Animal Crackers in my Alphabet Soup

My mother, Babyman’s Nana, loves to throw theme parties.  Whether she is having her next-door neighbor over to celebrate their dogs’ birthdays (last year’s theme: Go Dog, Go!, inspired by one of Babyman’s favorite books) or staging a holiday-themed Jeopardy match for me and my sister on Christmas morning, there’s always an excuse to celebrate.

When I was growing up, a trusty standby for these types of events was shaped food.  What is shaped food, you may wonder?  Well, it’s heart-shaped meatloaf on Valentine’s Day, or bunny-rabbit shaped pasta over Easter weekend, and so on and so forth.

Kids LOVE food in shapes they recognize.  I have yet to find a family/children’s cookbook — from Ina Garten’s Family Style to Nigella’s Feast — that doesn’t, at some point, recommend some variation on Jell-o shapes as a birthday party favorite.  The list goes on and on, of course.  Remember when you were little and the IHOP kids’ breakfast was in the shape of a mouse, with a big pancake as the head and two little pancakes as ears?  (I also remember it had a prune for a nose.  Why?  What child likes prunes?  No one ate the prune.)  Nowadays kids can be creative and make their own pancake shapes at IHOP–leading me to suspect that Disney sued them for an obvious copyright infringement.

The other afternoon my parents were watching Babyman, as is the custom on Thursdays.  I was running a bit late from work and got to my parents’ house just as my mom was leaving to take the dogs on their evening walk.  “He got a little hungry,” she said.  “So he’s watching Bob the Builder with Papa and having a house sandwich as a snack.”

Another woman may have stopped to inquire what, exactly, a house sandwich involves.  But knowing my mother as I do, I took her at her word and let myself in.  And there was Babyman, proudly displaying a toasted cream cheese sandwich cut masterfully into the shape of…a house!  Obviously!  Because Bob the Builder builds houses, so you should eat house-shaped food when you watch the show!

Now that I am a mom, I too am becoming a devotee of shaped food.  What’s more compelling at breakfast time: plain old Cheerios, or I Love You All the Time Cheerios, which have both O’s and hearts?  (In case you want to give this a try, these are actually not Cheerios, but Kashi Heart to Heart cereal — sorry, Kashi.) Why put a regular SB and J (that’s sunflower butter and jelly) sandwich in the lunchbox, when you can cut it into stars?

Right now I use a knife, but I have looked somewhat yearningly at the cookie cutters in Safeway and I suspect it won’t be long before I avail myself of a few.  Not for cookies, mind you, but for everything else…quesadillas, personal pizzas, sandwiches, pancakes…

Turkey “Worms” (slightly modified from

1 lb ground turkey
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup pureed carrots
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup unprocessed natural wheat or oat bran
1/4 cup bread crumbs
pinch of basil
pinch of garlic powder

Place ground turkey in a large mixing bowl.
Add the egg/yolk, carrots, applesauce, spices, bread crumbs and bran.
Mix well – If this mixture appears too dry, add more carrots or applesauce. If this mixture appears too wet, add more bran and/or bread crumb.
Take a small chunk in hand, almost as if to make a meatball.  Roll between palms into a worm shape and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining turkey.
Bake at 350F for approx. 30-35 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.
**You may wish to cover with foil to prevent the tops from burning

Leave a Comment