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Thanksgiving Desserts

Celebrate a healthy holiday without sacrificing flavor

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Things are definitely looking up in the gluten-free food category. People with a gluten allergy or celiac disease (some 3 million people in the U.S. alone) were once relegated to the crudité platter and maybe some lean turkey on Thanksgiving. The yummy stuff-stuffing, biscuits, pies, and other gluten-containing treats-was strictly off-limits. No more. Delicious options have sprung up recently, including gluten-free flours, crackers, and bakery treats that are indistinguishable from the real thing. Case in point: these incredible desserts. You’ll love them even if you’re not gluten sensitive (and none of your guests will be the wiser).

Apple Spice Steamed Cakes

Makes 6 Cakes


2 cups small dice of peeled and cored Granny Smith Apples

1 cup dried cranberries

2 Tbs. unsalted, organic butter

3 Tbs. fresh-squeezed lime juice

½ cup organic brown sugar

Pinch salt


1-3 cup masa harina*

¼ cup cornmeal

1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice or baking spice blend

1 tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking powder

1 7-oz. container Greek-style yogurt

2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger

2 tsp. vanilla extract

zest from 1 juiced lime

½ cup organic, unsalted, butter

1-3 cup organic brown sugar

1 egg

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line bottom of 9- x 13-inch cake pan with two layers of paper towels. Set 6 6-oz. ramekins in cake pan. Coat ramekins with cooking spray.
  2. To make Topping: Combine diced apples and cranberries in small bowl. Set aside. Whisk butter, lime juice, and brown sugar in small sauce pan over low flame. Allow mixture to simmer on low, 3 minutes. Divide mixture evenly among prepared ramekins. Divide apple/cranberry mixture evenly among ramekins.
  3. To make Cake: Combine masa harina, cornmeal, pie spice, ground ginger, salt, and baking powder in small bowl. In separate bowl, combine yogurt, ginger, vanilla, and lime zest.
  4. Beat butter and brown sugar in medium bowl until fluffy. Add egg, and continue to beat until well combined. Add yogurt mixture, and beat until well combined. Add dry ingredient mixture, and beat until thoroughly combined, scraping down sides of the bowl to ensure total incorporation.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared ramekins. Cover baking pan with foil, leaving one corner open. Pour warm water into pan until water level reaches ¾ of the way up ramekins’ sides. Tightly close open corner of foil.
  6. Place pan on center rack of oven, and bake 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove pan from oven. Carefully remove ramekins from water bath, and allow to cool completely on wire rack. Serve with slightly sweetened whipped cream.

Per Cake: 476 CAL; 5 G PROT; 24 G TOTAL FAT (15 G SAT FAT); 64 G CARB; 88 MG CHOL; 283 MG SOD; 3 G FIBER; 49 G SUGARS

*Masa harina is the traditional flour used to make Mexican dishes such as, tortillas and tamales. Do not substitute cornmeal, regular corn flour, or wheat flour.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Chai Maple Marshmallow Filling

Makes 12 pies

2 ½ cups brown rice flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice blend

1 ½ tsp. xanthan gum

2 cups organic brown sugar

1 ¼ cups unsalted, organic butter (2½ sticks)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 15-oz. can solid-pack pumpkin

4 eggs

½ cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

1 batch Chai Maple Marshmallow Filling 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pie spice, and xanthan gum in medium bowl. In separate bowl, combine brown sugar and butter. Beat until fluffy. Blend in vanilla and pumpkin. Beat in eggs one at a time. Gradually beat in rice flour mixture. Stir in nuts.
  3. Chill dough in refrigerator at least 20 minutes. Put 6 scoops of dough on lined cookie sheet with large ice cream scoop. Stagger scoops so that they won’t touch during baking.
  4. Bake 17 minutes, or until tops look dry and edges are just beginning to take on color. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, alternating baking sheets until dough has been used up. Keep dough in refrigerator between batches.
  5. Place one dollop Chai Maple Marshmallow Filling on flat side of cookie with large ice cream scoop. Top marshmallow with inverted 2nd cookie, being careful not to press and cause filling to ooze out. Poke toothpick through center of sandwich to keep top cookie from sliding off. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Set sandwiches on level surface, and allow marshmallow to set, about 3 hours. Remove toothpicks before serving.

Chai Maple Marshmallow Filling
(Filling for 12 Pies)

2 packages unflavored gelatin

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice blend

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup very strong chai tea, cooled to room temperature

¾ cup organic brown sugar

¾ cup real maple syrup

  1. Place gelatin, salt, pie spice, vanilla, and chai tea in bowl of stand mixer. Stir to make sure gelatin will bloom properly. Attach whisk, and set mixer close to range where you will be cooking syrup.
  2. Whisk brown sugar and maple syrup in medium saucepan. Clip candy thermometer onto side of pan. Cook over low flame until mixture reaches 240°F. Remove pan immediately from heat, and carefully remove thermometer from pan.
  3. Turn mixer on low, and slowly pour maple/brown sugar syrup down side of bowl into gelatin mixture. After all syrup has been added, gradually increase mixer speed to high, being careful not to splatter hot mixture. Continue to beat 12 minutes, or until mixture is lukewarm.

Per Pie (with filling): 578 CAL; 6 G PROT; 22 G TOTAL FAT (13 G SAT FAT); 92 G CARB; 113 MG CHOL; 391 MG SOD; 3 G FIBER; 63 G SUGARS

The Scoop on Sugar Alternatives

By Lisa Turner

Three natural upgrades over white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

  1. Coconut Sugar is sold in granulated form, as a solid chunk, or as syrup. It has a moderate-to-low glycemic index of 35-50, and a light caramel flavor that’s great for everyday sweetening. Sweet picks: Essential Living Foods Organic Coconut Sugar; Navitas Naturals Organic Palm Sugar; Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Crystals.
  2. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol derived mainly from corn. The body doesn’t metabolize sugar alcohols as sugar, so xylitol has no impact on insulin and is safe for diabetics-but in large quantities, it can cause bloating, gas and stomach pains. Sweet picks: Jarrow Formulas Xyli Pure Xylitol; NOW Foods Xylitol; Xlear XyloSweet.
  3. Agave is an amber liquid with a light flavor. Since agave is mostly fructose, choose a brand that’s processed at lower temperatures, which helps keep the fructose content down. Sweet picks: Essential Living Dark Agave Syrup; Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave; Ultimate Superfoods Ojio Raw Clear Agave Nectar.