Cheesecake Fail Turned Happy Accident

As I mentioned in my nice cream post, cheesecake is a popular dessert among vegan cooks, chefs, and bloggers right now. Many that I follow are experimenting with recipes to create a dairy-free version of this classic dessert and are taking it up a notch by making it no-bake and sometimes, raw, too.

Turns out, a successful vegan cheesecake is not easy, and I have yet to join the ranks of those who have successfully gone before me, despite seemingly knowing my stuff. When I develop a new Fresh Formula, I do so through either through experimentation in my own kitchen, research among other vegan cooks, or a combination of both. From those that I follow, I learned that the “cheese” in such a vegan concoction is made possible with cashews and sometimes, coconut cream, two ingredients that I’ve been obsessed with of late (see my potato salad and nice cream formulas).

I developed a formula that I saw as the right balance between sweet, creamy, and decadent without going overboard in any one flavor profile. I tasted the filling as I went, making adjustments as necessary, and came up with a final product that I was sure was the cheesecake winner.

Well, everything was fine until I went to thaw my mini-cheesecakes (all of the recipes I researched stressed the need to freeze and then thaw them to secure the desired shape) and they melted. 😦 Somehow, other vegan cooks have figured out how to make these beauties hold their shape, just like a dairy cheesecake. I, however, have to yet to find success in form. What did happen, though, was amazingly delicious: mousse!

As you know, I already have one mousse formula that is tofu-based. This is a trusty standby for me as it holds its shape well and is jam-packed with protein. I’m not doing away with that mousse rendition; now, I just have more options! And, as far as protein content is concerned, nuts can hold their own, too, so I’m not “missing out” with my new formula.

This mousse formula—which I’m calling “Fruit Mousse,” as the other one is chocolate-based—does, however, contain more fat and sugar. These are natural, cholesterol-free fats and sugars, but two ingredients I try to use sparingly nonetheless. Point is, make this as a special treat and serve it at a party where you will no doubt impress the omnivores in attendance, too (that’s what I did and it was a huge hit…more to follow on that). I would recommend serving in individual containers since this mousse won’t keep its shape when sliced as a pie.

A quick note about citrus zest…You’ll notice that I’m using lemon zest in today’s mousse, in addition to lemon juice. Isn’t the juice enough? The zest packs a ton of added flavor and to me, is actually even more flavorful than the juice. Plus, I’m a huge fan of using as much of the fruit as possible, so there’s that. Finally, lemon zest, in particular, contains five to ten times more nutrients than the juice of the fruit, providing health benefits, too. Be careful when you zest not to grate your citrus fruit down to the white pith, which is bitter.

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All-in-all, while I don’t have a cheesecake in my fridge (I will keep trying!), I’m pretty happy with how my unexpected mousse turned out. One person’s fail is another person’s victory?! In this case, both of those people were me. J Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: FRUIT MOUSSE

Makes 24 mini-cups

For the crust (optional):

  • ½ cup unsweetened dried fruit (no added oil) –> I’m using 5 pitted medjool dates.
  • ¼ cup raw, unsalted nuts/seeds –> I’m using pecans.
  • 1 ½ tbsps oil or nut/seed butter –> I’m using coconut oil.
  • ¼-½ tsp seasoning (spices, salt, etc.) –> I’m using ¼ tsp cinnamon and a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt.

For the filling:

  • 1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • 1 cup raw fruit –> I’m using ¾ cup raspberries and the juice of 2 lemons.
  • ½ cup coconut cream
  • ½ cup liquid sweetener –> I’m using raw agave syrup.
  • 1 tbsp oil* –> I’m using coconut.
  • ½-1 tbsp combination of spices, extracts, fresh herbs, etc. (optional) –> I’m using the zest of my 2 lemons and a quick splash of almond extract.
  • 2-4 tbsps garnish (raw seeds, nuts, herbs, spices, citrus zest, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc.) (optional) –> I’m using mini-semisweet chocolate chips (vegan).

*I only used oil because all of the cheesecake recipes I researched called for some oil. I don’t know that it is essential to mousse, so you may be able to opt out of it. I won’t know until I try making this again at some point!

If using, put all of the ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until well-combined, but sticky. Press into your individual serving vessels of choice. I originally planned to make these in a mini-muffin pan and pop them out frozen to thaw, thus why you see them that way here. Later, when I realized that the mousse would not maintain a mini-pie shape after being popped out of the pan, I transferred each mousse to an individual plastic cup, which is where I would have started my crust to begin with, had I known what was going to happen. 🙂  Place crusts in the freezer to firm up.

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Drain and rinse your cashews. Put all of your filling ingredients (except the garnish, if using) in a blender and puree until silky smooth. Pour over prepared crusts, garnish, and place in the fridge to chill. Again, knowing what I know now, I would not use the mini-muffin pan! Make sure your individual mousse cups are in a container that you can put a lid on. Remove from the fridge when you’re ready to serve.

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15-Minute Waffles

Breakfast for dinner, anyone?  Or, breakfast for breakfast, lunch, or snack?  Any time of day, you can make these waffles in fifteen minutes…or less!  You can also use this formula for pancakes, but those will take a little longer.  🙂

My first pregnancy, I wanted all things savory; this pregnancy, it’s all about the sweet.  Logically, I know that I can’t have dessert for dinner (at least not all the time…), so I’ve had to get my sweet fix in ways that are healthier and still, unfortunately, limited.  High blood sugar = problematic pregnancy.

Last night, I decided on waffles.  My formula includes no sweetener added to the batter itself and I top them with pure maple syrup.  This rich, gooey breakfast essential is packed with antioxidants, manganese, zinc, and calcium.  In addition, for the tree huggers out there (pun intended), harvesting maple syrup does not harm the tree or negatively impact its natural lifespan.  I love this brand of pure maple syrup, which is organic and GMO-free.

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Tonight’s waffles will be of the lemon poppy seed variety.  Poppy seeds are loaded with fiber and are good sources of calcium and copper.  They are easy to add to smoothies, salad dressings, and baked goods.  I often bake bread with poppy seeds and throw them into muffins and other breakfast items, too.

DSC_2179I’m also including rolled oats (see my granola formula) and cornmeal in my batter for a variation in texture.  Cornmeal is an excellent source of protein and fiber and also contains substantial quantities of iron, zinc, and niacin.  Too much cornmeal will leave your waffles/pancakes tasting gritty, but I always add a little to the batter.  I also dust the bottom of my pizza crust to add texture and prevent sticking.  And of course, I use it in making cornbread (another post, another day).

DSC_2178Who said a quick breakfast (or lunch, dinner, or snack!) can’t be delicious, flavorful, and special?  I eat more raw plants than anything else—the ultimate fast food—but like many people, believe that variety is the spice of life!  Believe it or not, I can make these waffles in less time than it takes me to peel and chop my favorite fruits and veggies for a salad.  They are a guilt-free, healthy alternative to my typical diet.

Additionally, this formula would be easy to double, triple, etc. for a big crowd.  If you have some helping hands in the kitchen, you could feed a crowd in no time.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  WAFFLES (OR PANCAKES)

Makes 5 large waffles

  • 1 cup flour  –>  I’m using whole wheat.
  • ½ cup textured grain (i.e. quinoa, oats, cornmeal, etc.)*  –>  I’m using ¼ cup rolled oats and ¼ cup cornmeal.
  • 1 ¼ cups unsweetened plant milk**  –>  I’m using almond.
  • 2 tbsps flax or chia seeds  –>  I’m using flax.
  • 2 tbsps oil  (just 1 tbsp for pancakes) –>  I’m using coconut.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1-2 tbsps citrus juice  –>  I’m using the juice of 1 small lemon (approximately 2 tbsps).  This ingredient adds brightness, but won’t really add flavor unless you use the full amount and the zest.  I want to taste the lemon, so I’m using the juice and zest of the whole fruit.
  • EXTRAS (optional):  raw seeds, nuts, fruit***, etc.  –>  I’m using ½ tsp poppy seeds.

*Don’t want to alter the texture?  Just use extra flour.  🙂

**Since pancakes take longer to make, you will want to keep extra milk nearby to thin the batter as necessary throughout cooking.

***I find that putting fruit into the batter causes a lot of sticking in my waffle maker; I use fruit to top waffles instead, but would put it directly into the batter to make pancakes.

Preheat your waffle iron.  If you are zesting citrus, be sure not to go past the top layer.  The white pith underneath is bitter.

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Combine all ingredients with a whisk.

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Prepare waffles according to iron directions.  Place on a cooling rack to prevent sogginess on the bottom of the waffles if they won’t all be consumed immediately.

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Top with fresh fruit, raw nuts or seeds, maple syrup, etc.  Leftovers keep well in the fridge, but will likely lose their crispiness.

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