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Pumpkin Coconut Milk Ice Cream with Pecans, Coconut and Chocolate Flecks

Remember, back in the day, when the leaves would begin to fall and the breezes started turning cool, what would we all start thinking about? Pumpkin. Pecans. Pies straight from the warm oven, the house smelling of cinnamon.  Was there any better way to welcome the change of seasons?  Around our house, my friend, Phil, and I always turned to our favorite recipe, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins, to start off the holiday baking.  I think I started the tradition, then he carried it on, both of us making countless little pumpkiny treasures with just that little bit of chocolate to surprise the eager recipient at our respective offices and Halloween parties.

From then on, it was all about the pies – pumpkin and pecan, of course.  “Yes, of course, I’d love a small piece of both please.  After all, it’s the holidays!”  Before we even got to dive into the Christmas cookies, we’d all be feeling awful, already putting on our holiday “puffiness” and stressed to the max from all those carbs and sugar.

Well, times have changed.  When you know better, you do better.  The leaves are falling and the breezes are just beginning to cool, so it’s time to create new traditions. Don’t be tempted to fall back into old habits that may sabotage your Primal progress.  Instead, reinvent your traditions, use your favorite ingredients, and transform them to something unexpected.

As a twist on my favorite dairy-free ice cream recipe, I decided to add pumpkin to help usher in the fall season as quickly as possible.  I included pecans and coconut because when toasted, they take on such richness and added dimension, and they provide a great contrasting crunch to the creaminess of the coconut milk and pumpkin.  For flavoring, I used vanilla paste along with a bit of vanilla extract.  I like using vanilla paste for the smooth flavor it brings, and besides, it’s just really cool stuff!  I love seeing all those tiny little specs of vanilla bean in the ice cream – it makes it all a bit more special. (Using just vanilla extract works fine, too).  As for adding some flecks of chocolate, well it’s chocolate.  ‘Nuff said!


  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/4 cup pulverized unsweetened coconut, toasted
  • 1 cup loosely packed dates (approximately 21 dates – add more if you like things on the sweeter side)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla paste + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or use 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp. ground ginger (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 14 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk (I used full fat, but lite works too)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup small chunks of dark chocolate, melted and put in plastic bag for “flicking”


Preheat oven to 350°.  Line an 8×8 baking pan with foil, place chopped pecans in pan and toast in oven for approximately five minutes.  Keep an eye on them, and as soon as you get a whiff of toasty nuts it’s time for them to come out.  Put nuts into a bowl and set aside to cool.

Pulverize coconut using a mini chopper and put into same baking pan and toast.   Do not step away from the oven!  Seriously, it takes only a few minutes to toast coconut so no bathroom breaks.  Peek in after 2 minutes, shake the pan a bit to mix it up, and put back another minute or two until brown.  Add to bowl of nuts and set aside.

Put dates into a food processor and pulse a few times to rough chop.  Then turn on your food processor and let it go for several minutes until the dates get totally smushed,  scraping a few times along the way.  You want the dates as pureed as possible.

Add vanilla paste/extract and puree a moment longer.  Then add pumpkin, spices and pinch of salt, and pulse a few times until combined.  Slowly add coconut milk, puree until smooth.

Pour into a bowl and chill in refrigerator, or put into an ice bath to hurry up the process.  When cold, pour into your ice cream maker and start processing according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Now comes the fun part!  To add chocolate flecks, melt chocolate double boiler style (I use a small bowl over a saucepan of warm water) and pour into a plastic bag.  A few minutes before the ice cream is done, snip a small hole in the corner of the plastic bag and as the ice cream swirls around, slowly “flick” the chocolate into the mixture. The warm chocolate going up against the ice cream instantly freezes, making little flecks….. really!  Have fun with it and don’t worry about getting a little chocolate on your countertop, it’s just part of the creative process!

When you are happy with the amount of chocolate flecks you have “flicked” (ok, I couldn’t resist!), toss in pecans and coconut and let them swirl together for a few minutes.  By this time, your ice cream should be done.  Spoon into containers and freeze.

This ice cream will freeze to a very hard state, so be sure to take it out and set in refrigerator for about 20 minutes or so before serving. This ice cream is yummy anytime, but makes a great healthy (and Primal!) dessert for your holiday meals.


Pumpkin Ice Cream is great plain, or with just the chocolate flecks.  You can also substitute walnuts, and try a bit of maple flavoring in place of the vanilla.

Put It In A Pumpkin!

At a recent Healthy Priorities get-together, we all brought food that we could serve in a pumpkin.  I know – how cute is that idea?!  I can say that because it wasn’t my idea at all, but thought it would be fun.  Sure enough, everything is way more fun to eat when it’s served in a surprising way, and pumpkins fit the bill.  The nice thing is that now we can find all kinds of different orange pumpkins, white pumpkins, squashes of all kinds….. be creative.

For cold food, just cut open at the top and scoop out the seeds and pumpkin goo (not sure if it has an official name) and you’re ready to use as a serving bowl.  You can use one of those mini pumpkins scooped out for all kinds of dip, and I liked what H.P. member Linda did.  She put her dip in a regular bowl, but filled a white pumpkin with all kinds of veggies for dipping and they looked so beautiful with all the different colors.

If you are serving something hot, you might want to cook your pumpkin first.  Cut open at the top, scoop out the seeds and pumpkin goo, rub insides with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on a sheet pan or in baking pan.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until done, in oven at 350 degrees.  Let it sit for a bit, then pour in your soup, chili, etc.  With the pumpkin cooked, when you scoop out some chili, you can get a bit of the cooked pumpkin with it and its really good!

Pumpkin Snack Cake

This recipe is adapted from a Pumpkin Brownie recipe by Shelley of www.thisprimallife.com.  Anyone interested in a primal lifestyle should definitely check out her site.  This is a pretty generic recipe, similar to the nut butter muffins I make which are great for all of us with multiple allergies.  Shelley suggests getting creative with substitutions, and I look forward to trying lots of combinations.  The pieces shown above were made with the following recipe, but don’t stay in the box with this one.  Try different nut butters, spices, sweeteners, add-ins, etc. and if you come up with something you love, please share!

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 3/4 cup mashed pumpkin, fresh or canned
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup date paste*
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup currants

Mix all ingredients and pour into a greased 8×8″ pan.  Bake at 350° for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  9 large servings.

* Date Paste:  Easy to make by putting about 1 cup of dates, 1/2 cup of water, pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon juice into a food processor.  Puree till smooth.  If you feel like it’s too sticky, add water slowly until you get the consistency you desire.