Dressed-Up Kid Foods Make Great Holiday Snacks and Sides
With these twists, regular kid foods become perfect holiday bites everyone will love.
By Lorraine Allen
Hosting a holiday get-together with kids and family can be a challenge, even if it’s cheerful, festive, and fun. There’s so much to prepare, arrange, and so much we want to offer our guests, not the least of which is a nice meal or some delicious snacks. Here to make the holidays easier and even tastier are some simple ways to alter your kids’ favorite foods with a few twists and extra-special ingredients:
1. A mac & cheese casserole to remember: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cook one pound of dry pasta shapes of your choice (I think the large shells or curly rotini are pretty, personally), until about 3 minutes before the box says they’ll be done. Drain and mix with 1½ cups each of shredded Gruyere cheese and regular Swiss cheese, ½ cup of milk, and 2 tablespoons butter. Pour into a buttered dish, top with breadcrumbs and a light sprinkling of finely chopped rosemary, and bake about 15 to20 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. To be extra fancy, you can also bake and serve this in mini oven-safe ramekins for a beautiful, personalized presentation. Yum!
2. Moroccan-spiced meatballs: Everyone loves meatballs, and you can make these as a main course, for a fancy meal, or in mini versions to be served as bite-sized appetizers with dipping sauce on the side. To prepare, simply substitute ground lamb for your usual beef, pork or chicken. For each pound of lamb, mix in one teaspoon each ground sweet paprika, cumin and coriander. Add half a finely chopped onion, two mined garlic cloves, and a handful each of chopped fresh parsley and cilantro to the mix, as well as one egg to bind everything together. Form meatballs in whatever size you wish, large or small, and simmer in a light tomato sauce, stirring occasionally, until cooked through.
3. Pigs-in-fancy-blankets: To dress up this perennial kid-favorite finger food, chop up some fresh herbs such as thyme and sage, then sprinkle and gently roll these into the pastry dough before wrapping your little piggies up, and baking them. You can also use some fancier little sausages instead of regular hot dogs for added flavor. For special dipping sauces, offer up some warmed, jarred tomato sauce in a dish instead of just ketchup, and some herb mustard in a second dish.
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4. Loaded pretzel bites: Instead of putting out a bowl or regular dry pretzels, get the thick, stick-shaped version and wrap these in thinly sliced prosciutto ham and / or cheese, such as American. These salty, meaty, cheesy bites take this dry old snack to a whole new level.
5. Spiced roasted baby carrots: Here’s a side or a snack that’s healthy, flavorful and extra special—but super simple to make. Instead of serving up raw, plain baby carrots, preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and toss carrots with a light drizzle of olive oil, salt pepper, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a dash of cumin. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes, turning halfway through, until lightly browned and slightly tender (but not too soft).
6. Pita chips with cucumber yogurt dip: Instead of standard potato or corn chips, make your own pita chips by simply cutting round pita pocket bread into triangles (slicing it like a pizza, basically.) Season with salt and pepper, and toast on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for just a few minutes. Serve with a refreshing dip made from 1 cup of plain yogurt, ¼ cup mayonnaise, one small grated cucumber, a squeeze of lemon, and a handful of chopped fresh mint or dill. Season with salt and pepper, and serve as a festive appetizer.
How do you dress up “kid food” for special occasions?
Lorraine is a freelance parenting and food writer, and she shares her cooking adventures and family recipes at FeedingLina.com. She lives in New York with her family and one squirrel-obsessed dog. Follow her @feedingLina.
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