Friday, October 22, 2010

Project Lunch: Tricks AND Treats!

Why gearing up to 'teach' a bunch of toddlers and preschoolers to 'cook' would make me more nervous and anxious than I was on my wedding day is beyond me. Seriously. I would have taken a Xanax, if I had had one handy. And I don't take those kinda medications, even when they are prescribed for me. (For like, surgery prep, so I'm not all nervous, for example.) I wasn't feeling this sick and nervous before any of my surgeries. Not even before or during my husband's brain surgery. I wanted to puke and cry. I blame hormones, which have been acting funny lately [no, I'm not pregnant] and tiredness and stress from my husband being out of town since Monday.
I didn't even have to clean my house for this one either! Another MOMS club member had volunteered to host for me this month! [Her house is much fancier and cleaner than mine too! Even when I make an effort!]
And this big stressful meal we were preparing? Mini pizzas and instant pudding. Yeah. real tricksy, I know. And we weren't even making the dough from scratch.
I wanted to do a Halloween theme. My original thought had been to have 'tricks,' like putting pumpkin puree in the pizza sauce, and the 'treat' would be dessert, but I never got a chance to taste-test the pumpkin tomato sauce, so I decided we'd make monster-face pizzas and dirt-worm pudding, both of which look scary (trick) but taste yummy (treat!)

I surfed the interwebs to find a recipe for mini pizzas. Harder than you might think. The first 10 hits were directions on english muffins or tortillas, or refrigerated biscuit dough. I found a few that mentioned refrigerated pizza dough (misspelled with a 'D' - refridgerated, a common mistake!) but they were vague as to cooking times and temps. "Heat oven and cook as directed on package instructions." Umm. Thanks. But even *I* know that smaller items cook faster (learned the hard way via mini muffins!) Ah well. So I did an average poll and decided on heating to 375 F, and 10-20 minutes, watching carefully. The dirt worms pudding was easy. I can't go to a kids recipe website without tripping on a recipe for THAT!

We ended up with 9 chefs, including Z, plus a 10th who came after preschool, just in time for dessert!

Mini Monster Pizzas!: I used Pillsbury refrigerated pizza dough. I was able to tear 5 chunks of dough from each can. We did the cooking in shifts, since there wasn't enough room at the counter for all 8 little chefs. Originally, we had 4 stations set up, but more of them wanted to get started, so we scrounged up 2 more stools and let 6 of them go at once. We only had one rolling pin (and I had just bought it the day before!) so that slowed things down a little. Most of the kids were happy to pound and smoosh their dough around while they waited. I didn't think to put flour on the mats, which turned out to be a huge tactical error. But after the first roller complained that the dough was sticking to the rolling pin, I floured up the roller between each chef.
For toppings, my hostess had shredded mozzerella and some orange/white mix (Mexican?) and sliced mushrooms and she also provided the olives. She made some sliced, and some cut in half (to make bulby eyes or noses or whatever!) I had canadian bacon, pepperoni, a green pepper cut up into smiles, cherry tomatoes (I had planned to cut them in half, to make cute cheeks or clown noses or whatever, but no one was interested, and a few kids just plopped them on whole!) and brought the sauce (and the dough.)
Roll it, and pat it, and mark it with a 'Z'...
Sprinkling on the cheese...
Some toppings for the pizza...
...And some for me! 
After putting olives on and eating them off several times,
she finally settled on a cyclops, with surprisingly few olives.
End result: Hers is on top. She added some olive cheeks at the last moment.
Other spooky pizza faces
Bean's face. Love the mushroom cheeks (or ears...)
He made the face all by himself!
After my hostess spatula'd and peeled the poor little pizzas off the mats and onto the foil-covered cookie pans,  TO THE OVENS!

Are they done yet? Is my pizza ready yet? Can I have my pizza now?
Et voila! Except... The pizzas stuck to the foil. Hmmm... And the one we dissected looked undercooked inside. Hmm... My hostess thought maybe since they hadn't been rolled out thin enough, that the dough got too puffy. Ach. Well, the kids didn't care. It was really hard extracting them from the foil though, so maybe greased foil next time? Or directly on the nonstick pans? Some of the toppings fell off in transition (we ended up tearing each pizza with its foil away and peeling off the foil one strip at a time! So they were sideways and upside-down for some of it.) We put the toppings back as best we could. The kids were none the wiser. They pretty much all polished off their pizzas.
Bean's cooked pizza. The nose fell off and is tucked under.

I found this version of the recipe for the dirt and worms pudding and decided to give it a try.

Wiggle Worm Dirt Pudding

1 package Oreo (or other chocolate sandwich crackers,) crushed
2 c cold milk
A 3.9oz package chocolate instant pudding mix
8 oz Cool Whip topping, thawed
1 package gummy worms
8 clear plastic cups

Step 1: Put cookies into a sealable bag, close tightly. Using a rolling pin, roll and crush the cookies until crumbly. Set aside
Step 2: Pour milk and instant pudding mix into a large bowl. Whisk well until dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes
Step 3: Add Cool Whip and 1/2 of the crushed cookies. Stir until well blended.
Step 4: Place a large spoonful of crushed cookies into the bottoms of the plastic cups. Add pudding mixture on top until cups are 3/4 full.
Step 5: Add a gummy worm (or more) so that it is half in the cup and half hanging out over the side. Spoon in more crushed cookie to hold worm(s) in place.
Serve chilled.

I decided to let each child mix their own, rather than have a communal pudding bowl. I started out with 3 Oreos in little sandwich-sized Ziplock baggie for each child. The rolling pin didn't really work with such a small amount of cookie, so we broke them up a little first, then the rolling pin, fists, etc worked great at crushing.
I used my trusty single-serve instant pudding recipe in each child's cup: 1 tbsp pudding powder, 3 tbsp milk. I then put in a dollop of Cool Whip, since the math was too hard. [~4oz package = 8 tbsp. 2 c milk = 16 tbsp, so the package's ratio is different than mine. 8 oz Cool Whip = 16 tbsp, but we did fine with ~1tbsp Cool Whip per child.]
We didn't bother with cookies on the bottoms of the cups, since we were mixing the pudding in the cups already, and were using way fewer cookies than the recipe called for. They had fun dumping and scooping their crumbs from the baggies into their cups, and adding 2 worms each. I didn't have colorless cups, and the pudding hardly took up any space in the bottoms, but the kids didn't seem to care.
For one of the chefs, it was her very first experience with Gummy Worms. She stood there with a worm hanging out of her mouth with a serious, thoughtful look on her face for several minutes! It was a hoot.
Little Z was having so much fun playing with the hostess' daughter's toys, so I didn't want to disrupt her happy quiet time (without me!) so that she could come eat 3 tbsp of milk and a bunch of sugary junk! And I couldn't get any good pictures of the final product because there wasn't much in the cups, and the chefs pretty much ate it as fast as they made it!

My individual serving Dirt Pudding recipe:
3 tbsp cold milk
1 tbsp chocolate instant pudding mix
3 Oreo cookies
2 gummy worms

2 tubes pizza dough: $4.68
Canadian Bacon: $1.82
Pepperoni: $1.70
Green bell pepper: $.48
Cherry tomatoes: $2.48
2 lb Mozzarella: $5.43 (didn't use)
Whole olives: $.98 (didn't use)
Sliced olives: $1.08 (didn't use)
Rolling pin: $4.63
Cool Whip: $.98
Jello pudding (5.9 oz): $1.23
Oreos: $2.48
Zipper-style sandwich baggies (store brand): $1.96
TOTAL: $27.97 plus around $.65 in sales tax, minus $1.05 in coupons = $28.47
minus food we didn't end up using because the hostess had some: $20.98! I charged $3 per chef this time, since I'd been losing so much money the other times, even considering that I get any leftovers. So with 7 paying chefs (I didn't charge the hostess, for obvious reasons) and half-price for the dessert-only cook (although I kept telling her she didn't have to pay me, she kept shoving money at me) I got $22.50, so my costs were covered for the first time! And now I have a rolling pin! And lots of cherry tomatoes and Oreos. (And the leftovers and unused foods are things we'll have no problem finding eaters for at home!) Now to figure out what to do with all this leftover Cool Whip... 

A big Thank You to Miss Jenica for hosting, being cool with cheese and flour all over her counter and floor, and trouble-shooting and manhandling our poor little pizza monsters! [The food, not the kids!]


  1. Try parchment paper for cooking on instead of foil next time.
    It's DESIGNED to be cooked on and much less likely to stick.

  2. Parchment paper totally worked when I tried again later! Thanks! As did rolling them flatter. And flouring the work surface!


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