You have barely recovered from all of the Christmas treats but you want to make your Valentine something special, let them know that you think they are naturally sweet!

There are hundreds of varieties of dates.  They grow on the date palm tree that look very similar to coconut palm trees. The fruit is sweet, fleshy and an oblong shape.  On their own they are not the most appetizing looking fruit but with a little dressing up you can take them just about anywhere!

Dates are a wonderful addition to many meals and a great substitute for refined sugars in your own favorite recipes.

Most of the world’s crop of dates in grown in the Middle East but most of the dates that we will find on the shelves in our local grocery stores are cultivated in California.

The Medjool and the Jaffa dates are the most common and favored varieties that you can find in our local grocery stores.  They are the semi-soft variety.  When you are purchasing dates do your best to find good quality that is smooth skinned, glossy and plump.  They will be a little wrinkled but stay away from dates that are significantly wrinkled or have crystalized sugars on the surface.

If you store the dates in an airtight container they will keep for up to eight months. At room temperature they will last for about a month.

Adding dates to our North American diets is reality new but dates “date” themselves back thousands of years.  The date palm was called the “Tree of Life” and in Muslim legend the trees were said to be made from the dust of Adam.  From the study of antiquities we know that they have been cultivated for at least 8000 years.

Perhaps date palms were so revered because of their nutrition value.  While the ancient Mesopotamians likely didn’t know a fig about the nutritional composition of a date they were no doubt onto the fact that the inclusion of dates in the diet was important to their over all health and satisfied even the earliest sweet tooth.

If you are trying to eliminate sugar from your diet completely then dates are not for you but if you are trying to keep things sweet and natural a little date can go a long way.

Despite their sweetness they are an excellent source of easily digested carbohydrate.   They also contain a special type of soluble fiber that according to the science of holistic nutrition can decrease the body’s absorption of cholesterol and slow or delay the absorption of sugar, leveling bloods sugar.  Long story short, a few dates can help you feel full.

According to the Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, they are also and excellent source of the B vitamins, folic acid, pantothenic acid and the minerals magnesium, manganese, iron phosphorous.

There are lots of recipes where you can incorporate dates or use them as a substitute for refined sugar.  These are two of my favorite Date Night recipes that you might want to try to show your Valentine that you are pretty sweet too!

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Frosty Coconut Chocolate Tart with Date Nut Crust

This is one of my new favorites.  You can freeze this after it sets in the fridge and serve it as a frozen dessert.  I find that you get a cleaner slice if it spends a little time in the freezer before serving but you don’t experience the coconut cream if it is completely solid. (True Confessions…I have a love affair with all of ingredients in this recipe; dates, coconut, almonds and chocolate…it’s a little dangerous!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of walnuts (raw, unsalted)
  • ½ cup Almonds (raw, unsalted)
  • 1 ½ cup Dates  about 15 Medjool pitted
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of coconut cream from coconut milk (don’t use the light milk you need the heavier cream for the pie to set)
  • 2 tablespoons of Cocoa Powder
  • 4 Tablespoons Powdered sugar
  • ½ cup Cashews  (raw unsalted)
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips  (optional for decorating)
  1. Line a 10-inch spring form pan with parchment paper
  2. To make the crust, pulse walnuts, almonds, dates, coconut oil and salt in a food processor.
  3. Press this crumbly, sticky mixture into the tart pan
  4. Rinse and dry the food processor bowl and blade. Add two cups of coconut cream, cocoa powder, powdered sugar and cashews. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour filling into a pie form and place in refrigerator until it starts to set. This takes about four hours. Once the tart starts to set sprinkle with chocolate chips if desired.  I use the mini Enjoy Life chocolate chips. Wrap the pan with foil and place in deep freeze for another two hours before serving if you want a completely frozen tart.  Cut and enjoy!!

Almond Stuffed Dates with Lemon Zest

Stuff and Sauté. I don’t suggest that you do this to your Valentine but it’s a delicious way to treat a date.  My girlfriend served these at a little gathering after the holiday and it was love at first bite.  If you love sweet and savory then these little morsels are for you.

You can make as many of these as you want.  For a party of six I would suggest making two or three for each guest.  As an appetizer they are quite filling.  I think I would even make these for a dessert or to add to an after dinner cheese tray.

Ingredients

  • Medjool Dates (I buy organic when available)
  • Raw unsalted Almonds
  • Sea Salt
  • Lemon Zest
  1. If your dates are not already pitted but a little slice on one side and remove the pit.
  2. Insert an almond and pinch the date to close.
  3. Zest your lemon.
  4. Once you have filled your desired amount of dates put a teaspoon or two of olive oil in the bottom of your sauté pan. Over medium heat give the dates a little shake or stir in the pan so they take a tumble through the olive oil and get a nice glisten.
  5. Sprinkle with the sea salt and lemon zest.  Keep sautéing until they are warmed all of the way through and be careful not to burn.
  6. Lift from pan with tongs or a slotted spoon (there shouldn’t be much oil left in the pan) let them cool a little before serving.

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Crystal Murray
Crystal likes to think about her forays in journalism like interval training. " I have had a wonderful freedom to be home when I needed to be and work when the spirit moved me. In the spaces between I have learned things about myself, my family and my community that I hope will find a rightful place in the new and refreshed pages of At Home on the North Shore. "