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Ordinary hot dogs can become seafood

Turn a ho-hum Saturday meal into a memorable family activity when you dive into this “Octopus Lunch Surprise” recipe. With a few simple ingredients that kids love, your imaginations can soar when everyone creates an underwater scene right on their plates.

Make a shopping list, pick up what you need together, and you’ll soon be on your way to playing with your food kid style!

The ingredients:

•4 standard-size hot dogs

•6 ounces spinach fettuccine, cooked according to package directions (substitute shell-shaped pasta, if you prefer)

•4 slices of bread

•4 slices of cheese or cheese spread

•Cookie cutters in fish or star shapes

•2 whole cloves or raisins

•Several cocktail-size sausages, such as Hillshire Farm Beef Lit’l Smokies (optional)

Here’s the fun:

For each “octopus,” slice a hot dog down the center lengthwise, leaving approximately 1 1/2 inches at one end of the hot dog intact. The uncut end will be the head of the “octopus.”

Hand your child a pair of clean and easy-to-handle scissors. Let him cut each of the halves in half lengthwise, then in half again. Be careful to keep the strips attached to the solid top portion of the hot dog. You will now have eight arms.

Cut a few arms in the small cocktail-sized wieners, if you wish.

An adult should place the hot dogs in a pan of boiling water. Watch how the “octopus” arms immediately curl as the hot dog heats through and the casing tightens.

Carefully remove from the pan and set each one with the head upright and legs dangling outward on top of a mound of hot and buttered spinach pasta (the seaweed). For eyes, insert two whole cloves or raisins next to each other into the top portion.

Set a small sausage or two (to represent squid) along the side of the plate, chasing after the octopus.

Serve with toast that has been cut into sea-themed shapes with cookie cutters. Top with cheese spread or cheese slices cut into the same shapes.

Donna Erickson is the author of several books about family activities and host of a public television series. See more at

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