Seeking A Little Creative Inspiration

I could use a little help here and luckily for me, I have this little blog and wonderful readers who are incredibly creative and inventive.

Okay, my problem is this – Gracie is turning 4 on Friday and we are having a little birthday party for her. There will probably be 6 to 10 people joining us. That’s not the problem though. Nope, my problem revolves around food.

Gracie has had the menu for her birthday dinner planned out for at least 6 months. I’ve been ignoring her because I was convinced she’d changed her mind at least a dozen times before the actual meal. But that hasn’t happened, so now I’m stuck. Her birthday dinner of choice? Grilled cheese, meatballs and chickpeas.

Grilled cheese, while a little unconventional, is easy. Meatballs are easy. But at the same meal? And what in the world do I do with those chickpeas??

So…can you help a girl out? I could absolutely use any suggestions you might have for me!

24 thoughts on “Seeking A Little Creative Inspiration

  1. I think grilled cheese and meatballs are a great idea (for a little girl’s birthday-dinner-selection). I think you could do something really cute that kind of makes her meal feel like fancy appetizers.

    here’s a different idea: take the grilled cheese and cut into a sort of bird shape, then make some pasta (I am thinking of the recipe that you make with chickpeas) (so, you could make that with angel hair pasta) then top with teeny-tiny meatballs. (like three per person) and you could make what would look like a little nest (with the pasta, topped with little meatballs, with a little grilled cheese bird—) okay, so that was what I thought of on the fly… I don’t think it’s a crazy meal selection, I mean she could be asking for grilled cheese and smoked salmon with grapes and steak tartar ;-P

  2. Chickpeas mean hummus at our house. If that’s not your thing, what about a selection of sandwiches? Meatball hoagies, grilled cheese, chickpea patties.

    Our tradition growing up was our choice of birthday dinner and dessert–I’ve continued it with my kids and it’s always a hoot to hear what they want. My daughter’s request was chocolate chip waffles and edemame.

  3. I agree with the hummus suggestion; if the chickpeas need to be whole, what about a curry or Moroccan-style stew?

    We have a restaurant in town that does a meatball panini with tiny meatballs in it. That’s more or less grilled cheese + meatballs, right?

    Have fun!

  4. What about tiny grilled cheese sandwiches made on cocktail bread, meatballs on toothpicks and roasted chickpeas? All fun finger foods for the kiddos. Toss in some baby carrots, apple wedges and sugar snap peas or celery straws for color and a more balanced meal and have bowls of marinara sauce and ranch dressing for dipping.

  5. Hummus is a favorite at our house too! But if she likes them whole try the recipe from Crockpot Lady at her A Year of Slow Cooking blog “CrockPot Crunchy Roasted Garbanzo Beans” they are yummy and would be a nice little appetizer treat. I also love her recipe for Crockpot Falafel they really do brown up nicely!

  6. I don’t know, I’d just dump a can of chickpeas in to a bowl and serve them right along the grilled cheese and meatballs. You could also get some hummus for the grown ups. πŸ™‚

  7. So I know it isn’t a sweet pea but if you are serving chickpeas maybe you should read the book The Princess and the Pea. It’s been awhile but maybe that would give you a direction to go with displaying the food?!?! I was wondering if there was a way to display it on their plates so it looks like a crown or something princess like?!?! Not sure that helped at all and one last thing, I would do a sauce buffet for the meatballs. Enjoy and my Cera had that same little princess tiara and earrings, lol she turned 4 in January!!!

  8. Once we had grapes, grape juice and peanuts for my daughter’s birthday dinner. Don’t sweat the details – the kids will love it!

    We raided the fridge after the kids went to bed! It all worked out!

  9. Check out . He’s got several chickpea recipes including a roasted chickpea that looks awesome. He also has Rainbow wheat berry salad and a pesto quinoa salad with chickpeas in it and of course there’s always hummus. And I love grilled cheese and meatballs so make finger foods and have a blast!!! πŸ˜€

  10. We just had grilled cheese with your meatball stew……and I put left over chick peas in it! It was delish πŸ™‚ A minestrone pasta salad always goes over big around here too…..lots of chick peas in there along with some other veggies. As far as meatballs and grilled cheese, you could make mini meatballs, broil slices of bread with cheese on top and cut into small squares and make kebobs with a creamy tomato soup-like dip. I would think the meatball would have to be against the cheese so the bread wouldn’t get soggy, so in the middle you’d have to use 2 to make inside out grilled cheese πŸ™‚ YUM! Good luck….she’ll love whatever you come up with

  11. For the chickpeas you might try them crunchy. You can also add a bit of ginger with a pinch of cayenne if she likes a tiny bit of heat (like my daughter ever since she would eat solids). Meatballs on sticks or toothpicks with various dips (condiments, cheese, etc) make another fun appetizer.

  12. I thought the same as several others about the hummus. Of course, the only way I ever eat chickpeas is as hummas. πŸ™‚ I love little girl birthday parties!

  13. How about making some chana masala (chola) with those chickpeas? Kind of like Indian barbecue beans. You can cut back on the heat so that they’re more sweet, but I think they’re great! I’m not sure they’ll go with meatballs and grilled cheese, but consider it a birthday buffet. There are lots of things on a buffet table that don’t go together, but we still choose them! And, I happened to love meatballs with mac-n-cheese, so this isn’t that much different.

  14. I would have the grilled cheese, meatballs and a small salad bar. I do the salad bar thing often..a big bowl of greens then I have a tuperware container with 7 compartments where I put the toppings and one of them is usually chickpeas along with olives, green onions, carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms etc.

  15. I think this could be a cute mini appetizer-style meal. You could do interesting grilled cheese sandwiches by switching up the cheeses and cutting them into interesting shapes. Make mini meatballs with a dip. Plain with a marinara dipping sauce. Or roll mini meatballs in uncooked rice that has soaked in cold water for about two hours and steam until cooked. Serve with a soy rice vinegar dip. Or maybe do a savory pineapple glaze (my mom always called them Swedish meatballs). As for chickpeas, drain and blot dry then roast them on a cookie sheet with a little oil and your favorite seasonings until crispy. Delicious! Good luck!

  16. Grilled cheese/meatball subs? Like panini-style?

    And maybe salad on the side with chickpeas tossed in. That’s one of our faves anyway!

  17. Falafel on grilled cheese pita pockets…I think that takes care of all 3 items, except the meatballs won’t be “meat”.

  18. Sounds like an episode of Chopped! Hahahaha! What if you did a meatball soup? For dipping the grilled cheeses in? And would she be okay with chickpeas in the form of hummus? It could be the appetizer. If not maybe salad with chickpeas in it? Just some thoughts. Please let us know what you end up with!! πŸ™‚

  19. Why not do an appetizer type dinner? Grilled cheese finger sandwiches, BBQ meatballs, some veggies/fruit and dip and then you could do some sweet and spicy roasted chickpeas…roast them in the oven with some brown sugar and cinnamon, salt.

  20. I love the idea of an appetizer meal. I wanted to share my daughter told me on her 5th birthday she wanted spaghetti & my homemade mashed potatoes. I thought “yuck”. The mashed potatoes were eaten by everyone, so you just never know.

  21. I love being creative in the kitchen but, when it comes to a party I usually stay with what I know…..So here’s my thought…..

    How about meatball and grilled cheese kabobs? Prepare a batch of your bacon cheeseburger meatballs and string them onto woooden skewers along with cut squares of grilled cheese sandwhiches. You can make the skewers blunt if deisred by cutting off the pointy, sharp ends. For some colour, add some cherry or grape tomatoes between the meatballs and grilled cheese.

    Hummus is certainly the classic idea that comes to mind when it comes to chickpeas (I’ve included the recipe we use in our house below) but, if you’d like a dish that allows you to keep the chickpeas whole than try the recipe below. You may want to adjust or omit some of the spices/cilantro particularly for a group of kids but, it’s tasty just as is or, serve it over rice or with Nann bread.

    Also, when someone’s suggests grilled cheese in our house, I automatically think of tomato and bean with bacon soup. It’s a wonderful combination. Usually we use pinto beans when making this soup but, I imagine that the addition of some chickpeas would not drastically change the taste and would be delicious too.

    Spiced Chickpeas
    (Submitted by Saylor McLennan)

    A staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, the chickpea (also known as a Garbanzo Bean) is an edible legume that is high in protein and dietary fibre. A fundamental ingredient in many dishes including hummus and falafels, the chickpea is also a principal ingredient in many East Indian curry recipes. This spiced up version can be served over rice (Basmati rice is customary but, just about any type of rice will do) or, it can be served as a compliment to pita or naan bread.

    2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    2 Finely Minced Cloves of Garlic
    1/2 Cup Finely Diced Onion
    1 Tbsp. Ground Coriander
    1 Tbsp. Ground Cumin
    1 Tsp. Turmeric
    1 Can (796 ml) Diced Tomatoes (Lightly Drained)
    1 Can (540 ml) Drained and Rinsed Chickpeas (a.k.a. Garbanzo Beans)
    1/4 Cup Lightly Packed Fresh Cilantro Leaves (Coarsely Chopped)

    Heat the oil, garlic, and onion in a saucepan, over medium heat. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in coriander, cumin, turmeric and salt (to taste). Cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).

    Add tomatoes and continue to cook on medium heat; stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Gently stir in chickpeas then cover and turn heat down allowing mixture to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes while continuing to stir occasionally.

    Serve over rice and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

    Add warmed pita or naan bread for a complete meal.

    Here is the recipe we use for Hummus…..

    (Submitted by Saylor McLennan)

    Another lovely appetizing dip or spread for when you’re in a Mediterranean kind of mood! Serve with pita, naan bread, fresh raw vetables, falafel, tortilla chips or crackers.

    1 1/2 Cups Raw or 2 19 oz. Cans Chickpeas (a.k.a. Garbanzo Beans)
    3 to 5 Finely Minced Cloves of Garlic
    1 1/2 Tsp. Salt
    1/8 Tsp. Tamari
    Juice of 2 Medium Lemons
    3/4 to 1 Cup Tahini
    1/4 Cup (Packed) Finely Minced Parsley (Optional)
    Dash Cayenne Pepper
    1/4 Cup Minced Scallions

    If preparing chickpeas from their dried state, follow the instructions at the end of this recipe. Canned chickpeas simply need to be drained and rinsed.
    Mash chickpeas to a thick paste using a food mill, grinder or potato masher.

    Combine remaining ingredients with chickpeas in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly.

    Adjust seasoning to desired taste. Some people prefer extra garlic, tamari or tahini.

    Preparing Raw Chickpeas: Spread chickpeas on a lightly coloured plate or countertop. Check for, and remove, small stones, debris or damaged beans. Then place them in a strainer, and rinse thoroughly under cool running water.
    To shorten their cooking time and make them easier to digest, garbanzo beans should be pre-soaked. There are two basic methods for pre-soaking. For each you should start by placing the beans in a saucepan and adding two to three cups of water for every cup of beans.

    The first method is to boil the beans for just two minutes. Take saucepan off of heat, then cover and allow chickpeas to stand for two hours. The alternative method is to simply soak the garbanzos in water for eight hours or overnight. Place saucepan in the refrigerator so that they will not ferment. Before cooking the chickpeas, regardless of method, skim off the any skins that have floated to the surface, drain the soaking liquid, and then rinse thoroughly with clean water.
    To cook the chickpeas, add three cups of fresh water or broth for each cup of dried garbanzo beans. The liquid should be about one to two inches above the top of the legumes. Bring them to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer, partially covering the pot. If any foam develops, skim it off during the simmering process. Garbanzo beans generally take about one to one and one-half hours to become tender.

  22. What about grilled cheese and meatball kabobs? Make the grilled cheese and cut into lil’ squares, make the meatball as you normally would and then alternate them with grape tomatoes, and chunks of cheese on the skewers! As for the chickpeas…roast them or make a pasta salad with chickpeas in it. Hope you figure something out!

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