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