dates

Orange and Vanilla Scented Cheese Stuffed Dates

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Sometimes I think life is a bunch of holidays with not much in between, except for the entire month of January.

I suppose that's a good thing, because holidays are happy and celebratory. Also, there's the food. Except for Yom Kippur, every holiday has food. And even when it comes to Yom Kippur, there's the break-the-fast when it's all over and the break-the-fast is all about food. 

As far as holidays go, at this point of the year, we've just finished Thanksgiving. Next up? Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really delicious holiday. Lots of fried stuff like latkes and doughnuts.

It's also a dairy holiday because of the story of Judith. You can read all about it here

So for me, in honor of Judith, in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts, I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrassPotato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese has been on my Hanukkah menu and also Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel

Desserts? I could go with Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or maybe Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries. Maybe even cheesecake. Or some fabulous cheesecake cookies!

And also these stuffed dates! Easy to make, not too sweet (no added sugar), these little morsels are perfect for the holiday. If you don't want to use almonds for garnish, crushed, toasted coconut will do nicely.

 

ORANGE-VANILLA SCENTED CHEESE STUFFED DATES

  • 12 medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds (or pistachios or crushed, toasted coconut)

Cut the dates through the center, but not all the way through to the bottom. Remove the pit and spread the date slightly to form a hollow for filling. Mix the cram cheese, yogurt, orange peel and vanilla extract in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and soft. Fill the dates with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts.

Makes 12 

Mom's Date-Nut Bread

Tu B'Shevat is one of the lesser known Jewish holidays, but also one of the more delicious ones. From my childhood I remember it as a time when my mom would buy dried figs that came in a wreath of sorts, the figs tied together with string.

I ate dozens of them.

It was also when she made her fabulous Date-Nut Bread. She served the slices like a sandwich, with cream cheese slathered between the layers. 

I ate dozens of those too.

My cousin reminded me that her mother and mine baked Date-Nut bread in a coffee can. Yes, of course! Because our mothers were married young women during WWII, when metal -- and therefore loaf pans and other assorted baking equipment -- was in short supply. So they kept the cans from ground coffee and other foods such as fruit cocktail and used those instead.

I recently made a batch of date-nut bread using my mom's recipe. I used a loaf pan and was a little disappointed. Not in the pan. In the bread. It seemed dry. Maybe I over baked it. Not sure, but I always loved this recipe, so I tried again but made a few changes.

I used less flour.

I also thought it might be a good idea to include some figs (or, frankly, any other dried fruit) with the dates and I also thought the flavor would perk up a bit with a small amount of fresh orange peel. 

My mother added Madeira or sherry, but because I had a lovely sample of Cherry Heering that I got at Kosherfest, I used that instead. She also mixed in walnuts but because of allergies, I replaced them with toasted almonds.

Of course, the bread was completely different with all these changes.

I loved it.

Especially when sliced and slathered with cream cheese.

 

Mom’s Date-Nut Bread New Version

  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs, apricots, cranberries, cherries, prunes or raisins
  • 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Orange brandy, cherry Heering, Madeira, Port or Sherry wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • cream cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8”x4-1/2”x3” loaf pan (or a one-pound coffee can). Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Add the fruits and nuts and toss the ingredients to coat the fruit with the flour mixture. In another bowl, combine the vegetable oil, wine and egg. Pour the boiling water into the fruit-flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the egg mixture and blend it in thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Slice and serve plain or with cream cheese.

 

Makes one loaf

 

Blue Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates

Here’s a quickie hors d’oeuvre you can make if you’re having people over the watch the Superbowl. I’m actually bringing some to my brother Jeff’s house. He and Eileen always are the Superbowl hosts and we usually don’t eat real dinner until much later than we get there, so we need some nibbles for the pre-game show and the pre-pre-game stuff. 
 These take about 5 minutes to make and best of all, you can eat them as is or heat them in a 375 degree oven until they’re hot. 

 Blue Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates 

 24 large dates, preferably Medjool 
 1/2 cup blue veined cheese  
 1/4 cup chopped smoked almonds 
 3 tablespoons brandy 

 Slit the dates open lengthwise and remove the pits. Combine the cheese, almonds and brandy in a small bowl and mix to blend them. Use equal portions of the cheese mixture to stuff the insides of the dates. Eat as is OR, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the stuffed dates on a cookie sheet and bake for 2-3 minutes or until just hot. Can be prepared ahead up to the point of heating. Makes 24

Here’s a quickie hors d’oeuvre you can make if you’re having people over the watch the Superbowl. I’m actually bringing some to my brother Jeff’s house. He and Eileen always are the Superbowl hosts and we usually don’t eat real dinner until much later than we get there, so we need some nibbles for the pre-game show and the pre-pre-game stuff.

These take about 5 minutes to make and best of all, you can eat them as is or heat them in a 375 degree oven until they’re hot.

Blue Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates

24 large dates, preferably Medjool

1/2 cup blue veined cheese 

1/4 cup chopped smoked almonds

3 tablespoons brandy

Slit the dates open lengthwise and remove the pits. Combine the cheese, almonds and brandy in a small bowl and mix to blend them. Use equal portions of the cheese mixture to stuff the insides of the dates. Eat as is OR, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the stuffed dates on a cookie sheet and bake for 2-3 minutes or until just hot. Can be prepared ahead up to the point of heating. Makes 24