Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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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!

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Cupcakes on a Dirt-cheap DIY Stand

I made this beautiful and elegant cupcake stand on one of those random boring afternoons when Aarabhi was down for a nap (which went on for two hours, rendering me delirious with joy) and the husband was lazing around. I saw this interesting video on YouTube a few days earlier and bought the supplies (which cost me exactly $3, exc taxes). I was waiting for half an hour of me time so that I could get on. I guess if you wish hard enough for something to happen, it really does *dramatic tears*
cupcake stand3I am in love with this whole cheap craft thingimajig and am going around the house on a scavenger hunt, looking for things to glue together with my giant tube of E6000. My husband probably fears that I might glue his eyes shut unless I find my next DIY project but what do I say, that is a fear that he has to live with.
cupcake stand2cupcake standThe cakes are nothing special, I made them from a yellow cake mix that came out of a box and slathered on some whipped vanilla frosting that was colored with gel coloring. I loved it because it was a change from the homemade cakes I normally bake. The raspberries were added on for some color, of course.
cupcake stand4Have a sunshine-filled day, y’all!

 


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Hot Carrot Halwa for Winter

Halwa is the most diverse of all sweet treats/desserts in the world. From the Middle East to South Asia, Halwa finds its rightful place in a whole repertoire of cuisines. Halwa (or halva or sometimes Alva as we call it in the Indian down South) is typically made out of flour, sugar, butter and dry fruits and nuts which are added in the end to the dish. My most favorite kind will forever be the wheat Alva we get in Tirunalveli, a city in Tamil Nadu. Oh my gosh, the taste. I seriously cannot do justice to this wonderful dish on a single blog post that is not about Tirunalveli Alva. Let me just say this: if I had to choose one dessert and I was allowed to eat only that all my life, I would choose this sweet. And I won’t regret it.
carrot halwaiA couple of days ago, we decided to take advantage of the fresh carrots at home and make carrot Halwa. This is one of the easiest sweets I’ve ever made and it is also one of the yummiest. The condensed milk gave it a wonderful depth to the halva. So it really is a win-win situation. My only regret was that we made very little. I cannot wait to make more and eat it hot out of the pan, a kick in Winter’s cold a**.

Winter Carrot Halwa

Ingredients:
Four huge carrots finely grated (I used the bigger holes on my grater because I hate the mushy texture of the smaller side)

One cup condensed milk

One Tbsp Ghee/brown butter

Few slivered almonds and raisins

Five pieces salted roasted cashews (unroasted would do too, just add them with the almonds and raisins)

A generous pinch cardamom powder (or crushed whole cardamoms)

Method:
Cook the carrot and condensed milk along with cardamom powder on medium hear. It is done when the carrot becomes completely soft and all the water from the milk and carrot condenses. Melt the Ghee, add the slivered almonds and raisins. Let them brown. When done, mix them into the Halwa along with the salted cashews.

Carrot Halwa tastes the best when eaten hot off the pan with vanilla ice cream. So good!


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Chocolate Fudge with Salted Pistachios

Chocolate Fudge2When it comes to picking a chocolate recipe to make, it is a no brainer at this household. I always pick Ina’s Outrageous Brownies and I am never disappointed. So this time, I surprised myself by craving something chocolate that was not brownies. I wanted fudge. And I didn’t want to switch my oven on. I probably get zero points for creativity but hey, I was not competing in a contest!

Shopping around for recipes, I came across Nigella’s Chocolate Fudge with Pistachio recipe and decided to be daring. When I say daring, I use the word loosely because this is the first Lawson recipe have ever made and am I glad I tried it! These chocolate-y squares are pure heaven and the taste is only magnified by the sweetened condensed milk. Although I do wish I had added a dash of vanilla to the fudge, I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would have, thanks to the pistachios.
Chocolate FudgeOh, the pistachios! I have a truck-load of salted-roasted pistachios sitting in the refrigerator and this recipe was an amazing way use up some of them. Since my nuts were already salted, I did not add the pinch of salt Nigella’s recipe lists.

I also want to give a shout-out to my sister who has a new-found love in her life now called cooking! She made her first mug brownie last night and reveling in the joy only a midnight cup of dessert can bring you. J, here is another sweat-treat for you to try and just so you know, I am getting ready to accept your gratitude gracefully 🙂


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A Picture Post for an Old Recipe

Today will not be about word counts or getting my recipe right. It will not be a story about family, memories or life as I know it. Instead, this post will be about a recipe I’ve already made but with a prettier picture that I snapped with with a better camera. If you like the update, drop me a line. You will make me happy!

cookie sandwich revampAnd so I log off before my computer’s battery runs out…


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Testing for Food52

So I decided to test a recipe for one of Food52.com‘s community contests. I initially wanted to enter a recipe but the mandatory ingredient for the contest was coconut and I had run out of it only the day before I chanced upon the project. Such a weird thing in a household that consumes fresh coconut as much as any vegetable.
toffee

Anyway, I decided to test one of the entries, the Coconut Milk Caramel and boy was I glad I chose this one! It was the first time I tried my hands at making caramel, without a candy thermometer at that. It came out pretty well, although I suspect I should have let the toffee simmer for a couple more minutes because it was a tad gooey. I also skipped the coconut essence because with the coconut milk and toasted coconut layer, I figured an addition of something intensely concentrated like coconut essence would break the dish more than build it.

I don’t know if I made the right decision but the end product was so darn delicious! The next time I make this (and I am pretty sure I will!), I will try it with the essence. Until then, I shall do my best at resisting these lovelies.

I have a feeling I am going to stumble a couple of times…

Oh and I finally got to enter my previous post, the creamy saffron-infused Kulfi for the website’s next contest called Your Best Frozen Dessert. This is not a shameless plug but if you have time, you should check this one out. They have a huge collection of delicious frozen treats on display!


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Flaky-Dense Chocolate Cooker Cake

Long long ago, one of my aunts made a chocolate cake. I was around seven at that time and ovens were practically unknown to mankind… in India. I got to taste this delicious cake, which was eggless, on one of my cousin’s ninth birthday and life was never the same again. I craved this dense, rich cake over the years but never really got to taste it again. Years went by and the memories of that fun party, primarily highlighted by the wonderful cake, kept coming back to me.

cooker cake2

So the last time I did remember it, I decided to find out the recipe. My aunt was not reachable but I did remember one vital part of the recipe: she made it in a pressure cooker. We use the cooker rather extensively in Indian cooking so sourcing one was not a problem. The problem lay in figuring out what to put under the batter to heat it up. I know my aunt used sand but where do I go for sand, so far away from the sea? A quick research online gave me two options: steaming it or heating it directly. I was afraid that the latter would probably damage my rubber ring (that thing we call gasket in India) so I opted for the former method.

I ended up with a wonderfully moist, dense and flaky cake that I am in love with. Though it lacked the rather earthy flavor of the cake using the sand method, it was good! And who knew something as easy as steaming could yield such a rich dish?!

This is how I made it:

Chocolate Cooker Cake

Ingredients:
One and a half cup all-purpose flour

Four Tbsp dark cocoa powder

Three quarter cup sugar

One tsp vanilla essence

One cup yogurt (or replace with buttermilk. You could also use soy/almond milk for a vegan version)

Half tsp baking soda

One and a half tsp baking powder

Half cup vegetable oil

Method:
Mix the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Add the dry to the wet, while whisking it. I used the KitchenAid but a whisk or a hand mixer works equally well. Fill the bottom of the cooker with water (incidentally, salt, raw rice and beans work too) and place a steaming plate in the bottom. Grease and flour a container well. Transfer the batter and make sure it is sealed well. Use a perfectly-fitting lid or aluminum foil. This is key: *Make sure it is tightly sealed* While steaming, water has chances of entering the cake container, making the cake soggy and, well, gross.

Close the lid but do not use the weight. Steam the cake on medium-low for 45 minutes, until completely done. You can check the doneness by inserting a knife or a fork.

This cake is not overly sweet, primarily because of the dark chocolate. If you want a sweeter cake, add one cup sugar. I “iced” it with Nutella so the sweetness was perfect. If you want something fancier, I would suggest a chocolate ganache icing. But then, I, as everyone knows, am partial towards ganache so I feel that works the best. I am sure a simple buttercream frosting works really well too.

If you don’t have a cooker, you can steam it in a large container with a tight lid too. Finally, 45 minutes is a ballpark. It could take you longer or lesser time. It really depends on the size of your cake container.

cooker cake