Valentine Dinner Ideas for Kids

Getting away for a romantic dinner is a fine Valentine's tradition, but it's not the only way to celebrate. Youngsters enjoy February 14th just as much as grown-ups, and taking the time to put together a kid-friendly Valentine meal -- or even a Valentine's Day party -- can help you build a rich store of cherished family memories. Join in the fun, or step out afterwards for an adults-only dinner. Either way, everybody wins.

Kids' (Heart) Pizza

Things You'll Need

  • Pizza dough

  • Tomato sauce

  • Pizza toppings to taste

  • Cheese

  • Red bell pepper (optional)

It's a rare young diner who doesn't like pizza, and few foods are more Valentine's-ready. Divide homemade or store-bought pizza dough into individual portions, and shape each portion into a heart. Spread the personal pizzas with tomato sauce; then let the kids decorate their own with a selection of meats, vegetables and cheeses. Decorate the top of each with a heart made from curved strips of thinly sliced red bell pepper.

Pocket Version

Things You'll Need

  • Pizza dough

  • Tomato sauce

  • Pizza toppings

  • Salad, or veggies and dip

If personalization is less important to you than keeping the meal streamlined, make individual heart-shaped pizza pockets instead. Stretch or roll the dough into a rough diamond shape; then spread the lower half with tomato sauce and your kids' favorite topping. Fold the diamond from top to bottom; then make a rough triangle. Indent the middle of the top edge to make a heart. Serve the baked pizza pockets with salad, or veggies and dip.

Easy V-Burgers

Things You'll Need

  • Heart-shaped cutters

  • Slider buns

  • Ground beef

  • Ketchup

If hamburgers are a favorite with your kids, use heart-shaped cookie cutters to transform them into Valentine's Day sliders. Stamp out hearts from store-bought or homemade slider buns; then use a slightly larger cutter as a mold for your ground beef. The burgers will shrink as they cook, bringing them back to the size of the buns. Decorate each with a heart-shaped squeeze of ketchup, and serve them open-faced. Scrub the cutter carefully, when you're done, to remove any traces of beef.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Things You'll Need

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast

  • Flour

  • Milk

  • Breadcrumbs

  • Sheet pan

  • Oil

  • Sweet-and-sour sauce

Crisp, golden chicken nuggets are a favorite with most kids, and they're easy -- and healthier -- to make at home. Cut 1/4-inch slices from the thick part of chicken breasts, reserving the rest for another meal. Cut a deep notch in the wide top of each slice, giving it a rough heart shape. Dip the nuggets first into flour, then milk, and, finally, breadcrumbs to coat them. Arrange the pieces on a parchment-lined sheet pan; mist them lightly with oil, and bake until golden. Serve them with red sweet-and-sour sauce for that Valentine's touch.

Sweetheart Pasta

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh pasta or par-cooked lasagna noodles

  • Heart-shaped cutter

  • Pasta sauce

Turn your kids' favorite pasta meal into a Valentine's dinner in just a few minutes, with your trusty heart-shaped cutter. Use fresh pasta sheets from the supermarket, or lasagna noodles par-cooked until they're leathery but still easy to handle. Cut the sheets of pasta into hearts; then boil them as you normally would on the stovetop. Toss them with white sauce, tomato sauce or cheese sauce, whichever your kids prefer.

Easy Side Dishes

Things You'll Need

  • Heart-shaped cutters

  • Potatoes, carrots and other vegetables

  • Veggie dip or salad dressing

If you hadn't planned a special meal in advance, you can put a Valentine's spin on any meal with a heart-shaped cutter. Stamp out heart-shaped pieces of potato to make Valentine's fries, and serve them alongside whichever entree you'd planned. Carrots cut with a smaller cutter work well as a cooked Valentine's accent, or they can be served with your kids' favorite dip. Use heart-shaped pieces of carrot, cucumber, sweet bell pepper or other vegetables as garnishes for a green salad.

V-Day Takes the Cake

Things You'll Need

  • Red velvet cake, or white cake tinted pink

  • Icing

  • Candy pieces

You can't go wrong bringing kids and cake together, and Valentine's Day is the perfect time to bring out your best red velvet cake recipe. Alternatively, turn a white cake pink with crushed strawberries or a drop or two of red food coloring. Bake it in a heart-shaped pan if you have one, or decorate an ordinary round or square cake with hearts drawn in icing or candy pieces.

Other Desserts

The Valentine's Day canon is filled with sweet treats, so don't limit yourself to cake if you feel like stretching your wings. Instead, treat each kid to a personalized, heart-topped cupcake to make dessert more special. Chocolate-dipped strawberries are just as appealing to kids as to adults, and they have the added allure of being a "grown-up" treat. Dip cake balls in melted white chocolate; then roll them in red sprinkles or crushed cinnamon hearts. If your kids love apple pie, make individual apple tartlets and decorate them with the same cinnamon hearts.

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