Announcing our March Madness Contest

MARCH MADNESS CONTEST ALERT

Rooks to Cooks would like to announce the March Madness Contest! Register for any Summer Camp session during the month of March and you could WIN a FREE Rooks to Cooks Birthday Party Package for your child and up to 5 friends ($500+ value). Multiple entries for multiple registrations!

How to Enter: Simply REGISTER for one (or more) of our summer camp programs on our website and you will automatically be entered in the contest. All registrations received during the month of March will be eligible to win! 

Contest Period: The Rooks to Cooks March Madness Contest will run from March 1, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and to March 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Prize value is $500, not redeemable for cash. We will announce the winner via Facebook and Instagram and we will contact the winner in private via email. 

Be sure to register soon before the contest ends and to get the summer camp session that works best for you! Good luck to all the entrants! 

Here is an overview of this unique Birthday Party experience:

  • 2+ Chef instructors will arrive at the space of your choice 1 hour prior to your party to set up.
  • Chefs will bring all the necessary ingredients, equipment, uniforms and loot bag materials 
  • Parties range from 1.5 hours to 2 hours 
  • Following the class, chefs will clean up your space completely. 
  • The birthday child will receive a birthday card from CEO Chef Shai Mandel 
  • The Winner can choose from one of the following party themes:
    • Pizza party 
    • Pasta party 
    • Lollipop party 
    • Dumpling party

For more information about our Birthday Parties, please visit our Birthday Parties page.

Meet our new Camp Director – Chef Taylor Lewis

We are super thrilled to announce the addition of Chef Taylor to the Rooks to Cooks family. Chef Taylor steps into the important role of Camp Director and will be working alongside our dedicated head office team. Taylor has been busy cooking up some amazing programming for the year ahead! We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Taylor and we are sharing our Q&A below.

Interview with Chef Taylor:

  1. What’s your background and how did your career path lead to Camp Director at Rooks to Cooks?

Chef Taylor: I’ve always been passionate about food and I could always be found in the kitchen when I was younger. Beyond food, one of my other passions that I discovered in high school was teaching. I pursued any opportunity I could to work with kids, both in and out of the classroom. I tutored, worked at camps, did my co-op with a local music class and even taught ESL to international students. After high school, I attended Queen’s University and earned a degree in French Linguistics and Psychology. Following that, I was all set to go to teacher’s college until my love of food drove me towards a change and I enrolled in a culinary program at George Brown College. Once I stepped foot into my first culinary lab at George Brown, I was hooked. I jumped headfirst until all things cooking! Since that first day of culinary school, I’ve worked for catering companies, bakeries, restaurants and even teaching private cooking lessons in my spare time. It was the private lessons that inspired me to find a way to combine my love of education and cooking, and that led me to Rooks to Cooks. After one summer of working as a Lead Chef at our Annex location, I knew that I had found a job more inspiring than anything I had ever done before. Becoming the Camp Director at Rooks to Cooks is my dream job and I couldn’t have imagined a position that fits more perfectly with all my past experiences teaching and cooking.

  1. What are you most excited about for Rooks to Cooks this year?

Chef Taylor: This year, I’m most excited about our new PA day camps. We’ve designed these new programs so that we can keep cooking together all year long. Each day has its own set of recipes inspired by the time of year, and featuring seasonal produce. I can’t wait to share these new dishes with our Rooks to Cooks’ families!

  1. Tell us about your vision and how you will bring your personal touch to Rooks to Cooks?

Chef Taylor: My vision for Rooks to Cooks is to inspire youth to get cooking, and share their love of food with their friends and families. Cooking is a valuable life skill that is meant to be shared with others, whether that’s making someone’s favourite pasta for dinner or a cake for a celebration. By inspiring and empowering kids to make their own meals, they build confidence and find themselves ready to take on new challenges, like feeding their loved ones. My own passion for food comes from my family traditions of gathering together around a table to share a meal, and this is my main motivation behind all my cooking. The best recipes and meals are always the ones that we enjoy with others.

  1. What’s your favourite part of the job?

Chef Taylor: My favourite part of the job is getting to meet all the children enrolled in our programs. So much dedication and hard work goes into designing these programs and recipes, and getting to cook these recipes with our students is the greatest reward. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of growth that the kids in our programs demonstrate after just a few days of cooking their own meals. This kind of empowerment is something special, and I’m absolutely honoured to get to be a part of it.

  1. What’s your favorite Cooking Show on TV and why?

Chef Taylor: My absolute favourite cooking show is Good Eats with Alton Brown, which is making a comeback after a long hiatus! I watched the show a lot when I was younger, and it really taught me about food. Alton Brown goes in-depth into the science behind cooking and baking, how flavour combinations work and how chemistry is responsible for fluffy cakes and beautifully risen breads.

  1. If you could have dinner with any famous person from any time in history, who would you choose and why?

Chef Taylor: I would love to have dinner with Julia Child and cook with her out of her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She revolutionized the world of cookbooks and expanded home cooks recipe repertoires to include French classics like coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon. I’d love to fill a table with her creations, served with a generous side of bread and butter and simply declare Bon Appétit!

If you would like to reach Chef Taylor, please feel free to send her an email anytime!

Email: cheftaylor@rookstocooks.ca

Bits and Bites: Nutrition News from Summer Camp Week 8: Master Chef

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

After an intensive summer of teaching our young chefs the basics of cooking, and watching as they gobble up their delicious creations, the chef instructors finally have the chance to take a step back and let the kids take the lead! The final two weeks of the Rooks to Cooks summer camps feature some of the most entertaining, challenging, and inspiring culinary competitions: Iron Chef, Cake Boss, and Chopped! Instead of the instructors guiding the young chefs through each and every step, the camp staff become the students and watch the kid’s creativity lead them to create innovative and imaginative dishes (ones that we would never have come up with ourselves!).

Day 1 was no easy task but the young chefs proved that their culinary talent was on par with experienced chefs! They tackled some difficult dishes including a Tuscan stew, homemade pita bread, ooey-gooey chocolate cake, and the dreaded risotto. I only say “dreaded” because it takes years of practice to perfect – the taste is anything BUT dreadful – YUM! For lunch, our chefs enjoyed a piece of their pita bread (okay, maybe they enjoyed multiple pieces…) and a big ‘ol bowl of comforting Tuscan stew. They loved the warming flavours and sweet vegetables in the stew, and they couldn’t get enough of those fluffy and delicate pita breads! In fact, many of the campers had second and third helpings of pita bread. Inspired by their love of the bread, I challenged our young chefs to come up with a variety of toppings that they could put on their pitas at home. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Hummus
  • Chicken or ham and cheese
  • Avocado and salsa
  • Tzatziki
  • Butter chicken
  • Grilled pineapples
  • Pulled pork
  • Assorted fruits – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and mango slices
  • Chef Rebecca: Ricotta, peaches, and honey
  • Chef Kenzie: Sun-dried tomatoes, basil, grilled chicken, and goat cheese

In addition to the daily nutrition challenge, our young chefs also surprised us with their takes on risotto. For the Risotto Challenge, they were tasked with creating their own original recipes – flavoured with herbs, spices, and vegetables of their choice! Many of the chefs loved adding in some greens and decided to top off their dishes with chives, parsley, and rosemary. A few of our chefs sprinkled in a few dashes of cinnamon or paprika to add a pop of spice and interesting flavours. Others decided to go with more traditional and subtle flavours by sautéing some carrots and onions to add layers of sweetness to the typically salty and cheesy dish. We were all amazed by their innovative Risotto creations, and to be honest, I was even more excited to try the meals they’d be preparing for the rest of the week (finally, the instructors get to join in on the tasting!!)

Day 2 rolled around and it was time for our chefs to show us their creative side in the Cake Boss challenge! After indulging in a deliciously rich lunch – chicken cacciatore, creamy polenta, and garden salad – our young chefs put their cake decorating skills to the test! From floating gummy bears to beautiful roses to lighthouses, our chefs proved that their decorating skills were WAYYYYY better than just a simple iced cake (take a look at some of these amazing cakes below!). The judges (chefs) were so amazed by the results that we could hardly choose a winner – every single team “won” in a specific category. Some displayed incredible creativity, while others showed exceptional teamwork or technique! As always, we were so happy to work with all the campers this week – and we couldn’t be more excited to see where their culinary journey leads them!

After covering ourselves in a little too much icing, we all sat down for a good ‘ol huddle and moved onto our nutrition challenge: Toppings / mix-ins for Polenta. We had a good mix of sweet and savoury ideas – and they all sounded AMAZING (full honesty, I have polenta every single day, and I know these ideas are going to be ones I try out ASAP). Check out the campers suggestions:

  • Greek yogurt and berries
  • Parmesan and potatoes
  • Sausage and tomatoes
  • Chives and thyme
  • Spaghetti sauce and chicken pieces
  • Polenta tart with berries (could be great for those who are lactose intolerant or dairy free!)
  • Cheese, chives, and tomatoes
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, toasted almonds, and walnuts
  • Mushrooms and asparagus
  • Baked bacon bits
  • Yogurt
  • Lentils
  • Spices, chives, parsley, and pulled pork
  • Cheese, peas, potatoes, and chicken
  • Cheddar cheese, bacon bits, green beans
  • Chef Kenzie: dark chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, honey, and toasted coconut

Day 3 and 4 featured two extremely challenging competitions: Iron Chef and Chopped! These difficult tasks proved to be much easier than expected as our chefs banded together and worked as teams to come up with some incredible dishes. For our Iron Chef competition, our chefs-in-training had to use the secret ingredient lentils as the ‘star’ of their dish. They weren’t too enthusiastic by this “bland” ingredient, but boy did they make it work. We had some imaginative and flavourful dishes including:

  • lime and lentil mash
  • lentil falafel
  • lentil coconut curry
  • lentil risotto
  • lentil turmeric tortilla wrap

By the end of the day, our young chefs were learning to love lentils – which just goes to show that the key to enjoying healthy food is creativity and good cooking!

After discovering what our young chefs could make with lentils, we were SO excited to see what they could do with our Chopped! basket. Our chefs were challenged to use the following 5 secret ingredients in their dishes: an orange, a bag of corn chips, a sweet potato, a boiled chicken breast, and a zucchini. They were given 45 minutes to make a dish of their choice that incorporated all 5 ingredients in some way. Once again, our teams of chefs worked together perfectly to create some stellar dishes, including the following:

  • Sweet potato orange dip, lime and zucchini dip, sautéed chicken and corn chips
  • Orange, lime, sweet potato and chicken stir fry with crumbled corn chips and fried zucchini
  • Chicken and lentil stew with zucchini, orange, and lime. Served with corn chips and sautéed sweet potato.
  • Chicken, zucchini and green apple tomato sauce on top of vermicelli noodles. Served with a side of sweet potato fries (the idea of an apple and tomato sauce caught me off guard, but it was surprisingly tasty – the sweet and tart notes from the apple paired brilliantly with the chicken and tomato sauce – who would’ve known?)
  • Chicken noodle soup with zucchini, sweet potato, orange juice, and lime zest. Served with corn chips for crumbling on top.

YUM!! The instructors were definitely fed well, and we loved every single bite. Personally, I was most inspired by the teams’ ability to work together so well and encourage each other through every step of cooking. This week taught me that when you put a team of talented minds together, you can truly accomplish anything. Prior to the Iron Chef and Chopped challenges, I had no idea that we would taste such incredible dishes. I thought there may be some disagreements among the young chefs during the planning process and I wondered if the teams would have enough time to finish their dish. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did every team finish in the time allotted, but they also created some innovative and tasty dishes AND they COMPLETELY cleaned their stations before time was up. Our chefs were so passionate about cooking, and they were always eager to start the day. Great work!!

Each week we are so thrilled to work with our chefs-in-training! They consistently ask great questions, offer to help out, and share some incredible culinary ideas with us. I really feel like I’ve become the student – I have learned so much and I have plenty of inspiration for some upcoming meals! I hope you have the opportunity to cook with your young chef and learn a few of their tips and tricks! From all of us at Rooks to Cooks, we thank you for joining us throughout this fun and flavourful week, and we look forward to seeing you again soon!

** If you have 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 over to my personal blog at: thrivingonnature.wordpress.com

Bits and Bites: Nutrition News from Summer Camp Week 7: Perfecting Pastries

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

We’re entering the final stretch of the summer camp season and our tummies are just about ready to explode – but we have no doubt that it was all worth it! As the famous saying goes – “there’s always room for dessert” – and that’s why we saved some of the best desserts for the last weeks of summer.

This week, our young chefs are baking up a storm in our “Perfecting Pastries” program. Our young chefs got to work with a variety of doughs, batter, and custard fillings to prepare some of our very best sugar-filled treats. From apple fritters to savoury quiches to ooey-gooey peach pies, this week’s camp provided our chefs with skills and techniques that go way beyond the basics! Not to mention, I think most parents were pretty pleased to be heading home with a few containers full of treats to munch on after a long day at work.

Peach Pie

From Day 1, our chefs were very excited to be baking – and their love for pastries only seemed to grow once they learned more and more about all the amazing things they could make with just a few simple pantry ingredients. The first day was all about learning some of the basics – how to prepare a pie dough, how to make traditional pate sucre, how to use a deep fryer, and how to make marshmallows from scratch (who knew they were so simple and so tasty!?). Considering we hadn’t yet made our peach pie filling, I decided to challenge our chefs to think of some tasty pie fillings they could use to pair with their pie dough. As always, I was surprised by their amazing ideas, and I definitely got a little inspiration for my weekend baking project! Check out the feedback from our young chefs:

  • Apple cinnamon
  • Broccoli, corn, and cheese quiche
  • Strawberry rhubarb
  • Blueberry, raspberry and chocolate pie
  • Apple blueberry pie
  • Strawberry s’mores pie (with dark chocolate)
  • Strawberry banana pie
  • Pineapple pie
  • Raspberry coconut pie
  • Chef Kenzie: Sweet potato pie with roasted pecans and walnuts!

YUM – what a nice little list filled with fruits, vegetables, antioxidant-rich foods (like dark chocolate), and healthy fats (like nuts, cheese, and coconut). Trying out some of these pies is a delicious way to incorporate a few more fruits into your daily dessert, plus, it adds the perfect tangy, fruity bite to a sweet and buttery pie!

Homemade Marshmallows!

Day 2 rolled around and we finally had the chance to finish off the recipes that we started on the first day of camp. Our young chefs prepared a delicious peach pie filling, a lemon creme filling for their tarts, and they FINALLY got to taste their ooey-gooey homemade marshmallows. On top of all that, they also had the chance to start making their four-layer raspberry vanilla swirl cake. This recipe was definitely a crowd favourite, as they got to add some bright colours, sweet flavours, and essential nutrients to a basic vanilla cake! They swirled around their batter, popped their cakes in the oven, and waited to see the fun and colourful result.

For their next nutrition challenge, I was inspired by the fun swirls of colours that made this dessert so pretty and appealing. I decided to ask our chefs to think of some of their favourite desserts that had AT LEAST three different colours in them. A simple rule of thumb is the more colours that are on your plate, the more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you are feeding your body. Therefore, if you try to fill your dinner and dessert plates with as many colours as possible, you’re most likely providing your body with a wide variety of nutrients so you can function at your best (as long as those “colours” aren’t just different shades of brown). Once again, our young chefs didn’t fail to impress with their colourful and creative ideas, and here are a few yummy desserts to try out this weekend:

  • Assorted fruit smoothie
  • Fruit salad with strawberries, bananas, apple slices, oranges, melons, and watermelon
  • Triple berry salad
  • Lemon cake with strawberries and blueberries
  • Banana bread with strawberries and homemade whipped cream
  • Homemade rainbow fruit sorbet
  • Watermelon “pizza” (round slice of watermelon), topped with cream cheese and assorted fruits
  • Pancakes or crepes with fresh fruit
  • Chef Rebecca: Homemade Neapolitan ice cream (strawberry, vanilla, and dark chocolate) served with assorted fresh fruit
  • Chef Kenzie: Ricotta and honey tart topped with fresh fruit “rainbow” (strawberries, mandarin oranges, peaches, bananas, kiwi, and blueberries)

YESSSS!! Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fresh fruit and serving some of these desserts at your next BBQ get together would definitely bring a smile to your loved ones’ faces (PLUS they’ll thank you for the little nutritional boost!). Try these out this weekend or next and let us know how you liked them!

Raspberry Vanilla Swirl Cake

Day 3 and 4 rolled around with even more delights – layered cake, babkas, pain au chocolat, croissants and sorbet!!! All of the recipes were crowd-pleasers, but the winning recipe was hands down the croissants! It may have taken a full day’s work to put together, but boy was it worth it! These flaky, buttery, light and flaky pastries were irresistible – and they were even BETTER with chocolate in the middle! It had me thinking – what else could you throw inside a croissant to make a tastier (and healthier) combo?? I decided to ask the real experts – our young chefs – for their opinions, and I was amazed!!

  • Raspberries and strawberries
  • Parmesan baked on top
  • Apple cinnamon stuffing
  • Cream cheese and strawberry croissant “sandwich”
  • Peaches and honey (baked inside or eaten as a “sandwich”)
  • Grilled pineapple “sandwich”
  • Spinach and feta filling
  • Ham and cheese filling
  • Dark chocolate, banana, and coconut filling
  • Chef Kenzie: Dark chocolate, hazelnut and coconut filling (with maple drizzle on top!)

I may have just learned how to make croissants myself, but it looks like I have a few more recipes to try out. These really are chef-quality ideas. The endless creativity and innovation from our chefs is something that I am continuously amazed at – these kids have such incredible ideas that are out of the box, yet genius!

Finally, Thursday’s recipes were preparation for pop-up and it was veggie time!! My favourite was our famous rich and creamy quiche – it’s so simple, so easy, so nutritious, and SUPER delicious!! Quiches can be made using so many different vegetables – spinach and feta; sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and chicken; peppers, onions, and broccoli (our amazing combo!); mushrooms, ham and onions; etc., etc. But, don’t be fooled, veggies aren’t only for savoury recipes – they can be snuck into many different sweet treats to boost the nutritional value and add to flavour! Some of our chef’s favourite veggie-inspired dishes are:

  • Zucchini banana bread
  • Avocado brownies
  • Pumpkin muffins
  • Celery ice-cream
  • Beet brownies
  • Rhubarb pie
  • Celery with peanut butter and chocolate chips
  • Zucchini blossom with ricotta and honey
  • Cucumber and mint sorbet
  • Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (try using honey or maple syrup to sweeten the cream cheese frosting instead of sugar!)
  • Pumpkin brownie
  • Apple rhubarb crumble
  • Sweet potato fries (maybe with drizzled peanut butter and dark chocolate!)
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Chef Rebecca: Rhubarb pavlova
  • Chef Kenzie: Gluten-free sweet potato brownie with toasted pecans on top and avocado dark chocolate mousse!

I’ve certainly learned a lot from our young chefs, and I can’t wait to continue to learn in the final weeks of camp. The upcoming sessions of camp feature some famous contests such as Chopped, Iron Chef America, and Cake Boss. During these friendly competitions, our young chefs have a chance to display their culinary creativity and talent. Not to mention, they will also learn some delicious and nutritious meals that they get to indulge in for lunch throughout the week! This week was certainly sweet, but we’re excited for the creativity and innovation that the next two weeks will bring! Join us again at camp for some more culinary knowledge, tons of yummy flavours and, of course, a whole lotta fun!

** If you have 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 over to my personal blog at: thrivingonnature.wordpress.com

Bits and Bites: Nutrition News from Summer Camp Week 6: Budding Bakers Jr. (Round 2)

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

Budding Bakers!

As the summer continues to whiz by, our young chefs continue to impress us with their culinary talent, enthusiasm towards cooking/baking, and an abundance of questions about all things food! We love teaching our young chefs, sharing all our knowledge and watching them grow throughout the week. We only hope that our young chefs continue to improve their skills in their own kitchen at home and come back next summer to show us how much they’ve improved on their own! Or they can also try our after school cooking programs and birthday parties to get more practice throughout the school year.

At Rooks to Cooks, our mission is to empower our young chefs to become more independent by building self-confidence and supporting self-expression through culinary education! Of course, we all love the sweet and savoury delights that come out of our kitchens every day, but more importantly, we hope to inspire our young chefs to build confidence and independence in AND out of the kitchen. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been particularly impressed by our young chefs and how they have demonstrated their ability to think outside of the box, clean up after themselves, be responsible leaders, express their creativity, and confidently step outside of their comfort zones.

My idea for this blog post is to FEATURE several young chefs so that their thoughts and opinions could be heard. I asked our chefs-in-training the following questions:

  • Explain why you became interested in cooking
  • Describe your favourite thing about cooking
  • Reveal your favourite part about camp
  • Share an original delicious (and nutritious) meal idea

Their words were inspiring and enlightening – plus, they had some AMAZING ideas for nutritious meals that they were excited to try out at home. Honestly, over the past few days, I’ve tried out a few of these ideas, and I have been floored by the results! We certainly have some culinary innovators amongst us, and some serious talent that needs to be shared! So, without further ado, here are some words of wisdom from our young chefs…

Chef 1:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “I spent lots of time in the kitchen baking pancakes with mom and dad!”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “It’s amazingly fun!”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “I liked baking stuff – it was so much fun, and I made a lot of new friends.”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Banana cookie with strawberry jam and sprinkles.”

Chef 2:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “I liked baking, and it showed my parents that I was responsible. I love helping my mom and dad with baking.”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “It’s a lot of fun and I love learning! It’s kind of like a kind of toy because you can play around with the gooey dough and sprinkle stuff on top of meals.”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “COOKING!”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Kale chips, apricots, and raisins – make great snacks!”

Chef 3:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “I saw my parents cooking and wanted to give it a try!”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “I love mixing ingredients together and seeing (and tasting) the results!”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “I liked baking all of the food and taking it home to share with my family.”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Yogurt with almond butter, honey, and fruit.”

Chef 4:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “I like cooking because you can do whatever you want! Then you can see how it turns out and eat it!”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “Eating what I made!”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “I liked experiencing different dishes that I normally wouldn’t get the chance to try!”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Spanakorizo – rice, spinach, and feta cheese”

Chef 5:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “Food is just so tasty, I wanted to get to know how to make it!”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “I love the smell of food.”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “I loved making all the desserts!”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Sponge cake with jam on top and fresh mixed berries.”

Chef 6:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “Because it’s really fun!”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “I love how fun it is and it’s kind of like a blank canvas, so you can do anything you want with it.”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “Cooking, hanging out with my sister, making pasta and pasta dough!”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Butter chicken with broccoli and asparagus.”

Chef 7:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “In the mornings I was hungry but no one was up, so I learned to make my own pancakes and eggs!”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “Eating it after!”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “I liked looking at the demos and trying it out myself. I liked making the sponge cake and ravioli!”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Black bean ramen noodles with eggs, homemade broth, tofu, carrots, and chives. It’s better than a packet of rice and it’s nice to have something homemade!”

Chef 8:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “I wanted to learn how to cook for my family, my grandma. I wanted to cook with my family and do more to help them in the kitchen.”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “Eating it, making food for my family, and helping out my family.”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “I liked meeting new people, and I loved EVERYTHING!”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Fried rice with broccoli, cauliflower and chicken.”

Chef 9:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “I watched my mom and sister do it, and I wanted to join.”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “I like to use my hands and mix stuff up!”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “BAKING!”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Frozen fruit “ice cream” – made with frozen bananas, strawberries, and blueberries!”

Chef 10:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “I like cooking and baking at home and baking with my parents.”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “Making cakes and decorating them!”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “BAKING!”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Carrot cake banana cookie with milk and coconut “sprinkles” (food coloured coconut shreds).”

Chef 11:

  • Why did you start cooking?: “I didn’t know how to cook and I wanted to learn and feed my family.”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “Trying out new things.”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “Baking different desserts – I love sweets!”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Lasagna with tomatoes, spinach, cheese, and whole wheat noodles.”

Chef 12:

  • Why did you start cooking:: “I tried it with my parents and it was really fun so I wanted to improve by myself.”
  • Favourite part about cooking: “Delicious food – I love eating it!”
  • Favourite thing about camp: “I like getting to take home treats to eat and share with my family.”
  • Nutritious meal idea: “Whole wheat tart with berries, dark chocolate chips, homemade whipped cream – all topped with dark chocolate-dipped strawberries and pineapples.”

WOW! Those sound like some DELICIOUS ideas! It looks like we have a few budding bakers and chefs amongst us! Thank you to our young chefs who volunteered to share their ideas – we loved hearing what you had to say!

We couldn’t be more excited to see our young chefs think outside of the box and experiment in their own kitchens at home. We know they have the techniques and skills to master the basic recipes, and we hope they continue to perfect their skills and create their own unique culinary creations. We encourage families to work together to make healthy, delicious recipes with their young chefs each and every week. We truly believe that being in the kitchen allows our young chefs to express themselves and develop their independence and confidence in the outside world! From all of us at Rooks to Cooks, we wish you a happy weekend filled with a bunch of flavourful goodies!!

** If you have 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 over to my personal blog at: thrivingonnature.wordpress.com

Bits and Bites: Nutrition News from Summer Camp Week 5: Around the World – First Class

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

Last week, we travelled Around the World – to Thailand, India, the Middle East, France, and Italy! The foods from these countries were soooo yummy that we couldn’t just stop there – so we decided to ramp things up a bit and go around one more time (but this time, in first class!). This week, our young chefs were challenged with some of the most complicated dishes from around the globe. The ingredients that our young chefs learned to prepare were challenging, and the flavours that they produced were impressive. The skills and techniques they’ve learned this week will allow them to cook their families some delicious (and nutritious) meals, introduce them to unique flavours, and teach them about the many cultures around the world!

Day 1: We definitely didn’t sugar coat (no pun intended) the first day of camp … Instead, we jumped straight to making these amazing dishes:

  • Traditional Spanish Paella prepared with mussels and chicken legs;
  • Tortilla Espanola which is a delicious Spanish potato and egg “frittata”; and
  • Miguelitos, which I cannot pronounce for the life of me, but these puff pastry treats taste so delicious, it doesn’t really matter!.

To start the day, the chefs put their cooking skills to the test by preparing a traditional Paella. They mastered the crispy rice (at the bottom of the pan) that is critical to achieving the BEST paella! Then, they devoured this dish full of mussels and chicken and packed with protein and iron (and of course, a TON of flavour).

Next up, our young chefs made a traditional tortilla Espanola – made with potatoes, onions, eggs, garlic, salt, and pepper. They gobbled up the frittata-like side dish with BIG smiles on their faces – they loved every bite! Thank goodness this dish is filled with nutrients from the whole eggs (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, protein, vitamin D, and vitamin A) and potatoes (fibre, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6). To boost the nutritional value a little more, try using different colours of potatoes (i.e. purple potatoes, sweet potatoes or white potatoes). You can also add in some other vegetables, like mushrooms, zucchini, or carrots, to add a little colour and some extra nutrients! Honestly, there are so many options – so, of course, I had to get some ideas from our very own culinary experts – our young chefs! So, without further ado, here are a few ideas for toppings and/or stuffing to add to your tortilla Espanola!

  • Parmesan, basil, zucchini
  • Mushrooms
  • Cheese, basil, parsley
  • Chives, basil
  • Rosemary, cayenne, cheese
  • Goat cheese, tomato
  • Ham, cheese, bacon, zucchini
  • Chives, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes
  • Chef Kenzie: ricotta cheese, roasted tomatoes, and grilled/roasted chicken!

These are certainly some DELICIOUS suggestions, and I hope you try them out with your young chef for a nutrient-packed side dish, breakfast, or afternoon snack!

In the afternoon, our young chefs finished off the day with a sweet treat – Miguelitos! This dessert is comprised of delicate sheets of puff pastry, layered with a lemon pastry cream filling (YUM). I would recommend adding some more nutrients to the dessert by pairing it with your favourite fruits and/or nuts. Try dipping the Miguelitos in a berry sauce, blending bananas into the pastry cream, topping the pastry with toasted nuts, or combining trail mix with the pastry cream for a little crunch! After a long day of cooking, our young chefs went home for the night (with full stomachs and happy smiles) and came back on day two ready to travel to another country – Italy!

On Day 2, our young chefs were over the moon to be travelling to Italy – the world of pasta and pizza (and a bunch of cheesy goodness!). On our trip to Italy, our young chefs enjoyed a delicious Ravioli stuffed with ground beef, spinach, and parmesan, and a homemade tomato-basil pasta sauce! For their afternoon take-home sweet, our young chefs were treated to some rich and creamy homemade Cannolis. Our cannolis featured a light (yet rich and decadent) orange-ricotta filling – not too sweet, not too filling, but just perfect!! Our young chefs enjoyed making both the pasta dough and cannoli dough – and they absolutely LOVED eating the finished dishes!! Inspired by the cannolis (they’re such an easy yet impressive dessert to make), I challenged the chefs to come up with their very own nutritious spins on the classic cannoli filling. Once again, our young chefs didn’t fail to impress me with their yummy, nutrient-packed ideas…

  • Blueberries and walnuts
  • Cherries and pecans
  • Mixed berries
  • Mango ice cream (like the one served at pop up)
  • Strawberries and almonds
  • Mango chunks and pistachios
  • Maple and pecans
  • Strawberry jam, almonds, and blueberry jam
  • Apples and cinnamon
  • Strawberries and ricotta
  • Caramel apple
  • Chef Kenzie: Banana ricotta filling with toasted pecans, coconut, and almonds! The pureed banana will add enough sweetness to the ricotta cream filling – no sugar required!

I hope you try some (or all) of these suggestions at home! Not only will they make your tummy smile, but your whole body will be thanking you for the boost of vitamins and minerals!

Day 3 and 4 went by FAST – we travelled across the ocean to Mexico, then hopped on back over to China. We explored some of the best dishes from each country including: Empanadas, Guacamole with tortilla chips and Churros, Vegetable fried rice, vegetable gyoza, beef and broccoli stir fry, and Chinese egg sponge cake – YUM! Our young chefs devoured many of these dishes – especially the tortillas and guacamole (which would be a perfect filling after-school snack). Our guacamole recipe features an unusual ingredient that packs a punch of sweetness and adds an exciting pop of flavour – pomegranate seeds! A quarter cup of our guacamole provides a ton of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats – just take a look at some of these nutritional highlights:

  • 5g Monounsaturated fats
  • 8% Potassium
  • 17% Fibre
  • 9% Vitamin C
  • 8% Calcium

WOW – talk about a nutrient-rich snack! Pair this with some whole wheat tortillas, spread it on a slice of whole-grain toast, or use it as a vegetable dip for the perfect snack, side dish, or breakfast!

Day 5 arrived and we finally had the opportunity to show our families all the skills and techniques we learned throughout the week. Our chefs never fail to impress – and this week was certainly no exception. Our chefs served up a three-course meal which consisted of the following:

  • Cornbread with herb and garlic butter;
  • Jerk chicken with purple cabbage slaw and mango chutney; and
  • Mango sorbet enclosed in a coconut pavlova with raspberry sauce.

Our main course was balanced and packed with nutrition: the chicken was high in iron and protein, the cabbage slaw was packed with vitamin C, the brown rice was filled with fibre, and the mango chutney added a good dose of vitamin A. To finish off our meal, the dessert was both relatively low in sugar (in comparison to other dessert options), and was gluten-free AND dairy-free (BONUS!). The coconut pavlova with mango sorbet and raspberry sauce was a perfectly light and refreshing dish to finish off a rich and filling meal!

Our dinner guests loved the unique flavours of our menu items and they were overwhelmed by the beautiful plate presentations that our young chefs designed! Travelling around the world is one of the best ways to learn about food and culture. This week, we introduced our young chefs to just a few of the cuisines and cultures around the world – but there is SO MUCH MORE to discover! We hope we’ve inspired our young chefs to practice their new skills at home, continue to try new flavours, and serve their family and friends nutritious and delicious home-cooked meals! From all of us at Rooks to Cooks, we hope you have an amazing week packed with flavour, nutrients, and a whole lotta good FOOD!

** If you have 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 over to my personal blog at: thrivingonnature.wordpress.com