Bits and Bites: Nutrition News from Summer Camp Week 4: Around the World

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

Last week we were treated to a little bit of sweet and a little bit of savoury goodness! This week, we surprised our taste buds with a bunch of new and exciting flavours from all over the globe! This week’s theme was “Around the World” – and we weren’t kidding when we said we’d be experiencing some of the world’s BEST flavours! We shared our favourite recipes from around the world, and we brought in some authentic ingredients to really make the international flavours pop!

On Day 1, we started out strong and travelled to Thailand. I was fortunate enough to go to Thailand in March of this year, and these recipes really took me back to the authentic flavours that I tasted on my travels. To be honest, no other restaurant in Toronto has been able to remind me of the delicious sweet-sour-spicy flavours of Thailand as much as our own camp recipes did. So, of course, I was beyond excited to give our young chef’s a little taste of Thailand. It was not much of a surprise that our young chefs LOVED their lunches! Our chefs cooked up a creamy coconut yellow Thai curry, paired with an authentic “street-style” pad Thai. We served both dishes with rice and noodles to make a complete (and healthy) meal. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Each recipe contained a TON of nutrients from a variety of vegetables, healthy fats, and soy protein.
  • The curry provides a big dose of manganese (which promotes liver health and assists with vitamin absorption).
  • The pad Thai was decorated with colours and packed with vitamins: carrots (vitamin A), zucchini (vitamin C, vitamin B6), red pepper (vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6), and tofu (protein, iron, calcium).

Our young chefs slurped up the pad Thai noodles and creamy curry and finished the day off strong with plenty of energy!

In the afternoon, they went to work cooking up a sweet pot of coconut mango sticky rice. Many of them had never tried it before but were impressed by its sweet and fruity flavours. Inspired by their enthusiasm for the famous Thai dessert, I challenged our young chefs to think of some of their own sticky rice toppings (other than mango). So, without further ado … Here are their delicious (and nutritious) topping recommendations:

  • Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and banana slices
  • Passionfruit and diced peaches
  • Orange, grapefruit, and pineapple
  • Mulberries
  • Peanuts
  • Grilled pineapple
  • Coconut flakes and marzipan
  • Cashews, toasted coconut flakes, and passionfruit sauce
  • Peanuts, chocolate shavings, and toasted coconut
  • Blueberries, banana slices, and toasted coconut
  • Chef Rebecca: pomegranate seeds.
  • Chef Kenzie: Serve the sticky rice inside of a grilled peach (with the pit removed). Top with your favourite roasted nut or seed.

On Day 2, our young chefs arrived at camp with big smiles and hungry stomachs – they couldn’t wait to discover a new cuisine and try out some new food! We weren’t travelling far from Thailand, but we were entering into another spice-filled cuisine. Of course, I’m talking about India! Indian food isn’t typically a favourite with children, but we knew that if our young chefs gave our recipes a chance, they would discover the delicious flavours of India!

We kicked off the day with making some traditional samosas from scratch – the dough AND the filling. Our young chefs loved rolling out the dough and forming the samosas into beautiful little bites. Next up was a tikka masala (because how could we travel to India without tasting one of their most famous dishes?). Once again, our young chefs loved making this complicated meal, and they especially liked the strong aromatics coming from their pots. By 12 noon, we had finished preparing both dishes, and we were all eager to give them a try. Finally, we all took a breather to sit down and enjoy a home-cooked Indian meal – and boy was it GOOOOD! Our young chefs loved both recipes, but they couldn’t get enough of those addicting samosas. Thank goodness they were packed with nutrients, because they ate up those bite-sized treats so quickly, we couldn’t save enough to take home (don’t worry though, I’m sure your young chef would be more than happy to make you another full batch… or three…)! A serving of two of samosas packs in so much flavour and so many nutrients (plus they’re easy to make, freeze, and reheat on-the-go). Just take a look at these impressive nutritional highlights:

Samosa Dough:

  • 6% fibre
  • 9% protein
  • 9% iron

Samosa Filling:

  • 13% potassium
  • 13% fibre
  • 7% protein
  • 34% vitamin C
  • 7% iron

Together, these samosas are a great source of protein, fibre, and iron! They would be a perfect quick-and-easy lunch or after school snack. Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt to tone down the spice (and add a bit of calcium) and you’re all set! Quite honestly, any sort of “dumpling” (a filling wrapped in dough, or a filling combined with a starch – like gnocchi or vegetable dumplings found in soup) is a great option for a quick and healthy after school snack. After seeing how much our young chefs loved the samosas, I challenged them to think of some other types of dumplings that they could have for a fun bite-sized after-school treat. I was shocked by their suggestions – they were wild, creative, and sounded absolutely delicious:

  • Spinach and feta cheese
  • Sweet “berry pie filling” – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries
  • Broccoli and chickpeas (sort of like falafel, but inside of a samosa – yum!)
  • Chicken and carrot
  • Beef, tomatoes, tofu, and mushrooms
  • Sweet “peach pie filling” – roasted peaches, caramel sauce, and pecans
  • Sweet “apple pie” filling – cinnamon and sautéed apples
  • Chickpeas, assorted Mediterranean spices, and carrots
  • Chef Rebecca: mushrooms.
  • Chef Kenzie: sweet potato pecan pie filling (sweet potatoes mashed with a brown sugar and butter sauce, stirred with toasted pecan bits). TIP: If you don’t have a deep fryer, simply brush the samosas in a little oil and pop them in the oven at 450F for about 10 minutes, or until crisp.

After devouring all the samosas, and the whole batch of tikka masala, our young chefs arrived on Day 3 ready to tackle some more difficult, international dishes. Day 3 featured some of my personal favourites – Persian stuffed peppers, Rooks to Cooks’ signature falafel, and a delicious homemade rugelach (a rolled pastry with a yummy jam filling, topped with brown sugar and cinnamon). For lunch, our young chefs enjoyed the Persian stuffed peppers and homemade falafel. Together, these two dishes made a well-balanced meal with plenty of protein (from the ground beef and chickpeas), complex carbohydrates (from the brown rice and chickpeas), and fibre (again, from the brown rice, chickpeas, and red pepper) – YUM! But, let’s not forget the hummus we made on Monday! We served this alongside our peppers and falafel for a creamy dip, AND a great way to add in some much-needed healthy fats. Really quickly, I’ll go over the nutritional information for the falafel (TIP: you can pan fry the falafel in vegetable oil OR brush with vegetable oil and bake in a 400F oven for about 10 minutes, or until browned and cooked through).

For one serving of falafel, (our recipe yields TWO servings) you get:

  • 14% daily fibre intake
  • 26% daily protein intake
  • 26% daily vitamin A intake
  • 39% daily vitamin C intake
  • 31% daily calcium intake
  • 10% daily iron intake
  • 9% daily potassium intake

Woah – that’s a nutrition BLAST! Such a quick and easy way to pack in flavour, without skimping on the nutrients! One of the key ingredients in the falafel is, of course, the chickpeas. Chickpeas are super high in protein, fibre, phosphorus, folate, copper, and manganese! Not only that – chickpeas are also SUPER versatile. My last nutrition challenge for our young chefs was to think of some other ways to use chickpeas. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but they certainly had some creative ideas to share:

  • Hummus with assorted veggies
  • Split pea soup
  • Hummus on toasted pita bread
  • Chickpea curry
  • Chickpea salad
  • Naan bread wrap with hummus and chickpeas
  • Vanilla ice cream topped with roasted cinnamon chickpeas
  • Chef Rebecca: chickpea burger
  • Chef Kenzie: chickpea flour pizza crust (gluten free!) with sundried tomatoes, basil, feta cheese, and chicken

Day 4 and Day 5 went by without a hitch. The young chefs loved travelling to France where they learned how to cook a delicious quiche, the classic coq au vin, creamy potato gratin, and decadent creme caramel. Then, on to Italy where they learned how to make from-scratch pasta dough, homemade ricotta cheese, Caesar salad dressing and homemade focaccia. I think it’s pretty safe to say that our young chefs ate SUPER well this week. Not only did they gobble up every bite during lunch time, but they also were fueling their bodies with the energy and nutrients they needed to make it through the day. Our chefs tried new foods from around the globe and discovered new cuisines that they really loved!

Continue to encourage your young chef to try out new foods, be adventurous in the kitchen, and learn about cultures by tasting international food! I’ve learned SO MUCH from travelling around different countries, and I’ve discovered that the world truly has so many unique flavours to offer. Eating a variety of foods keeps your body healthy (by ensuring it receives a wide variety of nutrients), keeps your taste buds happy, and brings family and friends together to build relationships and make memories. From all of us at Rooks to Cooks, we hope you continue to make these amazing flavour-filled memories in your own homes – and we can’t wait to cook with 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 & Bites: Nutrition News from Summer Camp Week 3: Sweet & Savoury Sr.!

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

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

Homemade hamburger buns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empanadas 🙂

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

Icing:

  • Use your favourite buttercream icing! 

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

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

Topping ideas:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Chef Kenzie Osborne, Rooks to Cooks

One of our Budding Bakers!

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

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

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

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

1. Vanilla Cake

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

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

2. Lemon Tart

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

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

2. Mixed Berry Sorbet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what you “knead” to know!

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

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

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

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

Photo by Kailee Mandel

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

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

Photo: courtesy of Sports Camps Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Egg & Potato Omelette)

Yield: 6-8 Servings

Spanish Egg & Potato Omelette

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

ABOUT SPORTS CAMPS CANADA:

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