Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Thai Basil Eggplant

Holidays are nearly on top of us and I have no idea how this whole year zipped by. Although I am busy lovin’ winter, what with the sudden, global warming-induced 80° F weather and all that, I cannot help but miss the glorious summer we had. The summer filled with fresh produce, an abundant supply of sweet basil and trips to the farmer’s market that left me with a dilemma of what to buy and what to let go of… Sigh, what a beautiful season that was!

On the brighter side, I discovered the joys of one of the biggest farmer’s market in Atlanta right on time and although I am not going to be able to visit it often, I know that I can always find season-appropriate fresh produce there, if we can manage a two-hour car ride from this side of the country. And we have friends who visit Atlanta and the market regularly, so in case we ever feel too lazy to venture out, we can always request them to grab a few things for us… like we did last weekend.
baby food_yogurt3Our friends brought back fresh Thai basil amongst other produce. I was so taken by the herb that I decided it was time to make it the star of the show! After a couple of, erm, episodes involving curries named after various colors in the recent past, I decided to wing it and use the Japanese eggplant I had in the refrigerator along with peppers and call it a dinner. I surprise myself sometimes! 😉
Thai basil eggplantThai basil eggplant3

Thai Basil Eggplant

Ingredients:
Two Japanese eggplants, cut into three inch pieces

One bunch Thai basil, julienned

One onion, sliced thin

Two sweet red bell peppers, julienned (you can use a combination of different colors also)

Half cup babycorn, cut into bite size pieces

Quarter cup coconut milk

Quarter cup water

One Tbsp minced garlic

One tsp red chili flakes

Quarter cup light soy sauce

Quarter cup mushroom-flavored oyster sauce

Quarter cup Hoisin sauce

Quarter cup chili sauce like Sriracha or Sambal Olek (I used a combination of both)

Half tsp pepper

Quarter cup canola or vegetable oil

Method:
Heat two Tbsps of oil in a pan. Sauté the eggplants over medium-high heat, stirring just a couple of times. Make sure the pan sizzles all the time, else the eggplant will mush. As you cook the eggplant, heat the rest of the oil in a wok or a bigger pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook on high heat. When slightly browned, add the peppers and turn the heat to medium. When the peppers soften slightly, mix in the sauces, chili flakes and half the basil. Let the sauce cook and bubble. When it is nearly absorbed, pour in the coconut milk and quarter cup water along with the babycorn. Now add the eggplant to the pan and gently stir. Garnish with the rest of the basil and eat up or I will!
Thai basil eggplant2


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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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Spinach and Corn Mac and Cheese

spinach mac and cheeseCreamy, jam packed with flavor and wonderfully versatile, this loose interpretation on mac and cheese has been on my mind for a really long time. Kishore loves his mac and cheese and he would eat only one version- Ina Garten’s. Although I made it exactly as she does a couple of times, I quickly realized that it was not an everyday mac and cheese. For one, it is full of cheese (always looks good on paper but not sensible to eat twice a month) and all purpose flour. To top that, Ina’s recipe calls for one whole stick of butter! I shudder at that thought.
spinach mac and cheese3Hence, I have been playing with ingredients for a really long time. Although I shaped it into a healthy version, one thing I did not want to play with was the flavor. So I kept jalapeño, broccoli and artichoke out of the dish. But last week, I wanted to change it up because I was not a huge fan of mac and cheese. As I mentioned before, I have been making this dish up for a very long time. A quick search on the internet proved that it does really exist. But I decided not to peep into any of those and do what I decided to. Hence, I combined my favorite dip, Warm Spinach and Corn (sometimes Artichoke) Dip and Macaroni and Cheese!

spinach mac and cheese2Spinach and Corn Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
One pound macaroni elbows or any medium/small size pasta (I used Penne)

Four Tbsp all purpose flour

Four Tbs whole wheat flour

One and a half cups 2% milk

Half cup water

Eight Oz Container of low-fat cream cheese

Four to Five cups fresh spinach, washed and chopped

One cup cooked sweet corn kernels

Half tsp nutmeg

Four oz reduced fat Colby Jack cheese shredded

Four pods garlic, finely chopped

One Tbsp butter

Two Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain the water and keep aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add spinach and let it wilt. Add the sweet corn and cream cheese. Mix it well until the cheese melts. Add enough pepper and salt. Grease an 8″ baking dish. Pour the spinach mixture and bake it for ten minutes. Meanwhile, make the white sauce:

Heat the olive oil in the same pan you made the dip. Add garlic and saute on low heat until slightly cooked. Sprinkle both the flours and saute for a few minutes. This will take the raw smell off the flour. While that happens, mildly heat the milk in the microwave. With a whisk in one hand, slowly pour the milk as you whisk it into the mixture. All through this process, it is important that you leave the heat at low. Sprinkle in some salt, pepper and nutmeg. Slowly mix the sauce until it starts thickening. When it reaches a very thick consistency, pour in the water. Let it boil some more. When the sauce reaches a pouring consistency and passes the ladle streak test (dip the ladle in the sauce and draw a line with you finger on the back. If it leaves a clear line, it has reached the desired consistency), add the cheese.

Mix in the pasta. Pour the mac and cheese into the baked spinach dip and give it a mix. Return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until it is bubbling and gooey.

Cook’s notes: I know that water is frowned upon while making mac and cheese. However, I find it a delightful substitution for milk. If you’d rather, replace water with milk.

My 8″ pan was occupied, hence I had to make it in two (cake and loaf) pans. This helped with portion control.

Add red pepper flakes if you like spice. I did.


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Cranberry- Walnut Orzo with Bulgur Wheat

Cranberry-walnut orzo2Inspired by a random Rachel Ray recipe and an overwhelming amount of Craisins lying around the house, I made this quick, one-pot meal last evening. It was intended for my dinner and lunch (I cook only in the evenings) since I made regular food for my husband and Aarabhi. I ended up eating it for dinner, late-night snack, breakfast and lunch. It made so much and I did not regret it even a bit since I fell in love with this dish.

I discovered bulgur very recently. I bought a bag knowing very well that the carbs value in bulgur was going to be the same as brown rice (and I was surprised to find that I was wrong) but I needed a change from the same old staple but later found out that bulgur has waaaaaay more fiber than white or even brown rice. This was good enough for me. So I swapped, added, tweaked and finally ended up with a fruity-nutty-full of flavor meal that I am sure to make again.
Cranberry-walnut orzoLike I always say, this recipe is very adaptable, you can swap Craisins for raisins, walnuts for roasted almond slivers or salted pistachios. You can replace the green onions with chives, basil, thyme or any other fresh herb. And you can entirely do away with bulgur or use any other grain in its place (I am thinking couscous or quinoa). Yes, that eclectic!

Cranberry Walnut Orzo with Bulgur Wheat

Ingredients:
Half cup whole-wheat orzo pasta

One and a half cup bulgur wheat

Two and two thirds cup vegetable stock (I had none at home so I gave in and used one bullion cube and water.)

A hand full craisins

Quarter cup walnuts broken into bits

Four scallions, whites and greens separated

Two garlic pods chopped

Salt and pepper

Two Tbsp butter

Method:
Melt the butter in a pan. Add the chopped garlic and the white parts of the green onions. Saute on med-low heat until the garlic is cooked. Add the orzo and toast until golden-brown. Add the bulgur and the stock. Mix in the Craisins and bring it to boil over high heat. Add salt and pepper and let it cook. Since I used bullion cubes, I avoided the salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and let it cook. When the water is absorbed and the bulgur becomes tender, off the heat and gently fluff the orzo/bulgur mixture.

Finish with the greens of the green onion and walnut pieces.

You could serve this as a warm salad or as the main dish.

Serving Size: One cup

Total Carbs: 45g


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Jalapeño Poppers Pizza with Sweet Corn and Garlic Chips

jalapeño poppers pizzaSometimes, you want to make a dish for dinner and then you realize that you have planned something else that you have been waiting to make. For me, it happened on the day I found surprisingly firm jalapeño peppers at the market a week ago. Thinking I would make jalapeño poppers that evening, I bought exactly six (I had to exercise sound restraint since I am known to over-indulge while shopping for vegetables) but got home to realize that there was a ball of pizza dough thawing on my counter.

If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I have freakish rules about twice freezing anything. I simply don’t do it and I hate trashing perfectly good edibles just because I have strange opinions on things that come out of my freezer. So I decided to combine my two dinner plans and make one super-awesome, easy-peasy Jalapeño Poppers Pizza! Thankfully, I had all the ingredients I needed in the fridge and it involved around ten minutes of prep time, a very welcome coincidence since I had my last final exam the next day.
jalapeño poppers pizza2
Although it tasted a lot like the Naan Pizza you get in the freezer section of the Indian store (if you haven’t tasted it, you really have to asap! It is the bomb) sans the obvious Desi taste to it. I added some freshly cooked corn that was just off the cob for a mild sweetness and some garlic chips because, well, who doesn’t like garlic on their pizza, right? The end product was a love child between spice and flavor- two attributes of cooking we all love! And guess what. I never missed bacon, an essential in jalapeño poppers.
jalapeño poppers pizza3
This is how I made it-

Jalapeño Poppers Pizza with Sweet Corn and Garlic Chips

Ingredients:
Half a box of pizza dough

Three jalapeño peppers (two if yours are as huge as mine were) sliced breath-wise

Half cup sweet corn cooked

One small yellow onion finely sliced

6oz cream cheese

One green onion chopped

Four pods of garlic, sliced (a la Gus Fring style, if you are into Breaking Bad)

Half cup shredded cheddar cheese (or Mexican blend)

Four Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method:
Heat a pan with one Tbsp olive oil. Saute the sliced onions on medium-low heat until brown and caramelized.  When done, transfer to a plate and heat the rest of the olive oil on high heat. While it is getting hot, preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). When the oil is hot, add the garlic. It will sizzle and go from brown to burnt in a jiffy so take extra caution and keep sauteing until it gets golden brown and crisp. When done, transfer the garlic chips to a cup. Reserve the oil. This is liquid gold. Roll the pizza dough into an 8 inch pizza base. If it gets sticky (something that is bound to happen to thawed pizza dough), sprinkle some flour and trudge on. Transfer it to a floured pizza stone and bake for seven minutes.

The trick here is to make sure the pizza bakes without getting all soggy so this step is kinda important. While the crust is baking, mix the chopped green onion with the cream cheese. When the crust is pre-baked, take it out of the oven and slather on the cream cheese mix. It will melt and slide but don’t worry, that’s the beauty of pizza making. Top it with caramelized onion, corn, cheese and garlic chips (in that order). Finish with the sliced jalapeño on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven for fifteen minutes more. When the cheese has melted and the jalapeño slices look slightly wilted, it is done. Spoon a little garlic-infused oil on top and sink into Popper-Pizza heaven.


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Toasted Falafel in Pita Pockets with Tzatziki

It is such an amazing feeling, to face the end of finals and look forward to my first holiday season (bar an academic paper up for submission) in two long years. After doing some mental math, I realized that I have been working without respite for the past two years. Some may argue that I took a break last summer also but then, I would beg to differ. Carrying a live person in the stomach for nine odd months and popping one fine day in summer is not my idea for a vacay (plying the mom card here). And that’s exactly what I did last summer.

Although this year is going to be as tricky as last year, I am taking solace in the fact that I would not be learning something as challenging as being a mother and breastfeeding an ever hungry baby. Yep, I am up-to-date with all of Miss Kohlrabi’s tricks. Nothing, I repeat, nothing will frazzle me. But I really do hope she gives me an easy time, mommy deserves a holiday. So I have all the time until mid-August until my next (crazy) semester commences and I have all the time in the world until the last week of June to plan a party (Kohl’s first), pack for the India trip and wonder how we are going to manage this then-one year old in a confined space for 24hrs.

I guess I will come to that later. So until then, I have quite some time and I have planned to do a whole list of stuff while the baby will be away, having a great time at the daycare for three days in a week. It is cleaning time! Everything starting from the refrigerator to the door knobs are scheduled to get deep-cleaned, thanks to a huge bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a big bag of baking soda and Costco-size dish liquid. Yes, I am channeling all my energy into the 1050 sq.ft. that is the house.
baked falafelI also have plans to cook wholesome, healthy meals, which would be balanced by those unhealthy ones at good intervals. So before I go and revel in all the awesomeness that is the end of this academic year, let me tell you what I made recently. I cannot call it a falafel since it doesn’t involve frying and mixing in egg into the batter. But it is loosely based on this Mediterranean chickpea ball. Okay, I know that this is the second chickpea recipe in a row. Since pulses, beans and lentils are the primary source of protein in a vegetarian diet, we use all of the above quite frequently.
baked falafel2This recipe is also a super-loose interpretation of Zoe’s Kitchen’s Greek Chicken Pita. Although I don’t eat meat, I know what goes into this sandwich and I just subbed the chicken part with my toasted falafel. I didn’t see anyone complaining!

Toasted Falafel in Pita Pockets

Ingredients:
For the falafel-
15oz can garbanzo beans (or one and a half cups dried beans cooked)

Four garlic pods finely chopped

One and a half tsp cumin powder

Quarter cup chopped cilantro leaves

Salt

Pepper

Half tsp Chili flakes

One Tbsp olive oil

For the sandwich-
Two heads yellow onion sliced

One Roma tomato cut into rings

Lettuce

Haalf a carton Feta cheese

One cup Greek yogurt

Half hothouse cucumber finely shredded

One tsp dried dill

One small garlic pod finely minced

Salt

Pepper

Six Pita pockets

Method:
Falafel-
Coarsely blend all the ingredients, except for the oil, together. Add enough water to make a dough-like consistency. Shape into balls (I was able to make 12). Heat a pan. Pour enough oil to grease it lightly. Flatten the falafel balls. Working in batches, toast them until golden brown on both sides (it took me four minutes for each side on a medium flame). Set aside.

For the sandwich-
Caramelize the onions with a pinch of salt on low flame. Blend the Greek yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, salt and pepper with a fork to make Tzatziki. Cut the Pita pockets into half and loosen the flaps. Fill it with a leaf of lettuce. Put in a couple of falafels. Gently press the sides of the pita to crush it. Add the tomatoes and top with some caramelized onions. Drizzle with the Tzatziki and a tsp of Feta cheese.

It might sound like a complicated sandwich to make but burgers require the same number of steps. And exactly like a meaty burger, this Pita sandwich is so worth the trouble!