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!!