Store-bought pizza dough (half a bag)
2 white button mushrooms, sliced
Olive oil for brushing
Toppings, such as peppers, carrots, olives, fresh basil, and pepperoni
Sauce of your choice (we used both pesto and tomato)
Mozzarella (we cut deli-style slices into disks with a biscuit cutter)
1. Heat the oven to 400 F. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet so that it extends slightly beyond each end. If needed, let the dough rise according to the package directions. Divide the dough into 15 one-inch balls and combine 3 balls to make the head. Have your child dust her hands with flour, then let her arrange the balls on the cookie sheet and flatten them slightly with her palms.
2. Press the mushroom slices under the dough for legs, as shown. Brush the dough and mushrooms with olive oil, then bake until the dough is starting to crisp around the edges, about 10 minutes.
3. While the dough bakes, create the caterpillar features from your choice of toppings. We used green peppers and carrots.
4. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Using the parchment paper as a carrier, lift the caterpillar off the cookie sheet and set it on a wire rack. When it's cool enough for your child to touch, let her paint the surface with sauce and arrange the Mozzarella and toppings. Again using the parchment, set the caterpillar back on the cookie sheet and bake it until the cheese is just starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Let it cool slightly, slice, and serve.
Red bell pepper
Tuna or egg salad
Thin pretzel stick
Cream cheese (dab)
Red pepper flag
1. Cut a red pepper in half lengthwise (or into quarters for lighter fare) and remove the seeds.
2. Fill each pepper boat with lunchtime cargo, such as tuna or egg salad. Sink a thin pretzel stick mast into the center of the boat, then add two triangular pieces of cheese for sails.
3. Use a dab of cream cheese to fix a small red pepper flag to the top of the mast.
1. Cut up cubes of bread, cheese, and lunch meat (we ordered 1/2-inch-thick slices of ham and turkey at the deli counter).
2. Slide the cubes onto a skewer with other foods your child likes, such as a grape tomato, a piece of lettuce, a pickle, or an olive.
3. Set out a side of mayo or mustard for dippin.
Pickle in Blanket
12 thin slices Genoa salami
1/3 cup whipped cream cheese
12 jarred mini gherkin pickles (also called cornichons), drained, plus more if needed
1. Spread each salami slice with a thin layer of cream cheese to within 1/4 inch of the edges.
2. Place a gherkin pickle or two in the center of a salami slice. Roll up each salami slice, jelly-roll style.
3. Cut each roll into thirds, pierce each third with a toothpick, and arrange on a serving platter. Serves 12 (makes 36 rolls).
Carrot or celery sticks
Fish-shaped crackers (optional)
1. Fill a veggie vessel (we used halves of a pickling cucumber, plum tomato, and yellow pepper) with tuna salad. Push one end of a carrot or celery-stick mast into the salad and set a triangle sail of pepper, lettuce, or cheese next to it. For the full effect, serve the lunch on a blue plate scattered with fish-shaped crackers.
Deviled Egg Boats
12 hard-boiled eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons vinegar (white or cider)
1/4 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 red, orange, yellow, or green bell peppers
1. Peel the eggs, then slice each one in half to make boats. Place the yolks in a medium-sized bowl and mash them with a fork. Add the mustard and the vinegar, then add the mayonnaise, stirring until the consistency is smooth but not soupy.
2. Next, make the sails. To do this, cut each pepper into 1-inch-wide strips, then cut the strips into 1-inch squares and slice each square in half diagonally. 3. Fill the egg-white halves with the yolk mixture. Stick the sail upright into the filling and sprinkle with paprika. Makes two dozen.
Balls of Energy
1 small banana
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
Finely chopped peanuts, mini-chocolate chips, or shredded coconut for coating
1. In a medium bowl, mash together the banana and the peanut butter.
2. Stir in the wheat germ. Roll individual tablespoons of the mixture into balls, then roll the balls in one, or a mix, of the coatings listed above. Chill until firm. Makes 14 balls.
3. Variation: For a peanut-free version, substitute sunflower-seed or soy-nut butter for the peanut butter, and omit the peanuts and chocolate chips (which can contain traces of peanut).