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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Coconutty Egg Korma

I have plans for you this weekend: you are going to make this flavorful egg Korma with coconut milk for dinner. It will pair well with rice, Naan, grits, pita bread, lavash, quinoa or any other bread/grain you can think of! It is crazy good and made me wonder what I had in me to make this out of the blue. I mean, I am bad at making things up as I cook.
Coconutty Egg KormaGrowing up, I’ve had my share of tasty egg Kormas. If I’ve already told you this story, please forgive me for repeating, because my parents’ egg Korma deserves unlimited mentions! I also have very happy memories associated with this dish because egg for dinner always meant we were all alone at home, with no extended family for company. In a household that used to frown upon cooking egg in the kitchen with normal everyday utensils, family time with Roti and egg Korma was a luxury we would always look forward to.

Fast-forward to slightly grown up days, I remember gobbling up hot egg Biriyani with Jan and my favorite cousin, S, in dimly-lit restaurants that specialized in Biriyani from everywhich state. Oh, the taste. Of warm rice induced with every Indian spice imaginable. The succulent grains of Basmati coated with the Masala and fresh cilantro, oh heaven!  I had eggs, coconut milk and other things in my pantry that could make super yummy food. So I made up my own recipe and this is what I ended up with-Coconutty Egg Korma2Coconutty Egg Korma

Ingredients:
Four eggs, boiled, skins peeled and halved

One big purple onion, finely sliced

Two big tomatoes, diced

Half a can coconut milk

One Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

Two Thai green chilies

One Tbsp Dania-Jeera/Coriander-Cumin Powder

One tsp turmeric powder

One tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt

To temper-
One tsp mustard seeds

One sprig curry leaves (optional)

Quarter bunch cilantro finely chopped

Two Tbsp cooking oil

Method:
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and let it pop. Add the curry leaves and the sliced onions and saute on medium flame. When slightly brown, add the ginger garlic paste, chilies and tomato. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for five minutes on medium-low.

When the tomato turns mushy, add the Dania-Jeera powder, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper powder and salt. Let is cook for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk and one cup of water. Bring it to boil and switch it off. Don’t let the gravy boil for too long, it will change the taste of the coconut milk. The curry will thicken when you add the halved boiled eggs. Garnish with cilantro.

I think S will dig this gravy. I just have to find a way to make it and sneak it to her when I visit home this time…


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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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Pongal Post- Finally an Update!

pongal kolamI am like the worst blogger. Ever. Okay, that is probably an exaggeration- neither do I update only once a year nor do I leave random burns on other blogs. But I am down there with the ones that seldom reply to the comments you leave on their blogs and the ones that never post recipes to yummy food they put up pictures of. Anyhoo, Happy New Year and Happy Pongal, people!

I have been monstrously busy since 2014 slid in and I am still trying to find time to click pictures of stuff that Amma (or I) cook. No, seriously. I am so behind on blogging that I haven’t even done my post for the monthly Photo Styling Challenge and we are done with two Mondays already this month. I am aiming at getting that up over the weekend. We had good holidays, ate wonderful food, like this Orange Cola Cake (with leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving) that the NJ aunt made-
orange cola cakeI know, crappy pic but it was a rainy day and  I had to click before anyone got to it, which meant switching on the kitchen lights in a very photogenic kitchen. Blasphemy, I know! So we got back down south on New Year day and hence began the same ol’. Preparing for the commencement of semester, running behind Aarabhi and finding a good daycare. All of the above were achieved, I went to school for a couple of weeks, we celebrated a rather important Indian festival, Pongal. We call it the Indian Thanksgiving but during the three days of Pongal, we show our gratitude to the Sun, the hardworking farmers that plow our fields of rice, without which almost all South Indians would starve!
pongal4
The first day of Pongal, called Bhogi, signals the end of one Tamil month (Margazhi) and the beginning of another (Thai). Until around ten years ago, people used to burn leaves and papers amongst other things, signifying the death of all things old and the beginning of everything new (and good). Well, the good news is that we have stopped setting fire to random combustible objects but  Bhogi still means  let the good times roll, baybay!

The second day is the most important day of all four: Pongal. On this day, we make a huge feast which begins with boiling new rice with milk and jaggery. When this concoction boils over, we yell “Pongal-o Pongal”, which literally means “Boiling over, boiling over!” Sounds weird, right? It is actually so much fun at home, when all of us are peering over the brass pot perched on the cooktop, with a metal plate and ladle in hand. And when the white milk rises to the brim, bubbles up and starts overflowing, with clangs and clings, we yell (most of the time into each others’ ears) with all the lung power we can muster!
pongal2After all the screaming (at the pot of milk by the whole family and later, by Paati at us to go take a shower), we get clean, wear new clothes, bring out all the yummy food and thank the sun for being merciful on our farmers and the crops. Phew! That was a pretty long narration. This year, Pongal was special because it was A’s first and for the first ever time since we got married, we had a set of parents at home with us to celebrate with. Thankfully the weather behaved itself too, a surprise since we have been seeing a lot of rains.

So about the blog: the url has changed! You can find us at http://www.chefettespicy.com from now. We have a new banner also. And as always, I will do my best at keeping the updates consistent and constant. Thassal, folks!


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Props and Plans for 2014

blog stuffWhen I first started baking (which was around the same time I started blogging about it), my measuring cup was a single take-out container which had a one cup marking on it. I resisted the idea of buying tools due to a faint fear that I would grow out of this “novel” method of cooking. But the hub prodded me into buying a set of measuring cups at least! On a random visit to our local Dollar Tree outlet back in Maryland, I came across a set of measuring devices (in picture) for, yes, a dollar! Since then, a lot of buying has happened in various Dollar Tree outlets and somewhere along the line, I realized that hey, you don’t need to buy from fancy shmancy stores to cook effectively. blog stuff4Well, I stand corrected. you don’t need to buy everything from big stores to cook yummy food. Although I have wonderful appliances and baking tools from other stores, Dollar Tree always excites me. Apart from the measuring cups, I have quite a few other interesting props and tools I have collected over the years. So when I was wondering how I wanted to end the year, a picture heavy post about things that help make my food look and taste good was not only an awesome idea but also very fitting. Our Christmas lights and a gloomy day worked well together and I ended up with beautiful pictures- probably the best shoot I have done in long. So let’s continue, shall we? blog stuff5As the cliche goes, hands are a cook’s best tools. But a set of sturdy mixing spatula and basting brush are always a welcome relief especially when your batter gets stuck to the bottom of the KitchenAid while trying to make a birthday cake or when you are trying to brown the top of your garlic rolls with some melted butter. Both of them are by Betty Crocker and I love the brilliant red they come in. blog stuff3Ah, the birds and my beautiful silver tray! Although the former have never made it to the blog (yet), the latter was on the other cake post I wrote a few months ago. The birds are such dainty little things that I am still looking for a post to include them in. The silver tray was a random purchase that K threatened to throw out if I did not use. It was a dollar and he was tired of storing it. Thankfully, I found a use and am I glad I did! blog stuff2I don’t know which I love more- the black bowl or the red napkin (slash rag cloth). Although the bowl has been featured in gravy posts like Veg Balls in Garlic Sauce and Punjabi Kadhi, the rag cloth is a new buy so I am stowing it away for the new year. So yes, it is easy to blog on a budget if you open your eyes and look. There is really no shame is going the Dollar Store route as long as you know where to draw a line!

As for plans, the blog address is going to change, I am certain about it. We will go from Ladlesandhighheels.com to ChefetteSpicy.com.I am going to indulge more in low-carb cooking for 2014. It has been six months since Aarabhi and now is the time to get back in shape. So my low-carb diet is going to aid me in getting there. Also on my to-do list for the blog is slow cooker cooking. Although I see no point in making pies and brownies in my crock-pot, I am pretty sure that it can turn out some crazy delish Sambar and Dal. Since all I would have to do is mix the ingredients together and wait for the dish to be done, I am very excited!

The holidays are closing in on us and I am in Virginia at the moment with the whole bunch of East Coasters. I have so many pictures to share and plans to cook something together with M, one of my sisters-in-law. I am looking forward to that and I am looking forward to clicking pics. I used to be nonchalant or very pessimistic about new years but this time, I am very positive about it. I have various reasons for it but whatever it is, I know one thing: I will own 2014!

So I might do yet another post before we ring in the new year. But in case I go MIA until 2014, here is me wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Stay safe, drink eggnog (if you are into it) and eat lots of wonderful food!


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Feel Good Food: Bisi Bele Bath

BisibeleHolidays are here! Can you believe that it is already time for Christmas? I mean, it was only June yesterday but I woke up this morning to a very cold day and it suddenly hit me that we were nearly done with 2013. Last year this time, I was subtly pregnant and we were shopping for our trip to India. Although we are not due for a visit back home yet (or to deliver a baby), we are still shopping. Shopping for Christmas gifts that we would be taking with us while we visit family and friends back in East Coast.

I am pumped about travelling back to where it all- K and my life together, my culinary Eureka moments and ultimately this blog- began. But I am more excited about meeting the family, showing them Aarabhi for the first time and catching up with the awesome family, especially my wonderful sisters and brother-in-law (they range from the age of six to eighteen, so I find it weird to call ’em that).

Anyway, back to food. I cannot talk about Bisi Bele Bath without mentioning that our New Jersey aunt is a pro at making this wonderful dish. It is native to Karnataka, as she is and the spice mix she puts in her Bisi Bele is wonderful. Since I ran out of it last year, I used the store-bought Bisi Bele Bath powder by MTR and I have been in love with it since! But S Chithi did promise to give me the recipe for it this time when we go to Jersey.

Kannadigas around the world are freakishly proud of this dish and rightly so because it is a one pot wonder and nothing can parallel the taste of hot hot Bisi Bele. Especially on a cold day like today. The name itself is an abbreviation. Called Bisi Bele Huli Anna, hot and sour lentil rice, the name is pretty self-explanatory. It is made of rice, Dal and tamarind and generously packed with other veggies and a hot spice mix. Sounds delicious doesn’t it?! So here is how I made it.
Bisibele2Bisi Bele Bath

Ingredients:
One cup white rice

Half cup Tuar Dal

One cup Shallots

One cup frozen peas

A lemon size ball of tamarind (or two Tbsp tamarind paste dissolved in two cups of water)

Salt

Three Tbsp MTR Bisi Bele Bath powder

Quarter cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Two Tbsp Ghee/Brown Butter

One Tbsp Cooking oil

One tsp mustard seeds

Few curry leaves (optional but recommended)

One tsp Asafoetida

Few pieces of cashew nut

Method:
Before we begin, let’s talk rice.

Whatever you do, try to avoid using Basmati rice for this dish. South Indian rice dishes seldom call for Basmati since it is predominantly used in the northern parts of India only. Moreover, and most importantly, using fragrant rice varieties like Basmati or Jasmine would alter the taste of Bisi Bele and that is really not what you want to do, trust me.

If you are using rice bought from the Indian grocer, cook it together with the Dal in six cups of water until it turns mushy and runny. If you are using white rice bought from a store like Costco, cook them together in four and a half cups of water. This is because you generally need less water to cook American rice than you need to make Indian rice, whether it is Sona Masoori or Ponni.

Pour two cups of water to the tamarind and extract thick juice. Heat the one Tbsp of oil in a huge pot. Fry the shallots for a few seconds. Add the tamarind water and peas to this. Let it cook for ten minutes on medium-low. Now add the peas, salt, Bisi Bele Bath powder, coconut and asafoetida. Cook this together for ten more minutes. The tamarind water and peas have to cook and the spices have to mix and blend with the gravy.

Once done, mix in the cooked rice and Dal mix in batches. The result has to be loose, runny and smell like your kitchen has suddenly transformed into Indian food heaven. Heat the Ghee separately. Fry the mustard seeds along with cashew pieces and curry leaves. Add this to the Bisi Bele Huli Anna and mix it up one last time.

Since Appa decided to throw his strict diet out of the window for the day, I (guiltily) made spicy Potato Curry to go with it. Chips and onion Raita made our lunch brighter.

Much yummy noises were made at the dining table. That made me a happy girl!


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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!