I'm one of the four bloggers in the organizing team of the first all India Food Bloggers' Meet which we're holding in Bangalore on 1st and 2nd August, 2014. Did you spot the shiny green button added to the sidebar? We have a wonderful line up of speaker sessions and activities, not to mention the company of some of the best food bloggers in the country. Check out our blog, Facebook page and Twitter, even if you can't make it to the event, you can catch all the action and gossip on these platforms. I'll be giving a little talk on Social Media tailored for the Food Blogger in the event and sharing my secrets to make your blog a little more famous and get more bang for your blogging buck. So if you are a food blogger in India, stay in touch with the event on various social media platforms.
I've been writing a parenting column for Yowoto - on kids and food. If you get a chance to catch my previous columns there, I'd appreciate you sharing with me your feedback and I'd love to know what else you'd like to hear from me on children and nutrition.
The other little secret is I'll be one of the Bangalore food experts for Burrp.com - so you'll see more food stories, restaurant reviews from the mad food city that is Bangalore.
If you are in Chennai on 12 July, and you love salads, YOU MUST NOT miss this demo organized by Brown Tree store (and of course to come say hello). Be quick to register yourself as it is a free event, and hopefully the seats will fill up fast.
Coming to blog post: how to make homemade cereal or homemade granola
I'm a true blue South Indian when it comes to my love for steaming hot breakfasts like upma, pongal, idlis or crispy dosais. Add to that my Mumbai-girl background and there is kaanda poha, sabudana khichdi, thaalipith and so on! But on lazy mornings when I'm in no mood to make a hot breakfast for one, or on hurried mornings, when every second counts, including kicking the (old) fridge shut after pulling out the milk, nothing beats cereal and milk. These days with the FIFA world cup running at the oddest possible times in India, it also makes the perfect midnight food to console a stomach ravaged by hunger pangs.
What's the difference between muesli and granola, you may wonder! For one, granola originated in the United States, while Muesli was created by physician and nutritionist, Bircher-Benner, in Switzerland. Given that muesli was created as a health food by a physician, it is fat free, sugar free and even salt free. It's a bunch of grains, fruit and nuts mixed together. The mix not cooked or baked before packaging. It's soaked in milk or yogurt and had as it is for breakfast. Now the American version, like all other American foods, it loves its fat and sugar (don't get me wrong, God bless America). Here, the grains, fruit and nuts are tossed in sweeteners and fat and baked until crisp, and of course this tastes delicious, but it's not exactly the healthiest breakfast for you.
Granola bars have quite become the in-thing in Indian metros these days, whether it is carrying your breakfast bar as you rush out for work, a post workout bite or a post school healthy munch for your kid. You do get some commercial brands but one look at the nutrition label will tell you that they are very high on sugar, fat and sodium, three things you want to eat judiciously if you are concerned about your health or your waist line. Most use liquid glucose, sugar syrup, soy lecithin and many other additives and preservatives too. Also, if you further analyse that nutritional label, in some of these bars, nearly half the calories come from fat, so it is hardly a balanced nutrition product.
So how do you make a breakfast cereal mix at home, that aims to be as healthy as a muesli but tastes as good as a granola? Choose your favourite grains, whatever dried fruit you have on hand, some bran for extra fibre, nuts and seeds to provide the healthy fats, flavouring such as vanilla, cinnamon or ginger and good quality honey, mix together, press down in a baking tin and bake until set and crisp. You have a delicious yet healthy breakfast mix ready. When you prepare this at home, you can control the salt (I add just a pinch), you can use the best quality ingredients and just enough sweetening. Commercial brands need to add a LOT of sweetener otherwise it wont bind as a bar. When you make it at home, you can always store in a jar and crumble it in your bowl before adding the milk or yogurt.
This is also a fun snack to munch on as it is, for kids, when they come back from school. Mix in some fresh fruit and you have a healthy source of calories for a tired kid. Check the table below on what to add to your cereal mix. Feel free to play around with your favourite ingredients and make your own flavour of the week :)
I'm often asked this question, how to make granola if I don't have an oven. The logical answer would be to dry roast all the grains, nuts and seeds until crisp. Warm up the honey mixed with the flavourings, toss all the ingredients in this and allow to set in a wide tray. Once cooled, crumble and store in airtight container.
Homemade Healthy Granola / Breakfast Cereal
Makes 12 servings or so
2 cups puffed rice or wheat
1/2 cup steel cut oats (omit if you don't have)
1 cup rolled oats (porridge oats, any brand)
3 tbsp whole flaxseeds
3 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup desiccated coconut (optional)
1/2 cup chocochips or chopped bar of chocolate
1 cup chopped cranberries or raisins or any other dried fruit
1/2 cup good quality honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil
Line a 9" square baking tray with baking paper. Lightly grease with fingertips dipped in ghee/oil and keep aside.
Preheat the oven at 150°C for 10 minutes.
Place the grains, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, coconut, chocochips in a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, slightly warm the honey with the salt, vanilla and cinnamon, until it is a little runny and whisk well till all the flavourings are mixed into the honey.
Wait for the honey to cool a little. Add it to the big bowl of ingredients and toss until well combined along with the ghee or oil.
Tip this into the lined tray, press well into all the corners with your fingertips. Smoothen the top with the back of a bowl or glass.
Place in the pre-heated oven and bake at 150°C for 45 minutes or so. Make sure the top doesn't burn.
Once cooled, break into chunks and store in airtight container.
If you want to make clean bars out of this, add 1/3 cup of melted jaggery or 1/4 cup golden syrup to the honey, and warm them together. It makes it a tad too sweet though, so you may want to stick to the original proportions.
This should stay for a week or so in an airtight jar.
To serve: Crumble 1/2 -3/4 cup of granola in a bowl. Add cold milk or yogurt and eat immediately. You can add chopped seasonal fresh fruit to this if you wish.