This recipe is the fruit of a number of attempts to make something semi-healthy for my two-year old daughter who has recently developed a syndrome I like to call “breakfast aversion”. I could put a pile of candy in front of her and she would turn her nose up at it at breakfast (okay maybe this is a slight exaggeration as she has been known to snoop through my chocolate stash at 6am). In general though, it is very difficult to get her to eat anything in the morning, and I need to know that she has started the day with something solid in her. I often make oatmeal from soaked grains for my kids for breakfast, but lately there has been so much waste, and as my husband usually leaves for work at about 7 in the morning, I have one hour to feed everyone, get us all dressed and out the door. So I have kind of gotten over using 10 precious minutes of the time that I could be spending making myself look less zombie-like, making them a breakfast that usually ends up smeared all over the table, on the floor, and rarely in their bellies.
Anyway, cue this recipe. I wanted to make something that was relatively healthy and compact. I had made a few batches of raw brownies the weeks before, which they loved- I think they especially love the idea of eating a “bar” something that looks cute and is cut into squares. I don’t know why, but they really go wild over that sort of thing, so I played around with some odds and ends in my kitchen until I got something that was just right. Needless to say, these are great, my kids and husband gobbled them up. I’m not a huge grain eater myself, but I had one or two, and I have to say they were perfectly lovely. Sweet but not too sweet, moist and dense, but not heavy.
All this makes me want to discuss my thoughts on feeding my family/children while following a very strict diet for healing/health purposes myself. Bear in mind that I am by no means am an expert, but I was following the GAPS protocol, more or less, for quite a while, so I have experience feeding a family who has no need for a special diet. Oh and for the record, I still eat more or less by the same principals now, but I find lately that having grains or sweet potatoes once in a while does me absolutely no harm at this point, and I see no purpose in following a diet so strictly if I don’t need to anymore. I don’t like the idea of dietary fundamentalism, and what I realized initially in being on a “healing” diet and reading so much about health and nutrition, is that you can very easily become afraid of food and feel guilty for eating even a modest portion of a perfectly healthy food that is apparently “not allowed”.
Well, getting back to the time when I was following the diet to the letter, initially to get rid of candida (no grains, no starchy carbs, ie: potatoes, carrots, no caffeine, no alcohol, no dairy, no sugar, including fruit– being the party animal I am, I did allow myself half a green apple most days). For those who are on strict diets but have no idea how to balance that with family life, I will say that, while it was challenging, I didn’t find it completely overwhelming either. I made a lot of basic meals- chicken/fish with roasted/steamed vegetables and greens, soups, and I would make some carbs in whatever form for the rest of my family (please don’t mistake me for a little Suzie-homemaker- I’m not- I just like to be in charge in the kitchen!). As far as getting my whole family on board with this diet, well, I made no attempt to do such a thing. I follow quite a few people on Instagram who are on an ultra strict autoimmune Paleo diet, or the full GAPS protocol for the same reasons I initially did- and many have their families eating in exactly the same way. Personally, I would never want to try and impose the same way of eating on my family, who by and large do not have the problems I do (or had). I know some people have the mentality that they’ve see the nutritional “light”, and want the best possible sort of diet for their children and put their whole family onto their way of eating. Maybe I sound pessimistic, but I don’t believe in depriving my family of grains and carbohydrates. Gluten, for sure, I think is useful to minimize (although they still consume it) and I am really enthusiastic about using good quality grains that have been pre-soaked to make them more digestible, but I just can’t get on board with being super strict with my kids- I am by no means an expert, I’ve done a lot of reading over the years, and I don’t think there is anything inherently “wrong” with many foods that have recently developed a bad rap in the diet industry, especially if you are getting them from a trustworthy source, taking care to prepare them properly, and not going overboard. Everything in moderation!
The only thing I am really strict about with my children is refined sugar- if they do consume candy/store bought cookies, it isn’t ate home. I refuse to buy these two things, as well as juice (with the exception of special occasions). I also try and make sure they at least get a vegetable in their mouths every day (often it’s more than this but when they are in an especially picky mood, I have learned not to stress too much and just encourage them to have one, and only one, bite), and that the quality of any animal products they consume comes from a hormone/antibiotic free source. However, this has little to do with my own dietary agenda, and more the fact that I’m a mother who wants to cultivate in her children an appreciation for real food. Above all, as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t like to be dogmatic about my diet, and I especially don’t want to be dogmatic about theirs. I don’t want them growing up being obsessed with forbidden foods. I remember going through picky phases myself as a kid, and look at me now- I turned out fine. One thing I can safely say is that I don’t ever remember my mother pressuring me to finish everything on my plate and to eat my weight in vegetables if I didn’t want to. Now I am quite literally giddy with excitement about eating my vegetables at every single meal.
So that said, this recipe is simple, and if you’re not dogmatic about yours or your families’ diet, and aren’t afraid of moderate consumption of grains, it is very simple to make, and healthy and quick in the morning. And the best part- they even stimulated my pipsqueak little daughter’s non-existent morning appetite, so I consider it a win.
- 2 medium carrots, grated
- 2 cups rolled outs (preferably gluten free)
- 4-5 medjool dates
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 heaping tbsp nut butter (I used cashew/almond, but anything, even tahini would work)
- 3 healing tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp maple syrup/honey
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup dried cranberries (optional)
- 2 tbsp (ish) sunflower seeds for garnish (or other nut/seed)
- Preheat the over to 180 C/350 F. Lightly oil an 8X8 dish, or line it with parchment paper.
- Peel and grate the carrots. In a high-powered food processor, throw everything in except the sunflower seeds, and mix for about a minute, until it because a rough, but fairly wet paste.
- If you're adding dried cranberries, mix into the paste with a spoon.
- Pour the mixture into the dish and pack everything down with a spoon. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds on top and press down lightly so it sticks.
- Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before slicing into squares.