No-bake lemon cheesecake bars (gf + v)

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What to do when life gives you lots of [gorgeous, fragrant, yellow] lemons? Well, besides lemonade, I had to think of something… After studying lots of classic baked lemon bar recipes and not feeling inspired, I ventured into the raw realm, but those recipes were also missing something. I wanted something…light, creamy, lemony but not too sweet, and healthy too. So after some experimentation, I present to you this lovely springy/summery dessert. You don’t even have to turn the oven on. And the flavor is so rich and creamy, you won’t believe they’re vegan!

Makes one 11 x 7 small pan worth (about 8 servings). You will need a high powered blender to get the optimal filling texture, but it can all be done in a food processor if you don’t mind a little bit of graininess from the coconut. Adapted from The Organic Dietitian.

Ingredients:

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Crust:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted (about 10 medium sized Medjool dates)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Filling:

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 2 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 3 Tbsp freshly grated lemon zest (from about 2 large lemons – optional: reserve a little extra for decoration)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 large lemons)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup vegan cream cheese (I used Trader Joe’s brand – it’s the best I’ve tried)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tiny pinch (~1/8 tsp) turmeric powder, for color – optional

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In a food processor (or high powered blender), grind up the oats and pecans. Then add the remainder of the ingredients and process/pulse until the ingredients stick together in a coarse brown paste. [Note: if your dates are rock-hard from being stored in the fridge, they may be hard to process – you can soften them by adding 1-2 Tbsp of hot water to the mix].

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Press the crust into the bottom of a greased 11 x 7″ pan (should be about 1/4″ thick).

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Next, in a high powered blender, blend the coconut flakes, lemon zest, agave nectar, and melted coconut oil until you get a creamy white paste. (as you can see below, I started out with the food processor for this step, but the texture remained too grainy for my taste, so I moved it over to the blender to get the smooth creamy texture I was looking for).

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Then add in the rest of the ingredients and blend until uniform and creamy. Smooth the filling into an even layer over the crust.

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Sprinkle a little bit of extra lemon zest over the top if you fancy.

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Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or freeze for at least 3 min to set (can also wrap and make a few days ahead, freeze and let thaw prior to serving). Slice up into squares and serve chilled. Enjoy!

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