Thursday, September 30, 2010

How funny is this?

I have a neighbor who has reached the prime age of 70+. Extremely active, liberal, beautiful, successful and I can go on and on. And she is a first generation Italian too! An authentic Italian in all ways except one.

While I am still making my own sauces she said she gave it up about 25 years ago. Reason? She is so used to Ragu spaghetti sauces that she doesn't like her own sauces any more. I just couldn't believe what I heard.

I was wondering if that was an excuse or if she truly meant it or was just joking.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The starchy thin or flat sticks called noodles

Just the other day on NPR there was this chef (forget the name) talking about the different varieties of noodles. Mung, rice, potato... I like noodles as long as I don't get the feeling of being stuffed. Of course for that not to happen I'll have to watch my intake.

Noodles can take on the flavor of any spice or sauce. The only thing to watch out for is over cooking and making it too soft or sticky.

I found a great recipe online. With some slight modifications it works really well.

Some rice sticks
1-2 garlic clove, peeled, green shoot removed
1 cups fresh basil leaves
1 Tbps. parsley leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped shelled walnuts, the fresher the better (about 1/2 ounce)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and broken into 2-inch lengths
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, place the rice sticks in a large bowl, and cover with hot water. Let sit 20 minutes, until pliable.

2. Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and drop in the garlic. When it is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the basil, parsley, walnuts, salt, pepper and olive oil to the food processor, and process until smooth and creamy. Add the cheese(s), and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large pasta bowl.

3. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the green beans. Cook five minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water and drain. Add the noodles to the water, and boil one minute until tender but still al dente.

4. Add 1/2 cup of the boiling water to the bowl with the pesto, and mix together. Drain the noodles, and toss with the pesto and beans. Serve at once.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Obesity more expensive for women

What a shock! Of course, it is. The heavier the person, the costlier everything gets. Even in the case of obesity. Think about it. Medical insurance, cost of living, everything.

Again, it's all based on statistics which I didn't do but there are enough studies on everything and this is the result. Obesity is expensive all around. And, yes it all comes down to money. The incremental costs faced by obese women are nine times higher than those for overweight women. Overweight in and of itself is costly but obese I guess means tipping the scale, literally in all ways.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'd like not to believe in astrology but I do when I am down

Daily Horoscope as in those Leo forecasts in my inbox are a bunch of boloney. Don't know if I spelled that right! However, I keep getting them and reading them. They are so nebulous and mostly inaccurate. And I usually never remember anything.

But I do remember and dwell over them if they are not good. Especially if they coincide with a bad day as in today.

I found a remedy to deal with those bad horoscopes that match bad days - ice cream. I stopped by Giant on my way back from the gym and got those pint-sized ice creams in a few different flavors. Had two of them and actually felt better. You may want to try it. Eating feels good when otherwise things are bad.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Raita - recipe of the week

Raita Raita, an Indian condiment that goes well with just about any flavor - hot, bland, tart,also with breads and rice dishes.

Back to Quinoa this week

Ever since I came to know about Quinoa, it's replaced almost all other staples, such as bread, rice, Indian wheat breads, or Upma usually made with cream of wheat. I substitute quinoa in place of starch anywhere I can. There's no sacrifice in taste at all. In fact quinoa Vegetable pulav is better than regular rice based pulav.
I just came across quinoa muffins. I've got to try that. Honestly, what's not to like about quinoa. On the health end, there is no better grain out there. On taste, there's nothing to complain.

My family says I could soon turn into a quinoa with all the quinoa consumption I've been doing. My goal is to turn these hard to please family members to quinoa advocates!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What's there to not like in Italy?

I had a friend who recently came back from Italy. And, all I heard were complaints. Pickpocketing in Rome, too expensive, pizza not tasty... I am listening to her while thinking to myself she must be crazy?

Rome is on my list of revisits. I just fell in love with every thing I saw or touched or tasted. Exotic, romantic, beautiful, in short to me it was heaven on earth. The architecuture, history, people, food, especially the wines, cheeses and desserts; shopping, music, everything. Rome and Florence were the only two cities I could visit during the short 6-day vacation but they were unforgettable.

I cannot stop with just mentioning the word food. I have to elaborate. For one thing it is easy to be a vegetarian in Italy. There are varieties of soups, breads, cheeses and absolutely delicious vegetables. Even a simple plate of spaghetti there was incredibly tasty. I remember ordering food and staring at it for several minutes since I was always mesmerized by the presentation, the aroma, flavors and never wanted to start eating for fear of emptying the plate, which I did in no time. I remember doing activities and visits in such a way that I had enough time to experience the different places that people recommended for us to eat at.

Well, all I can say is my love for Italy and everything Italian began some years ago and I don't think it will ever end. Which reminds me of my favorite movie of all times, The Godfather. That's what I am going to watch tonight with my plate of pasta and vegetables in olive oil.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Follow me on Twitter

I have received invites from at least 10 people to start a Facebook account. That is something I am paranoid about due to privacy issues. But I do have a Twitter account if you'd like to follow me. Twitter Vswamy.

Cooking for one?

Not a fun thing to do as I mentioned in my previous blog. It's boring to shop and if we do, it turns out to be too much. We end up wasting the food, or after cooking them all most of them become left overs. How many days can we handle leftovers? So, it goes into the drain.

I have learned to make it more economical by having a loose plan for shopping and buying just the few items that I may not have in my pantry. If I still end up with too much, I cook them all and freeze for later use. The excess vegetables are made into salads that get used up within a couple days.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A tasty recipe for just one

Just yesterday I was talking to a friend who ate out of a can and said had never bothered to cook a meal for just one person. Agreed. Food has to be cooked and shared. It makes it more interesting when you have company.

Off and on I am also alone and going into the kitchen to cook for just myself is not very appealing. But, you've got to eat. It's better tasty food than can food. Here's a simple vegetarian Black Bean Chilie.

1 pot Simmered Black Beans
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons mild ground chilie powder
1 tablespoon lightly toasted cumin seeds, ground
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup water
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup cheddar cheese or crumbled goat cheese

Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, stir together for about a minute until fragrant, and add the chilie powder and cumin. Cook, stirring, for two to three minutes, until the mixture begins to stick to the pan. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is beginning to stick to the pan, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste dissolved in water and bring back to a simmer. Season with salt to taste and simmer, stirring often, for 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick and fragrant. Stir the tomatoes with the beans. Simmer for a few minutes and add some chopped cilantro. Serve with some cheese crumbles on top.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pleasure in pain, an attribute of human nature

I am not talking about anything profound. It's about chilies and the extreme heat that some varieties of chilies produce in our food preparations. It can actually burn and scald, and are quite painful but also pleasureable at the same time. Yet, some people absolutely love this unbearable heat and pain. I have seen people eat extremely hot food with tears rolling down their cheeks but won't give up what is one their plate.

To some people spicy foods cause heartburns. Many people who are used to the heat have it almost every day. Lately, I have learned that hot foods actually help clear sinuses and inflammation, and are a cancer-fighting agent. SO, comparing negatives over positives the scale is tilted in favor of hot, spicy foods.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Spicy Stuffed Okra

This week's recipe is Stuffed Okra.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My favorite pot-luck dish - Guacamole

In my circles, we rarely do potluck dinners. But if we did, a favorite dish of mine is guacamole with baked chips.

I had it at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas, I have been following their recipe since. It was nice of the chef to share it with me. It's always a hit.

Here it is.

Finely chopped red onions
Fineley chopped ripe tomatoes
1 or 2 raw crushed garlice or finely diced garlice
Lemon juice
Seeded jalapenos
Fresh cilantro
Salt to taste

Mash avacado. Mix the rest of the ingredients together. This recipe is out-of-this world.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Make your lives easy with the right kitchen tools

They do make a difference. Try peeling skin off a cucumber with a knife. My experience tells me it is never as good as a peeler. Even if some things like a salad maker for instance sound unnecessary, when you do try it you'll see the difference. First of all the slicer is a great investment if you want a quick, colorful, attractive salad. Just drop in some olive oil, herbs, lemon and given it a quick mix with the salad maker. You will never turn back.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Here is an article from the New York Times. I have friends and family with this condition who are going through it now. It is a hard to understand illness. But this article through several voices explains it quite clearly.

Characterized by paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations and delusions, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, a related condition, are complicated mental illnesses that make it difficult for one to determine the difference between reality and pretend. While there are medications and therapies that can help, the effects of this condition are often far- reaching. Here, seven men and women speak about living with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Exercise make kids smarter? Then, adults should do the same to stay smart.

There is no doubt about that. I am sure exercise does stimulate the good hormones or proteins to feed the brain and keep it alert and intelligent. Experiments show that it works for kids. If it works for kids I think there is no reason it won't work for adults. It may not have an effect on adult IQ as it does on kids IQ. However, physical exercise as we all know is recommended for people of any age. I believe senior citizens will benefit a lot from some form of exercise or another. I keep encouraging my senior parents to do so to keep their muscle strength. Maybe showing them an article or two will reinforce my constant nudge, and encourage them to fit everyday exercise into their lifestyles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Corn sugar, a new name for high-fructose corn syrup

All health food nuts by now know that high-fructose corn syrup is one of the worst additives. Many labels have this high on their 3-inch long ingredients list. The general public has become aware of the ill effects of this ingredient as well.

So, all these ad promoters have found a less evil sounding name for high-fructose corn syrup. They have petitiioned the FDA to approve this new name called corn sugar. But, public beware. This is indeed as bad as in our foods as it ever was.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Brussel Sprouts Vegetable

Read new recipe of the week - Broccoli Sabji.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Some reasonably priced health foods for everyday consumption

A combination of two or three of these foods from the list below every day can be a great contributor to a lifelong of good health. I think it is easy to follow.

Egg whites
Yogurt unsweetened, preferably homemade
Spinach of any kind
Sweet Potatoes
Green Tea

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Southwest style potatoes

It is easy to turn anything southwestern.

If you'd like to make regular potatoes taste southwestern, here is something you may want to try.

Saute potatoes cut in cubes with the skin until 3/4 cooked. Saute some black beans, and corn with chopped jalapenos and garlic. Add a dash of chilie powder. Mix them all up. Spread some cheddar cheese. Bake in oven until cheese melts and starts to bubble. Yum. Delicious.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Anything goes with cheese, try Gargazola-Stuffed Tomatoes

The last of the big hot tomatoes are here. I don't believe a cheese stuffing can ever go wrong. Try this.

4 large ripe tomatoes
Kosher salt to taste
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or use insides of ripe tomatoes, above
1/2 teaspoon mild paprika
4 chives, finely diced
2 tablespoons vodka.

1. Halve the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh. Sprinkle the shells with kosher salt and turn them upside down on paper towels to drain for 30 minutes.

2. Place the gorgonzola and butter in a bowl, season sparingly with salt and aggressively with pepper, and beat until smooth.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

4. Fill the tomatoes with the mixture. Place on serving dish until ready to serve. Serves 4.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Arugula, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

This salad was inspired by another recipe. I have modified it and made another better creation.

Sweet, salty, tart, crunchy and spicy, this salad has perfect flavor and texture balance. Pomegranate molasses is a good balance to remove acidic tastes.

· 1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced
· 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
· 2 tablespoons sherry or apple cider vinegar
· 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
· 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
· 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the salad:
· 4 cups arugula, lightly packed
· 4 cups romaine, torn into bite-sized pieces
· 2 ripe pears, cored and cut into 1/2" cubes
· 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
· 3 ounces fresh goat cheese or feta, crumbled
· 1/4 cup pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
1. In a small bowl combine the shallot, pomegranate molasses, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk until the salt is dissolved.
2. Whisk in the olive oil and let vinaigrette stand at room temperature until salad is assembled.
3. Combine the arugula, romaine, pears and half of the pomegranate seeds in a large bowl.
4. Crumble half of the goat cheese over the ingredients in the bowl (this works best if the cheese is very cold).
5. Whisk the vinaigrette until uniform and add all but 2 tablespoons of it to the bowl.
6. Gently toss the salad with your hands or salad tongs, coating the ingredients well with the vinaigrette. If the salad seems dry, add the vinaigrette in small increments until it is dressed to your liking.
7. Crumble the remaining cheese over the salad and sprinkle the remaining pomegranate seeds and the pistachios over the top. Serve immediately.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kale, better than spinach

The Kale Challenge: You'll Be Hooked in a Week!

Meg Wolff, a two-time cancer survivor and healthy food expert/promoter says it is better than spinach. Easy to like it. "Why focus on kale? It's one of the best things you can put into your body - an excellent source of non-dairy calcium, magnesium and fiber".

When I cooked it, I did it the same way as I cook spinach, sauteed with garlic and olive oil. If not for the pesticide taste, it would have been great. Maybe I'll give it one more try.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kheer - Rice Pudding, the Indian way

I have noticed that my friends love it since this taste is not completely new.

Pointer 1: Use a heavy-bottomed pot, so the milk does not stick to the bottom.
Pointer 2: Constant stirring is required to prevent bottom of pot getting too hot. After milk is added, let it boil for about 5 minutes, then cook on a slightly lower heat.


1/4 cup of regular long-grain rice to make 2 cups of kheer
3 cups of regular milk
1 cup of sugar. A little more if you like it sweeter. You may taste it midway and add more sugar as needed.
1 Tbsp. melted butter (clarified ghee)
1/2 tsp. saffron
1/2 tsp. cardamom powder (optional)


A heavy pot or an Indian wok will be suitable for this preparation. Place walk on stove. Add the melted butter. Then add the rice. Saute the rice until it puffs just a little. Then add a cup of water. Let it boil and cook. Since rice is toasted a bit, it will take less time to cook. After the rice has cooked, add the milk. Let the rice and milk mixture boil for a few minutes. Now add the sugar. Stir the pot often so that the cheese from the milk does not stick to the pot. After the milk thickens a bit you may add the saffron. If you want the kheer to have a richer taste, then let the milk condense quite a bit. You may add cardamom at the very end after the kheer is done.

^ Please contact me for any of these ingredients or utensils.