No-Bake Vegan "Cheesecake"

Zoodles or courgetti (which one do you call it?) just don't cut it for me. If I'm craving pasta, my body's asking for a hearty helping of some downright carbs. Spiralized zucchini just isn't going to magically turn into that. Sorry to all you devoted fans out there. There's nothing wrong with zoodles, but they're just not pasta. At least not to me!
Why am I randomly blabbering about pasta, you ask? Well because I like to keep it real. Just like with these "cheesecakes". There's no doubt these are a fantastic afternoon snack or post-dinner dessert you can eat on the daily, but they're not cheesecake and I won't pretend they are. If you're interested in this recipe, I'm guessing you most probably know this already, but thought I'd warn you just in case.

What they are is a lightly sweet, raw-treat that's smooth and dreamy and definitely reminiscent of a cheesecake type of dessert. But not cheesecake. They're easily customizable, conveniently-sized and downright delicious. I went with three flavors - plain, raspberry and peanut butter, but I can only imagine that flavors like chocolate, lime, blueberry, strawberry and coconut would be equally delicious.   

The "crust" is the classic health-food-trend base of dates and nuts (walnuts were my choice) and the filling is one made from blended cashews, coconut oil and lots of other feel-good goodness. The blended cashews as a filling is definitely not something new - I always thought of trying it but never really got around to it. Better late than never, hey? I was so pleasantly surprised! The filling is so luscious, creamy and aromatic right when it's blended that it'll take a lot of self-control to stop yourself from literally spooning the mixture right out of the blender jar straight into your mouth (I won't tell if you do this). A spoon, or few, is necessary as a taste test anyways...right? The subtle sweetness of the maple syrup perfectly complements the tangy lemon flavor (hello cheesecake). The trick to getting a nice a smooth filling is soaking your cashews for long enough. I suggest overnight, but if you forgot/hadn't planned for this, a few hours in some boiling water will do it.

If you're used to raw/healthy/nut-based/naturally-sweetened treats, you'll love this. If not, give it a go and let me know what you think. You'll never know if you don't try!

This recipe is adapted from Minimalist Baker's 7-Ingredient Vegan Cheesecakes.

Makes 10-12 standard muffin-cup sized mini cheesecakes (or one larger 9-inch cheesecake)
For the crust:
1 cup pitted gooey dates
1 cup raw walnuts (pecans or almonds can be substituted)
pinch of salt
For the filling:
1 3/4 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight or in boiling water for a few hours
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut milk, preferably the thick creamy part that forms on top
Optional add ins: peanut butter, raspberry jam

Bring out your standard muffin tin and set aside.

Add walnuts to a food processor/high speed blender and blitz into small chunks. Don't process it into a powder unless you don't want any chunks of nuts in the base  - I like the crunch so I keep it quite chunky! Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same machine, process the dates until a sticky paste/ball is formed. Pour walnut bits back in, along with the salt, and process again. The mixture should come together quickly and be sticky enough to roll balls, but not so sticky that it sticks to your fingers. Add more dates or walnuts to get to the right consistency. 

Cut thin strips of parchment paper and lay them in each muffin cup to make it easier to pull out the cheesecakes later (make sure about an inch sticks up on either side).

Take small amounts of the crust mixture and press it into each muffin cup. There's no exact science here - mine ended up being between a half and one centimeter thick. Just use your fingers to gently press down. Place in the freezer to set while you prepare the filling.

Blend all the filling ingredients together until a very smooth, silky, almost velvety mixture is formed.

Take the crusts out of the freezer and pour spoonfuls of the filling onto each crust. If using optional flavorings, swirl small spoonfuls of your chosen add-in into the filling.

Place in the freezer to set completely. To serve, either eat them straight from the freezer (cold is always my chosen preference) or remove 5 minutes before serving for a softer, more cheesecake like texture.



Mocha Oat Cookies

Cookies always seem to do the trick. At breakfast, mid-morning, post-lunch, at tea time, after dinner or when the midnight munchies hit, cookies seem to come to the rescue.
Sorry quick tangent. As I'm typing this blog post, I'm noshing on a perfectly ripe banana sliced up and topped with melted peanut butter and dark chocolate spread. Not sure why I haven't tried this before - such a great snack! Highly recommended. Also just realized that this could mistakenly come across as I haven't had bananas with pb or chocolate before. Definitely not true. I'm pretty sure I eat all three on a daily basis and bananas and pb often feature together.

Back to the cookie loving. Or should I be hating? The fact that they're so easy to make and eat is pretty dangerous... But at least when they're filled with good things like oats, dark chocolate (healthy in moderation) and coffee (likewise), you can feel good about eating them, right? Please say yes.
The coffee flavor isn't overpowering. It's almost as though - yes this is going to sound weird and manipulative, but just trust me here - you can taste the coffee undertones if you want to, but if not, all the coffee does is intensify the flavor of the chocolate. And who doesn't want that? Give me all the chocolate.

The texture of the cookies can't be beat. They're wonderfully crunchy and perfectly gooey right around the puddles of melty chocolate chips. You'll wonder where the lovely crunch comes from only to remember that the secret lies in using oat flour to make these cookies. Don't worry if your oat flour isn't perfectly ground into a fine powder. There's almost a beauty to the tiny specks of oat bits peppered through these chocolate-y cookies. They bake up just perfectly - slightly sticky/crispy on the outside and chewy and gooey on the inside. They're almost like a brookie (fudgy brownie cookie!).

Makes 15 large cookies
2 1/4 cup rolled oats, ground into a flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
3 tsp instant coffee
2 eggs
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 175 C and line a large cookie baking tray with baking paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the oat flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa, sugar and instant coffee.

In a separate small bowl or cup, briefly mix together the the coconut oil and eggs. They probably wont mix that well, but don't worry as all you need to make sure to do is break the yolks to make for more even mixing later.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix until just combined.

Gently fold in the dark chocolate chips.

Use your hands to roll the dough into 15 evenly sized balls. They won't be perfect as the dough is likely to be slightly sticky, but this is intended so keep going!

Place the balls on the prepared cookie sheet. Press down slightly for a flatter cookie (I did this) or leave as is for chunkier/thicker cookies. Leave some space between the cookies because they do tend to spread.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until just firm to the touch. Cool in tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Don't wait - just eat. And enjoy!