Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Project Lunch: Puddin' On the Ritz!

Today's Toddler/Preschooler cooking class was my last no-cook in the park. Today they had the option of tuna or chicken salad, plus instant pudding at the end. I had 19 kids signed up, plus 5 maybes, but had 4 cancellations last night, but 2 maybes came! Only 1 no-show. So I ended up with 16 kids plus mine. She did pretty well last time, so I decided to bring her. I was concerned that my PMSing plus her usually-needy shenanigans were going to end badly, but as I was getting ready, suddenly it was Go-Time and I hadn't woken up Unka Seesee (or even asked if he could watch her!) She was unusually cooperative in getting ready when given the choice between getting her butt in gear or staying home with Unka Seesee. I brought along her bucket and shovel, since I got some break-time while she played in the dirt last time, and her magnifying glass. I also brought 'emergency strawberries' in case I had to park her on a towel with berries again.
It was like I had a whole different child. She let an older girl help her down from a toy. She rode behind the older girl on a bouncy toy. Even when she fell a little the 2nd time she got helped down, she only fussed a little. She GAVE HUGS to other kids! She ran around with other kids. She didn't fuss and screech and cling to me the entire time. This was like the Best. Day. Ever.
Z and her new friend "Tora."

It helped that when we got there, there were no other kids to compete with, so her favorite toy wasn't already being used. (There are 2 sproingy airplane ride-ons, and they are almost always full. And when one does open up, an older, faster kid swoops in before she can get on.) And the kids trickled in, rather than us arriving into a crowd, like we usually do (this is the only event we aren't ever late for!) Plus she got a good night's sleep. And this was our 3rd time here doing this, so she was used to my arms being full and having to trek between the car and the table area several times without being able to carry her too. Plus I found some wild blackberries and Tora showed us the apple tree growing there. I plucked a few apples with some red on them, and turned a blind eye to my child foraging off the ground. She found a good one. Phew.

We started out with the tuna and chicken salads. Only a few kids had opted for tuna (3 I think) so I didn't get as much of that as the chicken. I had read a few kid-friendly chicken and turkey salad recipes that suggested adding fruits like apples, raisins, grapes, even marmalade! I opted for apples, raisins and grapes. I didn't know how they'd taste in the tuna, so I got celery and shredded carrots too. Ooo. Peas would have been good too. But I didn't think of them until just now! Then, last night during prep, I decided I really didn't want to chop a zillion grapes into tiny pieces, so I just brought them whole. But I cubed an apple and some celery. Since I don't have a portable can opener, I got those all opened at home too, which gave me time to break up the chicken chunks. They were surprisingly large.

Each kid got a few heaping disposable-spoonfuls of meat, and a plop of mayo (varied, based on how much chicken/tuna they had.) Much chicken and tuna were eaten plain first! Little Z ate most of hers immediately, then balked when I mixed a tiny bit of mayonnaise with the rest. So she got a second helping of tuna. And a third! All the kids decided that they needed all of the add-ins, which surprised me. One boy (the youngest, just a little over 2) wouldn't even try it, and his mom has food allergies, so I got his, and ate it on whole wheat Ritz. It was surprisingly good! Most of the kids wouldn't eat theirs (unless their moms made them!) but almost all at least tried it. I brought all my PB&J supplies as back up, so no one would go hungry. One girl didn't even want to make it, so she just mixed PB & jelly in a bowl (with some cubed apples!) and then spread it onto her bread. I thought that was a brilliant idea, since she still got to feel like she made something, and she was mixing along with the other kids! Everyone had some juice and some grapes along with their plain, PB'd or tuna/chicken salad'd crackers; or plain, PBJ'd or salad'd bread.

I had just mixed in her mayo, so that's her pouting until I get her some 'fresh' tuna.

Mix, mix, mix!

Then they dispersed to go play for a bit. We had started a little late, and they spent longer with the tuna/chicken than we have in the past with the first course, so after a little mommy-socializing, it was getting a little late to start with the pudding. I got Z's started, since she was the only one still at the tables, and other kiddos started trickling back. It's amazing. From over 100-feet away, they have some kind of dessert 6th sense! I used the 'recipe' I found on a review for Z's cool-bake oven:

3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp powdered instant pudding

It was a great single-serving size for these guys (1 tbsp is about half an ounce, so this was around 2 ounces per kid.) I brought chocolate and vanilla options. And *SpRiNkLeS!!* I have one of those 6- or 8-compartment sprinkle canisters, but the little budgie ones were all gone. (I'm not sure what they're really called. They look like teeny tiny tubes and they are very soft when you bite them. Midgies?) A jar of them at the store was almost $2, but the last ones went in just 1 decorating session, so I was worried there wouldn't be enough, since there were no holes to prevent them from all being dumped out at once. But I found a TUB of them for $3.50! SCOOOORE! The pudding thickened up very quickly for some of the kids, so we just added a smidge more milk for them. The box says it takes 5 minutes to set, but maybe it was faster because we had smaller amounts. Or maybe because my milk was cold. Or maybe it was the over-enthusiastic stirrers!

Other than my leaky milk carton oozing all over both my soft cooler bags, and some kids missing out on pudding because they had to leave early or didn't come back from playing until I was all packed up in the car again, it went very well. I wasn't expecting a lot of eager eaters, since this was a very new concept to most of the kids, and tuna and mayo can be strong flavors for picky palates. But all the moms told me they ate it, and it tasted good!

Since I had to plan for around 20 kids, I had much leftover food. Luckily, I'm a big fan of this chicken salad. I made it again for dinner! Daddy and Little Z had tuna salad with pickles.
2 packs whole wheat bread: $2.76 (only used one [-$1.38])
1 pack whole wheat white (in case of picky eaters): $2.28 (never used [-$2.28])
Large bunch of green seedless grapes: $3.14 (mostly eaten. Z had some before and we got a little bit left.)
Tub of yogurt (to use with or instead of mayo): $2.24 (didn't use. [-$2.24])
Carton of 2% milk: $1.55 (got to bring about half of it home.)
Plastic spoons: $.52
Disposable bowls: $1.98 (have a bunch left over to use another time.)
3 large cans of chicken chunks: $5.94 (only used 2 [-$1.98])
Raisins: $1.44 (LOTS left over.)
3 cans chunk light tuna: $1.74 (only opened 2 [-$.58] and almost a can left over.)
Braeburn apple: $.40 (some left over. Enough to use with the last of the chicken!)
Wet Ones disinfecting wipes (since they can't really wash their hands): $2.77 (hardly any used.)
Pickle ovals: $1.48 (after coupon, not opened [-$1.48])
Baby pickles: $1.76 (after coupon. Z ate a bunch too, but only 2 left in the end.)
3 large Jello instant pudding (2 choc, 1 vanilla): $4.08 (2 partially used. [-$1.36])
Bag of carrot shreds: $1.68 (LOTS left.)
Whole wheat Ritz: $1.98 (around 1/2 left)
Generic saltines: $.98 (over 3/4ths left)
Kraft Mayo: $3.78 (lots left)
Package of Celery: $1.98 (over half left)
Sprinkles: $3.55
3 boxes Capri Sun: $5.54 (around 1 box left.)
$53.57 spent
-11.30 not used, so theoretically we can use it, although it's not the kind of bread I normally choose, and we don't really NEED more pickles (I had $1 off 2 coupon. Ironically, I bought the whole ones just to use the coupon. My purpose had been to buy the slices for sandwiches! But they only ate the whole ones!) Most of the yogurt will probably go bad, since I'm terrible about remembering to eat it. And it'll take a while to go through all that pudding! But I can probably eat up the cans of tuna and chicken. I might be able to return some of it, but I don't know if grocery stores do that.
16 kids at $2 each = 32, so I'm only out $10, and have some Capri Suns,wet wipes, and bowls for another time; some milk, mayo, raisins, sprinkles, crackers and bread that we probably will end up using; and some celery and carrot shreds we may not. (Or, as my husband views it, out $20 with some extra food we didn't need. :)

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