Yay! National Guacamole Day!

#NationalGuacamoleDay is Sept. 16

Fun Facts:

  • The word guacamole means “avocado sauce” which originates from the Aztec word “ahuaca-hulli”
  • Avocados have been grown and eaten in Mexico, Central and South America since about 500 BC
  • There are over 400 varieties of avocado grown around the world
  • The Guinness World Record for the Largest Serving of Guacamole, weighing 5,885.24 pounds (that’s almost 3 tons), was set in 2013 by a group of 450 students in Tancitaro, Mexico
  • On Super Bowl Sunday, around 53 million pounds of guacamole are eaten in the U.S. on that ONE day!!

And here’s a great recipe to try!!

Chef Shai’s Signature Guacamole Recipe

Yield: 2-3 cups of guacamole 

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium-sized avocados, ripe
  • 1 Tomato, fine dice 
  • ¼ red onion, fine dice 
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves minced 
  • ½ pomegranate or ½ Ataulfo mango finely chopped 
  • Lime juice & Zest to taste (approximately 1 whole lime) 
  • Salt & Pepper to taste 

Directions: 

  1. Remove the inners of the avocados into a medium bowl. Mash until smooth.
  2. Add tomato, red onion, half the garlic, and pomegranate or mango. Mix until combined.
  3. Add lime juice, and zest to taste. Add more garlic if needed. Add salt & pepper to taste. 
  4. Serve cold. 

September 13th is National Kids Take Over The Kitchen Day #KidsTakeOverTheKitchenDay

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”:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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!
  3. 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 

Ingredients: 

  • 12 Phyllo pastry sheets 
  • 500g feta cheese 
  • 450g frozen spinach, thawed & strained 
  • 100g eggs 
  • 20ml olive oil 
  • 1 large onion, finely diced (150g) 
  • 2g ground black pepper 
  • Salt to taste 

Directions: 

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Sweat onions in a pan until translucent. 
  2. In a food processor, blend spinach and sweated onions until fine. Add feta, egg and pepper. Process until well combined. 
  3. Season to taste. 

To Assemble & bake spanakopita triangles: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. 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. 
  3. Using a pizza cutter, slice the phyllo widthwise into 5 equal strips. 
  4. 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.
  5. Prepare a sheet pan lined with parchment. Arrange spanakopita triangles on sheet pan. Egg wash and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. 
  6. Serve hot.

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