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Category Archives: Sugar-Free

Avocado Chocolate Pudding

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You may have noticed I’m no longer posting regularly.  I have a feeling that’s how VC will be from now on, with periodic posts when I have the time.  While I hope my sporadic posting doesn’t bother any of my readers, I likely wouldn’t begin to post regularly for your sake at the expense of my own, so it would help my conscience out a lot if you would just be OK with it.  Thanks. :)

Onto the pudding.  I know it sounds weird, but you just have to try this to believe it how good it is.  Even my avocado-hating husband loves this pudding!  Basically it’s just avocado blended up with cocoa powder and agave nectar to create a sweet, silky, perfectly chocolate-y pudding.  No dairy, no refined sugar, no gluten, no cooking, just blending and eating of the most delicious & wholesome dessert ever…refrigeration totally optional.  We couldn’t wait and ate ours as soon as it was blended and it was fabulous.  But I bet it would be even better cold.

Chovocado Pudding

Printable recipe
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1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup raw agave nectar
1/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and quarter the avocado. Put all the ingredients in a Magic Bullet or food processor and blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe source: Forgiving Martha

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Kumquat & Coconut Cookies {Grain & Sugar-Free}

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Whew, two recipe contests in the same week!  I don’t know what’s come over me.  It must be all that state fair competitive spirit leaking over into my everyday baking life!  This one is for Baker Bettie’s Cookie Wars, in which she charged us with a mission to invent a cookie using at least two of the following ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Basil
  • Beer
  • Coffee
  • Cranberries
  • Cream Cheese
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Dried Chilies
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Fennel Bulb
  • Garlic
  • Goat Cheese
  • Grapefruit
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Hazelnut
  • Honey
  • Kumquat
  • Maple Syrup
  • Marshmallows
  • Mint
  • Passion Fruit
  • Peach
  • Poppy Seeds
  • Rosemary
  • Sour Cherries
  • Sweet Potato
  • Tomato

I’m really curious to see how many people are daring and creative enough to use tomato, vinegar (wait, I’ve done that and it’s fabulous! lol), beer, rosemary, etc.  I’m thinking there are going to be a few savory cookies in the mix!

But me, well, you know my affinity for sweets, so that’s what I went for.  I didn’t intend to make a wholesome cookie, it kinda just happened in the evolution of my creative process.  Here’s how it went.

My first inclination was to create a yogurt and honey spice cookie, which I knew would be a cake-like cookie because of the honey, and since I don’t like cakey cookies unless they’re part of a whoopie pie, I figured I’d also make a yogurt and honey filing for them.

Then I remembered the bag of coconut flour in my refrigerator that I won from Nutmeg Nanny’s giveaway several months ago, and thought it would work well here since the honey and yogurt would add a lot of liquid that usually isn’t in cookies, and you need more wet ingredients in any coconut flour recipe–it’s very thirsty and absorbs lots of moisture.  (I know this from a previous failure.)

I scanned the list again, trying to see if any other ingredients would pair well with the flavor of coconut and pondered over the kumquats.  I’d never had them but had seen them at the grocery store from time to time and always assumed they were miniature oranges.  I remember asking Dennis, “What is the point of these?  It would take forever to peel enough of these to make them worth eating!”  But I Googled kumquats anyway, to see if they might work for me in my cookies.

I found out that the skin is the part that is sweet and delicious, and the inside is very sour.  Most people eat them whole to savor the contrast of sweet and sour.  (I tried this after buying them, and whoo-ey, even the sweet peel wasn’t enough for me to dig the sour explosion on the inside.  But the flavor is very good-very similar to an orange.)  I also found a recipe for kumquat chocolate chip cookies that described the kumquat peels as being great after baking because they get chewy like pieces of candy.  OK, I was sold.  I had to find me some kumquats.

Find them I did, and then I went to work.  I’m pretty happy with my creation!  These cookies have an exotic flavor profile, with a semi-tropical feel.  The honey wasn’t quite enough to balance the sour yogurt and and kumquats (yes, I totally tasted the raw dough. I always do. :) ), but the stevia made them nicely sweet like any good cookie should be.  I love the kumquat flavor, it is a perfect match with the coconut.  I added the spices because a recipe I have from my friend, Marina, called “Cream Cheese Cookies” uses them, but I honestly can’t say they really pronounce themselves on the palate.  They sort of just add a layer of mystery in the background to the overall exotic flavor.

The texture is soft and moist and very tender, which isn’t my usual choice for a cookie (I’m in the crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside camp), but these are so unique that it doesn’t strike me as “wrong.”  These cookies are supposed to be different, and it’s actually a nice texture…not unlike shortbread.  The one downside is that coconut flour makes them a bit grainy and while they’re not a dry cookie, the flour makes you thirsty after eating one.

All in all, these aren’t the typical American cookie, but I think they’d be perfect with tea.  In fact, I think I’m going to enjoy a few with a hot cup right now…

Kumquat & Coconut Cookies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup raw, local honey
½ cup Greek yogurt (I used nonfat)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coconut flour
5 packets NuNaturals stevia powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon salt
½ lb. kumquats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk the butter and honey together in a small bowl until combined, then whisk in the yogurt until combined, then the eggs and vanilla. Doing it in this way emulsifies the butter so that it doesn’t harden and get clotted when you add the cold yogurt and eggs.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the coconut flour to get any clumps out, then whisk in the coriander, ginger, mace, and salt. Add the honey & yogurt mixture, and stir with a spoon until mixed. The dough will be thick and will get thicker upon standing. Set aside.

Pick off the small stems from the kumquats, then roughly chop them, removing seeds as you go. I don’t have a great knife, so I sliced each kumquat into four slices, then quartered each slice, otherwise I just would have gone nuts chopping like I do with nuts. Add the chopped kumquats into the cookie dough along with the coconut and mix well with your clean hands.

Scoop the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets with a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop. You can place them fairly close together as they will not spread. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Notes: coconut oil can be substituted for the butter to make these dairy-free. If you are using a different brand or form of stevia, add it in to taste. There is no gluten to toughen the cookies, so you can mix and re-mix to your heart’s content as you add ingredients to get the right balance to suit your tastes.

Skinny Dark Hot Cocoa


Hot cocoa?  Hot chocolate?  I’ve always said hot chocolate, no matter if it’s made with real chocolate or cocoa powder or a mix.  I also have always said pop, not soda or soda pop.  Potato, potahto I guess.  What about you?

Anyway, remember how Dennis and I weren’t planning on having sugar on Valentine’s Day?  Well, it would be just be unAmerican not to have any chocolate on the day when the rest of the country is eating 58 million pounds of it.  (I know, right?)  So, inspired by Faith’s delicious Skinny Caramel Hot Cocoa, I made this plain version for our Valentine’s Day dinner dessert, only changing the basic recipe a smidge to deepen the chocolate flavor (had to make up for our lack of chocolate candy, you know).  We like our chocolate dark in this house.

This hot cocoa is so sweet, so chocolatey and delicious, creamy even, that you wouldn’t guess that it’s fat and sugar free.  That it’s actually healthy.  Protein and calcium-rich milk?  Check.  The antioxidant power of cocoa powder?  Check.  Totally natural with no chemical sweeteners?  You got it.

I’m usually semi-opposed to healthifying sweet treats because, in my opinion, they’re called treats because they are meant to be enjoyed.  Mostly what cutting out fat and sugar does is make them less enjoyable (although I hope to prove my own theory wrong because I’m going to be experimenting soon, given that we’ve nixed sugar in our house!).  But when you can do it with such a satisfying result, I’m all for feeling great about drinking something that tastes so sinful.

*A note about stevia: I’m a huge advocate of using stevia to sweeten things, versus chemical sweeteners and even real sugar.  This is the ONLY completely natural sweetener out there that is also calorie free.  It is taken from the leaves of a plant and it is tremendously sweet so you need much less of it than sugar.  I was blessed to win a bunch of NuNaturals products through a giveaway from Renee of My Kitchen Adventures (thank you so much Renee!), and hope to do a review soon with comparisons to other sugar substitutes.  NuNaturals products are by far the best I’ve tried and I highly recommend them.

Since I’m not counting calories on the 17 Day Diet, I didn’t calculate them for this cocoa when we drank it, but just going from the labels on the milk and the cocoa (the only things that have calories in the recipe), I can tell you that there is 120 calories, 1 g fat,  22 g carbohydrates, and 2 grams fiber. Not to shabby, and I think you’ll agree that this hot cocoa is totally worth every healthy & delicious calorie.

Skinny Dark Hot Cocoa

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa powder
2 packets NuNaturals NuStevia
Pinch fleur de sel or kosher salt
1 ¼ cups nonfat milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk together the cocoa powders, stevia powder, and salt in a small saucepan. Add half the milk and whisk vigorously until the cocoa powder is dissolved. Turn the heat to medium, and whisk in the remaining milk. Heat until the hot cocoa starts to steam (do not boil), and pour into a mug.  Enjoy!

For a caramel hot cocoa: stir in ¼ teaspoon caramel extract along with the vanilla at the end.

Serves 1

Recipe source: adapted from An Edible Mosaic

Yummy either way!

P.S. Happy leap day!  I know this is crazy, but this is the first year I’ve actually been aware that it’s a leap year.  How did I miss the other seven I lived through?  Queen Oblivious here! I know I’m getting random here but did anyone else used to watch the show Quantum Leap?  I honestly can’t remember a thing about it except I think I liked it (I was pretty young so maybe it was too mature for me), and I always associated the name with leap year.  Did it even have anything to do with a leap year?  OK, seriously, I’ll shut up now.

Raw Double Chocolate Brownie Bites

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I joined The Secret Recipe Club at the end of May, which was too late to participate in June, so I was super eager to finally get my assignment for July.  In this club, each month the participating bloggers make a recipe from another participant’s blog.  The blog is assigned secretly and at random, so no one else knows who’s making something from their blog that month.  I found the whole idea really fun and exciting!  (Don’t judge me.)

I was assigned to make a recipe from Ginger Lemon Girl’s blog, and my first reaction was a mixture of both trepidation and anticipation.  Carrie follows a gluten-free diet, and since I don’t have any dietary restrictions, I wasn’t sure if the recipes would appeal to me, but I knew I could adapt them if necessary and was ready for the challenge.  Once I started browsing her archives, I quickly realized that her recipes were good, wholesome foods that anyone could enjoy, and some of them were naturally gluten-free because no flour was involved.  Like this one!

When I came across Carrie’s recipe for Raw Chocolate Brownie Bites, I immediately thought of my love for Fudge Babies, and knew it was the one I’d have to make.

I made the recipe as it was written the first time (pictured above) and really liked it (maybe that’s an understatement, seeing as how I ate half the batch the first day!), though adding as much agave nectar to sweeten them as I liked (2 T) made them too soft for me. I wanted them chewier and a little sweeter (i.e. more dates!). I also wanted more of the chocolate dough so that it would completely cover the bottom of a loaf pan. The first batch, spreading it to the thickness I wanted, filled only 2/3 of the bottom of the pan. So I took Carrie’s rockin’ recipe and tweaked it a bit, and couldn’t help adding some mini chocolate chips to make them doubly chocolatey!  The chocolate chips only add 16 calories per Brownie Bite and don’t change the points, so I really recommend you put them over the top to make these bites, well, over the top. :)

For those unfamiliar with raw desserts, they are a lot like Larabars, but better (at least I think these are).  If you’ve never had those either, now’s your chance to see what all the fuss is about.  This isn’t like eating a candy bar or any sort of processed sweet, because it’s all-natural, raw, and much healthier (not to mention allergy-friendly), but they are very good!  I bet even your kids will love them.  Give them a try and see if you don’t agree.

Raw Double Chocolate Brownie Bites

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 cup pitted dates
1 1/3 cups raw nuts (I used 2/3 cups each almonds & pecans)
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon Fleur de Sel or kosher salt
~or ¼ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Soak the dates in a bowl of hot tap water for five minutes; drain well. (Skip the soaking step if you are using Medjool dates.) In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, grind the nuts until very fine. Add the drained dates, cocoa powder, and salt. Process for a minute or two, until nuts are very fine and the mixture sticks together quite easily, if it’s not already coming together in the bowl. With the food processor running, add the vanilla through the feed tube and continue processing until the mixture starts to form a ball. Just run it for another 10-30 seconds and if it doesn’t form a ball, check the consistency and see if it will stick together when pinched. If not, add a teaspoon of water and continue processing, adding more water if necessary (it shouldn’t be) until the mixture is sticky. Pat the chocolate dough into a loaf pan. It is OK if oil separates a little and forms a layer on top; it will soak back down into the brownie dough while it sits in the refrigerator.   Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and pat them down into the surface so that they will stick. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Cut into 18 squares (6 rows x 3 rows) and enjoy cold.

Makes 18 Brownie Bites

Per Brownie Bite: 107 calories; 7 g fat; 1.1 g saturated fat; 1.6 g polyunsaturated fat; 3.8 g monounsaturated fat; 0 g cholesterol;  33.2 mg sodium; 151 mg potassium; 12 g carbohydrates; 2.4 g fiber; 2.1 g protein; Vitamin B-6 2%; Vitamin E 8%; Calcium 2.2%; Copper 10%; Iron 4%; Magnesium 8.4%; Manganese 21.3%; Phosphorous 5.6%; Riboflavin 3.6%; Thiamin 3.3%; Zinc 3.6%      3 Points Plus

Recipe source: adapted from Ginger Lemon Girl



Fudge Babies

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I’ve been seeing raw desserts around the blogosphere for a while now and am kind of late in joining in on this remarkable food trend.  I finally made the first raw dessert recipe I ever saved after I started seeing it in varied forms on other blogs.  And I was blown. away.  I’ve made other raw desserts since, and these are still my favorite.

These things are called Cocoa Nibbles on the blog I nabbed them from, but I think Katie’s name for them, Fudge Babies (same ingredients, slightly different recipe), is much more apt.  Because they really do have the consistency of fudge!  And they’re healthy.  Gluten-free.  Fruit-sweetened with no added sugars.  Vegan.  Simple.  Easy.  Perfect for a summer treat because there’s no cooking involved, and they’re served cold.  And did I already say they’re amazing?

Fudge Babies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

½ cup raw cashews (or any other nut you love)
1 ¼ cups Medjool dates, chopped
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Optional add ins: vanilla, 6 leaves mint, chopped; ¼ – ½ tsp chili flakes; 1 tbsp chopped candied ginger; 1 tbsp raw cocoa nibs; 2 tsp freshly grated orange rind; ½ tsp cinnamon, or play with other spices of your choice

In a food processor, process the nuts, dates and cocoa until you have what looks like a fine meal. Sprinkle with optional add-ins, if using, and continue to process until the mixture comes together as a ball that rolls around the edge of the processor bowl.  The “dough” is ready when, if you pinch some and press it between your fingers, it sticks together readily and looks a bit shiny. (If you are using regular dates, the mixture might be too dry to produce this type of dough, in which case you can sprinkle up to 2 teaspoons water and proceed as above).

Pull off pieces of dough and roll into truffle-like balls, placing on a plate.   Go ahead and eat one while they’re room temperature and give a little sigh of pleasure.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate  at least two hours or overnight.  They are much better cold, as they firm up considerably and will attain the texture of a dense fudge.

Makes 16 fudge babies

Per fudge baby: 61 calories; 2 g fat; 12 g carbohydrates; 1.3 g fiber; 1 g protein; 2 Points Plus

Recipe source: slightly tweaked from The Copycat Cook, while the name came from Chocolate-Covered Katie, who uses a similar recipe.

Sugar-Free Candied Nuts (low carb)


If you look on my side bar, you will see I have a category for sugar-free desserts.  And in that category, there are only two recipes.  Considering I have posted over 100 dessert recipes, the sugar-free ones make up a very small percentage.  There is a reason for this.

Sugar-free desserts suck.

I may not be a brilliant chef, but I do pride myself on my desserts and I simply refuse to let any sweets come out of my kitchen that taste like a chemical explosion.  Which means I usually refuse to make anything sugar-free, but there are certain occasions when I have no choice but to give in and find something that is sugar-free and also tastes delicious.

Such an occasion has arisen, with the birthday of a brother in Christ who is a type 2 diabetic.  Since I am a member of a small Church, I am able to give food gifts to everyone for their birthday, but I always flounder when it comes to the birthdays of those with diabetes.  I am a diabetic myself, but I’m insulin-dependent so I can eat dessert if I choose to since I can give myself the insulin required for my body to process it.  Bob doesn’t have this luxury and controls his diabetes through food and exercise.  Which means no (or very little) sugar!!  My worst nightmare.  But what sort of Dessert Queen would I be if I couldn’t rise to this challenge and come out victorious?

I prefer to use fruit to naturally sweeten sugar-free desserts, such as in this rugelach, but since that still has a lot of carbohydrates that would send Bob’s blood sugar soaring, I knew I had to do the unthinkable and reach for the Splenda.  I decided to go for a very low-carb treat that would have minimal impact on his blood sugar and created a candied nut that is surprisingly delicious!  Granted, you can tell the difference between these and the real thing, but even my husband, who can’t take a sip of my Diet Dr. Pepper (one of the few sugar-free things I love) without shuddering, thought these nuts were superb.

If you are making these for a person accustomed to sugar-free sweets, it will likely be a welcome reprieve from all the awful chemical explosions that have been happening in their mouths over the years.  They are crispy and cinnamon-sweet on the outside and toasty and crunchy on the inside.  They truly are addictive!

Sugar-Free Candied Nuts

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 ½ cups nuts of choice
1 egg white
½ cup Splenda granular
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a 15x10x1 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking oil. Place nuts in a bowl and stir if not already mixed. Beat egg white in a separate bowl until foamy and stir into the nuts until evenly coated. In another bowl, mix the Splenda, cinnamon, and salt and pour over the nuts. Stir until evenly coated, then scoop onto the baking sheet, using a spoon or fingers to get the nuts in a single layer. Bake for thirty minutes, stirring every ten minutes, until toasted. Allow to cool on wax paper and store in an airtight container.

Blueberry Lemon Trifle

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We have several diabetics in our church group, with whom we joined last Saturday for a barbecue in the countryside.  To accommodate their sugar abstinence, I brought two sugar-free desserts: rugelach & blueberry lemon trifle.  Both desserts were enjoyed by diabetics & non-diabetics alike, but this is the one I will continue making for myself (Den can fend for himself–the trifle is mine!) because it’s low in calories and it tastes FABULOUS!

If you prefer to make this with full-fat and full-sugar (oooooh, I bet that would be even better!), follow the suggestions in parentheses.


Blueberry Lemon Trifle

1 sugar-free angel food cake (or 1 pound cake)
1 lemon, juiced
1 1/2 cups skim milk (or whole milk)
1 (8-oz) tub fat-free sour cream (or regular sour cream)
1 (8-oz) tub sugar-free cool-whip, divided (or regular Cool Whip/real whipped cream)
2 packages fat-free/sugar-free instant lemon pudding (or regular instant lemon pudding)
3 pints blueberries, rinsed & dried

Cut the cake into cubes and lay them out on a cookie sheet, then sprinkle the lemon juice evenly over them (I actually dipped my clean fingers into the juice & dabbed the juice on–you could use a pastry brush too) & carefully toss.  Don’t mash the cake–keep it as pretty as possible. This won’t be as difficult with pound cake b/c it’s not as delicate so you don’t have to be as careful.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, sour cream & half of the cool whip until smooth, then beat in the pudding mixes until it starts to thicken.

Set a few blueberries aside for garnish.  Put 1/3 of the cake cubes in the bottom of a trifle bowl, sprinkle on 1/3 of the blueberries (1 pint), then spread 1/3 of the pudding mixture over it.  Repeat two more times, then spread the remaining Cool Whip over the top & garnish with the reserved blueberries.  Chill until ready to serve–can be made up to two days in advance–or just sit it down on the table and dig in.

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