Getting ready for a children’s party at home can be overwhelming. There are decorations to arrange, games and activities to sort out, and of course, there has to be lots of food to satisfy hungry little partygoers (and don’t forget their their parents!).
I like to prepare as much as possible in advance to avoid any last minute surprises (and trust me, surprises do arise!). When it comes to party food, I try to keep things simple and fun for kids, making sure that there’s enough variety to keep even the fussiest eaters well fed. I usually build on the children’s menu for the adults, tossing in a few salads and “grown up” fare into the mix.
Here are a few simple child friendly recipes and ideas that and can handle advanced preparation, and are sure to make your life easier on the birthday boy or girl’s big day!
- Grilled Inside-Out Burgers. For my daughter’s birthday party this summer, I started preparing grilled inside-out burgers well before I planned to serve them. If you shape and freeze the patties before hand (I made ours a week in advance), you can thaw them in the refrigerator a day and a half before you plan on cooking them. You can either assign someone to cook them during the party, or make them in the morning and heat them up in the oven prior to serving. Get all the condiments organized the day before and you’re good to go. Click here for the recipe.
- Parmesan cheese straws, veggie sticks and labneh dip (two recipes below). These yummy puff pastry and cheese sticks (straws) were featured in my back-to-school column for Gourmet. The straws can be made several days in advance, the dip can be made the day before. For a healthier addition, cucumbers, carrots, and bell peppers can be cut the day before and placed in cold water to avoid dis-coloration. Remove the vegetables from the water the day of the party and dry well before serving.
- Mini sausages in puff pastry (recipe below) can be made the day before and baked the morning of the party. You might want to make extras as these are always the first to go. I use ready made puff pastry to make life a little easier.
- Popcorn with olive oil and sea salt (recipe below). Homemade popcorn is probably one of the easiest and healthiest options for kids. The popcorn can be served in a large bowl, or in individual cones or cups.
- Chocolate-dipped marshmallow pops (recipe below) are great little additions to your dessert table (trust me when I say kids are going to flock to these treats – make plenty to go around). You can use my homemade marshmallow recipe found here. The marshmallows can be made a week in advance and stored in an airtight container until ready to dip. Store the finished marshmallow pops in the refrigerator up to three days before the party.
Cucumber and Labneh Dip
- 200 grams of fresh Labneh (greek yogurt can be used if you can’t find labneh)
- 1 cucumber, grated with a box grater
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- Pinch of salt
Combine all the ingredients together and mix well. Serve with curly parmesan straws (recipe below) along with carrots, cucumbers, capsicum, tomatoes or any other vegetable you can dip.
Curly Parmesan Straws (Makes 16 straws)
- 200 grams puff pastry, thawed if frozen
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees c (350 f). On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry until it is 1/8 inch thick. Slice into long strips approximately 7 inches long and 3/4 inches wide.
Place each strip on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, leaving at least one inch of space between each strip. Brush each strip with olive oil. Sprinkle all over with parmesan cheese. Starting with one end of each strip, shape length wise into a spiral (corkscrew) shape. Brush the tops of each strip with a little more olive oil. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the breadsticks are a light golden brown.
Mini sausages in puff pastry
- 1 x 400 gram package ready made puff pastry, thawed
- 36 to 48 mini sausages
Roll out puff pastry until it’s about 1/8th of an inch thick.
Cut the pastry into triangles roughly and wrap around the sausage (start with the widest side of the triangle).
Repeat with all the sausages. Place on a large baking tray, leaving half an inch between each sausage. The morning of the party, brush the tops with a bit of beaten egg mixed with a teaspoon of water, and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt if desired.
Bake at 200 degrees C (400 F) for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is slightly puffed and golden brown.
Popcorn with olive oil and sea salt
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ¾ cup of popcorn kernels
- 2 tbsp olive oil (after popping)
- Sea salt
Heat a mixture of 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat (remember that popcorn expands A LOT, use a pot that’s big enough). Once the oil is hot, add popcorn kernels.
Cover, and when the kernels start to pop, shake the pan a couple of times to spread the kernels, then shake it again every minute or so to keep the popcorn from burning at the bottom of the pan.
Once ready, put in a big bowl, sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the popcorn and toss to distribute the oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and toss again.
- One quantity of homemade marshmallows or one package or store bought
- 500 grams chopped white, milk or dark chocolate
- Cardboard straws or cake pop sticks
- Sprinkles (optional)
Cut desired shapes out of marshmallows. If using a cookie cutter, make sure to grease the inside of the cutter before cutting out the marshmallows. (omit this step if using ready made marshmallows).
Melt the chocolate on top of a double boiler. Once the chocolate has melted, transfer it into a deep bowl, and let cool before dipping the marshmallows. If you try to dip them when the chocolate is hot, trust me, your marshmallows will melt!
Take a cardboard straw or cake pop stick, and dip the first couple of centimetres into the chocolate (this will act as a glue and the stick will adhere to the marshmallow).
Dip half the marshmallow into the chocolate. You can dip the whole thing if you want, but I do like the contrast in color between chocolate and marshmallow. Give it a second, then press the marshmallow into sprinkles if desired.
Place the marshmallows on a parchment lined baking tray in the fridge until the chocolate hardens. They can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.
Let the party begin!!!