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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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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Chickpeas and Roasted Garlic Spaghetti

chickpea spaghettiOverwhelming would be an understatement for the month that is passing by. I have a few days more to go and then I could probably start working towards normalcy. Yep, final exams week is upon me and I am still clueless about how I am going to go about one of the toughest exams I am scheduled to write.

But amidst all this chaos, I have managed to cook some good (read decent) food and photograph them. Since I have a very narrow window between cooking and getting to the daycare to pick up Miss Kohlrabi, I have to keep things simple and make the most of the props lying about the house. How long can a person look at my patio floor, really? So for this “shoot”, a couple of paper bags, thanks to our earth-friendly grocery store, came to my rescue. The effect was satisfactory, the food even more so. I love chickpeas to death and thankfully, it is used to a delightful degree in Indian cooking.

When I discovered hummus, even more happiness fell on my plate (quite literally). And although, I have moved on to experimenting with different kinds of hummus (with white beans, azuki beans and such), the original always rocks my palate. Now, this spaghetti might be old news to seasoned pasta lovers but to someone who has been stuck on lemon-basil pasta with goat cheese for the past year, this is quite a desirable turn of events.

Now, as I mentioned before, many versions exist on the internet. But I read quite a few of those and decided to go with my gut (I am all about the puns today, aren’t I?). And I am glad I did. Verdict: I would make this again. If I want an overload of carbs that is, for this dish combines two carbs-rich foods available in market: pasta and chickpeas. And no, buying wholewheat pasta will not do the trick because as a person who loves finding diet hacks, I checked the nutrition info. Apart from providing more fiber (a fact I am still skeptical about), wheat and normal pasta provide you with the same, or negligibly less, amount of carbohydrates. So unless you stick to serious portion control and add more vegetable stock and less chickpeas (I solemnly advise you not to go this route since it alters taste), you would be going off charts on a low-carb diet. If you follow one that is.

If not, go crazy! After all you deserve a reward for being you and this is a good way to go about it.
chickpea spaghetti2
Chickpeas and Roasted Garlic Pasta

One pound spaghetti, linguine, trenette or any kind of long pasta

One head roasted garlic (this is super easy, I have been following the method from SimplyRecipes)

One yellow onion sliced

One 15oz can pre-cooked chickpeas (I cooked my own: one and a half cups dried beans and three whistles on the cooker)

One tsp roasted cumin

Quarter cup almond (optional but recommended)

Half cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil and dried work. The former adds extra depth)

One bunch fresh basil washed and chopped

Juice from one lemon

Half cup goat cheese or cream cheese

Feta or Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top (optional)

One tsp chili flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Quarter cup good olive oil

Method:

Cook the pasta according to the package. Set one cup of pasta water aside and drain the rest. Let it cool down and stop cooking. Coarsely grind the cumin seeds. Add the chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, basil and almonds to the blender. Blend it into a coarse mixture, a hummus consistency is what we are looking for. Add the reserved pasta water to help the blender do the job.

When done, add the lemon juice, half the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a large pan. On low-heat, saute the sliced onion with quarter tsp of salt. When nice, brown and succulent, mix in the chickpeas. Add the goat cheese (or cream cheese) to the pan. Let it melt. Pour the remaining pasta water and make it into a thick sauce. Blend in half the basil and then the cooked pasta. Mix it all in, add more water if you find it too thick. Finish with the remaining basil and cheese.

Go on a diet. You are going to thank me for this tip.

After making this, I sent a pic to my sister and informed her that I want to make this for her in India when we go this July. I seriously cannot wait!!!! (the unusual amount of exclamation points should convey my level of excitement)

 

 


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Quick Three Cheese Pasta Bake with Homemade Marinara

Time seems to be flying these days! It seems like just yesterday that I updated the blog but here I am, ten days later, wondering where all that time went. Although I am supposed to be reveling in the joy of spring break, I am stuck at home, working on yet another paper. This means that little A is back at daycare, something I was looking forward to avoid for a weak at least. I completely miss spending all my daytime with her and was very pumped about the prospect. But it was not to be.

So, after two days of exclusive mommy-baby time, she went back to her auntie for the major part of the day. Not that she complained. I suspect that she was secretly pleased to run away from boring ol’ me to a place where she can play, laugh and have fun with her friend-ish kind of people. Although I am home alone and all that, I hardly find time to cook. The only thing that pushes me to get on with it is the fact that surviving on water and other liquids is not a diet we are interested in doing at the moment. Hence, I plan my menu a few days in advance and stick to one pot meals as much as my conscience would allow me. Since K is not the complaining kind, I take advantage of him a lot more than I want to admit.
Ricotta Pasta2Yesterday was pasta day. I had a can of diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic sitting in my pantry. I bought some ricotta a couple of days ago and a nice ball of fresh mozzarella on dairy run yesterday. I decided to whip up some of my favorite double-duty marinara sauce to make a cheesy (albeit healthy) pasta bake that kind of edged extravagance while managing to be healthy. It was on the higher side of carbs, but with moderation, I knew that I could have my dinner and eat it too (cliche alert!).
Ricotta PastaQuick Three Cheese Pasta Bake

Ingredients:
One can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic

Three pods of garlic, minced

3/4 box of medium-size pasta like Penne or Rigatoni, cooked al dante, drained and a cup of pasta water set aside

One cup part-skim Ricotta cheese

Half a ball of fresh Mozzarella (or one cup of the shredded kind)

Two Tbsp Parmesan Cheese

Half an eggplant diced

Quarter cup frozen peas

One large egg (optional)

Salt

Pepper

Crushed red pepper

Quarter cup Olive oil

Method:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Heat a saucepan with half the olive oil on medium heat. Saute the minced garlic until it releases flavor. Pour the can of diced tomatoes and let it cook for ten minutes. When done, add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Transfer to a large salad bowl.

Pour half of the remaining oil in the same pan. Saute the diced eggplant on medium-high heat until it browns and starts to cook. meanwhile, add the ricotta and egg (if using) to the marinara sauce. Mix the peas in with the eggplant before you switch off and add this to the ricotta mixture. Blend in some of the reserved pasta water if you find the sauce to be thick. Fold in the Parmesan cheese.

Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce. Grease a baking dish with the remaining oil. Transfer the pasta mixture and top with the Mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. I broiled it for a few minutes to brown the cheese but this is only an optional step.


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Do You Know Carrot Greens?

hot carrot greens dip2Two kinds of foods exist in my world. The first is the one you plan for in your head, mull over for a couple of weeks, finally find the courage to make and end up beating yourself up with criticism. The reason for it is simple. I overrate what would be the out come, hence, not even the perfect result would suffice.

Then there is the latter kind: you want it. You have the ingredients in the pantry. You make it. And then you sink into the heaven that is this awesome dish. Today it was the Hot Carrot Greens Cheesy Dip. I am unimaginably in love with this dish and would love to finish what is left of it. But I cannot if I want to avoid the wrath of the hubster. Since we just returned  from our friends’ after a wonderful dinner of homemade pizza and eggless vanilla-Nutella cake (yum-o!), I am pretty sure I can hold my sticky fingers.

hot carrot greens dip3So why carrot greens? Why not? Greens are the most underrated part of most root vegetables (like beet greens). Most people associate it with rabbits but carrot greens are full of nutrition and they can be subbed for any dish that requires spinach. It has a slightly licorice flavor to it, I feel. I had an abundant quantity of carrot greens this week, my fridge had all the other ingredients I needed for the dip and it was a cold winter day that could use some improvement and the dip was it. All it needed was some toasted wholegrain bread. Heaven was achieved.
hot carrot greens dipThis is how I made the dip-

Hot Carrot Greens Cheesy Dip

Ingredients:
Two cups carrot greens, washed and chopped

One cup Greek yogurt

Quarter cup fat-free cream cheese

Half cup mayonnaise

Quarter cup Parmesan cheese

Quarter cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used the pizza blend which was a combination of moz and cheddar)

Three cloves garlic, finely chopped

Quarter cup shallots, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

A pinch pepper flakes

Method:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Whisk all the ingredients together in an oven safe bowl. Bake until cheesy, bubbly and golden brown, approximately for 20-25 minutes. We had it with cut up toasted bread. Anything in the bread-cracker family goes with it, really. Oh so good!!