Healthy lives can be sweet

Published 9:57 am Monday, July 28, 2008

Young, bubbly Alima Deneke doesn’t look like your grandmother, but it’s a pretty safe bet her baked goods taste just as good-or even better than-those you remember from your childhood.

The way she tells it, her secret lies not in her recipes but in her ingredients. She puts her trust in organic foods to make her goods, such as lemon raspberry cupcakes, as delicious as they can be. Her customers at the Mt Laurel farmer’s market can attest to the truth of what she’s preaching.

“I really enjoy baking. I baked for a number of years, and then we started getting into organic foods. We saw a lot of health benefits,” Deneke said. “I started to bake with all organic ingredients. They tasted even better, and we didn’t feel as bad about eating them.”

She said she grew up eating healthy foods because of her family. Once she got to college and started living on dorm food-fast food and pizza-she started getting sick much more frequently.

“Looking back, it was my diet,” she said. “I loved it because I ate whatever I wanted, but my body felt so much worse.”

Once she learned her lesson, she and her husband, Kyle, set out to eat better. That naturally spread into her baking.

From Deneke’s perspective, baking has gone out of style.

“A lot of people our age don’t bake anymore from scratch,” she said. “It’s kind of a lost art.”

Deneke, who works for Regions bank, said she only realized her baking could possibly be profitable when her husband took some sweets to work and came back with orders for more.

She bakes in her Chelsea home and sells her wares at the farmer’s market on weekends. She also takes orders to be picked up at the next farmer’s market or home delivered.

For Deneke, though, it’s more important to tell people about the benefits of organic cooking than it is to make money.

“Commercial foods have a lot of hydrogenated fats and extra sugars. Organic stuff has no preservatives,” she said. “When people think of organic, they think of bean sprouts and tofu. But now it’s a lot more common. My thing is, it’s fresher and it tastes better. That other stuff was made in a laboratory. It’s not even real food.”

She’s not claiming that her baked goods are health food, though.

“It’s not calorie-free or fat-free. Everything has to be in moderation,” she said. “But it’s better than a cupcake with hydrogenated oils and food coloring.”

Deneke said she would one day like to have a baked goods shop. She already has a name that she uses at the farmer’s market-the Vanilla Bean Bake Shop.

“I’m just trying to see what the response is and if there’s a big enough market,” she said. “Eventually I would love it to be profitable.”