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

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)



Crushed red pepper

Quarter cup Olive oil

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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Why Mommy Should Blog Instead…

mixed veg subziThis here is the reason why my mom should be blogging this post instead of me. I seldom go into the kitchen these days and hardly give an idea for what to make for a meal. Hence, when Amma asked me what we should make for dinner tonight, I, being my ever helpful self, suggested Chapati. I brought Mallika Badrinath’s 100 Delicious Curries book to her and asked her to make any Subzi she fancied from it. And then, I went to sleep. At 2pm. In my defense, I had just put Aarabhi down for a nap and I was excited about taking advantage of the quiet house.

This Subzi, my mother informed me when I tumbled out of bed in search of coffee at 5pm, was a fusion of two sides from the book. It is a wonderful option for Rotis, can be made fancy if you are entertaining and a great accompaniment for Jeera Rice or any fried rice/Pulao/Biriyani you decide to make.

Here is how Amma made it-

Mixed Vegetable Subzi
Two cups mixed veggies (as you know, I always prefer the frozen kind)

One huge onion, chopped

Two tomatoes, chopped

Half cup tomato puree

One Cup low-fat sour cream

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt to taste

Three Tbsp vegetable oil

Cilantro leaves for garnish

To be ground into a paste:

One tsp poppy seeds, soaked for half hour in warm water

One tsp cumin seeds

Two tsp coriander seeds

Six pods garlic

Heat the oil in a saute pan. Fry the onion until slightly brown. Add the ground paste. Fry until the raw smell goes away. Add a Tbsp sour cream. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry until mushy. Add another Tbsp sour cream the puree and the vegetables. Mix in the salt and cayenne pepper powder. Add the rest of the sour cream. If too thick, add a little water. Let it simmer until semi-solid. Garnish with cilantro.

Now I gotta go!


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Winding Down the Week with Lasagna + Good-bye for Now

The week has nearly ended. At least for this household it has. The babygirl will be here before the weekend (I hope she really is!) and we are tying up all the loose ends before we check into the hospital tomorrow. Apart from a lot of relief and excitement (dotted generously with paralyzing fear), we, as first-time parents and grandparent, are also anxious. Hence, to book in the pregnancy and to take my mind off the never-ending to-do list saved on my phone, I decided to concentrate on different little projects. First, I painted a couple of pictures to put in frames for the baby’s nursery wall. And then I whipped up a couple of homemade lip balms, courtasy Le Zoe Musings. Pictures follow the food part of this post. When I was done with all that, I baked a lasagna. A little extra carb once in a while never hurt anyone, you know. Plus, I’ve never made lasagna for Amma (apart from a zillion other things) and Kishore loves it too.
lasagnaThe recipe has been adapted from The Pioneer Woman‘s blog and edited according to veggies I had at hand. I also upped the flavor of basil and oregano, and reduced the quantity of cheese added and of the dish on the whole because Ree’s makes twelve huge servings! The result was freakin’ delicious although it was nothing special: perfect for a weekday dinner but if I am serving guests, I would include better veggies (including some succulent eggplants and summer squash) and make the sauce from the scratch.

As for the lip balm, here is a pic. Although I haven’t done Kellie any justice by clicking such a mediocre pic, the “recipe” by itself is easy and amazing!
lip balmAlright, have a good couple of weeks, people. See ya soon and pray for me! x

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Salad on a Whim

The best things about being on a regular diet are the cheats we are allowed to incorporate into our food. On a low-carb diet plan, or almost any other diet regimen, salads are considered to be “free-food”- aka eat how much ever you fancy. With a gestational diabetic and a regular type 2 diabetic at home for lunch, it was only a matter of time before one of us acknowledged the fact that yes, salads should find a way to our table everyday for lunch.
avocado-orange saladSadly, Indians are not hands-on salad eaters. We love vegetables, no denying. But the plethora of curries and Subzis that contribute to our cuisine could get so overpowering sometimes that eating raw vegetables takes a back seat. But if you are lucky, you would find some of us, especially people from the northern part of India, indulging in what they call “salAdh” at times as an accompaniment to their Rotis. The only vinaigrette they use is freshly squeezed lime juice with some salt and pepper, which in my opinion does wonders to any vegetable! I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat salad as a side when you can find tender radishes and sweet onions in the market, right? Well, not this Indian.

Thankfully, my mother is a lover of salad and enjoys them with her Rotis. So today, I decided to get off the couch in time to make a delicious salad for lunch. It was a very simple “dish” with all the usual suspects in attendance: lettuce, tomato, cucumber and avocado. But at the last minute, we decided to add an orange on a whim. I used a creamy vinaigrette which I suspected would not go all that well with the fruit in the salad but experimenting has a way of proving me wrong regularly and this was one of those times!
avocado-orange salad2Easy-Peasy Avocado-Orange Salad with Creamy Vinaigrette

Half a lettuce

One avocado

One Roma tomato

Half a hothouse cucumber

One medium-size orange, separated into segments

A hand full of walnuts

Half a cup mayonnaise (I used Kraft mayo with olive oil)

Quarter cup apple cider vinegar

Two Tbsp grated onion

One pod grated garlic

One tsp dry oregano flakes

One tsp dry basil flakes

Quarter cup milk

Dash of hot sauce (I used Mexican style hot sauce)

Salt and pepper to taste

Okay, I shall not insult your intelligence by narrating the method!

Although the vegetables are nothing exotic, the addition of orange and walnuts gives this salad a beautiful depth. I should confess that I omitted the latter but tonight, I shall include it.

The vinaigrette is an adaptation of the Creamy Italian Dressing from the book Vegetarian Creations with a few improvisations. 

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Vegetarian Creations Inspired: Ratatouille Dinner

It was a cold night and I wanted to make something interesting, healthy and hearty for dinner. I was tired of the run-of-the-mill Sambar, Rasam and Curry and I am sure the Mister was too. I brought my copy of Vegetarian Creations out and leafed it through to that one recipe I have been dying to try. I have read the recipe so many times in the past one month that I knew the page number and the ingredients by heart.

I first tasted Ratatouille in a Chennai-based Tapas bar called Zara. It is my most favorite place in the city to hang out with friends and the food in the bar is always so drool-worthy that it is safe to say that I used to frequent the place especially for their scrumptious platters. While the Cottage Cheese in Tomato Gravy is what I order most of the time, my secret favorite will always be Zara’s Ratatouille.

Well seasoned and cooked to perfection, their Ratatouille always tasted tangy, spicy and wholesome. At Zara, they always served it with some rice, a dinner roll and freshly made coleslaw. What a perfect platter, right? So I decided to recreate the platter at home and boy, oh boy, was it worth it!

Here is a little history: Ratatouille originated in France but has traveled the world multiple times. Many countries have their own version. Though basically a vegetarian dish (surprise, surprise!), it has meat versions and native spices versions now. Anyway, here is my modified version, adopted from Vegetarian Creations:


Onion 1 huge

Garlic 2 bulbs (minced)

Eggplant 1 huge

Zucchini 1 huge

Bell pepper (any color) 1 small

Tomatoes 2 medium-sized

Tomato Paste 16 Oz (450 ml approx.)

Fresh parsley 1/4 cup

Basil leaves 5

Dry Marjoram 1tsp (you can use oregano, which is from the same family of spices for a Mexican twist)

Salt 1tsp

Freshly ground black pepper 1/2tsp

Grated Parmesan (or Cheddar if you cannot find Parmesan) 3 tbsp and more for garnish

Olive oil 4Tbsp


Cut the eggplant into small cubes and salt it in a colander. After 20 minutes, pat dry with a kitchen towel. Meanwhile, chop other vegetables separately and mix salt, pepper and the other seasonings together in a bowl. Heat a huge (and I mean HUGE) pan, add olive oil and fry the onion and garlic over medium heat until onion is tender. Now add eggplant and zucchini and cook for five minutes. Finally add bell pepper, tomato, tomato paste and season it with the mixture. Cover and cook for 30 minutes over medium-medium low heat (alternate the temperature). Take off the cover and cook for (ideally) 20 minutes. If the eggplant is still a little raw (as it probably will), don’t hesitate to cook more until it cooks completely and the liquid is fully absorbed.

As I said, Ratatouille can be made a million different ways. This is just one of them.