November 19, 2015

Gobble Up Gluten-Free Alternatives to Traditional Thanksgiving Desserts

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As Ithaca’s once-green leaves alchemize into the warm, autumn hues of reds, yellows and oranges, students recognize what holiday is approaching: Thanksgiving! The time has come to prepare ourselves — and, more importantly, our appetites — for endless hours of feasting and good company.

And what better way to start than by looking at some healthier alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving meals? With the help of my gluten-free, Teen Chopped champion and ultimate foodie friend, Max Aronson ’19, I have compiled a couple of my favorite recipes to satisfy even the palettes of the gluten-free.

Let’s start with a gluten-free cheesecake that is to die for:

Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes


  • 1 ½ cups of your favorite gluten-free gingersnap, graham cracker or cookie
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted


  • Preheat oven to 325° and grease a nine-inch spring-form pan with  the coconut oil.
  • Grind the gingersnaps with the dark brown sugar in a food processor.
  • Add melted coconut oil and continue to pulse until it folds over on itself or sticks together when touched.
  • Pour into pan and mold to the bottom. Press together evenly.
  • Bake for 15 minutes and let cool.


  • 12 ounces low-fat cream cheese
  • 6 ounces low-fat Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, 2 egg whites
  • 2 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free, all-purpose flour
  • 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée


  • Place a roasting pan filled halfway with water in the oven, still at 325°.
  • Blend the cream cheese and yogurt in an electric mixer on medium speed for three minutes.
  • Add the sugar and blend until smooth. Add the eggs on low speed and mix for two minutes.
  • Once smooth, add the vanilla, spices, flour and pumpkin. Blend on medium speed until creamy.
  • Pour into the crust and drop the pan lightly on the counter to prevent air bubbles from forming.
  • Bake for 50 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let rest for one hour.



  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk
  • ½ cup chopped pecans


  • Melt the sugar and butter in a non-stick pan until smooth and bubbling.
  • Add milk slowly and mix. Remove from heat and fold in the pecans.
  • Refrigerate for five minutes before topping the cake.
  • Top each slice with two tablespoons of the caramel-pecan sauce.

These minor substitutions make for a healthier yet equally delicious alternative to a traditional cheesecake. As my friend Max said, “Enjoy responsibly. This is slightly addictive.”

Following the gluten-free trend, this next recipe is for a delectable apple pie, because, as we all know, no Thanksgiving is complete without pie!

Grandpa Barry’s Apple Pie

Prep time: 10 minutes
Inactive time: 2 hours


  • 2 cups gluten-free, all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks cold, diced, unsalted sweet cream butter
  • 3 eggs


  • Mix dry ingredients with n electric mixer on the lowest speed.
  • Add the diced butter and mix on medium speed until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.
  • Add the eggs and beat on high speed until the mixture comes together.
  • Dust a work surface with flour. Knead the dough on the surface three times and cut in half.
  • Shape into discs and wrap each separately in plastic. One disc makes one pie with a top and bottom crust.
  • Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


  • 1 disc of previously made pie crust
  • 6 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 egg


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Divide the crust into two even sections.
  • Roll out the crust to be ¼ inch thick and place in a nine-inch pie pan. Crimp the edges.
  • Poke holes in the crust.
  • Bake the bottom crust for 10 minutes, or until edges  turn golden-brown.
  • Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes.
  • In a large bowl, mix the cinnamon, lemon juice, maple syrup, vanilla and cornstarch.
  • Add apples and fold together to evenly coat every slice.
  • Pack the apples into the crust, forming a slight mound in the middle.
  • Roll out the second half of the crust and drape over the top of the pie. Seal the edges by matching the top layer to the crimping on the bottom layer.
  • Using a knife, make an “X” on the center of the top crust.
  • Beat the egg and use a pastry brush to brush it over the crust.
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden-brown.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  • Serve with ice cream and enjoy!

So, for the Cornell gluten-free community, Thanksgiving no longer needs to be a struggle. With these recipes, nothing stands in your way from enjoying traditional delectable desserts with a twist!

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