Happy Birthday to my momma! This cheesecake is an ode to her since she’s a lover of all things lemon! Unfortunately she’s in Chicago and I’m in Calgary (sad face), but next time I see her, this is what I’m making cuz it’s gooooood! And the best part? It’s naturally sweetened, full of mood-boosting omega-3s and healthy fats, and totally vegan and gluten free. So there’s really no reason NOT to make this cheesecake.
Eating enough omega-3s and healthy fats is soooo important for maintaining a healthy and happy brain because our brains are made up of mostly fat. And our bodies don’t produce these types of fat molecules so we need to eat them every day! Omega 3’s are essential for cell structure and necessary for neurotransmitters to function correctly (Read all about it, here). Since the neurotransmitters need to actually attach to the cell receptors, which are also mostly fat, getting enough healthy fats supports this process so that we can actually use those happy hormones that are being transmitted.
The main ingredients here are all about making you feel happier, like cashews. Cashews are among the highest ranking sources of Omega-3s for the nut department, along with almonds (found in the crust) and walnuts (could easily sub for almonds). Cashews also contain a large amount of tryptophan, which the body breaks down into serotonin, known as the happy hormone for its positive effects on energy level, depression, and feelings of anxiety, stress, and sadness. Those are all symptoms of depression, so it’s no wonder getting more tryptophan in the diet is key! Tryptophan does the same thing that antidepressants do in regards to serotonin levels. I’m not saying drugs aren’t necessary at times, but if you have a mild case of depression or are just feeling sad, low, and sluggish lately, it might be something you can improve with diet alone. And of course, I’m not a doctor, so talk to yours before starting or stopping any medications!!
The other awesome mood-boosting ingredient I’d like to highlight here is coconut. We’ve got three doses of this wonder-food here in the form of coconut milk, coconut oil, and coconut flakes.
It’s a triple threat people!
Low levels of fat in the brain have been linked to depression, Alzheimers, and memory loss, and coconut oil has been given credit for some pretty amazing Alzheimers research. The healthy fats it contains are so essential to our brain function! Coconut milk has a lot of magnesium, which is a common deficiency in people with depression, and also a common deficiency among about 80% of North Americans, apparently. Low magnesium levels have also been linked to low energy and anxiety, neither of which I’m fond of. You?
So. What can we conclude??!!
You should totally make this!
It’s elegant, fancy, and really just a taste of summer sunshine. And who doesn’t love sunshine?!
Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker
- For the Crust:
- 1½ cups ground almonds
- 1½ cups soft pitted dates. If your dates are not soft, soak in hot water for 5 minutes, then drain.
- ¾ cup shredded unsweetened coconut flakes
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- For the Filling:
- 3 cups raw cashews, pre-soaked
- 2 cups coconut cream (from 2 14 oz. cans coconut milk) *see instructions for details
- 1 cup maple syrup
- ⅔ cup melted coconut oil
- juice and zest of 3 lemons (about ½ cup of juice)
- toasted coconut flakes and additional lemon zest for garnish, optional
- Start by preparing your cashews. You can either soak them in room temperature water for at least 4-6 hours, or you can cover them with boiling water and soak for one hour in the hot water. I've tried both methods and both work equally well.
- To prepare your crust; ground almonds in a food processor.
- Add dates, coconut flakes, maple syrup and salt to the almonds in the food processor and grind until everything is uniformly combined and is sticking together.
- Press the dough evenly into the bottom of a 9 inch spring form cheesecake pan. Place in the refrigerator to set while you make the filling.
- For the filling: scoop the "cream" part of the coconut milk out of each can. Each can should yield about 1 cup of coconut cream. Save the remaining liquid for a smoothie!
- Add the coconut cream, drained cashews, maple syrup, coconut oil, lemon juice and zest to a high speed blender. Blend on high for 2-3 minutes until smooth.
- Pour filling over the crust and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for 3 hours to set.
- When ready to eat, defrost on the counter for 20 minutes before removing the springform pan.
- To make toasted coconut, turn oven to broil and toast shredded unsweetened coconut flakes in oven for about 2 minutes. Remove, stir, and repeat until they are a golden colour. Watch carefully so they don't burn.
- Zest an additional lemon for topping as well, optional.
- Slice into pieces and serve semi-frozen, or defrost it completely in the refridgerator.
- Keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days, defrosted.
- This cake will not lose it's shape if kept in the refrigerator!
- If not eating the whole thing at once, cut into pieces, store in the freezer and take out individual servings as needed.