Sugar is about just as popular as Donald Trump nowadays. If I were to play word association with you, I bet the first thing that came to your mind after I shouted “sugar” would be “guilt”! Am I wrong?
Today’s health conscious consumer is avoiding sodas, canned food and all manners of pre-packaged food, because they overuse high fructose corn syrup and bleached white sugar. Which brings us to the other problem – it is hard to avoid sugar if you are buying off supermarket aisles. The best way to cut sugar is to cook at home. And the best way to cook at home is to have easy, handy recipes – such as the one I have shortlisted here! Do try these, and let us know under comments how your experience goes!
A disclaimer – the recipes below avoid processed sugar. We believe reasonable quantities of naturally occurring sugar – such as jaggery, honey, maple syrup – deserve a place in our diet. So we have included some truly sweet stuff too in our list below. After all, what’s life without dessert!
#1. Berry Popsicles
This snack is definitely the prettiest and healthiest one on my list! I’d rate it tops not just for children but also overbearing adults who accept invites to house parties, but then refuse to eat the final course of dessert, or worse, eat the sweet dish and then moan so much about the calories that it spoils the flavor for everybody. (This is sad, but I think I just described myself!). In short, if you are entertaining health freaks, make this. They (we) will not be able to ruin your party!
On further thought, even if you are not entertaining health freaks, make this. It is a work of art, and so simple that you can delegate your kids to execute the recipe! Here’s how it goes:
- Get hold of some popsicle moulds [available easily, from as little as $2 at Tokutokuya]
- Fill them up with berries – strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry. [Prefer fresh to frozen]
- Pour in sweet coconut water [fresh, not packaged], leaving some room for expansion
- Add an ice-cream stick – it will stand straight supported by the berries
- Freeze overnight
The great thing about frozen desserts is their long shelf life, and I love how this recipe uses berries which are anyway tricky to store! Make a generous batch and use for snacking, or prepare in advance for parties.
The coconut water adds a transparency and saltiness to the recipe that I and my daughter loved. (Proof: she demanded it for breakfast the next morning!) But my son, a pickier eater, didn’t fall for it – so I may try sugarcane juice as a filler instead of coconut water next time. Will keep you posted through comments when I experiment the variation!
#2. Chocolate Cookies
This is my all-time favorite cookie recipe. It uses neither sugar nor flour, yet the richness of texture and taste is not compromised. In fact, the wholesome sweetness of maple syrup makes it even more delicious than the sugar version. Here’s what you will need:
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup [=60 ml] olive oil
- 1/5 cup [=50 ml] maple syrup
- 1 cup quick cooking rolled oats (Here’s what I used)
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s, easily available)
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon powder
- Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Separately, whisk the wet ingredients together. Combine and put in the fridge for 30 minutes (cooling the batter makes it easier to mold into shape later).
- Shape the dough into circles on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees C. The cookies will harden after cooling.
These best part about these flourless cookies? They taste rich and chewy – my kids loved them to crumbly bits and I had to bake a fresh batch the very next day!
#3. Watermelon two-ways
My memories of eating watermelons as a kid involve sitting in knickers and gnawing through quarter-cuts of the fruit. As far as I know, that was the standard operating procedure for all Indian parents bringing up kids in the 70s and 80s: [A] strip kids before food to avoid laundry; [B] give no cutlery to avoid washing the dishes, and [C] line up the whole battalion of cousins to sit out in the yard together while they eat, so a bucketful of water splashed down the porch could take care of the mess in the end! Yep, simpler times.
Anyway, we are in a fresh century, and as a new-age mom, I definitely feel the need to cut shapes and prettify and Pinterest-ify my offerings. I have no doubt you too have seen, or tried, cutting watermelon triangles, making an incision on the skin, and stuffing an ice-cream stick through. Voila! A Facebook moment!
Sadly, that sole incision does not qualify as a recipe. So I have two variations to offer on this theme, prefect for kids.
Frozen watermelon stick. Simply wrap the watermelon stick in clingwrap and freeze it. Believe me, this small variation makes a big difference. First, there is much less drip! A fleshy, fresh-cut watermelon is sticky business. A frozen watermelon avoids the juice-spills. Second, kids love the the icy novelty, and the zigazgging white sleet across the rich red color is a treat!
Watermelon Juice Popsicle. Cut the watermelon into cubes and blend /grind. Any blender should be able to manage that. For fussy kids, pour the juice through a sieve and press with a spoon to get rid of the fiber. Freeze the liquid in popsicle moulds. Enjoy!
#4. Gol Papdi (or Gol Ni Matar)
This mithai [Indian sweet] is a bona fide Gujarati dish, literally spreading through word-of-mouth down generations. And the recipe below is fittingly derived from the book Dadima No Varso aka Grandma’s legacy. Our guest contributor Mansi regularly cooks this at home, and her kids were giving her dirty looks for having to wait to eat (while she shot pictures for this blog post)!
No Indian cooking experience necessary, even first timers should be able to execute it – do follow instructions exactly! Cooking time is about 15-20 minutes.
Ingredients (Buy from your local Indian store)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (or atta)
- 1/2 cup ghee
- 1/2 cup jaggery, cut/pound into into small pieces
- 1 tsp melted ghee (to grease plate)
- Melt the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan over low heat.
- Add flour. Stir continuously till it turns brown and fragrant.
- Remove from fire, add jaggery. Stir till the jaggery melts and the ghee separates.
- Pour the mixture onto a greased plate. Spread and press evenly; mark out square or diamond shapes.
- Let cool for an hour. Once set, remove pieces carefully and store in an airtight container.
#5. Banana Bread
Banana bread is the most versatile cake ever (seriously, why do they call it a bread?). It’s a delight at picnics, prefect with tea/coffee, … and just the recipe you are looking for when your little one turns 1 year old and you want a cake but not the saccharine overload!
This particular recipe uses olive oil and honey instead of butter and sugar, and comes courtesy Arti. Her 3-year-old daughter loves it, and as a result, Arti is now a pro at baking it up in a jiffy! Here’s how you can replicate her results:
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup mashed bananas (overripe are best)
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (we used this)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecan or hazelnuts (optional)
- Whisk together oil and honey. Add eggs and whisk a bit more. Add Vanilla
- Stir in mashed bananas
- Add flour and salt (preferably sieved)
- Stir baking soda into water, before adding to the mix
- Add the nuts – and your batter is ready
- Bake for approx 60 minutes at 165 degrees C.
- Slice and serve!
– Anuja, with contributions from Arti and Mansi
Arti Shetty is a marketing wiz who helped set-up Secondsguru’s social media in its early days. She has a passion for all things vintage and a flair for cooking.
Mansi Parekh is a jewelry designer with kids who love to bully her into whipping up sweet delights. She is a pro at last-minute cooking and a host-of-choice for all her friends!