Island Cooking: Downsize the Portions to Upsize the Fun For Kids

Well here we are again, rolling along right into the summer season with the Fourth of July right around the corner. June has always seemed to drag a little for me, but then before I know it Fourth of July is staring me right in the face and I get that glazed look in my eyes because I can’t actually believe it’s here and I wonder why I’m not prepared!

The Fourth of July weekend every year seems to kick up a constant round of barbecues, picnics, weekend outings and visits from family and friends for everyone, so there is lots of outdoor/indoor cooking being done and, my favorite, lots of food to be consumed.

And usually no matter what you are hosting, there can be lots of little ones all ages around. I started noticing that while many kids around the age of 8 and up can handle an adult-size burger or a couple of hot dogs, many that are younger never seem to finish their meal.

So I started thinking about some of the younger kids that I know and what they like and came up with a few kid-friendly ideas that really don’t take any extra time, can be prepared ahead of time and taken to a party along with all of the adult portions too. Also, if everyone is tasked to bring an item, I’m sure someone in the group won’t mind making one of these recipes so the kids will have their meal and enjoy it too with little or no extra fuss.

Remember, the Fourth of July is in two weeks, so for those of you who have smaller children, or even a grown picky one like I have, it’s pretty easy to just plan ahead a little extra easy side dish or an extra main dish menu so everyone can have a great time celebrating and you don’t have to hear, “I don’t like that!”

Even if your kid only likes peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches, you can always pack a few extra and cut them up for the other kids to snack on as appetizers – and everyone is happy which, for me, translates to: When the kids are happy, the adults can relax and have a great time!

This week’s first cocktail is for the kids! There’s nothing like playing outside on a warm summer day then coming in and having an old fashioned root beer float. I actually would be surprised at how many kids have never tasted one of these, not like when I was a kid.

Root Beer Float

  • 1 glass, any size
  • 1 gallon vanilla ice cream
  • Root beer

Pour your root beer in a glass, not all the way to the top.

Top with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Grab a spoon, a straw, and enjoy!

For those who do not like root beer, Coca-Cola works great, too.

Now here is one for the adults!

Guinness Float

  • 1 scoop vanilla bean ice cream
  • One can Guinness
  • Whipped cream
  • Dash of nutmeg

Place your ice cream in a large glass (a beer mug will do). Fill your glass with the beer and, if you want, top with some whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Enjoy!

Kid Friendly Kebobs

What kid doesn’t like to eat off a stick? Just cut up some chicken, steak, hot dogs or any meat or seafood you are cooking and add any of their favorite cut-up veggies like onion, tomatoes, peppers. Paint on a bit of olive oil and grill. They love to pull it off of the stick and eat it, especially if they have chosen the ingredients themselves.

This can also be done with their favorite deli meats with chunks of salami, ham, cheeses and veggies and eaten cold right off of the stick.

And their favorite fruits also cut up and made into kebobs right out of the cooler.

Mini Burgers

Grab a pack of dinner rolls –  I love the one from the bakery section at the grocery store. When making your burgers, make a few smaller patties for the little ones and grill up and serve them right on the kid-size rolls.

I don’t know what it is, but sometimes they love them so much and eat a couple of them and you’re thinking that they actually could have eaten a regular-size burger. I guess it’s just because the mini burgers seem specially made for them.

When having fruit salads or tomato salad, if you have any of those small Dixie cups, take some along and let the kids scoop their own salad out of the bowl into their cups. I don’t know why this makes a difference, but it seems to work.

Shaggy Dogs

If you are grilling or have an open fire, try this for a change of pace. This does not replace S’mores, in my book, but it’s nice for a change.

  • 1 bag of marshmallows
  • 1 squeeze bottle of chocolate syrup in a bowl
  • 1 small bag of coconut

Put your marshmallows on a stick and cook over fire until nice and golden brown, dip into chocolate syrup and then roll in coconut or sprinkle it on and eat right off the stick!

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Holly Simason

Columnist at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander cooking columnist Holly Simason is co-author of the mystery series “Death of a Kitchen Diva." Simason has collaborated with her screenwriter brother Rick Copp for the Bar Harbor-based series. The books are written under the pen name Lee Hollis.