All of food blogger Caralee Caldwell’s recipes are gluten, grain, refined sugar and dairy free and her aim is to cut out all processed foods from the family diet and use only real ingredients.
The author of two recipe books - Real Food Pledge and Real Food Everyday – Caralee's uncomplicated, yet tasty and healthy, recipes reflect her busy lifestyle as the Queensland-based mother of three who also works as a family lawyer. For more from Caralee, see her realfoodpledge website.
We meet her here...
How would you describe your cooking style? What types of food will you be cooking in Bite?
My style of cooking is home cooking using real ingredients. I am not a trained chef so I cook in a fairly uncomplicated way, using everyday ingredients. All of my recipes are easy, gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free so you can expect delicious, healthy meals and treats.
You follow a gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free diet, did it take you long to adjust to that? What did you miss most? Any tips you’d like to share to get people started?
It did take a while to adjust but I also really enjoyed trying new recipes and learning to think about food in a different way, so I was excited to make the change. As I saw the positive changes in my body, that made the adjustment much easier. The things that I missed the most were simple things that I had been used to like a really good takeaway fish and chips, pizza and lollies but, after a while, I stopped missing those foods completely and now look forward to much fresher, yummier, healthier options. The long term benefits of enjoying un-processed foods far outweigh short term cravings.
How has your diet changed your health and wellbeing?
My wellbeing has changed immensely! Firstly, I no longer suffer with constant belly aches and bloating and my skin is amazing. I have lots of energy and never feel like I am in that afternoon energy slump. I sleep like a log every night. In regards to body weight and image, I know that I am doing the best I can for my body, so I no longer have negative feelings towards my body and my weight is much more balanced these days.
What about raw foods? Are they important too? Meat?
I am not a raw foodie, although I do love creating raw treats and meals. I love meat, having grown up in Northland and always having fresh meat and seafood is part of who I am. I love to experiment with raw food cooking as well as different and healthier ways to prepare good old favourites such as meat and vegetables that we grew up with.
What about your children, do they follow your diet?
I have three kids at all different stages. My two boys are 15 and 11 and a little girl who is 5. The oldest has been particularly fussy with food, which has always been a challenge so I can relate when parents find it difficult to get kids on board with healthy eating.
My children are by no means perfect with their healthy eating but because I follow my way of eating quite strictly they naturally have a much healthier diet. One reason is their own awareness of what I am doing and the other is that we simply don’t have proceed food on offer in the house. Home-made treats, such as bliss balls, slices and muffins, are often on offer for the kids as well as the usual vegetables, meat and fruit.
Tell us about a typical day’s eating at home
My typical day is really about getting back to the basics of eating real food. On the weekends I am often cooking so my meals are more exciting then. For breakfast I often eat a couple of scrambled eggs with tomato and avocado or a quick chia pudding. I work in town during the week so I mostly eat at a local café where I have freshly made salad and meat for lunch because I enjoy getting out of the office.
For dinner I make the types of meals that are in my cookbooks because they are quick and easy such as meatballs on zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice with a quick homemade curry. I don’t tend to snack a lot but if I do I reach for a piece of fruit or a long black coffee over ice.
Any foods/dishes you can’t get enough of now?
I go through phases where I go crazy over a dish for a month and then don't ever make it again because I move on. At the moment I am loving my Indian spiced cauliflower rice which is in Real Food Everyday. It goes with everything and is super healthy and quick to make.
What are you looking forward to cooking in winter (if it ever arrives in Queensland)?
Winter arrives in Queensland once you acclimatise, which I did after 3 years of living here. I wear Ugg boots in winter which I know is hard to believe! I love getting the crockpot out and cooking pulled pork and rich curries such as the beef rendang from Real Food Everyday during winter.
Any foods you miss from NZ? Do you get home often?
The thing that I miss the most and appreciate the most about being home is fresh home-grown fruit and vegetables. My parents always have an abundance of fresh produce such as lemons, fejioas, tamerillos, plums, citrus, tomatoes and seafood, just to name a few. I miss the culture of getting given a bag of fruit from someone’s garden.
What do you love most about the food in Queensland?
The food culture is changing here. It is getting better and more creative. There’s an abundance of new cafes and restaurants popping up all the time so I am loving exploring that at the moment. I also really enjoy the farmers’ market culture here and the fresh seafood in Queensland is amazing. I often go down to a trawler on the weekend and buy tiger prawns or whatever the trawler had caught overnight.
When it’s your birthday, what cake do you request?
For the last couple of years I have been so lucky to have the girls at my office buy or make me a raw cashew cream cake which has been spectacular. You don’t have to miss out because you are a real foodie, that’s for sure. There are a few cafes around my office that sell beautiful raw treats.
You work as a lawyer as well as being a mum, what’s your go-to speedy weeknight dinner?
My go-to speedy dinner is spaghetti Bolognese on zucchini noodles or something like a steak with roast veggies where I can just quickly throw some cut up veggies in the oven. It is not exciting but that is the reality for most of us during the week. Everyone is busy and it needs to be easy.
What bloggers/food writers inspire you?
To be honest I don’t really have very much time to read other blogs but I do enjoy flicking through Instagram where I can see what other people are creating or eating. I am inspired by all types of food including old favourites because I love the challenge of creating a healthy real food version of old fashioned recipes that we grew up with.
What are the must-haves in your pantry?
I love stocking lots of lovely dry ingredients, such as coconut flour, almonds, dried dates, chia seeds, coconut flakes and cashews to make real food treats, as well as coconut cream, honey, natural maple syrup and coconut oil. I find that if I have this combination of ingredients that there are so many treats that I can make just from these basics.
What is your biggest cooking achievement?
Remembering to turn the oven off and not burn my loaf is high up there! No honestly, I really just enjoy getting in the kitchen and creating new recipes that my family and friends love. If they are eating my healthy cooking then I am happy. To have other people cooking my recipes for their families just blows me away.
And your biggest kitchen disaster?
I have had many disasters over the years. I think the worst is recently cooking a lovely meal and dropping the entire serving plate on the tiles just before serving it! Oh, that was so disappointing!
If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I absolutely love eating street food at markets in Thailand, just wandering along and trying a bit of this and a bit of that while watching the vendors make the food in front of you. If I could teleport to Chaing Mai for lunch I would be there in a flash!
Where do you like to go out to eat?
My style of cooking is home-cooking so when I go out I really enjoy the sort of food that I don’t make at home. I love to go to Japanese and try sashimi, grilled meats and fish or fine dining where I enjoy trying something a little bit fancy and technical.
Favourite kitchen tool?
At the moment my favourite kitchen gadget is my vegetable spiralizer. I am loving zucchini noodles which take about 1 minute to make with it. But, in saying that, I could not live without my food processor so that is probably my top favourite kitchen tool.
Writing a recipe book must have taken a lot of time. Now that you have published two, will you be taking a break?
Writing a recipe book does take a lot of time, but because I love it and it is my passion to share my ideas it doesn’t feel hard. I don’t have plans for a third cookbook right at the moment but I am continually creating new recipes for my website and other publications.
What’s on the agenda, work wise, for you now?
At the moment I am so excited to be working on an App for Real Food Pledge. I am also really looking forward to be visiting a few regional places in New Zealand to meet people and do cooking demonstrations at the end of June. I have new and exciting opportunities pop up all the time with Real Food Pledge and I am thrilled to be working on a few other projects at the moment too.
A recipe from Caralee
Fancy some healthy baking with your afternoon cuppa? Try Caralee's ginger tea bun.