Product Review: Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Baking Kit

Baking with the bub has always been a dream of mine. Ever since I became a mommy –  even before that I think – I would dream of, one day, standing alongside the bub in our kitchen, measuring out ingredients, mixing them up, placing a cake or cookies in the oven, letting her lick the last of the batter from the mixing bowl, waiting for the oven timer to go off, and laughing at the look of awe on her face on watching the finished product get out of the oven..  all of this and more. You get the drift, right?

I never actually attempted anything like this, though, till very recently, when I won a Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Baking Kit on an Instagram photo contest.

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The Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies baking kit that I received!

About Bake Me India

Bake Me India is a New Delhi-based business venture that offers kid-friendly baking kits – brownies, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops and the like. The kits contain all the dry ingredients that would be required, as well as handy equipment such as a tray, rolling pin, piping bag, butter paper, and even a wee apron and chef’s cap!  The kits also come equipped with cards that outline in detail the steps in the baking proceedure.

Through these kits, Bake Me India aims to promote fun family baking times, especially by encouraging parents to bake alongside their kids. These kits are simple enough to be used by even very young kids (under adult supervision, of course!), and the parents need not be expert bakers themselves to use them. The use of good-quality ingredients and equipment is assured.

The kits (available in both ‘with egg’ and ‘egg-free’ versions) make for wonderful DIY gifts. You could opt to buy them individually or on a subscription basis, for as many months at a time as you desire. Prices range between INR 499 and INR 1699 per box, depending upon the nature of the product within. Home delivery across India is free, as of now.

Our experience with the Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies kit

~ The kit I received included cookie dough, chocolate chunks, vanilla essence, powdered sugar, colourful sprinkles, instruction cards, cookie cutters, a little apron and chef’s hat, a tray and rolling pin, as well as butter paper. I loved how every possible dry ingredient and little tool that we might need for the baking process had been taken care of. I didn’t need to go looking for much.

~ The kit could, really, have done without the sprinkles and the apron and chef’s hat, but I loved that these things were thought of and included. Little stuff like these are just what kids love, right? The bub loved the multi-coloured sprinkles and donned the chef’s hat and apron as soon as they were out of the box!

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What was inside my Bake Me India kit! Don’t miss the little apron and chef’s hat in there!

~ I loved the detailed instructions on the cards, which told me every single we needed to do, to bake the cookies. There were explanatory pictures as well. The instructions were simple and clear enough for even a child to follow. Thanks to them, the baking process was a breeze.

~ The cards clearly stated the other ingredients and tools I would need to make the cookies, apart from the stuff already included in the kit – just some butter and an oven, in my case.

~ I loved how all the ingredients were packed really well, in Ziploc pouches.

~ The quality of ingredients and equipment provided was really good, and I loved that about Bake Me India. There was nothing sub-standard about the kit.

~ The bub and I loved, loved, loved baking the cookies together, though she mostly just watched, excitedly. It was messy, it was chaotic (with the bub wanting to put everything into the mixing bowl at once!), but it was so much fun! The husband was pressed into action as official photographer for the ceremony, and, all put together, it was just the break we needed, perfect family bonding time. And, as always, it was magical to watch dough go into the oven and come out all transformed into beautiful cookies!

~ All the ingredients (flour, powdered sugar, chocolate, sprinkles and vanilla essence) had already been measured out carefully, and included in just the right quantities that would be needed for the recipe. I didn’t have to do any measuring out at all, and could concentrate on just the fun part of the baking process!

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The finished product – the scrumptious vanilla shortbread cookies!

~ We chose to do away with the cookie cutters and shape the cookies with our hands, as rustic as it gets. I am so glad we did that – sensory play and all that!

~ The cookies turned out absolutely scrumptious and were gone within a day of the making!

~ I still have the rolling pin, cookie cutters, apron, chef’s hat and tray in the kitchen. I love the fact that I can get them out and use them again, whenever the bub and I fancy a bit of baking. I can clearly see this becoming a habit!

~ At INR 1499, I think the price of this kit is on the higher side. That said, I’m not sure how much it would cost me if I were to put together all the stuff that was part of the kit – the dry ingredients and reusable kitchen equipment included.

~ I didn’t spot a ‘best before’ date on the kit. Ideally, it should be included.

In conclusion…

I think the concept of the Bake Me India baking kits is absolutely lovely. The kits, albeit priced a tad high, make for a fun baking experience with your family, creating loads of fond memories in the process. They are great rainy-day DIY activities, and lovely gifts as well. This is, surely, something I would encourage you to pick up, for yourself and for your loved ones.

Find Bake Me India online: Website| Facebook| Twitter| Instagram

I received the product free of cost, because I won it in a photo contest. I was requested to do a review on my blog, and I obliged. The views expressed herein are entirely honest and completely my own, not influenced by anyone or anything.

 

 

 

 

The Husband’s Birthday Lunch At Farzi Cafe: An Underwhelming Affair

Farzi Cafe had always been on my list of eateries to visit in Bangalore, thanks to a number of blog posts I have read praising the place. I was in awe of the very innovative ways in which the cafe presents its food. So, it was Farzi Cafe in UB City that we chose to celebrate the husband’s birthday recently, and headed to for lunch. True to the reviews that we had read, the cafe did dish up food in very different ways, but we, sadly, ended up underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Ambience and decor

Located in the posh UB City, Farzi Cafe has an ambience that I would call ‘buzzing’. The eatery was teeming with people when we visited, and most of the ample seating area was occupied. Thankfully, though, we didn’t have to wait for long for a table to open up.

The seating was quite uncomfortable, we felt, a fact that has been pointed out in several Zomato reviews. The place tends to get quite noisy too (something we noted during our lunch, and on several past visits to UB City), so it is definitely not somewhere you visit if you want to have an uninterrupted conversation.

Cuisine

Farzi Cafe has a varied and extensive menu, including Indian as well as fusion dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The eatery is known for its off-beat take on popular foods as well as innovative presentation styles.

The food and drinks

First up, we ordered the Mac N Cheese, served not the usual way, but in the form of deep-fried balls. The taste was strictly okay.

The Orange OK, an orange-based mocktail, that we ordered was just average too.

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Left: Orange OK, Centre: Mac N Cheese; Right: The complimentary Mishti Doi Shots

The Vada Paav we ordered next – paav inside the vada, and vada outside the paav, deep-fried – was presented beautifully, but, again, we found it just okay taste-wise.

For main course, we ordered their English Paav Bhaji, paav bhaji made with ‘English’ vegetables and served with foccaccia instead of the paav that usually comes with it. Presentation-wise, it was terrific, and the taste was definitely not bad, but we didn’t find it really out of the ordinary. I typically use all sorts of veggies to make paav bhaji at home, and this was the same.

We were offered a complimentary tamarind palate cleanser in between the two courses, with great fanfare, the sticks plucked out of a large white ceramic tree. It was okay, and I’m not complaining about that either.

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Left: Vada Paav, Centre: The tamarind palate cleanser offered complimentary in between courses; Right: English paav bhaji

The Rasmalai Tres Leches Cake that we ordered next was good. The presentation was good, and the taste was good, too.

We were given some complimentary mishti doi shots, which we loved. The paan (cotton candy shells filled with dehydrated paan mix) was good, too.

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Left: Rasmalai Tres Leches cake; Centre: The complimentary paan; Right: The typewriter in which our bill was presented to us!

Service

We found the service to be okay – the staff was polite and courteous, but they took ages to bring each dish to the table. It wasn’t really a problem, because we did want to have a leisurely meal.

Prices

We felt the food to be quite expensive here – like everything else in UB City is. We paid INR 2500 for this meal.

In hindsight…

We felt more than a bit underwhelmed by this birthday lunch at Farzi Cafe, a fact that is as sad as it gets. Overall, I guess, we had built up too much of expectation thanks to all those rave blog reviews, and those didn’t match up to the reality. Maybe, we are purists who don’t like their food to be tampered with too much. Maybe, we just didn’t choose the right dishes. Maybe, it just wasn’t our day – we kept feeling like the lunch we had had here wasn’t a hearty affair. Maybe, this is the sort of place where presentation is key, and that isn’t always the lookout for us.

I’m confused about whether I should give this place another go or not.

Proso Millet Sweet Pongal| Millet Sakkarai Pongal

This festive season, let’s offer something healthier to the Gods and to our bodies, shall we? How about some millet sweet pongal?

This sweet pongal contains absolutely no rice, which has been substituted with proso millet. You can even use a mix of different types of millet, really. The pongal also uses jaggery and not sugar, which is commonly used in festival sweetmeats. It tastes absolutely delish, just like the regular sweet pongal, but a much healthier alternative. The hint of edible camphor that is added to it takes the fragrance and taste of the pongal to new heights. What’s more, this dish is a breeze to prepare too!

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Now, let’s check out how to make this millet sweet pongal, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 6):

  1. 1 cup proso millet
  2. 1/2 cup moong daal
  3. 3 cups powdered jaggery
  4. 2 cups milk (boiled and cooled)
  5. 2 pinches of edible camphor
  6. 2 pinches of cardamom (elaichi) powder
  7. 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons ghee
  8. 5-6 unsalted cashewnuts
  9. 5-6 unsalted almonds
  10. 5-6 pieces of unsalted pistachios
  11. 2 tablespoons raisins

Method:

  1. Wash the proso millet in running water a couple of times, draining out the excess water every time. Make sure all the impurities are washed out.
  2. Take the washed and drained proso millet in a large vessel, and add in enough water to completely cover it. Let the millets soak for 2 hours.
  3. After 2 hours, drain out all the excess water from the soaked millets.
  4. Mix the moong daal and the soaked millets together, and add in the 2 cups of milk + 2-1/2 cups of water. Pressure cook this for 7-8 whistles. Let the pressure release entirely.
  5. Once the pressure has completely gone down, open the cooker and remove the container with the cooked millets and moong daal. Now, we will set about making the jaggery syrup for the pongal.
  6. Pour 2 cups of water in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add in the 2 cups of powdered jaggery. Set on high flame. Cook till the jaggery has entirely dissolved in the water.
  7. When the jaggery has completely dissolved, add in the cooked millets and moong daal to the pan. Turn the flame down to medium.
  8. Add in 1 tablespoon of ghee.
  9. Keep cooking on medium flame for 5-7 minutes, stirring intermittently, or till the mixture starts thickening.
  10. Roughly chop the almonds, pistachios and cashewnuts. Keep aside.
  11. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee in another pan. Add in the raisins and chopped almonds, pistachios and cashewnuts. Let them stay in for a minute. Add the fried nuts, raisins and ghee to the pongal in the pan.
  12. Add in the edible camphor and cardamom powder to the pongal too.
  13. Let the pongal cook on low-medium flame, for about 2 minutes more, stirring intermittently. Switch off the gas when the pongal is considerably thick, but still quite runny. It will thicken further on cooling.
  14. Serve the pongal warm, or at room temperature.

Notes:

  1. You could dry roast the moong daal before making the pongal. This gives the pongal a nice fragrance. I skipped this step.
  2. Don’t miss out on soaking the millets for a period of at least 2 hours. This ensures that the pongal turns out soft and well cooked, rather than grainy.
  3. The quantity of jaggery powder that you will need depends upon its quality and level of sweetness. We commonly use twice the jaggery powder as the quantity of moong daal + millet. Here, I have used 3 cups of jaggery powder for 1.5 cups of moong daal + millet (1 cup millet + 1/2 cup moong daal).
  4. Feel free to increase the quantity of ghee you use in the pongal. I know some households who love their pongal dripping with ghee. We are comfortable with just about 3 tablespoons in our sweet pongal.
  5. Do ensure that the pistachios, raisins, cashewnuts and almonds do not burn while frying them.
  6. Increase or decrease the quantity of milk you use to cook the pongal, depending upon personal preferences. If you don’t want to use milk, you can skip it entirely and pressure cook the moong daal + millets in 4-1/2 cups of water instead.
  7. Do not cook the pongal too much after adding the edible camphor and cardamom powder in, as this might lead to a slight bitterness.
  8. Edible camphor is different from the camphor that is lit in temples and in poojas, as an offering to God. Please do not confuse between the two.
  9. Ensure that you do not add more than two pinches of edible camphor to the pongal. The smell can be quite overpowering, and overdoing it can cause the pongal to acquire a slight bitterness as well. If you don’t have edible camphor, it is okay to skip it entirely.
  10. I have used proso millet to make this sweet pongal, in place of rice. You can even use a mix of millets – like barnyard millet, foxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet – for the same.

Do try out this millet sweet pongal too. I hope you like it as much as we do!

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Check out the other millet-based recipes on my blog!

It’s Falooda Time At Swensens!

What do you think of when you think of falooda?

I think of glasses filled with pink, pink, pink milk lined up on a street-side cart, vermicelli and chia seeds swirling around in it. I think of people grabbing these glasses with sweaty hands. I think of them gulping all of it down in one go, an attempt to sate their parched throats on a hot summer’s day as well as to placate rumbling tummies with the cool, sweet, rose-laden drink.

When I encountered the falooda at Swensens, at a recent event for food bloggers, it both matched and did not match the picture in my head. The event aimed to familiarise us with the latest introduction on the Swensens (India) menu – the falooda – or, rather, the chain’s version of it. We also met Director – Swensens (India), Mr. Pinaki Mukherjee, who talked to us about the salient features of this  falooda.

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Left: Mr. Mukherjee talking to the food bloggers about the Swensens falooda; Right: The three versions of the Swensens falooda (small, medium and large) that are currently available

The Swensens version of this dessert is classy and beautiful, all jazzed up, as against the street-side version. It is made with quality ingredients, all the little things that have always comprised the falooda. It is just as cool and refreshing, too. The rose and the vermicelli are there, but no chia seeds or milk. I would say it is Swensens’ attempt to recreate the falooda, without deviating entirely from the way the drink originally tastes.

At the event, we were shown how the Swensens falooda is made – layer by layer by layer. Each layer is built to give a different taste, a different feeling, to the eater. We watched in wonder as waffles (crushed and whole), rose syrup, saffron syrup, saffron-flavoured ice cream, broken cashewnuts, saffron-flavoured vermicelli, rose petals and the signature Swensens cherry all went into the making of the falooda.

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Left: The Swensens falooda, standing tall and pretty; Centre and Right: The team demonstrating the various steps in the making of the Swensens falooda

Mr. Mukherjee told us of how each ingredient used in the falooda is sourced with great care and caution, to ensure good quality and consistent taste. The Maraschino cherries that are a part of all Swensens ice creams come from a farm in the US of A – apparently, the entire crop of the farm is booked by Swensens in advance, every year. Similarly, the roses and saffron (for the rose and saffron syrups used in the falooda) comes from select fields in India. Also, the vermicelli used herein is cooked fresh every morning, infused with saffron, unlike the plain vermicelli commonly found in falooda elsewhere.

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Isn’t she pretty?!

I’m not a big fan of falooda, I admit. I never have been. This version of the falooda did win me over, though. I liked the way it tasted, each layer contributing towards the delectable taste of the whole. I love the fact that Swensens offers the falooda in small, medium and large sizes, so patrons can choose the exact quantity they would like to have. The large size is like a complete meal in itself!

This is definitely one dessert that I would love to have again, if I can look past the Sticky Chewy Chocolate Fantasy that grabs my fancy every single time I enter Swensens!

Why don’t you go ahead and try out this pretty and delicious dessert, too?

  • Where?: At all Swensens outlets
  • When?: Limited edition for about 3 months, ongoing now
  • Price?: INR 99 for the small (Happy Falooda), INR 149 for the medium (Carnival Falooda), and INR 229 for the large (Crispy Crunchy Falooda)

    I was invited to sample the product, and to share my feedback about the same. The views expressed herein are entirely honest and my own, not influenced by anything or anyone

    Milk Pulao| How To Make Milk & Vegetable Rice

    A while ago, Amma told me about an interesting recipe that she had seen on a cooking show on television – a recipe for a simple rice cooked entirely in milk. The show’s host had said that the rice would be surprisingly flavourful in spite of having just a few ingredients in it. ‘It looked so good!’, Amma told me. ‘I am pretty sure you’ll like it; you must try it out,’ she quipped. And so I did, and loved it to bits, exactly the way Amma had known I would. Ammas are so good at this sort of thing, no? 🙂

    I went ahead and made a few changes of my own to the original recipe. I cooked the rice in a mix of milk and water as the original recipe suggested (not coconut milk, but plain milk, mind you!). I also added in a few veggies, some fried onions, raisins and nuts. I put in a few slit green chillies, in addition to the whole spices that the original recipe calls for. In my humble opinion, I think this version is so much more colourful, healthier and tastier, making for a fuller, more wholesome meal.

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    Milk pulao or milk & vegetable rice

    For the life of her, Amma cannot remember which show this recipe was shown on, or which TV channel aired it, but it has, sort of, become a regular fixture on our dining table. I have come to associate this dish – I call it Milk Pulao or Milk & Vegetable Rice – with celebrations. This is the dish I turn to on festive occasions, on festival days when I want to make something special, without it being too complicated. It helps that this pulao is so very easy to make, and that the family loves it just as much as I do.  So, for this week’s Foodie Monday Blog Hop – the theme being ‘Festive Recipes’ – it is only natural that I present to you this latest festive dish crush of our family.

    Foodie Monday Blog Hop

    Now, let’s check out the proceedure for making my version of the milk pulao, shall we?

    Ingredients (serves 3-4):

    • 1 cup rice (I use Sona Masoori rice)
    • 1-1/2 cup milk (boiled and cooled)
    • 1-1/2 cup water
    • Salt, to taste
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 tablespoon oil + more for frying the dry fruits and onions
    • 4 green chillies or to taste, slit length-wise
    • 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and chopped into batons
    • 1 small capsicum, chopped into medium-sized pieces
    • 7-8 beans, strings removed and chopped into medium-sized pieces
    • A handful of green peas
    • 1 large onion, chopped length-wise
    • About 1/4 cup of raisins
    • 6-7 whole almonds
    • 6-7 kernels of walnuts
    • 6-7 whole cashewnuts
    • 2 small bay leaves
    • 4-5 cloves
    • A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
    • 4-5 pieces of cardamom (elaichi)

    Method:

    1. Wash the rice under running water a couple of times. Place in a colander, and drain out all the excess water.
    2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add in the cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves and cardamom. Let them stay in for a second or two.
    3. Now, add in the chopped carrots, beans and green peas, along with the washed and drained rice.
    4. Add in 1-1/2 cups of water and 1-1/2 cups of milk, along with the slit green chillies, sugar and salt to taste. Mix well.
    5. Close the cooker, and put the weight on. Pressure cook on high flame for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
    6. In the meantime, fry the onions, raisins and nuts and keep them ready. For this, take oil for frying in a thick-bottomed pan,  and set it on a high flame. When the oil reaches smoking point, turn the flame down to medium. Drop in the cashewnuts, and fry till they become slightly brown, and remove onto a plate. Now, fry the almonds till they become darker in colour, and remove onto the plate. Fry the walnuts till they turn slightly darker, and transfer to the plate. Fry the raisins till they plump up, and then remove onto the plate. Fry the onions till they caramelise and turn dark, and transfer onto the plate too. Take care to ensure that none of these ingredients get burnt.
    7. Once the pressure has completely gone down, mix in the fried onions, raisins, walnuts, almonds and cashewnuts into the rice, gently.
    8. Serve hot. This pulao doesn’t really need an accompaniment.

    Notes:

    1. If you don’t like the idea of adding whole cashewnuts, walnut kernels and almonds to the pulao, you can chop them into slivers after frying.
    2. I think veggies like carrot, peas and beans go really well with this dish. That said, do feel free to add other veggies too.
    3. I use about 3-1/2 cups of water to cook 1 cup of rice, normally. For pulao and other rice-based dishes, I reduce the quantity of water slightly. To make this pulao, I have used 3 cups of liquid in total (1-1/2 cups of milk + 1-1/2 cups of water) for 1 cup of rice + a few veggies.
    4. Increase or decrease the quantity of milk and/or water as per personal taste preferences and depending on how grainy you want the pulao to be.
    5. You could even mix in some finely chopped coriander, once the milk and vegetable rice is cooked and ready.
    6. You could use basmati rice in place of Sona Masoori rice as well.
    7. This pulao turns out fragrant and mildly spiced. Increase the quantity of green chillies if you want to up the heat a bit.
    8. Skip the sugar entirely, if you so desire.

    You like? I hope you will try out this milk pulao too, and that you will like it as much as we did!

    Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs, Day 2: How To Cook With Millets

    If Day 1 of the Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs was enlightening, Day 2 was even more so. Day 2 was when all participants couldn’t take their eyes off stage, when they watched goggle-eyed the magic being spun before them, riveted to their seats. Day 2 was as full of practical sessions as Day 1 was of technical ones, with a number of chefs coming up on stage to demonstrate all the delicacies that can be cooked using millets.

    The point was to prove just how versatile millets are, how they can lend themselves to a variety of dishes, Indian and international, healthy and not-so-healthy, simple and five-star-menu worthy, sweet and savoury, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Together, I think, the chefs more than proved this!

    Here is an overview of Day 2 of the workshop, for your viewing and reading pleasure. I think I’ll mostly let the pictures of the food do the talking – that left all of us speechless, for sure!

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    Day 2 began with Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, Honourable Minister of Agriculture for the state of Karnataka, addressing those present. In his speech, he recapped most of what was discussed on the first day – enunciating how exactly millets are good for you, for the farmers, and for the environment as well.

    (Check out my detailed post about the key take-aways on Day 1!)

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    Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, in his inaugural address on Day 2

    Then, Dr. Bhaskarachary of the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad, came up on stage to talk about the role of millets in today’s society. He talked at length about how the inclusion of millets would go a long way towards creating a balanced diet, as opposed to the wheat- or rice-heavy diets that most people these days seem to use. He spoke of how the high nutritional value of millets is not something that we should miss out on, especially now, when lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are on the rise. Dr. Bhaskarachary also stressed on the role of chefs, dieticians, home cooks and food bloggers to spread the right information about millets, and to encourage more people to include them in their diets.

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    Dr. Bhaskarachary addressing the participants of the workshop

    After this, some heavy-duty action began on stage! It was the turn of chefs from all over Bangalore to showcase their delectable millet confections!

    Chef Ramaswamy Selvaraju, Executive Chef of Vivanta By Taj, Bangalore, went first. He demonstrated how to make a beautiful Spinach-Stuffed Millet Ravioli With Primavera Sauce, as well as some Pan-Seared Chicken With Millet Stew And Sauternes Sauce and Smoked Chicken And Baby Pineapple Salad With Crispy Foxtail Millet.

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    Left: Chef Selvaraju demonstrating his recipes; Right: Top – Spinach-Stuffed Millet Ravioli With Primavera Sauce, Centre – Pan-Seared Chicken With Millet Stew And Sauternes Sauce

    Next, Ms. Vani Anamdas, Manager – Housing & Food Services, International Crops Research Institute For The Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, came up on stage. Her team demonstrated the making of Finger Millet Cake With Hot Garlic Sauce, Millet Manchurian, and Millet Kashmiri Kofta In Palak Gravy.

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    Left: Ms. Vani Anamdas addressing the participants; Centre: Top – Finger Millet Cake With Hot Garlic Sauce, Bottom: Millet Manchurian With Gravy; Right: Top – Millet Kashmiri Kofta In Palak Gravy, Bottom – Dry Millet Manchurian

    Ms. Anamdas’s team from ICRISAT also went on to demonstrate how to make Ragi Shots, Sorghum Stuffed Kulcha, Millet Waffles, Ragi Banana Bread, and Sorghum Flakes-Fried Chicken.

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    Top left: Ms. Vani Anamdas’s team demonstrating millet-based recipes; Bottom left: Sorghum Flakes-Fried Chicken; Adjacent to bottom left: Ragi Banana Bread; Bottom right: Millet Waffle; Top of bottom right: Sorghum Stuffed Kulcha; Top right: Ragi Shots

    Post this, Chef Nagarekha Palli of Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences (RUAS) came up on stage to demonstrate two more millet-based recipes – Foxtail Millet Crisps With Millet Sprouts and Smoked Kodo Millet Kabab With Yogurt Dip. She also demonstrated how to get millets to sprout beautifully into long, delicate, green shoots, over a period of four or five days.

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    Left: Chef Nagarekha Palli demonstrating on stage; Centre: Foxtail Millet Crisps With Millet Sprouts; Right: Smoked Kodo Millet Kabab With Yogurt Dip

    Chef Shyam Prasad of RUAS then came up on stage to show the audience how to make Millet Paella (yes, you read that right!) and Finger Millet Tacos.

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    Left: Chef Shyam Prasad demonstrating his dishes; Centre: Millet Paella; Right: Finger Millet Tacos

    Chef Shashi Sharma of RUAS then showed everyone the method of preparation of his Millet Paneer And Spinach Tikki and Millet Chicken Risotto.

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    Left: Chef Shashi Sharma on stage; Centre: Millet Paneer And Spinach Tikki; Right: Millet Chicken Risotto

    After this, Chef Sridhar Krishnan of RUAS demonstrated how to make two beautiful, beautiful, beautiful millet-based desserts – Greek Yogurt Cake With Citrus Glaze and Toffee Chocolate Tart.

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    Left: Chef Sridhar Krishnan on stage; Centre: Greek Yogurt Cake With Citrus Glaze; Right: Toffee Chocolate Tart

    Day 2 of the workshop concluded with a panel discussion, where participants could ask relevant questions to the experts on stage. The experts included Chef Shashi Sharma, Chef Shyam Kumar, Chef Sridhar Krishnan, food blogger Ruth D’Souza Prabhu of the Bangalore’s Restaurants fame,  Chef Nagarekha Palli, Chef Vani Anamdas, and the Joint Director of Agriculture, Mr. Jayaswamy.

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    The experts on stage, for the panel discussion

    Key take-aways from Day 2 of the workshop

    ~ Millets can be used to cook a huge variety of dishes, ranging from traditional Indian fare to the highly exotic. And millet-based food can look great, too!

    ~ Millets can be used to create healthy dishes as well as junk food like manchurian and calorie-heavy dishes like cakes and other desserts. The dishes demonstrated at the workshop were a mix of both these types. I admit some the dishes shown to us weren’t very healthy, but I guess the aim of the workshop was to demonstrate the vast range of possibilities. Also, as the experts stated, people would be more amenable to using millets if they saw them being used to make contemporary food that is tasty as well.

    ~ While cooking with millets, one needs to be aware of the inherent properties that each type possesses. Some types of millets, for instance, needs to be soaked for a while before cooking, to ensure that they are cooked well and not very chewy. This understanding comes with trial and error, experimenting with millets in your kitchen on a regular basis.

    ~ Baking with millets can be a tad tough, since they do not possess any gluten. Hence, it becomes essential to mix maida or whole wheat flour with them, to get a good-quality finished product.

    ~ When you substitute millets for rice in a dish well-known to you, there might be a change in the texture of the dish as it is known to you. This is something you must be ready for, when beginning to cook with millets.

    Well, that was all about the beautiful millet workshop I attended. I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it will be of help to you.

    Gulkand Coconut Laddoos| Easy No-Cook Dessert Recipe

    Festival season in India is officially here! Today is Aadi 18, tomorrow is Varamahalakshmi Pooja, and soon it will be time for Raksha Bandhan and Ganesh Chaturthi. There is an aura of good cheer and festivity everywhere, a lot of good food and holidays to look forward to.

    If you are still thinking about what sweet dish to whip up for the upcoming festivals, I am here to rescue you. As much as I love our traditional Indian sweets, I always try to make something different from the usual for festivals, to break the monotony and to keep the element of surprise intact. This year, for the Varamahalakshmi Pooja at my mother’s place, I am taking these beautiful Gulkand Coconut Laddoos.

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    These laddoos are super simple to make, and can be done in minutes, with just a few ingredients. They taste absolutely delish, if I may say so myself, and make for a refreshing change from the regular Indian sweets. Coconut and gulkand go really well together, and the gentle rose fragrance in these laddoos will surely make them a hit with family and friends alike. What’s more, this is a dessert that requires absolutely no cooking!

    What are you waiting for, then? Try out these gulkand coconut laddoos too!

    Here’s how I made them.

    Ingredients (makes about 8 medium-sized laddoos):

    1. 1 cup dry, grated coconut
    2. 4-5 unsalted cashewnuts
    3. 4-5 unsalted almonds
    4. 7-8 unsalted pistachios
    5. About 1 tablespoon raisins
    6. 3 tablespoons of gulkand, or as per taste
    7. 2-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, or as required
    8. Ghee or unsalted butter, as required to grease hands

    Method:

    1. Take the dry, grated coconut in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Chop the cashewnuts, almonds and pistachios into slivers. Add these to the coconut.
    3. Add the raisins and the gulkand to the coconut too.
    4. Add the condensed milk to the mixing bowl as well.
    5. Mix everything well. Grease your hands with the butter or ghee, and form balls out of the mixture, and arrange them in an air-tight box.
    6. Allow the box to chill, covered, in the refrigerator (not in the deep freezer) for a couple of hours. By this time, the laddoos will set, getting slightly harder.
    7. Serve the laddoos after letting them come to room temperature.

    Notes:

    1. You could add about 1/2 teaspoon of rose essence to make the flavour more pronounced. I skipped this.
    2. These laddoos are best stored in the refrigerator till you are ready to serve them. Refrigerated, they stay good for 5-6 days.
    3. Increase/decrease the quantity of gulkand you use, depending upon your personal taste preferences.
    4. Use just as much condensed milk as needed to bring the mixture to a pliable consistency, which is just right to form balls out of.
    5. If you feel the level of sweetness is less, you could add in powdered sugar to taste.
    6. You could even roast/fry the cashewnuts, almonds, pistachios and raisins before adding them in, for an added crunch. I skipped this, and my laddoos were still quite delicious.

    You like? I hope you will love these gulkand coconut laddoos as much as we do. Don’t forget to write in and tell me how you liked them!

    Book Review: Frank Goes To The Market

    • Genre: Children’s book, Kiddie book
    • Age group: 2-4 years

    Frank Goes To The Market, as the name suggests, is the story of a little boy named Frank who visits the market with his mother. His mother has a lot of shopping to do in the market, and tells him to stay close to her, without wandering off anywhere. Soon, though, Frank notices a cow with bells around her neck and, attracted, starts following her. It doesn’t take him long to realise that he is lost, alone in the bustling market. As the book progresses, the author reveals how Frank tackles the situation, calmly and without panicking, thinking hard about all the stalls his mother might have stopped at. Finally, Frank does manage to find his mother at the lemon stall (Frank deduces this because his mother had promised to make him lemon juice once they got back home). Relieved, the duo return home together.

    The story, by CG Salamander, is sweetly and simply told. The narrative is in the form of easy-to-follow rhymes, which I think is a great way to keep kids engaged. I loved the very Indian context of the story – the story is set in an Indian bazaar, which all Indian kids would have visited and can easily relate to. I also loved the way the book acts as a learning aid, teaching kids what kind of stalls to expect in a market, the importance of staying close to one’s parents in a crowded place and, most importantly, how not to lose one’s calm when put in a situation like Frank’s.

    This book, by Ms. Moochie, is meant for children between 2 and 4 years of age, and my 2.5-year-old daughter enjoyed it immensely. We have already read the book several times over, and it has just been a week since we received it!

    The illustrations in the book, by Chetan Sharma, are simply brilliant, I must say. The pictures are so colourful, so vivid, so realistic, I couldn’t help but fall in love with them, and neither could my daughter.

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    Picture 1: The cover page of Frank Goes To The Market; Picture 2, 3 and 4: Samples of the brilliant illustrations within the book

    What I felt could have been better is the language used in the book. I understand that the book is meant for beginner readers and that the language has to be simple, but I kept feeling that the choice of words could have been better. Also, the story could have been made a little more intriguing, with a few twists and turns thrown in, to keep children better engaged. Language- and story-wise, in my humble opinion, I felt the book ranked a couple of notches lower than the amazing Tulika and Pratham books that I am used to reading with the bub, many of those set in Indian contexts too.

    Frank Goes To The Market is priced at INR 200 which, I felt, is slightly on the higher side. A price range of INR 120-150 would have been good.

    Would I recommend this book? Definitely, for the illustrations and the important life lessons that it holds.

    I was sent a copy of this book, free of cost, to read and review honestly. The thoughts expressed herein are entirely my own, completely honest, and not inspired by anyone or anything.

    Mixed Vegetable Idlis| Healthy Steamed Snack Recipe

    For this week’s Foodie Monday Blog Hop, the 103rd edition, the theme is ‘steamed dishes’. I decided to try out something I have always wanted to – Mixed vegetable idlis! And they turned out so, so good!

    Foodie Monday Blog Hop

    Mixed vegetable idlis might be a common breakfast dish in a lot of homes, but that is not so in our case. We end up making the good ol’ plain idlis over and over again, serving them with a variety of chutneys and sambar. Now that we have tried and loved the mixed vegetable idlis, I am pretty sure we will be making them more frequently.

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    Mixed vegetable idlis – healthy steamed snack

    These idlis have the goodness of urad daal and veggies in them, and are a nice, welcome change from the regular idlis. They taste delightful, and can be served as is – they don’t really need an accompaniment. What’s more, they are steamed and, therefore, super healthy, too. This is a great kid-friendly breakfast or snack dish, a lovely way to sneak veggies into their diet, I think.

    Here’s how I made the mixed vegetable idlis.

    Ingredients (for about 12 idlis):

    1. 3/4 of a medium-sized serving bowl idli batter
    2. Salt, to taste
    3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
    4. 1 green chilly
    5. A small piece of cabbage
    6. 1 medium-sized carrot
    7. A few florets of cauliflower
    8. 6-7 beans
    9. 1 small onion
    10. 1/2 of a medium-sized capsicum
    11. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
    12. 2 tablespoons shelled green peas
    13. A pinch of asafoetida
    14. Red chilli powder, to taste
    15. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
    16. 1 tablespoon oil + a little more to grease the idli moulds

    Method:

    1. First, let us prep all the veggies. Chop the cabbage, cauliflower, onions and capsicum finely. Remove the strings from the green beans and chop them finely too. Peel the carrot and chop it very finely or grate it. Chop the coriander finely.
    2. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is nice and hot, add the chopped cabbage, cauliflower, onions, capsicum, beans, carrot and the shelled green peas, along with the asafoetida. Stirring intermittently, let the veggies cook on a medium flame for a minute. Now, add turmeric powder, salt and red chilli powder to taste. Mix well. Sprinkling a little water if needed, cook on medium flame for a minute or two more, stirring intermittently. Switch off the gas. The veggies should be cooked, but not overly tender – they will be steamed later, with the idli batter, anyway. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Keep aside and allow the vegetables to cool, while you make the other preparations.
    3. Grease the idli plates using a little oil, and keep them ready.
    4. Add salt to taste to the idli batter.
    5. Peel the ginger and chop it into small pieces. Chop the green chilli into small pieces. Grind the ginger and green chillies into a paste, in a mixer, using a little water. Add this paste to the idli batter.
    6. When the vegetables cool down completely, add them to the idli batter. Mix well.
    7. Now, pour a ladleful of the batter into each of the moulds in the greased idli plates.
    8. Place the plates in a pressure cook and steam them, on high flame, for 10-12 minutes. Do not place the pressure cooker weight.
    9. When done, remove the mixed vegetable idlis from the plates, using a spoon. Transfer them to serving plates. Serve hot, as is or with sambar or chutney of your choice.

    You like? I hope you will try out these healthy and tasty mixed vegetable idlis too!

    Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs, Day 1: An Overview

    The 25th and 26th of July, 2017, saw a beautiful workshop on millet foods being conducted at the MS Ramaiah campus in Matthikere. This workshop – Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs – was organised by the Government of Karnataka, in association with MS Ramaiah Institute, with the intention of spreading more awareness about millets and millet-based foods. This is an extension to the #LetsMillet campaign being vigorously undertaken by the Government of Karnataka, an attempt to reach out to the masses after the hugely successful Organics And Millets Mela held in April 2017.

    I am thankful to have been offered an invite to attend and cover the workshop which, I think, was just as successful as the Organics And Millets Mela. It was met with a wonderful, enthusiastic response from chefs, dieticians, students, home cooks and various dignitaries from the worlds of food, nutrition and politics.

    To say I am overwhelmed and enlightened by the experience of attending the workshop would be an understatement. I’ve learnt so much in these two days; watched so much of magic being unravelled; life in my kitchen is never going to be the same again, I’m sure.

    Some of the most commonly asked questions about millets were answered, this first day of the workshop. Here’s a glimpse of all that happened on Day 1 of the workshop, and the key take-aways, for your viewing and reading pleasure.

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    The workshop began with an address by Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, Honourable Minister of Agriculture for Karnataka. He spoke about how millets are the need of the hour, speaking about what exactly millets are and the need to inculcate them in our daily diets

    We’ve been hearing about this ‘millets’ thing day in and day out. But what are they, really?

    Millets are actually grasses with tiny seeds, something that has been cultivated in India since ages. They are hardy crops that can be grown with little investment and little usage of water, and hold immense nutrition within their tiny selves.

    If they are so good for us, why aren’t we using more of millets?

    Once upon a time, millets were consumed in generous quantities by Indians, and were extensively used to feed cattle as well. However, with advancing times and the increasing influence of Western culture, millets began to be looked down upon. They began to be called ‘poor man’s food’ or ‘cattle feed’, and our diets changed to include primarily wheat-  or rice-based products. Our consumption of millets has gone down drastically, both in urban and rural areas, so much so that it is negligible. People have forgotten how to use these ancient powerhouses of nutrition aka millets.

    Why millets?

    Today, when global warming is a scary reality that we are slowly waking up to and water conservation is the need of the hour, millets can be of great help. Growing 1 kg. of rice consumes about 4,000-5,500 thousand litres of water, while growing a kg. of millets needs just about 20% of that. Moreover, millets can be grown even in bad weather conditions, in poor soil conditions. They are sturdy crops that aren’t usually infested by insects or diseases and, hence, require little or no pesticides and fertilisers. Therefore, the cost of growing millets is much, much lower than that of cultivating wheat or rice.

    Sadly, though, there is little demand for millets today. Today, millets are grown only by those farmers who are unable to grow anything else, because they are extremely pressed for money or have land that has extremely poor conditions. Millets are good for the farmer in a lot of ways. So, if you begin to include more millets in your daily diets, you are actually helping the poorest of farmers, saving them from a life of misery.

    By buying millets, you also contribute to environmental good health, by reducing the stress on already stressed-out water resources. You also help in cutting down the use of fertilisers and pesticides. Millets are, therefore, good for the environment, too. 

    This is not all. Millets are good for our health, too. Today, non-communicable or lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol are rampant in rural and urban India. Many of these diseases occur because of our sedentary lifestyles, increasing stress levels, and an unbalanced diet (read: increasing use of junk food and drinks, a high level of wheat- or rice-based foods, and a lack of inclusion of different types of fruits, grains, vegetables and other ingredients). Thanks to their high nutritional content, the inclusion of millets in our daily diets can be one of the ways out of this situation. It is rather sad that people today are turning to foreign grains like quinoa and oats for their nutritional values, but ignoring our very own millets, which are far superior to these foods (even to rice and wheat, in case of most nutrients).

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    Shri Krishna Byre Gowda releasing a special cookbook containing millet-based dishes, at the workshop, along with other dignitaries

    What’s this #LetsMillet thing? Who are the various stakeholders?

    The Government of Karnataka is presently on a mission to propagate awareness about millets through workshops like this one, to encourage people to use more of them, and to teach them different ways in which they can do so. Check out the #LetsMillet hashtag on Facebook and Instagram to take a look at the considerable work that has been done in this regard.

    Chefs, dieticians, food bloggers and other social media influencers have an important role to play in contributing towards this end.

    So, millets can be used just to make stuff like ragi mudde, right?

    Millets can be used in a variety of dishes, traditional and contemporary, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Also, people take millets to mean just ragi (finger millet) or bajri (pearl millet), while that is so not the case. These are just two types of millet – there’s a whole millet family out there, for you to explore and get the benefit of. Pearl millet, kodo millet, little millet, proso millet, finger millet, barnyard millet.. there are so many varieties of millets! Most people today don’t even know what these grains look like! 

    Further, these grains can be used to make anything from gobi manchurian, dosa, idli, curd rice and bisi bele bath to risotto, ravioli, cakes and breads. For the last two years or so, chefs, home cooks and food bloggers have been experimenting with different types of millets, and there is now a wealth of recipes to be explored. So, millets does not translate into just stuff like ragi mudde.. almost anything can be made from them! They can be used in place of wheat and rice in all the dishes you commonly consume today, like curd rice or sambar rice, and they can be made into delicacies like payasam and kesari bath, too. That said, millets possess certain qualities that are inherent to them, and a chef should work around them while trying to develop dishes with them. 

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    Some of the exhibits at the workshop. Left: The various kinds of millets, and some other grains that we should be consuming; Centre (top): Palak dosa made with navane (foxtail millet); Centre (bottom): Different types of breads and cakes prepared using millets; Right (top): Various snacks prepared using millets; Right (bottom): Thalipeeth prepared using bhajni (a flour made with mixed millets and grains)

    Should I use millets just because my ancestors used them?

    The Honourable Minister of Agriculture ended his speech with a request to everyone to consider increasing the use of millets in their daily diets. He stated that he does not solicit people’s co-operation because increasing consumption of millets is a political agenda, or because our ancestors used these grains, but because they are good for us in so many different ways, a fact that has been backed up by a whole lot of systematic scientific research.

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    Dignitaries speaking about various aspects of millets, including their nutritional values and the way in which they should be introduced into one’s diet. Among the dignitaries who graced the occasion were Dr. Vilas Tonapi, Director – Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad; Dr. Bhaskarachary of IIMR, Hyderabad; Dr. Vibha Shetty, Professor of Prosthodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences, MS Ramaiah Dental College and Hospital; Ms. Hema Arvind, Chief Dietician, MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital; and Dr. Govind R Kadambi, Pro VC-Research, MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences.

    What are the various nutrients that millets possess?

    • They are high in dietary fibre, so they fill you up with lesser portion sizes. Therefore, they are helpful in weight management. They also help in lowering constipation.
    • They possess a low Glycemic Index (GI), and are thus useful in controlling diabetes.
    • They have anti-tumour and anti-carcinogenic properties too.
    • They are low in sodium, so they are helpful in the management of hypertension.
    • They help in the lowering of serum cholesterol and triglycerides.
    • They possess a highly alkaline nature, thereby helping in preventing and lowering the effects of irritable bowel syndrome, acidity, gallstones and stomach ulcers.
    • They are rich in anti-oxidants.
    • They possess hypo-allergenic properties and, hence, help in preventing allergic reactions.
    • They are rich in iron, thereby helping in the prevention of anaemia. 
    • They are useful in the prevention of liver disorders.
    • They are completely gluten-free.
    • Millets are far superior to wheat and rice and even quinoa, as far as various micro-nutrients are concerned.
    • They are quite high in protein, and hence, play a crucial role in a vegetarian diet, wherein protein sources are limited.
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    A panel discussion on millets by experts from various fields. The experts include food blogger Archana Doshi, reputed dietician Geetha GH, Yogen Dutta – Executive Chef of ITC Gardenia (Bangalore), and Dr. Vibha Shetty – Professor of Prosthodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences

    If millets are so high in nutrients, should I be switching over to an all-millet diet then?

    No, that kind of extreme switching over in diet is not advisable, not recommended by dieticians or nutritionists. Yes, millets are very high in nutrients, but they do need to be supplemented by wheat, rice, pulses, vegetables, milk, meat, eggs and a variety of other foods, so as to provide complete health to a human being.

    What is advocated, really, through campaigns like this is an open mind, an acceptance to trying out different kinds of millets, at least a basic introduction of millets in your daily diet. All meals/snacks that you consume in a day need not be millet-heavy, but it would be great if at least one of them is.

    Also, millets are not a miracle cure for all your ailments. The increase in lifestyle diseases in today’s times in not just a product of an imbalanced diet, which can be cured by the introduction of millets in your diet. There are other steps that need to be taken, too, to curb this, such as lowering overall stress levels, incorporating more physical activity in our lives, etc.

    What are the things that I should keep in mind while introducing millets in my daily diet?

    • Millets can be used by people of all age groups, from a 6-month-old baby to a geriatric person, irrespective of their health condition. However, millets are believed to be goitrogenous in nature (i.e. they can enlarge one’s thyroid gland) and, hence, it would be advisable to consult a doctor before beginning to consume millets if you have a thyroid condition. If you have any other chronic ailment, too, you should ideally consult with a doctor to check on how much of millets you should consume in your daily diet, and in what form.
    • Soaking millets and throwing away the water, sprouting, cooking, roasting and fermenting are some techniques that are recommended to reduce the negative goiterogenous properties of millets.
    • Do not get carried away when you are just beginning to introduce millets into your daily diet. Do not go overboard. Introduce them slowly, little by little, into your diets, and wait and check whether they suit you. To start with, you may consume just one type of millet for a while, mixing it with rice or pulses, about twice a week, to see how they agree with you. Slowly and gradually, you may increase the quantity of millets you use.
    • Since millets are non-glutinous, baking with them can be tough. You might have to mix whole wheat flour or maida to them, to get good results.
    • There might be a slight difference in texture, when you substitute millets for rice in a dish known to you. For instance, pongal made with barnyard millet or proso millet might be grainier in texture as compared to that made with rice. That is something you should keep in mind while using millets.

    Well, that’s how Day 1 of the workshop ended. I hope you enjoyed reading the post, and found it informative!