By Petra Heinze, Yoga+
Ever notice how your hand automatically reaches for something sweet when you are under pressure or feeling blue? Sugar hits the spot when a quick fix seems in order. But it’s a roller-coaster ride—the higher the lift, the harder the crash; in the aftermath you end up more stressed and depressed than before. Does this mean we should deprive ourselves of sweets completely?
According to Ayurveda, sweets are one of the six tastes necessary for a balanced diet. If we deny our body the sweetness it needs in small quantities, then the balance among the tastes is disrupted, and we tend to overindulge by way of compensation. Some measure of sweetness is necessary to preserve balance.
If you balance sugar with protein, fat, and carbohydrate, it won’t have a jarring effect on the body because it will enter the system more slowly. Consequently, you’ll be spared the rapid rise and equally rapid fall in your blood sugar level, which causes emotional highs and lows.
I have collected a few of my all-time favorites to satisfy both Western and Eastern palates. They’re delicious and healthy. Most are high in protein—in the form of dairy and nuts—though some non-dairy recipes are included (for more vegan desserts, click here). The recipes offer a choice of sweeteners and incorporate seasonal fruits, as either ingredients or toppings. Unless otherwise specified, the recipes serve 4–6 people.
Of all Indian sweets, kheer is considered to be the most sattvic. It is delicate, mild, nourishing, and easy to digest, so it keeps the mind light for meditation.
1⁄2 gallon whole milk
3⁄4 cup rice (preferably basmati)
1⁄2 cup sugar or other sweetener
1⁄4 cup grated fresh or dried coconut (optional)
1⁄4 cup raisins (optional)
1⁄4 cup cashews (optional)
1⁄4 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh green cardamom
10 strands saffron, ground
1⁄8 cup slivered almonds (for garnish)
On high heat, bring the milk to a boil. If you are using lowfat milk be careful, as it scorches easily. Put the rice in a strainer and rinse it with cold water before adding it to the boiling milk. Stir the mixture, making sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom, until the milk starts to boil again. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to low. While the rice is cooking, crack the cardamom pods and grind them with a mortar and pestle. Then grind the saffron separately in the mortar with 1⁄4 teaspoon water. When the rice is done and the milk is thick, turn the heat off and stir in the green cardamom and saffron. Add the sweetener of your choice and the coconut, raisins, or cashews. Pour the kheer into a serving dish and garnish it with almonds. It may be served warm or cold.