Cooking the Thanksgiving feast can be a challenge when you have special diets to consider. Don’t stress when, at the last minute, you learn one of your holiday guests is vegan, or gluten free, or lactose intolerant – I have a solution for you!
I could not believe the disparaging and obnoxious comments I saw on a Thanksgiving roundup of side dishes for special diets (vegan, gluten free, paleo) on BuzzFeed. Remarks such as “give it a rest for one day” or “we’re having a traditional Thanksgiving and all the vegans can bring their own food” was not only shocking to me, but absolutely not the spirit of the holiday! Any genteel entertainer’s primary objective is for guests to feel comfortable and welcome in their home and to depart pleasantly happy and satisfied.
Be a shining star on a day that can be awkward for so many people with diet restrictions. With the help of The Hain Celestial Group’s Coconut Dream™, I whipped up this amazing dessert that ALL your guests will want to devour, but is actually designed to make your vegan guests feel really special. It’s also gluten free, diary-free, low sodium and delicious! AND, it doesn’t require baking, so no need to juggle oven space or time.
For the holidays, my objective was to create a recipe that has all the seasonal flavors and taste memory of traditional pumpkin desserts and highlight this celebration of thankfulness for how fortunate we are and for the people in our lives, with a simply sensational dessert that even non-vegans will want to gobble up (hehe).
Violà, this creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake with a pecan-cacao crust is vegan, gluten free, soy free, and dairy free – its velvety texture is achieved from a mixture of plain Coconut Dream dairy-free yogurt, organic pumpkin and a bit of vegan cream cheese with an abundance of warming spices for maximum flavor. Coarsely ground pecans and organic Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa adds crunchy texture and the delightfully chocolate nuttiness plays beautifully with spiced pumpkin. Top with vegan whipped cream, a crispy ginger snap cookie (not gluten free) and these incredible handmade coconut marshmallows found at Whole Foods, and I was in lactose-free heaven!
- 1 cup crushed pecans
- ¼ cup flaxseed meal
- ¼ cup organic cocoa powder
- 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup organic pumpkin purée
- ½ cup plain Coconut Dream yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons vegan cream cheese*
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon garam masala* cloves can be substituted
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- Garnish with mini ginger snaps and handmade marshamallows optional
Chop pecans in a food processor - I have a mini processor that is great for this. Remove and measure out 1 cup, reserving any remaining chopped pecans for another use. Add the cup of chopped pecans and remaining crust ingredients together in a food processor until it starts to come together.
Using a tablespoon or melon baller, add a rounded scoop to each serving glass, press down with the spoon or a muddler to flatten the crust and bring some up the side of the glasses. Set aside while you making the filling. Save any remaining pecan-cocoa mixture to sprinkle on yogurt for a breakfast treat.
In a food processor or mixer blend together the filling ingredients and blend until totally smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor as necessary. Spoon the filling into the glasses. Place the mini cheesecakes in the freezer until solid all the way through - at least 2 hours.
When frozen, transfer the desserts to the refrigerator until ready to serve. To serve, spoon a dollop of non-dairy whipping cream on top and garnish with a ginger snap.
* I used Go Veggie plain vegan spread and SO Delicious dairy-free Coco-Whip.
* Garam masala adds a touch of exotic spices beyond just cloves and can be found in the spice section of your market.
I first tried Coconut Dream and Almond Dream at the Natural Products Expo in L.A. earlier this year and last week I received a giant box of Almond Dream and Coconut Dream non-dairy yogurt from The Hain-Celestial Group to play with. With a similar consistency to that of lowfat yogurt, the Dream® line is a delicious non-dairy substitute for yogurt. Available in five sweet and fresh flavors of coconut-based yogurt: Plain, Vanilla, Strawberry, Blueberry and Raspberry, this non-dairy yogurt is made from real coconuts, is high in calcium, low in sodium and contains live and active cultures. COCONUT DREAM™ Non-Dairy Yogurt is also vegan, made with non-GMO ingredients, and free of gluten, lactose and soy.
Disclosure: I love anything coconut and was compensated by The Hain Celestial Group for developing this recipe. All opinions are my own.