This vegan dessert uses cashews for a creamy texture. When puréed, soaked cashews are a healthful alternative to dairy cream. The recipe originally called for pumpkin, but I felt it needed extra sweetener in addition to the dates; other squash, such as kabocha or butternut, may not need as much, or indeed, any. When I first made this, the squash disappeared into that delicious black hole that is chocolate. I’ve since made this without and enjoyed it immensely. Taste the pudding before adding the chocolate and decide for yourself whether you want to add some or all of the amount.

1 c pitted, chopped dates
1 c raw cashews
hot water as needed
2 c winter squash purée
3/4 c coconut milk
1 t vanilla extract
2 T maple syrup or other sweetener
1/4 – 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder or melted, cooled chocolate, optional

1. Put dates and cashews into a large bowl. Bring enough water to cover them to the boil, let cool a bit, then pour over. Allow to soak for an hour.

2. Drain dates and cashews well. Transfer to a food processor. Add squash, coconut milk, and vanilla. Process for a good minute or two. Taste. Add some maple syrup if you think it’s needed and process again. Taste again.

3. Add chocolate, if you like. Process again, for another good minute, until the mixture is a smooth purée. Transfer to individual serving bowls or one larger serving bowl and chill for an hour or so before serving.