Growing up, I went through a phase where I really wanted to be a magician. I mean I really, really wanted to be a master of magic. I begged and pleaded, and probably whined and squealed until finally my poor parents gave in and got me my very own magic set. It was like the super giant deluxe box of magic tricks, and with this box of secrets and special props, I was sure to become the next Houdini, or at the very least, the next David Copperfield.
I never realized my dream of becoming an expert illusionist, but I’m sure that deluxe set provided a solid month or two of magical fun, and several magic show extravaganzas in our living room. Although I’m not living the glamorous life of an illusionist and wowing audiences in casinos around the world, I’d like to think occasionally I make a little bit of magic right in my kitchen.
Take these bites for example. Are they really cake? Nope, they’re a healthy sugar-free mix of oats, nuts, dates, carrots, and spices. Is that really cream cheese? Definitely not, that’s a raw cashew butter and coconut oil blend. Pop one of these in your mouth, however, and you will swear up and down that you just took a big bite of homemade carrot cake slathered in cream cheese icing. See what I mean? Magic.
One of the fun things about eating a plant-based diet is making mouthwatering treats and meals, that taste every bit as good as their unhealthy counterparts but are actually chock-full of nutrients. Years ago, when I used to imagine what a “vegan” must eat, I envisioned a lot of barley and wheat grass and bland bean dishes sprinkled with hemp seeds. And Birkenstock sandals. Not eating them, but wearing them while eating the above mentioned foods. While I admit I do love my hemp seeds, and actually have a couple of favorite barley recipes and we eat beans all the time, eating plant-based is way more fun than I could’ve ever imagined. Part of that fun is making veggie magic, creating your favorite dishes from unconventional ingredients (i.e. vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, grains).
Far from being a trick, this sort of veggie “illusionism” simply makes eating plenty of vegetables (which is something most health experts agree should be the foundation of our diet, whether they advocate animal products or not) not only easy but tasty and exciting. I love taking a handful of veggies and plant foods and turning them into something unexpected. Instead of oil and eggs, how about substituting cooked and pureed golden beet in your lemon cupcake? Or how about taking conventionally fat-laden and nutrient lacking stove-top mac and cheese and infusing the sauce with sweet potatoes, carrots and heart healthy cashews? Or making rich and creamy chocolate pudding with avocados (my daughter loves this, but she always refuses to eat plain avocado). Cooking and baking this way is partly out of necessity (rethinking “cake,” “pudding” or “cheese” and how to make them) and partly because it’s more fun than a big plate of plain veggies, beans, and grains. Veggie magic keeps things interesting.
I suggest keeping things really interesting this weekend by making these raw carrot cake bites. And by interesting I mean delicious. The “cake” is soft, moist, and sweet while the cashew icing becomes a firm cream-cheezy shell encapsulating each bite in tangy, rich awesomeness. The entire recipe makes about 14 bites and uses only 6 dates to sweeten, so these are relatively low in natural sugars. They are also full of fiber from the oats and nuts, healthy fats, and beta-carotene from the carrots. One bite, one bite, my friends and you’ll believe in magic too 🙂
Carrot Cake Bites with Cashew Butter Cream Cheeze Icing – Raw, Vegan, Gluten-Free
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup raw almonds
- 2 Tbsp raw pecans (or sub almonds)
- 3 Tbsp unsweetened coconut shreds
- 6 medjool dates, pitted
- 1/2 cup, packed, finely grated peeled carrots
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- pinch of fresh grated nutmeg or 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- small pinch of salt
Cashew Butter Cream Cheeze Icing
- 4 Tbsp raw cashew butter
- 3 1/2 Tbsp unrefined coconut oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (or a little more to taste)
Start by processing the first four ingredients into a course crumb. Then add the remaining ingredients and process until everything sticks together. You can either roll right away, or pop it into the freezer for 10 minutes to make the dough easier to roll into balls. Roll into small bite size balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer to firm up for about an hour.
In the meantime, make your icing. Simply mix the cashew butter, coconut oil, and lemon juice in a small bowl until very smooth. It helps to have your cashew butter at room temp and your coconut oil melted. You could also add a touch of maple syrup if you want it to be sweeter, but I thought it was delicious without sweetener.
After an hour or so, take the bites out of the freezer and dip and roll into the cream cheeze icing. I used a spoon to scoop it over the bite and then the back of the spoon to sort of spread it and smooth it around the ball. It’s a little messy, but worth it. Place them back on the cookie sheet and put them back in the freezer to firm up, and then put them in a lidded container. I tried storing them in the freezer and the fridge. They will be much softer coming out of the fridge, but in the freezer the icing will harden into a shell. Best if eaten within a few days (which will be no problem, believe me!).
Easier: you can also just roll the carrot cake bites in coconut shreds or a little cinnamon. Or you could press the dough into mini cupcake molds and top with a little coconut butter. Get creative!