Once upon a time, Valentine's Day wasn't solely for significant others. Think back to your early school days--come on, it wasn't that long ago--when we were told to make every classmate a valentine. Perhaps our teachers were onto something, because although Valentine's Day is often associated with romance and gifts of heart shaped chocolates, roses, and jewelry, it's more or less just a day to celebrate love. That can mean love for a special someone in your life, as well as love for a friend, or even your dog! Yes, all those gifts are great, but the Valentines from my kids are what really melt my heart.
We try to show love for one another every day, so February 14 is really not so different. But, I like to use the day as an excuse for some fun-filled family time in the kitchen, which is so much more than a room for cooking. For my family, it's where I teach my children about healthful foods, where my little Picassos get to work, and where we create all sorts of goofy memories--and our Valentine's Day plans reflect just that!
Valentine's Day is a great time to see your kids' artistic sides. Grab old magazines, markers, and construction paper, and let your kids express whatever they love most on a homemade placemat. My kids often color as I cook and can usually create a disposable placemat in the time it takes to flip a pancake.
To get into the Cupid spirit, we'll be having a heart-y breakfast with foods that are naturally sweet and colorful, with no need for red or pink food coloring. What's on the menu? Heart-shaped, whole-wheat pancakes with a berry yogurt topper and dark chocolate-covered strawberries. Your children will enjoy these indulgences without knowing just how good for them they are, as they're loaded with B vitamins and antioxidants. We may even continue to play on the heart theme by having a conversation about heart-healthy foods. My children will probably roll their eyes and say, "Not again, Mom," but hey, sometimes the dietitian mom in me just can't help it. One day they'll thank me, and so will their hearts!
Whole-Wheat Pancakes (Serves 4)
-- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
-- 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
-- 1 tablespoon applesauce
-- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon milk
-- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
-- Pinch of salt
Berry Yogurt Topper
-- 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
-- 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
-- 1/2 cup raspberries
1. Mix all the pancake ingredients together
2. Heat frying pan and use cooking spray to cover pan
3. Ladle batter into pan
4. While the pancakes are cooking, combine all the berry yogurt topper ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth
5. Before serving, use cookie cutter to cut pancakes into hearts
6. Serve with berry yogurt topping
Chocolate-Covered Strawberries (Serves 4)
-- 2 1/2 ounces dark chocolate
-- 12 strawberries
-- 1/4 cup chopped nuts
-- 1/4 cup shredded coconut
1. Melt dark chocolate by placing in a microwave-safe bowl and checking chocolate after 30 second intervals. Make sure not to burn it!
2. Once chocolate is melted, dip strawberries in melted chocolate.
3. If you want to add a topping, let chocolate sit on the strawberry for about 30 seconds, then roll strawberry in nuts, or sprinkle coconut, or both if you're feeling wild.
4. Let chocolate set and cool for at least 30 minutes.
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Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN , is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her fourth book, The New You and Improved Diet, will be released in December. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on YouTube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!