Even traditional cheesecakes are difficult and complicated. Creating a recipe that doesn’t actually have cheese and qualifies as vegan, gluten free and raw requires a lot of research. But this turned out fabulous, and was so easy that it will become a favorite in no time.

Rhubarb is delicious when paired with citrus, and the orange is often overlooked for baked desserts. Orange, ginger and maple fuse in a savory pallet relish, so choosing the flavors for this experiment was easy. The real challenge was creating a firm consistency that qualifies as “cheesecake”. I’ve identified four key factors that create success:

  1. Use raw cashews as the base. Cashews form a very thick paste when blended–thicker than necessary, so adding fruits and flavors of choice is easier.
  2. Maple powder is just dehydrated maple syrup. (Who knew? I ran across this at the Great American Spice Co.) This cut down on the liquid even further.
  3. The xantham gum is a gluten free, vegan binder that doesn’t need to be heated, and is honestly, the most effective I’ve tried.
  4. Instead of adding an orange and all of it’s (delicious) juice, try a few drops of high quality oil. If you can’t find the oil, though, use orange zest. (Finally grated orange peel)

Ingredients:

Soak cashews in water for a few hours until they become white and plump. Drain completely and add to food processor or Vitamix. Add loosely chopped rhubarb, strawberries and the rest of the ingredients. Process on high speed for several minutes, until the batter is pureed.

Check for taste and consistency. Though it will thicken some in the refrigerator, it needs to stand up on it’s own here. If needed, add more xantham gum and blend for another minute. If you’d like a stronger ginger or orange flavor, experiment, but remember: a little goes a long way. If you’d like it sweeter, add another tbsp of maple powder.

For the crust,  you can use a gluten free prepared graham cracker crust. Or make your own. I found a box of Annie’s Graham Bunnies in the pantry. Put them in an old bread bag and use pastry roller to crush. Mix in a tablespoon of shortening and press into pie plate.

Place it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. It can also be frozen. When you serve it, garnish with orange or lemon zest (finely grated rind). And as your guests savor the first bite, let them know that this delicious dessert has no saturated fats or cholesterol and is full of protein, fiber, minerals and antioxidants.  My kids were too busy chowing down to hear the nutritional benefits, and my daughter’s only comment was: “Mom, this is so good, and I bet I know why! You didn’t add any veggies for once!”

I discretely smirked and decided not to mention that rhubarb is not a fruit. Game is always on, kids, and mommy just won another round.