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

5 “Eggs-quisite” Natural Dyes for Colouring Eggs

Contributor: Anastasiia Maklakova, Marketing Intern @ Rooks to Cooks

Natural dyes produce lovely coloured eggs

Easter is just around the corner and we have an “eggs-citing” activity that all family members will enjoy! For many families, the tradition of egg colouring has always been a part of Easter preparations. This year let’s try colouring eggs with natural dyes. Kids will love to see all the “eggs-traordinary” colours that they can produce using different vegetables and spices that you might have in the kitchen. Here are some recipes that will give you intense, beautiful colours and you don’t need to worry because the ingredients are natural and safe. We are sure that your kids will be “egg-static” about this activity!

Some “Eggs-cellent” TIPS to get you started:

  • To help prevent the eggs from cracking, keep them out of the fridge for about 1 hour before boiling; also, put one (1) teaspoon of salt in the water during boiling.
  • Before coloring, wash the eggs with soap and water; remove any oil or marks on the egg with rubbing alcohol to get better colors.
  • Cover your table or work area with paper because some of the dyes might be intense and it’s not easy to wash them off your surface.
  • Use a cooking skimmer or slotted spoon to transfer the eggs in and out of the dye.
  • If possible, pick a saucepan that is deep enough that your eggs are completely immersed in the dye or you will get a white/light spot; you can also roll them over occasionally to get an even colour.
  • After coloring, dry the eggs out and wipe with olive or canola oil to give them an incredible shine.
  • Colored eggs must be kept in the refrigerator.

Now let’s get started! Here are our Top 5 Natural Dyes and instructions on how to colour your eggs. Have fun!!

You will need the following ingredients, depending on which colour(s) you choose to try:

  • white vinegar
  • salt
  • Onion skin from 6-8 yellow onions (Yellow)
  • 6 medium beets, chopped (pink)
  • 4 cups raw spinach leaves (green)
  • 2-3 Tbsp Turmeric (golden/yellow)
  • 4 cups Red Cabbage (chopped or grated)
  1. Yellow Coloured Eggs:
  • In a saucepan, add onion skin from 6-8 bulbs to 4 cups of water, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt; bring to boil and then lower to a simmer for about 40 minutes; strain the onion skin;
  • Carefully put raw eggs into the pot of strained dye and gently boil for 10 minutes and then take pot off the heat; try to ensure that your eggs are completed immersed in the dye or you may get a white/light spot; you can also roll them over occasionally to get an even colour;
  • For more intense color, leave the eggs in the dye for longer depending on the depth of colour that you like;
  • Take the eggs out of the dye using a slotted spoon or tongs; pat dry with paper towels and let dry completely on a rack.

2. Pretty Pink Eggs

  • You will need about about 6 medium Beets; roughly chopped;
  • In a saucepan, combine beets with 4 cups of water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt;
  • Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes;
  • Place raw eggs in the pot and gently boil for 10 minutes; take pot off the heat and leave eggs in longer to get desired colour;
  • Take the eggs out of the dye, pat dry and then allow to dry completely on a rack.

3. Green Eggs

  • Add about 4 cups of raw spinach leaves, 4 cups of water, 1 tablespoon salt to a saucepan;
  • Boil for about 25 minutes; strain the spinach;
  • Place raw eggs into the pot with the dye and gently boil for 10 minutes; take pot off the heat and leave eggs in longer to get desired colour;
  • Take the eggs out of the dye, rinse and pat dry and then allow to dry completely on a rack.

4. Golden/Yellow Eggs

  • Pour 4 cups of water in a saucepan and add 2-3 tablespoons of turmeric;
  • Bring the solution to a boil for 2 minutes and then simmer/brew for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour;
  • Place raw eggs in the pot and gently boil for 10 minutes; take pot off the heat and leave eggs in longer to get desired colour;
  • Take the eggs out of the dye, rinse and pat dry and then allow to dry completely on a rack.

5. Beautiful Blue Eggs – believe it or not Red Cabbage produces Blue dye – very Cool!

  • Note: For this colour option, you will need to hard-boil your eggs in water for 10 minutes and let cool before dying.
  • In a saucepan, add 4 cups of chopped or grated red cabbage and 4 cups of water;
  • Bring to boil and then let simmer on low for approx. 25-30 minutes; the water will turn a purple colour;
  • Strain the cabbage from the water, then add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar to the dye and stir throughout;
  • Let the dye cool to room temperature before using; then we put our dye into a small glass jar;
  • Now place your cooled, hard-boiled eggs into dye solution for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour for various shades of blue;  
  • To get deeper blue colours, try leaving your egg in the dye overnight and see what happens!
  • Take the egg out of the dye, pat dry and then allow to dry completely on a rack.

We hope you have fun “egg-sperimenting” with colours – kids can even mix various dye colours together to see what happens (for example, Yellow + Red = Orange). You may also find some other fruits and veggies around the kitchen that produce interesting dyes when boiled in water. There are lots of options and it is a great learning experience. 😊

Happy National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day!

FUN FACTS:

  • The grilled cheese sandwich became popular in the 1920s, after the invention of processed cheese (Kraft slices) and sliced bread. It was inexpensive and easy to make.
  • This sandwich is very versatile because you can change it up in so many ways: (a) try it with different breads, such as white, whole wheat, sourdough, rye …, (2) try a different cheese, such as Cheddar, Swiss, Brie, … There are so many possibilities!
  • Do you like to ADD to your grilled cheese sandwich? Most popular add-ons are bacon, ham and tomato. But how about some sauteed vegetables?
  • Number of calories in a typical grilled cheese sandwich: about 291 calories.
  • How much would you pay for a sandwich? In 2004, a grilled cheese sandwich, which supposedly had a grill pattern on it in the image of the Virgin Mary, was posted on eBay and purchased for $28,000! What??
  • According to RecordSetter, Takeru Kobayashi set a record for eating 13 grilled cheese sandwiches in one (1) minute (Austin, Texas, March 11, 2012).

And now … Chef Shai has a very “gouda” recipe to share!! Try this gooey, delicious sandwich today 🙂

Grilled Cheese

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 150g old white cheddar sliced thinly
  • 4 Slices of sourdough bread
  • 30g unsalted butter  

Directions:

  1. For each sandwich, generously spread 2 pieces of bread with butter and lay on your cheese slices. Top with the other slice of bread and spread the outsides with a good amount of butter.
  2. Heat some butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  3. Place sandwiches carefully in the butter and fry until crisp and golden brown. Flip and continue frying until second side is crisp and golden brown and cheese is fully melted.
  4. Remove sandwiches from frying pan and slice in half. Enjoy immediately.

We “knead” to let you know that it’s National Sourdough Bread Day!

#SourdoughBreadDay

Fun Facts:

  • It is believed that the Egyptians were among the first civilizations to capture wild yeast and bacteria for bread leavening, around 4,000 B.C.
  • Saccharomyces exiguus is the scientific name for wild yeast.
  • A sourdough starter is a method of growing yeast. You begin with a flour and water mixture that is the medium for growing yeast. You can either add commercial yeast to the mixture or let nature take its course with wild yeast that is present in the flour and in the air. As long as this starter culture is fed flour and water weekly, it can stay at room temperature indefinitely.
  • The sour taste of sourdough bread comes from lactic acid produced by lactobacillus (bacteria).
  • Because of its low glycemic index, diabetics can benefit from eating sourdough bread because it will not spike your blood sugar.

ROOKS TO COOKS SUGGESTION …

Chef Shai highly recommends that you check out Ken Forkish’s cookbook for a delicious Bread recipe with 80% Biga. Cookbook title: Flour Water Salt Yeast; http://kensartisan.com/flour-water-salt-yeast


Hooray! Spring is finally here and we can’t wait for fresh produce.

Farmers’ Markets will be starting up soon!

After a long, cold winter, we eagerly await the arrival of Spring. A time when everything in nature starts to renew and grow. The days get longer, and the temperatures get warmer. We welcome all the beautiful changes that we see all around us! Flowers begin to bloom, and we are excited about all fresh vegetables and fruit we will see at our grocers and food markets over the next several months.

This year why not check out your local farmers’ markets for farm-fresh goodness. We checked out the Farmers Markets Ontario website and it currently lists 184 member markets across Ontario! That’s awesome. They typically run from about May to October, but you will find that there are more and more farmers’ markets open year-round. Find and Ontario Farmers’ Market: http://farmersmarketsontario.com/

Ontario growers rely on greenhouses to help them get ahead of the season for many crops. With a short growing season, it’s critical for many crops to get seeded early so we can enjoy them sooner and for a longer period of time. We have provided several resources below which will help you find a market or local farm where you can buy amazing seasonal produce. What a great way for us to support our hard-working farmers! Visit a Farm; click here to find one near you: http://ontariofarmfresh.com/

Are you sick of potatoes and root vegetables?? Get ready for all the fresh produce that will be sprouting soon!! Here’s a quick rundown on what will be available over the next few months; use the Harvest Ontario “What’s in Season guide” for a full listing of fruits and veggies: https://www.harvestontario.com/whatinseason

In April:

  • asparagus
  • rhubarb

In May and June:

  • beans
  • beets
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • cherries
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • peas
  • radishes
  • strawberries

To Celebrate Spring, we thought you might like to try our mouth-watering recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!!

Summer Campers making pies!

Rooks to Cooks’ Signature Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Yield: 1 9-inch pie

Pie Dough Ingredients:

  • 375g all-purpose flour
  • 160g frozen unsalted butter
  • 125g vegetable shortening or pure lard
  • 100g COLD water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 15g brown sugar

Strawberry Rhubarb Ingredients:

  • 2  cups of red rhubarb
  • 2 ½ cup of strawberries (washed and cut)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp minute tapioca
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp of lemon juice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp butter, cubed small
  • 1 egg white beaten with 1 tsp water
  • Turbinado sugar

Crust Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the salt, sugar, flour, butter, shortening, mix together.
  2. Rub shortening into flour until reduced to pea sized crumbs. Once pea sized crumbs, grate cold butter into flour. Toss butter lightly using the salad tossing method.
  3. Add cold water little bits at a time, mixing in between additions. Mix just enough to incorporate, do not over mix!
  4. Transfer dough to floured table. Shape into a thick disc. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
  5. Divide dough in half.
  6. Roll out the first half and shape to pie plate and crimp the crust with a fork.
  7. Roll out the second half and cut into strips for lattice top.

Filling Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In a bowl, mix  rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, flour, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  3. Pour the mixture onto the chilled crust pie plate.
  4. Cover the filling with the lattice top.
  5. Seal the edges.
  6. Brush with egg wash and garnish with turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at 400F, then reduce heat to 350F and bake for an additional 50 – 70 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and filling is soft.
  8. ENJOY!

Other Resources:
To Search Ontario’s directory of agritourism attractions, visit: https://www.harvestontario.com

Meatballs anyone? It’s National Meatball Day!

#NationalMeatball Day

FUN FACTS:

  • Meatballs can be found in many different cultures: Italian, Greek, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese and many more …. A lot of countries have their own take on the meatball using different types of ground meat and spices.
  • Have you ever heard the song “On Top of Spaghetti” by Tom Glazer? It’s about a meatball that has a bit of a misadventure: “I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed …”. We thought you might like to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSbSjRJ9xz4
  • World’s Largest Meatball: In 2017, the Italian-American Club of Hilton Head Island, SC, set the record for largest meatball: it weighed 1,757 pounds! It took lots of planning and even special equipment was made to cook the meatball (Guinness World Records).

Today, we are thrilled to share our amazing Signature Meatball recipe. You’re gonna love them!

Rooks to Cooks’ Signature Meatballs

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cups stale Italian bread, crumbled
  • ¾ cups lukewarm water
  • ½ cup olive oil

Directions:

  • Combine ground beef in a large bowl.
  • Add garlic, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.
  • Blend breadcrumbs into meat mixture.
  • Slowly add the water, 1/2 cup at a time. The mixture should be very moist but still hold its shape if rolled into meatballs (TIP: I usually use about 1 1/4 cups of water). Shape into meatballs.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Fry meatballs in batches. When the meatball is very brown and slightly crisp remove from the heat and drain on a paper towel. (TIP: If your mixture is too wet, cover the meatballs while they are cooking so that they hold their shape better).
  • For the Italian Meatball version, add your meatballs to the pan with your tomato sauce. Cover partly and simmer for 30 minutes. Be sure to turn the meatballs occasionally.
  • Cook your pasta of choice – we like spaghetti!
  • Pour the sauce and meatballs over your pasta to combine; then serve and enjoy.