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    Shift Focus from Gifts to Love: Celebrate Valentines with Family-Friendly Dinner

    Ah, Valentine’s Day. You either love the pink and red candy saturated holiday, or you could easily do without it. I’m a person that usually waves her holiday freak flag pretty high, yet for Valentines I sit squarely in the middle.

    Valentine’s can sometimes put an unrealistic promise on a day that is often loaded with high expectations. What started as a day to celebrate Love through sweet letters, has shifted focus over the years to gifts, chocolates, and roses which now take center stage instead. Thus it can be a tricky day…

    When my daughter was little, I thought hard on what Valentine’s means to me, and wanted to celebrate with her, but release her from the notion that love had to be proven on that particular day. Being with my family, celebrating our love for each other was important to me.

    Seeing my little one happy and smiley was paramount, and sure, gifts may achieve that, but so can some good solid family time. So, when she was around three years old, on that Valentine’s Day, I set a nice casual candlelit table for three, and cooked up an easy meal that I knew all of us would enjoy, and it has since became our Valentine’s Day Family tradition.

    I’ve listed the details below as more of a guideline rather than a recipe, as it is open to being creative, and making it your own family tradition! Happy Valentine’s Day, Y’all!

    For Dinner: Heart-Shaped Pizzas


    • 1 lb purchased or homemade pizza dough
    • Pepperoni and or/salami rounds cut into heart shapes
    • Sliced olives
    • Your favorite pizza sauce
    • Mozzarella, or a pizza cheese blend


    1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.
    2. Divide your dough into three or four equal pieces, and shape them into heart shapes, leaving a good crust on the sides to emphasize the shape.
    3. To cut your pepperoni into heart shaped, take a pair of kitchen shears, fold the pepperoni in half, and cut half a heart out, then unfold for a perfectly shaped heart. Your kiddos would probably love to help with this!
    4. Top your pizza with sauce, mozzarella, and heart shaped pepperoni’s. Alternatively, you can spell out xx’s and oo’s with sliced black olives.
    5. Bake until done, about 12-15 minutes, and serve with your favorite salad.

    To Drink: Shirley Temples


    • 7-Up or Sprite
    • Grenadine
    • Maraschino cherries


    Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in your 7-up (or Sprite) to about ¾ full. Add in your grenadine to your desired sweetness, stir to get that pretty pink hue, and top with maraschino cherries and a cute paper straw.

    For Dessert: Chocolate Covered Strawberries


    • Fresh strawberries
    • 1 ½ to 2 Cups semi sweet chocolate chips
    • 1-2 Tbsp powdered sugar (optional)


    1. Line a platter or plate with parchment paper.
    2. Put your chocolate chips into a two cup Pyrex measuring cup or small glass bowl.
    3. Microwave your chocolate chips for one minute, then for 10-20 second intervals after that until your chocolate is just melted remembering to stir between intervals, as if you overheat your chocolate, it will seize up. One minute and thirty seconds seems to be the magic number for smooth, melted chocolate.
    4. Once melted, dip your strawberries into your chocolate and place them onto the parchment lined platter.
    5. Sift powdered sugar over the strawberries if using.
    6. Place your platter in the fridge for at least two hours to firm up, then enjoy!



    • For easy to work with pizza dough, make sure to place your dough out on the counter at least an hour beforehand and warm to room temperature which will make it more pliable.
    • Don’t have any grenadine for the Shirley Temples? The grenadine can be swapped out with similar results using the maraschino cherry juice from your jar of cherries instead.
    • The chocolate covered strawberries can be made up to one day ahead, kept loosely covered in the fridge. Just sift the powdered sugar on right before serving.
    • Don’t try to reheat your chocolate once it has reached the melted stage to keep it warm, as it will clump up and be unusable.
    • If you’d like to give a little kick up the Shirley temples for adults, you can add in a shot of Vodka for a sweet Valentines cocktail.

    Photos by Marla Smith Photography