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Favorite kid-friendly snacks for the dog days of summer

lunch on a stick - a children's favorite
lunch on a stick - a children's favorite
s. damon

We have now officially reached the "dog days" of summer, and whether you are suffering through the ridiculous heat, or wading through torrential rainstorms, the troop are getting restless and it's getting a bit more difficult to entertain them.

Rather than splurge every night or day on take-out or dining in nice cool restaurants, why not help them prepare some timeless classic treats at home? It will be a fun experience and your budget will definitely thank you!

There are several categories of things kids love to make, ranging from appetizers, simple entrees to dessert. Here are five-tested-and-true recipes highly recommended by my cooking classes:

1. Lunch on a stick. This is one of the simplest and most enjoyable snacks that kids over the age of 4 years can make themselves. Just supervise and talk to them about appropriate use of skewers and you will be fine. Each child needs a 12" skewer of their own, on which they can layer any of the following. For older kids, tell them you want to see patterns and that will give a built-in math lesson to the project., as well as a way to talk about healthy foods. Provide the following and let the creating begin:

  • French bread, torn or cut into good-sized cubes (the bread part of things)
  • Cheese: Colby, cheddar or Swiss block of cheese cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (or so)
  • Ham sausage, cooked beef hot dogs, kielbasa or canned ham. Children can cut their own chunks to make it more interesting.
  • Olives or pickles of your child's choice, or sliced cucumbers if that is their preference.
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes to give color and taste.
  • Green or red seedless grapes (act as stoppers at the top and bottom of the skewer plus dessert)

Let them layer them any way they like and enjoy! Also great served with:

2. Fruit and Cheese Kebabs. aka Dessert on a Stick. If your child isn't into cheese, scrap that. It's just for a little extra protein anyway. Give your children their choice of:

  • fruit such as cut strawberries, raspberries, red or green grapes, watermelon chunks or pineapple.
  • Have them help you cut up a pound cake or half an angel food cake into 2 inch chunks (or so).
  • If you desire, cheddar or Colby cheese tastes delicious with this too, as a light lunch or dessert.

Let kids layer onto a skewer as they like. Serve with flavored yogurt as a dip. Delicious!

3. Angel Fruit Parfaits. This is another really easy dessert that appeals to children. All you need is your child's choice of the following to layer in parfait/clear 12 oz plastic cups to enjoy for a light dessert. Layer by spoonful any of the following:

  • Angel Food or pound cake cut into cubes
  • Cool Whip (or other frozen topping), thawed
  • Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pineapple or canned peaches (cut into chunks)
  • Vanilla (low-fat or no regular) pudding. One of the little prepacked containers is just right. Yogurt may be used instead.

4. Pudding Parfaits. This is the simplest dessert yet and it appeals to all ages. Just 3 ingredients to layer into a clear cup so kids can enjoy the look of the layers. The ingredients are:

  • One little container of chocolate pudding
  • One little container of vanilla pudding
  • Cool Whip (or other topping)

5. Worms in the Dirt. The name grosses out some kids and enthralls others, but tell them it's not dirt and they will love making it look like it is! Very easy layered dessert featuring:

  • Bottom layer of crushed chocolate graham wafers or Oreo cookies (dirt)
  • Layer of chocolate pudding
  • Sprinkle in a few gummy worms (sleeping in the dirt)
  • thin layer of Cool Whip (my kids insisted on this)
  • Repeat with layers and top with a couple of extra gummy worms and a last thin layer of cookie "dirt." Great when presented in clear plastic cups or in a new plastic pail to serve with a clean, new shovel. Great for birthday parties! If they ask about the white layer (which will turn muddy looking) you can say the worms are hibernating in the snow, waiting for spring.