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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Existential Crisis and Cranberry Scones

It has been more than two weeks, probably three, since I logged on to WordPress. And I probably would have gone on happily (not really!) if it hadn’t been for all the madcap updates I’ve been seeing on other blogs. I mean some of the bloggers I’ve been following have started on holiday recipes and are in the thick of Deepavali recipes but I did not have even the slightest inclination to go with the crowd. As always, and for the millionth time, I have been monstrously busy.
sconesNot writing doesn’t mean not making yummy stuff and giving my camera temporary retirement didn’t mean I let my kitchen go permanently. I made biscuits a couple of weekends ago for breakfast, and then some Kholrabi Kootu for dinner last week. To celebrate last Friday, I made some yummy cranberry-pistachio scones for evening snack. They were super flaky, soft and a breeze to make. The basic recipe was from AllRecipes but I substituted the sour cream with yogurt and the raisins with cranberries and pistachios.
scones 2This Friday, I dedicate my time exclusively to making Deepavali sweets and packing them up for our wonderful friends we are going to celebrate the biggest Indian festival with. When I say exclusively, I mean it with a pinch of desperation because I have a sneaking suspicion that Miss Bee is going to be up to a lot of mischief!


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Sticky Cinnamon Bun

If I ever got to rule the world, I would make eating cinnamon buns mandatory. No, seriously. I strongly feel that cinnamon buns make this a happier place to live in. Make em sticky and I will be in eternal heaven. So when Amma came across a wonderful Ina recipe for easy sticky buns on tv, it was only natural for me to look it up and obsess over it until I gave in to temptation and made it. So what if I had my finals the next day, right? Sticky Cinnamon Buns deserve more of my attention than my Accountancy book… for half hour they did because making these lovelies was the easiest thing ever.
sticky bunLike all Ina Garten recipes, this is five stars-worthy but then, I had to go on and make my own alteration. First of all, I was not over the moon about using  pastry sheets for a quick snack so I decided to make it “unquick” by replacing it with the yeast dough from my cinnamon bun recipe. Result: seriously yum! No, seriously. We didn’t miss the puff pastry. I also replaced pecans with walnuts but this was only because walnuts were what I had in my pantry (apart from every other nut except for pecans). Finally, I made two versions of the sticky buns- one with brown sugar and another, sugar-free (for Amma). Although the latter was really not sticky, it was pretty delicious but there is room for improvement. I am looking forward to working on it.

The brown sugar made it wonderfully caramelized, chewy and uber gooey, which is really what makes sticky buns, well, sticky. So if you love cinnamon buns, you’ve gotta try this recipe. I cannot wait to make it again over the weekend. No, I am not joking!


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Birthday Means Cake

Yep, it is that time of the year when I make chocolate cake with shameless abandon- the hub’s birthday. If you have been keeping up with this blog since 2011, you would see the pattern here. I am a sucker for chocolate cake. I also feel that no other flavor of cake is worth making so I generally refrain from it. This time, I decided to make Kishore’s favorite cookie ever in cake form, the Oreo. When I say favorite, I am probably understating his love for Oreos because not only does he have the capacity to empty a whole carton of Oreos in one sitting but he also orders milkshakes and ice creams in the flavor. At the make your own froyo bar, he will replicate the Oreo with freaky precision and a madcap glee in his eyes.

So to make sure he really did have a wonderful birthday, I decided that this was it. The bottom is a devil’s food cake that was made from scratch at home and it has two kinds of frosting: the cream cheese OD’d on crumbled Oreo cookies that was used as the filler and the frosting, and the chocolate ganache slathered on the sides. We cut the cake last evening and I can tell you that he will be in serious Oreo heaven for a long time to come. The recipe is from Kraft’s website which I modified a little and it has five star reviews from around 700 people. Do I need to say more?!

Happy Birthday, honey, and for your sanity’s sake (and mine), may the world never run out of Oreos!
Oreo cake