The holiday season is filled with sugary indulgences. A sweet treat can be a great way to celebrate the season, but over indulging in sugar can contribute to health problem like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. This month’s article is dedicated to healthy versions of desserts that can replace traditional sugar bombs. These recipes are grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and packed with protein and healthy fats. Enjoy and Happy Holidays from the doctors at the Northwest Center for Optimal Health.

Dr. Wells’ Guilt- free Brownies 

These brownies are made fairly regularly at my house. For a twist on the recipe try adding the cinnamon and cayenne pepper for a Mexican hot chocolate flavor.

Dry Ingredients

2 cups raw pecans, walnuts of hazelnuts

⅓ cup cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Wet Ingredients 

2 large eggs

½ cup maple syrup

2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place the nuts in a food processor with an S-blade and process until finely ground. Do this in pulses to avoid over processing and turning the nuts into a nut butter. Add remainder of dry ingredients and pulse again until well combined. Add the wet ingredients and process until smooth. The nuts will still have a chunky appearance, this is okay. 

Spray coconut or avocado into an 8’x8’ pan (for thicker brownies) or a 11” x 7” pan (for thinner brownies) and bake for 25 minutes. 

Chocolate “Truffles”

2 cups raw pecans or walnuts

1 cup medjool dates, pitted

6 Tablespoons of cocoa powder

Place nuts into a food processor with the “s” blade and process until finely ground and a paste like consistency. Add dates, cocoa powder and blend until well combined. Use a ½ Tablespoon measure to portion and shape into a balls. Roll balls into hemp hearts or shredded coconut.

(Adapted from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook)

Chocolate “Cheesecake” with Sweet Nut Crust

4 cups  raw unsalted Cashews

¼ cups coconut oil, melted

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

¼  teaspoon salt

⅓  cup lemon juice

¾  cup coconut sugar

4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate

1 9” baked pie crust (sweet nut crust)

Measure 4 cups of raw cashews and soak them in 3½  cups water for at least 4 hours. Rinse the nuts using a wire mesh strainer and drain well on a paper towel. The nuts will expand to more than 4 cups, use them all. 

In a high speed blender, pour the oil, vanilla, salt, lemon juice and  sugar. Blend briefly to melt the coconut sugar. Add the drained cashews, blend for 1-2 minutes until smooth & creamy, scraping down sides of blender. 

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat.Turn blender on to lowest speed. Remove lid, pour the melted chocolate into the blender with the other ingredients. Use a spatula to scrape in all the chocolate from the pan. Once thoroughly blended pour into your pie crust. Chill for at least 8 hours or overnight to set.

Sweet Nut Crust

1 cup gluten free flour (use Xanthan gum as recommended if flour calls for it)

½ cup Almond meal

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup & 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, softened

⅓ cup coconut nectar

1 Tablespoon water

⅓  cup finely chopped almonds

⅓  cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush a 9” pan with oil. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, almond meal and  salt together. Add the coconut oil. Mix well, until dough becomes consistently moistened. Add the coconut nectar and water. Stir until well combined. Add the nuts & mix. Turn dough into prepared pie pan and press into pan. Bake 16-18 minutes until edges turn golden. Cool completely on rack before filling.

(Dr. Rebecca Dirks’  Adaptation from Delightfully Free-141 Gluten- free, Dairy-free & Sugar-free Recipes)

Dr. Stacie Wells, ND, FAAEM is a Naturopathic Doctor & Fellow of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. She practices at the Northwest Center for Optimal Health in  Marysville, WA. Contact her at 360-651-9355 or

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