Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Eve Dinner

I called our local children's shelter recently to find out about volunteer opportunities for our family. We already deliver cookies once a month - but I was looking for some other way to involve our children.

One of the options she mentioned was bringing a special dinner on Christmas Eve. I told her I'd be willing to do this and I would enjoy doing it. It is hard to know how to plan for these things, because they don't know if they'll have any children over Christmas or if they do - how many.

But, I thought I would ask your input just in case. I'd love to think of something really special to do for any children that might be away from their homes on Christmas. And, I'd love it if I could do most of the prep ahead of time. What would you take?

Build your own pizza supplies, decorate sugar cookies, something traditional or not? I'd love to hear your ideas! And, if it works out for me to do it - I will make sure to share what we decide on!

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the pizzas and/or cookies are a great idea. Hands-on for kids is always good - traditional foods would be okay too, but not as fun or memorable. I'm guessing the odds are good that at least some of the kids in a shelter over Christmas haven't had a chance to make cookies or pizza before. Sounds like a wonderful idea for your family!

Ami said...

Build your own pizzas probably can't be beat. Tacos are another fun idea, but probably harder for little ones to eat. Also, do you get to stay with them for dinner? Cooking with them would be such good interaction, especially for your children. I would also recommend lots of fresh fruit. I teach a class of about 7 little girls who come to our church through the bus ministry, and they love fruit I serve as snacks. They say they don't get to have it at home. Watermelon is my favorite food, and it made me really sad that they say their parents won't buy watermelons at the store because they're $5. So, my advice is pizza and tons of fruit!

Lisa said...

My Sunday School class feeds our local homeless shelter once a month on a Sunday night. We usually have between 25 and 35 people to feed. The meals are different each month but a favorite seems to be spaghetti and salad. It is filling and you can easily make a big batch. Also salad can be bought in bulk bags from Sam's. There are seldom leftovers. We also include garlic bread and some sort of dessert.

Leanne said...

Monica--
I would do either "build your own pizza" or "decorate your own cookies". Another idea is a craft they could work on, so they have a momento to keep. You would not believe how important that is to children in those situations. You could use graham crackers and milk cartons to make "gingerbread houses" (I can give you more info if interested). You could also dye noodles for necklaces or to make their own ornaments.
Whatever you do-- I would say to make sure each child feels like the most special child in the world! That's what they need the most! And I know you will do a great job!
Leanne
p.s. would your hubby be willing to dress up as Santa and pass out small gifts? Maybe your church would be willing to donate some small gifts for all the kids--
Just a thought!

Wendi said...

I like the pizza idea. My only concerns would be what type of kitchen would you have access to and how long would it take to cook x numbers of pizza. As you know patience is hard for littles. I like the idea of spaghetti. Or maybe a build your own sandwich bar with a variety of little bags of chips and lots of fresh fruit and veggies. I am sure that decorating the cookies would be a hit.

This is a wonderful idea and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Jennifer said...

My husband and I lead the Jr. High youth group at our church and we have found that homemade pizza and tacos are the best options because they are very customizable. My experience with kids of all ages is that they tend to have strong food preferences, as well as dislikes, so I think anything where they can have a choice of ingredients is a great idea!

I think something fun and memorable would be to make gingerbread houses with the kids! You are so artsy and creative that seems like something that would be right up your alley.

Amy said...

Decorate Cookies. Just provide the cookies already made, frosting and sprinkles. Done! A great way to bless the little ones. Your family is an inspiration! Thank you for all of your posts- you help me see that I can do things with my kids even though they are young.

angela said...

My nieces and nephews LOVE decorating cookies. I like to include that activity in any special event. The way it works best for us is to have sugars and sprinkles spread out on the table, then my sister & I quickly spread on the icing and pass out the cookies for them to decorate. They love it.
I don't know how you will use this next idea, but I'll put it out there. Last summer I took care of my friend's kids for an evening. Their mother doesn't get into the fun details much, so I decided to take them on a picnic. I packed individual lunch bags for them, sort of like making a happy meal (I'm sure they've NEVER been to a fast food rest.). I included a sandwich, carrots, cookies, a pencil and a little tablet. The kids were SO THRILLED that I cut their sandwiches in 4 instead of in 1/2. They just couldn't get over that. I guess what I am getting at, is that kids, who don't experience fun and creativity on a regular basis are thrilled with just about anything.
I'm sure you will do a GREAT job.

Sheila said...

I would vote for building your own pizzas and decorating cookies. I just think for kids you can't beat that. I have a recipe for pizza sauce using tomato sauce and spices you have on hand. I have frequently made pizza crust ahead of time using my bread machine and parbaking the crusts and then freezing them until the day of the event. I did basically this same thing for my daughter's birthday party one year. In keeping with the theme, I also did a build your own fruit salad, where I just put various fruits (some canned, some fresh) and mini marshmallows in bowls and let them build their own salads as well. If you can get any idea of how many kids, Family Fun has a chefs hat you can make of poster board and tissue paper. They are very cute and very inexpensive to make (and you can do ahead of time). If you do this, I can tell you that I found it very helpful to put items like pizza sauce and icing in little dixie cups (or something similar). It makes assembly go much better with a bigger group. As you can tell, I love stuff like this! :)

Sheila said...

A link to the chef's hat that I mentioned:

http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/chef-hats-craft-664871/

Kristine said...

I think your ideas of build your own pizza and decorating cookies is great! The cookies will make it feel more like Christmas. God bless your time with these kiddos!

Katy~The Country Blossom said...

I think the pizzas are a neat idea! :) Do these children get a good homemade, traditional meal ever? If not...I would vote for the more traditional meal followed by the cookies you mentioned! :) Just my idea! Hope you have a wonderful Tuesday!

Brenda said...

I worked in and lived at at girls home for two years before I was married that was a home for abused and neglected children. My suggestion would be to call them a week or so ahead of time to get a head count, and then ask them if these children have any food alleriges or particular foods that they just can't eat because of emotional issues. We had a young girl who had onions and other things shoved down her throat as punishment by her mother before she came to us, so we didn't make her eat those things. I don't know the situations at your local shelter, but you might want to check that out!! A little craft that they could keep would mean so much to them also!!

Christy Morris said...

My mother grew up in a succession of shelters and children's homes. She's mentioned that she thrived on the traditional. Anything that would make her and her brother's life seem "normal". Those pizzas would be fun, it might not fulfill the internal need that every child has for tradition. Maybe do a traditional meal with a decorate your own Christmas cookies kit.

RT said...

I second (or third!) the idea of pasta and salad... with cookie decorating for dessert. Kids LOVE decorating their own sugar cookies and it'll make for a memorable evening.

It is so wonderful that you're serving this way. Christ will be seen in what you do.

TopazTook said...

If your children's shelter is similar to the crisis nursery here, where you would be cooking on-site, you could use English muffins as a base for the kids to assemble their own mini pizzas (it might be a little faster, which was a concern someone else expressed). I also vote for letting them decorate their own cookies -- or cupcakes! Sprinkles, M&Ms (or other small candies), etc. are good decorating materials. You might also be able to do ice cream -- either decorate your own sundaes, or those Santa-shaped "ice cream bars" you can buy this time of year.

Davonne said...

That sounds so great! I think pizza would be fun on a random night, but I'll bet that a lot of those kids don't usually have a traditional Christmas dinner, so I think a nice ham (much easier than turkey!) would be fabulous. I love the idea of decorating sugar cookies - if they were already baked (in different Christmas shapes) and you made the icing in advance (maybe just red and green, if you want to color it, to keep it simple), it would be very simple for them to do there, and every age could participate. The pizzas (again, while very fun) may be a little too complicated for some, and will be much more time consuming on-site. I hope this works out well for you :)

angie said...

I think the type of food (as long as it is healthy)is secondary to the goal of making them feel like they are part of something bigger. Of course, you can't replace their family. But if you include them in the making or serving of the meal, they will feel like they have contributed to something bigger. And even those that are in need get a great reward by giving to others. No matter what "dishes" your family brings to the shelter, the greater gift you will be bringing will be hearts full of love. God bless you as you serve His children!

Rochelle said...

I love them gettin g involved but doing both pizza and cookies could be bit much with a group of kids. Also pizza's could take ages, and keeping track of whos is whos would be problimatic. I would go with cookies for sure and maybe some little paper craft they can keep like an ornament or snowflake? Ham and potatoes and rolls and veggie would be a good traditional meal that you could do all ahead and heat up there. And I would gather and read a book together after the meal, these children likely don't get stories read to them often.

Lori said...

I love the pizza and cookie idea, for children.

Anonymous said...

I think that whatever I took I would include a stocking(s) ... maybe fill a stocking with things to make cookies...

Anonymous said...

All of your ideas are fun, and I want to encourage you to don a non-traditional meal if that is what you come up with. Our children have food allergies, and even though their special cakes taste decent, they are not what most children like. For a few years, I fretted about this or baked 2 cakes or served 2 desserts-1 being something my own birthday child could not eat! It really bothered me, but then I realized we don't have to have cake and ice cream! We've made our own birthday traditions which are yummy for our children and an exciting change for guests as well. I believe the children will enjoy your fun ideas!

Anonymous said...

Lovely gesture. I'd keep the meal simple, and have it fully prepared before hand, like homemade mac and cheese, a veggie, and lemonade. If you're also feeding adults I'd add another dinner item.
I'd bring sugar cookies and have items available so they could decorate their own.

Kim from Philadelphia

Anonymous said...

I'd make homemade mac and cheese and a side like a veggie. My vote would be for "decorate your own sugar cookies!"

Anonymous said...

Fruit kebabs would be a blast! Do a search for the image from Family Fun of the fruit on skewers centerpiece from the Holday issue if you're interested.

Angela said...

This is another Angela. :) I noticed the other Angela thought the children who didn't eat fast food or have a very creative fun mom are missing out. Please be careful about judging friends for something like this. Someday you might have children of your own. She must have a reason for not taking them to eat fast food. I know lots of wonderful moms who are not as creative as I am, but there are plenty of other amazing things about them that I admire, and they are just right for thier children. :) I say this because I remember the days before I had children, when I was an amazing babysitter and all children adored me. Now I'm a mommy and I have to do whatever is best for my children. There is lot of fun, but sometimes I have to say no.

Ami said...

I have some cookie decorating tips for you! We've been decorating cookies with friends since my oldest was 3, and I usually make every color of icing and have everything imaginable to stick on the cookie. I'm trying to simplify and feed us all healthier, more whole foods. So last night we had our Christmas party at church with the little girls in my class. We decorated cookies, and it was much more simple and just as fun. I baked gingerbread men, one for each girl to eat right away plus one for each person in their family later. I made little baggies of white royal icing (beat together 2 egg whites, 2 t lemon juice, and 3 to 3 1/2 c powdered sugar...this recipe would make enough for at least 10 little baggies). I sealed up the little baggies with a twist tie so the icing wouldn't dry. It only takes a tablespoon or two per person. At the party, the girls were each given a baggie with the tip snipped off so they could trace a design on the cookies, plus some currants for sticking on. It was so much less messy, and no one complained about it not being colorful or candy coated. Plus the cookies taste great whole wheat, and they're not as sugary and addictive as white sugar cookies. I hope this helps! I'm still excited about it this morning because I was dreading the extra work of the party but God really changed my heart so I was happy to serve and it was such a blessed evening!