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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Photography Styling Challenge- Morning

I am beside myself with excitement! I have joined a very interesting photography challenge hosted by Redesigned by M and this is my first entry for it. The challenge basically has two objectives (please pardon my academic vocab. Been writing too many assignments!): to develop styling skills for my photo shoots and to get to know my camera better so that I use it to its fullest extent. I got introduced to this challenge by another amazing blogger and supermama, Anjana of At the Corner of Happily Harried so I have to thank her for it.

I wish I could say I have been clicking away happily, preparing for the challenge for the past two weeks, but then, I would be lying. I have been trying to get my never ending load of assignment done before end-of-term exams happen this week and whatever time I have after that has been solely dedicated to my overactive baby girl (who by the way, looooooves chewing on my fingers lately). So I looked at the calendar yesterday, freaked out when I realized that I have done nothing  for the challenge and decided to do the photo shoot early today morning.
morningMy extensive research on Pinterest did not come to my aid because neither does my bedroom have any brilliant morning light pouring through the windows nor does any other part of my house. The balcony, my eternal studio, was my only other option since I was too tired to venture out of the house. And as always, the location did not disappoint.

This particularly helped because according to the rules of this challenge, no editing can be done except for edge cropping and all photographs must be taken within the previous month of submission. You can read more about the challenge here. Although giving my beloved Photoshop a rest was cold, I woke up to the awesome stuff my camera could do. I played around with the aperture, exposure and  ISO, and imagined myself back in my Undergrad class, studying photography with a manual (yes, completely manual) SLR camera that belonged to Appa.

So this entry, as all my entries on my blog are, is about food. I made a quick Microwave Cinnamon Roll Fake-out French Toast and coffee. I will not tell you who had what and what was discarded but the French Toast, which was inspired by a post on Prudentbaby, came out so well! If you need the recipe for my version, give me a holler.
morning2Not the brightest of the pics, no? I guess that’s one of the epiphanies I was supposed to have by doing this challenge. Next month’s theme is  Bedroom. Hey, do any of you good people want to rent me your bedroom for one morning or do I have to bite the bullet and clean mine?!

Make sure you check out the blogs of the other participants in this challenge (they are wonderful!):

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


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Cuppa Joe- Drawing Parallels and Finding Differences

I am not going to talk about how much we South Indians love our “tumbler” of coffee. This concept has already been overdone on a million other Indian food blogs because every South Indian blogger is wildly proud of the filter coffee we grew up drinking or watching people drink. Making it is yet another story. If you need more information, Wiki, as always, has answers.

In another land where people are fiercely protective about their cuppa, it is always an adventure to go shopping for coffee powder and deciding whether decaf or extra dark is the right way to go. My taste in coffee hovers between the two extremes. While I prefer good ‘ol Folger’s for everyday consumption in the American South, I am a sucker for the traditional mug of piping hot filter coffee back home. So when Amma came here, she brought with her a huge bag filled with Coffee Day coffee powder packages that is probably going to last us a few months.

Result: I have temporarily migrated back to my strong filter coffee with a dash of milk and Splenda. Life is perfect again!
strong coffeeSo what is it that distinguishes the South Indian coffee from the All-American coffee? Surprisingly, nothing much! The former is a denser and finer sibling of the latter, hence, it feels like it has more flavor. Moreover, the mouth feel varies between the two primarily because of the difference in the coffee powder-water ratio. South Indians make their base, what we call decoction, thicker and “tar-like” which means a quarter cup of the concentrate and three-quarters a cup of milk makes perfectly strong coffee (boiling the milk also helps the consistency and gives it a special, sweeter taste).

Since the American coffee base contains more water, we end up with a watery (yet tasty) cuppa to which we add just a tiny spot of creamer. This works for me because in America, I love my coffee regular, black and with a hint of sugar.

Of course, the apparatus we use to brew coffee should also be mentioned here, for these contraptions literally decide what kind of coffee you are going to have that day. South Indians may talk all they want but the traditional coffee filter they use actually yields slightly diluted decoction; but thankfully most people in charge of making this brew are finished with this often troublesome contraption and have moved on to the more modern (and more effective) electric coffee maker… which is what I bought on my 2011 trip to India. This trusty little piece of equipment has never let me down and I love her dearly.

Now, you may try making Indian-style coffee with Starbucks’ dark roast in an American coffee maker with lesser amount of water. But it will not be the same and may clog up your coffee maker. Tasty it will turn out, for sure. But really, Indian coffee is redundant without the Indian coffee filter as is American coffee without the American coffee powder!


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Chai in a Glass

Oh boy! This post is going to make my aunt in Malaysia so happy that I am already dizzy with excitement as I type. Su Athai (dad’s sister in Tamil) is a tea drinker and coffee hater. When I say hater, I mean the most powerful hate for caffeine ever. There was only one problem with this: It meant deeming most of the household untouchable during coffee-time in the morning and evening because South Indians generally love their filter coffee with a vengeance.

Hence, when I became old enough drink coffee (18 years was the “acceptable” age at home), I joined the bandwagon of coffee drinkers much to the dismay of Su athai. We share a special bond and I think she sub-consciously felt that I was cheating on her. This didn’t stop us from enjoying our rare coffee/tea-time tête-à-tête back at home when she visited, of course. Every time she would stay over, my sister and I would crack the same old joke: we would take deep swigs off our coffee mug and ask her if she wanted some. This goofing around never gets old because I remember doing it to her during my 2012 India trip too.

So imagine my dismay when I learned a few months ago that I was gradually starting to hate coffee and love tea! I only hope this is a pregnancy thing or not having my mom’s wonderful filter coffee thing. Either way, I hope it passes and I get back to my java soon. Anyway, I am making the most of my Chai-love phase by indulging myself in wonderful Masala chai everyday and I can tell you this- it never ceases to please me. And every time I make it, I think of my Athai a little as I sit at my table and sip away 🙂

masala chaiHot Masala Chai

Ingredients
One and a half cups milk (I used 2%)

Half cup water

Three tsps any Indian black tea leaves* (suggested brands: Brooke Bond Red Label or Three Roses)

Four tsps granulated sugar

One tsp ground cardamom powder**

Five mildly crushed cloves

One inch piece fresh ginger***

Method
Boil the milk and water over med-low heat until it starts forming a layer on top. Skim it and add the spices. Let it boil for two minutes more. Add the tea leaves and sugar. Switch to low and let it simmer for ten more minutes. The idea is for the tea leaves and spices to steep in the milk and flavor it as much as they can. When done, strain through a tea sieve. Enjoy!

*I’ve always found that Indian tea works the best for this Chai because of its wonderful strong flavor. Unfortunately, Indian tea producers haven’t started making decaf teas yet so I am pretty sure your favorite brand of decaf tea would work too.

**It doesn’t matter if you don’t have cardamom powder at home. You can use five mildly crushed green cardamom seeds

***Normally ginger powder would work too but I strongly suggest that you use fresh ginger for a delicious earthy taste. It is exactly like choosing fresh basil over dried in pasta dishes.

I have served the tea in glasses because that’s how they do it in Indian roadside tea stalls. The taste of their Masala tea is unparalleled, of course!