Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Quick Three Cheese Pasta Bake with Homemade Marinara

Time seems to be flying these days! It seems like just yesterday that I updated the blog but here I am, ten days later, wondering where all that time went. Although I am supposed to be reveling in the joy of spring break, I am stuck at home, working on yet another paper. This means that little A is back at daycare, something I was looking forward to avoid for a weak at least. I completely miss spending all my daytime with her and was very pumped about the prospect. But it was not to be.

So, after two days of exclusive mommy-baby time, she went back to her auntie for the major part of the day. Not that she complained. I suspect that she was secretly pleased to run away from boring ol’ me to a place where she can play, laugh and have fun with her friend-ish kind of people. Although I am home alone and all that, I hardly find time to cook. The only thing that pushes me to get on with it is the fact that surviving on water and other liquids is not a diet we are interested in doing at the moment. Hence, I plan my menu a few days in advance and stick to one pot meals as much as my conscience would allow me. Since K is not the complaining kind, I take advantage of him a lot more than I want to admit.
Ricotta Pasta2Yesterday was pasta day. I had a can of diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic sitting in my pantry. I bought some ricotta a couple of days ago and a nice ball of fresh mozzarella on dairy run yesterday. I decided to whip up some of my favorite double-duty marinara sauce to make a cheesy (albeit healthy) pasta bake that kind of edged extravagance while managing to be healthy. It was on the higher side of carbs, but with moderation, I knew that I could have my dinner and eat it too (cliche alert!).
Ricotta PastaQuick Three Cheese Pasta Bake

Ingredients:
One can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic

Three pods of garlic, minced

3/4 box of medium-size pasta like Penne or Rigatoni, cooked al dante, drained and a cup of pasta water set aside

One cup part-skim Ricotta cheese

Half a ball of fresh Mozzarella (or one cup of the shredded kind)

Two Tbsp Parmesan Cheese

Half an eggplant diced

Quarter cup frozen peas

One large egg (optional)

Salt

Pepper

Crushed red pepper

Quarter cup Olive oil

Method:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Heat a saucepan with half the olive oil on medium heat. Saute the minced garlic until it releases flavor. Pour the can of diced tomatoes and let it cook for ten minutes. When done, add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Transfer to a large salad bowl.

Pour half of the remaining oil in the same pan. Saute the diced eggplant on medium-high heat until it browns and starts to cook. meanwhile, add the ricotta and egg (if using) to the marinara sauce. Mix the peas in with the eggplant before you switch off and add this to the ricotta mixture. Blend in some of the reserved pasta water if you find the sauce to be thick. Fold in the Parmesan cheese.

Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce. Grease a baking dish with the remaining oil. Transfer the pasta mixture and top with the Mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. I broiled it for a few minutes to brown the cheese but this is only an optional step.


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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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Superstar Pasta/Pizza Sauce

It has been a quest of sorts, finding the perfect homemade sauce that could do double duty as a pasta and a pizza sauce. And I finally cracked the code yesterday. Well, actually the recipe book that came with my Haeger Pizza Stone, a gift from our Virginia uncle and aunt, did it. I just made a few adjustments, adapted it to our taste and ended up with super-delicious marinara sauce last night. Needless to say I am in bliss! Tomato bliss, actually.

Now, I used canned whole tomatoes. If you’d rather go ahead and use up the last of your summer tomatoes, go ahead. Although, I should warn you. I kinda have a feeling that the juices in the can was what hit the ball out of the park. I cannot wait for pasta day now!
pizza sauceSo here is the recipe-

Superstar Double-duty sauce

Ingredients:
One can (15oz) whole or crushed tomatoes with juice (you could use the same amount of fresh tomatoes too)

Five cloves of garlic, finely minced

Slightly less than a quarter cup olive oil

One tsp dried basil

One tsp dried thyme

One and a half tsp dried oregano

A scant tsp chili flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Chop the whole tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Heat the oil in a pan on medium low. Add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat to medium. While it is cooking, mash the tomatoes lightly with the back of your ladle. Let it simmer and do its wonderful magic for fifteen minutes. Store in a mason jar or such in the refrigerator. But eating it fresh off the stove is the best.

Last week was Vinayaka Chaturti, the day we celebrate the birth of  our elephant-faced god, the son of Lord Shiva. He depicts the beginning of everything auspicious according to the Hindu mythology. We made Kozhukattai/Modhak, Indian stuffed dumplings. We made both the sweet and the savory version. The sweet is made with coconut shavings and jaggery and the savory ones are stuffed with spiced, ground Urad Dal. We went a little contemporary and decided to fry ’em instead of steam ’em. Kishore was not a fan of this version but Amma and I loved it! Since I was freakishly busy last week, here are a couple of pics I clicked on that day but could find time to edit only yesterday.

Sweet and savory Kozhukkattai

Sweet and savory Kozhukkattai

Chickpeas stir fry with coriander seeds and tempered with Indian condiments. It is a distant cousin of hummus. More on this in October.

Chickpeas stir fry with coriander seeds and tempered with Indian condiments. It is a distant cousin of hummus. More on this in October.

Our elephant-faced god, Vinayaka...

Our elephant-faced god, Vinayaka…

 


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Pizzeria Pizza Rolls

I love party pizza rolls but hate Tortino’s. And every other brand of pizza rolls the grocery store carries. Isn’t that reason enough to make homemade rolls? It is. Especially when it comes out of the oven all gooey, bubbly and makes your house smell like a pizzeria. And to learn that involves lesser time and energy than making pizza does!

I admit it. It looks nothing like store-bought pizza rolls. But once you cut them into little pieces, they end up looking like rustic little tasty treats that you cannot resist.

Rustic Pizza Rolls

Ingredients:

Half homemade/store-bought package pizza dough

One cup homemade/store-bought plain marinara sauce

One tsp dried oregano flakes

A pinch pepper

Quarter cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Method:

After the initial rising process, divide the pizza dough into five portions. Makes ropes out of them. cover them and let them rest while you make the stuffing. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Mix together the sauce, cheese and seasoning. After 30 minutes of rest time, Flatten and elongate the pizza dough ropes into rectangles (I went freestyle as always and don’t remember the dimensions). Spread two Tbsps of marinara mixture, lining the longer side, on one side(okay, did I make sense there?). Close it and seal it with the other side. Grease a baking pan and transfer the ropes on to it. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden-brown on top and the stuffing slightly oozes out of the roll.

When done, take it out and let it be. When cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces. This pizza roll freezes well and lasts up to a month… that is if you can keep them away from freezer monsters that raid in need of a midnight snack 😉


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So, Artichoke?

If you have come across a very porcupine-ish vegetable lying there, looking completely Pavam amidst prettier vegetables, you can safely admit that you know what artichoke is. Well, to me it was conundrum until I decided to set my unreasonable fear aside and tackle it.

The bulb of artichoke that I had bought two weeks ago sat staring sadly at me through its prickly eyes and I certainly ended up melting. I should probably mention now that I was saturated that day and did not have anything decent in my pantry to make in time for the five-thirty hunger pangs before you go aww. Anyway, I looked for help on google and instantly found a million links to tips on cooking artichoke.

First, I had to boil the tough piece of veggie to make it approachable. After enjoying a 45-minute Jacuzzi bath, the artichoke was ready to be cut, snipped and molded into an edible entity. I gave it ten minutes to cool down and then, taking the pair of kitchen scissors in my hand, I went snip snip and off came the fleshy leaves.

The leaves are supposed to be eaten… in a weird way. I did and they were quite delicious. More on that later. So the leaves trimming revealed a fuzzy ball of fiber known as the “choke” for obvious reasons: you eat it, you will choke on it. Not a pretty picture, I know so I hurriedly cleared this up. The artichoke heart finally decided to appear and I was still not excited.

Imagine holding a small disk like gray-colored object. I didn’t know if this was it or I was supposed to dig deeper. Since the link had specific instructions, I decided to give in and accept that I had indeed touched the “heart”. The mister had tasted artichoke heart during our Anniversary getaway and this is what it had looked like.

Now, I had to ask me that unavoidable question: what am I going to make with it? Like a kitchen wizard (I do flatter myself unnecessarily sometimes) I cut an onion, two pods of garlic, the cooked artichoke and sauteed them in olive oil. Then I added a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and milk and let the concoction coagulate on medium heat while giving it an occasional stir. Finally came dried Italian seasoning, pepper and salt. Since I already had some cooked pasta at hand, I did not have to go through the trouble of boiling water and such. I finally added the pasta and then some Parmigiano for good measure.

And fluke voilà! The pasta was ready. The mister made a face when I announced “Pasta” for the evening but ultimately ended up loving the lighter, yummier version. In his defense, he pictured a marinara sauce and cheese soaked pasta. Who woulda thunk, eh?

Ps: The leaf, yes. So you clench the leaf between your teeth and pull it. What you will taste is a fresh, leafy treat that is sure make you fall in love with the tough vegetable. It sounded gross to me too in the beginning, rather like an experiment we would have done at five with neem leaves but this was so much better!

I couldn’t take pictures since my brain was jammed that day. I am sure to make it again, I’ll click a few decent ones then. Apologies!