It’s hard to find two people more passionate about healthy food than Emma and Carla Papas.
The Canberra sisters, more commonly known as the Merrymaker Sisters, discovered the paleo way of eating two years ago.
After being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, Emma started to research relevant diets.
“I came across paleo from a work colleague, then someone at the gym told me about it plus I got an email about paleo living. So I was like ‘I’m going to give this a go’. One week later and I just immediately felt benefits,” she says.
Given the closeness of the pair, it wasn’t long until Carla jumped on board too.
“I was like ‘don’t leave me off this train’,” says Carla.
Fast forward two years, and using social media as their weapon, the sisters are trying to make the world a healthier place, one recipe at a time.
They started by sharing photos of their culinary creations on Facebook.
“Everybody kept asking for our recipes and asking ‘how did you do that?’ We got sick of just typing it out all the time so we decided to put it online and see how we go,” says Carla.
And thus the Merrymaker Sisters online healthy hub was born.
Also known as the “Paleolithic diet”, the way of eating is based on how our ancestors ate, and says no to grains, gluten, dairy and any processed food.
Instead there is a focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meats and foods in their natural state.
The girls claim living a paleo lifestyle has resulted in higher energy levels, weight loss, clear skin and no more bloating. And while they love the results, for them, it’s all about the food.
Not ones to settle for bland meals, the pair embraced their “eating curve”, exploring their new way of eating and pushing the boundaries as much as they could.
“It’s been lots of fun trying all these new ingredients. Our pantry definitely looks very different to how it did two years ago,” says Emma.
In particular, Carla wanted to continue to indulge her sweet tooth.
“I was an avid baker – I would make cakes and that sort of thing and I still love doing that. So I had to find ways to sweeten foods naturally – that was exciting,” Carla says.
“We use stevia and dates and lots of fruits and raw honey. It’s been a massive learning for us but the funniest thing is how excited we get when we’re like ‘we just made a cake, and we used this and used that, and it’s actually all good for us!’ ”
Having known the sisters for a few months now, it’s impossible to come away from them not feeling incredible.
The two ooze genuine positivity and excitement. They finish each other’s sentences, and get them in the kitchen, and they whip together masterpieces in unison.
The pair are constantly coming up with new recipes – a process they say they’re getting better at.
As well as posting constant updates on their blog, their first eBook Let’s Eat Paleo was released earlier this year. They’re working on their second eBook, which focuses on sweet treats.
“It’s a shorter book, about 20 recipes, all sweet treats. And it will be low fructose as well,” says Carla.
The girls love to look to other bloggers and foodies for inspiration, but like many of us, they’re not about complexity in the kitchen.
“We get to review a lot of cookbooks as well, so we’ll always look at a recipe and be like ‘oh that’s too hard’ and we’ll simplify it,” says Emma. “That’s what we’re all about – we just want simple recipes.”
Carla adds: “We’re not master chefs. I like simple things where I don’t want to look at a recipe and be like ‘wow –look at all those steps’.”
The sisters’ mother even jumped on board, getting into the kitchen with the girls and helping with the recipe development, but their father was a bit more reluctant.
“He is so proud of what we’re doing. But when it comes to the food – he is one hard cookie to crack. He just loves his bread,” says Carla.
They hope one of their most recent recipes, paleo bread, might be just the thing to convert him.
“We think this bread might be the game changer, so we’re really happy about that. We think we might be able to just slowly transition him,” says Emma.
During the day the sisters both work as public servants, which they both enjoy. But once they get home, it’s all about food and healthy living.
The Merrymaker Sisters now have a collective audience of about 50,000 people across various channels – and they’re excited to be able to spread their love for healthy living.
“To know what we’re putting online and what we’re sharing is reaching that many people – it’s overwhelming for us. It’s so exciting that we can help all these other people,” says Emma.
The pair are studying to become health coaches, and hope to be Merrymaking full-time in the not-too-distant future.
At the end of the day, Carla and Emma aren’t preachy about their paleo lifestyle.
“It’s just about getting back to basics – your proper real food instead of the fake food,” says Emma.
And making sure their creations taste good is still their No. 1 priority.
“Our favourite word is ‘delish’ – we write it like 10 times a day,” says Carla.
Recipe: Paleo Caramel Date Slice
Prep time: 10 minutes, bake time: 25 minutes
2 cups almond meal
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
125g ghee melted (you can also use coconut oil)
½ cup coconut sugar
Preheat oven to 180C and line a 20cm x 20cm slice tin.
In a saucepan melt the ghee and sugar together, allow this to cool slightly.
Add the egg, dates, walnuts and almond meal, mix until well combined.
Press the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Allow the slice to cool in the tin and cut into squares.
Enjoy! You can store leftovers in an airtight container.
Makes 16 squares