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


  1. Excellent recipe; and I would love to win the book!

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

    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 :)

  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!

    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.

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

  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

    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!

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

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

    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.

  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!

    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.

  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!
    thanks again, Anne

    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 ;)

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

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