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Better-for-You Valentines: Gluten-Free Treats

Indulge! These healthier homemade treats, all of them gluten-free, love you right back.

Did you know? Valentine’s Day is the most chocolate-centric time of year. Fifty-eight million pounds of chocolate candy are bought during the week of February 14th each year. That’s a staggering $1.6 billion spent on total candy sales for this one holiday. If the thought of that makes your jeans feel tight, never fear! There are healthier yet decadently delicious ways to sweetly celebrate Valentine’s Day.

This year, resolve to make your own treats. Homemade confections aren’t difficult and they allow you to control your ingredients and limit the heavy use of refined sugar and nutritionally depleted flours. You can even use real cocoa, not the sugar-packed, ber-processed milk chocolate that most North Americans associate with Valentine’s Day. The antioxidants and flavonoids in real cocoa have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve overall heart health and reduce the chance of stroke in women.

Be open to expanding your repertoire and baking with other beneficial ingredients, like coconut oil. It contains lauric acid, thought to reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Coconut oil also helps the body’s immune system fight harmful bacteria, yeast and fungus. Other good-for-you ingredients include high-protein seed butters and nut butters, gluten-free whole grains and unrefined coconut palm sugar, which has a lower glycemic value than white table sugar. Puréed beets can deliver delicate sweetness while adding essential nutrients.

Using these secret ingredients in your Valentine’s goodies shows loved ones you care about their health, as well as their taste buds.

Don’t think of Valentine’s Day as the end of your healthy New Year’s resolutions, but rather the beginning of looking at sweets in a whole new way. Everything in moderation, but with these delicious treats, you can feel better about indulging.

Photography by Jeff Rasmussen

Dark Chocolate Mousse


This easy mousse contains good-for-you coconut milk and dark cocoa and tastes utterly sinful. Spoon it into individual parfait dishes and top with red berries and whipped topping or serve it in Cookie Cups for a special treat.


1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (14-18% fat, not lite)
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-Whipped topping of choice, for garnish, optional
-Red berries, for garnish, optional

1. Refrigerate the can of coconut milk overnight to chill thoroughly. Do not shake the can.

2. Open the can and skim the solid cream off the top. There should be about 1 cup. (Set remaining coconut water aside for another purpose. It’s delicious in smoothies.)

3. Place coconut cream, cocoa, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whip until smooth using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer.

4. Spoon into individual parfait glasses. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Top with whipped topping and red berries, if desired.

Each serving contains 82 calories, 6g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 8mg sodium, 9g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 6g sugars, 0g protein, 5 Est GL.
Cookie Cups


For fun, serve Dark Chocolate Mousse in these edible cups. This recipe can be made with egg replacement; see instructions below.

½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening or coconut oil
1 cup palm sugar or granulated sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup milk of choice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2¼ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour blend, more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
-Decorative sprinkles or colored sugar, optional

1. Cream together shortening and sugar until very fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla, beating until combined. Add flour blend, baking powder and salt, mixing until blended and dough is formed.

2. Shape dough into a ball, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until cold and no longer sticky, at least 2 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the cups of 2 muffin tins.

4. Lightly dust work surface, a rolling pin and cookie cutters with gluten-free flour. Roll dough out to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Using a cookie cutter at least 3 inches in diameter, cut dough into circles or daisy shapes.

5. Gently press dough shapes into prepared muffin tins. Place in preheated oven and bake 8 to 9 minutes. Remove before cookie cups brown and get crunchy.

6. Place muffin tins on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Then gently remove cups and let cool completely on wire racks. Fill with Dark Chocolate Mousse. Top with decorative sprinkles, if using.

Each serving contains 148 calories, 6g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 11mg cholesterol, 111mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 10g sugars, 1g protein, 15 Est GL.

For Egg-Free Cookie Cups, omit 1 egg. Combine 1 tablespoon flax meal with 3 tablespoons hot water. Let cool. Use this mixture to replace 1 egg in step 1.

TIP To make chocolate lace hearts, pour melted chocolate chips into a decorating pen and “draw” small hearts on a piece of parchment paper. When cool, lift hearts gently from the parchment and arrange them decoratively on each mousse cup. DecoMax Decorating Pen (12-ounce, $25) is available at lekueusa.com.

Photography by Jeff Rasmussen

Pink Puff Cookies


These pretty cookies are light and airy. They’re best when rolled in confectioners’ sugar but skip this step if you’re counting calories. This recipe can be made with egg replacement; see instructions below.

3 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup milk powder of choice or almond flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
9 ounces prepared whipped topping or coconut whipped topping
1½ cups fine-grind coconut palm sugar* or granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup dehydrated strawberries or raspberries
-Natural red food coloring, optional
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, for rolling, optional

1. Whisk together flour blend, baking powder, milk powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat whipped topping and sugar until fully combined. Add eggs, dehydrated berries and food coloring (if using). Mix until well combined. Gradually stir in flour blend mixture until dough is thick and taffy-like.

3. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate until very cold, at least 2 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

5. Pour confectioners’ sugar (if using) into a small bowl, stirring briefly to remove any lumps.

6. Scoop tablespoons of dough into balls. Roll dough balls in confectioners’ sugar (if using). Place balls on prepared cookie sheets 1 inch apart.

7. Place in preheated oven and bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies are done before they brown; they should resist a finger gently pressed into the top.

Each serving contains 107 calories, 1g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 12mg cholesterol, 70mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 12g sugars, 1g protein, 14 Est GL.

For Egg-Free Puff Cookies, omit 2 eggs. Combine 2 tablespoons flax meal with 6 tablespoons hot water. Let cool. Use this mixture to replace 2 eggs in step 2.

*TIP For fine-grind, process coconut palm sugar in a blender or food processor until finely ground.

Photography by Thinkstock/istock/kallelundholm

Fruit Fondue


Chocolate fondue is a fun, hands-on food activity. Pair your favorite fresh fruit with this flavorful sauce to get your chocolate fix without the calories of traditional desserts.

⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
⅔ cup coconut palm sugar or granulated sugar
⅔ cup milk of choice
6 tablespoons brown rice syrup, coconut nectar or agave nectar
6 tablespoons sunflower seed butter or nut butter of choice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-Fresh fruit (apples, pears, berries, grapes, pineapple, tangerines, etc.), cut into bite-size pieces

1. Place all ingredients except the fruit into a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir to combine as mixture warms. If mixture is too thick for dipping or drizzling, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is easily stirred. Mixture should not be hot.

2. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl for dipping. Reheat in the microwave if mixture cools too much during dipping. Alternatively, spoon mixture into a piping bag or zip-top bag with a small corner cut out and drizzle a thin line of chocolate sauce over bite-size pieces of fruit.

Each tablespoon contains 56 calories, 2g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 1mg cholesterol, 20mg sodium, 10g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 7g sugars, 1g protein, 6 Est GL.

Healthier Fudge


This amazing treat, rich in protein and antioxidants, makes a flavorful Valentine delicacy. Cocoa powder, coconut oil and sunflower seed butter produce a delicious fudge that’s better for you. Sprinkle with Himalayan sea salt—its 84 trace minerals are rumored to increase libido!

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
⅓ cup smooth sunflower seed butter or peanut butter (with salt)
⅓ cup coconut palm sugar or granulated sugar
½ cup softened coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
2 tablespoons coconut flour or powdered peanut butter
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-Ground pink Himalayan sea salt, for sprinkling

1. Line an 8×5-inch container with parchment paper.

2. Place all ingredients except for pink Himalayan sea salt in a small food processor or blender and process until completely smooth. Pour mixture into prepared container. Refrigerate or freeze until firm.

3. Cut fudge into small squares. For a Valentine’s Day theme, use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter. Top with a sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt.

Each piece contains 52 calories, 4g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 10mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 3g sugars, 1g protein, 2 Est GL.

Photography by Jeff Rasmussen

Chocolate Cupcakes


Most of the fat in these rich and decadent-tasting cupcakes is replaced by lentil purée—but no one will ever suspect! This versatile recipe also makes amazing chocolate donuts. It can be made with egg replacement; see instructions below.

½ cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained
1¼ cups water
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
⅔ cup coconut palm sugar or granulated sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sour cream of choice or plain yogurt of choice
2 large eggs
½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
⅓ cup hot water
– Confectioners’ sugar or decorative sprinkles, optional, for dusting top

1. Place lentils and 1¼ cups water in a medium pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and lentils are tender but not yet broken apart. (If package directions say to cook longer, follow those instructions.) Drain lentils in a colander.

2. Using a large food processor, blender or potato masher, process lentils into a purée that’s the consistency of pumpkin puree. (This puree thickens as it cools. If too dry when cool, slowly add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Cover puree and refrigerate until used.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. If making donuts, grease 2 donut pans (6 donuts per pan).

4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour blend, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

5. In a separate bowl, beat together sour cream, eggs, vinegar, vanilla and ½ cup lentil purée. Add this mixture to dry ingredients. Slowly pour in ⅓ cup hot water while beating the other ingredients together. Batter will be fairly thin but should not be watery. (Add less water if you think your batter is getting too thin.)

6. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place in preheated oven and bake cupcakes 12 to 15 minutes, donuts 10 minutes. Test with a toothpick to be sure it comes out clean before removing from oven. Do not overbake.

7. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes. Then remove from pan(s) to finish cooling completely. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if using.

Each cupcake contains 145 calories, 2g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 37mg cholesterol, 117mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 11g sugars, 4g protein, 16 Est GL.

For Egg-Free Chocolate Cake, omit 2 eggs. Combine 2 tablespoons flax meal with 6 tablespoons hot water. Let cool. Use this mixture to replace 2 eggs in step 5.

Red Velvet Pancakes


With a combination of nutritious beet purée and gluten-free whole grains, these nourishing pancakes will wake up your taste buds and keep you satisfied until lunch. Serve them warm with a drizzle of pure maple syrup. For best results, do not replace the eggs in this recipe.

2-3 medium raw beets
½ cup coconut flour
¼ cup millet flour
¼ cup arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil or vegetable oil of choice
1½ cups milk of choice, more as needed

1. Wash beets; cut off and discard green tops. Bring beets to a boil in a large saucepan with water fully covering the beets. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 40 minutes or until fork-tender. Run cold water over beets until they’re cool enough to handle. Slide skins off; then cut into cubes and purée with an immersion blender or in a small food processor. Measure ½ cup of purée. Save remaining purée for another use.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut flour, millet flour, arrowroot, baking powder, cocoa and salt until combined.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together maple syrup, vanilla, egg, oil and milk. Slowly stir wet mixture into dry ingredients. Add more milk, ¼ cup at a time, if needed, to thin batter so that it can be easily spread into pancakes.

4. Lightly grease a griddle or large pan and place over medium heat.

5. Spoon ¼ cup batter into heated pan, spreading each pancake with the back of a spoon to thin it for even cooking. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes or until undersides are lightly browned. Flip and cook another 1 to 3 minutes until done.

Each pancake contains 96 calories, 3g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 21mg cholesterol, 158mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 6g sugars, 3g protein, 7 Est GL.

* Not all products sold by the companies listed are gluten-free or allergy-friendly. Read labels carefully. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer directly.