Planning a Carnival Party: Menu Ideas

Choosing a Toy Story Midway Mania theme for Jason’s 5th birthday has been a challenge for me on a couple of fronts. First, the design aspects, which don’t mesh so well with my modern, minimal style. But worse than the aesthetic concerns are the unhealthy foods associated with carnivals – cotton candy, whirly pops, funnel cakes, etc. From the beginning I decided that if I was going to work with this theme (which wasn’t my idea, as you can probably tell), I wouldn’t skimp on our commitment to eating minimally processed, dye-free foods. In fact, now that Jason has begun to recognize when foods contain dye and point out that he can’t have them, I’m even more committed.

But what’s a carnival without treats? Hopefully, I’ve put together a menu with enough tasty treats that no one will even go looking for the cotton candy machine.

1. Caramel Apples

I just made these caramel apples tonight, and I have to say, this caramel recipe is awesome. Just 3 ingredients – honey, cream and sea salt – and A LOT of stirring and these apples turned out perfectly. Tonight I used granny smith apples, organic cream and organic orange blossom honey, but for the party I’ll probably look for small lady apples. The caramel doesn’t taste as sweet as what we’ve grown accustomed to, but it is very creamy and rich.

2. Peanuts

Served, of course, in retro carnival-ish bags that are sure to remind J+J of their favorite Chipmunks episode.

3. Mini Pretzels

I haven’t tested the recipe yet, but I’m considering these mini pretzel bites.

4. Popcorn

Photo via Hip Hip Hooray

5. Trader Joe’s Salt Water Taffy

The only taffy I could find that doesn’t contain any artificial flavors or colors. And let’s face it, I’d probably earn the title of worst mom ever if I threw a carnival party for my child and didn’t allow at least some candy…