Jun 29, 2017

Quick Cuboidal lunches

Wait, what? What is a cuboidal lunch.

Well, it's really just lunch tha's packed into rectangular tupperware. But using geometric words make things sound cooler for engineers!

Home made Indian lunch, placed in rectangular box tupperware, makes it easy to carry in another rectangular shaped lunch bag. That's all it is folks.

Pic 1: Assembled cuboidal lunch
Now, let's get on with the plan.

What you need already prepped/cooked:
  1. Dal (lentil dish) - green mung+split chickpeas featured here. (Recipe for lentils).
  2. Rice.
  3. Vegetable curry or some side (Suggestion: cooked plantains
  4. Fruits (your favorite). e.g. Peeled oranges, berries, chopped melon/cantaloupe etc.
  5. 1/2 cup yoghurt - plain, whole & with live cultures. (optional, but highly recommended)
  6. Chopped cucumber (optional) and radishes (optional, in season) or baby carrots. They add color!

Image of ruler embedded into pic 2 is sourced from http://nitasoesabdo.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html

Starchy Vegetables - Crispy Indian Style


General method for a south indian styled curry, especially when working with starchy vegetables like potato, plantain (green unripe banana, yams, beet root, sweet potato etc:

SafetyUse a splatter screen or a partially closed lid for preventing mustard from jumping out. Keep all things dry of water, hot oil and water drops do NOT mix.

Sweet potato curry

- (Add to hot oil at medium/high heat in this order left to right) --> Mustard seeds (let it sputter for 1-2 mins), coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chopped cashews (can substitute with peanuts or yellow split peas - mainly for texture).. All of these sputter and splatter, so a half closed lid or splatter screen is useful at this stage.

Reduce the heat a little then..

If I have curry leaves and hing (a pungent edible resin) I add them at this stage...once these were browned, I added chopped onions, let it brown or caramelize depending on taste preference. and after this..

 I add chopped ginger..(and garlic sometimes).. after couple minutes I add the sweet potatoes (or any other vegetable).. after this I sprinkle salt, turmeric and also a little bit of black pepper. Turmeric's bio-activity is best when consumed with some pepper/chili powder etc.

if you do not want it spicy SKIP the red chili powder but do use some black pepper.
if you want it spicy, add red chili powder after you add turmeric. You can also supplement with chopped green chili peppers (

lime, lemon, peeled ginger, turmeric roots

Cook to tenderness and it's ready to eat!

Similar method can be applied to most root/tube or starchy vegetables like carrot, jicama, beets, potatoes, green plantains etc.  This method it can also be used with turnip roots but cook it for lesser duration

Fresh curry leaves will be there at many Indian grocery stores. Their aroma is amazing when added to hot oil.

if you like crisp green plantain curry specifically.. check out this recipe that I posted on my blog a while ago..

plantain curry with roasted lentils for seasoning texture

This is a recipe adapted from a live demo I conducted for my friends at New River Gorge when I had participated in a plein air painting workshop. I apologize for any errors in the language. Please let me know in comments or on my facebook page, and I will strive to fix it soon!

Thank you for your thyme :) ! 

Mar 22, 2017

Free Spice Jar Pittsburgh

Free Russian Style Seasoning at Penzey's till Sunday March 26
This is relevant to people in the Pittsburgh area. Now, the post that I am sharing from an email I received from Penzey's spices is quite political in nature. But, it has important points about how food connects us all at a human level. Bonus, it is a jar of spice FREE - till March 26, 2017.

Below post, coupon and burger images all belong to Penzey's spices, No copyright violation is intended!

Penzeys Tsardust Memories FREE Offer
America Matters.
This week we saw it announced that a sitting US president's administration is being investigated by the Justice Department and the FBI for colluding with Russia to steal an election. Let that sink in.
And really, for this administration in terms of politics, the investigation for treason was probably considered a welcome distraction from the sheer inhumanity they openly endorsed in the last week that had caused them to drop so dramatically in the polls. It would seem Americans don't really want to see millions of families losing their health care, the earth's environment polluted for a thousand years to come, all funding for the arts being cut, and of course eliminating funds for meals for disadvantaged students and for elderly shut-ins because this administration can't see the value in the humanity of these meals. 
At Penzeys we believe the value in the humanity of cooking and sharing food with those around you is beyond measure, especially when it comes to those in need. The humanity cooks add to the world around them through their cooking sets better, brighter futures in motion. At Penzeys we also believe America matters. Much like the caring, empathy, and kindness of cooks create better futures for those around them, the caring, empathy, and kindness of America has long been creating better futures for all those that share this planet. 
Sitting home in America it can be easy to be jaded and focus only on our failures and missteps. But the Spice trade really has taken me to the far corners of the Earth, and given me the chance to see America through the world's eyes. What we have in our country is very special. In a world where outrageous corruption is for billions simply a fact of life, the idea that there is a country that more often than not defends the rights of all of the people, and not just the privileged, brings real hope. This hope is powerful. In many ways it's the desire to undermine this hope that drove Russian leadership to intercede in our election in favor of what is now the current administration. 
So, a sitting US president's administration is being investigated by the Justice Department and the FBI for colluding with Russia to steal an election? We have a blend for that. It’sTsardust Memories, and it's tasty. And through this Sunday, if you can get to one of our stores, it's flat-out free. Online it's free too, but on orders under $30 shipping and handling will apply. After Sunday, both in-store and online the $6.95 value Tsardust Memories is free with $5 purchase. Simply show this email in one of our stores or bring in the coupon above. Or visit us online at penzeys.com and enter 28552C into the apply code box when checking out. 
At this point, no one knows how all this will shake out, but wars, really bad wars, have been started over a lot less. A big part of why this week is the right week for Tsardust Memories, is that now is the time to remember the humanity of even our adversaries. Tsardust is an amazingly good blend. These are flavors that, as Americans we are familiar with, but how, over the decades and even centuries, Russian cooks evolved the way they brought these flavors together to please those they cook for really is something worthy of our attention and respect. The Russian people are not our enemies. This time, if the allegations prove true, the enemies of Democracy are very much our own.
Get your Tsardust Memories now, and when you've used up the Seasoning inside, figure out something cool to do with the jar. This investigation is history in the making. Make this jar your souvenir of that time when American History was not just words in books about our past, but was something we all had a front row seat to experience. Here's to these times not being too exciting. 
Best wishes,
Tsardust Cheeseburgers made with Penzeys Tsardust Memories

Tsardust Cheeseburgers

Everyone loves burgers—they are simple and quick to make, and our Tsardust Memories makes the flavor even better.
1 lb. ground beef
4 slices cheddar cheese
4 crusty rolls or soft hamburger buns
condiments of your choice

Mar 13, 2017

Are Essential Oils essential for healthy living?

Short answer: No.

Long Answer: Can be useful depending on how you absorb them, dosages, which part of the herb etc etc. But they don't always need to taken from small bottles costing $36-$83 per tiny bottle. that is just a rip off most of the time! I will update this post by March 15 (2017) with a list of fair priced and legit suppliers, in the meantime, please don't get sucked into some MLM scheme.

Another question:
Can Herbs and Spices be therapeutic? BIG YES.

One "popular" fad is the use of "essential oils" to get the benefits of herbs, spices and flowers. I personally do not like the term 'essential oil' which makes it sound like they are "essential for life". that's a little bit of a stretch and probably smart marketing. They are actually 'essence oils' i.e. the essence of the leaf or flower obtained as an oil by steam distillation or some other form of extraction.

Rose-geranium essential oil (Source: publicdomainpictures.net)

In many cases, small amounts of the essence are enough for the human body, either diluted in carrier oils and absorbed via skin. What I do more often is to take through whole leaves and shade dried leaves - ingested with food as part of flavoring. We are talking only about digestible herbs like basil, coriander, oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc. not the more bitter ones like chamomile, eucalyptus etc.
Mint in a pot
Some of the ancient wisdom from various parts of the world, that has been passed on through the kitchens of grandmothers, has recently been confirmed via scientific studies at molecular level. I will list couple of them here.

Since I am pressed for time, the focus of this post is on THYME (pun intended).

Fresh thyme (Image source courtesy: flickr user alicehenneman link)

One short communication (note that it is not a peer reviewed full journal article though) has this to say:
"Thyme and winter savory oils exhibited the greatest inhibition against the growth of all the tested organisms possibly due to the high content of thymol and carvacrol respectively. The Roman chamomile oil exhibited the highest antioxidant activity."

Another study in the journal Molecules has this to say:

The thyme essential oil exhibited the strongest cytotoxicity towards three human cancer cells. Its inhibition concentration 50% (IC(50)) values on PC-3, A549 and MCF-7 tumor cell lines were 0.010% (v/v), 0.011% (v/v) and 0.030% (v/v), respectively.

Source https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20657472 (Anti cancer at cell level studies)

Full journal article at: http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/15/5/3200

On ACNE (from the Molecules article)
"Thyme, cinnamon and rose essential oils exhibited the best antibacterial activities towards P. acnes,"

Now, my grandma told me this and her grandma told her, so I was fine with trying these things [examples below] even before some of these studies came out, but I am glad to see anecdotal and traditional ideas being confirmed via modern techniques.
  • Oregano oil sprays (for sinus issues, congested colds) even before these articles came out :)
  • Adding turmeric and black pepper to foods, basil leaves in season etc for general good digestive health.
  • Eating fermented foods made out of ginger etc for good gut health. 
  • Something I have learnt new is how to use thyme in cooking.

    For more on 
    How to use Thyme in Cooking visit:

Feb 24, 2017

Simply Avocado Toast

A very simple but color avocado based breakfast sandwich (open faced). Add a fried egg to it and you have a near complete breakfast!

Fresh Avocado, red pepper, cucumber slices on rye toast.
add salt and pepper to spice it up

This is from a dinner sandwich I made a few days, when I felt like eating breakfast type food for dinner!
Add some spicy salsa to complement it

Jul 14, 2016

Dietary Guidelines for Indians

I am a follower of the Chef at Home (CAL) blog/facebook group. I was checking out their server revamp and clicked on this link: http://www.chefatlarge.in/health/nutrition/how-should-indians-eat-64674

The page has a table (which I hope they revise soon) - (Table 1 in this blog, page 86 in the NIN Report pdf) that shows amount of calories and recommended portion sizes. Now, it is to be used in conjuction with another table.. (see Table 2 here, Page 117 in the NIN Report pdf)

Table 1: Shows portion sizes of balanced diet. There are multiplication factors to be used for adults. Typcally 4 for adult males and females. Can go up to 6x for moderate exercising folks, by 11x for heavy exercising people.  Don't starve yourseve on just 4 g of sugar per day. It it good to reduce it to that much though, if you can! :) 

Table 2: Balance diet for adults depending on activity levels (multiply the g/portion with numbers under the Men or Women). For e.g ~20 g of sugar for sedentary male, can be increased to 24 g sugar for moderately active male.

For the actual example of a guideline diet as a food  pyramid see:

I should definitely thank Sid and Sanchita for posting this at CAL. However, I thought the numbers were too low so I decided to go to the source document once these questions came up in my mind.. 1) Meat substitute: Now, did they also have an option/guidance for people on substituting the 50 g meat with anything else.. ie is it just more pulses or split half in leafy veg and pulses?

They actually discuss this as guideline with pulses first and then ask non-vegetarians to replace one serving of pulses (~30-50g with a serving of meat). Page 87 report pdf
2) Sugar and oils for daily basis are much higher in our diet so this is interesting. Sugar just 5 g per day?? See answer to Q 3 below.
3) Third.. was this for normal, office going, sedentary type person ? This is answered well in page 86 in the report pdf

For e.g ~ 15-20 g of sugar for sedentary, can be increased to 24 g sugar for moderately active ((my assumption) ie. 45 min exercise per day x 5 times a week) and 44 g for heavy exercise (athlete type people, or (my assumption) if you exercise over 75 mins X 5 times a week )

4) Any difference between male adult /female adult mentioned in guidelines? Covered in Table on page 86 in report pdf.

Ok, it is also interesting that in their detailed document they basically say "Abstain from alchohol" -- haha..no mention of moderation or anything.. Page 73.. (they actually say refrain from excessive drinking).

I might update more, but this is a quick post! http://ninindia.org/DietaryGuidelinesforNINwebsite.pdf

Jun 6, 2016

Avocado and Turmeric - what the heck!

Avocados are amazing seasonal fruits. The primary season is late winter/early spring but you can find them in markets year round. They are not too sweet, have useful fats and come with a large pits (seeds) that can be dried and used as coins in board games.

Some people may not like the texture of the avocado fruit but don't let that discourage you. If you love avocados, then game on and enjoy it in different ways. I like them raw as slices, or add them to smoothies (avocado, carrot, banana + milk - no sugar!) or use it in salads as small chunks. Avocados have many benefits and uses as detailed here and here.

Today I present a one of my favorite avocado recipes, blending some Indian spices (esp. the awesome turmeric) to make a colorful sandwich (read the facebook post here). This one uses the healthy fat present in the avocado as a carrier for increased bioabsorption of turmeric in our body. 

Final product, fully loaded gargantua avocado sandwich
Step 1: The ingredients: Avocado, spinach, onions, jeera seeds, whole black pepper, turmeric powder, cheddar cheese, lemon slice. Optional: carrots, red onions, red peppers
roasting the spices in butter, you can also use coconut oil etc. even just 2 drops will do.
melting the cheese on the bread
mashing the roasted spices and avocado together

Carrots on cheese, peppers on avocado
Cheese on ciabatta, avocado on other half

Enjoy! If you have a different take on this or suggestions, please comment below or on our facebook page!

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