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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Photography Styling Challenge- Order

order6Sneaky little December breezily slid in while I was not looking, bringing with it the deadline for this month’s photography styling challenge topic, Order. Ironically, my house is at its least orderly self, thanks to the huge load of baby stuff we bought/got as gifts in the past six months. This, topped with crazy Black Friday shopping for Christmas gifts, I feel like a bull in a China shop at the moment.

Thankfully, the weekend was long and I had a couple of good ideas. Hence, I managed to photograph the handful of order we had around the house and call the challenge done. Next month’s topic is chaos. I am beside myself with excitement for this one. I probably have to wrap up the shoot by 19th of this month because we are off on a holiday after that and would return only by the 1st of January. And then it would be time for the madcap semester to begin (I will whine more about that later, I promise!). But now, here is to December and the much needed inspiration for order this photoshoot brought my way.
order3I had to take a pic of this before babygirl starts crawling and we pack them away. These are just a few trinkets, most of them gifts from friends and family. My absolute favorite has got to be this bell from Germany, a gift from my wonderful friend, N. Aarabhi already tries to grab this off the lowest shelf of the television table.

orderI’ve always been known for being a reader and not a collector of books. I owned a Kindle for a few months, didn’t really dig e-books and gifted it to my sister. We’ve bought multiple Kindle devices on my account since, but none of them for me. I have a very small collection of books at the moment, no thanks to poorly stocked county library in the city I used to live before moving down south. I hardly found Indian authors or Magic-Realism books there so I have been skipping libraries since and buying a few every time I go to India from Landmark Bookstore in Madras. I have no place for bookshelves in my apartment at the moment so my books sit on the side table in the living room. I have also found them to be a good source of conversation when we have guests over.
order4Ah, the divine altar at home. This shelf used to be such a mess until my mom-in-law decided to come to its rescue. Right now, it is in perfect order… as are the three other shelves below this. Zen, finally!
order2This is the hub’s handiwork. For the uninitiated, this is a collection of my pregnancy ultrasounds. Although our photographs (who prints them anymore, right? I do!) are in a mess in one of my drawers, the K man meticulously arranged these in order. We hardly look at them but it is good to know that they are around when we feel like taking a peek.

As always, you can read about the challenge here and take a look at other participants’ entries. Here is the list:
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

Ah, chaos, come to mamma!


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Snacky Paneer from the Fake Tandoor

Don’t you love Paneer? Don’t you just love that chewy goodness called Paneer, a close cousin of ricotta and just the perfect replacement to meat in most dishes that roll out of a Tandoor kitchen? Um, I don’t like it all that much. True story. But when I was young(er), I used to have dreams about devouring huge amounts of Paneer Butter Masala and Paneer Tikka and miraculously escaping the indigestion that was sure to follow. That phase passed and fortunately-erm, for Kishore, really- I make Paneer exclusively for him these days.

Paneer Tikka is one of those appetizer dishes that holds a permanent place on any Indian restaurant menu. It is a breeze to make (without the Tandoor, of course), an ultimate favorite with the hub and my round two recipe for a frozen piece of Paneer that was sleeping in the freezer. I cooked it in the oven and finished it on a pan because with a sleeping child in the house on a scotching Alabama summer day, the broiler was something I wanted to avoid switching on.
Paneer tikka
Paneer Tikka

Ingredients:

To be diced into huge pieces-
A slab of Paneer

Half an onion

One tomato

Half a green bell pepper

For the marinade-
One cup thick yogurt

Two Tbs gram flour (or AP)

Half tsp chili powder

Half a tsp turmeric powder

One tsp Garam Masala

One tsp Chat Masala

One Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

One tsp salt

Method:

Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Marinate the Paneer for two hours. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Lay the Paneer pieces on a foil lined sheet. Dunk the veggies in the marinade and lay them out. Bake for twenty minutes. When done, heat a pan, transfer the Paneer and the vegetables and toast till brown on both sides. Serve with green chutney.


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Soup up!

Yes, I am back and I missed quite a few holidays/festivals/celebrations while trying to get my groove back too. Ah well, water under the bridge. Lets move on. The good news is I am back to cooking and eating. This second trimester, I tell you, is such a breeze. An awesome time to enjoy pregnancy and all the good things it brings with it. I finally did my trip to India and what fun it was. Well, fun and so much work and travel inside my city, Madras.

So while reveling in all things home, I forgot to click as many pics as I wanted to in the beginning. That’s okay, there is always the next time. So the ones that I actually did click need to be color corrected but I am having a tough term school-wise that color correction would be a thing in my fantasy… or reserved for one of those free weekends I am dreaming about

K and I landed in a very cold Atlanta and traveled to an equally bad Alabama. Well, bad to us is around 43 deg F so I will take it. We jetlagged for about a couple of weeks, with me falling sick twice. Sick did not curb my energy and into the kitchen I went to make good food. I made this roasted broccoli and cauliflower soup with rosemary which the man deemed the best thing I’ve rustled up in the kitchen in the past three month. Poor thing!

broc soup

The recipe is shamefully easy to be mentioned here so let me just give you the list of ingredients: broc, cauliflower, potato, garlic, white wine vinegar, milk, salt, pepper, rosemary, nutmeg and very little cheddar cheese.  This soup is my version of Panera Bread’s broccoli soup. And I served it with homemade croutons. Oh yum!

broc soup2

 


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Festival of Lights, ahoy!

Deepavali (Diwali) is here in a couple of days! It is said that Indians celebrate festivals all around the year but nothing beats Deepavali. Preparation begins at least two months in advance. Since my house in Madras is situated right in the middle of the commercial district (imagine living in Times Square all your life!), we celebrate with the crowd and curse them as we do.

People shop for clothes, crackers, sweets, jewellery and everything else during those two long months and take refuge under flimsy store roofs when Varuna, the rain god, strikes. It is the middle of monsoon after all! Our city police work extra hard, pick-pockets work harder, and everyone spends their hard-earned Moolah on worldly objects. We all get a kick out of that, of course!

Last year, I was in India for Deepavali and had so much fun! The fragrance of fire crackers woke me up in the wee hours of the morning. We took bath with oil and traditional Indian shampoo powder called Sheekai, ate lots of sweets and goodies, visited family, friends and had so much fun! K was of course, unable to come to India during that time and my phone call to him from India to America on Deepavali was the most depressing conversation I’ve ever had!

This year, I am home, looking forward to my overly-spoken about trip to India. Though we are far away, Deepavali celebrations in America are pretty awesome too, especially when you have a huge Indian community around you to make you forget about the mad-cap fun your family is having back in India. You would be surprised to know that Alabama has a huge Indian crowd and we have so many friends in our city. So this year, though firecrackers are not going to dot our celebrations, I am making/made sweets to celebrate.

 

A couple of days ago, I made Laddu, a typical Indian sweet, something I learned last year from my mom number 2. I am still reveling in the success. I have a couple more goodies to make and then we are all set to celebrate the festival of lights!

In the words of my all time favorite Tamil actor, Superstar Rajnianth, Happy Diwali, folks! 🙂


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Ginger Snap Memories

I have always loved ginger cookies. Back home, we call these ginger biscuits. We have this bakery called McRennett in Madras which has been around since pre-Independence days (which is why the English/Scottish name). When I was younger, my mom used to work and she would bring us back tasty McRennett treats from an outlet near her work. The store expanded as I grew up and quite a few of them popped up near where we lived.

It was at McRennett that I tasted my first cinnamon bun, Swiss roll and other yummy pastries. My paternal grandfather (Thatha) used to love ginger biscuits and people would buy it from McRennett when they used to visit him. His personal pantry was always open to his lucky granddaughters and he would indulge us in rummaging through it on weekends and summer holidays. My favorite treats from my Thatha’s stash would always be ginger snap cookies and orange sugar candies.

I had quite a volatile relationship with my grandfather while I was growing up. My grandparents lived with us and Thatha disapproved of quite a few things I did in my growing up years. Those dark years didn’t really stop him from indulging me in the weekly treats. Thankfully, all that passed and we formed a strong bond for the last seven years of his life. So after Thatha passed away, a few of us grandchildren got together in his room one day, rummaged through his pantry and feasted on what was left of his goodies while sharing wonderful stories about him. So these gingersnap cookies might as well be a tribute to my Thatha. Only thing is, the store-bought ones were always darker in color and crunchier in texture. But they had the same wonderful ginger taste.

Ginger also happens to be one of those doc-recommended flavor for me so I am all on board!

This time, when I go to Madras, I will make sure I stop at a McRennett outlet and buy a few goodies.


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Good-bye, Food!

This has got to be the stupidest post I’ve ever written but it is inevitable. I haven’t cooked anything interesting since my last post. I am not motivated and food turns me off. It’s a phase. And you probably guessed the reason too.

I’ve been struggling to keep up with the idea of food and cooking. It is especially painful when you live away from family, with a man who would do anything in this world for me but cook. Let’s not blame him because even if he did cook, I would not want to eat it. Aversion to things I love eating has been following me around.

I crave Indian food, especially that are not all that nutritious for you like Dahi Puri, Kashmiri Naan and things there is no way in hell I can find in remote Alabama. So, I totally cannot wait to get to India in December. Once there, my mommies will cook for me, I will go out to eat with friends and family and feel loved. Until then, I have to trudge through coursework, housework and make sure I stay sane.

No, don’t feel bad for me. This will keep my endurance in check.

I was talking to K today about the sad state my blog is falling into and he suggested I dig into my folders to find food that haven’t posted about. I did. And it turned up some badly composed pictures. But desperation has left me with no choice and I hate picture-less posts.

so this here is Bhel Puri, a more popular cousin of Dahi Puri that I crave. I made this in March and I refused to make it again because it made me miss home more.

This is Knolkol/Kolrabi Kootu and Curried cauliflower. This Alabama is a strange place. We have a multi-ethnic store which stocks a traditional Indian vegetable like Knolkol but hardly sells eggplant. This Kootu is made of coconut, cumin and Thai chili. If you do find Knolkol in your store, I need to warn you though. Select smaller, tender ones because it is a very fibrous root. It takes extensive peeling and cooking to make this tuber edible. But its taste is unparalleled and this is why I go through all that trouble. Grind the coconut, cumin and Thai chili together with a little water.

Cook the Knolkol until tender. Discard excess water, mix in the paste and salt. Let it boil for a few minutes until you get a semi-solid consistency. Optional addition is soaked Bengal Gram Dal. Two Tbsps soaked overnight (or in hot water for 10 minutes). Add to the cooked Knolkol with the paste. Tada!

So this space is probably going to be done with originals. I will keep it alive with things I eat outside, things my mommies cook up for me and general India posting (sans the Slumdog Millionairesque pics). Who wouldn’t like that!