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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Sticky Cinnamon Bun

If I ever got to rule the world, I would make eating cinnamon buns mandatory. No, seriously. I strongly feel that cinnamon buns make this a happier place to live in. Make em sticky and I will be in eternal heaven. So when Amma came across a wonderful Ina recipe for easy sticky buns on tv, it was only natural for me to look it up and obsess over it until I gave in to temptation and made it. So what if I had my finals the next day, right? Sticky Cinnamon Buns deserve more of my attention than my Accountancy book… for half hour they did because making these lovelies was the easiest thing ever.
sticky bunLike all Ina Garten recipes, this is five stars-worthy but then, I had to go on and make my own alteration. First of all, I was not over the moon about using  pastry sheets for a quick snack so I decided to make it “unquick” by replacing it with the yeast dough from my cinnamon bun recipe. Result: seriously yum! No, seriously. We didn’t miss the puff pastry. I also replaced pecans with walnuts but this was only because walnuts were what I had in my pantry (apart from every other nut except for pecans). Finally, I made two versions of the sticky buns- one with brown sugar and another, sugar-free (for Amma). Although the latter was really not sticky, it was pretty delicious but there is room for improvement. I am looking forward to working on it.

The brown sugar made it wonderfully caramelized, chewy and uber gooey, which is really what makes sticky buns, well, sticky. So if you love cinnamon buns, you’ve gotta try this recipe. I cannot wait to make it again over the weekend. No, I am not joking!


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Thank You, Ina!

If you’ve been following my blog for sometime now, you will know that I worship the ground Ina Garten treads. She makes the most amazing food, is the kind of hostess I’ve always fantasized I would be and she knows that intricate method of entwining rustic and elegance which she does with a panache. All that put together with that very cute relationship she shares with her husband, Jeffrey, makes Ina the most adorable person on television (Sheldon Cooper sufferes a narrow loss but he will survive).

This treat is an adaptation of her Outrageous Brownies, one of the featured Food Network desserts. Featured is the channel’s way of saying that they are unabashedly proud of and the pride is well-justified. I baked half the quantity and made a couple of changes that were inevitable due to (un)availability of things at the store and my pantry but I promise, Ina, that I used the most premium products available in the market.

I made these brownies as a hostess gift and that’s why they are all dressed up and ready to roll (into the gift bag). Making these brownies has also been a challenge to me and I don’t mean the whipping up part. The challenges were of two kinds: restraining myself from eating them, thanks to my intense work-out program (oh, we will need a longer blog post if I start on that!) and styling the brownies up into giftable treats.

I did taste a piece (with my own recipe for icing) and I cried a little. They were so perfectly gooey, crunchy and decadent all at the same time that they might as well be my long lost love that I was never destined to have.The Mister, of course, is jealous… of me. Apparently, he wanted them to be his long lost love.

Icing Recipe:

Ingredients:

Quarter Cup Evaporated Milk

Half Cup Sugar

One Cup Chocolate Chips

One tsp Vanilla Essence

Two Sticks (1 cup/ 8 oz) Butter

Method:

Bring the evaporated milk, sugar, butter and vanilla essence to boil. Switch off the heat. Add the chocolate chips. Stir until it melts. Slather on, baybay!

Ps: see the new changes?


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For the Love of Baking

I admit it. I am a compulsive baker. I love my ancient yet awesome oven and all the scintillating smells it can create when I am in the mood for it. When I first moved here, new to the country and my home, I took an oath: I will venture anywhere in this new land but I will never dare to open my oven to cook food. A few of my friends use it as a storage space of sorts and I actually thought it was a novel idea. Thank god I changed my mind!

Hours of watching Food Network and Cooking Channel actually made me curious about the forbidden territory that lay behind the dark door under my stove. For some reason, I hadn’t found the heart to stack my pots there so it lay hollow, like an empty cave. During one of our grocery escapades a month after the relocation, I found a packet of Betty Crocker’s SuperMoist cake mix on sale and decided to grab it.

Since then, it has been a journey for me. I read up some oven tactics on the internet and the Food Network website has always been a guide to me. My culinary gurus, Ina Garten and Giada De Laurentiis have never given up on mentoring me (of course, they would be surprised to know that!) For a haphazard cook like me,  I have had it pretty easy so far. First of all, I took Ina’s advice seriously.  Quantity is really the key to baking. Hence, I decided to move up a step by abandoning my faithful little coffee cup measuring device (I know Rachael Ray did). Lucky for me, I found an inexpensive plastic set at a local store. I didn’t want to give up baking but I was not very keen on taking giant steps either.

Oh, I remember the day so well! To celebrate my black cups, I made biscuits. Apart from a charred stray that set off the fire alarm, the rest of it was crisp, delicate and wonderful. So I have moved a few phases. Right now, I have a well stocked baking pantry and a couple of basic baking pans. I have a whisk that I use to mix pretty much everything. So in case, if you are planning to start baking after this “inspirational” blog, here is a small list of things you need in your kitchen:

Oven mits (keep those hands safe!)

Measuring cups (very very VERY important!)

Couple of basic baking sheets

Aluminum foil sheets

Tongs

Whisk (for desserts in which you use dry and wet ingredients)

Baking soda

Baking powder

Vanilla essence

All-purpose flour (Maida)

Sugar

Butter

Eggs

Of course, I am still a beginner and making scones or croissants is a pretty far away dream to me. But I am hoping to get there. There are so many awesome bakers in this country so I am hoping that being in their radius will rub some of their goodness on me. Anyway, I’ll post a couple of my favorite recipes the next time. They are easy and delicious. Until then, look for a packet of Betty Crocker, Pillsbury or Cadbury cake mix in your local store and have fun. May the baking begin!

Ps: People in India can use the perfectly beautiful alternative for the oven there: the OTG. I bought one for my mother from Vivek’s (this is not the exact one but the closest one I could find) and it is amazing!


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Eggplant Diaries

I admit it. I am a sucker for eggplant. My mother never had to force me into eating this shiny purple veggie because I would gobble it up the minute it landed on my plate… in any form! In fact, I remember eating most of my sister’s portion too. So when I landed with my own kitchen, it was only fair to myself and the world that I maximize the consumption of brinjal. The husband, being a fan himself, encouraged me by stocking the refrigerator with eggplants (actually, I did since I was the primary grocery shopper).

So Kathirikka Kuzhambu, spicy curry, Vangi Bath, Ennai Kathirikkai, Roast Eggplant Dip, eggplant Thuvayal, went the routine. At times, I had to consult my cooking Gurus, Mallika Badhrinath, And

u Paati and Ina Garten but most of the time, I quiz my husband into suggesting some good recipe and he does that wonderfully.

And that’s why it came as a surprise the other day when he looked into the fridge and exclaimed that I seemed to be making quite a lot of dishes with eggplant. I was shocked into silence. So? I asked him. He just shrugged and walked away. Though it did feel like my days with Kathirikkai was coming to an end, I pushed it a day more with the dip. So after we gobbled the whole thing up at a marathon pace of ten minutes (with corn chips, of course), I decided the improbable… to bid the purpleness a temporary good-bye.

My grocery list this week says “No Eggplant” in huge letters, underlined. So what? I will relapse into brinjal heaven soon!