It’s that time of year again when sweet treats abound, and celebrating Valentine’s Day seems to be all about eating chocolate. February is also American Heart Month, designated by the American Heart Association as the time to develop healthy habits for your heart health. Kids, of course, won’t be thinking about their heart health, and, personally, I worry more about their teeth. So here are some fun, somewhat healthy, food ideas to help your kids celebrate without suffering sweet treat overload.
I-Love-You Strawberry Pancakes
Start the day with strawberries and whipped cream on pink pancakes. Mix a little red food coloring* right into the pancake batter. Once cooked, cut the pancakes into hearts with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Top with fresh strawberries—or thaw frozen ones left over from last summer—and a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla yogurt.
In a tall, narrow glass, layer vanilla yogurt with red berries—strawberries or raspberries—for a fun visual treat. The parfait could be a breakfast treat, an afternoon snack, or dessert. If it’s for breakfast, add a little granola between the layers for extra energy.
Cream Cheese Heart Sandwiches
Send your little ones off to school with hearts in their lunchboxes. Cut heart-shaped bread pieces with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Spread with pink cream cheese made from cream cheese and a few drops of red food coloring.*
Pink Berry Smoothie
Fruit smoothies are one of my kids’ favorite after-school snacks, but this could also be dessert. In a blender, mix frozen strawberries (or any frozen berry), a banana, and low-fat milk or orange juice. To make it Valentine’s special, top with whipped cream and a few chocolate sprinkles.
Heart-shaped Kids’ Pizza
For a fun dinner idea, try red and white pizza. Make or buy prepared pizza dough. Roll out the dough and cut it into kid-sized heart shapes with a butter knife. Spread with pizza sauce, top with mozzarella cheese, and bake. Accompany the pizza with red and white veggie treats, such as slices of red pepper, tomatoes, and cauliflower pieces.
Heart-shaped Strawberry Shortcake
Why wait until June or July for strawberry shortcake? Mix up a batch of shortcake dough (takes very little sugar), pat out, and cut into heart shapes before baking. Layer strawberries and whipped cream between the heart-shaped shortcakes. A fun summer treat to brighten up winter.
Chocolate Fondue with Fruit
Okay, we all need a little chocolate, and fondue is always fun for kids. If they agree to dark chocolate, so much the better—it contains substances that help blood vessels relax to lower blood pressure, as well as heart-protective antioxidants. Melt 1½ cups semisweet (or dark) chocolate chips in the microwave, add 3 tablespoons sour cream, and stir until smooth. Use a fork to dip fruity treats, such as fresh strawberries, banana chunks, apple slices, orange slices, or fresh or canned pineapple into warm chocolate and eat it immediately, or dip and freeze for later. To freeze, place the fruit on wax paper on a cookie sheet and insert toothpicks for easy snacking.
*If you want to avoid conventional food coloring, boil up a beet and add a few drops of the brightly-colored water to the food you want to color. Or try strawberry juice if your treat contains strawberries.
Joanna Nesbit lives in Bellingham, Washington, where strawberries and raspberries grow in abundance. Learn more about her at www.joannanesbit.com.
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