3 surprising ingredients to boost flavor in your recipes

(BPT) - Looking for easy ways to add zing to snacks and meals, as well as holiday entertaining? Adding just a few flavor-packed ingredients can revamp recipes with very little effort. Consider adding dried fruits to your daily meals and snacks, as they're not only full of flavor, but packed with nutrition, too. Because dried fruit needs no refrigeration, it's also a great on-the-go snack for packing in school lunches, gym bags or keeping in your office desk.

Did you know a serving of dried fruit counts as one serving of fruit toward your daily nutrition goals? That’s just one more reason to sneak dried fruit into lots of recipes, for a pop of flavor that gives every dish more depth and appeal. These dried fruits also contain no added sugar — they just provide natural sweetness to your recipes.

Here are three dried fruits to try for maximum taste and nutrition.

1. Apricots

Plump, sweet and delicious, one serving of dried apricots is only 100 calories. Apricots are a good source of vitamin A and potassium, and they can be eaten as a snack or added to a variety of recipes. Mediterranean and Indian dishes are great uses for dried apricots. Try chopping them up to add zing to rice pilaf, or to balance the spice and heat in an Indian meal. Baked goods like muffins or oatmeal cookies are enhanced by adding chopped dried apricots.

2. Prunes

Prunes are a great addition to many baked goods, like cakes, cookies and bars. Compared to other dried fruits, prunes are lower in naturally occurring sugar and have a low glycemic index of 29. Prunes are an all-natural source of fiber, with 3 grams of fiber per serving. Studies suggest that 5-6 prunes per day can help to support bone health. Their richness adds a lot of texture and flavor to any dish. They complement pork dishes well, and they can add sweetness to your holiday stuffing recipe.

3. Dates

Perfect for sweet and savory dishes, one serving of dates is a good source of dietary fiber. Dates have a rich sweetness that makes them a valuable asset to desserts like bars and cookies. Dates pair well with nuts, pork and squash.

This recipe from Sunsweet Growers Inc. using dates can be served with a family meal or for holiday entertaining.

Prep time: 4 minutes

Ingredients

2 small acorn squash

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 cup water

1/2 cup dry quinoa

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

6 Sunsweet Pitted Dates (or more to taste)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut acorn squash in half and scoop out seeds. Brush coconut oil over inside of squash halves.

Roast in oven on baking sheet, cut side down, 30 minutes. Turn cut side up and season with salt and pepper; roast 20 minutes more.

Place garbanzo beans in rimmed baking dish and toss with 2 teaspoons coconut oil and a pinch of salt. Roast 15 minutes, then stir lightly and add rosemary; roast 5 to 10 minutes more.

Place water and quinoa in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, 15 minutes. Remove from heat with lid still on and let stand 10 minutes, then fluff with fork.

Chop Sunsweet Pitted Dates and roasted rosemary. Stir together dates, rosemary, quinoa, garbanzo beans and pumpkin seeds.

Scoop into acorn squash and serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Picked fresh off the trees at the peak of ripeness, these fruits are then dried to preserve the nutrients so you can enjoy seasonal fruit all year long, versus only when they are in season. For more recipe ideas using dried fruit, visit sunsweet.com/#Recipes.

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