Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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How to Cake Smash Like a Pro

cake smash2The inevitable happened. My Junebug turned a year old last Sunday. Although I had been preparing for her birthday for four long months, the enormity of it hit me only while I was getting her ready for the cake smash photoshoot. A whole year zipped past me as I was learning new things about my baby and trying to be a satisfactory mother. Although I have guilt tripped several times over the year, I am glad I got plenty of chances to slow down, take long- deep glances at her and enjoy the little girl who is the best thing to have ever happened to Kishore and me.

So her birthday was not only a celebration of the first year Aarabhi spent in this world, but also of us as a family who made it through sleepless nights, mammoth bawling sessions, never-ending growth spurts and the zillion vaccination days that we are never going to shake off any time soon. Even though I had my sights set on the actual party that was scheduled to happen the day before her birthday, I was also looking forward to the cake smash. It was a new concept to me and I instantly fell in love with the idea of letting Aarabhi run wild around a specially baked cake. I poured over Pinterest, considered different cake recipes, selected the color combinations for the backdrop, her clothes and a sea of other things I never realized I would have to think about!
cake smashHere are the decisions we made and the budget we ended up with, in a nutshell:

  • The background was simple. Pink and green (her party color combination) ribbons- $2
  • The shabby-chic DIY A for centerpiece- From my cupboard
  • Homemade carrot-vanilla rosette. Green frosting since her costume was pink cake- $5
  • Pink tutu with DIY satin bow- $5
  • DIY Cake stand- $2.50

We spent slightly less than $15 on the shoot.
cake smash4Thankfully, I took the summer off, hence I was able to spend some extra time preparing. The result: A wonderful hour filled with a surprisingly well-behaved toddler who was more interested in feeding cake to her Appa than eating it herself. I really do wish my pictures had turned out better. On closer inspection, I noticed that the white balance set on my camera had resulted in a few grainy pictures. But discount that, I loved doing the shoot. And I am glad we decided to do it all by ourself, for there is nothing more rewarding than being THE ONE capturing her precious smile on the camera 🙂
cake smash3Here are a couple of pointers in case you want to try this at home:

  • Follow a super simple cake recipe like this one I used from Cooking Light. It is clean, not complicated and agrees with a baby’s tummy and palate.
  • Keep the background colorful yet easy to make. Your baby is your shining star. A couple of simple ribbons draped across the backdrop in subtle colors or a few balloons flying about will do the trick too.
  • You may be tempted to click a million pictures. Resist the urge. I did 200 and regretted it since I was confused about which ones to pick.
  • Have fun. Babies, as always, can sense your moods. If you are tensed and bark orders to the person helping you, your child will get cranky and we don’t want that!
  • Finally, set your shoot for a week before the party. You don’t want a hectic couple of days, do you?

We fly to Madras next week and I am super excited about showing little Miss B my city. Apart from that, I am hoping to cook for the family and eat a lot too. In case I don’t post anything before that, see y’all from India!


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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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Creamy Indian Treat

I am not a fan of Indian sweets. There, I said it. You can judge me now.

Personally, I feel that they are too sweet (like they are trying a little too hard to stand up to their name), sometimes too rich and come along with so many varieties at the same time that you can easily OD on sweets during festive seasons. Hence, apart from a select list of sweets, I try to stay away from em as much as possible. One of my exceptions happens to be Kulfi, the Indian frozen treat that  is made with dairy and  flavored with green cardamom, saffron and pistachio.

kulfi1

Every Kulfi lover will have one thing in common: an awesome story or two connected with devouring this tasty treat in the summer. Mine includes sleeping in the terrace with my sister and cousins, stalling the Kulfi-wala who used to come calling at our door at 11pm everyday and buying ice cream every single time… until we got sick of it. What makes Kulfi pretty special is the terracotta cup it usually comes in. The mild taste of earth mixed with the sweet taste of cardamom works so wonderfully in this dish that you end up wanting a sliver more than you got in that small cup.

Sadly, I don’t own earthenware cups to store Kulfi in but the extra creaminess I added to this version compensated for that. My beautiful little ice cream maker (yes, to celebrate summer, I bought a basic ice cream maker. I am in love!) whipped up the most delicious bowl of Kulfi. Ever.

Creamy Kulfi Ice cream

Ingredients:
One cup low-fat ricotta cheese

One and a half cup low-fat evaporated milk

Half cup sugar (or Splenda)

Half cup toasted-salted pistachio nuts

Half tsp powdered cardamon

Few strands of saffron

Special equipment: Ice cream maker (optional)

Method:
Heat the evaporated milk in a pan along with the sugar. Take it off heat when it begins to boil. Add the cardamom powder and saffron stands to it and whisk well. Mix in the ricotta cheese, ensuring that there are no lumps. At this stage, the Kulfi mixture is generally poured into popsicle moulds and frozen. But for a creamier ice cream, cool the mixture in the refrigerator for a couple of hours (I chilled it in the freezer for 45 minutes), pour it in the canister of your ice cream maker and freeze. You could eat it as a soft-serve but I recommend freezing it overnight for a creamy ice cream.

kulfiPs: forgive the messy pics. It was a hot day and I was dealing with frozen food. You do the math!


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Quick Spring Salad

This is more of of a summer salad because it has been 80°F in the ‘Bama land for the past few weeks. I know you are probably going “Hmm, summer and roasted veggies? You must be crazy.” But I’ve always loved roasting anything I could get my hands on. The market was full of fresh asparagus and eggplants last week and I couldn’t help but buy some because they are what we call free food in a low-carb diet. Which means apart from the 30-45 gms of proteins I get to eat every big meal, I can eat these as much as I want to and I consider this a huge asset because now, I can go crazy with creativity and caramelize my veggies in the oven.

spring saladSo this salad, it has balsamic-roasted eggplants, asparagus, onion and garlic in it along with fresh lettuce and tomato. I seasoned it with dry basil flakes (wishing I had planted basil this year too. Oh well, it is never too late to!) and fresh mint for that extra herb-y kick. I finished it with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Although I would suggest serving this with a dinner roll (for the carb part of the plan), I ate it all by itself and fell deeply in love with the wonderful sweet-spicy flavor from the balsamic and Sriracha.

Roasted Spring Veggies Salad with Blasamic Vinegar

Ingredients:
Half a large eggplant

One huge purple onion (I used yellow because I didn’t have purple in my pantry)

Ten spears of asparagus

Four garlic pods

Two cups lettuce

Two Roma tomatoes, diced

One and a half tsp Sriracha or one tsp chili flakes

Three Tbsp balsamic + more for finishing

Few chiffonaded leaves of fresh basil (I used 1 1/2 tsp of dry flakes)

Few fresh mint leaves

Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

Parmesan cheese

Three Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Dice the asparagus and onion into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, mix one Tbsp of olive oil with little salt, little pepper, one tsp Sriracha, One Tbsp balsamic vinegar and half the basil. Toss the cute vegetables along with the garlic and spread it on a aluminum foil-covered baking sheet. Roast it in the oven for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, cut the eggplant into bite-size pieces too. In the same bowl, mix together another Tbsp of olive oil with salt, pepper, rest of the Sriracha, one more Tbsp of balsamic vinegar and the rest of the basil. Toss the eggplant and roast it in a pan until caramelized and crunchy. You could also save time and roast it all together but I have let the fire alarm go off many-a-times while roasting eggplants. Hence, didn’t want to take a chance again.

In the bowl, make a vinaigrette out of the remaining oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss the lettuce and diced tomatoes. When the vegetables are done roasting, mix them together and sprinkle the cheese and mint leaves over the hot mixture.

To serve: make a bed of lettuce and tomatoes. Serve the roasted vegetables over it with another sprinkle of cheese, cilantro and finish it off with a splash of balsamic.

Carbs: 7.5 gms

Carbs with a dinner roll: 22.5 gms

(That is 7.5 gms less than the minimum allowed limit for a meal and the maximum allowed limit for a snack. Hah!)

spring salad2