Sometimes it's okay to play with your food!

Ideas from  Kas Winters, "The Mother of Family Ideas"

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Ideas in this column

Carve a Watermelon Fruit Bowl

Make Pizza Faces

Irish Fun with Food

•Make Cherry Tarts

•Yummy Turkey Munchies

Pumpkin Appetizer

Make a Fall Appetizer that's as much fun as it is tasty and good for you.




Start with a pumpkin. This example uses fresh broccoli for "hair", a carrot for a nose, mushrooms with black olives for eyes, cucumbers for cheeks, a cut piece of red pepper for lips and ears and assorted cherry tomatoes, carrot curls and more black olives. Of course, you can use your own creativity to design yours anyway you would like. The vegetables are held in place by sturdy round toothpicks. You can carve out the top to hold a small bowl of veggie dip or just place a container next to your "relish tray pumpkin".

Yummy Turkey Munchies



Use a small pie pumpkin as a turkey body and fill bamboo skewers with washed and cut veggies. We used cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and black olives in the example above, but you can mix and match vegetables any way you like. The turkey's neck is a carrot with a mushroom head and red bell pepper waddle. Eyes are small pieces of black olive and green bell pepper pieces create wings. Hold vegetables in place with sturdy round toothpicks.


For a sweeter version, use an apple body and make the tail feathers, wings and head with gum drops. Orange slices make perfect wings.

Carve a

Watermelon Fruit Bowl

Here is a summer idea that works about the same as carving a pumpkin. Your watermelon can be used in a horizontal or vertical position, just make sure it stands firmly. Begin by cutting it in half, or by cutting sections out to leave a handle for a basket design. Use a melon ball scoop to remove the melon fruit for a fruit salad. then scrape the sides of the melon clean. Instead of a straight edge, you can cut it decoratively with scallops or triangles.  Decorations can be carved through at the top or the bowl or on the handle where the fruit salad won't leak. You can also carve decorations partly into the rind so that the white shows in contrast to the dark green. Put your designs on paper and then tape the paper to the melon. Use a push pin, pushing it through the paper design, to mark the cutting lines with small holes. Cut carefully with a paring knife, craft knife or even wood or linoleum block carving tools. (Of course, this part is only for kids old enough to use a knife safely.) Most kids can use a melon ball scoop and a melon ball scoop carves great circles in large and small sizes. Fill the finished basket with fruit salad and garnish it with mint leaves and whole pieces of fresh fruit.


A baby buggy version.


Make Pizza Faces



Use English muffins for crusts and toast them slightly before you begin. Spread a layer of pizza sauce on top of each muffin. Sprinkle sauce with oregano or "pizza herbs". Put a slice of mozzarella cheese or a good amount of grated cheese on top on the sauce. Let children create faces with their favorite pizza toppings such as: black or green olives; red, green or yellow peppers, pepperoni or salami slices, mushrooms, sausage, onions, etc.


Irish Fun with Food!

Tie three green lollipops together to make a shamrock.

Make Cherry Tarts

Begin with ready-made graham cracker crust tart shells. Fill them with canned cherry pie filling and top with whipped cream.

    Even though the story of the cherry tree is a legend only, it makes a point about the character of George Washington. Use this as a starting point for a conversation. Invite each family member to contribute one piece of information about the life of George Washington.

Ideas in this column

Bake a Lamb Cake for Easter

•Bake a Heart-Shaped Cake

•Festive Veggie Wreath for Christmas

•Halloween Eyes

•Use Gumdrops and Toothpicks as a Building Set

Halloween Eyes



Devilled Eyeballs


Use your favorite recipe for devilled eggs. It can be a simple as slicing hard boiled eggs in half,  adding a little mayonnaise and mustard to the hard boiled egg yolks and stirring the mixture up well. You can add a dash of salt and sprinkle the tops lightly with paprika. All you need to do to turn them into Halloween "eyeballs" is to add a slice of black olive on the top of each one. Voila! A fancy treat that's easy to do, and one that many people will enjoy.


Sometimes it's OK to play with your food!

Bake a Lamb Cake for Easter

Make a lamb-shaped cake using a molded pan. (See bottom of right-hand column for a supplier of these pans.) The cake is baked in two halves and held together with frosting in the middle. To get a "fluffy lamb appearance" Use a star decorator tip and cover the entire lamb cake using white frosting "stars".  An alternative is to frost it simply with white icing and cover that with shredded coconut. Add some green leaves or stars around the base of the  cake, using a leaf or star tip. Add frosting flowers in spring colors. Make eyes and a nose with frosting, jelly beans or cake decorator flowers or small candies. Decorate with a necklace, jelly beans or flowers in the grass, or whatever you think will make your lamb special.

You can also use just the front half of the mold and place it on top of a sheet cake for a raised effect.

Bake a Heart-Shaped Cake

If you don't have a heart-shaped pan, use an 8" round cake pan and an 8" square cake pan. Follow the cake mix instructions or recipe to prepare cake batter. Grease and flour pans or use baker's parchment to prevent cakes from sticking to pans. Bake the cakes. 

When cakes have cooled, cut the round cake in half and position it, as shown in illustrations below, around the square cake. This forms a heart shape. If you don't have a large enough platter to hold the cake, cover a sturdy piece of cardboard with aluminum foil.

Frost the cake and decorate it. Let kids try their hand at using a decorating tube with icing. They can practice on waxed paper first.

Heart-shaped cake illustrations:

heartcake.GIF (7984 bytes)

Festive Veggie Wreath for Christmas



Begin with a round flat pan, like a pizza pan, for a base. Cover it with foil or a festive color. Take a green Styrofoam wreath and place it on the base. Completely cover the foam wreath with bunches of parsley. (It takes about 5 or so bunches of parsley to cover it.) Use floral pins or new, unused hairpins to hold the parsley in place. Then add the vegetables. Hold these on with toothpicks. Arrange cherry tomatoes; mushrooms; olives (black or green); carrot curls or carrots cut to look like flowers; red, green and yellow bell peppers; celery pieces, green onions; broccoli pieces, cauliflower pieces, and even small squares of cheese on toothpicks. In the center of the wreath, place a bowl with dip for the vegetables.


When the party is over, you can remove any leftover vegetables and use them for salad or soup. Remove, wash and dry the parsley. It often supplies enough dried fresh parsley to use in meals until next Christmas.

Use Gumdrops and Toothpicks as a Building Set

Get a bag of gumdrops. You can use small gumdrops or an assortment of large, small and "orange slice", long thin, or funny-shaped gumdrops. Add a box of round toothpicks (colored ones are fun) and see what a child can build using gumdrops. (Monitor to make sure that only a few construction pieces turn into snacks;  and don't give toothpicks to very young children for safety reasons.) Make buildings, bridges, animals or toys from gumdrops. You could use them to make dinner favors to celebrate National Gumdrop day. Marshmallows, both regular and mini-size can be used for building too.

Ideas in this column

•Spring Salad with Edible Flowers

Popcorn Balls

Spider Snacks

•Make a Face on Your Dinner

•Fruit & Vegetable Luau Centerpiece

•Make a Sandwich Fun

•Decorate with Frosting

Spider Snacks



Try these for Halloween or anytime for kids who find spiders interesting. There are two variations, one healthy and one sweet. The spider snacks in the photo above are made with round crackers (your choice), cream cheese, pretzel sticks and raisin eyes. Kids like making them as well as eating them. The sweet variation is made with vanilla wafers, frosting from a can (or make your own if you choose), pieces of thin red licorice rope for legs and chocolate chips for eyes. You can also use chocolate stuffed-Oreo Cookies, chocolate icing and peanut butter chips. While you're at it, do a little teaching and make sure that kids give each spider 8 legs, which is one way we know that spiders are arachnids and not insects!

Popcorn Balls


Popcorn Balls:


20 cups (5 quarts) plain popped corn

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt


Set popcorn aside in a LARGE bowl.


Combine other ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir until blended and boil the mixture. Continue cooking to the hard ball stage (250° or about 10 minutes). Pour heated mixture over the popcorn, slowly, stirring until the popcorn is covered. Let it cool just until it can be handled and then use plastic bags on hands. Butter the bags and collect the sticky popcorn and make it into ball shapes. Wrap them in plastic wrap.

Make a Spring Salad with Edible Flowers and Fresh Spring Greens


Make a Face on Your Dinner



Let children make faces on their food. Put pickles, olives or just squirt mustard or ketchup to make features on a burger or chicken patty. Make pizza faces with pepperoni, pieces of bell peppers or mushrooms. Place half of a canned peach or pear in a bowl and add raisin eyes, a cherry nose and a piece of strawberry for a mouth. Shredded coconut or grated cheese look like hair on your culinary creations.

Use fruits and vegetables to make a delicious centerpiece for a luau.


The base of this is blue Jell-O™, which makes up the water. The island is made of sugar, the trees are carrot sticks with green bell pepper branches. A pineapple makes the hut, an orange slice the rowboat, with a thin carrot stick for the oar. And, in the water there is a cucumber shark! (This particular food centerpiece was fashioned by one of the Girl Scouts in my troop several years ago.)

Make a sandwich fun!

airplanesandrev.GIF (2445 bytes)

Airplane Sandwich

A favorite sandwich at our house has always been an "airplane sandwich". This can have any kind of filling a child chooses but is made on sliced bread. It works best with "square" bread shapes but the rounded top loaves work too. Cut the bread according to the drawing below and then turn the two outside triangles around and there you have an airplane for lunch!

airplanesanwicha3.GIF (3581 bytes)

Decorate with Frosting


Kids love to decorate cakes and cookies with frosting. Use canned frosting (or make a simple recipe of your own) and let them decorate something easy like graham crackers or vanilla wafers. For practice, they can just squeeze icing onto sheets of waxed paper. To decorate with something other than sugar, use some whipped cream cheese instead of icing. If you don't have pastry bags and decorator tips, put frosting, cream cheese, pudding etc. into a plastic sandwich bag and cut off a small piece of one of the corners to make a "decorator tip".










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