Foodie: Your Valentine’s date(s)

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Foodie: Your Valentine’s date(s)
Chicken, apple and date salad (Photo Credit: Denise Dunbar)
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By Denise Dunbar | ddunbar@alextimes.com

There’s no time like Valentine’s Day, and really this whole weekend, to enjoy a good date. Dates are satisfying, healthy and can aid in healing. The romantic kind is good too, but I’m talking fruit.

First the negative: dates are high in calories, with a large one clocking in at around 70 calories and 19 grams of sugar. But, one date provides 8 percent of your daily dietary fiber, and the healing qualities of dates have been quantified in studies. One paper published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2011 showed that women who ate dates for the month prior to giving birth fared better in multiple categories than those who didn’t.

Dates are in the palm tree family, along with the red palm and coconut, and are an ancient food. According to Healthline, dates are high in potassium, magnesium and antioxidants. In addition, they may promote brain health, help control blood sugar and improve bone health.

So, dates are healthy, but in the United States they’re not ubiquitous like in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Eating dates at home takes forethought.

I keep a box of Medjool dates in the refrigerator and use them in a variety of ways. They’re a good natural sweetener in cookies and oatmeal bars. They’re a tasty between-meals snack. Just one date can provide a little afternoon delight – and help one bridge the gap from lunch to dinner. That’s particularly important when the alternative could be a decadent descent into chocolate, cookies or other less-healthy snacks.

Dates are a good accompaniment to hors d’oeuvres at a party. Just chop up a few and put them in a small bowl alongside bowls of nuts or with a cheese and cracker tray.

But my favorite way to eat dates is to chop and sprinkle them on salads. A long-time menu staple at Mount Vernon Country Club is their chicken, apple and date salad. Their version includes walnuts, blue cheese and raspberry vinaigrette. At home, I make it with goat cheese, avocado and balsamic vinaigrette.

In the recipe below, I added a little chopped raw red pepper to give it a Valentine’s look and included rotisserie chicken for convenience. It’s also a terrific vegetarian lunch, just eliminate the chicken.

So go ahead, enjoy your Valentine’s date(s).

Ingredients
4 oz. washed lettuce of choice 1/3 large red, sweet pepper 1 medium avocado
1 medium apple of choice
4 Medjool dates, pitted
6 oz. rotisserie chicken
2 oz. walnut or pecan halves 3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled Balsamic vinaigrette

Directions
1. Evenly divide the lettuce into two salad bowls.
2. Chop red pepper, avocado, apple (peeled or not), dates and chicken into ½ inch cubes and divide evenly between bowls.
3. Sprinkle with nuts and goat cheese and toss with Balsamic vinaigrette.
Tip: For homemade balsamic vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk 1 Tbsp. Balsamic glaze, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. rosemary.

The writer is publisher and editor of the Alexandria Times.

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