Dredge the chicken strips first in the flour, then in the eggs, and lastly in the whole wheat bread crumbs. Place each strip on the pan with aluminum foil.
  4. Once all of the chicken strips are on the foil, drizzle 2 tbsp. olive oil evenly over top of the strips. Place in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165F.
  5. Meanwhile, place ½ cup dried fruit into a bowl of hot water. Soak for 5 minutes, then strain and season lightly with salt.
  6. For the sauce, blend together 1 mango, 1 tbsp curry powder, 1 clove of garlic, ½ onion, ¼ cup orange juice, and 2 tbsp of honey.
  7. Once blended, place the mango sauce into a saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve. Just before service, fold in the soaked dried fruit and nuts (if using)
  8. Serve the chicken strips with the sauce. Serve with a few carrots and celery sticks or a freshly made coleslaw for a delicious (and nutritious) weekday meal!

Alright, we’ve discussed a sweet and savoury dish using fruits, but what about all those vegetables? Sure, you can simply roast them with salt and pepper, or make a quick lemon and herb salad – but what about some new and exciting recipes (that the kids will love to eat too)? I think we can all agree that broccoli and Brussels sprouts aren’t exactly something kids beg to have… But, there are SO MANY vitamins and minerals hidden inside these unpopular veggies – and we don’t want to miss out on all the benefits of eating them! Instead of serving your family roasted broccoli and Brussels sprouts (which can sometimes be a little bitter, and a lot boring…), try hiding them in dishes that your kids already love! Try making a bowl of broccoli “fried rice” with crispy chicken or baked meatballs. The broccoli is blended into a rice-consistency, so the kids won’t even know they’re gobbling up a few servings of vegetables! Mix with a sweet-and-salty sauce for an Asian-inspired dish or a classic tomato sauce for an Italian-inspired twist! For Brussels sprouts, try making a quick coleslaw (using shredded Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage). Serve it inside of a sandwich or burger, or even use it to make a healthy (and yummy) filling for spring rolls or Vietnamese summer rolls! Check out the recipes below to share these delicious recipes with your family at home.

Secretly Healthy Tomato Basil Meatballs and “Rice”

What you’ll need… (Yield = 4 Servings)

  • Meatballs…
    • 1 lb lean ground beef
    • 1 tsp. dried basil
    • 1 tsp. dried oregano
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • ½ tsp. each salt and pepper
  • Broccoli “Rice” With Tomato Sauce…
    • 1 head of broccoli
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 onion, finely diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 can (796mL) of diced tomatoes
    • 1.5 tsp. dried basil
    • 1.5 tsp. dried oregano
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • 2 fresh roma tomatoes, diced

What you’ll do…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together ground beef, basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper.
  3. Form meatballs (approximately 1.5 tbsp. of the mixture per meatball), and place on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake in the oven until cooked through (approximately 20 minutes). A meat thermometer should read at least 160F.
  5. While the meatballs are baking, pulse the broccoli in a food processor until it reaches the size of rice granules. TIP: Do not over pulse, or the broccoli will become too mushy (better to be slightly bigger pieces than a lump of mush!)
  6. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the broccoli and cook until softened. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  7. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until onions are translucent.
  8. Add canned diced tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Simmer for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Once the meatballs are finished baking, add them to the sauce and stir until the meatballs are coated in the sauce.
  9. To serve, portion ¼ of the broccoli “rice” onto a plate. Top with ¼ of the tomato sauce, and meatballs. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese or nut/seed of choice (if desired). TIP: You can do the exact same recipe with cauliflower instead of broccoli, or double it up and use a bit of both – YUM!

Coleslaw Summer Rolls with Tangy Greek Yogurt Sauce

What you’ll need… (Yield = 8 Summer Rolls)

  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1 red pepper, julienne
  • 1 large carrot, julienne
  • 1 green apple, julienne
  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Nut or seed of choice (optional)
  • Rice paper

What you’ll do…

  1. In a medium bowl, toss together the Brussels sprouts, red pepper, carrot, and green apple.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together Greek yogurt, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and honey. Taste test, and add salt and pepper to your liking!
  3. Mix together the vegetables with the Greek yogurt sauce, until the sauce is dispersed evenly. If you are adding a nut or seed, mix it in now (about ¼ to ½ cup of chopped nuts or small seeds is good!)
  4. Dip one sheet of rice paper in room temperature water (just for a few seconds to soften – if you leave it in too long, it will just fall apart!).
  5. Lay the damp sheet of rice paper on a clean table. Place approximately ½ cup of the vegetables close to the edge of the paper. Roll as if you were forming a burrito, and place on a clean tray to dry. Feeling fancy? Make little “packets” (as pictured above) instead of rolls! Place the filling in the middle of one piece of rice paper and form a packet. Cut another sheet of rice paper into small strips and use one of the strips to tie/secure the packet together.
  6. Serve with extra Greek yogurt sauce and extra nuts/seeds (if using). ENJOY!

There you have it – four new, exciting recipes to treat your family with this spring. These recipes are healthy, quick, easy, and are a perfect way to make memories with the family! Whether you choose to make dessert grilled cheese, sweet curry chicken nuggets, broccoli “fried rice”, or Brussels sprout coleslaw spring rolls – each recipe is sure to bring a healthy dose of nutrition and a whole lotta smiles! In order to get the most nutrients, focus on using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Take a trip to a local market or farm to find sweet deals on seasonal produce. Having troubles finding good deals? Opt for frozen fruits and vegetables – they’re generally lower in price, but they still offer a good amount of nutrients, and they’re easy to use when cooking! Either way, cooking with fresh or frozen foods from scratch is a perfect way to bond with the kids, promote healthy eating, and build family traditions.

Before you get started on your cooking, I’ll leave you with one last thought. These recipes are just starting points – so feel free to experiment and add your own unique flare to the dish! If you have a special family tomato sauce that you want to mix with your broccoli “fried rice”, or if you love the idea of adding lemon and blueberries instead of raspberries in the dessert grilled cheese – go for it! The kitchen is the perfect place to experiment! Have fun creating new and exciting flavour combinations with friends and family and have even more fun tasting all your new dishes. With that being said, go on, get out there, and start cooking! Enjoy <3

About Kenzie Osborne: Kenzie is a student in the George Brown Culinary Nutrition program who is dedicated to developing healthy recipes that families can easily incorporate into their busy schedules. For Summer 2019, Kenzie will be working at Rooks to Cooks as a cooking instructor at the East York Danforth Camp location. She has previously worked as an assistant student researcher to create, write, and test recipes that are healthy, kid-friendly, and budget-friendly. She loves promoting health and nutrition, and hopes to encourage families to spend more time bonding in the kitchen and cooking up some delicious, nutritious treats! If you want to learn a little more about Kenzie, check out her blog at https://thrivingonnature.wordpress.com

Flavours ‘N Fun for the Whole Family

Contributor: Kenzie Osborne, Sous Chef @ Rooks to Cooks

Victoria day is right around the corner, and we’re not ones to shy away from showing our love! The long weekend is the perfect opportunity to show your family just how much you love and appreciate them – and what better way to share your love than through delicious food? From decadent desserts to early morning bed-in-breakfast specials, there are so many yummy ways to show your loved ones you care. Even better, the kids can get creative in the kitchen, come up with cute food decorations, and have fun making their own unique culinary masterpieces!

One of my favourite things to do as a kid was bake with family and friends. It was one time when playing with food, eating with your hands, and sneaking a few bites of cookie dough was allowed. Growing up, my parents and I would spend Saturday mornings trying out new crepe and pancake recipes (like apple pie crepes or blueberry chocolate chip pancakes – YUM), and we’d spend Sunday afternoons experimenting with decadent chocolate desserts (like triple chocolate cheesecake and gluten free fudge brownies – YES!)! Not only did these recipes taste AMAZING, but the process of preparing, baking, and eating the food always brought my parents and I closer together.

In addition to spending time cooking together in the kitchen on weekends, my parents kept their kitchen skills sharp (pun intended) by cooking up some delicious weekday family meals. They’d always make sure we had delicious (and healthy) meals to fuel our bodies for our after-school activities. From homemade zucchini lasagna to black bean enchiladas to sweet and sour fish – there was always something full of nutrients that would be sure to put a smile on our faces. Whenever there was a celebration, my parents would spend hours decorating the cutest cakes (which inevitably had little lego characters all around) for us to gobble up! Clearly, there were so many memories made in the kitchen, and so much love shared. Now, if I’m going to be honest, the culinary ideas in this post will never quite match up to mom-and-dad’s good ol’ cooking – but we’ve done our best, and your family is sure to love our little treats!

These cute dessert ideas are inspired by some classic favourite combos: breakfast and dessert mash-ups, healthy-twists on indulgent sweets, and decadent chocolate treats. This Victoria Day, instead of sticking with making your family a typical pancake breakfast, overly sweet desserts, or boring chocolate cupcakes, try out one (or two, or three) of these ideas to make things a little more interesting! Getting eager to impress your family and show them your love? Then let’s get going with these creative spring-inspired ideas!

We’ll start with a decadent brunch fit for royalty! This is my personal favourite sweet and indulgent “healthier” dessert and breakfast mash-up. It’s easy to make, has naturally sweet fruit, contains no added sugars, and has a good dose of protein from the Greek yogurt and almonds! This Victoria Day, try out this cute idea to treat your family to a delicious sweet with a nutritious punch!

Berry ‘N Banana Parfait

What you’ll need… (Yield = 4 Servings)

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup strawberries, blended or small dice (can substitute any berry)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup toasted oats
  • ¼ cup toasted almonds (or your favourite nut)
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup honey
  • One serving of your favourite pancake recipe!

What you’ll do…

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix 2 cups Greek yogurt, 1 cup fresh strawberries (blended or small dice), and 2 cups of whipping cream. Using a whisk, whip the two together until a medium-peak forms.
  2. Next, put ¼ cup butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, toss in four bananas (sliced) and caramelize until nice and brown.
  3. Lastly, mix together 1 tbsp of chocolate chips (dark, milk, or white), 1 tbsp toasted oats, 1 tbsp toasted almonds (chopped), 1 tbsp roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and 1 tbsp melted honey.
  4. To assemble: Grab 4 nice parfait cups, champagne glasses, or wine glasses. Fill each glass a quarter way full with the whipped strawberry yogurt. Place one layer of the banana slices on top of the whipped yogurt. Place approximately 1 tbsp. of the granola mixture on top of the caramelized bananas. Repeat the same order (strawberry whipped yogurt, bananas, granola) four more times, or until the glass is full. Finally, top with fresh strawberry slices, chocolate drizzle, or extra almonds, if desired.
  5. Serving idea: Prepare regular mini (2-inch diameter) pancakes on a regular pancake griddle or bake the pancake batter in mini muffin tins and stuff with a piece of chocolate (for an ooey, gooey chocolate stuffed pancake bite). Arrange the mini pancakes or pancake bites in a circle on a plate. Place the parfait in the middle and serve up! Your family will love the creative breakfast-and-dessert mash-up (PLUS – there’s plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats to fuel the rest of the day!)

The next delightful culinary creation is a little on the “lighter” side – but don’t fret, it’s definitely NOT light in flavour. This combination really isn’t too difficult to throw together, but it uses fresh, seasonal ingredients and vibrant spring colours to make a real show-stopping dessert! Better yet? It’s gluten-free, nut-free, and vegan – so no worrying about any dietary restrictions!

Extra Sweeeet Potato

What you’ll need… (Yield = 4 Servings)

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 cups toasted oats
  • ½ cup maple syrup (or honey)
  • ½ cup cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips
  • Optional toppings: nuts, seeds, berries, extra chocolate, etc.

What you’ll do…

  1. Start by roasting or microwaving the sweet potatoes until cooked through.
  2. Cut each one in half and flush the flesh with a fork.
  3. Caramelize four bananas (sliced) in ¼ cup of butter (or, leave it fresh – up to you!).
  4. Toast 2 cups of oats in the oven (350F) for about 10 minutes. Once toasted, toss in ½ cup of warmed maple syrup.
  5. Assembly: Place each sweet potato on a plate with the flesh facing up. Place one sliced, caramelized banana on top of each sweet potato. Top with ½ cup toasted oats, and 1 tbsp. cocoa nibs or chocolate chips.
  6. TIP: Feel free to add more cacao nibs (or dark chocolate chips), and any other toppings of choice – could be toasted nuts, seeds, fresh berries, chocolate drizzle, etc.

This last fun and unique recipe is our favourite (and we hope you agree). Of course, no family get-together is quite complete without a decadent and delicious dessert. Unfortunately, most of the desserts out there are far too sweet, and lack spring ingredients like fresh berries or flowers. This recipe incorporates an all-time classic favourite food – chocolate, with fresh spring berries AND flowers (yes, actual flowers!).

Flowers and Cream Chocolate Supreme

What you’ll need… (Yield = 4 Servings)

  • ~2 cups chocolate chips (amount needed varies based on size of chocolate cups)
  • 1 cup of strawberry chia jam (use your favourite recipe, or use the one we’ve recommended)
  • ~ 3 drops rose essential oil
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 orange, zested, then cut into supreme slices
  • ~ 3 drops orange blossom essential oil
  • Optional: rose petals (for serving)

What you’ll do…

  1. Start with making small dark chocolate (or milk chocolate, if preferred) balloon cups. Inflate balloons until the bottom resembles a good small bowl-shape. Meanwhile, melt 1.5 cups of chocolate over a double boiler (or in the microwave, stirring every 15 seconds). Dip the inflated balloons in the melted chocolate. Place the chocolate-coated balloons on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and let cool in the fridge until it is set. Pop the top of the balloon (carefully), and peel the balloon away from the chocolate.
  2. Make a strawberry chia jam – use this recipe – http://www.glutenfreeveganpantry.com/strawberry-chia-seed-jam-super-easy-sunday/ (or your favourite chia seed jam recipe). Add 3 drops of rose essential oil to 1 cup of the jam – the rose flavour shouldn’t be overpowering, but there should be a subtle floral flavour. Set aside until cooled and thickened.
  3. Whip 2 cups of whipping cream. Add the remaining ½ cup melted and cooled chocolate (either dark or milk chocolate). Add the zest of one orange, and 2 drops of orange blossom essential oil. Again, the orange blossom should be present, but it shouldn’t be overpowering. Set aside until the mousse is completely cooled and set at a stiff peak.
  4. Use the remainder of the orange to cut slices (preferably supreme – without the skin or membrane of the orange).
  5. Assembly: Place 2 tbsp of the chocolate orange mousse into one chocolate balloon cup. Add 1 tbsp of the strawberry chia jam, followed by 2 more tbsp of the chocolate orange mousse. Finally, top with 3 supremed orange slices and decorate with a final drizzle of chocolate (dark, milk, or white). TIP: To use leftovers, layer the orange chocolate mousse, strawberry jam, and more mousse into a small glass (pictured above). Top with extra plain whipped cream (sweetened to your liking), and serve up! This is a great option if you don’t have balloons to make the cups and to ensure you don’t waste any of the goodness you just made!
  6. Serve on a plate with a cute small spoon and a few rose petals (if you have them). If you’re extra adventurous, try piping a note saying “I Love You” or “Lots of Love” with melted chocolate on the plate!
  7. TIP: If you find the floral flavours are too strong, simply add a bit more of the original recipe (the jam or the mousse) to tone down the bitter floral notes.

And there you have it – three new ideas to surprise your family with this summer! Each of these recipes is sure to be a delicious bite AND pack a healthy punch! Use fresh, seasonal fruits to maximize flavour (and ensure a good dose of nutrients). These recipes will never match up to mom-and-dad’s famous meals, but there’s no doubt that they will show them your love and make the family-filled day extra special.

From all of us at Rooks to Cooks – Happy Victoria Day!!

About Kenzie Osborne: Kenzie is a student in the George Brown Culinary Nutrition program who is dedicated to developing healthy recipes that families can easily incorporate into their busy schedules. For Summer 2019, Kenzie will be working at Rooks to Cooks as a cooking instructor at the East York Danforth Camp location. She has previously worked as an assistant student researcher to create, write, and test recipes that are healthy, kid-friendly, and budget-friendly. She loves promoting health and nutrition, and hopes to encourage families to spend more time bonding in the kitchen and cooking up some delicious, nutritious treats! If you want to learn a little more about Kenzie, check out her blog at https://thrivingonnature.wordpress.com

Contest Alert! WIN a Butter Tart class with Chef Shai!

In honour of Chef Shai’s Birthday on May 7, we are SUPER-EXCITED to Announce another AMAZING CONTEST … Complete your Summer Camp Registration BEFORE Midnight on Friday, May 31st and you could WIN a Butter Tart Cooking Class with Chef Shai.

Simply register for a summer camp session and you will be entered to win the following exciting PRIZE: One (1) 2-hour In-home Private Butter Tart Class with Chef Shai for your child and up to 5 friends. SWEET!!

In case you didn’t know, Butter Tarts are one of Chef Shai’s specialty recipes. You only need to try one to know why! So buttery, flaky, sweet and delicious … is your mouth watering yet?! Chef Shai will bring all the necessary ingredients and equipment to your home and conduct a hands-on interactive cooking lesson with your child and their friends. After the Butter Tart are out of the oven, everyone will sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labour! Yum!

Here’s what you “knead” to know!

To Register: Go online or call us to Register for a Rooks to Cooks Summer Camp Session. Each registration for a one week session is one entry so if you sign up for two weeks then you get two entries.

Deadline: to be entered into the contest you must register BEFORE 12:00 midnight on Friday, May 31st. You will automatically be entered into the contest once your register.

Eligibility: All new and previous registrations. If you have ALREADY registered, then you will also be entered into the contest.

Draw Date: We will pick the winner on Sat. June 1st. Winner will be contacted and announced on Monday, June 3rd, 2019. This prize has a $600 value. Prize must be accepted as a described; no replacements or monetary exchange.

Photo by Kailee Mandel

What’s the Recipe for a Healthy, Active Lifestyle?

PRESENTED BY: Zach Budd, Director of Nike Tennis Camps /  SPORTS CAMPS CANADA

Photo: courtesy of Sports Camps Canada

Spring is here and we all want to get outside and get active! A healthy lifestyle includes many components, such as, keeping our body fit, learning new skills, and making nutritious choices in what we eat.  As a busy family, it’s often hard to keep all our health goals on track. We can provide some guidance and ideas on how to create healthy goals but, ultimately, try to work together to see what works best for you. As parents, we can act as role models and hopefully our children will learn from a young age that healthy choices help them feel better and play better!

Let’s begin with ways to get our bodies moving! Exercise will help our body stay strong so that we can do all the things we like, and it helps us feel great. Here are some fun ways for kids and families to get active:

  1. Get a group of children together and go play outside. How about tag or hide-and-go-seek?
  2. Grab your sports equipment and play your favourite sport at the park with your friends and family … baseball, basketball, soccer are all great activities for a group of people!
  3. Ride your bike, scooter, or walk to school or to local spots in your community. Leave the car behind and get some exercise.
  4. Don’t forget your chores! Doing work around the house gets you moving … help with the yard work (raking), do some gardening (pick out some new flowers or veggies to grow), cleaning inside the house is good too (folding laundry, vacuuming).

If you would like to start a new training routine, such as running, then we recommend that you sit down with an adult before the summer begins to prepare a running schedule that will be appropriate for your age, experience and your goals for the season. When starting your running season, make sure the distances are manageable and easy, over time you can slowly start setting goals that are tougher to reach. Also try to explore new places and run on different terrains such as hills, grass, and trails. Finally, keep a journal or diary to record what you have done each day to celebrate your progress.

Next up is the importance of learning new skills and keeping our brain active! Try to expose children to a variety of opportunities that will benefit their brain & body:

  • learn to play a variety of sports
  • play board games
  • learn to play a musical instrument
  • engage in painting or drawing classes
  • try drama lessons
  • learn to cook at a young age

By learning and by doing various actions, we become more confident and experienced and that makes those activities more enjoyable. Learning something new also gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Last, but not least, we need to make sure that we’re feeding our body all the nutrients it needs to keep us moving all day long! With the introduction of the new Canada’s Food Guide, we were thrilled with the addition of the lifestyle change “Cook More Often”. Cooking our own meals at home and as a family is a great place to start. When we control what goes into our food, then we can make better choices that benefit our body. Cooking is a great family activity and you can get kids of all ages involved in meal prep.

Age 4-6: children can start with tasks such as washing produce, measuring, mixing, assembling and organizing. We recommend low risk activities and providing supervision while in the kitchen.

Age 7-10: With their quickly developing fine motor skills, this age group is ideal for introducing more challenging roles, such as knife skills and pan work. Also, it’s important to explicitly lay out the safety rules when using this higher risk equipment while still approaching the experience with relaxed energy and encouragement.

Age 11+: This age category has the potential to take on the recipe in its entirety with some supervision. For less experienced tweens, we recommend following the guidelines for the age 7-10 category. Just like the younger age category, explicitly run through the safety rules when using any higher risk equipment and be sure to provide encouragement and support.

So, let’s strive to keep our bodies fit and strong, every day, by keeping active, playing sports and fun games, challenging ourselves to try something new and feeding our bodies with nutritious foods. That sounds like a fabulous recipe for a healthy lifestyle!

RECIPE IDEA:
We are sharing an easy Rooks to Cooks Recipe Idea to try with your kids! Chef Shai suggests this yummy breakfast recipe to provide fuel for your family before a weekend tournament, game or practice.

Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Egg & Potato Omelette)

Yield: 6-8 Servings

Spanish Egg & Potato Omelette

Ingredients:

  • 700g (1.5 lbs) Yukon gold potatoes (peeled & sliced into ½ cm rounds)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (110g)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (4g)
  • 90ml olive oil
  • 8 eggs
  • 6g salt
  • 5g pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook the potatoes: Heat the oil in medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the potatoes and season. Cover the pan with a lid and gently cook for 10 minutes without letting the potatoes brown.
  2. After 10 minutes, add the onions and cook for another 10 minutes with the lid on. At this point the onions should be soft and slightly clear. Carefully drain the oil from the pan and save it for later.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the warm potatoes and onions and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, clean the frying pan. Heat the reserved oil in the pan over low heat. Pour the potato, onion and egg mixture into the pan, shaking the pan to ensure the mix is evenly distributed. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes on a low heat. After 15 minutes, the mix should be fairly solid but remain SLIGHTLY runny on the very top.
  5. Time to flip! Using a spatula, loosen the tortilla from the edges. Shake to loosen. Slide the tortilla out of the pan and onto a plate. Carefully put the pan over the plate and flip it back into the pan uncooked side down.
  6. Cook for an additional 5 minutes over low-medium heat. Slide onto a plate and let it cool slightly. Cut into 6 wedges and serve immediately.
  7. Garnish Suggestion: feel free to add some chopped green onions or perhaps some diced tomatoes on top as a garnish. ENJOY!

ABOUT SPORTS CAMPS CANADA:

Sports Camps Canada (SCC) was founded in 2015 and is the official operator of Nike Sports Camps in Canada. SCC partners with the country’s best coaches to direct our camps and provides them with valuable administrative and marketing support. We continue to grow thanks to an outstanding community of Camp Directors and the dedication of the entire Sports Camps Canada staff. Now for a limited time only, enjoy $25 off camp with code ROOKS25 today! Register for Nike Sports Camps this summer at http://www.sportscampscanada.com/

Happy Earth Day 2019!

Happy Earth Day Everyone! Today, and Everyday, we need take the time to appreciate and respect this wonderful planet that we call home. Earth is where we live, work and play and we all must do our part to keep our home healthy for future generations. Let’s try our best to think locally and take conscious steps within your own family – such as conserve energy, recycle, try to eat sustainably.  Every little bit helps to conserve our planet and protect our nature – plants, animals and environment.

For 2019, the Earth Day Network is inviting everyone to join their campaign entitled: “Protect our Species”. We can and we must work towards protecting the world’s threatened and endangered species! Their message is that we can slow the rate of extinctions and even enable the declining, threatened and endangered species to recover by joining together globally and taking immediate action. Check out their website for more information,
Source: https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019/

Let’s start within our own community! While there are many ways to respect our planet, we have some Earth Day ideas that will get you started right at home. “Lettuce” help get your whole family involved in these activities!

4 Earth-friendly Ideas for your family:

  1. Buy local food to reduce the distance from farm to table:
  2. Look for organic food to support farmers who practice organic farming that is free from toxic pesticides. Also purchase food from companies who use organic ingredients.
  3. Compost your kitchen scraps. Use your green bins so that kitchen garbage is diverted from the landfill. Or use a backyard compost bin so you can turn waste into fertilizer for use in your garden.
  4. Grow your own organic garden. If you have some space in your backyard garden, then think about growing some vegetables. Many vegetables can even be grown in containers, for example tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, peppers.

Since it is Earth Day, let’s also try to be more planet-friendly and eat food that comes primarily from plants. As we read in the new Canada’s Food Guide, we should strive to choose protein food that come from plants more often. But rather than a complete changeover to plant-based diet, we would suggest that you try to incorporate more plant-based meals into your current food plan. For example, you could try a meatless meal once a week as a way to introduce the concept to your family. We know change can be difficult so if you take small steps to introduce a variety of different options then that will be much easier for you and your family to succeed.

Here is a great list of Plant-based Protein options to get you and your family started.  Plant-based diets offer all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and  minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fibre and phytonutrients. Plant-based includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It doesn’t mean you never eat meat or dairy, but you are choosing more of your foods from plant sources.

PLANT-BASED PROTEINS *

Here is a list of plant foods that contain a high amount of protein per serving:

  1. Soybeans
  2. Lentils
  3. Chickpeas and most bean varieties
  4. Spelt and Teff
  5. Hempseed
  6. Green Peas
  7. Blue-green algae (Spirulina)
  8. Amaranth and Quinoa
  9. Ezekiel Bread and Other Breads Made From Sprouted Grains
  10. Soymilk
  11. Oats and Oatmeal
  12. Wild Rice
  13. Chia Seeds
  14. Nuts, Nut Butters and Other Seeds
  15. Protein-Rich Fruits and Vegetables

*Source: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-for-vegans-vegetarians#section1

In this section, we asked Karen Gilman, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, to provide valuable answers to our questions related to plant-based diet. We have also compiled a helpful Q&A below:

Q1. Within our own family, we can do our part by adopting a plant-based diet. We asked Karen to provide a few key benefits for our bodies when we switch to plant-based foods?

Karen: Plant-based foods have been linked to a number of health benefits among which is heart health. As plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, beans and legumes are rich in fibre and low in saturated fat they can help reduce cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure thus reducing our risk of heart disease.  The fibre and protein in these foods is also helpful in managing blood sugar levels. This helps keep us fuller long which may help with weight management. There is also some research that supports a plant-based diet may reduce your risk of some cancers.

Q2. Many people are concerned that they will not get all the protein and nutrients they need by eating plant-based. What types of plant-based foods do you recommend to get the most nutritional benefits?

Karen: One of the biggest concerns about plant-based diets is that it will be difficult to get all the nutrients your body needs. And most specifically there is a concern about protein. It is possible to get these nutrients when you follow a plant-based diet as long as you are eating a variety of foods.  And fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes all have protein!  However, there are a few nutrients like Vitamin D and B12 that are more difficult to get on a plant-based diet. You should make sure to discuss your dietary preferences with your healthcare provider so they can advise whether or not you should consider taking any supplements.

Additional info: If you are looking to add more plant-based proteins, but aren’t quite sure how, Karen offers a free Healthy Veg Call so book some time to talk to her today! Telephone: 416-949-0164

Contact Karen Gilman, Registered Holistic Nutritionist TM

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