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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Remembering Brunch and Looking Back

breakfast textIt was the most successful brunch I’ve ever made. A non-descriptive Sunday, fall time and I decided to make brunch to pick things up around the house. I have to admit that the cream cheese-Vanilla danish was not the best. I tried to imitate the creamy danish we buy sometimes from Costco. But my end product was slightly dry and lacked the shiny top. I was slightly disappointed but decided to store it up as an opportunity to perfect in the future.  Vanilla-chocolate parfait, a bowl of yummy fresh strawberries (the last of the bounty for the season I snatched off the grocer’s shelf) and the star of the show, breakfast pizza with an egg on top and seasoned with green onions, corn and Sriracha.

This is certainly my happy place, a morning I would like to remember especially on a cold cold day like today was. With Aarabhi’s three-month old feet tapping the floor, Amma’s ever helpful hands rearranging the table for me and K patiently indulging my requests for closing and opening the patio door, I would call this one of my best shoots for the year!

So we are nearly there, the Christmas season and the end of the year. While brimming with excitement about the holiday season, I also feel a touch of melancholy brought on by the end of the year. But I am tuning all that away by making blog plans for next year. A lot is going to happen on here, beginning with a domain address change. Yes, my renewal is up and I am bidding ladlesandhighheels a final good-bye and migrating to the all new chefette spicy! I am also working on a new banner and other exciting stuff. The reveal will happen in 2014 so stay with me.

And finally, about the 100 likes on the facebook page. To keep up with the spirit of Christmas, I did a free cookie promo yesterday and invited a bunch of friends to like the page. We are 104 strong and counting! We have a winner she has picked a friend to send the cookies to. Overall, not a bad end of the year for Chefette Spicy!
christmas treeThe tree is decked up, the gifts are packed. I will certainly do a post before the year ends but if mid-December is here, it is never too early to wish y’all a Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays, people! Let there be peace on Earth.

 


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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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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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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


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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…