Warm Medjool Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese served with a Strawberry Cucumber Salsa

It is crazy how fast time is flying by this year, in a blink of an eye February is already half way gone.  In a month I will be flying to Shanghai with Collin, where he will meet my grandmother for the very first time.

My mother has been sending her photos of us which my grandmother keeps next to her chair so she is able to look through them everyday.  As much as I'd like to see my grandmother every year, it has been over 5 years since I've last seen her.  Since living in America I have only visited twice and seen her a total of three times.

She is the only grandparent I have left, being 92 this will probably be one of the last times I see her.  It makes me sad that I was never able to spend as much time with my grandparents as I would've liked.  Though I know all of them loved me dearly, a big part of me feels guilty because I was never able to return the favor.  I try to send cards, art projects and pictures whenever possible but a lot of times I feel it's just not enough.

I attribute my constant happy attitude to the overwhelming amount of love that I received when I lived in China.  My parents would tell me all my grandparents would almost argue over who would hold me next, and being the youngest one of the family it was natural for everyone to spoil fat little round me.  Yet I don't remember any of it.

Now that I'm older, and with only one grandparent remaining, I've come to realize that this trip will probably be the most important one of my life.  I left when I was a 2 year old baby and this time I am coming back as a young adult.  I have so many questions that I want to ask my grandmother, about our family history, about the life lessons she's learned, and perhaps any embarrassing stories about my mother that I later can pull out and chuckle at her about. :)

But most importantly I want to give my grandmother a good impression, to show her that I am confident in myself and my abilities as well as introducing her to the love of my life.  She has adored Collin since the first day she laid eyes on his picture, telling my mom that "He is a Hollywood movie star."  I've been racking my brain as to what I should buy her from here that she could enjoy in China, but nothing seems good enough.  What could a 92 year old woman need?

So with one month remaining before the big trip, I am beginning to freak out a little bit.  It starts with the little things, like not being 100 lbs like all the other girls in Shanghai to bigger things like What can I do to express all of my gratitude and love to my grandmother?  Especially with my mother not coming with us, I even question the level of my Chinese.  What if my Chinese is so shoddy that they can't understand me?

I push these pestering questions to the back of my head and try not to worry about things that I am unable to control or simply just too minuscule to matter.  I should just concentrate on the present.

And presently I am enjoying eating healthy this year.  My meat consumption has been cut down tremendously, however because I have a pretty active workout regimen at times I feel myself getting tired.  Do any vegetarians out there have any tips as to what good foods will provide energy and give me the protein my body needs after an intense workout?

I found this salad to be pretty satisfying, I love the combination of sweet and savory so this was the perfect combination for me.  I found these beautiful Medjool dates at a local Mediterranean market and found an interesting recipe the other week in Nancy Oakes' Boulevard cookbook.  Warm Medjool Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese, the title itself made my mouth water.

I made the dates by her recipe and made the salsa and salad on my own.  If you're interested in obtaining the original recipe just shoot me an e-mail and I can send it to you.  I thought the strawberries meshed well with the dates while the cucumbers and pecans added a nice crunch.  I brightened the salsa with some fresh lemon juice that paired well with the goat cheese.  Though a peculiar combination, the flavors were quite delightful :)

For my greens I chose Mesclun, Spinach and Arugula, all are pretty mild in flavor except for Arugula, which packs a peppery earthy kick that I really enjoy.

To toast the pecans, preheat the oven to 350F.  Put the pecans in a small baking pan and toast for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly browned.  Remove from the oven and place in a bowl, set aside.

Ingredients for Warm Medjool Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese:

(serves 2)

  • 8 Medjool Dates
  • 2 ounces of goat cheese
  • 1 cup Mesclun
  • 1 cup Arugula
  • 1 cup Spinach

From Boulevard:

For the Dates - Make a lengthwise slit in each date and pull out the pit.  Roughly divide the goat  cheese into 12 pieces, stuff into the dates, and press them closed.  Place, seam side down, on a small sheet pan or baking pan.  Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.  Just before serving, heat the dates in a 350F oven for 1 to 2 minutes, or until warm.  (I placed mine in for 7 minutes until the goat cheese was browned)

Ingredients for Strawberry Cucumber Salsa:

  • 4 strawberries, husked and small diced
  • 1/8 cup celery, small diced
  • 1/8 cup cucumber, small diced
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and taste with salt.  Set aside until ready to serve.

To serve the salad, toss the mixed greens in a little lemon juice if desired, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in a mound on a plate and place the salsa ontop.  Place 4 warm dates on each plate and serve immediately.

Starting from this post, I will be listing the price per serving of each meal I make.  This wonderful idea actually came from my friend Karen, who is a tax analyst by the way (this made me chuckle) and I thought it was a great way to not only show people how inexpensive it can be eat well but it can finally convince all my friends that cooking at home is SO MUCH CHEAPER than eating out all the time (and much more cleaner might I add)!

Price of items:

  • 4 strawberries - $1.00
  • 1/4 cup pecans - $0.75
  • 1 celery stalk - $0.15
  • 1/4 cucumber - $0.25
  • 8 medjool dates - $1.50
  • 2 ounces goat cheese - $2.00
  • 3 cups Mixed Greens - $1.10

Cost per Serving: $3.38

WOW!!! In the words of Borat "VERRRY NIIICE, I LIIIKE" Thank you Karen for the fabulous idea.  I think this way I am actually able to show readers and friends how inexpensive it is to cook at home as well as eating healthy. My biggest tip would be to look through your local grocery ads to see what produce is on sale and in season, that way you get optimal quality ingredients at a good price.

I will be heading off to Houston this weekend to visit my parents as well as to pick up our visas for China (yipee!!).  Hope everyone has a great week and I'll be back on Monday hopefully with fun food adventures in Houston.