Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Little Monsters Café: Summer Fruit Tartelettes

I wanted something simple and exciting to bring the boys back into a cooking mood. A few hours before our playdate I just had a few ingredients in the fridge to improvise something like a brunch. A bowl full of ripe summer plums and peaches and another with plenty of fresh eggs brought by a friend who has backyard chickens were on the countertop. And some ideas were on my mind. There was also a package of honey graham crackers, left over from a camping trip.

I thought that maybe if the cooking was not going to be challenging, why not bring something else to our get-together? In a few moments I had a plan: I wrote a menu and printed four copies. Then I planned to invite the kids to choose their ingredients for grilled cheese or an omelet, and later they could choose their favorite fruit to top the classic crust of graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar.

The Little Monsters Café was then opened. The idea itself put the kids right into the mood for playing and cooking. The  "café" is just a new feature of other ideas we've tried in our playgroup, such as the homemade Little Monsters Root Beer and the homemade cereal bars. Before that, Darienne's boys had a very cute idea, shared with us with a special drive-through in their kitchen. The boys love the idea of designing labels or packages, and this one was no different: They enjoyed creating the layout for the café door, still hanging out there.

When the mini-guests/entrepreneurs left, I was left thinking about the beauty of seeing them growing up. Of their happiness being in charge of choosing their own ingredients, make their own topping for the pie, and being able to be in command. They all loved it. Our lovable Little Monsters...

How to make your own Kid's Café for a playdate:

  • Design a menu with easy-to-prepare items such as grilled sandwiches, omelets, or burritos. Offer a choice of fillings on their menus.
  • Ask the kids to choose the name of their restaurant and to design their signs to open the café.
  • Include a dessert that they can prepare hands on, such as little pies, popsicles, smoothies, or tarts.
  • Invite them to make colorful drawings to turn your front door into the café's entrance.
  • Prepare a menu for each child and help them understand the ingredients if necessary. Have them circle the ingredients they want.
  • Invite them to prepare dessert after eating their entrées. 

Summer Fruit Mini Tartelettes

1 1/2 cups ground graham crackers (we used the crackers from Trader Joe's)
4 tablespoons butter or canola oil spread such as Earth Balance (or more if necessary to achieve a texture good enough to hold the dough and spread on the silicone cupcake pan)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
fruit slices on a tray to help them to choose a topping
brown sugar to sprinkle on the fruit

Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and brown sugar in a bowl and blend well. Press into bottoms and up the sides of the cups in a silicone cupcake pan. Top with fruit and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes or when fruit starts to get tender. Serve with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

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