Ah, spring. The time of year when the earth thaws, becomes a mud-luscious wonderland, and bursts with an infinitely varied and beautiful bounty of flowers and food. Oh, yeah…and I have to shave my legs again. Shaving is an odd sort of thing to do. I’ve spent hours debating with fellow earthlings the absurdities of razoring off thousands of little hairs every day for the sake of being feminine or accepted or female or whatever. Newsflash to the male population: women have hair…LIKE ALL OVER THEIR BODY. Crazy, right? We aren’t hairless chihuahuas with pink nails and floral aromas wafting from every orifice like you may have previously believed. The whole advent of shaving was more to do with preventing the spread of disease than aesthetics. But now that we all bathe like crazy and spray the earth with poisons, we are more likely to contract a form of cancer than an infestation of lice. I’m not saying that I never shave, but I don’t like it. Not one bit. And I think we should start a revolution and all be furry beasts together. Amen.
So instead of shaving your legs today, why not use that extra ten minutes to whip up this lovely recipe for rawesome lemon bars? Bursting with lemony goodness and a creamy filling that tastes downright sinful, you will be happy to indulge in this treat while wearing a very long skirt. Hippie.
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup melted refined coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut nectar
Large pinch of sea salt
For the filling:
1 1/4 cups raw pine nuts, soaked for at least an hour but preferably several
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/3-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut nectar
1/4 cup refined coconut oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Gently toast almonds or almond flour in a dry skillet over a low flame until fragrant. Combine crust ingredients in a mixing bowl, then press into square cake pan or pan of choosing. Add the filling ingredients to a high speed blender and puree on high until smooth and whipped. Chill filling in the fridge for 30 minutes, then pour into square pan. Top with more zest, then cover and place in fridge. Tastes best when allowed to chill for an hour or so. Makes enough for 8 unicorns with shaving nicks down their legs.
I will withhold my urge to shout out my feelings regarding this hallmark holiday of consumer ignorance, and will instead make desserts shaped into hearts. But can I just make one suggestion? Instead of spending your dollars on pesticide-laden roses and sugar-filled chocolates, make this day about telling others how much they mean to you. In my opinion, the best way to show your love for another person is to cook for them (and massage their feet…AFTER dinner, obviously). If however, you still feel the pressure of splurging on material gifts, please support local, greener companies. And hey, who says chocolates need milk in them to taste out of this world amazing? Check out Dee’s One Smart Cookie in Glastonbury or order online from Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz, NY.
But before I share my scrumptious gingerbread cheesecake recipe, I want to tell you about two lovely restaurants that my husband and I recently visited…and adored. The first is Cafe Evolution in Northampton, MA, a gem of a vegan cafe and bakery with crazy good homemade bread and even crazier tempeh B.L.T.’s. The cafe is located in an old, warehouse a little outside downtown Northampton so it’s easy to park and there’s less of a chance of running over a hipster. The inside smells of wheatgrass, fresh bread and coffee…in a word, heaven! I ordered a housemade chai tea, which was delicately spiced and generously topped with frothy soymilk and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Then I had a bowl of their soup of the day, a partially pureed garbanzo bean and kale delight with subtle hints of curry. It was creamy and had loads of kale = perfection. For my main, I ordered a giant mixed lettuce salad with baked tofu and lemon tahini dressing. It was crisp and delicious, but Tom’s tempeh B.L.T. was the clear winner. Loaded with baked tempeh, creamy aioli, avocado, tomato, and lettuce – not to mention stuffed between two slices of their to die for homemade bread – made for one hell of a vegan sandwich. The best part of our visit, however, was when we were readying ourselves to leave, and came across a book in the children’s play area near the entrance to the restaurant. The book was called That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. I had heard of the book before, mostly because it caused quite a stir amongst conservative parenting groups concerned with the honest, no frills message to children on where our food comes from and how loving and intelligent these sentient beings really are. Tom and I read the entire book, which, in addition to being thoughtfully written and conveying the most inspiring message, was beautifully illustrated. I highly recommend picking up a copy!
The second restaurant we dined at was in Cambridge, MA, called Veggie Galaxy. Decorated with old vinyl, Elvis inspired artwork, and a Jetson’s feel, this funky diner was a refreshing find after countless bamboo-new-age-I-love-seaweed-karma type cafes. Don’t get me wrong, I love these places too, but sometimes a good retro hipster joint is just what the vegan nutritionist ordered. And speaking of vegan nutrition, the great thing about this place is the quality of the food. I expected a fast food vegan type of experience, but instead we were surprised by housemade ketchup, a baby arugula side dish, and a mouth watering housemade seitan reuben. I love reubens, but they are typically made with tempeh, so I was excited to try their seitan version. Spiced with fennel seed and homemade vegan cheese, this sandwich literally blew me away.
Now that you’re dreaming of seitan reubens and tempeh B.L.T.’s, why not make some rawesome gingerbread cheesecake hearts! I know that doesn’t make any sense, but hey, it’s Valentines Day! Cashews, dates, lemon juice, and a whole lot of gingerbread spices make this raw wonder a gluten free and vegan dream come true. All you need is a high speed blender (buy a VitaMix already!), a food processor, and heart shaped cookie cutters! Hooray for not having to bake!
Rawesome Gingerbread Cheesecake Hearts
For the crust:
1 cup cashews
¼ cup pecans
¼ cup almond meal
1 cup dates, pitted
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
Combine ingredients in a food processor and pulse until crumbly and moist.
For the filling:
1 ½ cups raw cashews, preferably soaked for an hour or up to overnight
2 T coconut nectar
2 T virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
up to ¼ cup water to facilitate blending
Combine and blend in a vita-mix or high speed blender until creamy. Allow to set in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. With a heart shaped cookie cutter, press crust into mold until it fills it up halfway. Press down firmly. Fill the rest of the mold with the cheesecake filling. While holding the mold, gently press on the bottom side of the cheesecake heart and push it out of the mold. Sprinkle a few crumbs of the crust mixture on top if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in freezer until ready to serve. Makes 10-12 hearts or enough for a small blessing of love sick unicorns. (A blessing is what you call a group of unicorns, in the same way that you call a group of buffalo a herd. Thank you Michael from The Fairy Shop in Boston, MA for that invaluable piece of unicorn knowledge!)