When I was a kid, long before plant based foods became an integral part of my life, Thanksgiving was about one thing, and one thing only: Pumpkin Pie. I could take or leave the turkey, along with the weeks of turkey soup that followed. What I looked forward to the most was pumpkin pie, topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream of course.
My interpretation of what pumpkin pie should be has changed a lot over time. I started out craving the oh so easy but somewhat suspect in the way of ingredients Safeway bought pie, topped with (I am embarrassed to admit it) whipped mystery topping out of an aerosol can. I then moved on to homemade pumpkin pie, including a white flour pie crust, eggs, carnation milk, topped with real, licked off the beater whipped cream.
After deciding to make a whole foods and plants the cornerstone of my diet I was faced with a real challenge; how to recreate this holiday favourite without all of the usual trappings? I tried and failed to find a viable substitute, until faced with the challenge of coming up with dishes for a canapé party for the Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional Certification last year. I decided to bite the bullet and created a cashew cheesecake version of my all time favourite.
Much to my delight it worked, with some delicious and very beneficial super foods thrown into the mix. I paired my superfood pumpkin cashew cheesecake with a toasty cup of my Chaga Chai, the perfect pairing to offset the cool temperature of the cashew cheesecake and to celebrate all of the warmth fall spices and seasonings have to offer.
For the photo above, I used a mini cupcake tray to assemble tiny cakes, before cutting them into small, bite sized mouthfuls. If you do plan to take this approach, be sure to let the cakes thaw for 5-10 minutes before cutting them out with circular cutters. They can then be returned to the freezer, covered, until it is time to thrill your guests with your culinary prowess. :)
Superfood Pumpkin Cashew Cheesecake
Pumpkin Pie Filling: (double recipe for a full cheesecake)
1.5 cup organic cashews, soaked overnight
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 c maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tsp pumpkin pie mix*
1/2 tsp vanilla bean
1/2 tsp lucuma
1/2 tsp mesquite
1/2 tsp camu camu
* I like using the pumpkin pie spice from Silk Road Spice Merchant in Calgary, or making my own spice blend, using a recipe from The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices. You can find an adaptation for their recipe here.
Combine all ingredients in a Vitamix, or regular blender and purée until smooth. If necessary, add water, a little bit at a time, until you achieve a smooth, thick consistency. Be sure not to add too much!
Please note, if you are using a regular blender you may need to process all of the ingredients in smaller batches.
Crust: (double the recipe for a full cheesecake)
1 cup pecans
2 Tbsp dates
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp vanilla bean powder
Add pecans, dates, salt, cinnamon and vanilla bean powder to a food processor and process until you have a crumbly consistency.
Assembly (Mini Cheesecakes):
Line a mini muffin tin with silicon or paper cups. Press a layer of crust mixture in the bottom of each cup with your fingers, keeping them moist to avoid sticking. Spoon some of the cheesecake filling on top, until it is just below the edge of the cup. Let the mixture set for at least two hours in the freezer.
As mentioned above, let the cakes sit for 5-10 minutes before serving or shaping them. They can be stored, covered, in the freezer for a couple of days.
Assembly (Full Cheesecake):
Using a springform pan, add the crumbly crust mixture to the bottom of the pan and press until you have a solid, even layer. Pour the cashew cheesecake filling on top, jiggle to even up the surface and let set in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
Remove the cashew cheesecake 5-10 minutes before serving, so that it is soft enough to cut. Please note, the cashew cheesecake does need to be stored in the freezer, otherwise it will melt completely!
And of course a good pumpkin pie recipe (cashew cheesecake or otherwise) would not be complete without a lovely whipped cream to finish it off. I love the following coconut based recipe, it is light and fluffy with a hint of lovely natural sweetness.
Coconut Whipped Cream:
1 14 ounce can of organic Thai Kitchen full fat, unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil, gently melted
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
¼ cup of pure maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
Fresh grated nutmeg and cinnamon (to serve)
Add all ingredients to a large bowl, and whip until frothy (much as you would with "regular" whipped cream). Serve immediately.
If you have a whipped cream dispenser, blend all ingredients in a blender until just smooth and then pour into the whipped cream canister.
Let the mixture cool in the fridge for several hours, before adding the nitrous oxide, shaking the container vigorously and (carefully!) pressing the handle to serve. I found the canister a bit tricky to work with, the first few pumps came out with a lot of force!
Garnish your mini cashew cheesecakes or cashew cheesecake slices with whipped cream, fresh grated nutmeg and cinnamon, and enjoy!