Contributor: Kenzie Osborne, Sous Chef @ Rooks to Cooks

Victoria day is right around the corner, and we’re not ones to shy away from showing our love! The long weekend is the perfect opportunity to show your family just how much you love and appreciate them – and what better way to share your love than through delicious food? From decadent desserts to early morning bed-in-breakfast specials, there are so many yummy ways to show your loved ones you care. Even better, the kids can get creative in the kitchen, come up with cute food decorations, and have fun making their own unique culinary masterpieces!

One of my favourite things to do as a kid was bake with family and friends. It was one time when playing with food, eating with your hands, and sneaking a few bites of cookie dough was allowed. Growing up, my parents and I would spend Saturday mornings trying out new crepe and pancake recipes (like apple pie crepes or blueberry chocolate chip pancakes – YUM), and we’d spend Sunday afternoons experimenting with decadent chocolate desserts (like triple chocolate cheesecake and gluten free fudge brownies – YES!)! Not only did these recipes taste AMAZING, but the process of preparing, baking, and eating the food always brought my parents and I closer together.

In addition to spending time cooking together in the kitchen on weekends, my parents kept their kitchen skills sharp (pun intended) by cooking up some delicious weekday family meals. They’d always make sure we had delicious (and healthy) meals to fuel our bodies for our after-school activities. From homemade zucchini lasagna to black bean enchiladas to sweet and sour fish – there was always something full of nutrients that would be sure to put a smile on our faces. Whenever there was a celebration, my parents would spend hours decorating the cutest cakes (which inevitably had little lego characters all around) for us to gobble up! Clearly, there were so many memories made in the kitchen, and so much love shared. Now, if I’m going to be honest, the culinary ideas in this post will never quite match up to mom-and-dad’s good ol’ cooking – but we’ve done our best, and your family is sure to love our little treats!

These cute dessert ideas are inspired by some classic favourite combos: breakfast and dessert mash-ups, healthy-twists on indulgent sweets, and decadent chocolate treats. This Victoria Day, instead of sticking with making your family a typical pancake breakfast, overly sweet desserts, or boring chocolate cupcakes, try out one (or two, or three) of these ideas to make things a little more interesting! Getting eager to impress your family and show them your love? Then let’s get going with these creative spring-inspired ideas!

We’ll start with a decadent brunch fit for royalty! This is my personal favourite sweet and indulgent “healthier” dessert and breakfast mash-up. It’s easy to make, has naturally sweet fruit, contains no added sugars, and has a good dose of protein from the Greek yogurt and almonds! This Victoria Day, try out this cute idea to treat your family to a delicious sweet with a nutritious punch!

Berry ‘N Banana Parfait

What you’ll need… (Yield = 4 Servings)

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup strawberries, blended or small dice (can substitute any berry)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup toasted oats
  • ¼ cup toasted almonds (or your favourite nut)
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup honey
  • One serving of your favourite pancake recipe!

What you’ll do…

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix 2 cups Greek yogurt, 1 cup fresh strawberries (blended or small dice), and 2 cups of whipping cream. Using a whisk, whip the two together until a medium-peak forms.
  2. Next, put ¼ cup butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, toss in four bananas (sliced) and caramelize until nice and brown.
  3. Lastly, mix together 1 tbsp of chocolate chips (dark, milk, or white), 1 tbsp toasted oats, 1 tbsp toasted almonds (chopped), 1 tbsp roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and 1 tbsp melted honey.
  4. To assemble: Grab 4 nice parfait cups, champagne glasses, or wine glasses. Fill each glass a quarter way full with the whipped strawberry yogurt. Place one layer of the banana slices on top of the whipped yogurt. Place approximately 1 tbsp. of the granola mixture on top of the caramelized bananas. Repeat the same order (strawberry whipped yogurt, bananas, granola) four more times, or until the glass is full. Finally, top with fresh strawberry slices, chocolate drizzle, or extra almonds, if desired.
  5. Serving idea: Prepare regular mini (2-inch diameter) pancakes on a regular pancake griddle or bake the pancake batter in mini muffin tins and stuff with a piece of chocolate (for an ooey, gooey chocolate stuffed pancake bite). Arrange the mini pancakes or pancake bites in a circle on a plate. Place the parfait in the middle and serve up! Your family will love the creative breakfast-and-dessert mash-up (PLUS – there’s plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats to fuel the rest of the day!)

The next delightful culinary creation is a little on the “lighter” side – but don’t fret, it’s definitely NOT light in flavour. This combination really isn’t too difficult to throw together, but it uses fresh, seasonal ingredients and vibrant spring colours to make a real show-stopping dessert! Better yet? It’s gluten-free, nut-free, and vegan – so no worrying about any dietary restrictions!

Extra Sweeeet Potato

What you’ll need… (Yield = 4 Servings)

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 cups toasted oats
  • ½ cup maple syrup (or honey)
  • ½ cup cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips
  • Optional toppings: nuts, seeds, berries, extra chocolate, etc.

What you’ll do…

  1. Start by roasting or microwaving the sweet potatoes until cooked through.
  2. Cut each one in half and flush the flesh with a fork.
  3. Caramelize four bananas (sliced) in ¼ cup of butter (or, leave it fresh – up to you!).
  4. Toast 2 cups of oats in the oven (350F) for about 10 minutes. Once toasted, toss in ½ cup of warmed maple syrup.
  5. Assembly: Place each sweet potato on a plate with the flesh facing up. Place one sliced, caramelized banana on top of each sweet potato. Top with ½ cup toasted oats, and 1 tbsp. cocoa nibs or chocolate chips.
  6. TIP: Feel free to add more cacao nibs (or dark chocolate chips), and any other toppings of choice – could be toasted nuts, seeds, fresh berries, chocolate drizzle, etc.

This last fun and unique recipe is our favourite (and we hope you agree). Of course, no family get-together is quite complete without a decadent and delicious dessert. Unfortunately, most of the desserts out there are far too sweet, and lack spring ingredients like fresh berries or flowers. This recipe incorporates an all-time classic favourite food – chocolate, with fresh spring berries AND flowers (yes, actual flowers!).

Flowers and Cream Chocolate Supreme

What you’ll need… (Yield = 4 Servings)

  • ~2 cups chocolate chips (amount needed varies based on size of chocolate cups)
  • 1 cup of strawberry chia jam (use your favourite recipe, or use the one we’ve recommended)
  • ~ 3 drops rose essential oil
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 orange, zested, then cut into supreme slices
  • ~ 3 drops orange blossom essential oil
  • Optional: rose petals (for serving)

What you’ll do…

  1. Start with making small dark chocolate (or milk chocolate, if preferred) balloon cups. Inflate balloons until the bottom resembles a good small bowl-shape. Meanwhile, melt 1.5 cups of chocolate over a double boiler (or in the microwave, stirring every 15 seconds). Dip the inflated balloons in the melted chocolate. Place the chocolate-coated balloons on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and let cool in the fridge until it is set. Pop the top of the balloon (carefully), and peel the balloon away from the chocolate.
  2. Make a strawberry chia jam – use this recipe – http://www.glutenfreeveganpantry.com/strawberry-chia-seed-jam-super-easy-sunday/ (or your favourite chia seed jam recipe). Add 3 drops of rose essential oil to 1 cup of the jam – the rose flavour shouldn’t be overpowering, but there should be a subtle floral flavour. Set aside until cooled and thickened.
  3. Whip 2 cups of whipping cream. Add the remaining ½ cup melted and cooled chocolate (either dark or milk chocolate). Add the zest of one orange, and 2 drops of orange blossom essential oil. Again, the orange blossom should be present, but it shouldn’t be overpowering. Set aside until the mousse is completely cooled and set at a stiff peak.
  4. Use the remainder of the orange to cut slices (preferably supreme – without the skin or membrane of the orange).
  5. Assembly: Place 2 tbsp of the chocolate orange mousse into one chocolate balloon cup. Add 1 tbsp of the strawberry chia jam, followed by 2 more tbsp of the chocolate orange mousse. Finally, top with 3 supremed orange slices and decorate with a final drizzle of chocolate (dark, milk, or white). TIP: To use leftovers, layer the orange chocolate mousse, strawberry jam, and more mousse into a small glass (pictured above). Top with extra plain whipped cream (sweetened to your liking), and serve up! This is a great option if you don’t have balloons to make the cups and to ensure you don’t waste any of the goodness you just made!
  6. Serve on a plate with a cute small spoon and a few rose petals (if you have them). If you’re extra adventurous, try piping a note saying “I Love You” or “Lots of Love” with melted chocolate on the plate!
  7. TIP: If you find the floral flavours are too strong, simply add a bit more of the original recipe (the jam or the mousse) to tone down the bitter floral notes.

And there you have it – three new ideas to surprise your family with this summer! Each of these recipes is sure to be a delicious bite AND pack a healthy punch! Use fresh, seasonal fruits to maximize flavour (and ensure a good dose of nutrients). These recipes will never match up to mom-and-dad’s famous meals, but there’s no doubt that they will show them your love and make the family-filled day extra special.

From all of us at Rooks to Cooks – Happy Victoria Day!!

About Kenzie Osborne: Kenzie is a student in the George Brown Culinary Nutrition program who is dedicated to developing healthy recipes that families can easily incorporate into their busy schedules. For Summer 2019, Kenzie will be working at Rooks to Cooks as a cooking instructor at the East York Danforth Camp location. She has previously worked as an assistant student researcher to create, write, and test recipes that are healthy, kid-friendly, and budget-friendly. She loves promoting health and nutrition, and hopes to encourage families to spend more time bonding in the kitchen and cooking up some delicious, nutritious treats! If you want to learn a little more about Kenzie, check out her blog at https://thrivingonnature.wordpress.com