No-Sugar Added Pumpkin Pie

24 Nov

I was on a mission this weekend. A mission to create a dreamy, creamy, no-sugar added pumpkin pie. I have been dreaming up this pie for a couple weeks now.



The hubs was traveling and I decided to dedicate my weekend to making my dream a reality.




Cold weather in the Mitten = me wanting to crank on my oven, bust out the sugar, butter, and eggs and get my groove on in the kitchen. While this is mentally and emotionally comforting, physically, it doesn’t do the body good.

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I’m all about moderation in the food we eat. When the temperatures drop, I crave comfort food. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the warm comfort  of my Paper Bag Apple Pie, slathering some butter on my Maple-Thyme Parmesan Biscuits, or indulging in some Toasted Oatmeal Scones…once in a while. Usually the moderation part comes easily for me but when the wind chills plummet to below zero and the snow piles a foot high before Thanksgiving? I find balance in my diet a lot harder to achieve. I feel like us midwesterners deserve these foods. We deserve the comfort, the aroma, the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of these treats.


Since this winter looks like it is going to be a long one, I have decided that I should start tweaking some of the comfort foods I make so they are a little friendlier on the waist-line.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been focusing on cutting back sugar in my cooking/baking. Sometimes it’s a total success, as it was with this pumpkin pie and sometimes it’s a total failure, as in the time I tried to cut the sugar by half in a brownie recipe and we were basically gnawing on cardboard. You win some and you lose some.  Luckily, I won some with this pumpkin pie and you will, too!

No-Sugar Added Pumpkin Pie

Serves 8

Note: It’s important to keep an eye on the edges of your crust as this pie bakes. As you can tell from my photographs, I got distracted and my crust got a little burnt. Use tin foil folded over the edges of your pie to prevent them from burning while your pie finishes baking. 

For the Crust:

1 1/4 cups pecan halves

1/2 cup ground flaxseed

1/4 teaspoon salt

11 Medjool dates, pitted

1 tablespoon vanilla

For the Pie Filling

11 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in warm water for 15 minutes

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/16 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cloves

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Grease a pie plate with coconut oil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse pecans, flaxseed, and salt together until it forms a fine meal. Add the dates and vanilla and pulse until combined.

3. Firmly press the crust into a greased pie plate. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

4. Add all of the pie filling ingredients into a high speed blender. Turn blender on lowest setting and quickly increase to high. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.

5. Pour pie filling into crust. Smooth the filling using an offset spatula. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Allow pie to set out for 3 hours before serving.


Cranberry, Apple, Squash Bake

22 Nov

I can hardly contain myself this week. Do you know what happens this week?


My favorite time of year happens this week. The time when all of my favorite things happens in one day. Food and wine are consumed while sitting around a table with my favorite people as we give thanks.


Thanksgiving happens this week.


We are splitting up our time on Thursday to get some QT with both families which leaves me with no cooking to do. Since I have no cooking to do, I have been getting my Thanksgiving cooking fix out of the way these past couple weeks by making this apple pie, these beans, experimenting with a new pumpkin pie recipe, and making this cranberry, apple, squash bake over and over and over. It’s so easy, so healthy, and such a crowd pleaser.


Just as life has seasons, what I focus on in the kitchen has seasons. Currently, I have been focusing on making things with no added sugar or the least amount of added sugar possible. I’m not a believer in cutting something totally out of my diet but I am a firm believer that it is important to use the least amount of an ingredient possible to get the maximum flavor…especially when it comes to sugar.

In thinking about famous Thanksgiving sides, sugar is usually a main ingredient in most of them, including cranberry sauce. This bake balances the tartness of the cranberries with natural sweetness of apples while the squash adds an earthiness to the dish. No sugar needed.

Cranberry, Apple, Squash Bake

Serves 10

Note: I usually bake this at 400 degrees. I have baked it at 350 and 375 degrees because of other things I was using the oven for at the same time and just left it in for a little longer. It’s a pretty forgiving dish. 

1 medium butternut squash (approximately 3 lbs), peeled, deseeded, and cut into 2 inch pieces

2 large honey crisp apples, cored and cut into 2 inch pieces

2 cups fresh cranberries

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (see note).

2. Combine squash, apples, and cranberries in a 9×13 casserole dish.

3. Toss the squash mixture with cinnamon and salt.

4. Dollop the coconut oil over the top in 5-6 different areas.

5. Bake for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash and apples are tender.


Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

31 Oct

This past weekend I had big plans for my “recipes to experiment with” list. I hadn’t had a weekend at home with nothing to do in a while and I was itching to create some deliciousness. As I created each new recipe, I started to question if I truly have the “right” interests/hobbies in life. Each one was a fail, one after the other; under seasoned pumpkin curry soup, date caramel apples that didn’t set up right, and running out of ingredients I swore I had on hand. My ultimate moment of questioning came when I excitedly offered my hubby some cheese-less beer cheese soup (I know, I know…cheese is in the name…I get it) and asked for his input. I knew it needed some tweaking but thought I was on the path to an amazing discovery. Trying to be helpful and offer input, he suggested, “trying to use a different kind of cheese”.

I was ready to throw in the towel. I had waited all week for this day. I brought extra cash to the farmer’s market to get some seasonal goods, stocked up on staples at the grocery store, and woke up extra early to spend some extra time in the kitchen; to not have one good outcome from it all was not ok with me. I decided to give it one last effort and came out with these:





wholesome pumpkin bars with cream cheese-less cream cheese frosting.


I got the amazing frosting recipe from Love and Lemons.  I clearly have a lot to learn from her. She was able to make the frosting taste like the real thing without actually including the main ingredient. Genius!

These bars have a lot to offer. Believe it or not they are packed with nutrition: oats, pumpkin puree, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, a touch of natural sweetener; what more could a girl want? Although the frosting makes them a-m-a-z-i-n-g, I have enjoyed them sans frosting as a quick, on-the-go snack. They freeze well, too, and only use one bowl to make! Oh, and depending on your dietary restrictions, they are vegan (so dairy and egg free by default) and gluten-free, if you use gluten free oats! Honestly, I don’t know why you guys are still reading. You should be preheating your oven and getting out your mixing bowl and measuring cups…

Pumpkin Bars

Makes 9 bars (8×8 inch pan)

2 cups rolled oats

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 cup maple syrup (add an additional 2 tablespoons if you like things sweeter)

1/2 cup cashew cream (1/2 cup cashews processed with 2 1/2 tablespoons almond milk; you might be able to use a nut butter but I did not test it)

1/4 cup uncrystallized candied ginger, cut into quarter inch pieces (I found mine at Trader Joe’s; other dried fruit would work as well)

Frosting (from Love and Lemons)

1/2 cup macadamia nuts (soaked for 2 hours, drained and rinsed)

1/2 cup cashews (soaked for 2 hours, drained and rinsed)

1/4 cup almond milk

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, flaxseed, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pumpkin seeds.

3. Add pumpkin puree, canola oil, maple syrup, and cashew cream. Mix well to combine.

4. Fold in uncrystallized candied ginger.

5. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned.

6. To make the frosting, combine all frosting ingredients in a high speed blender. Start blender on low and gradually increase to high.  Blend until smooth.

7 . Cool the bars on a cooling rack. Wait until bars are completely cooled to add frosting.

Oatmeal Cookie Dough Balls

5 Oct DSC01385

I’m going to play “dietitian” for a minute here…


One of the messages that I try to get across to people when they are trying to make healthy lifestyle changes is that once you get away from sugar-laden goods or salty snacks and make them an occasional treat, you won’t crave them as much anymore.

When you get out of the habit of having a bowl of ice cream every night, you begin to realize that you don’t feel your best when you eat it. When you get away from snacking on salty treats all day, when you do treat yourself to a bag of potato chips, they might taste overly salty. A lot of our cravings and food “addictions” are acquired. The more sugar or salt you eat, the more you want it, and the more you need to satisfy that craving.

So, now you’re asking, “What should I do when I get a craving for my daily cookie or sweet treat?”


I never said you have to restrict yourself.

You should make these oatmeal cookie dough balls.


They are sweetened with dates and are packed with healthy fats and good-for-you fiber. They are a cinch to make and make you feel like you are eating oatmeal cookie dough right out of the bowl.


Oatmeal Cookie Dough Balls

Makes 12 balls

1/2 cup rolled oats

10 Medjool dates, pitted

1/4 cup almonds

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1. Add all ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until combined.

2. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and place them on a lined cookie sheet.

3. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes. Place balls in a bag for storage. I stored them in the freezer so they hold their shape.

4. Enjoy when a craving for dessert hits🙂

Apple Pie Oatmeal

21 Sep

You guys, I am so confused over here. Yesterday it felt like a summer day in South Florida. Hot, muggy, on and off rain. Today, I woke up and it was 60 degrees, overcast, and crisp fall air.

Not only is my wardrobe confused, think about what’s going on in my kitchen!

Yesterday I was all about wanting a refreshing salad, finishing off the rest of my tasty watermelon, and avoiding turning on the oven.

I woke up today ready for soups, slow cookers, and comfort food.


Luckily, this Apple Pie Oatmeal can be whipped up on the spot when the weather decides to act like fall. It screams fall. It’s full of warm spices and made with seasonal (or what should be) ingredients.


I don’t know about you but the rest of my Sunday going to consist of warm oatmeal, hot coffee, food network, and smoky chicken tostadas cooking away in the slow cooker.


Apple Pie Oatmeal

Serves 1

Note: I used Earth Balance which makes this dish vegan. Other vegan substitutes that could work here are coconut oil and trans-fat free margarine. If you’re in a pinch and don’t  have any lifestyle choices that prevent it, feel free to use a small amount of butter. I also used Macintosh apples because they are tart and perfect for cooking/baking with. Any apple you have on hand will work but the flavors might be slightly different. 

1 teaspoon Earth Balance

1/2 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped, plus more for garnish if desired

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup apple cider

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

1. Melt Earth Balance in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add apples, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and walnuts. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apple is softened and walnuts are lightly toasted. Add oats and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until oats are lightly toasted.

2. Add apple cider, water, and flaxseed. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until oats are softened and at your desired consistency, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the oats you use.


Summer Chutney

16 Sep

Who else out there is squeezing out the last delicious bits  of summer?


Fall officially came last week…in the form of a massive storm and power outage. Leave it to Michigan for the weather to be 95 degrees with 95% humidity and within a matter of minutes it drops to 60 degrees with minimal humidity and stays that way.

One of my favorite dishes that screams summer is a smashed salmon salad. I was set to make it a couple weeks ago. I was 100% positive I had half a jar of mango chutney left in the fridge to use for the salmon…100% sure.

I started my prep for dinner, reached for the chutney, and my heart sunk. No mango chutney. I had my mind set on smashed salmon salads. I had giant beautiful heirloom tomatoes, fresh organic spinach, bright orange carrots, my favorite potatoes from my favorite farmer’s market vendor, beautiful pieces of salmon but no chutney.

The hubs was fine with plain salmon but I had my heart set on the sweet chutney mixing with the savory potatoes in every bite.

Deep breath in, deep breath out.

I looked around my kitchen and spotted my succulent juicy peaches and way more tomatoes than I knew what to do with. I was on a mission.

And I made this amazing chutney.


And you should too…

Summer Chutney

Makes about 2 cups

Note: This chutney worked great for the smashed salmon salads. It is also great served over a soft cheese with crackers as an appetizer. I was all set to combine it with black beans and rice before our power went out and I had to empty out my fridge. Bottom line: you can do a lot with this chutney. 

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/2 bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon garam masala

1 1/2 cup peaches (about 2 medium), peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 small tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

1. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine apple cider vinegar and agave nectar. Bring to a boil.

2. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, salt, red pepper flakes, and garam masala. Simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add peaches and tomatoes and simmer until chutney thickens and reduces, 20 to 30 minutes.



Tofu Nicoise Salad

5 Sep

As I browse through my instagram, Facebook, food gawker, etc. I can’t help but notice the influx of spicy pumpkin recipes that have taken over the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to crank on the oven and have a hot date with Libby but it seems like summer is just starting to show itself up here in Michigan. There’s something about pumpkin that doesn’t pair well with 85 degree temps and 80% humidity. I just can’t wrap my mind around it, no matter what month it is!

Until the temperatures cool and the overcast skies appear, I have this beautiful nicoise salad for you.


My friend gave me this great recipe for baked tofu and it made the perfect replacement for a hearty fish-less option on this salad.

Just check out the colors in this salad…


It screams nutrition! Each one of those colors packs a punch with a different disease-fighting phytochemical.

This salad is really versatile. Feel free to use whatever ingredients you have on hand to make it work for you.

Tofu Nicoise Salad

Makes 4 servings

Note: To drain the tofu, I slice the tofu into 8 equal pieces and place them on a few layers of paper towel for 30 minutes. Lightly pat the topside dry with paper towel. 

For the tofu:

1-14 ounce package of firm tofu, drained and cut into 8 equal pieces

3/4 cup broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons soy sauce

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons parsley, minced

1 /2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

For the salad:

8 cups mixed greens

2 cups steamed green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces

12 olives, pitted and halved

2 cups roasted potatoes, quartered

20 cherry tomatoes, halved

4 hardboiled eggs, sliced

1. For the tofu: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk all ingredients except for the tofu in a small bowl. Place tofu on lined baking sheet and brush with half of the marinade. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Flip tofu over and brush with remaining marinade. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. For the dressing: Whisk together all ingredients except for the olive oil in a small bowl or pulse together in a food processor. Gradually whisk in olive oil or, with the food processor running, slowly pour olive oil in and process until combine.

3. In a large bowl, toss mixed greens with desired amount of dressing. Plate tossed greens on individual plates and divide remaining ingredients among each plate.


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