Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels

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Hello from Sunny California!

I am back and I am excited to get up to speed as soon as possible. Between the good-bye and hello, we have been through some very exciting changes! First of all, we moved a few states to the west and landed in California. To top that, we did it in style: a six-day roadtrip covering ten beautiful American states: Alabama> Tennessee> Arkansas> Oklahoma> Texas> New Mexico> Arizona> Nevada> California. With a toddler in tow. No, I kid you not. We saw some amazing landscapes, ate good- at times unbelievably so- food, visited a whole bunch of interesting places like children’s museums (a whole bunch actually!), the Breaking Bad trail and, oh gosh, THE GRAND CANYON!!!

And all through the trip, our daughter behaved herself, enjoyed every bit of it until she threw up (quite literally!). But that’s a story for another post and so is the story of our epic road trip. Right now, let me unwind and get reacquainted with WordPress and Chefette. Wow, I really have missed this!!


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Temporarily Unavailable

It is a strange feeling, saying good bye and not really going anywhere, which is why I haven’t done the inevitable to this blog. I think I have been sub consciously holding on, thinking that I would be returning to the bright yet confusing world of food blogging and photography. However, I have tried for eight months and I have zero inclination to go through this process again.

When I started this blog to chronicle my adventures in the kitchen, I didn’t expect it to go beyond writing down recipes and probably clicking a picture here and there on my cellphone to upload along with the posts. But this blog grew beyond that. I met an eclectic bunch of people, it was a wonderful medium to help me keep in touch with writing fun posts and explore the art of looking at food through a lens- new eyes rather! This blog also gave me the opportunity to go back to Photoshop, my most favorite graphic software, a friend that I had left behind at college but caught up with later in life.

All that said, I know that it is time to move on. I have reached that place in life where I have stopped looking at food as art and cooking as a medium to let out my creative flow. Instead, it has transformed into a chore I’d rather put off indefinitely… and this is exactly what blogging should not become. So many friends, virtual and actual, have asked me why I haven’t posted any recipes in so long and I could not think of a reason back then. I finally have one now and this is it.

This is not a good-bye, of course. I still write, I have a personal blog that has been trying to stay afloat for the past two years and it is going to be my only love for now. You could check it out if you are ever in need of an angsty observation of life and everything connected to it (who doesn’t, right?). My Instagram feed will also be active and full of yummy food that I either make or eat but not limited to that. And some day, I do hope I get back to talking about food. Until then, I am temporarily unavailable here.

See you!


Thai Basil Eggplant

Holidays are nearly on top of us and I have no idea how this whole year zipped by. Although I am busy lovin’ winter, what with the sudden, global warming-induced 80° F weather and all that, I cannot help but miss the glorious summer we had. The summer filled with fresh produce, an abundant supply of sweet basil and trips to the farmer’s market that left me with a dilemma of what to buy and what to let go of… Sigh, what a beautiful season that was!

On the brighter side, I discovered the joys of one of the biggest farmer’s market in Atlanta right on time and although I am not going to be able to visit it often, I know that I can always find season-appropriate fresh produce there, if we can manage a two-hour car ride from this side of the country. And we have friends who visit Atlanta and the market regularly, so in case we ever feel too lazy to venture out, we can always request them to grab a few things for us… like we did last weekend.
baby food_yogurt3Our friends brought back fresh Thai basil amongst other produce. I was so taken by the herb that I decided it was time to make it the star of the show! After a couple of, erm, episodes involving curries named after various colors in the recent past, I decided to wing it and use the Japanese eggplant I had in the refrigerator along with peppers and call it a dinner. I surprise myself sometimes!😉
Thai basil eggplantThai basil eggplant3

Thai Basil Eggplant

Two Japanese eggplants, cut into three inch pieces

One bunch Thai basil, julienned

One onion, sliced thin

Two sweet red bell peppers, julienned (you can use a combination of different colors also)

Half cup babycorn, cut into bite size pieces

Quarter cup coconut milk

Quarter cup water

One Tbsp minced garlic

One tsp red chili flakes

Quarter cup light soy sauce

Quarter cup mushroom-flavored oyster sauce

Quarter cup Hoisin sauce

Quarter cup chili sauce like Sriracha or Sambal Olek (I used a combination of both)

Half tsp pepper

Quarter cup canola or vegetable oil

Heat two Tbsps of oil in a pan. Sauté the eggplants over medium-high heat, stirring just a couple of times. Make sure the pan sizzles all the time, else the eggplant will mush. As you cook the eggplant, heat the rest of the oil in a wok or a bigger pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook on high heat. When slightly browned, add the peppers and turn the heat to medium. When the peppers soften slightly, mix in the sauces, chili flakes and half the basil. Let the sauce cook and bubble. When it is nearly absorbed, pour in the coconut milk and quarter cup water along with the babycorn. Now add the eggplant to the pan and gently stir. Garnish with the rest of the basil and eat up or I will!
Thai basil eggplant2

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Pumpkin Pie Spice and Pumpkin Spice Latte

If you have been following the fan page on Facebook, you would be very aware of the fact that I am obsessed with pumpkin at the moment. It is as much a fall thing as it is my personal palate thing. Although I am pretty late getting into this pumpkin everything game, I can tell you that I am fully committed. In fact, I took a pledge to get out there and try everything there is to try with pumpkin! Now, my house plays host to the spicy sweet fragrance of a pumpkin-spice candle and it is only the beginning. So before I begin to tell you about the goings on in my pumpkin perfumed home, let me paint you a picture about the first time I tried this wonderful warm flavor that has become the fall colors equivalent of the culinary world:
Pumpkin spice mixIt was a warm (what else did you expect from the south?) fall day in 2013, we hit the park with a surprisingly cheerful four month old. After walking for a bit, Kishore, Amma and I decided to go to Dunkin’ Donuts because Amma needed  to taste a proper donut, the American pride. Krispy Kreme was out of question because, well, it was further away compared to DD. I decided to bring fall into my tall glass of cold latte and opted for the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Needless to say, I was hooked proper for not even a crying baby could pry me away from my latte. And thus began my experiments with commercially made pumpkin latte. I tasted it in Starbucks, the official home of the PSL; I had it at Einstein Bros Bagel (aka, my favorite spot at college) and then some more at DD.

Although Starbucks does make the best PSL, I, like a good (erm, the jury is still out on that!) enthusiastic blogger, just had to try my hands at making some. So before I began the experim-erm-cooking, I had to find some spice mix. So instead of buying a box, I decided to make mine. I mean, there are a zillion blogs out there that give you the recipe. You must be cuckoo to actually go out and buy that stuff!

My favorite recipe is from The Kitchn and it is perfect as it is. But the mix is so accommodating that you can play around with the quantity of the spices and personalize it according to your preference. The one advantage of running a predominantly Indian kitchen is how easily available each of these spices are. My pantry already had ground ginger (also called Sukku Podi in Tamil), ground cinnamon, ground clove, all-spice powder, ground nutmeg and mace! Talk about luck and the lack of need to substitute with some random spice!
Pumpkin spice mix2 Thus the pumpkin spice was born, the primary reason I ditched my boring old coffee this morning and whipped up some pumpkin spiced latte (with ice, of course!). Since a few of my friends and faithful fan page followers (hem-hem, take the cue, people, and go like it!) asked for the recipe, I decided to put it up here. I adopted it from The Kitchn‘s recipe but made quite a few alterations to suit my taste.
Pumpkin spice lattePumpkin Spice Latte

Two Tbsp mashed pumpkin (I used it off a can)

One tsp pumpkin spice mix (and more for sprinkling)

Two Tbsp sugar

One cup milk

Half cup ice cubes

One Tbsp vanilla essence

One tsp instant coffee powder (I used Nestcafe Clasico but you can actually brew your coffee with water and freeze it in an ice tray. Just eliminate the ice in that case)

Whipped cream (optional, I didn’t use it)

Place the mashed pumpkin and the spice mix in a saute pan and cook them for a couple of minutes. However, I skipped this step and didn’t think it made a difference to the taste. Pour all the other ingredients into a blender. Add in the pumpkin mix. Process until the ice is crushed and the latte turns frothy. Transfer to a glass and enjoy the pumpkin-y goodness all season long!

Mmm, don’t mind if I do!

Ps: So about the spice bottle- I’ve been getting questioned about it. Although I haven’t branched into commercially producing spice mixes, I do have future plans to. I have a store on but don’t search for it since it has literally nothing in it. I have stowed the idea away for the future when my schedule is slightly free and I don’t have to bend over backwards to get my very basic-daily chores done (I hear laughing in my head).


India Trip 2014- A Round-up of Food and Fun

Things have changed around here! WordPress has a brand new dashboard, the colors have changed and I cannot recognize one freakin’ thing. This is bad, you guys- well, bad and good actually. We got back from India a month ago and I hit the ground running the minute we reached home. First, baby A fell sick with a tummy bug. She hit poopy land (erm, sorry for the graphic details. I have to get it off my chest some how) for quite a few days. Although the doc assured us that this will pass, things hit further rock bottom when I followed suit and fell sick with a viral.

Yet another first birthday cake for Aarabhi. This one was for one of her numerous birthday parties in India. It was a chocolate mousse cake with fresh fruits. Yum!

Yet another first birthday cake for Aarabhi. This one was for one of her numerous birthday parties in India. It was a chocolate mousse cake with fresh fruits. Yum!

The hub, the father of my poopy pants daughter spent a couple of very busy days tending to us. As we recovered, my semester started and I had to look alive and start studying, an art I had conveniently forgotten over the summer. Weekends have been spent catching up with friends, promising to clean the very messy kitchen (a task I got done only today. Shudder!) and catching up on the sleep we have been steadily losing since the toddler decided to embark on her purple crying phase.

Kiran's Lunch Box: My mother-in-law is probably the champ of making quick but delicious tasting lunches. This here was for the BIL.

Kiran’s Lunch Box: My mother-in-law is probably the champ of making quick but delicious tasting lunches. This here was for the BIL.

Oh, I forgot the day care fiasco! A had happily forgotten her beloved auntie and friends from daycare and we spent a tense couple of weeks getting her reacquainted. Although we were told that she adjusted way easier than some children do, I don’t think I have the strength in me to take her away for a month again!

Yes, I cooked too. I made my Egg Korma with coconut milk for dinner and watched my mom and sister go crazy! Achievement unlocked.

Yes, I cooked too. I made my Egg Korma with coconut milk for dinner and watched my mom and sister go crazy! Achievement unlocked.

Ah, the month. It was a whirlwind romance for me with the city I love. Hot, humid, complex and cheerful Madras. So much has changed, I realized every minute of my stay there. But amidst the bustle all the new developments had brought, over the blare of the traffic honks and away from the blinking lights of the overly commercialized lifestyle that has become the new identity of my people, I recognized my old city, the one that will always be the love of my life. It was warm, it was inviting and it is a place I want to return to again and again.

One of the best things to ever happen in so long was meeting all my ladies at the same time... after five long years!

One of the best things to ever happen in so long was meeting all my ladies at the same time… after five long years!


With my super-cool brother-in-law, drinking Paneer Soda, a local delicacy in one of the oldest cities in the world, Madurai. It happens to be the husband’s home city on his maternal side. Made with rose water, this fizzy drink is the best beverage I’ve tasted in so long!

Another awesome drink from Madurai, the Goli Soda. Perfect for a hot summer day. I don't regret the sore throat I acquired after.

Another awesome drink from Madurai, the Goli Soda. Perfect for a hot summer day. I don’t regret the sore throat I acquired after.

So with all this going on, I forgot that my blog existed. I have been cooking, I have been taking as many photos as my schedule lets me but while trying my best to keep up with Chefette Spicy, I have come to admit to myself the bitter truth- I cannot do this like I used to. This blogging thing became a full time job back when I could afford to spend time on it. But with a demanding course schedule, a baby who makes me want to spend all my free time with her- making dog and cat noises over and over again, and a non-demanding husband who deserves more attention from me than I seem to give, my blogging days might be coming to an end.

I know that I might probably be undoing years of work I put into it. I cannot say it doesn’t make my heart feel cold and lonely. But I need to set my priorities right. So I might keep the blog running but it is going to be slow and updates might become sparse. Ah well, it has been a good run.


How to Cake Smash Like a Pro

cake smash2The inevitable happened. My Junebug turned a year old last Sunday. Although I had been preparing for her birthday for four long months, the enormity of it hit me only while I was getting her ready for the cake smash photoshoot. A whole year zipped past me as I was learning new things about my baby and trying to be a satisfactory mother. Although I have guilt tripped several times over the year, I am glad I got plenty of chances to slow down, take long- deep glances at her and enjoy the little girl who is the best thing to have ever happened to Kishore and me.

So her birthday was not only a celebration of the first year Aarabhi spent in this world, but also of us as a family who made it through sleepless nights, mammoth bawling sessions, never-ending growth spurts and the zillion vaccination days that we are never going to shake off any time soon. Even though I had my sights set on the actual party that was scheduled to happen the day before her birthday, I was also looking forward to the cake smash. It was a new concept to me and I instantly fell in love with the idea of letting Aarabhi run wild around a specially baked cake. I poured over Pinterest, considered different cake recipes, selected the color combinations for the backdrop, her clothes and a sea of other things I never realized I would have to think about!
cake smashHere are the decisions we made and the budget we ended up with, in a nutshell:

  • The background was simple. Pink and green (her party color combination) ribbons- $2
  • The shabby-chic DIY A for centerpiece- From my cupboard
  • Homemade carrot-vanilla rosette. Green frosting since her costume was pink cake- $5
  • Pink tutu with DIY satin bow- $5
  • DIY Cake stand- $2.50

We spent slightly less than $15 on the shoot.
cake smash4Thankfully, I took the summer off, hence I was able to spend some extra time preparing. The result: A wonderful hour filled with a surprisingly well-behaved toddler who was more interested in feeding cake to her Appa than eating it herself. I really do wish my pictures had turned out better. On closer inspection, I noticed that the white balance set on my camera had resulted in a few grainy pictures. But discount that, I loved doing the shoot. And I am glad we decided to do it all by ourself, for there is nothing more rewarding than being THE ONE capturing her precious smile on the camera🙂
cake smash3Here are a couple of pointers in case you want to try this at home:

  • Follow a super simple cake recipe like this one I used from Cooking Light. It is clean, not complicated and agrees with a baby’s tummy and palate.
  • Keep the background colorful yet easy to make. Your baby is your shining star. A couple of simple ribbons draped across the backdrop in subtle colors or a few balloons flying about will do the trick too.
  • You may be tempted to click a million pictures. Resist the urge. I did 200 and regretted it since I was confused about which ones to pick.
  • Have fun. Babies, as always, can sense your moods. If you are tensed and bark orders to the person helping you, your child will get cranky and we don’t want that!
  • Finally, set your shoot for a week before the party. You don’t want a hectic couple of days, do you?

We fly to Madras next week and I am super excited about showing little Miss B my city. Apart from that, I am hoping to cook for the family and eat a lot too. In case I don’t post anything before that, see y’all from India!


Spinach and Corn Mac and Cheese

spinach mac and cheeseCreamy, jam packed with flavor and wonderfully versatile, this loose interpretation on mac and cheese has been on my mind for a really long time. Kishore loves his mac and cheese and he would eat only one version- Ina Garten’s. Although I made it exactly as she does a couple of times, I quickly realized that it was not an everyday mac and cheese. For one, it is full of cheese (always looks good on paper but not sensible to eat twice a month) and all purpose flour. To top that, Ina’s recipe calls for one whole stick of butter! I shudder at that thought.
spinach mac and cheese3Hence, I have been playing with ingredients for a really long time. Although I shaped it into a healthy version, one thing I did not want to play with was the flavor. So I kept jalapeño, broccoli and artichoke out of the dish. But last week, I wanted to change it up because I was not a huge fan of mac and cheese. As I mentioned before, I have been making this dish up for a very long time. A quick search on the internet proved that it does really exist. But I decided not to peep into any of those and do what I decided to. Hence, I combined my favorite dip, Warm Spinach and Corn (sometimes Artichoke) Dip and Macaroni and Cheese!

spinach mac and cheese2Spinach and Corn Mac and Cheese

One pound macaroni elbows or any medium/small size pasta (I used Penne)

Four Tbsp all purpose flour

Four Tbs whole wheat flour

One and a half cups 2% milk

Half cup water

Eight Oz Container of low-fat cream cheese

Four to Five cups fresh spinach, washed and chopped

One cup cooked sweet corn kernels

Half tsp nutmeg

Four oz reduced fat Colby Jack cheese shredded

Four pods garlic, finely chopped

One Tbsp butter

Two Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain the water and keep aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add spinach and let it wilt. Add the sweet corn and cream cheese. Mix it well until the cheese melts. Add enough pepper and salt. Grease an 8″ baking dish. Pour the spinach mixture and bake it for ten minutes. Meanwhile, make the white sauce:

Heat the olive oil in the same pan you made the dip. Add garlic and saute on low heat until slightly cooked. Sprinkle both the flours and saute for a few minutes. This will take the raw smell off the flour. While that happens, mildly heat the milk in the microwave. With a whisk in one hand, slowly pour the milk as you whisk it into the mixture. All through this process, it is important that you leave the heat at low. Sprinkle in some salt, pepper and nutmeg. Slowly mix the sauce until it starts thickening. When it reaches a very thick consistency, pour in the water. Let it boil some more. When the sauce reaches a pouring consistency and passes the ladle streak test (dip the ladle in the sauce and draw a line with you finger on the back. If it leaves a clear line, it has reached the desired consistency), add the cheese.

Mix in the pasta. Pour the mac and cheese into the baked spinach dip and give it a mix. Return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until it is bubbling and gooey.

Cook’s notes: I know that water is frowned upon while making mac and cheese. However, I find it a delightful substitution for milk. If you’d rather, replace water with milk.

My 8″ pan was occupied, hence I had to make it in two (cake and loaf) pans. This helped with portion control.

Add red pepper flakes if you like spice. I did.