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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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- 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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Photography Styling Challenge- Order

order6Sneaky little December breezily slid in while I was not looking, bringing with it the deadline for this month’s photography styling challenge topic, Order. Ironically, my house is at its least orderly self, thanks to the huge load of baby stuff we bought/got as gifts in the past six months. This, topped with crazy Black Friday shopping for Christmas gifts, I feel like a bull in a China shop at the moment.

Thankfully, the weekend was long and I had a couple of good ideas. Hence, I managed to photograph the handful of order we had around the house and call the challenge done. Next month’s topic is chaos. I am beside myself with excitement for this one. I probably have to wrap up the shoot by 19th of this month because we are off on a holiday after that and would return only by the 1st of January. And then it would be time for the madcap semester to begin (I will whine more about that later, I promise!). But now, here is to December and the much needed inspiration for order this photoshoot brought my way.
order3I had to take a pic of this before babygirl starts crawling and we pack them away. These are just a few trinkets, most of them gifts from friends and family. My absolute favorite has got to be this bell from Germany, a gift from my wonderful friend, N. Aarabhi already tries to grab this off the lowest shelf of the television table.

orderI’ve always been known for being a reader and not a collector of books. I owned a Kindle for a few months, didn’t really dig e-books and gifted it to my sister. We’ve bought multiple Kindle devices on my account since, but none of them for me. I have a very small collection of books at the moment, no thanks to poorly stocked county library in the city I used to live before moving down south. I hardly found Indian authors or Magic-Realism books there so I have been skipping libraries since and buying a few every time I go to India from Landmark Bookstore in Madras. I have no place for bookshelves in my apartment at the moment so my books sit on the side table in the living room. I have also found them to be a good source of conversation when we have guests over.
order4Ah, the divine altar at home. This shelf used to be such a mess until my mom-in-law decided to come to its rescue. Right now, it is in perfect order… as are the three other shelves below this. Zen, finally!
order2This is the hub’s handiwork. For the uninitiated, this is a collection of my pregnancy ultrasounds. Although our photographs (who prints them anymore, right? I do!) are in a mess in one of my drawers, the K man meticulously arranged these in order. We hardly look at them but it is good to know that they are around when we feel like taking a peek.

As always, you can read about the challenge here and take a look at other participants’ entries. Here is the list:
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

Ah, chaos, come to mamma!


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Photography Styling Challenge- Bedroom

BedroomI cannot believe I missed the due date of this month’s styling challenge entry. Especially since I finished the photoshoot a couple of weeks ago, a rare occurrence for someone who mulls over things and rushes ahead on full throttle at the very last darn minute!  The last week was pretty busy and dull- my mom flew back to India after six whole months of living with us.

I was not ready to bid her good-bye, of course. But it was an inevitable task. *Sinff*

This means that I am home alone with Aarabhi and have to manage her all by myself. Have you ever heard of the parent being freakishly scared of the baby? I am. But I am positive that we will ease into the situation and love all the mom-baby time we get in the next week. Anyway, back to the challenge.

My bedroom lacks style. Apart from indulging in beautiful shades from FabIndia, we had hardly done anything to it until early this year, when I was eight months pregnant. Since the baby was going to sleep in our room ( we have only one guest bedroom to spare and I felt that letting a newborn sleep in a designated nursery sounded creepy), we had to create a special corner for her crib and all the other stuff that come with bringing up a child. So our room went from being bare to cramped within the matter of days!

Strangely, I fell in love with the end result which was a colorful, tropical paradise for kids, complete with wall decals, framed illustrations with Aarabhi’s name in it (handmade my her mommy), a beautiful crib and crib linen, both gifts from people we hold very close to our heart.
Bedroom4Bedroom3I clicked all the pictures in morning light. Since our bedroom is east-facing, a curse on summer mornings but otherwise a wonderful blessing, I got ample light. So much light that I got a shock after clicking my first picture, the one with the two little teddy bears. The white balance seemed slightly on the higher side. So I had to partially close the shades and go about clicking because I wanted my pictures to reflect the cozy-lazy morning we were having in the household. Last but not the least, here is my most favorite photograph of all…
Bedroom2I am probably partial towards it because it has Aarabhi’s feet in it. Aww, look at those tiny little feet!

Make sure you check out the blogs of the other participants in this challenge :

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


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Something Sweet

Phew, I am so tired! This is the birthday weekend- I had mine on Thursday, Aarabhi turned three months today and the hub has his coming up tomorrow. I’ve been trying to get lots of things done this weekend and ultimately ended up doing nothing. Oh I did edit a few pictures, click new ones and made a birthday cake for Kishore (shhh!). I have four huge projects/case studies to complete in Financial Accounting and a paper I should be working on for Information Systems. Yet, I sit here all careless and free and write about the wonderful Kesari Amma made for my birthday. Daredevil much?
semiya kesariKesari is a kind of pudding made with Rava, a by-product of wheat. It has a coarse, cornmeal like texture and a nutty flavor. I once replaced it for couscous in a salad I made and called it semolina salad. Kesari is also made with Semiya or Vermicelli, a kind of noodles we use quite a bit in Indian cooking.

My mother, well aware of the fact that I am mentally-allergic to Rava Kesari (thanks to a gluttonous incident that happened more than ten years ago), made Kesari with Semiya last month. I fell in love with it and nearly replicated the afore mentioned incident (some people never learn!) but good sense stopped me on time. Well, that and a husband who fell equally in love with the dish. So when Amma asked me what sweet I wanted for my birthday (making sweets for birthdays is a tradition quite common in India), it was only natural that I pounced on another opportunity to eat the wonderful Semiya Kesari.

This time, she stepped it up a notch by adding pineapple to it. Before you make unappetizing noises, let me tell you this. It was wonderful!!! So wonderful that I am already making plans to go eat the leftover Kesari after I write up this blog entry.

Semiya Kesari

Ingredients
One cup Vermicelli or Semiya (from your Indian grocer) or broken up angel hair pasta

One and a quarter cup sugar

One cup frozen pineapple finely chopped

Ten almonds coarsely chopped

Ten raisins (any kind!)

One tsp powdered cardamom (or four pods of cardamom, slightly broken)

One Tbsp plus one tsp clarified or melted butter

Half cup milk

One and a half cups water

Method
Heat the clarified butter on medium heat in a pan. Slightly toast the Semiya. Add the milk and the water when it releases a nutty fragrance. When it starts boiling, add the sugar, powdered cardamom and pineapple and mix. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Let it cook, absorb the water and melt the sugar. When the Kesari turns semi-solid, turn the heat off. In a separate pan, add the one tsp of butter and fry the almonds and raisins until brown. Mix it with the Kesari. Eat with vanilla ice cream to attain dessert Nirvana.


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Mid-week Crisis: Tomato to the Rescue

Crabby evenings- Aarabhi is going through another growth spurt. Or that is what we think it is. It could also be because she hardly sleeps during the day and when evening strikes, she gradually goes into a tantrum-y mood. We haven’t figured this one out so we are still looking into it. Whatever it is, it has been mentally and physically draining everyone at home. So in-between trying to soothe her, writing a couple of exams for my Financial Accounting course (ugh, puke!), trying to keep the normalcy going, we have also been doing our best at getting meals on the table. When I say we in connection to cooking, I mean Amma and me.

Kishore has enough to do already between work and playing babysitter (or just being the baby’s father) in the evenings. To top this, he has signed up for a 5K this October and hasn’t found time to train for it. Oh well, we all know how that one is going to go! So today, I broke my resolution and decided to make dinner in the middle of the week. I wish I hadn’t. Thankfully, Amma did all the background work like chopping, grinding and making the side dish because I had to keep an eye on Aarabhi too. Although she is at this wonderful stage where the running ceiling fan amuses her, she fusses if we ignore her for more than two minutes. But her adorable smile every time she glances up at her new buddy is priceless! Sigh, my baby is growing up already…
Tomato riceBack to dinner, what started as an interesting version of a tomato rice I read somewhere on the blogosphere ended up becoming my own recipe. And after making it, I realized that it was very similar to the Biriyani recipe. Surprisingly, it tasted pretty different. We ate it with cucumber Raita but I do wish we had had some potato chips in the pantry. That was dinner done on a Wednesday and I swear I will keep my weekdays to merely photographing what Amma makes rather than getting adventurous in the kitchen. Phew!

Tangy Tomato Rice

Ingredients:
Two and a half cups Basmati rice, washed, rinsed, drained and cooked in three and a quarter cup of water

Six tomatoes, finely chopped

One huge onion, sliced thin

Two tsp Garam Masala, curry powder or any Masala really!

One tsp turmeric powder (optional)

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt to taste

For tempering-
One piece cinnamon stick

Four pods of cardamom and cloves

Two bay leaves

Few mustard and cumin seeds

Two Tbsp oil

To be ground into fine paste-
Half an onion

Six pods of garlic

One inch piece of ginger

A small bunch cilantro

A small bunch mint leaves

Four Thai green chilies

Method
Fluff the cooked rice and set aside. Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat and add all the tempering spices. When done, add the sliced onions and turn the heat to med-low. Let it caramelize. When light brown in color, turn the heat to medium and add the ground paste. Let it cook for five minutes. Now add the tomatoes, Masala, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper powder and salt. Close the pan with a lid and let it cook for ten minutes until the tomatoes are mushy and the paste is semi-solid. Take the lid off and let it cook a few minutes more until it thickens. When done, mix it with the cooked rice, make sure the rice doesn’t turn mushy. Eat as a side or as a main dish like we did with Raita.
Tomato rice2