Dates are the Perfect Sweet Binder and Base…

icecream2As consciousness shifts towards healthier living and eating, sugar-free foods continue to be a hot topic and new and healthier recipes are surfacing to meet the demands of these health conscious cooks.

Making the switch to sugar free desserts and treats is easy when you discover the natural sweetness and texture that dried fruits provide and dates take a starring role.

Dates are oval fruits with that give us a healthy dose of potassium. Each date has one seed inside. They can be enjoyed fresh or dried like raisins and while they are oddly wrinkled with a brown exterior, they are also very satisfying with a chewy, flavorful texture.

Brought to the U.S. by USDA explorer Walter Swingle early on in the 20th century, the production of dates is a growing industry. Although there are only two primary date varieties grown in the U.S. – medjool and deglet noor – there are over 3,000 varieties of dates total.

One of the challenges that surfaces when making the switch from cooked to raw dishes is how thicken them. The sticky texture of dates works as the perfect binder, thickener or base to incorporate your veggies and other raw ingredients into, or as an ingredient for your sweet fillings and purees.

Dates have been around for centuries and today Medjool dates, often seen in holiday baskets, are longtime favorites because of their soft texture and the sweetness they provide but Deglet Noor dates (smaller and drier than Medjool) are relatively inexpensive and the most commonly used.  Honey dates, Halawi, Khadrawi, and Barhi are other popular well-known varieties, however, Medjool dates are the only ones that can actually be picked and eaten fresh.

Dates are easy to digest, dense with health benefiting phytonutrients, and fiber (dietary fiber help move waste through our bodies smoothly), B vitamins, copper, manganese, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin and panthenic acid. They also provide iron for strong blood, vitamins A and K and are rich with more than 15 minerals including selenium.

 

Any kind of natural sugar will easily trump processed sugar choices.

 

Dates

Pros: Completely natural, high in fiber and great source of potassium.

Cons: Small, concentrated form of sugar that’s easy to indulge in. One medium medjool date contains approximately 7.7g fructose). If sugar consumption is an issue with you, then limit your consumption of dates as nature fructose can wreak havoc on your health.

Because dates are so popular, they are easy to locate and buy in bulk in most grocery, ethnic and health food stores.

Many chefs keep a bin of dates chilled in the refrigerator that have been soaking in water so they are ready for use. If your dates need using up they are perfect used in smoothies for a sweet kick.

Try this easy to make delicious beet and date ice cream. You can find more delicious raw dessert and treat recipes featuring veggies at “Blended Bites.”

 

Beet and Chocolate Ice Cream

2 cups cooked beets

1 cup dates, soaked at least 30 minutes and drained

1/2 cup cashews

1 large avocado

1/2 cup cocoa or cacao powder

1/3 cup coconut oil, warmed until liquid

1 tablesppon vanilla essence

1/4 cup honey

Place all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.

Enjoy and store in the freezer.