Thursday, May 31, 2012

Let them eat cake...and other yummy things!

As the kids get older it has become more difficult to plan a birthday party menu. Do you do kiddie food for the kids and more adult hors d'oeuvres for moms and dads? And aren't we getting a little bored of pizza at every birthday party? Don't get me wrong, it has it's merits, but I wanted to do something a little different this year. I decided to create a menu that would satisfy adults and kids alike, and could be made in advance and heated up during the party.

To start, I had a few platters of fruit and vegetables with dip, and cheese and crackers. I also put out a few bowls of Annie's Organic Snack Mix Bunnies and Bunny Grahams for the kids. I had juice and milk boxes for the kids, and beer, wine and cocktails for the adults.

Once the party got rolling, we passed around several different hot hors d'oeuvres. The first sounds very adult, but trust me, it's a huge hit with kids too: Gougeres. Gougeres are pastry bites made with gruyere cheese and can also more affectionately be called "cheesy puffs". I used Ina Garten's recipe, made the puffs a week in advance and froze them. David Lebovitz has a great recipe on his blog too, and the puffs in the picture are actually his, not mine!

Next, I used two of my favorite recipes from the Weelicious blog: homemade chicken nuggets and fruit & vegetable wontons. If you're anything like me I feel a tiny bit guilty when I feed my kids nuggets out if a box rather than a home cooked meal. That's why I love this Easy Chicken Nuggets recipe from Weelicious. You just put all the ingredients in a food processor, form them into "nuggets," and then either cook or freeze them. I always make a double batch and freeze a bunch. Parents and kids alike wolfed these nuggets down and asked for more. The fruit and vegetable wontons I adapted from a Weelicious recipe for Sweet Potato Apple Cheddar Purses. I bought wontons wrappers at the market. Then I pureed carrots and pears (which I happened to have on hand instead of sweet potatoes and apples), and added some cinnamon and a dash of agave. By omitting the cheddar in the wontons even kids with dairy allergies could eat them. I filled the wontons, pinched them shut, and froze them until I was ready to use them. During the party I sprayed a baking sheet with canola oil and baked the wontons in the oven. Again, everyone enjoyed them and moms were to shocked to find out the wontons were filled with pureed fruits and veggies. Again, I usually make a double batch and freeze a bunch for quick dinners and lunches for the kids.

Finally, I got the idea to make Mac & Cheese cupcakes from the Cupcakes and Cashmere blog. I actually used my tried and true favorite mac and cheese recipe from Ina Garten, and used a mini muffin pan so we could pass them around easily and they could be eaten in a bite or two. I skipped the tomatoes, but if you have the time you could always halve some cherry tomatoes and put one on top of each muffin of mac and cheese. The day before the party I made up the mac and cheese, then baked them and placed them in the fridge after they had cooled. Once the party started I put them on baking sheets and heated them through in the oven.

The best part of this menu, aside from the fact that people of all ages chowed down, was that everything was made in advance. That way I was able to focus more of my time on the kids and catching up with our guests. I also enlisted the Grandmas to help in the kitchen with heating things up, and since there was no actual cooking it was a relatively easy job. And desert was the cake, which I described in a previous post. So next time you are planning a kid friendly party maybe you'll be inspired to step out of the pizza box!

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