Inside Columbia


A Delicious Vegan, Gluten-Free Treat

By Inside Columbia

Photos by L.G Patterson 

Kimber DeanSummertime desserts bring such nostalgia for me. From playing in the yard as a child with popsicles and sharing a treat from the ice cream truck with friends to the summer holidays with all the red, white and blue tarts, parfaits, pastries and cakes.

Then there is citrus galore! Lemon bars, orange cakes, lemon cheesecake and key lime pies; summer’s flavorful variety of fruits can make any dessert delicious and beautifully bright. It’s the time of year when local farmers have a variety of fruit, especially strawberries. I love using the organic strawberries in my jams, ice creams, berry tarts, parfaits and for a strawberry sauce on my cheesecakes.

Farmers normally pick their produce on the day of their deliveries, which means that the strawberries are the most nutrient dense they can be for their customers. Produce has the most nutrients 24-48 hours after they have been harvested. The best benefit is the flavor of an organic local strawberry. They are juicy, sweet and bright — just what you need to liven up any fruit dish.

Being in mid-Missouri, we also are very lucky to have an abundant supply of local organic elderberries. I have been making elderberry syrup since moving to Missouri nine years ago, and love using local farms, like K & D Farm. Raw elderberries are toxic, so I always use elderberry syrup for using them in my desserts. Once I have the cooked and cooled elderberry syrup, I use it in popsicles, berry sauces, lattes and ice creams.

Ice cream is such a universal treat. There are hundreds of flavors, and it is a great way to use fruit that is about to go bad in the pantry. (Plus, ice cream machines are relatively inexpensive.) We make all of our ice cream at my house, and there are so many ways to make it your own. I like to use maple syrup, honey and coconut sugar for my sweeteners. We have made ice cream and sorbets with cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, bananas, elderberries and orange cream. We like to rotate our “cream” with different nuts and seed milks for different nutrients and to keep it plant based. You can keep the texture of your ice cream smooth or chunky, depending on your preference. I just love how versatile it is to make ice cream at home!

Citrus is another summertime flavor that I just love to use in my desserts. Lemon is a common citrus that can be used in bars, quick breads, custards, pies and so much more! My lemon cheesecake and berry tart recipes from Happy Food Cookbook are fan favorites, especially in the summer, when the ingredients are prevalent and less expensive. I have made hundreds of these for my customers at Nourish Cafe & Market as the former chef and co-founder, and now as the chef and owner of Happy Food Catering. Both desserts are vegan and free of gluten, dairy, soy, corn, refined sugar, hydrogenated oils and artificial ingredients. Not only are these desserts seasonal and scrumptious, but they are also nutritious for your body!

I have shared my lemon cheesecake recipe with you to enjoy anytime this summer for a delicious taste of seasonal citrus.

Kimber Dean is the founder of Happiness Drinks, and the author of Happy Food and Happy Baking and Desserts. She is trained in both culinary arts and personal nutrition.

Lemon Cheesecake

Paleo | Grain Free | Vegan



  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted (about 8 dates)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon almond flour


  • 3 cups cashews, raw
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted


  • Soak walnuts and dates in water for two to 24 hours. Drain and rinse before use.
  • Soak cashews in water for two to 24 hours. Drain and rinse before use.
  • Grease an 8-inch springform pan. Put all crust ingredients (walnuts, dates, maple syrup and almond flour) in a food processor and blend until smooth. Press the crust onto the bottom of the greased pan. Place into the freezer while making the filling.
  • Place cashews into clean food processor with maple syrup, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and coconut oil. Blend until smooth, about two to three minutes
  • Remove crust from the freezer. Pour and spread the filling into the crust. Wrap airtight and refrigerate for two hours before serving.

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