Its that time of the year again when the temperatures are dipping, there is a slight nip in the air and if you are based in a windy location like Chicago the wind gods are having a blast 😛 Just a few days ago it was warm enough to step out of the house without a jacket and suddenly today I find myself cranking up the heater and fishing out my woolies. I have no idea how cold can the Chicago Fall be since its my first time here, but I am bracing myself for the worse since last winter wasn’t too forgiving either. So while I prepare my woolies and my home for the colder days, I have also planned out some healthy meals which will help us beat the cold and stay warm. The cold winds and drier climate makes me susceptible to colds, flu and dry skin and hair. While there are medicines and lotions which help you with this, it is also essential to give yourself proper nutrition to aid your body. Indian cuisine has a lot of recipes which include foods that will increase your immunity, provide warmth and overall help you in the cold and dry weather. Most of these recipes include use of fruits and vegetables grown in this season, along with generous use of dry fruits, nuts, milk and Ghee. Generally considered to be high fat and avoided by many, these ingredients if used in the right proportion will do more good than harm for your body.
So keeping this in mind, I have decided to share with you few such recipes which do include the so called “fat rich” ingredients, but are good for your health and are a good inclusion in your winter diets. There are a lot of such recipes, but I will be sharing only those which I have tried to cook personally in USA since all the ingredients cannot be easily sourced here. Also, I have trimmed off some excess fat content in these and tried to retain the health quotient. The first recipe I would love to share is of a warm and sweet delicacy made especially in winters and is my all time favorite – Gajar ka halwa or Carrot Pudding.
Carrot pudding or Gajar ka Halwa is a sweet North Indian delicacy primarily made in India in winters a time when the sweet juicy orange carrots are grown. It requires very less sugar, it is traditionally made with heavy cream – (which I have replaced with skimmed milk in my recipe but feel free to sub it in), Ghee and a lot of dried fruits. It can be eaten warm or chilled, just by itself or served as a dessert with your meals.
Why is this dish good for winters?
Ghee and dry fruits used in the Halwa are natural agents which help your body stay warm. Ghee is full of fat soluble vitamins and healthy fatty acids which makes it a good alternative to butter. Offcourse you cannot have excess of it, but if taken in proportion (1-3 teaspoons per day) ghee contributes to healthy bones and joints, healthy skin and hair and keeps your gut healthy. Plus it is lactose free!
The carrots in this recipe are high in antioxidants, minerals, fiber and vitamin A.
Coming back to the recipe – it does not need a lot of preparations here and you can whip it up in minutes. The only tedious part of the preparations would be shredding the carrots which I did manually using my little Ikea veggie shredder (not sponsored) but you can whizz them once through a food processor to get good results.
Once the Halwa is ready, it stays well in the fridge for a week though I haven’t really frozen it so I can’t comment on that. Also, when it comes to using the dry-fruits in this recipe, you can use them directly in the end to garnish but I prefer to cook them a bit in Ghee and then mixing them in a later stage in the Halwa.
Also, this can be made in huge batches and is perfect for parties (a definite crowd pleaser) , so here’s my quick and healthy version of Gajar ka Halwa
- Carrots shredded 4 cups
- Fine sugar ½ cup
- Dry fruits (mixed assorted – cashews, almonds, pistachios, raisins) 1 cup – (you can add more if you so prefer)
- Milk – 2 cups skimmed milk / if you want to try the full-fat version use heavy cream instead of milk
- Ghee – 1 tablespoon
- Cardamom and nutmeg powder – ½ teaspoon each
- Saffron – a pinch for garnish (optional)
- Heat Ghee in a wok and stir fry the dry fruits in it for approximately 2 minutes.
- Remove the dry fruits and set them aside, preserve the ghee and add carrots to it.
- The carrots will start breaking down and releasing water so keep on sauteeing them till the water evaporates.
- Add in the milk/ heavy cream and saute till it is completely absorbed by the carrots.
- Finally add in the dry fruits and sugar and stir till the sugar dissolves
- Cover and cook for another minute on medium flame and then turn off the heat
Serve warm immediately or let it cool down before serving it. Enjoy!