In my family, special occasions have always been celebrated with food. Very often holidays are seen as times to indulge in unhealthy food and sweets, but they can also be opportunities to encourage kids to eat foods that they normally might not.
My 2 year old was born on Saint Patrick's Day. We celebrated his first birthday with family a few days before his actual birthday so he had already had a party complete with the traditional first birthday "smash cake." On the day of his real birthday, I knew that my older children would be expecting us to celebrate again. Not wanting to do another cake, I decided to instead, do a "Green Feast," which has now become a family tradition.
As we get closer to St. Patrick's Day and begin planning this year's "Green Feast," I will go into more detail, but essentially we made as many (naturally) green foods as possible.
This year, as Valentine's Day was approaching, my husband and I discussed the possibility of a having a "Red Feast."
As I started to think about red foods, the natural choices involved tomato sauce (pizza, pasta with red sauce..) Since I can't eat tomatoes, I wasn't very excited about those possibilities. Additionally, I wanted to use this opportunity to encourage my kids to eat something that they normally might not have eaten.
A day before Valentine's Day, I received an issue of Whole Living magazine which included an article about foods of a variety of colors. On the red page, they featured a pasta flavored and colored with beets. Beets are a food that my children have tried, but have not yet embraced, so I knew that this would be a great food to add to the meal.
1 box whole wheat spaghetti
1 bunch of beets
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (which I used for my family, or 1/2 cup roasted red peppers- for me)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
salt to taste
ricotta or feta cheese
Trim and scrub beets then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and roast in an oven at 450 for about an hour.
When beets are almost finished cook pasta and save 1 cup of the pasta water.
Chop roasted beets and then put them in a food processor with walnuts (which I tossed on a tray and put in the oven for about 5 minutes to toast) and sun dried tomatoes. Add a little bit of the pasta water to help the ingredients to blend.
Toss with the beet mixture with the pasta and continue to add pasta water until the sauce has blended well with the pasta.
Top with a scoop of ricotta (or feta) cheese. *We used ricotta but two of my children preferred it with no cheese at all. I think I would have preferred the tang of feta and would try that the next time instead.
We rounded out the meal with salmon (pink, but close enough) red peppers with red pepper hummus and a plate of sliced tomatoes.
As we were putting the food on the table, my daughter saw some of the beet trimmings on the counter. "Mom, what's on the pasta?" So far, she has not been a fan of beets and I could tell from her voice that she knew they were beets and was on the verge of a small food panic.
I told her that yes, they were beets and that I would like her to give it a chance. I said that she didn't have to eat it if she didn't like it, but I did want to her to try it and I needed her to not share her opinion about it in front of her brothers so that she didn't influence their opinions about the food.
As it turned out, everyone liked the pasta and my oldest son LOVED the pasta. When the meal was over, I told my daughter that I was proud of her for trying it and we discussed the fact that it was really good that she tried it and also that sometimes you have to try a food many times before you like it.
My daughter also has a warm and cold relationship with raw red peppers. However, my older son was eating them with great enthusiasm, and then I took one and said, "These do taste really good don't they?" My daughter then said, "Maybe I'll try one..." and as it turned out, on this day, they tasted good to her too.
We finished the meal with some chocolate covered strawberries.
Happy Belated Valentine's Day!