In my nutrition business, I get a lot of questions from clients about how to handle the holiday season. My answer, enjoy yourself and don’t feel restricted, but try to make healthy choices wherever possible. Today I have 10 recipes for you for a delicious, healthy Thanksgiving.
Archive | Guilt-Free Treats
Low Carb Chocolate Chip Cookies
Aw College. The days of staying up too late, listening to music way too loud, and of course, eating junk every day. Life changed forever when my roommates and I discovered the 1-1-1 peanut butter cookie recipe. The 1 cup sugar, 1 cup peanut butter and 1 egg cookies we made 2-3 times a week about about 11 p.m. We’d eat about half the dough and bake the other half to eat while we watched movies about Julie Roberts finding the love of her life… again. It was magical.
For some strange reason, I can no longer get a way with that lifestyle. If I’m being honest, it didn’t work out too well at the time, but since there are much worse things I could have done being on my own for the first time, I won’t feel too guilty about it. The point is, I love cookies. Even though I eat tons of veggies, drink green smoothies, eat grass-fed meat, and work out daily, I STILL WANT COOKIES! I don’t believe in a life that doesn’t involve treats. But I have to be careful with my treats. I’m so sensitive to sugar and right now eggs and I aren’t friends. So I knew I couldn’t use my old, go-to pb cookie recipe. I needed to re-vamp. I’m very happy with the results.
I decided to go with tahini instead of peanut butter for a more neutral taste, but feel free to use any nut or seed butter. Almond butter, peanut butter or sunflower seed butter would work just as well. Since all nut butters have a different fat content, the texture will vary a bit, but you’ll still end up with a delicious cookie.
These are only low-carb if you use a sugar alternative. The only sugar alternatives I’m a fan of are stevia, monk fruit and erithrytol. This Lakanto sugar substitute is my favorite! And now they sell it at Costco!! I also use Lily’s Chocolate Chips instead of regular. They are sweetened with stevia and are SO YUMMY! Be careful though. If you are sensitive to milk, the only diary free ones are the dark chocolate chips. We also love Enjoy Life chocolate chips for regular (not sugar free) baking. So if you don’t care about the carbs and just want a whole-foods cookie, feel free to use coconut sugar or raw cane sugar; and the Enjoy Life chocoalte chips.
I store these in the freezer because I know myself well. If they are on the counter, I’ll go back to my college days and eat the entire pan. Now I have a cookie in the freezer to celebrate moments like birthdays, holidays, or making it through the day without my head exploding. What do you celebrate with cookies?
Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Oat Bars
My 8-year-old daughter loves to cook. Like… LOVES to cook. There are days I open my fridge and it looks like a science experiment exploded. It’s full of glass containers of “salad dressing,” “spice dip,” “flavored water,” and “soup.”
That face represents the pride that comes when you design and make your own oatmeal.
Yesterday, I couldn’t find my cocao powder in the pantry and rather than think I was going insane and skipping over it with my eyes (which I do regularly), I knew better. I asked my daughter, “Do you have my cocao powder?” She immediately ran up to her room and brought down a reusable grocery bag full of spices, crackers, marshmallows and… my cocao powder. Just an average day in our house.
She even delivers!!
We watch “The Pioneer Woman” together, read cookbooks before bed, and she’s a big fan of helping me meal plan. She claims she’s going to be a chef… right before she’s a teacher, but after she’s a waitress and an author. Astronaut and veterinarian are in there somewhere as well, but I can’t remember the exact order. Ambition, right?
So last week she brought me a picture of some oat bars and proclaimed she was going to make them for dessert. We tried to find a promising recipe, but in our house, to make food we can all eat it has to be gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and refined-sugar free.
Together, we came up with this recipe and it’s a hit! It’s easy enough my 8-year-old could “make it” (I helped a bit), it comes together fast, and is customizable and really yummy.
We used almond butter because that’s what my daughter chose, but you can easlily change the flavor by changing the nut butter. I wanted peanut butter because the combination of peanut butter and chocolate yields a result even more beautiful than if Henry Cavill and Scarlett Johansson had a baby. Am I right!? But this was her thing, so I let it go. Next time!
The flavor is also influenced by the type of sweetener you use. Using coconut sugar will give it a more carmely flavor, maple sugar more of a maple flavor and raw sugar just a sweet flavor. We actually used Lakanto Monk Fruit sweetener because I have to keep my sugars (even natural ones) really low right now.
Because she’s all about the bling, we had to add something on top. She wanted 3 different kinds of chocolate, edible glutter and several types of candies. We settled for one type of chocolate, and one type of candy that happened to come in three different colors. I think she was satisfied.
So when my daughter is a famous TV chef, we’ll look back on this post and laugh. Or at the least, when my daughter has a daughter 0f her own who steals all her ingredients, hides food in her room until it’s moldy, and uses half a bottle of safron to make her mac-and-cheese look pretty, we’ll laugh. Or I’ll laugh… a lot… maniacally.
Happy baking (with your kiddos)!
Low-Carb Homemade Strawberry Lemonade
Okay everyone. This is one of those recipes I’m embarassed to call a recipe because it’s SO EASY! As soon as I made it I thought, “Where have you been all my life?” and “Why didn’t I do this before? It’s so easy!” But because it was so refreshing and amazing, I decided it needed its own post, even if it is the easiest recipe ever.
When I was a kid, we ate at Olive Garden a lot. We didn’t have one in my small Wyoming town of 18,000 people, but we went to Salt Lake City, UT often to visit family and watch the Jazz (Stockton to Malone!!! Yep. I’m old). While we were there, we always ate at Olive Garden. I always got the same thing: Ministrone soup, spaghetti with meat sauce and strawberry lemonade. Not the healthiest dinner, but it was delicious. The thing that made Olive Garden’s strawberry lemonade so good was that it tasted real! You could actually feel the fruit in your mouth. I’m not sure if it was made of actual strawberries and lemons, or just some syrup-like substance, but it was the best lemonade in the world.
Today my daughter and I came home from a bike ride exhausted and thristy (It hit 97 degrees here today!!!). I started craving Olive Garden strawberry lemonade. Then it hit me! I had lemonade; I had strawberries and math taught me, that equals strawberry lemonade (Thank you first grade math teacher!). I was set.
So the two ingredients that make up this decedant, delicious, restaurant-quality beverage… (drumroll)… VitaminWater Zero Lemonade, and frozen strawberries. Seriously! That’s it! It’s so simple I’m sad I didn’t try it sooner. Make sure you use the “Zero” lemonade. The other stuff is loaded with sugar. You can tell the difference because the “Zero” flavors have the white part of the label on top and the sugar-licious flavors have the colored part of the label on top. You’re welcome.
I love when I can recreate childhood treats without all the junky ingredients. This one was a winner! I’m not sure I can have plain lemonade again! Next time, we may experiement with blackberries, blueberries or raspberries.
And that sounds so good, “next time” may be in five minutes. I hope this delicous, frosty beverage gets you through the rest of the heat of the summer!!
The Best Dairy-Free Substitutions
Just because you’re sensitive to dairy, doesn’t mean you have to give up things like yogurt, cream cheese and frosting. I’ve got your back with the best tried and true dairy substitutions I’ve found.
Dairy-Free Chocolate Fudge Frosting
We love to have people over for dessert, but I often feel guilty serving them something that fits into our family’s food sensitivities. It’s hard to make something that tastes like Grandma’s cooking when it has to be gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and egg-free. Luckily, food is a big enough part of my life, we figure it out. I’m not okay living in a world that doesn’t allow me to have treats…regularly.
A few weeks ago, I wanted chocolate cupcakes with chocolaty, fudgy frosting. I’d always loved ganache back in the day, so I wanted to make a replica of my favorite ganache frosting using ingredients that won’t wreck me.
This frosting did not disappoint! My kids referred to our cupcakes as “magic cupcakes.” Pretty much I felt like the most awesome mom ever.
I was confident enough in these to serve them to guests, and didn’t even have to lead with a disclaimer. We baked a basic paleo-style cupcake but like all cakes, the frosting made the dish. I consider all cake a vessel for frosting. I always double the frosting on my birthday cake because… it’s my birthday.
If you don’t want to make frosting out of this chocolate goodness, you can skip the whipping part and roll it into balls to make truffles. Or you can just call it pudding and eat it with a spoon. All of the above are a perfectly acceptable way to eat this mixture that may resemble chocolate unicorn tears.
We used Lily’s chocolate chips to keep it sugar-free. These chips are sweetened with stevia and erythritol, neither of which bother me in reasonable amounts (I know this because I’ve eating unreasonable amounts and the result “cleared the room” if you know what I’m saying…).
You can use a dark chocolate or your favorite semi-sweet chocolate as well. We love Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips and Nestlee Simply Delicious Chocolate Chips. Both are made with minimal ingredients and dairy-free.
If you’ve ever made ganache, you know how easy it is. Just add hot milk (coconut milk in this case) to chocolate…
Once it’s melted, whisk it together…
Let it set up in the fridge…
And whip it. Whip it good! (I’m so sorry. I had to. And do you see my finger mark in the frosting? No apologies here)…
So easy and yummy!! We actually had to add a bit more coconut milk as we were whipping to get our perfect texture. If you need to add more coconut milk, do it 1 Tbsp at a time until it seems perfect to you.
So if you’re planning a birthday party, a BBQ to have friends over for dinner or if you just want something that goes well with a spoon, you can make this frosting and be proud!
Sugar Detox Chocolate Clusters
A few months ago, I taught a health class to a group of ladies. I talked about how to give up sugar and they asked what I do for a treat. They were shocked when I admitted I eat squares of 100% chocolate. It’s true! I love it! While it’s a bit of an aquired taste, it’s totally doable. I generally suggest people start with something like 80% and work their way up, but it’s possible to transition.
I have to admit though, I get bored of my 100% chocolate. I occasionally want something with more flavor and texture that feels like a treat. That’s why I came up with these candies. They are so delicious! They taste sweet from the addition of orange, cinnamon and vanilla; but have no sugar. Plus adding nuts gives them a few different textures in each bite.
I genuinely feel like I’m eating an indulgent treat with these, but they have nothing in them I wouldn’t add to a breakfast smoothie!
If you aren’t up to the 100% yet, feel free to make these using a little bit sweeter chocolate. Again, I wouldn’t go lower than 80%. I really recommend trying these as written though.
Also, if you’re doing the 21 Day Sugar Detox these are totally approved!! If you’re curious about trying the 21 Day Sugar Detox, check out this post I wrote about my experience here.
Healthy Disneyland “Dole Whip”
We’re those people who would rather take a vacation to Disneyland than anywhere else. Sure I’d like to spend a week at a beach house someday, but at the expense of a Disneyland vacation?? It’s not going to happen.
We have a lot of Disneyland traditions. We have to ride Pirates of the Caribbean every day we’re there, we always ride Big Thunder at night during the fireworks, and we get one treat a day. I’m all about balance so that treat can range from a gluten-free, vegan treat, to a sugar-filled cookie.
One of our favorite treats is a Dole Whip from the Tiki Room. This may be the only treat we can all agree on in Disneyland. And while they’re full of sugar and probably several ingredients I can’t pronounce, they are gluten, dairy and egg free!! That makes me happy since it makes the indulgence less rough on my body.
If you haven’t had a Dole Whip, it’s a pineapple ice cream served soft-serve style. That’s it. It’s simple but so tasty!! You even have the option of a “Dole Whip Float” which includes putting the pineapple soft serve in pineapple juice. Also amazing!
That said, when we come back to the real world and actually care about what we eat, we still want the delicious Dole Whip. After several experiments, we’ve come up with the perfect recipe!
Depending on your food sensitivities, you can make these totally vegan or with dairy. We prefer to use a full-fat, low-sugar, grass-fed yogurt because it’s so thick, but feel free to use coconut, almond or cashew yogurt instead. We like Siggi’s Vanilla yogurt because it’s super low in sugar, extra creamy and adds the perfect vanilla flavor. Sadly, I can’t eat dairy so I use So Delicious Coconut yogurt when I plan to eat one.
We’ve experimented with freezing these as popsicles, scooping the mixture into bowls, and pouring it into freezer pop molds. My kids prefer the freezer pops, as do I to cut down on the mess. But any way you make them , they are delicious!
Whenever we use freezer molds, we put them upright in glasses or jars to freeze them. That keeps the liquid level as it freezes. Ones they’re frozen, it’s fine to stack them on their sides in the freezer.
Now if we could just figure out a way to bring our favorite rides into our home, we’d be set between vacations!!
Paleo Chocolate Pudding Bars
I am a church-going Christian. I have friends of other faiths and we get along well. One thing we all have in common, is that at any given church function that includes, we mostly have the same dishes. We always have the cheesy cornflake potato dish (which goes by many different names depending on your religion), a “salad” that includes pudding and/or whipped topping, ham, and this chocolate pudding dessert. The original chocolate pudding dessert included several tubs of Cool Whip and some Jello Pudding. This version is whole-food based. Win/ win!! I can take this to a church potluck and share it with my fellow Christians and not have a food hangover the next day. And don’t worry. You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy this famous church potluck dish.
I can’t take full credit for this recipe, because I used the crust from Bakerita’s Mocha Almond Fudge Bars (click here for recipe). I recommend only using half the crust recipe for these bars. If you haven’t checked out Bakerita yet, you definitely should. Her recipes do not disappoint and are especially great for those of us with food sensitivities.
This recipe is gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, vegan (egg-free) and refined sugar free. That means it’s good for most food sensitives.
Rather than use a tub of a substance that resembles whipped cream, I use coconut cream as the base. If you haven’t tried to whip up coconut cream, you’re missing out! It’s like magic. Be sure to use either coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk . I always have good results with the Thai Kitchen brand. Make sure it gets at least 4 hours in the refrigerator so the fat and the liquid separate. When you open your refrigerated can, you’ll find a solid, white mass on top of the clear liquid. This is exactly what you want. Scoop out the solid part and reserve the liquid to use later in a smoothie. It’s delicious!
Because I’m on a candida cleanse (I’m sure I’ll share more about that another time) I used sugar-free sweeteners. Be careful when choosing sugar substitutes. There are a lot of not so fabulous ones out there. I prefer erythritol, xylitol, stevia and monk fruit extract. My favorite powdered sweetener is Swerve powdered sweetener. Feel free to use a powdered raw or coconut sugar, or even a liquid sweetener like maple syrup or honey.
This is a layered dessert but because we use the same base for both cream layers, this recipe comes together quickly and easily. Not as easily as opening a tub of Cool Whip, but pretty darn close.
You can top this with whatever you choose. Nuts, chocolate chips or my choice, shaved chocolate. I topped my personal serving with raspberries because that combination seemed delicious to me. It was.
Healthy Remake: No-Bake Cookies (Vegan, No Sugar)
When I was a kid, I was basically a professional at making no-bake cookies. This was kind of awesome because my mom (who is a great cook) could not make them. Since she loved them so much, I got to make them a lot. My BFF and I still reminisce about how we used to come home from school and make no-bake cookies in my mauve and mint Formica-clad kitchen. Awe the 90’s.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I’m still a big fan of no-bake cookies. There are few better treats in my opinion. The problem is, the butter and milk are a problem for me. I cannot do dairy unless I want to spend the next week covered in rashes and acne. Since I don’t think it’s fair to have acne and gray hair, I try to avoid dairy (and I don’t really like scratching all day).
But being the amazingly caring wife I am, I told my husband I’d make him ANYTHING he wanted for his birthday dessert. His answer: no bake cookies. I looked at him for a moment like he’d just kicked my childhood puppy. How could he do this to me??? I couldn’t even lick the pan! I decided to put my wants aside and make him his treat… sort of.
Yes, I made him a batch of standard no-bake cookies full of butter, milk and sugar. They were fabulous, of course, but I knew my self control would get the better of me. I got out a smaller saucepan and made some dairy-free no-bake cookies at the same time. The success had me almost in tears. I licked the pan, I ate the cookies and I was even able to keep them all to myself because they all wanted Daddy’s cookies. It was pretty awesome.
Since I was making my own batch and since sugar doesn’t exactly make me feel awesome either, I used Lakanto sugar substitute (monk-fruit/erythritol combination). You could use plain cane sugar instead, but I was very satisfied with the substitute.
The thing I really love about these cookies is that they are stable at room temperature. So often when I make a “substitute” it has to be kept in the fridge or freezer or it will just turn into a puddle. These stored fine at room temperature in a glass container. Not that they were around long…
This recipe is gluten-free and vegan so it’s versatile enough to take to events or share with friends. Now my husband can ask for no-bake cookies anytime and I can still be an awesome wife without sulking.