New Years

“Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year… Rice for riches and peas for peace.” – Old Southern saying for New Year’s Menu

newyearsfood.jpgCollard greens, black eyed peas, cornbread and pork are the foodstuffs of the South, rich in legend, lore, and superstition. Money or not, every Southern family I know dines on these same vittles for their New Year’s supper. Not too poor of eating if I say so myself.

According to this Farmer, the New Year’s Day menu is a Southern supper at its finest. Steeped in tradition, flavored with history, and doused with a touch of superstition, this meal encompasses the South’s ebb and flow of classicism and eccentricity–a meal of our heritage. Here in America’s Deep South, the cultures of Europe, Africa and the Native Americans combine with their respected refinements and sentimentalities making this meal fit to usher in a new year.

Growing up in rural Middle Georgia, we knew our food’s legacy before it arrived on our tables. This Farm to Table movement of late has always been the custom for those of us raised in a more bucolic fashion. We know our farmers and growers. In his blessings before a meal, my brother-in-law’s father always gives thanks for “not only the hands that prepared the food but grew it as well...” whereas our New Year’s meal is of no exception.

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porkdumplingsI love the custom of Chinese dim sum because it brings friends and family together at the table. This style of food is enjoyed with small plates, which allows the diner the opportunity to enjoy many different dishes in small quantities. For me it's a way to find a favorite and stick with it. In every Chinatown in the United States you would be hard pressed not to find a restaurant offering dim sum or what I like to call Chinese brunch. I remember my first time at a dim sum place in New York with a group of Asian friends. I was lucky to have help in deciphering the menus and communicating with the waitresses, who brought out the food on trolleys and took orders by stamping slips of paper. It's truly an experience that transports the nonnative eater to China.

It's been many years since I've had good traditional dim sum and my longing for dumplings has increasingly grown since. With the arrival of Chinese New Year, there is no better reason to make my dim sum favorite, shu mai, at home. These dumplings are typically made of shrimp and pork, but they can also be made of pork and mushroom, and even mutton, depending on the regional cuisine. No matter the filling, shu mai always retain a characteristic look: they sort of resemble little volcanoes with filling erupting from their tops. They only need limited skill to form the shape and the best shortcut of all is using wonton wrappers instead of making the dough. It takes just minutes to bring together this easy dim sum, which also makes a fun party appetizer.

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bloodorangemartini.jpgI'm not a big drinker, but I do love an occasional vodkatini, the Cosmopolitan being the prototype. A vodkatini is a cocktail made with vodka served "up" (without ice). It often includes vermouth, liquers, fruit juices, and fresh fruit.

Since it's peak blood orange season here in California, I was inspired to create my own cocktail, which I have named a "Blood Orange Vodkatini." The name "Blood Orange Vodkatini" may be more cosmopolitan than a Cosmopolitan.

Blood oranges are stunning. Peel back their orange and red speckled rind, and you'll discover a brilliant crimson flesh that is pleasingly sweet and tart. In this Blood Orange Vodkatini, the tangy blood orange juice is balanced by the sweeter Grand Marnier, creating a bright, smooth, and refreshing cocktail.

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LuckyPulledPorkBlackPeasNachosHappy almost New Year’s everyone! It’s so hard to believe this year has come to an end. I have a slew of wonderful memories.

I love New Year’s Eve, it’s full of promise and hope for a better year. A year filled with health, organization, great food and more balance in life. We’ll see how I do.

How many of you start the New Year with food known for good luck? I am not a superstitious person, but everyone could use a little good juju…right? Lots of different foods are considered lucky on this day as they symbolize the eater’s hopes and dreams for the coming months and years.

Pork is considered a symbol of “progress” by many countries. A pig’s feeding habits cause them to “root forward” with their snouts, never looking back. Pigs are also…rotund, a sign of prosperity in many places around the world. Enjoy your pork in any form you choose and then buy a power ball ticket?! Why not.

I’ve also added (lucky) black-eyed peas to these nachos due to their resemblance of coins, a symbol of abundance. (Go get on a slot machine I suppose). Cornbread is also considered lucky, but instead I’ve added just the corn itself, emblematic of golden nuggets. I know.

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potato crispyny2011 2New Years Eve is upon us. Before kids, the hubs and I would pick a great restaurant, go out with friends, drink too much, and spend way too much money. After several years of that, we switched to cooking an amazing meal at home, made great cocktails, invited friends, and played board games until dawn.

Then we started a family. When Eli was young, we grabbed my parents and made 6p.m. reservations at The Palm. Came home, put on our sweats, and played games. We now bring in the New Year with friends, great food, cocktails, and lots of board games. The kids like to stay up until 12 (I rarely make it) and the evening usually ends with someone else’s kid sleeping here, and one of ours sleeping elsewhere.

This year we are having cocktails with friends. A light snack of cripsy potato skins and a simple “French Blonde Cocktail” to start off the evening. After that, a huge Tripoli match is on tap along with chocolate lava cakes. Let’s just hope I make it until 9p.m. That way I can at least bring in the New Year, east coast time!

Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for filling my year with blessings and gratitude.

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