There are people who claim that they could take or leave the “after dinner” delights – they don’t have much of a sweet tooth. And then there are those who save room for what they consider the pièce de résistance – the focal point of the whole meal: the dessert lovers.
No matter what camp you fall into, the typical Thanksgiving table usually involves the traditional pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie...I think Cheesecake Factory used to offer up a cheesecake that was ½ layer of pumpkin cheesecake and ½ layer pecan pie. Wow.
The great thing about being on a paleo/primal path is that typically the sugar desire – sugar cravings – are slim to none. That’s not to say that sweet things aren’t enjoyable. Rather, sweet things – especially those naturally sweet things – taste even sweeter. How many of you tried a super fresh, ripe peach this past year and were amazed at how naturally sweet it is? Ever squeezed your own orange juice? Never had to add sugar to that, right? Given, with our mission to regulate insulin levels, chowing down after every meal even on those "perfect paleo" desserts won't do you any favors. However, if you are wanting to celebrate this Thankful holiday and wish to bring in something sweet or enjoy something sweet, let's talk about some ideas.
You can still have a sort of dessert while being paleo - you just need to think about what dessert is a bit differently. Don’t go in expecting to recreate your tried and true favorite cake/cookie/pie recipe as paleo and have it taste just like you always remember. It really is not possible to make an awesome gooey pecan pie like your grandmothers’ without that sugar and karo corn syrup. I know that it is impossible to make caramel sauce paleo. Added sugars (white sugar, brown sugar, confectioner's sugar, agave nectar, aspartame, etc.) aren't paleo. But you knew that. Such is life. Your challenge is to try to come up with new, healthier holiday traditions that you can offer up this year – highlighting what is in season and tasty!
Okay, so what can you make, and how can you make it? I’ve got a few varieties for you:
Of course, if you don't wish to "make" anything, get some fruit salad. Fruit is a perfect sweet treat.
You want to make something instead? Let's go with an apple dessert. “Sullivan’s Apple Pie” has been a tradition in my family since I could remember. The recipe – an apple crumb topping pie – was inspired from one in a really old Betty Crocker cookbook, but it’s been through many iterations. Truth be told, I’ve never been a huge pie crust fan – either in the making or taste of. I’d much prefer an apple crumble anyway, so that’s what I've kind of created here. This recipe is super easy and great for either the Type A (happy in the kitchen) or Type B (kitchen scared-y cats).
Basic apple crumble recipe:
For the filling:
- 6 apples of your choosing, peeled and diced (Granny Smiths and Honeycrisps work great – I love Granny Smiths for their tart flavor)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
For the topping:
- 4 Tablespoons coconut butter or unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup almond meal or almond flour
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cloves or nutmeg, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the apples, cinnamon and nutmeg in either a large pie pan or 9x13 baking dish, and mix to combine. Meanwhile, combine the butter and almond flour with a fork until you have small pea-sized bits. Mix in the chopped pecans, cinnamon and other spices as desired. Top the apples with the crumb topping, and bake 30-45 minutes or until apples are soft and you can see bubbling liquid, and the crumb topping is golden brown.
I made this sample with granny smiths. The sweet-tart apples, crunch of the pecans, and hints of cinnamon were oh-so-tasty. If you wanted to indulge a little, you could whip up some fresh whipped cream using heavy whipping cream, but I seriously don’t think you’ll need it.
Are you the Type A person and need more than something this easy? You could covert this into an apple crumb pie by making a simple nut pie crust (use either almond flour, coconut flour or your own made pecan or walnut flour). You could also replace some of the apples with pears, cranberries (will be really tart!), or some raisins or dried fruit of your choice. Some fresh lemon zest would also add a little zing. So many options!
I thought about listing my sweet potato (or pumpkin) pie recipe, a recipe for poached pears, a flourless cake made with bittersweet chocolate that is so rich and decadent and like a piece of bittersweet chocolate, and a bunch of other stuff, but you can do a search for "paleo pumpkin" and get a bunch of results that may suit your fancy. Besides, many of you have been doing this paleo stuff long enough that I know you have some recipes up your sleeves. Rosemary? What are you having or planning on eating? I believe Melissa Hayes is doing some chocolate drizzled pomegranate seeds? What else do you all have to offer up?
Our advice to you: enter into your celebration of Thanksgiving with your own guidelines or rules in place - realistic ones for you personally. Remember, YOU are accountable only to YOU this Thanksgiving when it comes to your food choices. If you are trying to minimize gluten exposure, then stick to the inside of that pumpkin pie, avoid the crust, have some ice cream, or look for other options that you know won’t be gluten heavy. Trying to go low added sugars? Make sure there is some fruit or lighter dessert fare offered, or bring some 70% or higher chocolates as a dessert for all to share.
Whatever your Thanksgiving meal includes this year, whomever is sitting at the table with you, whatever food choices you make, know that I’m thankful for each and every one of you, and truly making this BTB family one of a kind!