Heathy? Well there goes romance…

Now, now. There’s nothing wrong with champagne and a decadent dessert on a special occasion, but let’s think outside that chocolate box just a little. Let me tug at your heartstrings with a Juiced-Up Cocktail and some Green Gal Good-For-You-and-Over-The-Top Dark Chocolate Bark.

Shall we start with chocolate? Chocolate is traditional, sexy, scrumptious and has been shown to be good for you… at least in moderation. Can it get any better than that? YES! By adding in some dried superfruits, some raw organic almonds, some spices for that back-of-the-palette explosion and a pinch of hand-harvested sea salt, it can get WAY better.

Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate that is at least 75 to 80 percent cacao, has been in the media for several years as a potential health food. It can improve your heart, boost your brain power and even protect against diabetes. Though it comes with some caveats and some restraints, most experts are convinced that conservative consumption of dark chocolate on a regular basis is good for us.

To help get that daily quota, here is a five-ingredient, 15-minute-prep recipe that will win the heart—and the health—of your special sweetie.

Green Gal Good-For-You-And-Over-The-Top Dark Chocolate Bark

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 10-12 servings

Serving Size: two 2 to 3-inch pieces

Green Gal Good-For-You-And-Over-The-Top Dark Chocolate Bark

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces of dark chocolate chips (I love Enjoy Life brand chocolate because it is guaranteed gluten, soy and dairy free, as well as being just darn good chocolate. Other brands to consider are Green and Black and Dagoba, both environmentally and fair-trade focused companies that make delicious chocolate.)
  • One-half cup raw, organic chopped almonds
  • Three-quarters cup mixed dried fruit (In this case, I strongly suggest checking out Tierra Farms Very Berry Mix, a combination of organic goji berries, golden berries, blueberries, Himalayan raisins, cranberries, raisins and pomegranates. These fruits are among the “superfruits” touted by many health experts. Further, they are exactly the right size for the recipe—no chopping. If you use whole dates and apricots, you’ll need to do a little chopping to get them diced.)
  • One-quarter teaspoon each of ground ginger, ground cinnamon and ground chili powder. (Splurge here by buying quality spices such as Penzeys. My chili powder is made from local fresh chilies that I dried and ground in a spice grinder. Cheaper chili powders add salt, which you do not want here. Penzeys offers you a variety of chilies, letting you control both the heat and the salt.)
  • Half-teaspoon coarse-ground hand-harvested sea salt (My choice is Celtic Sea Salt, which is rich in minerals and guaranteed non-GMO.)

Instructions

  1. Line a 13 x 9 glass dish with parchment paper. It will help the parchment paper stay in place if you lightly spray the glass dish with cooking spray and then arrange the paper.
  2. In a double boiler or using a bain marie (which is just a heat-proof glass bowl placed securely over a pot of simmering water—in essence a homemade double boiler), heat the chocolate slowly until it is completely melted and smooth. Note that if the heat is too high, the chocolate will seize, meaning it will get gummy and lumpy, so medium heat, constant stirring and attention all count here.
  3. When the chocolate is smooth, whisk in the spices and remove from heat.
  4. Working quickly, pour the chocolate into the prepared dish and spread out into a thin layer with a rubber spatula. The rubber spatula is very handy for getting every drop of chocolate out of your pan or bowl. Note that the chocolate does not need to completely cover the bottom of the parchment-lined dish; it should not be too thin; about a quarter inch is good.
  5. Sprinkle in the almonds and the dried fruit, very gently pressing them into the chocolate but not submersing them. Finish with a generous sprinkle of the sea salt.
  6. Now for the hard part… waiting. Chill the chocolate for at least 30 minutes before consuming. Once the chocolate is firm, break into two to three inch pieces.

Notes

I've been pretty generous in the time it takes to pull this together--it goes quickly. The taste, however, is anything but "fast food."

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While the recipe should yield approximately 10 servings, my husband will tell you that the recipe yields a single serving. So much for moderation.

Moving on to my vibrant and tangy Juiced-Up Cocktail. And for this, you really must have a fairly decent juicer, not a blender, to make this drink. I have a mid-level machine—a Jack LaLanne Juicer that ran me about $100 way back when. You can buy much fancier ones that will be less trouble to clean, etc., but this works for me. Although, I have to admit, it is “work” to use and clean up. So that cocktail better be darn good, right? Be brave…and if you are considering a juicer, do your homework. It’s been years since I purchased mine, so I’m sure the market has changed. Ready to clink those glasses?

Recipe card for Juiced-Up Cocktail

And there you have it. Two very healthy, very yummy ways to say “I Love You” to your special someone. I’m headed back to the kitchen to make a second batch of chocolate bark. Moderation has clearly gone out the window. How are you saying Happy Valentine’s Day this year?

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