Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree commonly grown in tropical climates. They can be sold fresh, but they are regularly found dried in the grocery store. The drying process makes dates sweeter and concentrated in nutrients. Dates are a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants. Their natural sweetness and added nutrients are why I love using them in my baked goods. However, dates are high in sugar and calories, so moderation is still key.
For baked goods like cookies, muffins, quick-breads, or home-made granola bars I like to replace the sugar with chopped up dates or a homemade date syrup where I soak and blend the dates with warm water and vanilla extract to produce a sweet-caramel-like syrup. Date sugar can also be found in the store, which is made by dehydrating dates and grinding them to a granulated, sugar-like consistency.
What’s even better is that this sweet fruit pairs wonderfully with savory dishes. Try stuffing a pitted date with goat cheese drizzled with honey and crushed walnuts, chopping a handful of dates to top off a salad, or caramelizing chopped dates to pair with roasted Brussels sprouts or carrots for a holiday side dish. There are so many possibilities with this versatile fruit. Try out this fun date-caramel apple recipe!
About the Author
Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.