A quick note…if you haven’t yet entered my Garden of Life giveaway, make sure to do so as it ends in just a few days. Go to this post and tell me about your favorite smoothie, and you’ll be entered to win a jar of their amazing organic coconut oil and raw honey!

I’m getting ready to head to the Roger Smith Food Writers Conference today. I’m really excited about it, and I don’t want to miss my bus to NYC, so I’m in a bit of a hurry…

In honor of Valentine’s Day and all things chocolate, though, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share this unbelievable raw chocolate mousse recipe with you.

mousse

It’s rich, creamy and decadent, but it’s not a chocolate dessert you’ll have regrets about later….it’s quite good for you, in fact.

I’ve talked about raw cacao and it’s health benefits before, but to sum up (sorry, but I’m in a hurry), it is super high in nutrients, particularly antioxidants. It also contains numerous minerals, including magnesium and iron.

This recipe features raw cacao powder, which you can find in many natural foods stores, or purchase online. I also added raw organic cacao butter, which I have never used before. I like the thick texture it imparts to the mousse and how it kind of hardens when chilled, but if you don’t have cacao butter, you can probably use an additional avocado and a bit more coconut oil instead.

This is one of those recipes that I definitely suggest tasting as you go. You may prefer it with less cacao and more honey, for example. You can also make substitutions as you see fit. To keep the recipe vegan, you can use agave (or your favorite alternative sweetener) instead of the honey. Or use soaked dates to sweeten it instead. You could use almonds instead of the cashews and almond milk instead of the water…you get the picture, right? Go ahead an play around with it.

I honestly find this to be so intense that I can only eat a few spoonfuls at a time. It’s kind of the perfect dessert in that regard: you just can’t eat too much at once. It keeps well in the refrigerator, though, so feel free to keep a little bowl in there for when you need a little (healthy) chocolate fix…

Raw Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:

*flesh from 1 avocado
*1/2 cup raw cashews
*3/4 cup raw cacao
*3/4 cup raw cacao butter
*2 Tb. organic coconut oil
*6 Tb. raw honey
*pinch of sea salt
*filtered water
*raw cacao nibs for garnish- optional
*fresh berries or sliced bananas for serving- optional

Directions:

1. In a high speed blender, process all ingredients, adding water as necessary, until you have a smooth puree. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving, if possible. Garnish with cacao nibs and/or fruit, if desired.

For more raw chocolate recipes, you might want to check out the book Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth About the World’s Greatest Food. The book, which describes the many health benefits (including its role in weight loss!) of raw chocolate, also contains recipes for natural chocolate treats made with cocoa nibs, raw cocoa butter, nuts, coconut oil, and natural sweeteners.

Have you noticed that I love spicy food? It’s true. I do.

Spicy harissa is something that’s been on my “must try list” for a while now. I finally got my hands on some yesterday and I am so glad I did: I think this chickpea salad with roasted red pepper and harissa is terrific!

chickpeasalad1

If you are not yet acquainted with harissa, it’s a gorgeous, deep red chili sauce that hails from North Africa. Harissa is a very versatile condiment that can be used to add an exciting flavor to nearly any dish, from eggs to sandwiches to soups/stews to salads. It can be mild or very, very spicy, depending on the chilis used in its preparation.

harissa550

I think you’ll have no trouble finding it if you live in a large city, and you can definitely buy it on the internet. If you can’t get harissa, though (or if you’ve been unhappy with the brands you’ve purchased), consider making your own. I found a few harissa recipes that look great: here’s one from Cordelia on food52, and here’s one from Saveur.

Chickpeas are a wonderful source of vegetarian protein and they also contain good amounts of the minerals calcium, zinc, and folic acid. I just love them in all sorts of recipes, but particularly in healthy salads like this one. I cooked my own dried chickpeas for this recipe, and you’ll find my method for these below. If you use the dried chickpeas, you’ll need to start soaking them at least the day before you plan to make the salad. If you prefer, you can use canned chickpeas.

I also roasted my own red pepper. This is very simple to do if you have a gas stove.

roastingpepper

I blackened the pepper all over, placed it in a paper bag for 10-15 minutes to cool, and then rubbed the charred skin off. You can substitute jarred roasted red pepper, if you like.

Recipe for Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Pepper and Harissa

use local/organic ingredients whenever possible

Ingredients:

*3 cups cooked dried chickpeas (instructions below) or use drained canned chickpeas
*1 cup finely chopped swiss chard leaves
*about 1 1/2 cups organic dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans
*filtered water
*1 cup cherry/grape tomatoes, halved
*1 cup chopped cucumbers
*1 cup chopped carrots
*1 roasted red pepper, seeded and chopped
*1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
*juice of 1 lemon
*1/8 cup olive oil
*about 2 tsp. harissa
*course sea salt to taste- optional

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, soak chickpeas in water overnight. You'll want to cover them by at least a few inches as they will absorb a lot of the water.

2. After they have soaked, drain them and rinse several times. Remove any skins.

3. Put the soaked chickpeas in a pot on the stove. Pour water in to cover the chickpeas by an inch or two. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the top while cooking. They should be tender after simmering for about 1 1/2 hours. Drain any water that remains in the pot and set aside to cool.

4. Mix the chickpeas, vegetables, and parsley together in a large bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice and olive oil over the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

5. Starting with 1 teaspoon, mix in the harissa. Taste and add 1 teaspoon or more to taste. Yours might be spicier than mine, so make sure you don't add too much. Harissa is a little salty, so I didn't add additional salt; you may want to sprinkle with a little of your favorite course sea salt, though.

chickpeasaladpartial

Haiti+Ebook+CoverBefore I get to the recipe for this deliciously embellished chicken soup, I want to take a moment to tell you about Lauren of Celiac Teen’s new e-book.

Lauren is a talented young recipe blogger with a big, big heart. She compiled a lovely e-book of bloggers’ favorite recipes (yes, there’s even one from yours truly).

All proceeds from the book will go toward Haitian earthquake relief. If you purchase a copy before 2/12, the Canadian government will match your donation. And on top of that, Lauren’s parents are matching donations up to $1000!

So please head over to Lauren’s site and purchase a copy of the book; you’ll get a really a nice collection of recipes for such a great cause. Thank you Lauren for taking on and completing this great project…you already know I think you are amazing, but I’ll say it again. You’re amazing!

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As for today’s recipe, it’s a riff on my basic chicken soup (the recipe for which can be found Lauren’s book). It’s super nutritious and very soul-satisfying, two characteristic I definitely look for in a soup. Because kale has been getting so much love on this blog lately, I used collards in this recipe…

collards

…but you can use any dark green leafy vegetable that you like. Remember that dark leafy greens are mineral powerhouses, and they benefit the body in numerous ways. Make sure to use local and organic ingredients (including the chicken), whenever possible.

Chicken Soup with Collards and Coconut Milk

Ingredients:

*1 Tb. butter
*1 Tb. olive oil
*1 whole chicken, approx. 3-4 pounds, preferably free-range
*1 onion, peeled and chopped
*4 carrots, peeled and chopped
*1 bunch collard greens, cleaned and chopped
*1/2 bunch fresh parsley or cilantro, minced
*whole coconut milk (about 2 Tb. per bowl, or more to taste) for serving
*sriracha or sambal oelek (garlic chili sauce) for serving-optional
*minced green onion for garnish-optional
*course sea salt (white, black, pink or grey) to taste

Directions:

Heat olive oil and butter in a large soup pot. Place chicken in the pot and allow to sear for a minute or so on each side. Add a little water if necessary to prevent the chicken from burning. Add chopped onion and cook for a minute or two, moving the chicken around, again adding a little water to prevent burning.

Add the rest of the chopped carrot and celery, and then add enough water to cover the chicken (about 10 cups). Bring to a boil, skim any foam that rises to the top, and then reduce heat to lowest setting. Simmer for 50 minutes-1 hour, until the chicken is cooked through. Add the collards and parsley to the soup about 5 minutes before it has finished cooking.

Turn off heat. Carefully remove the chicken and allow to cool in a separate bowl.

If you are going to be serving all of the soup right away, you’ll want to remove the meat from the chicken bones and add it back into the soup (make sure you don’t burn yourself).

If you are eating just some of the soup right away, I suggest taking the meat off the chicken and then storing it in the refrigerator to add back into individual servings of soup. You can also reserve some of the chicken for another use.

Just before serving, mix 2 or more tablespoons of coconut milk into each bowl of soup. Add sriracha or garlic chili sauce to taste and sprinkle with minced green onions, if desired.

soup1

Remember not to discard your picked over chicken bones; store them in the freezer so that you can make chicken stock.

This post is linked to this week’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Fight Back Friday Round-ups!