Monday, March 12, 2012

6th Birthday Party: Let's get cooking

While living in Hong Kong, for about 1.5 years, girlfriend IS and I had a small business teaching kids how to cook.  Even back then there was a division of labor - I did all the teaching and recipe development, while friend, who was a HK native, figured out ways to source ingredients for less and basically how to get the best deal possible.  It was a fun experiment and an interesting experience doing it - but in the end, I decided that I was done teaching kids how to cook.  It was incredibly messy, physically demanding, and trying to keep kids from throwing flour all over my sofa every weekend was nothing short of challenging.

But when Daughter #2 struggled through choosing what sort of birthday she wanted, I thought I'd offer her the opportunity to cook with her friends.  She immediately nodded yes and did her hyper spastic ecstatic dance.

The good for me - I've done it before.  The bad for me - I knew all the pitfalls from before.  I capped the number of friends Daughter could invite to 10.  It wasn't going to make sense logistically for there to be more than 10.   10 was even pushing it but I knew that she had a few special people she absolutely HAD to have at her party, so I didn't want to restrict her too much.

The challenges were coming up with things that 5 and 6 year olds could cook and make without destroying my personal sanity.  I talked it through for a few weeks, fiddled around with ideas, and then came up with two things - personal pizzas and rice krispy treats.  Only - I didn't think that was interesting either - so I took an idea that a reader had given me - lasgana, and decided to make them individual, in mini loaf tins.  I also wanted the kids to have some fun with rice krispy treats, so I did them in the shape of balls and flavored them.  Once the food was set, then it was all about setting up the "cooking school" henceforth known as the CIC (Culinary Institute of Choi.  Goofy I know.)  Here are some of the things we did for this party.

I decided to keep things very simple this year, as you know - it's a CULINARY school not anything else.   But I always do love just relaxing in the evening and doing SOMETHING, so decided to make this very pretty paper bunting.  I bought one of those coordinated scrapbook PAPER (not cardstock) pads (from Michaels and just sat around cutting the bunting shape.  Here are two possible bunting shapes you could do if you wanted. I like mine with a "foldover" piece at the top, because I think it secures the bunting more securely.  You simply fold over the top portion of the triangle (the trapezoid portion), and tap the string to wear the line is.  Then fold over completely and secure again with tape.  Here are two docs to help you draw your templates. You can either print these directly on to paper (which I did when I used 8.5X11 paper for Son's birthday) or cut them out and individually draw them onto paper.
Large Bunting Trinagles
Small Bunting Triangles

I also did very simple signs on the door, but fun for me, as it basically meant I had my own culinary institute!!

Photo Booth 
This wasn't much, but I wanted to have an area where the kids would pose with their aprons, hats, and a kitchen utensil and look cute.  I needed the pictures so that they could stick them in their frames (a craft we would do later).  I kept it simple with some bunting, with a whole basket of kitchen utensils from which they could choose.

The aprons were roughly based on this from Martha Stewart, only I eliminated the rope gather and just used grosgrain ribbon for the ties.  Approximate price to make each apron (find your bandanas on sale at either JoAnns or Michaels) - $1.50.  (Labor was free as mom in law was the fairy godmother who helped me.)

The hats were from KNG, and a box was about $13 for 25 hats.

After the photo booth, I told the kids to address me as "YES CHEF" and I would also address them as "CHEF."  It's all part of the fun.

Palate Testing
I love Top Chef, and one of my favorite challenges on the show is the palate test.  I decided to do one for the kids, where three chefs at a time would come forward, close their eyes, and have to taste an ingredient and guess what it was.  I used the ingredients that would be used in their cooking for later, and it was a hysterical game.  Try giving a child a piece of blanched kale - I made it better by filling their mouths with a mini marshmallow afterwards.  I had this tray full of tiny plates and covered it and allowed kids to be tested.  Amazing how many kids could guess everything!

We broke the kids up into two different groups and friend SH ran one group with the help of other parents, and I ran the other.   

Part of the fun of cooking all this food is the packaging.  The mini loaf pans I used for the lasagnas conveniently came with a plastic lid.  It was simple to put a label on it that the kids could decorate.
The rice krispy pops we packaged also, with kids getting to choose one of each flavor to take home.  They were placed in a cellophane bag and wrapped with a bit of ribbon.  Kids made labels for these as well.

Recipe cards, which I printed on cardstock and sent home with each child are here.

Large labels (for lasagna) are printed on Avery 5163/8163 labels.
Small labels (for pops) are printed on Avery 5160/8160 labels.

Picture Frame Making
Even though it was a cooking party, this activity was a ton of fun for the girls.  I bought $1 frames at Michaels, found some cute "kitchen" type stickers and then dumped these shaped rhinestones (from Michaels)  for the kids to adhere to their frames using zots.  (glue dots.)  They loved it and I originally thought I was going to have extra rhinestones, but it turned out that the kids wanted WAY many of them.

I am really lucky that I had so many adult volunteers who stuck around wanting to help.  I had a table for their refreshments so that they could eat while staying at the party; unfortunately it seemed that many of the kids were literally STARVING and couldn't handle waiting until later (when they would get similar refreshments.)  They kept on coming over and raiding the adult food.  HA.

Salami, cheese and crackers
Mixed berry bowl
Spinach Dip and assorted vegetables
Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

Party Favors
Each child got to take home their own lasagna, two rice krispy pops, recipe cards, apron, picture frame, and some measuring cups I picked up from the dollar store.  I packed it all in a bag with their name on it.


Purabi Naha said...

That sounds such an interesting party idea!! Great job!! I loved your packing boxes... I live in Hong Kong and am searching for these boxes to pack stuff for kids' parties. Can't find anywhere around Tsing Yi. Can you tell me where to buy these cheap?

he decoration and the overall planning for the party was excellent!

Joanne Choi said...

I know for sure that HK will have something similar. Have you tried Park N shop in their baking department? Normally the pans are used to bake mini loaves (banana bread or otherwise) and so they definitely have them. There are also restaurant supply stores in Mongkok where you could try.

Sandy said...

I love that idea! I'm def doing something like that for an upcoming activity! Thanks for sharing!

Susan said...

Absolutely adorable party! I yearn to be invited to an adult party just like but with wine...hee hee. Great Job!

Sassy Girl said...

Now why don't I live close to you so I can be invited to your party? Notice I didn't say my son... "IIIII" That sounds like such a fun party!

Unknown said...

I absolutely love your party ideas! So adorable and well explained instructions. I enjoy your writing too. Fun and thoughtful reflections on the life of a mom. Mine are 2.5 and 4.5 so I'm right behind you! --Grace in Seattle

jen said...

what a clever birthday party!! i wish there was an adult version for meee :P

Anonymous said...

I am using this as an inspiration for a class I'm doing at our school. Thanks for this posting. Just wondering if you made the rice krispy pops before the party or did the kids do them? Just wondering if possible to do those with a small group of kids?

Joanne Choi said...

I let the kids watch me melt the marshmallows and make the mix. After it cooled a bit they helped me form them (using disposable gloves) but it was bit hard for them as it does require a bit of force to get it to work.


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