Thursday, December 29, 2011

The party is not over yet

It's something that rarely happens to me at this time of the year -- weight gain. It has happened NOW! I have added a solid 4 pounds to my weight over the last 2 weeks. Until now I thought I was one of the lucky ones who'd really never have to worry about weight gain.

What do I do? Not eat desserts, not go to parties, skip meals, exercise rigorously? Anybody out there give me a way out of this without having to starve or go on any rigid diets.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What types of food should hospital cafeterias serve?

People who get admitted into hospitals are there for specific health issues; to get themselves treated, to stay healthy at least during the time they are there, learn better health related habits...

Recently I had an ailing parent in the hospital and was there literally everyday. What did they serve at meals? Croissants, donuts, ice-cream and of course potatoes, fried foods... All these for patients!

The cafeteria is a whole different story. It had tons of desserts, baked, fatty, oily foods. Almost everything they served was either loaded with additives, preservatives, msg, sugar, excess salt etc.

What do you say to the hospital food management people? Is their goal to get patients more sick than they probably are before they come in? It would be an anomaly to find a hospital with healthy foods in their cafeteria or their vending machines.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vege burgers can be tasty too!

Well, I have found a lot depends not only on the stuff in between the bread but also on the bread itself.

There are several options for vege burgers.

1. Huge portabella mushrooms marinated, spiced and grilled, topped with all the frills a burger should have. Red onions are a must by the way.
2. Spinach added to a ball of well cooked and mashed mushrooms, also well spiced helps.
3. Firm tomatoes with Mozarella cheese witha dollop of mayo makes a great burger.
4. Soaked and ground lentils, spiced, cooked and fried like a falafel.
5. Grilled asian eggplants with sauteed onions.
6. Cooked, mashed and spiced up potatoes made the south Indian way make excellent burgers.

With a bit of creative thinking, there are more possibilities. Try these first.

As I started off, a good burger bun is important. Soft sumptuous ones with sesame seeds are tastiest I've found. You may also warm the bun just a bit after the fillings go in.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What's in your refrigerator?

It varies household to household. The standard ones are probably eggs, milk, bread and juice. Maybe some cheese, tomatoes?

On an average very few refrigerators have fresh vegetables and fruits, yogurt or hummus. In spite of all the buzz about organic foods, eating healthy, more fruits, nuts and veges, few have changed over.

The best way I've found to balance a vegetarian diet is to have everyday at the dinner table, at least the recommended servings of vegetables, fruits, bread, nuts and grains. Dividing and alternating them every other day if you are not able to accommodate all in a day's meal may be a good way to balance the week's nutrition. Desserts, alcohol and any other fatty food items may be restricted to one weekend day of the week. This way you are able to enjoy everything in balance.

What's for dinner today?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Love your Quesadillas

One of the easiest, quickest, most nutritious meal is lunch or dinner that has Quesadillas as the main entree. Add some beans and Guacamole to it and make it more wholesome. It is better than a Mexican restaurant's meal. At home, you can make it without any of the extra fat such as lard in your beans or unnecessary salt.

Here's a recipe I use for Quesadillas-

Corn tortillas
Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Firm tomatoes, diced
Red onions, diced
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Fresh Jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

May use veges such as chopped broccoli, spiced up tofu, or cooked and spiced up beans of any kind for filling.

Spread a spoon of oil on a hot pan. Lay corn Tortillas. Spread on top cheese, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and filling. Let it brown and the cheese melt. Fold over, flip and brown on both sides.

Serve with shredded lettuce, and salsa. Again, there is nothing to beat home-made salsa. Look for it in my next blog.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The best gift for Christmas

Kids love Christmas tree in their home with presents under it, color, lighting, music and all the fun things that come along with the holiday season.

Adults like all of the above and a clean home to start the next year. I am not that much into Christmas but I do like a serene, clean home. The best Christmas gift to me would be a box of excellent Swiss chocolates and a cleaning person to tidy and clean my home top to bottom. That'll give me piece of mind, the picky one that I am. The gift that I can give that person is a good meal from Vidya Swamy's Kitchen!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's back to soups


Feels like we had just experienced winter and now it's back, almost. Cold weather means more soups. This is also the time to use our stored and frozen summer vegetables.

Here's a recipe from Vidya's kitchen. Try this simple Lentil Soup.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cauliflower Manchurian

An appetizing hors d'oeuvre for your party. This week's recipe is Cauliflower Manchurian.

InChin Restaurant in Aurora, IL

It's been a while since I wrote about a good restaurant. A couple weeks ago around Thanksgiving, our family visited this well known Indian Chinese restaurant in Aurora, IL called InChin. A non-descript place as they don't believe in good ambience and decor I guess. The food however was incredible. Coming from the suburbs of St. Louis, we were starved of good, decently-priced food. This place was a great treat.

We started off with a manchurian appetizer, a couple meat eaters ordered chicken manchurian. The food was spicy with fresh ingredients and exactlly how an Indo-Chinese restaurant's food should taste. This was followed by three other dishes, one tofu based vegetarian and a couple other meat dishes. Excellent again. We were thrilled and walked out truly satisfied. It was a late lunch and the place was quiet. Service was okay but the food was right on.

It is not easy to please foodies like me. I say it as it is. I would give InChin a 4.75 out of 5 rating. Can't wait to go back there the next time I'm in Chicago.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Shopping for kitchen items

Now is the best time to get the greatest deals on some of the expensive but attractive, durable and functional kitchen items.

I have found good designs at stores such as Williams & Sonoma, Home Goods, Pottery Barn and even Macy's or Target. The most effective way to shop is to first browse online, find the item and then purchase it in a store or purchase it online whichever is the least expensive. Do not skip overstock.com or for that matter Marshalls either. These stores always have good deals and left over items from the manufacturers. So you can bet they are less expensive than a regular or boutique store.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Forget science. What about common sense?

When it comes to diet and health I believe in spite of all the theories out there, common sense would serve us best.

Theories such as coffee is good, then bad, then good and a new report a day on coffee drinking doesn't give us anything. Eight glasses of water a day, first yes then no and then new theories that have come up on that can confuse the heck out of people.

So, why not just do everything in balance. Drink water to flush out toxins which means after every meal and a few times a day in between. Drink one to two cups coffee not any more. Add just a tsp. of salt a day to the food on your plate nothing while cooking. That could limit salt intake. Have an inch square piece of dark chocolate everyday. That's not overdoing! Adjust everything to a balanced intake and don't look for measurements, studies or theories.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are you a picky eater?

Picky eaters, children and adults can cause exasperation to people around. I have seen children who cringe at anything with color in them such as tomatoes, carrots, peppers, even apples and oranges. I also have a friend who eats out of soup cans and has nothing but chicken for almost every meal. She must have started out as a picky eater.

It is so difficult preparing meals for them or making sure that they get a balanced meal. The only solution to this is getting them involved in the preparation and cooking process. Most often you'd find that if they prepare a meal, they'll eat it. If you are dealing with young children another way around this would be to start a small vegetable garden and ask them to plant the vegetables they want. It can pay off in multiple ways. I am thinking chemisty, botany, nutrition, diet, exercise, cooking, cleaning, labor, art, taste and health, an all in one package.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Magical transformation of your vegetables using chick pea flour

Here's a little tip to enhance the taste of almost all Indian and asian vegetables.

After the vegetables cook, add a couple teaspoons of oil to your wok. Sprinkle chick pea or lentil flour mixed with red hot chillie powder on top of the vegetables and saute until the flour coating on the vegetables blend in.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hearty Soup for Thanksgiving

How about some hearty soup for a cold Thanksgiving dinner? Here's a good one.

Ingredients:

Mushrooms
Cream
Milk
Ginger
Garlic
Onions
Scallions
Crushed black pepper
Coriander
Vegetable broth
Salt to taste

Pour vegetable broth into a pot, add a cup of cream and a cup of milk. Bring to boil. Puree half the mushrooms, add to pot. Saute onions, ginger and garlic. Mix into the soup. Let the mixture cook for 30 minutes or so. Finally add black pepper and salt. Give it a stir. Right before serving, add about 2 Tbps chopped coriander. Serve hot.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My favorite for Thanksgiving

Now, that the drink is taken care of, what's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce...

Here's a tasty potatoes recipe, not mashed but roasted.

Boil potatoes with pinch of salt until just done. May leave skin on or peel them. Place them in a shallow dish. Add sage, a touch of butter, some mashed garlic, tsp of crushed black pepper and 1 tsp. of nutmeg. Roast potatoes at 375 to 400 degrees for 30 mins. Turn them over a couple times so they roast evenly. Serve hot right out of the oven. More nutritious and less fatty with a better look on the table. Isn't that what we want?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's the drink for Thanksgiving?

That's a question that crosses people's minds every year. There are several who don't care for wine, either red or white. Beer is too unsophisticated. What if you are a non-drinker? I'd suggest to go for the apple-cider. They are great when served warm with a kick of cinnamon and spices.

I'd like to go for the fancy ones at times. My favorite for Thanksgiving is Apple Martini. Don't ask me why that for Thanksgiving? At other times, my favorite is a Margharita. I've noticed the non-drinkers really do like that once in a while.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rice pudding the Indian way


Check out the recipe for Rice Pudding.

Vote for my Soup

Dear Readers and followers,

Please take a minute to vote for me. I was recently invited to join the New England County Soup Challenge. To get to the next level, I need sufficient votes from all of you. Please click on this link to register and vote. After you have registered, scroll down to the read more link. It will open up another page where you cast your vote. You may vote once a day until February 12th.

Please contact me if you have difficulty registering or voting. Thanks so much for your support.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Korma for dinner

The one missing, very important ingredient for korma is fennel seeds. I had not bought this in years since Indian stores in the U.S. carry large, 1 kg. packages. All we need is about a tsp. or two of fennel seeds. So, I had not prepared Korma in years. A relative who had a ton of fennel gave me a packet enough to last a few years.

Well, I decided to make vegetable korma with chappathi for dinner.

There is nothing like a spicy Korma and here is the recipe.

Use 1/2 cup of beans, carrot, potatoes, peas, tomatoes, green pepper. Cut them lengthwise. Grind together green chillies, 3 cloves garlic and a Tbsp. fresh shredded coconut. Saute, 1" cinnamon stick and a couple cloves in a tsp. of oil. Add some fresh garlic, cut onions and saute. Add vegetables one by one so they cook evenly. Add tomatoes and continue sauteing. Add the ground mixture and salt. Cover with a lid and let the vegetables cook. You may add red chillie powder if the korma needs more of a kick. Serve with chappathi, paratha or puri.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Recipe of the week - Goan Tofu Vegetables

Goan Tofu Vegetables for recipe of the week. A good match would be a bowl of brown rice or chappathis.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Labels on frozen foods

Don't you get scared reading the paragraph of ingredients on a frozen food package? I do. Most of the time there are unheard names on that list or terms that are ambiguous. So, we all go by FDA approved stamps. That's the confidence we have on the FDA.

One basic rule of thumb that I have learned is, if a package contains a list longer than 5, do not buy it. Corn syrup, high carbs,high sodium, and transfats are the basic no-nos. Next come the list of artificial ingredients, coloring and other chemical additives. Most of the time I've realized, the product goes back to the shelf although I feel guilty about the next person picking it up and feeding their family.

Why can't we just boycott these foods? Who will start?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Healthy Tortilla Soup


If you are looking for a zesty, tasty, spicy soup on a cold Saturday or Sunday, prepare this soup. It's better than a Mexican meal. For one, it's home made and, also extremely healthy. I have found saltless Tortilla are the best especially if you are watching your salt intake.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pesto in dishes

The right amount of pesto in broiled, baked or roasted dishes generally add zest to the food. However, I don't believe adding pesto to dishes any which way would work at all. Some of the dishes I'd recommend adding pesto to are roasted potatoes, pizzas, pesto in oil as a dressing, and as a rub on toasted breads. Or,even in pastas. A touch in soups and vegetables give them just the right flavor.

The main ingredients for making a pesto are basil, pine-nuts, olive oil, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, salt and pepper. Blend them together and there you have your pesto. Keep garlic to a minimum to not make it overpowering.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Turns out too much of a good thing is not really good

Several people swallow pills, meaning vitamin pills, regularly. The collection is usually a combination of A, B, C, D, E, plus calcium, B Complex, B12, you name it.

Haven't heard much about all vitamins, but vitamin E supposedly causes more harm than good. Other vitamins also fail in producing any benefits to our health.

Here's what I read about effect of vitamins in general. 'A January 2009 editorial in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute noted that most studies of vitamins had shown no cancer benefits, but some had shown unexpected harms. Two studies of beta carotene found higher lung cancer rates, and another study suggested a higher risk of precancerous polyps among users of folic acid compared with those in a placebo group.

In 2007, The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed mortality rates in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements. In 47 trials involving 181,000 participants, the rate of dying was 5 percent higher among the antioxidant users. The main culprits were vitamin A, beta carotene and vitamin E; vitamin C and selenium seemed to have no meaningful effect.'

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Curry Leaves Chutney

Recipe of the week. Curry leaves chutney for nutrition and taste.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Black Chick Peas Sundal

Another south indian Navrathri favorite usually made on the 8th day of the festival called Saraswathi Puja. This recipe is from Rhama, a classmate of mine in college.


Black Chick Peas Sundal

Soak 2 cups Peas for 4 to 5 hrs
Pressure cook or steam cook
Take 2 tsp. oil
Roast 3 red chillies
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 tsps. chana dal
Powder the roasted mix. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a wok. Spurt 1 tsp. mustard seeds, 2 red chillies, 1 Tbsp. curry leaves. Add the cooked Peas and salt to taste. Sprinkle 1 tsp.powdered Asafoetida to this. Mix well and leave on stove for 5 to 7 mins. Finally, garnish with 2 Tbsp. shredded fresh coconut.

Visit vidyaswamyskitchen.com for a variety of vegetarian recipes.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Black-eyed Peas Sundal makes it to the top!

The criteria of course is the combination of appeal, taste and nutrition. The magic of black-eyed peas lies not only in its nutrients such as potassium, protein, carbs, iron, zinc and fiber, but also in its natural blood cholesterol lowering properties. Here's adding taste to nutrition and making consumption a pleasure.

Black-eyed peas Sundal - Pressure or steam cook 2 cups beans until soft to touch. Dip in cold water and drain water completely.

Grind together: 1/2 cup grated coconut, 5 green chillies, 3 Tbsps. coriander leaves and 1 inch long diced fresh ginger.

Take a wok, add 1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil. Spurt 1 tsp mustard seeds after oil gets hot. Add the ground mixture and let it cook for about 6 mins. Add the cooked legume. Mix well on medium low heat for about 8 mins. Add salt to taste.

The photo and recipe are contributions from my friend Sudha from India. Another foodie who is as picky in taste as I am. Stay tuned for more authentic tastes from India.

Visit vidyaswamyskitchen.com for a variety of vegetarian recipes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spicy, aromatic Chick Peas Sundal


Navrathri, the festival of Goddess Durga is celebrated and worshipped by Hindus for ten days and nine nights. In southern India, on each of the nine days a spicy preparation called Sundal is prepared and distributed to women and young girls along with a goodie bag of other gifts and treats.

Here is one typical preparation made with Chick peas.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Can exercise make one smarter?

Oh, how I wish I had known to ask that question when I was still in school. May be too late now?

Supposedly not. Any kind of physical exercise at any age is good for the brain cells and stimulation. Weight lifting stimulate growth factors in muscles, while actual running, aerobics, treadmill, etc. stimulate the growth of new brain cells. The more physically active people are at any age, the better they are in performing activities that require brain power.

A smart move for all would be to include at least a 30-min. to an hour exercise to stay alert and possibly avoid dementia or other age related memory loss problems.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rasoi

Once again, last Saturday I had dinner at Rasoi. Extraordinary food and service. I was a bit disappointed with the Vegetable Chettinad since the sauce was more creamy than the brown sauce I was looking for. Next time, my selections are going to be Mulligatawy soup, tandoori paratha with Saag Panner and Dum Aloo.The kulfi is off-the-charts at Rasoi and the best dessert on the menu.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Authentic Mysore Bonda

Recipe of the week is Mysore Bonda. Enjoy this south indian Mysore Bonda, you'll never go for any other kind again!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Did you check out this incredible Okra recipe?


I posted this okra recipe a while ago. Here it is again as a continution to my Okra recipes week.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weight loss, dieting and exercise

Yes, back to the same topic.

It is hard to figure out why diets fail. I am not an expert at this but know at least a handful of people who are on diets right now. Many of them started off enthusiastically and have stuck to it for several months now. The weight loss has more or less plateaued. They all keep dieting, eating and exercising the same way, except on cheat days which is one day of the week.

Some of them want to lose a few more pounds but have not been able to do so. Others have started to gain the weight bit by bit. On the other hand, there are friends who were pretty obese but have lost several pounds. They are at the weight they want to be and have followed the same regimen for several months. Does this mean our bodies can lose only so much unless it is completely starved of calories? Why do some bodies react differently than others?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Test out Okra recipes

Here is a great tasting okra recipe of the week.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Basic Okra recipe

Here is a basic okra recipe without the slime and the stickiness.

Use fresh Okra. Wash and dry completely. Lay them on a pan. Sprinkle olive oil and minimal salt and roast the okra. May add some italian spices, but plain is good too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Food truck versus Cafeteria

Which is the winner? Food truck, of course.

School cafeterias are promoting healthy eating to students by serving better food than ever before. Thanks to Michele Obama. I read an article where a food truck outside of Novato High school in California had students spending a good amount on all the junk food that the food truck sold. Students know that cafetaria food is better. Also, schools have vending machines with snacks like apples, milk, and baked chips. Yet, wonder why they go after the trucks?

Who said it was going to be an easy transformation? The transformation should probably start at home. Try to stop buying sodas and candies. Parents should never make it a part of their grocery items. Set standards by your own example. Then wait to see what happens. A treat once a week might truly help kids stay away from junk food and get over the sweet craving. Talking about them and following what is preached is most important as well. It might take months to years. But, it definitely starts at home.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wonders of medicine

I just read an incredible article titled, 'An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer'. I have friends who either have cancer or have family members with cancer. I feel for them and often wondered how to help these people. I came across this uplifting article that talks about a new method.

Removal of T-cells — a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors, then injecting the patient with new genes that would program the cells to attack the cancer. The altered cells are then injectd back into the patient. This has worked on patients like a miracle.

The University of Pennsylvania seems to have hit the jackpot by testing and hitting all targets and aspects of research to help a cancer patient recover and live a healthy life. The patients treated have been in remission for no more than a year. While it is too early to say here is a cure, so far the treatment has worked. The downside is while it has worked for some, on others the new gene has killed healthy tissues as well.

Can't wait to see how far this will go. Not sure what costs are involved but sounds promising for all types of cancers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The wonder vegetable, Okra

People in the U.S. are used to finding Okra in the frozen section, especially in the midwest and northeast. The best tasting Okra are available in warm weather areas. There is nothing like fresh Okra lightly salted and sauteed with a touch of mustard seeds, urad lentil (found in Indian grocery stores)with a hot red chillie pepper for garnish. There are quite a few recipes in various forms such as fried, stuffed, stewed or dried Okra. My posting at vidyaswamyskitchen next week will have an Okra recipe. Here are the nutritional values of Okra from bits of information I gathered. One half cup contains:

Calories = 25
Dietary Fiber = 2 grams
Protein = 1.5 grams
Carbohydrates = 5.8 grams
Vitamin A = 460 IU
Vitamin C = 13 mg
Folic acid = 36.5 micrograms
Calcium = 50 mg
Iron = 0.4 mg
Potassium = 256 mg
Magnesium = 46 mg

Enjoy and look for Okra recipe at my kitchen web site.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is weight loss related to lower calorie intake?

Initial studies on this topic had conflicting theories. The latest is, Lower calorie intake does indeed help dieters. I have tested it myself and it works. It is quite indeed easy to do as well. An eg- Have three-quarters the quantity of what you would normally eat for lunch. Try to not fill up the next meal with empty calories. Eat a proper nutritious meal. Do this for an entire week and see what happens. If you make a conscious effort and watch the calories, I am quite sure it will work. It may not help obesity but would help people who are trying to gradually lose a few pounds.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

What do vegetarians eat?

Umm! That's a question most people ask me even if they are vegetarians, i.e. converted vegetarians. Quite a few pure vegetarians also ask me that question. They have grown up a vegetarian because of one reason or another, unlike me who grew up a vegetarian and come from a family of vegetarians all the way back from 1000s of years. Believe me, vegetarians don't starve. And as long as we stay away from modified starch, it is not that easy to become obese either. Anyway, here is just a sampling of the available choices for you.

One can make a delicious complete meal with things like squash blossoms, tofu cheese, vegetables coated with corn meal fried or baked, charred snap peas, yoba, marinated and then grilled oyster mushrooms,minestrone soups,lentil of all sizes, colors and varieties for high protein nutrition, (only an Indian grocery shop) will have these at a reasonable price. Then we have home made yogurt. Tons of recipes can be modified and created with the use of yogurt. Oh, never forget seasonal vegetables and fruits. Nothing will ever taste exotic without the addition of Spice and Sauce. You know what I mean!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flaws in theories

Views and statistics on theories go in print real quick. There are zillions out there on journals, papers, online and of course plenty more on social media. Wikipedia written by people like you and I have gained in trust just by being out there. Remember the time when Sarah Palin and her cohorts tried to change history by sabotaging the truth about Paul Revere? Palin's history? That would be the last straw. It's possible theories out online have been changed by people of influence several times. So, this is just one example. What about some other serious stuff? Read on.

All of a sudden I've been reading many flawed theories just about on any subject.

Example - If the group of friends you hang out with are obese, you have a tendency to become obese too!! The claim behind this reasoning is obesity is a contagious trait that passes on from one person to another. What?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cheese Cutlets make their appearance once again


Here is the recipe one more time for my cheese cutlets. Friends of mine requested the recipe. I decided to point the group to my online recipe site.

This is a repeat recipe of the week folks since it is quite popular.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Preparing for bad weather - Hurricane Irene

People along the east coast in the US are now going through a mix of emotions. Anticipation, anxiety, excitement, fear, anger, surprise all depending on which area of the east coast they reside in. Quite understandable giving the havoc caused by frequent hurricanes in the southeast regions. The media is having a field day following the hurricane and the disaster it's been causing along the way.

The northeast rarely experiences a hurricane; but this time the worst impact is likely to be felt in New York. So, what do people north of D.C. do in preparation? Empty out grocery stores. There is no milk, bread, eggs, fruits, bottled water, energy bars, snacks, vegetables or even batteries or candles available anywhere. Oh, forgot to mention dry milk powder. This is quite amusing. Grocery stores where one could hardly find a parking spot this morning and early afternoon are completely bare inside and out. It is quite late in the evening now, the latest news is the storms are not going to be that bad. I hope it stays that way. Although, people in the northeast are seriously disappointed .

Friday, August 26, 2011

Green tomato chutney

5 green tomatoes,chopped
1" ginger, chopped
1 tsp. canola oil or olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Tsp.fresh chopped coriander
2 tsp. salt
2 green chillies
2 tsp. urad dhal

Saute garlic for about 5 minutes. Grind together tomatoes, ginger, garlic, coriander and green chillies. Mix well and add salt. Toast urad dhal until it turns golden brown. Add to the mix. Run the blender a couple more times so the urad is not fully ground but are coarse. You may also crush urad separately in a wet grind and mix it with the rest of the ingredients.

Goes well with indian breads, uppuma, dosa, and idli.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Avacados for an expensive rich man's diet

Avacados, once referred to as a poor man's butter is now a rich man's butter. They have become very expensive. An avacado, the size of a lemon in the midwest costs a $1.50. I do miss east coast markets where they are twice the size and cost less. Regardless, avacados are worth spending a few dollars as their nutritional value is extremely high. They are high in fat, but monosaturated fat.

Avacados, although smooth to the touch and almost like butter to the taste are a great source of fiber. Other nutrients are vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin B6, as well as folate, copper and potassium (half of a medium avocado has more potassium than a banana). The avacado fat also aids absorption of carotenoids in other vegetables.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Garam Masala

This medley of pungent, aromatic spices has the power to transform even the simplest of dish to an exotic creation. There are some standard ingredients that go into the making of a garam masala mix. Basics are cinnamon, clove, cumin, and coriander. Fresher the ingredients,better the taste. They are either toasted dry and blended to a fine powder, or ground raw. Addition of fennel,turmeric, nutmeg and black pepper seeds produce more of a complex taste.

So, how do we add this to a dish? Add a teaspoon or two of the masala at the end of the preparation or right before adding the vegetables. The taste of the dish varies depending on the combination of the spices or quantity of ingredients. You can literally produce a slightly different taste or a variation of the taste every time you use them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My lower back kills when I do crunches

How does one do crunches the right way? I read that not laying flat is the right way to go. My trainer didn't say that to me! I also read that if you don't do crunches the right way it's of no use and will produce zero result. There are other exercises that work the core.

Guess I'll have to stick with those instead of killing my back and myself for those crunches. I am yet to see any results and I've been doing this for a long time, although not consistently.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beans and nutrition

The general belief is beans are filled with proteins. A friend told me not to load up on them as they are not all protein. There is enough carbs in there to get one fat. I couldn't wait to get online and find out the truth. Yes, beans indeed have carbs but they are the complex carbs versus carbs we get from processed breads or rice.

Here is the nutrition summary. Beans are rich in protein and dietary fiber, low in fat, calories and sodium, and completely cholesterol-free. As little as a half-cup of beans added to the daily diet can be very helpful in reaching important nutrition goals.

Why would you not sacrifice regular carbs for beans? In addition to all the nutrition the full feeling keeps one satisfied for hours.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Yo Yo weight programs

They just don't work. Celebrities who have tried and finally failed over the long term will vouch for this. The best programs are ones that allow you to eat anything meaning a balanced mix of carbs, protein, and fat but retricting the total number of calories. This with a combination of exercising at least for an hour, 3 to 4 times a week is a good way to go. Stick with this routine. The weight may not come off rapidly, but it will after a couple months. The system has to get used to a lifestyle that contracts your appetite and finally puts that in memory to be used over and over again.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cherry, curry, Green, Red, heirloom, beefsteak...What are they?

Yummm! Tomatoes. One of my favorites that I can't do without be it Italian, Greek, Thai, Indian or American cuisine.

So,what do you do to make them delectable? Check out for a few recipes on this site during the month of August.

Ingredients for a Cherry Tomato salad

Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup pitted or non-pitted pine, walnut or a combination of the two
1 cup sliced green and black olives, unsalted and pitted
2 green onions, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon thyme, basil or oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Healthy mid-day snacks that health experts eat

Try these. You might actually like them!

Mid-day snack variety:

Apple pieces with a touch of organic peanut butter

1/2 cup trail mix

1 small cup of Greek yogurt

Frozen grapes... Umm Yum

8 almonds

a cup of any raw vegetable with hummus

Monday, July 25, 2011

Calorie Counting. Does it really help keep your weight in check?

I once was crazy about counting calories and kept a watch on the total calorie intake everyday. I do not count calories anymore but I think my body shuts off when it has reached a certain point after a meal. So, my intake is rarely excessive except when I am determined to finish my dessert. The point here is the mind can train the system to stop after a certain point, and after some time it automatically shuts off before the excess point.

I understand calorie counting will not necessarily help obesity. Obesity may also be related to stress, hormones, or due to side-effect of a medication. Does listing calories really help? Instead of calories can these marketers be forced to list exactly what chemicals have gone into growing, feeding or producing these foods, and which ones are genetically modified? It would actually make more sense.

I actually think calorie labeling is a marketing strategy. It's for the consumers to see what value they get for their money. For eg. the lower income group will probably look at it this way - Higher the calorie better the value. More food for less means a lot more value to a lower-income consumer.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Faraci's pizza

This one comes highly recommended by me. An Italian pizza place in Ballwin, St. Louis?

While like all other, there are mixed reviews on the site, some mid-westerners truly don't recognize good food when they taste one since they are so used to the gross cheese and bottled sauces.

Faruci's pizza is authentic in every way. Tomato sauce that is neither tart nor sweet but just right made with fresh tomatoes. Vegetables that are absolutely fressssh and cooked right; crust that's great as well, not premade or artifical and cheese not over spread or over done. Overall tastes great and would go there again, and again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Don't make cooking a chore!

I've discovered that I can have a variety of foods almost every day of the week if I stock my pantry with some basic ingredients. Such as stocking some common Indian spices for Indian cooking; for Italian, some good home made sauces, herbs, mozzarella or parmesan reggiano cheese, and olive oil. For chinese, things like spicy schezuan sauces, noodles, sesame oil; and for Thai some of the basic ingredients such as Pad Thai,chile paste and coconut milk. Same goes for Mexican as well. All one would need are some asian vegetables and the usuals you buy in a regular grocery store. Set aside about 30 to 45 mins. every other evening for cooking and it is quite simple to cook a meal to last a couple days.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cherry Soup

Generally one associates soup of any kind with warmth to be had on a cold winter day. How about cold soup on a hot summer day.

Here is an unusual one I came across and gave it my own creative twist.

Boil sweet dry cherries in hot water. For a cup of cherries, add one cup of water. Add two tablespoons of sugar. Boil again until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat. Let it cool down to room temperature. Add a cup of yogurt and a cup of buttermilk. Whisk everything together. Add some lemon zest and serve cold. You may add a touch of mint. (optional)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How much vitamins should one have?

Now that's a confusing question. Vitamin D, C, B12, additional calcium, multi-vitamins...should we take these, should there be more? Is that too much? Also, when would one have them, with what? Should vitamins be taken only if the doctor recommends them?

I know people who take it as part of their daily diet routine. There are conflicting articles that say vitamins are not necessary at all. Not sure if that is a valid statement knowing fully well that vegetarians lack some of the nutrients that additional vitamins can offer. The bigger question is will they do more harm than good?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Should we blame ourselves for overeating?

I am not going to. My brains take over and influence me to keep eating especially when it understands that the cells in my body need fat.

At least, that's what a recent research says. It seems that when the body/brian realizes that we have tasted a food that is rich in fat it transforms us like a marihuana addict making us have more and more of it. People's bodies react to taste in different ways. Some are born to eat I guess so their natural tedencies are to over eat resulting in obesity. In some people, overeating is because the brain pushes them to do so. The digestive system that produces this particular chemical that makes one overeat is not related to taste buds asking for more or even hunger, it is rather a reaction of our brains to the fat in food.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer - perfect for saucing, grilling, sauteing

You can get quite creative in sauces with a mix and match of some basic ingredients -- tomatoes, shredded raw or sauteed garlic and onions, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, some tart fruits, certain ripe fruits like mango or pineapple, cilantro, olive oil, buttermilk, and yogurt.

For grilling - A combination of herbs, cheeses, garlic spread, seasonings, either Indian, Italian or Greek can produce magic. Olive oil sprinkled over vegetables - onion, eggplant, potato, peppers - red, green, yellow, orange; mushrooms, green firm tomatoes, squashes or any un-soggy vegetable.

Several of the appetizers that call for frying can be replaced with sauteing that practically cuts all grease.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Where do I begin?

I realized a while ago that healthy living does not start by just visiting the doctor's office off and on. It needs to be part of a lifestyle just like having a meal. Do we ever skip meals? I would say hardly. At times we may skip a meal due to inconvenience but nobody really starves.

It is about making the right choices at every step beginning with the grocery store. Avoid buying the things that are the root cause of health problems. I would include in the list the following:

Soda
Chips
Lard
Red meat
Transfat products
Processed anything
Desserts
Frozen foods
Extremly sweet cereals
Sugared juices

One may not be able to completely stay away from all of these all the time. So, reserve them for one to two particular days a month if you so crave. If mothers follow this, then the rest are easy. Your kids will never find junk at home. It's a big step toward warding off obesity. If parents don't follow a healthy lifestyle themselves, kids cannot be blamed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A beaten-to-death topic

Sure,almost everyone reads labels -- from food to clothing and everything in between. What do they really mean? Are foods that claim to be organic, truly organic? Are they any better than those not labeled organic? Most likely not.

Why are manufacturers and marketers lying then?

With regards to meats, most contain nitrates or nitrites including those that say organic. Nitrates and nitrites are cancer-causing agents whether they are produced naturally or synthetically. So, nobody is sure as to what benefits labels really add for these meat products. The US department of agriculture says it is aware of this lying and wants to take a fresh look at labeling standards.

In connection with labeling and selling organic meat, one interesting argument that a meat processor came up with was that customers really don't go for the 'no nitrate' in meat because they do not taste good and nobody wants them!! This is like one of my family members who says all things from Trader Joe's although possibly healthier than regular grocery stores, don't taste good at all and emphatically says No to things from there.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Does exercising really matter?

I am finding people who exercise put in a lot of effort to maintain good health- physical, emotional and mental. On the other hand, I also see people who hardly exericse and are in perfect health, may even be in better health. What is their secret? It may lie in the fact that they are always upbeat, nothing really gets to them or perturbs them!

A family member says my exercising is producing results for others in the family. Not sure in what way. Could be an excuse for not exercising. In any case, I have met several friends and family members who have rarely stepped into a gym, maybe never, but don't have any health issues. Not sure how to explain that, maybe they are all blessed with good genes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Spend the day with people, food, and fireworks. Have fun!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer pasta dish for July 4th weekend

Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Spinach, sprinkled with Parmesan and Basil

Cook a pound of pasta as usual. Set aside half a cup of the pasta water. Cut 1 yellow and 1 red pepper and 1 red onion into thin round slices. Grill with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. After the veges. become tender, toss them into the cooked pasta. Add a Tbsp. of basil leaves and a bunch of baby spinach. Add a Tbsp. of olive oil. If you need some sauce, take a few vine-ripened tomatoes, cook them until most of the water dries out, add salt to taste, then add to the pasta bowl. Finally add 1 more Tbsp. of basil leaves and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of fresh, grated Parmesan. Serve hot.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guacamole Recipe

Few people dislike guacamole. I read this wonder fleshy vegetable is not only rich in monosaturated fat but also in Vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin B6, as well as folate, copper and potassium. Also in dietary fibre.

Here's how I prepare the dip for my home made Tortilla chips.

Pick 2 medium sized tender guacamole
1 small red onion, diced
1 medium sized vine ripened tomato, diced
2 cloves minced or garlic puree
3-4 seeded jalapenos, diced
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. fresh coriander chopped fine
Salt to taste

Cut and mash guacamole with a fork. Mix the rest of the ingredients and serve with your Tortillas. Since mangoes are in season, you may add chopped mangoes to the mix as well.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What kind of a day is it? Spicy? Maybe Sweet?

It is quite therapeutic. I mean food shopping. However, I need a variety. There is no fun in being the same, doing the same, eating the same. This world is a lot about diversity whether we like it or not. The same goes for food and food shopping. Forget about going into one grocery store and buying the same things week after week. Very dull indeed. Besides you don't find the exotic in a regular, Schnucks or Giant. To add some spice in your food habits, visit the bazaars, the Italian market, the asian markets or as they say in my neck of the woods Global Markets.

The aisles in these stores or markets have varieties of unusual spices and vegetables. Of course, for the carnivores there are more varieties. Just once a week out-of-the-ordinary shopping can kick it up a notch on your dinner table.

So, what kind of a day is it today? Chinese Lo mein or fried rice, Italian Fettucini Alfredo or Paratha Kurma? Or, a day of just salads and desserts?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Black Bean Sauce for your asian cooking

This is a great sauce for stir-fry vegetables or Lo mein. I have tried it with Tofu and vegetables as well.

1 cup canola oil
1/3 cup fermented black beans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 bunches of scallions, white and green parts, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 tablespoon hot red pepper sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat. Add 1/4 cup of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the beans, garlic, ginger, and scallions, and stir-fry until the mixture has softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the oil and wine, decrease the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture is reduced by three quarters, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the salt and pepper.

Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool. Transfer half of the mixture to a blender and purée it at high speed while adding the remaining 3/4 cup of oil. Stir the purée back into the remaining mixture and cool completely. Use or store. Lasts 2 weeks, refrigerated.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why should I do it?

In recent years, doctors in the U.S. have been big advocates of Vitamin D3. Among other things, it is supposed to regulate neuromuscular function, reduce inflammation, maintain healthy bones, balance overall health, aid in proper functioning of kidneys including the body's immunity to ward off cancer.

That is plenty reason why one should take this popular health pill. My doctor convinced me and I am on to anything related to good health as many of you know. If you are reading this, go ahead trust me. Get those Vitamin D3s and wait to see magic happen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

One day a week is all you need

It seems to be catching on- one meatless day a week. At my workshops people often ask me how to avoid eating meat and where to begin. The first step is already conquered. That is, the willingness to become healthy.

My answer to them is always begin with one meatless meal, then move on to two, then three until you are able to get to make it to one day. As many have seen and tasted, you can have a variety of nutritious meals day after day without having to repeat anything or be bored.

For vegetarian meal recipes, please check out my site.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Warming up before exercise

I never know what kind of exercise or stretching is good for warming up without getting tired before the actual routine begins.

I generally start out with about 20 mins. of stairmaster. By the time 20mins. pass, I am beat. I have literally no wind in me for weights and strength exercises. I do a few and then I am ready to collapse. Should I just do 10 mins. first and do the next 10 mins. after weights? I have tried that and am never happy or motivated to go back to stairmaster after weights. So, I just leave weights for last.

I have some readers trained and certified in fitness. Hope to get an answer from one of you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Here's something to die for

Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, olives and capers

Cook spaghetti as you would normally. For one pound of pasta, use the following measurements-

5 to 6 cloves of garlic diced and roasted in olive oil
Capers about 2 Tbsp. chopped coarsely
Olives pitted and chopped
Cook olives and capers in olive oil
Add red pepper flakes. Add about 5 large vine-ripened chopped fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes for better taste to the mix. Let tomatoes simmer for about 20 minutes until it the juices reduce.
Toast about 1/2 cup bread crumbs.

Mix everything with the cooked pasta. Server with fresh, grated parmesan cheese. You may add some fresh chopped parsely like about a tsp.

The taste is irresistible.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stay away from sprouts or spinach?

I am paranoid about sprays on our foods such as spinach and bean sprouts. My biggest fear is E-coli that has been found in spinach in the past.

Sprouts supposedly need warm and humid conditions that are perfect for the growth of bacteria as well. So, watch out. No amount of washing is enough to get rid of bacteria. There are ways to kill bacteria in other types of vegetables but no way to eliminate all harmful bacteria from spinach or sprouts.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When you've had enough of restaurant meals...

Four days of last week were terrible food days. In the sense almost every meal was at a restaurant. Unavoidable reasons of course! Celebrating a graduation.

I'm going to consider that as a vacation and binging is a huge part of vacations. Is it not? Staying away from exercise? That's not part of it. Regardless, I did stay away from exercising. I will be at the gym this evening and the truth is going to show on the scale.

This week is going to be all about getting back on track, eating healthy and exercising. I could get back on track if I try just a little and that's exactly what I will do.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Purple Pig - Tapas with a twist

Talk about being unique and fresh. I was in Chicago celebrating a graduation and went to the restaurant called 'The Purple Pig'. It is hard to describe the cuisine. It was neither Italian, or Spanish, American, or Mediterranean. It was a mixed, thoughtful,artistic display and selection of designs and tastes. Quite simply fabulous.

What was I, a vegetarian doing in a restaurant named 'The Purple Pig'? Admittedly I was nervous. I had a ravenous appetite but still a bit sceptical as I entered the restaurant last Saturday night. The weather was as cold as a mild winter day. Meaning, we needed serious warm attire. We ordered a mix and match of salads and main dishes. I could only go for the 2 to 3 sides that had no meat. They were limited portions slightly larger than a Tapas plate but enough to leave you satisfied. Those who had meat dishes said they were splendid. The best part of the meal were the champagne, and the dessert the chef created especially for the graduate.

Here's a link to check it out - http://www.thepurplepigchicago.com

Monday, June 6, 2011

Carrot Chutney

This is an unusual chutney that goes great with idli and dosai.

Ingredients:
Grated carrots cooked
1 Tbsp. oil
Red chillies roasted in oil
Coriander seeds roasted in oil
Grated coconut
Salt
1 spoon of peanuts
1tsp. mustard seeds for ganish
1 Tbsp. curry leaves

Grind them all together to a paste. May add water if necessary. Add salt to taste. Garnish with mustard seeds and curry leaves.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Night Owls need to read this

At one point I thought I was the laziest person around since I just love to sleep and literally cannot function the next day if I had less than at least 6 hours of sleep. Eight hours is ideal and on a Saturday I'd love a little more if possible.

I am relieved to find out that it isn't abnormal to sleep so much; in fact it is needed. We have to fit in all the sleep we can when our health is still in tact. There are a host of health issues that can interfere with regular sleep and sometimes there are age-related reasons.

'A good night’s sleep is much more than a luxury. Its benefits include improvements in concentration, short-term memory, productivity, mood, sensitivity to pain and immune function', says a health expert. I think I should add that less sleep may also result in more snacking, in turn affecting our weight.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sumptuous potato, bean and spinach salad

This is wonderfully satisfying and tasty at the same time.

A bag of tender spinach
Red potatoes just boiled, not over cooked
About 1/2 pound of beans steam cooked and slightly crunchy
One diced red onion
2 cloves garlic mashed or pureed
Fresh ground pepper
1tsp. salt (optional)
2tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Make a dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, vinegar, dijon mustard and herb of your choice.

Mix dressing with the medley of spinach,potatoes, beans and onions. Serve chilled. Just before serving add the cheese.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Authentic curry powder recipe next week

There's nothing better than home made curry powder that particularly south indians use for their sambaars and rasams. I just saw a video that gave a simple recipe for this and also read other variations done by northern indians which is completely different from the south indian recipes and definitely will not produce the right taste.

For the next recipe of the week, I will be giving you the secret ingredients that go into making the curry powder for the authentice south indian sambaar and rasam tastes.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kale, Sweet Potato, Mushroom and Quinoa Salad


Check out this week's recipe...Kale, Sweet Potato, Mushroom and Quinoa Salad.

Some Unusual Memorial Day Grills

Instead of or in addition to the usual, try these grills.

Fruits such as pineapple, plums, peaches
A quick grills of Romaine lettuce leaves separated as long leaves
Avacado in its skin
French toast
Pizza with any topping

Truthfully, I have tried only 3 of the 5. Have never done a lettuce or an avacado grill. But some innovative cooks have recommended these.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A funny messge on health and exercising

HEALTH MESSAGE:

1. If walking/cycling is good for your health, the postman would be immortal.
2. A whale swims all day, only eats fish, drinks water and is fat.
3. A rabbit runs and hops and only lives 15 years.
4. A tortoise doesn't run, does nothing ..yet lives for 450 years.

AND
YOU TELL ME TO EXERCISE!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Where is all that weight coming from?

The less active we are at work, the more pounds we pack on. How can I help myself if my work involves sitting in front of the computer all day for at least 10 hours a day? I exercise my mouth by eating and talking at meetings. But even that is limited.

Now apply this to the rest of the popoulation. It is more or less the same. This is a given trend of the future. Many of the labor intensive jobs are gone or going away mostly to other countries as we all know.

So the new culprit is the American workplace. Less physical activity resulting in more pounds, the other culprits being food, lifestyle and maybe genetics. Employers ought to help here at least to keep medical insurance rates low by offering a gym at the work location or a compulsory break every 3 hours for exercise. It is likely employees will be more productive. I guess I should talk to my employer as well.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blackfish was a dining experience

Being in Conshohocken we didn't have to worry about the expensive parking. It was a perfect evening for celebration.

We got seated around 9:15 pm and by the time we got out it was past 11 pm. Being a seafood restaurant, my choices were indeed basic but the dishes were unique in taste and artistically displayed, something I usually thoroughly enjoy. While others had a five course meal, the chef decided he'll come up with some creative vegetarian courses. So, started off with a shot of carrot soup, a spring green salad with a unique dressing that tasted lemony and the third course was a plate of vegetables with quinoa. It's hard to describe the taste except that it was spectacular. The dessert was a warm chocolate cake with a little dollop of coffee flavored icecream.

The BYOB made it easier on our wallet although the meal in all was an expensive experience.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Celebrating at a restaurant in Conshohocken, PA

I am going out this evening to a 'Seafood' restaurant. Which probably means the choices in the menu are more restricted than usual. But it is a celebration of a graduation. So, I will enjoy the evening regardless.

I will come back tomorrow to post my experience.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A few more restaurant experiences in New York City


I just got back home after spending a few days in the most amazing city, New York. I've been there quite a few times but each time the experience seems new.

I've never traveled so much in subways which I did this time. I also had 3 incredible meals. One at my usual Indian restaurant Saravana Bhavan at 26th and Lexington, lunch on another day at Sura Thai near Columbia University and finally an Italian dinner at Carmine's. I'd give an A+ to all of these for their food. Sura Thai and Carmine also get an A+ for service while only Sura Thai gets an A+ for presentation. Here are some of the dishes from these meals.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Picnic Packing - Somethings fun and somethings sinful

I'm sure there are several of you who are suckers for summer picnics. Here are some tips for making food fun and not necessarily unhealthy.

My basket generally consists of a bottle or two of favorite wines and low fat spreads instead of cheese. For crunchiness- baked vegetable crackers; cut fruits, vegetables with a low-fat dip; whole grain bread with homemade veggie burgers, mango salsa and tortilla chips. I would also pack dark chocolate for dessert.

If you want to add Indian snacks and foods, it's best to go with parathas and raita. Keep it simple and healthy. Possibly one Indian snack. I cannot pick one over the other since each one has its own drawback when it comes to salt or fat.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Another experience after 20 years

I visited the first temple built in this country after nearly 20 years in Queens, New York. It was the most beautiful, calming, feel-good experience I've had in a long time.

The bonus that came with it was the food in the cafeteria. I had heard and read about it for so long but experiencing it was even better and at another level. Masala dosai, vadai/ sambar, idli, chutneys, bisibela bath, mango lassi... I had a taste of almost all of these. And, knowing that this is the place that the famous chef/model Padma Lakshmi visits made it even more exciting.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Temptations and dilemmas

I go through this quite often. Especially if I am walking through food aisles in grocery stores. Thoughts that run through my mind are... should I pick up that huge dark chocolate bar with nuts or without nuts, a small pint of icecream or the tub itself, vegetable or potato chips... essentially wondering which one is the lesser of the two evils.

Well, here is some good information if you are like me wondering how to stay at least a little bit healthy. If there was a choice of chocolate or wine for instance, the better of the two is absolutely the dessert. Not wine if you are a woman going for a second glass, because among other things we are asking for trouble as in breast cancer and high blood pressure. For men, wine is a better choice since it actually helps their heart. And, they are allowed two glasses a day. Not fair. I am not a wine drinker, however, I've become a fan of apple martinis. I can handle one for sure, two gets me tipsy.

If you have a conundrum like mine, do write to me about it. We can both educate ourselves and figure out which one we should go with.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spring Allergies

Spring allergies can be so debilitating. There are some in my family and people at work who suffer with this season after season. One possible remedy was to have honey produced locally. But recent studies say that it really has no effect on your allergies or its symptoms.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Garlic, the magical aphrodisiac

It is hard to imagine garlic as an aphrodisiac given the strong smell and taste. Aside of enhancing flavors in anything that garlic is added to, it is actually classified an a 'hot' herb. That's why garlic is forbidden during religious days and when people fast as it is supposed to inflame passion. For eg. Tibetan monks are not allowed to enter their monastery if they had eaten garlic; older Indian Brahmin women and even younger women in India, if they have lost their husbands are forbidden from eating garlic. Garlic is a 'No No' on fasting days. So, there must be some truth to it being considered an aphrodisiac!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Charlie Gitto's - Mother's Day Dinner Review

Being Mother's Day, I decided to treat myself at one of the best Italian restaurants in town called Charlie Gitto's. By Midwestern standards it is one of the best but by my Philadelphia standards, it was mediocre.

I was honestly quite surprised at how everything was so diluted and quite un-Italian. It was just another regular restaurant with decent food. My penne pomodoro with carrots and peas tasted quite sweet. I covered the plate with plenty of crushed red pepper and also asked for extra garlic but was still far from authentic.

Our waiter was pretty good though while still not quite like the experience we usually get at the Italian restaurants in Philadelphia. The decor was most disappointing to say the least.

Overall, I am partly to blame because of building my expectations. Next time I'll do better.

This week's recipe - Cornmeal Almondmeal Pancakes

Check out this week's recipe for Mother's Day Breakfast.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Didn't realize this until it was pointed out


The realization was that I love potatoes because it is a fun vegetable. Of course, given you pick the right variety for the right dish. I love french fries, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, or potatoes sparingly used in Indian dishes.

I usually gravitate towards red skin potatoes because they have never turned mushy and they are not excessively starchy. Red is great for Indian dishes southern or northern. I also used the red variety for some baking as in the Southwest Potato dishes. Yukon or Idaho for mashed which I never cook unless it is Thanksgiving. I have made potato roast with those tiny yellow ones. My other favorite is herb-roasted. Oh, I almost forgot potato salad. If done the proper way with the right recipe, they can be quite tasty. Definitely grilled is another favorite which I get in place of the meats during barbecue parties probably once or twice a year.

Try this recipe from Vidya Swamy's Kitchen. Do you have any favorite potato recipes to share with me?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Have you wondered?

When obese people have liposuction on their thighs or tummy, after the surgery/recovery, they look really good. However, I think their food habits don't change. So, where do all the fat cells go? Apparently, they go to their arms and anywhere else on their upper body. I saw some sketches on the pages of NY times related to this topic; they looked quite funny. So, to answer the question if you had ever wondered where all the fat goes, then there is the answer. It doesn't go anywhere outside, it comes back to stay within just distributed at a different area.

For whatever reason, the sketches in the article were before and after sketches of women not men. Does that mean only women have liposuctions? I think so. That's not fair. At every turn men get off easy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Low-salt increases blood pressure

This is one more among the ever-growing conflicting reports on health-related researches. The latest for salt and hypertension or cardio-vascular diseases is that low salt doesn't necessarily lower blood pressure.

The study says..."the less salt people ate, the more likely they were to die of heart disease — 50 people in the lowest third of salt consumption (2.5 grams of sodium per day) died during the study as compared with 24 in the medium group (3.9 grams of sodium per day) and 10 in the highest salt consumption group (6.0 grams of sodium per day). And while those eating the most salt had, on average, a slight increase in systolic blood pressure — a 1.71-millimeter increase in pressure for each 2.5-gram increase in sodium per day — they were no more likely to develop hypertension".

“If the goal is to prevent hypertension” with lower sodium consumption, said the lead author, Dr. Jan A. Staessen, a professor of medicine at the University of Leuven, in Belgium, “this study shows it does not work.”

This makes no sense at all to me. Does it to you?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

With gene pools - only some are lucky!

Dieting on a regular basis is not very easy. It appears acceptable when dieting becomes part of one's lifestyle. However, even after religiously following a disciplined eating habit there are no guarantees that you are going to be healthy, look great and, lose weight. This is where the gene pool element comes in I think.

I know people who eat just about anything, have a balanced weight meaning no Yo-Yo ups and downs in their weight and, are also healthy. No blood pressure, no diabetes, and they don't even need eye glasses. I am certainly not one of those lucky ones.

So, do I just let go, eat anything I wish, not exercise, and completely reverse my habits since what I thought was a healthy lifestyle hasn't paid off? This is so frustrating.

I have decided. I'll just have my cake and eat it too!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fresh mango pickle


Since summer is just around the corner, cooks are beginning to concentrate on mangoes, sweet,sour, pickled, cooked...

There is nothing more delicious among the pickles family than crunchy, raw mango pickles.

Here is a recipe.

1 Raw green mango chopped into 1/2 inch squares
1 Tbsp. red chilie powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp. asafoetida
1 Tbsp. oil (canola, vegetable or mustard)
Salt to taste.

Heat oil in a pan. Throw in the seeds, let it spurt. Lower or turn off heat. Add turmeric powder. Over the chopped mangoes, spread the red chilie powder and asafoetida. Pour the hot oil prepared with mustard seeds over the mangoes. Add salt, blend in well. Crunchiness of mangoes hold for 2 to 3 days. Promptly refrigerate to slow ripening of the mangoes.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Explosive taste - Mango Salsa


If you love making your own salsa, then try this recipe. Along with your red onions, ripe tomatoes, cilantro, hot jalapenos or green chilies, add mangoes. Chopped mangoes in the mix is a whole new invigorating taste. Add a dash of salt and pepper to top it off.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thrill seekers... How adventurous are you with food?

I can think of a few that might fall into the category of 'thrills'.

A plate of fetuccini Alfredo. Finishing them off completely and not checking your weight the day or even after two days.

A half cheesecake at one sitting. Can you do that? I can.

Finishing off a box of chocolates with fillings during holidays and then just blaming your friends who might have gifted them to you.

Super spicy Indian dishes that could scald your tongue but still give you the feel good sensation.

A few margaritas of course and my favorite apple maritinis. The only problem with the two is I cannot handle more than one. But if I could, I would.

What are some of the foods that give you the thrills?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A touch of ginger adds zest to anything

I posted a link to the mango lassi just a couple days ago. Now try this. Add some orange juice instead of yogurt and add fresh ginger. It's a whole new taste.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Try scrumptious carrot tomato soup


A perfect meal for a cold spring afternoon. Try this creamy carrot tomato soup. AFter a long break, I went back to having soups for dinner with just a hearty piece of bread. Nothing is more satisfying!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The ‘King of Fruits’ Commands Respect

I agree with that. Mango is the 'King of Fruits' and it is hardly considered a fruit in the mid-west and eastern part of the U.S. Availability of good mangoes is lacking although supply will be able meet demand whenever necessary. Since mangoes are a tropical fruit, Floria and the West coast probably have plenty.

I wrote about mangoes, my once favorite fruit on my 4/6/11 blog. Martha Rose Shulman in her column today has endorsed it as well. If you'd like to try a tasty, enriching drink try the mango lassi from vidyaswamyskitchen.com.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yogurt dip - side condiment for your appetizers and pulav


Raita - is the side dish or condiment most popular in the northern part of India. Most meals that have the Indian bread roti with vegetables or dhal as a side, also have another sauce or dip called raita. This week's recipe is a simple raita recipe from vidyaswamyskitchen.com.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

If not Ham what's for Easter dinner?

I bet the most popular is chinese on Easter just as it is on Christmas. Except we don't have a decent one around where I live. 'China in Bombay' might be a good alternative. But have done it too many times already. Maybe chinese at home! Not a bad idea but I don't have several of the ingredients. Option 2- Possibly Indian. I just finished a couple Indian meals so not sure if that would fly. Will see.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pesticides affect IQ of babies in the womb

Sometimes don't you feel it's best to go back to basics? No artificial anything. Pesticides, hormones, genetically modified foods, coloring, additives ... none of these. I'm sure we'll have hardly any medical insurance problems caused unnaturally, or obesity, dyslexia, developmental and behavioral and other types of handicaps.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A taste of samosas on a bed of chana chat


Just last week we had a friend visiting. He loves food maybe a little more than I do. Jay explained to us the satisfying effect this combination of chana and samosa has. Also went on to explain how he cooked it and served it to his wife. I couldn't wait to do the same. Meaning, preparing it the same way. Nobody served it to me, but I created this fabulous appetizer and devoured it without any guilt feeling. I have another friend stopping by just for a taste of the samosa chana chat. Here's a picture.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dill in your raita

I just found out that like the Indian raita (made with a yogurt base)there is a similar dish that Russians have but instead of coriander, they add dill as garnish. A Russian co-worker brought a big bunch of dill.

I didn't know what I should be doing with them since I have never used dill. She gave me a recipe that consisted of fresh yogurt, diced green onions, diced garlic, cucumber, and red onions and carrots with some shreds of dill. It was as good as our raita. Greeks also use a lot of yogurt and have a similar creation.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

You gather secretly at night....

To do what? Hmm. I hear something! Crunching, slurping, clinking. Oh, it's the undersground restaurant where people meet at night to just eat, eat, eat. This is the underground secret eating that people across the country have gotten into. Once a month vendors,chefs and foodies 'fueled by Twitter and food blogs, gather at a market that has spawned a host of underground imitators in places like Washington and Atlanta, where about 1,000 people it seems show up for the first of a series of monthly Saturday night craves'.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wonder how Fridays contribute to human health!

Something about Fridays. I feel big burdens are off me and a sense of liberation and relief sets in. This feeling has not changed since my elementary school days. I wonder what impact this has on one's health both physical and mental. It may all be good, but not if you are treating yourself to beer and Pizza.

The next question for a Friday evening is what do you do with yourself? How do you extend this feeling of exhilaration? Cook, eat out, read, shop, go to the movies, rent a movie, meet up with friends,...or, just chill in front of a TV?

I would like to do all of the above. So, here's where I'll begin. Go home, do some light cooking since Fridays are a no-no day for eating out for me. And then, I'll move to the next and the next.

In any case, I'm ready to pack up and call it a day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It is a fair week in many ways.

Last week ended with exciting news from a friend who found a job after a spell of inactivity. I thought I should treat myself, so went out to eat at this great little non-descript place called 'China in Bombay'. I had driven by several times but happened to notice it only last Saturday. Ended up having lunch there. That celebration flowed into this week and we ordered our dinner from there last evening. Twice in four days! Yes, it was that good.

Great Tom Yum soup, gobi manchurian, ginger coriander fried rice and spicy tofu with vegetables. Each dish was better than the previous. We had a couple friends over as well. So, the word has spread to them and a few others. If you are that family member or friend who cares too much about food,then visit us for this treat!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Brussel Sprouts - the best way to eat them

It's hard to truly relish brussel sprouts without camouflaging their original taste. I use them in my Indian dish Sambhar or cook them this healthier way.

Cut off stems or the tips of both ends. Wash thoroughly, cut them in half and spread evenly in a baking dish. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle some diced garlic, salt and fresh black pepper. Bake in a 375 degreen oven for 20 minutes. Turn them over and bake again for another 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly roasted. You'll never say no to Brussel Sprouts cooked this way.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Why are chilli peppers so popular around the world but no so much in the US?

Chilli peppers originated in the Americas, but I am surprised as to why it is not a major part of the US diet. I think countries that use them most in their every day cooking are those in south America, Africa and the southeast asia.

The nutritional and health benefits are incredible. The list is quite long. One little story that Hillary Clinton often repeated in her interviews during her campaign was the fact that her regular intake of chilli peppers had helped her ward off colds and viruses.

People who are afraid of chillis should definitely give it a shot. It is not the reason for acid-reflex, they do not cause acidity as some people may have been led to believe. They are not the reason for ulcers either. What chillis do is add spice to a boring, bland diet, and enhance everything in a positive way. Try it, you'll like it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Confessions of a cook

I am a 'foodie' no doubt. I have baked, broiled, cooked over stove-top, fried....gone through several other cooking processes, except for one, i.e.using a barbecue grill. I have never seen a need to actually light one and start a smoke. Because somehow I have the preconceived notion that it is a man's job. We do have a basic grill that my husband uses once in two years or so. When he does, I bring out my well-seasoned, marinated veggie burgers and veggies on a skewer. Probably sounds boring to a meat eater.

One more thing, that I have never done is wood-fire grilling outside. I remember wood-fire being used is some religious-traditional cooking at home on certain days alone by my mother when I was growing up. But, I never had a need to do the same. I do remember though that the flavor of wood-fire cooking is exceptional.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I almost forgot about this one. Reminiscing!

A favorite fruit of mine used to be mangoes until I got married, came here and forgot about it completely. From mango trees in my backyard to nothing.

I remember that's how I learned to climb trees. I usually came home from school climbed up a tree picked a ripe mango and ate it sitting on the same branch of the same tree every day. Now, if I need a tasty mango, I'd have to take my car go in search of a market that might carry good ones and find them there.

Wish I can get back the liberation and freedom of my childhood days to enjoy some simple things that are painfully tedious now!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Obesity in Greece?

Well, contrary to what I was thinking, the mediterranean diet is more of a model in the US than in Greece where it originated. More than a little disappointing is it not? It seems Greece is also one of the countries battling obesity. Cities and small towns of Greece that once had fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil now have fast-foods, fat rich diets, pizzas and fries. It gets to be a bit scary when parents compare cholesterol readings of their children instead of grades!

One other country that shocked me was India. During my last visit there I found excessively heavy young children and teenagers. This was in the upper middle to upper class where money is also in excess. I had never seen teenagers this heavy. What I realized was the availabilty of fatty foods everywhere, especially in homes. Can't blame the children if that's all is available. I am not sure if the rich parents are equating success and wealth to weight! I had never known a need to have gyms because we did most of our commuting by walk or taking public transportation. That seems to have almost disappeared as well among the wealthy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Swiss Chard

I am always a little wary about greens that I am not familiar with. One is Swiss Chard. I had known it only by name for a long time. Then I decided to give it a shot since some expert cooks were pushing it. I was quite disappointed. They were stringy and bitter; didn't have a flavorful taste or aroma that could have made them appetizing. So watch out folks, Swiss chard is not the same as your other varieties of greens or broccoli rabe. Once the dish is done, they are also very hard to camouflage just in case you'd like to fix them instead of just trashing. I tried to 'fix' the taste after the only time I tried them. Nothing worked so I had to dump them all.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Food Coloring causing health issues

Food coloring - Finally this is getting some attention. Better late than never though. I read food coloring is one of the reasons for AD. I think coloring of food should be completely banned. Maybe it will be an answer for many other health issues.

Hmm. I wonder how it would be if regulations are not just for food but people too. By people I mean hair coloring. I have wondered what the world would be like if nobody colored their hair. No artificial anything on their face like the way it was when I was growing up. I think most of my friends would be completely grey and probably look a lot older.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kadai Paneer - Lightly spiced, exotic cheese preparation


Taste the recipe of the week - Kadai Paneer. Also test other recipes here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Soups

Around the beginning of January I got into the 'soup fever'. So, every week there was a different soup that my family absolutely enjoyed. Now that it's spring, at least officially, I am onto spring soups. I call them spring soups due to the types of vegetables I use to create them and their consistency. My spring soups are a bit lighter than winter soups.

Here is one made from fresh asparagus, celery, and sweet Roma tomatoes.

Lightly steam cook the vegetables. Puree in a blender to a thin consistency. You may use the same water from steaming. Add a cup of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes in a pot. Add fresh minced ginger, some lemon zest, bay leaves and chopped coriander right before serving. Used fresh crushed black pepper and salt at the table.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Biggest regret. What is yours when it comes to food?

My biggest regret is not having travelled to Egypt. Especially to taste the 'fruits of the Nile'; I mean literally. I have heard from a close friend who has lived there several years that the vegetables and fruits in Egypt are the best. I've heard the size of a tomato is about as large as a huge melon. Hopefully, there'll come a time when things will get to normalcy and I can visit the country and taste it's splendid fruits and vegetables.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mint, for the breath of freshness

I can't believe the universality of mint. I once had it grow wild in my backyard and used it on almost any Indian dish I prepared. Mint is the best garnish on pulav. My husband swears by the Indian preparation of mint chicken that this one restaurant serves. But, it is such a potent addition that we have to be very careful with it. Mint chutney of course is all mint but a great side dip if you are having samosa, Bhajias, cutlets, or anything similar. Mint raita is fabulous. However, if you try mint in a regular vegetable/gravy preparation, it can kill the dish.

Talking about universality, it is of course a great breath freshner used in gums, mouth wash, tooth paste, and oils. It is also used in insecticides on the one hand and aromatherapy on the other. I have known of people using it for insect bites, rashes, colds and sores.

I will try to incorporate mint into my next recipe of the week. Look out for a mint based Indian preparation. You're going to love it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Domino's new baked sandwiches

Sorry, I do not like them. I tried their veggi sandwich a month ago. Was not too crazy about it. I forgot to bring my lunch in to work. It's probably sitting on my kitchen counter. Was so ravenous that I needed to get something quick. So once again tried the Domino sandwich and it scored even worse than the first time. Would not recommend it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quinoa, the super food

Quinoa is one of the best finds in the area of food. It's not only packed with nutrition but an attested food for diabetics and blood pressure patients. I know of households that have substituted Quinoa for everything from breads to soups to making it the main staple of their diets.

Some of my older relatives swear by it since use of Quinoa in their diets regularly has improved their overall health by a huge measure. So, now I have also started to substitute quinoa where ever my recipes call for wheat or rice or oats. I really like it. My family has taken to it except for one who is hard to please, especially when it comes to food. Still working on it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Broccoli Rabe with Mushroom


Enjoy this week's recipe - Broccoli Rabe. You can have plenty of this on the east coast, but not in the mid-west. I am yet to find a market that carries broccoli rabe around where I live in the mid-west. Haven't tried the Italian market though!

Friday, March 18, 2011

An apple a day...

Have you heard of this? I am sure you have. 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'. It's a new fad of mine. I bring an apple to work everyday. Well that's the first step is it not? Actually buying it and taking it to work? Now ask me what I do with the apple? I ate it the first day. The second day, I told myself well, 'I will have it for lunch', forgot about it, and decided maybe for a snack. It got too busy and forgot about it again. The next day brought another apple to work. Same story. The next and the next ditto. Now I have 4 applies sitting in my drawer. It's the weekend. I am wondering if I should take them all home and start all over again,or just leave them inside the drawer for next week.

Decided. Will leave it at work. I'll come back to discover their state on Monday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sshhh, there's a new diet program nobody's is heard about until now

The Dukan diet - Quite similar to Atkins but introducing different types of foods in stages.

Read this - Dr. Dukan from whom this diet program originated is as follows-

His low-fat approach is organized into four phases: "attack, cruise, consolidation and stabilization. The first encourages dieters to eat as much as they want of nonfatty, protein rich foods, including oat bran (a key component) washed down with oceans of water. The second stage introduces vegetables, but no fruit; the third brings with it two slices of bread, a serving of cheese and fruit and two servings of carbohydrates a day, with two weekly “celebration” meals with wine and dessert (the diet is French, after all); and the final stage six days a week of “anything goes” and one day of reversion to strict protein-only stage one — for the rest of your life".

The only must-do daily physical exercises are a 20-minute walk and total elevator avoidance, fine in a city like Paris where five-story buildings are common.

Not sure for how long each stage is but doesn't seem like a difficult one to follow. Hmm maybe easier said than done!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Obesity in Mexico

Obesity kind of goes hand in hand with the country's poverty state I guess. I was in Mexico just a year ago and one thing that did strike me as odd was that the children there were all more or less obese. I feel sad for Mexico since it does have a lot of potential. However, lack of education is a big drawback in its path to advancement. Education means in turn understanding of health and nutrition which that country is lacking big time.

But there is hope. Looks like the government there is working with the interests of its youth, particularly children. They are banning or working on regulating school cafeteria food. No fried foods, only baked chips and, no sodas. An aggressive change, but a great beginning. I am sure it will make a big difference.