Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

I’ve learned to live without a lot of fun dairy-filled things since coming to terms with my lactose intolerance a couple years ago, but cheesecake was really hard to let go. I used to make a marbled pumpkin cheesecake every Thanksgiving as a pumpkin pie alternative, and it was always a hit. With all my freshly- made pumpkin puree in the freezer this year, it occurred to me that  a vegan alternative could work…

Now I know that putting the words “vegan” and “cheesecake” together are going to scare a lot of you, but after bringing these bars into work and to a potluck last week, I concluded that this vegan dessert is a dairy-free success! I have officially converted numerous non-believers into vegan pumpkin cheesecake fans and it’s all thanks to Minimalist Baker for inspiring me to try a cashew-based batter.

This recipe is no-bake, but does require some time on the front end to properly soak your cashews before blending them to make your “cheesecake” batter. Keeping this in mind, be sure to allow for an hour of inactive time before you get started!

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Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

Makes ~ 16 squares

For the crust:

1 C pitted medjool dates

1 1/2 C pecans

1/4 t sea salt

For the filling:

1 1/2 C raw unsalted cashews (I use pieces because they’re much cheaper!)

About 3 C boiling water

3/4 C pure maple syrup

1/2 C pumpkin puree

1/3 C full fat coconut milk

1/4 C lemon juice

2 t vanilla extract

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t cardamom

1 t pumpkin pie spice

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Method:

In a medium bowl, soak cashews in boiling water for about an hour. Once soaked, drain cashews and set aside.

Line an 8×8″ baking pan with parchment paper (one long sheet overlapping another so you have an “X.” This will make removing the cheesecake super easy once it’s set!

Add dates, pecans, and salt to food processor and pulse until dates break down and crust begins to stick together, forming a ball. Spray your fingers with nonstick spray and press crust into bottom of lined pan, setting in the freezer while you make filling.

Add soaked cashews to food processor and blend until smooth, adding coconut milk as needed. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the pumpkin. Mix until filing is smooth, scraping sides to incorporate all ingredients.

Spoon half of filling mixture onto crust and put back into freezer. Add pumpkin puree to the other half of the filling, and pulse until combined. Spoon carefully on top of white filling, gently spreading to create an even top layer. Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top, and lightly drag a toothpick or butter knife in a swirling motion.

Place in freezer for about 2 hours or until set. Remove from pan by lifting parchment paper and use chef’s knife to slice into 12-16 pieces. Keep these stored in the freezer, wrapped with plastic wrap. They should keep up to a month, but I promise they won’t last that long!

Tip** Let them sit out at room temp about 30 mins before serving so they’re not totally frozen

Enjoy!

 

Cooking with Squash

My mom paid a visit to Kasten Waukau Creek Farm in Omro, WI last week and came home with “$25 worth” of different squashes, which let me tell you, is way more than it sounds like. She then sent me home with approximately 20 pounds of different varieties, and if there’s such thing as overdosing on squash I’m sure I’m dancing on the threshold. I am taking this copious amount of Winter squash and turning it into a challenge; to come up with a great recipe for each one in the bag!

In an attempt to start putting all these glorious gourds to use, I baked the orange and green beauty below, pureeing, and freezing it for later. Needless to say, this is only the beginning of the slew of squash-related recipes coming your way.

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If you know me, it’s clear that I love pumpkins. Carving them, seeding them, putting them on my desk to stare at adoringly all day… But squash is so much more than just a festive decoration.

Squash is one of the original Three Sister Crops, its origins dating back over 10,000 years ago in Mesoamerica. There are many squash varieties, but they are most commonly separated into two categories- Summer and Winter. Since zucchini falls under the Summer category, I’ll wait until next year to drop all my favorite zuch recipes on you.

Squash in general provides numerous health benefits, including high amounts of vitamins A and C, reduces risk of cancer, and improves sleep. It is also known for boosting your immune system and helps manage Diabetes.

After endless Googling, I have identified the squashes Mom sent me home with. The squashes shown above (in clockwise order from top left) are:

Sweet dumpling

Acorn Squash

Musquee de Provence pumpkin

Another Acorn

Lumina pumpkin

And last but NOT least…Butternut squash!

Over the next couple weeks, I will provide you with a recipe for each of these winter squashes! I know- try and contain your excitement. If you think you are not a squash person, I hope my enthusiasm encourages you to try at least one of them so that you can discover your deep-rooted passion for these vegetables.

Pumpkin Chocolate Oat Bars

Today is definitely Monday… the WiFi is out at our apartment, and my work email was hacked…but who cares because today is the first day of October! In my mind it’s officially Fall and I’m ready to bake pumpkin everything. Trader Joe’s is my pumpkin dealer of choice, and whenever I’m there I make sure to pick up a [few] bag[s] of their chocolate chunks because they’re better than regular old chocolate chips in so many ways.

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These pumpkin chocolate oat bars are on my Favorite Recipes list because they are gluten-free, low in fat, perfect for breakfast on the go, and full of pumpkin spice goodness. These bars are also nut-free (s/o to Abby and Lia), but you can include pecans or almonds if you choose. If you’d like to make them vegan, all you have to swap out is the chocolate chips- either omit entirely or make sure to use vegan chips.

Whatever your dietary restrictions/level of pumpkin fanaticism, these bars are proven to make any Monday better, so give them a try and let me know how they turn out!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Oat Bars

makes about 12 servings

3 1/2 C old fashioned rolled oats

2 1/2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 3/4 t pumpkin pie spice

1/2 t cinnamon

1 14 oz can (or 1 1/2 C) canned pumpkin puree

1/2 C pure maple syrup

1/4 C honey

2 t vanilla extract

1/4 C unsweetened applesauce

1 T coconut oil or avocado oil

1/2 C chocolate chunks, plus more to sprinkle on top

Method:

Preheat oven to 350° and grease 9″ x 13″ pan.

Make oat flour! I use my Vitamix for this because it’s a quick and easy clean up, but you can also pulse in your food processor or just buy oat flour at the grocery store. 3 1/2 C of regular oats makes about 3 cups of oat flour if you’re making at home.

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In a large bowl, combine oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Whisk dry ingredients together. Next, add all wet ingredients- canned pumpkin, maple syrup, honey, vanilla extract, apple sauce, and oil. Fold together until combined and add chocolate chunks last. Spoon into prepared pan and sprinkle some more chocolate chunks on top. Don’t skimp 😉

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool partially before cutting into squares and serve warm. Enjoy!

*Tip: I like to store some squares in the freezer in ziplock bags for breakfast on weekday mornings. Just heat back up in the microwave on a plate or napkin for 20 seconds.

Overnight Oats

Breakfast makes me happy. I don’t trust people who don’t eat breakfast. Oh- you don’t wake up hungry? You’re lying.

Today’s reason to get out of bed was pumpkin overnight oats. Overnight oats is one of the most versatile breakfast recipes ever, and most importantly, my husband approves.

Pumpkin Overnight Oats

Overnight Oats (4 servings)

2 C Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 T chia seeds

3 C Milk (I use unsweetened almond)

2 T honey

Optional: 1/2 C pumpkin puree or greek yogurt, pumpkin pie spice, pretty fruit on top

Method

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate covered, overnight. Thank yourself the next morning.

*Pumpkin Pie Oats pictured above made with pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, fresh figs, and dehydrated coconut