A Story of Recovery (and a Recipe for Grain-free Carrot Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting)

If you had two girls under the age of two, and your husband, a fighter pilot, was flying cover during a war in Iraq, would you be thinking about converting your diet to organic, whole foods? I wasn’t. My life had enough stress without another distraction. But, that’s what happened in 2003.

Daily Migraines and medications at 25

Two years earlier, after the birth of my second daughter, I began having daily migraines. I was 25. As migraines often are, they were both baffling and debilitating. They started with the birth of my first daughter, but were infrequent and not as severe. I often had to lie down in a quiet dark room, which was almost impossible with toddlers to care for.

I was taking several medications to manage the pain just to get through the day. They continued, though, four or more a week. After two years of struggle, my neurologist suggested adding yet another daily medication to my prescription regimen, a treatment that wasn’t working anyway. I kindly rejected her suggestion and drove home thinking: There must be another way.

finding organic, real food

The same day I saw my neurologist, a tiny newsletter article caught my eye while going through the mail. It was about the benefits of organic foods. I knew migraines could be related to diet, so I wondered if changing to organic foods might help. I was at the end of my rope and willing to try something different.

At the time, I was eating lots of vegetables to lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight. I replaced my lettuce with organic. It was my first step. I picked lettuce because it was the food I ate the most of. Within a week I noticed a significant difference. The frequency of my migraines decreased, and it was now easier to care of my kids. I didn’t need any more encouragement. I next switched all produce to organic with the intent of increasing the amount of pure and untreated food in my diet and decreasing my pesticide intake. As I dug deeper and learned more, I continued making changes to my pantry and refrigerator. Over the next year and a half, I converted my family’s diet to whole, unprocessed, organic ingredients.

transitioning to organic, real food

As I began using organic, unprocessed ingredients, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I had a hard time finding recipes that were equivalent in flavor to what we were accustomed to. Nevertheless, I avoided such ingredients as white sugar, white flour, and partially hydrogenated anything. Recipes using whole grains were especially challenging. We weren’t ready to leave the world of paninis, pasta, and pizza, but just substituting ingredients didn’t exactly work out. As my husband likes to say, we ate some terrible pancakes during the transition. This was disheartening because I had grown up with a great love for cooking that I inherited from the women of my family.

I’m blessed and grateful to be a part of a line of wonderful cooks going back generations in Louisiana. From this rich, generational heritage I discovered the bedrock value of simple, delicious recipes paired with creativity and boldness in presentation. I decided that if we were going to eat organic and traditionally prepared dishes, they were going to taste every bit as delicious as the ones I used before.

Over time, I shared with my friends and family how I overcame my health problems. And then I told others. Many were earnestly interested in learning more or in making changes to their own diets. I continued to tell my story, share my adapted recipes, and give encouragement through my blog, Deliciously Organic and my recently published cookbook, Deliciously Organic.

recovery found

Through organic, unprocessed food our family of four was able to overcome: severe asthma, eczema, IBS, and migraines. No drugs. Just good, natural, real food. Then three years ago, I had an amalgam filling removed and unfortunately the doctor didn’t take the proper precautions during the extraction. As a result, my thyroid absorbed many of the heavy metals and months later I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. The disease ravaged my body with hives. Once again, the doctors didn’t have any answers and in fact, they told me there wasn’t anything they could do. I once again turned to nutrition and began a grain-free diet rich in healthy fats, meats, and vegetables to begin the healing process. I’m happy to say the disease isn’t controlling me anymore and my blood work is looking better by the day. One day, I hope to announce that the disease has been defeated. I’m not too far away from that joyful day.

If organic, whole foods are something you’ve thought about I encourage you to give it a try. I hope you’ll discover, as I have, that eating food direct from the source of the earth uninterrupted by fewer chemicals and less processing is not only perfectly doable and beneficial but also perfectly delicious! And don’t be surprised when your friends and the whole family (including the kids) say, a I can’t believe this is organic. It’s delicious!

carrie’s grain-free carrot cupcakes

Moist and rich with the flavor of carrots, honey, coconut and cream cheese, Carrie’s grain-free cupcakes are a real food treat that you (and your kids) will love.  Like most grain-free baked goods, these muffins call for almond and coconut flours as well as coconut oil which are increasingly available at health food stores; however, you can also find them online (see sources). For more simple, wholesome and healthy organic recipes, be sure to check out Carrie’s book: Deliciously Organic.

Grain-free Carrot Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake Cupcakes III

By Carrie Vitt Published: April 22, 2012

  • Yield: 24 large or 48 mini cupcakes (24 - 48 Servings)

These cupcakes make for great muffins in the morning sans the frosting. You can also substitute the cream cheese with mascarpone cheese. Also, if you are on the GAPS diet, omit the baking powder - the cupcakes won’t rise quite as high, but they will still be moist and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • 1 pound carrots (scraped and grated)
  • 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup honey (divided)
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup full-fat yogurt (room temperature)
  • 3/4 pound mascarapone or cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream (whipped until soft peaks form)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF and adjust rack to middle position. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with muffin liners.
  2. Place almond and coconut flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using the beater attachment, combine the ingredients on low for about 20 seconds. Add grated carrots and beat on low for about 30 seconds until incorporated.
  3. Pour eggs and 3/4 cup honey in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process for 20 seconds. Add melted coconut oil and yogurt and process for an additional 20 seconds until smooth. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and beat on low until combined. Spoon batter into muffin cups making each about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until edges are just golden brown. Cool completely.
  4. Whisk mascarapone or cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup honey and vanilla in the bowl of a standing mixer until smooth. Using a spatula, fold in whipped cream. Frost cooled cupcakes with frosting. These are best served the day they are made.

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What people are saying

    • says

      I can’t use almond flour either, and I’m not grain free, so I just used a combination of other flours: rice, tapioca, teff, and corn. I posed my version on my blog, which I think you can access by clicking on my name. (Sorry if this posts twice, but when I tried the first time, it just reloaded the page and I didn’t see my comment or any message.)

      • Chuck Baumgarten says

        I agree quinoa is great stuff, very high protein, gluten & nut free and has an endless variety of uses. You can purchase organic quinoa at Costco or most bulk food sections.

    • says

      I was wondering the same thing…could you just use all coconut flour instead? My 11 month old son can’t seem to tolerate gluten :( I just spent years learning to cook a whole new way with unprocessed and whole foods and now I’m baffled all over again. And the kicker…I’m allergic to almonds. So it’s even harder to find recipes for the whole family.

  1. Karen says

    Thank you for sharing Carrie’s story, she is one of my favorite food bloggers and I love her cookbook Deliciously Organic. She has been a great source of encouragement throughout my journey to healthy organic eating. :o)

  2. Erin H. says

    Is there a way to adapt this to a cake recipe? Possibly a springform pan, single layer? Our family is transitioning from the SAD to a less-processed ingredients diet, but I still made an Easter carrot cake, from scratch, using processed flour and powdered sugar for the cream cheese frosting. I would love to find a healthier alternative! Thank you!

    • says

      I haven’t tested it, but I think you could bake the batter in a 9″ cake pan (or spring form), at 350ºF for about 35 minutes or so, until golden brown on the edges and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

    • Catherine says

      I bet this would adapt easily to a cake. I will sometimes do the opposite, using a cake recipe for cupcakes. I’m thinking a 9×13 pan, or two 8″ or 9″ pans. If using the 9×13 pan, then I going to guess 30 to 45 minutes. I’d start checking at 30. If the smaller pans, it might not take too much longer than the cupcakes. If you try it, post it so we all can know! (and I will do the same).

  3. says

    Hey Carrie,
    Thank you for sharing your story of recovery. I’ve been struggling with osteoarthritis which is getting worse. My rheumatologist can only offer anti-inflammatory medication and, ultimately, orthopaedic surgery to replace various worn out bits. As you say, there must be another way. So, like yourself, I’ve recently embarked on a “real food” diet and am trying the WAPF approach of nutrient dense food. Your story has inspired me to stick with it – thank you!

  4. Diana Martina says

    In 1992 I had all amalgams taken out. Since then I have suffered from adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism that the doctors say “is within normal limits” and have gained almost 100 pounds. As I read your article, I suspect mercury….for the first time….a little slow on the uptake here, which proves my point. My diet will change effective immediately. Thank you for sharing this article…can’t wait to make the beautiful cupcakes! This prompts me to further study.

    • Bebe says

      Hi Diana, I had all my amalgam fillings removed (one in every molar!) this past winter. Half in Oct/Nov without much in the way of protocol, besides a Vitamin C cocktail IV, for moving the mercury along OUT of my body. The other half in January. Because of the lack of support I’d received from the integrative medical practice I’d been using and my sick teenager who was not getting better after two months, under their care as well, I went back to my previous provider who is an hour away. Her protocol for mercury removal is MUCH more detailed. Some of the things listed, which I did and which may help you now are: plenty of of butter and eggs- ” lipoproteins are required to transport fat and synthesize bile. Mercury is displaced from your cells (tissues) and then free to be transported to the liver. Eggs and butter are especially high in these types of fats. The emphasis in animal protein is because of its concentration of sulfur bearing amino acids and lipids (fats). Mercury has an affinity for both of these chemical groups.”; Epsom salt baths, 3x a week, 3-4 cups at a time, steam and sauna as well; lots of onions and garlic, broccoli and other brassicas (high sulfur, like the eggs too!); NO seafood other than Alaska salmon (because of their own mercury load); no pork, because it takes hundreds enzymes to digest and you need those enzymes for detox; Dietary sulfur (MSM) “also helps bind to mercury”, manganese- “Chronic mercury toxicity depletes vital enzymes in the body by interfering with enzyme metabolism and utilization. Manganese supplementation allows for larger quantities of enzymes to be made available to the body”, and Vitamin C.
      Plus, eliminate caffeine (slows urinary excretion of mercury), sugar and alcohol (interfere with cell membrane permeability making excretion of mercury from the cell difficult) and fluids with meals “Drinking while eating dilutes digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid. Diluted gastric juices prevent proper digestion. This results in a lack of the necessary enzymes that are needed to strip the coating on mercury, thus allowing Vitamin C to readily combine with it and further eliminate mercury via the urine”. Also avoid petroleum products and pasteurized milk, and “increase fiber, which can bind to toxins and promotes regular bowel movements which is important when detoxifying”. Whew… After all that, which was really no big stretch, I did oral chelation with DMSA for a month. When I got my heavy metals blood test results back I was told they were among the best she had ever seen!

      • says

        Please check out http://www.noamalgam.com and join the Frequent Dose Chelation Group on Yahoo. The science behind what you’ve mentioned here just isn’t right and mercury is such a major issue for so many people that it is just too important for them to be lead astray by bad information. I am not trying to be critical of you at all; you were told these things by a doctor, and an alternative one at that–they often can do just as much harm (if not more) than the conventional MDs when it comes to heavy metal chelation.

  5. says

    I tried to post a comment earlier, but it had a link and won’t go through. Here it is without the link. :)

    Carrie, thanks for sharing your story! What a horror, doing something good for your body (having the filling removed) only to have the dentist sabotage the entire thing. I’m so sorry for your difficulties, and am encouraged by your progress and commitment! Keep up the great work. I think it helps all of us to read stories of triumph and change.

    I have a story about high cholesterol and an extreme gluten sensitivity being reversed by whole foods on my Homestead Host blog. Since I can’t post the link here, if you want to read about it, please go to the site by clicking on my name, and then finding the “Fetching the Milk” post under “Featured Posts” in the right sidebar.

  6. says

    What an inspiring story. Keep up the good work, Carrie. I witness results like this on a regular basis in my nutrition practice often by guiding clients through a customized elimination diet developed from the results of food sensitivity testing (mediator release test and LEAP diet), which eliminates the most problematic foods first to allow the immune system to heal. Switching to real organic food, free of pesticide residues, additives, fillers, preservatives, and colorings/flavorings is always the first step. I hope your story encourages others to look to food first. Lily Nichols, RD, CLT

  7. erica says

    This looks so yummy! Sadly, we’re nut free. Do you think a flour made with sunflower, hemp and/or pumpkin seeds would work?

    Thanks!

  8. Lisa says

    Thanks for sharing your story! I’m struggling with my thyroid, too. Trying to heal it through nutrition and working with a nutritionist, but it is slow going. I eat meat, veggies, and beans, no grains, sugar or dairy, and I eat lots of good fats. I’m wondering where you found your advice about a diet to heal thyroid. I’d love for you to post some sources or write more specifics about your thyroid healing diet.

    Thanks so much for posting this!

    • says

      I’m sorry to hear about your thyroid issues. You’re right, it’s a slow-going process, but very rewarding! I’m not a nutritionist, so I can’t give specific advice, but I can share where I got my information. My nutritionist, Kim Shuette, from http://www.biodynamicwellness.com has walked me through the entire process and prescribed just the right protocol and whole food supplements that my body needs. I recommend any of the nutritionists at her office (they do phone consultations).

      I also make sure and get plenty of exercise, avoid grains, have a very small amount of sweeteners, avoid soy, I drink beet kvass each morning, kombucha in the afternoons, a few mugs of chicken or beef stock throughout the day, and do a dry sauna for about 20-30 minutes at a time 3x a week. All of these things have helped my body detox along with diet and whole food supplements.

      • says

        Please look into low, frequent dose chelation via Dr. Andy Cutler. He doesn’t sell anything to chelate and you can do it all from your home.nmany people have had reversal of thyroid disease but only after the mercury is properly removed from the body.

  9. says

    I think an overall diet change would be good for everyone…to try to eat the best foods, homegrown in our backyards, or organic! ♥ I look forward to trying this recipe soon. Today is my husband’s 39th birthday and I made carrot cake for him (we ate half of it yesterday and will eat the other half today)!

  10. Lori says

    I, too, am fascinated by your story of thyroid problems and hives. I had hives the last 10 weeks of my pregnancy. This in spite of eating mostly Weston A Price style/whole and real organic foods. I had no idea that low thyroid could be related to hives. Low thyroid runs in my family. How is it that meat, veggies, and good fats helped your thyroid? I had thought iodine based foods like seafood would do that. I didn’t know other things could help too!

    • says

      Hives are an extreme (and fairly uncommon) symptom of Hashimoto’s disease (The allergist who ordered the blood work to measure my antibodies told me this). Iodine helps the thyroid also, but this is only one piece to the puzzle. From my understanding a diet void of grains, rich in meats, vegetables and good fats can also help the body rest and heal. Dr. Davis, author of “Wheat Belly”, touches on this topic. He recommends that if you suffer from any type of autoimmune disease you should avoid grains completely, eat as little sugar as possible, and eat a diet rich in nourishing foods to help your body rest and heal.

  11. Fiona Elliott says

    Hi everyone,

    Muffins look amazing, I was just wandering are they sweet, could you reduce the sugar in the muffins? Really trying to reduce my sugar intake i would normally half sugar in most muffins. Anyhow just wanted to ask. Love your story too so nice to see you taking a natural approach to solving your health issues ♥

  12. nikki says

    Thyroid issue aré caused by lack of iodine, & u must stay away from goitrogenic foods like cabbage, brussell sprouts.
    Check out maximus and the commander@ blogspot.com

  13. audine says

    How much baking soda? I see baking soda listed in the instructions, but the it’s not listed in the ingredients.

  14. julie m. says

    Hi,
    Just wondering when it mentioned to go “grain free” in reference to the thyroid. What if you only eat soaked or sprouted grains?

    Thank you : )

    • says

      My nutritionist advised me to cut all grain as they would cause inflammation in my body since I have a thyroid autoimmune disease. One day, I hope to add soaked/sprouted grains back into my diet. What a celebration that will be! :)

  15. says

    Thanks for sharing your story. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but have you ever looked into Celiac. I only ask because your listed symptoms are Celiac symptoms. And It sounds as if you are gaining results by inadvertently following a gfree diet. Anyway, I am encouraged to read about your story. I am a Celiac and have Hypothyroidism and am trying to renovate my diet even above being gluten free. I sometimes feel that with autoimmune issues that doctors are the last to know (no offense intended). I am living on the “patient, heal thyself” philosophy. Again thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Hi Kara – I have been tested and don’t have Celiac. I believe the metal toxicity played a huge part in my extreme symptoms. I agree that sometimes doctors are the last to realize that one has an autoimmune disease. I went to doctor after doctor for 9 months before I could even get one of them to listen to me. When I finally did, he ran lots of tests and then told me there was nothing they could do. That’s when I turned to a holistic approach. And I’m so glad I did!

  16. says

    What a wonderful recipe – and gorgeous photo, too! I’m always on the lookout for a real food muffin – would be yummy with walnuts and raisins, too, if that wouldn’t make the dough too heavy. Will have to try it out :)

  17. Julia says

    Your story sounds a bit like mine. I healed myself from Graves disease with real foods. But I still have a lot of gut issues, inflammatory bowel disease, so I just discovered the SCD/GAPS diet which I’m 3 weeks into. I highly encourage people to read the books on SCD and especially the GAPS diet book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Listen to her telephone interview with Dr. Mercola.

  18. PSH says

    I had been thinking for a long time of making a carrot cake. When I discovered your blog/recipe a couple days ago. The yogurt in your recipe made me decide to try yours, since a little yogurt has been good in a couple other recipe I tried elsewhere.

    I only made a 1/4 recipe and used non calories sweeteners. This was SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD.! I know I will make again soon. I wish I had made a 1/2 recipe. Then again maybe not to control myself. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Eileen P says

      Jose,

      Quinoa and amaranth are two grains that do not contain gluten and also do not break down into amylose (sugar) which make them great choices to use. You can substitute either quinoa or amaranth flour for other flours in a recipe without making other changes. I see also some people saying that they’ve used other non calorie sweeteners in these. With our patients we suggest that the only non calorie sweeteners used would be xylitol or stevia as others contribute to chemical toxicity (and have worse side effects than the sugar itself). You can google using xylitol or stevia and get a substitution chart online.

  19. says

    I am going to go give these a try. I don’t have quite enough carrots so I am going to add a couple beats. :-) I think it should work.
    Thank you for the article and the recipe!

  20. Douggy says

    Looks so Hearty’n’Delicious. Perhaps GAPS people could replace the baking powder with Gluten Free yeast? Seems legit.

  21. Jill says

    You need a “pin it” button on your website. More people will click to your site and see your recipes that way.

  22. Ruby Rai says

    Hello,
    Your story is very inspiring. For years my husband and I have been slowly taking gluten out of our diets. We would stick to a plan and then something would come up and we would go back to old ways. More my fault as I would fine cooking pasta or other gluten products are convenient. After having our twins last year, we are almost there with no gluten and very little sugar diet. Especially for babies as we don’t want to introduce gluten yet.

    In fact I will be making these for twins birthday on Thursday. I am planning to substitute honey with applesauce , do you think it will alter the recipe a lot? And I only want to make half the amount so how do I halve the recipe?

    Thank you

  23. says

    finally i found someone who knows how to provide relevant information on the subject i have been searching for? thanks, at last i can study with pleasure..

    • Ashley says

      Did u try substituting with maple syrup?? I want to make these for my one year olds birthday and i don’t want to use honey! thanks :)

  24. Jennapher says

    This looks delicious! I am keeping carbs low while I get down to healthy weight but I miss sweets… Does anybody have any low carb sweetner ideas? I use Stevia in the Raw right now but it has a bit of an after-taste which makes my hardwork in the kitchen seem pointless when the end product is dissappointing and i’m always tempted to use sweet n low.. I know I know.. shame shame

    so any suggestions?

    • Lael says

      I use non-GMO, birch xylitol. I know a lot of people forgo it, but I rely on it and have no problems with it. It doesn’t give me any digestive upset. So, I guess I’m lucky.

  25. says

    I’ve made this twice now, the second batch was for a 2yo’s birthday party. I subbed butter for the coconut oil. I had to reduce the butter to 3/4 cup or else it was way to heavy/oily. We also decreased the carrots to 3/4 lb on the second batch (on the first, my kids said, “This is like eating a salad cake.”). We also added about 1/2 cup of crushed pineapple (drained), just because that’s one of my favorite things in carrot cake. The frosting was so super yummy, too!
    Lots of people asked for this recipe – thank you!

  26. Becca says

    Thank you for the post, the cupcakes look amazing. I’m wondering how long your hives lasted and what you did to get rid of them. Did they just go away when you switched to a grain free diet? I’ve been diagnosed with Hashimotos and have had sever hives for 7 months. The rash was so bad that at times I couldn’t see see or walk due to associated swelling. I am doing much better now thanks to steroids (didn’t want to go that route but had to do something after 6 months). I’ve been on a grain free diet for 5 months and the GAPS diet for 2 months but am still getting hives. Just wondering if you did anything special. Thanks!

  27. Heather says

    Hi, I had amalgam fillings years ago when I was in my mid 20′s and was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism/Grave’s Disease. The dr. wanted to radiate my thyroid and put me on thyroid replacement hormones the rest of my life. I said no way. After a lot of trial and error, I found a naturopath dr. who said it was mercury poisoning from the fillings. He sent me to a dentist who was equipped to take them out as safely as possible and replace them with composite fillings. Then I went back to the naturopath and he put me on an herbal heavy metal detox program for a couple of months. I then went back to the general dr. who had no idea what I’d been doing and had my thyroid retested…it was completely normal and every blood test I’ve had since for the last 10 years has been normal. Maybe you should check into completely detoxing your entire body of the mercury, I recommend it and it may take care of your thyroid disease completely.

  28. Stephanie Dutton says

    Hey, I really enjoy your site .

    I have some questions, maybe slightly off topic and I apologizes .

    My family and I have been in search of satisfying eating habits for a year now. Both my son and I suffer from bad eczema. ( rx + natural remedies have been tried, with little or no outcome) through process of elimination I have found that dairy effects my sons skin inflammation and both dairy and gluten for me. So we have been GF free DF. I have tried to make coconut keifer cheese failing and effectively killing my grains. I also have tried fermented veggies, and kombucha.

    So with that said my questions are about grain free eating :

    I see in most of your baking recipes you use coconut , almond, rice or other non wheat flours, what exactly makes these better choices?

  29. Carly says

    HI, thank you for the great recipe, I stumbled upon it while searching for ways to remineralise my 2yo daughters teeth. I have just made them and they are quite oily/soggy at the bottom, I’m not the best baker and my oven is fairly average, just wondering if you could help me with what went wrong if you are still reading replies please. I am in Australia and used fine desiccated coconut and almond meal. Are they different to coconut and almond flour? It was all I could find and thought maybe they just had different names here.
    I’m looking forward to exploring your site.

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