Tag Archives: cooking

ChocoBerries

These very elegant party strawberries are fit for a king as well as for your young birthday party guests. Easy to make, beautiful to serve, and healthy to boot! Great combination.

I use the pre-packaged hardening shell chocolate you find right in the fruit section of the supermarket. All you do is microwave and stir, repeat a few times, then dip your dry but clean berries and let them harden on some foil or wax paper. But if your market doesn’t have the microwaveable dip,  here’s an easy recipe to do it yourself.

These are of course the perfect birthday party food for your Strawberry Shortcake party, but they are equally perfect for your elegant princess party or tea party or spa party.

Have your birthday child cut out a big ‘snowflake’ to the size of your serving tray to make the berries look their best. Or, spring for a doily from the party store.

If your birthday is for pre-teens or tweens, let them make these from scratch (as per the recipe, not the microwaveable package), including all the berry washing. Also terrific as a slumber party cooking activity.

Pineapple chunks are also quite delicious dipped in chocolate– just make sure they are very dry before your coat them. Small pretzels too. Make an assortment to serve.

And do feel free to use these elegant chocolate covered fruits at your next adult party too– I’ve done it and they’re always a big hit.

Pretty party food always tastes best, and these chocolate covered strawberries make the top of the list  as elegant, beautiful and tasty.

Cooking with your Teen

CookingCooking together is a good way to do something together with and maybe even get into a conversation with your teenager. I was reminded of this by an article talking about a weekly, evening cooking activity where a group of teens got together with a chef to learn to cook.

Finding ways to spend meaningful and pleasant time with your teen  can be difficult. Time where one can always hope they talk with you. Cooking can be a relatively easy way to make this happen.

You can make helping out with dinner preparation once a week a requirementIt could be every other week. Blame your job or your other commitments- it doesn’t matter. If nothing else, requesting help when the teen would otherwise be sitting on the couch watching you work is certainly not an unreasonable request.

Or, get them involved on the pretext of one really nice meal during the otherwise “over-busy, not enough time to cook” work week. Obviously, you need help to do this.

Or, once a week you can work together to make a special ‘treat’ for the family. This approach has the benefit that it can be an evening making cookies, a Saturday afternoon making pie. It’s not just limited to the already busy dinner hour.

The point here is to make this a cooperative, enjoyable activity, no matter which excuse you use to get them cooking with you on a regular basis,. The fact that your teen learns how to make an omelet or pizza is a nice side benefit to working together toward a common goal and having some fun together. Working cooperatively with a parent can be a big deal all by itself.

So try cooking with your teen as a way to establish a different kind of rapport with your child-a relationship more of equals than of parent and child. This parenting tip may just open up a whole new time and place for good communication between you.

Do you have anything to add about cooking with your teen or another good way to be together with your teen in a meaningful way that encourages conversation between you? Post it here as a comment for other parents to benefit from.

Mom Camp for School Breaks

Building SnowmanA simple yet brilliant idea from a  Florida mom for getting through those week long school breaks- think the upcoming Presidents Week and Spring Break.

For working parents these vacations can be a nightmare- can’t get the week off or just don’t have the resources to take it off unpaid or to pay to keep your children occupied all day for 5 days.

Co-operation can solve this problem. As suggested in the Kansas City Star blog, get 5 moms all with the same problem together and run a co-op camp for the kids. 5 moms probably yields 10-12 kids, a manageable number for one mom each day PROVIDED the activities are all planned out ahead of time.

Have a planning meeting/lunch/dinner and schedule out activities for each day, and each mom sign up for their day. Have everybody bring ideas with them to the meeting- remember that the internet and even the kids activities category here on this blog are great sources for things to do with kids.

Just to get you thinking in the right direction, here’s some quick ideas: have the kids make pizza for their lunch (including shaping the dough), snowman or igloo building contests, a complicated craft can take a good bit of time, board games like monopoly, a favorite movie complete with popcorn and sodas. And remember, vacation IS vacation and kids should have fun and they need time to just play.

Think 10-15 kids all day is too much for one person? Got any friends or aquaintances who are out of work and might relish some income? Or an active grandparent that would love the chance to be helpful, be with children and make a few bucks? Spread between all the 5 moms in the co-op group, one extra person for a week would probably be way cheaper than the alternative of sending the kids to some expensive week long activity camp.

This is the kind of community thinking that sadly seems to have disappeared from American life- gone the way of the barn raising. But it still works to help us all get done what needs to be done. In this case, it can keep those school breaks from breaking the bank.

Make Apple Cider

I had a delightful dog walk this morning in the woods, and enjoying today’s lovely fall weather got me thinking autumn and that led me to apple cider.

Take advantage of the best apples of the year in the fall and have the kids make apple cider as one of your activities at your fall birthday celebration. It’s a good smooshy, messy activity that even the boys will enjoy.

No cider press needed, just your blender, cheesecloth, and (if you’ve got one) your apple corer/peeler. And if you DON’T have a peeler-corer, I HIGHLY recommend buying one: it’s a very worthwhile investment for your own use, not just for making cider, and a reasonable one at around $20. The kids LOVE peeling their apples with these things, and that of course gets them to eat the apples for better  nutrition than the usual snack food. Using your peeler-corer will also make the cider making birthday party activity that much more fun for the kids.

[DISCLOSURE: If you make a purchase through the link on this page, I make a commission from Amazon. Seems reasonable to me…..]

Back to cider making. It’s best to get your fresh apples at the orchard or the farmers market, but if that’s not possible just choose damage free apples of varying types for your cider.  Here’s a good overview of different types of apples and proportions of sweet to tart, that you can choose from. Figure 36 apples per gallon of cider.

Have your apples all washed before the party. Core but don’t peel, cut out any damage with the end of a potato peeler (safer for kids than a knife), slice and finely puree the apples in the blender. If using the peeler-corer, just add the peel to the blender. Pour the pureed apples into several layers of cheesecloth and squeeze it multiple times into a big container. Each party guest should do maybe 6 apples.

Once all ‘squozen’ you can add a little spice such as cloves, nutmeg, lemon peel and/or ginger, or leave it naked. Perhaps have a bit of all of the above for the kids to add by tiny pinch to their own drinks.

Kids love apple juice, and they love to smoosh things up, so making apple cider this way will be enjoyed by all.

Dora And Diego Cook

Cooking with Dora and Diego

Dora And Diego Cook Give a gift of quality time with mom in the kitchen while learning that eating healthy can be eating tasty and fun. Picking up some Spanish along the way is a neat bonus.

From the Nickelodeon creators of the very popular Dora the Explorer series, this kids cookbook will have your gift recipient measuring, shaping, decorating and stirring 50 super tasty recipes made with healthful ingredients with enticing names such as Fiesta Trio Frittata,  Jump Across the River Rocks, and Backpack’s Salad Bundles. They’ll have to make these just to satisfy their curiosity about the names!

You can feel good about giving a child a cookbook as a gift – cooking is actually a very skill building activity. Recipes have to be read, directions followed, scientific concepts explored (i.e. baking, boiling), and arithmetic used.

Specifically designed for kids age 4 to 8, the books 128 pages include 50 recipes each with a full color photograph to get the kids interested. Healthful ingredients are emphasized throughout- low fat dairy, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains. It’s NEVER too early to start teaching about healthful eating.

Also included are quite a few Latin inspired recipes, which aside from being tasty allow for the introduction of Spanish words and phrases the kids can learn.

At $12 on Amazon at the time of this writing, this book makes an inexpensive yet interesting birthday party gift that teaches and sets the stage for quality time in the kitchen with Mom or Dad. It’s a kids gift you can be proud to give to friends, or as a gift to your own bookshelf for quality time with your own child and a source of fun on those long, rainy afternoons.

Lemons for Lemonade

LemonadeIt’s been a VERY hot summer here and in much of the US, so even just the thought of a tall, cool glass of lemonade is refreshing. That goes for kids too- they play hard at your summer parties and they need to hydrate. Lemonade is a perfect summer drink to serve at your party, and you can engage the kids  and keep them busy for a bit of time by having them make it up themselves.  What could be better than having the kids make and serve up their own snacks!

Set up an outdoor table (that can get wet because they WILL spill) with a pretty tablecloth. Borrow a whole bunch of juicer’s from neighbors and friends so you have plenty for the kids to use. Buy LOTS of lemons – I find they’re juicier if they’re just a bit squeezable rather than rock hard. The lemons are also easier to juice if you roll them on a hard surface with pressure from the flat of your hand before you cut them in half to juice them. The only other things you need are sugar, ice for the glasses, a pitcher and cups for the kids to drink from.

As recommended for making the tastiest lemonade, make your sugar syrup ahead of time: dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of HOT water.

For every cup of sugar syrup, the kids need to squeeze 1 cup of lemon juice. Give them several measuring cups so they can do the measuring themselves. Let them experiment with the proportions, but I’d suggest putting a card on the table advising them to use 1 cup of sugar syrup to 1 cup of lemon juice.

Mix it up and have a few limes for them to squeeze too.

Earth Friendly Feasting

RecycleYou CAN have an eco-friendly party without depriving anybody of anything on that special day.

My thanks to mygloss.com for pointing me in this direction with their article by Sophie Uliano, the NYTimes best-selling author of Gorgeously Green.

Quite obviously, the place to start is with all that paper and plastic we all use for serving the childrens party food. Let’s face it, nobody’s going to use their good china, or even their not very good china, with a bunch of rowdy kids. But there are now some good alternatives to both the paper/plastic route and the broken china route.

First off, use cloth not paper napkins. Either invest in some inexpensive but fun and colorful ones that you’ll use all the time at home with your own kids, or dredge up all the ones you’ve got around and don’t give a second thought to the fact that they don’t match- do you really think the kids will care?

Same for your tablecloth- got an old sheet that they can write on or a colorful printed one that would look festive? Or you can have your party guests create your table covering by making big drawings (related to your party theme if you wish) on newsprint that you’ll then have a helper tape together to create your table covering.

And here’s my favorite green tip- using these ‘On the Go’ plastic plates and cups that are made out of recycled yogurt cups. Have some educational fun and tell the kids the story behind their tableware and how maybe even one of the yogurt containers they put into their reclycling bin might be part of their plate! These are reasonably priced, colorful and fun, and can be washed and re-used many times so they’re a good value.

When it comes to doing things in an earth-friendly manner, every little bit helps. The big bonus here is the story behind the plates that can get the kids thinking about being green too – I really like that. So serve up your childrens party food in a green fashion, and pass it on!

Fruiti Sushi

SushiThe good folks at Betty Crocker have come up with a candy party sushi that’s very easy to make, very festive and colorful and perfect for a preteen or older elementary school party set. All it takes are fruit roll-up for the wrappers, Rice Chex cereal + vanilla baking chips + gummy worms for the sushi filling.

I would suggest that these are too cute and too sweet and too sugar high inducing to just put out and let the kids go at them. But why not make them ahead of time and use them as prizes for any games you include at your birthday party? Or send 3 or 4 of them home wrapped up all pretty as your party favor.

If your party is for preteens, who are old enough to follow directions and be in your kitchen, these are easy enough that they can make them themselves. The only ‘time consuming’ part of the recipe is microwaving the chips and letting them stand for 10 or 15 minutes once assembled. So they don’t eat them all once they’re ready, have colored cellophane and curly ribbon and cardboard for underneath so they can wrap them up all pretty to take home- and be busy doing the wrapping. This would be a good activity for early on in a slumber party.

Children’s party food that’s not just fun to look at and eat but that can be part of your party activities is the best. Always remember that an edible treat can make a great prize, that costs very little and isn’t very likely to cause hard feeling among the losers.

Dress the Part(y)

Dress Up MomJoin your birthday child at their own level for their next birthday party. Don’t just be the party slave or the bad cop, BE your kids party theme.

Having a cooking party? Don that big white chefs’ hat, the white coat and the checked pants to become a key ingredient to your party.

Doing a pirate themed birthday party? One eye patch, the black and white striped shirt plus a “Mom” heart tattoo on your arm and some dirt on your face and you’ll be as swashbuckling as the kids.

For a detective or mystery party, get that raincoat and a fedora with your notepad and flashlight. A red clown nose, whiteface makeup, baggy pants with colorful suspenders and a squirting flower will make you a star at your circus themed party.

The helmet and jersey over the shoulder pads, or the cap, shirt and socks for a sports themed party puts you right in the game. The clipboard, sunhat and shorts, plus the whistle on the lanyard turns you into the camp counselor for your camping birthday party.

The variations on this theme are many, and you get the idea. Dig in the attic, borrow from friends, hit the thrift store or the on-line stores like Oriental Trading, and with a little up-front planning it won’t be hard to find what you need.

Dressing the part for your next themed birthday party puts you squarely into the party instead of being a bystander to all the fun. Provided your child isn’t yet of the age where everything you do is embarrassing, you’ll be a star to your child and mighty cool to his or her friends.  You’ll have great photo memories and one more special bond between you and your child.

Aprons

Aprons to Go

ApronsAnother addition to our collection of ideas for a cooking party theme – aprons to decorate, to take home, and to really use when there’s a messy activity going on. This apron decorating kit is very reasonably priced, includes 8 aprons + gel pens for the decorating.

Aprons have many uses so this is actually a substantial birthday party favor that will get used again and again. So you might want to consider, if your budget permits, using a good quality, kid sized apron such as can be found at kng (a restaurant supply vendor) where white aprons will run you under $3 each (plus S&H, as of this writing).

If you opt for the better quality apron, you’ll need to supply the decorating materials. I’d recommend fabric paints and/or fabric markers from the craft store. A nice touch would be to paint each apron with something like “Cookin’ on Megan’s Birthday” so it’s always a keepsake, and they can then decorate as well. Or, paint in each child’s name for them so it’s really looks nice and they can then decorate as they choose.

A party craft activity that gives you a nice take home party favor is a win-win. Having that take-home be something that will actually get used, perhaps for cooking or perhaps for some other messy activity, is even better. It’s a hat trick!