Grain-Free Yogurt Cheesecake from Heaven

Just because I often lay the smack-down on sugar does not mean I don't have a sweet tooth.  Ah yes, the truth comes out!  Honestly I don't know anyone who doesn't enjoy the taste of sweetness across their tongue.  However, the difference between my sweet tooth and those of people who crave something sweet after every meal (and often before) is that my need for sweet is quite minimal.  Now before you begin to curse my name you must know it hasn't always been this way.  In fact, I used to have a major sweet tooth that could only be quelled by cookies, scones, anything chocolate-covered and the occasional Skor bar.  Seriously, is there anything better than toffee AND chocolate?  Heaven.  The problem is that after I ate these sweet treats I always felt tired, sick to my stomach and insanely shameful for eating junk food.  And yet, as if I had amnesia, once the sugar coma subsided I went straight back to the sweetness as if nothing had ever happened.  It wasn't until I went to school for holistic nutrition and began to understand my relationship to sugar and its negative impact on me physically and emotionally that I was able to release it from my life and never turn back.  Deep, right?

Now, I know you are dying to know how I've been able to keep white sugar out of my diet for over 9 years.  There were certainly a few intricate steps that got me there but the overriding theme in avoiding the sweet stuff was simply this...I was seriously done with feeling like crap.  I didn't want to medicate myself with sugar and then berate myself for eating it anymore.  It was a nasty physical and emotional ferris wheel that I was ready to get off of. Once the decision to take better care of myself and actually listen to my body was established, the sugar quickly disappeared.  (If you are seriously ready to quit the sugar fix like I did, click here!)

OK, so how does this all relate back to yogurt cheesecake, you ask?  One of my mother's most delicious desserts is a Chocolate-Chip Mocha Cheesecake that is to die for, and of course when I gave up sugar, with it went Mom's amazing cheesecake.  Though I stopped eating it, the memory of its creamy, chocolaty texture and the surprising bite of chip sprinkled in every bite never left me.  And so about a month ago, it was just fantastic happenstance that while planning a trip to visit my dear mother I ran across a recipe for a grain-free Greek yogurt cheesecake.  There were a few things that made this particular recipe AWESOME.  One was that it called for yogurt, not cream cheese.  It's nearly impossible to find a good quality, organic cream cheese that is not also loaded with fillers and stabilizers, so going with yogurt is a yummy and safe bet.  Two, the sweetener used was Rapadura, an unrefined, unbleached cane juice containing natural trace vitamins and minerals.

Not being able to find organic Greek yogurt (and being a stickler for organic dairy products), we strained 2 large containers of Strauss yogurt and used that as the base for the cheesecake.  We ground some walnuts for the crust, added eggs and vanilla for a touch of sweetness and voila!  The result was a lovely, light dessert that, though not exactly like mom's, still hit the sweet spot.  Next time I think I will experiment with using maple syrup as the sweetener and adding cacao powder to make a chocolate version.  I've also found two cheese companies, one in California and the other in Vermont, that make high quality cream cheese without stabilizers, which is quite thrilling.  The beauty of this dessert is that it is not too sweet as to leave you craving more (like a junky cookie or candy bar would), but just sweet enough to make you satisfied.  The creaminess of the yogurt doesn't hurt on that front either.  And with that I'm happy to say I see more cheesecake in my future!

Grain-Free Yogurt Cheesecake from Heaven

Crust

1.5 cups walnuts

2 tablespoons Rapadura

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

2 tablespoons organic butter

pinch of salt

1 organic egg white

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grind the walnuts in a food processor then add the sugar, arrowroot and salt and combine.  Add the butter and pulse until mixed in.  Add the egg white and process until the dough comes together in a lump.  Press the dough into the bottom of a 9 inch, parchment- lined, spring form pan.  An 8 inch square pan will work as well.  Bake 15-20 minutes, until firm and slightly golden.

Filling

2 cups of strained yogurt (or 16 ounces of Greek yogurt)

1 organic egg

2 organic egg yolks

1/4 cup of whey and 1/4 of strained yogurt (can also use 1/2 cup of heavy cream to make it creamier)

1/2 a cup plus 1 heaping tablespoon of Rapadura

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

Combine the filling ingredients into a large bowl and mix.  Pour into the warm crust.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 50 minutes or until set.  Cool at room temperature then refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.  Use a small knife to dislodge the crust from the spring form pan by running the blade around the edge of the cake.   Unlock the spring form pan and remove the cake.  The cake will be thinner than your average cheese cake but don't worry, it's supposed to look that way.  Cut into slices and serve with blackberry sauce.

Blackberry sauce

1/2 cup of water

2 1/2 cups blackberries

Dash of nutmeg

3 tablespoons of honey

1 teaspoon of arrowroot plus 1 tablespoon of room temperature water

In a small sauce pot add the water, blackberries, nutmeg and honey.  Bring up to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the berries have fallen apart.  Place a fine mesh strainer over a ceramic bowl and pour in the sauce.  Strain out the seeds from the berry sauce.  Add the sauce back to the pot.  Mix the arrowroot with the water and add this mixture to the sauce and stir until it thickens a bit.  Drizzle over cheesecake and enjoy!

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