How to make healthy "gingerbread" houses for the holidays

December 11, 2009 at 7:42 pm 1 comment

We here at Operation Frontline Detroit are busily preparing for healthy snack workshops that we’re holding for kids on holiday break. We spent an afternoon playing with our food–and then eating it–in order to get ready for this fun project we’ll be doing in a couple of weeks. We love our job!

Check out our handiwork:

From left, clockwise: Diana created a rustic "log" cabin with a fruit roll-up roof; Stacey, who is incredibly talented and put most of us to shame, created a clocktower with gargoyle pigs; Dorothy's house made of peanut butter molding and shredded wheat roofing didn't last very long; and finally Dameon created a Little House on the Prairie type of home with toasted oats cereal and prune paste.

 Making traditional gingerbread houses can be unhealthy with all the sweet treats, i.e. candies, chocolates and royal icing. This holiday why not try making a healthier home–and then eating it when you are done!

Here’s how to make a basic house with suggested ingredients. Play around with what works for you. For example, I (@Dorothy) used peanut butter, which made for a great smelling and tasting home that unfortunately did not last two “remodelings.” If you’re looking to eat your house immediately, then peanut butter may be the way to go. Otherwise, the best “glue” that we found was cream cheese (try to use low-fat!) and a homemade prune paste/puree that one of our resident chefs, Dameon, made at home.

Ingredients

Graham crackers (if you can try to get the best quality graham crackers because you will have a better foundation for your house)

Cream cheese, prune puree or peanut butter for “glue”

Decorations: fruit leathers, shredded coconut, whole-grain cereals like frosted shredded wheat or Cheerios, dried fruits, pretzels, nuts

A pie plate (foil is fine) or paper plate. If you’re going to make a village like what we did above, some inexpensive vinyl tablecloths will be good for laying out the village “grass” or “concrete” or whatever look you’re going for.

Steps for a basic home:

1) Set aside six graham crackers. For kids, let them use a plastic serrated knife. These surprisingly work well with cutting. Two will be the sides, two will be for the roof and two will be cut to be used for the “gables.”

2) Place one graham cracker on a flat surface. Angle the short end of another cracker from the center of the long side to the center of the cracker, slice off the edges on both sides so you will end up with a graham cracker that has a triangle on one side. Repeat with another cracker. You’ll find that it might be difficult to do this without breaking some at first. No matter–you can just use the ‘damage’ as a snack!

3) Using your “glue,” smear it over the edges of your crackers, putting a pointy cracker with an uncut cracker, (place it lengthwise), then glue on another pointy cracker and finally glue on another uncut cracker. At this point you will have a rectangular home that needs a roof.

4) Put some more glue on the edges of the two other crackers that you set aside and place them carefully on top of the other crackers, making a triangular shape at the top. There’s your roof!

 5) Here’s the fun part: Decorating! This is where your imagination will run wild. Use the fruit leathers as shutters and/or walkways. Pretzel logs are great for fencing or the sides of the house if you’re going for a log cabin. Dried fruits make great various decorations on the home. To make roof shingles, mini shredded wheats with frosting give off a realistic snowy look (try cutting them in half so the house isn’t so top heavy) or use banana chips. The sky is the limit!

6) Admire your home–or dig in!

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USDA Statement

This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. This work is supported in part by the Michigan Department of Human Services, under contract number ADMIN-10-99011. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Michigan Fitness Foundation or the Michigan Department of Human Services. In accordance with Federal law and USDA policy, these institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720- 6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more contact the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline at (855) ASK-MICH. Space-Limited USDA/DHS/MNN Credit Statement This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. These institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. People who need help buying nutritious food for a better diet call the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline: (855) ASK-MICH.

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