We don’t know about you, but around the holidays we really start wishing eating better was easier. What with work parties, get-togethers with friends, and the always indulgent family dinners (blame Moms everywhere!), guilty holiday treats are anything but hard to find. And as a result, New Year’s resolutions to “eat better” and “work out more” are always atop that pointless list.
But alas, therein lies the Catch-22 about the holidays, right? Half of the fun is in the overeating and indulging just a wee bit too much because— hell—when else can you eat and drink like a pig and get away with the ye olde, “…but everyone else is doing it,” amirite?
But not this year! This year you can have your pie and eat it too because there is hope for us little dessert monsters, after all. New York City-based This Pie is Nuts! is a newly launched brand headed by Natural Gourmet Institute graduate Diana Cornell. True to its name, This Pie is Nuts! is a line of —wait for it—healthful, guilt-free pies made from nuts. (And yes, they’re so good, it’s nuts!)
“It’s not about the ingredients we leave out,” the brand’s tagline reads. “It’s about the ingredients we put in.”
And there’s not a lot of them.
That’s because every pie — from the decadent chocolate mousse and coconut cream pies to the classic pumpkin and key lime variety— is 100 percent certified vegan and paleo, so that doesn’t leave a lot of room for crap.
Instead, Diana makes room for real, simple, really simple ingredients that are actually good for you, like organic kudzu root, organic coconut oil, and of course, lots of raw nuts. Oh, and there’s no butter or sugar added.
Sounds crazy right? And a lot like it’s going to taste like that health crap your one friend is always touting at you about. Well folks, these pies have been tried and tested by yours truly (the key lime and coconut cream, to be exact), and they are some sort of magic for sure.
Creamy, indulgent and sweet, it’s hard to believe that coconut cream pie can also be fresh and light, but it’s true. And it’s guilt-free too (say whaaaat)?! So obviously, I had to hunt Diana down to spill all her deepest, darkest secrets —er, about her pies, that is.
Here she dishes about what goes into her good-for-you baked goods from This Pie is Nuts!
GMF: After graduating from The Natural Gourmet Institute, you say you started experimenting with what you learned. What principles did you keep in mind while trying recipes?
D: When I started making these pies, I didn’t even intend to start a business, I was actually trying to make a pie for my son, who doesn’t tolerate dairy very well. I had been introduced to so many new ingredients and techniques at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and I wanted to see what I could come up with.
I knew that I wanted to use ingredients that were as “close to the ground” as I could get, and I wanted it to be more then a dessert. I also wanted it to be as good for him as it was delicious.
GMF: How did you come up with the idea of creating pies, specifically those with a crust made of nuts?
D: When I first started with these pies I was actually using coconut flour for the crust (these pies were about 9 months in the making!) I just couldn’t get the consistency right.
But then I remembered a blueberry pie that I used to make, when I was a kid, where I’d make a nut crust. I thought I’d give it a try and after a bunch of attempts at getting the consistency where I wanted it, I fell in love with the idea of making the crusts that way.
GMF: Tell us about one of your more not-so-great experiments?
D: I think the toughest one for me was the coconut. Way in the beginning I had used a can of coconut milk and it was delicious, but it had guar gum as an ingredient, even the organic ones. It wasn’t that the pies I made during that time were “bad” but they tasted like nothing. It was very hard to duplicate that coconut taste and thickness I had found in the cans. But after MANY failed attempts I got what I wanted.
GMF: How do you incorporate your paleo lifestyle at home and in your everyday life?
As for my own food choices, I always try to make vegetables the first thing on my plate. Sometimes they are the only thing on my plate. Being diagnosed with MS many years ago I try to make sure that everything I eat is going to help my body stay on track.
GMF: How did you start selling your pies, and when did you decide to start ‘This Pie is Nuts!’?
I have made SO many pies, and every time I made one and it wasn’t quite right, I was ready to make the next one. So I would give it away, and my husband brought SO many into work. As I got closer to the recipes I use now I started getting requests for it. I thought “I think I have a business here??”
There were SO many steps to getting to where I am. Licenses and forming an LLC and insurance. Every day there was something to do. I actually thought of the company name driving down the FDR one day. As soon as it popped into my mind I knew it was the one. It just fit. The first place I ever sold was the LIC Flea and Food. Had such a blast there. Now I’m at Bryant Park Holiday Market. This business is growing everyday.
GMF: How do people usually respond when they have their first taste of one of your good-for-you pies?
I love hearing people react to the pies for the first time. Sometimes people see the labels vegan or gluten-free and they expect them to taste like cardboard. I love the surprise on their faces when they realize they taste so good!
GMF: In what way do you think people embracing your eating philosophy will help them live healthier?
As far as people eating healthier, I always hope that for everyone. We all figure that out for ourselves eventually. I have something on the market that satisfies the craving for something sweet without making you feel weighed down. Food should always be a pleasure!
GMF: Now that you just opened your first kitchen, what’s next to come?
Now that I have a kitchen of my own I can start thinking about shipping and getting into some stores. As far as what comes next, I really have no idea! It seems this business has a mind of its own. I never know what the next day holds.
For more information on This Pie is Nuts! and where you can pick up some of Diana’s delicious pies, visit the website and follow @thispieisnuts on Instagram and Twitter.