By Anuradha Vashisht June 2007 Yummy and healthy treats for little ones "My friend and erstwhile colleague, Anuradha Vashisht, is nothing if not a radical. Being a radical myself, I empathise, but she leaves me far behind when it comes to health and wise food choices. Long ago, Anuradha threw in her lot with natural hygiene, not in a dilettantish, lurking-around-the-fringes kind of way, but passionately, whole-heartedly, uncompromisingly, and with heartbreaking sincerity. Her book, Health Recipes, published by her, is a product of this involvement and expresses her deepest and most profound convictions, especially when it comes to the right food for children. Food, for her, is the most important determinant of our health, and therefore, must be partaken of with scrupulous care and consciousness. Expectedly and justifiably, she savages the entire junk food and fast food culture. Her prescriptions revolve around fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Refined oils, flour, sugar are a no-no. She grudgingly concedes milk, as long as it is cow’s milk, but is sparing of ghee and butter. Pulses and grains are not to be had together, but in their place, she offers innovative khichdis. She says, in her book, “One thing I can say with total conviction: my children will never need to take medication in their lifetime, nor ever visit a doctor or a hospital, if they continue to live the way they do – naturally.” Now, that’s a powerful assertion, and ought to be incentive for us to go the natural way for the health of our children and ourselves. Read the book. It might change your life." — Suma Varughese Refined sugar is a major cause of distress to us humans, since it has very harmful effects on our health. One of sugar’s major drawbacks is that it raises the insulin level, which inhibits the release of growth hormones, which in turn depresses the immune system. An influx of sugar into the bloodstream upsets the body’s blood-sugar balance, triggering the release of insulin, which the body uses to keep blood sugar at a constant and safe level. Insulin also promotes the storage of fat, so that when we eat sweets high in sugar, we are making way for rapid weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels, both of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease. In preparation of the dishes described here, refined sugar is not used as the sweetening agent. Secondly; the use of oil, butter or ghee is negligible in their preparation. So those averse to fat can freak out (cautiously!). Some of these dishes can also be naturally preserved for a longer period, say about two weeks, though it is recommended that these be consumed as fresh as possible. Moreover, these are simple to prepare, and do not require much time or elaborate ingredients. And yet they taste divine! Beware of addiction to them! Milk Coco-LateThis preparation is the yummiest of the lot, a far more wholesome alternative to marketed milk-based sweets or chocolates. Makes about 10-12 servings.IngredientsGhee : 1tspMilk : 2 litresGrated coconut : 3 cupsJaggery powder : 1 cupCardamom powder : ½ tsp Preparation• Heat the milk in an open pan till it thickens to one-fourth its original quantity.• Mix grated coconut, elaichi powder and ghee to thickened milk, and mix well.• Keep stirring till the preparation leaves the sides of the pan.• Remove from the fire, and let it cool a bit.• Add jaggery powder, mix thoroughly and pour in a thali (tray) to set.• Cool it in the fridge for 20 minutes and cut out the desired shapes. Nutty ChocolateHere is another wholesome option to cocoa-based chocolates, without compromise on taste. Makes about 20 toffees.IngredientsGhee : 1 tspCashew : 10 gmsJaggery powder : ¾ cupCardamom powder : ½ tspGrated coconut : 1 cupShelled groundnuts : 1 tblsp Preparation• Heat and blend coconut and jaggery powder in a pan.• Add crushed cashews and groundnuts, elaichi powder and ghee.• Keep stirring on low flame till the preparation thickens like a ball.• Remove from the fire, and spread it on a thali (tray).• Cool and cut out the desired shapes. Kaju BarfiOn any festival, makes this at home. Serves six.IngredientsGhee : 1/2 tspWater : ¼ cupPowdered cashews : 1 cupKhand (unrefined sugar) : 1 cup Preparation• Make a light syrup from khand and water.• Add powdered cashew and ghee and stir for 10 minutes.• Remove from fire and keep stirring till it cools.• Spread in a tray and cut out the desired shapes. Sweet Rice BallsEither coarse ground wheat flour or flattened rice (chirwa) can be used to prepare the following.Similarly, dates can be substituted with jaggery.IngredientsDates : ½ kgElaichi powder : 1 tspWheat flour : 2 cupsOr chirwa : 3 cupsMelon seed kernels or cashews : ½ cup Preparation• Wash dates, remove seeds and spread them to drain excess moisture.• Dry fry chirwa till light brown. When cooled, add cashews or magaz (musk melon seed kernels) and powder it finely and blend.• Add dates and blend in a mixer• Make medium-sized ladoos. Chirwa HalwaThis is a healthy option for those who want to avoid the conventional halwa dripping with ghee. This makes 10 ‘usual’ servings. My kids ensure I can’t serve more than five.IngredientsWater : 3 cupsGhee : 1 tblspCashew : 50 gmsJaggery powder : 250 gmsElaichi powder : 1 tspGrated coconut : 1 wholeRaisins : 50 gmsChirwa : 200 gms Preparation• Wash chirwa and drain the water thoroughly.• In a heated pan, sauté cashew in ghee and add chirwa.• Add water. Let it come to a simmer and blend.• Add jaggery powder and keep stirring till it thickens.• Add grated coconut, raisins and elaichi powder. Sauté for another couple of minutes till it reaches the desired consistency of halwa.• Remove from fire and serve warm. Walnut DoughnutIngredientsCow’s milk : 1 kgWheat flour : 1 cupWalnut kernels : 2 cupsKandsari or jaggery powder : 2 cups Preparation• Boil milk on a slow fire till it thickens into less than half the original quantity.• Dry fry the wheat flour till light pink. Let it cool, then add jaggery powder and blend in a mixer.• Add to thickened milk and make into neat dough.• Add lightly crushed walnut kernels and mix well. Meethi RotiThis roti is offered as prasad at the Baba Balaknath shrine in Himachal Pardesh. Kids love to have it as solo dinner with mango pickle. Tastes best when cooled down.IngredientsGhee : 1 tblspWheat flour : 4 cupsElaichi powder : 1 tspJaggery powder : 4 cupsPowdered saunf : 1 tsp Preparation• Add all the above ingredients to a small quantity of water to make dough.• Make six balls out of the dough.• Apply a dash of ghee on the roti maker and flatten the ball with hand into a thick four inches roti.• Can also use a rolling pin.• Warm up the tawa. Spread a little ghee and toss the roti on it. Let it cook on medium fire. Apply a little ghee on the upturned side, and overturn to make both sides reddish brown. Khajoor-Cashew ToffeeMarketed toffees are very harmful for children’s health. Substitute them with the followingIngredientsCashews and dates Preparation• Wash the dates. Make a small cut and replace the seed with a cashew.• Wrap this natural toffee in a foil. Contact::www.idealhealthfoundation.org
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