Fun Finger Foods
Stir 2 tablespoons shredded carrot, 1 tablespoon sweet-and-sour sauce, and 1/8 teaspoon salt into 3/4 cup cooked brown rice. Spoon 2 tablespoons of rice mixture onto a thin slice of deli roast beef. Top with a slice each of red pepper and avocado; then roll up. Cut rolls in half diagonally. Repeat steps to make 12 pieces.
Grilled Pineapple and Shrimp
Cut 8 peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp in half lengthwise and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place shrimp halves and 16 pieces of fresh pineapple in a grill pan coated with vegetable cooking spray on medium-high heat. Grill until shrimp turn opaque, 2 to 3 minutes, turning once. Stack shrimp on top of pineapple and insert a pick.
Attach fruits and veggies together with toothpicks to make these edible food puppets.
Cut a 6-inch log of refrigerated cooked polenta into 24 slices. Use cookie cutters to make flower shapes from each slice. Arrange on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, brush with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with finely shredded Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 10 minutes. Let the flowers cool slightly and serve with tomato sauce.
Cut cantaloupe into 16 cubes, about 1 inch each. Use a vegetable peeler to slice 16 long strips of cucumber. Wrap strips around melon cubes and insert a toothpick. Stir together 6 ounces plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons orange-juice concentrate, and a teaspoon of chopped cilantro for a dipping sauce.
Crunchy Fish Triangles
Cut 1/2 pound of tilapia fillets into 12 triangles. Pour a few tablespoons of fat-free milk into a bowl; dip fillets in milk, and then in a mixture of 1/3 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon dry ranch salad-dressing mix. Arrange the fish triangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and spritz them with some vegetable oil. Bake in the oven at 450 degrees F. for 8 to 10 minutes, until fish flakes easily.
Greek Lettuce Cups
Stir together 1/2 cup finely chopped cooked chicken breast, 1 tablespoon finely shredded carrots, 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Gently mix in 2 tablespoons low-fat or reduced-fat plain yogurt and 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint or basil. Spoon the chicken mixture evenly onto 12 small Bibb lettuce leaves that you've torn from the inside of the lettuce head.
Slice a 1/2-pound whole-grain baguette into 16 pieces and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 6 to 8 minutes or until just toasted, turning once. In a small bowl, stir together 2 seeded and chopped Roma tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh basil, salt, and pepper. Spoon mixture onto each bread slice. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and bake 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
Sweet-Potato Waffle Fries
Slice an 8-ounce peeled sweet potato into 12 1/4-inch-thick pieces using a waffle-cutter. Place in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 tablespoon water and cover with wax paper. Microwave on high for 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush slices lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 450 degrees F., turning once, for 15 minutes or until tender and browned.
Originally published in the December 2008 issues of Parents magazine.