Cupcakes may be the main event at birthday parties but that doesn't mean finger foods for kids can't be just as much fun. Each of these ideas features fresh ingredients with a few smart shortcuts to get it done faster, easier and tastier than ever.
1. Mini Corn Dogs
Start by mixing up a store-bought cornbread mix and pour the batter into a tall jar. Cut a regular hotdog in half and thread a popsicle stick halfway through. Coat the whole thing with cornbread batter before dunking it into hot canola oil for about 60 seconds. Keep warm on a cookie sheet in the oven and serve within an hour for best results.
Use a small, deep saucepan to heat the oil to 350 degrees F. You'll need about 4 inches, which will take about one bottle of oil.
2. Cucumber Veggie Cups
Use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds of a regular cucumber that's been cut into 2-inch sections. Fill your "cups" with hummus, dip or salad dressing then pop a few sliced veggies right in.
Get a little more nutritious by mixing 2 parts Greek yogurt with 1 part Ranch dressing.
3. Pizza Pinwheels
Roll out a package of crescent rolls or pizza dough, and then slather with marinara sauce. Top with 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese plus pepperoni, mushrooms or any other favorites. Roll up the dough into a long cylinder and cut into 1-inch rounds. Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.
No marinara sauce? Use 1/4 cup of tomato paste sprinkled with oregano, salt, pepper and garlic powder.
4. Celery Butterflies
Here's a modern take on Ants On a Log! Fill celery sticks with cream cheese (pictured), hummus or peanut butter. Press two mini pretzels in the middle and finish with raisins for eyes.
Slice a sliver off the back of each celery rib so it lays flat on your serving platter.
5. Banana-Nutella Sushi
Spread any chocolate-nut spread over a whole-wheat tortilla then position a banana at one edge. Roll it up and slice into "sushi" bites.
Make your own spread: melt chocolate chips in the microwave, add peanut butter and a little butter to soften the final result.
6. Star-Shaped Sandwiches
Use your cookie cutters to transform regular sandwich bread into party fare. Fill with favorite combinations like turkey, ham or cheese. But don't add your fillings until after you've cut the bread. You'll waste more food this way, and the shapes won't be quite as easy to see.
To store before the party, cover your sandwiches with a moist paper towel and place in the fridge. When you do set them out, the air won't be able to make the (very) slightly moist bread stale so quickly.
7. Cheesy Spinach Balls
Make these so "good you'll never believe they're so good for you" snacks up to three days in advance. Combine one 16 oz bag of frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed to remove water) with four eggs, one cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, and two cups of a secret ingredient: stuffing mix. Stir until combined, roll into balls and bake at 375 degrees F for 15 to 18 minutes.
8. Fruit Platter
No need to whip out the skewers or cookie cutters. Just assemble rows of colorful, juicy fruit on a platter--and make sure there's plenty of it!
9. Pickle Roll-Ups
For a snack that'll stick with your party goers, wrap baby dill pickles with half a slice of cheese plus deli turkey or ham. Slide a toothpick in the middle to keep it in place.