For most, dessert is a treasured food tradition that is an integral part of special occasions. Singing Happy Birthday around a birthday cake, gelato on Summer holidays and for me my Grandma walking through the dining room door carrying her annual Christmas ice cream cake. She made pudding too but I was always more into the cake and hard sauce.
We all know sugar is a scourge on our health but I still think there is a place for sweet treats on these special occasions, Christmas definitely being one of them.
Over the years I’ve learnt that the key to food is joyful balance. I know that my daily eating is right for me, it keeps my blood sugar stable and downregulates inflammation. When you have your daily eating sorted with 100% confidence and clarity there is room for pav on Christmas Day and cake on birthdays without sabotaging your health.
I would argue this kind of convivial connection over food is very good for you indeed.
I teach my clients the same principle. We don’t need to fear foods, just understand the role, however small that may be, that they can play in our food choices.
And so I have four delicious gluten-free Christmas-sy desserts for you. I’ve done dessert wreaths, I’ve done trifles and gluten-free Christmas puddings. These are my four favourite for Aussie summer Christmas desserts that I actually serve to my own family with photographic proof. I’ve got your back so two are no-cook recipes, another is super duper easy and the fourth is more of a challenge but worth the effort if you are wanting to have some wow factor.
I had never been a big fruit eater. I had a few stories in my head from my old dieting days about fruit being high is sugar *gasp* and even as a kid I just wasn’t that into it. Years of fructose malabsorption, SIBO and hypothyroidism disguised as IBS will do that to you. In the past it was rich and saccharine chocolate desserts or nothing. Imagine my surprise when my personalised Metabolic Balance plan contained fruit at least twice per day! After a few weeks on fresh whole foods, milk chocolate and sickly sweet desserts wrinkles my nose. I prefer the more subtle and complex flavours of fruit over a sugar sledgehammer these days. So needless to say fruit does feature a lot in the recipes below.
First, some tips when enjoying sweet treats…
Have them within an hour of a main meal that featured protein, fibre (veg & complex carbs) and healthy fats. Having those three things already in your stomach will enable your body to process the sugar in your dessert more slowly and steadily, preventing the spike that leads to fatigue, weight gain and inflammation. Most of these recipes also contain protein or fats which will help too.
Savour every bite. Eat your food (especially dessert) slowly and luxuriate over each bite. Let it melt on your tongue and delight your senses. Make sure you listen to your body and it’s hunger & satiety signals. When you’re approaching fullness, honour your body and its signals. No one enjoys the need to unbutton or unzip after a meal.
No guilt! Consciously decide what you want to enjoy and then damn well enjoy it. No beating yourself up, no vowing to eat less the next day or cut calories come January first. Nada. Step out of that cycle by making adult decisions that honour your body and your values for your health.
Grilled Fruit Salad
DF | GF | refined sugar free | easy
In my opinion Christmas is when all the best fruit is in season; berries, stone fruit, figs, pomegranates, mangoes! You can sleect whatever fruit you want but I recommend stone fruits and pineapple as a base.
- Wash & cut your fruit. I went for peaches, apricots and pineapple. I wanted the peaches to be halves but I couldn’t seperate the pip from the flesh so I had to cut them into wedges. Wrong variety perhaps? Arrange in a baking dish on baking paper.
- Brush with your choice of oil or melted butter if you require dairy free on both sides. Grill one side until golden. The apricots cooked far more quickly so I had to remove them for a little while to let the pineapple catch up. Turn them, sprinkle 1 tbs of rapadura sugar over the top (optional) or a drizzle of honey (also optional) and grill the second side.
- When golden arrange on a platter, sprinkle with berries or pomegranate seeds (or both!)
- To serve add one scoop of ice cream person and just plonk it on top. For dairy free I recommend the Pana salted caramel. Sprinkle with dried or edible flowers. Serve quickly, the ice cream does melt but it forms a delicious sauce, embrace it!
GF | contains sugar | if you like a challenge
Meringue is made with eggs and sugar, no gluten in sight. There is an obscene amount of sugar in this recipe but it’s necessary to help the meringue keep its form. My husband tried to make meringue with eggs and honey earlier this year and it ended up a puddle on top of his lemon curd. If only he had asked his wife! Meringue can be done many ways, I used small individual meringues with Macarons (also gluten-free) so make a stunning Christmas wreath with fresh fruit and berry coulis one year. Eton Mess always goes down a treat and a Pav is practically an Australian Christmas institution. Last Christmas I followed Nagi from Recipe Tin Eats Never Ending Meringue Tart (https://www.recipetineats.com/never-ending-meringue-tart/) and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s worth the effort. I’m linking this recipe because I would recommend you follow Nagi’s instructions closely and there is no way I could do it justice here. You need to make the meringue tart shell in advance and then I prepared my toppings in the morning and had them ready to assemble when dessert time came. I topped mine with with whipped cream then peach compote followed by fresh figs, peach slices and then blackberries, blueberries, toasted pistachios and finished it with a peach & processo sauce so I’ll give you the recipe for those instead. If you want to see a video of my 1.6metre meringue tart all finished you can see it here (https://www.instagram.com/p/Cmz4XAoBMJ0/).
- You will need 6 washed & chopped peaches, 150gm of castor sugar, the zest of a lemon, the juice of a lemon and 1tsp of vanilla bean paste.
- Add all ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and cook stirring often for 10 minutes until peaches are soft.
- Remove excess liquid and put aside for the Peach & processo sauce. You should have approximately 100-200ml.
- Store the peach compote in the fridge until you are ready to assemble your meringue.
Peach & Processo sauce:
- You will need the 100-200ml of syrup left over from the peach compote and a small bottle of prosecco.
- Add the syrup to a small saucepan and simmer with 50gm of unsalted butter until thickened to a consistency like honey. Add Prosecco starting with 1 cup, stir and taste. Add more processo if needed to taste.
- Pour into a jar and store in the fridge.
- When it is time to assemble your meringue tart finish it off by drizzling the sauce over the top of the fresh ingredients. Serve the remaining sauce in a jug on the table.
Mexican Fruit Salad
DF | GF | refined sugar-free | easiest!
If you want something even easier Mexican fruit salad is my other go-to
- Chop tropical fruit like a whole pineapple, a whole pawpaw, 2-3 mangoes, ¼ watermelon and add it to a bowl.
- In a smaller bowl mix the juice of two limes, 1tbs of honey and ½ tsp of chilli flakes (or to taste).
- To serve dress the fruit in the lime mixture and gently mix. Garish with finely chopped mint. This is sensational on its own but also pairs beautifully with sorbet.
Blue Cheese & Figs
GF | refined sugar free | easiest!
For those of us with more of a savoury palate, you can’t go past some blue cheese, fresh figs and good quality gluten-free crackers on a platter. All you need is 4-6 figs gently washed and quartered, some Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, blueberries, gluten-free crackers and an optional drizzle of honey over the top. I have baked figs stuffed with blue cheese and it was delectable but this is a no-cook, simple platter assembly idea you can throw together in 5 minutes. Sit back and watch people dig in. I prefer Olina’s Fig & Sunflower seed crackers which are available at Coles & Woolworths. Aldi also has a similar version. They have a delicious crunch.
- Arrange a platter with half the blue cheese, crackers, quartered figs and sprinkle with blueberries.
- Crumble the other half of the blue cheese over the figs and drizzle with honey.
- You could also garnish with some dried fruit or toasted nuts.
When you’re facing your first gluten-free Christmas it can be really intimidating because it feels like gluten is in eeeeeeverything but in reality, you have so many options. I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s no longer intimidating.
Personally, I think these desserts are far more appetising for an Australian Summer Christmas menu than heavy, stodgy puddings, cakes & trifles. Although they can all be made gluten-free too of course. I’m just not much of a baker so you would have to go elsewhere for those recipes, I know my limits! I’m all about quick, easy & fresh ideas.
If you give any of these recipes a go please do tag me in your photos – it would make my day. And I do use the word ‘recipe’ loosely because these are more like suggestions. I’m not much of a recipe follower.
Enjoy & Merry Christmas!