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My parents’ 45th anniversary

20121223-102429.jpgMy parents, Ram and Sunita Swaroop, on the morning of their 45th wedding anniversary on Dec. 23,2012. I made them some fried pakoras to have with their morning tea. When i congratulated them on their longevity my mom reminded me that in India when you marry it’s for life. I think she meant that in that context 45 years isn’t a lot. To me it is worth celebrating. Congrats Mom & Dad!!

“Good. The texture and the crispiness came perfect.”

– Sunita Swaroop, high praise from my mom who taught me how to make these and who has been making pakoras for over 55 years.

It was Sunday morning and my parents 45th wedding anniversary. My parents are older now and going out to dinner or even a movie is no longer a pleasure for them. My dad is 83 and he has become frail after a minor stroke several years ago. Because of his condition, he would get too tired sitting in a movie theater for that long. My mom believes her place is by his side so she won’t go either. But there are a great many things that they enjoy. The morning chai is one of them and on this beautiful morning they wanted pakoras so along with tea and shortbread cookies that’s what I made for them. Click here for the recipe which is simple and easy to make.

My parents got married in Lucknow in 1967 with about 80 friends and family celebrating with them in a traditional Indian ceremony. According to my mom, it was an arranged marriage and my parents met on Dec. 20, 1967 and were married on the 23rd. Since my dad was just in India during a break from work (He was the lead statistician for Cordura Corp. for NASA and the U.S. Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California) and school (UCLA where he was completing his Ph.d. in biostatistics).

My mom was working as a librarian at the National Botanical Research Institute in Lucknow, India. She quit her position when she married Dad to take care of the family, which included my brother and sister from Dad’s first marriage. She was living with my grandfather, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law until she and my older sister, Sunita, and older brother, Subhash, moved to California to be with my dad later that year.

I was born two years later and my younger sister, Suki, arrived a year after me.

Today, we all got to enjoy hot, tasty pakoras on their 45th anniversary.

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Sinfully sweet

This sweet and rich concoction is simple. Just brownies, topped with mini-marshmallows and then drenched in chocolate frosting. One bite is all I needed for a sugar buzz, but others had several servings of this chocolate treat.

“It’s delicious!”

Anne Yemma, host of the Labor Day barbecue I went to in Trabuco Canyon

My former colleague from the Los Angeles Times, Mark Yemma invited me to his beautiful home for a Labor Day bbq. I told him I would be there and bring brownies or cookies. I ended up making these Birthday Brownies for his party.

We ate them with the chocolate cake since the BBQ doubled as a birthday bash for Mark’s upcoming birthday. Another former colleague, Dave Campbell,  also told me that my concoction was tasty. And asked for a second serving! What a great feeling to have made something that everyone enjoys.

For photos of the party, click here.

For recipe of the brownies, click here

Cool & creamy

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Southern California has been experiencing a heat wave for the past week so I wanted something frosty and soothing like this Strawberry-Banana Smoothie for dinner instead of something that would require a stint in front of the stove.

Oh, what a delicious relief it is to sip my creamy smoothie as the breezes blow and I watch the sun set from my backyard.

Tasty tart, souffle & galette

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I started off the day with a bang with a cooking class at Sur La Table in South Coast Plaza on Fresh French Fruit Dessert. My sister, Suki, and I were part of a 12-person class taught by Chef Katie Torres and her trio of assistants.

We made a Plum and Raspberry Tart, above. Chef Katie showed us how to place the fruit in the tart and then pour the cream in in top of it before cooking. Way easier than the way I’ve always done!

Next, we learned how to make Apricot and Blueberry Galette. We started off making the Sweet Pie or Tart Dough. I learned that you don’t want to overmix dough in a food processor which I had been doing. The result was a much more tasty crust than I had ever made.

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And then we learned how to make Lemon Souffle with Strawberry Sauce, below. I was tasked with separating egg whites from the egg yolks with a Sur La Table egg separator which leached the yolks into the whites ruining the whole batch.

Tip: A fancy Sur La Table cooking tool isn’t necessary or even productive in some cases. When we went back to doing it the old-fashioned way it worked!

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The desserts were all delicious. Especially with a steaming cup of cappuccino.

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A Dieter’s Dream

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It’s important for me to maintain a healthy lifestyle complete with exercise, plenty of rest and a healthy diet. But it’s challenging when it comes to desserts!

I try to eat very little sugar since I’m so addicted to it. That often means either going without dessert or caving in to the enticing lure of sugary treats!

Today I created a Chantilly Cream without any sugar or cream. My recipe tastes great with a hint of vanilla and a thick, light texture. Mine uses cottage cheese, vanilla yogurt, Splenda and good-quality vanilla.

My sister made a Peach-Rhubarb Crisp for our Dad on Father’s Day so I am going to serve it with that as well in my Strawberries and Cream concoction for Dad!

Click here for the recipe!

Risk-free blueberry muffins

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“Really good.”

– Ram Swaroop, my dad’s assessment of the muffins

These muffins are inspired by my Dad. His dietary restrictions include no sugar and no salt but he enjoys baked good so I tried to give him a taste of muffins without any of the risk!

Dad enjoyed the taste and I feel great giving him something he likes. At last a Father’s Day gift that he won’t want to return!!

For the recipe, click here.

All chocolate, no sugar

These cookies taste so sweet you'll be stunned they are sugar-free.

“Excellent.”

– Shalini Dore, senior editor at Variety

It was a cold and rainy day. A perfect day to stay home and bake some chocolate chip cookies. Only these are the sugar-free variety so I could have all the sweet taste without the harm of sugar since I am fairly addicted to the stuff. There is Splenda is in it but that’s all.

These are easy, quick and chockful of the sensuous flavor of chocolate … you’ll fool everyone. The secret is the applesauce it it.

Want to try for yourself, click here for the recipe.