Sunday, January 30, 2011

Women in African countries

As you can see from the title, today's blog is a deviation from the norm. Although this is not a revelation, I needed to share it with my readers.

One way to kill time during a flight is to sleep but if you can't I think the next best thing is to get a drink, eat or read. At least you can kill some of the time. Today's flight was uneventful which is always good. Unfortunately, I was restless and terribly disturbed by an article I read in the airline magazine about rape of women in several African countries like Sudan, Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda where men treat women with utter disrespect, dehumanize and humiliate them in the worst possible way.

I read rape of women is the norm and the ages range from 3 to even 83. Men not only dominate sexual relations but do it in very unsafe and savage ways, and women have no say at all even though they know this means risk of being infected by HIV and AIDS.

I wonder if things will ever change in these cursed countries of Africa where life in all ways is so deplorable. Women's interest organizations are trying to help in several ways but it could be a long time before changes take effect.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt down on my list for now

I had always wanted to travel to Egypt to see the sphinx, pyramids, temples, cruise the Nile,... taste the fertility of the land in its vegetables and fruits; and experience what is left of the ancient civilization.

I am sad I did not get to do all of those things when I had a chance to the last few years. I am hoping that after the turmoil settles down the country will bounce back better than before and I can get to experience a better Egypt.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Less, more or no breakfast. Which is better?

The theories around less, more or no breakfast have come a full circle. For a long, long time it seemed to hang around 'big breakfasts'. Sounded great. Have a big meal in the morning with the hope that you won't have to eat much during lunch or dinner! I followed the first part of it to a 'T'. Big breakfast every morning. But I found I didn't eat any less at lunch or at dinner although I thought I did because I was following a proven method. I also thought my intake was probably pretty normal. Wrong.

Where were all those studies that are coming out now which say, 'Nah wishful thinking. Big breakfast don't mean smaller lunch or dinner. Just means more calories'. Some experiements have apparently come to conclusive answers stating that big breakfasts only means that you are packing on the calories.

So, am I going to stop eating the big breakfasts that I got used to over the past several years? Not a chance. I will a eat big breakfast, then a bigger lunch and an even bigger dinner.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A more uplifting piece

I had to share this with you. On a cold Sunday morning inspired by my recent travels to Spain and Portugal, I decided to create a simple, heart healthy soup filled with vegetables of all kinds. I remember having at least 10 different types of vegetables in there; created this humongous pot of soup and had a meal that lasted for a whole hour and a half. All I had other than the soup was a hearty grain bread. A couple guests joined us but it was one of the best meals. I think this is going to become a Sunday staple at least until spring. Very easy and satisfying. I will soon post one of my soup recipes. You are going to love it!

Divorce, an all around painful event. Sons of divorced couples are more affected than daughters.

It hurts to hear of divorces. I hurt thinking of young children caught in the middle. Apparently sons are more affected than daughters because of the lack of male figures. Read this article to understand the psychology behind it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cry Murder!

Of the advanced countries, I think U.S. is the only one that permits use of several genetically modified, hormone induced foods. European countries have banned this completely. Consumers raised hell in these countries, so for eg. in the case of milk or beef, farmers no longer use antibiotics or inject hormones of any kind. Meat eaters say the beef in Europe is tastier than the U.S. I can say the same for milk. It is way better and natural tasting. We found the same in the case of cheese, yogurt, ice-cream, you name it.

U.S. milk and beef have high traces of synthetic hormones that are directly responsible for breast cancer and other types of cancers. Its been several years since Europe banned it and the U.S. still continues with these modified foods. Just imagine what it does to our children who have these food their entire life. Not only are they generally obese but are also at high risk for cancers and several other types of diseases.

Consumers here should also take responsibility by just boycotting these harmful substances instead of helping fill the pockets of the large businesses and individuals behind these things. I wonder where the lobbyists are when it comes to real issues. Why are we blaming health care costs when the root causes can be eliminated?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Calcium and Vitamin D

Just this morning when I was having a casual conversation with a co-worker, we touched on the topic of how much calcium or vitamin D should one take. Being south asian in orgin I am not sure if my skin type gets enough vitamin D or not. I discovered that once people like myself move to the west the level of vitamin D in our body drops way low.

I have no clue as to how much is good or indeed if I should take it, and what if I over dose myself with too much Vitamin D or calcium. What a coincidence! I read an article on this topic in today's New York Times.

This article will shed some light -

Monday, January 24, 2011

Updated copy on home page

Please see the slightly modified title of my blog site. I have also added some descriptive text to indicate that it is the same as Vidya Swamy's kitchen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This week's recipe is Macaroni with Broccoli, Mushroom, Cheeses

A fantastic recipe for a cold winter day. Test it out. Turn your boring macaroni and cheese to a party favorite. I just created this recipe for this afternoon's lunch. Turned out to be a hit.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spinach Soup

4 cups spinach leaves
2 cup(s) water
1 onion(s) chopped
1 cup(s) milk
2 tablespoon(s) plain flour (maida)
1 tablespoon(s) fresh cream
2 tablespoon(s) butter
salt and pepper to season.

Wash the spinach leaves and discard the thick stems. Boil along with the water for 8minutes or till the spinach is well cooked. Cool and puree in a blender. Keep aside.
Heat the butter in a pan. Add the chopped onions and saute on medium heat for 3 minute(s) or till the onions are transparent. Now, add the plain flour and fry briefly on low heat. Add now the spinach puree, milk, salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat for 3 minute(s).

Add the fresh cream just before serving.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Indian restaurants in the U.S.

As much as I love good food, it makes me sad that there are hardly any Indian restaurants in the U.S. that serve good Indian food. For one thing, they are mostly northern Indian which means potent spices, dripping oil and the same old powerful, overwhelming masala. Northern Indian food at homes are not the same. They are incredibly tasty! So, why do restaurants change their formula? I guess they think that's what sells.

Southern Indian cuisine is my favorite but most restaurants just don't go for the south Indian menu. The one I'd highly recommended is 'Saravana Bhavan' in New York. It is usually on top of my agenda whenever I visit NYC. But I can't travel to NY every time I want good Indian food, even though I think it's worth it just to have some good food, Indian in particular, and specifically Saravana Bhavan.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cost of obesity in dollars

What's choking our health care system? Simply the money or lack of it.

The high cost burden is on the people who can afford it and are paying for the ones who do not have insurance or can't afford them. Who are these people who cannot afford? People on social security, who eat McDonald's and other fast foods that just make them obese which in turn results in most of the health-related problems.

Can you believe these numbers? In addition, to the earning popoulation that contributes toward the medical insurance, the US spends about 160 billion on health care directly related to obesity. That is a lot of money that can be channeled to something like education, for instance. The people who don't care about their health and eat junk everyday need to be educated and that's where some of these billions should go rather than for paying to treat them.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The feeling of fulfillment

Doesn't it feel good when someone gets you completely whether it be in your personal or professional life?

I had this euphoria moment when finally I was able to get people to understand what I was trying to communicate to them regarding this one project at work. I need to celebrate it with some goodie. I am going for the broiled macaroni with mushroom and broccoli. And, when my husband gets home with some Port Wine (LBV) from Portugal!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Manipulative marketing

Marketing is key to the success of any business followed by selling. I get that. But, manipulative marketing just to get your products to sell? That is unethical.

Many of the basic ayurvedic herbs and spices used in Indian cooking such as ginger, turmeric, fenugreek have extraordinary health benefits that were disovered way late by the western doctors. However, they are being used as a tool to promote their businesses or practices, whether it is true or not.

Ginger is a magic root that has been used for centuries in India. I recently read an article that says ginger was tested on a group of people to alleviate muscle pain and it worked. I believe that's a myth. If the pain is related to indigestion, ginger is a good remedy. But not if it is a muscle ache related to exercise. I am not sure what types of researches give these false results, but it is simply not right nor is it true.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Groceries at Walgreens and CVS?

It appeared a bit odd when Wal-Mart introduced groceries in their stores several years ago. I stepped into a Wal-Mart recently just out of curiosity and found they are pretty well stocked. Prices are not bad either.

Target stores have groceries too. The one nearby my home in Media is decent although I rarely have bought groceries there. It somehow doesn't feel right to get groceries in a place where you buy clothing and other household items.

I recently read that Walgreens has introduced fresh groceries, frozen foods and even sushi. Sounds odd. But obviously they have done enough research to lure customers who drop by to pick up things like socks to also pick up some items for the days's dinner. Although I am not sure that Walgreens or CVS have better prices. Convenience? May be.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

No new recipes yet!

As much as I spend hours on end at my computer, I wish I didn't have to and can carry on with life like it never existed. But, I am so lost without it. Right before Christmas my laptop went beserk, so had to completely wipe out the hard drive and start fresh.

I have not brought it up to speed what with so many of my graphic applications still not installed. So, I cannot update my kitchen web site or add any new graphics to it. Hopefully, I can get it going in the next couple days. Have a lot of catching up to do.

In the meantime, mark your calendars for the next kitchen workshop scheduled for February 5th. You may email me at for more details.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sex, Pizza or Self-esteem

Think about it. What will make you happy? I answered all three. But given a choice...well, being a woman who loves food would I say pizza? Nah, I would go for self-esteem.

This survey was done on college campuses and guess what? Students picked self-esteem over any other. This can be interpreted in several different ways. 1. That young people are too interested in themselves, or 2. They are too smart to take a chance with sex or food. Kids are smart.

But the interpretation to this answer is our children belong to a self-absorbed, narcissitic society. If the answer were one of the other two, then that would have been criticized as sickness. Sure, Psychologists have to keep their jobs.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Port Wine tasting in Portugal

The highlight of my trip to Portugal was the wine tasting we did at the cellars along the Douro Valley. I visited 5 different unique cellars. Unique because of the types of port wines each one specialized in, their size, their origin, and the facilities themselves.

The origin of Port wines is Portugal. Its called Port because of the formula used in these wines, which is basically the addition of spirit to stop the fermentation process. Then they are aged in big oak vats inside cellars that are climate controlled. The taste of the wines vary depending on age and the alocohol content. A very interesting detail here is port wines contain more alcohol than regular wines upto 20% in some varieties. I got to taste all ages of port wines and decided I like the 'tawny' variety the most. It is dark in color and the sweetest of them all.

There is also the LBV, Late Bottled Vintage which is fairly expensive. These wines bring the taste of Vintage Port but without the need for lengthy bottle aging. One of my purchases included an LBV bottle.

There is more to these Port Wines than what I have here such as how they should be served, stored and consumed which I will touch upon another time. Until then, look for port wines in stores and try the LBV in particular.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chewing gum for heartburn? Really?

Now that's odd. But apparently it works.

'Chewing on a piece or two of gum, it seems, helps force fluids back into the stomach and flood the esophagus with alkaline saliva, neutralizing acids that cause the characteristic burning sensations'. Who would have thought to test something out like acid reflux by chewing gum.

When I chew gum, I more often than not gnaw the inside of my cheek or bite down on my tongue that hurt and bleed; or swallow too much air. So, I rarely chew gum.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Do you have any special requests?

I would like my followers' input in preparing a menu for my next workshop. Do you have any food in particular that you would like to see demo'd? Let me know and I will work on accommodating it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Next cooking workshop on February 5, 2011

My next healthy vegetarian cooking workshop is on February 5th. This workshop is sponsored by 'Soul Source Center for Conscious Living', but will be conducted at my home. If you would like to attend, please email me at

There is always a shadow of doubt

More so now than ever before researches on different health topics are inconclusive. So, for a lay person like myself there is no credible source to go to even for some simple things like drinking lots of fluids when you have a cold.

Coincidentally, I am having a very bad cold. And, I am feeling thirsty all the time.
I just read an article that says, it isn't clear if fluids really help. It looks like the truth is there is no scientific evidence to substantiate the age old myth that fluids can help cure the cold. All I can say is I don't think it will do any harm.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Soups for your cold and this cold winter weather

One good thing about winter are the hot soups that most families serve with their meals. I love creating these hearty soups with winter vegetables and generally make a meal out of them.

I think the first secret in these soups is the broth. For my creations I start out with a medium-light broth made either from a mix of vegetables or just with tomatoes. The next secret lies in the spices. Coriander and Cumin play a major role. Once you add these two flavors with a touch of fresh coriander, it can beat hands down any restaurant soup.

Guess what's for dinner today!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Technology can be a big problem!

Yes. My computer gave up right before my vacation. Luckily, I had all my work backed up. The problem is I am still installing programs and have not installed any of the graphic programs I use. So, I do not have pictures for these new recipes I am posting. I need to edit them before posting and can't do that until I have my favorite PhotoShop installed.

Spanish Paella

After reading the Spain guide book, marking off places to see and foods to eat; Oh, also some elementary Spanish to speak to impress my family, I decided I would try a new dish every day at a different restaurant.

The first night I went to a traditional spanish restaurant right across from the hotel in Barcelona. And, decided to go for the traditional spanish dish called Paella. There are several variations of Paella and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they even had a vegetarian option.

I can assure you this is one of the most satisfying soul foods. It has rice and also some colorful vegetables and peppers. The magic of the taste apparently lies in the variety of rice that it is cooked with. So, here is a recipe with my own twist to it.

•Hearty rice with texture. I would suggest Arborio or parboiled rice.
•olive oil
•yellow onion, chopped. Use yellow onion although a spicy palette is what most people think they should go for
•vegetable broth to cook the rice in
•2 cups (16 oz) rice
•some colorful peppers
•artichoke hearts chopped
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a wok. Sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is tender and translucent. Simmer the broth in a separate pot. Pour the rice into the wok and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the veges and tomatoes, cook for a few more minutes. Add the simmering vegetable broth. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes until almost almost all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Sprinkle the artichoke hearts with a few drops of lemon juice. Serve the paella straight from the pan, with some attractive garnishes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy New Year

Wishing my followers and readers the best of everything in this New Year. A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all of you.

Back in town

It is never easy to come back to reality after a vacation. What with piles of work around me at the office and at home! Being swallowed by so many issues, don't know where to begin!

But, I can't wait to share the food experiences I had at Spain and Portugal. Being a vegetarian was not easy, none-the-less had some excellent Port wine and vegetarian meals at both countries.