Children’s parties can sometimes induce a few cringes in a parent who is doing their best to live more sustainably and naturally, with minimal exposure to artificial colours, flavours, fragrances, etc. You can’t do much about the parties that other parents put on and which your children get invited to, but you can make sure that your children’s birthday parties are less likely to leave children with sugar highs and going bananas from orange food colouring, etc.
Now, you probably are going to end up with a bit of food colouring and sugar – this is a party, after all, and they don’t happen every day or even every week, so you can be a little bit imperfect – but you can keep these imperfections to a minimum. Request a professional domestic cleaner to clean the place while you are preparing the food.
The idea for party food is to have something that can be eaten with the fingers and is a little bit different from what appears every day on your dinner plate. And remember that dark chocolate is so full of vitamins and minerals it’s practically a multivitamin pill.
If you have large numbers (what were you thinking???) and need to use disposable plates, use paper ones. They break down in the compost heap.
* Air popped popcorn is a wholegrain and low fat, but is very popular as a party food. Season with a bit of salt.
* Cherry tomatoes
* Any fresh fruit or vegetable that can be cut in a van-dyke pattern
* Fruit dipped in dark chocolate. Poke a popsicle stick up a (peeled!) banana, dunk it thoroughly in melted chocolate and freeze.
* Raw or blanched vegetables with a dip. The dip can be sour cream, guacamole (probably leave off the garlic and the chilli for small children) or hummus.
* Mixed nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chocolate buttons.
* Garlic bread – make your own with olive oil and real garlic.
* Chicken wings or nibbles served cold
* Home-made ice cream. You don’t need a fancy maker to do this. Just use an egg beater and whip some cream. Stir in some sugar or honey. Then whip in some berries or bananas (blackcurrants turn the ice cream a delightfully lurid shade of pink), or a dash of natural vanilla essence, or some chocolate chips, or a bit of peppermint tea plus some peppermint leaves chopped up, or some raisins and brandy essence. Shove it in the freezer about 8 hours before the party. Check it every hour or so and stir it with a fork to make sure it doesn’t turn into a solid lump.
* Candy apples
* Fresh pineapple slices or even sliced oranges. Common, but surprisingly popular.
* Cheese in cubes or wedges.
You will probably make the cake yourself, which means that you get to use wholemeal flour, brown sugar, real fruit, real vanilla and minimal artificial bits and pieces. However, you will probably want to crack and put some colour into the icing. However, you can also add in some real lemon juice for lemon flavoured icing, which will help to salvage your conscience as well as tasting scrummy. Decorate how you fancy, bearing in mind that not all decorations have to be edible. For a little girl’s party, edible flowers (especially miniature roses, pansies and violets – spray-free, of course) look delightful.
For drinks, you probably won’t be able to avoid the fizzy stuff completely, but plain lemonade mixed with other stuff keeps the horrors to a minimum. Avoid the diet drink – that fake sweetener is worse than sugar for you (unless you have a diabetic child or parent attending – in this case, compromise and remind yourself that it doesn’t happen every day). Mix the lemonade with other stuff to make punch. Drinks are very often spilled on a carpeted floor, but household products are not that efficient as a professional carpet cleaning service .
Orange juice, lemonade and cold tea is a good standby for party punch, but you can also have a go with other herbal teas mixed with the lemonade – strong peppermint tea is nice and minty. And don’t forget to include masses of ice cubes and garnishes of mint and/or lemon. Shaped ice cubes are often a good novelty factor.