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Making Valentine’s Day Special

Shortbread Hearts

When I was a little girl my dad always bought me and my sisters Valentine’s Day gifts.  It was usually something small, often a plastic container that was filled with conversation hearts or a heart-shaped box of chocolates, maybe a small knick-knack or stuffed animal.  I remember how that little trinket waiting on the kitchen table in the morning would bring such joy.  I remember showing it off to my friends in school and it being my prized possession for at least the next several days.

This year I am treasuring those memories a little bit more because it is our first Valentine’s Day without my dad, who passed away very suddenly last month.

I’ve got to admit that I was dreading this weekend.  Not only is it the first holiday without my dad, but his birthday is also Monday, a double-whammy of reminders not even a month into our grieving process.

To counteract the sadness that I’ve been feeling, I decided to focus on making this Valentine’s special for E, the way my dad always made it special for me.  So, out came the trinkets!

Car Valentines

I decided that it was only appropriate to celebrate E’s current true love – cars!  So, I came up with these little valentines, one for E and others for his cousins and some special Stroller Strides friends.  I was really happy with the way that they turned out and was super-proud of myself for creating valentines that were non-food (i.e., completely safe and healthy) and something that every toddler loves.  They even leant themselves to a cute, Valentine’s Day-appropriate saying.

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He was so excited to get a car and was surprisingly willing to share the love. (I was a little worried that he was not going to like the idea of giving away cars.)

IMG_4036I added to our Valentine’s Day festivities, with another thing every two-year-old loves – cookies!  We used Ina Garten’s shortbread cookie recipe (by the way, shortbread is egg-free!).  We substituted soy-free Earth Balance for the butter and topped them off with safe red sprinkles (Wilton are safe for us).  They were a lot of fun to make and E gets so excited when he gets a “surprise” for dessert 🙂

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Also, my heart-shaped strawberry project from last year, inspired me to use cookie-cutters to Valentine-ify his standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I love that something as simple as cookie cutters can make so many safe foods more fun!

Heart PB&J

My Valentine’s Day was totally made first thing this morning, though, when E said, “Happy Valentine’s Day Mommy, Daddy” and initiated a big group hug.  Seriously could not think of a better gift!

I hope you are having a great Valentine’s Day with your loved ones.  Hug them a little closer and extra long this year.

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 Happy Valentine’s Day to My First Valentine! I Love You Dad!

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Veggie Bites – A Great Way to Sneak in Some Calcium & Veggies!

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I realize that most of the recipes I have posted are of desserts and sweet treats.  I don’t necessarily hear anyone complaining (who doesn’t love cookies and candy?) but I want to assure you that there is also some healthier cooking taking place at our house.

A couple of months ago I learned that E’s Neocate wasn’t covering his daily recommended dose of calcium so I started to look for creative ways to incorporate more calcium into his diet, which is difficult when you are avoiding all dairy products.  E’s dietician recommended we try salmon and green leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach.   I came across a recipe for spinach bites that sounded great.  Unfortunately they didn’t turn out right for me so I tweaked it a little and made my own version.

I love these Veggie Bites and so does E!  I usually make them with spinach but I have also had success with broccoli and I’m guessing you could use just about anything. Not only are they a good way to sneak some veggies into my little guy, but they were also a good way to transition him to more flavorful food.  I have a tendency to get caught up in pure food trials, during which I try not to add too many variables, like spices.  This was a good opportunity to trial a bunch of spices that were likely going to be passes.   It also contains three chia “eggs,” which helps boost the fiber, calcium, and omega-3.

I won’t lie – they are a little bit time-consuming to make and I always end up with a sink full of dirty dishes, but they are totally worth it.  Besides all the nutritional benefits, they are a great make-ahead dish.  This recipe makes about 12 good-sized servings, so I usually freeze about half of the try.  If you pre-cut them, you can just pull them out of the freezer and defrost/reheat as needed.  I love having them on hand for use as a side dish whenever I need them. I think they would also work well as a quick, healthy snack.

I usually just cut them into square or strips to serve but I’ve been wanting to try to make them a little more fun, so today I pulled out the cookie cutters.  I recommend letting them cool completely before your try cutting them, or you’re likely to get more of a veggie mush (which still tastes delicious).  If you are feeling creative and want to use cookie cutters, refrigerating them overnight will help you get a more workable consistency.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

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Spinach Bites (egg free, grain free, dairy free, soy free)

Ingredients: 

4 Russett or White potatoes

1 8oz package frozen chopped spinach

3 chia seed “eggs” (3 tbsp ground chia seed + 9 tbsp water)

½ tsp onion powder

½ tbsp garlic powder

½ tbsp Italian seasoning

¼ tsp pepper

¼ tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp Canola oil

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.

Peel and cut the potatoes into small pieces.  Boil with a dash of salt until they are soft.

Steam or lightly cook your spinach.  Drain any extra liquid.

Mash the potatoes.

Blend the spinach until creamy.

Mix the spinach with potatoes.  I use an immersion blender for the mashing and blending, this results in a creamy, well-incorporated mixture (and cuts down on the dishes).

Make your chia egg: mix the ground chia with water and let sit to gel while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Add the spices and oil to the potato/spinach mixture.

Stir well.

Fold in the chia eggs and stir until well combined.

Spray a 13×9 glass baking dish with olive oil (or other cooking spray).

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.  Make sure you spread it out so that it’s flat and even in the dish, It won’t settle at all in the oven.

Bake at 350º for 40 minutes.

Let cool (refrigerate for a couple of hours if you have time), cut (into fun shapes if you want) and serve!

Enjoy!

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This recipe was adapted from the one I found here: For the Love of Food!
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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m so excited to have found this idea for an easy, healthy, safe Valentine’s Day treat for my little Valentine.  E and I had so much fun pushing heart cookie cutters through strawberries to create a great holiday-appropriate snack.  He ate almost an entire carton of strawberries and I didn’t have to worry about sugar or calories or allergens.  Who needs chocolate?

Strawberry Hearts

 

*I know I saw this idea online somewhere and I’m sorry that I don’t remember where.