Category Archives: health

Quinoa Paniyaram

Quinoa (pronounced /ˈkiːnoʊ.ə/ or /kwɨˈnoʊ.ə/, Spanish quinua, from Quechua kinwa), a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a grass. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach and tumbleweeds. Its leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited.

I read about this grain some years ago and have been hooked on to it ever since as it is very nutritious and is a good substitute for rice, being quite bland with a very mild, nutty taste. Our friends M&M even make Quinoa Biryani. I usually stir fry some broccoli and mix it with cooked quinoa with little salt and curry powder. I also mix it with idlis, Parathas and Paniyarams.
For 1 cup of cooked Quinoa, here is the nutrition profile


Paniyaram ( in Tamil) is made by steaming rice & urad dal batter with seasonings, onions added in moulds meant for this particular dish. I bought my mould in India , but you will get it in the US too, called the “Ebleskiver pan”, available in Iron and Non-stick. Making Paniyarams is very simple. Get the batter ready and pour it in the moulds. But, it takes time to cook due to which it is very rarely served in restaurants.Using this mould , one can even make low fat Vadas, pakodas instead of deep frying them.

I had some idli batter , to which added some onions , green chili and quinoa. Lo and Behold !! Quinoa paniyarams ready.


2 cups Idli batter/Paniyaram batter/ (0r)
1.5 cups rice flour and 1/2 cup Urad batter
( Different people have diff proportions for Idli batter/Paniyaram batter. If you don’t have any of those , just mix it with some rice flour & urad batter. I use Brown Rice flour. For Urad batter, soak Urad dal for 2 hrs and grind it.)
2 cups cooked Quinoa
3 Green Chilies
1 cup diced onion
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp jeera( cumin)
5 curry leaves
Oil as needed
Salt as per taste

1. Mix the batter/flour, quinoa,onion and chilies.
2. Season the mustard, jeera and curry leaves in oil and add it to the batter.
3. Take the mould, pour 1 tsp oil in all the pockets and pour the batter in to those.
4. After 5 minutes, turn the paniyarams over to cook the other side, using the stick provided.
5. After 5 minutes or once the inserted stick shows the paniyarams to be cooked, just take them out using the stick.


Posted by on November 14, 2009 in health, Recipes


Tags: ,

Kefir & Thank You

The first I heard of Kefir was a couple of years ago and have loved it ever since.

Kefir (alternately kefīrs, keefir, kephir, kewra, talai, mudu kekiya, milkkefir, búlgaros) is a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus region. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep’s milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed

I was overjoyed when I got picked by Bee for the Kefir Grains. On Monday, this package arrived at our doorstep
thanks to Jai & Bee at Jugalbandi
I dunked it in milk the moment we opened the package..OK,after taking the photo. Both Suresh and I were checking it every few hours to see the various stages and mix it every now and then. Since I used Fat Free milk, I ended up with a runny liquid . Added ginger, salt and curry powder( I mean just plain curry powder which my mom prepared by drying curry leaves). Viola !! Neer More ( Watery buttermilk in Tamil) ready.
To know more about the preparation of Kefir , visit Jugalbandi .I just followed the steps mentioned by Bee.


Posted by on November 11, 2009 in General, health, Recipes



Sun Screens

I have been trying to zone in on a sunscreen for the past few days. There are just too many around and searching for the safest is a humongous task, IMO. We all know that sunscreen provides a shield against the harmful UVA/UVB rays . I was really( or) rather am afraid of getting skin cancer , especially with my immunity, and so I lather on sun screen liberally when going out in the sun. I think we have some five different brands of sun screen at home.But, doing further research has shown that the chemicals used in sunscreen are linked to cancer as well . Now, for a person with compromised immunity and a thin, sensitive skin, what is the choice? I searched for some natural sun screens available in the market. I searched the FDA website to see if they have come up with some regulations regarding the safety of the drugs used in sun screens, but couldn’t find any.

According to the EWG( Environmental working group) , a non profit organization focusing to prevent toxicity for children, the FDA rules for sun screens are not yet fully finalized. So, manufactures can make whatever claim they want . According to them,of the 832 most commonly marketed sunscreens, only 16% provided adequate protection from both UVA & UVB radiation with few ingredients linked to known or suspected health hazards.

A study by The American Cancer Society has stated that 80% of our total lifetime sun exposure occurs within the first 18 years of life ,so children in particular are at risk. Children are probably the most likely to be to be smothered in sunscreens . Worldwide, the greatest rise in melanoma has been experienced in countries where chemical sunscreens have been heavily promoted The rise in melanoma has been exceptionally high in Queensland, Australia where the medical establishment has vigorously promoted the use of sunscreens. Queensland now has more incidences of melanoma per capita than any other place on Earth. (Garland, Cedric F., et al. Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk? American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 82, No. 4, April 1992, pp. 614-15). In India, we never used Sunscreen as kids and the incidence of skin cancer is lesser there than in other developed countries.

There is a very well organized, consolidated database at , a website worth checking out. Please spend some time and go through the webpage to decide on what you want to use for the summer. It gives ratings for the sun hazard and health hazard for most of the brands. The low ratings are the best and the highest ones are the worst.

Here are some tips

Ingredients to avoid

A BIG NO would be any suncscreen using Oxybenzone or Benzophenone-3. Most of the high SPF ones like Neutorgena , Coppertone, Banana boat use Oxybenzone . It has been proven to be a known photo carcinogen.

These were supposedly non toxic until a few years ago, when some studies proved otherwise. Some scientists believe that it may be correlated with breast cancer, based on a study by UK scientists in which preservative chemicals were found in samples of breast tumors. There is still a major controversy about the toxicity of these chemicals.But, I would suggest not using these.

Avobenzone(Parsol 1789)
Some studies have shown this to be a free radical generator.The free radicals then react with other molecules and produce damage to the fats, proteins, and DNA of the cells – the types of damage that produce skin aging and the development of cancer.

Many sunscreens also contain triethanolamine, a compound that can cause the formation of cancer causing nitrosamines in products by combining with nitrite used as preservative and often not disclosed on sunscreen labels.

The safer sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which occur naturally and also because the scatter the sun’s rays rather than absorbing them like the others.The ones without any nano particles that don’t get absorbed by the skin are the best. They leave a white streak on the skin and you will know the difference when you apply. I bought Burt’s Bees Chemical Free Sunscreen SPF15 and it was so sticky and left this streaks of white on my skin. Well, if you look for all natural, that is what one would get, I guess. You get sunscreens with micro titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and they might be better for applying than the macro ones.

In January 2006 the TGA conducted a review of the scientific literature in relation to the use of nanoparticulate zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreens. The review concluded that:

There is evidence from isolated cell experiments that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can induce free radical formation in the presence of light and that this may damage these cells (photo-mutagenicity with zinc oxide). However, this would only be of concern in people using sunscreens if the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide penetrated into viable skin cells. The weight of current evidence is that they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer dead layer (stratum corneum) of the skin.

The Medicines Evaluation Committee endorsed this conclusion at its meeting on 2 February 2006.

Here are the top ten recommended by EWG

1. Blue Lizard (anything without oxybenzone)
2. California Baby (anything with SPF 30+)
3. CVS with zinc oxide
4. Jason Natural Cosmetics Sunbrellas Mineral Based Sunblock
5. Kiss My Face “Paraben Free” series
6. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock
7. Olay Defense Daily UV Moisturizer (with zinc)
8. SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense
9. Solar Sense Clear Zinc for Face
10. Walgreens Zinc Oxide for Face, Nose, & Ears

Some more can be added to this list

11.Badger Face and body sun block SPF30
12. Dermalogica Face Block SPF 25

I have ordered the California Baby SPF 30 , which uses micro titanium dioxide.

Also, most importantly,don’t forget to wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.


Posted by on June 1, 2009 in health, Informative