Ah, February: the season of love. I've never been much of a Valentine's Day enthusiast myself, but don't dislike it either. I fall somewhere in the middle, likely not playing a leading role with my participation, but happy to join in the chorus. Traditionally, Dave and I have been known to exchange a thoughtful card and make a nice dinner together with some wine. Pretty standard. Nothing fancy, but quite enjoyable, nonetheless. That said, I respect and admire the couples that really go all out with grand romantic gestures and dinner at a 5-star restaurant. As a busy, working mom, a romantic dinner sounds like a pretty nice option right about now.
Whether you love or hate Valentine's Day, I think we can all agree that we inevitably associate the occasion with chocolate, along with other pink and red candy options. Now that I have children, V-day is a whole different ball game, since I now have the desire to include them in the celebrations as well. And since I need no excuse to play around with chocolate in the kitchen, this was a great opportunity to come up with some healthy Valentine's Day treats using real food that the whole family can enjoy. These are all easy recipes that include include chocolate (obviously), but are likely better options than most store-bought sweet treats. So, of course, I am sharing my creations with you here. All of these were easy to make using simple ingredients while still looking very V-day-esc.
First up, when I think of Valentine's Day, I automatically think: chocolate-covered strawberries. You can never go wrong with fresh fruit and chocolate. But I wanted to make these a bit more festive and thought: wouldn't making them heart-shaped be the perfect way to achieve this? AND why not ad a cute toothpick handle? And here we are: a fun way to to create the perfect snack.
12-20 fresh strawberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp coconut oil
1. Start by cutting the stem off of strawberries in a v-shape
2. In a double boiler, pour chocolate chips into a pot (I just used some dairy-free chocolate chips). Add the coconut oil and heat over medium heat, stirring regularly.
3. When the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and stir in half a teaspoon of vanilla.
4. Put a toothpick in the end of each strawberry and dip the tops into the chocolate. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
Related: Chocolate Almond Butter Stuffed Dates
Next are these heart-shaped energy snacks (or energy balls). I love these because they can easily be adapted for school lunches by swapping the peanut butter for a seed butter to make a fun snack. Sweetened with honey means there is no processed added sugar. The only special tool I used were a couple of heart-shaped cookie cutters in varying sizes, which I picked up from my local grocery store. I plan to use the large one on Valentine's Day morning as well, a great way to make our pancakes a special treat. Bonus: this simple no-bake recipe can easily be adapted for any time of year, giving you a healthy snack great for families on the go, making it a favourite among parents.
2 cups oats
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup goji berries
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1. In a large bowl, combine oats with chocolate chips, goji berries, honey and peanut butter. Stir until mixed.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Scoop the mixture onto the sheet and form into a log shape, about 1 inch high. Gently press in some festive sprinkles into the top of the mixture (optional. I did this on half). If you don’t have a cookie cutter you’d like to use, you can skip this step and just roll the dough into balls. Fold the sprinkles in first, if using.
3. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for half an hour. This will make the dough less sticky to work with.
4. Remove from freezer and use your cookie cutter to form heart shapes. I rolled my remaining mixture into balls. As these reach room temperature, they can lose their shape a bit more easily, so store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer.
Finally, I have a delicious treat that will likely be used as my Valentine's Day dessert (primarily for Dave and I). Chocolate bark on any occasion is great because it looks impressive but is so easy to make. The simplicity mixed with decadence makes it the perfect dessert. I used my dehydrator to dehydrate some thinly sliced strawberries overnight. Alternatively, you can purchase freeze-dried strawberries, or use dried cranberries or goji berries instead to give you the festive red color. And although I haven't tried this version yet, pomegranate seeds would give a lovely tart flavor as well. But, I have to say, dried strawberries are so yummy. The best part about keeping a treat like this in the freezer is it means you have a sweet treat at your finger tips that stays fresh, but that's not always staring you in the face on your counter. So it might even last a few days before being completely gobbled up!
1/4 cup of dried strawberries, cranberries or goji berries
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate of choice
1/4 cup almonds
1. Melt chocolate over a double boiler, stirring constantly.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet and pour the melted chocolate onto the middle of the pan. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate out evenly to the desired width. I like mine fairly thin.
3. Roughly chop almonds and dried strawberries (or dried berries of choice). Sprinkle them onto the chocolate and lightly press down.
4. Place the pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is completely set. Remove the pan from the freezer and break your chocolate into pieces. Store in air-tight container (I like to keep mine in the freezer) and enjoy!
Special occasions are one of my favourite excuses to make festive treats using healthy ingredients, often ones I already have around the house, and Valentine's Day is no excuse. Let me know below or tag me on Instagram @lindsay.m.nutrition if you try any of these healthy Valentine's Day snacks.
Happy Love Day!