Sunday, January 18, 2015

Welcome our Guest Gigi Pandian!

Welcome guest author Gigi Pandian with 

some culinary alchemy 

and a book giveaway

Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and the forthcoming Quicksand) and the new Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant, and her short fiction has been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards. A cancer diagnosis in her 30s taught her two important life lessons: healing foods can taste amazing, and life’s too short to waste a single moment. Gigi spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with an overgrown vegetable garden in the backyard.

Gigi’s latest novel, The Accidental Alchemist, is the first in a new cozy mystery series set in Portland, Oregon, featuring a centuries-old female alchemist and her French chef sidekick – who happens to be a gargoyle who was accidentally brought to life by a stage magician. The book involves plenty of culinary alchemy and includes recipes!

Read an excerpt here.

And read on to win a copy of The Accidental Alchemist.

***

I learned how to cook in earnest after a cancer diagnosis left me with frustrating food restrictions. I wanted to take care of myself, but at the same time I refused to eat boring food! My solution was to take cooking classes and learn how to cook delicious meals from scratch.

Through my culinary journey, I discovered that simple tricks could create the most delectable meals that had the added benefit of being healthy. Learning how to transform simple foods into something greater than the sum of their parts influenced my writing of The Accidental Alchemist, because cooking from scratch was fast becoming a central part of my life. I explored my own life transformations through the book, which was a lot of fun.

Below is my adaptation of a classic Scottish dessert, Cranachan, a rich pudding that usually gets its core flavor from heavy cream. In my version, you don’t lose any of the rich taste with a simple substitution. By putting in a little bit of effort to make cashew cream the day before you serve the dessert, you can have a mouth-watering treat that’s good for you – and it also looks beautiful to serve to guests. It was a big hit at my last dinner party!


Gigi’s Cranachan Scottish Pudding

Ingredients
  • 1 cup rolled oats (aka old fashioned oats)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cup homemade sweet cashew cream (see recipe below)
  • 1 Tbsp whisky (a bourbon works wonderfully here)
  • 1 cup raspberries

Directions
Make your cashew cream the day before, so it thickens in the fridge. When you’re ready to put together your Cranachan, mix 1 Tbsp of whisky (or more, to taste) into the cashew cream.

Toast the uncooked oats in a skillet with the honey until the mixture smells toasty, approximately 5 minutes. Once it cools, layer the raspberries, cream, and toasted oats into 4 dessert cups.

Cashew Cream
Make this the day before you make Cranachan, so the cream can thicken in the fridge.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 cup filtered water (plus extra for pre-soaking)
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • Dash of salt or spritz of lemon juice

Directions
To soften the cashews, soak them in cold water for 8 hours, or in hot water for 2 hours. Rinse and drain. In a blender, blend all the ingredients together. A high speed blender works best to get the creamiest consistency, but any blender should do, as long as you give it enough time. (NOTE: You only need half of this cream for the Cranachan, but making this larger amount works best in a blender, especially if you aren’t using a high speed blender. Plus it’s always nice to have extra!)





I love using cashew cream as a substitute for heavy cream in all sorts of sweet and savory dishes, from cheesecake to macaroni and cheese.

Do you have a favorite culinary alchemy trick? If you’d like to win a copy of The Accidental Alchemist, which includes recipes, include your email address in your comment below.













Find out more about Gigi and her books on her website gigipandian.com, and connect with her on Facebook facebook.com/GigiPandian ,Twitter @GigiPandian, and Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/GigiPandian/.

62 comments:

  1. Excellent recipe; and I would love to win the book! EMS591@aol.com

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  2. Great recipe. I had some health problems this year and have also been learning to change recipes to make them healthier. poohwine1217@gmail.com

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    1. I hope you're enjoying cooking more healthily. One of the pleasant surprises for me was that I enjoy food *more* now! By taking charge myself, I can experiment and create whatever I'd like :)

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  3. Cashew cream: what an interesting idea. Makes sense, since the nuts are slightly sweet anyway. Does the cream keep well in the fridge? And love the name Cranachan!

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    1. The cream stays well in the fridge for several days. At least three, but sometimes more. You'll see it start to separate once it's starting to break down. I make many different nut creams these days, both sweet and savory.

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  4. Interesting recipe and book. Thank you for the opportunity to win.
    dmskrug3 at hotmail dot com

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  5. I don't think I have many cooking tricks, altho I often use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in some of my recipes. Many people do this, so it's really not unusual but it works well for me and just seems healthier.
    Thanks for the post and recipe. Looking forward to reading your latest book!
    Jane R
    jrobinson12 (at) austin (dot) rr (dot) com

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    1. Another good replacement for sour cream is cashew cream flavored with lemon juice instead of the maple syrup of this recipe. I make a vegan "cheese cake" with lemon-flavored cashew cream that nobody realizes is vegan!

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  6. This sounds delicious! We love cashews as a snack, so we must try this!
    misstree1963@gmail.com

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  7. The only cooking trick I have is to use lots of spices so the food has a taste.
    txmlhl@yahoo.com

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    1. I love spicy food of all kinds, but my husband doesn't. I try to sneak added flavor through spices, but he always notices when I use cayenne -- ha! Luckily we both agree about loving spicy Indian food.

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  8. Gigi, I love this cover! It draws me in!

    I have never heard of cashew cream. Never would have imagined that you could make a cream out of any nut. Thanks for introducing me to something new!

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    1. Krista, I never would have realized unless I was forced to change my diet! Now I wonder how I ever lived without nut creams and cheeses.

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  9. Hello Gigi,
    This sounds really good, I've just been trying to eat healthier to get healthier. I've made chia pudding which is really good. Thanks for the chance to win this book. It sounds like a good read! annelovell12@yahoo.com
    thanks again, Anne

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    1. Chia pudding is one of my favorites! As love as I follow the *trick* of letting the chia seeds expand by soaking them for several hours or overnight. Before I learned that trick, I was constantly scraping chia seeds off the side of my blender when I made smoothies ;)

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    2. Anne -- You're the winner of the book! I'll send you a separate email to get your mailing address.

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  10. Welcome to MLK, Gigi! This is such a terrific post. I look forward to your series!

    Best,

    MJ/VA

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  11. I've never heard of making nut cream.
    sgiden at verizon(dot)net

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  12. What a delightful and informative post and great recipe. I use herbs and no spices since they are too strong for me. Best wishes. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  13. It sounds delectable and unique. My healthy cooking has been increasing due to health concerns and feeling better. Your writing and cooking is wonderful. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I was pleasantly surprised that once I learned to cook like this, I now feel both healthier and more satisfied with food than before cancer.

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  14. Nut cream is new to me too! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity. Kuzlin at aol.com

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  15. What a great recipe. I have never heard of cashew cream but sounds worth giving a try. I don't have any culinary alchemy tricks but I enjoy cooking from scratch and make substitutions when it seems healthier or more to our liking. Congrats on the new series, on my TBR. Love all your books. Thanks for the giveaway.
    sallycootie@gmail.com

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    1. Thank you for the note about my books! And I hope you enjoy trying out cashew cream. I'm soaking cashews right now for making "mac and cheese" for dinner tonight.

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  16. What a great recipe. I'm trying to eat more healthy, too----but have only tried using a lot of spices so far. Thanks for the contest.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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  17. I'm so happy to hear I'm introducing the idea of nut creams to so many of you! I love that they work well in both sweet and savory dishes.

    And it's not only cashews that works well. Sunflower seeds work almost as well (for people with nut allergies who can eat seeds), and I also make a lot of tahini sauces with sesame seeds. But I find cashews are the most versatile.

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  18. Culinary alchemy! Brilliant!
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

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    1. By the way, for those who use dairy, evaporated milk can substitute for cream without losing the mouth feel.
      Do you have any favorite cook books?

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    2. Favorite cookbooks! Great question. Here are 3:

      Isa Does it -- awesome vegan recipes from the creator of the Post Punk Kitchen website

      Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison -- more of a vegetable lesson than cookbook, but it includes recipes and is a great foundation for creating your own

      The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz -- the recipes include lots of good ones for people going through chemo, but it has remained one of my favorites long after going through chemo

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  19. This is on my Amazon wishlist ....and I think I tried to win it on goodreads too. So yes, I'd love this book. dcgirl919@hotmail.com

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  20. I use spaghetti sauce as a base for my vegetable soup and stews. It starts off with a good flavor to build from.

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  21. Thank you for this giveaway and the delicious recipes! areewekidding@yahoo.com

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  22. I'd love to win this new book!! rebarger@bellsouth.net

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  23. Would love to win!

    littleone AT shaw DOT ca

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  24. This book sounds intriguing! What a wonderful pair of characters. I'd love to win it and be the first to tell my book club about it dbahn@iw.net

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  26. I love cashews, I never thought of them as a replacement for cream...although I do use almond milk. Culinary alchemy indeed!

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    1. I love cashews for creams, but almond milk is definitely my favorite nut milk. I used to make it from scratch, but now there are some great brands out there that make fresh (refrigerated) almond milk.

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  27. I've really enjoyed your Jaya Jones novels and am looking forward to reading this one, too. I think my book club would also be interested in it. Would love to win a copy. mackisa at gmail . com

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    1. So lovely to hear you're enjoying the Jaya Jones treasure hunt mysteries! The next one, Quicksand, comes out in just a couple of months, on March 10.

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  28. The Accidental Alchemist sounds like a cute mystery. I am off to Amazon to get a sample.. Thank you for a chance to win! Doodlesink@hotmail.com

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  29. A brilliant recipe, Gigi, thank you for sharing it with us today and thanks especially for telling us about the debut of your stellar new series. Culinary tricks are great fun to learn and even more fun to try, aren't they? Now and then, I use a commonly known one: replacing some of the fat in baking with applesauce--a good way to cut down on the fat and calories in some cake recipes, for instance. Cheers to you again, and may you have a delicious week!

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    1. Thanks for having me today, Cleo! Yes, that apple sauce trick is a great one.

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  30. Thanks for the recipe - sounds delicious!

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

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  31. Your book sounds fascinating! Thank you.

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  32. Your book sounds fun. I have always liked gargoyles. They are interesting to look at, yet scary looking at the same time. I am interested in reading this book and try out the recipes. crossxjo@hotmail.com

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  33. Thanks for the recipe. And thanks for mentioning "The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen" by Rebecca Katz. My nephew recently finished one round of chemo and has another round to look forward to after his surgery in a few weeks. I will let them know about this book!

    ElaineE246(at)msn(dot)com

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    1. I hope your family gets as much out of that wonderful cookbook as I did!

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  35. Great title which I ca't wait to read. Zeta@iwon.com

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  36. I can't wait to read this book. Thank you for the contest.
    Candace7399@aol.com

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  37. Your book sounds like great fun and I loved the recipe and culinary trick you share here. Am afraid I don't have a culinary alchemy hint of my own to share. little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

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  38. I am not good at culinary tricks but when in doubt add butter.

    gibsonbk at hiwaay.net

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  39. My trick is that when I don't have butter milk which I never do, I add vinegar to the milk to make it. Works great and less expensive then running to the store,
    ---Rae
    raco774(at)yahoo.com

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    1. Vinegar is a fantastic substitution for sour foods like buttermilk. I use almond milk with a splash of vinegar as a dairy-free buttermilk substitution.

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  40. Thanks so much to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen for inviting me, and to all of you who read with interest and commented! I hope you enjoy the recipe here and the ones in the book :)

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  41. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment this weekend. Anne L is the winner of a paperback copy of The Accidental Alchemist!

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