Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Okay, I admit it - I love ice cream. I always have. However, over the years my ice cream selections have changed, going from the standard Ben & Jerry's and morphing into a variety of homemade, non-dairy flavors. The issue I have recently run into is that all are made with a sweetener of some kind. I have worked diligently to keep sugars, even ones like maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, and agave nectar, out of my daughter's little body and far from her developing taste buds. In doing this I'm hoping to stave off any sweet tooth or sugar addictions she may find herself with later in life. By laying the groundwork now [no matter how challenging], my prayer is that she will be set up for a lifetime of health. 

This of course doesn't come without sacrifices and for us it has been ice cream. In the past I have sweetened all of my homemade versions with brown rice syrup or honey [see this or this] but have never been able to share some with her. What is summer [or summer-like days] without a frozen treat, especially during play time?! 

And then, the other day, I had an "ah ha!" moment. Why not try and use dates to sweeten it up a bit? I use dates to sweeten our smoothies, green juices, baked goods, and chia pudding because they add sweetness but are not excessively sweet, so why shouldn't it work here? 

After a little adjusting, a blender mis-hap [yes I was covered in creamy date goo - pregnancy clumsiness...ARRGGH!], and a little crossing my fingers, I found that dates work amazingly well.

[Note: the jelly bean looking things in the photo below are actually rock crayons not candy!]


So what is it about dates that make them a healthier selection? Dates, or "nature's candy" [meaning they are high in natural sugars], have almost a perfect ratio of calcium and magnesium, are stocked with fiber, and boast potassium. Vitamin A, the B vitamins and other trace minerals [like copper and iron] can be found in these little fruits. Their antioxidant content is the highest among the dried fruits! 

Through their cleansing properties, the large intestine can find great relief from dates. For men they may help with...well let's just say they may help! An infusion or syrup made from dates is great for a sore throat and chest congestion as it acts similar to honey. This is especially helpful if you have children under the age of one when honey isn't an option. 

This is an exceptional food for athletes or people with immense physical demands as dates provide the sugar and calories you need to replace nutrients lost through a strenuous work out or physical labor. The elderly can also benefit as they can be used for symptoms of weakness and aging.

Of course, if you have blood sugar issues, including diabetes, you probably want to pass on dates [or use them sparingly as in some case their soluble fiber can actually help regulate blood sugar levels] and use a sweetener like stevia instead [although I only recommend the whole plant version as I am not completely sold on the processed, white powder or liquid products]. Also, if you are trying to loose weight these, like other natural sweeteners, dates are not a low-calorie food. A better choice than sugar but still use in moderation.

Remember, like all extremely sweet fruits / foods, moderation is key. Make these little guys a treat - like in ice cream! 


20 dates, soaked*
1 c. cashews, soaked over night*  
1 can regular coconut milk
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. real vanilla
1/2 c. [heaping] coconut oil, melted 
1 1/2 c. of really strong chamomile tea**

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until very smooth. Either pour into bowl or place blender container in refrigerator. Refrigerator for at least 1 hour. 

Pour mixture into ice cream maker [use maker instructions] and run until ice cream has become thick and frozen. You can also simply pour the mixture into a glass container and freeze, stirring occasionally. 

Serve with your favorite jam [I use my homemade spiced vanilla peach sauce] or berries. 

*To soak your dates and cashews: Place dates and cashews each in a glass container [mason jars work well here]. Cover with double the water and refrigerate over night. If you are in a last minute pinch you can use boiling water and soak for 20 minutes or until each are soft.

**I add chamomile tea because I love the flavor and medicinal benefits [see this post]. You can also use a mint tea, fruit juice, or simply add more coconut milk. I generally steep 2 - 3 bags of tea [Evening Reprose from Global Infusion or Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite and Tazo Tea also has a great blend] or herbs. 

Note: If you store this after it's taken out of the ice cream maker and want to serve it the next day you will need to soften as it freezes pretty hard. Take out of the freezer about 30 minutes prior to serving.

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