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Date Truffles

These are the perfect excuse to indulge in a rich fudgy treat; packed with nutritional carbohydrates, minimal fat, no added sugars, and 7 natural whole ingredients this is the perfect snack to pop in for an energy boost! Try these before starting your Ramadan fast to have some lasting energy:) Or if you are like me and about to start an exhausting day running errands with two screaming kids with no time to eat; then these are perfect for that too!

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I love it when dessert can also be good for you. This recipe offers one delectably sweet treat, but it is oh so full of goodness and nutrition. These are also naturally vegan and gluten free so can be enjoyed by a variety of diets. These cute little truffles are delicious, fudgy, energy bites consisting of pureed dates, a dash of almond butter, vanilla extract, crushed nuts, coconut, or dried cherries (your choice!) and dark chocolate. I add some oats and flax meal for extra nutrition. Flax seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber and have been shown to decrease inflammation, reduce risks for cancer, and modestly decrease blood sugar levels in diabetics. Whole flax seeds however, usually pass through your body undigested, so it is necessary to consume it ground.

For the month of Ramadan, when Muslims traditionally and ritually consume dates before starting and after breaking the fast, these make an excellent variation to just plain dates. Muslims start the day before fasting with a date or two in suhoor , so these come in handy with the added fiber and flavor. The sustained energy release, numerous nutrients, and outstanding health benefits of dates are all a reason to pop one (or a few!) of these into your mouth when you are running low on fuel! Check out my post on the date smoothie to try another energy boosting and natural treat and to read more about the health benefits of dates. But just to give you an idea, dates are a superfood rich in B vitamins which help you metabolize food and develop new blood cells. They are also rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Dates are packed with fiber, mostly insoluble fiber, which sticks to that nasty cholesterol and fat in your body and escorts it OUT of your body (by obvious means). Of course, as you may tell from its ultra sweet flavor, dates are also high in natural sugars, making them the perfect natural sweetener in desserts and smoothies and an excellent source of natural carbohydrates because they have a low glycemic index.

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I made some of these topped with crushed peanuts and no almond butter because my husband is allergic to all tree nuts and we have a tree-nut free household. BORING, I know. He is really missing out, I often tell him. Oh, and in case you are wondering, NO, peanuts are NOT a nut. They are a legume, or little seeds that grow in the ground. So although peanuts are a common allergy, they are not the same as a tree-nut allergy. (We often have to explain this to waiters who are very hesitant to give us desserts or foods with peanut ingredients when we warn them about the severe nut allergy). Anyway, I would LOVE to make these with crushed walnuts or pecans! Try it out, you will love it!

My favorite flavor is the coconut. Just add some coconut to the mixture and then roll the truffles in some shredded coconut.

To get the dates into a workable paste, you will need to remove the pit, slice in half, then soak the dates in warm water to soften them up. This is as technical as this recipe will get! Easy, right? Then you are ready to blend! Blend the dates with liquid vanilla extract and a spoon of almond butter to break up the dates into a paste.  Then add the cocoa, cinnamon, and other ingredients until incorporated. When cocoa is one of your main ingredients, it really needs to be the good stuff. Buy a fresh batch of high quality cocoa like Valrhona or Ghirardhelli. I use my Vitamix, which works great, but a powerful food processor should do the trick as well. I added oats and flax meal to the batch, and dried cherries, crushed nuts, or shredded coconut to divided parts of the mixture to make some different flavors. Then, after rolling into a ball, roll the truffle into some shredded coconut, crushed nuts, or some cocoa powder! The possibilities are endless!

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Date Truffles
Yields 8
A fudgy and delicious treat made with dates, cocoa powder, and nuts is packed with fiber and energy!
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 10 Medjool dates (pit removed, sliced in half), about 1 cup
  2. 1/4 c oats
  3. 1 tbsp almond butter
  4. 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  5. 2 tsp vanilla extract (liquid so that it breaks up the dates in blender)
  6. 3/4 c cocoa powder (Valrhona or Ghirardhelli)
  7. 1 tsp flax meal (whole seeds do not get absorbed by the body as readily)
  8. 1/4 c shredded coconut, crushed nuts, or chopped dried cherries (plus some extra to roll the truffles in)
Instructions
  1. Soak the chopped dates in hot water for about 5 minutes until softened. Drain and place slices into a blender or food processor.
  2. Add the vanilla and almond butter, and cinnamon, if using. Pulse until the dates are pureed into a thick paste.
  3. Add the cocoa powder and flax meal and pulse until you achieve a rich, fudgy mixture.
  4. Add the oats and chopped nuts, coconut, or cherries. If you choose to have a variety of flavors, divide the chocolate puree into portions and add different ingredients to each batch.
  5. Roll the mixture into balls, then roll the truffles in coconut, cocoa powder, or crushed nuts.
  6. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Notes
  1. You can substitute the almond butter with peanut butter, but the peanut butter will tend to dominate the chocolate flavor. You may also completely omit the nut butter for a really thick and fudgy mixture (but you really need a powerful processor to break up the dates into a paste!)
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Quinoa Tabbouli Salad

Tabbouli is my absolute favorite salad! If you have not tried it yet, you simply must! It is so fresh with the bold lemon and parsley flavors. The texture is delicate with tiny perfectly diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and bulgur. In this variation I boost the protein and filling factor by using quinoa instead of bulgur wheat. The quinoa (pronounced keen-WAH) is a tiny super grain food that is an excellent substitute for high sugar starchier carbs such as rice and wheat products such as pasta. Quinoa has a significant amount of protein, enough to serve as a protein source on its own. Quinoa is also rich in heart-healthy mono saturated fats (ALA-Omega 3), and is also concentrated in anti-inflammatory flavonoids. It is also an excellent source of fiber, magnesium, and iron. It cooks slowly and is very easy to prepare making it a wonderful pantry staple. The grain is perfectly small, round, and fluffy making it a perfect substitution to rice or bulgur as it is used in tabbouli salad. 

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Back to the tabbouli; this salad originates from the Middle-East, particularly Syria and Lebanon, and is a staple appetizer popular now all around the world. This salad is full of parsley, at least 1-2 bunches or 2 cups. It is finely chopped, and we typically use flat leaf as it offers a more favorable texture and scent. The curly parsley can sometime feel and taste too dry on the tongue. You will also need firm roma tomatoes, Persian or English cucumbers, green onion, and plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice. The salad dressing recipe used here is my mother’s popular Arabic dressing and is the perfect dressing for almost any lemon based dressing, so gather round for the secret! It consists of FRESH lemon juice (do not used from a jar!), olive oil, sumac, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. My daughter is becoming a finicky eater, like most toddlers, but she absolutely LOVES this salad. She had 2 full servings, so I was a happy mother! 

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Preserve left over parsley stems (and other fresh herbs such as cilantro or mint) by steeping in a cup of water in your fridge; it will last at least a whole extra week!2014-03-07sugarandgarlic2014 2014-03-08sugarandgarlic2014-17 2014-03-08sugarandgarlic2014-20

 

Quinoa Tabbouli Salad
Serves 4
A fresh and nutritious salad full of protein rich quinoa and zesty lemon juice.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
For the salad
  1. 2 cups of flat leaf parsley
  2. 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  3. 3 firm roma tomatoes, about 1 cup diced
  4. 3 green onions, about 1/2 cup diced
  5. 1 cup diced cucumber
  6. 1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
For the dressing
  1. 1/2 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
  2. 1 tbsp of minced fresh garlic (2 large cloves)
  3. 1/3 c olive oil
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. pinch pepper
  6. 1 tsp oregano
  7. 1 tsp sumac
Instructions
  1. First cook the quinoa according to directions. 1 cup gain cooks in 2 cups of liquid. So boil 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup of water. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and bring down to a simmer over low heat once it boils. Remove from heat as soon as all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes) and toss into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place into refrigerator to cool.
  2. Finely dice the tomato by slicing into thin circles, then crosswise and lengthwise to produce perfectly small cubes. Do the same with the cucumber.
  3. Chop the green onion into thin circles as well, and if it is a large diameter, cut those slices in half.
  4. Wash the parsley carefully, stem by stem (dirt and bugs typically hide in these leaves), then pull the leaves off and into a colander or napkins to remove excess water. Place the leaves into a food processor and pulse slowly until it is finely chopped. Be careful not to puree into pesto!
  5. Combine all chopped ingredients into a large bowl. Add the cooled quinoa.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, salt and other spices and stir well. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss with tongs or a large fork. Be careful not to smush the quinoa or tomatoes.
Notes
  1. Small grain wheat bulgur is traditionally used in this recipe in lieu of the quinoa.
Adapted from Mom
Adapted from Mom
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/
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Date Smoothie

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It’s no secret in the Muslim world that dates are a superfood with numerous health benefits. It is no wonder that Muslims ritually start their fast and break their fasts with a date, as was the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) many centuries ago.  

But you do not need to be Muslim to know about the countless benefits of eating dates. Any nutritionist could attest to the nutritional value of this superfood. Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree, which grows in warm, dry regions such as the Middle East and parts of California. Dates are high in fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol, improves digestion, satiates the appetite, and fight heart disease and obesity. They are also high in Vitamin B, A, and K. B vitamins are the most prominent vitamin store in dates which include B6 and B9 (folic acid), which helps improve metabolism and produce new red blood cells. Dates are also very high in minerals including potassium, copper, calcium, iron, phosphate, magnesium, and manganese. Although dates are such a sweet treat and thought to be high in sugars, they actually have a high nutritional ratio to the calories as well as a low glycemic index so they absorb into the body much more slowly giving steady releases of energy and several other sustained benefits. Thus, in moderation dates are an excellent sweetener to use in place of cane sugar or other sweet desires. 

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This brings me to this deliciously satisfying and filling energy smoothie! This drink is a concoction of my father’s, which he whipped up one Ramadan long ago. During Ramadan, Muslims are fasting from sunrise to sundown, and dates are in high demand! The benefits of a smoothie are obvious as you can puree a lot more nutrition and whole foods into a fine consistency which makes it easy to consume a lot more in the easy and convenient gulp of a milkshake. I use organic milk, usually whole because I believe in all the benefits of drinking wholesome vitamin D milk in its natural state. However you could use coconut milk, almond milk, or some ice and water if you have other dietary preferences. 4-6 pitted dates, a whole ripe banana, and a couple of frozen strawberries or ice cubes make this a nice refreshing shake that will keep your appetite satisfied and body well nourished for hours! If you have a powerful blender like the Vitamix or Blendtec you will have no issues throwing the dates in whole. No need to soften or puree them first. I enjoy this after a workout or before I run out of the house for the day running errands. You other moms out there know what a hassle it is to find time to sit down and eat when running around with kids and carseats/strollers all day! 

Enjoy!

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Date Smoothie
Serves 2
A refreshing and energy boosting milkshake that will keep you full and energized thorough your day!
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups cold milk
  2. 4-6 medjool dates, pits removed
  3. 1 ripe banana
  4. 4 frozen strawberries (optional) OR 1/2 cup ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Remove the pit from the dates by slicing down the center, vertically along the length of the date.
  2. Combine all the ingredients into a blender and pulse to chop and distribute, then increase to the highest speed for 1 minute until smooth and frothy.
  3. Enjoy!
Adapted from My father 🙂
Adapted from My father 🙂
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/