Right now in Toronto, we are experiencing our first real snow storm of the year. We finally have a few centimeters of snow on the ground, which contrasts to our nearly bare ground throughout the majority of the winter. I had to venture outside the city to find snow, especially since one of my new winter activities is snowshoeing.
I remember walking around clumsily in snowshoes when I was in elementary school. We had wooden ones, and more commonly plastic snowshoes that looked identical to the wooden ones. I found it difficult to manoeuvre the snowshoes which substantially widened my gait and there wasn’t much traction on the bottom, either.
Fast forward a decade or two, and I join my friends at their cottage and we decide to go snowshoeing. ‘These snowshoes are more modern,’ they explain, assuring me it isn’t as daunting as I recall. The shape has changed (especially for women’s styles), they are lighter with great grip. It took a bit of use to walking up and down hills initially, but afterwards there was no stopping us. This was fun!
Around an hour north of Toronto, there is a small town called Horseshoe Valley. Because it is in the valley, it receives more snow than Toronto and the valley ridges provide ample trails with some altitude. I have been there twice so far this winter, and both times Horseshoe has not been less than stellar. An early morning snowshoe following fresh snow that fell overnight, or the above freezing temperature with ample sticky snow (great grip for the snowshoes).
After all this exercise, there is nothing better than to huddle back together in the cottage, sipping on some tea and munching on some date squares.
This date square recipe is courtesy of my mom, who is a fabulous cook. The original recipe calls for 250g dried dates, but I like a meaty filling, so you can definitely add more without increasing the rest of the filling. I added cranberries to this batch instead of currants (the more typical ingredient) but found it a bit too sweet for me (my snowshoeing companions had no complaints, though!). The currants have a slightly bitter taste that works well with the natural sweetness from the dates. I wonder whether fresh cranberries could have helped tame the sweetness – a project for next time!
The squares can be eaten warm or cold, but I prefer them warm with a big glass of milk. Enjoy!
Cranberry Date Squares
250-400g dried dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup currants/raisins/dried cranberries (I prefer currants but use cranberries if you want a sweeter change from the traditional recipe)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup flour
1 cup oats
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1. Filling: Combine all filling ingredients into a 4 cup measure. Microwave at HIGH for 4-6 minutes, or until boiling, stirring every 2 minutes. Dates should be soft. Let stand for 5 min or more until lukewarm, stirring occasionally.
2. Crumble: Mix first 5 dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Press 2/3rd into an 10″ square baking dish. Spread in filling. Sprinkle in remaining crumble and patting down lightly. Bake at 350 F until lightly browned at the corners, about 30 minutes.
3. Cut into squares as large as you dare and enjoy. (this step is courtesy of my mom!)
Serves 8, depending how big your pieces are