Thursday, February 04, 2016

Pretzels with Hershey Kiss and Five Snack Ideas For a Party

Last weekend some of Big Sis's friends came home for a late birthday celebration. And by late I mean months late. I wasn't sure if I was equipped to handle a bunch of tweens in my home and so was putting this thing off and trying to scout outside locations, which isn't as easy as it sounds when fifteen twelve year old girls are the focus group.

I knew quiet a few of the friends who were supposed to come and they are all excellent girls but I didn't have confidence in myself. I mean, you see I am vertically challenged and most of these seventh graders are taller than me, and I think that if a situation turns to chaos no one might listen to me! Yeah, I am weird like that.

However BS assured me that it would be fine at home and so finally a Saturday evening was blocked off for them. I asked around for suggestions in a Mom's group and came up with some neat craft ideas. Seriously pretty neat.

One of which both Big Sis and I loved was chalkboard decorations. So off we went to the craft stores and got chalkboard for each girl. We also got colored chalk, decorating tapes, jewels and stickers to decorate the chalkboards.

Given that Big Sis loves nail paint, a bunch of nail polish and nail art pens were also bought for a session of nail art. Not to be left behind, Little Sis shared party games from her class parties and created a Hot Potato kind of game for her sister's friends.

We also decided on a brownie decorating competition with two teams and in preparation baked two exactly same chocolate brownies on Friday night.

By Saturday morning, I was all pumped up. More than Big Sis in fact. The husband-man didn't want to play any part in this whole thing except ordering and picking up pizza. The only other person as excited as me was LS! She and Big Sis set up the activity area and the games while I concentrated on the food.

Big Sis had suggested that we serve more of appetizers and keep the main as Pizza and pasta which everyone likes. Since some of her friends don't eat meat, the appetizers were to be vegetarian only. We whittled down the appetizer list to

Mozzarella Sticks -- store bought,
Nachos -- with black beans, corn, cheese, salsa and sour cream,
Papri chaat,
Mini Cupcakes,
Pretzels with Hershey kisses
Popcorn(if needed)

The girls had a great time from the look of it. The chalkboards were super amazing and the brownie decoration literally took the cake. One team did the YouTube logo while the other the Instagram logo. The teams put their heart into it and with the limited supplies I had offered, pulled off really cool stuff. I would love to host them again soon as I found it is easy to make these kids happy. It involves  minimal work on my part and I can even spend time watching television in my own room while they do their own thing. Yeah, that is a big motivation indeed!

The pretzels with Hershey kisses are literally two-minute affair made by Big Sis and were a big party hit. All you do is this:

Buy a bag of mini pretzels, the twisted kind or the square ones

Buy a bag of Hershey Milk chocolate kisses

Buy a bag of colorful M&M

Place the pretzels on a cookie sheet. Unwrap a Hershey kiss and place at the center of each pretzel.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Put the pretzel tray in the oven. within 1-2 minutes the kisses will soften. If you keep it any longer the chocolate hardens. Yep, I have learned it the hard way.

Take out within 2 minutes. Gently place a M&M on the tip of the Hershey kiss and press down softly.

Chill in refrigerator. Serve when it hardens,

While prepping for the party and asking around for appetizers, I had a brainwave. Zap! Okay nothing great but just that I searched up my own blog and dug up five snacks that are easy to make and make great appetizers for any party. With Super Bowl on Sunday, pick any of these and have a blast watching the ads.

1. Stuffed Mushroom

2. Vegetable Tikkis

3. Tartlets
These are great to make for parties. You can try various different fillings for these Tartlets.

4. Keema Balls
You can do these balls with less spices as in this recipe or for a meatballs with more kick try this one.

5. Nachos

Now I do not have a picture of this but we make it often and it is a huge favorite. No wonder I don't have a picture of it. I cook the ground chicken like this recipe from my blog and then I follow Pioneer Woman's Loaded Nachos recipe very closely for the rest of the steps. And we use Trader Joe's Taco seasoning. This one is a ROCKSTAR.

6. Cajun Spiced Shrimp

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Keema Quesadillas and School Lunch Box -- Week # 3

It is week #4 of packing lunch but I am posting Lunch for Week #3. And I can feel the weariness in my bones. Some days I feel like just giving it all up and let the kids eat cafeteria food. And trust me, I would have done it if they would agree to eat food at the cafeteria every day.

Last year, Little Sis was very excited to buy her lunch at the school cafeteria. I wasn't ready. But after much persuasion I gave in and signed her up, putting money in her lunch account. LS's excitement was palpable and you would think she was going to eat at a Zagat rated restaurant instead of the school cafeteria. She scanned the menu for hours and picked a day when she thought that the lunch would be to her liking. The school lunch menu has a pretty balanced offering although I have never seen the school lunch with my own eyes and would really want to see if the lofty menu translates to a healthy meal in reality. I mean what if they are saying Whole wheat Mac and cheese on paper and are actually opening up a box of Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese. None of my kids' schools allow parents in the cafeteria during lunch so I guess I will never know.

So anyway slowly I found LS's interest in cafeteria food had started waning. She didn't scan the school menu with as much zeal as before. I realized she likes the independence of picking her own lunch at the school cafeteria but the food not so much. Ah well!

Big Sis's middle school has a really good cafeteria from what I hear. However BigSis is not much of a meat eater and does not like cold-cut sandwiches or tuna sandwiches or egg salad sandwiches or burgers. So her choice at the cafeteria becomes very limited. Most of her friends pack a big lunch from home too and so she prefers lunch from home to eating at the school cafeteria.

A home-cooked lunch is not that difficult with little planning of course.The fact that there is a fall back option of the cafeteria does bring some peace too.

This was a 4-day week and I had to do only a 3 day lunch plan. Some of the stuff that I packed for the kids this week, also doubles up as dinner. What did you pack in your kid's school lunch box ?

Quesadillas with Chicken Keema-Black Beans-Bell Pepper

This is a great and easy dish to make with ground chicken and Taco Seasoning. A big bowl of Keema/Black Bean can be made ahead and used during the week any which way.
You can send 
Keema with white rice on Day 1,
Keema with with pasta on Day 2 and
of course make Quesadillas finally

Here is how I do it.

Heat Olive oil in a frying pan.

Add about half of an onion finely chopped.

When the onion is soft, add 1 green bell pepper chopped in pieces and 1 yellow or red bell pepper chopped in pieces. I usually chop in small pieces as I will stuff this keema in the quesadilla

Throw in 2 clove of garlic finely minced

Saute until the peppers are soft

Now add 1 tomato chopped or half a can of chopped tomatoes

Add a good amount of taco seasoning and fry the tomatoes for few minutes. I use Trader Joe's Taco seasoning which is amazingly good. If you don't have taco seasoning, a mix of cumin powder and garam masala powder should do the trick.

Add the keema(1 lb) to above. Stir to break any lumps and cook till the meat is not raw. The ground meat will release some water and you have to keep stirring till the water has totally dried up.

Add salt and add a can of drained black beans(7 oz can). Drain the black beans and then add.

Fry for a few more minutes. Add some more taco seasoning if you wish. The resulting dish has to be dry with no gravy so make sure that it is moist but dry.

Once the keema is cooked and you are happy with the way it tastes, you can either eat it or make these quesadillas for lunch.

To make the Quesadillas use Flour Tortillas or home made rotis.

First toast/warm the already cooked roti or Tortialla.
Put a cooked roti/tortilla on a Tawa or griddle. Cook both sides until warm and keep aside. Do same with the second Roti/Tortilla.

Now place the warm roti/tortilla on the tawa and put the keema on the open face of the tortilla. Sprinkle shredded cheese on it. At low heat, place the other tortilla/roti on this one and press gently until the cheese melts. Carefully flip it all together and cook the other side for couple of seconds.

 Let it cool a little and then cut in halves or quarters.

Next morning, warm and wrap in aluminum foil for lunch

Pasta with Home Made Marinara sauce

Need To Buy -- Whole Wheat Pasta, Garlic, Tomatoes, Olive Oil

Oven roasted Tomato Soup with Bread -- This is a great soup for anytime. I make it a little spicy but my kids like it that way. I add peppers to roast along with tomatoes for this soup if I have them. You can make a big batch of this and it will be good for two meals.

Need to Buy -- Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers(optional), Organic Vegetable Stock(optional), Red Chili Pepper, Olive Oil, Garlic, Milk

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mete Chorchori -- Goat Liver Fry the Bengali Way

I don't know about you but I simple love goat liver aka "mete" in Bengali. Chicken liver -- not so much but Goat liver -- yum! My daughters freak out at the very idea that I am eating innards of an animal and refuse to even taste it. Having been fond of mete since a wee young child, I don't understand their reaction.

While "mete" was always thrown in when one bought goat meat back in the days, now I hear it has to be bought separately. The middle-eastern butcher shop where we get our meat does not always have liver available either but he obliges us on special requests. But then my daughters will not eat it so only rarely do we make a mete chorchori these days.

Now though I love mete, it is the husband-man who makes a mean mete charchari, a dry goat liver dish with spices and potatoes. He would make it often when I was pregnant with Big Sis and had a condition that made me anemic. Among the various food that were suggested to boost up my iron and RBC, were beets, spinach and goat liver.

I naturally preferred the goat liver. I mean come on, who wouldn't eat "mete charchari" when the doctor prescribes it in not-so-many-words?

However he refuses to give out a set recipe. So I took pictures to wing it later.

Though we prefer goat liver and make this only with goat liver, you can follow the same recipe for chicken liver. I find chicken liver needs more spices than goat liver, so adjust spices according to your taste.

This is the cast of characters,

As you can see, you need,
onion chopped in slices -- 1 and half onion
tomatoes -- looks like only 1 tomato to me, 
potatoes in cubes, 
garlic paste -- 2tsp, 
ginger paste -- 2 tsp, 
and green chillies -- lots of them

And of course the star -- Goat Liver (I had 1lb of it)

Our butcher chops up the liver in small pieces so all we have to do when we get it home is wash well.

Marinate the goat liver with
Turmeric powder
Red Chili Powder
Garlic paste -- 1 tsp
a tsp of Mustard oil
and leave aside for 30 mins.

Heat mustard oil in a kadhai or saucier

Add the potatoes. With a sprinkle of turmeric powder, fry the potatoes until they get golden brown spots. Remove and keep aside to add later.

Temper the Oil with
1 Tej Pata
a 2" cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom
4 clove

When the spices pop add the green chilies and onion. Fry until onion is brown and soft.

Next goes in the tomatoes, 1 tsp garlic paste and 1 tsp of ginger paste. Keep frying until the tomatoes are all mushed up and the raw smell is gone.

Now add the goat liver pieces and fry the liver at medium-high heat. You might need to sprinkle water in-between if you see the spices charring. Continue frying. This step is called koshano and will take some time until you see the liver pieces changing color to a deep brown.

Add the fried potato cubes and mix well. Add 1/4th tsp of Garam Masala powder and give a good stir.

Now add very little water and cover and cook. Cook until potatoes and liver is done.

It tastes best with ruti or parota. And of course rice.

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