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