Healthy Date Loaf – designed for human consumption

Date loaf served IMG_0974

Eating healthily is important to me, but taste is a non-negotiable. Who wants to cook, let alone eat food that resembles cattle fodder or tastes like cardboard?

So in my pursuit of flavour, and health, I learnt that loaf recipes which include dates are generally low in fat. Dates and their sticky goodness, contribute flavour, sugar, and moisture without adding copious amounts of sugar or fat. This led me to an Apple and Date loaf recipe on foodinaminute.co.nz. And from there, I developed my own variety of ‘date loaf’.

To make this Apple and Date loaf even ‘healthier’, I made the following changes to the recipe:

  • I halved the butter – one tablespoon is enough to add flavour. Sometimes I use oil instead.
  • To begin with, I left the sugar out, as the dates contribute enough sugar of their own. These days, I sometimes add golden syrup for depth of flavour and colour.
  • To me, eating healthily also means maximising the nutritional the value of my meals, so I always use a blend of wholemeal and plain flour, which adds fibre as well.
  • My variation uses more boiling water as I prefer a softer, lighter loaf.

In addition, I get bored easily, so I change the flavour each time I make this loaf. This depends on what I’m in the mood for. I’ll include some of my variations at the end.*

‘Healthy’ Date Loaf 

1 cup chopped dried dates

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp all spice

Boiling water (have at least 2 cups on hand)

1 T melted butter or oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/8 cup golden syrup (optional)

1 cup plain flour

1 cup wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
  2. In a two-cup capacity jug, place the chopped dates, spices, and baking soda. Then fill the jug with the boiling water, to the top, covering the dates. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a bowl, combine the butter, egg, and golden syrup (if using).
  4. Combine the flours and baking powder.
  5. Gradually add the date and egg mixtures to the flour mixture. The resulting mixture should be pourable, but not liquid. If you find the mixture is a bit stiff, add a bit more boiled water.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a greased loaf tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes. After about 40 minutes, test whether the loaf is baked. If the loaf bounces back when touched and an inserted skewer comes out (almost) clean, it’s done. You want the loaf to still be moist when you take it out of the oven. Cooked sticky date mix on the skewer is ideal. Raw batter goop on the skewer means you may need to exercise more patience!
  7. Once the loaf is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to sit in the tin for a few minutes. Then transfer it to a cooling rack. Slice when completely cold.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt or reheated with low-fat custard, for added protein.

Date loaf sliced IMG_0970

*Variations:

  • Banana-Date Loaf: Add a ripe, mashed banana to the date mix.
  • Pear-Date Loaf: Add a chopped, ripe pear to the date mix.
  • Berry Loaf: Substitute the dates and boiling water for a cup of berries, in juice.
  • Ginger-Date Loaf: Add a tablespoon of ginger to the spice mix and include the golden syrup.
  • Extra-spicy Date Loaf: Add other spices to the mix, such as cloves or a few crushed cardamom pods.
  • Coconut-Date Loaf: Stir through some coconut (approx half a cup) at the end.
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Pantry treats: Clafoutis

As a rule, I try not to shop too far ahead – food-wise – in case plans fall through, or I change my mind. However, sometimes my desire for being prepared and organised overtakes! On this occasion, I’d bought ingredients for a cherry custard tart. Sure enough, plans fell through. A rich custard treat for one was out of the question, but I still had eggs that needed using …

My solution? A cherry clafoutis. A clafoutis is a French pudding, which has become one of my ’pantry’ recipes for quick and delicious; cheap and easy; low-fat and healthy. And the choice of fruit? Well, yes cherries are out of season, but I got some preserved ones for a steal at the supermarket!

Recipe-wise, there are a myriad of interpretations out there. Some that use two eggs, three eggs, six … varying amounts of milk, flour, and butter … and some recipes even call for ground nuts! Yum.

On this occasion I was looking for a recipe that used just a few eggs; ‘healthy’ enough to be enjoyed over several serves. But I also wanted a stodgy pudding to provide some winter comfort. This led me to Neil Perry’s recipe on goodfood, which sits in the middle of the road, clafoutis-wise. It uses three eggs and a cup of flour, perfect for my intent and purpose.

Here’s the result!

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Recipe: Cherry clafoutis

Peanut Butter Cookies – with Manuka Honey

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Preparing for a weekend away always involves baking treats to share. For this last trip, I decided on peanut butter cookies (with chocolate of course!). I used Curtis Stones’ recipe, which also includes honey (I used Manuka).

The result was a melt-in-your-mouth, moorish cookie – with a luxurious top note of honey. The hint of honey sets the recipe apart from your standard cookie recipe and really does finish the cookie off. I’ll be using this recipe again!

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Recipe: Peanut butter cookies with chocolate chunks

Baby Carrot, Pistachio, & Spice Cakes

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Baby Carrot, Pistachio, & Spice Cakes

It’s been a while, but yesterday I felt the urge to bake again. My criteria? Something wintry-comforting, tasty, yet also healthy. Idealistic? Maybe. However, when it comes to baking I’m a determined lass. So I set out on an expedition via the World Wide Web … and a short while later, found a carrot cake recipe from skinnytaste.com. “skinnytaste.com?” “A ‘cake’ recipe with two tablespoons of butter?” I hear you say. I too was suspicious – and cautious about my expectations. However, cooking and baking is all about experimentation so …

I set to work, making one or three additions of my own (as per usual): chopped pistachios; nutmeg (to add depth of flavour) in addition to the prescribed cinnamon; and both chopped pistachios and cinnamon, in the frosting. Keeping ‘health’ in mind, I also halved the sugar. I then divided the mixture to create ‘baby’ carrot cakes, rather than one large cake.

The result? “Delicious” and “moist” according to my selected cake samplers. Voilà. A carrot cake recipe for when you’re craving something ‘bad’, but not too‘bad’.

Recipe: Super moist carrot cake with cream cheese frosting