The Great Pumpkin: Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits
When he came up the story line of The Great Pumpkin I wonder if Charles Schultz knew that someday millions of people would develop a “Linus Alter-Ego”? I, along with a host of others, look forward to all things pumpkin during the harvest season.
The Great Pumpkin is a holiday figure in whom only Linus van Pelt believes. Every year, Linus sits in a pumpkin patch on Halloween night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Invariably, the Great Pumpkin fails to turn up, but a humiliated but undefeated Linus vows to wait for him again the following Halloween. I can relate.
I really look forward to this time of the year. I’m in the habit of buying a few baby pumpkins every time I go to my favorite Amish farm stand. I bake them and freeze the puree to use in baked goodies all year round. I use pumpkin puree in place of applesauce and bananas because it doesn’t impart a fruity flavor to brownies and chocolate cake. I do like pumpkin scones and, now, these Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits. This recipe was inspired by one that I saw on Facebook . The filling is made with pumpkin, cream cheese, whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk and frozen whipped topping; and the crust had graham crackers, butter and sugar. Yikes! It looked so creamy, spicy and decadent. How could I not try to make this work for me?
It was actually easier than I expected. For the crust I used a mixture of graham crackers and pecans. The fat from the pecans allowed the crust to clump up so that it could stick together in the bottom of a glass. No extra sugar is necessary as the graham crackers are sweet right out of the box. The filling was made with pumpkin, raw cashews, extra firm tofu, brown sugar, lemon juice/lactic acid and pumpkin pie spice. The combination of cashews and lemon juice are what I use as a cream cheese replacement and the tofu gives it a lighter feel. Lactic acid is similar to lemon juice as it adds to the tangy flavor of non-dairy foods. (The one I use is made from sugar beets. You can omit this and simply add more lemon juice.) I used brown sugar on my first go-around. My second attempt was made with dates. Both came out equally delicious, so the choice is yours to use sugar or dates. I processed the filling in a high-powered blender to get a super smooth texture. I can’t say that I would trust a regular blender or a food processor to get these same silky results. The pecan-graham crumble adds a nice textural contrast to the dreamy, creamy pumpkin filling. You can really have fun by dressing up these parfaits by sprinkling candied pecans, granola, crystallized ginger or more graham cracker crumble. It’s all good.
So, the moral of the story is to be like Linus and never give up. Adopting a plant-based diet over five years ago was certainly a challenge for a foodie like me. I’ve had a few disappointing meals and several melt-downs since. I’ve learned to walk away from those recipes that just won’t work for me and move on to ones that do. It’s what keeps me going down this path to wellness. Feed your Linus alter-ego with these Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits
½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
8 oz. extra firm tofu, pressed
1 cup pumpkin
½ cup brown sugar (3/4 cup dates)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon lactic acid (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of salt
1 sleeve of graham crackers
1 cup pecans
Place all filling ingredients in high-powered blender and process until smooth. Remove to covered container and refrigerate.
Place graham crackers and pecans in a mini-chopper or food processor. Process until the crackers and nuts are finely ground and begin to clump.
Place one or two tablespoons of crust into a small glass or ramekin. Press down with an espresso tamper or your fingers. Spoon or pipe the filling into the glass until the glass is full. Refrigerate until ready to serve.