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Can’t Believe Its Allergy Free!” is the result of years of research and experimentation to create tasty, healthy, allergy free food for  my little grandson . . . .  (Click here to read more About this blog) 


What’s New
Hearty Ham and Cheese Bake
Tasty Chicken Risotto      
Gluten Free Chapati 
Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies

Find my kid tested and family friendly recipes in these categories.

Cupcake Cakes Cookies and Deserts
Chapati Indian Recipes
ChickenLegs Meat and Poultry
Salads Salads and Sides
Soups Soups
Potato The Popular Potato


All recipes in Ready To Print format are stored in PDF files on SkyDrive.

To see these Recipes Click Here.

We usually turn to rice when confronted with wheat allergy, or the need to stay away from gluten.  Rice flour is the base of most cake, cookie, bread and all purpose gluten free flour mixes.  But rice does not provide great nutrition and cakes can be quite crumbly, especially when made egg free.  I have combined some amazingly nutritious gluten free flours—Amaranth, Sorghum, Quinoa, and Oats with a starch for binding, to produce fantastic cakes, cookies, pie crusts, Indian rotis and just about anything that wheat flour can make.  These flours are available in most specialty food stores and are becoming increasingly available in mainstream stores in the US. You can also find Amaranth, the Indian ‘Rajgira’, and Sorghum (‘Jowar” in India) in all Indian stores.

Grandma’s Gluten Free Flour Mix


  • 1 cup amaranth flour
  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 cup oat flour (just grind one minute quick cooking oatmeal in a dry grinder)
  • 1/2 cup corn-starch (also called corn flour in some parts of the world)
  • 1and 2/3 teaspoon xanthan gum/ guar gum.
  • 1 level teaspoon salt.
  • Note:  If oats do not suit,, use 1 cup of cornstarch / tapioca starch 


  • In a large bowl, mix all flours well, taking care that bowl and mixing spoons are dry.
  • Add salt and xanthan gum and mix well.
  • Make double the quantity, or more, and store in dry, airtight jars.
  • To retain freshness, store in fridge.

Baking time for gluten free flour is a little more than the time required for baking with wheat flour

In the absence of Egg Replacer, use—3 Tablespoons water, 3 Tablespoons oil and 2 level teaspoons baking powder, mixed together.  this mixture is equivalent to 2 eggs.


I stay away from soy, as it is an established allergenic food.  However, if soy is not an allergy issue, use 1/2 cup soy flour in place of quinoa flour, which may not be available in all places.  Quinoa is protein rich and soy is a good substitute But, if soy is a problem food, and there is no quinoa, make the flour mix without quinoa/soy.  Add 1 1/3  teaspoon xanthan/guar gum.  If the gums are not easy to obtain, you could omit them.   They add that extra bit of stickiness, and give a slightly better ‘stretch’ quality to the dough.  Increase the quantity of oat flour by 1/2 cup and and also add 1/2 cup more of corn starch (cornflour).  This will enhance the binding quality of dough, prevent crumbling of baked goods., and will help in rolling out chapatis etc. more efficiently

Fact Files on the Ingredients


This is an excellent source of protein, and is high in certain amino acids which are usually found only in animal foods.It is loaded with iron (a 100 g serving gives 50% of daily requirement based on a 2000 cal. diet). It is also a good source of calcium, vitamins, minerals and fiber.. Actually, amaranth is not a grain, but is the seed of a plant that is grown for its nutritious leaves as well. Toasted amaranth seeds can be eaten as breakfast cereal. The name ‘amaranth’ itself comes from the Latin root word, ‘amar’, as also the similar Sanskrit word, which means ‘immortal’.


This is among the oldest known grains and is also rich in protein, iron, calcium and potassium. Since it metabolizes slowly, it is possibly beneficial to diabetics as well. It is a good addition in any baking mix, as it does not have an intrusive flavor or color. It has been a staple food in Africa and India for centuries.


This is often described by nutritionists as the ‘super grain’. The National Academy of Science describes quinoa as ‘the most nearly perfect source of protein from the vegetable kingdom’. Ancient Incas called it the ‘mother grain.’ It has nine essential amino acids, has more calcium than milk, is high in iron, minerals, micronutrients, Vitamin E and some of the B group vitamins.


Oats are actually gluten free, but there is some chance of cross contamination as they are sometimes grown in proximity to, or in rotation with wheat. Cross contamination can occur during the milling and transportation process as well. If gluten free oats are available, go ahead as they have a good binding quality, are high in fiber , and contain some amount of iron and protein.


Xanthan gum and other gums such as guar gum and locust bean gum are gluten free and help to give gluten free flour a spongy, elastic texture that gluten containing flours usually provide.

Corn-starch is not only a thickener to be used in soups and sauces, but also has a great binding quality. other starches such as tapioca starch, potato starch or arrowroot flour may also be used in place of corn starch.


1 cup Grandma’s Gluten free flour mix, or any mix or flour of your choice

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa, 2 teaspoons instant coffee

6 Tablespoons milk 6 Tablespoons Yogurt

6 Tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins, fruit peel, orange zest

1/2 cup walnuts or sunflower and pumpkin seeds, if nuts are a no-no


Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C

Sift together all dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk melted butter, yogurt and milk. Add vanilla extract.

Fold in the dry ingredients till they are well mixed and without lumps.

Gently stir in nuts /seeds, raisins, fruit peel etc. (optional)

Pour batter into a lightly greased loaf pan.

Bake 30 minutes or a few minutes more till knife comes out clean.

This delicious Italian dish is equally authentic without breadcrumbs and eggs. Serve it as a side, or even as an entree.  With all the goodness of vegetables and cheese its a filling meal by itself, perhaps with hash browns or gluten free corn bread on the side.  I make it less cheesy than restaurants do, but that’s your choice. Great for a fun family meal.


2 pounds or 2 medium-large eggplants cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.

1 1/2 cups rice crackers pulsed in food processor

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.

4 tablespoons corn starch mixed into 1/2 cup water to make a thin paste.

2 tablespoons olive oil.

Salt and pepper to taste.

For Sauce:

28 ounce can (3 1/2 cups) of crushed tomatoes.

2 tablespoons olive oil.

1/2 cup packed finely chopped fresh basil leaves.

1 teaspoon fresh, minced garlic.

1 teaspoon paprika. 

1/2 teaspoon oregano.

Salt and pepper to taste.

1 cup shredded Parmesan and 1 cup shredded mozzarella for layering.

Method: Preheat oven to 400 F ./ approx. 200 C.  Line baking tray with lightly oiled aluminum foil

Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of eggplant slices. 

Mix pulsed rice crackers with the Parmesan cheese on a large surface.

Dip each eggplant slice in the corn starch mixture. 

Dredge each slice in cheese and rice cracker mixture and place on baking tray. 

Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes, or till eggplant slices are soft and golden brown. 

Meanwhile, prepare sauce.

Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in saucepan and add the minced, fresh garlic.  When garlic sizzles, add crushed tomato.Give a few stirs, and allow tomato to simmer and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add paprika, oregano and fresh basil leaves.  Turn off heat.

To assemble, spread 1/3 of the sauce into a large casserole dish.  Place half the eggplant rounds in a single layer covering the sauce at the bottom of the pan.

With a ladle spoon small portions of sauce over each eggplant round. Then spoon shredded mozzarella on top of sauce, on each round. Sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded Parmesan. 

Place remaining eggplant rounds over the cheeses.  Repeat process by spooning sauce and cheeses on top of each round. Pour remaining sauce on top. and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.  Bake uncovered at 350 F / 180 C for 35 minutes. 

Let casserole sit for a few minutes, before cutting into it to serve.

Quick and easy to make –great taste with a simple, easy to make sauce. With the most satisfying potato accompaniment–Amazing Potatoes as my grandkids have named the recipe and a few roasted veggies, this makes a hearty meal!


1 pound chicken breast

For the marinade–

1/4 cup tomato puree

3 tablespoons tomato ketchup

3 tablespoons vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 heaped teaspoons brown sugar

3 teaspoons gluten free soy sauce

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

Salt and crushed pepper to taste

For the Amazing Potatoes

2 boiled Russet or baking potatoes

3 tablespoons cream cheese

2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion, leek, or fresh parsley

2 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup shredded cheddar or cheese of your choice (optional)


Preheat oven at 375F or 190 C

Using a knife, make a few slashes on the chicken breast surface.

In a large bowl,stir in all the marinade ingredients.Place chicken in bowl, over and refrigerate overnight or for at least a couple of hours.

Prepare the Amazing Potatoes while chicken is marinating in the sauce, so potatoes can be placed in the oven alongside.

Slice potatoes into half, horizontally, and remove most of the flesh. Scoop fairly close to the skin, but not too close, making sure that the skin does not tear

In a bowl, mix in 3 tablespoons of cream cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Add melted butter and herbs of your choice. Whisk in milk.

Spoon in the mixture into the potato shells and press it in carefully. Top each potato half with shredded cheese.

Keep potatoes aside till Chicken is ready to bake

Line baking tray with aluminum foil, and drizzle olive oil over foil. Place chicken breast in tray.

Spoon about 2-3 tablespoons of marinade over the chicken breasts, and drizzle remaining olive oil.

Place baking tray in oven for 20-25 minutes.

Check potatoes after 15 minutes. Remove using tongs if surface is a crispy golden brown. Use tongs to remove from oven, taking care not to touch any hot surface

Continue to bake chicken for about 10 minutes more.

Pierce a fork or a knife to test chicken for doneness. Do not overcook.

Serve grilled chicken and potatoes with roasted veggies, and you have a delicious meal!

An all time favorite, the oatmeal cookie is a great to go food! Easy to pack, all you need are a couple of cookies with a small carton of chocolate milk and you are all set !


1 i/2 cups oatmeal

1/2 cup oatmeal flour, prepared in the food processor

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 stick, or about 100 gms butter

1 cup brown sugar

Egg Replacer prepared to equal one egg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup raisins (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C

Sift together the oat flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon powder.

Cream butter and sugar.

Blend in prepared egg replacer and vanilla.

Fold in the flour mixture then stir in the oatmeal

Grease cookie sheet or line with parchment

Drop heaped teaspoons of cookie mixture on baking sheet, about an inch apart,and flatten with spatula

Bake 10 –12 minutes till golden brown.

                                                        About 20 cookies

There are many alternate grains which need to be explored and used.  They are gluten free, tasty, loaded with nutritional value, and far healthier than wheat.  Some of them aren’t grains at all, but are grasses, seeds or flowers.  They are actually super foods which we can process into wonderfully delicious flours.  Let’s have a look–

Amaranth— (the Indian Rajgira)is loaded with iron, calcium, manganese plus other minerals, and is a good source of Vitamins A, B6, K and C.  It is high in amino acids such as lysine and is an excellent source of protein. It can be milled, toasted, even popped like corn.  It should always be cooked before eating, because like most edible seeds it contains compounds which inhibit the proper absorption of some nutrients.  In fact all seeds must be cooked to destroy any toxicity which they may have, and to ensure good assimilation by the body.  The word ‘amaranth comes from the Latin—and Sanskrit—root word, ‘amar’ which means immortal.  It can’t make us immortal, but it can definitely give us great nutrition to promote good health and longevity.

Arrowroot—Ancient Mayans used it as an antidote to poison arrows, and for other medicinal purposes, especially to soothe the stomach and prevent diarrhea. It is obtained from certain plants which are rhizomes (same family as ginger and turmeric).  Arrowroot flour is basically an easily digestible and nutritious starch which is used in cooking as a thickener for soups, sauces and confections. You can use it in gluten free foods instead of cornstarch, but the consistency doesn’t hold for as long as it holds with other starches.  A sauce like preparation, slightly sweetened, is good invalid food and is often used to control diarrhea.  Arrowroot biscuits/ cookies are safe to eat for babies too, but read the labels carefully to make sure that no wheat has been added.

Buckwheat –-also called soba in Japanese, is basically a fruit related to rhubarb.  The seed contains a pale kernel known as groat, and groats have been in use for centuries.  The name confuses people, but it is not even remotely related to wheat and is gluten free.  It is high in lysine and other amino acids.  In fact it has eight essential amino acids which the body doesn’t make, but needs, to keep on functioning.  It is close to being a complete protein, is high in B Vitamins as well as many minerals.  It is also a  good source of linoleic acid which is an essential fatty acid.  It is widely used in making pancakes, biscuits and muffins, but again it is important to make sure that no wheat has been added. We have to be careful while using soba noodles also, and ensure that we buy the gluten free ones.

In India buckwheat is grown mainly in the hilly regions of the north and the Hindi name for it is ‘KUTTU”.  It is hardly used in other regions.

Corn—also called Maize, is a staple in many parts of the world. It was first domesticated by the people of southern Mexico.  Corn provides the necessary calories for daily metabolism and is a rich source of Vitamins A, B and E as well as certain minerals. It plays a role in the prevention of digestive ailments because of its high fiber content.  Corn is  also rich in antioxidants as well as phytochemicals.Corn meal is ground from dried maize but is not as fine as wheat flour. The Indian ‘makki ki roti” is made with corn meal. However,many corn meal preparations have wheat added for elasticity, so be careful when you buy corn tortillas or corn bread. You have to make sure that they are wheat and gluten free.Corn starch is the starch derived from corn grain,  Since it is finely processed it is depleted of nutrients but is a good thickener for soups and sauces.  Excellent to use for so many recipes that are otherwise thickened by wheat flour. It works very well for white sauce.

Millet—has been a staple food in Africa and India for thousands of years.  Commonly known as Bajra in India, pearl millet is one of the oldest food grains.  It is actually a grass with small round kernels, though it is loosely called a grain.  It is packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  It is high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and is loaded with fiber, protein as well as B complex vitamins including niacin, thiamine and riboflavin.  Millet is more alkaline than many other grains and easy to digest.  It is a low glycemic index food and good for diabetics to include in their diets. Millet flour makes good tortilla / chapati like flat breads, and can be added to other gluten free flours to create healthy, nutritious flour mixes.


Quinoais a super food, often described as “the most nearly perfect source of protein from the vegetable kingdom.”  With nine essential amino acids, it is a complete protein.  It is also high in phosphorus, calcium, iron, Vitamin E, the B Vitamins as well as fiber.  Incas called it the “mother grain”, easy for babies to digest.  It is one more flour that you can add to a gluten free flour mix—I add it—to enhance and enrich it. Quinoa grains can be cooked and used in place of couscous or bulgur in salads and can be cooked like rice as a staple, comfort food, which can add significant nutrition to an allergy free diet.  Because uncooked quinoa grains are coated with ‘saponins’…sticky, bitter tasting stuff that acts like an insect repellant it needs to be washed thoroughly before cooking.  Quinoa flour can also be used by itself to make great tasting cookies and cakes.

Sorghum (Jowar)—A very important and one of the oldest grains has been a major source of nutrition in Africa and India for centuries.  Now also grown in the US it is gaining recognition as a gluten free insoluble fiber. It has a somewhat neutral flavour and light colour, which doesn’t significantly alter the taste of foods when used in place of wheat flour.  It is made into tasty flatbreads in India and can be similarly used anywhere to go along with any kind of meat and vegetable preparations. Sorghum flatbread could replace pita bread in a gluten free diet.

It is high in iron, calcium and potassium.  Because the starch and protein content in sorghum is more slowly digested than that of other cereals, it is said to be beneficial to diabetics.  The glycemic index of sorghum is lower than that of most grains.

Raagi—is a type of finger millet grown in southern India and parts of Africa.  It is one more super food, packed with calcium, Vitamin D and certain essential amino acids.  It is also rich in iron.  Raagi is often directly ground into flour, or else sprouted and then ground.  Sprouted raagi is easy to digest, and can be cooked with milk or water to form a custard like breakfast food. When raagi is allowed to sprout, its Vitamin C levels tend to increase thereby creating easier absorption of its iron content.  For the lactose intolerant, raagi cooked in water with a dollop of ghee is a delicious dessert as well.  Gluten free raagi flakes are good snacks or breakfast staples.

Teff—is yet another nutritional powerhouse.  It has been a staple of Ethiopia for over 5000 years and is now making an appearance in the US market.  It packs a protein content of nearly 12% and is five times richer in calcium, iron and potassium than any other grain.  It has a sweet, nutty flavour.  You can cook the whole grain as a breakfast cereal or add teff flour to any gluten free flour mix to enhance nutrition.

And Lastly—Most of these gluten free grains are Whole Grains, with the exception of the readily available forms of corn and arrowroot. Some types of cornmeal is ground from whole grains but yellow cornmeal which is common in the US, mostly has the husk and germ removed.

A grain has three parts:

Germ—This is the part that a new plant sprouts from.  It is high in nutrients such as niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Also it contains some fat and protein.

Endosperm—or the jernel is the bulk of the seed.  Because the seed stores its energy in the endosperm, it contains most of the protein and carbohyrates, as well as some vitamins and minerals.

Bran—is the outer layer which also contains a lot of nutrients. It is again a rich source of niacin, thiamin and riboflavin plus magnesium, phosphorus and iron.  Bran contains most of the fiber.

Refined grains have been stripped of their bran and germ layers during processing, so only the endosperm is left.  Hence refined grain is not as rich in nutrients as whole grain.


It is very easy to make great burger patties without eggs or breadcrumbs.  I have tried buying allergy free, ready to eat , frozen burger patties of all kinds from fancy stores—they are so tasteless! So I added onions, green chili and cilantro to mine, in proportions that create a subtly gentle flavor, reminiscent of Indian cooking, to make the patties really tasty.  For me , garlic is an essential in all meat and poultry recipes—remember it is anti bacterial and does not allow pathogens to form. so in goes some garlic as well.

Good gluten and egg free burger buns / breads are available in stores, so you can assemble each patty and create a burger.  In the absence of gluten free bread, serve patties with mashed / baked potatoes and roasted veggies.  You can serve a complete meal with very little effort!


1 pound ground chicken

1 cup packed, coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

2 Tablespoons finely chopped onions

1 heaped teaspoon minced, fresh garlic

1/2 teaspoon, minced green chili, or to taste (Small size serrano peppers are crazily hot and pungent, so I prefer the longer, larger size mild flavored ones).

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed

Salt to taste

Fresh, coarsely ground pepper to taste.

1 loosely packed cup of grated cheese (optional).

1 beefsteak tomato, cut crosswise into 4-6 slices, about half an inch thick.  Use an extra tomato if you like.

4-6 gluten free buns, split.

Sour cream, green leaf lettuce and mustard (optional) for serving.


Heat grill to medium high.  Alternately, place a cast iron grill on stove top, on medium high heat.

Combine chicken with onions, cilantro, garlic, cumin, coriander and green chilies along with salt and pepper and the grated cheese. Divide mixture into 4-6 patties.

Brush grates / cast iron pan,with oil and place burgers.

Flip after 6-7 minutes, until the burgers are golden brown. If cooking on cast iron pan, loosely cover with foil, after flipping.

Allow burgers to cook for 6-7 minutes more.  It is best to insert a cooking thermometer into the thickest part, and make sure it registers at 165 degrees F.(approx. 75 degrees C).

Remove from grill / pan.

Lightly brush tomato slices with oil, grill, flipping once, until slightly charred, about one and a half minutes or so.  Season with salt.  Brush cut side of buns with olive oil. Grill buns, cut side down, just until toasted.

Serve burgers on grilled buns with tomato slices, sour cream, lettuce and mustard.

Roasted veggies on the side will complete the meal



Variety and the Spices of life

Spices are the best protective foods that Nature has given us.  In a broad sense, the word ‘spices’ encompasses a wide spectrum of herbs, roots, dried seeds, buds, tubers, rhizomes, barks and all sorts of other plant products.

Since ancient times, spices have been valued for their healing properties, and are of immense preservative value. Traders have braved the oceans to buy spices from the exotic lands of the East. Queen Isabella of Spain sent Christopher Columbus to find a newer, safer sea route to India to facilitate the trade of spices, among other goods.

Spices have great antioxidant properties, and are rich in vitamins and minerals.  They help to cleanse the blood, build tissues, prevent disease and aid in digestion.  The valuable micronutrients that spices have in them are also easily assimilated in the body.

Spices like garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, thyme and basil can kill bacteria.  Scientists claim that over 75% bacteria in food are killed by spices.  When a Kansas State University microbiologist cooked a pound of hamburger with 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, he found that it had 90% fewer pathogens that meat cooked without spices.

Kids with food allergies and sensitivities could react to artificial preservatives and flavor enhancers.  What can be better that using nature’s flavorful preservatives, which are beneficial in so many ways.  Food thus enriched hardly needs the high sodium and high fat condiments as accompaniments.  Just cook the healthy way and Spice it Up!

Watch for my write ups on different spices which are commonly used.

Pepper—has been in use for more than 30 centuries.  It is not merely an important flavoring agent, but is also a great preservative of food.  Romans thought that pepper was worth its weight in silver.  Turks blockaded the pepper routes used by Venetians and Genoese….which is why Isabella sent Columbus on his mission.

Pepper stimulates the flow of saliva and gastric juices and helps in the digestion of starch.  It has significant amounts of calcium and iron, plus micro nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, copper and manganese.  It is a good source of Vitamin A.  Like most spices, it should be used moderately.

Turmeric—is a rhizome and belongs to the same family as ginger  The active principals identified in turmeric are curcumins, a group of substances which are powerful anti oxidants with cancer fighting properties. Turmeric is highly anti inflammatory– reduces swellings, is anti bacterial, and is also a good coagulent…like pepper it stops bleeding from cuts and wounds.

Turmeric is an important ingredient in all Indian food, as are most spices.  A quarter to half teaspoon is all you need for a dish serving four.  Not only is the color very concentrated (be careful of staining clothes and kitchen counters), so are the nutrients.  It is rich in iron and contains manganese which helps in the absorption of iron. Zinc and other trace minerals are also present in turmeric.

Cinnamon—is an immensely beneficial spice.  Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon paste, among other things, to preserve mummies, mainly because cinnmic acid is anti bacterial.  Cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity and facilitates the control of blood sugar levels.  Its active ingredients increase the ability of our body cells to metabolise sugar as much as 20 times.  USDA researchers found that people with Type 2 diabestes, who consumed about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon a daysignificantly reduced not only their blood sugar, but also reduced their triglyceride and LDL numbers. Some doctors recommend 1/2 a teaspoonful a day.

Cinnamon reduces the glycemic index of sugar, so what can be better than the traditional combination of cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on gluten free toasts and pancakes?

Cloves—are great digestive aids, and are excellent for reducing flatulence.  Clove oil has pain relieving properties and is used, in some traditions to soothe a toothache.  Cloves contain phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc.  A pinch of powdered cloves added to a bowl of soup or to a meat/poultry entrée gives that exotic touch.  And for that special flavor, try a  sprinkling of clove powder on pumpkin and apple desserts.

Cardamom seeds—are valued for their flavor and for a range of medicinal properties.  Along with cloves, cardamom is a natural remedy for nausea and helps digestion. It is a great source of the amino acid choline and of vital micronutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium and manganese.  Try a quarter teaspoon mixed into puddings and desserts for a special aroma.  One can also add a lesser quantity of sugar because of the inherent sweetness of cardamom.

Coriander seeds—are very rich in calcium, phosphorus and beta carotene.  They also contain folic acid, magnesium and zinc.  Coriander seeds give us an important amino acid which, according to some researchers, improves brain function. For a little off beat flavor, try a pinch of ground coriander seed with white sauces and gravies, and a little more in tomato bases sauces.  Ground coriander also blends well with vegetable, meat and poultry dishes.

Cumin seeds—are very aromatic and greatly embellish taste.  They are rich in anti oxidants and possibly anti carcinogenic.  They also contain calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc, as well as Vitamin A. Cumin is an excellent remedy for flatulence and stimulates the appetite.  It also has some diuretic and carminative effect.

Lightly roasted cumin seeds have an enhanced aroma.  Roasting of all spices should be on low heat till they are hot to the touch, and crispy enough to powder.  This method helps to prevent the loss of volatile compounds.

Cumin, actually a native of Egypt, is now grown throughout Western Asia, parts of South Asia and Southern Europe.

It is an important spice in Indian, African and Mexican cuisines.  Beans /legumes of all kinds are more easily digestible with the addition of 1/2 to one teaspoonful of ground cumin seed.


Nutmeg—is an excellent flavoring for both sweet and savory dishes.  It contains calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.  An excess of nutmeg can lead to drowsiness and constipation—a small quantity suffices and works wonders with enhancing taste.

Our grandmas had so much good sense in adding nutmeg to spinach dishes, not merely to add that exotic flavor, but also to balance the laxative quality of spinach with the opposite quality in nutmeg! 

Cayenne Pepper—When jalapenos are ripened and dried, they are ground to produce a red powder, popularly called red chili powder.  Its pungent flavor comes from its main ingredient, capsicin.

Cayenne pepper is rich in Vitamins C and K, and has significantly higher levels of calcium and phosphorus than green jalapenos.  It also contains micro nutrients such as copper, manganese, zinc and iron.

Nature has made this spice pungent, adding to the “hot” fiery flavor in food, so it must be used in small quantities, as an excess of capsicin can lead to acidity, stomach ulcers and related problems.

Paprika—is made from dried and ground fruits of certain varieties of pepper, mainly the larger and sweeter variety of red bell pepper.  It is rich in Vitamin A and antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin and betacarotene, all of which promote eye health. It also contains significant amounts of Vitamin B6, which also keeps eyes healthy and prevents cellular damage.It is also anti inflammatory.

Paprika adds a rich red color to food, without adding too much of a pungent, fiery flavor. Instead of using any artificial red color which is commonly added to Indian tandoor dishes, it is much healthier and safer to use paprika.

Hungarian paprika is considered most flavorful and of the finest quality.

Basil—The Greeks called basil the ‘kingly herb’, while the French considered it ‘royale’. The Indian basil is regarded as the sacred herb, because of its phenomenal medicinal, nutritive and anti bacterial properties.

Studies show that basil can inhibit growth of certain bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used anti biotic drugs.  It contains antioxidants and is a natural food preservative.  It makes great sense to include basil and thyme in foods, especially uncooked foods like salads, so not only is food more flavorful, but fresh produce remains safe to eat for longer periods of time.

Basil is a wonderful source of beta carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells and blood vessels.  Studies show that the beta carotene in basil helps to lessen the progression of asthma.

It is a good source of magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, Vitamins C and K.


Thyme—is a medicinal herb and an excellent natural preservative.  In ancient times it was often used in embalming. It has a distinctive flavor which enriches soups, stews and meats, and like basil, retains flavor on drying.  It releases flavor slowly and can be added early in the cooking process.  It is antiseptic…good in mouthwashes, anti bacterial and anti inflammatory.


Oregano—The name is derived from the Greek words ‘oro’ for mountain, and ‘ganos’ for splendour.  The plant is lovely and the mountains where it grew were considered all the more beautiful for its presence.

Researchers claim that the oil in oregano leaves is one of the finest natural medicines.  Studies show that it is a natural pain killer, has anti inflammatory qualities reduces indigestion, flatulence, coughs and bronchial problems.


Bayleaf—or laurel was famed in ancient Greece and Rome.  Emperors and heroes wore wreaths of laurel leaves as symbols of their honor and achievements.  The Greeks believed that bayleaf was a cure for everything from indigestion to nightmares.  It has antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties and is also considered anti bacterial and anti fungal.  Studies show that it helps the body to process insulin more efficiently.  It adds a rich flavor to Indian curries, soups, sauces, stews, meat and poultry.  Basmati rice tastes awesome with just a single bayleaf tossed into it.

Dried bayleaf should be kept whole and olive green.  Brown ones have probably lost their flavor.  When kept away from light in airtight containers, bayleaf will retain its flavor for a couple of years.


Mint—has been in use for several centuries.  Its fragrance was synonymous with hospitality and wisdom.  Ancient Greeks and Romans rubbed their tables with mint before their guests arrived.

For cooking, the variety called ‘spearmint’ is the most preferred and popular.  Mint combines well with a number of foods, especially with meats like lamb, and can be used creatively as a garnish for all kinds of cooked foods as well as salads.

Mint is rich in antioxidants, Vitamins A and C.  It is carminative, anti spasmodic, helps digestion and reduces flatulence , throat and sinus infections.  When added to a summer drink, mint enhances the cooling quality.  Try it with lemon/lime juice, buttermilk, iced tea, water melon juice and in many more creative combinations. 

Mustard—is one of the oldest spices and is very widely used.  Most ancient cultures used it for seasoning food and also as a condiment or pickling spice, because of its preservative properties. Mustard oil is rich in alpha linoleic acid which is a source of Omega 3.  It has the lowest saturated fat content among edible oils and is healthy to use.

Mustard has great antioxidant and anti bacterial properties and is rich in micro nutrients In some traditions it is used for its healing properties—as a pain reliever for muscular pains, in liniments and poultices for insect bites.

The name mustard is derived from the Latin word ‘mustum’ which means ‘must’…this spice is definitely a ‘must’.  It adds piquancy to food flavors and is good in marinades, barbecue sauces and other condiments.  Powdered mustard acts as an emulsifier in salad dressings

American mustard is usually made from white mustard seeds blended with sugar, vinegar and colored with turmeric.

English mustard is also made with white mustard seeds but has a greater pungency.  It is sometimes mixed with wheat flour for bulk and has turmeric for color. Do watch out for wheat ingredients before using this mustard.

Dijon mustard is made from husked black mustard seeds blended with salt, and spices. It is important to check the manufacturer’s website whether wheat or gluten has been used in the wine fermentation process.

Ginger—has great digestive and anti inflammatory properties.  Adding ginger to beans and other legumes while cooking makes them easily digestible and less flatulent.  Ginger helps to clear coughs, colds, soothes nausea and crampis.  It is a mild natural alternative to histamines.

Ginger has strong anti oxidant properties, inhibiting oild from growing rancid in the body.  It also contains small quantities of iron and calcium along with micro nutrients like magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.

Garlic—is the most protective of all root vegetables.  It is a powerful immune system booster, helps lower cholesterol and inhibits growth of tumours.  It has strong antioxidant properties as it has the rare mineral, selenium.  A recent USDA report calls garlic a “functional food” with special nutritional benefits.

Garlic contains nutrients such as Vitamins A and C, and significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.  But its most important ingredient is allicin, a sulphur bearing compound which is an effective anti coagulant.

Food cooked with garlic is protected from pathogens for a good period of time and does not spoil as quickly as food cooked without.  It is important to also add other spices to food to preserve it naturally.

Cornell researchers tell us that people began using garlic and similar herbs centuries ago to kill bacteria and other food borne pathogens.

Reducing ‘Spicy’ food from our diet is not a good option. We can add less cayenne pepper/ jalapenos/ red and green chilies to our food, but adding spices is extremely important for health and general well being.

Spices add Variety, which is the ‘spice’ of life, so go ahead, Spice It Up!


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