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I’d never eaten a bacon wrapped date until a few nights ago, but now I’m not sure where they’ve been all my life. A lot of folks at the CrossFit gym are in the middle of a nutrition challenge, and other people are trying to “eat clean” in preparation for the CrossFit Open, so last Friday night the gym I attend hosted a Paleo potluck. It was a great event and had lots of wonderful food, including some grilled squid that was caught and prepared by a member, as well as ahi sashimi. You can’t get more Paleo than that! Another person brought bacon wrapped dates. I picked one up, admittedly because she’s a friend and I wanted to be supportive. As soon as I ate it, I went back for another one because that’s how good they were! She told me how she made them and I immediately started thinking about all the possibilities.
I was planning to post today about what I brought to the potluck – I have the pictures taken, the recipe written. I couldn’t do it, though. My heart wasn’t in it because I knew I had to share these dates first. When I looked online, I saw that people stuff them with cheese: goat cheese, parmesan cheese, feta cheese, you name it! Sadly, as much as I love it, cheese isn’t exactly Paleo, and Paleo is what I wanted to blog about.
I thought some more and decided to stuff the dates with pecan halves (or quarters, in the case of smaller dates). It was a fantastic choice!
The dates plump up and become juicier as they cook wrapped in bacon, but the don’t turn to mush. The dish becomes a fun study in contrasts in flavors and textures – sweet, savory, crunchy, soft. Plus, pecans are naturally a softer nut, which means you can skewer them with a toothpick to hold the whole thing together without much trouble.
Like a CrossFit WOD, this recipe is highly scaleable.
You could make just a couple as a snack or a whole platter as a party appetizer! If you have a standard, 12 strip package of bacon and want to use all of it, you can make 36 stuffed dates. You need a pecan half (or even just a quarter, for the smaller ones) for each date, and a sprinkle of cinnamon to go on top. Make as many or as few as you’d like at a time! They don’t keep in the fridge very well, though, so I suggest only making as many as you plan to enjoy that day.
Conveniently, pitted dates come with a hole in each end, so you don’t need to cut them open to insert the pecan. Simply push the pecan pieces in through one of the provided holes in each date! I’ve found that larger dates can easily hold an entire pecan half, but smaller dates may need more of a “pecan quarter.” If the date splits open a little, don’t worry – you’ll be wrapping the whole thing in bacon.
Once your dates are ready, cut your bacon strips into thirds and wrap each date in a short piece of bacon. Unless you have huge dates or tiny bacon, the strip should wrap comfortably around and overlap a bit. Secure the bacon with a toothpick. Because pecans are softer nuts, you can shove the toothpick right on through the whole thing.
All that’s left to do is sprinkle the dates with a little cinnamon and bake them for about 20 minutes!
- Pitted dates (You can make 36 with one standard package of bacon)
- Pecan halves (one for each date)
- Bacon (I suggest making sure it's high-quality bacon without lots of ingredients you can't pronounce)
- Cinnamon (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 425º Fahrenheit.
- Line a rimmed baking tray with aluminum foil or, better yet, a silicone baking mat. This is optional, but makes clean up easier!
- Take out as many dates as you'd like to use and carefully insert a pecan half, or pecan quarter for the smaller ones, in each date. You don't need to cut the date open - simply use one of the holes from where the pit was removed.
- Once your dates are all ready, cut your strips of bacon into thirds so that you have three short pieces from each strip.
- Roll each stuffed date in a piece of bacon and secure it with a toothpick. You can insert the toothpick through the pecan, pressing down onto a hard surface like a cutting board for assistance.
- Arrange the bacon wrapped dates on your prepared, rimmed baking sheet and lightly dust them with cinnamon.
- Cook the dates on the middle rack of the oven until the bacon has browned and crisped, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the dates from the oven and place them on a paper towel lined plate to drain for a couple minutes.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
These pecan stuffed, bacon wrapped dates are fairly easy to make, and I can assure you that they’re a hit at parties! I heard someone on the radio saying that the bacon craze is over and that it’s no longer the “it” thing, but I’m pretty sure it’s still popular (even if various “experts” say the pork product to watch in 2015 is lard.) You know what else is cool? It would be very easy to make this recipe vegetarian by simply using a veggie bacon. As long as it is flexible to begin with and will crisp in the oven, you’re good to go.
Have you ever been surprised in a very good way by something you encountered at a pot luck? What new treats have you discovered this way?
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