Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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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!

Paneer

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.

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Photography Styling Challenge- Light

What a disastrous month this has been! Apart from studying, driving baby A to daycare and cooking (badly at that) for basic survival, I have been up to absolutely nothing! Throw in a couple of weeks of being totally sick (yes, all of us!) and I was ready to call it quits and run back crying to Amma. Thankfully, that has passed but unfortunately, I had to give up that one thing which has been bringing me respite since I joined this challenge back in October: messing about with my camera.

Hence, I was so unprepared for this month’s challenge. In fact, I realized that the first Monday was already upon me only when I saw a couple of posts on our (very secret) Facebook page. Since it was already too late, I had to rummage around on my memory card and find interesting concepts that I had already photographed since the beginning of the challenge. Thankfully, I did not disappoint me as much as I though I would. I had apparently practiced a couple of times for this concept because I knew it was going to be a difficult albeit super interesting subject to click.
light3I know, this picture could have been so much more but I was in a hurry to get going, something that happens when you have a bawling baby waiting for dinner. It was after Thanksgiving, on a long-awaited visit to the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta. We were just coming back home when this festively lit tree caught my attention. I had to click a picture, I mean, how can I not?!
light4Again, so much more. But I loved the pretty lights. I wanted to get that out-of-focus effect but decided to make it straightforward.  I had to pick between two other pictures but was completely confused. So I decided to go with the prettier, more whimsical concept to bring it home and call this challenge done.
Light2This was one of my Instagram pics a couple of weeks ago. Although I clicked it on my DSLR, I decided to stow it away for this specific challenge. I am in the process of planning baby A’s first birthday. Now wait a minute. I know you are probably going “ALREADY?!” The thing is I like being ahead on planning huge events (sentiment-wise, not size-wise). And if the past month was any reflection on how life is going to be for the next couple of years, it only makes sense to plan waaay ahead of time because when time flies, WHAM! It hits you in the face.

So I was playing around with gift tissue papers and decided to figure out how to make those poms. After a couple of tutorials, I made a pretty but slightly frazzled pom and thought it would be a beauty to click pics of. I was right and wrong.

To know more about the photography styling challenge, click here

Do visit the other participants’ blogs and take a look at their challenge photographs:
Redesigned By M
At The Corner Of Happy And Harried
My Food Tapestry
Inge Kathleen Photography
A Woven Life
City Girl Searching
A Tree Grows in the Bayou
I Live Under A Rock
Hooked On Homes
MeraKitchen
Miss Wang Photography
Simply Vegetarian


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Detailed Post with Pictures: Pori Urundai aka Puffed Rice Balls

Gluttony is described by most dictionaries around the world as over-indulging oneself with food. This is also what we have been doing at home since my mommy and daddy-in-law came from India a week ago. This is where I side-track from the topic of food. More than 75% of this world has a raw deal when it comes to in-laws. They are either the Cinderella stepmother kind or the nonchalant, I-care-a-rat’s-rear-about-what-you-do-in-your-life kind. I am one of the lucky 25% of the population. Coming to think of it, I am the even luckier 2% of the world with the most wonderful parents-in-law (and yes, an equally wonderful brother-in-law too, K!) ever.
pori urundai2I have awesome, bordering on hilarious, story about meeting them for the first time but I am saving that for later. As a girl who lost her father in her life, my daddy borrowed has become that constant father figure and everyone only knows that it is always merrier to have two mothers. And I have the best of em! So a lot of excitement has been happening (and all of them revolving around the baby of the family) since they arrived last Sunday with four huge suitcases, three of which were filled with Indian food! Food! Food! While we are still in the process of demolishing the stock, we had a South Indian festival called Karthigai yesterday which required a whole new and very specific set of goodies that we made at home. Ahem, okay, L Amma made at home and I clicked pics of and pretty much got in her way.

So this post might be picture-heavy, text-heavy and every other heavy there is. I went crazy with the camera, you see! Pori is nothing but puffed rice and Urundai is the process of molding the balls. So we essentially made Rice Krispies balls, a close cousin to Halloween popcorn balls. Instead of sugar syrup, we use jaggery syrup. Karthigai is the day we in the South of India celebrate the birth of Lord Muruga, Lord Ganesha‘s younger brother.

It also marks the beginning of the Tamil month of Karthikai. On this day, we make lots of delicious food, light rows of lamps and decorate the house with flowers. My grandfather used to enjoy watching us beautify the house. After a few minutes of offering our birthday wishes to Muruga, we would dig into the delicious Pori Urundais, reveling in the joy of the warm taste of caramelized jaggery-coated puffed rice.

The picture part of this post commences here. I have recorded the complicated method of making in pictured. Since Amma is a pro at making these sweet treats, she was pretty deft. I did my best to keep up with her. Some of my pics ended up being a complete failure but I managed to capture ’em all!

Freshly scraped coconut

Freshly scraped coconut

vellam

Powdered jaggery mixed with water, ready to be boiled

Puffed rice

Puffed rice

pagu

Boiling the jaggery… waiting for it to reach the right consistency is one of the toughest acts of patience. Ever.

The jaggery is done when  it forms a ball when a few drops are trickled into a cup of cold water

The jaggery is done when it forms a ball when a few drops are trickled into a cup of cold water and rolled with the tips of your finger

The jaggery solution is mixed with white sesame seeds, coconut scrapings and dry ginger powder, and the mixed with the puffed rice

The jaggery solution is mixed with white sesame seeds, coconut scrapings and dry ginger powder, and the mixed with the puffed rice

The mixture is finally shaped with loving hands and made into tight balls

The mixture is finally shaped with loving hands and made into tight balls

Lamps adorning the house

Lamps adorning the house

 

pori urundai

Ta da! They are finally ready to be offered to Lord Muruga for his birthday


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Festival of Lights, ahoy!

Deepavali (Diwali) is here in a couple of days! It is said that Indians celebrate festivals all around the year but nothing beats Deepavali. Preparation begins at least two months in advance. Since my house in Madras is situated right in the middle of the commercial district (imagine living in Times Square all your life!), we celebrate with the crowd and curse them as we do.

People shop for clothes, crackers, sweets, jewellery and everything else during those two long months and take refuge under flimsy store roofs when Varuna, the rain god, strikes. It is the middle of monsoon after all! Our city police work extra hard, pick-pockets work harder, and everyone spends their hard-earned Moolah on worldly objects. We all get a kick out of that, of course!

Last year, I was in India for Deepavali and had so much fun! The fragrance of fire crackers woke me up in the wee hours of the morning. We took bath with oil and traditional Indian shampoo powder called Sheekai, ate lots of sweets and goodies, visited family, friends and had so much fun! K was of course, unable to come to India during that time and my phone call to him from India to America on Deepavali was the most depressing conversation I’ve ever had!

This year, I am home, looking forward to my overly-spoken about trip to India. Though we are far away, Deepavali celebrations in America are pretty awesome too, especially when you have a huge Indian community around you to make you forget about the mad-cap fun your family is having back in India. You would be surprised to know that Alabama has a huge Indian crowd and we have so many friends in our city. So this year, though firecrackers are not going to dot our celebrations, I am making/made sweets to celebrate.

 

A couple of days ago, I made Laddu, a typical Indian sweet, something I learned last year from my mom number 2. I am still reveling in the success. I have a couple more goodies to make and then we are all set to celebrate the festival of lights!

In the words of my all time favorite Tamil actor, Superstar Rajnianth, Happy Diwali, folks! 🙂


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Good-bye, Food!

This has got to be the stupidest post I’ve ever written but it is inevitable. I haven’t cooked anything interesting since my last post. I am not motivated and food turns me off. It’s a phase. And you probably guessed the reason too.

I’ve been struggling to keep up with the idea of food and cooking. It is especially painful when you live away from family, with a man who would do anything in this world for me but cook. Let’s not blame him because even if he did cook, I would not want to eat it. Aversion to things I love eating has been following me around.

I crave Indian food, especially that are not all that nutritious for you like Dahi Puri, Kashmiri Naan and things there is no way in hell I can find in remote Alabama. So, I totally cannot wait to get to India in December. Once there, my mommies will cook for me, I will go out to eat with friends and family and feel loved. Until then, I have to trudge through coursework, housework and make sure I stay sane.

No, don’t feel bad for me. This will keep my endurance in check.

I was talking to K today about the sad state my blog is falling into and he suggested I dig into my folders to find food that haven’t posted about. I did. And it turned up some badly composed pictures. But desperation has left me with no choice and I hate picture-less posts.

so this here is Bhel Puri, a more popular cousin of Dahi Puri that I crave. I made this in March and I refused to make it again because it made me miss home more.

This is Knolkol/Kolrabi Kootu and Curried cauliflower. This Alabama is a strange place. We have a multi-ethnic store which stocks a traditional Indian vegetable like Knolkol but hardly sells eggplant. This Kootu is made of coconut, cumin and Thai chili. If you do find Knolkol in your store, I need to warn you though. Select smaller, tender ones because it is a very fibrous root. It takes extensive peeling and cooking to make this tuber edible. But its taste is unparalleled and this is why I go through all that trouble. Grind the coconut, cumin and Thai chili together with a little water.

Cook the Knolkol until tender. Discard excess water, mix in the paste and salt. Let it boil for a few minutes until you get a semi-solid consistency. Optional addition is soaked Bengal Gram Dal. Two Tbsps soaked overnight (or in hot water for 10 minutes). Add to the cooked Knolkol with the paste. Tada!

So this space is probably going to be done with originals. I will keep it alive with things I eat outside, things my mommies cook up for me and general India posting (sans the Slumdog Millionairesque pics). Who wouldn’t like that!


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Conversations in the Dark

Lights hold a magical place in my heart. I have been fascinated for a long time by the mere physics of light and how it can transform any space into an epitome of sophistication. Though I did not understand its importance while studying photography, I appreciated light later on when my sister started clicking photos. I studied the way a smile can be transformed from mystery to carefree with a little tweak in light.

Later on, as I tried my hand at redoing my room back home, I made peace with the fact that my sassy pad needed at least one awesome light spot. Thus, my corridor came into being, with a tiny spotlight to spread a golden glow across a small, low ceiling stretch.

It is perhaps only because of lights that I found a deep love for terracotta. This traditional form of molding boasts specifically of beautiful pieces of table lamps and ceiling domes. And it is, indeed lights that brought me to lighting candles, sitting by them and making finger patterns.

I knew long ago that when I live in a house of my own, I will ditch the sterile tube lights and surround myself with pretty lamps and conversation pieces that would glow at the touch of a finger. My love for IKEA actually developed because of their beautiful Lights Section. I remember spending nearly an hour and a half looking at lamps and figuring out which one to buy. The hubby, thankfully, is also a finicky shopper, hence we found our soul-mates in each other right there in the Lamps Section.

As I concentrated on clicking poorly framed photographs around lighting, natural and otherwise, I decided to make a lamp of my own. The inspiration for the lamp flared from a weird but well-designed origami the hubby made out of plastic bag-seal from the supermarket. After researching the internet and picking on other lamp enthusiasts’ brains, I formed a plan, spent exactly $15 on hardware that included the dome, lamp-base, metal scone, electrical links and bulb. Hence the Foil Haphazard lamp came into being.

Light still fascinates me. Every house I go to, the first thing I notice is the lighting in the rooms and the glow they cast upon every conversation in progress. I watch HGTV especially to get a peep at the beautiful contemporary chandeliers and bright backyards. Someday, I will finally be done with doing up my house and that day will find every room lit up in dazzling lights that will not be too bright but boast of character.

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Summer, don’t go!

Dregs of Summer fading on my window...

Summer has not even decided to call it quits but I am already lamenting its end. The end of the season means more than low temperature. I dread the inevitable closet call I need to make. Remember the times when we did not have to worry about updating our wardrobe seasonally? Those days have passed for me.

When Spring dawned, bright and balmy this year, I uttered nothing less than an ecstatic shriek and packed my woolies in a drawer far, far away. I am pretty sure they smirked, obviously aware that I have to fall back on them… eventually. Spring passed, so did Summer, with me happily basking in the glory of tanks and shorts. While people cribbed about the hellish DC weather, I sang happily and ran around, savoring it. But who knew my tryst with the sun would end soon!

We are not done with the sunniness though. But I am a person of melodrama and pessimism. Hence, I moan though the weather people promise us at least a month more of this brilliance. Personally, hate layering. I admit that it seemed very exciting last year when it was all new and novel to me but the ordeal of packing my cottons and taking an inventory of things I have and need to buy is making me pretty dizzy here.

I comfort myself by thinking about the retail therapy it would involve. Until then, let me enjoy the sun while it lasts…