Colourful platters filled with delicious and appetizing food. Tables laid out with aromatic dishes and things you’ve never tried before. Several candles are lit all over the house giving off a lovely aroma that makes you feel welcome. This is the ideal dinner party!
Candles, flowers, napkins, cutlery, dinnerware all add personal touches that are very unique to you. Over the years you will gather items that will help you entertain better such as a cutlery caddy, better dishes, table cloths in various colours, chafing dishes for large parties and glassware for different occasions. You will also learn methods of serving and plating which will work for you. As you can see from the pics, I had a theme for the dishes, napkins, plates and platters. I used a red table cloth, with a black basket for naan. I used red and white napkins, red, green, black and white dishes. There was a white cutlery caddy, with black and white plates and red or cream candles lit up all over the main floor. This made everything look seamless as it was well put together. You don’t have to have a lot of dishes or dinner sets to make this happen. However, it is very important to always buy things that coordinate with your existing collection.
If something isn’t working, try to figure out a better and more efficient way of doing it. For example, I do not prepare dishes after my guests have arrived. Therefore anything that requires baking, assembling or cutting is already done beforehand. Some people can manage this, but I am not one of them. I like to have everything food related ready before my guests arrive. I don’t like being an unprepared hostess. I find it very odd when I go to someone’s house and they are cooking while I am there. It makes me feel like I showed up too early!
It’s wonderful having people over for dinner, but it takes a lot of prepping and planning. My style of prepping works for me, but it isn’t the only way of doing things. Various factors have to be taken into consideration. Are you going to be doing the grocery shopping and cooking? Are you having the food catered? Are you prepping, cooking, cleaning and tidying up the house by yourself? Do you have house help? Do you have an extra family member who can help you with cutting and washing pots and pans while you do the cooking? Will there be someone to help you when you are serving? Do you have a dishwasher in your kitchen? Is there a cook or a maid who can do all of the cleanup for you and put away all the clean dishes in the kitchen cupboards? Do you have a spot where you can “hide” your pots and pans as you reheat food in them? Is your kitchen in an open space or is it in one corner of the house behind closed doors? Yes, there are many factors to consider! Do not compare yourself to others and do not allow others to do it either as your situation is more than likely different from others. Keep your current situation in mind and do the best you can.
Experience has taught me that what others think suitable might not be suitable for you. Do whatever works for you by thinking everything through. Plan ahead where you are going to place your food on the table. Each platter or dish should have a designated spot so that you don’t have to think about where to place the piping hot dish while it is in your hands. Please refer to the other blog posts on party planning as I have gone into more details there. It should all look effortless where in fact you have spent several hours preparing yourself and your home for your guests.
In the past I used to be very concerned about having everything piping hot. Now, I have discovered a way of avoiding stress by having a couple of items that can be served at room temperature such as appetizers, salads and yogurt based items. Also, I always cook on the day of the party. As I am done with a dish, I plate it and let it cool. Then I cover it tightly with aluminium foil and leave it on the counter. An hour before I am ready to serve dinner, I preheat the oven to 350F and place all the dishes in there for 15mins. Then I lower the temperature to 200F and leave the food in there until I am ready to serve. Naan bread is a bit tricky to warm up. I find that it dries up in the oven if you place it in there directly. I usually warm up it up on a frying pan on the stove and keep it in a hot pot or I wrap 5 naans in foil and keep it in the oven along with the other food.
Here’s an example from the last dinner I held at my home. There were 16 of us and half the guests were children. When there are several ages at a dinner party, lots of factors have to be taken into consideration. Some of the dishes were spicy, while others were very mild. As usual, I had a table for dinner items and another table for dessert, tea, juice, water and pop. This way there was something for everyone. The same goes for desserts. I always make a fruit platter and on this day I used honey dew melon, pineapple, green seedless grapes, strawberries and kiwi. Fruit is always a great idea as almost everyone will eat fruit. I had brownies for the kids which I had prepared in cupcake liners. I had laid out several colorful bowls for homemade mango icecream. Tea was in a thermos with tea cups, milk and sugar right there for whoever needed it. Lemonade, pop and water were on a tray with lots of glasses and ice. This is the menu we had.
Dinner Party Menu
Macaroni, vegetable and cream cheese puffs
Sweet chill Thai sauce
Cucumber and mint raita
Mexican cob salad
Hara masala chicken
Home made brownies
Home made mango ice cream
As you can tell from the menu, 6 items needed to be warmed up. I prepared the biryani using the oven method for steaming in two separate oven proof dishes two hours before dinner was going to be served. I took them out of the oven and left them on the counter tightly covered with foil until I was ready to serve dinner. I then placed naan, hara masala chicken, tandoori chicken, tuna kebabs and seekh kebabs in the oven. When I was ready to serve dinner, all I had to do at that point was wear my oven mitts and place the dishes and platters on the designated spots and dinner was served. This method has created controversies in the past as some people think that it makes the food dry or that the flavours might disappear. Ideally the kebabs will be barbecued by one person while the curries were being heated by another and everything being served by another. This is not the case in my house, so I do what works for me and so should you. It’s nice to be a relaxed host who doesn’t need each and every guest helping out. That takes the fun out of being a guest. We all work hard in our kitchens in our own homes. We want to be pampered and enjoy dinner when we are invited somewhere else.
Make your guests have a pleasurable experience when they are at your house by having everything ready beforehand so that you can spend maximum time with them. Obviously this isn’t always possible especially when you have an occasion at home with more than 30 guests. Then you surely need the help of whoever is willing to help you.
What is desi cuisine without chaat masala? Adults and kids equally enjoy the taste and it is a staple in the kitchen for most desi families. I just peeked into my spice cupboard and apparently I have 4 different bottles/packages. Ummm yeah, and trust me they all taste and look different.
There are many prepackaged chaat masala packages on the market. If you like, you can also make it yourself at home. I have had variouos homemade chaat masalas but they don’t taste the same as the prepackaged ones. I am sure there must be a special ingredient that we don’t add when making it at home. I have always used Shan or National chaat masala.
Perhaps you've bought it before and have an entire box of chaat masala sitting in your spice cupboard and you are stumped on how to use it- I know a lot of people are. Here are a few different ways that you can use chaat masala in your cooking:
What are the innovative ways you use Chaat Masala?
Ramadan is an Islamic month of the calendar and is a time when Muslims practice one of the five pillars of Islam, which is fasting. The fast lasts from sunrise to sunset so in northern countries, in the summer, that can be incredibly long. Yes, Yes, I know your first question is “But how do people fast in the Northwest Territories in the summer with 24 hours sunlight?” There is a solution to that too. You follow the country/city closest to you that does have a “night”. There are some cases in which the fasts are 21 hours long regardless. In Toronto, our fasts this year are about 18+ hours a day. It is not an easy one, but it’s absolutely doable for those of you who ask “But how!?” You realize people stay hungry for a lot longer than that all over the world right and it is without choice? Just pretend you’re even poorer than you are. Hah!
So what kind of fasting is it? We don’t eat or drink anything during the 18 hours, and we abstain from being intimate as well. Relax yourself over there Anxious Jane, you have 5 to 6 hours to eat and drink and cuddle your brains out if that’s your sort of thing. People who don’t need to fast? Anyone who is physically unable to; such as, the elderly, sick, children, travellers, or pregnant women. Who wants to mess with a pregnant woman’s food anyways? Can you imagine? Women also don’t fast during that oh so special time of the month, but wait- you have to make up those missed days any time after Ramadan. A-ha!
With regards to the effect fasting has, you may shake your head thinking, “But aren’t we supposed to eat multiple small meals a day because that is healthy for our bodies? Why are you sending your body into starvation mode only to eat all together twice and that too, late night?” It is ONE month out of an entire year. Do you really think your body won’t be there to support you when you have put it through so much? Don’t tell me you’ve never gorged on an entire packet of chips at 3 am or eaten a whole pile of butter chicken on your own. How about those chocolate bars you’re hiding in your office? In fact, fasting for part of the day allows you to eliminate toxins from your body and if you eat well/right at Iftar and Suhoor, you will feel great! The fasting time is just enough that your body first turns to glucose for energy and then to your fat stores, then to protein/muscle mass but by that time you’ll have eaten and probably started the cycle again. So the key? Eat the right things.
There are many tips on how to eat healthy and make the most of Ramadan- just do a quick google search. I personally think the easiest and most practical way to eat during Iftar and Suhoor is to cover all food groups: Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Protein, Water, Dairy, and Healthy Fats. It is easier to keep track of. Here is a good article on Suhoor foods for those of you who are not sure what to eat at 3 am. All over the world people (I didn’t say I haven’t done this) tend to feast at Iftar right up until Suhoor. What is the point then of fasting all day if you break your fast with deep fried spring rolls, fried dumplings, 10 kinds of meat, and all the desserts you don’t even normally have.
Eat real food and don’t waste your time making all those snacks and fried treats. We all plan to eat healthy but when Iftar time rolls around, oh man it’s tempting to eat the unhealthiest deliciousness first and then look at the fruit or something of the sort. To prevent this, you have to be organized. If you find it’s not easy for you to cook during your fast, cook right after Iftar! It will mean you’re not just lying around after eating. Use that time to prepare your Suhoor and Iftar for the next day. Also, just don’t dish out the other food unto your plate with your salads and vegetables. Eat your greens separately and first. It will fill you up and you won’t eat as much of that scrumptious lasagne or steak. I know some of you are looking at your phone or computer screen going “What do you mean no samosas or sambousek?” Look, you’re going to be invited for at least a couple of Iftars at someone’s house, eat that stuff then. At home or at the mosque, go for the healthy items first. It will be worth it. If I can change how I eat in Ramadan, you definitely can!
But the fast is not just for the body, it is for the mind as well! In fact, for me, it is definitely more about the latter. We’re supposed to be patient, kind, thoughtful, charitable, friendly and all things sugar and spice. That is infinitely harder to do when you are hungry, thirsty and possibly low on sleep but are working hard regardless at your job and/or at your home chores. This allows you to practice self restraint and to take everything good that you have turned into a habit during this month and carry it through the rest of the year. “But aren’t we supposed to be like that all year around?”- yeah I heard you say that. Duh. It is a month long training session to remind us what we should be like and doing it under tougher circumstances enables us to focus. It is a time to reflect on your character, behaviour and relationships, especially with God. You will notice that you’re more honest with yourself and are able to reflect on self improvement even more.
So use this time to train your mind, body and soul to learn and reinforce the right habits for your day to day life for the rest of the year until next Ramadan when you’ve forgotten it all and need another reminder. Think THIS:
Now, mandatory shameless plug please check out our recipes to see what suits your needs during this month of fasting.
P.S: Somewhere around 2025 onwards Ramadan will be super short in Canadian winter months. WIN!
Who wants to drink some Algae? No, it's not a dare - if we can down smoothies made of all sorts of funky veggies and use Algae face masks, why not learn more about what other benefits it has to offer? Check out what Nida has for us today!
I had promised some more detoxes or smoothies and here we are - Today I bring you a smoothie with the single ingredient that is 1,000 more powerful than fruits and veggies. You might be saying what the wha..?! If you're hoping its chocolate, sadly its not (believe me I would be a champion in that category if it were haha!) Its Klamath Blue-green algae. I'm going to give you some detail on the benefits and its source, since its not a commonly heard of ingredient. I also want to stress on the fact that LESS is MORE here.
It comes from the Klamath Lake - home to a particular type of blue green algae called Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, which is similar to spirulina and chlorella, but just a wee bit different.
Aphanizomenon flos-aquae is a type of cyano-bacteria that biologically is quite similar to spirulina. It’s actually toxic in most places where it’s grown, but Klamath Lake is remarkably pure and free of toxins so the blue-green algae there can be ingested by humans.
It is the ultimate brain food and a powerful PINEAL GLAND ACTIVATOR! It contains more protein, B12 and chlorophyll than any other food on the planet. It is rich in neuropeptide precursors which are vital for neurotransmission which allows brain neurons (neurotransmitters) to communicate with each other in learning and memory.
“The greatest value of A.F.A. is not only its nutrient concentration, but its effect on the nervous system, specifically the pituitary, pineal, and hypothalamus. People taking A.F.A. have reported an overall increase in mental alertness, mental stamina, short and long term memory, problem solving, creativity, dream recall, a greater sense of well being and centeredness.” – Dr Gabriel Cousens, health guru
Not only is Klamath Blue Green Algae a powerful brain food for the pineal,pituitary and hypothalamus, it is the most nutrient dense food on the planet! In addition to its high potency, the body only has to use a small amount of energy to metabolize it. This makes it easy for the body to absorb and assimilate its nutrients, which it is full of. Klamath Blue Green Algae is full of vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, chlorophyll, simple carbohydrates, fatty acids, neuropeptide precursors, lipids, glyco-proteins and enzymes.
Additional Klamath Blue Green Algae Benefits:
Klamath Green Algae Smoothie
Ingredients (all organic preferred)
H/T: Well and Awake
hAPPY eATING & kEEP sMILING
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