Often I have been asked what led me down the path of creating and sharing my love for "real food" treats.
There was no single "light bulb" moment that I can pinpoint that sparked my passion. It was more like a series of lights being switched on, paving the way towards living a cleaner, healthier existence.
My journey started more than 15 years ago when I was told by a naturopath that my body was having difficulty processing wheat (in the copious amounts I was eating), resulting in poor absorption of nutrients, chronic iron deficiency, multiple and severe cases of gastro and just being downright skinny.
So, after my initial scepticism that my body couldn't cope without pizza, pasta and delicious soft white bread and a few false starts, I embarked on eating a wheat-free diet, which at the time meant a "fun-free" diet!
Years later, my husband Chris and I welcomed our first son, James, into the world. Trying to work out how to raise this little fella and stop him from crying incessantly kept me well busy for the first 12 months.
James was later diagnosed with reflux and chronic obstructive sleep apnoea, and he was medicated to overcome the symptoms. Despite having every hope that the drugs would help, I noticed they seemed to make his daytime behaviour worse. He became hyperactive, irrational and more inconsolable.
Turns out the poor little guy was reacting to the benzonatates in the medicines, pointed out to me by the paediatric dietician.
What else was in the foods and drinks I was giving my little man daily that could be fuelling his behaviour? Turns out, heaps. I couldn't believe how many products I was giving to him that had numbers to describe the ingredients rather than names. So I became a product label investigator. My grocery shopping went from being a 20-minute run-through to a marathon effort. Even the simplest of things such as dried fruit, pureed fruit cups, kids' yoghurt and ham had numbers to describe ingredients.
And so I started to create my own creative dessert and snack options. I threw out our pre-packaged supplies and filled the freezer with new treats from recipes I had received from the dietician and found online using organic products free of additives and preservatives.
Wow - what a difference. James was a new little man. His "meltdowns" started to become fewer and further between. He became brighter and happier and more interactive in the day. All because of better food choices. And so my passion for creating healthy whole food snacks and treats began.
Recipe from Flame Tree Community Food Co-Op, Thirroul. Find more recipes and ingredients at 1/374 Lawrence Hargraves Drive, Thirroul, or realfoodbites.wordpress.com.
Cacao and Goji Berry Bites
Makes about 10-12 balls
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup pitted Medjool dates (organic)
- 1 cup raisins (or replace with another cup of dates if youprefer)
- 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (organic) or 1/2 tsp of organic vanilla bean paste
- Option: Add 1-2 tsp of agave nectar or raw honey for extra sweetness.
- Coating: 1/2 cup shredded coconut and 1/4 cup goji berries – pulsed together to make a rough crumb.
Place all ingredients (except shredded coconut and goji berries) into a food processor in the order above. Blend until it sticks together. Add extra dates if it is too crumbly. Roll mixture into bite-sized balls.
Put coconut and goji berries in processor, pulse a few times to mix so it’s a fine crumb consistency. Roll balls in goji crumbs. Freeze to set. Enjoy straight from the freezer or thawed for a gooey chocolate hit (without any nasties). Keep in mind they melt in the hands of little ones when carried around the playground so they can be messy if not devoured straight away.
There are so many flavour combinations you can try – you can substitute the goji and shredded coconut coating with fine desiccated coconut or crushed peanuts, chia seeds or cacao powder. For an extra protein hit, you can add 1 tbsp of sprouted brown rice protein or protein powder (just check the label for hidden nasties) or even chia seeds.