Wednesday, February 14, 2024

A onesie cake, and chutney sandwiches

We're almost halfway through February! It has been a busy month full of fun and not-fun things so far. But just life, ya know, and it is all good. 

I had the opportunity to teach an Indian cooking class at a very cool local cooking establishment that is a combo gourmet cookware store, plus has a beautiful cooking school set-up, and employs a professional chef for their in-house cafe and prix-fixe dinners. The theme of the 2-hour class was Indian Buffet Favorites and it was sold out, with 18 participants who worked in pairs of two to put the meal together. We talked about buffet food and homestyle food and regional Indian cuisine while they enjoyed some bubbly and namkeen- store-bought chakli and khakhra and mixture. The rest of the menu was cauliflower-potato puff-pastry samosas with date and tamarind chutney, matar paneer with cucumber-carrot raita and jeera rice, and mock kulfi with store-bought gulab jamuns. I enjoyed teaching the class immensely.  

For me, it was a stretch opportunity as I had to take recipes that I have made for 6-8 people dozens of times, and scale them up to feed 20 people. I made the curry sauce, date chutney and samosa filling in advance, and had to cook them on the blazing burners and oversized pots and pans of the commercial kitchen- a very unfamiliar milieu for me. My confidence was boosted by the fact that I did not burn down the place, or injure myself or others, and, to top it all, my eyeballed estimates for spices/seasonings for all the recipes worked fine and all the dishes tasted as they should. 

The chef made jeera rice in the oven- just placing basmati rice (6 cups of it), boiling water, butter, cumin seeds, salt in a foil-covered baking dish and baking at (I think) 425F for 20-25 mins. It turned out beautifully and I'll have to try baking rice at home now. 

The not-fun thing this month is that there is a wave of respiratory illnesses and stomach bugs blazing through town. My daughter and I had what we thought was a bout of the flu, but now it has progressed to what is colloquially known as "walking pneumonia". We're both back at school/work but on a course of steroids and antibiotics, and hoping to resolve our inflamed lungs and congested heads. 

I was on a real exercise/running streak last month and now I am sedentary with no exercise other than brief walking. It is a sobering reminder that - cliched as that sounds- the active lifestyle is a lifelong journey. I won't even say it is a marathon and not a sprint, because marathons end in a few hours! There will surely be ups and downs. Life will humble us, throw curveballs big and small, and we have to get back on our feet. Every day we have to wake up and do what we can with what we have. It makes me appreciate good health for the true gift that it is. 

Onesie cake

I have two quick recipes to share today. I hosted a small baby shower for a friend and made a cute little onesie cake for the occasion, using this Craftsy tutorial. This is a good one for people like me who enjoy baking but are blessed with rudimentary decorating skills. I used this cake recipe to make a 9x13 cake, and a batch of this less sweet frosting recipe. With a couple of cuts (remember the baker gets to snack on the off-cuts- those are the rules), the rectangular cake was transformed into a little onesie, then frosted with an offset spatula, sprinkled with some rainbow nonpareils as the fabric print, outlined for extra cuteness and personalized with an initial. Ta da! 

* * *

To go with the cake, we had some veggies and dip, and crunchy snacks, a cheese plate, and V made some chutney sandwiches, the kind that are such a popular street food in Mumbai. The herbal green chutney is easy enough to make at home, but these days, I often buy a tub of zhoug sauce from Trader Joe's to use as the chutney. The taste is spot-on and spicy! 

Chutney sandwiches

  1. Use good sliced bread. Our favorite supermarket bread is the Goldminer sourdough square bread. Either use fresh bread or toast it slightly before assembling sandwiches.
  2. Butter the bread (a non traditional sub for the butter is mashed ripe avocado).
  3. Slather on some homemade green chutney or zhoug sauce on both slices. 
  4. Layer one slice with sliced fresh cucumbers and tomatoes.
  5. Shower with salt and pepper. 
  6. Sandwich together and enjoy! 
* * *

For a baby shower gift, I knitted a couple of hats, and made a set of burp cloths using store-bought cloth diapers and bits of novelty fabric from my stash. I had similar burp cloths for my kids when they were younger and those were some of the most useful things I had around when they were age 0-5! Here's the quick tutorial I used. 

Burp cloths set

 * * *
V and I rarely get around to organizing dinner dates for the two of us- childcare and all is a big drag and apparently so is my 8:30 PM bedtime! But we escape our desks every now and then for a lunch date. We went out for Eritrean/Ethiopian food and it was so good. I have not had this in a good long while. Pictured- soft injera with mounds of collard greens (gomen wat), lentils (misir wat), and cabbage/carrot/potato (atakilt wat), all perfectly cooked with Ethiopian spices. I love how hearty and vegan/vegetarian friendly it all is.

How is the first half of February treating you?


  1. I hope that you are your daughter are well on the road to recovery and are feeling much better.
    As always, it was such a joy to read your post, full of your warm and positive spirit and your fun projects. How cool that cooking class must have been! Do you remember what the ratio of rice to water was for the baked jeera rice?
    Sending warmth and good-health vibes from sunny Chennai!

    1. Hi Kamini- I am so much better now! I hope Chennai is lovely this time of year.

      We used 1.5 cups water to 1 cup rice. (When I look at recipes online, it varies from 1-2 cups per cup of rice, so seems about right). I am excited to try this for myself.

  2. from johanna @

    That is such a good news bad news story - lots of energy needed for the cooking class which sounds amazing, and then lots of energy taken from you with the walking pneumonia. Good luck with easing back into some better health and fitness. That onsie cake is so cute and your efforts in doing the baby shower are admirable. I am enjoying some travel in February and love getting your comments on my posts!

    1. Hi Johanna- yes, truly, I FELT the ups and downs in these last two weeks ha ha! I feel much better now. Half the guests at the baby shower could not make it due to respiratory illness. Jan and Feb can be some of the worst months!

      I am loving your travel posts SO much! What a wonderful adventure you're having in Europe.

    2. from johanna @
      Winter always brings a wave of ill health. Hope spring is kinder to you! And glad you are enjoying the travel blog posts. I am partly committed to them as they are always fun to look back on and our previous travel posts were helpful when planning this trip to Edinburgh. It is nice now we are home to still be reflecting on the trip but I am really looking forward to finishing them and getting back to a slower pace of blogging!

  3. Hi Nupur, I stumbled upon this quite by accident! I don’t even know if you remember me - fellow Xavierite and iitb junior! I absolutely loved reading your blog. Please do be in touch with me if you remember who I am - we have a lot in common, including our love for dogs :)

  4. Hi Nupur, absolutely loved reading your blog! Chanced upon it quite by accident. Wonder if you remember this fellow Xavierite and iitb senior of yours :).


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