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Jun 16, 2016

No-bake "Cheesecakes" {gluten free + vegan}

One of my favorite dessert before going gluten-free was cheesecake. I used to love creating different flavors of cheesecakes for special occasions. Of course, they weren't dairy-free either so once we started managing Mason's milk allergy, cheesecakes have been a thing of the past.

While we have since found a scrumptious dairy- and gluten-free cheesecake made by Daiya Foods, it is still not the healthiest thing to eat on a regular basis. In order to have a healthier, guilt-free option to enjoy anytime I had a cheesecake craving, I created this no-bake, individual serving version. This recipe makes four individual servings.

I also inadvertently stumbled across a way to create a thicker, greek yogurt-like texture to my yogurt. I picked up a 16-ounce container of unsweetened plain coconut milk yogurt that was on sale and then realized I wouldn't be able to use it prior to the expiration date, so I placed it in the freezer. I wasn't really sure what was going to happen because of this, but decided I would thaw it in the fridge when I was ready to use it. Since it was on sale for a really good price, I wasn't too concerned about possibly having to toss it if it ended up weird.

Once I placed the container in the fridge and allowed it to thaw for several hours, I noticed that the liquid began to separate from the yogurt. I poured off the liquid and returned it to the fridge. After I realized that the texture of the yogurt was still good, just thicker without the excess liquid, I decided to try it again and see if I could make it work intentionally rather than just as a fluke. It worked!

Now, creating this thicker texture of strained yogurt has become one of my regular steps whenever I'm using the yogurt and want to add flavors to it. Once it is strained, I can add it to the blender with various flavors or spices, and blend it up to create a creamy, either sweet or savory, dip or sauce to use so many ways. I'm definitely going to use this technique the next time I make my ranch dressing so that it's more of a dip for fresh veggies.

No-bake Cheesecakes

One to two days in advance:
To strain your coconut milk yogurt, you will first need to freeze it solid. Once frozen, place the container in the refrigerator to thaw. As it thaws, the liquid will begin to separate from the yogurt, helping to create a thicker texture similar to a greek yogurt. After about 8 hours in the refrigerator carefully pour off the water and then return the container to the refrigerator. About another 4-6 hours later pour the container into a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and let more water drain off. You should be able to remove about 1/2-3/4 cup of liquid.

In a medium bowl, combine the ground wafer cookies, sugar and 3 Tbsp coconut oil. Divide the cookie mixture evenly between four small bowls and press to form a crust in the bottom.

In a blender or food processor, combine the strained yogurt, 1/4 cup coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Blend to combine well. The mixture should be thick. Top each crust with an equal amount of the yogurt filling. Top the bowls with plastic wrap and place in the freezer to set up for about 30 minutes. 

Top with fresh berries when ready to serve. (These will be more of a pudding-like texture than a thick cheesecake texture.)

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