Raw Cashew Cheesecake

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As I sit here typing on my couch, I’m bouncing back and forth between reading emails and writing this blog post. I’ve just received a congratulatory email from wordpress because it seems I’ve had this blog for one whole year now! It’s been a productive year filled with fun, creativity, and self-expression. There are many more avenues I’d like to explore in this coming year, and as I’m realizing, it truly is possible to achieve what you set out for, once you get the ball rolling.  I included a quote in one of my earliest posts about the best way to get something down is to begin, and it couldn’t be more true. When I told everyone (via Facebook) that I had created a health food blog, I had one recipe posted and no real plans on the horizon. But that was okay, because announcing it was the catapult I needed in order to keep moving forward. I didn’t have any definitive plans, nor recipes up my sleeve, but the more energy I put into it, the more the ideas kept flowing. I have no idea what 2015 will bring for balanced bella, but I do know that if my excitement continues, so will my ideas and successes.

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On another note, I don’t often use this social media channel as a soapbox, but perhaps I’ll be allowed annually on my blog’s anniversary (no? okay, then just this once…) Few things upset me more than the idea of animals being caged, bullied, and used in a way that suggests they’ve experienced their fair share of pain and fear (circuses, zoos, aquariums, horse carriage rides, etc.), and for those who believe they’re just animals and don’t know any better – I suggest you just stop reading my blog and spend this time doing some much needed soul searching because I strongly believe that animals are far more intuitive than us and have much to teach us humans. So as I was saying…fewer things upset me more… Last week, I took my fourth grade class on a trip to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The Rockettes, singers, dancers, and actors were amazing, unbelievably amazing; however, during the last ten minutes of the show, camels and sheep were brought on stage for the nativity scene, and it just didn’t make sense to me. It did not enhance the show in any way, only hindered what would have been a superb show. I couldn’t help wonder where these animals go/stay in between shows. I wrote a letter to Radio City but have yet to hear back from them…

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Thank you for letting me vent, and if you needed to skip over that last paragraph, so be it. I’m finished now. Let’s talk food. I’ve been wanting to create a cashew cheesecake for months now. I continuously buy raw cashews for this purpose, but find myself using them for different reasons because of a preconceived notion that this project would be difficult. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. On Saturday, I sat down and thought about what I had in my kitchen that could be created into a recipe and shared on my blog. We recently bought pomegranates and I thought they’d be a gorgeously festive food to photograph. Then I began wondering what I could make in order to use them. A salad? Nah. But then the idea of a cheesecake came to mind and I thought…well, I don’t have that much to do today. That idea was moot anyway, once I realized how simple it was.

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I added water to a bowl of cashews and left my house to go holiday shopping. I came home a few hours later and made the crust and filling.  A total of about 9 minutes. Then I put it in the freezer overnight. The amount of manual labor that went into this is laughable. It took me longer to photograph it than actually make it. And the best part…it’s completely raw, undeniably healthy, and unbelievably delectable.

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Ingredients:

Filling

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 7 Tbsp coconut oil (at room temperature – liquid state)
  • 7 Tbsp maple syrup
  • optional: pinch of salt
  • optional: 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used this; If you don’t, then it will be completely raw.)

Crust

  • 3/4 cup packed dates, pits removed (about 10)
  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds

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Steps:

Filling

  1. In a bowl, add about two cups of water to the cashews, enough to cover, and set aside for 3-4 hours, or overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the cashews and place in the blender/food processor. Add in all other ingredients and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour filling onto crust and freeze for 3-4 hours, or overnight.
  4. Top with your favorite ingredients: slivered almonds, pomegranate, coconut, etc. I blended a cup of frozen berries with a splash of almond milk to make a sorbet spread!

Crust

  1. In a food processor or blender, add the pitted dates and nuts. Mix until they form a sticky substance.
  2. Place wax paper over a pie dish and place crust mixture on top, spreading it out using your fingers.

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Hot Chocolate (& This Week’s Balanced Bag Lunch)

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Hot chocolate is to winter as pineapple mango smoothies are to summer. A co-worker of mine just asked me if I’ve posted any smoothie recipes lately. Although I wish I was able to drink smoothies and green juices all day every day, I just can’t wake up during these December, New York mornings and say, “Mmm, I can’t wait to drink an iced cold watermelon, raspberry, almond milk smoothie.” (On a side note, my father actually does. I’m talking about real deal, lentil-oatmeal-banana-chia seeds-hemp-pineapple-blueberry-orange-spinach-cinnamon kinda smoothies. And he lives in Pennsylvania where it snowed over a foot last weekend. Just sayin…) I made this hot chocolate recipe a lot last winter and I kind of forgot about it until the other night. It takes about 3 minutes and entails just 3 ingredients.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp cacao powder

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Steps:

  1. On medium/low heat, whisk all ingredients together until completely blended. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. Taste for sweetness.

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On another note, we have another balanced bag lunch to discuss! Although last week I had to devote each minute I was home to baking for a holiday boutique, I’m happy to get back to the bb lunches. So, let’s get into it. In this week’s lunch there will be:

  • a pint of coconut pumpkin “risotto” with beans and peas
  • a large fudge black bean brownie (my favorite)
  • a bottle of water

Pick-up times are between 6-8 pm on Wednesday evening. For those balanced co-workers of mine who are interested, I’ll be bringing the lunches to work Thursday morning. If interested in ordering, you can send me a message via the contact tab at the top of this page, message me on Facebook at Jaime Witkowski, email me at balancedbella@gmail.com, or send me a text if you have my number. You can also check out what the coconut pumpkin risotto will look like by viewing the recipe here. I’ll be showcasing some new and decadent packaged baked goods this Sunday at Ms. Elaine’s Dance Studio here in Rockaway, so hopefully I’ll see some of you local people there!  I haven’t started baking for that yet, but if you have a favorite recipe, let me know in the comments below and I’ll make sure to have it there : )

Last Thursday night at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club's Holiday Boutique <3
Last Thursday night at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club’s Holiday Boutique ❤

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