Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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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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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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Superstar Pasta/Pizza Sauce

It has been a quest of sorts, finding the perfect homemade sauce that could do double duty as a pasta and a pizza sauce. And I finally cracked the code yesterday. Well, actually the recipe book that came with my Haeger Pizza Stone, a gift from our Virginia uncle and aunt, did it. I just made a few adjustments, adapted it to our taste and ended up with super-delicious marinara sauce last night. Needless to say I am in bliss! Tomato bliss, actually.

Now, I used canned whole tomatoes. If you’d rather go ahead and use up the last of your summer tomatoes, go ahead. Although, I should warn you. I kinda have a feeling that the juices in the can was what hit the ball out of the park. I cannot wait for pasta day now!
pizza sauceSo here is the recipe-

Superstar Double-duty sauce

Ingredients:
One can (15oz) whole or crushed tomatoes with juice (you could use the same amount of fresh tomatoes too)

Five cloves of garlic, finely minced

Slightly less than a quarter cup olive oil

One tsp dried basil

One tsp dried thyme

One and a half tsp dried oregano

A scant tsp chili flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Chop the whole tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Heat the oil in a pan on medium low. Add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat to medium. While it is cooking, mash the tomatoes lightly with the back of your ladle. Let it simmer and do its wonderful magic for fifteen minutes. Store in a mason jar or such in the refrigerator. But eating it fresh off the stove is the best.

Last week was Vinayaka Chaturti, the day we celebrate the birth of  our elephant-faced god, the son of Lord Shiva. He depicts the beginning of everything auspicious according to the Hindu mythology. We made Kozhukattai/Modhak, Indian stuffed dumplings. We made both the sweet and the savory version. The sweet is made with coconut shavings and jaggery and the savory ones are stuffed with spiced, ground Urad Dal. We went a little contemporary and decided to fry ’em instead of steam ’em. Kishore was not a fan of this version but Amma and I loved it! Since I was freakishly busy last week, here are a couple of pics I clicked on that day but could find time to edit only yesterday.

Sweet and savory Kozhukkattai

Sweet and savory Kozhukkattai

Chickpeas stir fry with coriander seeds and tempered with Indian condiments. It is a distant cousin of hummus. More on this in October.

Chickpeas stir fry with coriander seeds and tempered with Indian condiments. It is a distant cousin of hummus. More on this in October.

Our elephant-faced god, Vinayaka...

Our elephant-faced god, Vinayaka…

 


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This is it!

It would be an understatement if I say that the last month has been a roller-coaster ride! My little bundle of cuteness arrived exactly thirty days ago and settling down into motherhood has been the hardest and the most delightful (well for the most part) thing I’ve ever done. Apart from days when I have contemplated going back to the hospital, faking a mystery illness, we have all settled down into the groove of things. I am trying not to think of life after the next three weeks. School is scheduled to begin then and I would be away for at least three hours everyday. I don’t foresee any separation anxiety. Just a full, overwhelming plate.

Mommy dearest has been a star in the kitchen and a wonderful support system in the past month. Although we have been having wholesome, albeit very tame, food to accommodate Aarabhi’s sensitive new-born tummy, I have hardly had any time to click pics of it, let alone upload them.

So when I made Pizza on Friday night, I made sure I clicked a couple of pics on the phone. I don’t foresee touching the SLR for food photography for the next few months at least. And as it turns out, I don’t mind it much. I do have a bigger project to tackle 🙂

pizzaThat’s my rustic veggie pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil. I opted for the usual veggie toppings but added pineapple to make it a tad exotic and because, well, Amma and I love it. After making the equivalent of a large and a personal pan pizza, I had dough leftover. Hence, I made a couple of cheesy garlic “cups” for snack this afternoon. It was so easy that it requires no formal recipe. You would understand why as soon as you see the pic below. I adder dried oregano flakes, garlic butter and red pepper flakes for seasoning apart from the (not so) fresh moz again. Mom and Kishore ate it with marinara sauce and deemed it a success.

moz cupsAgain, I apologize for the pics. I do feel a tad guilty for lifting it from my Instagram post. Ah well, I will get over it!

 


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Winding Down the Week with Lasagna + Good-bye for Now

The week has nearly ended. At least for this household it has. The babygirl will be here before the weekend (I hope she really is!) and we are tying up all the loose ends before we check into the hospital tomorrow. Apart from a lot of relief and excitement (dotted generously with paralyzing fear), we, as first-time parents and grandparent, are also anxious. Hence, to book in the pregnancy and to take my mind off the never-ending to-do list saved on my phone, I decided to concentrate on different little projects. First, I painted a couple of pictures to put in frames for the baby’s nursery wall. And then I whipped up a couple of homemade lip balms, courtasy Le Zoe Musings. Pictures follow the food part of this post. When I was done with all that, I baked a lasagna. A little extra carb once in a while never hurt anyone, you know. Plus, I’ve never made lasagna for Amma (apart from a zillion other things) and Kishore loves it too.
lasagnaThe recipe has been adapted from The Pioneer Woman‘s blog and edited according to veggies I had at hand. I also upped the flavor of basil and oregano, and reduced the quantity of cheese added and of the dish on the whole because Ree’s makes twelve huge servings! The result was freakin’ delicious although it was nothing special: perfect for a weekday dinner but if I am serving guests, I would include better veggies (including some succulent eggplants and summer squash) and make the sauce from the scratch.

As for the lip balm, here is a pic. Although I haven’t done Kellie any justice by clicking such a mediocre pic, the “recipe” by itself is easy and amazing!
lip balmAlright, have a good couple of weeks, people. See ya soon and pray for me! x


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Do You Remember Cup Corn?

Summer sweet corn is here and no one can be happier than I am! I have such great plans for these wonderful kernels of sweetness for this summer and cannot wait to get my hands on them every week. So when I bought them last evening, I already had the perfect starter snack for my sweet corn: cup corn!

cilantro corn

Cup Corn is a very common street food in India and comes in so many versatile flavors, none of which I remember really! So my recipe pick for the day was a pretty much a free-hit since I went with my instincts and literally dropped all the seasoning I thought would jive well together. This is probably why I ended up with a huge bowl of succulent, sweet  corn that was devoured within half an hour of making it! Since I am at the risk of sounding like a glutton, I would like to mention that I had a couple of enthusiastic consumers (one probably more eager than the other. No prizes for guessing who is who, of course) helping me.

Since most of you already know how to steam/cook/roast corn on the cob, here is the recipe for the Cayenne-Garlic Butter Infused with Garlic and Cilantro:

Ingredients:
Half a stick of butter

One Tbsp Olive Oil

Two pods of garlic finely grated

A pinch cayenne pepper powder

Quarter cup cilantro

A dash of lime

One tsp salt

Method:
Melt butter and oil with garlic and cayenne pepper powder on low heat. If you like your garlic well cooked, let it go for five minutes. I love the taste of fresh garlic so I cook it for two minutes. Add the cilatro (save a Tbsp for later), salt and squeeze in the lime. Pour the butter in a shallow pan if you are leaving the corn on the cob. Turn them a few times to coat. I removed the kernels from the corn so I pored the butter over the bowl of corn and mixed it well. Garnish with the rest of the cilantro. Done!

This makes enough butter for four ears of corn.

Serving Size: One ear of corn

Total carbs: 17g

With dressing: 20g


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Summer-y Lemon Curd

Oh yeah, I’ve been hearing about the end of summer since last month. I didn’t believe it then but I dropped into Kohl’s over the weekend and saw the end of season sale on all things summer and it struck me. There is no way of stopping it. August ends, September begins, Labor Day hits us and boom, the swimming pools shut down for the year (not here in the sunny south though. Hah!). Looking back at this summer, I am glad to admit that I made use of it as much as I could. We hit our local farmers market almost all weekends, I did a lot of canning with as much summer fruits as I could. I used all the fresh produce we bought, and then some. We had dinner parties at home, went on a wonderful beach holiday, soaked up all the sun (rather reluctantly, forgive the Indian in me) I made a whole bunch of hostess gifts for dinners away and have frozen preserves in the freezer for later this year. Phew! And there is more of this to come, at least for a month.

But my school doesn’t agree. Term begins again this Monday and I am trying my best to cook as much goodies and I can for the Mister so that he has the memories of all that during the next three very plain months to come. And after that, we turn to our stocked up seasonal food and later, we are off home for a visit. Man, in India, it is always balmy and very tropical. Cannot wait for that break, right in the middle of the cold season here at the other home. So summer always means lemon for me. In India, we would get fresh yellow lemons in huge bags. Apart from making pickles, as I mentioned in an earlier post, we also make other food like lemon rice, Nimbu Pani (Lemonade, à la Indian) with lots of sugar and a bit of salt. A wide range of food, put together with so may home-remedies, you understand why lemons are rockstars!

Though we cook food with lemons and lime back home, a few things we never put any part of lemon into are desserts. People have a feeling they would curdle with dairy products. That is not the case here and I love that! I love lemon cakes, I salivate over lemon meringue and making lemon curd for pies and tartlets takes me to my happy place. So today, with leftover lemon curd from my previous recipe (post), I decided to put my phyllo sheets to use and make lemon curd phyllo cups. The recipe for the lemon curd is from the joyofbaking website and figured out how to make phyllo cups all by myself.

Phyllo is the Greek alternative for puff pastry. Phyllo comes frozen in layers of thin sheets. The trick is to make sure you keep it frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge and make sure they stay between two damp kitchen towels when working with them. Working with phyllo is time-consuming since it is rather unforgiving. But with some TLC and enough butter/oil, they will transform into a wonderful base for tarts. You layer the phyllo sheets with butter and/or oil and place another layer of sheet. Cut the sheets into pieces that will fit into a muffin pan after you make five layers. Pleat the layers into cups and bake at 350° F (~18° C) for 10 minutes.. Let cool and then fill with the curd.