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Healthier Valentine Treats

I love desserts — both the making and the eating. As a girl my first forays in the kitchen were to help my older sisters frost birthday cakes, mix cookie dough and bake brownies. I have happy memories of the whir of the electric mixer, of sneaked tastes of cookie dough and of waiting to lick spatulas and beaters.

I still love to head to the kitchen and make sweet treats for my family and welcome any excuse to do so. So I am always happy when Valentine’s Day rolls around, giving me the perfect opportunity to express my love for my family (and to get some time in the kitchen doing what I love: making sweets.) But things have changed since the boxed cake mix and margarine tub baking days of my childhood. I’ve not only learned a lot about baking and dessert making, but I know more about taking care of my health and the health of my family too.

When I give them sweets, I also want to give them things that support their health. So when I make desserts, I use unprocessed whole foods, no refined sugars and healthy fat sources. One of our favorites are the No Bake Thumbprint Cookies, which use dates to sweeten rolled oats, coconut and almond butter for richness, and cinnamon, orange zest and fruit preserves for flavor. These pretty little gems are so easy to make that even your kids (or your culinarily-challenged spouse) can help too. For Valentine’s Day I like to make them a little larger, and make 2 thumbprints in a heart shape to spoon the jam into. Adorable (if I do say so myself!).

 Lemon treats are another kid-friendly, easy recipe. We like to put our own twist on them by using almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews or pecans, and adding other dried fruits such as apricots, cherries and cranberries. For flavoring, we like various combinations of cinnamon, orange zest, a touch a ginger, a splash of vanilla and even cocoa or carob powder.

Looking for a healthier chocolate cake for your special valentine? Try the Banana Cocoa Snacking Cake topped with Chocolate Mousse and raspberries and see if your loved ones can guess the mousse’s secret ingredient. 

We make our own version of Banana Nice Cream, using whatever we have on hand. My favorite is bananas, coconut milk, dates soaked in warm water, peanut butter, and vanilla with a pinch of sea salt. Sometimes we make it thinner and drink it as milk shakes; sometimes we freeze it into ice cream. The Cherry Almond Smoothie also makes a great shake; add more cherries and refreeze for ice cream. The kids like this even better with some cocoa added!

What’s your favorite way to give sweets to the sweeties in your life?