A Date With Dates
A sugar substitute wonder
From improving bone health to promoting beautiful skin, the health benefits of dates seem like a never-ending list. Lucky for us in Turkey, this stone fruit (meaning it has a single seed surrounded by an outer fleshy fruit such as peaches, mangos, and olives), is easy to find.
As someone who is always trying to find natural alternatives to processed foods, I find dates and date puree an easy substitute for refined sugar. And, of course, these little gems are full of fibre, vitamins, and minerals that add nutritional value to recipes.
What To Look For When Shopping:
Fresh dates can be wrinkled, but they should not feel hard.
Look for fresh dates that are plump and have a slight glossiness to their skin
Avoid dates that have crystallized sugar on their skins since that means they are not quite as fresh as you would like. Please note that a little whiteness is okay, but actual sugar crystals or flakes are not.
Interesting Facts About Dates:
The word "date" comes from the Greek word daktulos, meaning "fingers". This is most likely named for the fruit's shape
Dates are easily digested, making them a quick source of energy and nutrients. Hence why you often see dates as an important ingredient in homemade energy treats
Consumption of dates before a meal may satisfy the sensation of hunger, which in turn helps to avoid overeating
Eating dates after a long day of fasting can help the body's blood glucose levels quickly return to normal
Date Puree Usage Ideas:
For most recipes, substitute date puree for refined sugar using a 1:1 ratio. Some cookie and cake recipes work better with a 1,25:1 ratio as date puree is typically not as sweet as most processed sugars (use 1 ¼ cup of date puree for recipes asking for 1 cup of white sugar)
Whisk a tablespoon of date puree into your homemade salad dressing to help it emulsify and add a hint of sweetness
Use date puree to sweeten a smoothie or fruit-based nice cream (nice creams are banana-based dairy-free frozen dessert with a similar consistency as ice cream)
Add a ½ teaspoon of date puree to your home-made tomato sauces instead of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and create a more balanced sauce
Spread the date puree on a slice of toasted bread or swirl it into your morning oatmeal
As a healthy alternative to sugar in recipes, date puree can also enhance the flavor of foods without overpowering them.
2 ½ cups fresh dates, pitted (approximately 14-15 dates)
1 cup boiling water
In a bowl or jar, cover dates with the boiling water. Let the dates soak 5 to 8 hours.
Blend the dates with the soaking liquid in a food processor or high-speed blender until smooth. If necessary, add more water to achieve a thick spreadable consistency.
Makes approximately 2 ½ to 3 cups. Date puree may be stored for up to 2 month in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or up to 8-12 months in the freezer.
Storage & Freezing Tips
Use an ice cube mold tray to freeze small dollops of date puree (this is typically 1 tbsp of puree per mold, depending on the ice cube tray size).
Use small 1 cup containers or jars with lids for freezer storage, this is especially useful when baking with date puree.
Cabbage Sprouts with Dijon Vinaigrette
This salad has a couple more steps in the preparation then your typical salad; however, it is worth the effort. Steaming the sprouts brings out spiciness of the cabbage and, of course, its beautiful colour.
First off, what are cabbage sprouts (cibes otu or ege otu in Turkish)? After a head of cabbage has been harvested, cabbage sprouts grow in the spot where cabbage head was taken.
Similar to a larger (and leafier) Brussels sprout, cabbage sprouts are a great source of fiber, vitamin C and may help prevent some forms of cancer.
500 gr cabbage sprouts (~8-9 heads)
2-3 Rio tomatoes (or any preferred variety)
¼ cup almonds (chopped)
1 tbsp date puree
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp plum or fig vinegar
½ tsp organic garlic powder
Steam the cabbage sprouts for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the heads to drain and cool.
Once the heads of cabbage sprouts are cooled enough to touch, arrange the steams heads onto a platter; and place the sliced tomatoes on top. Place in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.
In a separate small bowl, using a whisk, combine olive oil, date puree, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, pepper, and garlic powder. The mixture will become thick when whipped.
Drizzle the salad dressing over the chilled cabbage sprouts and tomatoes, toss on the chopped almonds and serve.
Peanut Butter Biscuits
This is a no refined sugar, gluten-free version of the simple 'peanut butter cookie'.
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract (or rum)
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup date puree
1 ½ cups buckwheat flour (Naturelka çiğ karabuğday unu)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
In a small pan on low, heat the oil, milk, puree and extract (or rum) until warm and combined.
Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the peanut butter. Stir until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until combined into a cohesive dough.
Transfer the dough to a covered container and refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180 C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove the bowl with the dough from the refrigerator. Place 1 ½ tablespoon-sized balls onto the baking sheets approximately 5 cm apart.
Use a fork to flatten the balls and make a crisscross pattern (dipping the fork into a small bowl of water before each application helps to prevent sticking).
Bake each tray separately to gets the most even bake, for approximately 10 minutes total (rotating halfway through at 5 minutes), until edges are just firm. Cool for 5 minutes on the tray, then remove to a cooling rack.
Makes approximately 24 biscuits.
Vegan No-Bake Cookies
This no-bake cookies recipe is the vegan version of a recipe my mother made when I was a child. Mom would be proud of this healthier version of her beloved summer cookie recipe.
2 ½ cups rolled oats (yulaf ezmesi)
3 tbsp coconut oil (measured as a liquid)
1 cup date puree
¼ cup natural peanut butter (Nuts'All sade fıstık ezmesi)
¼ cup unsweetened plant-based milk
½ tsp salt
Prepare a baking sheet or large tray with parchment paper and set aside.
On low-medium heat in a large saucepan combine coconut oil, date puree, peanut butter, milk, carob powder and salt. Stir continuously until the mixture has a sauce-like consistency.
Add the oats and stir until it is well mixed.
Remove from heat. With the saucepan lid cover the pan and set aside for 5 minutes. This allows the oats to soften slightly.
Using a tablespoon, scoop a heaping portion of the oat mixture onto the parchment paper. Shape into 5 cm round mounds; and set into the refrigerator for about 1 hour to set.
Once set, place the cookies in an air-tight container (use the parchment paper to separate each layer for easy storage).
Make 12-15 cookies.