Sunday, September 30, 2012

Five Colors of Spaghetti Sauce



It was mentioned in in the last post that food is inexpensive if bread or pasta is central to a meal and if the bread or pasta is prepared at home from flour. It is only when wheat is processed further into bread or pasta and bought from a store that the price goes up. Admittedly bread or pasta from a store is convenient but the one made fresh at home not only costs less, it is also healthier by far. Eventually the choice depends upon the circumstances of each individual.

One way fresh pasta or pasta fresco is made in our home is by kneading a half and half mix of semolina and flour, rolling out into pancakes and then cutting strips of it with the help of a ruler and sharp knife. If you wish you could add an egg or two to the original mix but it is not necessary. The egg would be nicer if hard boiled, cut into slices with an egg wire cutter and used as a garnish. The cut strips are then dunked into salted boiling water and boiled for a few minutes until just right to eat. After the cooked pasta is drained you might consider adding a little butter, olive oil or a spoonful or two of hot oil in which finely chopped garlic has been added and fried. Cilantro leaves or sprigs of Parsley may also be used as a garnish on top of the red sauce (not shown in photo)

Bread or pasta provides carbohydrates and many other essential nutrients but it needs something along with it to make the meal fully balanced and delicious. Spaghetti requires a sauce unless it is eaten like noodles as in the orient and then it has to be fried further with seasonings, vegetables and something for the protein like meat, tofu or mushrooms. Here are my own recipes of pasta sauce in five different colors. Marco Polo brought pasta to Europe from the orient but he did not bring in the recipes, therefore the Europeans invented the sauce. It has now gone international and here are some international recipes of the sauce.

RED: Let us skip the recipe for the red tomato rich pasta sauce since that is the most common one and you already may have a better recipe for it. It is often enriched with ground red meat. For those who do not eat red meat you may wish to try red kidney beans instead. The beans must be pre-soaked overnight and then steamed in a pressure cooker until fully soft. Drain, mix it in the red sauce and let simmer for five minutes before serving with the spaghetti. The precise proportions are not given here and you would have to use your judgment for the proportions just as we do.

WHITE:  To prepare this sauce, fist prepare a traditional white sauce. It is prepared by heating a tablespoon of butter in a pan, adding a table spoon of white flour and then slowly adding warm or hot milk and stirring on a slow fire until it has the right consistency. Not too stiff and not too thin. Add salt to taste and then add to it sliced button mushrooms and let simmer for five minutes. Instead of mushrooms some ricotta cheese may be added. Milk, mushrooms and cheese all provide the proteins necessary for a healthy dinner.

YELLOW: This is simply a variation of the white sauce. When the sauce is nearly done add in a tea spoon of turmeric powder and then grate in some cheddar or Gouda cheese. Let simmer for a few minutes before serving

BROWN: This sauce is for red meat eaters, especially those who have some left over roast meat and the traditional gravy that goes with it. First prepare a brown sauce. It is prepared the same way as the white sauce but the flour is browned in the butter before the milk is added. After the brown sauce is prepared mix in the left over gravy and slices of roast. You might consider replacing the milk with just plain water for this recipe. There will be protein enough in the meat and a dash of Worcestershire sauce or a pinch of MSG will add taste.

GREEN: This is the healthiest of the spaghetti sauces. Get a bunch of spinach leaves; wash thoroughly in lots of water. Then leave on heat in a covered pot for a few minutes until steamed and soft. Let cool and then run it in a blender to prepare the spinach cream required in the recipe.

For the sauce take a couple of medium sized onions and a few cloves of garlic. Peal and chop finely and then fry in butter or clarified butter (Ghee) until brown. Mix in the spinach puree and some tomato puree for additional taste along with a pinch of salt and simmer for a good ten minutes. Before serving you may add tofu or fresh unprocessed cheese (paneer) bits to the mix for protein.

Paneer or fresh cheese is prepared easily at home by adding a spoonful or two of vinegar to rapidly boiling milk so that the solid coagulates. This kind of cheese does not melt or stretch on cooking or even deep frying like Tofu because of the coagulant and high temperature used in its preparation. Drain and mix it in the sauce. It will have a crumbly texture like ricotta cheese but will not melt. If you prefer cubes instead then the drained paneer has to be pressed under a weight for a day or so and then it may be cut into any desired shape. You need not throw away the water from the milk. It can be used in soups and breads.

SERVING DINNER:   

The spaghetti and sauce can be served separately or they may be served in individual plates. First put some spaghetti on the plate so that the spaghetti comes up to the edge of the plate. Then spoon over the sauce so that most of the spaghetti is covered leaving an uncovered ring on the side. Add a sprig of parsley, celery or cilantro in the middle as garnish. For additional effect there can be a circle of wire cut slices of a hard boiled egg especially if the protein portion of the sauce is minimal or missing.

The spaghetti dinner is not a fully balanced meal yet. In order to do so a side dish is required of steamed vegetables or a green salad. The side dish should be served in a separate plate and can be had before, in the middle or after dinner. Or, if you wish to do as the ancient Romans did and get a sound sleep here is a salad that will produce sound sleep if consumed after dinner. Mix in lettuce, chopped celery and bits of water cress if available with grated carrots for the sleep promoting salad. Sprinkle in some crushed hazelnuts, a generous handful of flaked almonds and a handful of mung bean sprouts if available. Use all or some of the ingredients as mentioned here. All promote good sleep. Add a dressing of your choice to the salad. One with some sour cream in it is excellent or simply a little olive oil (Vinegar is not nice on carrots for most).

HEALTH NOTE: 

A complex carbohydrate diet i.e. not high on sugars, is good for health for all persons except those who are overweight or obese. the latter must cut down on carbohydrates and fats to increase vegetables and proteins. Some persons have allergy to gluten in wheat, they may then explore other grains such as rice, corn etc. One can have the same spaghetti dinners by replacing wheat pasta with thick rice noodles too, widely available in super markets and Chinese stores.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Seven Steps to Unhappiness


What a lovely road!


There are many articles on how to increase happiness therefore it might be worth writing one on how to become unhappy. It is believed that harboring a strong desire for something that we do not appear to be fated to receive in life leads to unhappiness. While self evident,  that this is a source of unhappiness, it is not a sustainable one. This type of unhappiness can be lost in an instant. The moment the desire is given up this unhappiness disappears. Following is a list of seven convenient and frequently used methods of becoming unhappy on a sustainable basis: These steps are more or less guaranteed to work.

1. Get a job that you do not enjoy. This way you would be spending several hours of your life in an unhappy manner. It is likely to become a habit even when not in the workplace. To add to the woes, ensure that about an hour or so is required to commute to work each way. All you have to do is locate your home far away from your place of work.  If this commuting is through polluted traffic and choked roads that is even better. Thereby, one can cut down drastically on the free time available for any happy pursuit. In case someone suggests an alternate job that might be less unpleasant, find reasons to avoid that, such as the new job pays less or is less respectable etc. Things such as money, ego, pride, showing off etc. should become far more important to you than plain and simple happiness. That is an old fashioned thing humans have always wanted. To be modern one must love new  things such as anguish and misery that drives you to the shrink instead, LOL!

2. Find a home in a crowded and large city, located away from nature and greenery. If it is not illegal in your area chop of any trees you can see from your home including bushes or any other green thing you can lay your hands on. That way, we can avoid the inherent happiness that nature tends to produce in humans. Living in a large city further ensures that its dwellers are busy and have little time to interact with each other in any personal or substantial manner. We can thus avoid the happiness some social interactions often produce.

3. Lead a busy rushed life so that you do not have the time for basics such as  cooking, cleaning, socializing, entertaining etc and meditative reflection is a distant dream. These latter ordinary activities may contribute towards reducing unhappiness. It is easy to find other things to do e.g. do not carry out your shopping in a planned manner and you will find yourself making ten trips to the mall instead of one.

4. Continue to live and work with people and friends who periodically upset and annoy you. This method works wonders in producing unhappiness on a sustained basis.

5. Do not indulge in any service or charitable activity. Let all good deeds be for yourself or your family only. Restrict yourself to plain undiluted selfishness. Philanthropists and do-gooders tend to become happy in some mysterious way. Find books by authors like Ayn Rand who can rationalise this very cleverly with fancy arguments so that it sounds good, or read the thoughts of some extreme tea partying republicans that will strengthen your resolve in this direction. Insist that the more money you have the less tax you should pay. The government may start doing charity with your money. If this latter charity is to reduce the intolerable pain caused by unaffordable medical care by  poor persons you must oppose this even more strongly; it must become painful to you and millions of others like you. Poverty must be eliminated and the very best way is to deny medical care to the poor, and any other welfare measure besides. It is a different matter when your turn comes to be in similar need; tactics can always be changed then. Who believes in old fashioned stuff like doing unto others as you would have them do to you?

6. Do not lead a moral, truthful and principled life. These values tend to reduce unhappiness. Once you have succeeded in banishing these encumbrances, add indiscipline to your daily schedule. Do not let the hand that puts down a thing put it away so that a profound sense of disorder prevails around you. Vary your meal and sleep hours on a regular basis and miss out on chores such as personal hygiene, healthy diet etc. Disciplined life produces peace and good health that is only minutes away from happiness.

7. Do not believe in God or religion because it can give a sense of peace and security, which is an essential prerequisite to happiness. Religious people or even those who believe in God without conforming to any particular religion frequently enjoy the benefits of an opium or drug like happiness without suffering the expense or ill effects of the drug. Yes, it is a different matter if it is an organisation that calls itself religious in name only as a cover, but does gory things like child molestations, lynching the innocents or supporting those who do so. In that case you might consider becoming a proud member of one such.

If you reflect on the seven steps listed here you will realize that most humans on our planet are already following one or more of them. No wonder many are unhappy in varying degrees. One may question, what is the purpose of writing such an article, when what it proposes to achieve - unhappiness - is already widespread? The idea of listing the seven steps here is that it is possible one may have missed out on one or more. Following most or all will increase the effect.

Make a check list of the seven steps above and pin it in a important place in your home and office. Tick the steps you are already following and then add at least one more from the missing steps  every month. In a few months you will come out on top.  Best wishes to you in this exciting adventure through life.
 :)
LOL

Or,

 

Perhaps you might be a person who genuinely and realistically wishes to work for happiness instead, then you might consider doing the opposite of these suggestions to increase happiness in your life.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Home and Garden


A lot of my friends on facebook and other places liked a picture of my garden that is greener than other times because it is still the monsoons here in Jaipur. This time I snapped a picture from the north side to get a different view.

There is a small pond towards the north with a small concrete bridge over it. At one time I use to stock it with gold fish but then the fish eating birds found out and that had to be stopped. Now it is a part of the rain harvesting apparatus of the home. Shyamu the boy who has looked after the home and garden for the last twelve years is shown standing in second photo and I am seen sitting in the first identical one. Just click on the picture for a bigger and better view of the photo. Our photos are tiny because the idea was to get in as much of the garden as possible rather than us.

As you can well make out I have planted as many trees as possible all around my home and many on the street sides too. If I had more space I would have planted more but I am extremely grateful to the Lord and Mother Earth that she has granted me a home to plant a few trees, bushes and flowers of my choice at least.

I hope these pictures encourage any visitor to this blog to do the same on any space they access to at home, office, parks, streets and even the countryside on weekend picnics, that is if they feel that living, working and entertaining amidst such greenery is more pleasant than living in barren or concrete filled spaces. It is hardly any work after you have planted something. Mother Earth does most of the work.However, the gentle and kind Mother Earth never imposes too strongly around places her children live and leaves them barren in case her children want it that way, even though I am certain She is not happy about it. Once in a while, like any mother,  she gets angry though and all the bottled anger bursts out in droughts, typhoons, storms, tsunamis, floods, land slides etc.

At one time when I lived in an apartment in Delhi, I used to plant small trees in pots. When they grew to be about a couple of feet, I would then transfer them to the parks outside and some of the first trees planted in the new campus of the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi where I worked at the time were planted by me. Soon others repeated the practice and the area is now full of trees.