Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Spinach and Corn Mac and Cheese

spinach mac and cheeseCreamy, jam packed with flavor and wonderfully versatile, this loose interpretation on mac and cheese has been on my mind for a really long time. Kishore loves his mac and cheese and he would eat only one version- Ina Garten’s. Although I made it exactly as she does a couple of times, I quickly realized that it was not an everyday mac and cheese. For one, it is full of cheese (always looks good on paper but not sensible to eat twice a month) and all purpose flour. To top that, Ina’s recipe calls for one whole stick of butter! I shudder at that thought.
spinach mac and cheese3Hence, I have been playing with ingredients for a really long time. Although I shaped it into a healthy version, one thing I did not want to play with was the flavor. So I kept jalapeño, broccoli and artichoke out of the dish. But last week, I wanted to change it up because I was not a huge fan of mac and cheese. As I mentioned before, I have been making this dish up for a very long time. A quick search on the internet proved that it does really exist. But I decided not to peep into any of those and do what I decided to. Hence, I combined my favorite dip, Warm Spinach and Corn (sometimes Artichoke) Dip and Macaroni and Cheese!

spinach mac and cheese2Spinach and Corn Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
One pound macaroni elbows or any medium/small size pasta (I used Penne)

Four Tbsp all purpose flour

Four Tbs whole wheat flour

One and a half cups 2% milk

Half cup water

Eight Oz Container of low-fat cream cheese

Four to Five cups fresh spinach, washed and chopped

One cup cooked sweet corn kernels

Half tsp nutmeg

Four oz reduced fat Colby Jack cheese shredded

Four pods garlic, finely chopped

One Tbsp butter

Two Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain the water and keep aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add spinach and let it wilt. Add the sweet corn and cream cheese. Mix it well until the cheese melts. Add enough pepper and salt. Grease an 8″ baking dish. Pour the spinach mixture and bake it for ten minutes. Meanwhile, make the white sauce:

Heat the olive oil in the same pan you made the dip. Add garlic and saute on low heat until slightly cooked. Sprinkle both the flours and saute for a few minutes. This will take the raw smell off the flour. While that happens, mildly heat the milk in the microwave. With a whisk in one hand, slowly pour the milk as you whisk it into the mixture. All through this process, it is important that you leave the heat at low. Sprinkle in some salt, pepper and nutmeg. Slowly mix the sauce until it starts thickening. When it reaches a very thick consistency, pour in the water. Let it boil some more. When the sauce reaches a pouring consistency and passes the ladle streak test (dip the ladle in the sauce and draw a line with you finger on the back. If it leaves a clear line, it has reached the desired consistency), add the cheese.

Mix in the pasta. Pour the mac and cheese into the baked spinach dip and give it a mix. Return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until it is bubbling and gooey.

Cook’s notes: I know that water is frowned upon while making mac and cheese. However, I find it a delightful substitution for milk. If you’d rather, replace water with milk.

My 8″ pan was occupied, hence I had to make it in two (cake and loaf) pans. This helped with portion control.

Add red pepper flakes if you like spice. I did.

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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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My Experiments with Brussels

brussel salad3There comes a day in every food blogger’s life when they make the most perfect batch of roasted vegetables. Food angels will sing, you will shower in a million buckets of conceit and act like you just won the James Beard. Never happened to you? Is it just me? Well, alright then, let me go on. I made the most beautiful batch of Brussels yesterday and immediately let my smugness get ahead of me.

Initially, I had planned a curry with the veggie. When I realized that they were the most perfect shade of caramelized golden-brown with flavors popping every-which-way, I found the intended recipe too normal, very tame for this beauty. So I decided to let the Brussels revel in its newly acquired swag- I decided that a warm salad was the best route to take. What do I say, I was pressed for time and needed to set a few minutes aside for photographing this beauty.  Personally, I was tempted to eat it as it was, off the baking sheet but I kinda had to share it with the hub.
brussel saladI made the salad as I went- I roasted the Brussels Sprouts at 400ºF (205º C) for 30 minutes after coating them with two Tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. You could substitute salt with garlic salt if you want but honestly, I never missed the garlic (and I am the kind of person who thinks everything is wonderful with a little chopped garlic in it). I added Craisins and some walnuts. Since I wanted a creamy vinaigrette that would not steal the Brussels Sprouts’ thunder, I made a mild yogurt sauce with a little Chipotle in Adobo and a generous (quarter) cup of milk. I was impressed. Yes, it takes very little for me to feel happy with myself.
brussel salad2The only downside was that I missed Amma while I was greedily eating the salad off the plate after clicking a few hasty photos when I remembered: Amma was so taken by these mini-cabbages although she was not new to them. But then they are pretty expensive in India and not a perennial vegetable like they are in USA so we seldom bought them. She once made a wonderful pepper fry with Brussels when she lived with us last year. We also spoke extensively about making Brussels Fried Rice one day but we never really got down to it. Next time, Amma. We always have the next time.

Nutrition Info:

Serving Size: One Cup

Total Carbs: 15g


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Green Onion Kootu

It is official. Winter has arrived. Yes, we feel the bite of winter’s freezing hands down south here in Alabama too. But I am not as dismayed with the season as I was last year. Nausea all alone in the house was not fun but what is fun is having a home full of people and a kitchen that is always bustling with activity, be it something as simple as making a pot of tea or Amma rustling up wholesome South Indian food!
green onion kootuOne of the best things about my mother-in-law is her innate talent of creating something nutritious with fresh flavorful ingredients. Since Appa has a strict diet regimen, her choices when it comes to selecting vegetables is very rigorous. If you are one of those people who thinks that a diet that revolves around healthy cooking (low oil, lots of green leafy veggies kind) is snoozville, I am very sure that Amma’s cooking will change your mind.

This week’s bounty hunting at our local ethnic market brought to us some beautiful bunches of green onion. Now, this is not a vegetable we generally use in Indian cooking. Or so I thought until our trip to Indian last year. The day we landed in Madras, Amma cooked up some Sambar with green onions which found a huge fan in me. I would not be exaggerating if I said I had dreams about it until last Sunday. And then I found a new green onion dish to haunt my dreams: the Green Onion Kootu.

Although She laughed at me when I said I was going to write about it on the blog next, she agreed that it was a dish that connoisseurs of Indian food should taste! So after hurriedly clicking pictures of it, I decided that this Kootu deserves a big reveal as soon as possible. With the weather turning all frigid on us, I deemed this the perfect timing!

Green Onion Kootu

Ingredients:
One bunch green onions, whites and greens chopped

Two Tbsps Mung Dal, washed

One Tbsp Sambar powder. Rasam, Cumin-Coriander or even curry powder would work but it would give it a different taste

One tsp turmeric powder

One tsp salt

For Tempering:
One tsp mustard seeds

One tsp Urad Dal

One tsp asafoetida

Few curry leaves

Method:
Cook the green onions and Mung Dal with enough water, turmeric powder, Sambar powder and salt. When done, temper with mustard seeds, Urad Dal, asafoetida and curry leaves. If you are serving it as a side, make sure it is thick (thicken with AP/corn/rice flour). This dish could also be served as a soup. Squeeze half a lime and make some Papads (or cut a fresh loaf of bread) to dunk into the soup.

Since we made it for a casual lunch, we left out the cilantro for garnish. You could go ahead and dress it up.

Be safe, y’all! I heard it is going to be a messy week.


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So Cheesy!

I know, I know, that is a ridiculously cheesy (and by that I mean predictable) title, especially for a post about Mozzarella Sticks. But it is 10pm on a very tiring Sunday night and I have only ten minutes to write this post and go back to my Accounts book… out of which I spent five defending the title. So here we go!

I didn’t know that it was possible- to make a guilt free, lighter version of mozzarella sticks. Until I made up my mind to give it a try. So I read up a couple of methods online, like the ones on Skinnytaste and Food Network and decided to go with my own recipe. I just adapted the temperature and time for baking from the websites, took a deep breath and did it. You should also note that this the first time I am making Moz Sticks of any kind so the success was especially awesome.  I don’t want to talk any more but let this picture do the job:

Featuring for the first time on the blog: the hubster pulling an ooey-gooey cheese stick apart !

Featuring for the first time on the blog: the hubster pulling an ooey-gooey cheese stick apart !

Wonderful, isn’t it? Here is the recipe-

Healthy-Gooey Moz Sticks

Ingredients
Eight sticks of low-moisture part-skim Mozzarella sticks (I recommend Sargento)

One egg, whisked

Quarter cup all-purpose flour

Three Slices of whole-wheat bread

Two tsp dried Italian seasoning

One tsp garlic powder

One Tbsp butter

Cookng spray

Marinara sauce for dipping

Method

Freeze the cheese overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 400° F. Gently blend the bread in a food processor. Heat the butter in a pan and add the bread crumbs when the butter melts. Toast it on medium-low until it is golden-brown. When done, mix the seasoning and garlic powder with it. Assemble the flour, whisked egg and bread crumbs in different dishes. Bring the cheese out. Dip the cheese sticks in the flour and shake of any excess. Dunk them in the egg wash completely and finally, roll them in the seasoned breadcrumbs. Arrange on a foil-lined, greased baking tray and freeze for fifteen minutes (this step can also be done the night before and baked the next day).

spary the tops of the Mozzarella Sticks with cooking spray and bake for five minutes. Turn once and bake again for five minutes. I placed my baking tray on the lowest rack and the sticks came out wonderfully. dunk in marinara and eat while it is hot.
mozarella sticksThat took me half hour to write. Who was I kidding when I said ten minutes?!

Serving Size: One stick

Total Carbs: 7g


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Do You Remember Cup Corn?

Summer sweet corn is here and no one can be happier than I am! I have such great plans for these wonderful kernels of sweetness for this summer and cannot wait to get my hands on them every week. So when I bought them last evening, I already had the perfect starter snack for my sweet corn: cup corn!

cilantro corn

Cup Corn is a very common street food in India and comes in so many versatile flavors, none of which I remember really! So my recipe pick for the day was a pretty much a free-hit since I went with my instincts and literally dropped all the seasoning I thought would jive well together. This is probably why I ended up with a huge bowl of succulent, sweet  corn that was devoured within half an hour of making it! Since I am at the risk of sounding like a glutton, I would like to mention that I had a couple of enthusiastic consumers (one probably more eager than the other. No prizes for guessing who is who, of course) helping me.

Since most of you already know how to steam/cook/roast corn on the cob, here is the recipe for the Cayenne-Garlic Butter Infused with Garlic and Cilantro:

Ingredients:
Half a stick of butter

One Tbsp Olive Oil

Two pods of garlic finely grated

A pinch cayenne pepper powder

Quarter cup cilantro

A dash of lime

One tsp salt

Method:
Melt butter and oil with garlic and cayenne pepper powder on low heat. If you like your garlic well cooked, let it go for five minutes. I love the taste of fresh garlic so I cook it for two minutes. Add the cilatro (save a Tbsp for later), salt and squeeze in the lime. Pour the butter in a shallow pan if you are leaving the corn on the cob. Turn them a few times to coat. I removed the kernels from the corn so I pored the butter over the bowl of corn and mixed it well. Garnish with the rest of the cilantro. Done!

This makes enough butter for four ears of corn.

Serving Size: One ear of corn

Total carbs: 17g

With dressing: 20g


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Weekend with Granola

Fall has been so good to us down South and I heard it will continue being so good for so long that we would probably get sick of it soon. Still, it makes me smirk when I see pictures of my friends in fall jackets on facebook. And I just bought a hoodie a couple of days back, wore it early last morning and deemed it inappropriate. It was 5.30 am! Which brings me to explain what I was doing up at that ungodly hour. A week ago, the husband and I registered for the Montgomery Half Marathon’s 5K on a whim, primarily because our friends were running.

I knew I was going to make a fool of myself. Who was I kidding? 3.1 miles? 5 kilometers? I cannot keep myself up on the treadmill for a mile and here I was, registered for the 5K. I was dreading it but decided to show up downtown and try running. I outdid my expectation actually. I am not going to disclose my timing but at the end of the event, I decided that I was going to train better and run the half-marathon next year. Well, at least the 5K.

Though I don’t run much, I do a lot of cross-training, love Zumba and Yoga. On the days that Kishore and I do hit the gym, we work out, feel completely tired and have a granola to get back to normal. Phew! I finally arrived at the food part of this post. I hate Nature Valley’s plain honey granolas but love their fruit and nut mixture. Though Nature Valley is known for its granola range, I sometimes find them a tad too dry for my taste. How do you make slightly moist personalized granola bars? My quest led me to research and end up with my own awesome recipe.

Homemade Fruit and Nut Granola Bars with Coffee induced Chocolate Layer (That was a long name!)

Ingredients:
Four cups quick cooking oats like Quakers

Quarter cup maple-syrup/corn-syrup/honey (I used sugar-free maple syrup)

Quarter cup brown sugar

Half cup mixed nuts (I used almonds, pistachios, walnuts but wished I had added a hand full of groundnuts too)

Half cup dried cranberries (if you don’t have some at home, replace with currants)

Half tsp ground cinnamon

A pinch salt

Quarter cup canola or vegetable oil (use butter if you want. I have issues with it though)

Two Tbsps of cold water

For the chocolate layer-
Half cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

One tsp vanilla

A pinch salt

One tsp instant coffee granules like Folgers

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 375 °F (190°C). Spread out three cups of oats on one sheet and the rest and the nuts on another (I will tell you why in a bit) Make sure the nuts and the oats don’t mix. Toast both the trays in the oven for 15 minutes, tossing them twice in the middle. While waiting for it to toast, mix everything else, except the chocolate layer, cranberries and water, in a huge bowl. Once the trays are out of the oven, take the one cup of oats you toasted with the nuts and grind it into a coarse meal. The oatmeal gives the granola bars a nice chewy texture.
Mix the oats with the mixture, add the oatmeal, the nuts and the cranberries. If it ends up too thick, add the water to it. You now have the base for the granola. Take a foil-lined rectangular cake tin and pour the mixture into it. Press it in tight and bake in the oven for thirty minutes. When done, pull the foil out and let the granola sheet cool down. Now, if you want ordinary granola bars, this is where you stop. But I strongly suggest you proceed with the chocolate layer.
Mix the chocolate chips, vanilla extract, salt and coffee granules in a microwave safe bowl. Zap it for 30 seconds. Bring it out, stir it and repeat it a couple of times more (basically, make coffee-infused chocolate sauce). Once the granola sheet has cooled, cut it into bars (or whatever shape you fancy) and dip it into the chocolate glaze. Transfer chocolate side up on to a baking sheet and cool till the glaze has set. When done, wrap in wax-paper. These bars will keep well outside for a week in a tightly-lidded jar, up to a month in the fridge and it will also freeze well.

Whoa! What a long post. In compensation, I will not be updating for a week… nah! Not really. I have my finals coming up, that’s why!