Through deep exploration of the art of vegan cooking, I have discovered it is relatively easy to alter a traditional non-vegan recipe that requires excessive oil, sugar, refined ingredients or dairy to craft a considerably healthier, vegan version, without ever compromising substance, taste, complexity or nutritional value!

By uniting the powerful dietary principles of Ayurveda and fresh vegan ingredients, cuisine becomes more than a meal. It becomes great tasting, medicinal and tonic for the soul. By choosing ingredients that are in synchronicity with the Earth’s seasons and in balance with your individual body’s constitution (dosha), catering to the tastes your body desires (rasa). This simple combination forms a very powerful synergy to nourish your body, bringing about new sensitivity, clarity and consciousness within yourself and your natural surroundings.

Caramel is a rich holiday treat, and in its original sugar-laden form, it leaves something to be desired when it comes to meeting the criteria of promoting Ayurvedic principles of diet and wellness. This recipe offers a vegan version that builds ojas (vitality). It can be used as a dip for apples (per the directions below), spread, pie accompaniment or topping for Coconut Bliss or other desserts.

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup dates (pitted)

2 tbsp cacao powder

1 tsp carob powder

2 tbsp coconut butter

1 pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla extract or powder

2/3 cup cashews

1 1/2 cup water

3-4 cups sliced fruits

Directions:

Soak the dates in 1/4 cup water for a few minutes. In a blender blend the cashews and water to create cashew cream. Add the dates, cacao powder, carob powder, coconut butter, vanilla powder and salt and blend into a smooth paste.

Dip the fruits in the caramel sauce and arrange in a platter. Refrigerate until 15-20 minutes before ready to serve. Or serve the fruits and dip separately in a platter. This goes well with apples, cantaloupe, pears or bananas that are not too ripe.

This dip is in harmony with vata (air/ether) and pitta (fire element) inclined constitutions; since it increases the kapha dosha, it can be enjoyed by those who are kapha inclined, in very small portions.

Makes 2 cups

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Darshana Thacker: Darshana teaches the traditional Ayurvedic technique of simple spice combining and food preparation. Her intimate, kitchen-based classes illustrate the simple preparation of well-balanced meals planned according to season. Most often the dishes are vegan variations of traditional recipes from all parts of India. New students receive a sample kit of organic spices. View the 2011 schedule at: vapikaspirit.com.

By Darshana Thacker