Use a dash of whimsy to make school treats special

Jennifer Mastroianni

When making snacks for students, cleverness counts.

Just ask Chris Antonille, mother of two and veteran room mom at Whittier School in Massillon. In all her years making treats for bake sales and classroom parties, Antonille found what puts the biggest smiles on students’ faces: fun food.

Not that kids don’t appreciate doughnut holes and store-bought brownies. But creativity and whimsy go a long way.

“They giggle about it and get excited,” said Antonille. “And if it’s something they’ve never really seen before, they are much more willing to try it.”

No need to rack your brain for recipes. Family magazines and the Internet offer abundant ideas. There even are room mom sites offering tried-and-true recipes for seasonal and holiday treats. Other great ideas come from food companies. Check out a back-to-school treat trio from General Mills, which ranges from super simple apple slice cookies to big yellow edible pencils and a school bus cookie that serves a crowd.

If it’s presented right, even something as simple as crackers and dip can be fun, Antonille said.

“Little kids love having “little dippers,” such as whole apples that we slice with an apple cutter and then serve with peanut butter in their own soufflé cups,” she said. “Or graham crackers with pudding snack cups, or graham crackers with a small tub of icing for each little table group.”

As a great-grandmother who has room-mothered at Whittier for decades, Norma Huff of Massillon has hosted every class party imaginable.

“Some of the ideas I just think up, others I get from the Internet,” Huff said. Family Fun magazine has a great site, or just search under holiday themes, she suggests. Of all the fun foods she makes, her most popular is one of the easiest.

“I call it yogurt pie,” Huff said. “I use those little individual graham cracker crusts, and then you mix a tub of Cool Whip with one or two little containers of yogurt, whatever flavor you like. Mix them together and spoon it into the pie shell. If I use strawberry yogurt, then I’ll slice some strawberries for the tops of the pies. Do that with whatever flavor you have, banana, blueberry. It’s so simple and good for them, too.”

When it comes time to serve your school treats, consider this tip from Chris Antonille: “Coffee filters make great little plates,” she said.

“It’s easy cleanup at about $2 for 500 of them.”

Reach Canton Repository Food Writer Jennifer Mastroianni at (330) 580-8304 or jennifer.mastroianni@cantonrep.com.

GIANT BUS COOKIE

1 roll (16.5 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough

1 container (1-pound) vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting

1/4 teaspoon yellow food color

3 drops red food color

2 chocolate-dipped marshmallow creme-filled sandwich cookies

2 gummy fruit rings

Fruit roll-ups, blue and red varieties

Wafer cookies

Black decorating gel

2 licorice twists

Assorted candies (mini fruit-shaped candies and gumdrops)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 13-by-9-inch pan with foil. Cut cookie dough in half crosswise. Cut each section in half lengthwise. With floured fingers, press in bottom of pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely in pan, about 15 minutes.

Remove cookie from pan by lifting foil; remove foil. Place cookie on large serving tray or foil-covered 14-by-10-inch sheet of cardboard. With long side facing you, cut 3 1/2-by-3-inch rectangle from upper right corner of cookie. Cut rectangle in half lengthwise; reserve for bus door.

Reserve about 1/4 cup frosting. In small bowl, mix remaining frosting and food colors until well blended; spread frosting over cookie.

Place sandwich cookies on bottom for wheels; use some of reserved frosting to attach gummy rings for hub caps. Cut blue chewy fruit snack roll to fit, and place on cookie for passenger window, windows on door, and driver’s window; cut red and place for stop sign. Attach wafer cookies for driver and students’ faces. Use remaining ingredients to decorate as shown in photo. Color very small amounts of reserved frosting for smiles, eyes and hair as desired.

Recipe from Pillsbury

APPLE SLICE COOKIES

2 tablespoons red decorator sugar

1 roll (16.5 ounces) 1 roll (16.5 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough

2 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Black string licorice, cut into 1-inch pieces

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut 17-by-12-inch piece of plastic wrap; place on work surface. Sprinkle red sugar evenly over plastic wrap. Roll cookie dough in sugar to coat. Wrap in plastic wrap; freeze 30 minutes.

Remove half of dough from wrapper; freeze remaining dough until needed. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices. On ungreased cookie sheets, place slices 2 inches apart. Place 3 chocolate chips in center of each slice to resemble seeds. To form slice shape, make 2 indentations on 2 opposite sides with fingers. Repeat with remaining half of dough.

Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until unsugared edges are light golden brown. Insert 1 licorice piece on top of each cookie to resemble stem. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Makes 32 cookies.

Recipe from Pillsbury

SCHOOL DAYS PENCIL COOKIES

1 roll (16.5 ounces) 1 roll (16.5 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting (from 1-pound container)

10 drops yellow food color

2 rolls strawberry chewy fruit snack (from 5-ounce box) Edible glitter, if desired

2 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips

1/8 teaspoon vegetable oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 13-by-9-inch pan with foil. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Stir or knead in cinnamon and nutmeg until well blended. Press dough evenly in bottom of pan.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove cookie from pan by lifting foil; remove foil.

Trim 1/2 inch from each short side of cookie. Cut cookie in half lengthwise.

Cut each long strip into 3/4-inch-wide strips. From one end of each strip, cut off corners to form “pencil point.” Discard corner pieces.

Place “pencils” bottom side up, 1/2 inch apart on cooling rack over sheet of waxed paper.

In small microwaveable bowl, mix frosting and food color until well blended. Microwave on high 30 to 40 seconds or until frosting is melted and can be stirred smooth. Spoon frosting over “pencils,” leaving “points” unfrosted and allowing frosting to drip down sides. If desired, smooth sides with knife. Cut fruit snack rolls into 26 (1 1/2-inch) strips. Save any remaining fruit snack for later use. At end of each “pencil,” place 1 strip on top and down sides of “pencil” to form “eraser.” Sprinkle glitter below “eraser” to resemble “metal band.” Cool until frosting is set, at least 30 minutes.

In another small microwaveable bowl, place chocolate chips and oil. Microwave on High 45 to 60 seconds or until chocolate can be stirred smooth. Dip “pencil points” in melted chocolate to resemble “lead.” Cool until chocolate is set, about 15 minutes. Makes 26 cookies.

Recipe from Pillsbury