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The Handoff: Raw Sweet Potato Parfait with Cashew Cream

2011 November 17

By Meredith Lownes

Ingredients-for-raw-Sweet-Potato-ParfaitNew York, NY – After our trip to the Tucker Square Greenmarket, Kara and I were armed with fresh apples from Locust Grove Fruit Farm in Milton, NJ, apple cider from Minard Farms in Clintondale, NY, and a six-pound sweet potato from Norwich Meadows Farm in NY. We picked up some raw organic honey from Prospect Hill Orchards, also in Norwich, then headed to Trader Joe’s to finish off our shopping list. Our medjool dates and walnuts were sourced from Monrovia, CA; the cashews were produced in Thailand, and the pecans in Mexico. That’s a lot of food miles! Kara brought up an interesting point – why are nuts so ubiquitous in Thanksgiving and fall foods if they aren’t locally in season? This week in the New York Times, Melissa Clark addressed just how much is lost along with the convenience of pre-shelled nuts; I think we’ll be seeking out in-shell nuts that were grown a little closer to home for our Thanksgiving dinner.

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

As we chopped the sweet potato and apple, blended the cashew cream and puréed the purée, Kara and I talked about Thanksgivings that we remembered, and specifically the tension: between some generations’ need to honor the spirituality of the holiday and others’ mocking of that seriousness, between the desire to have an experience around the food that was culturally significant, traditional and comforting, and at the same time wanting to acknowledge the complexities around those foods, where they came from and what they were. The question of whether to buy a free-range, organic turkey when those who cared most about such things were vegetarian and would not eat it anyway, or whether the fun of making something like a pumpkin cheesecake outweighed its nutritional detriment.

Raw food (which, for the unfamiliar, Kara did a nice introduction to last year on her blog) introduces a special challenge: how to emulate those characteristics of comfort food that are so comforting? The warmth, the creaminess, the indulgence. In fact, raw food can be incredibly gourmet, and desserts made from fruit, nuts and other raw ingredients – dates, avocados and cashews, not to mention raw cacao, cacao butter and coconut oil – can be downright sinful.

Cashew cream, a simple blended mixture of cashews, dates for sweetness, and water (some recipes add vanilla or raw almond milk) does wonders in raw desserts, serving purposes from a tart filling to a whipped topping to a banana cream pie base. Here, it serves as a lush counterpoint to the tartness and the fiber of the apples and sweet potato puree, while classic pumpkin pie spices make the parfait as familiar as every Thanksgiving past.

Raw Sweet Potato Parfait with Cashew Cream

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: None!
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Two large parfaits


  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, enough for approximately 4 cups chopped sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 4 dates
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 apple
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 Tablespoon raw organic honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


  1. First, make the cashew cream. Blend the cashews and dates in a food processor, adding water (100% local New York tap water, here!) bit by bit until the cream is very smooth and the desired consistency is reached – it should be similar to a custard pie filling, pourable but not runny.
  2. Remove the cashew cream to a bowl and reserve.
  3. Peel the sweet potato(es). You won’t use the peel for this recipe, but feel free to save it for another use! Chop the peeled sweet potato into small chunks and add to the food processor with cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of clove. Puree, adding apple cider and honey bit by bit. Don’t be tempted to add too much liquid – it will cause the mixture to separate.
  4. Peel the apple and dice it into small chunks. The idea here is to replicate the look of mini-marshmallows, so often thought of in conjunction with sweet potatoes this time of year.
  5. Layer the cashew cream, sweet potato puree and apple chunks in tall juice or wine glasses, in the order that makes sense to you (Kara and I tried different orders of layering – we think it looks best when the apples are in the middle of the glass) and repeat, ending with the apples. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.
  6. Chop walnuts and pecans finely. Sprinkle a small handful on top of each parfait. Enjoy!

Note: you’ll probably have extra un-pureed sweet potatoes and also leftover cashew cream from this recipe. The chopped sweet potatoes are delicious stir-fried with a little olive or coconut oil, cooked potato, peas and garam masala, while the cashew cream makes a great dip for apple slices or spread on fresh-baked bread.


Having always made food and nutrition a priority in her life, Meredith Lownes spent six years working as a chef in natural food restaurants and healing centers from coast to coast, including The Healing Center in Atlantic City, NJ, Plowshare Macrobiotic Restaurant in Chicago, and It’s Natural in Evanston, IL. In 2009, she spent 5 months living and working at Optimum Health Institute in San Diego, CA. Meredith currently lives in Evanston, IL.