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The Ghost of Granola – 1

A few months ago, I had to eliminate foods from my diet – for someone who loves food, that was quite a challenge.  The list of what I had to eliminate, pretty much made all common breakfast foods out of scope.  During the process I learned that while there are plenty of options in the market for folks wanting to eliminate gluten from their foods, not all options taste good. Gluten free bread,for example,is not tasty at all.  Even if you do not have any expectations of it tasting like bread, you are disappointed. Granola was out of bounds for me as it has oats and sugar, which were on my eliminate list.  This meant that breakfast was now, Kind bars ( which are really awesome, however, only a couple of their bars met my list).  So, I started looking for low carb nut based granola options.  I found quite a few bloggers with recipes for pales granola – most had sugars and eggs.  This one gave a pretty good basic recipe that I used the first time, with a few substitutions to make it with natural sweeteners and eggless.  And, I added the killer ingredient that gives mine it’s name😜.  Here’s my recipe:

What You Need

  1. 1/2 a cup – Walnuts
  2. 1/2 a cup – Cashews
  3. 1/2 a cup- Pistachios
  4. 1 cup- Sunflower seeds
  5. 3 tbls – Ground flax seeds
  6. 9 tbls- water
  7. 1 tbls- vegetable oil
  8. 1 tsp- vanilla essence
  9. 4-5 tbls- Agave
  10. A pinch or so of salt
  11. 2-3 twists of Trader Joes Smoked Ghost Chilies
  12. 1 cup- raisins
  13. 1 cup – unsweetened coconut flakes

How It’s Done

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F
  2. Mix ingredients 5 through 11 in a bowl with a fork and let site for a couple of minutes while you crush the nuts
  3. Mix ingredients 1 through 4 in a gallon ziplock bag, and crush with a rolling pin.  (I prefer this method to using the blender as I don’t want the nuts to be too finely chopped, and I like texture)
  4. Now add the wet ingredients of step 2 to the bag of crushed nuts, add the rasiins and coconut flakes, seal the bag and mix.
  5. Taste to see it mets with your level of sweet/savory/spicy. The ghost chilies ar very spicy and your only need a few twists of the grinder (if you like it spciy). You can substitute with the milder cayenne or eliminate the heat completely,if you so choose.  But believe me, the chile really kicks up this recipe 5 notches 😋
  6. Now, spread the mixture on a baking tray (use parchment paper or silpat for easy cleanup) and bake for about 30-45 minutes. Keep an eye on it, and stir periodically so that the nuts brown evenly, and don’t burn
  7. When done, let cool a bit before you start snacking on it.  It will be a go to breakfast or snack in your pantry.

The sweetness from the raisins and agave balance out the heat from the chilies.  Top this on a cup of Greek yogurt, as a topping for your favorite fruit crumble….the potential is unending.


Spicy Butternut Squash Cranberry Soup


We had a quiet Thanksgiving this year. For the past two years Thanksgiving was spent at friends’ homes, two dinners one year…..a lot of food which of course I love :-). This year it was just the two of us at home so it was great to have a simple meal that captured some of the seasonal elements. I decided to make a butternut squash soup and a kale scallion jalapeño cornbread. As you may have noticed from my previous few posts, I like the sweetness of the squash balanced with spices and tang. So, this is what I created:

What You Need
– 1 pound ( about 3-4 cups cubed) butternut squash
– 1 medium onion, diced
– 1 cup fresh cranberries
– 2 tsp berbere (an African spice mix, you can buy here)
– 6 cups of water or vegetable stock
– 1/2 Tbsp oil
– 2 inch piece of ginger, minced
– 3 cloves of garlic, minced
– salt and pepper to taste

How It’s Done
– Heat oil in a Dutch oven and sweat the onions, add minced ginger and garlic and let cook for a coupe of minutes
– Add the cranberries to the onion mix and cook down till the berries open up and release their juices
– While the onion mix is cooking, put the cubed butternut squash in a microwave safe bowl, add salt, cover and microwave for about 5-7 minutes
– add the squash to the Dutch oven, add water or stock if using, berbere, salt and pepper and let the whole mixture come to a boil
– PurĂ©e the mixture and serve hot with a dollop of yogurt

The sweet squash is balanced beautifully by the tart cranberry and the warm spices, a perfect meal for the cold winter evenings. Try it and let me know….

Ginger Cumin Pumpkin Soup

IMG_3041Most pumpkin soups I’ve had tend to be very sweet. While i like sweet things, I don’t like my soup to be just sweet, even if the vegetable (or fruit in this case) being used for it is. I think a sweet vegetables or fruits can be balanced with spices and other ingredients when making a savory dish such as a soup. Here’s my Ginger Cumin Pumpkin Soup..

What You Need

  • 2 Cups of cubed pumpkin or squash
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1.5 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 1/2 Jalapeno
  • 4 small tomatillos
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 a sprig of dill, for garnish
  • 2-3 cups of water
  • a few drops of Pumpkin seed oil, for garnish

How Its Made

  1. Dice the onion and cube the tomatillos; mince the ginger and garlic; finely chop the jalapeño
  2. Heat olive oil in a soup pot and add cumin seeds. Fry till fragrant, a minute or so
  3. Add the onion and saute on medium heat, till transluscent.
  4. Add the minced ginger and garlic, and the jalapeño and cook for a couple more minutes
  5. While the onion is being sauted, microwave the cubed pumpkin or squash and tomatillos with some salt, till cooked, 3-5 minutes
  6. Add the cooked pumpkin and tomatillos to the pot and mix all the vegetables. Add water and bring to boil
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste
  8. Now blend the whole soup till smooth
  9. Serve hot, garnishing with dill and a few drops of pumpkin seed oil

The soup is hearty, with the ginger and tomatillo balancing out the sweetness of the pumpkin and the heat from the jalapeño adding another dimension to it. Try it…

Ras el Hanout Butternut Squash and Chickpea stew

Trade Joe’s (my favorite grocery store) had a pack of 4 spice mixes that caught my eye the other day, called Spice Route. The spices and spice mix combos were all from the Meditteranean region- African and Middle Eastern. I love spices and have been wanting to try out spice mixes used in the different parts of the world- so I picked up a pack of 4 for myself. The 4 spice mixes included were- Ras El Hanout, Zhoug, Sumac and Pilpelchuma. Don’t the names have a ring to them? To me they all sound ver royal! I already had a box of Dukkah, also from Trader Joes in my pantry. So for my first meal with the spices, I decided to make a Butternut Squash and Chickpea stew with Ras El Hanout and Sauted Zucchini with Dukkah and Sumac.

Ras El Hanout is a North African spice mix, with the name translating to “Head of the shop”. The shop owner can decide what to put on this spice mix and can often have 20 items. Trader Joes Ras El Hanout has coriander seeds, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin seeds, spearmint, ginger, allspice, long pepper, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, cloves, mace and rose petals.
What You Need

For the Stew
– 2 cups of cubed butternut squash
– 1 tbsp of olive oil
– 1/2 cup of quinoa/ cous cous
– 1 can chickpeas
– 4 cups of water
– 1.5 tsp of Coorg Vinegar or tamarind concentrate
– 2 minced green chiles
– 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
– 1 tsp of coriander powder
– 1 tsp of turmeric
– 1.5 tsp of Ras El Hanout
– salt and pepper to taste

For the Sauté
– 1 cup of cubed Zucchini
– 2 tsp of olive oil
– 1/2 tsp of chile flakes
– 1 tsp of Dukkah
– 1 pinch of sumac

How It’s Done
1. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker pan
2. Add the Turmeric, coriander powder and Ras el Hanout till fragrant. Be careful not to burn the spices
3. Add the ginger and chiles and cook for a few seconds
4. Add the butternut squash and mix to coat evenly with the spices
5. Add the cous cous or quinoa, mix and add the water and vinegar/tamarind and mix it all together with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the cooker and let cook for 10 minutes, till you hear the steam rise. Reduce heat and continue cooking for 5 more minutes. Turn off heat. It continues cooking till the steam is released. Open carefully after the steam is released.
6. While the stew is cooking in the pressure cooker,you can start Making the sauté.
7. Heat a pan with the oil, and then add the zucchini to it. Let the zucchini get a char by not stirring for a few minutes. Then stir.
8. Add the Dukkah and red chili flakes and stir and let cook till the zucchini is cooked yet crunchy. Sprinkle it with the sumac, mix.
Serve the stew and stir fry garnished with chopped chives or green onions if you like. The sweetness of the butternut squash is perfectly balanced with Ras El Hanout and Coorg vinegar, which also adds a tang to this dish. The sauted zucchini is a perfect crunchy accompaniment- try it!


Almond Milk


I did a juice cleanse a couple of months ago. Before doing it , I was apprehensive- what if I can’t follow through with it? I love food – can I do without solid food for three days? Would I be to able to sustain? After all the doubts, I have to say, I really liked it. I now enjoy those cold pressed vegetable juices that I wouldn’t even look at before, but my absolute favorite is Almond Milk. In a cleanse, almond milk is your final drink (barring elixirs) for the day. It was made with raw almonds, vanilla, Himalayan salt, filtered water and coconut water. I drink a version of it every day for breakfast now. After reading up many blogs on how to make almond milk at home, I created my own recipe, which has more than just almonds 🙂

What You Need

  • 1 Pound Raw Almonds
  • 0.5 cup Tender coconut meat/pulp
  • 8 cups of Coconut Water
  • 1 Vanilla bean
  • 1/2 Cup dates
  • Salt, a pinch per batch

How its Done

  1. Soak almonds for 8-10 hours in water. The longer you soak, the more the almonds sprout, increasing their nutrition. Discard the soaking water – that contains all the toxins that are released from the almond skins
  2. De-pit the dates and cut the vanilla bean into pieces to add to the multiple batches.
  3. Working in batches, add soaked almonds, coconut pulp, vanilla bean, dates, salt and coconut water to a grinder, and grind away till the contents emulsify (Note: you will need a blender/grinder that can handle nuts and grains)
  4. Pour into a cheesecloth (or a nutmilk bag – I find the cheesecloth works perfectly) to filter the pulp from the milk and squeeze all the milk out.

Now, the almond milk I had during my cleanse did not have dates in it and yet was sweet and that is because of the fresh coconut water that is used. Dates are optional, however, I like the rich sweetness they bring – you can also use agave syrup. If possible, use fresh tender coconut water. Zico and other packaged coconut waters will do, and you will see the difference in flavor.  Adding the coconut pulp/meat gives the milk a silky, rich taste. Its a filling, satisfying and completely delicious drink to start your day. Try it…

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