Monthly Archives: November 2012

homemade nutella

Better Homemade Nutella

One of the very first things I started eating on this diet – and one of my first posts – was for “Homemade Nutella Banana Yumminess” – homemade Nutella on top of a puffed grain cake with bananas. It’s still one of my staples for a quick lunch or breakfast, and I eat it regularly. But now that I’ve had my whole “date as a sweetener” breakthrough, I’m revisiting a lot of the things I’ve made in the past, and this is one of them.

Today I made a new batch of “Nutella”, and decided to use some leftover date puree in it to see how it would go. And it was SO GOOD.

Like, seriously. So good.

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raw apple pie

Raw Apple Pie – grain-free, sugar-free, and delicious!

I had this pie last week at our CSA year-end potluck. It was made with raw apples from the farm, and had no grain, sugar, or dairy. And it was delicious! I unashamedly hunted down the creator of this pie until I found her so that I could ask how she made this miraculous thing. The secret?


This was the pie that launched me into the world of dates-as-a-sweetener, and I knew I had to make it for Thanksgiving. A dessert that I can eat as much of as I want? Yes, please!  My husband eagerly ate up 2 pieces of it, and my niece and nephew (who eat a Standard American Diet) both were really excited about it and wolfed their pieces down! THAT’S endorsement.

Now, if what you’re jonesing for is really a sugary-sweet pecan or chocolate cream pie or something – this obviously isn’t going to cut it. Without sugar, your brain won’t get that sugar high. But if what you want is a great fruit-based pie that even kids will love, you’ll love this. The nut crust adds a spicy, satisfying crunch that perfectly complements the sweet apples, and the sauce that covers the apples is really incredibly sweet and satisfying. It’s perfect!

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dates in processor

Using Dates As A Sweetener

The discovery that dates can be used as a sweetener has changed my life. I know, this fact about dates is not news to anyone who’s been cooking sugar-free or “real food” for a while, but for me it was a revelation!

I haven’t been able to completely leave out sweetener in a recipe by using dates yet, but I’ve been able to drastically reduce it. Just today I made a cake that I used to make with 3 cups (3 cups!!!) of sugar. (I simply cannot believe now that I ever used that much sugar in a recipe without even hesitating!) I’ve changed the recipe so that it uses 2 cups date puree, 3/4 cups palm sugar, and 4Tbsp maple syrup. So, it does have sweetener, but so much less. I wouldn’t dare to eat a cake made with 3 cups of any sweetener – even palm sugar – but I can handle 3/4 cups! Many recipes that I’ve given up on ever eating again are now within reach, all because of dates!

So, since I foresee many recipes in my future that involve using date puree, I thought I’d do a separate post on how to do it so that I can just link to it instead of repeating the instructions every time.

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pumpkin cake

Date Sweetened Pumpkin Bread Cake

I have discovered a life changing thing. Palm Dates.

Yes, palm dates.

I discovered last week that when palm dates are pureed and added to a recipe you can dramatically reduce or even eliminate all other sweeteners in the recipe. I had heard this before, but had been skeptical (as you might be now), but then I had a pie last week that used only palm dates as a sweetener, and it was delicious. Bananas are often used in place of sweeteners, but they make things taste, well…banana-y. The dates don’t have a strong flavor on their own, so they mostly just add the sweetness without any unwanted flavor. I’m now a palm date convert, and am super, inordinately, ridiculously excited about it.

This is momentous, people! 

So, of course, I immediately started thinking of what I could do with this new knowledge. Banana bread immediately came to mind, because I love a sweet banana bread, and I’m thinking that between the sweetness of almost-rotten-bananas and the dates, it will be plenty sweet without anything else.

Alas, I have no almost-rotten-bananas to experiment with right now, though, so I had to settle for something else. Since I just got two pie pumpkins in my CSA share, pumpkin bread was the obvious choice. And…oh my goodness…it was WONDERFUL.

I know, I know, I just posted a Soaked Oat Pumpkin Cake recently. That’s still good…but this one is better. Like…way, way better. The flavor is perfectly spicy and doesn’t have that buttermilk bite to it like the other recipe does (I like that flavor, but I know others do not). The texture is light, fine, and slightly crumbly and really tender and moist. It’s perfect. It also takes less planning since you don’t have to soak the oats overnight, and is grain (thus gluten) free! On top of that, it uses over half less added sweetener, so is much healthier. So – if you have to choose just one pumpkin bread/cake/dessert? This is the one.  Not only is it healthier, but you’ll swear you’re eating the “real” thing!

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Cardamom Milk

Warm Cardamom Milk

We spent last night sitting in the high school football stadium, freezing our butts off. My daughter is in the marching band so we had to go, and, man, was it cold! (She’s only in 6th grade, but it’s a small school so everyone’s in the marching band.) I had her bundled up in 4 layers of clothes as though she was going on an antarctic expedition. Tights, long socks, leggings, pants, and another pair of socks – but still her toes got cold by the second quarter. I was ready to save the day with toe warmers I pulled out of my purse like a rabbit from a hat, though. Yay for Mom!

The director let them go after half time, which I was happy about both for bedtime (it was a school night) and temperature reasons….

Of course, when we got home some hot tasty beverage was in order, so both kids got some hot cocoa before bed. I wasn’t able to have any, obviously, but felt like I would like to join them in a hot tasty beverage too – something other than tea – and so decided on warm cardamom milk.

Cardamom has a taste that’s slightly gingery – it always reminds me of ginger when I drink it. The milk gets naturally sweeter when it’s warmed, and with a bit of honey it becomes a soothing, spicy, slightly sweet drink. I think using whole milk makes a big difference –  sweeter and creamier than reduced fat. Now – it’s not a hot chocolate “substitute,” so you can’t think of it like that or you won’t like it. It’s a completely different drink, good in its own unique way. Expect a taste that’s slightly exotic – like something you’d drink if you were an Englishman living in India or something!

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Eating Out

Eating out on this diet – as with most diets – is tricky.

A couple weeks ago we went to P.F. Chang’s. I had my doubts about how much I could eat there, since American Chinese food is known to be something less than healthy, but I thought I’d be able to find something. And they’re always so good about catering to people with food allergies there, so I thought that something could be figured out.

So we went, and I asked the waiter if he could tell me what selections didn’t have sugar. He went to ask the kitchen and was gone quite a long time. Finally the manager came out and squatted down by me to be disarming, I suppose, and explained with great regret that nothing – NOT ONE THING – in the entire restaurant didn’t have sugar.

He was very apologetic, and did give me the choice of dishes that had at the least amount of sugar, and everyone was very nice and helpful and didn’t make me feel like a problem at all. I have no complaints about the way they handled the situation. But the fact that every dish in a restaurant has sugar in it just kind of boggles the mind. Sugar really IS everywhere!

So does that mean eating out is completely off limits on this diet? I don’t think so. I think it is possible – it just requires a little more thought. Here are a couple hints for dining out successfully.

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Creamy Shrimp Linguine

When I started this diet in September, I honestly thought I’d never have pasta again. Obviously, I wasn’t very knowledgeable about alternate pastas then, but that’s what I thought. One of the recipes I lamented leaving behind was this one that was taught to me by friends of ours who live in Naples, Italy. It’s a favorite of the entire family – my daughter requested it as her birthday meal this year! – so not having it in my repertoire of meals was a sad thing indeed.

But now! Now I know about the wide wonderful world of alternate pastas! And not icky chewy rice pasta, but ones that actually taste good. So I’m back in the saddle again!

I love this recipe because it’s delicious, but that’s not the best part. Here’s the best thing about this recipe: It can be made in half an hour.

That’s right, stove to table in 30 minutes. That’s the kind of recipe we can all use! And this is all you need to make it.

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