This is one of my favorite recipes to date (pun totally intended). These bars are chewy - my preference when it comes to bars - and a perfect contrast of sweet and salty flavors. I've kept my fridge stocked with them for the past two weeks, and I see this trend continuing for quite some time. They're that good.
What's so great about dates?
Dates are high in a type of fiber called beta-D-glucan. Beta-D-glucan is a soluble fiber, meaning it dissolves in water. This type of fiber has been shown to help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and raise "good" HDL cholesterol. Because of its ability to absorb and retain water, soluble fiber slows down digestion and the rate of stomach-emptying. Slower gastric emptying means your stomach is kept feeling satiated longer, thus aiding in weight loss. Beta-glucan may also improve immune function by activating white blood cells which seek out and destroy harmful organisms within the body while repairing damaged tissues. Researchers at the University of California, Davis found that Deglet Noor dates have the highest antioxidant capacity of all date varieties. Antioxidants help protect against a myriad of chronic diseases such as heart disease and a variety of cancers.
I love it when delicious things are also healthy.
Who actually enjoys veggie burgers?
But this is no generic, tasteless veggie burger. Actually, I don't even like to refer to these as veggie burgers because of the bad reputation that comes with that name. Instead, let's call them patties. These spicy black bean patties are packed with flavor, particularly when slathered with chipotle barbeque sauce. They're dense and delicious enough to satisfy meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Guaranteed.
Black beans are digested slowly because of their high fiber content, making them a great blood sugar stabilizer. This is beneficial to people with diabetes and those prone to blood sugar swings. Fiber also keeps food moving steadily through the digestive system and can help lower blood cholesterol, thus reducing risk of heart disease.
It is a good idea to soak dried beans overnight before using them. Not only will soaking speed up cooking time, but it also makes the beans more easily digestible and rids them of some of the phytates that tend to bind to other nutrients like calcium.
A fun event called for a fun, packable menu: spicy black bean and corn patties with chipotle barbeque sauce, strawberry-rhubarb crumble bars, and southwest quinoa salad. I've been thinking about this quinoa salad ever since. It's incredibly quick and easy to assemble, and the fresh lime juice and cilantro give intense fresh flavor that can't be beat. This is a dish that is fantastic for packing and taking to-go since it can be served at room temperature, so you better believe I'll be munching on this at work this week. (P.S.: Check back next week for the black bean patties and barbeque sauce recipes - you've never had a meatless meal this good before.)
All the quinoa recipes I reference recommend using a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to liquid, but I think my quinoa turns out a bit too soft when I abide by that. I find that bit less liquid is better: 1 cup quinoa to 1 3/4 cups liquid works well for me.
I've always liked cucumbers. They add fantastic fresh flavor to my Tzatziki on some creamy-crunchy Black-Eyed Pea Falafel. A few slices of cucumber and a squeeze of lemon juice transforms ordinary water into sippable spa heaven. Sushi isn't really sushi without some cucumber strips inside. But lately I can't get enough crispy cukes. I'm totally intrigued by Joy the Baker's Cucumber Gin Salt and Pepper Cups. I keep dreaming of cucumber salads and cucumber with red onion and cucumber with radishes and it's getting weird.
Here's hoping some homemade pickles cure this strange craving.
Homemade pickles are crazy simple to make and their flavor is unmatched by grocery store brands. Kirby cucumbers are classic for pickling, but Persian cucumbers also work well. I used mini snacking cucumbers and they were excellent. No matter what type you choose, just make sure they are firm and unwrinkled - fresh cucumbers will make crisper pickles.
Not to mention they're delicious.