Thank you to everyone for your kind and supporting comments on my last post about Zeus. So far, he’s doing better it seems. He’s basically acting like his old self, but he’s still drinking a lot of water (likely from the hypercalcemia). He goes back to the oncologist Thursday for more blood work and treatment. We’ve been staying at my mom’s this week and he’s enjoying himself… there are 4 other dogs here. He’s eating more but that might be out of competition rather than wanting to actually eat it himself – lol. But, hey, whatever works, eh? In addition to his medicine, I’ve been giving him a few things:
Here’s a great recipe that I’ll be making around the holidays. I included it in a recent email newsletter.
When I was a little girl, my mom used to make date bars for dessert. Oh how I loved them! It was a simple little recipe / mix from a box (Betty Crocker I think), and it was one of my favorites. I remember how they were warm from the oven with a sweet squishy date center and a crumbly bottom and top. Mmmm! So, I decided to come up with a healthier raw version. This one is warm from the dehydrator with a squishy, sweet raw date filling surrounded by a slightly crunchy top and bottom from ground nuts. Perfect! When I shared it with my mom, she couldn’t believe how closely it resembled the old version.
Recipe by Kristen Suzanne of KristensRaw.com
Yield 1 8X8 glass baking dish
Date Filling Ingredients:
25-30 medjool dates, pitted*
1/4-1/2 cup soak water (from the dates)
1 cup almonds
1 cup cashews
1/4 cup Rapadura** (optional)
2 tablespoons raw coconut oil
pinch Himalayan crystal salt
Date Filling Instructions:
Place the pitted dates in a bowl with water to soak them for about a half hour. *If your dates are large, you can use 25 and if some of them are smaller, then use a few more. Once the dates are soaked, place them in a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade, along with 1/4 cup of the soak water. Process until smooth, adding a little more water as needed. Set aside in a bowl, while you make the crumble.
Place all of the crumble ingredients in a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade, and process until it starts to stick together a bit when pressed gently between two of your fingers.
Take a little more than half of the crumble mixture and press it firmly into the bottom of your glass baking dish. Spread the date filling on top. Then, sprinkle the remaining crumble on top of the date filling, and very gently press it.
If you have a dehydrator, now is a great time to use it. Place the Date Bars in it and dehydrate them at 115 degrees F for about an hour. Enjoy! Store leftover Date Bars in your refrigerator.
** Rapadura is not raw. It’s organic, whole cane sugar that adds a lovely depth of sweetness to the recipe. If you’d like the recipe to be all raw, simply omit the Rapadura.
I can appreciate that controversial articles can make us question our choices. We’re constantly bombarded with various advertisements, opinions, figures, information, etc., and I know it can make you wonder… “WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO?”
So, here is yet another opinion on the matter (mine). I’m emailed all the time about this issue and decided to blog about it.
Different Sweeteners For Different Reasons
The healthiest sweeteners are fresh, organic whole fruits, including dates. That said, dates sometimes compromise texture in recipes. As a chef, I look for beautiful texture, and as a health food advocate, I lean towards fresh dates. And, then, as a consultant helping people embrace a Raw vegan lifestyle, I’m supportive of helping them transition, which can mean using organic raw agave nectar (an easy-to-use sweetener that might not have the healthiest ranking in the Raw food world – especially to purists, which I am not), but is still much healthier than most sweeteners used in the Standard American Diet. I think it’s important to support people in the transition with eating a healthier lifestyle and, therefore, it’s important to be flexible. After all, a slice of Raw vegan cheesecake made with raw agave nectar is a heck of a lot better than a typical candy bar found in a convenience store or cookies made with white sugar and butter (and cooked!).
Agave isn’t something that you have to put in your recipes every day. If you’re unsure about it, then balance it out with dates. Many dessert recipes probably come out with the best texture if you use raw agave nectar (think mousse, pudding, etc). But, if it’s a soup or a smoothie or a dressing, then you can pretty easily just swap out the agave for 1-2 pitted dates. In my life… sometimes I use dates or date paste (recipe below), sometimes I use raw organic agave nectar, and sometimes I use a combination of both raw agave nectar and dates.
My main stance is that I’m comfortable with organic raw agave nectar and I use it in some of my recipes. I do not consume it every day.
Raw & Organic Agave Nectar – But Is It Really?
I agree that there are agave brands out there that claim to be raw and probably aren’t. The label says that it’s raw, but it doesn’t specify the temperature at which it was created. That’s why I stick with Madhava’s Raw Organic Agave for light agave (check out the FAQ of theirs for more details). I also use Wholesome Sweeteners Blue Agave when my recipe calls for a darker (or blue) agave nectar. Both companies claim on the label to not process their agave nectar over temps of 115F and 118F.
Update 3/6/09: I’ve recently been sent a sample of another Raw agave nectar. I’ll let you know my feedback, but from what I’ve read… it’s very promising.]
Update 12/9/09: I do like the raw agave from Ultimate Superfoods. Update 3/17/10: I came across this blog where an article is featured “Agave Nectar: Hold on now… Response to Rami Nagel’s article By Craig Gerbore, President of Madhave”
Listen To Your Body
People are different and at different stages of raw (or even just healthy eating, for that matter) – this is important to consider if you have doubts about the health of raw agave nectar. Ask yourself… How does it make you feel? If you have something made with raw agave nectar, do you feel OK? Do you feel icky? Do you feel good and healthy? Many people on the Raw vegan journey find that over time, they eat meals that are simpler (for the most part) and don’t eat as many gourmet foods, where you find raw agave nectar used more. So, over time, you might not consume a lot of raw agave nectar, but to have some occasionally is common.
Honey? Heck No!
As a happy and very proud vegan, honey is not an option, nor is it something that I advocate for other people. Dr. Michael Klapper, M.D., (a vegan doctor and best selling author) advises against using honey for health reasons, because it spikes natural sugar levels of the body. Honey is, basically, regurgitated bee vomit. Gross!
Bees make honey for the colony and pollen for the new queen. They don’t go to all the trouble to give it to me. When a colony is disturbed by someone taking their honey or pollen, it places a great amount of stress on the bees. This can disorient them and, in that sense, their whole order has been tampered with. I wouldn’t dream of stealing from bees. (There is a lot of information here about bees and their honey.)
In my opinion, there is no need to consume honey and harm bees, when you can use delicious and nutritious alternatives such as fresh organic dates to sweeten recipes. You can even make a date paste if you need something of a liquid nature (recipe below).
Stress About It? Double Heck No!
Stress is one of the worst things for us. So, don’t stress about your choice to use, or not use, raw agave nectar. When you do things in moderation, it helps ease your mind. And, if you use agave nectar, get the best on the market (organic and raw) and feel secure with your choice.
Date Paste – Yummy & Healthy! It’s great to keep this on hand in the refrigerator so you have it available and ready to use. It’s easy and should take you less than 10 minutes to prepare. Moreover, I love Medjool dates for my date needs because they’re plump and big (I usually buy them from SunOrganic
For those of you who want to stay away from both raw agave nectar and honey, here is a nutritious alternative that is smooth and delicious.
By Kristen Suzanne of KristensRaw.com
Yield 1 cup
15 Medjool dates, pitted, and soaked 15 minutes (reserve soak water)
1/4 – 1/2 cup reserved “soak water”
Using a blender, or a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade, puree the ingredients until you have a smooth paste. You can add a pinch of Himalayan crystal salt, if desired. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator (glass mason jar is perfect), Date Paste will stay fresh for 10-14 days or longer.