I know all us RMT’ers are sick of hearing ourselves say it to our kids: “Stop playing with your food! Just EAT it!” So what I’m about to say might throw you off-base and take you off-guard, but just hear me out before you scream at me, too:
Sometimes it’s perfectly a-OK to play with your food.
Yes, of course I mean be PLAYFUL with food presentation and service. Some more obvious examples are: cut a same-old sandwich into a star or a heart; cube or melon-ball various fruits and skewer into fruit kebabs; and create a dinner display for your child that resembles a bite-sized antipasti plate that can be eaten with nothing but a cocktail pick-fork.
Yeah, those are good ideas, but I hear you, I’ve heard and seen (and maybe even done) those all before, too. Well, then, now that you’re caught up, let’s change it up a bit, throw in a twist or two, and implement some new and improved menu plans…
First I’ll take a sandwich cutter and turn a birthday cake into a base for a train engine design (which I did for T’s second birthday). Here’s how: bake a sheet cake in a 9×13 pan; when done, cool cake in pan for allotted time; invert cake from pan onto a wire rack; allow cake to cool about 30 more minutes, then turn it back onto a cutting board; finally, punch the train engine design with the sandwich cutter. To complete the train cake display, I freehand-cut an additional box car to same scale as the engine (from the 9×13” scraps, there’s plenty left over), and then I plated the two cutouts onto the service platter, frosted, decorated, and presented the train cake to T for his second birthday.
Now I’m taking that same sandwich cutter and making T a fried egg engine. I first whisk an egg until light and airy in a bowl, then cook the egg omelet-style (light and airy again, medium to low heat, slow and low, mamas) in a pan until cooked through, plate it, and finally punch-cut the egg with the sandwich cutter on the plate itself (warning, don’t use the sandwich cutters on the hot pan; mostly because, well, ouch, and/or if yours is plastic it could melt, and/or the metal edges could damage your non-stick surface).
And what if instead of using mini-cookie cutters for making cookies (yawn) I used them to create pretty pieces of fruit instead? Or bite-sized meat slices? This is very simple and straightforward (see my photos above of two examples).
Oh, and not that dessert needs much coercing going down, but you can also take those same mini-cutters and inside-out frost cupcakes to showcase cutout holiday designs in the cupcake tops? While keeping the cakes in their wrappers, I serrated the tops from the cupcakes, punch-cut the center with the cookie cutter, frosted the top of the cupcake bottoms (you could use lemon curd or jam here, too, instead of icing), decorated with sprinkles, and replaced the tops. As for the punched parts, I suppose many would just throw them away (GASP!), but other, more sensible ideas include decorating and serving with the larger cupcakes as cake-bites, or skewering them onto kebab sticks, melting some chocolate, and enjoying a little cake fondue.
Another fun treat to trick your kids with is the ice cream cone cupcake. Very easy to do this also: mix up your favorite batch of cupcake batter (2 dozen worth); set up two 9×13” baking pans with one dozen cake cones each; fill each cone 2/3 to the top; and bake one pan at a time at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Once cakes are all baked and cooled, frost with off-set knife (for hand-scooped look) or pastry-tipped bag (for soft-serve look) and decorate with sprinkles or other crushed candies. Again, it’s not that cupcakes need any help selling themselves whatsoever, but this is just another fun, playful way to keep them from becoming too tried-and-true – and you get to eat the wrapper, too!
So forget the food fight, folks, and start playing some fun food games instead. Everyone leaves a winner, and no one leaves hungry. Game over: Yum-yum!