It’s that time of the year again! Festivals/holidays: Diwali, Thanksgiving, & Christmas. All of these festivals heavily rely on sweets (desserts) to make them special. In fact, on Diwali, sweets are the necessary part of the religious rituals. Not to spoil the fun, but it is quite easy to get drowned in the sugar avalanche. This is why, we often yearn for a sugar detox after the holidays are over. Not with TLC sweets/desserts. These recipes are made without loads of oil and completely omit processed sugar. These saffron and cashew cream filled pistachio baskets feature two varieties of nuts–cashews and pistachio–both quite popular in Diwali sweets. These melt-in-your-mouth creamy baskets will have you forget that these do not have any processed sugar or dairy.
Green cardamom and saffron: two popular spices in Indian desserts
Green cardamom is a staple in Indian kitchens and pretty much gets added to every homemade dessert–kheer (puddings), halwa, barfi (fudge), and more. The aromatic spice brings in a very complex flavor with notes of citrus, mint, cinnamon and fragrant flowers. The powdered cardamom is quite potent and a small amount goes a long way. Therefore, start with small quantity and add more if needed.
Saffron infuses– in addition to its golden yellow color- an earthy, slightly sweet flavor. Again, a little saffron goes a long way. Add too much of saffron and it will overpower the overall taste of a recipe. Saffron needs to be activated by adding it to a warm liquid before being added to a recipe. You can easily find these two spices in most mainstream grocery stores in the U.S. and definitely in any Indian grocery store. You can also replace saffron with turmeric–at least for color.
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To make the pistachio baskets
Start with gluten-free (can sub with regular) oats and pistachios–grounded into fine powder. You can also substitute oats with gluten-free (or regular) oat flour. I have used a small amount of coconut oil as a binding agent, which can be totally replaced by apple sauce or water if you are avoiding saturated fat. To make the baskets, you can use either tart molds or your creative skills. After having done both, I would recommend using your fingers to mold the baskets. I forgot to oil the tart molds and the pistachio-oat mixture got stuck; I literally had to pry those out of the mold. The single basket picture below is hand molded and I was quite happy with that. You can certainly use a blender to make these baskets, but my go-to kitchen equipment for making healthy dessert is a food processor. For this one, I have used my mini prep food processor. I am not a big fan of collecting too many kitchen appliances, but mini-prep helps cut down a lot on the prepping time in the kitchen.
To make the Saffron Cashew Cream
This saffron cashew cream is so yummy and creamy that you can serve it by itself as a dessert. To get the best texture, do remember to soak cashews for about 3-4 hours. If in a hurry, try soaking in warm water for at least two hours. It is also quite important to activate the saffron strands to maximize the color and flavor profile. Just add those to warm (not hot; definitely not boiling) almond milk (or water) for about 20-25 minutes before adding it to a blender with other ingredients.
Tips on serving size and storing
When eating nuts or nuts-heavy foods, it is best to follow the policy of moderation. Nuts are mostly composed of fat and overconsumption may result in adding extra fat on our bodies. But that’s not the only reason: Overeating most nuts can also create inflammation by causing the imbalance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in our bodies (more on this later). Have you ever gotten a headache after devouring a bowl of cashews or almonds? In the context of enjoying the saffron-cashew cream-filled pistachio baskets, do keep the serving size to one on each occasion you eat them–especially if you are also eating other sweets with nuts.
Store these saffron and cashew cream-filled pistachio baskets in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where they would keep for about 4-5 days depending on the individual refrigerator temperature. You can also freeze these for about two weeks and thaw overnight in refrigerator before serving the next day. Enjoy!
This vegan, gluten-free, processed sugar-free Diwali sweet offers a luxurious creamy bite.
- 1/4 cup cashews (raw, soaked in water for at least 4 hours)
- 1 medjool date (or any other kind)
- 6 tbsp homemade almond milk (or sub with filtered water)
- 1/4 tsp saffron* (dried strands, soaked in warm almond milk or water for 20 minutes)
- 2 tsp maple syrup (or sub with 1 date)
- 1/4 cup pistachio (shelled)
- 1/4 cup oats (gluten-free, or sub with regular)
- 2 pinches cardamom powder (add more if desired)
- 2 medjool dates
- 1 tsp coconut oil** (or sub with equal amount of apple sauce or water)
- 3 tsp maple syrup (or sub with another date and add 3 tsp of water)
Wash and soak cashews for about 4 hours. About 30 minutes before making the cream, warm 2 tbsp of almond milk and add the saffron strands. Stir well with a fork/spoon and let it sit for 20-25 minutes. Saffron will dissolve and the milk will become golden yellow. Rinse the soaked cashews and add to a blender with date, almond milk (or water), maple syrup, and saffron (soaked in almond milk or water.) Blend till creamy. Store in the fridge till ready to use.
Finely grind pistachio and gluten-free oats in a spice grinder (blender or food processor may also work). Add powdered pistachio and oats with dates, maple syrup, cardamom powder, and coconut oil. Process till the mixture reaches the dough consistency.
Divide the dough in six equal parts (about 1 tbsp each) and mold in the shape of wide baskets. Add pre-prepared cashew cream and let it sit in refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
*if you don't have saffron, you can sub it with 1/8 tsp turmeric. Warm the turmeric in almond milk to activate it before adding cashews to make the cream.
** Heart-healthy: If avoiding saturated fat, replace coconut oil with apple sauce or water.
Make it nut-free
If you or a family member is allergic to nuts, replace pistachios with pumpkin seeds and cashews with sunflower or melon seeds.
Update 11/06/18: Omit the apple sauce and just add water if the mixture is too dry or to replace coconut oil.