Spiced Date Syrup

Yields 1-1 1/2C (about)spiced date syrup

Happy Anniversary Guaya Gourmet!

Somehow we are at our first year anniversary!  Last year when I began blogging here, Claire was 5 months old and spent most of her time in the kitchen with me in her carrier.  Now, she spends her time climbing on and off the footstool, opening drawers and cabinets and subsequently hiding my measuring cups and spoons, and helping me by mixing or adding ingredients.  Oh, and we also live in a foreign country.  A lot has changed.

Other surprises over the past year include; gathering quite a following (THANK YOU for reading and following!), developing relationships with other bloggers via social media networks, learning a ton about social media and how useful it is, learning and working with the developing taste buds and moods of a baby foodie, and being consistently amazed about the people I meet as a result of the food that inspires and delights me.

It has been a fruitful and eventful year.  And with every meal that has made it to these pages and all the meals that haven’t, we have been grateful.

That was my toast.  Now on to the real reason you’re here.

For our anniversary blog post, Claire and I thought it would be most logical to write about a local ingredient.  We miss maple syrup (along with kale) and while it is available here, it is prohibitively expensive and well, not very local.  Enter dates!

Dates are incredibly nutritious and the best part about this syrup is that it is a whole food.  You are getting the sweetener without any of the fiber removed so it is much easier assimilated and processed by the body and your body doesn’t get a shock from the sugar.

What makes dates special?  FIBER, POTASSIUM, B-COMPLEX VITAMINS, and ANTIOXIDANTS do!  Let’s do a quick recap on why we should care about these characteristics.

Fiber:  Soluble fiber (remember the peas?) dissolves and becomes gel-like traveling slowly through your digestive tract, makes you feel fuller and longer and it binds to cholesterol lingering around your body and escorts it out.

Potassium:  A mineral that is critical for muscle contraction.  So, dates are especially good if you’ve got an exercise regime you adhere to.  But, even if you don’t, you know what else is a muscle…your heart!  “A critical electrolyte, potassium allows our muscles to move, our nerves to fire, and our kidneys to filter blood. The right balance of potassium literally allows the heart to beat.”¹

B-Complex Vitamins:  This is a team of vitamins that are essential for many bodily functions such as making blood cells, maintaining blood glucose levels and they are also key for mind-related health such as mood, memory and stress.  Click here for more detailed and fascinating info.

Antioxidants:  I love these.  Dates have polyphenols which are particularly effective at protecting the body, destroying free radicals roaming around.  We’re all vulnerable to oxidative stress so you can’t ever really get too many antioxidants!

You can use this syrup in your baking, as a topping on pancakes, waffles, granola, oatmeal, yogurt, in your smoothies or even as a sweetener for your morning coffee.  However you use it, enjoy every delicious minute of it!

You’ll need:

12-15 pitted dates, Medjool or Halawii

1-1 1/2 C water- I had some coconut water so I added that, too.

3-4 (slightly crushed) cardamom pods

To make:

1.  Place pitted dates and cardamom in a bowl or jar and add just enough water to cover dates.  Let sit for at least 4 hours or as in my case, overnight.

2.  Remove cardamom pods and blend water and dates until syrup forms.  If you want, you could run it through a sieve or cheesecloth for a finer consistency.

3.  That’s it!  It will keep refrigerated for 2-3 weeks.

4.  Enjoy!

¹http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/potassium-and-your-heart

Yellow Split-pea Pâté

Makes 2 C

split pea pate

You never know when you’ll be in need of a quick pâté.  My need for it came because Claire and I were going to attend a Crafting/Play date.  Moms are responsible for bringing a healthy dish so we can all eat well (and the kiddies, too) while we’re socializing, getting to know each other, and learning about the new place we live in.  Play dates like these are filled with all kinds of valuable information!

While I can eat hummus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I now (happily) live in the land of hummus, I figured a little variety wouldn’t hurt.  And, I was out of chick peas and black beans.  I had intended to make this hummus-ish, but instead the pâté was born.  Inspiration comes from places you’d least expect and by the time I added the ginger, I knew this dish was going in a completely different direction.

Yellow split-peas.  How random, yet how perfect.  If these little organic yellow split peas could talk, I’m sure this is what they would say, “Wait!  Stop right there and give us a chance because believe it or not, we pack quite a nutritious punch in each of our tasty halves.  We have awesome fiber power.  More specifically, we have great soluble fiber, you know, the kind that forms a gel-like substance in the body making you feel full longer and then travels slowly out the body taking with it some cholesterol.  This slow movement is also great for balancing blood-sugar levels and is great news for diabetics.  You know what else we’re good at?  We’re good at reducing your risk of breast and colon cancer thanks to the isoflavones (those are phytonutrients-aka pretty potent stuff) we have.¹  And, with basically no fat at all, we’re also a pretty good source of protein.  Eat us with some rice and we’re a complete source of protein-great for vegans and vegetarians.  We’re also well known for our folate and B1 in addition to potassium, thiamin and phosphorus.²  And, (as if you need more convincing), we are absolutely DELICIOUS!”

Those are some pretty convincing peas!  And by the time you’re done with this pâté, you might be more willing to give the hummus a little rest once in a while.  It’s only fair, chickpeas work hard, too.

You’ll need:

1 shallot, diced

2 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 C dried yellow split peas, rinsed*

4-6 C vegetable stock (or a bouillon with water)

1 1″ piece of kombu

1 bay leaf

1 t cumin

1/4 t cinnamon

3 1/4″ slices of fresh ginger

Sea Salt, to taste

1 t miso paste (optional)

1 t sesame seeds (for garnish)

To make:

1.  In a saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and then shallots and a pinch of salt.  Sauté shallots for a few minutes until translucent and fragrant.  Once they begin to caramelize, remove from heat and add balsamic vinegar.  Return to heat.

2.  Add yellow split peas, kombu, bay leaf, and spices, including ginger and enough stock/water to cover by a couple of inches.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer, covering partially.  Let cook for about 40 minutes or until the peas are tender.

3.  Remove from heat.  With a slotted spoon, scoop out the split-peas (discarding ginger, bay leaf and kombu) and place in a blender.  Reserve the cooking liquid to adjust the texture to your liking, but I found that the split peas soaked in a lot of the liquid so I didn’t need any extra.  Add miso if using.  Blend to your desired consistency.

4.  Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle sesame seeds on top for garnish.  (I was going to use tahini but after tasting it, I found it so yummy I didn’t want to add anything else to it…that’s the reason I had the sesame seeds ready for garnish;)

5.  Enjoy with vegetable chips or crudité.  Either way, enjoy!

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=56

²http://www.livestrong.com/article/279735-yellow-split-peas-health-benefits/