Mother’s Day Tablescape

Mother’s Day is to tomorrow. I’m sharing an easy, inexpensive and pretty table setting that dad and the kids can put together in a jiffy. Plus, mom doesn’t have to worry about her favorite collectibles chipping :)).

My grandmother, mother and all my aunts are in town this weekend and my husband and kids have invited everyone to an informal backyard barbecue to celebrate Mother’s Day. I am looking forward to spending the day with 5 generations and hope to get some good photos as I won’t be in charge of cooking.

Mother's Day Tablescape

(Please ignore the fact that I forgot to place a napkin on the right side place setting :-0)

Now for setting the table:

STEP 1: Buy or pick flowers and set aside.

STEP 2: Spread a tablecloth or table runner (use a dupatta or scarf or even a folded bed sheet) on the dining table.

STEP 3: Set the plates, cups, napkins and flatware as needed.

STEP 4: Fill empty bottles from around the house with water- different heights and sizes add interest to the table – and place cut flowers in them (I have used empty single-serve wine and soda bottles). You can use jam bottles, water bottles, or even water glasses.

STEP 5: Place a few candle holders in between and use tea lights, pillar candles, or a combination of both.

STEP 6: Watch mom’s face light up at the sight of the pretty presentation.

STEP 7: Watch dad’s face light up because he scored major brownie points :))

Mother's Day Tablescape

Mother's Day Tablescape

Mother's Day Tablescape

Mother's Day Tablescape

Mother's Day Tablescape

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An Indian Holiday Feast

Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving break. It’s the start of the season of over-indulgence! Thanksgiving weekend was filled with good food, drinks, family, friends, shopping, gossip & spending time with three precious little nieces. While we have the traditional meal with all the accompaniments each year, I’ve never really been a fan of turkey. I had seen recipes for (east)Indian spiced turkey several times, and had also been meaning to try roasting a cornish hen for several years. I decided to try to meld both together and improvised along the way. The results were a delicious & colorful meal that worked for our taste buds :). And it was easy enough to make for a weeknight meal.

Tandoori Cornish Hen

The menu included:

For dessert, we had warm and sweet Gulab Jamoons 🙂

[Scroll down for recipes of items that are not hyperlinked.]

Tandoori Cornish Hen

Masala Corn

  • 1 cup corn kernels (cooked and drained) – I buy frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • salt to taste (use black salt / kala namak if available for a better flavor)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • cilantro for garnish

Mix all ingredients well and serve. The measurements are just a guide – adjust as per your taste.

 Peas & Carrot Pulao

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion – sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp green chilli paste (or 1 green chilli – slit)
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 tsp salt to taste

1) Heat oil in a medium pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow it to sizzle and pop for a few seconds.

2) Add the onion, ginger and green chilli. Saute on medium-high till translucent, stirring often.

3) Add the carrots and salt, and saute for 2 minutes.

4) Add the peas and cook for another 2 minutes.

5) Add the rice and saute for 1-2 minutes till it changes color.

6) Add 1 1/2 cups (one and a half) water and bring to boil.

7) As soon as the water comes to boil, stir once, reduce heat to LOW, and cook covered for about 12-15 minutes. Do not open the lid during this time. At end of cook time, open lid and gently fluff the rice with a spoon or fork. Check for doneness. Keep covered till ready to serve.

Raita

This recipe was given to me by my friend Sandhya’s mom and it is my most favorite raita recipe.

  • 1/2 medium grated cucumber
  • 1 cup greek yogurt / strained yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small dry red chilli
  • 2 Tbsp grated coconut
  • salt to taste

1) Wash, peel & grate the cucumber and drain for a few minutes.

2) In a small blender bowl, add half the yogurt, cumin, chilli & coconut and blend till smooth.

3) Mix all ingredients together and salt to taste.

NOTE: If you use regular yogurt, squeeze out the water from the cucumber before mixing in.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

Last weekend, I attended a Cast Party for a dance I did at our local Indian association event. While the piece itself was small, it was so much fun going to practices, picking out outfits, and dressing up for the ‘big show’. The entire segment involved almost 70 people – men, women & kids. A lot of kids!!

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

For many years, I had planned on making candy-melt Monarch butterflies that I had seen in a cake decorating book, but never got around to it. I figured it might be a good technique to use for fall cupcake decorations. Considering that there would be dozens of kids at the party, my reasoning was that no matter how the end result would be, the kids would devour them. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly these decorations came together. I made the candy leaves one afternoon, and baked and decorated the cupcakes the day of the event. It’s easy enough that the kids can help – my 10 year old did. Suffice to say that the first of three boxes of cupcakes was emptied out even before dinner was served!

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Candy Melts in colors of choice
  • Design printed on paper
  • Wax paper for piping candy
  • Cookie Sheets
  • Piping bag with fine tip [OR] sturdy ziplock bags
  • Toothpick (to fill in small spots)
  • Metal spatula [OR] wide knife to lift the candy leaves

STEPS:

1) Make copies or free-hand sketch the design you want onto white paper.

2) Place on a flat, moveable surface (like a cookie sheet or sturdy chopping board) and top with wax paper. Once in position, tape down into place.

3) In a small bowl, microwave a handful of Candy Melts according to package directions till completely melted and runny.

4) Pour into the piping bag / ziplock bag (make a tiny snip at the corner for the candy to flow) and using a slow and steady hand, pipe over the designs.

5) Allow to harden – about 10 minutes.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

As you can see in the picture above, I used a piping bag. The tray on top has the full outline piped in. The one on the bottom has only the ‘veins’ piped in. You will see below how these give two different effects.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

6) In another small bowl, melt a handful of leaf color candy melt chips and pour into another bag. Pipe over the leaf designs and make sure to fill in the entire design. Go over the back of the ‘veins’ and make sure that all areas are covered.

(While you do not want clumps of candy, don’t worry about being super neat. In the finished stage, this will be the bottom of the leaf and will not show. Of course, if you plan on making the leaves stand up where both front and back will be visible, then take the time to smooth out the candy. Work in small batches to keep it flowing easily.)

7) Set the finished cookie trays aside to harden – about 30 minutes (depending on how thick you spread the candy). Alternately, stick them in the fridge or freezer for about 10 minutes to harden up faster.

8) When set, gently slip a spatula under the candy leaf – it should slide right out – and place on top of your completely cooled and frosted cake.

Cupcakes with Candy LeavesCupcakes with Candy Leaves

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE HERSHEY’S KISSES ACORNS:

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Nutter Butter Bites (Peanut Butter Sandwich Mini Cookies)
  • Double number of Hershey’s Kisses (unwrapped)
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Few Candy Melts to use like glue

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

1) Split the mini cookies and remove the filling (above). Lay them all in a plate, right side down. (Alternately, you can just use the cookies whole without splitting them up.)

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

2) Melt a few Candy Melts and pour into bag for piping (or use the leftover bag from the candy leaves). Place a small dot on a few cookies.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

3) Quickly place the Kisses on top of the cookie and press down gently. Work in small batches, and make sure the candy melts do not ooze out from under the Kisses. Do not disturb them for about 10-15 minutes, till firm.

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

4) Now flip the cookies right side up and dab with another small dot of candy melt. Quickly top with a mini chocolate chip and press down gently. Set on plate to harden completely – another 10-15 minutes. (The chips might slide away from the center if the candy melt is too runny. Make sure to move it back to place as it cools.)

Cupcakes with Candy Leaves

I used box cake mix & frosting – Yellow cake (my favorite!), Devil’s Food, Caramel Apple Frosting, Cinnamon Bun frosting, and plain chocolate frosting. I made a total of 4 boxes, and about 75 cupcakes.

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

As promised – here is the next easy appetizer idea. Most Indians will be familiar with some version of this carrot salad. You can add in seeded & finely chopped tomatoes, or sprouted mung beans. I have just added a small twist to how it’s served. Cocktail Papadums (mini papads) are available at most Indian grocery stores. If not, you can use tortilla chips / scoops.

These papads and the salad can be made ahead of time and assembled just before serving. Hope this helps make your entertaining easier :)).

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

(serves 4-6)

  • 1/2 packet cocktail papadums (fried and drained)
  • 2 large carrots (peeled & grated)
  • 1 small red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1-2 green chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 Tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
  • salt to taste
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 1 medium tomato (seeded & finely diced) – optional
  • 1/2 cup sprouted mung beans – optional

This recipe is more a guide than an actual measurement:

1) Fry cocktail papadums and drain on paper towels. Store in a paper towel lined air tight container for up to 2 days. (If you cannot find mini papadums/papads,  I suppose you could get away with tortilla chips/scoops.)

2) In a bowl, mix together the grated carrots, onion, green chillies and mung beans (if using). Refrigerate till ready to serve.

3) Just before serving, add the salt, lemon juice & tomato and gently mix with a fork. (Remember that tomatoes will release moisture and make the carrot mix soggy after a while. I generally avoid it if I expect the mix to sit for a while.)

4) Serve in a bowl on a plate with the papads. Guests can fix their own bite size snack.

Cocktail Papadums

Growing up, this was something we occasionally had as Sunday breakfast to give my mom a break from cooking. We slathered our bread with ghee and toasted it on the griddle till it was golden and crunchy, and topped it with this spicy carrot salad. I still enjoy this salad, but without the bread!

Non-alcoholic Apple-Fennel (Saunf) Spritzer

Apple-Fennel (Saunf) Spritzer

 

I made this to accompany a Saturday lunch party with spicy Indian food because I was tired of serving the same sodas/lemonades/mango lassi to guests who preferred non-alcoholic drinks,  As with most of my recipes, this can be made ahead of time, and mixed quickly when your guests request the drink.

Fennel seeds/saunf has a licorice flavor, and is generally know as the sugar-candy-coated seeds that are placed at the entrance of almost every Indian restaurant. While one of its roles is as a mouth freshener, saunf is also known to help relieve many stomach ailments – colic, constipation, indigestion, flatulence, heartburn. etc.

Original recipe credit to SAVEUR magazine. My version is a little sweeter and has a slightly more pronounced fennel taste.

 

Apple-Fennel (Saunf) Spritzer

(Makes about 1-cup syrup; enough for 6-8 drinks)

FOR THE SYRUP:

  • 2 tbsp. fennel (saunf) seeds – [coarsely ground]
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

1) Add the crushed fennel seeds, water & sugar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

2) Cook on medium-low flame for about 5 minutes till slightly thick, about 5 minutes.

3) Remove from heat and let the mixture rest till it reaches room temperature.

4) Strain into an airtight container or a pretty glass bottle. If not using right away, this mixture can be stored in the refrigerator (tightly sealed) for up to  1 month.

TO SERVE THE DRINK: (per person)-

  • 2-3 Tbsp fennel syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup club soda
  • Thin apple slices for garnish
  • Ice

1) Mix all ingredients above in a tall glass and add ice. Garnish with apple slices and serve.

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

 

Considering that grill-friendly & red-white-blue food recipes are easily available, I decided to post this dessert as an alternate option for your Memorial Day gathering. Super easy to make , it’s something you whip up in minutes, and set at the table with no further attention. Soft cake top with chocolaty, caramel bottom, these bars are one of my favorite desserts. My teenager took a big box of these cake bars to school and he said his friends ‘attacked’ it before the morning bell. His words: “The bars are awesome because you’re awesome mom”. Teenage sarcasm ignored and brownie points banked :)).

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

(9 X 13 pan – 24 squares)

  • 1 box (16.25oz – 18.5 oz) yellow or white cake mix – any brand
  • 2 large eggs – room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 can (12oz – 14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter – room temperature

1) Preheat oven to 350* F.

2) Grease a 9 X 13 pan and set aside.

3) In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, eggs and oil till well incorporated.

4) Press two-thirds of the mixture onto the bottom of the greased pan and flatten gently.

photo-1

 

5) In another bowl, microwave the chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter for about a minute. Mix well and stir to ensure it is completely melted.

6) Pour over the cake mix in the 9 X 13 pan and spread gently to the corners if required.

7) Drop the remaining cake batter on top of the chocolate mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

8) Bake 28-30 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

9) Cool completely and cut into 24 pieces.

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

10) This is a great recipe to make with kids, and is always a hit at bake sales.

(Sorry for the bad step-by-step photos. I noticed that my regular camera was out of charge after I had started to mix everything, and I had to rely on my phone for photography.)