Raw, vegan and 'healthy' desserts are an excellent way to eat delicious treats while still ensuring we're eating whole-foods and avoiding over-processed ingredients, but it is important to know that we can easily go overboard on healthy desserts.
Although these foods are unrefined options, and they are so readily available everywhere, they still have to be treated as what they are – treats! Although healthy, these desserts can still be high in fat, and can contain a high amount of sugar. Unrefined sugar, sure, but it will still spike your blood sugar and raise insulin, and if you don't use it for energy, it will still end up being stored as fat.
With many raw desserts sweetened with ingredients such as dates, which contain more than one third fructose and have a total sugar content over 60 per cent, it is the sugar content that poses the greatest danger to your health and weight maintenance, even if it comes in a 'healthy form'.
Putting sugar aside, fats are another consideration when it comes to healthy desserts. While we now know that healthy fats are essential to a well-balanced diet, it is important to realise that the amount of energy (calories) we're consuming always needs to be taken into consideration. Many ingredients in healthy desserts are high in fat, such as nuts, nut butters and coconut oils – these are wonderful additions to the diet, but be aware that you are taking in large amounts of energy with them if you're always having them as a dessert.
For those of you trying to moderate your sweet tooth, the content of your raw/healthy desserts should be chosen with care. If you're looking for a healthy dessert, make sure you eat it as occasionally as you would a normal dessert - so if you're making your own, or out in a healthy cafe, sharing is caring! Don't have a large amount just because of its 'health halo'.
Keeping this in mind, I've developed a somewhat less-sweet vegan cheesecake than most other recipes out there at the moment. I've also added a vegetable in there - yes! Veg. Can you guess what it is? (You can't taste it, I promise!)
I'll stop talking now... Here's the recipe!
Vegan Vanilla & Choc Cheesecake!
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: Nil
Vanilla cheesecake layer:
2 C cashews, soaked in cold water for at least four hours or overnight
1 medium white potato, peeled and boiled (yep, potato!)
½ C coconut milk
⅓ C rice malt syrup (use golden syrup for a cheaper option)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Line a 20x4cm cake pan with baking paper and set aside.
For the crust: In a food processor (I use a NutriBullet), add the almonds, pitted dates, coconut oil, cinnamon and salt and pulverise until it comes together into a sort of sticky dough, with small almond bits remaining. Don’t over process, or it’ll turn into nut butter! Press this dough evenly along the bottom of the prepared pan.
For the vanilla cheesecake layer: In the same food processor or high-powered blender (no need to wash between), combine all of the vanilla layer ingredients and blend for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture is silky smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides as necessary. You may need to add a bit more coconut milk or lemon juice to get it to blend smoothly if your blender isn’t super high-powered. Add this layer to your crust in the pan, and place in the freezer for 1 - 2 hours.
For the chocolate layer: Melt the dark chocolate with the coconut oil over boiling water, or on low in the microwave.
Place the chocolate layer mixture on top on the vanilla layer (making sure it is firm enough so the mixtures don't get mixed up)
Place the filled pan in the freezer for a few hours.
Once set, pop the cheesecake out of the pan, get rid of the baking paper and cut up your cheesecake into small bite sized triangles or rectangles. Keep it stored in the fridge.
Joyce Haddad, Director of A Dietitian's Mission, is an Adelaide based Dietitian, Nutritionist and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. ADM aims to help the public make informed and realistic nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food.