CARTHAGE, Mo. —
The holidays are a time for indulgence for everyone, kids included. As adults, we usually know when we're making food choices that are questionable. Kids need guidance with their holiday goodies.
I'm not trying to Grinchify your kids' Christmas. But the holidays and all the treats that go with them last for several weeks. It's easy for people to get used to a steady flow of goodies, especially kids. Candy canes and cookies are thrust into their mitten-covered hands at every turn.
It's a great time of year to remind your kids that healthy food is good for their bodies. It gives them more energy and keeps them strong.
Make sure that treats are just that -- treats. Bring a platter with cheese, veggies, fruit and olives arranged in a Christmas tree shape. Fill kids' plates with whole foods such as nuts, popcorn, cheese, whole-grain crackers, and veggies and fruit with dip.
After everyone's tummies are full of good food, it's time for treats. Steer kids toward healthier snacks such as strawberries and pretzels dipped in dark chocolate, fruit kabobs skewered with a marshmallow, waffle-cone bowls filled with fruit and whipped cream or sliced strawberries and bananas arranged on a plate to look like a candy cane. Choose a hunk of dark chocolate bark with nuts and dried fruit, or opt for a whole-wheat gingerbread man. And don't underestimate the power of sprinkles -- they make everything more desirable.
If you're holding the party at your house, take advantage of your power. Cute, festive finger foods are the key to making healthy choices more attractive. Make Christmas trees out of pizza slices or pita triangles smeared with pesto and top with a star cut from a yellow bell pepper. Serve pinwheels made from spinach tortillas, cream cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Crustless mini quiches with chopped red and green bell peppers look festive as well.
Stick to whole grains when making desserts. Serve banana muffins disguised as cupcakes with a dollop of whipped cream and a marshmallow snowman on top. Make whole-wheat cut-out cookies, then brush them with a thin layer of frosting and sprinkles. A pretty presentation will entice kids to eat healthier snacks without giving it a second thought. If they don't love it and choose not to eat it all, who cares? Go play.
Call the kids into the kitchen so they can help in preparing the holiday fare. They will want to eat everything they had a hand in creating. Even small children can use cookie cutters to turn sandwiches into party food. Get the kids involved, and try these recipes for your next holiday gathering.
Savory rice bites
1 cup uncooked wild rice (or quinoa)
2 large eggs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 chives, finely chopped, for garnish
1 cup tomato sauce, for serving
Cook wild rice according to package directions. Prepare mini muffin pan with nonstick spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice with remaining ingredients, except chives and tomato sauce; mix well to combine. Transfer rice mixture to prepared muffin pan. Fill each muffin cup to the top, then use a spatula to press down on the mixture and create a flat surface. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven; set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Using a teaspoon, gently remove rice bites from the muffin cups. Transfer to a serving platter; serve with a sprinkle of fresh chives and a side of tomato sauce for dipping.
Adapted from blog.honest.com
Whole-wheat Christmas cookies
11/2 cups whole-wheat flour, plus extra for rolling out dough
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
4 teaspoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the icing:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7 to 8 tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar together for several minutes. Add the egg, cream and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Slowly add the flour mixture until well mixed. Turn off the mixer and squeeze the dough together. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out onto a floured surface until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut desired shapes, and place them on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately transfer to a cooling rack. Meanwhile, use a fork to mix together the powdered sugar and heavy cream in a medium-size bowl. Top cookies with a thin layer of icing and other decorations if desired.
Strawberries, with tops cut off
Banana, cut into slices
Using toothpick as skewer, arrange (from bottom to top) grape, banana slice, strawberry and mini marshmallow. The grape is the Grinch's head, and the banana, strawberry and marshmallow are the hat. Draw eyes and mouth on grape with a decorating pen, if desired.
Adapted from stockpilingmoms.com
1 pound large strawberries
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3 to 4 tablespoons powdered sugar (or honey, to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Rinse strawberries and cut around the tops of them. Cut off pointed bottoms (enough to make a hat). Clean out the whole strawberry with a paring knife, if necessary (some of them might already be hollow). Prepare all of the strawberries and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add cream cheese mix to a piping bag or zip-close bag with the corner snipped off. Fill the strawberries with cheesecake mixture and top with the Òhats.Ó Refrigerate until serving time.
Adapted from justapinch.com
Have questions? Email them to email@example.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.