In our house, we eat vegetarian about 70-80% of the time. I’m normally okay with that arrangement. Quesadillas with refried beans and guacamole, spinach & chickpeas, and tofu burritos are all more than welcome on my plate, and they visit often. Sometimes, though, I just want meat. Red meat, specifically. Beef and pork. I have found that these cravings have increased with pregnancy. Dramatically.
This craving coupled with pregnancy hormones, I found myself in near tears when I asked my husband what he would be making for dinner and he replied, “Lentils.” Lentils?! Lentils are what I ate nonstop on a torturous diet during high school. Lentils scream “HEALTH!” Lentils taste, mostly, like dirt. Since my husband was not moved by my tearful pleas that he go to the store and buy any and all meats on the shelf, I begrudgingly ate my lentils. But I struck a deal.
The primary reason we don’t eat a lot of meat is because the stuff at the grocery store comes from nebulous sources; we don’t know how the animals are treated, where they’re from, what they’re fed, et cetera. So we agreed that that weekend we would go to the farmers’ market (it’s finally here!) and pick up some friendlier meat, among other things. We walked out of there with a rack of ribs and a couple cuts of beef for Phillip to grind up for burgers that night.
But pregnancy cravings are a fickle bitch. I had also been daydreaming about the raw vegan cheesecake I made three years ago from My New Roots. This is unusual for me. The cheesecake craving strikes every few months or so, but this is the first time I found myself specifically wanting that cashew cream filling rather than tangy cream cheese. I purchased my nuts and dates and coconut milk at the grocery store, soaked the cashews Friday night, then set forth to the market the following morning to see what seasonal fruit would end up gracing the top of my creamy dessert.
I was hoping to find some blackberries at the market, but despite the extremely early warm weather, it isn’t quite time for blackberries here in Ohio. Instead, I was greeted by a long line of people winding away from a table of beautiful red strawberries, the first pick of the season. We stepped into line, which landed us right in front of some folksy banjo music played by a man with a long, silver ponytail, and slowly worked our way up to the front. I wrapped two pints with little red hairnets, forked over my cash, and stepped away into the morning sun, breathing a sigh of relief that I hadn’t missed the boat on berries.
That evening, after enjoying my extremely satisfying burger on the deck across from my wonderful husband (who I find most wonderful after he makes me a delicious dinner), I plopped onto our outdoor loveseat, kicked my legs up on the table, and sighed contentedly as I enjoyed my extremely ironically-timed slice of vegan cheesecake. Even if you aren’t a vegan, this dessert should make its way into your recipe box and your heart. It is not just a cheesecake substitute, but a delicious, smooth, satisfying summer dessert in its own right.
- 1½ cups (245 grams) pitted Medjool dates
- 1½ cups (225 grams) raw almonds
- 3 cups (400 grams) raw cashew pieces, soaked overnight then drained
- juice of 2 lemons (almost ½ cup)
- ⅔ cup coconut oil, melted
- 1¼ cup full-fat coconut milk
- 1 cup (335 grams) agave nectar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 cups (275 grams) strawberries, tops removed
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- Soak dates in warm water for 10 minutes. Drain. Pulse in food processor until the dates form a paste. Remove from food processor and place in a bowl. Pour almonds into the food processor bowl (it doesn't need to be clean), and pulse until finely chopped. Add the date paste back to the food processor bowl and pulse until the mixture comes together and forms a ball.
- Press the crust evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
- Combine cashews, lemon juice, coconut oil, coconut milk, and agave nectar in a blender. Start on low speed, then gradually increase to the highest speed. Blend until very smooth and no chunks of nuts remain. Scrape the seeds from your vanilla bean into the blender and blend on low speed until the seeds have distributed throughout the mixture.
- Pour the filling into the crust and return to the freezer while you make the fruit puree.
- Clean your food processor bowl, then add the strawberries and agave nectar to the bowl. Process until smooth.
- Pour over the top of the cashew cream layer of the cheesecake, and very gently spread it across the top with a rubber or offset spatula. Alternatively, you can "marble" the top by drizzling the fruit puree over the top, then run a knife through the surface to create a design.
- Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours. Let thaw for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. (The longer you allow the cheesecake to thaw, the messier your cuts will be, but the creamier the texture. I like to cut when the cheesecake is still frozen, then allow each slice to thaw for 10-20 minutes.)