Thursday, 18 December 2014

December Superfood of the Month is.....

December Superfood of the Month is……..Medjool Dates!

As a student, the holidays aren’t all merry and bright. Until December 20th they are a dark, gloomy, terrifying and frenzied mess, with 8 final exams including two practicals (an OSCE and acupuncture) I find it hard to sit back and relax this time of year. Nonetheless, I have been busy attending several Christmas parties with wonderful family and friends, where the food and drink have been delicious and plenty. One of my favourite items to incorporate in party appetizers and desserts this time of year is medjool dates. Crowned the “King of Dates”, these sweet, simple dried fruits are extremely versatile. I’ve found myself craving sweets more than usual lately with all the exam stress, a classic pattern of Spleen Qi Deficiency in Asian Medicine. Instead of reaching for sugary processed treats, I prefer to make my own homemade treats containing natural sugar and real ingredients to satisfy this sweet tooth.

So what makes Dates a Superfood anyways?
Naturally sweet, this high-energy snack is a good source of potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium. Dates are filled with fiber, promoting regular bowel movements; this is why they are often touted as a natural prescription for constipation. They can be used in several recipes as a substitute for refined sugars, and also have a distinct flavor that makes a great vegan or paleo substitute for caramel sauce. Interestingly enough, when I was researching the health benefits of dates for this post, I came across a research article that pointed out the benefits of eating dates during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy to reduce the need for induction and augmentation of labour!

Two of my favourite party dishes using dates are listed below. The first is a super simple and crowd-pleasing appetizer. I can’t take any merit for this idea, they simply had samples out of it at Sobey’s one day, which I happily chewed down on. The second recipe I created while procrastinating when studying for my last exams. They were a huge hits in our household and something I looked forward to enjoying as exam treats all week! Note: If you are following a low FODMAP diet for gastrointestinal concerns, dates, like other dried fruits, are considered at high FODMAPS and should be avoided.

Simple Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates

200 grams thinly sliced prosciutto (I got mine from the Deli Section at Longo’s)
16-20 organic medjool dates (also purchased at Longo’s)

1.     Remove pits from dates, I find it easiest to squeeze the date slightly and then pull the pit out from one end.
2.     Wrap each slice of prosciutto around 1 date and secure in place with a toothpick
3.     Shove into mouth and enjoy!

Chocolate Brazil Nut Date Cups

1 cup brazil nuts (I purchase mine in bulk from Whole Foods)
1 cup pitted organic medjool dates
100g extra dark chocolate (the equivalent of one Lindt 85% chocolate bar, or 1 President’s choice extra dark chocolate bar)

1.     In food processor or high powered blender, combine nuts and dates until a sticky paste forms. Mush into bottom of 12 muffin tins lined with paper or silicone baking cups
2.     Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 30-45 seconds.
3.     Pour melted chocolate over top of date nut mixture, and sprinkle with sea salt. Freeze until solid.
4.     Store in freezer and remove 10 minutes before serving.

Do you have a favourite holiday dish? I love the sweet potato casserole my mom makes with pecans, cranberries, pineapple and carrots, it a nice GF and allergy friendly substitute for stuffing.

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