Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Dates are nature's sweeties

By JANINE GILBERTSON February 13. 2018 11:49PM
No-bake date nut bites. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

I thought it would be fun to come up with a few recipes using dates for Valentine’s Day (get it?), but when I saw a recent article (in the Union Leader of course) claiming New Hampshire is the best state for online dating, that sealed the deal.

Dates are sweet; in fact, their nicknamed “nature’s sugar.” Their outsides don’t reflect just how sweet and delicious they are.

Depending on the brand of dates you buy (they’re typically sold dried alongside the raisins at the grocery store) they’re a medium to dark brown and not very appetizing in appearance. But take a bite out of a date and you will be richly rewarded with a chewy sweetness that makes them an excellent candidate for scones, cookies, breads and other confections.

Dates are more popular in the Middle East and Mediterranean region, where they’ve been a staple food for thousands of years. When they’re ripe, dates are abut 80 percent sugar and are a good source of potassium and essential nutrients.

Since I love to add dried fruits like raisins and cranberries to salads, I thought I would toss some chopped dates into a kale salad with a honey mustard dressing. This worked out well, especially with a few wedges of orange mixed in.

Since dates are so chewy, they’re easy to chop up and add to a food processor with some nuts and other mix ins like shredded coconut to make a base for healthy no-bake goodies. I used pecans, dates and shredded coconuts in the ones I made; next time, I’ll experiment with other kinds of nuts like almonds or walnuts, which would be equally delicious.

I think dates are a good analogy for life: Don’t make all your decisions based on outside appearances; get to know the insides too, and you might be pleasantly surprised by all the sweetness you can find.

No-Bake Date Nut Bites

2 cups pecans, chopped

3/4 cup shredded coconut, plus more for garnish 

1 1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the pecans, coconuts and dates to a food processor and pulse several times until coarsely chopped. 

Add the salt, coconut oil and vanilla and process until the mixture sticks together when formed into a ball. 

Shape the dough into balls about the diameter of a quarter. Once formed, roll the balls into a little leftover coconut shred for garnish. 

Chill for about 10 minutes in the refrigerator to allow the balls to set, then serve. 
Kale salad with chopped dates and pecans. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Date and Pecan Salad

2 cups kale, chopped

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1/4 cup dates, chopped

1/2 orange or minneola, peeled and sliced

1 tbsp capers

1/4 cup avocado or olive oil

1 tbsp grainy dijon mustard

1 tbsp honey

3 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp sugar

pinch of Kosher salt

Add the kale, pecans, oranges, dates and capers to a large bowl, toss to combine and set aside. 

In a small bowl, add the oil, mustard, honey, vinegar, sugar and salt and whisk to combine. 

Drizzle the dressing over the salad before serving and toss to coat. 

Date Scones

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup paleo flour (you can use a cup of all purpose flour instead)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup chopped dates

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 375.

Add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar to a large bowl and whisk to combine. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until a coarse meal forms. 

Stir in the egg and milk and mix until a crumbly dough forms. 

Stir in the dates and then turn dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and pat into a circular shape 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick. Cut the circle into 6 wedges. 

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the scones are lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.


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