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Our Blog: February 11, 2021

Brief History of Valentine’s Day + Festive Dinner and Craft Ideas!

By Nicole Spain, Registered Dietitian

Valentine’s Day is thought to have originated from an ancient Roman festival. The Romans called it “Lupercalia” and it took place in the middle of February, which was the start of their springtime. 

In honor of the many blooms that we see around springtime, have your kids make Popsicle Stick Flowers with Heart Leaves to decorate your table for Valentine’s Day! Only 4 craft items are needed: 

  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Construction Paper
  • Glue
  • Pom Poms

For younger children, cut out hearts in various colors; older kids can cut out the hearts themselves. (You may need to trace them depending on their age.) Have children arrange the heart petals on the top of the popsicle stick with the pointed part in the middle. Glue in place, and then glue a small pom pom to the middle. You could also cut smaller hearts out of green construction paper to add leaves! 


Romans were renowned for holding banquets. Consider hosting a mini-banquet in honor of Valentine’s Day for your family. Bear in mind that presentation was a very important aspect of a successful banquet. You may want to decorate your table in Roman fashion:

  • Place a candelabra in the center of the table
  • Use your best dinnerware
  • Add some fresh flowers or place your Heart Flower Petal Art in a small vase.


Enjoy some of our Grow-Fit, Roman-inspired ideas for a 4 course banquet:

Traditional Cheese Platter with Fresh Fruit
Cheese is the star of the first course. Some traditional cheeses including Ricotta drizzled with honey and Smoked Fresh Mozzarella. Pair these with fresh berries, grapes and focaccia bread or a whole grain cracker. 

Cacio e Pape (Recipe below)
Cacio e Pape literally translates to cheese and pepper in several Italian dialects. The ingredients are black pepper, grated Pecorino Romano and spaghetti or traditionally tonnarelli.  It is a Romans mac ‘n cheese! 

Pollo alla Romana (Recipe below)

Polla alla Romana is a traditional dish long associated with Rome. It features slow braised chicken flavored with sweet bell peppers and tomatoes. This dish bears similarities to the well-known Chicken Cacciatore.

End your evening with a small scoop of Gelato which is ice cream’s healthier Italian cousin. It typically offers fewer calories, less sugar, and less fat content than ice cream. Some of our family favorite flavors include Sea Salt Caramel, Limoncello, and Amaretto Cherry.


Cacio e Pape
Serves 4

1 lb whole grain spaghetti
½ lb Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated
Heaping Tbsp of black peppercorns


  1. Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. Use enough water to cover the pasta. Add your pasta to the boiling water, mix and salt the water when boiling again.
  2. Crush the peppercorns. Put them in a frying pan and toast them over low heat.
  3. Add two ladles of the pasta water to the peppercorns and lower the heat. You want the water to infuse with the pepper.
  4. When the pasta is al dente, remove the pasta (keep the water) and add it to the pan with the peppercorns, keeping heat on low, stirring continuously. The pasta should start to shine.
  5. In a small bowl add half the pecorino cheese and a ladle of the pasta cooking water and mix with a whisk until it is a creamy consistency. Add the rest of the cheese, more water and whisk again.
  6. Take the pan with pasta and pepper off the heat. Mix the creamy cheese mixture into the pasta continually coating the pasta. If the consistency is too dry, you can add more pasta water. 

Recipe adapted from:


Pollo alla Romana
Serve 4

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces
2 yellow onions, cut into 1/4 “ slices
3 bell peppers (red and yellow), seeded and cut into 1” slices
2 cloves garlic, smashed
½ C dry white wine
1 Tbsp fresh marjoram
1 (14 oz) can crushed tomatoes


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken skin side down and cook for 8-10 minutes until it is browned on all sides. Reduce heat to low and remove the chicken.
  2. Add the onions, peppers and garlic to the same pan and cook until softened approximately 10 minutes. Add the wine and increase the heat to medium, scraping all the bits off the bottom of the pan.
  3. Cook for about a minute and add the marjoram and tomatoes.
  4. Return chicken to the pan and add enough water to submerge it halfway. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes until the chicken is tender and nearly falling off the bone. Sauce should be thick and deep red, but not dry. If it becomes too dry, add more water. Serve immediately as a standalone dish.

Recipe adapted from: