Showing posts with label Gigi Pandian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gigi Pandian. Show all posts

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Gigi Pandian #Italian #recipe and #giveaway

Today our Mystery Lovers Kitchen welcomes Gigi Pandian with a new book featuring a cooking class and ghost stories in Italy—plus a recipe and a giveaway for a set of Gigi’s book-themed recipe cards with recipes from around the world!

GIGI PANDIAN: One of the best things about writing a cozy treasure hunt mystery series is that it gives me a perfect excuse to travel around the world and visit locations that aren’t the usual tourist spots. (Aberdeenshire, Scotland for Artifact. The southern tip of India for Pirate Vishnu. Nantes, France for Quicksand.) Venturing off the beaten path is great way to find the best local foods, with regional dishes that are often cooked by chefs who’ve lived in the area for generations.

The latest Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, Michelangelo’s Ghost, takes place in Italy’s fabled Renaissance garden, the Park of Monsters—a spooky sculpture garden located in the middle of the Italian countryside. It’s in between Rome and Florence and not easily reached by train, so most visitors are Italian, even though everyone with an interest in the mysterious would enjoy it. I traveled there to get the setting right for a present-day mystery involving a centuries-old ghost story. The sprawling sculpture garden, surrounded by a wild forest, was as otherworldly as I imagined.

The nearby villa where I stayed offered cooking classes. I was in Italy for research and writing, but how could I refuse an Italian cooking class taught by a local chef? Especially since the chef selected the seasonal dishes based on what looked good in his hilltop vegetable garden next to the thoroughly modern kitchen inside a medieval walled village.

The cooking class made it into an important scene in the book—although I must admit my own class wasn’t interrupted by devious bad-guys disguised as a ghost, so I had to improvise when I wrote the scene! This is fiction, after all. However, many of the dishes I describe in Michelangelo’s Ghost were recipes I ate in Italy.

In spite of several food restrictions, I ate wonderfully in Italy. After being diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, I completely changed the way I eat. I now eat close to a vegan diet, meaning one of the things I gave up was cheese—but there’s no need for sympathy! Over the last few years I’ve learned how to adapt recipes to turn them into healthier versions that are even tastier than what I ate before cancer, and also how to eat well while traveling. I brought the flavor of Italy home with me. Here’s one of my favorite easy Italian-style recipes I use regularly, because it’s both healthy and delicious.


A flavorful topping that takes 5 minutes to prepare and can be kept for weeks in a jar on the counter—though in my house it never lasts that long!

¾ cup roasted cashews
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
½ tsp sea salt (more or less to taste)
½ tsp garlic powder (again, more or less to taste)

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is the consistency of grated parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of Italian dishes for added flavor. My favorite use is to sprinkle on top of pasta dishes, and it works great on both tomato sauces and olive oil pasta tossed with garlic and roasted vegetables.

Leave a comment below to enter to win a set of six book-themed recipe cards, with Gigi’s recipes inspired by Scotland, India, France, the U.S., and Italy.

MICHELANGELO’S GHOST: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

“This book has everything a mystery lover could ask for: ghostly presences, Italian aristocrats, jewel thieves, failed actors, sitar players, and magic tricks, not to mention dabs of authentic history and academic skullduggery.” 
 Publishers Weekly
A lost work of art linking India to the Italian Renaissance. A killer hiding behind a centuries-old ghost story. And a hidden treasure in Italy’s macabre sculpture garden known as the Park of Monsters… Can treasure-hunting historian Jaya Jones unmask a killer ghost?

USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and a gargoyle who watches over their vegetable garden. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi’s fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and Lefty Awards, and short-listed for Macavity and Agatha Awards.

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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

  • 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

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.

  • 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

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, and connect with her on Facebook ,Twitter @GigiPandian, and Pinterest

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Welcome guest author Gigi Pandian!

Two for One! Recipes from Guest Author Gigi Pandian (Green Smoothie) and Her Character Jaya Jones (Jazzing Up Steamed Greens)

Gigi Pandian writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series. The first book in the series, ARTIFACT, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and is now available from Henery Press []. Gigi is thrilled to announce that just this month she sold a new mystery series to Midnight Ink in a three-book deal -- and she’s especially excited that in the new series she gets to share her passion for cooking delectable vegan food!  THE ACCIDENTAL ALCHEMIST is the first in a new mystery series about a vegan alchemist and her French chef sidekick -- who happens to be a gargoyle accidentally brought to life by a stage magician.

One of the funny things about being a writer is that readers frequently confuse us with our characters. I’m six feet tall in heels, and my character Jaya Jones is five feet tall in socks, so readers who’ve seen me in person have been known to comment: “but you’re not short!” Jaya and I do share some things in common. We both have one parent from India and we both love savoring delicious food. However, we have different favorite tasty foods we like to eat. So today I’m sharing one of my favorite snacks and one of Jaya’s.

Jaya Jones is a history professor in San Francisco. She’s often on a treasure hunt in an exotic destination, so she eats whatever tasty treats she can grab on the go. As for me, I’ve been a health nut ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. I was never a big cook before, but after learning I had food restrictions, I gave it a shot. Oh my goodness, cooking at home is so much fun! Why wasn’t I told??? And even better than the fun of cooking, I’ve learned that the food you cook for yourself is more delicious than anything you can get at a restaurant, because you can prepare it exactly as you like it.  In the past two years, I’ve gone from eating out 75 percent of the time to cooking from scratch 99 percent of the time. And I feel amazing.

Here’s my recipe for my favorite green smoothie that I have for a light breakfast or a snack. If you’re not into the idea of smoothies with vegetables in them, you might be rolling your eyes around now. But stick with me for a minute! I’ve got some tricks to create a healthy smoothie that’s just as mouthwatering as it is good for you.

Gigi’s Favorite Green Smoothie Recipe (makes 2 servings)

Blend the following ingredients together in a blender:
Half an Avocado
1 Pear
Kale – 4 leaves or to taste
1 Cucumber
Knob of fresh ginger, to taste
Unsweetened cocoa powder or cacao nibs – 2 Tbsp or to taste
Optional added protein, such as hemp seeds
Filtered water – 1 cup or more, depending on how thick you want your smoothie

Tricks to sweeten this up, if you’re new to green smoothies:
*Use coconut water instead of regular water.
*Add a little bit of a natural sweetener, such as honey.
*Use frozen broccoli instead of kale – frozen broccoli has a natural sweetness!

The natural sweetness of the pear, the spicy kick of the ginger, and the chocolaty goodness of the unsweetened cocoa make for a delicious treat that’s like a healthy chocolate milkshake! OK, it’ll probably take a while before it tastes like a milkshake to you... But it’s still a delicious treat!

NOTE: if you use cocoa powder rather than cacao nibs, your “green” smoothie will turn brown, looking a bit like a chocolate milkshake. It’s just as tasty, and even tastier if you prefer a creamy consistency.

Next up, here’s how Jaya Jones jazzes up boring foods. Since Jaya doesn’t cook, this is a “trick” rather than a full recipe. She never has very much in her kitchen, but always has good coffee in the cupboard and lots of this Indian condiment in the fridge.

The Jaya Jones Secret to Jazzing Up Your Greens

Have a boiled or steamed vegetable that you were planning on dousing with butter and salt? Try adding Indian pickle instead.

Indian pickle is a spicy condiment that comes in a range of flavors from mango to lime to garlic. The fruits or vegetables are packed in oil with chili peppers and other spices like turmeric. The combo of a little bit of oil and a lot of flavor make simple steamed greens taste more like a flavorful Indian curry than a throw-away side dish.

In the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series I describe the foods in the different parts of the world where the books take place, but in my new series I’m happy I get to feature food even more, including some of the vegan recipes I’ve come up with since throwing myself into learning how to cook from scratch.

Learn more about Gigi at

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