Stirring Up Fun with Food

Over 115 Simple, Delicious Ways to Be Creative in the Kitchen


By Sarah Michelle Gellar

By Gia Russo

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More than 100 fun food-crafting ideas that will engage, delight, and amaze kids – from actress, entrepreneur, and mom, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and former Martha Stewart Living editor Gia Russo.

Why stop with making basic brownies? Why not put them on a stick and decorate them? Why not take boring broccoli and turn it into a yummy cheese muffin instead? Sarah Michelle Gellar learned quickly that to get her kids to be adventurous with food, she had to involve them in preparing it. She wanted that process to be fun and help them develop self-confidence, creative thinking, and even math skills! So Sarah and co-author Gia Russo came up with more than 100 fun food-crafting ideas that take basic food preparation to a surprising new level.
Organized by month, the book offers projects for every occasion and theme, including Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, Shark Week, Halloween, and even a Star Wars Day with licensed Star Wars creations! The possibilities are endless!



EVEN HER TOMBSTONE READ, "She saved the world… a lot." I am also a wife, a mother, and—since I am writing this—an author.

Food and the experience of cooking mean something different to everyone, but to me they have always been about family. Mealtimes have always been when I "unplug" for a bit and engage in real, honest connections. Once I had kids, this experience became even more important. I wanted my kids not just to love food and to make healthy choices, but to experience the special bonding that happens in the kitchen and around the table.

How often do you hear "My kid doesn't eat vegetables" or "My kid only eats white food"? I was determined that I would never utter these phrases about my kids. And I knew from the start that I didn't want to hide ingredients. I wanted my children to know what they were eating, and through exploration, I believed they would learn to love different flavors (even Brussels sprouts—peeled apart, seasoned with a little truffle salt and shaved Parmesan cheese, and baked did the trick). By making them creative and fun, I was able to remove the stigma that vegetables weren't delicious.

most people know me as BUFFY the VAMPIRE SLAYER. The superhero. The role model.

I learned quickly that to get my kids to be adventurous with their choices, I had to involve them in the process of preparing food. Next came the tricky part. Unlike my husband, who went to culinary school, my related expertise thus far had been restricted to keeping up with the latest restaurants and making reservations at them. So I wound up learning about cooking with my kids, and sometimes even being taught a thing or two. What I initially thought would be intimidating became an adventure. In all honesty, at first I was worried that it was too late for me to learn, but I found the reality to be the exact opposite.

I discovered a new creative outlet that I was actually good at, and I realized that making fun food with my kids was about more than just getting them to eat. Measuring ingredients; pulling together pots, pans, and bowls; stirring, whisking, dumping, rolling, skewering—and waiting—are skills that helped them develop self-confidence, expand their vocabulary and creative thinking, and sharpen math concepts as well as their fine and gross motor skills (and mine too, for that matter).

But why food crafting? (And what exactly is food crafting, you might wonder?) As there is no truly acknowledged definition of food crafting, we will have to go with mine:

Food crafting is taking basic food preparation and elevating it to a level that is both fun & creative.

Why stop at cutting brownies into squares? Why not put them on a stick and decorate them? Why not fold broccoli spears into a yummy cheesy muffin? Isn't it more fun to eat food out of a jar? I quickly realized that the possibilities for presenting were endless. Now, don't get me wrong: not all my ideas were home runs. But creativity takes practice, and ultimately it leads to invention, so I just kept trying. (Someone once told me that the difference between success and failure is trying one more time. So true.)


The best part of this book is that whether you are a novice or an expert, these recipes are for you.

And one last thought on cooking and ingredients: I know that choosing ingredients can be confusing these days, as there are so many healthy-sounding buzzwords like "natural" and "local." I like to choose my ingredients using the same philosophy with which I live my life: everything as fresh as possible, as unadulterated as possible, and made as close to home as possible. That's not to say I don't love a runny Camembert from France. What's more, while I love to indulge in a great sweet treat (or a savory one, for that matter), the main things I try to avoid are overprocessed foods and ingredients. I do not see a reason for using artificial colors when most colors can be extracted from plants (there are even dye-free sprinkles!). The only way I can be completely sure of what I am putting in my body (and my family's bodies) is to prepare our food myself—or more precisely, prepare it together with family and friends. It's the ideal group activity.

With the same spirit that I approached Foodstirs, Gia Russo, my friend, business partner, and coauthor, approached Stirring Up Fun with Food. We both have children—I have my daughter, Charlotte, and son, Rocky, and Gia has her son, Grayden. As soon as the kids could stand on a stepstool to reach the counters in our respective kitchens, we involved them in cooking. Of course, there is nothing like a kid to turn almost any activity into child's play, and that's when it occurred to us that playing with our food was not only fun, but mandatory! Making an apple pie is always fun, but putting a bite of it on a stick (here) is so much more fun! Making their dads cards for Father's Day is a big deal, but spelling out what they want to say in fruit (here) makes the entire act of making, presenting, and receiving so much more thrilling. As mothers of school-age kids, we have packed dozens and dozens of lunches and understand the challenge of keeping it interesting. Threading almost anything onto a skewer does the trick; one of our favorite five-minute gourmet lunches is tortellini threaded onto a skewer (here) and served with a simple tomato dipping sauce.

The recipes that follow are not just for kids. In fact, we've tested every single one of them on adults.

In the following twelve chapters, organized by month, we've devised food for holidays, celebrations, and seasonal gatherings that is meant to add flair and excitement not only to your table, but to the preparation that happens beforehand.

Making it fun to make food is what we're after. If you own muffin tins, skewers, toothpicks, cookie cutters, mason jars, and juice glasses, you're halfway there. These are our go-to vessels and tools for making familiar dishes more interesting to prepare and to eat. We've witnessed how simply presenting a particular food in a fresh way can turn a "No way!" into a "Yes, please." If you slide a Caesar salad on a stick (yes, on a stick—check out here), there is a 100 percent greater chance that even the pickiest eater will go for it.

But the recipes that follow are not just for kids. In fact, we've tested every single one of them on adults. And it turns out that dads are just as intrigued by a Father's Day grilled cheese sandwich shaped like a tie (here) as the kids are entertained by making it. Young cooks love to make Mom a bouquet of flowers cut from vegetables (here) as much as she enjoys eating it. But it is perhaps the miniature cherry pies (here) that best exemplify what we have come to call food crafting. Baked in mason jar lids, they are easy to pop out of their molds once cooled. Why bake a pie in a pie tin when you could bake a much more charming version in a jar lid?

Our hope is that you will use the recipes on the following pages as inspiration, as a jumping-off point for coming up with your own clever food crafting ideas. So pull out your jars and ramekins, skewers and mini-muffin tins, and get crafting. You will likely find your time in the kitchen more joyful, nourishing, and satisfying than ever before.



I will never forget ringing in the New Year in Australia in 1999. There was so much Y2K buzz in the air that I promised myself I would watch every celebration across the globe that night, since Australia would be the first country to see the clock strike twelve. Well, by the time New Year's hit Spain, I had fallen asleep!

The month itself carries with it so much promise. January gives us permission to press the reset button, to reevaluate and reshuffle priorities and maintain the rituals that bring us joy. Cooking dinner has always fallen into that last category. This is the month for an open house; on New Year's Day, we love to put together a menu that's festive and restorative. By throwing open the doors, we start the year off with the friends—new and old—and family who have long sustained us.

January is slumber party month in our respective homes—our kids always seem to want to hunker down with their friends and watch endless movies, giggle through the night, and of course, eat. We've found that kids have the most fun preparing the food they're going to eat (and put on their faces, as in the Blackberry Yogurt Mask, here) and even more so when their smoothies, waffles, and mac 'n' cheese are presented in unexpected ways.

We know all about resolutions and the earnestness with which we devise them. Preparing food with a bit of thought is a low-demand start. Marking the start of the year by slipping a delicious bite of waffle onto a stick or making mini quiches in a muffin tin, for example, gets you off on the right foot, food crafting–wise.


I rarely saw much of New Year's Day morning in my twenties. Back then, the holiday was all about the night before, with glitzy parties that stretched into the wee hours. Now I want nothing more than to wake up early, get the coffee going, and catch a few moments of solitude before the kids charge into the kitchen, raring to get breakfast started. The day is the culmination of what always turns out to be a crazy holiday season—and after so many party trays and pretty cocktails, rich desserts and extravagant entrées, all we really want is food that comforts, flavors that are familiar, and loving family and friends to share it all with.


Serves 8

All revelry from the night before will mellow with the first bite of this restorative comfort food. So simple to pull together, it features just six ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand. And forget the traditional crocks—just pull out a set of mason jars (they're ovenproof)!

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 large yellow onions, cut into ⅛-inch-thick slices

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced, plus additional sprigs for garnish

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

6 cups beef stock or low-sodium beef broth

1 baguette, cut into ½-inch-thick slices

8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the thyme, salt, and pepper and sauté until fragrant, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and drizzle them all over with olive oil. Bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Ladle the soup into 12-ounce mason jars to within 1 inch from the rims, then add a few pieces of baguette. Sprinkle the cheese over the soup, dividing it evenly among the jars. Arrange the jars in a high-sided roasting pan and fill the pan with ½ inch of water. Bake until the cheese starts to bubble, 5 to 6 minutes. Garnish each jar with a few sprigs of thyme and serve hot, with a napkin wrapped around each jar (they will be hot to the touch).


Makes 2 cups

Slaying thirst is essential on New Year's Day, and ideally you will choose lots of water with which to do it! But what could be less inspired than filling your cup straight from the tap? With the addition of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, a plain glass of water goes gourmet.

Pineapple Mint Water

2 cups water or sparkling water

2 (½-inch-thick) slices pineapple, cut into quarters

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

Combine the water, pineapple, and mint in a pitcher and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Serve cold. Garnish each glass with a pineapple slice and some mint from the pitcher.

Kiwi Cucumber Lime Water

2 cups water or sparkling water

2 kiwis, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch-thick slices

1 lime, thinly sliced

12 thin slices English cucumber

Combine the water, kiwis, limes, and cucumber in a pitcher and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Serve cold. Garnish each glass with a kiwi, lime, and cucumber slice from the pitcher.

Blackberry Water

1 cup blackberries

2 cups water or sparkling water

½ orange, cut into quarters

Put half the blackberries in a pitcher. Using the back of a spoon, gently mash them. (This not only releases a bit of their juice, but tints the water a gorgeous pink.).

Add the remaining whole blackberries, the water, and the orange and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Serve cold. Garnish each glass with some blackberries and orange from the pitcher.


Makes 24 cupcakes

A wedge is nice, but a personal petite quiche has a lot going for it, not least the impression that you took the time to prepare something special.

2 (14.1-ounce) packages prepared piecrust rounds

3 ounces pancetta, diced

4 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

8 large eggs

1⅓ cups milk or heavy cream

2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish

Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat two 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each piecrust round out to about 10 inches. Using a 3½-inch round cutter or an overturned cup or jar, cut out several rounds from each crust. Press the dough scraps together, roll out again, and cut several more rounds. Repeat until you have 24 rounds. Place a round into each cup of the prepared muffin tins, pressing them into the seams with your fingers to form cups. Put 1 teaspoon of the pancetta and 2 tablespoons of the cheese into each crust.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and parsley. Divide the egg mixture among the muffin cups; the liquid should almost reach the rim of each cup. Sprinkle pepper on each and bake until the crust is golden and the eggs are set, about 25 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the quiches from the tins. Serve at room temperature, garnished with additional parsley.


Makes 1 serving

There's nothing quite like the beautiful simplicity of an egg on toast. It's an apt way to launch into the New Year, especially if it's made with a little more care and attention than your standard version. With nothing more than a cookie cutter (maybe they are still hanging around from all of that holiday baking?), the classic breakfast becomes a sunny way to start the day.

This recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled—scaled up to feed everyone in the house.

1 slice of your favorite bread, preferably a Pullman or other variety with a dense crumb

1 large egg

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus softened butter for serving

Kosher salt and black pepper

Use a cookie cutter of about 2 inches in diameter to cut out the center of the bread. Toast the cut-out center in the toaster; set the bread slice aside.

Crack the egg into a small bowl. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Place the bread slice in the pan and pour the egg into the center. Season the egg with salt and pepper and cook until the yolk begins to turn opaque, about 1 minute. Using a large spatula, flip the bread over and fry until the bread is golden and the yolk is cooked to your liking, about 1 minute more for over-easy. Serve immediately, with the toasted cutout and softened butter for spreading.

Clever presentation is A LOT EASIER than it looks.


Slumber means sleep, but that's not necessarily what goes on at a sleepover, if our experiences are any indication. So we focus on what we can control, which is how much fun it can be to get kids into the kitchen to make the food they're going to eat. And they will eat. Gia's son has become famous among his friends for his PB&J smoothie, in fact. At my house, the entertainment largely takes place in the kitchen rather than in front of a screen; from whirring up yummy juices, to decorating cookies, to making mac 'n' cheese perfumed with truffle oil. My daughter can never seem to wait for the breakfast waffles on a stick, which is fine by me. They're even okay for dinner every once in a while!


Makes one 16-ounce or two 8-ounce smoothies

A no-brainer for the slumber set (it's also a great pre-practice boost for the athletes in your house), this concoction is a healthy alternative to a sugary shake. Set out the ingredients and invite the pajama party to participate.

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 banana

½cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 tablespoon honey

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. If the smoothie is too thick to pour, add water 1 tablespoon at a time with the blender running until the texture is to your liking. Serve immediately in a simple clear glass jar with a colorful straw (or two).


Serves 6 to 8


  • "[Stirring Up Fun with Food] goes beyond the merely aspirational and Pinteresty with blueprints for natural foods made from scratch that also manage to be cute and clever."—Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Apr 4, 2017
Page Count
288 pages

Sarah Michelle Gellar

About the Author

Sarah Michelle Gellar is an Emmy award-winning actress with starring roles in TV and film including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crazy Ones, and Cruel Intentions. In 2015 she co-founded Foodstirs, a culinary lifestyle brand and e-commerce site that’s modernizing baking and bringing families together in the kitchen.

Gia Russo created original content and developed products for Martha Stewart Living and later started her own lifestyle brand, MiGi, which released bestselling cookbooks. She’s worked with brands like Williams-Sonoma and Pepperidge Farm and has contributed to hundreds of magazines. She joined forces with Sarah Michelle in 2015 to launch Foodstirs.

Learn more about this author