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‘Temple Run’ Indian-Spiced Meatballs with Raita (and a GIVEAWAY!!)

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Anyone play the game, Temple Run? You know, the video game for phones and tablets where this great big, manic, hybrid gorilla-vulture creature chases your character as you dodge fire, rushing waterfalls, and treacherous cliffs at the same time as trying to collect shiny medallions and green gems? That’s the one. We’re big fans of that game around here, bordering on obsession, to the point that I had to give it up for Lent to prevent myself from spending every second of my already minimal free time dodging fire and escaping gorilla beasts.

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Tiki Lantern Garland from Shindigz, for that exotic ‘Temple Run’ vibe.

Well, when my oldest son requested a Temple Run themed birthday party for his 6th birthday, I promptly replied, “No, they don’t make Temple Run party supplies. I’m not even sure how we’d do that. Think of another theme. How about pirates or rock ‘n’ roll or superheroes?” But, my son is not easily dissuaded once he’s stuck on an idea, so he persisted with his request. And I persisted with offering alternate ideas. Construction trucks, a luau, dinosaurs???

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Beginning of the ‘Temple Run’ obstacle course, complete with jungle entrance, terrifying flames and a rushing waterfall.

But after a bit of brainstorming with some friends, a vision for a Temple Run themed party started to evolve. We’d construct a Temple Run obstacle course in the backyard. There’d be fire and waterfalls and a cave. There’d be green gems and monkeys and tropical birds. There’d be a terrifying gorilla chasing our young party guests through the course, as they attempted to gather gold medallions and green gems to redeem for goody bag treats. Perhaps we’d need to ask parents to sign a waiver as they arrived with the party guests, sort of like those waivers of death they merrily hand you as you arrive at a bounce house party. (Kidding, sort of.) My husband was skeptical about this insane plan, but I’m just about as hard to dissuade as our six year old, once I’m set on an idea.

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Unfortunate temple runner who took a turn down the dead end, lured by the shiny gold medallions.

As if by fate, in the early stages of my party planning, I received an email from a party supply company, Shindigz, offering to send me a gift certificate to sample their products and services, in order to share my experience with all of you. It was kismet. It only took a few minutes of browsing their site to spark a million ideas. During a quick search for jungle party supplies, my plan for a Temple Run obstacle course became clear. I found green festooning in three different colors  to use to as tropical vines framing the perimeter of our course. Rolls of sheer gossamer fabric printed in a water pattern would create the perfect waterfall obstacle. A shimmery foil banner printed with flames would become our fire obstacle. Plastic gold medallions became the coins we needed to entice our temple runners – coins which they could later redeem for goody bag treats. Tropical birds and monkeys lent an exotic feel to my run of the mill backyard. We added tiki lantern garland and a hanging fiery pot to complete the atmosphere. The hardest part was narrowing down my wish list from Shindigz’ extensive collection of party supplies. I was so happy with everything I received and how fast it got to me, that I actually placed a second order for more festooning and a variety of streamers, which arrived just as quickly.

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The gorilla beast, right on Lucas’ tail, as he choose the faster route around the cave, instead of crawling through it.

Once the vision for our ‘Temple Run’ course was in place, all that was left to do was plan an appropriately themed menu. Admittedly, I was stuck for quite a while. I even tried researching the supposed setting for the Temple Run game, but came up empty handed. Then, I started thinking about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I certainly wasn’t about to go down the monkey brains and snake-stuffed snakes route for our menu, but then it occurred to me that Temple of Doom took place in India, which just happens to serve up some of my family’s favorite food. In fact, chicken tikka masala with naan is high on the list of the birthday boy’s favorite foods.

An Indian-themed buffet it would be. From that point, it was just a matter of selecting dishes that would appeal to both children and adults, as well as people who might not be so adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. The other top priority was ease of reheating during the party.

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Capture anyway, just before escaping through the waterfall exit!

This was the Indian-themed ‘Temple Run’ menu we settled on:

Chicken Tikka Masala
Naan*
Basmati Rice with Cinnamon, Cardamon, and Peas
Indian-Spiced Meatballs with Raita
Beef and Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney
Indian Chickpeas
Mango Lassis (Mango Yogurt Smoothies)
 
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We also served a large platter of fresh fruit as well as a plate full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, for anyone craving something a bit less adventurous. The PB&Js went largely untouched, as our Temple Run menu was enjoyed by most of our guests, big and small. I’ve linked to the recipes for the chicken tikka masala and naan in the menu above. (Rather than grill the naan, as in the linked recipe, I cooked them on a baking sheet, several inches under the broiler for about two minutes on the first side, a minute on the second. Worked like a charm!) I’ll be sharing the recipes for the Indian Chickpeas and Mango Lassis in the near future.

Today, I’m sharing the recipe for the Indian-spiced meatballs and raita. Raita is a refreshing yogurt dip, not too different from a Greek tzatziki sauce. It’s frequently served as a cooling counterbalance to spicy Indian dishes, and while these meatballs are not overly spicy, the raita makes a perfect dip. (Kids love to dip stuff. Trust me.) I added these meatballs to the menu mostly to appeal to our younger guests, but they were a notable hit with the bigger guests too!

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Chicken tikka masala, spicy and mild, to please all taste buds!

A GIVEAWAY!!! My friends at Shindigz are offering a $50 gift card to one lucky reader, to give you a chance to enjoy their wide variety of part supplies. With graduation and summer barbecue season just around the corner, I’m sure that gift card would come in handy! To enter the drawing for the gift card, simply leave a comment below sharing what you think is the #1 factor which makes a memorable party! The winner will be selected using Random.org on Friday, May 31, 2013 at 12:00pm EST. One entry per person. 18 years or older. US mailing addresses only, please. Good luck!!

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Indian-Spiced Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 small or 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 pound ground beef

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wipe a baking sheet with a little oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, garam masala, salt, cayenne pepper, eggs and bread crumbs (everything except the meat) in a large bowl, until evenly blended. Add the meat. Use your hands to combine the mixture, just enough to evenly disperse the ingredients.

Form the mixture into balls, about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until cooked through.

Makes about 24 small meatballs

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Cucumber Mint Raita

Ingredients

  • 1 large seedless cucumber
  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1/8 cup fresh mint leaves, finely diced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Use a box grater to finely grate the cucumber. Squeeze the cucumber gratings to remove as much liquid as possible. (If you have a piece of cheesecloth available, it’s useful to place the cucumber gratings inside the cheesecloth, then squeeze to remove the excess liquid.) Combine the cucumber, yogurt, and chopped fresh mint. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

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Green Gem Ringpop Cupcakes

Disclaimer – Shindigz provided me with  $100 gift card to sample their products and services in order to share  my experience with you. All opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 

How to Make Cake Pops

Cake pops are all the rage these days…or am I thinking of cupcakes? Or is it macarons?? I can’t keep up. But, you can find cake pop recipes and ideas all over the internet and magazine covers these days. Starbucks even carries these sweet treats right next to the muffins and dessert bars. They’re insanely cute and super fun to eat. The best part is that there are a million possible flavor and design combinations.

Once you’ve got the basic idea, you can have a lot of fun customizing these little goodies with different flavors of cake, frosting, and candy coating! Then, get creative with the decorating! I’m already planning on making bloody eyeball cake pops for Halloween, turkeys for Thanksgiving, and snowmen and trees for Christmas!

For my little guy’s third birthday (and my first attempt at cake-popping), I made a batch of decadent triple chocolate cake pops. It’s a simple, but somewhat time-consuming process, so plan ahead. Here’s how it’s done.

You will need:

  • 1 13×9 inch cake
  • Cake frosting (approximately 1 1/2 cups)
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Candy Melts (approximately 4 cups)*
  • Sprinkles or other decorating candies (optional)

*If your grocery store doesn’t carry the candy melts, check your local craft store. They come in all sorts of colors and flavors!

Bake a 13 x 9 inch cake. Use your favorite homemade recipe or one box of any flavor cake mix. (You can bake the cake a day ahead of time, if desired.)

Once cool, crumble the cake into fine crumbs. This is a perfect job for little helpers.

You’ll end up with a big bowl of fine cake crumbs.

Combine the cake crumbs with any flavor frosting. A container of prepared frosting works fine or use your favorite homemade. Depending on how moist the cake is, you probably will not need the whole container of frosting. About 3/4 of a 16-ounce container should do the trick. You want the mixture to be moist enough to mold, but not too mushy. Mushy cakes will have a harder time staying on the sticks…lesson learned the hard way.

Refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes (or longer) to help firm up the mixture.

Roll the mixture into balls, just over an inch in diameter.

Melt a small quantity of the candy melts according to package directions. Dip the end of each lollipop stick into the melted candy, then insert the stick a little more than halfway through each cake ball. Place each pop upside down on a baking sheet and refrigerate until quite firm.

Once firm, warm the candy melts according to package directions. Use a container that is tall and narrow enough to fully submerge each cake pop into. A 2-cup pyrex measuring cup worked well.

Dip each pop into the melted candy. Gently swirl the pop to remove excess candy. (Skipping the swirl step will result in a candy coated stick. Trust me on that one.)

Decorate with sprinkles or candies, if desired. Then, place each pop into a piece of styrofoam to dry upright at room temperature. (Refrigeration will cause condensation on the surface of your pops. Another lesson learned the hard way.) The candy exterior will harden at room temperature.

Hearty Sausage Baked Ziti

In high school, I was assigned a paper on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. I’ve never been much for poetry, but I loved those 18th century poems. There’s such a simple brilliance to the idea that the way we view the world changes with our experiences in life. And in his short, carefully crafted poems, Blake said so much about his perspective on life and the world he lived in. His message is timeless.

But it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

My first baby

Before I had my children, I thought I loved my dogs as much as I could ever possibly love children. I made the mistake of once voicing this emotion and still get made fun of it to this day. But, at the time, I truly believed there could be no (parental sort of) love that was greater than what I felt for my pups. I loved them with every bit of love I thought I possessed. They were my babies.

And then I had my kids. And I quickly discovered an entire world of love I never could have imagined before. In retrospect, it sort of makes me feel a bit silly for believing that I loved my dogs as much as I would ever love my kids. But then, it’s all about perspective.

Furbaby meets human baby

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed about being a stay at home mom. I would gladly say goodbye to a successful career, years of time spent attaining advanced degrees and certifications, and a respectable paycheck, in order to care for my family. In my dreams, I was Suzy Homemaker. I baked pies every day and had adventures with my giggling children. My house was impeccably clean and my hair perfectly coifed. I’d enjoy quiet pastimes like crochet and tending to my garden. Perhaps I’d even start watching soap operas and collecting porcelain figurines. Who knows…

But then, that picture perfect image of 1950’s domestic bliss isn’t the reality, is it? In the real world, I can’t clean my house faster than the kids destroy it and for every giggle, there is a matching scream or whine. I certainly never considered I’d be scolding my child for pulling his pants down in the produce section of the grocery store. Oh, and there is definitely no time for tending to my non-existent garden or putting my imaginary crochet skills to use. And for every bit of joy and pride my children bring me, there are new fears and new challenges to contend with. And still, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

Looking back on my early days as a stay at home mom, I remember how frazzled I felt. It’s astounding how one tiny baby can turn your world so completely upside down. I struggled to figure out my new life as the stay at home mom I’d always wanted to be. It was hard, even with only one baby. I missed my job. My job was less tiring…and it came with a lunch break. Yet, now, as a mother of three kids, being alone with just the baby feels like a vacation. It’s funny how quickly perspective can change.

My almost-three-year-old, back in his baby days

And although my dream of being a stay at home mom is not at all what I’d pictured it would be, I’m still living my dream and am thankful for it every day. If I were William Blake writing a poem about parenthood, my song of experience may not be nearly as rose-colored as my song of innocence, but it would communicate something much deeper; a level of emotion only the experience of being a parent can awaken.

My almost-three-year-old now, ready for nursery school

My second little cutie is turning three in a few days. Where does the time go? We’re throwing him a birthday party next weekend. With cool weather quickly approaching, I’m making a comfort food menu, with an Italian twist. I’m making my pepperoni pizza salad, a big batch of meatballs in marinara sauce, toasty garlic bread, and this hearty baked ziti.

Enjoy! It’ll warm your soul.

Hearty Sausage Baked Ziti

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ziti or penne pasta
  • 3 cups tomato pasta sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
  • 1 pound spicy Italian pork sausage

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent the pasta from over-cooking. Remove the sausage from the casings. Cook the sausage in a pan over medium heat for  7 to 8 minutes, until fully cooked. Use a fork or edge of a spoon to break it into small pieces as it cooks. Combine the cooked pasta with the pasta sauce, sausage, ricotta, parmesan cheese and about 2 1/2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Pour the mixture into a large baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Bake for about 25 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned on the top.

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