Valentine’s Day Fondue With Kids
I LOVE Valentine’s Day! I know it’s a Hallmark holiday and all, but I don’t really care. I even liked it when I was single because I believe it’s a time to share with others how much you care about them. And who doesn’t love a little appreciation now and then? I attribute this attitude to having grown up with Valentine’s being a special day from my parents. It was more about parental love and cards from aunts and uncles than mushy boyfriend/girlfriend type stuff. One of my favorite childhood memories was the Valentine’s when I was 4 and my Dad brought home a gigantic heart (it had to be over two feet across) filled with chocolate candies! According to my mom it was actually a day or two after Valentine’s Day and it was on sale, but in my mind, it was freaking amazing! In the interest of wanting to share this attitude of Valentine’s with my kids, I’m trying to give them fun family Valentine experiences. This year it is Valentine’s Day fondue with kids!
I was super into this idea! Cheese, Chocolate, and Family! What’s not to love? I mean seems fool-proof right?!? Well, in reality there are a few pitfalls with this whole kids and fondue concept, so I have some suggestions if you attempt this idea in order to make the whole experience as smooth as the dipping chocolate!
Suggestion #1: Plan for the Chopping
This was one of those things that, as I was prepping food and décor on the day, I thought to myself “whose hair-brained idea was this?” Of course, I know from previous crazy ideas that it’s best to just push through that feeling and it will work out, but chopping up all the stuff does take time. Maybe aim to do this during the weekend even if it isn’t actually on Valentine’s Day. A shortcut is to also consider only the dessert chocolate portion of this experience. It’s much faster to prep and universally enjoyable.
Suggestion #2: Consider Your Audience
I would consider doing just the dessert portion with chocolate and dippers if your kids are younger than 7 or 8. My younger two kids, while enjoying the atmosphere, were not into the cheese portion at all. I even tried to provide kid-friendly dipping options like Dino Nuggets, to which the youngest kid just requested ketchup and wouldn’t try the cheese. So yeah… I also knew my extra picky eater wouldn’t be into the main course. He did, however, describe the dipping chocolate as “THE BEST DESSERT EVER!!!” If you venture to do the full fondue type meal with littles, then consider it an ‘experience’ rather than a meal. Plan to have the ol’ trusty peanut butter sandwich on standby and don’t be offended if they aren’t into it.
Suggestion #3: Think About Logistics
I knew the idea of everyone dipping out of one large bowl had disaster potential written all over it but the vision in my head was so cozy and delightful! However, a dining table is very different from a true fondue table with intimate little pots of cheesy goodness between a few snuggled people. The reality is everyone did waaaaaay better with their own little sauce bowls to put the cheese or chocolate into so there were no table drips while dipping.
While I would prefer to be a little adventurous with all of this, the idea is to provide a good experience that the kids remember as enjoyable, and not Mom and Dad stressing because somebody didn’t like the food. I do think it’s important to mention with any type of ‘occasion’ such as this for/with the kids to remember to not stress over it. Chances are somebody, you, your spouse, one of the kids, will not like something that is offered as a food choice. Luckily, with this assortment, someone is likely to find at least a few things to eat, and the whole idea is to enjoy each other and not worry. Even if no one dips a bite of their food in the cheese or chocolate they will still remember sitting around the table with their parents while laughing and sharing stories.
I attempted to make this menu as kid-friendly and fast-prep as possible. Like most parents, I’m short on time and I also don’t want to spend hours cooking food that, let’s be honest, they may or may not eat. This is not a super upscale fondue menu, but it does create fun memories for both the kids and adults.
Cheese fondue – I used this recipe from Cookie Baker Lynn. The adults liked it and the oldest kid approved. I chose a chedder base since that is usually a kid pleaser and isn’t as polarizing as Swiss. It’s also alcohol-free. Feel free to switch this up though depending on the tastes of your family.
I’ll be honest, this was the hardest to do since it’s challenging to keep it warm and we weren’t doing the type of fondue where you cook meat at the table. The kids were fine with the Dino Nuggets, but some adults weren’t as enthused with meat that wasn’t hot. Depends on how picky you are I guess, but consider maybe some type of lidded container if you want meat to stay hot. And prepare it last.
Dino Nuggets – I wasn’t lying when I said not upscale! But the kids will eat them and it’s about a good overall experience. It’s good to have something familiar when introducing a new food concept.
Pre-cooked Chicken slices from Costco – I had extra and it was one less thing to cook.
Pork Loin – I did some meal prep this same day so it was easy to include on the menu and tasted good in the cheese.
Sausage slices – I didn’t have this because I forgot it at the store but it would have been yummy.
Heart shaped Ravioli – Costco had cute heart shapes in red and white. When they say boil for 4 minutes though, they really do mean 4 minutes. I got distracted and mine exploded. Still tasted OK, but turned seriously messy even before the cheese!
The types of veggies are mainly limited by what your family will eat. I included ones that I would eat and that would hopefully entice the kids to eat with the allure of cheese sauce.
Sliced bell peppers
French bread – A little firmer works better, but I went soft thinking kids would eat more of it. They didn’t totally get into the breads, so maybe just pick ones you like instead or what’s on sale that week
Pumpernickel bread – Super yummy with the cheese and even the picky eater ate it. Go figure!
Apples – Gala and Granny Smith. I sprinkled them with lemon juice to keep from turning brown, but honestly, it tasted kind of weird with the cheese, so either embrace the brown or slice right before eating them.
You will notice in this photo I used an oh-so-decorative crock pot as the fondue pot. My fondue pot went missing so I improvised with this and an extension cord. Don’t feel like you have to spend a bunch of money to make the dinner special. Improvise with what you have at home.
I also let the kids be excused after finishing the cheese course so the adults could talk and enjoy a little while longer since we were slower than the kids. A more mature feline tried to join us in the empty seats since he knows better than to dive bomb the table! I just called the kids back to the table once we were ready and I’d set out the dessert.
Dessert – The Real Winner
We had the candles burning the whole time but for dessert dimmed the lights a little to up the ambiance. Totally sets the mood and it’s easy to see how Hygge is a thing!
I went simple again with this recipe from Carlsbad Cravings since the kids can be picky. Sure, it’s chocolate, but I didn’t want to veer too far off with this first fondue experience. This recipe is alcohol-free and very basic which helps insure that the kids will like it. If your kids are picky about chocolate, I would probably use milk chocolate instead of the semi-sweet and bitter this recipe calls for. This recipe is also crock pot friendly, and I highly suggest utilizing this feature of the recipe to save time. I forgot to start it initially- it works OK on the stove but would be nice to not babysit it while prepping other things.
You might consider two dessert courses- the first with fruit before all the sweets, to sneak a few extra fruit and veggies into them even if it’s chocolate coated! I ended up just setting it all out at once though this time for ease.
Strawberries – Cut into heart shapes when I was slicing by cutting a ‘V’ out of the top. Very fast and super cute.
Raspberries – OMG the adults ate their weight in the raspberries with this fondue. Soooo good!
Apples – Gala and Granny Smith
Angel Food Cake
Other options to include
Whatever is in your pantry that looks good
It’s an added bonus that any of the leftovers, especially fruit and veggies, can be eaten later in the week since you’ve already cut it all up. Feel free to cut up extra and be prepared all week with fresh food.
I included champagne for adults (I mean, it’s in the blog name, you didn’t think I’d leave it out did you?) and sparkling grape juice for the kids. My oldest loved it- the younger two just drank water. By the way, a little Glencairn whisky glass makes a great fancy small glass for a 2-year-old. She was so cute drinking carefully from it. Feel free to use a sippy cup or two though if you aren’t feeling up to it.
Setting the Stage
I wanted to create a kid friendly version of a more refined dinner so I did bust out the tablecloth, cloth napkins, china, candles and fun glasses. It helps give it a sense of ‘occasion’ and I love all that stuff! I believe that the china should be used and not just sit in it’s cabinet.
Don’t be afraid to use the good stuff with the kids. You’ll be surprised how well they do with it. In fact, the only thing broken was a glass by a kitten who didn’t get locked up before dinner, and tried to dive bomb the table! I should mention I used the IKEA champagne flutes for this, not the Waterford ones, so it wasn’t a huge deal. Moral of the story is, young cats are more dangerous to china than young humans.
I utilized my local in-house craft makers (aka my kids) to create decorations for the event. It not only gives them a non-screen activity with which to occupy themselves, but allows them to have some ownership over the event. It really helped to get them excited about it, and while it may not provide ‘Pinterest Perfect’ décor (which I do LOVE if I’m being honest), this meal was about involving the kids.
I provided some materials with a general idea and gave them some artistic license to create their own. See, I’m saying allowing ‘artistic license’ as nice way to say, it’s not what I was planning but came out good anyway… My skeptical 8 year old declared, “This is actually kind of fun!” He doesn’t throw compliments around, so that was a big statement.
All told, I spent about 15-20 minutes a few days before the dinner prepping stuff for these crafting projects. The majority of this was for the last project with the hearts.
- White butcher paper cut to placemat size or large construction paper
- Paint (pink, red, white)
- Heart cut outs made of cardboard
Place Setting Name Cards
One of the kids loves making place setting cards for any family gathering. I suspect it is so he can control who sits where at the table, but it is a nice touch anyway. He planned each of the cards out so they corresponded with color but made up different designs for each person.
- Tag paper
- Colored Pencils (pink, red)
This just helped to set the scene and the kids love stapling so it was a win-win.
- Red, Pink or White Paper cut into strips
I did precut the strips on this project because I wanted a little control over the final product and having the strips look even. Cutting was very easy with my little paper cutter, then they could just staple away.
- Construction paper
If you only do two things with your kids, make it the chocolate and this project! I used the stencil from their placemats to cut out enough construction paper hearts so that each person had one for all the other family members labeled with the family members’ names. Each person then filled out their hearts with something they loved about the other person. Even my two-year-old told us items to put on the cards. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just heartfelt.
I folded over red paper and stapled the edges to make little envelopes. Not the most decorated, but I was going for easy, functional, and a little festive. I also didn’t want to spend 8 hours on this part. I offered to let the kids decorate them but they weren’t really interested in it. If you have major crafters, let them go to town on this!
I passed out everyone’s cards during dessert and it was a major hit! Even the adults enjoyed hearing special things about themselves. Some people put their names on the cards and others didn’t so we had fun guessing on the ones without names. This is really what it’s all about, sharing love with each other!
In the end, this crazy idea turned into a wonderful memory maker. My 8-year-old said, “We should do this for every holiday!”, so that’s a win in my book! I hope you can make your own family memories with a Valentine’s Day fondue with kids. And remember, if you run out of time altogether, the day-after-sale gigantic heart full of chocolates still makes a pretty big impact! Just be sure to throw in some love notes with it.