The best part of these little bento animals? They don't require any special tools, and each one can be created in five minutes or less. Each animal is made with a cooked hot dog of your choice. I prefer organic beef dogs, and I boil mine, as that keeps the hot dogs nice and plump.
For the penguin, start by cutting a hot dog in half.
Cut a slightly concave triangle out of the bottom cut end to make the feet. Then cut 2 slits, 1 on each side, for the wings. You can do this to both halves.
Boil the penguins for about a minute. This will make the feet and wings curl out a bit. You can use scissors to clean them up if you need to.
Cut an oval of white cheese for the belly. I like to use mozzarella or Babybel, as both are soft and pliable. Use a little dab of cream cheese to stick it to the center of the penguin.
Poke a small slit above the oval, and insert a little triangular piece of carrot. Use scissors to cut out 2 tiny dots of seaweed for the eyes. They should stick to the hot dog on their own. You can repeat these steps with the other hot dog half to make 2 penguins.
To make the elephant, start by cutting 1/3 off a hot dog. The small end will be the head.
Cut 2 slits from the center of the head down to the cut end. These will form the trunk.
Cut off the excess hot dog on the bottom half of the head.
Now slice 2 thin circles from your remaining 2/3 of hot dog. These will be the ears.
Then slice the end off the remaining 2/3 of hot dog. This will be the elephant's body.
Add detail to the elephant head by using 2 dots of cream cheese and 2 tiny circles of seaweed. I apply these with a toothpick and then use the toothpick to wipe up any cream cheese smears.
Break the ends off a toothpick, and use them to attach the ears to the back of the head.
Use a toothpick broken in half to attach the body to the head. Make sure to warn your child that they need to remove the toothpick before eating! You could also use a piece of uncooked spaghetti instead of a toothpick.
For the snail, slice a hot dog in half.
Cut a 1/2-inch circle off one end. The circle will be used for the center of the snail shell.
Stand the remaining piece of that half on its cut end. Slice downward at an angle. This will be the body.
Slice the bottom off (lengthwise) from the other half of the hot dog.
Place it cut side down, and make slits about every 1/4 inch, making sure to not slice all the way through.
The last cut before assembly is to slice the bottom third off the center piece for the snail shell so that it is a little more than a half circle.
To assemble the snail, use a broken-off toothpick to attach the center of the shell to the body. Slide the toothpick in at an angle so it pokes into the wider part of the body.
Fan out the shell, and attach it to the center using broken pieces of toothpick. It works best to place a toothpick piece at each end and another in the middle. You might need to cut a segment or 2 off the shell to make it fit well. As with the elephant, warn your child to remove the toothpicks before eating.
Poke 2 little pieces of spaghetti into the the snail's head to make antennae.
To make the eyes, use a toothpick to apply a dab of cream cheese and a small dot of seaweed. You can also use the toothpick to wipe off any cream cheese smears.
Which hot dog animal is your favorite?
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