Last month, I had the pleasure of going to Napa with the California Dried Plum Board to learn all about prunes. Sure, prunes might sound a little random, but the food nerd in me absolutely LOVED learning about this often overlooked fruit. We heard directly from the passionate farmers, taste tested different flavor combinations, and we even got to tour an orchard. SO fun!
To be honest, I knew prunes were good for you, but I didn’t realize how good for you they are. Prunes are great for your digestive health, they help with satiation/hunger control, bone health, metabolic syndrome, and even the rate of recovery for athletes. I personally couldn’t get over how much it can help bone health, especially in women. Prunes improve absorption of calcium and act as an antioxidant at a cellular level. They also support healthy bones by providing tons of minerals, vitamins, and polyphenols.
And just in case you have a dated opinion about prunes – yes, they can help you go ? But the more important aspect of that is they are good for your gut health! One prune provides 3% of the recommended daily intake of fiber. Just ONE! And they contain soluble fiber, which is the kind that helps with cholesterol. Seriously, adding just 2 or 3 prunes to your diet each day can have a huge effect on your health – even if you just blend a few into your smoothie. Such powerful little guys!
While the whole trip was lovely, my favorite part was obviously the taste testing! We sat down with 18 different ingredients to see how they tasted alongside bites of prune. Some of my favorite combos were walnut, dark chocolate, prosciutto, ginger, squash, oilve oil, olive (VERY surprising!), feta, and arugula. I left that tasting session with SO many notes about salads, oatmeals, and other fun dishes I’m now dying to make!
We also got to cook in the gorgeous kitchen at The Culinary Institute of America (Copia Campus). We were assigned “teams” and we had to make something delicious with prunes in about 40 minutes. My team had a vegetarian, so we decided to try a mushroom and prune pasta. We cooked the mushrooms with butter, white wine, and garlic, and finished it off with a little pomegranate molasses. Meanwhile, we also diced prunes and pickled them in white wine vinegar. When the pasta was al dente, we added it to the pan of mushrooms and tossed it all together with the pickled prunes, green onions, toasted pine nuts, and feta cheese. It was honestly delicious – and something I wouldn’t have thought to make before this trip! (Would you be interested in me recreating that recipe for the blog? Comment below if you are!)
One team made a vegan falafel with prunes in the falafel and the dipping sauce. The others dishes were a quinoa salad (great for lunches) and a creamy orzo “risotto” with prunes and prosciutto. Andddd I just got hungry again…
Healthier Pumpkin Bread
So, to ease you all into the wonderful world of prunes, I thought I’d start with a beloved recipe. PUMPKIN BREAD. We all love pumpkin bread, especially in the Fall. Cozy sweaters, hot mugs of coffee, pumpkin bread in the oven… bliss, right?!
That being said, pumpkin bread isn’t the healthiest thing you can eat on a regular basis. But don’t worry! When I was in California, I learned these easy baking swaps that make a huge difference:
1/2 cup vegetable oil (964 calories and 109 grams fat)
1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/4 cup prune puree (754 calories and 55 grams fat)
1 stick butter (800 calories and 92 grams fat)
1/2 stick butter and 1/2 cup prune puree (677 calories and 46 grams fat)
Hellllloooo! You can save that many calories and grams of fat with prunes? No brainer! Plus, by adding the puree, you can also lower the amount of sugar you use. The prunes will sweeten the bread, but since they’re low on the glycemic index, they also won’t spike your blood sugar. Pumpkin bread for breakfast!!!
I will admit that its not as good as my Mama’s pumpkin bread (which by the way, if you want to laugh, you can check out this post about it from 2012 ?) – but I love it, especially for more everyday eating instead of just a treat. So good, and so much healthier!
Now if you aren’t convinced, I understand. It’s easy to be a pumpkin bread purist. But I do have a little fix that got my boyfriend on board with this version. Here’s what you’re gonna do:
1) Soften 1 tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter (my favorite, but you could use real butter, too!)
2) Add 1-2 tsp maple syrup and a shake of cinnamon.
3) Mix it all together and spread on top of warm pumpkin bread.
Have you ever tried using prune puree when baking?
What else have you tried? What did you think? I’d love to hear your experiences!
*This post was sponsored by the California Dried Plum Board, but (as always) all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the organizations that make Lake Shore Lady possible.