Valentine’s Day is often marked by grand gestures of love, but one of the most heartfelt ways to show care is through the simple act of preparing a meal. In every culture around the world, food is a universal expression of love and care.
As we approach Valentine’s Day, let’s use this opportunity to explore how we can use food to convey our love for our families.
The importance of family meal preparation
Cooking together is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to spend quality time as a family. Involving everyone in meal preparation turns an everyday task into an opportunity for bonding and learning. Children can learn the basics, like washing and peeling vegetables or mixing ingredients, while adults do the more complex tasks.
This collaborative effort is about more than preparing food; it’s about imparting life skills, values, and memories as well as a sense of responsibility and teamwork.
Nutritious and delicious: the art of healthy cooking
Healthy cooking is an art that balances taste and flavours with nutrition. Nutrition is fundamental in showing love through food. Preparing nutritious meals means caring for your family’s health and well-being. It involves choosing fresh ingredients, experimenting with herbs and spices, and adopting cooking methods that preserve the goodness of food.
The challenge lies in making nutritious meals appealing to all family members. One way is to involve them in meal planning. Let each member pick a vegetable for the week or choose a healthy recipe they’d like to try. This way, nutritious eating becomes a family decision, not just a health mandate.
Exploring vegetarian and vegan options
The health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets are numerous. Incorporating vegetarian and vegan meals into your family’s diet is a wonderful way to explore diverse flavours while reaping the health benefits. Rich in essential nutrients, these diets lower the risk of chronic diseases and promote heart health, promote weight management, and improve overall wellness. Introducing these diets to a family traditionally accustomed to meat-centric meals requires creativity and gradual change.
Start with familiar dishes, like pasta or pizza, substituting meat with plant-based alternatives. Gradually introduce more adventurous vegetarian and vegan recipes. Cooking without meat doesn’t mean sacrificing taste, it should be seen as an opportunity to explore the diversity of flavors and ingredients vegetarian dishes have to offer.
Valentine’s Day is an ideal opportunity to showcase love through thoughtful, healthy meals. These meals are not just to satiate hunger, but a display of the care and thought put into them. Begin the day with a heart-shaped fruit platter or a red berry smoothie. For lunch, a quinoa and roasted vegetable salad offers both color and nutrition.
The evening can be made special with a candlelit dinner featuring, for example, a vegan lasagna. End the meal with vegan chocolate fondue, dipping strawberries and other fruits into the melted chocolate.
- A variety of fruits (e.g. strawberries, sweet melon, watermelon, kiwi, pineapple)
- Cookie cutters (heart-shaped)
- Slice fruits into medium thickness.
- Use heart-shaped cookie cutters to cut fruits into heart shapes.
- Arrange the fruit hearts on a platter. Serve fresh.
Red berry smoothie (vegetarian)
- 1 cup mixed red berries (like strawberries and raspberries)
- 1 banana
- 1 cup yoghurt
- Honey (to taste)
- Ice cubes
- Combine berries, banana, yoghurt, honey, and ice cubes in a blender.
- Blend until smooth. Serve chilled.
Quinoa and roasted vegetable salad (vegetarian)
- 1 cup quinoa
- Assorted vegetables (bell peppers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, butternut, red onion)
- Sunflower oil
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh herbs (like parsley or coriander)
- Feta cubed (remove or use vegan feta to make the salad vegan)
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
- Chop vegetables and toss with sunflower oil, salt, and pepper.
- Roast in a preheated oven at 200°C for 20 minutes.
- Combine quinoa and roasted vegetables.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and cubed feta. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Spinach lasagna (vegan)
- Lasagna sheets
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- Vegan cheese (a combination of mozzarella and parmesan cheese can be used instead which would make the dish vegetarian instead of vegan)
- Sunflower oil
- Salt, pepper, mixed herbs
- Sauté onion and garlic in sunflower oil until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and mixed herbs. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- In another pan, sauté spinach until wilted.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C.
- In a baking dish, layer the lasagna: Start with a layer of tomato sauce, then lasagna sheets, followed by spinach, and a layer of vegan cheese. Repeat layers.
- Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the top is slightly browned.
- Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.
Vegan chocolate fondue
- 200g dark chocolate (vegan)
- 1 cup coconut cream
- Assorted fruits for dipping (strawberries, banana slices, apple slices)
- Break the chocolate into small pieces and place it in a heatproof bowl.
- Heat the coconut cream in a saucepan until it’s hot but not boiling.
- Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for a minute to soften.
- Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Serve warm with a platter of fruit slices for dipping.
Food as a love language holds a unique power, becoming a conduit of affection, care, and health. Let’s embrace the joy of cooking together, exploring the bountiful benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets, and nurturing our family bonds.
As we gather around the table, sharing these lovingly prepared meals, we celebrate not just the food, but the enduring love and care that it represents. This Valentine’s Day, and every day, we have the opportunity to strengthen our family bonds through shared, nutritious meals.
Yours in Wellness
Thandi and the Empact Team