How about a date? They’re wickedly delicious…
Although they are one of the ugliest fruits on the planet, dates are wickedly delicious.
All brown and wrinkled and weirdly crushed, dates are actually wonderful — sticky, sweet, and with a mysteriously rich caramel-meets-molasses vibe.
I came to rely on dates when, fed up with the rancid trail mix sold at supermarkets, I started making my own. Dates have become my go-to fruit for the mix; mostly because of their uber-sweetness, but also because they’re nutritional heavyweights.
High in calories? Umm … yes, it’s true: One tiny, crinkly brunette fruit packs about 60 calories and is full of carbs and sugar, but it’s also loaded with dietary fibre, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants.
Grown around the world in desert climates, dates are cultivated in Australia, Africa, the Middle East, California, Arizona and many other locations. The most common varieties found in North America are Medjool (the King) and Deglet Nour (the Queen). Medjool dates are larger, plumper, softer and sweeter, making them a good candidate for eating out of hand. Deglet Nour are smaller, chewier and drier, making them the date of choice for baking, although both varieties work well in most baking recipes.
a pretty good trail mix with dates
This recipe is not an exact science. Use whatever goodies you happen to like, including shaved coconut and dark chocolate morsels. I use packaged pre-chopped dates for the trail mix but you can be a little more industrious than me by cutting whole dates with floured scissors. If I’m not going to eat the trail mix right away, I package it in small plastic bags and freeze it. For the record, I never hike on trails so I’m not even sure why I need a trail mix. But it’s an awesome late-night snack, with holier-than-thou health benefits to boot.
1 cup dates, diced
1 cup unsalted cashews
1 cup unsalted pecans
1/2 cup unsalted almonds
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or both)
1/4 cup dried mango, diced
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries, cherries or blueberries (or all)
Place ingredients in an airtight container. Shake container to mix. Freeze if desired. Makes about 4 to 5 cups.
incredible date shake
Full disclosure: My love affair with the date really began when I lived in Los Angeles, where dates are sweet, soft and plentiful. This date shake is most definitely a special-occasion indulgence, but if you’re prone to sipping daily fast-food shakes, this recipe is a slightly better alternative.
1/2 cup dates, chopped with scissors
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp molasses or golden syrup or dark corn syrup
3 ice cubes
1 pint vanilla or coffee ice cream or frozen yogurt
In blender, blend dates, milk and molasses until smooth. Add ice cubes and ice cream. Blend until smooth.
sticky toffee pudding
makes 6 servings
This is one of my all-time favourite desserts. A mash-up of British and Canadian recipes, sticky toffee pudding is topped with a rich caramel sauce that catapults it into the stratosphere of scrumptiousness! For best results, chop dates with floured scissors or use pre-chopped dates. The thick toffee-caramel sauce is the best part of the dessert. As my friend Rich says, “The sauce makes the dessert!” Amen, my brother.
1 3/4 cup dates, chopped
2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
Sticky Toffee Sauce
Whipped cream for garnish
Preheat oven to 375˚F.
Grease and flour 6 ramekins or custard cups.
In medium saucepan, simmer dates in water, uncovered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Let stand 30 minutes.
In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, ginger and salt.
In a separate large bowl with electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until combined. Add flour mixture a little at a time, beating after each addition, until combined. Gently fold in date mixture.
Spoon batter into greased ramekins. Set 3 ramekins into one of two 9 x 13 pans. Add hot water to each pan to reach halfway up sides of ramekins.
Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre of one ramekin comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, then unmould from ramekins. Serve warm with Sticky Toffee Sauce and whipped cream. To re-warm ramekins, microwave for 30 seconds each.
the make-it-or-break-it sticky toffee sauce
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
In saucepan, melt butter. Add brown sugar. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and vanilla. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve warm over pudding. Top with whipped cream.