Tuesday, December 21, 2010

March Of The Pingu-s (Olive Penguins)

I can't find the original link where I found this recipe, but it was on a parenting magazine website. Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, something like that. You can find loads of other tutorials and ideas if you Google "olive penguins."

I've been wanting to make these for ages, ever since I first saw them. I bought the olives, and they've been sitting in my pantry for months (well, technically not. Princess loves olives, so I'd replace the cans as I used them, so I'd have them just in case!) But every party or get-together I had thought to make them for either got cancelled or I didn't have enough time to make them.
Monday 12/20/10 was my MOMS Club's Holiday Party, and late Sunday night I remembered that it was a potluck! I had nothing to bring, other than a bag of chips, or cheese and crackers. So I planned to make cookie-cutter cheese and crackers. But then I saw someone else had RSVPd that they were bringing cheese and crackers already. D'oh!
But I had everything needed for olive penguins!

Olive Pingu-s

Jumbo/Extra Large Olives (approx. 36 per 6oz can)
Large Olives (approx. 44 per 6 oz can)
Cream Cheese (or savory-flavored cream cheese) - softened
Toothpicks (optional)
Pastry tip and bag or Heavy-Duty Ziplock (optional)

Step 1: Cut carrot(s) into coins. Larger coins stand up better, but smaller coins look better, so it's your call what diameter carrots you use.

Step 2: Cut a small triangle wedge out of each carrot coin to make 'feet' shape. Save wedge to use as beak. 
I found that short wedges didn't stick out very far as beaks, and longer wedges tended to leave a big gap where the toothpick was trying to go. I also ended up shaving most of the wedges down to a skinnier size so they wouldn't split open the olive when being inserted. For the wedges that were from too-thick coins, I just replaced them with wedges cut from a spare coin that was either too small or cut at an angle so I didn;t get a full coin.

Step 3 (Optional): Slice Jumbo/Extra Large olive lengthwise down one side only.
I only did this on one olive. It was too labor intensive for me, and it made piping the cream cheese harder. If you are using a knife to spread/fill with cheese, this way would be easier.

Step 4: Spread or pipe cream cheese into center of olive. 
I chose to put my cream cheese in a heavy-duty Ziplock and snip a corner so I could pipe the cream cheese, since it's much easier and less messy.

Step 5: Gently insert beak into smaller opening in Large olives. (The smaller openings on mine looked like an 'X' mark.)
You *can* try and push beak through from larger opening, but I had mixed results, with an over 50% failure rate. I found it was just easier to cut a sliver off the beak until it fit better.

Step 6: Pipe or spread a blob of cream cheese to center of each 'feet' coin to help cement the body.

Step 7: Press filled Jumbo olive onto 'feet.' The olive sits better if you put the larger opening side down.
Step 8: Pipe or apply a blob of cream cheese to the 'neck' of the body.

Step 9: Attach 'head' olive onto 'body.'


Step 10 (Optional): Insert toothpick through top of 'head,' all the way down through the carrot 'feet.'
I found it was easier to do this step as I was affixing the head to the body. I'd stick the toothpick through the 'head,' then bring it to the body and skewer down through it to the carrot, sliding the head up as I went. 
The ones I saw originally didn't need toothpicks, but my cheese just wasn't enough to stick everything together. It's possible that had I wiped the olives and carrots dry, they would have stuck together with just the cheese. But since I was making these the night before, and transporting them, I didn't want them to go dry overnight, or fall apart on the drive over (or during the toddler/diaper bag/Tupperware juggling act on the way in from the car!) Or maybe whipped or spreadable cream cheese works better (I used a brick.)

The original ones I saw also used a toothpick to poke eye holes in the head, and somehow filled them with little bits of cream cheese, but I couldn't figure out how to do it cleanly without a very small-holed frosting tip. Maybe you could pipe cheese into the head from the back and have it squirt out the eyes, but I got a lot of splitting on the bodies when I was piping them, so it might not work out well.

I decided that since they were going to look fairly sloppy anyway, that I'd save myself a step and just let a blob of cheese pipe out the top of the bodies as they filled. But this meant I was placing them small-hole-side down, which was okay because of the toothpicks to secure everything. I also had some olives split open as I was piping, so if the split looked mostly perpendicular, I pretended it was a cut like my first one and called it good!

After the first one, I found it was much easier to do these assembly-line-style. Cut all the coins, cut all the wedges, fill all the bodies, put beaks in all the heads, put cream cheese 'glue' on all the feet and the necks, then assemble. You may see cheesed 'feet' in pictures before the step where I said to put cheese on the feet, because I was learning as I went! It was a big hassle having them there taking up so much space while I was trying to do everything else!

The olive discolors the toothpick, so avoid inserting from the bottom.

Army of Penguins
I think I ended up with around 32
A fun way to serve/display them would be to have shaved or shredded parmesan scattered onto the serving platter as 'snow' and have them marching along it.
For extra work fun, you could make custom decorations for your picks, like hat stickers or printouts that you apply to the tops of the toothpicks so they rest right on top of the head! (You'd want to have 2 per toothpick and sandwich the toothpick between them, using glue or sticker-paper to adhere them to each other. Or just one sticker and use plain paper for the back piece, then trim to fit sticker. Do this before inserting into penguin!)

The kids were enchanted by the penguins (Little Z sang the "Pingu" theme song the whole drive there!) but several of them didn't actually end up eating them. Little Z scavenged all the (untasted) rejects. She'd even stop eating her candy cane or sugar cookie to ask for another "olive Pingu."
Santa was at the party and gave all the kids full-sized candy canes. I swear, that stupid thing lasted for hours! She slorped on it for 2 hours before beginning the munching process, which took her another hour to complete. Meanwhile, everything within a 10-block radius was covered in sticky! [And cat hair. But that goes without saying. You could bring a hermetically sealed bag into my home and upon entering my house, will find cat hair inside! Someone new comes in, in cat-hair-free clothing, and you can see the sirocco of hair converging to engulf them and absorb them into the collective.]


  1. If it helps, the other place I saw Olive Penguins ALSO uses a toothpick!

    Today she had chocolate mice. yum!

  2. Oh, I love these, they are SO CUTE!!! My duaghter is going to love them even more.
    That's it, I have to Follow you now.
    (And that wasn't meant to sound creepy, by the way.)

  3. saw this post @ Diana's site.Super cute...I cant wait until I try them....


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