Calling all red food!
Calling all naturally red food!
Calling all naturally red food not chock full of sugar and junk!
I am helping to plan a kids’ Valentine’s Day party at school, and I am determined to plan fun games and food that don’t include sugar, artificial food dyes, and trans fats. It has to be possible to have healthy Valentine’s Day food!
Other than strawberries, my initial midnight brainstorm session was coming up pretty blank. I asked the KS community on Facebook for ideas for pink or red foods or other Valentine’s food ideas. (You can see the whole list HERE; it’s awesome!)
As it turned out, once I was inspired by over 50 answers, I thought of a few of my own party food recipes that would be perfect. Every idea on this list is either healthy or healthiER – I never can truly call anything with sweetener “healthy” because although natural sweeteners are not as bad as white sugar, any sweetener is still mostly empty calories. There’s some redeeming nutritional value in there too, but fructose is fructose, you know?
Why are they Healthy Treats?
All the foods I demonstrate below have:
- No grains or whole grains, soaked grains
- Zero white sugar, low unrefined sweeteners
- Healthy fats
- Fruits, and even some vegetables
- Probiotics! For real! (I’m kind of proud of that one because I feel like that’s rare among party food for kids…)
I thought of too many ideas, in fact, and my son and I couldn’t decide. We’re going to let the kids look at pictures and choose two that they want, like ordering from a menu.
The teacher, in a stroke of genius, is going to tie all of this in with their current Social Studies unit on economics by talking about choice and opportunity cost. Ah, some days, I miss teaching – the chance to make connections to real life like that and form young minds en masse…it’s pretty awesome.
Other days I’m just happy to sit on my duff at the computer while the children wreak havoc around me…but at least I’m at home with them.
See how helpful little Jonathan was for this post’s pictures?
He stole my strawberries, asked, “Where did all the berries go?” in baby signs, then decided to go for the whipped cream. It’s rather unfortunate that the best natural light is on the floor in front of the sliding door…
On to the food! Here’s what the kids will get to choose from for next week’s Valentine’s Day party:
Healthy Valentine’s Day Party Food Ideas
We’re calling these beauties “Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownie Sandwiches.” I used grain-free brownies with 60% dark chocolate chips on top (recipe in The Everything Beans Book, use the code BTBMINI-40 for 40% off through Sunday). I sliced them lengthwise with a very sharp knife and filled the middle with thawed frozen raspberries + yogurt cheese with just a touch of maple syrup and raspberry juice for the pink color.
Yes, I did say the brownie recipe is in a beans book. There’s not a speck of flour in them…but you could use any sturdy, healthy brownie recipe you like. I have a whole grain brownie in Smart Sweets.
My healthy fruit pizzauses a shortbread-style crust with real butter, 100% whole wheat flour, and very little sweetener (1/4 cup for the whole thing). Add lightly sweetened yogurt cheese and fresh fruit on top, and you could get away with eating this for breakfast.
This Valentine’s Strawberry Pudding is actually from my new book, Better Than a Box, where it was originally the reverse engineered version of that famous “banana pudding” with Cool Whip, pudding, condensed milk or yogurt, bananas, and Nilla Wafers. None of those things are in this healthy treat!
Real homemade pudding is mixed with homemade yogurt, strawberries and raspberries; that whipped cream on top started out as cream, not 50 variations on corn (read the side of a Cool Whip tub); and the “wafers” are a homemade graham cracker crisped to perfection in the oven, and of course, cut in heart shapes. Strawberries are also really easy to cut in sort-of heart shapes by notching the top.
Everyone is getting heart-shaped white cheese, because it’s cute and fun, and I felt the need to provide something that wasn’t a dessert, even though all the desserts are healthiER.
Last but not least, for the kids who love dipping (or aren’t sure about all my other recipes and want something they recognize), we’re offering whole strawberries with 3 choices of dips. They’re billed as “chocolate pudding, strawberry cream cheese, and vanilla yogurt” but are really “chocomole” from Healthy Snacks to Go (a pudding made with avocado, raw honey, and cocoa powder), yogurt cheese colored with strawberry or raspberry juice (from frozen and thawed berries), and vanilla yogurt. If you wanted, you could go ga-ga with strawberries and dips…
Healthy Topping ideas for Strawberries
- Yogurt cheese colored with frozen raspberry juice and and sweetened with honey or stevia. (also works with cream cheese)
- Thick vanilla yogurt
- Coconut cream frosting (made with coconut cream concentrate, vanilla or almond extract, maple syrup, and a bit of milk to thin if necessary) – I’ve used this coconut vanilla frosting recipe before; coconut cream concentrate is the same thing as coconut butter.
- Melted dark chocolate (dip at home and allow to harden)
- Yogurt (or yogurt cheese) mixed with pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice
- Yogurt (or cheese) with maple syrup and cinnamon
- Pink colored shredded coconut for sprinkles
- Grated or shaved dark chocolate for sprinkles
For this chocomole in the picture, I used a sample of organic cocoa powder from Lake Champlain Chocolates. It’s really excellent cocoa, used in many, many things in the KS kitchen. (Maybe they’ll do a Valentine’s Day giveaway if they see that folks here are interested in their stuff – click on over to see!)
If this isn’t enough, School Bites had a great Valentine’s Day healthy food roundup too.
Valentine’s Day Games with no Sugar
I know, sugar isn’t always in games, but believe me – once you start checking out kids’ party activity ideas, you’ll see plenty with food and almost always sugary.
We’re having four stations and rotating groups through:
1. Decorating lunch bags for a local organization, Kids Food Basket, where they give sack suppers to food insecure kids in our community.
2. “Love goggles” made from pipe cleaners and stickers
3. Making Valentine’s Puzzles (at right)
4. “Love Potion Smoothies”
Guess which one my Blendtec and I are in charge of? (See my Blendtec review) At the smoothie station, the kids will have to come to fair consensus on what should go in the blender, and then they’ll have cute cups and straws for their smoothies. I’m bringing:
- kefir (Lifeway)
- frozen strawberries, cherries, cranberries
- frozen bananas
- kelp powder
- chia seeds
- some greens of some sort
- lemon wedges
- diced red delicious apples
- maybe: pineapple, mango
We’re gonna have us some serious real food fun, aren’t we??? I’m pumped!
Kid’s Valentine’s Cards
In case you’re wondering what a real food household sticks to Valentine’s Day cards, in past years, it’s been…nothing. Just personally made cards.
This year, I was inspired by that Facebook thread to do these:
Both kids chose this fruit squeeze pouch idea, approved by mom once I read that there wasn’t any added sweetener in the packages.
We considered a few others:
- fruit strips or cheese sticks here
- pencils here
- whole pieces of fruit with silly Valentine’s themed notes on them, like these free printables or the ones I gathered below…
Fruity Valentine’s Notes
Once you start thinking of corny, er, I mean fruity Valentine’s notes, you just can’t stop. (Don’t use corn, too many omega 6s and GMOs, not romantic at all – although may cause heart disease, so surely related…)
If you’re having trouble getting the juices flowing, just pour two glasses of wine and sit down for date night with your husband/wife. Better yet, go to the produce section on a date! Wouldn’t that be a scene?
- Will you be my Clementine?
- Hi there, Kiwi Pie!
- Here’s a Cutie for the cutie (with a Clementine)
- I’m blueberry without you
- I’m bananas for you, Valentine
- Orange you going to kiss me?
- Slip into my arms, Valentine (with a banana)
- Cantaloupe tonight, dear, let’s wait for Valentine’s Day.
- You’re awfully a-peel-ing to me, Valentine (with a banana or string cheese or orange…)
Having fun yet?
What do you do to combat the sugar-fest that can happen at a school holiday party?
UPDATE on the comments section:
I hate to even take a minute more to comment on the mess that has taken place in the comments on this post, but as the boss, I get to. And I need to, to make sure that visitors understand what’s going on and don’t get derailed by one lone commenter.
“Oliver” has shared many opinions in the comments at this post, and he’s done so quite rudely. I don’t appreciate the accusations he’s made about me being out for profit at the expense of my readers’ health (and the health of my own children, by proxy) nor about our general lack of research and ability to comprehend science here at Kitchen Stewardship.
I was about to exercise the almighty delete button on all of his comments, but I felt horribly that other readers had taken time from their families to respond to him, and I decided not to negate their efforts. Besides, I do value intelligent conversation, and although this one is verging on not fitting into that category, the search for knowledge is still something I want to foster here at KS.
Much of his information does not deserve a response, and I think we all notice and lament the fact that Oliver does not include sources for his ground-breaking research. This one, from Heather, is perfect: http://www.biology.arizona.edu/biochemistry/problem_sets/aa/aa.html
I do want to respond to Oliver’s attack on my business here – I am a for-profit business, to be sure, but if I was only seeking profit over health, believe me, I would accept all the offers that come my way. This could include Farmhouse frozen mozzarella sticks or “almost healthy” foods that still don’t fit the high standards (no industrial oils or soy, for example) that I set. I reject many monetizing opportunities based on the knowledge I have as a mom, not a scientist, and the best I can do, both for my family and my readers. I always promote baby steps, so Oliver’s push to let go of all that we understand about food is too much, too fast, even if there are elements of truth in his diatribe.
Any “advertising” I accept here at Kitchen Stewardship must be related to what my readers are interested in and also provide authentic content and real information, if in a post. I have cut ads from my sidebar recently that showed too many processed foods and “took over” the site with annoying popups, and I’m in the process of testing various networks to see which is the best fit.
I strongly believe that posts all must have genuine value, and Donielle’s post on natural fertility, he admits, was heartfelt and a good story. Yes, she was promoting her book, and I was thrilled to share my platform with her – she’s a dear friend in real life, and I would be remiss not to shout from the rooftops how proud I am that she’s a published author!
If Oliver would like to share this platform at Kitchen Stewardship, I would be happy to accept a well-written, well-sourced guest post from him, once he and his group of scientists publish their new research. He needs only to email me in private with a proper proposal, and once I check that everything is peer-reviewed and also doesn’t feel completely inappropriate and dangerous, according to my maternal intuition, you’ll see him here again. Until that time, Oliver’s future comments will be marked as spam.
Ultimately, although I was going to delete everything for plain rudeness, the comment thread here will remain intact, although Oliver himself will not be able to add anything more to what has already taken over a light-hearted and fun post. I encourage readers to avoid adding fuel to the fire and just go hug your kids and feed them something nourishing while counting your blessings, both the smiling faces in front of you and the full refrigerator and pantry most of us enjoy.
Thanks, Katie (the boss)
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.