Blackberry Cashew Cheesecake (Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Paleo)

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I like surprises.  Well…good surprises. This week has been full of some unpleasant surprises but it has also been filled with amazing surprises like…friends dropping by to say hey for no reason but just to visit, a letter from an amazing friend telling me how they cherished our friendship, random hugs, dinner ready when I get home from work, coffee ready when I get up (what a blessing), random dance parties downtown…

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I also like having intimate gatherings at our place and surprising people with a healthy dessert.  When it comes to a dessert that surprises most folks because it is both gluten-free and dairy free, this cashew cheesecake takes the “cake”. I have made multiple versions including strawberry-vanilla, chocolate-banana, and now blackberry.

This blackberry cashew cheesecake was the BEST so far.  I made the cashew cheesecake filling using my high-powered Cuisinart Pro Plus food processor.  If you have a Vitamix or Blendtec, use it. I’m jealous. But seriously, a great food processor will do the trick but it just may take a bit more time.

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Instead of mixing whole blackberries into the filling, I made a blackberry sauce and strained out those pesky seeds that looooove to stick around in your teeth while you are trying to be sexy and suave but no one tells you that you have a massive black seed the size of a minivan lodged in your front teeth.  So, I just amped up your sex appeal and created a seedless sauce to mix into the blackberry cheesecake layer. You are welcome!

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The blackberry sauce is easy and takes only an extra 10 minutes. I used 2 cups of blackberries that I froze last summer.  You could also use a bag of frozen blackberries (completely thawed and use organic if possible) or fresh blackberries when they are in season. Boil the blackberries and juices in a saucepan until it begins to thicken (about 5 minutes).  Add a tablespoon of arrowroot powder mixed with water to make a slurry. Arrowroot powder is a grain-free starch alternative to cornstarch. If you aren’t worried about grains, then you could swap cornstarch for the arrowroot powder. Adding the starch will make the sauce even thicker.  Strain the cooked blackberries through a strainer and reserve about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the sauce. This sauce is amazing in yogurt, on pancakes, waffles, my face.

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So go surprise your face and someone you love or maybe even just tolerate and make this cheesecake. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Plus, it is gorgeous!

Blackberry Cashew Cheesecake (Paleo, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free)  (adapted from My New Roots, serves 8)

Note – You will need a very powerful food processor or blender (such as a Vitamix). I have a Cuisinart Pro Plus food processor that works like a champ and a half. 

Crust Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked at least 4 hours)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey for non vegan)
  • juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries (thawed if frozen and retain the juices)
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder + 2 tablespoons of water

Instructions

  1. Crust – In a food processor, place nuts, salt, and pitted dates and pulse until the ingredients combine into a paste.  The mixture should hold together when you pinch a small amount between your fingers.  Place Saran wrap in a 7″ pie pan (spring form pans work best but aren’t necessary) or 8×8″ square baking dish. Spoon crust mixture into pan and press evenly and firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed. Wash and rinse the food processor.
  2. Blackberry Sauce – Place the blackberries and thawed blackberry juices in a heavy saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir frequently, and bring to a low boil.  In a small bowl, mix the arrowroot powder with 2 tablespoons of cold water until it forms a slurry. Slowly stir the arrowroot slurry into the blackberries. Simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes until the homemade blackberry sauce thickens to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat. To get separate the seeds from the blackberries, set a strainer over a heat-proof bowl. Pour the blackberry sauce into the strainer and mash with the back of a spoon to get all of the juices from the blackberries. You should get about 1/2 cup of sauce. Reserve the sauce for later use in the filling. You can keep the blackberry mash for either a topping or another use (stirred into oatmeal? in yogurt?).
  3. Cashew Cheesecake Filling – Microwave the coconut oil in a small Pyrex dish for 30 seconds until mostly melted. Whisk in maple syrup to combine. Place all of the filling ingredients (except the blackberries) into the bowl of the processor and blend on high-speed for several minutes until very smooth.
  4. Assembly – remove the crust from the freezer. Pour about two-thirds of the cashew mixture onto the crust and smooth evenly with a rubber spatula. To the remaining third of the cashew filling mixture, add the blackberry sauce (about 1/3 cup). Blend on high until smooth. Pour this mixture onto the first layer of filling. I drizzled an additional 1/4 cup of sauce on the top of the blackberry layer and made a swirl pattern with a butter knife. Place in freezer for about 2 hours or until solid.
  5. Serving – To serve, remove from freezer about 30 minutes before serving.  Heat a smooth and sharp knife under hot water and cut the pie into 8 slices. Serve with any additional blackberry sauce. Store any remaining pie in the freezer.
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Raw Cashew Cream Pie (Gluten-Free)

I love to experiment…especially with food.  Of course, nothing makes me happier than a successful creation and seeing other people enjoy it.  It’s my inner 80 yr old grandma, I show my love by feeding you.  So if you need love and are hungry, then come over…I got plenty to spare. 🙂

But here’s the caveat….I always try to make recipes a bit more “healthy” by swapping out refined sugar for natural sugars like honey, agave nectar or maple syrup. Recently I have been experimenting with gluten-free and dairy-free foods in a quest to tackle allergen free cooking for my husband.

Recently I stumbled upon a secret that vegans and nondairy consumers have known for quite some time….cashew “cheese”. Soak raw unsalted cashews overnight (or at least 4 hrs), puree them in a STRONG food processor or Vita-mix blender, and holy hell, you will get a beautiful cashew custard cream sauce that can be used in a multitude of ways. Ya. I’m not kidding. Those crazy vegans are totally on to something.  Cashew cream is the base for this Raw Cashew Cream Pie which is basically a vegan cheesecake.

I have struggled with calling this dessert a cheesecake, because really…it isn’t. I wish there was a better name for it, maybe Casheesecake?  Cheeshew pie? Come on people…help me out.  I have settled with Cashew Cream Pie. If you have something better, throw it out there and we will discuss it over a slice.

Well whatever it is, it’s deeeelicious. The crust is a combination of pureed Medjool dates (pitted of course), almonds, pecans, cocoa powder, and salt. I’ve experimented with three different flavor variations: (1) Raspberry and Vanilla, (2) Strawberry and Lemon, and (3) Chocolate and Banana. My favorite so far is the Raspberry and Vanilla, but all were fabulous. Because this dessert contains no processed sugars or gluten and is low carb, it will not spike your glucose or sit heavy on your gut (or butt) like most cheesecakes. It’s light yet so filling due to the protein from the nuts.

I hope you enjoy this refreshing and healthier take on cheesecake.

Raw Cashew Cream Pie (adapted from My New Roots), serves 8

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1/2 cup nuts (I used half almonds and half pecans)
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Vanilla Cashew Cream Filling:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups (pre-soaked) raw unsalted cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (honey or agave nectar would also work)
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Flavor Options:

  • Berry – Reserve half of vanilla filling and add 1 cup of fresh or frozen berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries (if using frozen berries, make sure they are thawed and well drained).
  • Banana – Reserve half of vanilla filling and add 1 to 2 ripe pureed bananas.
  • Chocolate – Reserve half of the vanilla filling and add 2 to 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
  • Lime – Replace the lemon juice with lime juice.

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, place nuts, salt, and pitted dates and pulse until the ingredients combine into a paste.  The mixture should hold together when you pinch a small amount between your fingers.  Place saran wrap in a 7″ pie pan (spring form pans work best but aren’t necessary) or 8×8″ square baking dish. Spoon crust mixture into pan and press evenly and firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed. Wash and rinse the food processor.
  2. Microwave the coconut oil in a small pyrex dish for 30 seconds until mostly melted. Whisk in maple syrup to combine.
  3. In the most powerful food processor or blender that you own (a Vitamix blender works great but I have a Cuisinart Pro Plus food processor that processed this mixture like a champ and a half), place cashews, maple syrup, coconut oil, lemon juice, and vanilla and blend on high for several minutes or until very smooth.
  4. For a plain vanilla layer, pour half of the mixture onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. With the remaining filling, add berries or banana or chocolate into the processor and blend on high until smooth. Pour this mixture onto the first layer of filling. Place in freezer for about 2 hours or until solid.
  5. To serve, remove from freezer about 30 minutes before serving.  Heat a smooth and sharp knife under hot water and cut the pie into 8 slices.  Store any remaining pie in the freezer.