Not-Quite-Pie Pumpkin Cupcakes {Gluten-Free}

imageFifteen years ago, I graduated from high school. I don’t remember much about graduation day. I kind of remember getting my diploma, I kind of remember going out to eat with my brothers, their wives, Best Friend and my parents. One specific memory sticks out to me, though. My oldest brother, who is older by 10 years, gave me one of the best presents I’ve ever received.

Now, before I tell the story, I need to tell you that Oldest Brother is brilliant, mischievous, adventurous, slightly irreverent, fiercely protective and independent. I have always adored him for those qualities. As a teenager and twenty-something, he wasn’t super affectionate or outwardly sentimental but it never bothered me. He is Oldest Brother. I’ve always felt safe and cared for and slightly in awe of him.

After the graduation ceremony, we went back home and I opened presents. I’m sure I got money and little tokens. But Oldest Brother gave me a very worn scrap of faded material. Everybody went very still and then got teary.

This little scrap was from my childhood Winnie-the-Pooh blanket. It was pale blue and silky and fit perfectly in my toddler fist when I sucked my thumb. It was fringed and worn around the edges. (My mom cut my large blanket into smaller pieces so I could always have it with me and never totally lose it. Smart lady.) When I was three, our family pediatrician had a heart-to-heart with me about the evils of thumb-sucking. I have no idea what she said, but it definitely worked. I went straight home, gathered up all my pieces of blanket and threw them in the trash. I vowed never to suck my thumb again and didn’t look back. Nobody thought to hang onto a piece of blanket for posterity.

Except Oldest Brother.

He kept that ratty scrap for 15 years; through an Alaska-to-Texas move, junior high, high school, college, marriage, several cities and apartments, and most of the 80’s and 90’s. His 13 year-old self salvaged and kept it safe in a drawer until he was ready to give it back to me. Few gifts hold as much meaning for me.

We share the same parents, the same Other Brother, and the same love for the outdoors, twisted humor and good food. Neither of us eat much sugar these days, so I wanted to create something just for him. His first love is chocolate, and normally I’m up for chocolate. But he can do chocolate on his own exceptionally well, and I wanted to create something different. His second love is pumpkin pie. I came across a similar recipe and it inspired me. These little bites of bliss aren’t completely pie, and they’re not quite cake.

So this is for Oldest Brother… Not-Quite-Pie Pumpkin Cupcakes, created with a tremendous amount of gratitude and affection. Happy Thanksgiving!



  • 1 can full fat unsweetened coconut milk (or 1 cup cream if you don’t mind dairy)
  • 1 15 oz can 100% pumpkin puree (no additives)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or whole milk)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 40 drops NuNaturals vanilla stevia
  • 1 cup sweetener of your choice (I like coconut sugar)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cardamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, eggs, erythritol, almond milk, stevia, vanilla extract and only the cream from the coconut milk (It separates if you chill it slightly. Just skim it off the top and reserve the watery part for another use.)
  2. In a smaller bowl, sift coconut flower and combine with baking powder, spices, and salt.
  3. Combine wet and dry ingredients until smooth.
  4. Pour batter into lined muffin tins (you can fill them at least 3/4 of the way) and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. The tops will be slightly firm to the touch, but it will still be fairly wet.
  5. Refrigerate overnight, then top with whipped coconut cream flavored with pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract.

5 Healthy Holidays – Day Five : Avoiding the Sugar Meanies

photo cred: foto76 on


You guys. It is so hard to resist sugar. This time of year, anyone would be crazy to not have a hard time. Unless they were born without a sweet tooth, but that’s like being born without a bicuspid or wisdom teeth. It almost never happens.

So, what gives? Well, sugar is basically like heroin to your brain. I’ve never used heroin, so I can’t say for sure what it’s like. But I can tell you that getting a hit of sugar makes everything better. Blissful. Euphoric, even. For about 10 minutes. And then everything goes haywire. I get moody, emotional, snarky, maybe even a little bitchy. Then my husband does something mildly annoying or my son won’t stop crying and then I just can’t cope. So, I eat more sugar to help me cope, which is the thing that made me unable to cope in the first place. It is a mean, terrible cycle and once I’m caught in it, I feel nearly powerless to get out. Turns out, there’s a reason for that. This study claims that sugar is even MORE addictive than heroin or cocaine. I believe it.

That’s great information, right? But how do we reduce our sugar intake over the holidays? Because the reality is this: sometimes not eating the sugar makes me grumpy and bitchy, too. But that’s my fault, not the sugar’s fault. I’m capable of saying no and still being a decent, respectful human being.  At least I’m pretty sure I am.

I’ve developed a few tricks over the years to deal with the sugar meanies (that’s what I’m labeling this condition). Here they are:

  • Eat a protein packed breakfast. Having a solid layer of protein to start your day out will greatly increase your chances of avoiding low blood sugar, which increases your ability to make good food choices and be a respectful human being. Sugar meanies = avoided.
  • Keep a protein snack with you at all times. I keep a bag of pumpkin seeds (shell on) with me all day. They are a perfect seasonal treat, and provide fiber, which helps me feel full, and protein to help keep my blood sugar stabilized until I can eat a proper, balanced meal. But let’s be honest here: sometimes I don’t even get the balanced meal because I forget to make it a priority. Protien-based snacks are the only way to go when that happens.
  • Don’t let sugar define your holidays. Discover the joy of savory seasonal foods. Make real food and you will feel full, satisfied, and stable.  Serve real food and everyone else will feel the same way.  Seriously.  Try it.  Fall in love with savory.
  • Bring a treat with you. How many times have you arrived at a party or gathering and found nothing you can eat? My fix for this is simple: bring something. Besides looking like a very thoughtful and contributive guest to your party host, you also receive the added benefit of having something to eat. It’s a total win for you and the party.
  • Drink lots of water. This is so hard to do, especially when we get busy. But this is so important! Many times, we confuse dehydration for hunger. 48 ounces of water is the bare minimum to consume during the day, but most folks need double that, especially when we are inside with the heat blasting. Forced heat dries us out much more quickly than we might realize. Shoot for 100 ounces of room temperature water a day! You’ll find your hunger curbed, and your skin will be soft as an added bonus.
  • Save sugar for last. You go to a party. You spot the decadent treats. You even see one that meets all of your weird dietary criteria. Say yes to it. But say yes after you’ve eaten all the veggies and protein you can handle and had at least a full glass of water. Then circle back around to the sweet thing that caught your eye and decide if you still want it. If you do, go for it. Enjoy it. Savor it. Then be done. Give yourself permission to have it, though. You might find that the act of giving yourself a choice is all you need to be able to say no. And if you do partake, you’ll have a tummy full of nutritious food to soften the sugar meanies.

If you’re still having a hard time wrapping your sugared brain around what savory (and slightly sweet) treats to make, head over to The Leaky Boob for a list of my favorite elimination diet recipes of 2014.