Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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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

Ingredients:
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)

Method:
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 etsy.com 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).

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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- Personal

This is it. The last installment of this edition of the Photography Styling Challenge and it got a-personal! I remember the first challenge I was a part of. The concept was Morning and I was this super-sad photographer who was oblivious to the wonders my DSLR was capable of. All that changed on that Sunday in October as I messed around with my camera, trying to get decent pictures of the breakfast I made.
personalNeedless to say, I have come a long way since then. Unfortunately, last month was a complete failure. My camera kind of had some problems and I lost the images I had shot for the challenge. The topic was Living Room and I spent quite a lot of the precious time I had set aside for studying, styling my ever cluttered living room. Although I got my camera and the memory card set right, the due date was long gone and I had zero inclination to style the room again. Oh well, I guess it is better to look ahead. So this month, we draw this challenge to a close by styling and shooting something personal.

I had to really rack my brain for a suitable subject. What could be personal to me in a 1050 sq. ft. house that we share with a baby who likes to clutter all the time? I mean, I don’t have a special place to sit and read/study, I don’t exactly have a book shelf and the only place we hardly use, there by has the potential to become my personal space, is the guest bedroom which is now full of furniture we don’t use any more. As I was working myself into depression over the lack of personal space, I spotted something that I knew would be the perfect subject for this month’s theme.
personal2This foam A is something I have been working on for the past couple of weeks. It is going to serve as the centerpiece for Aarabhi’s first birthday decoration. My idea is to make it eclectic, hence I am on the hunt for colorful scraps that could fill the letter up without making it look shabby. Initially, I was not ready to share it yet. It was intended to be a big reveal for the birthday. But then while dealing with a sensitive topic like Personal, it is always good to step slightly out of the comfort zone and this certainly fits the bill.
personal3Since I have not finished the project yet, I am really not giving everything away in one post. Notice the ragged edges and the empty yellow spaces? They will change soon.

So here is to the wonderful experience this challenge was and the awesome bloggers I met on it. You can check out their version of this month’s challenge on their blogs:

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
Coconut Craze

I hope we do this again really soon!


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Photography Styling Challenge- Patterns

Long long ago, in my second year of undergrad, we had photography exercises that spanned over a multiple everyday concepts. This was my syllabus’ way of creating “well-rounded” photographers and our professor would spend an awfully long time picking and selecting record book-worthy photos from the sea of rolls we would go through every week.
Needless to say, I would dread this process since photography, I decided, was not my cuppa. I was more the graphic designing kinda girl and I made sure the whole world knew this. Thankfully, things have changed. I have fallen hopelessly in love with photography and my humble but very beautiful camera. Every time I begin my journey for the monthly photography challenge, I always think back to that dreadful photography phase and kind of regret it.

My father was a wonderful photographer. Every frame he clicked would come alive in the sepia-toned postcard-sizes. Yet, he never had a formal portfolio, did not give professional photography a thought and his models all lived under the same roof- his. Being one of his primary muses, I have always felt honored (and secretly superior) to have had his beautiful vintage Pentax (an inheritance from his father, another amateur photographer) focused on me- a concept I am trying on my little girl, in an attempt to capture every little bit of this beautiful life we are living together.

So yes, this month’s photography challenge brought to me a sea of memories, some of them difficult and most of them very happy ones. Patterns: what does it bring to my mind? Life, that is what. But how does one go about photographing life? More specifically, how does one bring life to a subject like pattern? It was difficult so I decided to go with a couple of obvious subjects to focus on.
patternsThe first one is a picture of sticky buns I made a couple of months ago. I specifically clicked this picture with this exercise in mind. This is me being prepared like the little Girl Scout I was back in the day. Food can make pretty patterns, you see. But you’ve gotta look out for them.
patterns3The next thing that comes to my mind at the mention of patterns is knitting. My sister is a very enthusiastic knitter and she made this wonderful scallop patterned scarf for winter. It is the most beautiful piece I’ve ever owned and it makes me a proud sister whenever I wear it. You can read her blog here.
patterns2Although I wanted to go about clicking madly, I hardly had any time to do it. My goal for the next challenge is come up with at least four different concepts. I am pretty sure I can manage that.

So if you want to know more about the challenge, click here and you can see how others interpreted this subject by clicking on the following links to other participants:

Redesigned By M
At the Corner of Happy and Harried
Inge Kathleen Photography
My Food Tapestry
A Woven Life
City Girl Searching
A Tree Grows in the Bayou
I Live under a Rock Called Table Mountain
Hooked on Homes

I nearly forgot to tell you! I started another blog on a whim. Since it is still under development, I will tell you more about it later.


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Photography Styling Challenge- Chaos

chaos2Time and fate work against me. This is the third time I am trying to post this. Apparently wordpress doesn’t understand what “save draft” means, although that is one of the options on offer. So let me do this before that smidgen of inclination towards writing fades away in me. Chaos was readily available at home… until we decided to clean up the mess since we were having guests over. After all the vacuuming (credits to the hub) and changing linen and stowing all of A’s toys away, I realized my folly.

So I decided to make do with what chaos I could collect in the house… I am not all that impressed and you will see why. The challenge threw a curveball at me: I had to use some of the same elements I had used in the Order post. Easier said than done but I decided to get creative with this rule and you will find out how in a minute.

The trinket gifts from various cities our friends and family live/visited became mementos from our travels in and around USA. The paw, of course, is K’s way of showing his Nittany Lions pride. Correction- one of the many ways (you should see his car and his wardrobe). Since the refrigerator door is common property in this house, my apples biting their apples (left hand side corner in sunglasses) also made the cut! I miss you girls…
chaos3My stack of books, my favorite companions, became Aarabhi’s favorite companions: her big basket of toys and dolls. She loves playing with almost all of them but her most favorite activity of all will always be pulling the whole basket and toppling its contents all over herself and the floor. This here is Sophie (aka Valli, named so in honor of her manufacturer, Vulli). Thanks to her, my fingers have been spared and they now function for what they were intended for, picking up her mess, rather than a live chewable toy.
chaosSo there. How is that for a messy house?

You can read about the challenge here and you can look at better representation of Chaos by the following participants:
Redesigned By M
Red Lovin Pixie
At the Corner of Happy and Harried
Inge Kathleen Photography
My Food Tapestry
Pies and Puggles
A Woven Life
City Girl Searching
A Tree Grows in the Bayou
I Live under a Rock Called Table Mountain
Hooked on Homes

 


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Props and Plans for 2014

blog stuffWhen I first started baking (which was around the same time I started blogging about it), my measuring cup was a single take-out container which had a one cup marking on it. I resisted the idea of buying tools due to a faint fear that I would grow out of this “novel” method of cooking. But the hub prodded me into buying a set of measuring cups at least! On a random visit to our local Dollar Tree outlet back in Maryland, I came across a set of measuring devices (in picture) for, yes, a dollar! Since then, a lot of buying has happened in various Dollar Tree outlets and somewhere along the line, I realized that hey, you don’t need to buy from fancy shmancy stores to cook effectively. blog stuff4Well, I stand corrected. you don’t need to buy everything from big stores to cook yummy food. Although I have wonderful appliances and baking tools from other stores, Dollar Tree always excites me. Apart from the measuring cups, I have quite a few other interesting props and tools I have collected over the years. So when I was wondering how I wanted to end the year, a picture heavy post about things that help make my food look and taste good was not only an awesome idea but also very fitting. Our Christmas lights and a gloomy day worked well together and I ended up with beautiful pictures- probably the best shoot I have done in long. So let’s continue, shall we? blog stuff5As the cliche goes, hands are a cook’s best tools. But a set of sturdy mixing spatula and basting brush are always a welcome relief especially when your batter gets stuck to the bottom of the KitchenAid while trying to make a birthday cake or when you are trying to brown the top of your garlic rolls with some melted butter. Both of them are by Betty Crocker and I love the brilliant red they come in. blog stuff3Ah, the birds and my beautiful silver tray! Although the former have never made it to the blog (yet), the latter was on the other cake post I wrote a few months ago. The birds are such dainty little things that I am still looking for a post to include them in. The silver tray was a random purchase that K threatened to throw out if I did not use. It was a dollar and he was tired of storing it. Thankfully, I found a use and am I glad I did! blog stuff2I don’t know which I love more- the black bowl or the red napkin (slash rag cloth). Although the bowl has been featured in gravy posts like Veg Balls in Garlic Sauce and Punjabi Kadhi, the rag cloth is a new buy so I am stowing it away for the new year. So yes, it is easy to blog on a budget if you open your eyes and look. There is really no shame is going the Dollar Store route as long as you know where to draw a line!

As for plans, the blog address is going to change, I am certain about it. We will go from Ladlesandhighheels.com to ChefetteSpicy.com.I am going to indulge more in low-carb cooking for 2014. It has been six months since Aarabhi and now is the time to get back in shape. So my low-carb diet is going to aid me in getting there. Also on my to-do list for the blog is slow cooker cooking. Although I see no point in making pies and brownies in my crock-pot, I am pretty sure that it can turn out some crazy delish Sambar and Dal. Since all I would have to do is mix the ingredients together and wait for the dish to be done, I am very excited!

The holidays are closing in on us and I am in Virginia at the moment with the whole bunch of East Coasters. I have so many pictures to share and plans to cook something together with M, one of my sisters-in-law. I am looking forward to that and I am looking forward to clicking pics. I used to be nonchalant or very pessimistic about new years but this time, I am very positive about it. I have various reasons for it but whatever it is, I know one thing: I will own 2014!

So I might do yet another post before we ring in the new year. But in case I go MIA until 2014, here is me wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Stay safe, drink eggnog (if you are into it) and eat lots of wonderful food!


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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.