Food as Medicine (with recipes)


SpiceboxTravels readers– Do you remember Auntie Doll, who taught me the tricks of cooking some of my husband’s Trinidadian favorites, including an easier version of pastelles and a spiked, to taste, version of sorrel? I am so pleased that I have just published an Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which I advocate the importance of food in preventing disease and improving health and well-being, and include a few of Auntie Doll’s own recipes, which I am happy to share here.  Auntie Doll taught me most of what I know about cooking the Trinidadian food my husband grew up on.  She also demonstrated through her graceful example how to live– to roll with the punches, to adapt to challenges, and enjoy life to the fullest.  We lost her almost exactly two years ago; I am so glad to have had the chance to honor her in this piece.


me and auntie doll.jpg


Auntie Doll’s Heart Healthy Multigrain Roti (Indian Flatbread)

Auntie Doll adapted the roti (flatbread) she usually made with white flour to a tasty wholegrain version, to improve her diabetes and heart disease.
Yield: 6-8 rotis


1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup rolled oats

2 T. ground flaxseed

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup warm water

canola oil or coconut oil for greasing skillet


1. Make oat flour by pulsing rolled oats in a food processor or high-speed blender.

2. Combine wheat flour with oat flour, flaxseed and salt.

3. Add enough water to make a soft and pliable dough. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

4. Divide the dough into 6-8 small (golf ball-sized) balls, then use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a thin, flat circle, about a 5-inch diameter.

5. Heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet and add a thin layer of oil.

6. Cook until brown one side, then flip and brown on the other side.

7. Serve warm with dal or any other Indian dish.

Trinidadian Dal (Yellow Split Pea Soup)

Dal, which can be made with pretty much any legume, can be enjoyed as a soup or a side dish, depending on how thick or thin you make it. In Trinidad, it is made with yellow split peas and made on the watery side, served as a sauce alongside roti and curry.


1 cup yellow split peas

2 cloves garlic

2 tsp. saffron, turmeric or curry powder

salt and black pepper to taste

½ sliced onion

5 cups water

½ tsp. cumin

1 T. canola oil


1. Bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients except the cumin seed, bring back to a boil, then simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes until the split peas are soft..

3. Use a swizzle stick (a type of whisk used in Trinidad) or an immersion blender to thicken slightly.

4. In a small frying pan, heat a tablespoon or two of oil, then add cumin seed. Pour the spiced oil on top of the dal before serving.


Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in learning to cook food to please your palate and improve your health,  with flavors from around the world, cook with me in the Thrive Kitchen at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco! Contact for more information on classes and to register.  We’re registering now for my next class on 2/21, Healthy African Heritage Cooking.  You can also join my healthy cooking community on Facebook: To your health!