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.


  1. Posted 17 Feb ’10 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous post, I have only one grandparent left too. I can totally relate to your story because my grandmother lives abroad and I see her every 2 years or so. I hope you have a great trip and she can tell you stories about herself and your family. :)

    The salad is lovely too. Medjool dates are a favorite of mine and I love putting them in salads. Love all the combination of flavors, really clean and fresh!

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your comforting words Nadia. I hope she has some interesting stories for me as well :) Where does your grandma live? I have never had Medjool dates in a salad but I am glad I tried it because now I’m hooked haha

  2. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    This post warms the heart…I have a soft spot for the elderly. I could very well relate because most of my family are not here either…and sad to say, we rarely see them as much as we want to.

    I love the idea of putting dates and pecans into your salad. It’s a great source for protein.
    have fun in houston.. and looking forward to your houston food adventures.

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Thank you Malou, it is nice to meet people who are able to relate. If only the places we came from were just a train stop or a bus ride away eh? that would surely be wonderful…BUT we take what we can get and I am glad I was at least able to see her all the times that I did. Again, thank you for your kind words, and I can’t wait to eat my face off in Houston hahaha :)

  3. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Okay, I don’t know where to start. First, your grandmother. This would be a great opportunity for you and Collin to her. I only have one grandmother when I was born but I couldn’t even communicate with her. Second, the photos are absolutely STUNNING, both the winter scenery and the salad. Third, I love that salad. I just love the flavors and the color. :)

    But you also eat fish?? My energy food would be a lentils, mung beans, brown rice and quinoa combined with other foods. Avocados are great too. Also make sure you are getting enough iron.

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Aw Divina :) You’re great you know that? Thank you for your comment, you never fail to make me smile! I should eat more lentils and quinoa and brown rice, I have never tried cookng with mung beans I should put that on my list to try. You are right about my iron consumption, last month when I went to the doctor she told me I might be anemic which is maybe why I feel so tired all the time? I should probably start taking a multivitamin everyday….

  4. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    I am sure you have a good trip :) Just enjoy it and do not stress.
    I love all the photos. So prettily white.

    And not a clue what Medjool dates are! But the salad looks so good and healthy.

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Aw thank you Penny :) I think you are right, I just need to enjoy the moment and relax. Medjool dates are mostly grown in Coachella California, they are SO meaty and delicious haha

  5. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Fantastic winter pics and salad pictures. I have to agree that these stuffed dates looks scrumptious!

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Oh thank you Noelle!! You are too sweet :)

  6. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos Joy. And your gramma’s leaving to a ripe old age! :D She must be a lovely wise woman. My paternal gramparents have passed away and now I wish I could’ve spoken the dialect more and connected with her. My dad talks about the things she used to make when he was a kid – oh! All that knowledge I cld’ve learnt from her. Have fun in Shanghai. I’ve never been! U’ll hafta post lots of pictures yes? :D mmm yum dates. Send me some! x

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Diva thank you for sharing your story with me, I honestly get nervous because I feel my chinese slipping. I am sure that despite the fact you were never able to communicate with your paternal grandparents their qualities are still instilled within you :) I will definitely have plenty of pictures once I go to Shanghai. Thanks again for your words and I am currently sending you this dish in spirit!!!

  7. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    This was so touching and beautiful. Loved it. And I can’t wait to try the recipe except I’m allergic to strawberries! Do you think raspberries or something else would work well?

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Thank you Lindsey :) I think raspberries would work just as great or maybe even grapes! Tell me what you think :)

  8. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Very nice post…love the pictures as well :-) The salad looks absolutely gorgeous!

  9. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Being adopted from Korea, I feel similarly about my birthfamily. I met them once, when I was 15, but I was probably too young to realize the importance of that visit. We spoke through a translator and the visit was uncomfortable at times. At the end of the day, you’re all family…

    Beautiful salad! Wish I could stomach dates. You’re so much healthier than I am!

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Wow Lindsay thank you for sharing your story with me. I am sure that though the visit may have been awkward like you said, you’re all family. Thank you for your kind words! I try to be as healthy as I can but sometimes it can be hard, especially during the Holidays hahaha

  10. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh what pretty pictures of snow!! I am glad that you’re enjoying eating healthy too. I have been trying to eat healthier too and it feels great to know that I have been keeping up with it well so far. :)

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Kudos to you Sook!!! I think we both deserve a big pat on the back :) !! I think eating healthy isn’t bad at all, I still think there are plenty of tasty options out there and the results you see with your body and just lifestyle in general is a great reward. Don’t get me wrong though, sometimes when I see something bad I can’t help but take a tiny bite…or two. :)

  11. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful and delicious looking salad!! Dates stuffed with goat cheese sound just wonderful! I’ve been interested in making something like that for a while, but I was always afraid that dates might be too sweet and overpowering. I like your idea of adding them to salad. Have a good time in Houston!!

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Reiko I completely agree with you about the overpowering sweetness of dates, I have always veered away from them for that very reason. Since i stuffed them with goat cheese it really seems to cut a lot of that sweetness down :) Thank you for your well wishes and I hope you have a good weekend :) !

  12. Posted 18 Feb ’10 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Such lovely pictures, both of the winter scenery and salad. I am sure you will do just fine and have a great time visiting your grandma.

    • Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your comfort, and your kind words as well :) I think everything will be okay too, sometimes the what-ifs just spin out of control!!

  13. Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I’m excited that you will be able to visit your grandma and she’ll be so happy to meet Collin, I’m sure. It’s going to be bittersweet but definitely worth all the wonderful memories you’ll be giving your Grandma.

    On a happier note, I LOVE the snow pictures. Everything looks so nice and fluffy. Wonderful job!

    • Posted 22 Feb ’10 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Dhale for your wonderful words (as always). My mother told me this weekend that my grandmother likes to look at pictures of me and collin several times throughout the day and also before she goes to sleep haha, she is quite adorable. I really can’t wait to see her, you are right, though it’ll be bittersweet the memories will last me a lifetime :) Thank you for your comforting words!

  14. Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    such a sweet, sweet post. your upcoming trip to shanghai sounds like it will be amazing and memorable.

    • Posted 22 Feb ’10 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Thank you G! I think it will be too :) I never have a dull moment whenever I go back and since Collin gets to tag along this time it’ll be even better!

  15. Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I feel bad too for not going back often enough to see my parents…..hmmm. I wish I could. Really miss them especially at this time of the year when they wish all of us are celebrating Chinese New Year with them. By the way, love your salad. I love Medjool Dates in salad. It has such a beautiful natural sweetness….yum.

    • Posted 22 Feb ’10 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Mary — It is hard to not be by the ones you love most, if only flying around the world was easier/less expensive eh? :) I really enjoy the sweetness in Medjool dates too! MMmm thanks for the kind words as always!

  16. Posted 19 Feb ’10 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joy – You have such beautiful pictures! I hope you enjoy the trip and treasure the time with your family and especially your grandma. I don’t have any grandparents left and I really miss them – there are a lot of times I think of things I wish I would have asked so make sure you get all your questions out!

    I am a vegetarian and when I first became one I was tired a lot. Remember to eat extra protein – peanut butter, beans, cheese – for a while while your body adjusts.

    Can’t wait to see your next post!

    • Posted 22 Feb ’10 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Hey Kelly
      Thank you for your kind words and well wishes, I have started my list of questions for my grandmother so I won’t forget anything important (hopefully). I am sorry to hear about your loss, I think everyone always have questions that are left unanswered. But ultimately it is the love and the lessons they were able to give us that we will carry on in our hearts forever.
      I really appreciate the tips I really should incorporate more forms of proteins in my meals! I just bought a big container of peanut butter for after workouts and actually got some multivitamins as well. Hopefully this will do the trick :) Nice to meet you Kelly!

  17. Posted 20 Feb ’10 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    What an interesting combination but goat cheese is too strong for me, you think I could substitute? I’ve actually done a sweet version of this by stuffing medjool dates with mascarpone and dusting with cocoa powder.

    I totally have a jar of peanut butter at work that I break out a scoop of after I workout in the mornings/lunch. Quick, easiest fix.

    • Posted 22 Feb ’10 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Hey Angie
      You could try using feta cheese as a substitute, I have never tried mascarpone but maybe that could work too! Thanks for the tip on the peanut butter I will definitely keep a jar with me, I always have a bad habit of not eating after I work out.

  18. Posted 21 Feb ’10 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    WOW all those pictures of the snow are absolutely stunning ! Brrr almost givin me the chills … lol
    And what a refreshing and colourful salad for the gloomy weather. I would so love to taste that tempting salad …stuffed dates … mmmm ! Really beautiful pictures !

    • Posted 22 Feb ’10 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      hahaha Thank you Kajal!! Can you believe how much snow we got in TEXAS of all places? We are getting more snow this tuesday…I think I miss the sun and warm weather. Spring needs to come NOW!!

  19. Posted 21 Feb ’10 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    My goodness, oh wow, those photos are amazingly beautiful! Really really impressive! So glad to know that you’re going to visit your grandma soon. I’m sure this is absolutely an amazing trip for you guys. I too wonder how are you going to communicate with her then! hehe… You going to figure out soon! ^_^ Bring nothing to her except your LOVEEEE! Btw, wishing you ‘xin nien kuai le’ & ‘gong xi fatt chai’! Hope you all the best throughout the year of tiger.
    Best wishes,

    • Posted 22 Feb ’10 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Kristy thank you for the new year wishes and kind words!! I am really excited to see my grandma, I actually got to talk to her this past weekend and it was so nice to hear her voice again. My mom told me I needed to start watching chinese tapes to brush up on my Chinese hahaha I guess if the language barrier becomes an issue I can just give her plenty of hugs and kisses :)

  20. Posted 23 Feb ’10 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Your photography is stunning! These dates look absolutely delicious! My mom made them a while ago with goat cheese in the middles and then wrapped them in bacon strips-ha, my mouth is watering just thinking about them!

    • Posted 1 Mar ’10 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your words Megan! I looooove bacon wrapped dates too :)

  21. Posted 23 Feb ’10 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Oh girl! This looks fantastic! Have a wonderful trip :D

  22. Posted 23 Feb ’10 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    The recipe is beautiful – rich, deep, flavorful – savory and sweet – as is the post. Connections and staying connected – very important. I wish you all good things with your trip.

    • Posted 1 Mar ’10 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      Claudia, thank you for your beautiful words and for your well wishes — you are right, connections are very important in life :)

  23. Phuong
    Posted 26 Feb ’10 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Aww.. when are you going to Shanghai exactly and for how long? That sounds really exciting! But not gonna lie, I’m extremely jealous of your trip to see your grandmother and hometown. It reminds me of how long it’s been seen I’ve been back to Vietnam and visit my grandmother (also the only one left)… 17 years!!! You definitely deserve this vacation.

    • Posted 1 Mar ’10 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      I will be going to Shanghai from March 19-29 :) I can’t wait Phuong, it’s going to be a blast — if only you could come with me! Maybe you can go back with your family soon to visit, and I can tag along when you DO GO ^_^ Thank you for your comment :) you’re so sweet!

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