Indulge in healthy sweet treats this festive season

Indulge in healthy sweet treats this festive season
It’s Ganesh Chaturthi today, which celebrates the birth of lord Ganesha, the god of wisdom and prosperity. Many parts of the country are headed into festivities from Friday for the next 10 days. There will be dancing, music and, best of all, food. Food, glorious food!

Every family celebrating the birth of lord Ganesha will have a wide variety of foods on offer. The best part is that the offerings will be vegetarian. There will be modaks, many types of barfis, halwas, puranpolis and many other sweet delicacies. The list of such mouth-watering dishes is never ending.

Festivals mean having a great time which includes eating. But do be careful not to binge eat. You should be careful to eat the right types of mithai, desserts and other sweetmeats. The ones that are prepared traditionally are loaded with ghee, milk and cream, among others. Milk products, especially in India, are adulterated with all kinds of ingredients, including detergent, earthworm slime, urea, pesticides, pus, antibiotics, blood, gutter water … need I continue? Plus, dairy has been found to be the culprit behind a host of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancers and obesity, to name a few.

But you don’t need to deny yourself from indulging in sweet treats during these festivities. Be smart, cook healthy and you can eat what you want. Learn to substitute healthy ingredients for the unhealthy ones. For regular milk, substitute good quality soy milk. For white sugar, substitute raw sugar, cane sugar or even jaggery (gur), if the recipe allows. For maida, substitute a host of other flours like whole wheat, jowar, bajra or millet.

Traditionally, halwa is made with suji, which is wheat-based. If you want to avoid wheat, try using jowar (sorghum) dalia instead. If you can’t find jowar dalia, get your local mill to grind whole jowar into coarse grains. Et voila! There you have your jowar dalia. Substitute this for the rava. Even better, why not make a vegetable-based halwa? Use either bottlegourd, red pumpkin or even sweet potato as the base, and flavour the halwa with raw sugar or gur, cardamom and chopped dried fruits. You don’t even need to add any oil! Try it, it will rival any ghee-filled halwa, I promise you.

I love cashew barfi. If I could, I would eat it all the time. But I learnt that the ones available in the market not only use white sugar (which are just calories) but also have vark or silver foil on them. This vark is made by beating silver into sheets on the intestines of slaughtered cows and other animals. So I avoid store-bought sweets and have learnt to make my own. Here’s how.

Soak two cups of cashews overnight, then blend it to a very fine paste. In a pan, using a little water, dissolve one cup of raw sugar and cook till it reaches one thread consistency. At this point, add the blended cashew paste with some ground cardamom powder and keep cooking this till the mixture starts to form a ball. Take it off the flame, spread it on a thali and garnish with some pistachio flakes. Wait till it cools before digging in!

For a savoury treat, you can make coriander wadis with a twist. Instead of using channa atta which is the norm, use bajra flour, which is very healthy. And use some brown rice flour in it. Don’t fry the wadis, crisp them on a non-stick griddle or even in your air fryer. Feed these yummy yet healthy delicacies to friends and family and keep chanting Ganpati Bappa Morya!

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

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