Taking my whole wheat cake recipe to another (read healthier) level, I replaced sugar with jaggery; and got an absolutely healthy and delectable cake which everyone in the family loved. It has zero all-purpose flour and zero white sugar, and it’s yummy!
Coming back to jaggery, I have almost completely switched to jaggery for all my sweet requirements (like in my coffee or in my desserts). I don’t mind the difference in the taste. In fact, it works for me.
Whole Wheat Flour (Aata): 250 gms
Jaggery: 125 gms
[Tip: Jaggery has a textured taste and you can increase or decrease its quantity according to how sweet you want the cake to be. ]
Cooking Oil / Butter (melted): 80 ml
[Tip: I take approximately one-third of the whole wheat quantity]
[Tip: Beat the yellow and white portions separately for best results]
Water: 100 ml (approximately)
Baking Powder: 1 tsp
Baking Soda: ¼ tsp
Vanilla Essence: 2 tsp
Cinnamon powder: ¼ tsp (optional)
Salt: ¼ tsp (optional)
Mix all the dry ingredients, viz., Wheat flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Cinnamon powder and Salt. Keep aside.
Mix Jaggery with a little water and melt it by putting it on stove or microwave.
Add a little water
Melt the jaggery
Beat the eggs in separate bowls for 4-5 minutes.
Mix the Jaggery, oil and eggs together. Make sure that the jaggery has cooled down because once it gets cooler, the batter will thicken. So, if required, add a bit of water for smooth consistency. How the cake turns out also depends upon how uniformly the ingredients have been blended together.
Add the dry mixture from Step 1 to the wet one in Step 4. Add Vanilla essence to this
Grease the container and dust with some whole wheat flour. I used a 500 ml Borosil square glass bowl. Pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius. For Microwave-convection users, select 200 degrees temperature in Pre-heat mode.
After it pre-heats, pour the batter to 80% of the capacity of the bowl.
Select 200 degrees temp. C in Convection mode and bake for around 35 minutes. The time depends upon the container you are using. Any smaller cake will take less amount of time, anything bigger will take more. I baked 2 cakes of this size with this batter. I usually don’t bake the entire thing in one go; so if anything goes wrong, it can be fixed in the next one 🙂
Insert a pin or knife towards the centre to find out if the cake has baked well. If the knife comes out dry, it means the cake is ready, take it out and let it cool.
After all the hard work, I was skeptical if the cake will turn out well. But in the end, everyone loved it and that’s what matters!
Now you need to consider a few things when it comes to whole wheat cakes.
a. The cake will be less spongy than the regular all-purpose flour cake.
b. Consider it as an alternative to cookies / biscuits which you or your kids eat. If oil is a cause of concern, remember, all cookies have oils; even the healthier options. They just have a small percentage of whole wheat flour. Here, we are making an entire cake with whole wheat flour and jaggery. And don’t forget, no preservatives. I love giving this in my son’s tiffin and he loves it.
Suddenly everyone is talking about ‘Sattu’; it has become the new super food that you must include in your diet. The eastern and northern parts of India (may be even central) have always had Sattu as part of their diet, especially during scorching summer months; but for the benefit of everyone else, let’s understand what exactly Sattuis.
Simply put, Sattu is the powder of dry roasted Bengal gram. Sattu shouldn’t be confused with besan. While Besan is the flour of ‘raw’ gram, Sattu is the flour of ‘roasted’ gram. Sattu is coarser and healthier.
Why Sattu laddoos make for an excellent snack for kids:
Extremely quick to make. Hardly takes 5 minutes. Just make it whenever the kids are hungry. No need to make and store.
Perhaps the easiest laddoo to make; easier than even peanut laddoo, certainly easier than besan laddoo. Can be made even by kids themselves.
A minimalist recipe. Don’t need to remember too many ingredients or any proportions.
No cooking involved.
Packed with nutrients like protein (23%), carbohydrates (64%), fat (13%) [ Source]. It is fiber rich and known to also contain Calcium, Iron and Magnesium.
Keeps you cool in hot summer.
It is certainly my no. 1 go-to recipe for a healthy and quick snackfor my 6 year old.
Sattu / Roasted gram flour
Ghee / Clarified butter
You have to take quantities according to your preference and taste.
I take the regular sugar, you may use powdered one. The regular sugar granules give a crunchy taste.
Take Sattu in a bowl.
Add sugar (as per taste), Ghee (that gives moist, rich taste) and water (only so much that it can bind the laddoo.
Mix everything and make balls or laddoos. That’s it.
Cooking is not really one of my favourite things. The thing which inspires me to cook and experiment with food is Health. I’m passionate about my and my family’s health. For that, I’m ready to go that extra mile and experiment with recipes that would appeal to them.
I discourage junk food at home, but let me make this clear that there are also days when I end up eating Aata Maggi (ready made noodles) for Dinner or may be give jam cookies to my son 3 days in a row.
What matters is making an effort as much as you can!
Gram flour (besan) laddoo is a popular Indian sweet and extremely nutritious. It is a house favourite. All of us love it. After a few failures I finally learnt an easy recipe from my mother-in-law and now I find it very easy to make. Therefore, I make it often. It is a nutritious snack for kids; better than the store-bought cookies any day.
Here’s an easy recipe to make besan laddoo at home:
1 cup = 150 gms
Gram flour / Besan : 3 cups
Semolina / Sooji (of fine quality) : 1 cup
Clarified butter / Ghee : 1 cup (approximately)
Powdered Sugar : 3/4 cup (or as per taste)
Heat a wok and add 3/4th of the total ghee.
Add Besan and Sooji to the ghee and roast the mixture on low flame till you get a roasted aroma from the mixture and the colour is golden brown. Make sure that the mixture has roasted evenly by stirring it continuously and breaking all the lumps.
Keep adding the rest of the ghee as and when required. The idea is NOT to make the mixture too oily because you would not be able to make laddoos otherwise. Initially, you might feel that the mixture is dry but DON’T put more ghee in the beginning.
When it has been roasted, it leaves ghee which is also a sign that the mixture has been cooked well.
You can always add more ghee towards the end if you feel that the cooked mixture is dry but adding too much in the beginning can backfire (has happened to me many times earlier).
Once cooked, take off the mixture from the heat and let it cool down. When it cools down, add the powdered sugar and make small smooth balls of laddoo.
Always keep the ghee on a lower side. You can always add more ghee, if required, towards the end. If you end up having too much ghee in your mixture, you cannot do anything except eat it as a halwa 🙂 [been there, done that!]. But let me not scare you, it is really not that difficult. For example, if the ghee required is 1 cup, put only about 3/4th cup to begin with. Let the mixture roast well, you would know if you should add more.
We personally don’t like the laddoos with only besan because it tends to stick to the mouth. We are adding sooji for a textured taste. You can also use besan that is coarse and not too fine.
There is no rocket science to the proportions. Just keep it 3:1 of besan and sooji respectively. Always use the finer quality sooji. You can experiement with the proportions according to your taste and what kind of flour you are using.
What I personally do is cook the mixture slowly on low flame while I’m there in the kitchen for cooking lunch / dinner. This way you don’t really have to invest any extra time to roast the besan and sooji mixture.
Sometimes I just put everything together in a wok and roast it on low flame for a long time. There isn’t a special technique to it. What you need at the end is a moist mixture that can be made into laddoos. You can add cardamom powder for flavour and dry fruits, if you want.
I always assumed that Joshi Railway Museum would be a typical museum dedicated to the history of rail transport in the State, but I discovered that it was actually a big set up of miniature railway system.
It will evoke childhood memories of playing with tiny train sets. You remember how we used to have a toy train with the tracks that would go round and round? Yeah, this is just more elaborate.
It is a set up of a miniature city but the beauty is in its detailing. There are several signals, posts, fences, tiny houses, platforms, announcement systems, restaurant, circus, swimming pool, fire engine (among other things) and of course, different kinds of trains. The whole thing comes alive when the show is conducted inside the hall with the help of a voice over (VO). I believe the VO is available in Marathi, Hindi and English. The show runs for about 30 minutes (if I remember correctly). But do not go there expecting anything extravagant. This place has been around since 1998 and the whole set up is quite simple.
Learn more about the things on offer, here.Hereis a recent write-up on the place.
There’s a time when most kids start taking interest in the outer space – the stars, the planets and the solar system. This prompted me to look for a science related experience, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Pune too had aScience Park of its own.
The place (spread over 3.5 acres) has actually a lot to offer. There are indoor sections on different themes like Automobile, Fun Science, Climate Change, etc. There’s a Planetarium, which could be interesting for slightly older kids. My (then) 4-year-old got fidgety in the dark. The auditorium shows 3D films. Our most favourite section was the outdoor one, which had a lot of interactive exhibits including one display of Dinosaurs.
Learn more about this Park here. It is certainly a good place for kids.
We have been to Empress Garden several times. Spread over 39 acres, it is home to many rare species of trees and flowers; and its flower shows are quite popular. But honestly, we haven’t been there during flower shows.
Empress Garden is a good combination of a lot of things which will appeal to you as a parent seeking greenery and a good playing space for your children. It has very low ticket charges and therefore attracts people from different demographics.
There is a good parking space (which is really such a pain area and can be a deal-breaker for a lot of places), several playing options of swings, slides and rides to occupy the kids for a long time, a trackless toy train ride of the garden, a basic eating joint and a toilet (the last two not extremely hygienic but serve the purpose). There is a small water body which makes for a pretty picture and kids can also be seen playing in it. It is certainly a good place for picnics where you can take food and play frisbees or balls.
I am sure very few people know about this place and after visiting this, I can say, that’s a pity! The moment I entered this place, I was zapped by how real and fantastic this place was. The entire village life unfolds in front of your eyes at Gram SanskrutiUdyan (or the Garden of Village Culture).
It can be an interesting place for your kids who have never experienced village life and culture. The complete village life has been showcased in this fairly large walk-through set up. You get to see people from different professions busy at work like a village doctor, a cobbler, a teacher teaching kids under a tree, a sweet-seller, a shopkeeper, sculptors, shepherds, and so on. There are kids playing, animals roaming around, wild animals, market place buzzing with buyers and sellers, tamasha (the stage style village entertainment); and none of those things are real. The detailing is so good, you would forget you are in the middle of a make-believe village.
It came as a surprise to us that Pune too had an Appu Ghar, and we spent no time in planning a trip to the place. Appu Ghar is one of the oldest amusement parks in Pune (Nigdi) with fun rides like Columbus, My Fair Lady, Roller Coaster, Merry Cups, Striking Cars, etc. Check out all the rides here. Every ride has separate but minimal charges. It may not be of the scale of Delhi’s Appu Ghar but it sure is a fun place to go with kids. Since it was developed in early 90s, it is advisable to keep your expectations low because you cannot compare it to the swanky places of current times.
Kids and outdoors spell magic; there’s no doubt about it! Sinhagad Fort is another favourite of the families with kids for weekend trips. In fact, it is quite popular with people of all ages for its beauty, location and food.
Though there isn’t much left of the ‘fort’, but going up the flight of stone steps is an exciting adventure for kids. Walking right to the top, watching sunrise or sunset and enjoying the flavours of local Maharashtrian food are the things which attract quite a huge crowd to this popular destination every weekend. There is also a small temple at the top.
The best time to go there is from monsoon to winter because it could get very hot when you reach the top. Or you can go there very early to catch the sunrise.
We went there on the first day of the year to celebrate the New Year with fresh air and a bit of physical activity. Eating bhakhris and curd in earthen pots while sitting under a tree made our day memorable.
I believe there are adventure parks near Sinhagad fort, so you can plan a family outing while also visiting the fort.
Spread over 10 acres, Pu La Deshpande garden (also called Okayama garden, situated on Sinhagad Road) is a surprisingly well-maintained and well laid out garden. It has a parking space as well as toilets.
Considering the total area, the garden has been designed in such a way that you just keep walking and you will cover the entire area, walking through small water streams, fountains, little bridges and slopes; and there is also an elevated point inside the garden that offers the panoramic view of the place.
The only problem here is that stepping on the grass is not allowed (which is actually the reason why it is so neat and maintained). There are guards after every few steps who remind you that you cannot step on the grass.
There is another garden inside the same place called Mughal garden, alongside the Okayama garden. The ‘Surya Namaskar’ statues showcasing its different ‘asanas’ are quite an interesting part of this garden.
Though my idea of garden is where the kids can run around, yet this garden is a good place to take your kids to for its sheer beauty and greenery. Since it is spread out over a huge area, kids do not get bored.
Aga Khan Palace is a historically important landmark in Pune due to its connection with India’s freedom movement. Know all about it here.
It served as a jail for Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi during Quit India Movement. There are statues and pictures of Gandhiji, Kasturba Gandhi’s samadhi and information about the time they spent here.
It is clean and well-maintained, and is a favourite for school trips, but what I love most about this place (with respect to little kids who do not understand so much about the historical aspect of the place) is its huge and well-maintained lawn. Kids just love to run around here. The overall aura of this place is of peace and tranquility which appeal to the grown ups.
I think, it would not be preposterous to say that Peshwe Park is a kid’s paradise. It is full of adventure activities for kids of different ages like net climbing, grappling, wall climbing, rope slider, skyway, tower climbing, etc. In fact, the entry fees is higher for kids than for adults because everything is for the kids.
There is also a short toy train ride. It was a memorable day for my son because he had a fantastic time there. Actually, he was spoilt for choices and the look on his face during those activities, was priceless. There’s so much to do. We kept running from one thing to another. There are videos on YouTube showing different adventure activities in the park. Check out this link for a host of pictures of the garden.
Read all about the park here. Apparently, the idea behind this park was to let kids enjoy the thrills of adventure activities from young age and get over their fear.
There are toilets inside the garden, while the food counters are right outside the gate. It is a must visit place for everyone with kids.
Any other ideas about non-mall places are welcome. I have consciously left out the Zoo because personally, I don’t like it that much. But schools take kids to the zoo often and kids seem to enjoy too. I must also accept the fact that I have taken my son to the zoo when he was very small. And actually, I speak from that experience. I don’t know, I just felt uncomfortable around caged, overweight animals kept in unnatural surroundings for our entertainment.
No matter how much you try, you cannot avoid eating cookies completely. I refuse to buy cookies for home but my husband does. I avoid giving my son cookies in his tiffin but other kids get, and then he questions me why I don’t give him cookies! All this junk food vs healthy food lecture does not appeal to little kids.
So, I have accepted the fact that cookies are here to stay. And therefore, I try making those at home once in a while to make myself feel less guilty. Recently, I made Whole Wheat cookies at home and they turned out to be super delicious. Whole wheat lends a textured taste to the cookies. Most importantly, they were well-received by the audience at home.
By using only Whole Wheat flour, this recipe offers a healthy alternative for kids in place of regular off-the-shelf biscuits. Here’s the super easy recipe to make whole wheat cookies or biscuits at home:
Whole wheat flour (aata) – 1 1/2 cups
All purpose flour (maida) – 1/2 cup
[Note: You can completely avoid all purpose flour and go for 2 cups of whole wheat flour]
Powdered sugar – 1 cup
Clarified butter (ghee) – 1 cup
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Vanilla essence – 1 tsp
Almonds – 1/2 cup finely chopped (optional)
Milk – 2-3 tbsp (if required)
Mix everything except ghee and milk.
Then add ghee slowly, mixing the dough well.
The final dough should be smooth and not crumbly. You must be able to make smooth balls with it.
If not, then add 2-3 tbsp milk to make the dough smoother in consistency.
Make small balls and press lightly to give a cookie like shape. You can also use cookie cutter to give shape. I used hands.
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius. For Microwave-convection users, select 180 degrees temperature in Preheat mode.
Place the cookies on a tray and bake them for anywhere around 25-30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius in Convection mode. The time may vary slightly.
When ready, cookies will be slightly brownish in colour.
Take them out and let them cool down completely.
After they have completely cooled down, you can have your home-made crunchy, textured whole wheat cookies with tea or coffee, and let your kids have them without any guilt.
You may add a tiny piece of cherry or a strip of almond at the center of each cookie.
The cookies on the sides of the tray cook faster, so place them accordingly and keep an eye. You may find that those in the center haven’t cooked while the ones on the sides have turned brown.
This recipe is really very simple. I make Nankhatais (traditional Indian biscuits) with the same recipe using all purpose wheat flour and gram flour. All you need to do is add powdered sugar and make the dough with ghee. The dough should be smooth.
A couple of years ago, when we would plan to go out on weekends, we would invariably end up in malls. It was convenient. There are clean washrooms, there are places to eat, there are places of interest for each one of us, there’s a perceived idea of safety; so why not! We would also invariably end up buying a few things which would, on the face it, look what we needed; like groceries (now everyone knows when you go to a hyper market to buy vegetables, you don’t just buy vegetables, right?), a few clothes on Sale (because if you are getting something worth 1000 bucks at 500 or 3 t-shirts for the price of 2, it’s a steal); and then we would be tired and hungry after walking from one end of the mall to the other multiple times (because the bigger the malls, the better), so we would eat at the mall even when we didn’t like the mall food and not quite getting what we really wanted to eat. While driving back home, the child would be ‘acting out’ (because he didn’t get open space and sunshine, and wasn’t allowed to touch things inside shops), we would be lamenting about all the unnecessary stuff we bought and the amount of money we ended up spending, and we would be more tired than running a 10K. So, another weekend would go by in regret.
When I started incorporating Minimalism into my lifestyle, the purpose of visiting Malls seemed redundant. I started feeling selfish about taking my child to mall and orienting him to this consumerist culture which doesn’t aids his growth and well being. It wasn’t doing much for him, it was just a lazy option for me to take him to where I will get a parking, and all the things of my convenience. I wanted to make efforts to break that cycle.
There are a lot of issues in exposing kids only to malls:
Malls promote consumerism. It promotes the idea that you need to spend a lot of money to be happy. You have to spend money if you spend time in malls. Either you’ll buy something (clothes, books, groceries, etc) or eat something or experience something (gaming zones or movies). You cannot just go there and not spend money. You can do that but doesn’t happen (at the least you will pay the exorbitant parking charges).
Let us admit it, a mall is an unreal world. It is super-sanitized, no sunshine, no fresh air and no places to run around. Kids will always prefer a park to a mall, unless we have conditioned their choices so much that they start preferring the malls. I understand that it is easier for us to take them to a safe and hygienic place but it’s not real. By paying 500 bucks and letting our children play an hour into the soft play area with no sunshine and fresh air, we are actually doing them disfavor. Those dungeon-like gaming zones are even worse. They are claustrophobic and dangerous (considering they have just one exit).
Since everything is expensive in a mall, only certain kinds of people can afford spending time there. So, by taking our kids to malls all the time, we are exposing them only to people who have money. When they watch everyone carrying huge shopping bags, it creates a false perception of society. In that sense, parks are great levelers.
No doubt, malls are attractive places. It takes efforts and resolve to break away from them. When kids get used to that kind of environment, they don’t want to go to the real world. But once you start going to non-Mall places, you will only choose a park or a museum over a mall.
Having said that, taking them to malls once in a while is not bad, anything done excessively and repeatedly is.
I cannot even count the number of times we have been to Goa, together and on our own. But we never get bored of Goa. I don’t drink, like clubbing or eat seafood; and yet I always love going back to Goa.
My most favourite things to do in Goa is to look at heritage buildings, the colorful houses which are so characteristic of Goa, walking around the local markets and of course, sitting by the beach. You can sit and watch the waves for hours. The kids also love playing on the beach so you got nothing to worry about. There is food, right there at the shacks; so you got that covered too.
Since it’s our Anniversary in December, we always plan a vacation during this time of the year. And we almost always go to a beach town, 80% of the time it is Goa.
Our last visit to Goa was a road trip and since it was a memorable experience (though quite a long drive); we decided to take our car this time too.
We were expecting the journey to be long and we wanted to avoid eating junk food (which happens), so I made whole wheat – jaggery cake (a jaggery twist to my whole wheat cake) and peanut laddoos for snacking during the trip. We also carried banana chips and fruits. This time we did not buy any plastic water bottles in the entire trip of 6 days. We were carrying three bottles and I refilled them at every opportunity. The only regret is that we did use the ones provided by the hotel in the rooms.
It took us 9.5 hours to reach our hotel – the Goan Heritage – in North Goa from Pune. We took only 2 short breaks along the way and had terrible experiences in food at both the places. So, we largely depended on what we had packed for the journey.
This was our 2nd stay at the Goan Heritage. It is a beautiful 3-star property right next to the beach.
The five things we love about the Goan Heritage:
Proximity to the beach. You reach the nearest shack on Calangute beach in 10 steps. It is our number one criteria in selecting a property. It has to be next to the beach.
Space inside the hotel. One of the main reasons we favor this hotel again and again is because of the space it has. When you have a young child with you, you know he’s going to need some space to run around and play. The hotel is laid out well. There’s a beautiful party lawn which is my absolute favourite. It looked surreal with all the lights when it was decked up for a party during our stay. It has a decent sized swimming pool, ample parking space and kids’ play area.
Affable staff. The staff is extremely polite, friendly and helpful. They made sure that our stay was comfortable and enjoyable.
Food: Their Breakfast Buffets are good comprising of Indian and Continental options. That’s always my favourite meal of the day since I don’t need to worry about what the little one’s going to eat! Even otherwise, the food is reasonably priced.
There was nothing which I particularly disliked here.
We found a lot of foreign tourists (mostly Russians) in the hotel as well as on the beach. Calangute beach is pretty crowded and has plenty of shacks. It looks beautiful in the evening too with beautifully lit up shacks, music and the beach side lined with candle-lit tables.
We usually don’t have any plans of sight-seeing no matter where we go. We make spontaneous plans. Both of us are laidback people and we don’t like spending our vacation running from one point to another. This time we just decided to spend most of our time by the beach. We stayed at the Goan Heritage for 4 days and then moved to Beleza by the Beach in South Goa for another 2 days.
It is a beautiful 4 star Villa-style boutique resort, which is also next to the beach; but if you need to reach the sea, it’ll take a 5 minutes walk. The serenity and pristine beauty of this side of the beaches are in deep contrast to the lively, more crowded beaches of North Goa; but each has its own merit. Personally, we like a mix of both.
For a clean and beautiful beach, it surprisingly attracts very less crowd and therefore is among the quieter beaches of Goa. We mostly found elderly couples, at the beach as well as the resort. There are only a couple of shacks, so the food options are limited and priced higher.
The five things we loved about Beleza by the Beach:
The property: This resort is nestled in greenery. It exudes peace and calmness. The Villa style accommodation gives the feeling of holiday home, and there’s quite a lot of space. There’s a swimming pool, spa facilities and a kids’ play area. They have 2 restaurants, one at the reception andanother at the sea-side. The sea-side restaurant called ‘Nazare’ offers a beautiful view of the beach.There’s a huge expansion work going on. When that gets completed, the property is going to be even more fabulous with apparently 42 more rooms and a bigger swimming pool.
The Villas: The property consists of Villas. Each Villa has 3 bedrooms, 2 common sitting areas, a Kitchenette and a Patio; split into 2 levels. The rooms are spacious with plenty of storage space in the form of wardrobes. The bathrooms are large and gives a sense of luxury. It is particularly well-suited for big family vacations.
The staff: The staff is extremely polite, cooperative and attentive.
The beach: Betalbatim, where it is located, is a clean, white sand beach. It is full of tiny crabs and it’s fun to watch them make way back into the water. It is a wonderful place if you are seeking peace and solitude.
Breakfast: The breakfast here was also a mix of Indian and Continental food, and delicious.
Our only grouse was that the food seemed a bit over-priced, and there were no other food options in the immediate vicinity of the resort.
This was the longest we have ever stayed in Goa. We also visited the MMC (Margaon Municipal Corporation) market in pursuit of cashew nuts, while we were in South Goa. It is like any other local marketplace where tiny lanes converge into each other; selling from clothes to shoes, from spices to sweets. The only things we picked up were cashew nuts and palm jaggery. Being mindful shoppers, we are never tempted to buy the souvenirs. We buy only those things which we need. We didn’t buy anything during our Goa trip – no trendy clothes (which are seldom worn outside Goa), no colorful hats, no beaded jewelry.
Our return drive, though beautiful and scenic, turned out to be extremely long. My husband drove for 12 hours. We took 2-3 breaks for food but at the end of the day, we were like ‘why isn’t Pune coming!’ We probably took a wrong turn and may be the GPS rerouted. We never found out. Personally, I suggest a break journey in Kolhapur to make the journey less tiring and more enjoyable.
Note: It was my personal trip. A few pictures are my own and a few suitable pictures have been taken from the internet, in which case the source has been appropriately accredited.