We had Catherine Barnhoorn and her daughter Mila in Johannesburg for the book launch events of Mila’s Meals at the end of May. It was held at Café Del Sol Botanico’s Landmark Bar and Lounge on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 May. In the weeks building up to it we were caught up in a world of ‘Mila’s Meals’ and to some extent we will are.

For the launch we wanted to take some of the great recipes and test them for you and then have you taste them at the event. That was a journey of its own which was fascinating before we even arrived at the launch.

An introduction to a whole world of new gluten-free flours for baking like incredible muffins that had so much texture and flavour without containing any dairy, sugar or gluten. I found answers to my daughter’s lunch-box that I had never thought of before. I had never worked with sorghum flour or tapioca flour and brown rice flour and always been put off gluten-free typical options as they were nut flour heavy and she hates nut flours. I generally don’t enjoy anything too heavy in almond or coconut flour either. Catherine’s recipes have very cleverly and carefully combined flours and vegetables like sweet potato we aren’t used to using and it creates a muffin and cake base that is very rewarding and to my delight my daughter loved!

That alone was an answer – to make a batch over the week-end now means that she can actually eat something baked and muffin like in her lunch-box that is full of really good ingredients that we didn’t have open to us prior to the book.

So the muffins had to be at the launch, we also wanted to demonstrate that sugar, gluten and dairy free party options and sweets could be compelling for children so we served the chocolate nut fudge and chocolate mousse that went down really well. Then we noticed that this food was right for the whole family and that we weren’t just dealing with baby and toddler nutrition here. This book actually has food solutions for the whole family.

The days arrived and we had a lot of children on day 2 especially, seeing them really enjoy the food on offer was so rewarding. We had also done some kefir smoothies – one rich in vitamin c as we added Baobab Powder and Hibiscus (both vitamin c rich) and a green one that had seaweed and spirulina in – both sweetened with raw honey and both examples of probiotic drinks that children will enjoy. Kefir is a dairy exception Catherine makes because of the way it digests lactose and has such strong probiotic properties. The smoothies are a genius way to get good probiotics into children’s guts that we have decided to start making them for the store. I like the baobab and hibiscus one for Winter because we will all benefit from the added vitamin c and the seaweed and spirulina one is a great way to get great green nutrition into them in a way that they will enjoy the taste.

Actually we admitted to the group that we had even hidden sundried seaweed in the fudge! No child or adult suspected a thingJ

Catherine places a lot of emphasis on gut health – that all health starts from the state of your gut biome – so is a firm believer in probiotics. I think her information about gut health was the most interesting out of it all for me, the amount of good probiotics in 1 TB of sauerkraut was astounding and the wealth of information about how food intolerances all start when food is introduced too early in the formation of the colon was really beneficial.

Another topic that came up quite a lot was ADD and ADHD which Catherine spoke about quite a bit. The role of diet and attention deficit disorder, what to eat, what not to eat.

Food intolerances and attention deficit disorder seemed to be the largest challenges facing parents of small children and it felt good to get them to this book which has a wealth of information on how diet affects these modern childhood lives.

Mum’s and Dad’s got to chat to Catherine about their specific challenges and to get their questions answered and we were happy with our first Jozi Real Food ( R)evolution event.

Our main task for these events is to assist with creating a community in Jozi that empowers us with connection and information to help us take back control over our pantry’s and our nutrition by default. More than anything, we want the events to re-connect people to the joy of eating great food, food that tastes great and is healthy and Mila’s Meals was a delightful first event from this point of view.

We have experience with working with these recipes now so for any of you who didn’t attend the book launch and are wanting the book, the book is available at the store, please shout if you need any support or help with the recipes. I have shared my experience and feedback on the book on the book review, here.

We have made sure that the ingredients you will most need but might battle to source for the gluten-free recipes will be in store, in one place so that you don’t have to run around looking for them.

We put together a ‘Mila’s Meals’ starter pack of ingredients we know you are unlikely to have in your pantry and might battle to source. Once you have them though you can just so easily just make these foods for lunch box options and more. The starter pack has potato starch (500g), ground golden flax seeds (500g), organic raw cacao powder (250g), tapioca flour (500g), sun-dried raisins (350g) (sulphur free), chia seeds (150g), gluten and aluminium free baking powde (500g), cashew nuts (100g), organic rolled oats (500g), cranberries (150g), 1 litre of organic coconut oil, organic coconut milk (200ml) and a good jar of raw indigenous hone (buchu).

This retails at R850.00. We are keeping the 10% store discount for people who purchase the book in the store. If you purchase the book in-store, you will receive a 10% discount to either spend on the starter pack or on whatever you purchase from the store. The voucher for the tills will be put in the front of the books.

For working Mums, I would highly recommend getting your house help to learn how to make many of them. If you would like us to run a demonstration for domestics on some of these recipes, please in-box us and we can put together a morning of training for the recipes you are going to want to do often.

The value of having tins and jars of easy muffins and finger food for lunch-boxes handy – just can’t be underestimated. Nor that feeling you have as a parent of being able to feel good about what your children have in their lunch-box without feeling that it’s beyond you and too far out of reach to do.

We will also be starting to do read- to-eat muffins made with gluten-free flours in the store for those of you that would rather buy them already made and fresh.

I think this book opens up a whole new world of lunch box options and meals that help you raise babies and children on foods that won’t create intolerances. This book is a comprehensive, wealth of information to help you understand gut health, immune response and how to raise children on whole foods in a way that is delicious and gets around so many prior difficulties that you just don’t know to go through now.

Our journey with Mila’s Meals will continue and if you missed the launch, the book is available in the store as well as the ingredients you will need to start making the incredible recipes.