On a very personal note, I am not a lover of Valentine's Day. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Grinch rather in my early 20’s I ended a five year relationship on this day; then in my late 20’s someone I really cared for took me to a romantic dinner on February 14th then broke up with me; finally in my early 30’s my then-boyfriend, now-husband spent wads of money on the perfect roses that weren’t so perfect and he went into a tailspin. Three strikes, I am out—so celebrating this day of hearts is no longer my thing.
And of course as a nutritionist, the notion that there is yet another holiday that centers on sweets and treats (especially ones with pretty sketchy ingredients like food dye, artificial flavors and even superficial sweeteners) is bothersome. But I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer (for those Saturday Night Live fans), so I figured that offering tips on the better for you alternatives for you and your loved ones was in order.
For kids and grown-ups alike, if lollipops are your thing, check out the many offerings at Natural Candy Store. For the chocoholics, you can’t go wrong with Alter Eco; they may not be heart shaped but they are surely a way to a person’s heart. Equal Exchange Chocolates are also pretty stellar, especially those fair trade dark chocolate hearts and Lake Champlain is a great runner up. And if you are a caramel kinda person, Big Picture Farms has it going on (and they are Animal Welfare Approved)!
Specifically for the little ones, Surf Sweets makes these really cute organic fruity hearts and they are an ideal replacement for those more traditional candy hearts. If you are up for baking, I often make brownies with Pamela’s Chocolate Brownie Mix (using the fudgiest recipe option on the back) and once baked use a heart cookie cutter to make bite sized treats for my boys and their friends. Yes, I still celebrate the holiday just a little for my kids’ sake!
Of course I can’t avoid suggesting some not too sugary options. One rose (versus a dozen of over-priced red aromatics) speaks romance. Cards, especially if homemade, are pretty special too. And of course there is always that heart-felt healthy snack or meal whether at home or out. Given my love of home cooking, here's what I suggest making to touch the heart of babes…
Reprinted with permission from What The Fork Are You Eating? Copyright © 2014 by Stefanie Sacks, Tarcher Books, a division of Penguin Random House.
Golicious Granola | Serves 4 to 6
1/2 cup whole raw almonds, coarsely chopped by hand or with a food processor
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped by hand or with a food processor
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped by hand or with a food processor
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil, unmelted
Pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 325˚
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with either a wooden spoon or your clean hands, ensuring that the coconut oil is evenly mixed throughout.
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment and spread the mixture on the baking sheet in one thin layer; bake for 10 minutes, then mix on the baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow the granola (that may be a little tender) to cool for 15 minutes before breaking it into chunks.
Kale Ratatouille | Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint grape tomatoes, left whole
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, or 1 tablespoon dried
2 large sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 tablespoon dried
1 medium bunch kale, shredded with stems (about 4 cups packed)1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, loosely packed, roughly chopped
- In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oregano, salt, tomatoes, bell pepper, zucchini, rosemary, and thyme. Mix well, cover the pot, and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.
- Remove the herb sprigs from the pot and discard. Add the kale and parsley, gently mix, and cook covered for another 3 to 5 minutes.
- Serve over quinoa, rice or pasta.
Stirring the Pot will be re-running weekly through January on WPPB 88.3 FM so don’t forget to tune in Thursdays at 5:30pm (with an encore Saturdays at 7am). This week it’s Good & Cheap and surely check out the Weekly Yum Recipe.