Sunday, June 9, 2013

Healthy Home | Make Your Own Date Paste

Have you heard of date paste before?

After seeing this nutrition video, I was determined to find some date sugar to be a whole food, healthy alternative to sweeteners in my house. Alas, date sugar was nowhere to be found in stores. Dates? Those I could find. So, I've been using dates to sweeten and add texture to a multitude of recipes for about 6 months or so, and one could call us BFF's.

I buy my medjool dates (the sweeter, tastier kind) at Costco and have found they have by far the best price around. I also buy Parnoosh honey dates in a big container at our grocery store. Although they aren't quite as sweet and decadent as the medjool, they are still sweet, more affordable, and work well for certain recipes. And if all else fails, check your bulk food aisle, because I see dates there all the time.

Now to the paste part. Dates are fantastic and I use them whole frequently, but they do require processing in either a food processor or high speed blender like a Nutribullet or Vitamix for use in most recipes. Many recipes I make with dates I'm already using one of these appliances so it's not a hassel, but sometimes I'm not. Sometimes I just want a quick and easy purreed date to use on the spot. And so that is where date paste comes in.

In a way, it should almost be called "date butter" because the process and end result are very similar to that of a nut butter. Soak, purree, store in a jar. But maybe date paste sounds healthier. Perhaps we should just call it"daste"? No?

Making date paste is ridiculously easy.

1. Stuff your pitted dates into a mason jar
2. Cover with boiling water and soak overnight
3. Drain excess water, and puree in a food processor until smooth consistency
4. Add cinnamon, vanilla bean and/or vanilla extract to taste if you prefer
5. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for anytime use

What can you use dates/ date paste for? Currently, my go to oil/fat-free salad dressing is as easy as 1-2-3 with some of my pre-blended date paste. It is so very tasty and easy to make.

3 parts acid (lemon or lime juice, or apple cider/red wine vinegar)
1 part date paste
Seasoning/herbs to taste

The date paste desolves beautifully in the acidic base and adds a thicker texture to your dressing, not to mention cuts the acidity and adds a nice flavourful sweeteness to your dressing. 

Date paste also makes a welcome substitution for many ingredients in baked goods. Because it freeezes SO well (it doesn't freeze solid), it's easier to have on hand all of the time, so things that call for apple sauce, honey, agave nectar, syrup, sugars etc, I often replace partly or entirely with date paste. The result in a much healthier, whole food sweetened recipe that you can feel better about.

Have you given date paste a try? Or found date sugar anywhere?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Big Move: Prepping your House for New Occupants

Oh what a month!

I am sitting in our new living room right now after our very first night in Winnipeg. The last few weeks have been a blur, with getting our previous house all ready for someone else to live in, to organizing all of the particulars of our move and new life in another province, to making the very long trek across the county.

I will update you on each aspect of the move, but should start out chronologically with the preparation of our home for our tenant. We chose to rent out our place, however the following tips will also apply if you are prepping to sell your house, or just want a refresh on the home you're living in.

Tips for Getting Your House Ready for New Occupants!

1. Refresh your grout! Nothing says "lived in" more than dingy grout. I've tried every kind of grout cleaner imaginable, scrubbed with a tooth brush on hands and knees, and have never been able to get that new house grout look back. I was sceptical when I brought this grout pen home with me from Home Depot, but I was pleasantly surprised. Obviously the inventors of this stuff have realized that no amount of scrubbing will clean grout, so painting it becomes the next best option. The pen is like a big white highlighter with a white paint that readily covers the grout. I used this for our ensuite floors and the wall tile in our guest bath (although neither were bad) and was very happy with the result!

2. Touch up nail holes with a cotton swab. I got this cheater tip from a property invester, and it certainly works! If you have some small nail holes that need to be filled and painted, try dabbing on the paint with a cotton swab so you don't have to paint the whole wall!

3. Flip the shelves in the kitchen cupboards. After wiping down all of the kitchen shelves, a light bulb went off. If I flip the shelves, not only will the new surface be untouched and perfectly clean, but any bowing that occurred from all my heavy cans and jars with now be flattened out in the other direction! How did I never think of this before?

4. Seal that stone! If you have granite, marble or another natural stone surface or backsplash, make sure to seal it. If you are renting out an investment property, you will want to make sure your more expensive fixed fixtures are protected, so this is a must. If you seal it right before you go, you know you have at least a year before it needs to be done again. If you're selling, it's just a nice little touch to alleviate some of the stress on the buyers end.

5. Leave a care package. Light bulbs for your lights, cleaning supplies, etc, are all a nice touch for the next occupant. Bonus is that it will also be less bulk you’ll need to pack for the new place (if you’re moving).

6. Magic eraser. I’ve been scared of that spongey little block of super power since I was told by my handy man that it can really affect the finish of the paint. I threw all to the wind and went for it anyways, and it helped get the scuff marks off the walls and baseboards and saved us so much time repainting. Just make sure to test the wall in an inconspicuous area to make sure your paint finish is hardy.

7. Wash the walls. A solution of warm water and PineSol with a clean rag is an easy way to get those walls nice and clean and bring out the natural shine of the home (it’s like a hair commercial for houses!).

8. Colour match the wall, not the paint code. If you painted your walls five years ago, and want to touch up some spots with that same paint, be warned. After five years on your walls, the paint has surely cured and changed to a slightly different hue than what's in the paint can via the paint code. Chip off a fleck of paint on the wall about the size of a quarter and take it to the paint store to match.

9. Use a natural cleaner for the fridge. If you aren’t already, choose a natural cleaner with essential oils for the fridge. I used a rosemary mint cleaner and it made the fridge smell amazing and not chemically, which is what you want in a place where you store your food. It's little things like this that help take your home from well used to well loved, and the fresh scent will give the new occupant that new car fridge feeling!

10. Re-caulk. If it doesn't look perfect anymore, peel off your old caulking in the kitchen and bath with a utility knife and re-caulk. It makes everything look new!

Do you have any great tips for getting your house ready to sell or for a renter? Have you tried any of the ones on this list? Let me know your thoughts!

And don't worry - more posts to come chronicling the big move and the new place! So much to share, so many boxes to unpack! Wish me luck ;)