Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dates Warmed in Olive Oil with Sea Salt

I'm participating in the Whole Life Challenge and because I chose the advanced nutrition rules, my occasional dark chocolate for dessert is out.  But dates are a wonderful, wholesome, sweet snack and can make a delightful dessert.

A co-worker mentioned that he ate this at a Seattle restaurant and he and his wife made them when they were on a Whole 30 challenge.  I had a 2 pound box of dates from Costco and a sampler of Oregon Olive Mill oil, so I decided to make them myself.  Its not hard, only takes a few minutes and really showcases the ingredients. For this recipe, use the best quality oil and salt that you have, it will really make everything pop.

Oregon Olive Mill grows olives in the Willamette Valley on a fourth generation farm.  They harvest their own olives and them mill them in their own mill.  They have 13,000 trees that grow 3 varieties of olives making a top quality extra virgin olive oil.  Each variety yields an oil with a different taste, mouth feel and importantly, an after taste.   For this recipe, I used the Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive oil, because it had the most robust taste.

I used San Juan Island Sea Salt, a local Pacific North-West manufacturer of sea salt from our very own Salish Sea.  I got a sample of this salt at the International Food Blogger's Conference and it is a favorite of mine.   The salt has a brighter, crisper flavor than the french sea salts and is in much finer crystals than the Tibetan pink salt.  When I'm finishing something and want to taste the salt, this is the one I use.

I think that having a tasting party of olive oils, salts, wine, whisky or chocolate would be a pretty cool thing to do. Not all at once, but maybe a series of parties. Hmm, ideas...

Dates Warmed in Olive Oil with Sea Salt
less than 10 minutes


1-1/2 Tablespoon of your best olive oil
3 - 4 dates, pitted
Sea salt, fine grained, best quality

  1. Warm the olive oil in a small pan, over medium heat. You don't want the oil to get warm like you'd cook meat with it, but just warm.
  2. Put the pitted dates in the olive oil and gently roll them in the olive oil.  Do this until the dates are warmed through, 3 or 4 minutes.
  3. Once the dates are warmed, put them on a plate and give them a generous sprinkle of sea salt.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Disclaimer: Other than the sampler of the Oregon Mill Olive Oil, I was not compensated for this post. The opinion and recipe are my own.  And if I wasn't paleo, I'd be dipping bread in this oil and just eating it that way. It's that good.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Food Fun This Week

This has probably been the most foodie week since I went to the International Food Bloggers Conference in September. It was awesome, I got to meet Michelle Tam from Nom Nom Paleo, met the awesome marketing crew from Tessemae's and got to try food from some cool food trucks at a Yelp party!

 On Sunday, I went to the book signing for Michelle Tam's book, Food for Humans. Her blog is one that was really helpful in my transition to eating Paleo. On top of having delicious, healthy recipes, she's got a great personality which comes out in her writing. And she also went to Cal, we were there at the same time, but she graduated a year before me!

Her husband, Henry, was there too and it was really cool to learn how they went about their publishing experience. By his reports, they did it wrong, but they made a pretty awesome book out of it!

Tuesday, I went to dinner with a few other local food bloggers and the marketing team from Tessemae's. This was quite exciting, because Tessemae's is all about sauces and dressings made with real, clean ingredients, which fit in perfectly with my lifestyle.  I do a lot of label reading and when you can find a brand that you trust and tastes awesome, it's a realy nice thing.

We got about 6 bottles of dressing and I've been using it in my tuna salad and I'm looking forward to hot wings at our Super Bowl watching party. Go Hawks!

Thursday night was the Yelp Holiday Hangover Party in a really cool space in Pioneer Square.  I blew out my Whole Life Challenge nutrition points and enjoyed Theo Chocolates, Ezells Fried Chicken and street tacos from Contigo. It was so worth it.

This wasn't a normal week for me, but it was a good one!  What did you eat this week?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Make Your Own Lara Bars

Because I'm participating in the Whole Life Challenge, I bought a package of dates earlier this week.  Dates are a handy quick snack and great if you want something sweet. I enjoy eating the dates straight, wrapped in prosciutto, or as an ingredient in my paleo protein shakes. I also picked up a box of Lara Bars which I enjoy as well.

Having a bounty of dates, I decided to try making my own Lara Bars.  And because I can never find the Cappuccino Lara Bar, that was the flavor I decided to take on.

They were pretty simple to make and this way you can make your own flavor combinations.  I could have used some cocoa to make this a mocha Lara Bar.  Another alternative I'd like to try would be with some unsweetened coconut and maybe chocolate (once the WLC is done).

What flavors do you think would be good to try?

12 dates, seeded
about 1/2 cup pecans and roasted almonds - about equal in quantity to the dates
1 tablespoon of finely ground coffee beans

  1. Cut the dates into small pieces and pulse in the small bowl of a food processor until they are smaller. Yes, I know how silly of an instruction that sounds.
  2. Add the nuts and continue to pulse the dates and nuts.   The dates will become stickier and pickup the nuts and the nuts will get to a chopped consistency.
  3. Add the ground coffee and pulse it a little more.  It will probably form some balls in the food processor bowl.
  4. Dump the mixture into another bowl and further mix it with your hands.  When its well mixed, roll it into a ball.
  5. Place the ball between two sheets of parchment paper and press into a bar like shape.  I used my hands to form a rectangle and then used a rolling pin to help flatten it (Thanks to Nom Nom Paleo for that set of instructions).
  6. Cut the bar into individual serving pieces.
  7. Wrap in your parchment paper so they don't stick together and store in the refrigerator.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Starting the Whole Life Challenge

My CrossFit box is doing the Whole Life Challenge, an 8 week challenge in making life style changes. It started Saturday and I'm now heading into the first work week. I don't think that this is going to be a big deal, because my strict paleo challenge (posts here, here and here) at the beginning of last year helped cement some good practices.

I eat pretty clean and cheat rarely.  My only exceptions to paleo eating on a regular basis are all to support working out - a Clif Bar before 6AM CrossFit and a protein shake afterwards.

Unfortunately, these two exceptions don't fly in the Whole Life Challenge.  I can eat a date or two on the way to CrossFit, but I've got to work on some substitute for the protein shake.  I'm pretty lean and need to build muscle mass.  So, for these first few days, I'm just going to take the hit and lose the nutrition points.

Heather and I went to the store today and really, really looked at labels.  There is added sugar in so many things!  Almost all of the dried fruit had added sugar, which seems kind of silly, given how sweet fruit is to start.  Even the uncured bacon, no nitrates used, has sugar in it.  Without bacon, this challenge might get a little harder.  Not.

I've made bacon before in my smoker, and given that its winter time and cooler here, my smoker might stay cool enough for making bacon and not cooking the pork belly.  I'll take a stab at making WLC compliant sriracha sauce during this challenge.  I'll try making some Lara bars too, since I found a big box of dates at Costco.

So, stay tuned and watch this blog for updates.  I'll cook some good food and see how this challenge goes!

Did you make any fitness resolutions or are you participating in some kind of challenge?

Note:  Because my wife Heather has a pretty big blog, she convinced the Whole Life Challenge people to give her 2 entries to the Challenge.  I got one of them and though they didn't ask me to write anything, I'll be sharing my experiences in my words.