Red Capsicum Rice

Bought a lot of peppers yesterday, and have been trying to think of a good recipe to bring out their flavours. Voila!

Long-grained Rice : 2 cups
Coconut milk: 1 cup
Cinnamon: 2 sticks
Cloves: 2
Cardamom: 2
Peppercorns: 2
Red chilies: 2 + 2
Cumin: 1tbsp + 1tbsp
Chana daal: 1tbsp
Dhania: 1tbsp
Onion: 1
Curry leaves: a few sprigs
Onion: 1 (sliced)
Peanuts: 1 oz, or 28 peanuts (skinless, roasted)
Red bell peppers: 2 (sliced)
Cilantro: few sprigs
Ghee: 2 tsp

Cook rice in 1 tsp ghee 3 cups water and one cup of coconut milk. Separate the grains and keep aside.
Dry roast cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, red chilies, 1 tbsp cumin, chana daal, dhania. Powder. Keep aside.
In a large skillet, to 1tsp ghee, add 1tbsp cumin, 2 red chilies and curry leaves.
Add sliced onions. Saute till golden brown.
Add the sliced red capsicum. Let cook for a couple of minutes. Do not overcook.
Add rice, 2tsp salt, spice powder. Mix well.
Garnish with roasted peanuts and cilantro just before serving.

Nutritional Information:
Per serving of cooked rice, 1 cup or 158 grams:
284 Calories out of which 54 calories are from fat
49 grams of carbohydrates
5 grams of proteins
(The above information is valid if using light coconut milk)


Garlic Roasted Almonds

Almonds are the most versatile of all nuts. They are also my favourite ingredient for a lot of food. Marzipan to Almond katli, honey roasted to garlic roasted, they are gone in a snap!

Almonds: 1 cup
Salt: 1 tsp
Red chili powder: 1tsp
Garlic powder: 1tsp
Olive oil: 1tsp

Preheat oven to 300F.
Line a cookie tray with foil.
In a mixing bowl, add almonds and olive oil. Mix well.
Add salt, chili powder and garlic powder.
Bake for 14 minutes (till goldenish)

Nutritional Information:
One serving of almonds (1 oz or 28 gms or 23 kernels) roasted with oil has:
170 Calories, out of which 140 calories are from fat. Out of the 16 grams of fat, only one gram is saturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat comprises 14 grams, and monounsaturated 5 grams.
No cholesterol
18 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of which is dietary fiber
21 grams of proteins
A more detailed breakdown of the nutritional value of oil roasted almonds can be found at:

Comparison of Fats in Common Cooking Oils

I have always wanted to have a chart where I could compare the fat percentages in different oils. As a rule, low in saturated fats is good, high in monounsaturated fats in great. Please look at the differences in % of saturated fats between soft margarine and hard margarine.

Oil / %of Saturated fat / % of monounsaturated fat / % of polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3 + Omega 6)

  • Safflower Oil: 6% 79% 15%
  • Canola Oil:
  • 7% 62% 21% 10%
  • Sunflower Oil:
  • 11% 21% 68%
  • Corn Oil:
  • 13% 25% 61%
  • Olive Oil: 14% 77% 8%
  • Sesame oil: 15% 42% 43%
  • Soybean Oil: 15% 25% 53% 7%
  • Peanut Oil: 18% 48% 34%
  • Palm Oil: 52% 39% 9%
  • Butter: 65% 30% 3% 2%
  • PalmKernel Oil: 86% 12% 2%
  • Coconut Oil: 92% 6% 2%
  • Mustard Oil: 1% 76% 23%
  • Almond Oil: 8% 73% 19%
  • Grape Seed Oil : 12% 17% 71%
  • Sesame Oil: 14% 40% 46%
  • Walnut Oil: 14% 19% 67%
  • Avocado Oil: 20% 70% 10%
  • Wheat Germ Oil: 20% 30% 50%
  • Soft Margarine: 20% 47% 33%
  • Hard Margarine: 80% 14% 16%

Akki Roti

My husband took me to an Indian restaurant one day to give me a taste of what he called "the best breakfast ever". I tried to make it at home, took a lot of effort, and a lot of mess, but this comes pretty close to what we ate.

Rice flour: 3 cups
Cumin (Zeera): 3 to 4 tsp
Ginger: about a 1 inch piece chopped finely
Onion: 1 chopped finely (red onion tastes best)
Cilantro: As per taste, chopped
Green chilies: 4 (chopped finely)

Grease a large mixing bowl. Mix onions, rice flour, zeera and salt.
Add some hot water to the above mixture.
Let stand for 5 minutes.
Add the green chilies, ginger and cilantro.
Mix well to make a semi-firm dough (gare dough consistency).
To make: shape into ball and flatten with wet hand on a tava. As an alternate, you can flatten in between plastic sheets and place on the griddle. (I find the first option easier)
Add one tsp oil around the sides
Let cook thoroughly on one side before flipping and cooking the other side.
Serve hot with tomato or ginger pickle.

Nutritional Information:
As the nutritional information will vary based on the size, the following nutritional information applies if you make 12 akki roti's with the above mix.
Nutritional information is per serving of 2 akki roti's
Calories: 430, out of which 90 calories are from fat.
Carbohydrates: 64 gms, dietary fiber comprises 2 grams
Proteins: 5 gms

Spicy Lowfat Popcorn

I remember buying popcorn each time I went to Hollywood. No, not the one in California, but the shoe shop in Abids, Hyderabad! They had the best spicy popcorn I had ever tasted. Popcorn is a healthy alternative to chips and bhujias, and spices take the place of butter for enhancing flavor. So, if you have a craving for something spicy, there's no real need to get out the frying pan and make pakodi's... popcorn will suffice!

Popping corn: 1 small cup (Makes about 16 cups of popped corn)
Olive oil: 4tbsp
Salt: 1tsp
Red chili powder: 1/2 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Pepper, ground: 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder: 1/2 tsp
Dry mango powder (Amchur): 1 tsp (adds a zing)
Garam masala: 1/2 tsp (optional)
Sugar: 1/2 tsp (optional)

To a large skillet with lid, add 4tbsp oil. Cover and let heat on medium heat. Add one kernel of corn and cover. Wait for this to pop before adding the remaining corn. This allows the oil to get hot enough to pop the corn.
In a small plate, add all the dry ingredients. Mix well and keep handy.
Once the corn pops, add the remaining corn and let pop covered. Once the rate of popping slows down, remove lid and add all the spices, mix well and remove from flame. This has to be done very quickly in order to prevent the spices from burning.

Interesting fact about popcorn: it comes under the whole grain category!

Nutritional information:
Corn popped in less amounts of olive oil contains fewer calories from fat than corn popped in coconut oil (traditional method to oil-pop corn). Corn also naturally contains monounsaturated fats.
nutritional information per serving (1cup) of popped corn, popped in olive oil:
60 calories, out of which 33 calories are from fat (4grams)
Detailed calorific information on oil-popped popcorn is available at this link:

Buying Olive oil:
Olive oil is best bought cold pressed or expeller pressed. Heat pressed olive oil loses many of its desired properties. Extra virgin olive oil means first pressed olive oil. This is the lowest in acidity and highest in purity. Olive oil loses many of its properties if refined, so avoid buying refined or natural olive oil.
The color of olive oil depends on the type of olives, and the ripeness of olives when harvested. When held up to light, a good extra virgin olive oil will have green undertones. Yellow undertones mean the olives were over-ripe when harvested, which means the oil is oxidized. Oil more than 1.5 years old should not be purchased.
Storing Olive oil:
Olive oil deteriorates when exposed to sun, light and air. Keep oil stored in dark containers away from heat. Also make sure you wipe oil around the neck of the bottle as this can spoil the taste of the remaining oil in the bottle. When properly stored, olive oil has a shelf life of 12 -18 months. Avoid storing olive oil in the refrigerator, as oil will thicken and congeal. However, if you do store it in the refrigerator, leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes, and it will return to its normal texture.
Classification of Olive oils and what they mean:
Extra virgin and virgin olive oils are pressed using only physical means and do not use any chemicals. Extra virgin olive oil has an acidity of less than 0.8% (Acidity depends on the presence of certain important fatty acids) and it is the first pressed olive oil. Virgin olive oil has an acidity of less than 2%. There is no refined oil in both extra Virgin and virgin olive oil.
Olive oil is a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. It has a maximum acidity of 1%. Refined olive oil is oil that has been treated with chemicals to neutralize the strong taste and also neutralize the acidity. It is considered to be a lower grade than virgin and extra virgin olive oils.
Olive-pomace oil: This is oil that has been extracted from the pomace (remnant of olive paste after extraction of oils by centrifuging) using chemical solvents. It may contain a small amount of olive oil, but does not have the properties of olive oil. It is fit for consumption but cannot be called olive oil.
Lampante oil: This is olive oil not fit for consumption.


Peanut Chaat

Peanuts are so commonly available, and are a healthier alternative to popular snacks. Although called nuts, peanuts are actually legumes belonging to the same family as beans and peas.
Peanuts with onions, tomatoes and spices....
a wonderful combination!

Peanuts: 3 tbsp shelled (1 serving)
Onion : 1/2 medium (chopped finely)
Tomato : 1 small (chopped finely)
Cilantro : As per taste, chopped
Amchur powder : 1/4 tsp
Chaat powder : 1/4 tsp
Lime juice : 1 tbsp

Mix onions, tomatoes, salt, pepper (as per taste), 1/4 tsp red chili powder, lime juice, chaat powder and amchur powder. Mix well.
Add peanuts, cilantro. Mix.

Nutritional Information:
Peanuts: Per serving (3 tbsp shelled peanuts):
190 Calories, out of which 140 calories are from fat, which is why it is best to strictly stick to the one serving amount.
16grams of fat, out of which 2 gms are from saturated fats. The remaining 14 grams comprise of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Peanuts have no cholesterol.
8grams of proteins
2grams of dietary fiber
Peanuts are a rich source of magnesium 64 mg (12% of RDI)

Peanuts are rich in antioxidants and phytosterols (heart-healthy) and have resveratrol which is said to reduce cholesterol levels.

Both shelled and unshelled peanuts are best stored refrigerated.
Unshelled peanuts keep for upto 9 months, and shelled peanuts can be stored for upto 3 months
in the refrigerator.
It is important to pay attention and promptly discard peanuts that change color, or are moldy or rancid, because that indicates contamination by aflatoxin, which has been implicated as a carcinogen in lab animals.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

This is one of my best creations. I was sitting down doing some much needed reading when my aunt called saying she'd drop by for dinner. I ran around in a panic and saw that the only things I had on hand were some onions, some tomatoes, and some bell peppers. Fortunately for me, I had a ziplock full of my tomato chutney (which I also use as a pasta base or curry base) in the freezer. The recipe which follows takes bout 30 to 40 minutes to prepare, and is low on effort.

Penne pasta: half a pound (I prefer penne cos it absorbs the flavour of the tomato sauce better)
Green bell peppers: 2 (cut into 1 inch pieces)
Red bell peppers : 2 ( cut into 1 inch pieces)
Tomatoes: 3 (cut into thin wedges)
Onion : 1 large
Dry italian seasoning: 1 tsp
Tomato chutney: 1.5 cups (Easy substitute is Marinara sauce)
Olive oil : 2 to 3 tbsp
Cheese : 0.25 cup (I used habanero jack)

Pre-heat oven to 450F.

Boil some water for pasta. (Dont forget to salt this water!)

On a cookie sheet, toss together the onions and the peppers with salt, pepper, italian seasoning and a little olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes.
Add the penne to the boiling water and let cook till almost done.
As soon as the pasta is done, drain well and layer in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Immediately coat with the chutney or marinara sauce. This is the most important step in ensuring that the pasta absorbs the flavor of the sauce.
Once the vegetables are done, layer on top of the pasta.
Now, on the same tray, layer the tomato wedges, toss delicately with salt and pepper and bake at 400F for 15 to 17 minutes. Add to the pasta.
Top with a thin layer of grated cheese and one tbsp of olive oil.
Cover and bake at 450F for 10 minutes, or till the cheese melts. (This can be done just before serving)

Things to like in this recipe, other than its ease of preparation is the use of peppers. These vegetables are our tastiest route to getting Vitamins C and A. If you are like me and love reading about all the health benefits of different vegetables, this link should take you to a lot of information...

Fats in the fire

I guess I have always been a foodie. When all my cousins spoke of going out, I followed my grandmother, my mother and my attha around the house writing down all my favourite recipes. As I moved to different parts of India, and eventually moved to California, my cooking took on a lot of interesting turns as I learnt to adapt to different lifestyles. From cooking out of a single utensil, to elaborate dishes for parties, from Indian, traditional Hyderabadi food to Indianized versions of Italian food, cooking up recipes has been a passion.

I believe that eating right is the most important lesson I have learnt. I have been a chocolate addict, and a junk food slave through out my student life. It took me a while, but I have figured out on some really cool, healthy ways to satisfy cravings for sweet and spicy snacks. Honey roasted walnuts, spicy garlic almonds, baked potato wedges, crisp oatmeal bars, puffed rice mixture... there are so many ways to eat good food. Hopefully, my dad will read this and make some changes in his diet :)

One other category I hope to eventually add, is nutritional information on Indian foods. I have always found it very easy to find nutritional information on pastas and cakes, but I have yet to find a place where I can search for information the calorific values of Biryani, or parvannam. I was so deceived when I got to know that 10 grams of a popular mixture contains 500 calories, and that means, if we go strictly by that portion, we would have consumed 1/3rd to 1/4th of our daily dietary requirements, and not even have known about it! And lets be honest, how many of us eat only 10 grams of, say, Aloo bhujia???

Food for thought:
Trans fat: All of us know that Trans fats are bad for us. Here's a little information on what they are, and where we can find them. Trans fats are essentially hydrogenated fatty acids. They are mostly responsible for increasing the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol.

Trans fats are found occuring natually in foods like meats and animal products. They are also found in smaller quantities in milk and milk products.
A more common way we ingest trans fats is from hydrogenated oils. Why is oil hydrogenated? Hydrogenation makes oil more stable, and gives it a longer shelf life. It also gives oil a solid or butter like consistency.
Which foods do we encounter trans fats in mostly? Most fried foods, and foods using margarine or shortening contain trans fats. Chips, cakes, candy, chocolates, cookies, mixtures, pakodi's contain trans fats.
How do we reduce consumption of trans fats? Use monounsaturated oils like olive oil and canola oil, or polyunsaturated oils like sunflower oil and corn oil. Most oils from nuts or fish are rich in polyunsaturated fats. Soybean oil is also rich in polyunsaturated fats, but considering the recent controversy on the health benefits of soy, I personally feel its better to choose an alternative oil, especially since we have so many choices available.
Monounsaturated versus polyunsaturated: Though both fats help lower levels of LDL, some studies show that consumption of monounsaturated fats may help increase levels of HDL and hence reduce risk of atherosclerosis. There is also another finding which makes monounsaturated fat a better alternative. Polyunsaturated fat has been said to cause a lowering of both LDL and HDL levels, which may cause increased deposition of cholesterol in arteries. Another interesting article that I read (http// mentions that polyunsaturated fats may increase the risk for spreading of cancer. I am not very sure about the veracity of this claim, but considering all the other factors mentioned, monounsaturated oil seems to be the healthiest option.

Just found something very interesting about olive oil in the Health magazine and wanted to share the info with everyone. Apparently olive oil has analgesic properties. Replacing your cooking oil with olive oil is claimed to be equivalent to having low dose aspirin everyday!!!

The Colors of Health

The Colors of Health