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EATING well

Indulge sugarplum dreams with the gift of Madeira-Marinated Dates

Madeira-Marinated Dates can be used as a deliciously sweet relish or an eat-from-the-jar treat.

Associated Press

Madeira-Marinated Dates can be used as a deliciously sweet relish or an eat-from-the-jar treat.

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."

MADEIRA-MARINATED DATES

Medjool dates are the plumpest, sweetest and most tender dates available in the United States. They are the best choice for this recipe.

1 1/4 cups water

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup Madeira wine

4 small (2 inches) strips orange zest

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

2 1/2 cups Medjool dates

4 cinnamon sticks (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, wine, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until syrup begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Meanwhile, divide dates among 4 half-pint jam jars. Add a cinnamon stick to each jar, if desired. Pour the boiling syrup over the dates, making sure they are completely covered. Divide the orange zest strips so there is one in each jar. Cover the jars immediately with the lid and secure tightly. Let sit for at least 1 hour before serving, or up to a month.

Makes 4 jars.

Nutrition information per serving (1/4 of a jar): 110 calories (0 calories from fat), 0g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 30mg sodium, 25g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 23g sugar, 1g protein.

Indulge sugarplum dreams with the gift of Madeira-Marinated Dates 11/25/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 4:03pm]
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