Happy Blogaversary!!!

Happy New Year!!

As I reflect upon the past year, and particularly over the past few months, I am saddened to leave 2012 behind and yet glad to begin 2013.  In a way I was ready for this past year to end.  There are many reasons why but mostly I am looking forward to the many promises that the new year holds along with the many culinary adventures to be had.

2012 was full of fun & laughter shared alongside food & wine with family & friends.  I published my first post on this blog on January 12th one year ago.  Thus the title of this post.  I hope you have all enjoyed this journey with me so far and hope that you will continue to follow my adventures into the world of food.  I have had over 2,600 views along with a following on Facebook and I must say I am thrilled at the tremendous response I have had from you all.  Thank you!!

I wanted to send 2012 out with a bang and couldn’t quite decide on a topic since I have had so much wonderful food and wine over the holiday season.  As I sat to a New Year’s day dinner hosted by a friend, it came to me in a flash………celebrate all the awesome meals of the holiday season.  You may want to grab a glass of wine as you read this post and celebrate along.

Diwali (Hindu festival of lights)

Life became busier than normal 
immediately following Superstorm Sandy.  The Diwali holiday landed the week after power was restored and we tried to get life back to normal.  To celebrate I had planned a Diwali party at my house on November 17th with 40 guests.  Last year I had to cancel this event due to the aftermath of the freak Halloween snowstorm and I really hoped it would not be a repeat episode for 

Crostini w/ wild mushrooms & goat cheese

this one.  But power was restored just six days prior leaving me almost no time to plan for the party and yet determined to make it happen.  With the help of others I managed and the party was a great success and a fun time was had by all.  I typically serve finger food to make it easier for everyone to walk around and some items on the menu this year were Batata Wada, Shrimp with tamarind & chipotle sauce, Crostini w/ goat cheese & wild mushrooms, Paneer Methi Tikki, Warm Dates w/ Prosciutto, a smoked salmon platter, profiteroles and much much more.  With the help of family & friends and few items ordered from a restaurant to complement mine, we had a pretty nice spread if I do say so myself.  All of course washed down with wine, rum, vodka, scotch and other beverages of choice.

Party Prepping

The food and party were a big success and the evening ended up with Bollywood dancing lessons in my living room.  Not taught by me mind you.  I have decided to make it an annual event as I had so much fun decorating with rangolis (designs with colored sand) and diyas (lamps) throughout the house.  Many of the guests got into the spirit and wore Indian clothes which made the party more festive.

Our family Diwali dinner was hosted by my cousin in Long Island.  Over the years our family has grown and it’s so much fun to get together and celebrate and watch all the kids of today’s generation enjoy the festivities as much as I did when I was young.  My cousin had made a veritable feast of Butter Chicken, Spicy Shrimp, Undhiu (a Gujarathi mixed vegetable dish), and so much more.  My favorite of the evening was something called Haraa Bharaa Kebab which is made with spinach, peas, potatoes, chilies, spices and is absolutely delicious.  I got the recipe from my aunt and will be making them soon and will share with you all.  I couldn’t stop eating them.

Thanksgiving

The very next week was Thanksgiving.  For the past several years, my family has started a tradition of doing a destination Thanksgiving.  We rent a large home at a location within driving distance, set up meal menus for the weekend including the main Thanksgiving meal, assign everyone items to bring and food to make, and we spend four days bonding over food, music, board games, poker, karaoke, hiking and pool tournaments.  One year we even got in a bit of skiing.  It is an absolute blast.  This year the extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins could not join us so it was just our immediate family of 10 and we went to a lake community in the Poconos.

Idli Sambar

We typically cook a traditional dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, gravy and all the fixin’s.  One of my mother’s neighbors asked her what the traditional Thanksgiving meal in India is at which she, of course, started laughing while the neighbor stood there clueless as to the source of her laughter.  I am often amazed by the ignorance of so many but this was a funny one.  Well I suppose if the Canadians have a Thanksgiving day, the pilgrims and “Indians” must have made it to India.  As usual I digress. The rest of the weekend meals will range from take out Pizza to Idli Sambar (South Indian specialty).

This year’s activities included a lot of hiking.  We hiked various trails in Hickory Run State Park full of waterfalls, steep climbs and geocaches for the boys.  One of our favorites was the Boulder Field Trail.  It is a 3.5 mile trail which ends in a large field of boulders which one must then cross in order to get to the parking lot where we were picked up by the other half of our group which decided to turn back a mile into the hike.  Although the crossing seemed daunting at first, my son, sister-in-law and I made it across and even beat the pickup car to the other end.  I just remember being happy to have my Rangpur & tonic upon returning to our temporary home.



December (Yes, I’ve officially dubbed this a holiday)

One of my favorite things to do as the holidays begin is bake cookies.  There was a time when I would bake over one thousand cookies of different kinds to give away to family, friends, neighbors and clients.  I have significantly curbed this enthusiasm over the years and today have more realistic goals.  For this season I opted for Biscotti laced with Godiva, Madeleines (you may have read the post) and some fruitcake cookies which were delicious.


This year’s Christmas parties seemed to start immediately after Thanksgiving.  In addition there were milestone birthday parties thrown in.  My office holiday dinner took me to Zylo Steakhouse at the W in Hoboken.  A fun night with great wine and great food.  We chose a great Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany the filet served for dinner and a Pinot Noir for the salmon.  The very next night I found myself at Prana Lounge to celebrate a 40th birthday.  Drinks, dinner & dancing – how could one go wrong.  Two weeks later I was celebrating a friend’s 50th with braised short ribs and more great wine pulled from his cellar along with lots of other great food.

My family celebrates Christmas to some extent but we modify the schedule to suit everyone.  This year it was on the 22nd and my mother hosted with lamb curry, Tondlee (Ivy Gourd – refer to post on Thai poached chicken), chapatis & more.  I ate too much as I always do when my mother cooks and highlighted my evening with a glass of a rare 1980 Lagavulin Single Malt that my father received as a gift and I hide in a cabinet in his bar.  It makes me feel as if he’s there with us somehow.

Christmas Eve was spent with some good friends who invited me to spend it with them for the second year in a row.  After an amazing adventure into Chinese & Malaysian cuisine last year, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  What we got was a fun filled evening with great conversation, lots of laughs, good wine and a delicious dinner highlighted with individual portions of Beef Wellington.  Their annual tradition is to go walk around the neighborhood and see all the luminaries light the way for Santa Claus however this year we got something even more exciting as we watched the snowflakes come down to promise a white Christmas.



Christmas Day turned out to be somewhat of a culinary mystery to me.  My aunt and uncle hosted and the plans to get together were quite last minute.  I had no part in planning the menu (nothing like shunning responsibility in advance) and sometimes I’m glad for it.  The menu consisted of baked ziti, lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, chicken parmigiana, garlic bread.  I have never seen so much Italian food or tomato sauce in an Indian household.  Not to mention all the appetizers that came before dinner.  I’m fairly certain that it took me several days to get over my food coma.

My son & I spent the days between Christmas and New Year skiing in Vermont.  We were rewarded with three glorious days of fresh powder and took advantage of every bit of it.  One of my son’s favorite things to do and is a requirement after a hard day on the slopes is a stop at the Waffle Cabin.  These fluffy sweet concoctions are not the best in the world but oh do they taste awesome at 4pm as the lifts are closing and all you want to do is hit the hot tub that awaits across the bridge.


  












The year ended with our traditional early family dinner at Giorgio’s in South Orange.  It’s a BYOB with great service and homemade pasta. The food was very good and the kids particularly enjoyed the Nutella pizza.  New Year’s day rounded out the holiday festivities with a small dinner party hosted by a friend with veal rollatini wrapped in prosciutto, cheese & asparagus, roasted brussels sprouts, homemade tortellini, and creamy cauliflower & sweet potato soup.  A wonderful start to a new year!!!



And so we embrace 2013 reminiscing upon the good times of the past year and ready to make more memories in the new one.  Twelve pounds heavier now, I plan to spend some time at the gym in the upcoming weeks and focus on my generally healthy lifestyle.   Here’s to a new year that is filled with even more fun, food, family & friends!!!!

Swati



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