Let’s talk about firsts. Not your first kiss. Or your first time. Nah, we don’t need to go there.

But for real, this might be my first holiday recipe posted before an actual holiday occurs. I mean unless you count the fact that I might have blogged some potato latkes in late 2012 which is technically before Hanukkah 2013, but naturally I’m talking about posting a recipe a week or two before a holiday so that someone else might actually be able to serve it on said holiday.

With that confession out of the way, here’s the next: I really might cry if you don’t even consider serving this at the end of your Rosh Hashanah meal (not that I’ll know, but still). And if you don’t celebrate Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), “Welcome Fall and All Things Apples” sounds like a perfectly good reason to celebrate with this cake. Does it not?

If a cheesecake made of cashews is a “first” for you, let’s get a few things straight. I do eat dairy, but I’m still trying to keep it in moderation and keep my diet packed with wholesome, clean ingredients with a variety of nutritional benefits – cashews and coconut oil being good examples. And, ever since I made these vegan blueberry cheesecakes, I’ve been dying to experiment with other varieties. But what else? A cashew cheesecake on Rosh Hashanah is a perfectly kosher way to celebrate! For those that don’t mix meat and milk, this is a dream come true.

I’ve made this darling *three* times already. Once because the first attempt didn’t fly as well as I hoped – but good enough to warrant tweaking the recipe. The second time was the winner! And the third time was because I couldn’t fathom not serving it at a little girly gathering I hosted this weekend. A gathering at which not a single lady had any reason to eat dairy-free or inclination to try vegan – but a gathering at which everyone raved about this cheesecake.

Not that this is technically vegan. Remember the title? Almost raw and vegan? I’m no expert in raw, vegan diets, but I do know that honey doesn’t qualify. Personally, I’m not a vegan. I like honey, and it’s traditional to serve with apples to celebrate our sweet new year. But should the fancy strike you, you can keep this totally raw and vegan by using agave syrup, or perhaps coconut nectar, instead of honey.

So the only question that remains is, when are you making this for the first time?

PS. If you want to make mini cheesecakes like I did, I highly recommend this nonstick mini cheesecake pan. Just like I’m glad I kept tweaking this recipe to get it right, I’m glad I gave this pan another shot. You see, I’ve owned it for a couple years and tried and tried again, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown away batches of traditional baked cheesecakes. No matter how low and slow I tried to bake them, they’d always fall and crack into ugly little messes – and get even uglier when I tried to push them out of the pan. It turns out I should have been making vegan, no-bake treats all along! I’ve also used it to make mini vegan chocolate mousse cakes and couldn’t get over how adorable and perfect they turned out

Amazingly perfect (looking AND tasting) vegan chocolate mousse cakes.
Recipe to come… someday!

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Dairy-Free Apple 'n Honey Cheesecake

A perfectly fall-inspired cheesecake that's delicious, easy, and made from wholesome, clean ingredients. It just happens to be dairy-free, too!

The amounts below make 1 6" cheesecake or 1 dozen mini cheesecakes. For a 9" spring form pan, double the crust and triple the filling.

Ingredients:

Crust
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dates
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoons honey*

Filling
1 cup cashews, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
1 cup dried apples, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
3 tablespoons soaking water from apples
1/4 cup honey*
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
big pinch of salt
3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil

Topping
1 cup dried apples, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
2 tablespoons soaking water from the apples
2 tablespoons honey*

*Substitute agave syrup or coconut nectar for vegan option

Directions:

Crust
Place the walnuts in a food processor and process until fine crumbs form, about 20 seconds. Add the dates and cinnamon and continue processing until everything is finely ground. Add honey and process again to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom of a spring form pan. Rinse out the food processor .

Filling
Drain the cashews and add to the food processor. Drain the apples, reserving the water, and add the apples, along with 3 tablespoons of the water. Add honey, lemon juice and lemon zest. Process the mixture, until nearly smooth and creamy. This will take up to 5 minutes and you will need to stop a few times to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. (The mixture may still be a bit grainy, as opposed to entirely smooth.) Add vanilla, cinnamon, salt and coconut oil and blend again until combined. Pour into the spring form pan over the crust and gently rap the pan on the counter top to help the filling settle in evenly. Cover and freeze overnight.

Transfer to the refrigerator 8-10 hours before serving.

Topping
Drain the apples, reserving the water, and add to food processor with 2 tablespoons reserved water and the honey. Process to combine, leaving the mixture a bit chunky. Spoon on top of the cheesecake or serve on the side.

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com

This post is linked to Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert and Dogs.