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Mascarpone Stuffed Dates

Dates are one of my favorites, especially when they’re extra fresh and soft. The maroonish ovals are one of those prime examples of nature’s candies, with an extra sweet, almost molassesy richness to them. Stuff them with a little mascarpone, and the fiber-filled fruit becomes even more decadent. The toasted pecans in this recipe add in a flavorful crunch, pairing perfectly with the creamy, lemony filling. Another great party hors d’oeuvre, packing in a lot of taste in just one portable bite.

Lemon-Pecan-Mascarpone Stuffed Dates

-25 dates (about 1 lb.)
-3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
-Zest of one lemon (plus more for garnish, if desired)
-2 tsp. lemon juice
-2 tsp. honey
-25 pecans (about 1/2 cup)

Make a lengthwise split in each date and remove pits.

Over medium-high heat, toast pecans in a skillet until browned. Remove from heat. Cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together mascarpone, lemon zest, lemon juice, and honey, until throughly combined.

Place one toasted pecan at the bottom of each open date. Add 1-2 tsp. of mascarpone mixture on top. Garnish with extra zest, if desired.

Vegan Pumpkin Custard

Who doesn’t look forward to pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving?  If you’re like me, it’s the creamy pumpkin filling of the pie that keeps you excited for dessert, despite already being stuffed to your tummy’s content.  With the following recipe, I decided to skip the pie crust (who cares about crust when you’ve got pumpkin? Oh, and coconut too!) and create an even creamier version of the holiday treat.  The pumpkin custard creates a cross between pie and crème brûlée, with a smooth, heavenly texture and all those beloved flavors of pumpkin pie.  It’s probably one of the best desserts I’ve eaten in a long time.  Nope.  Not lying.  Did I mention it was vegan too?

Vegan Pumpkin Custard

( Serves 8 )

Prep. time: 20 minutes,  Chill time: 2 hours

-2-14 oz cans coconut milk
-2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-2 tsp. agar
-1/4 cup agave syrup
-2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. brown sugar
-2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
-1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
-Dash of salt
-Vegan whipped cream, optional

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium-sized pan, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer 15 minutes.  Divide mixture between 8 ramekins.  Cool in refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving.  Serve, adding a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.