Tag Archives: sugar-free

12 homemade Christmas treats that aren’t sweets

If you LOVE to make homemade food gifts, but have some giftees who are diabetic, gone paleo, eating low carb, or just not sweet lovers, here are some DIY food options for them:

treats that aren't sweets - sugar-free dry rub
A sugar-free dry rub for rotisserie-style chicken — highly rated on AllRecipes.com.
Garlic hummus (from yours truly). I suggest gifting this with some homemade seasoned pita chips.
My buttermilk ranch dressing: No nasty chemicals, no sugar, made with yogurt.
Personalized coffee blend, from Martha Stewart. This page includes a downloadable printable for the label. Of course!
I’m not a fan of olives (so don’t make this for me), but for those who do like them: olives with fennel seeds and orange, from Martha Stewart.
Fajita marinade for steak or chicken, using Pioneer Woman’s “Beef Fajita Nachos” recipe.
Giada’s marinara. Gift it with a package of cheese tortellini and/or homemade garlic bread. (Not low carb or paleo, I know. But better than store-bought!)

Pickled red onions. These make a beautiful jarred gift. They’re a delicious addition to salads and sandwiches. Fancy-up your green beans or sweet peas instantly. Some folks like them atop a hamburger or roast.
And when the onions are gone, you’re left with a lovely pink vinegar to use in slaw or salad dressings.
Feel free to improvise on the sugar and spices. I’d use half this much sugar, and just a few generous pinches of thyme and some fresh-ground black pepper.
(A note to diabetics and low-carb-ers: This is one recipe where I’d go with sugar, honey or maple syrup over artificial sweeteners. Splenda doesn’t always work well with vinegar, and if you’re using these as a condiment, the amount of sugar actually ingested is very minimal.)

Homemade taco seasoning. No sugar, no MSG, no gluten, no cornmeal filler.
And for a baker’s dozen, the last item is a sweet, but it’s sugar-free, and not very sweet-tasting: sugar-free chocolate bark with your choice of toppings.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Recipe

Looking for things to do with summer’s last abundance of garden tomatoes? When you’re tired of BLT’s (is that possible?), this is one delicious way to serve up the same flavors with a twist.
This recipe is based on Ina Garten’s (aka Barefoot Contessa) buttermilk ranch dressing. I’m not saying I could improve on her: these changes were just made to accommodate my being short on fresh basil, my husband’s aversion to too much mustard flavor, and our taste for less salt in things. Also, I prefer the taste of yogurt to that of mayo, so I tweaked that proportion a bit.
I loved how it came out! I ate this salad or some variation of it for four days straight! I hope you’ll love it, too.

Recipe: Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 T. chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed (or 2 t. dried)
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t. Dijon mustard
1 T. good olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
3 small Bibb lettuces, cut in half through the core
   (or 6 hearts of romaine, cut in half through the core, or equivalent loose-leaf chopped)
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut in large cubes, or smaller tomatoes thickly sliced
1 red onion, sliced (optional)
bacon, amount to your liking (optional, but highly recommended)
Place the green onions, basil, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Puree for 15 to 20 seconds to make a smooth mixture. Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, and buttermilk and blend until smooth. Transfer the dressing to a container, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, for the flavors to develop.
Arrange the salad ingredients on salad plates and drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper if desired, and serve.
Serves 6.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad – sugar free, gluten free, without CoolWhip!


Ever since I saw the recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad at MyBakingAddiction, I’ve wanted to create a sugar-free, lower-carb version. It took a couple tries to get the proportions right, but here it is!

Why is it called Strawberry Pretzel Salad instead of Strawberry Pretzel Dessert, or Strawberry Pretzel Pie? It seems that back in the days when Jello was a new-fangled thing, anything that combined jello with fruit was labeled “salad.” And this is an old-timey recipe. The fact that it’s survived tells you it’s good! (Unlike one of my mom’s favorite jello salads, which featured grated carrots in orange jello, topped with cream cheese and grated cheddar cheese. Bleck!)

To imitate the crunchy, salty crust without using actual pretzels, I went with a combination of chopped nuts. Specifically, pecans and salted pepitas. Pepitas are pumpkin seeds that have been dehulled and roasted. All of the pepitas and some of the pecans get a coarse chop, while the rest of the pecans get finely ground. The large nut pieces provide the kind of crunch you’d get from the larger chunks of pretzel, while the finely ground pecans serve as the butter that helps everything stick together. The pepitas have a more delicate crunch, while the pecans provide a sort of buttery flavor like the crust of pretzels. You could make this with just pecans, but if you want that salty kick, you’d need to add extra salt to the recipe.

You can use either 4-oz. Mazon jars — or any other 4-oz. dish — or 7-oz. ramekins; your serving number will vary accordingly. The neat thing about using Mason jars is that if a guest is too full for dessert, you can pop a lid on their jar and send it home with them! Lidding all the jars would also be handy if you’re transporting your dessert somewhere and need to stack them. Perfect for a picnic or potluck!

Update: Thanks to questions by readers, I’ve now included the nutrition count at the end of this post. This dessert is certainly not NO-carb, and it does have far more carbs than protein, but it’s still a lower carb recipe than the traditional strawberry pretzel salad. And sugar-free and grain-free!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad/Dessert

Fills 21 4-oz Mason jars, or 10-12 ramekins.

2/3 c. salted pepitas, chopped coarsely
2/3 c. pecan pieces, chopped coarsely
1 c. pecan pieces, ground fine
1/4 t. kosher salt
30 pkts. Splenda (or 1.25 c. granular Splenda) (OR LESS)
2  8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 c. whipping cream
1  0.6-oz. package sugar-free strawberry flavored gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1  16-oz. package frozen sliced strawberries – no sugar added

Chop the pepitas and the smaller portion of pecans until they are mostly pea-sized and smaller. Grind the larger portion of pecans until they are beginning to stick together. (For method, see my recipe for lime cheesecake shooters.)
The pepitas, before and after:
And the pecans, finely ground and coarsely chopped:
Combine the nuts and salt, and stir until well mixed.
Place 2 T. into each 4 oz. mason jar (or 1/4 c. into each 7 oz. ramekin). Tamp down lightly using a clean bottle or jar that’s smaller than the opening of your serving dishes.
In a medium bowl, beat the Splenda, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth.
Whip the cream till soft peaks form. Using the lowest setting on your mixer, gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, just until even in color. (Overbeating will turn the cream to butter.)
Spoon this filling into a gallon-sized baggie and snip off the tip of the bag. You may want to do this in two batches to make it easier to handle.
A side note… The first time I made these, I thought I’d skip the hassle of using a baggie and just carefully spoon the filling into the jars. Here’s the result: on the left is the jar I spooned filling into; on the right is the jar where I piped the filling in. Much neater!
Evenly divide the filling between each jar. Place the jars into the refrigerator for about 1 hour. Placing all the jars in a large cake pan will make transporting them to and from the fridge easier.
After the cream filling is chilled, make the jello. In a medium bowl, stir together the gelatin mix and boiling water. Stir in frozen strawberries. Place the bowl into the refrigerator for three or four minutes. This will allow the gelatin to firm up a bit.
Evenly spoon the gelatin between each the jars. A small gravy ladle works well for this.
Also, having the jars in a cake pan while you fill them will save your counter tops from jello stains if, like me, you spill a little.
Place jars back into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Serve chilled.
Here’s the nutrition count, based on 21 servings, erythritol for the sweetener, (via myfitnesspal.com):
Amount Per Serving; % Daily Value *
Calories 205
Total Fat 19g 29%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 29mg 10%
Sodium 111mg 5%
Potassium 124mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Sugars 3g
Protein 5g 11%
Vitamin A 8%
Vitamin C 31%
Calcium 5%
Iron 8%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet,


Want more recipes like this? or looking for Paleo recipes? Check out my cookbook…

 sugar-free dessert cookbook now available

Individual lemon icebox pies


When I was a kid, dessert was not a forbidden thing. We almost always had some ice cream in the freezer, and/or a frozen chocolate cream pie or lemon icebox pie. I loved the lemon pie, and would sneak small slivers off of it every now and then. I suspect that the reason I never got caught was that I wasn’t the only one in the house doing it, and s0 my mom probably assumed my dad was the culprit!

These mini-pies are quick and easy to whip up at home, and they have that same sweet-and-tangy appeal as the freezer pie in my memory! But these are sugar-free, gluten-free, corn syrup-free, and you control whether there’s food coloring, and what kind of sweetener goes in!

Recipe for:Individual lemon icebox pies

makes 6-8, depending on serving sizes

1/2 c. pecan pieces
8 oz. cream cheese
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon (or 1/2 or 3/4, depending on how sour you like things)
4 pkts. Splenda (or sweetener of your choice, equiv. to 8 teasp. sugar)
1/2 t. vanilla
2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1/4 c. cream
whipped cream:
1/2 c. cream
1 pkt. Splenda
1/2 t. vanilla

See my recipe for No-bake lime cheesecake shooters for the crust-making and assembly method, using 4-oz. Mason jars as the serving dishes.

Once the jars are filled and topped with whipped cream, attach the lids and place in the freezer for at least three hours. I haven’t tested them for longevity, but I’m pretty sure you could keep them frozen for up to several days at least with no problem.

Remove from the freezer 45 minutes before serving time and let thaw at room temp. Remove lids, garnish if you like, and serve!

Also, this recipe is fantastic turned into cheesecake-stuffed strawberries! No freezing, for that option.

Here’s the nutrition info, via myfitnesspal.com; this is for a single serving (of eight servings), with the crust, but with NO whipped cream.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving   Servings 8
Calories 163
Total Fat 16 g
Saturated Fat 7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Sodium 87 mg
Potassium 95 mg
Total Carbohydrate 3 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 3 g

Want more recipes like this? or looking for Paleo recipes? Check out my cookbook…

 sugar-free dessert cookbook now available

Recipe roundup: Mother’s Day menu ideas

Here’s a little gift for you: instead of wandering all over the internet for the perfect Mother’s Day menu ideas, here are four different options for you, each with its own theme. Almost all of these recipes can be made ahead, so you can enjoy the day without last-minute panic. And all (except the shortbread) are low carb. You get enough guilt from Mom; you don’t need any from your food! 😉

Note: Most of these entrees are Paleo, or nearly so. None of the desserts are, but most can get closer with small tweaks.

Light lunch, light flavors

Want to treat mom to just a little something, perhaps before you head out to tour a local garden — or mall? Serve this easy, make-ahead orange-cranberry chicken salad on lettuce leaves or in soft pita pockets…

…with this elegant, lightly-sweet and super tender almond poppyseed shortbread.

Neither of these dishes will weigh you down, but they will both delight Mom with their flavors!

Classic ladies’ lunch, done low carb (or paleo)

What could be more classic than quiche? If Mom is doing South Beach or some other low-carb diet, you’ll be happy to know that a crustless spinach quiche (here’s a Paleo version) can be just as delicious as one with the traditional but high-carb pastry crust. I added a little Canadian bacon to the original recipe.

Mother's Day menu ideas: quiche and fresh berries

Serve a fruit salad on the side. Here, I’ve just drizzled fresh strawberries and blueberries with some sweetened cream. (To make it Paleo, use coconut milk and skip the Splenda.) One cup of heavy cream or half-and-half (or coconut milk), one packet of Splenda, 1/2 t. of vanilla extract. That will be enough for about six servings, and possibly some leftovers. So simple, but elegant and delish!

Oh, and about the quiche… be sure not to overcook it. You want it only just done, or maybe slightly underdone, in the center when you take it out. It will continue to cook a bit as it cools, and you want a creamy, custardy texture, not one like over-done scrambled eggs. A thin knife inserted in the center should come out looking pretty clean.

Finish things off with a vintage-y lemon icebox pie, updated by serving it in a cute little Mason jar! Just use my no-bake lime cheesecake recipe, use lemon instead of lime, freeze them a day or so ahead, and set them out on the counter 45 minutes before serving time.

(Note: I hope to update and Paleo-ize this recipe soon, but for now, you would need to sub out the dairy and Splenda, or skip dessert. Or just go with a little splurge!)

Mother’s Day with a Mexican twist

For something different, serve up my easy but elegant ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema (which is Paleo if you omit the yogurt from the crema)…

a make-ahead Tex Mex salad

and no-bake lime cheesecake mini-desserts. Add a wee bit of triple-sec (if you’re not philosophically opposed), and call it margarita pie.

Elegant and — dare I say? — impressive

If your mom is the fine china and real silverware type — or you just want to treat her so — here’s a sure-fire trio. For the main dish, quick pork tenderloin with seasoned rub.

For a side dish, green beans with pine nuts — which, trust me, is so much more than the sum of its parts, and as delicious as it is simple.

If you’re not low-carbing it, some good bread would round things out nicely, then finish with a flourish by serving individual mini tiramisu cups.

And if mama ain’t happy after one of these, well then, mama ain’t gonna ever be happy at all!

One-ingredient, gluten free pie crust

Disclaimer: If you’re already familiar with my no-bake lime cheesecake shooters, you’ll recognize that this post is a bit of a rehash, but I think this crust is such a problem-solver it deserves a post of its own. This crazy-simple gluten-free pie crust is made of: pecans! That’s it! No butter needed. So it’s completely gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, pretty low carb, and you can be assured there’s no weird man-made chemicals in it. (Pecan nutrition facts here.)In the photo below, you can see two different blender blades that came with my bullet-style blender (currently my favorite kitchen gadget). The four-bladed piece (top center in the photo) chops things up from coarse to fairly fine, depending on how long you run it. The shorter, two-bladed one (on the left) minces things down to a fine powder or — in the case of nuts — butter.

gluten-free pie crust - secret ingredient!
In the pic below you can see the difference. The left-hand image shows the pecans after running them with the four-blade piece for a few seconds. This would work just fine for crust if this is all you have. But if you have the second kind of blade, you can grind the pecan pieces until they’re so fine they begin to stick together, like in the image on the right, below. This gives you something with the look and consistency of a crust made of graham crackers and butter. Neat, huh?!

Then you just place a small amount of ground nuts in the bottom of your serving vessel, and tamp it down with the top of a bottle (securely capped and very clean, of course). I use these little shot glasses (actually votive holders form Hobby Lobby), and 1 tablespoon of pecan crumbs works perfectly. 

And you’re done! With the crust, that is. Fill it with your favorite no-bake pie filling, chill, and you’ve got a healthy, easy — not to mention adorable — dessert.

Here are various dishes you could serve such in:

Cheap-o “shot glasses” (votive holders) from Hobby Lobby; you could also find these at Walmart, etc. I’m sure.

4 oz. Mason jars. If you keep the filling short enough, you can cap these for easy, spill-proof portability.

Weck jars. Available in sizes from 3 to 6 oz.
Pricey but adorable individual pie pans. 8 oz; also available in olive.
(Disclosure: Some of these links go to my Amazon store.)

Sugar-free chocolate bark + your favorite toppings!

Sugar-free chocolate bark recipe, with coconut and almonds

Here’s a really simple recipe that looks and tastes completely decadent, but it’s low carb/South Beach diet friendly, because it’s sugar free! You can top this sugar-free chocolate bark with whatever toppings float your boat; I first tried it with a mix of chopped almonds and unsweetened coconut on one end (shown above), and salty pepitas (roasted hull-less pumpkin seeds) on the other.

I served this for dessert last night — just the hubs and me. Here’s what it looked like when we started…

Here’s what it looked like when we were done:

And no, he is not putting that back in the pan!

Clearly, the almond/coconut end was the favorite! The slight sweetness of both coconut and almond goes nicely with the semi-sweet, almost bitter flavor of this chocolate. I think the pepitas would taste great with a sweeter, perhaps milkier chocolate. I’ll try that another day.

But today, there’s a new batch in the fridge that’s all almond/coconut!

Recipe: Sugar-free chocolate bark

Note: If you’re not avoiding sugar, substitute up to 1/4 c. of sugar for the Splenda.

6 T. butter
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate (one square of baking chocolate)
1/4 c. + 2 T. cocoa (unsweetened)
6 pkts. Splenda
1/2 t. vanilla
toppings of your choice, probably around 1/4 to 1/2 cup

Prepare a 10×15 pan by lining it with parchment. Trim the parchment if necessary so that it extends over the long sides of the pan, but does not come up the short sides of the pan at all. (My photos above show how not to do that!) Clip the parchment to the sides, if you like, with some clothespins or other large clips. Set aside.

Melt the butter and the baking chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted. Add in the cocoa and Splenda, and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth. Add in the vanilla, stir until combined, then pour it into the prepared pan. Spread the chocolate out to a fairly even smoothness. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

Sprinkle your toppings of choice over the chocolate, then chill for a couple hours at least. Keep it refrigerated when not serving (or snitching) it, because it softens quickly.

If you’re looking for a recipe with a different sweetener, here are some other options:

Want more recipes like this? or looking for Paleo recipes? Check out my cookbook…

 sugar-free dessert cookbook now available

Individual peanut butter pie


(Note: this is a re-post, but I have added photos of the process and shot much better pics of the finished product. Amazing how much my photography has improved in a few months!)

This peanut butter pie is simple, decadent, and sugar-free! Okay, if you add some chocolate on top — and you really should — there’s a marginal bit of sugar. But for an occasional or special treat, this is a really satisfying way to get a very small amount of the sweet stuff. Sweet, and creamy, and rich — oh my!

If you want the crunchiness of a pie crust to contrast with the smooth fluffiness of the peanut butter, add a layer of chopped peanuts or cashews, either in the bottom of the dish or between the PB and the whipped cream.
You are going to top it with whipped cream, aren’t you?
My favorite way to serve it is in little mason jars, but you could also use dipping bowls, ramekins, or fancy-schmancy little individual footed trifle dishes.

Peanut Butter Pie Recipe

1.5 cups heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla
your sweetener of choice, equiv. to 1/4 cup sugar
optional toppings: chopped semi-sweet or dark chocolate, peanuts or cashews; sweetened whipped cream
In a medium mixing bowl, whip heavy cream until fluffy peaks form.

In a second bowl, beat cream cheese until soft and creamy. Add peanut butter, vanilla, and sweetener and continue beating for an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy and airy.


Drop three large spoonfuls of the PB mixture into the whipped cream; whip this till mostly incorporated.


Add the rest of the PB mixture in the same way…


whipping just until it’s all a consistent color.



Taste. Taste again. Okay, now stop. No, stop!

No, seriously: taste it, and if you won’t be topping it with sweetened whipped cream and/or sweet chocolate, add more sugar/sweetener if it’s not sweet enough for you. (Now that I’m adjusted to living without sugar, I’m more sensitized to the taste, so I tend to under-sweeten things.)

Dollop the pie filling into individual small bowls, ramekins or mason jars. Cover with clear wrap and refrigerate till ready to serve. (Optional method: put some chopped chocolate and/or chopped nuts in the bottom of the jars before filling.)


Chop the chocolate.



You may set out toppings and let your guests top as they like, or prep it all and serve.Taste. Swoon. Repeat.

Here’s nutritional info, based on 8 servings, no toppings, and using Splenda for the sweetener. (Via myfitnesspal.com)

Nutrition Facts, Per Serving
Calories 388
Total Fat 41 g
Saturated Fat 26 g
Monounsaturated Fat 11 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 123 g
Sodium 256 mg
Total Carbohydrate 2 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 3 g



More sugar-free treats in my cookbook – now just $3.99…

sugar-free dessert cookbook now available