Sunday, February 14, 2010

0 Some Healthy Treats For Valentine's Day

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Happy Valentine's Day, Everybody!

I hope that you're enjoying the spirit of today's holiday, as well as the steady flow of posts here over the past few weeks. :)  For some reason, I've been in a writing mood.  Ever since 2/4/09, it seems that I've been able to come up with a post at least once a day every day.  Look out, people, I'm on a hot streak! :-D

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'd like to offer some ideas for healthy & very yummy Valentine's Day treats. Instead of consuming loads of candy & chocolates, how about these alternatives instead?

Please note that all of the below treats are made using heart-shaped cookie-cutters. It's nice to have some some non-traditional & much healthier uses for them as well!

(1) For breakfast, make whole-grain, buttermilk, blueberry pancakes in the shape of a heart & serve with fresh strawberries.  Omit the butter & oil, & just make them using 1 c. (whole wheat or multi-grain) flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 egg, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 c. non/low-fat buttermilk, & 1/2 c. blueberries. (Makes 10 pancakes.) Instead of using sugary maple syrup, try topping them with homemade strawberry sauce sweetened with honey, & a dollop of either plain non-fat yoghurt or lowfat sourcream. Surprise your parents/mate with breakfast in bed.

So, how do you get the pancakes to form into a heart shape?  Well, there are a few ways to do this.  One way is to free-form it in the pan & get a Picasso-esque, uniquely shaped heart. :)  Depending on your skill level &/or luck of the draw, you could end up with this:


 Or this.... :-D


If you'd rather not chance it & prefer heart-shaped perfection, the second way is to use a heart-shaped cookie cutter, put it in the skillet, & pour the batter into the heart-shape.  Alternatively, you can use a cookie cutter to cut out heart-shapes after the pancakes are finished; make use of all pieces of your pancake cut-outs by arranging the round pancakes with the heart-shaped holes in a stack & then decoratively layering the heart-shaped cut-outs around the side of the plate in a cascading fashion.

A word of caution about cookie-cutters, don't use a plastic cookie cutter for obvious reasons. Or you'll have a heart permanently fused to the pan. LOL. Instead, try a melt-proof/heat-resistant material that doesn't give off noxious fumes when it is heated. ;-O  Toward that end, metal & silicon heart shapes work really well.

They even sell specially-made, metal, heart-shaped pancake molds for this purpose.  Personally, I don't make pancakes frequently enough to merit a purchase like this, so the heart-shaped cookie-cutters that I already have in my kitchen drawers will do just fine.

Also, I'd probably recommend picking them up with silicone mini-mitts/grippers (or an old-fashioned potholder if you don't own a pair of grippers), so the fingers don't accidentally get scorched when it's time to lift them out of the pan. :)

Or, if you prefer, you can now buy full-sized silicone mitts & pot holders as well:


If you want to go the extra mile & seek out an even easier option, you can buy a non-stick pan that already has heart-shaped depressions in it for pancakes, pour in the batter & make multiples.  See below for some examples & additional pancake-related ideas:



                             

                           

(2) Here's a kid-friendly idea: Cut heart shapes from red fruit roll-ups (i.e., get the all-natural kind, with no added sugar) and give them to your kids. They'll probably have as much fun playing with the shapes as much as they'll have eating them. :) Or, you can place the cut-outs on top of kid-friendly desserts to give them more of a decorative touch.

(3) To make a fun Valentine's Day salad for lunch or dinner, use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes from sliced vegetable rounds (i.e., cucumber, zucchini, carrots, radishes, etc.). Toss with other salad ingredients & serve.

(4) If you are having a Valentine's Day dinner party, you could also use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make shapes for fruit, vegetable, & or cheese platters. Just use your imagination & your trusty heart-shaped cookie cutters. :)


(5) Make a heart-shaped grilled-cheese, tomato, & basil sandwich by making heart-shaped cut-outs of the toasted bread & cheese. Grill & remove from heat. Then add sliced tomato & basil, et le voilà. Serve with low-sodium versions of organic tomato soup or tomato & roasted red pepper soup. If you don't feel like making the soup from scratch, organic/health-oriented stores like Trader Joe's carry cartons of these soups.

(6) For dessert, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes from red jello. For a healthier, sugar-free jello, try the following: 1 packet unflavored gelatin, 1 c. boiling water, 1 c. pomegranate juice, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. honey (optional), 1/2 c. fresh strawberries, & 1/2 c. raspberries. Dissolve gelatin & honey in boiling water, & let cool for a few minutes. Stir in pomegranate juice, lemon juice, & berries, & set jello in fridge. For extra effect, horizontally slice some star-fruit & toss into the mix. Top with lite Cool Whip & blueberries.

OK, that's all for now. I've got to go & get ready for Valentine's Day dinner very soon. :) Hope you all have a festive evening!

-C

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