Oh JoyOh Joy

the cutest party foods for kids...

Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches by Heirloom LA

When we threw Ruby's little ice cream social, I wanted to make sure the kids ate a healthy meal before filling their bellies with the special ice cream treat. So I called upon my crazy-talented friend, Matt Poley from Heirloom LA, to come up with healthy and kid-friendly foods to feast on. What he came up with blew my mind and gave me so much inspiration for future meal-making for Ruby.

Fruit and Cheese Skewers by Heirloom LA

Almond Butter and Banana Sandwiches by Heirloom LA

Mini Crudite

Mac and Cheese Nuggets by Heirloom LA

The menu included (from top to bottom): mini grilled cheese sandwiches (in heart and star shapes); fruit, cheese, and mouse melon skewers; baby vegetable crudités (with ranch dressing for dipping), almond butter and banana sandwiches topped with sea salt, and finally, mac n' cheese nuggets (shaped like kids!). I mean, have you ever seen food look so cute?! Even the parents were chowing down on these beautiful morsels of goodness.

Oh Joy Mini Ice Cream Social

Matt made these mac n' cheese nuggets for the first-time ever for our party, and they were such a hit that he has kindly shared the recipe with us today. Thanks so much to Heirloom LA for these amazing treats and for giving me a serious dose of kid food inspiration!

See below for the recipe...

Mac n’ Cheese Nuggets
Makes 12-15 little mac n' cheese people (plus you will have scraps to snack on!)

You'll need:
- 9”x15” casserole dish, sprayed with vegetable spray and lined with plastic wrap
- gingerbread people cookie cutter (or your favorite shape cut outs)
- electric deep fryer (or safe-frying setup such as a sauce pot filled halfway with vegetable oil and a candy thermometer)
- plastic wrap
- a heavy book that fits snugly inside the casserole dish
- carrot tops or yellow and white flowers for garnish

-1 box cooked pasta (approx 1 lb. of penne or elbow macaroni works best because they hold the cheese sauce) 
- 32 oz Bechamel Sauce (recipe below)
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 3 whole eggs, beaten
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 cup flour
- salt and pepper to taste

Here's how:
1. In a medium sauce pot, bring bechamel to a low simmer and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and mix in cheeses, continue mixing until cheese has fully melted.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked pasta with cheese sauce and massage pasta into the cheese sauce either with your hands (more fun!) or with a rubber spatula.

3. Once all the pasta is coated, transfer to sprayed and lined casserole dish and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Wash your hands then press pasta into all the corners as to avoid air pockets.

4. Place your heavy book on top of the plastic wrap-protected pasta and set in freezer for a minimum of 1 hour. Remove from freezer and removed solidified pasta block from the pan and then cut into your favorite shapes. (Be sure to save the scraps for reheating in a microwave safe bowl as it will remelt nicely with just a few tablespoons of water and microwaved covered with a lid.)

4. To bread the cut-outs, first dredge the pieces in the flour and pat off extra flour, then dip until coated thoroughly in the beaten eggs, followed by the bread crumbs mixture. Be sure to pat as much breadcrumbs as possible onto the pieces as to create a nice sturdy bread coating that will remain after the frying process.

5. Store cut-outs in freezer until you would like to cook them. They will be best when fried, however, you can bake them for a healthier option (17-20 minutes at 350°).

6. To fry, preheat oil to 350 degrees, carefully place cut-outs into the fryer and allow to fry until golden brown (about 4 minutes). With a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess oil.

7. The Mac and Cheese kids can sit out for quite sometime and be good to munch on but if you would like to serve them hot, you can pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 4-5 minutes if you want to get your frying out of the way before snack time.

We like dipping them in ketchup, BBQ, or ranch sauce!

To make the bechamel, you'll need:
- 32 oz whole milk
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the cornstarch and 4 oz (1/2 cup)  of the milk until smooth, set aside. In a non-reactive saucepan (such as stainless steel), bring the remaining milk and salt to a simmer. Begin whisking the milk over low heat and pour in the milk/cornstarch mixture. Allow to come to a slow boil and cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Set aside to apply to above recipe. NOTE: If you are preparing this recipe right before you make the Mac and Cheese, you can mix the cheese into the béchamel while its hot as to not have to reheat again.

{Photos by Oh Joy}