Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Orange you glad we're friends, Valentine?

Holidays equal candy. And cookies and cake pops and cupcakes and icing and SPRINKLES! What's a health-conscience family to do?

With a Kindergartener and a preschooler, I face these dilemmas - a lot. The most recent dilemma was Valentine's Day. I wanted to make homemade valentines with my sons. But I just could not buy candy. I wanted to do something fun and witty (and cheap!), and I just knew I could come up with something that wasn't coated in sugar! I brainstormed with my husband one night. His idea was to give all the kids a bag of rocks with a note that said "Valentine, you rock!"

Witty. Check.
Cheap. Check.
No sugar. Check.

But can you imagine what would happen if I gave a bunch of 4 and 6-year-olds a bag of rocks?! So, instead, I went with my idea. Little cutie mandarine oranges with a card that read "Orange you glad we're friends? Happy Valentine's Day!" I designed the cards in Adobe Illustrator and printed them at Office Depot, but you by no means have to get that fancy. Construction paper and a marker would work just as well. I had each son sign the card with a Sharpie and put it and an orange in a snack size ziplock bag. The cost was 29 cents per valentine, which was great since we made 63!

Having the boys hand-make the valentines gave me some special time with each son. We talked about what love is and who we love and why we love while we assembled the bags. And because the boys helped make the valentines, they were invested and it meant so much more to them when they gave the valentines to their friends. My 4-year-old handed his out at his party this morning, and his teachers commented on how big his smile was while he was doing so.

And guess who else smiled? The recipients! All of the kids were so excited to get an orange. The teachers told me they were all so happy to have an orange, too, because their tummies hurt from gorging on chocolate the previous day. And the parents. Of course they were smiling, too, and asking to steal the idea (which I encourage you to do, too!) One mom said she is going to make them as party favors for her daughter's birthday tomorrow. Great idea.

For my Kindergartener's Christmas party a couple months ago, I had made fruit kabobs. And guess what the kids requested for their Valentine Party? More fruit kabobs! Not more candies and cookies - more fruit. The kabobs are very easy, fun and healthy. And pretty, too!

One tip I would give you is to snip the sharp tips off the ends of the sticks after you've threaded the fruit if you are making the kabobs for young children, which thankfully I did. The sticks become light sabers and swords soon after the fruit is gone! Yes, my son is the one that started the light saber fight...

For our family party at home, I made the delicious strawberry muffins pictured below with organic oat flour, brown rice flour, fresh strawberries and honey, just to name a few ingredients. The icing is simply cream cheese whipped with honey and a few drops of red food coloring. I hope to post the full recipe soon. Can someone please send me a babysitter?!

Remember that you CAN give your kids and coworkers and friends a healthy holiday. All you have to do is think outside the sugar-coated box.

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