A little ingenuity is all that’s needed to make Valentine’s Day feel extra special. From “heart chicken” and red cocktails to clever games and a fun addition to tomato soup, this holiday collection offers something for everyone! 💘
Valentine’s Day is all about showing love to the special people in our lives. In its simplest form, food is one of the many ways we show that love all year round.
Somedays, this labor of love may feel more like labor than love, but it’s true!
So, in the spirit of the holiday, why not add a little flare to a task we’re already doing? A simple press of a cookie cutter or cut of the knife may be all it takes to bring a smile to someone’s face. (And I promise, these things will make you feel good at the same time!)
Maybe deliver a simple snack to someone on a seemingly endless Zoom call or virtual class? Even a glass of cranberry juice served in a champagne flute will add a special touch to an otherwise hum-drum day.
At first glance, this collection of food and fun may seemed geared towards children. But rest assured, this list is intended to bring joy to everyone!
❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Valentine Tic Tac Toe
Fun to make, play with, and eat－especially with a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day! For year-round appeal, the colors of this festive project can be modified according to holiday.
Don’t have young children? Share the idea with grandchildren, nieces, nephews…or make them anyway. Adults have been known to enjoy a few rounds as much as the kids!
A short list of ingredients is all you need, and there’s inherent flexibility, too. Instead of the M&Ms, you could use conversation hearts or other small candies for the game pieces. You skip the candy altogether and have just as much fun playing with raisins and peanuts, cereal pieces, or anything else that’s small and fits in the squares.
- Graham crackers
- White chocolate chips, melting discs, or white (and/or red) decorating icing
- M&Ms, Conversation Hearts, or similar candy that offers at least two color choices
If using chocolate chips or melting discs, place a handful or two in a microwave safe bowl. (Feel free to eyeball; if you’re only making a few tic-tac-toe boards, a half cup or so will be plenty.) Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat until the chocolate is melted and smooth when stirred. Transfer the melted chocolate to a sandwich or snack-size zip-top bag, and snip a small piece from one corner. (Start very small; you can always make the hole bigger if needed.) This will become your piping bag.
If using decorator’s icing, I’ve found it helpful to refrigerate briefly before using, as several brands are a little runny at room temperature.
To make the boards: Carefully break the desired number of graham cracker sheets in half to form squares. Pipe two vertical lines and two horizontal lines across the squares to form a tic tac toe board. Allow the chocolate to dry or the icing to set. This should take 5-10 minutes.
Play! Use two different colors of chosen candy to play tic tac toe. Three in a row wins!!
Storage: When finished playing, the boards can be stored in an airtight container or enjoyed as a snack.
A simple message of love can begin with something as simple as a cookie cutter.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup have long been considered a match made it heaven…one that becomes infinitely more fabulous with a festive (and extremely easy) presentation.
When I was a child, I fully preferred chicken noodle soup to tomato, so feel free to improvise! For a quick lunch, you could use a favorite canned variety. A go-to homemade recipe will be delicious as well, and the whimsical grilled cheese addition offers a wonderful way to reinvigorate dinner leftovers.
When using tomato soup, my family’s favorite is this recipe, which is creamy and protein-rich thanks to an undetectable can of cannellini beans. Throughout the year, I often serve the soup with grilled cheese dippers or croutons, as pictured in the linked recipe post, but a heart cut-out is especially lovely on Valentine’s Day.
Quick & Easy Cheerios Snack Mix, holiday style
For years, this effortless, no-cook mix was a regular after-school and lunch box snack for my boys. Thanks to the simple combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy, they continue to enjoy it now that they’re older. In fact, one of my sons took a bag with him as he headed back to college recently, and I regularly snack on a handful when the afternoon munchies hit.
The best part? It takes about two minutes to mix up a big batch, and you can customize it according to various holidays. If you’d prefer a candy-free snack, the mix still tastes good without the M&Ms. If you’d prefer to use plain chocolate, chips or chunks work equally well.
- 4 cups Cheerios (I use regular; could use Honey Nut)
- 1 cup raisins (could substitute dried cranberries or a mix of dried fruit)
- 1 cup salted peanuts (could use nuts/seeds of choice)
- 1 cup M&Ms (choose holiday colors, if desired)
Place the ingredients in a large, zip-top bag and gently shake to mix. Alternatively, this may be done in a large mixing bowl and then transferred to an airtight container for storage.
Tip: an advantage of storing in a zip-top bag is that you can turn the bag upside down now and then to redistribute the ingredients, as the heavier add-ins tend to sink to the bottom.
Playing with our food is allowed, encouraged actually, especially when it comes to a holiday…or a hum drum day that could use a dose of something special. With a few simple cuts of the knife, an otherwise ordinary boneless chicken breast can be transformed into a meal that will bring smiles to faces both young and old.
The details are explained HERE, and can be combined with your favorite sauces or marinades. I often make it with this Perfect Skillet Chicken method or Pat’s Seared Sesame Chicken recipe, reducing the cooking time by a few minutes to account for the thinner breast. A simple coating of barbecue sauce is an easy crowd-pleaser, too.
A heart-shaped cookie cutter does it again! Sure you could use this classically delicious, homemade brownie recipe (skip the Halloween option for this purpose) or an equally scrumptious Nutella brownie. That said, store-bought brownies are a solid option, with Ghirardelli leading the pack in my humble opinion. 😉
Wondering what to do with the brownie scraps? My kids enjoy the randomly shaped edges as is, but there are a few other ways you could enjoy them. One idea is to chop them up and freeze for later use as an ice cream topping or for brownie sundaes.
You can also make easy brownie truffles by rolling the scraps into bite-size balls and dipping them in melted white or dark chocolate. For a pretty touch, drizzle the dipped balls in contrasting color chocolate. For example, once a dark chocolate-dipped truffle has set, finish with a decorative drizzle of white chocolate, or vice-versa. (Follow the melting directions described in the Valentine Tic Tac Toe recipe, above. You could also use this technique for another Valentine classic－chocolate covered strawberries!🍓)
Heart-shaped brownies need nothing else to be delicious and special. But for those who may enjoy an extra project, decorating the hearts will allow your inner artist to flourish. See the tips for melting chocolate and using decorator’s icing in the Tic Tac Toe post, above. Briefly refrigerating some purchased icings, for example, before using will prevent the the runny spot you can see in the red-bordered heart, below. The control offered by thicker icing will also allow you to make smaller letters, so you could fit a message like “Be Mine” in the heart!