My Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest feeds – the social networks I use the most – have been lately populated of gorgeous cheesecakes, or rather cheesefakes, as someone rightly renamed them, as they don’t actually feature any milk or cheese.
Totally devoid of butter, eggs and animal products in general, they might just be the perfect cakes to satisfy our sweet tooth in the summer months because, in addition to being lighter than a traditional cake, they don’t require using the oven to be cooked (they are, in fact, raw cakes).
I wrote “they might be” because, as a macrobiotic therapist and a supporter of conscious eating, i.e. based on one’s individual reactions, I’m used to listening to my body and feel the effects of food on my energy. And sure enough, whether I have it as a mid-afternoon snack or to indulge after-dinner cravings, after a slice of raw cake I find myself heavy and tired. So, I began to ask myself some questions and experimenting in my kitchen a few alternatives to the most popular “alternative” cake of the moment.
COCONUT, BEAUTIFUL COCONUT
Raw Cakes usually have a base of cashew nuts and dates, with a hint of vanilla and coconut oil to bind everything together, and a filling made by blending coconut yogurt or milk (the canned one sold in ethnic shops), or cashews soaked and mixed with a more or less natural sugar (usually agave or coconut sugar), chosen fruits and flavours (avocado and chocolate, mango, blueberry) and coconut oil to thicken. Certainly rich in flavour, but in fats too!
Hold on, I know what you’re going to tell me. I do know they are good fats: they are plant-based, the famous Omega 3 we hear so much about (and we will focus on another post on the importance and properties of these fats for our skin), but, as a scholar of Oriental Medicine, I learned that the effects of food on our bodies go far beyond the figures of individual molecules or those on nutritional charts.
Cashews and coconut (milk, yogurt, sugar and oil) are fat tropical foods, very yin (or expansive), and can even cause, or even worsen, skin problems. Moreover the skin, the organ of elimination par excellence, is particularly affected by any type of fat, which will deposit at a subcutaneous level and then come to the surface.
It is therefore wise to limit these ingredients to a very occasional consumption, leaving them at the latitudes and climate where nature make them grow, and focus on an ingredient that has been part of our diet for thousands of years, before we confined it in bird cages.
MILLET IS BETTER
Already in use by the Greeks and the Romans, millet is said to have built China: it seems that Mao and the Red Army survived only by eating millet during their tough campaign against the Japanese Invasion, and that millet bowls have constituted for centuries, before the introduction of rice, the staple food for the peoples of Asia and India.
Millet helps fighting the negative effects of overeating, removes “moisture” and inflammation from the body, strengthens the stomach and digestion, keeps at bay sweet cravings, helps in cases of asthma and respiratory diseases, strengthens skin and nails, helps the liver to support all of our immune system, promotes mental clarity: according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, millet is a true Superfood.
This is confirmed by Western medicine, which, observing it under the microscope, underlines its extraordinary protein intake (11.8g of protein per 100g!), in addition to minerals as calcium, silicon, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B, carotene, niacin, zinc, manganese and selenium. Moreover, it is naturally gluten-free, it has a low glycemic index and it is the only alkaline cereal.
Finally, as the icing on the cake, it strengthens the circulatory system, promoting a basic environment in our bodies, drying the excess of fluids: for these reasons millet is one of the best – and least known – allies in anti-cellulite strategies.
ZINC, SELENIUM AND VITAMIN A
Instead of the cashews, so common in raw cakes, I chose the very Italian almonds, sources of vitamin B and E, and of minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc, essential for the production of collagen, for the acceleration of cellular regeneration processes and, in general, for regulating the activity of skin glands.
In this cake they are combined with Brazilian nuts, rich in selenium, an essential antioxidant to fight the damages caused by free radicals and to support metabolism (4 nuts a day are enough to reach the recommended daily dose).
Vitamin A or retinol, which is essential in repairing the body tissues, is also fundamental for our skin: in this cake it is provided by dried apricots, which keep all the minerals (especially potassium) and the antioxidant properties of the fresh fruit, with the advantage of being available all year round. Do remember, however, to buy organic dried apricots which by law cannot contain sulfites, accountable for that beautiful vibrant – I dare say phosphorescent – orange color (organic apricots are usually brownish); sulfur compounds actually prevent oxidation and are also responsible for possible skin and lung problem.
As a decoration, I chose blueberries, another ingredient full of valuable vitamins for microcirculation.
Are you ready to follow me in a fully healthy – and even anti-cellulite – cheesecake? 🙂
Recipe: Millet and Almond Cheesecake
For the base:
1 cup oat flakes
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup of Brazilian nuts
3/4 cup organic dried apricots (sulfur-dioxide free)
1 pinch of salt
For the filling:
3/4 cup millet
3/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 organic lemons (juice + zest)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla pod
For the topping:
1 1/2 cup of organic, frozen blueberries
1/2 cup organic apple juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon agar-agar flakes
Soak the millet and the almonds (in separate containers) for the filling overnight.
For the base:
Rinse almonds and nuts under running water and, after removing the excess water, toast them in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When they begin to turn golden, add the oatmeal and toast all together, stirring occasionally, until they reach a brown color and a fragrant smell. Set aside and let cool.
For the filling:
Rinse the millet and cook it in a pot with two cups of water and a piece of kombu seaweed as big as a postage stamp (or half a teaspoon of salt), until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat, remove the lid and let it cool slightly.
Strain the almonds and nuts, rinse them well to remove all traces of anti-nutrients released into soaking water, strain them again and finely powder them in a food processor. Add the juice and zest of two lemons, vanilla, maple syrup and the millet while it’s still warm (if it’s too cold and dry, it will not give the same result once blended). Work the mixture with the food processor until you have a smooth and creamy texture. Transfer it to a bowl and set aside.
Back to the base:
Finely chop the nuts and toasted oats in the food processor, adding a pinch of salt, until you get an fairly even “flour” texture. With the processor running, add the dried apricots, one at a time: you’ll see a real dough forming beneath your eyes. Spread it in a 22 cm tart pan with removable bottom, lining also the edges. Pour the mixture of millet and almonds into the pan. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight.
For the topping:
Dissolve the agar-agar in cold apple juice. Put the cranberries, maple syrup, a pinch of salt and the liquid you just got in a pan over high heat, stirring constantly. Bring it to a boil and, lowering the flame, keep stirring for a few minutes, until the juice is not coagulated and has reached a soft but gelatinous consistency. Remove it from the heat, let it cool for a few minutes and sprinkle it on the cheesecake. Remember: it must not be too thick, because it will solidify on cooling.
You may also replace this decoration with some sugar free fruit jam (100% fruit) in the flavor you prefer. Enjoy!