The humble date often makes an appearance at Christmas – about the only time of year that you seem to be able to buy the gorgeous, sticky, squidgy Medjool style date, as opposed to the small, shrivelled, dry ones you are forced to be content with the rest of the year round!
Dates are a fruit in their own right, not the dried version of something else. Although higher in calories than most fresh fruits, they do also contain a fantastic range of nutritional benefits and so are definitely a good alternative to chocolate if you are craving something sweet this Christmas.
Fibre: dates are high in fibre which helps our digestive systems to function smoothly (pardon the pun!), prevents constipation, promotes gut health and also can help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.
B Vitamins: Dates contain a good amount of niacin, riboflavin and folate. These are all part of the B Vitamin family which help to support a range of bodily functions.
Riboflavin (B2): supports the health of the nervous system and can help promote skin and eye health as well as helping our bodies to release the energy from carbohydrate.
Niacin (B3): helps to promote the health of the digestive and nervous systems
Folate: helps to support Vitamin B12 to promote the production and health of red blood cells, therefore supporting the transport of oxygen to the muscles and preventing fatigue. It is also a vital vitamin during pregnancy as it prevents conditions such as spina bifida from developing in newborns.
Iron: Dates contain a decent amount of iron; any foods containing iron are good to eat as this is one of the minerals that we can so easily become deficient in, especially if we do not eat meat. Iron helps to build red blood cells which carry oxygen to muscles as a source of energy. If we are deficient in iron we can develop anaemia, a symptom of which is extreme fatigue and lack of energy.
Calcium: Dates contain a small amount of calcium, which promotes bone health, growth and development and is involved in cardiac function, so can help to keep the heart strong and healthy.
HOW TO STUFF A DATE!
1. Slice the date down one side, being careful not to cut all the way through as you want to keep it whole.
2. Carefully remove the stone. A good treat here, as there is often some date flesh still on the stone – it’s chef’s perogative to suck the stones! Just as satisfying as licking the spoon!
3. Take one whole almond, pistachio, walnut half, cashew or a nut of your choosing and place this where the stone used to be. Alternatively, stuff the cavity with chopped nuts.
4. Roll the stuffed date in grated coconut or sprinkle some on top for a delicious treat and a beautiful festive, snowy look
5. Alternative stuffings are:
* cream cheese (low fat, if you want to keep it healthy)
* blue cheese
* thick, lowfat greek style yogurt and honey
* bacon, wrapped around the date like pigs-in-blankets (obviously the bacon needs to be cooked first)
per one date, stuffed with an almond and rolled in coconut (per one date stuffed with blue cheese)
This is, essentially, a plug of my breakfast from this morning but it was delicious, balanced and healthy fulfilling all major food groups! Figs are a really good source of fibre so great for lowering cholesterol and preventing constipation (sorry, perhaps not the best breakfast topic but an important one none-the-less!). They also contain a good amount of potassium which can help to keep the blood pressure normalised – potassium is found in most fruit and vegetables in varying quantities so if you’re eating your 5-a-day then you’re probably getting enough potassium.
If you can’t find fresh figs then you could use dried ones but the texture and flavour of fresh figs is definitely more subtle, sweet and fresh. If you wanted to substitute the cinnamon pancake for an American-style plain or lemon flavoured one that would work just as well or you could make your own thin (English or French-style) pancake. To keep the calories similar just make sure the weight of the pancake is no more than 65g and that you don’t use too much fat when cooking – 1 tsp. of oil or butter in a hot pan should do.
INGREDIENTS (per person)
1 american style cinnamon pancake (65g)
2 tbsps of reduced fat creme fraiche or low fat greek yogurt
2 sliced fresh figs
1-2 tsp. of flaked or chopped almonds (or about 6 whole)
1 tsp runny honey
pinch of ground cinnamon
There’s not much to it really!
* Lightly toast the pancake if you’ve bought a pre-prepared one (mine were from the Asda bakery counter, but any other brands would do or you could make your own – don’t use too much fat to cook them)
* Layer the creme fraiche or greek yogurt on top (mine was reduced fat creme fraiche at around 50kcal per 2 tbsps)
* Layer the sliced fresh figs in an attractive manner on top – or simply chuck them on! Fresh figs can be pricey but if you look out for them around autumn (fall) time then they are a bit cheaper – I got 4 for £1
* Throw the almonds over the figs, drizzle the honey on top and sprinkle the cinnamon over everything
* Serve and enjoy – mine was wolfed down in less than 2 minutes!
Energy 455 kcal / 1904 kJ
Got yourself some bruisey apples that you really don’t want to eat but can’t bear to throw away?!
Well, there’s always apple crumble, of course, but I always make this soup when I’ve got some slightly less than perfect apples. It’s delicious, sweet, spicy and creamy and I love it!
** WARNING** Wear an apron if you are wearing anything you value! Turmeric stains like a demon and any splashes may result in you requiring new clothes!
3 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and chopped (400g)
½ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. vegetable/olive oil (10g)
½ – 1 x green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped (4g)
1” piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped (7g)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (4g)
1 white onion, peeled and chopped (140g)
2 tsp. honey
3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (280g)
2 tsp. garam masala
150g low-fat fromage frais
½ tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
- Put the parsnips, turmeric, cumin and coriander in a medium-sized saucepan with 600ml of water. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
- In a large saucepan heat the oil over a medium heat. Fry the chilli, garlic and ginger for 30 seconds. Add the mustard seeds and fry for a few seconds, until they start popping.
- Add the onions and honey and fry for 5-10 minutes, until they are softened and browned.
- Add the parsnips in their cooking liquid to the onions. Add the rest of the water (a further 1.1 litres) and the apples also.
- Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes.
- Add the garam masala, fromage frais, salt and pepper.
- Use a hand-blender to blend the soup until smooth.
Energy 760 kcal (3180 kJ)
Total sugars 78.6g
Per Serving (Serves 6)
Energy 130 kcal (545 kJ)
Total sugars 13.1g
1 x white or brown crusty bread roll (50g) = 130kcal / 545 kJ
As above but with seeds on top (60g) = 190kcal / 800 kJ
¼ pre-packed garlic bread (french baguette style) = 150 kcal / 630 kJ
40g (2” piece) french stick, sliced and toasted with 20g cheddar or parmesan = 200 kcal / 840 kJ
Suggested Ear Candy
How could I not have whacked something by The Apples in Stereo on the hi-fi whilst making soup with apples in?!
Travellers in Space and Time is one of the most lively, fun and brilliant albums my ears have had the pleasure of listening to in a long time and I urge everyone to try it out. It’s got excellent soundbytes, electronica, amazing tunes, comedy and is absolutely the greatest for jumping around the soup kitchen to!
I love a bit of the Andrew Sisters for their twee-ness and a gentle reminder of how sweet and innocent music used to be! Some 1940s/50s era ditties seem like a good pairing when making soup out of ‘salvaged’ fruit too! Just what grandma wudda done!