Sweet & sugar-free

By Becca Edwards

This February, fall in love with sugar-free desserts that omit health-depleting ingredients and instead serve up functional food, or food that has a positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition and helps reduce the risk of disease. Self-described former “sugar addict” now gluten-free/sugar-free home baker, Emily Carnes shares three of her favorite sweet treat recipes that are equally nutritious and delicious.

Emily Carnes 

Banana Oat Muffins


1/2 cup gluten-free flour (Note: If your flour blend does not have xanthan gum included, add 1 teaspoon.) 

1/2 cup almond flour 

1 cup gluten-free oats 

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

3 ripe bananas

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 large eggs

2/3 cup coconut oil or MCT oil, melted

1/4 cup coconut sugar, plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Note: You can use just 3/4 cup coconut sugar.

Directions [1] Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, add dry ingredients and whisk to blend. [2] In a medium bowl, add banana and use a fork to mash the bananas into a paste. [3] Add the rest of the wet ingredients to the banana mash and mix well. [4] Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix. (Make sure not to over mix, as it will make them denser.) [5] Spray a muffin pan with coconut oil, or line with paper muffin cup liners. Fill each muffin tin 3/4 full. Bake for 10 minutes (mini muffins) or 20-22 minutes for large muffins.

Emily Carnes 

Crustless Pumpkin Pie


Ghee or coconut oil to butter the pie dish/dishes

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt kosher salt or sea salt

1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (cornflour)

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

15-ounce can pumpkin puree

12-ounce can evaporated milk 

Directions [1] Heat the oven to 300 degrees and butter a glass or porcelain 9-inch pie dish. [2] In a large bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch. Add half of the maple syrup and whisk it in until the cornstarch is completely dissolved and there are no lumps. [3] Mix in the rest of the maple syrup and the vanilla. Whisk in two whole eggs. [4] Whisk in pumpkin puree. Stir in the evaporated milk. [5] Pour into the pie dish. Note: Carefully knock the pie dish on a hard surface like your kitchen countertop a couple of times to remove any air bubbles. [6] Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, rotating the pie dish halfway through the cooking time. Remove the pie dish from the oven and keep it uncovered to let it cool. [7] When the pie has cooled to room temperature, cover the pie dish and refrigerate it overnight. [8] Serve with whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup (optional).

Functional foods

Cinnamon: Is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic.

Coconut oil: Is anti-microbal, reduces hunger and encourages fat-burning.

Ginger: Is a digestive aid.

Pumpkin: Contains vitamin A, lutein (eye health) and zeaxanthin.

Zucchini: Reduces blood sugar levels and improves heart health.

Emily Carnes 

Paleo Zucchini Brownies


2 eggs

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup almond butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup almond flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cocoa powder

1 cup finely shredded zucchini, squeezed to remove extra moisture (Note: Try grating it, then pulsing it through the food processor for an extra fine texture. Also, no need to peel the zucchini.)

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (Note: Plus more for sprinkling on top.) 

Directions [1] Heat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper and non-stick spray. [2] In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and maple syrup. Whisk in coconut oil, almond butter and vanilla. [3] In a separate small bowl, mix together almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until combined. [4] Add in the shredded zucchini and Lily’s dark chocolate chips. Pour into the pan and top with more chocolate chips if desired. [5] Bake for 24 to 28 minutes or until toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool before cutting.

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