*I’ll admit that sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. *Sometimes it takes me a while to put two and two together. *Every once in awhile I’m a little bit stubborn. And though I’m loathe to admit it, apparently I’ve lived in denial for most my life regarding my tolerance, or rather lack there of, of dairy. Stomach upset was so routine for me that I just thought it was normal. And then……I eliminated dairy, sugar, gluten, red meat, and processed foods of any kind from my diet. And guess what???? No more upset stomachs! No more cramps and bloating! But then I was left wondering what the cause of my distress had been. As it turns out, the culprit was dairy! Are you kidding me? I grew up eating dairy, I love cheese and ice cream, we were taught “Milk…..it does a body good”, and that dairy helps prevent osteoporosis, and now, at the age of 55, I find out that dairy is disagreeable for me. All my life I suffered varying degrees of distress and only recently figured out why! *please refer to comments above! 🙃
But knowledge is power! And armed with my newfound knowledge I’ve learned to avoid dairy as much as I possibly can, and to come up with alternatives that don’t feel like a lame substitute for the “real thing”. Sometimes it’s pretty tough though. I still haven’t found a cheese sub I’m happy with, so for now I’d rather skip it all together than to waste calories eating something that’s not 100% delicious and satisfying. That means no pizza, no macaroni & cheese, no grilled cheese sandwiches, and no gooey cheesy casseroles. I’m not a big milk drinker, and in recipes I find it a simple thing to swap out cow’s milk for almond milk….my family has no idea I do that…please don’t tell them! 😉 I avoid yogurt because even though I like it, I don’t feel deprived when I don’t have it. But then there’s the BIG one…I’m talking ICE CREAM!!!! How the heck was I going to live the rest of my life without ice cream?!? The thought of that was a mighty motivating factor for my developing this recipe for Dairy Free Maple Walnut Ice Cream!
There’s an ice cream and fudge shop that we always visit when we’re in Highlands,North Carolina called Kilwins. Typically we visit at least 2 or 3 times a year and my favorite flavor there is Maple Walnut. It’s rich and creamy and loaded with walnuts. Of course, I’d pay the price every time I had some, but *please refer to comments above…again! When we were there last month I managed to exercise great self control and not have any ice cream. I went with my husband and daughter and watched them eat theirs, and I may have pouted just a little bit, but I knew it wasn’t going to be worth hours of discomfort for a few minutes of flavorful bliss! Since I’d started living The Cook Eat Be Healthy lifestyle it was probably for the best anyway…sigh…..🙂
Perhaps the most important component of the Cook Eat Be Healthy lifestyle is to avoid deprivation. I believe deprivation is why so many diets fail, and why I like to think I’m on a “live-it” instead! I also think that the occasional treat is fine, and that no foods should be strictly forbidden (other than regarding intolerances or allergies), but those indulgent treats must be homemade. That way I’m in complete control of what I’m eating and there’s no chance of anything sneaking into my food that I don’t 100% approve of!
So I decided that the best substitution for milk and cream would be full fat coconut milk. While still high in fat and calories, the plant based saturated fats are markedly better for one’s health than animal based saturated fats found in dairy. And it’s lower in sugar so if you’re counting carbs, that’s a bonus as well! Also since I’m avoiding processed sugars I wanted to find natural sweeteners, and obviously maple syrup was one of my choices…it is maple ice cream after all! I also decided to add some dates for additional sweetness and because I knew their caramel-like flavor would enhance the “mapleness” of the ice cream. Otherwise the ingredients are pretty much what you’d find in any good homemade ice cream. I used egg yolks, vanilla, a little organic maple flavoring, and a bit of salt. I soaked the dates in hot water for just a few minutes to soften them, then processed them, adding warm water as needed, until they became date caramel. After making the ice cream custard with the coconut milk, egg yolks, maple syrup, vanilla, and maple flavoring, I removed the pan from the heat and stirred in the date caramel. I poured the custard into a bowl and covered it with plastic wrap, being sure the plastic laid on the top of the mixture. At that point the ice cream custard goes in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours, and preferably over night.
The next day all you do is pour the chilled custard into your ice cream maker and process according to instructions. About half way through you’ll add in the chopped walnuts and continue processing until desired thickness is achieved. For best results, I find its better to freeze the ice cream for a few hours before serving it. Then, because you’ve worked so hard, and waited so long, you get to enjoy your dairy free, sugar free, guilt free ice cream with a smile. Because you know you’ve made something amazing….and you deserve it!!!!
Tip: Store the bowl of your ice cream maker in your freezer at all times. That way when you get a hankering for ice cream you’ll be all set to go! 👍
- 2 cans, 13.66 oz. each, full fat coconut milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup real maple syrup
- 10 dates, pitted
- 1 cup coarse chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 scant tsp maple flavoring
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Soak pitted dates in warm water for 10 minutes.
- Drain, and place dates in bowl of food processor. Process on low, adding hot water 1 tbsp at a time until dates are smooth and the consistency of caramel. Set aside.
- Simmer the coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, & maple flavoring until steaming hot, but not boiling.
- Whisk the egg yolks and temper them by adding small amounts of the warm milk mixture to the eggs, whisking the entire time, until yolks are warm enough to not scramble when slowly added to simmering milk.
- After adding the tempered egg yolks, reduce heat to low, and continue cooking 10 more minutes, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
- Custard is done when thickened mixture is glossy and clings to a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
- Remove from heat, stir in salt and date caramel.
- Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, being sure plastic makes contact with the surface of the custard.
- Refrigerate at least 3-4 hours, and preferably over night.
- Process according to manufacturers instructions for your ice cream freezer.
- Add walnuts with about 10 minutes freezing time remaining.
- Continue processing until desired consistency is achieved.
- Transfer ice cream to a bowl and freeze at least 2 hours before serving.