Be smart, snack smart


SAINTLY SWEET Swap out shop-bought snacks for homemade treats.

Westport retreat’s nibbles satisfy a sweet tooth 

The Cabots

Recently I got a great invitation – my friend, Ruth O’Malley was holding a coffee morning to test out some healthy snacks she would be serving to guests on a weight-loss retreat, Nourish and Thrive, in Westport.
Ruth, a Covey, mainly lives in Dublin, but she was holding her tasting at her mum’s house in Westport. Ruth’s first degree was in psychology. Her master’s degree was in Exercise and Sport Psychology. She also studied fitness and nutrition and ran a Motivation Clinic for weight loss in Athlone for five years.
Ruth has no time for calorie counting and is dismissive of unsustainable ‘diets’ that make people miserable. She believes that what goes on in your head is as important as what goes into your mouth when it comes to losing weight. A great cook, she has developed menus that allow people to eat healthily but without feeling deprived. Her repertoire includes tasty but healthy soups, salads, mains and also sweet things.

Fruit and nutcases
Ruth had invited eight friends, mostly people I didn’t know, and we were to score her food out of five. The thrill of hanging out with new people – and getting to eat delicious things we hadn’t made ourselves.
Ruth and her sister Grace had been up half the night making the snacks. They brought us teas and coffees and tray after tray of yummy sweetmeats. Everything was healthy – low fat, low sugar, full of wholesome ingredients including dates, figs,  peanut butter, nuts, seeds and, sometimes, dark chocolate – and designed to take the place of your typical Elevenses; tea with biscuits, or the chocolate bar you reward yourself with in the afternoon after a hard day at work.
We had about seven snacks to score. Ruth kept saying, “Be honest, say what you don’t like, what’s wrong with something!” I was struggling. After snack four, I realised I was downgrading things to 4.5 out of 5 for no reason except I didn’t want to be giving everything full marks in case I was marking too high.
I mentioned this to the others. We were all in the same boat. There was nothing to fault! I really wished my children had been there – they would have enjoyed these treats much more than most of the sweet crap they usually crave.
Below is one recipe I’ve made for the kids – and it’s been a total hit!

Ruth’s Fig and Hazelnut Balls

What you need

  • 1 quarter raw almonds
  • 1 quarter cup Brazil nuts (about 9)
  • 1 third of a cup of pistachios or roasted hazelnuts
  • 1 quarter cup of extra pistachios to coat
  • 5 whole figs
  • 4 pitted medjool dates
  • 3 tbsp almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 quarter teaspoon fine sea salt

What you do
In a food processor, pulse the quarter cup of pistachio nuts into a fine powder and set aside. Add the almonds, Brazil nuts and one-third cup of pistachios/roasted hazelnuts to the mixer and pulse till finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and blend – not too harshly – till combined.
Next, using a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, roll the paste in the palm of your hands till you form 11 balls. Roll the balls in the pistachio powder you have set aside.
You can store these in the fridge for two weeks or in your freezer for six to eight months.

— Sandra

The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.