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It's Friday! Kick off the Weekend with a Fun, Themed Family Dinner

School is out.  The weekend has arrived.   There’s no better (or more delightful) way to kick off a Friday night than to do it family style.   Friday Night Bites: Kick off the Weekend with Recipes & Crafts for the Whole Family offers themed dinner ideas that will turn a plain, old Friday night into one that is full of fun and family.  Kids everywhere will go gaga when they hear dinner tonight won’t be cardboard pizza, but rather On the Moon,  Teddy Bear Picnic, Silly Hat Night, or Ye Royal Dinner.  With 20 themed dinners to celebrate over, there is no end to the fun parents and kids will have together in the kitchen this weekend, or the next, or the next.  The following {adorable!delicious!} recipes–Broccoli Forest Primeval and Hansel & Gretel Houses–are from the Into the Forest theme dinner.   In the book you’ll also find author Karen Berman’s ideas for a main dish and post-dinner activity.  Looks like it’s time for a Friday night family par-tay, doesn’t it?

Broccoli Forest Primeval
When I was a little girl, my mother would sometimes recite lines of poetry she had learned in school. I couldn’t resist naming this appetizer after one of her favorites. The original poem (see Friday Night Table Talk below if you don’t recognize it) refers to pine and hemlock trees, but this forest is made of broccoli. If you thought only the giants in folktales and legends could uproot trees and eat them, you haven’t visited the Broccoli Forest! Raw broccoli can be tough to digest and unpleasant to chew, so even when it’s finger food, as it is here, I like to cook it a bit. Here it’s flavored with a classic Italian-style combination of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Be sure to have napkins at the ready, as this lip-smacking preparation can make for greasy fingers.
Makes 1 to 2 “forests”
12 ounces fresh broccoli crowns (or about 1 pound broccoli, stems trimmed)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 to 4 large (6 to 7 inches long) sturdy pieces rye or Italian or Tuscan-style sandwich bread

Cut the broccoli crowns into individual “trees,” making sure that each has a “trunk” that is 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, and place into a large microwavable container with a lid.
In a small bowl, mix the oil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Pour over the broccoli, seal tightly, and shake to coat. Remove the lid and place it loosely over the container, so that it is open just slightly. Microwave on high power for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the broccoli has softened slightly but is still crisp. Let cool.
When the broccoli is cool enough to touch, place 2 slices of bread, one on top of the other, on a plate. Stand the broccoli trees in it, poking the stem end through the holes in the bread, until the slice is completely covered. If you can’t fit all the broccoli into this “forest,” repeat with the remaining 2 slices of bread. Serve, letting everyone pull up the “trees” and eat them—and then pick at the bread, which will have absorbed some of the flavored oil, if you like. (Leftover broccoli will keep, covered, in the refrigerator, for 2 to 3 days. Toss it into some pasta or a salad.)
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Little Hansel and Gretel Houses
A big, elaborate gingerbread house, made especially for the holiday season, is a thing of beauty that can be savored, piece by piece, for weeks. These small, portion-controlled houses are quick to assemble and can offer a night or two of fun and treats at any time of the year. Graham crackers afford an easy building material; just buy a high-quality brand cracker that won’t crumble to bits before you’re done. Or use square or rectangular gingerbread or other cookies. Note that you’ll need 3 squares for each house to create an edible lean-to that’s perfect for the good witches of your local forest.
Makes 4 to 8 “houses”
12 to 24 best-quality graham crackers, broken in half to make squares, or 12 to 24 square or rectangular gingerbread or other cookies, plus more in case they crumble
Prepared frosting for “gluing”
Assorted small candies (or large ones, such as gum drops, that can be cut) in a variety of colors

Make an A-frame gingerbread house by placing 1 graham cracker square on a plate or work surface. With a small spreader or a finger, spread some of the frosting on 2 opposite edges, making sure that the frosting covers each edge completely. Alternatively, you can pipe the frosting from a piping bag or a zip-top plastic bag with a small hole cut in a corner. This will be the house’s floor.
Use 2 more graham cracker squares to make the sides. Spread or pipe some frosting along 2 opposite edges of each square. Hold the squares so that the frosted edges are at the top and bottom, attach the bottom edges to the frosted edges of the floor, and press lightly; then tilt the sides together until the frosted edges touch and press lightly again to make a triangular structure.
Let your house sit for a few minutes to allow the graham crackers to adhere to the frosting and plan your decoration. Use the frosting to attach the candies to the house to make colorful trimmings. Admire your work . . . and then gobble it up!

FRIDAY NIGHT BITES, about the author: Karen Berman is a prolific cookbook writer and coauthor, having worked in various capacities on some 26 cookbooks and other titles. She has contributed to the New York Times and is a contributing editor at Wine Enthusiast Magazine. She also writes for online parenting sites. She lives with her daughter in Connecticut. Their favorite night of the week is Friday.

You can learn more about Friday Night Bites here, and purchase your own copy of the book here.

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