“Children the world over have a right to a childhood filled with beauty, joy, adventure, and companionship. They will grow toward ecological literacy if the soil they are nurtured in is rich with experience, love, and good examples.”

– Alan Dyer, “A Sense of Adventure”

2016 Herbal Valentines
2016 Herbal Valentines

A day for love, expressed through silly love notes and cacao, what could be better?! It’s the perfect day for herbalists to shine with something they are passionate about, the plants.

While we are not big on buying commercial chocolates in our house, we always enjoy making a meal with as much chocolate as possible: Chocolate barbecued chicken or Cacao encrusted pork tenderloin, Acorn or butternut squash seasoned with cocoa and other warming herbs, and a flourless chipotle chocolate cake or Pavlovas with fresh fruit and chocolate sauce for dessert. This year, I plan to add a salad, based on one I found online, a spinach pear salad with a chocolate vinaigrette. 


I always enjoy finding a way to incorporate herbs into our daily food and Valentine’s day is no exception!

Kids will get a kick out of eating chocolate for dinner, and especially when they can tell their friends it’s good for them too. With the exception of the dessert, there is almost no added sugar, only the flavor of cacao combined with spices and savory foods.

Here are a few recipes to get you started:

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Cacao Spice Butternut Squash

1 large butternut squash (Acorn can be substituted if you prefer)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
2 teaspoons cacao* or cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt*
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger*
1/4 t. ground ancho chili powder*

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice your butternut squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds (we like to roast them, see below) and brush the squash with olive oil.

Place the squash facedown on a baking stone or cookie sheet and bake for about 40 minutes or until tender. Larger squashes may take longer.

Remove from the oven and let cool.

Scoop out the flesh and mash in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined.


Roasted Squash Seeds
(Great for salads or eating as is!)

Seeds from your squash
2 teaspoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt*
1/4 teaspoon cacao*
1/4 teaspoon garlic*
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon*
1 pinch chipotle*

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.

Wash your seeds and pat dry on a towel.

Place on a cookie sheet and toss with the ingredients and roast for 45 minutes, stirring a few times during the cooking time.

Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.


Spinach Pear Salad

1 package of fresh organic baby spinach (or mixed greens)
1 large pear, sliced into small bite sized pieces
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons roasted squash seeds or sliced almonds
1/4 cup gorgonzola or stilton cheese

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon raw honey
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons cacao powder
1 tablespoon butter

In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder. Turn off heat and whisk together the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

Toss the salad ingredients and drizzle with the dressing.

Kids love a unique twist on food. Adding chocolate to their food is a tradition that they will want to repeat year after year.


For more in depth learning about the herbs we used this holiday season, check out their individual issues: CacaoGingerCayenneGarlicBlack Pepper, CinnamonVanilla and Raspberry.

Do you have any traditions for your family for Valentine’s Day?