Traditions can be a funny thing. In many cases, at least in my family, traditions result or stick due to the funny memories they create. Laughter is a key component, and when something can make you laugh just as a hard 20 years later as it did the first time, in my eyes you’ve got a winner.
Take the “Bloody Cow” for instance. Yes, that’s right. When I was three years old, I was decorating cookie-cutter Christmas tree ornaments. I chose to use the cow cookie cutter and, as one would do, painted it completely red. Much to my parents’ horror, I couldn’t wait to hang it on the Christmas tree. It has since been pegged the “Bloody Cow” in our family, and 30 years later it’s front and center on my tree, although sadly, it is missing its head. (It just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it?)
This week has been a mix of old and new(er) holiday traditions. For the fourth year in a row, I and a few of my fellow musicians created ugly xmas violin sweaters for our annual holiday symphony concert. Last year I went with the Polar Express theme, and this year felt a little Winter Wonderland was in order. What started as a funny, one-time deal, has evolved into one of my favorite traditions.
Today’s recipe is a tradition of old in my family. Growing up, my mom would make these sugared walnut-stuffed dates to give as gifts to our neighbors. As a kid, I thought it was pretty strange. Everyone I knew gave cookies; why would we be giving people really large raisins for Christmas?!
But as strange as I thought it is was, my job was always to roll the dates in the sugar. And I loved it. Turning those “really big raisins” into something sparklingly sweet was my favorite. Fast forward to present time, and I am totally on board with giving these sugared walnut-stuffed dates as gifts. Mom knew what she was doing. The walnuts pair beautifully with the natural sweetness of the dates, and the extra sweet crunch on the outside is heavenly.
Only slightly tweaking Mom’s recipe, I used unrefined organic cane sugar. In addition to it being refined sugar-free, the organic cane sugar has a tad bit bigger granule than refined white sugar, which I think enhances the sugared effect.
Make a Salted Plains recipe? I’d love to see! Tag your creations on Instagram with #saltedplains!
- 1 lbs fresh medjool dates (about 25 dates)
- ⅓-1/2 cup raw walnuts, halved
- 1 cup unrefined organic cane sugar (I use Wholesome brand)
- ¼ cup water
- Using a small paring knife, slice dates open lengthwise and remove pits. Replace pit with half a walnut piece (or whole one depending on size of date). Squeeze date back together.
- Place sugar in a small bowl. Some dates have a natural stickiness on the outside, but to ensure the sugar sticks, take a pastry brush and slightly dab the outside of the date to moisten it. Roll stuffed date in sugar until coated. Place on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Continue until all the dates have been sugared.
- Once the sugar has hardened to dates, place in an airtight container. To give as gifts, place dates in a holiday tin or wrap in clear food gift bags and tie with ribbon.