Chocolate-Pumpkin Mousse Pie

pumpkin chocolate mousse piePumpkin season may have started awhile ago, but I was sort of blanking out when it came to anything new I wanted to tackle in the pumpkin department. But then I got inspired by a vegan pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake I saw at Whole Foods and was immediately determined to make one of my own without any processed sugars or gluten.

When I first made this, I thought it was good. But it didn’t taste much like cheesecake. So I decided I would have to tweak it. But I liked it. And Gennaro liked it. “But it doesn’t taste much like cheesecake” I argued, explaining why I couldn’t post it on the blog. “No. It’s more like a chocolate mousse” Gennaro said. “I like chocolate mousse”, he added.

Who doesn’t?

And so it was confirmed, a fact I’ve long suspected: taste is in large part dictated by expectation. Ever taken a sip of, let’s say, orange juice, thinking for some reason you were drinking apple juice? Your brain will immediately alert you that something’s wrong, and you’re lucky if you don’t end up spitting it out. Because you weren’t expecting it!

While I didn’t spit this out at first, I took my first few bites disappointed that it didn’t taste like cheesecake as I’d hoped. But the more bites I took the more I decided I was liking this non-cheesecake concoction. And when Gennaro mentioned that it was like a chocolate mousse, I nodded in agreement. This was a description I could wrap my brain around. And suddenly, realizing that I was eating a chocolate mousse, I was loving this concoction and wanting more. Funny how the brain works, huh?

As I mentioned in my last post, my diet has shifted from more processed and higher-fat foods such as fake meats and cheeses to lower fat, whole foods. This pie definitely reflects that shift. While I did use tofu in this dish — which is technically a processed soy food — I tend to use soy overall in moderation, and always opt for organic, non-GMO soy. Even though I use soy in moderation (meaning I don’t have it daily, let alone for 3 meals a day!), I find that tofu is incomparable to other products when it comes to getting a really creamy texture without adding a lot of fat. Keeping the fat content of the filling relatively low was especially important to me considering that I used walnuts in the crust. Sure, walnuts are a very healthy monounsaturated fat sources that are high in omega-3s, but they’re still a high-fat food. And whenever using a high fat food in one part of a dish, I make an effort to keep the remainder of the dish lighter to balance things out. If nothing else, it’s for the simple purpose of keeping me from having a massive stomach ache after eating.

The pumpkin adds more to this dish texturally than it does flavor-wise. It’s certainly not the star of the dish, but I do taste it in a subtle way. Plus, it’s always nice hiding good sources of Vitamin A into delicious food (which seems to be a theme for me in these last few posts).

Note: For this photo, I took some extra crust that stuck to the bottom of the pan and used it to top the pie for serving. Feel free to make extra crust to use for topping if desired. 

Below are a few more of my pumpkin-based recipes you may wish to try:

Chocolate-Pumpkin Mousse Pie:

Crust:

1 1/2 cups raw walnuts

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

9 medjool dates, pitted

Filling:

14 oz. extra firm tofu, drained of excess liquid

1 15 oz. can organic pumpkin

2/3 cup coconut nectar

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Add all crust ingredients to a food processor fitted with sharp steel (S) blade. Process until ingredients begin to clump together in small clumps.

3. Pour crust ingredients into a 9″ springform pie pan or regular pie dish and distribute evenly. Press down until evenly covering bottom of dish.

4. Bake crust in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

5. While crust cools, add filling ingredients to a high-powered blender (such as Vitamix) and blend on medium to high until extremely smooth, like the texture of a thin mousse. Once crust has cooled, pour filling ingredients into crust and bake again at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until edges darken and begin to crack.

6. Let pie cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight before serving. Filling will firm up as it cools.

 

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Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

Having many unanswered questions in my life these days (like, when will I get a job? for example), anything that’s certain is a good thing. And if there’s one thing I’m certain of right now, it’s this: in my next life, I want to be Gwyneth Paltrow.

I mean, is there anything that woman hasn’t accomplished? Oscar-winning actress? Check. Wife of a rock star? Check.  Estee Lauder endorsement? Check. Hands-on mom? Check. Great singer? Check. Perfect body? Check.

I could go on, but it’s already getting old, right? Not to mention a bit sickening. Which is why, when Gwyneth started her perfect little lifestyle website, GOOP, a few years ago, it should have come as no surprise. Clearly whatever cosmic laws dictate that one cannot be good — or perfect, for that matter — at everything have mercifully evaded Ms. Paltrow.

All this is just about enough for me to want hate the woman, if I didn’t also think that if we ever met, we would be best friends forever (I would also totally settle to be the fifth wheel on a second season of Spain: On The Road Again). This theory was just about confirmed when I was reviewing some of GOOP’s past Thanksgiving recipes, and stumbled upon a recipe for pumpkin ice cream pie that had me drooling over my keyboard.

Turns out, it wasn’t too difficult for me to get to work on a gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan version of her pie. I already had a great crust recipe that I’d recently used for my key lime cheesecake — I merely swapped out the lime zest for some cinnamon. And thanks to Turtle Mountain‘s awesome Purely Decadent Vanilla Ice Cream, I also had a great base for the pumpkin ice cream filling. While this pie is not exactly diet food, the low-glycemic agave and almond and brown rice flour crust provide a nice antedote to the carb-loaded, usually fattening Thanksgiving day fare.

And just for the record, I am actually certain of many things these days. Like: I have a wonderful husband, dog and family — all of whom I am very, very thankful for this holiday season.

Serves: 8-10

A word of warning: this pie is best when made the day you’re going to eat it. While the crust could probably withstand a generous make-ahead schedule, the filling will get icy if left frozen for too long. My suggestion: either make the filling and freeze exactly three hours before you plan on serving it, or, if making well in advance, let thaw for a few hours in the refrigerator before serving. If you use the coconut-based Purely Decadent ice cream, and soy-free buttery spread,  this is a great soy-free, vegan alternative to pumpkin pie.

Crust:

1 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Almond Meal

1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Pumpkin Ice Cream Filling:

1 pint Purely Decadent Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (coconut milk-based), slightly softened

1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Prepare crust: add all crust ingredients to food processor fitted with a sharp steel blade and process until crust resembles the texture of damp sand. Turn out into a 9″ pie dish. Using the bottom of your measuring cup, press evenly into the bottom and along the edges of the dish (mixture is crumbly, so edges won’t look perfect — do the best you can). Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 (I needed about 25) minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

3. Prepare filling: using an electric hand or stand mixer, beat together ingredients for filling until smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust. Cover and freeze for 3 hours, or until filling has set (press gently on the center to make sure it’s not still really soft). Serve immediately.

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Key Lime Cheesecake

When I was younger, I was the girl who listened to exclusively broadway musicals, who didn’t have cable, and who read books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights at the age of 10. So, when a friend invited me to a Bare Naked Ladies concert with her (yes, I still managed to have at least some friends), I was surprised to find out that, not only were these “ladies” not at all naked, but that they were actually men.

I guess you could call this recipe the Bare Naked Ladies of key lime cheesecakes. Not only did I not use key limes (just the normal, everyday variety), but I also didn’t use any cheese. Or cheese substitute. And Gennaro was a little thrown off by my initial cheesecake description because he said the texture is somewhere between a key lime pie and a cheesecake. But what was I going to call this, Regular Lime Cheesecake-Like Tofu Thing? Key lime cheesecake was much more simple.

In my last post I mentioned my never-ending (and never accomplished) to-do list. In addition to that, I could have mentioned snaping photos at the Union Square Greenmarket, which wouldn’t exactly be fair, because it has become more of a hobby ( an escape from the to-dos in my life) than anything else. Some of my prints are available on smugmug (I also provided a link in my sidebar). I went to a local art supply store yesterday, which, incidentally, was filled with NYU art students and made me realize that in my next life, I want to be an artist. Anyways, I found out that you can purchase some pretty cheap 8×10″ mattes that fit 5×7 photos. Once my prints were matted, I slipped them into some clear, 8.5×11.25″ clear slips and sealed them (also available at art supply stores or paper supply stores). Before I knew it, I had some professional-looking photos, and that was it for my Christmas shopping. It’s feeling like a homemade gift kind of year…

So, a final word on my Bare Naked Cheesecake. I’ve been working on a cheescake-ish dish for awhile. I discovered the recipe for the perfect crust, and have been tinkering with the filling ever since, which is where things have gotten tricky. You see, my crust calls for 1/2 cup of almond meal, and another 1/4 cup of Earth Balance. That’s 3/4 of a cup of fat-filled ingredients. They may be mostly good fats, but they’re calories nonetheless, which is why it was my goal to stay as low-fat as possible for the filling. While coconut oil and processed dairy-free cream cheese may have made excellent additions here, I went with agar flakes, which provide a firm texture without any added fat or calories. So while this might not taste or feel exactly like a “real” cheesecake (though I think the crust is as close a gluten-free, sugar-free substitute as you can get…) you can rest knowing it’s much, much better for you as well.

I’m also off agave (again) after this dessert, and I tried to go easy on it as it was. You could definitely up the sweetness if you wish, but as a serving suggestion, I recommend making the recupe as-is and drizzing some agave on the top to serve, for those who want it.

The Perfect Cheesecake Crust:

1 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Almond Meal (or similar brand)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (cold; tightly packed)

2 tablespoons agave nectar

zest of one lime

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Add all ingredients to a food processor fitted with a sharp, steel blade. Process until the crust is the texture of damp sand. Turn out into a 9″ nonstick springform pan (you may need to pre-grease if not non-stick). Press evenly into the bottom of pan and slightly up the sides of the pan, using the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until browned evenly along the edges. Let cool.

Lime Filling:

I used mango in the filling to add bulk and to enhance the tropical flavor. My mango was barely ripe, so it did not do much to change the texture or sweetness of the dish. The riper the mango you use, the more sweet and dark your cheesecake will likely turn out, and the more the mango flavor will come out (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

1/2 cup water

9 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice (requires about 2-3 limes, depending on size and juciness)

1 tablespoon agar-agar flakes

1 16-oz. package firm tofu

1 cup not-too-ripe mango, diced

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup agave nectar

zest of 1 lime

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, bring water, lime juice and agar flakes to a boil. Whisk until agar is dissolved. Reduce to a simmer and, using fingers, crumble tofu into saucepan. Stir to combine and heat until tofu is heated through.

2. Pour ingredients from saucepan into a food processor fitted with a sharp, steel blade or a high-speed blender. Process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and process again until smooth. Pour mixture over pre-baked crust and place in refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours or up to 8 hours (the longer, the better, to enhance the flavor) before serving.

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Low Fat Pumpkin Mousse Pie

pumpkin mousse pie 2My mom commented on the amount of buttery spread I had used in my lemon coconut pie crust. But pie crusts by definition contain butter, I thought. Then I thought some more. Was that really the case? After putting the dates I had been saving to make muffins to experimental use, I discovered pie crust can be more than a butter-ladden treat, and so much less fattening as a result. Then, the healthy pie crust  idea inspired a  health-conscious filling to match. I read somewhere that pumpkin is one of those super healthy things that people don’t eat enough of. In keeping with the theme, I added a whole can, along with silken tofu, to the filling. Healthy crust? Healthy filling? Before you run for your lives, I offer you this: I made this for a recent family party and even some of the non allergy-plagued guests counted this dessert among their favorites. If that doesn’t convince, I offer this: I don’t actually like pumpkin pie. In fact, I usually despise it. I loved this one.

If you avoid oats for fear of cross-contamination, try Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats. They test all of their oats to make sure they don’t have a trace of gluten, and process them using completely gluten free facilites. If you simply can’t tolerate oats altogether, well, I’m still working on a good, cripsy crust that’s gluten-free, vegan, and still tasty. It may take awhile, but I’m determined to do it, so check back in often!

Ingredients:

Crust:

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill dry rolled oats

1 cup dates

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling:

1 12-oz. package Mori Nu extra firm silken tofu

1 15-oz. can pumpkin

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Place all ingredients for crust in a food processor and blend until a large clump forms. Using fingers, press evenly into a 9″ pie pan. Bake for 22 minutes. After crust has baked, set aside to cool.

3. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients for filling. When crust has cooled, pour in filling and chill in refrigerator overnight.

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