Cardamom is native to the evergreen rain forest of southern Indian Kerala state and grown in only a few tropical countries. The spice features three-sided pods with a thin, yet tough papery outer cover. Inside, tiny, deep-brown to black, aromatic seeds are arranged in vertical rows with each grain unsheathed again inside a very thin membrane. There are two types of cardamom pods: the green cardamom pod and the black cardamom pod. Generally, the plant can grow up to four meters in length.
Cardamom is a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It is also an excellent source of iron and manganese. In addition to that, it is rich in many vital vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health. It as well contains many essential volatile oils that include pinene, sabinene, myrcene, phellandrene, limonene, 1, 8-cineole, terpinene, p-cymene, terpinolene, linalool, linalyl acetate, terpinen-4-oil, a-terpineol, a-terpineol acetate, citronellol, nerol, geraniol, methyl eugenol, and trans-nerolidol.
Health Benefits/ Medical Use
Cardamom has antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and tonic properties. It also helps control heart rate and blood pressure. It is a good source of manganese which is a very powerful free-radical scavenger. It helps in red blood cell formation and cellular metabolism.
Cardamom is being used as flavoring agent in both soups, foods, and revitalizing drinks. Many sweet dishes in Asian countries use cardamom.
Polvorón is a Spanish shortbread made mainly from flour, sugar, milk, and nuts. Lard or butter is used to help hold the powder mixture together. It may be baked or chilled. The name of this treat came from the Spanish word polvo, which means powder.
Because the flour is first toasted before it is mixed with the rest of the ingredients, the entire crumbly powder mixture is a perfect beach sand look-alike. If you have little buckets of various sizes, using Option 1 below (chilled, not baked), you can create a “sandcastle”, a splendid feature at your next beach or mermaid themed party. You can also use a round or oblong cookie cutter or molder to mold them into little cookies, then wrap each with coloured tissue paper or cello.
Basic Polvorón Recipe
4 cups plain flour
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
2 cups raw sugar
1 1/8 cups softened butter
Toast flour on a pan over medium heat, stirring often to make sure it doesn’t get burnt, until the colour of the flour turns into light brown. Let it cool before transferring into a mixing bowl. Add powdered milk and sugar and mix well, using a wire whisk.
Add butter and, using your clean hands, combine the mixture thoroughly. Let cool for about 10 minutes, so the butter solidifies a bit.
To mold and wrap polvorón, have several pieces of tissue paper or cello ready, cut into 6″ x 6″ squares. On a square, place your cookie cutter in the very center. Spoon the mixture into the cookie cutter, then push the mixture in with your fingers or back of the spoon to compact it. Add more powder mixture into the cookie cutter until it reaches your desired thickness when compacted. The polvorón should be compacted enough so it doesn’t collapse when you carefully remove the cookie cutter. After removing the cookie cutter, carefully wrap the polvorón by securing the ends. Chill before serving. (This option works best for a beach sand-imitation dish at your beach themed party.)
Use the same technique in compacting them into round or oblong pieces using the cookie cutter or mold, but instead of wrapping each individually, place them on baking sheets (lined with paper) and bake them at 180ºC/350ºF for approximately 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. (Sprinkle icing sugar on top and this option is perfect for serving them at Christmas.)
This recipe has been adapted from an old sweetened fruit salad recipe. While the original recipe required slices of various types of fruits, this recipe omitted that and, instead, used only gelatin cubes in colours associated with the mermaid party theme. As well as shredded young coconut, you may also add cooked tapioca pearls (the larger sized ones, almost similar in size to the gelatin cubes) to this sweet salad to balance its sweetness, and for that additional “mermaid” appeal.
1 packet green gelatin powder (any flavour)
1 packet blue gelatin powder (any flavour)
1 packet purple gelatin powder (any flavour)
Shredded young coconut (optional)
In separate bowls, prepare the gelatin (separately, by colour) according to packet instructions, using the boiling water, then cold water. (For firmer gelatin, slightly reduce the amount of water to be added to each bowl of gelatin powder.) Chill gelatin until completely set.
Slice gelatin into small cubes. Place all the gelatin cubes in a large bowl. Add cream and shredded young coconut (optional). Add condensed milk, until desired sweetness is achieved. Mix well. Scoop into small bowls to serve.
Love the mermaid themed label card used in the photo? Get it HERE.
When the party is quite close to the 4th of May, one can easily get tempted to celebrate a la “May the 4th be with you”. So for hubby’s latest birthday celebration, Star Wars theme it was. Because the very first Star Wars film came out exactly 40 years ago this month, all the more reason it was to have that theme.
If you get your inspiration from the very first Star Wars film, you will find that you are dealing with a retro-ish kind of futuristic/space-age theme. Nevertheless, we just decided to have fun inserting a bit of Star Wars themed something here and there.
Upon entering the party venue, the guests were greeted with these sign posts. So, which Star Wars place do you want to go?
This is how the buffet table looked like before the guests arrived. Since it was the last month before winter, we kept the rest of the foods in the kitchen so that they would still be hot when the guests arrive and they’re ready to eat.
One helpful tip – if you have a number of tried and tested recipes that you can incorporate into the theme, use them! That means lesser stress, because you’re more confident of how to make them and how they would turn out, having made them several times before.
Sometimes, you can also just tweak the recipe a bit so that the dish would suit the theme. This Bantha Milk Punch, for example, is a tweaked version of the pink fruit salad cooler (beverage) that I have made before. Normally, red and green gelatin chunks are used, but for this party, I used blue gelatin chunks, to make this fancy beverage look more Bantha-milk-ish and Star Wars-ish. Unfortunately, the blue gelatin chunks, tapioca pearls, and shredded coconut all sank to the bottom (as they normally do anyway), so you don’t really get to behold this lovely beverage in all its glory.
You don’t even have to come up with all original ideas for your party. Your guests will most certainly forgive you if you pinch a few good ideas from other similarly themed parties shared online, such as the Yoda Soda.
Many cake makers would surely have that special decorating tip that creates icing that looks like grass or hair (very thick strands, that is). I do have that…except that at the last minute, it decided to not work properly. Boo! A little bamboo toothpick to the rescue! Using a clean toothpick, I tried to recreate the hairy Wookiee look on these Wookiee Cupcakes.
Hubby made this milk flan, a.k.a Princess Leia Flan. Normally, I wouldn’t serve it in a baking pan. However, since the industrial look of the pan worked well with the theme, I decided to send it straight to the buffet table.
Thankfully somebody invented the blue food colouring! A few drops of that into the milk panna cotta that I’ve made a number of times and, voila! We got ourselves a nice plate of Bantha Milk Pudding. I just added a bit of chocolate syrup and a couple of Oreos on the top, for contrast.
Organizing a party can be stressful and if you’re not careful, you can end up with so much to do in so little time. I would have loved a detailed R2D2 cake, but that would have been terribly time consuming. Instead, I opted to create a Galaxy Cake – blue butter cake base with buttercream icing and glazing in various shades of dark blues and purples, with silver sprinkles here and there.
A funny behind-the-scenes story on this cake – In the early stages of glazing the cake, I didn’t quite achieve the midnight-ish blue that I wanted. So the first batch of glaze that went on the cake was more of a Cookie Monster kind of a blue. Hubby passed by the kitchen table and after I whined how I can’t seem to get the colour right, I jokingly told him, “How about we change the party theme into ‘Sesame Street’ instead of Star Wars?” He looked horrified! Lol!!! Thankfully, I managed to get the colours right in the end.
May the forks be with you…and the spoons and knives as well.
And because photo props are just so popular in this era of selfies, Facebook, Instagram…and selfies.
Just before the guests started arriving, I started playing the first Star Wars film DVD, showing it on the lounge TV, on low volume, so it’s more like a background feature.
After much of the eating and chatting, we played a few rounds of the “Storm Trooper Snatching Game”, as I’d like to call it. To play, you will need:
– A box of styrofoam pellets/packing peanuts (imagine that they are stormtroopers)
– A few big, lightweight bowls
– A pair of chopsticks for each bowl
– A timer (your mobile phone clock timer will do)
Each player gets a bowl and a pair of chopsticks. Set the timer to 30 seconds. When the timer starts, each player uses only his chopsticks to snatch as many ‘stormtroopers’ as he can, from the box and into his own bowl. No scooping is allowed. At the end of 30 seconds, whoever has the most number of ‘stormtroopers’ in his bowl wins the round.
Tip: If you have time to prepare beforehand, paint each chopstick so that they’d look like lightsabers. I know snatching a ‘stormtrooper’ with a couple of ‘lightsabers’ does not look quite logical, but it’s just an added fun Star Wars detail. 😀
This recipe was derived from my Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta recipe but tweaked especially for the Star Wars themed party that we had. I didn’t make the chocolate layer because of time constraints, but you are welcome to include it if you want. Here is how I did my Bantha Milk Pudding dish for hubby’s Star Wars themed party:
1/2 cup cold water
2 packs unflavoured gelatin
1 cans condensed milk
2 cups cream
Few drops of blue food coloring
Chocolate syrup (optional)
2 Oreo biscuits (optional)
Melt gelatin in cold water. Set aside. Mix cream and condensed milk in a saucepan and cook over low heat until hot. Add the melted gelatin and stir until well blended (approximately 10 minutes). Remove from the stove and continue stirring to cool down the mixture. Gradually add a few drops of food coloring until desired color is achieved. Stir well until color is evenly distributed.
Transfer the mixture into a mold. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
To serve, turn the pudding upside down on a serving platter. Drizzle chocolate syrup on top and position the Oreo biscuits on the top center.
People get excited before their wedding day. But do you know what’s more exciting than that? You’re right! A baby!
When the couple are expecting their first baby, they become quite busy with the preparations for the arrival of the new member of their family. Traditionally, before the cute little one comes out, family and friends throw a baby shower, not just to give gifts for the baby, but more importantly, to join in the pre-birth excitement.
If you are organizing a baby shower for the mother-to-be, it would be a good idea to include a few baby-related games in the party to indulge the baby-related excitement in the air.
Here are some great baby shower party games to consider:
Don’t Say “Baby!”
This game is quite simple and does not require much preparation except for a bunch of pins. Each guest will get a number of pins (depends on the host) to attach to their clothes. If one says the word “baby”, she loses a pin to the first person who caught her saying the word. The guest with the most number of pins at the end of the party wins the game.
Who Knows Mommy Best
Prepare a list of questions pertaining to the soon-to-be mother. Produce many copies (depending on the no. of participants or guests) and distribute them to the guests. Provide pens and have them write down their answers. After giving them ample time to answer, the host announces the answer of each question and whoever get the highest score wins.
Draw The Baby
All you need is a blank piece of paper and a pen for each guest. They’ll have to unleash their creativity and draw what they think the baby would look like when he/she comes out. You can ask someone (or perhaps, the mother-to-be) to be the judge and select the art work she likes best.
How Many Candies Are In The Bottle?
Prepare a large bottle filled with candies. Remember to count the candies as you fill the bottle. At the party, have guests guess how many there are. Whoever guess the closest number gets to take home the bottle of treats.
Guess The Baby Food
Prepare 4-6 containers filled with baby foods. The foods should not be obvious. Label the containers numerically. Give out pens and papers to the participants and have them taste each baby food and write down their guesses on the paper. Whoever has the most number of correct guesses becomes the winner.
Blindfolded Diaper Changing
You will need a number of baby dolls (as close to life size as possible, for best results, and you could perhaps borrow them from friends with young kids), a number of diapers, and same number of blindfolding materials for this game. Game participants will try to change the baby doll’s diaper while blindfolded. Whoever has the most impressive output wins the game.
Toilet Paper Christening Dress
This is a spin on the popular toilet paper wedding dress for bridal shower parties. In this version however, participants get to design a christening gown and dress up a baby doll using toilet paper instead of fabric. This game would go perfectly well with the Blindfolded Diaper Changing game, as you get to use the baby dolls in two separate games.
Mom or Dad
Prepare a lip figure and a moustache figure. During the game, ask a set of questions that is answerable with “Mom” or “Dad”. The questions describe either the mother or the father of the baby. The participants will answer the question by raising either the “lip” figure (for Mom) or “mustache” figure (for Dad).It’s fun for your family.
Guess The Baby Photo
Instruct everyone to bring their baby picture and try to guess who’s who. The one who first guesses, correctly, wins. This will be quite amusing because you will see some funny pictures during their infancy or childhood.