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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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- Light

What a disastrous month this has been! Apart from studying, driving baby A to daycare and cooking (badly at that) for basic survival, I have been up to absolutely nothing! Throw in a couple of weeks of being totally sick (yes, all of us!) and I was ready to call it quits and run back crying to Amma. Thankfully, that has passed but unfortunately, I had to give up that one thing which has been bringing me respite since I joined this challenge back in October: messing about with my camera.

Hence, I was so unprepared for this month’s challenge. In fact, I realized that the first Monday was already upon me only when I saw a couple of posts on our (very secret) Facebook page. Since it was already too late, I had to rummage around on my memory card and find interesting concepts that I had already photographed since the beginning of the challenge. Thankfully, I did not disappoint me as much as I though I would. I had apparently practiced a couple of times for this concept because I knew it was going to be a difficult albeit super interesting subject to click.
light3I know, this picture could have been so much more but I was in a hurry to get going, something that happens when you have a bawling baby waiting for dinner. It was after Thanksgiving, on a long-awaited visit to the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta. We were just coming back home when this festively lit tree caught my attention. I had to click a picture, I mean, how can I not?!
light4Again, so much more. But I loved the pretty lights. I wanted to get that out-of-focus effect but decided to make it straightforward.  I had to pick between two other pictures but was completely confused. So I decided to go with the prettier, more whimsical concept to bring it home and call this challenge done.
Light2This was one of my Instagram pics a couple of weeks ago. Although I clicked it on my DSLR, I decided to stow it away for this specific challenge. I am in the process of planning baby A’s first birthday. Now wait a minute. I know you are probably going “ALREADY?!” The thing is I like being ahead on planning huge events (sentiment-wise, not size-wise). And if the past month was any reflection on how life is going to be for the next couple of years, it only makes sense to plan waaay ahead of time because when time flies, WHAM! It hits you in the face.

So I was playing around with gift tissue papers and decided to figure out how to make those poms. After a couple of tutorials, I made a pretty but slightly frazzled pom and thought it would be a beauty to click pics of. I was right and wrong.

To know more about the photography styling challenge, click here

Do visit the other participants’ blogs and take a look at their challenge photographs:
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


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Birthday Means Cake

Yep, it is that time of the year when I make chocolate cake with shameless abandon- the hub’s birthday. If you have been keeping up with this blog since 2011, you would see the pattern here. I am a sucker for chocolate cake. I also feel that no other flavor of cake is worth making so I generally refrain from it. This time, I decided to make Kishore’s favorite cookie ever in cake form, the Oreo. When I say favorite, I am probably understating his love for Oreos because not only does he have the capacity to empty a whole carton of Oreos in one sitting but he also orders milkshakes and ice creams in the flavor. At the make your own froyo bar, he will replicate the Oreo with freaky precision and a madcap glee in his eyes.

So to make sure he really did have a wonderful birthday, I decided that this was it. The bottom is a devil’s food cake that was made from scratch at home and it has two kinds of frosting: the cream cheese OD’d on crumbled Oreo cookies that was used as the filler and the frosting, and the chocolate ganache slathered on the sides. We cut the cake last evening and I can tell you that he will be in serious Oreo heaven for a long time to come. The recipe is from Kraft’s website which I modified a little and it has five star reviews from around 700 people. Do I need to say more?!

Happy Birthday, honey, and for your sanity’s sake (and mine), may the world never run out of Oreos!
Oreo cake


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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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Birthday Cake!!

Four days ago, the Mister gifted me the KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday and our Anniversary. I know right!! So after three full days of admiring the beauty from every angle my kitchen counter would let me, I decided to break into it. And I found the perfect reason too: His birthday cake.

Now, I bake a lot and all that but I haven’t had much experience with icing and decorating a cake. I got a cake decoration set a couple of months ago and have tried to decorate my kitchen counter with loose dough a bunch of times. And that’s as far as my talent goes. I did want to sign up for Michael’s cake decoration course but that has been just a plan for nearly two years now. And I have a Michael’s right opposite to my house!

1. Buttercream Frosting ready to be slathered                                2. Chocolate cake fresh from the oven

So until I do that, I decided not to keep myself from playing cake artist and dive into it. This is a variation of the Extreme Chocolate Cake I made last year for his birthday (he loves chocolate cakes the best and I don’t dispute) but instead of the ganache icing, I gave it a coat of buttercream frosting with whipped cream decoration. Also, I cut last year’s proportions into half because it is just the two of us this year. Hence, this became a single-tier cake but I assure you that it was filled with as much love 🙂