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Paleo Baker Brings Healthy Twist to Desserts

By Lindsay Armstrong | December 16, 2014 9:57am | Updated on December 19, 2014 6:08pm
 Diana Cornell started This Pie is Nuts to provide gluten-free, vegan treats to her customers.
Healthy Pies
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INWOOD — An Inwood baker is making desserts with a twist — a paleo, gluten-free and healthy take on traditional sweets.

Diana Cornell, 45, is the creator of This Pie is Nuts, a line of treats that can be eaten by people sticking to a paleo diet — which focuses on natural, unprocessed foods that have been eaten by humans for thousands of years.

The pies, which Cornell sells both whole and in individual serving sizes, come in six flavors including pumpkin, chocolate mousse, key lime, coconut, sweet potato and pecan.

Instead of flour, she uses nuts, coconut, almond milk and fresh purees. She sweetens them with maple syrup and natural ingredients like agar.

Cornell encourages people to try her pies first before being scared off by the untypical ingredients.

“People always say to me, ‘I didn’t think I was going to like this because it’s healthy,’” she said.

“Even though it has all of those labels, my first concern is the taste of the food.”

Cornell started exploring healthy eating options when she received a devastating diagnosis at the age of 25.

“I got diagnosed with M.S. 20 years ago,” she said. “When you get diagnosed, you just deflate. The hardest thing about that feeling is finding hope.”

At the time, Cornell did not feel ready to go on medication. She decided to explore other avenues to ease her symptoms.

“I’d always been a healthy eater,” she said. “I thought ‘If I kick it up a notch and really eat healthy and clean I wonder what I can do for myself?’”

She now manages her symptoms through a combination of acupuncture and diet.

After leaving an acting career to be a stay-at-home mom, Cornell became interested in learning more about clean eating and attended the Natural Gourmet Institute, a culinary school that focuses on healthy eating.

She started making the pies — which she now sells for $34 or $6 per slice — and got rave reviews from friends and acquaintances, who asked where they could buy them.

She officially formed her business about eight months ago and later moved into a commercial bakery on Henshaw Street in Inwood. She first sold her wares at a booth at the Long Island City Flea and Food market this summer.

She graduated to a spot at the Bryant Park Holiday Market.

Inwood Gourmet, which started selling This Pie is Nuts products about two weeks ago, is the first store to pick up Cornell’s treats. She hopes to start selling the pies at other local stores and restaurants soon and also hopes for a future at a large retailer, such as Whole Foods.

For Cornell, the best part of starting her business has been connecting with customers who have struggled with their own health issues.

“I meet so many people everyday who know my story through my website and they come up and tell me their stories,” she said. “It encourages me to keep making these pies and see what else it will bring.”