Sunday, December 16, 2012

Healthy snacking - Ragi (finger millet) Laddu

My baby girl is now 10 months old. Its about time I started seriously thinking about shedding the extra kilos and the layers of blubber that pregnancy left me with. I have never gone gymming or tried exercise. The most I will do willingly is go on a walk for maybe an hour or so.  I've almost completely stopped ordering junk food for meals and gulping down aerated drinks without a second thought. Its been ages since I deep fried anything at home or ate any deep fried stuff bought thoughtlessly. I've replicated my favorite junk food recipes at home so that even if I do eat burgers, pizza or kachoris, its all home made. MUCH better and healthier than ordered stuff. So mayonnaise and cheese spread gets replaced with home made low fat, protein rich hummus. Soups made at home so I need not worry about MSG or high sodium content. I have 32 sweet teeth and that does not help my cause. WHAT do I do about the damn sweet tooth teeth ?! I find better alternatives for chocolates and traditional calorie laden sweets of course!

So here I present...drum roll please.. RAGI LADDUS. An extremely nutritious, filling sweet that you wont feel guilty eating. Goes without saying that you should not wolf down a dozen, that would just defeat the purpose. Never mind what I did with my trial batch..

Ragi / Finger millet is a rich source of Calcium, Iron, Protein, Fiber, Calcium and other minerals. The cereal has low fat content and contains mainly unsaturated fat. Finger Millet contains amino acids which help in bringing down cholesterol level and controlling blood sugar level. 

I used jaggery instead of sugar as it is a healthier option. Sesame seeds and peanuts helped me avoid the use of ghee completely. Its good to know something that tastes so good is also nutritious. But surely you don't need to know all this after the first bite..You'll only want to eat more.

Here is a list of all the goodness that goes into it:

Ragi/Nachani flour - 1 cup
Grated Jaggery - 1/2 cup
Dessicated Coconut/ Coconut powder - 1/4 cup
Peanuts, roasted - 1/2 cup
Sesame seeds, roasted - 2 tbsps
Elaichi/Cardamom powder - 1 tsp
Milk (optional) - few spoons


Dry roast the Ragi flour until it smells roasted. Be careful to stir constantly, yeah, work those biceps, because  the flour burns quickly. To the roasted flour add roasted peanuts, sesame seeds and coconut powder. Heat the mixture so that the coconut powder gets slightly brown. Now grind this mixture into a fine powder. Spread it on a plate. Add elaichi/cardamom powder to the mixture. Add grated jaggery to this mixture and work it into a crumbly texture. Be careful if the mixture is hot as the jaggery becomes sticky and hot when added to the hot flour mixture.

Ragi laddus shaped without milk
Now there are two ways I rolled out the laddus, just to know which method I will use in future. For the first method, I rolled out the mixture into balls while it was hot, right after adding jaggery. I found it extremely  tricky to do without burning my hand. Also, once the laddus cooled and I bit into them they were very crumbly and messy. I couldnt bear the hot sticky mixture for long so I used a modak mould to shape it. Not much success, as you can see in the picture. Oh well. Thats how I learnt an alternate way to roll the laddus. A better method.

Ragi laddus shaped with milk
For the second method, I let the whole mixture cool and added grated jaggery. Once the jaggery is worked into the flour, I added a little milk to the mixture. Very little at a time, just enough to bind the mixture and make it a pliable texture. This slightly moist mixture was easily rolled into laddus. These are the darker, round ones in the picture. They taste better and aren't messy to eat. Adding milk may reduce their shelf life but hey, these wont lie around untouched that long anyway.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Now and then I like to let myself believe that I am completely helpless and that my life is completely at the mercy of fate. Sometimes you want to know the reason why your life is not as beautiful as you'd like it to be, why, no matter what you do, your efforts do not seem to pay off as you would like. People have their own ways of dealing with disappointment and confusion. Some seek solace in religion, some turn to astrology for answers.

A few months ago when I was at a somewhat difficult juncture in my life and couldn't decide what I should do, I consulted an astrologer. He offered some clarity on the state of things and what I may expect in the near future. As a remedial measure he advised me to chant the 'Lalitha Sahasranamam'. It was the first time I heard of it. Since then I have read a lot about it to understand it better.

Goddess Lalita is considered the embodiment of Para Shakti or the ultimate female power. Legends associated with Goddess Lalita are found in mythological texts. Devi Bhagavata, Durga Saptashati in Markandeya Purana by the sage Vyasa and Tripura Rahasya narrated by the Lord Dattatreya are some such texts. Books related to Tantra also mention the goddess. As per legends Goddess Lalita represents the Panchabhuta: fire, air, water, space and earth.

The Lalitha Sahasranamam and its significance is explained in the Brahmanda Purana, in a dialogue between Hayagriva, an (avatara) of MahaVishnu and the great sage Agastya. Explaining the greatness of this prayer, Sage Agastya told Hayagriva that chanting the name of Lord Shiva once is as good as chanting the name of Mahavishnu a thousand times. And chanting the name of Devi once is as good as chanting the name of Shiva a thousand times.

Sree Lalitha Sahasranamam is a form of prayer that anyone can chant at any time. It is said that it does not matter if one could not complete chanting it because each of the names of Goddess Lalitha in itself is powerful. Regular chanting of Shree Lalitha Sahasranamam is believed to bring blessings of beauty,  good health, wealth, intelligence, fame, goodwill & success in all endeavors.

Particular importance is given to chant the Sree Lalitha Sahasranamam on Fridays and Thursdays. These days are considered to be auspicious for the worship of  Devi.

I found a pdf of Shree Lalitha Sahasranamastotram here. Although memorising the meanings of each name in he Stotram is not compulsory, understanding the meanings by reading this will help make sense of what you are chanting. There are several videos on YouTube that could help you listen to the pronunciation and learn the Stotram. Here is one of them, for a start.

May the Divine Mother Bless us all.