Dig-In Meals – A column highlighting Indian spices in recipes that take traditional Indian food and add a western twist!

Thirty five years ago when I first moved to this country as a student, Thanksgiving was a lonely affair. My friends invited me to join their families, as I had nowhere to go, but the meal was mostly traditional and as a vegetarian, I had few choices (mostly of sides.)

Years later, when I had a family of my own, I started hosting large gatherings with our friends from various cultures, weaving a tapestry of culinary cultures. The menu at our house stayed mostly traditional, honoring classic American traditions with an Indian twist. Some innovative sides I have riffed are cranberry chutney, potato raita, green beans poriyal, whole tandoori cauliflower and tandoori turkey. For all these recipes, and also for my daily cooking, I have switched to Raina Kumra Gardiner´s awesome nutrient-dense and lower-in-sodium salt and pepper. She has added ancient Ayurvedic formulations known to help the body and mind adapt to inflammation and stress, as well as 21 vitamins and minerals.

This year, I am sharing some new recipes for show stopping sides, inspired by warm Indian spices. My Gulab Jamun Cardamom Cake makes the perfect dessert.

As we come together this Thanksgiving, let’s make it a human to human connection, an analog opportunity (in our digital world) for us to acknowledge that we have a lot to be grateful for.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Brussels Sprouts (image: Mona Shah)


  • 20 Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin seed
  • 1 tsp Ginger garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp  Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp Red chili powder
  • Salt and pepper – to taste
  • 3 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1tsp balsamic glaze


  1. Wash and cut the brussels sprouts into half vertically.
  2. In  a large bowl, mix the brussels sprouts with the oil, cumin, and all the spices. Toss till combined.
  3. Air fry or pan fry till browned on some spots. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze before serving.

Stuffed Cucumbers

Stuffed Cucumbers (image: Mona Shah)


  • 3 cucumbers
  • 12 oz cream cheese room temp
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh dill chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh flat leaf parsley or cilantro chopped
  • 1 Red capsicum
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 spring onion for garnish
  • Salt and pepper – to taste


  1. Wash cucumbers and slice into  large bite size pieces length wise. Using knife, scoop out the seeds and discard. Place cucumbers cut side down on paper towels for about an hour to let the excess water run out.
  2. Place the cream cheese and remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. Place in a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe cream cheese into cucumbers, you can spoon it in too.
  3. Garnish with thinly sliced red peppers and spring onion.

Crackers with Cranberry Salsa and Cheese

Crackers with Cranberry Salsa and Cheese (image: Mona Shah)


  • Multigrain Crackers
  • 12 ounces cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 jalapeños minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves minced, use ¼ for salsa rest for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Any cheese of your choice. I have used a double cream gouda
  • Salt and pepper – to taste


  1. Rinse, drain, and pick over cranberries, (discarding all that are soft or bruised). Place cranberries in a food processor or blender; pulse until finely chopped but not mushy. Pulse and coarsely crush tomatoes.
  2. Place crushed tomatoes and cranberries in a bowl; mix together with green onions, jalapeños, cilantro, and ginger. Pour lemon juice and sugar over and stir together.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate and allow flavors to develop. If it´s a bit tart allow to sit the flavor will deepen.
  4. Take a cracker, top with the salsa, cheese and garnish with cilantro

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor,...