Special Contribution By: Chef Taylor Lewis, Camp Director at Rooks to Cooks
Happy New Year everyone!
As we are now three weeks into a new decade, this is a great time to reflect on traditions we want to carry forward into the next 10 years and beyond. For those of us who follow the lunar calendar, the lunar new year is just around the corner, falling on January 25th this year, making this a time for celebrations!
Lunar new year, sometimes also referred to as Chinese New Year is widely celebrated throughout China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Tibet. The exact day that the celebration begins depends on the first New Moon that takes place between January 21st and February 20th. With the celebrations to welcome in the new year comes many traditions and customs which are carried out for 16 days following the new year leading into the Spring Lantern Festival.
On the evening before Chinese New Year, it is a tradition for families to gather together and share a meal. This dinner is considered one of the most important meals of the whole year, and everyone is expected to join in! Every dish that is served during Chinese New Year has a special significance which varies from region to region, but there are some plates no Chinese New Year dinner would be complete without.
In Chinese, the word for fish sounds like the word for surplus, which is usually represented by serving steamed fish. It’s important to serve the fish as the last dish on Chinese New Year, and have a little leftover to represent the surplus the family carries into the new year.
Dumplings and spring rolls are said to bring wealth to the family, while noodles are served to welcome happiness and prosperity. My favourite legend says that the more dumplings you enjoy, the more wealth you’ll gain in the new year, which is a message I fully stand behind!
While my family does not always celebrate Chinese New Year, and my Chinese father may no longer hand me the small red envelopes filled with money for good fortune, my passion for this part of my heritage has grown stronger over the years. The month of January represents many things to different families, can be both a new start and a time for reflection on the year that has passed. Whether you celebrate the Lunar New Year or not, there’s no better way to welcome the future and honour the past than sharing a meal with loved ones.
I know you will enjoy my favourite Dumpling Recipe. Try this recipe as a family; there are lots of different steps to involve children of all ages!
Chef Taylor’s Recipe for Jiaozi (pork dumplings)
Yield: 20 dumplings
100g green cabbage, grated
30g carrots, grated
110g ground pork or beef
1 green onion, finely chopped (10g)
10 g of chives, finely chopped
4g ginger, minced
¼ tsp ground pepper
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
½ egg (25g)
20 round dumpling skins
Put the green cabbage and carrots in a food processor. Pulse until fine and well combined. Remove from food processor and place in a medium bowl. Squeeze any excess water from the vegetables with your hands into a small bowl.
In a medium non-stick pan, heat half the cooking oil over medium heat. Saute the ginger for 1 minute, until very fragrant. To the ginger, add the ground pork and sauté for 5 minutes until cooked through. To the pork, add pulsed vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove filling from heat. Once slightly warm, add egg, salt & pepper,sugar chives and green onion.
Now assemble dumplings as shown by chef. Wet one edge of the dumpling wrapper, and place a spoonful of filling in the middle. Fold the round wrapper in half, and pinch the centre point together. Fold the ends in, creating a pleat on each side and pinch to seal. Make sure there are no holes. At the end, your dumpling should have a flat bottom – this is important to frying the dumplings so they have a crispy texture on one side.
Fry the dumplings:
Coat a frying pan with oil and heat over high heat. Place in the dumplings, carefully making sure not to splash the oil. When the bottom becomes golden brown, pour in water (approximately ½ cup or just enough to coat ⅓ of the dumplings). Cover the pan with a lid immediately. Uncover when the water evaporates completely, about 3-5 minutes.
Chef’s tip: These dumplings can also be enjoyed steamed or boiled! Try preparing them different ways at home to find your favourite way to eat them.
#WorldVegetarianDay originated back in 1977. It’s a great way to raise awareness about the benefits of a plant-based diet. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, try it for a day. Prepare a vegetarian meal for family or friends!
Canada’s Food Guide recommends half your plate should be vegetables and fruits. Include them throughout the day in meals and snacks. Choose different coloured vegetables and textures to fit your taste. And remember that some of the freshest and most delicious vegetables and fruits can be found at your local farmer’s market.
Why not give Chef Shai’s delicious Greek Salad recipe a try?
Rooks to Cooks’ Greek Salad Dressing
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 medium lemon juiced
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp honey
Salt & Pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together.
Rooks to Cooks’ Signature Rustic Greek Salad
Yield: 4 Servings
2 vine-ripened tomatoes cut into 8 wedges
½ English cucumber cut on a bias
½ red onion, sliced
Up to 200 grams crumbled feta
Rooks to Cooks’ Greek salad dressing recipe
Optional: 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
Mix all the contents of salad together in a bowl. Pour salad dressing over the vegetables and toss lightly. Let sit for about 30 minutes and serve. ENJOY!
Today, let’s celebrate the importance of cooking! Teaching kids to cook is my passion and I have had the privilege of working with thousands of children in our cooking camps, school programs and workshops. I know it can feel daunting to take on the task of teaching your kids to cook, but there are so many valuable skills to be learned in the kitchen!! At Rooks to Cooks we have your recipe for success and here are my Top 5 Reasons to Get Cooking with your kids:
Learn about Food and Nutrition together. Cooking from scratch teaches children about the food that we eat. Go grocery shopping and spend time picking out your produce and planning your meals. When you’re cooking show them different examples of the key food groups that we need to fuel our bodies. Talk to them about how they should fill half their plate with fruits and veggies that have nutrients that will help their bodies grow. The other half should be whole grains and lean protein that gives them energy for all the activities they do all day long. Since parents and instructors can be a big influence on children, it is important for us to share our knowledge and teach them how to make healthy choices.
2. Expand their palate and an appreciation for different foods. Variety means exposing children to different cuisines and preparation methods. Many of our cooking programs introduce kids to new spices and foods that they may not have tried before. Through tasting, hearing, touching, smelling and seeing, children will be exposed to different ingredients and food combinations – some they will like and some they won’t but that’s okay. When we encourage children to smell and taste various types of foods and flavours it enables them to experiment and find something new to add to their repertoire.
“I dined at Rooks to Cooks’ pop-up restaurant, the Chef’s Platter. … I felt like I walked into an episode of MasterChef and it was glorious.” ~ Monica Wong, blogger, foodie2luv.com
3. Emotional development. Hands-on cooking activities help children develop confidence and skills so that they can learn to make meals for themselves. Following recipes encourages children to be more independent and develop a positive self-image. It also teaches them to follow directions and work on their problem-solving skills. Remember to have fun with the children when they are experimenting with cooking and then they will learn about the joy of cooking, eating and sharing their delicious creations!
From a kid’s perspective: “I think that what resonated with them was the fact that they were given a tremendous amount of responsibility right from the moment they arrived.” ~ Mala Joshi, parent and blogger, unpackingthemeal.com
“These cooking camps really created true friendships, along with a sense of accomplishment and a newfound sense of confidence. I wish more parents knew about this kids cooking summer camp.” ~ Monica Wong, blogger, foodie2luv.com
4. Teamwork and Communication Skills. Working together in the kitchen will give kids a sense of sharing and cooperation. They feel like they are contributing to the family and helping with meal prep and cleaning up, everything from washing vegetables to setting the table. Team building is also about learning how to voice your opinions, listening to others and practicing being a leader. Children learn to work as part of a team and use effective communication skills to achieve the finished product – a delicious home-cooked meal!
“These campers ages 8-12 showed real talent in the kitchen and picked up important life skills like teamwork and communication – in just one week!” ~ Monica Wong, blogger foodie2luv.com
5. Safety in the Kitchen. As parents and teachers we must take the time to explain and demonstrate the correct method to use kitchen tools or appliances when working in the kitchen. As you work through a recipe together, be sure to identify the steps that your children are able to do based on their age and maturity level. Our chef instructors fully supervise your children and determine their readiness for various cooking skills. Because each child learns at their own speed, we will assist them, as needed, to work on their specific goals. Similarly, parents can provide children with different opportunities in the kitchen and build on their successes.
Parent perspective: “... they gained a level of culinary confidence that continues to translate at home. They can confidently operate a gas stove, chop vegetables, use a scale to prepare ingredients, follow recipes, and also understand the importance of mis en place.” ~ Mala Joshi, parent and blogger, unpackingthemeal.com
Hey kids, grab your aprons and let’s get cooking! At Rooks to Cooks, we are all about teaching kids the skills they need to feel confident in the kitchen.
For #KidsTakeOverTheKitchenDay, we want to help you get your kids involved in mealtime food preparation. You want to get them excited about cooking. The more involved they are, from start to finish, the more likely kids will want to help cook and, of course, eat their creations!
Check out our handy tips below and an easy recipe to encourage your young chefs to “Take Over the Kitchen”:
Safety first! Be sure to supervise your children in the kitchen and gauge which tasks are appropriate for your child’s age and maturity level. Initially, it’s best if the recipes are simple and require some repetitive steps to help kids practice and feel more confident with their abilities.
Try to make meal prep fun and stress-free. Kids love to use kitchen tools, like a lemon squeezer, rolling pin, whisk, garlic press, or ‘painting’ using a pastry brush. Recipes that involve various steps are great to keep kids interested and focused. Be patient and supportive and let them know they are doing a great job!
Have your kids pick the recipes and go shopping with you. Children are more likely to help with meals if they can take ownership and are involved in the entire cooking process. Look through recipe books and find healthy choices with menu items that they would like to try.
Check out Chef Shai’s recipe for Spanakopita … Soooo delicious and kids will enjoy making this one for sure!!
Spinach & Feta Spanakopita Triangles
Yield: 15 Triangles
12 Phyllo pastry sheets
500g feta cheese
450g frozen spinach, thawed & strained
20ml olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced (150g)
2g ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Sweat onions in a pan until translucent.
In a food processor, blend spinach and sweated onions until fine. Add feta, egg and pepper. Process until well combined.
Season to taste.
To Assemble & bake spanakopita triangles:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Prepare your phyllo dough. Lay 1 sheet down, brush with canola oil. Top with another sheet. Brush second sheet with canola oil. Lay the 3rd and final sheet on top.
Using a pizza cutter, slice the phyllo widthwise into 5 equal strips.
To assemble spanakopita triangle. Top the bottom of the strip (end closest to you) with approximately 1.5 Tablespoons of filling. Fold as shown in the images below.
Prepare a sheet pan lined with parchment. Arrange spanakopita triangles on sheet pan. Egg wash and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
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
750g all purpose flour
75g icing sugar
20g instant yeast
135g butter (cold in cubes)
In a bowl combine flour, salt and icing sugar and whisk together.
Warm the milk to 110F or just above body temperature, whisk in yeast and a handful of the dry ingredients, let sit.
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.
Add butter, piece by piece, while mixer is on medium. Mix until dough comes back together and begins to climb the hook.
Roll out dough approximately 1/2” thick cut into desired shapes, let rest 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
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!
4oz semi sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp butter
1 C powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
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
2 Cups icing sugar sifted
Approximately 1/2 cup milk – add to consistency
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients until combined.