Tuesday, January 20, 2009


A Happy morning to all of you. Here are the rest of the tips from various listeners for uses of tofu in Indian cuisine (and otherwise too). The tip regarding using tofu in kadhi was given by Sujatha. The next really good idea was given to me by a loyal listener who calls himself just 'Singh'. His tips are for a variation of the regular Kofta curry. I shall write the basic gravy following the kofta variations.

1) Peel and grate a medium lauki (opo squash/ doodhi/ sorakaya)
2) Sprinkle with a little salt and keep aside for about 30 mins.
3) Squeeze and drain all the water given off by the lauki.
4) Now add 1/2 inch piece ginger(grated), 1tsp chilli powder, 1tsp dhana-jeera, 1/4 tsp haldi and salt to taste. Mix well.
5) Add about 2 tbsp besan, just enough to bind the lauki mixture together so it holds its shape when we fry it.
6)Heat oil in a deep fryer or kadai. Make small balls of the lauki mixture. When the oil heats up to 350 F drop the lauki balls in and fry till golden brown.
7)Drain on paper towels and add to the simmering gravy. Let simmer in there for 10 mins.
8) Serve with paranthas, rotis or any other indian bread of your choice.

1) Soak firm tofu with punjabi badiyan for 8hrs (overnight). You could substitute Nutella Soya bits for the tofu here.
2) Use just enough water for soaking, so they don't become too runny.
3) The next morning make koftas just like in the steps above.

1) Grate equal parts tofu and lauki. Proceed with lauki as in recipe #1. After draining liquid from lauki, add the tofu. Continue like you did with the regular kofta.
2)Add to gravy. (recipe follows)

1) Grind together the following to make a thick paste:
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 inch piece ginger
- 3-4 cloves garlic

2) Grind the following into a dry powder:
- 3-4 cloves(laung)
- 1tsp khus-khus seeds
- 1 pod green cardamom (just the seeds)
- 1 inch piece cinnamon

3)Heat some oil in a wok or heavy bottomed pan. When hot, add 1 tsp of cumin seeds and wait till they splutter. Then add 2 bay leaves, the wet masala grind and cook it on low heat till it leaves oil on the side. Now add 1/4 tsp haldi and the dry powder masala to this and bhunao (cook on low heat ) till the dry rub gives out a pleasant smell. Now add 1- 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, lower heat to low, add the fried koftas and let simmer for 10 mins. The koftas will soak some of the juice from the gravy. Garnish with some chopped cilantro and serve hot with paranthas or puris. Mmmmmm!! :-D

That's yummy and happiness in your tummy.

TIP: You can use the above kofta recipes and substitute them in your favorite meatball and marinara recipes. Sneaky as well as healthy.
picture courtesy of flickr.com. No copyright infringement intended

Saturday, January 17, 2009


You know that feeling you get once in a while where you just want to curl up under a blanket with a good book and not do anything else? Well, I get that feeling almost everyday. Hence, a late entry today for my Tuesday's show. But I've brought all the information with relevant pictures now. Yay me! :-D (That is a telltale sign that I watch Disney channel) But back to topic - Soya, in all its glory.

The humble and previously ignored soyabean is emerging into the limelight, now that we are becoming more health conscious. For vegetarians and vegans all over the world, the biggest problem is to obtain all the essential nutrients and especially protein, from their diet. In that respect, soyabean and soy products are the solution. They are very rich in protein and contain all the essential amino acids. Soy is also a good source of vitamin E and lecithin.
In moderation, soy products are very good for vegetarians and vegans alike. I shall refrain from writing why it is very good or why it might be not so good if you overdo it. Why? Because every coin has two sides and for me every food too, has two sides. Therefore soy must have a flip side which will be brought to light maybe in the future. What I read on couple of websites confirms my belief that everything must be done in moderation. Google "Soy products benefits" and you can form your own opinion.
As of now, we are going forward with soy recipes that you can include in your menu once or twice a week.

It's not a recipe at all! :-D In the Japanese cuisine, immature soybeans are boiled/blanched whole in their pod and served with a little salt. That is a pow-wow power snack all by itself. For beginners, I would think that if you get rid of the pod, it might taste better. You get beans like in the picture above. Then proceed with the boiling.
For the really cuisine challenged (my way of saying people with a limited taste palette), I have written a basic dressing recipe below which will be good with the boiled soybeans.

1 part lemon juice
1 1/2 parts olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Stream the oil into the lemon juice while whisking briskly. That will give you the thick dressing. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy your soybeans.

At this point what you have eaten is the direct bean also called the Edamame. It has been proclaimed as the ideal snack alternative by health and fitness magazines. Edamame is sold in the frozen vegetable section at some grocery stores and in Asian delis.

Again, this is more of a tip than a recipe. And very common amongst Indian families who make their own bread (rotis, chapathis, phulkas & paranthas). You can crumble some soft or firm tofu into the wheat flour before kneading it. The tofu blends well with the flour and results in soft and fluffy bread. And since the tofu is bland, this might be a good way of sneaking in some healthy food into your picky eater's diet.

Fruity Shake
3 bananas
1 cup chilled soy milk
1 cup chilled low fat milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
sugar or honey to taste
1)Peel and blend the bananas with the sugar or honey.
2)Now add the milks and cinnamon and blend again.
3)Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
Soya provides anti-oxidants, milk gives calcium and fruit keeps you full. A tasty snack to make in a jiffy. You can substitute any fruits of your liking.

Note - Soy milk doesn't seem to heat well. When used in coffee and heated, it tends to give off an oily smell. So keep to the cooler drinks when using soy milk.

You may substitute or use tofu with regular curds in preparation of 'kadhi'. One of my listeners told me that she has been doing it for quite sometime now. The tofu blends well with yogurt, stands heat ok and doesn't contribute any overwhelming/weird taste.

For north-indian style kadhi - Blend equal parts of yogurt with soft tofu and proceed with the recipe as usual.

For south -indian style kadhi - Put equal parts of coconut with tofu, green chillies, soaked chana dal and dhania (coriander ) seeds in a mixer and grind to a coarse paste. Now proceed with the recipe as usual.

The above are some of the good tips I came across while doing my Soya show. I will be writing the remaining tips in my next blog. So keep checking the page in the next couple of days.
And I shall sign off now hoping that I have shared something useful with you. Something that brings you good health or much resolved weight-loss or more variety in your cuisine. Something that brings you smiles and happiness.
pictures courtesy medifast website and from google images. No copyright infringement intended.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Vegetable Stew

Wednesday was wet and clammy. By evening I was in serious need of comfort food. My comfort food is 'Mirchi bajji', unfortunately no 'mirchis' in the fridge. And somewhere in the back of my mind was a small pin prick nagging me restlessly. It happened to be my 'Health Conscience' (not to be confused with my 'Conscience Conscience' !). It kept reminding me that I had indulged enough during the holidays and that the absence of the chillies in my fridge was a Sign. So I heeded to my HC and looked around and saw another alternative for my comfort food fixation- Vegetable stew with Dumplings. I realized I always wanted to try it so now was a good time. I "Googled" recipes and groan groan! I did not have any canned beans or potatoes. Very disappointing, hmph!!

Then I decided to take things into my own hands. I thought it over and had a brilliant idea. I would substitute lentils for beans and radishes for potatoes. And give it a new name - Mediterranean Lentil Stew with Italian dumplings. The parmesan cheese in the dumplings made them Italian :-D Well let me get to it then.
Serves 4
1 medium red onion, chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8-10 red radishes
8-10 baby carrots
1 medium green bell pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup lentils (masoor dal)
1 stick celery (or 1/4 tsp celery seeds)
2 medium tomatoes
1 tsp dried italian seasonings(marjoram, rosemary etc.)
2 tbsp AP flour (mixed thoroughly with 1/3 cup water)
Salt and Pepper to taste.
2tbsp Oil or butter
Cut all veggies into bite size pieces. Heat a saucepan and put the oil/butter in it. Add the onions and lower the heat to medium-low. Let the onions sweat a bit, then add the garlic. Once the garlic starts giving out a fragrant aroma, add all the root vegetables(you may put whatever else you have in hand). Let them saute for 4-5 mins. Then add the dry seasonings and lentils, and give it a stir. Let that saute for another 4-5 mins. In the meantime, bring to boil about 2 cups of water in a seperate saucepan. Now add the bell pepper,and pepper to the stew. Stir and saute for 2 mins and add the hot water to it. Cover and simmer for about 1 hr (on medium heat) while stirring ocassionally. Once the lentils have softened then add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Cover and cook again till everything (esp. the lentils) start getting a little mushy. Now add the flour water mixture, stir and cook till the raw flour smell is gone (about 7 mins.). Taste and adjust seasonings according to your pallete. For added taste and color I put some saffron strands in there (but what with saffron being so costly, I put just a li'l. So little that I might as well have omitted it entirely- i couldn't taste it there:-D)
serves 6-8 (depending on how many you eat!)
1 cup bisquick pancake mix
1/4 cup chopped, steamed spinach (optional)
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk

Mix all the ingredients together. You'll get a sticky dough. For traditional dumplings, this batter would be dropped by teaspoonfuls into the stew during the last 10-15 mins and cook in there. I think that it mostly is an acquired taste. I did that and I felt like I was eating mush. I almost gagged.
Fortunately, I did not trust the dumpling to begin with so I made my own version. I feel that for the Indian palette at least, this will taste way better. I heated a frying pan with about 1 tbsp of oil and dropped teaspoonfuls of the above batter in it. Lower the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 3-4 mins. Then flip the pan fry dumplings and let cook for another 3 mins or till you feel its done. The dumplings made this way were a sure hit with both VC and Princess ( and me too :-P)

On the whole I did get my comfort food (after I scraped away the tradumpling from my stew) and all of us were happy in the tummy.


' A picture is worth a thousand words.'

I really believe that it is true. Why? Imagine a beautiful sunset . Now imagine how many words it would take to describe it's beauty. At least a thousand, if not more. But it takes only one painting to convey the description. Now don't take me wrong here. I am not talking in terms of effort. Most probably the effort that goes into both the writing as well as the painting is comparable. Personally I believe that the effort that goes into painting is more ( after the inspiration, to be specific). Imagine if one had to paint all the relevant verses of the 'Mahabharata' or 'Illiad' !!! These are just some of the random thoughts I was having today.
The crux of the matter is that I wish I could paint all that I wanted to. And as well as I wanted to paint. But it takes a lot of inspiration to start a painting and then a lot of work to finish it to your satisfaction. Painting is one of those things that bring me joy :-) There was a time when I used to paint. I had taken all possible classes - in watercolor, oils, fabrics etc. Each summer vacation I would attend some class or the other and spend hours painting pictures. I had a lot of inspiration and enthusiasm. But I am empty handed now, because paintings and painters are considered worthless in India. The family decided that I should be doing something more worthwhile with my time. And all my paintings were sold to the "kabaadiwala" because to get them framed would be a waste of hard earned money. Probably, it was right.
Maybe I should paint now and get them framed. Only now I don't have any inspiration.
I am not writing all of this to gain sympathy. The only reason I write this is to implore that if you have anybody in your life that paints or maybe writes or sketches, hang on to every scrap that comes your way. He might not be tomorrow's Picassa or Monet. The scraps may well be worthless monetarily but you'll be saving a piece of his soul within. A moment of his happiness captured by that finished piece of painting.
Enough of the lecture for today :-D I wanted to share with you some of the beautiful pictures that I came across today. Hope you like them and experience the same happiness that the painters did when they painted these.

The painting on top of the post(sunset in rorutunga) and the landscape( a swiss village) are by a painter named Roland Lee. The painting 'yellow hibiscus' is by the painter Bob Ross. He has a show called 'The Joy of Painting' which is aired on local PBS stations. And the Tulips painting is by Marlies Merk Najaka. The websites are given below. Please check them out for more lovely paintings (on sale) as well as step-by-step painting lessons. And let me know if you have any other such lovely sites on your list :-D
for Roland Lee - www.rolandlee.com
for Bob Ross - www.bobross.com
Go put up a piece of beauty and happiness on all the walls around you. And my thanks to these excellent painters and the innumerous others out there for bringing us such Happiness.

note: no copyright infringement or plagiarism intended.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Boston Trip

The Chinese ( mandarin ) word for happiness is Xing Fu. And most of us are always looking for this feeling. The thing to remember is that this feeling is indescribable. You can describe what brought you the happiness but not the moment when you were experiencing it. That is because in that moment you transcend the ego and are one with the supreme being experiencing bliss. Well, I did not experience that kind of Xing Fu but I still had a very happy vacation. We drove to Boston which was a 3-1/2 hr drive extended to 7 hrs because of inclement weather and Christmas eve traffic :-D One of my dear friends, Madhu, lives there with her husband. We reached there on Christmas eve and had a very laid-back relaxing Christmas with them. She had told me that she'd decorated a small Tree and that we could keep all our presents under it just like a regular tree. But turned out that some of our presents were bigger than the "small tree". Here, you take a look. But as always, her spirit more than made up for the tree's height :-D. And our family had a very lovely Christmas day. Xing Fu for VC was seeing a telugu movie on Siva's 46" Sony Bravia tv. The movie being Superstar Rajnikanth's recent movie 'Shivaji'. I've rarely seen him laugh so much ( no offense meant against the superstar). We also saw a Jackie Chan - Jet Li movie called 'Forbidden Kingdom'. It was one of those martial arts movies with very simple storyline but the locales were beautiful and the 46" TV did justice to it. On the whole a very nice day.
The next day, we woke up, had a leisurely lunch and hit the nearby Wrentham Outlet Mall. About a mile away from the mall we got stuck in the after Christmas rush- traffic and it took us a good 45 mins. to cover the last mile and get into the mall. But it was worth it - haven't seen Sony, Banana Republic and couple other outlet stores since we moved from MI. And most of them had good deals.
After the mall, we went to the Frog Pond Skating Rink in downtown Boston. Despite the temperature being below freezing, the rink was packed and we had a 40 min wait in line before it was our turn on the ice. Take a look, the rink is located in a beautiful surrounding made even better by the season.

The pictures we took in night mode were all really hazy :-D So I'm adjusting with the above shots. The upper one shows the frog sitting and fishing beside the pond, which probably at this point is the skating rink itself. A good first time on the ice.
On Saturday, we were able to meet another good friend and his lovely wife on the eve of their first marriage anniversary. Kudos, Vik and Ani. And thanks too, for the lovely pink kitchen set for the Princess. She loves it and makes hot soup for us all the time. When asked for the recipe she says that " It has hot chocolate, Veggies and Miso in it." :-O!!! Boy! Am I glad that the kitchen is make believe and so is the soup in our cups! Hot chocolate and Miso ? I think Princess has all the makings of an Iron Chef :-D
Oh! I almost forgot the highlight of Princess' vacation. The Disney on Ice Show - Mickey and Minnie's magical journey. We were an hour late for the 2 hr show ;-) But it was just spectacular. Princess would have preferred to see more of Mickey, Minnie and friends. But she didn't mind seeing Tinker Bell and Michael (Wendy's bro) that much ( she has a classmate called Michael). Thanks to M&S for getting us the tickets. Take another look, and go see it if it comes to your town.

And that was our lovely Boston trip. We had the opportunity to eat at two nice restaurants - Minerva (local) and PF Chang's (chain). Both were good but nothing compared to M's home made dishes. Thanks again M&S.
And that's another thing we do in search of happiness - travel. Travel in the hope that a place, a face or some new taste may bring us that which we seek relentlessly. Xing Fu.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


A new year has dawned. May the New Year bring in Peace, Joy and Contentment to your lives. And may the rising sun give you Hope for tomorrow.
This picture was taken at Kanyakumari ( Cape Commorin ) at the meeting of the three seas - Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Its the southern most point of India and very famous because of Vivekananda's Rock. But my reason for picking this particular picture is different. For me it holds a completely different significance. It is related to a TV series called ' Nai Subah' ( translates to New Morning) which was aired sometime in the early '90s. It was a show about drug abuse amongst college students and their rehabilitation. On the whole it was a very sad show, but the last episode held something very meaningful.
The main protagonist was cured of his drug abuse and completely rehabilitated. But he faces problems when he tries to pick up the threads of his life. Friends and family shun him and he becomes despondent. In that dismal mood he collects what little money he has and gets on a bus without a destination in mind. From Bombay, he keeps going till he reaches Kanyakumari. The driver asks him to get down as it's the last stop and the bus will go no further. He then gets down and encounters a painter on the beach. Their conversation runs as given below:

Painter: " why the long face?"

Hero :"this is it. This is the end of land. What's the beauty here for you to paint?"

P: " It depends on where you are standing. You have your back turned that way, but from where I stand, I can see the whole country laid out before me. This is the beginning."

And that's what it is all about. It's all how you look at it. And Kanyakumari sunrise does it for me - give vision and hope.

So may this New Year bring us the best and some of that elusive elixir - Happiness.