Week 39: Dates

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Exploring a fruit market in Vietnam

Dates. Both kinds involve eating and are delicious, but I am currently referring to the kind of date that grow on trees. My parents have been on an epic road trip since early December from Vermont, all the way across the country to California for Christmas, back to Colorado where we saw them last week in Steamboat, and now onto other adventures in Yellowstone. But during their time in California they stopped at a date farm and learned about and sampled dates. Fortunately for us they also bought quite a number of dates that sat in the fridge in Steamboat for 4 days before I had the good sense to try them. My mom offered me some and I thought, nah, I only like them wrapped in bacon. Which is honestly true. They are way too sweet for me so I generally don’t eat them on their own. Well, I think I have now met my new favorite food. The barhi date. It is my perfect food. A fruit that tastes like maple syrup. Seriously. Here is how it is described, “syrupy rich soft date, the softest and most fragile.” I love maple syrup and to feel like I can just eat maple syrup but count it as a fruit is genius. I’m a fan! I shouldn’t be surprised. There are so many varieties of fruits and vegetables that we rarely see in our stores. We primarily find and eat one maybe two kinds of banana, eggplant, mango, and dates among others yet there are dozens of tasty and unique “specialty” varieties grown around the world that we can hardly get our hands on. Traveling gives you a fun insight into this world, as well as trips to specialty markets. This week I managed to get to the store 5 times because of little things I forgot here and there, yet none of those trips were to “fun” markets to find exciting ingredients. And of all times of year to need more inspiration in the fruit and vegetable department this is certainly it. The middle of winter in a state that doesn’t grow much winter produce. This week’s goal is to go to the store less, and make it to a fun market for new produce. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Maple-Mustard Chicken with Squash & Brussels Sprouts with Farro

  • I burnt my baking sheet so badly with this recipe I am still a little cross with the instructions or my lack of instincts for actually following them, but that aside the recipe itself is great.
  • Step #1: put foil, parchment or grease on the pan!
  • I think there was just too much sauce on the chicken, which ran onto the pan and burned. I would recommend putting a little on the chicken and saving the rest for the veggies.
  • I really enjoy this kind of recipe that cooks while I prep the veggies.
  • I served it with farro, which worked well with the extra sauce and roasted veggies.

Tuesday: Smokey Black Eyed Peas with Collards and Cornbread

  • So good! We’ve had a smoked ham hock in our freezer for almost a year now (yikes!) and I didn’t know what to do with it. This was completely delicious.
  • I made it while Stella was napping but accidentally left the lid on while the beans were cooking so it looked like a soup. When I went to heat it back up for dinner I boiled off a lot of the liquid so the beans were extra soft which turned out to be an excellent mistake.
  • I added a few carrots to the pot as well.
  • For the collards I sautéed an onion, added the collards, some salt, red pepper flakes and wine, and cooked it all down with a lid on until they were nice and soft. This recipe was my inspiration but I didn’t have time to follow it completely.
  • I upped my cornbread game this week by finding Colorado whole grain yellow cornmeal from Ute Mountain Tribe, Bow & Arrow Brand. The skillet cornbread recipe on the back was great.

Wednesday: Pumpkin Alfredo with Roasted Parmesan Zucchini

  • This recipe was more of an idea since I didn’t want a super heavy dinner with 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, but I loved the idea of a pumpkin alfredo. I ended up mixing together a few recipes on the spot and I think it worked pretty darn well!
  • I sautéed the garlic with the butter and added 2 Tbsp of flour to brown a little. I slowly added 2 cups of whole milk along with 1 cup of vegetable broth. Once it was bubbling I added a little cream cheese to thicken it some more, I’m telling you this was a total hodge-podge of my favorite recipes, and then finally the pumpkin. I probably used 1¼ -1½ cups of pumpkin for 1 lb of pasta. Served with lots of Parmesan cheese it was delicious!
  • For the zucchini I sliced them lengthwise, put them on a sheet pan with parchment paper, sprinkled them with parmesan cheese, and roasted them at 425 for as long as it took me to make dinner (20 or so minutes).

Thursday: Crock-Pot Beef & Bean Chili with Green Salad

  • I find it more and more of a challenge to get dinner on the table by 5:30. Stella has a fussy/crappy hour around then so dinner is a nice distraction and reset. But since we are usually out and about until 4:30 or 5 so it can be hard to get dinner ready fast enough.
  • Every week I try to do at least one dump and go crock-pot meal that I set up at lunchtime during her nap.
  • This one needed a little more spice and was way better the next day for lunch, but a very tasty and super easy dinner.
  • I served it with shredded cheddar, lime, avocado and sour cream.

Friday: Baked Fish Curry with Brown Rice and Green Beans

  • This recipe didn’t wow me, and that may be because I failed to measure a single ingredient (oops), but it was easy and that is exactly what I needed on a Friday night.
  • I used one bell pepper and added green beans to get more color and veggies.
  • I’ve never found yellow curry paste so I used red instead and served it over brown rice.
  • I used lite coconut milk but I think whole coconut milk might have added more flavor and richness that this dish was lacking with such a light fish.
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