Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Pumpkin Pie Spice and Pumpkin Spice Latte

If you have been following the fan page on Facebook, you would be very aware of the fact that I am obsessed with pumpkin at the moment. It is as much a fall thing as it is my personal palate thing. Although I am pretty late getting into this pumpkin everything game, I can tell you that I am fully committed. In fact, I took a pledge to get out there and try everything there is to try with pumpkin! Now, my house plays host to the spicy sweet fragrance of a pumpkin-spice candle and it is only the beginning. So before I begin to tell you about the goings on in my pumpkin perfumed home, let me paint you a picture about the first time I tried this wonderful warm flavor that has become the fall colors equivalent of the culinary world:
Pumpkin spice mixIt was a warm (what else did you expect from the south?) fall day in 2013, we hit the park with a surprisingly cheerful four month old. After walking for a bit, Kishore, Amma and I decided to go to Dunkin’ Donuts because Amma needed  to taste a proper donut, the American pride. Krispy Kreme was out of question because, well, it was further away compared to DD. I decided to bring fall into my tall glass of cold latte and opted for the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Needless to say, I was hooked proper for not even a crying baby could pry me away from my latte. And thus began my experiments with commercially made pumpkin latte. I tasted it in Starbucks, the official home of the PSL; I had it at Einstein Bros Bagel (aka, my favorite spot at college) and then some more at DD.

Although Starbucks does make the best PSL, I, like a good (erm, the jury is still out on that!) enthusiastic blogger, just had to try my hands at making some. So before I began the experim-erm-cooking, I had to find some spice mix. So instead of buying a box, I decided to make mine. I mean, there are a zillion blogs out there that give you the recipe. You must be cuckoo to actually go out and buy that stuff!

My favorite recipe is from The Kitchn and it is perfect as it is. But the mix is so accommodating that you can play around with the quantity of the spices and personalize it according to your preference. The one advantage of running a predominantly Indian kitchen is how easily available each of these spices are. My pantry already had ground ginger (also called Sukku Podi in Tamil), ground cinnamon, ground clove, all-spice powder, ground nutmeg and mace! Talk about luck and the lack of need to substitute with some random spice!
Pumpkin spice mix2 Thus the pumpkin spice was born, the primary reason I ditched my boring old coffee this morning and whipped up some pumpkin spiced latte (with ice, of course!). Since a few of my friends and faithful fan page followers (hem-hem, take the cue, people, and go like it!) asked for the recipe, I decided to put it up here. I adopted it from The Kitchn‘s recipe but made quite a few alterations to suit my taste.
Pumpkin spice lattePumpkin Spice Latte

Ingredients:
Two Tbsp mashed pumpkin (I used it off a can)

One tsp pumpkin spice mix (and more for sprinkling)

Two Tbsp sugar

One cup milk

Half cup ice cubes

One Tbsp vanilla essence

One tsp instant coffee powder (I used Nestcafe Clasico but you can actually brew your coffee with water and freeze it in an ice tray. Just eliminate the ice in that case)

Whipped cream (optional, I didn’t use it)

Method:
Place the mashed pumpkin and the spice mix in a saute pan and cook them for a couple of minutes. However, I skipped this step and didn’t think it made a difference to the taste. Pour all the other ingredients into a blender. Add in the pumpkin mix. Process until the ice is crushed and the latte turns frothy. Transfer to a glass and enjoy the pumpkin-y goodness all season long!

Mmm, don’t mind if I do!

Ps: So about the spice bottle- I’ve been getting questioned about it. Although I haven’t branched into commercially producing spice mixes, I do have future plans to. I have a store on etsy.com but don’t search for it since it has literally nothing in it. I have stowed the idea away for the future when my schedule is slightly free and I don’t have to bend over backwards to get my very basic-daily chores done (I hear laughing in my head).


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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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Cuppa Joe- Drawing Parallels and Finding Differences

I am not going to talk about how much we South Indians love our “tumbler” of coffee. This concept has already been overdone on a million other Indian food blogs because every South Indian blogger is wildly proud of the filter coffee we grew up drinking or watching people drink. Making it is yet another story. If you need more information, Wiki, as always, has answers.

In another land where people are fiercely protective about their cuppa, it is always an adventure to go shopping for coffee powder and deciding whether decaf or extra dark is the right way to go. My taste in coffee hovers between the two extremes. While I prefer good ‘ol Folger’s for everyday consumption in the American South, I am a sucker for the traditional mug of piping hot filter coffee back home. So when Amma came here, she brought with her a huge bag filled with Coffee Day coffee powder packages that is probably going to last us a few months.

Result: I have temporarily migrated back to my strong filter coffee with a dash of milk and Splenda. Life is perfect again!
strong coffeeSo what is it that distinguishes the South Indian coffee from the All-American coffee? Surprisingly, nothing much! The former is a denser and finer sibling of the latter, hence, it feels like it has more flavor. Moreover, the mouth feel varies between the two primarily because of the difference in the coffee powder-water ratio. South Indians make their base, what we call decoction, thicker and “tar-like” which means a quarter cup of the concentrate and three-quarters a cup of milk makes perfectly strong coffee (boiling the milk also helps the consistency and gives it a special, sweeter taste).

Since the American coffee base contains more water, we end up with a watery (yet tasty) cuppa to which we add just a tiny spot of creamer. This works for me because in America, I love my coffee regular, black and with a hint of sugar.

Of course, the apparatus we use to brew coffee should also be mentioned here, for these contraptions literally decide what kind of coffee you are going to have that day. South Indians may talk all they want but the traditional coffee filter they use actually yields slightly diluted decoction; but thankfully most people in charge of making this brew are finished with this often troublesome contraption and have moved on to the more modern (and more effective) electric coffee maker… which is what I bought on my 2011 trip to India. This trusty little piece of equipment has never let me down and I love her dearly.

Now, you may try making Indian-style coffee with Starbucks’ dark roast in an American coffee maker with lesser amount of water. But it will not be the same and may clog up your coffee maker. Tasty it will turn out, for sure. But really, Indian coffee is redundant without the Indian coffee filter as is American coffee without the American coffee powder!


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Making Yogurt

Until a year and a half ago, I never knew that you could buy yogurt at the store. At least not the kind you get here in the USA. Yogurt in India is always flavored. If we needed the kind we get here, we would always make it and it was called curd. Curd was available in stores, of course, but we seldom bought it.

Yogurt is one of the simplest thing you will ever make in life but back at home, it was a tradition of sorts. My grandmother always made it look nothing short of a brief ceremony and her grandchildren were seldom allowed to make it. She probably was afraid that we would add a tad too much of yogurt to the milk which would make it sour. My home was always known for a never-ending supply of sweet tasting yogurt in the refrigerator so I kind of understand her trepidation. Now, yogurt in India is a staple part of our pantry. We eat it with rice; add water, salt and sugar and make Lassi, Neer Mor or what we call buttermilk in India and even use it in side-dishes.

Its an ancient belief that the hand that makes the yogurt decides its outcome: When some people make it, it would come out perfectly but when others make it, there will be an overload of tang, which some people savor. And I was not one of them. Hence I should consider myself lucky because I have a sweet yogurt hand which my mother let me develop when she eventually took over the kitchen back in India after my grandmother passed. Let the old wives’ tale not bother you because I think it is your control over the yogurt that really decides its tang level.

Anyway, when I landed here, I got into the habit of buying yogurt, which used to cost anywhere between ¢.99 and $2.99 for a 32 fl.oz. (low fat). I used to buy 2% milk and make it sometimes and it always worked out cheaper at $3.29 for 1 gallon (138 fl.oz) When we got into the organic mode of life, I figured it would be even more economical to make yogurt regularly ($6.29 for 1 gallon vs. $4.29 for 32 fl.oz). It is, look at how much I am saving!

So here is an easy recipe for making yogurt at home. All it requires is a gallon of 2% milk (or full-fat milk if you are making Greek yogurt), which you have to boil on med-low for 30-45 minutes, until it forms a thin layer of cream on the top. Let it rest until it becomes warm. To this, add two Tbsp of store-bought yogurt. Mix it, close it with a lid and let it hang out in a warm place on your kitchen counter (the oven, with the lights switched on works very well). Now, we’ve got to wait… for 8 hours. The yogurt would have set, kind of like custard. Refrigerate it and use it as you would regular yogurt.

Oh yeah, that simple!

Update: Use whipping cream instead of milk if you want to make sour cream. You don’t have to boil or even heat it, let it be at room temperature.

Ps: Ladles and High heels is looking forward to a format change from the next post. I got a crash course from a friend about blog photography and he recommended that I do away with something and add something else on. So here is me looking forward to the newer format too!