Becoming a vegetarian has forced me to be even creative in the kitchen than I used to be. I’ve learned how to take some of my favorite recipes and tweak them to be vegetarian. Trying as many different vegetarian and vegan restaurants and recipes as possible, I’ve discovered that a lot of “old favorites” can still be enjoyed. One of my favorite vegan spots in Los Angeles is Cafe Gratitude. Not only are all of their superb dishes completely vegan but they use all natural ingredients and whole foods.
Recently, my dad surprised me with a new raw vegan dessert cookbook called Sweet Gratitude: A New World of Raw Desserts (from two of the chefs at the original Cafe Gratitude). Skimming through the pages I felt a little overwhelmed and wondered whether or not I would ever find the time and energy to scrounge up all of the ingredients I would need to make these amazing looking vegan desserts. Well, the time and the energy came sooner than I expected. This weekend my family are meeting up to enjoy some quality time together. Since it was my dad’s birthday last week I thought it would be perfect to make his favorite – banana cream pie – from the cookbook he gave me.
I have to admit I was a little nervous having never ventured into the vegan dessert realm of baking before. In fact, I don’t really bake or make sweets all that often since my passion is for more savory foods and meals. This recipe also intimidated me due to a couple of ingredients I had not worked with before such as Lecithin (what the heck is that?!), date paste and coconut meat. But I realized I had a lot of the other ingredients in my cabinet already and one trip to the health food store nearby supplied me with the rest. By the time I got home I was pumped and ready to make the best darn vegan banana cream pie I’d ever had – which would be easy since I’ve never had it!
Two of the steps that were the most foreign to me were actually quite simple and actually quite fun:
- Date paste is exactly that – a paste made of dates. Simply taking some fresh organic dates, removing the pits and chopping them into a paste is all it takes.
- And then retrieving coconut meat was interesting. I bought a whole coconut that had already been cleaned with a hole at the top with a little coconut meat showing through. I unwrapped it and immediately did what I’m certain anyone would do and poked at the white part to feel the texture. Note to reader – if you don’t want to be sprayed in the face with coconut water, don’t do that! The rest was pretty easy, just scraping the white coconut meat from inside the shell.
Making the crust was a little more familiar because the process is similar to that of graham cracker crust – just the ingredients varied a bit. Instead of graham crackers you use coconut flakes and instead of butter and sugar you use some of the date paste.
The part that I was most curious about was how the filling and the cream were going to be made – and how I was going to create that creamy richness that everyone wants in a cream pie without using any dairy! The answer is simply: coconut. This fruit is a miracle whole food with many health benefits but I realize now that it is more than just that for vegans. Coconut milk really was the key ingredient for creating a delectable creamy texture for this pie.
Overall, the process was not only painless but super fun. I would point out that the entire process(which includes letting the pie filling set in the freezer) takes a few hours. A great activity for a Sunday afternoon in my opinion. I’ll have to let you know how my dad likes it.
My dad loved the pie so much he requested another pie this year for his birthday! I decided to make my own recipe from scratch this time around.