It would be nice if every Valentine's Day the universe handed us each a bouquet of red roses and a key to the Honeymoon Suite at the Ritz. Unfortunately, reality tends to fall a few diamond solitaires short of the ideal. After all, Valentine's Day is on a weeknight and some of us have taken our love to the next level, forming families that can't always be put on hold.
This doesn't have to be a bad thing. Use the time with your kids as an excuse to indulge in the pink and red, heart-shaped kitschy wonder of Valentine's Day.
Spinach Salad with Beets and Walnuts
Although this salad may seem a little more on the grown up side, I've found plenty of kids who like the natural sweetness of beets. Crumbled, mild goat cheese makes it even more accessible and toasted walnuts add a contrasting, nutty crunch. This rich, pretty salad doesn't need more than a light dressing of olive oil and vinegar to tie it all together.
Penne With Eggplant and Mozzarella
This pasta is a take on the popular Sicilian dish Pasta Alla Norma. Both dishes are based in a light tomato sauce mixed with eggplant, cheese, and basil. Instead of ricotta salata, I use kid-friendly mozzarella. Make sure to dice pieces of cheese into the pasta while it's hot so that they melt into deliciously squishy blocks. To make this dish special for Valentine's Day, cut a heart shaped piece of mozzarella to garnish the top.
Confetti Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
I've made these cut-out butter cookies extra special by mixing sprinkles into the dough. They're not too sweet and just firm enough to work as bookends for Valentine's Day ice cream sandwiches. The plain vanilla flavor of the cookie lends itself to just about every flavor of ice cream, so kids can pick their favorite. Just make sure to roll every sandwich in sprinkles for a final, festive touch.
About the author: Carrie Vasios is the Community Manager of Serious Eats and writes the Wake and Bake, Cookie Monster, and Serious Entertaining columns. She likes perusing her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios