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