The fresh organic strawberries in Napa, California last week were sooooo tasty! It’s finally strawberry season here in Atlantic Canada too, but organic strawberries are not abundant around here. Our local grower at the end of our road (the only u-pick grower that I am aware of that is spray free), anticipates that they’ll be ready for u-pick next week. I can hardly wait!!! I used one of the last bags from last year’s harvest in my Rhubarb Strawberry Tart.
Health Benefits of Strawberries
Strawberries are so juicy and delicious and have a number of health benefits, including the following:
- A serving of strawberries has more than 100% of the daily requirement of vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for adrenal function, as it is depleted in times of stress, and it helps to boost the immune system.
- Polyphenols in berries have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
- Along with vitamin C, strawberries also contain a number of antioxidant flavonoids – anthocyanins, quercetin and kaempferol – that act as a defence against cancer.
- Anthocyanins, quercetin and kaempferol, as well catechins and ellagic acid help to decrease cardiovascular risk by inhibiting LDL (bad) cholesterol.
This recipe for Strawberry Cashew Cheesecake came about something like this: I was supposed to be writing a blog post about another recipe, and instead I found myself distractedly thinking: “It’s almost Canada Day. I should make a dessert recipe for Canada Day. Strawberries. Those fresh strawberries in the fridge. Strawberries are red. One of the Canada flag colors is red. I need something white too. What about a cashew cheesecake with a strawberry topping? Do I have everything I might need for a raw, vegan, paleo cheesecake? The main ingredients are dates, almonds, cashews, coconut cream, sweetener and chia seeds to set the top, and a few more things that I always have on hand. Oh, and lemon juice. I have frozen lemon juice cubes… it’s game time!” The self-talk continued. I moved away from my computer and to the freezer for nuts, and the creation (aka distraction) began. This recipe was the result.
If you ask me, grain-free desserts are so much easier to create than those with grain flours, and nut cheesecakes are the easiest of desserts. An added benefit is the health supporting benefits of nuts.
Health Benefits of Cashews
- Cashews are high in antioxidants to protect the heart from the ravages of free radicals
- Cashews are high in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, which is a mood enhancing neurotransmitter
- Cashews contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats
- Cashews contain 98% of the recommended daily allowance of copper. Copper is essential for iron absorption, and is necessary to make red blood cells and maintain integrity of the immune system. Copper deficiency can result in fatigue, weakness, increased susceptibility to infections, memory problems, osteoporosis and joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The first thing to do if you’re making this last minute, like I did, is to begin by soaking the cashews in hot water. Boil the water and cover the cashews to soften the nuts. This will help to make the cheesecake creamy and smooth.
Make the base layer while the cashews are soaking. If your dates are not soft you may want to put them in warm water for about 10 minutes to soften. Drain and pat dry the dates before using them in the recipe to keep the crust from being too wet.
If, on the other hand, your dates are plump and you don’t need to soak them, but the crumb mixture is too dry after you process all ingredients in the food processor, you can add a tiny bit of water to moisten the crumb mixture (1 tsp to 1 tbsp) before putting it into the springform pan. Put the base in the fridge to chill while you prepare the middle layer.
The cheesecake middle comes together in less than five minutes. Just drain the cashews and toss everything for the cheesecake layer into the food processor. Process until creamy, scraping down the sides midway through the processing. Pour the mixture into the pan, spread it out evenly, tap the pan to release air bubbles and place in freezer while making top layer.
The top layer is really just raw strawberry chia jam. If you don’t have a spice grinder you could use a mortar and pestle to grind the chia seeds. Mix the berry purée, chia seeds and honey and let it gel.
This creamy, dairy-free cashew cheesecake is simple to make and doesn’t require any cooking. You won’t miss the graham cracker crumbs, cream cheese, eggs and sugar that you’ll find in typical cheesecakes, and this cheesecake may just make you forget all about those traditional cheesecakes.
- 1 cup Medjool dates (about 10 dates)
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 2 tablespoons raw cacao
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 cups raw cashews (soaked and drained)
- 2/3 cups coconut cream (from full fat coconut milk without added emulsifiers)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 ½ cups strawberries (puréed)
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds (ground)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Soak cashews in room temperature water for at least four hours OR cover in boiling water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain.
- Add almonds to food processor and process them into a coarse meal. Remove pits from dates. Add dates, cacao and coconut oil and process until well combined and mixture sticks together when squeezed between your thumb and fingers. Press mixture into the bottom of an 8” springform pan. Chill while preparing the cheesecake layer.
- Drain cashews. Blend all ingredients in food processor until creamy. You may want to scrape down the sides of the food processor to be sure to get everything well blended. Pour over base layer in springform pan, tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles and put in freezer to set while preparing the top layer.
- Purée strawberries in a blender. Add strawberries to bowl. Grind chia seeds and add chia seeds and honey to strawberries. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, until purée thickens. Pour thickened strawberries over cheesecake layer. Chill in fridge for four hours.
Coconut cream: chill can of full fat coconut milk overnight so coconut cream will be at the top of the can and the liquid will be underneath. Remove solid cream from top to use in recipe and save the coconut liquid to add to a smoothie or other recipe.
I like to use white chia seeds for this recipe, but they can be more difficult to find, and regular chia seeds will work fine as well.