Spoiler Alert: There is a recipe for a raw, vegan key lime cheesecake at the end of this post.
Now, before you start thinking I went full-on granola hippie since my last post, I have no qualms about cooking with full-fat butter and cream or eating a (very rare) steak. When you’re surrounded by really good food, by all means, eat it! But when I’m not planning an elaborate meal for friends or cooking something special for my husband, my normal diet is very…California. I eat salads, smoothies, and fruit whenever possible. How can I not when produce around these parts is so amazing?
I am so lucky to live in the Golden State: we have sunshine and beaches for days, but we also have forests, deserts, and mountains with snow. Accompanying all of this visual and climatic diversity is a pretty accessible bounty of fruits and vegetables that lends itself to a lot of healthier eating. However, if you’re traveling by car from Northern California to Southern California, you will find that certain gaps between SF and San Diego are severely lacking in healthy food choices. I planned ahead and prepared a cooler with two days worth of meals, including this Mexican Quinoa Bowl by Deliciously Ella, overnight oats, and a bag full of Rainbow Pad Thai by Oh She Glows, and hoped that we’d be able to continue to eat fairly healthy as we spent several days in Temecula wine country.
Now, just two weeks before we headed on our road adventure, we actually took a separate quick trip (by plane) to San Diego for a family event. After the indulgent weekend with my family in SD (we had pork, pork, and more pork), I found Northside Shack in Point Loma. This tiny cafe churns out big nutrition with their bright acai/pitaya bowls, delicious juice blends, and vitamin-packed smoothies. When we walked in, the entire place smelled like baking sweet potatoes – warm and comforting. The hubby ordered a detoxifying pitaya smoothie, I ordered a green juice, and we sat out front on two chairs (there’s no real seating in the cafe), thoroughly enjoying our acai & pitaya bowls topped with freshly cut-to-order fruit and chia/flax seeds. I could eat like this every morning.
Just before our flight back to SF, I wanted to grab a final meal from one of my favorite chain restaurants. Yep – chain restaurant! I became a huge fan of Native Foods Cafe over one Thanksgiving, when Jules and I were in Los Angeles and wanting a healthier meal after our giant family dinner. Native Foods is a plant-based restaurant with locations all over the place – everywhere, it seems, except the Bay Area. I make it a point to try and eat at Native Foods whenever I’m in an area that has one! The Ensalada Azteca is my favorite (especially when you add their “Native Chicken”) – but everything on their menu is pretty darn good, and I ended up buying the Native Foods Cafe cookbook just to learn how to make all the dressings they use.
During our wine country trip, we ended up in Los Angeles for a night. I wanted to start off my morning with something light and healthy, so we found ourselves at Juice Crafters in Brentwood. This is probably my favorite juice bar ever, and I try to make an effort to come here when I’m in the area! It is also located pretty close to another Native Foods location. I’m just saying.
Finally, we found ourselves in Temecula to visit wine country. Truth be told, there aren’t that many health food places in Temecula, or that many restaurants in general. But if you find yourself in the area, make time to go to Maurice Car’rie winery for their killer Brie bread and the Tempranillo and non-oaked Chardonnay.
There was wine. And more wine. And Mexican food. And more wine.
Our last evening in Temecula was spent in search of healthy food options. After traveling from SF to Temecula and stopping in Paso Robles, we’d been eating Mexican food, Lebanese food (random find in Temecula), and bar food (fried errythang) and quite honestly, I wanted something vegan. Since we were about to embark on a long drive home, I persuaded Jules to take me to a health food store.
BEST. DECISION. EVER.
We ended up at Organic Roots, a family-owned natural Market where I stocked up on purple garlic, cacao butter, kombucha, dried fruit, and other snacks for the drive. Oh, and the AVOCADOS. I lost my mind over these guys. How did this photo get so many likes on my Facebook page? Because people love a good avocado! Pretty much some of the best avocados I have had in my entire life. I was inspired to make this raw vegan cheesecake with these beauties when I got home.
This “cheesecake” is so good, that my dairy-loving husband couldn’t get enough of it. (Just be warned that since it contains a lot of nuts, it is calorie-dense, so be mindful of your portion sizes.) You’ll be addicted – consider yourself warned.
Raw Vegan Key Lime Cheesecake
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw walnuts
2 tsp. coconut sugar
1 tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt (or any sea salt is fine)
2 tbsp. shredded coconut flakes (preferably unsweetened)
2 tbsp. coconut nectar (you may use maple syrup or agave)
5 pitted Medjool dates
In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, pulse the nuts until they are finely ground. Add the sugar, salt, and coconut flakes, and pulse again to mix well. Next, add the dates and coconut nectar, and process until the mixture is evenly moist. Press the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan that has been greased with coconut oil to create the crust for your cheesecake.
1 large Hass avocado, pitted and peeled
1 1⁄2 cups raw cashews, soaked and drained
1⁄2 cup coconut oil, melted
1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (you can use regular lime juice too if you can’t find key limes)
1⁄2 cup coconut nectar or pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lime zest
Combine all ingredients in a blender (preferably, a high powered blender like a Vitamix). Pour the mixture evenly over the crust and use a spatula to smooth out the top. Cover with cling film and put the entire thing into the freezer for an hour or so, until it sets. You can serve it slightly frozen (it will have the consistency of an ice cream cake), or you can let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes so it has more of a traditional cheesecake texture.