Sunday, May 21, 2017

Food Revolution Kids Can Cook Brunch...

It's that time of year I always look forward to... Food Revolution Day, an annual themed good and real food celebration taking place world-wide the third Friday in May. However, the official Food Revolution Day on a global scale has been postponed until later this year. The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, called a snap general election to take place on June 8th, just two weeks after our intended Food Revolution Day. For many political and press reasons, we know this timing isn’t right to have the impact we (ambassadors) want and for Jamie Oliver to make big noise about child obesity policies that best benefit children's health. As our Food Revolution campaign is year-round, many of us still held events while postponing some others until we get the new date. 

For me, while I do enjoy large events to have a greater reach with our universal message (eat real food, get back in the kitchen to cook and food education), I believe intimate, smaller-scale ones are just as if not more impactful. There is better engagement and personable interaction which is harder to come by in a big event. This year, I'm deferring a few school events and held a kids cooking session with my three young boys and their cousins. They did everything from washing, prepping, slicing, chopping, and cooking for the most part with us parents supervising. We made brunch with recipes inspired by Jamie Oliver-- blueberry pancakes and customized omelets. Instead of fruit juice or vitamin water which are loaded with sugar and other stuff, we made real fruit-infused water for a refreshing drink. Now let the cook-off begin! :D

I asked the kids, "What are you cooking with today?"

Instructions first. Ready set go... 


Chopping and slicing...

IKEA has an amazing SMABIT kid-friendly knife and peeler set.

These five-year old cousins were in charge of measuring, pouring and whisking up blueberry pancakes.

It's all about breaking the eggs and whisking. Taking turns to make a big batch!

Wiping the earth off mushrooms, while explaining why you must never wash them-- 
gets water-logged that diminishes flavour and texture. The adults were surprised at this too.

It's a whole family affair!

How to cook pancakes...

Lay cooked pancakes on a heightened rack to keep crisp and not soggy.

Grate that cheese- but carefully!

My dad imparting safety chopping techniques.

Customizing omelets from a selection of meat and veggie fillings! 

Individual omelet making! Cooking the selected filling and then encasing in cooked egg crepe.

Mom and Uncle Quan getting in the action! Quan put banana slices 
in his omelet, and he said it was different and sweet-good at the end. Why not? :D

Preparing a variety of fresh fruit for real fruit-infused water.

I just love seeing kids build knife skills confidence holding a real but safe sharp knife.

Make-your-own real fruit water station with tap & carbonated & coconut waters or combo as a base.

Beautifully vibrant, fresh and delish!

To make the most of the fruits' flavours in cold water, crush the fruits in glass or pitcher with spoon or fork, and/or let meld for two hours before serving.

Much better than sugar-laden commercial soda and fruit drinks.

Enjoying the fruits of their labour- literally!

Omelet served with hot salsa sauce, and a yummy real mixed fruit beverage. YUM!

What a great day with the family cooking together and forgetting all else for a while. Hearing that the kids had so much fun, and some saying that they don't usually eat omelets but will now because they really liked making and eating it, or liking the fresh fruit water was music to my ears. We will definitely be doing this again with the extended fam. Cooking is a necessary life skill, a rite of passage and opens up a whole world of eating healthily and discovering new tastes. Starting them young is key. The core of cooking is the knife-- get your kids in the kitchen early, teach them how to use it and they will never lose it! 

It's been proven, that kids enjoy cooking given the chance. Throw caution in the wind, let it go and let your kids cook with you. Before you know it, they will be trying new foods, getting creative and helping to bring a positive and healthy attitude to the family table.
You guys were Super Awesome! So proud of you all! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Organic Farming Experiential Program at YMCA...

I was thrilled to accompany Northview Heights Secondary School's grade 12 culinary program teachers and students on their field trip to YMCA Cedar Glen in Schomberg (one hour north from downtown Toronto), to enjoy one of YMCA's outdoor experiential programs of organic farming. Ministry of Education's Student's Success/Learning to 18 Strategic Policy branch has mandated a toolkit for Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) enrolled students, called I.C.E. - innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Northview chose Cedar Glen as the community partner and worked with them to come up with solutions to a problem. As the practical activity to the class theory on growing food to complete Gear 3 of the I.C.E. toolkit, program head Chef Dimitra K. organized for her students to get hands-on at a real farm for a 360 experience. They've already come in October to help in the harvest and to enjoy the farm-to-fork produce for lunch in the centre's cafeteria. Now, they're returning in the spring to see the front end- to be part of how it all starts and grows. Connecting with nature and mother earth, and planting seeds for the food future is beyond exhilarating! 

Teaching kids cooking and life skills at Northview, making everything from scratch right down to pastry and ketchup, their culinary program is a poster child for everything Food Revolution stands for (two years ago, they held my massive event of 1500 participants with Jamie Oliver joining in via video-conf). Their 400 + enrolled grades 10 to 12 students along with teachers, program assistants and student volunteers cook everything from scratch every day to make the lunch meals served in the school cafeteria — now up to 1700 students! And their culinary program is hands-down amazing with a frequently updated student food blog to showcase all the great work! I have a continual relationship with their culinary curriculum and I am always excited to be there to capture their amazing advocacy for "real" field education beyond the classroom. Props to the incredible department of dedicated teachers!

Northview's SHSM is partnered with Food Share and the community HUB to work on the school grounds garden connected with the HUB space. They partner to teach youth how to start a garden, grow and manage their garden, and then benefit from the produce!

HUB Space adjacent to Northview School.

Getting the low down on the exercise out on the field today.

Grabbing our farming tools of rakes and shovels and off we march to the field.
It was a beautiful but extremely windy day out there... Hang on to our hats!

Preparing the seed bed for growing.

Turning the soil for aeration with a rake.

Planting oats!

Farming is a lot of work. A great work out for your muscles! 

Digging deeper to prepare for planting onions and potatoes. Then over goes some compost.

Onions are planted from bulbs!

Can you guess what these are?

Banana Fingerling Potatoes!

Russet Potatoes!


Getting instructions to plant kale.

Balmy in the greenhouse!

Culinary Program Instructors Chef Dimitra K. and Janet.

Preparing the soil for seedling planters. We've got cucumbers and zucchini.

Plant pointy seed side down!

The dynamic culinary program of students graduating this year! More than half are going to pursue a food career and continuing their studies at a college. I wish you all the best of luck!

The breathtaking panoramic view from the YMCA cafeteria during lunch.
In the fall, the colours and foliage is even more exquisite!

Located in beautiful surroundings, YMCA Outdoor Centres create meaningful group experiences fostering personal growth, skill development and teamwork especially to support youth, educational and community organizations. Leaving the classroom behind and getting outdoors allows students to learn, strengthen and create memories that will last a lifetime with experiential learning activities! With farming, its the best kind of real food education ever!