All the parties and gatherings of the holiday season mean we often find ourselves in need of gifts. Sure, there are bottles of wine and pans of marshmallow-studded fudge, loaves of banana-walnut bread and numerous plates of festively mismatched holiday cookies. But this year, try something new to satisfy your gift-giving needs.
My Madeira-Marinated Dates can be used as a deliciously sweet relish or an eat-from-the-jar treat. The jar is gorgeously wintery and your recipient will have something stashed in the refrigerator that can be put to use serving guests or satisfying a sweet tooth without derailing healthy eating habits.
And the best part for you? It takes just about 10 minutes to make. All you do is load up a half-pint jar with Medjool dates (or other dried fruit) and pour in a boiling Madeira-spiked simple syrup flavored with orange zest, vanilla paste and warm cinnamon. Put on the lid and you're done.
The dates are an ideal topping for Greek yogurt or crepes. Or spoon a date and some syrup into a rounded tumbler of sparkling water (or wine) for a light holiday cocktail. You also could pour the dates and syrup over a block of light cream cheese and serve with low-fat graham crackers. In the mood to bake? Chop up a few dates and add them and a few tablespoons of the syrup to your favorite healthy minimuffin recipe for fruitcake you'll be excited to eat.
My favorite use for these golden marinated gems? Just nibbling on a date, straight from the jar, along with a velvety espresso for dessert. Warning: There is sugar in this recipe. A little goes a long way.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget and the author of "Supermarket Healthy."