Animal-shaped food

Patricia Conte

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If getting your kids to focus on snack time is like trying to manage a three-ring circus, give these ideas for animal-shaped food a try! They’re fun, nutritious and easy to put together.

Rooster shaped cookie

Animal-shaped cookie cutters

Cookie cutters are just about the easiest way to transform food into animal shapes your kids will love to snack on! Consider some of the following fun ideas:

Gelatin cutouts

Make a batch of your favorite gelatin. Think about matching the color of your gelatin to the animal-shaped cookie cutters you have, if possible. For example, use lemon flavor (yellow) for a duck, or a berry flavor (pink) for a pig. Make as many batches as you'd like -- and keep the leftovers from the cutouts to make a fruit or dessert salad.

Sandwich cutouts

You might have a few leftover pieces of crust, but the remainder of your sandwich will be shaped like animals! Make up a few of your kids' favorite sandwiches, from PB&J to tuna salad, and before serving, use the cookie cutters to create a lunchtime adventure with the animals!

Cinnamon-sugar tortilla crisp cutouts

This is a crunchy, sweet treat! Serve these crisps with a fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt to dip in, or simply on their own.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon in a small bowl.
  3. Use small animal-shaped cookie cutters for 8-10 (8-inch) flour tortillas. Line the shapes on the baking sheet, sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.

Free-form baked goodies

Use pretzel or bread dough to form your animal shape, and a variety of food items to help decorate your dough-based animals.

Look at a few photos of animals for inspiration. It won't take long to think of new creations!

To make a lion from pretzel or bread dough:

  1. Use your dough and form a flat circle, about 4 inches in diameter, for the lion's head (use the top of a large mug to cut out the circle from the dough, or cut free-form with a butter knife).
  2. Use more dough to cut out a zigzag pattern to place around the outside of the circle (head), to form the lion's mane.
  3. Bake your shape until almost finished. Remove from the oven and carefully and quickly place two raisins for the lion's eyes, a dried cranberry or purple grape cut into a small triangle (point end up) for the nose, and five pieces of very thinly cut carrot to use as the lion's smile (cure the carrot piece a bit) and whiskers. Place back in the oven, just for a few minutes until finished baking.

To make a pig from pretzel or bread dough:

  1. Use your dough to form a circle, about 4 inches in diameter, for the pig's head (use the top of a large mug to cut out the circle from the dough, or cut free-form with a butter knife).
  2. Use more dough to form 2 (1-inch) triangles to attach to the sides of the circle (head), to form the pig's ears.
  3. Bake your shape until almost finished. Remove from the oven and carefully and quickly place a 1-inch round slice of baloney for the pig's nose, use two raisins for the pig's eyes, and a thin strip of carrot to use as the pig's smile. Place back in the oven, just for a few minutes until finished baking.

Butterfly veggie snacks

If you need help getting your kids to eat their vegetables, this cute little snack might do the trick. Have a side of Ranch dressing or hummus on hand for dipping. If needed, supervise while your kids eat this treat, since it's made using toothpicks.

  1. Thread grape tomatoes onto a toothpick to form the butterfly's body. Add as many tomatoes that will stay securely on the toothpick.
  2. Slice up several cucumber or zucchini rounds to use as the butterfly's wings. Once they are cut into rounds, cut them in half.
  3. Cut small notches out of each semicircle of the veggie, so that you have one large pie-shaped wedge. You'll use two wedges per butterfly to form the wings.
  4. Carefully slide a toothpick into the small end of the wedge, so about half an inch of the toothpick is sticking out.
  5. Attach the end of the toothpick into one of the tomatoes on the butterfly's body, toward the middle.

Bugs on a log

Sounds gross but this snack is definitely fun! Your kids will really be drawn to this fun snack.

  1. Wash, then cut celery ribs into 3- or 4-inch long pieces. This will be your log.
  2. Fill the center of the celery with your choice of hummus, peanut butter or cream cheese.
  3. For the bugs, use raisins or any other dried fruit, nuts or chocolate chips (based on your filling) and simply place them on top of the log's filling.

Quiet-as-a-mouse hard-boiled eggs from Disney Family Fun

These little treats are really cute and they're nutritious, too. Sure to keep your kids quiet as a mouse -- at least for a few minutes!

  1. Hard boil as many eggs as you'd like to use.
  2. When the eggs are cooled and peeled, slice off a small section of the bottom of the egg (length-wise) so it will lay flat on a plate. The egg will be the mouse's body.
  3. Cut up a few radishes (the pink edges are perfect as ears) small enough to use as mouse ears.
  4. Cut up a few black olives into very small pieces (to use as eyes).
  5. Make small slits in the eggs and place the ears and eyes.
  6. Use fresh chives as the tails for your mice.

Give your kids a treat that's healthy, filling and fun. Animal-shaped foods can take care of all three!

Try these lunchtime recipes

English-muffin pizzas
Easy, cheesy quesadillas
Cheeseburger bake

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Patricia Conte
Patricia Conte is a regular contributor to the SheKnows food and living sections. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of professional experience. You can follow her on Twitter, or visit her food blog, Grab a Plate, where she shares her love of food, recipes and bites in between.

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