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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

A Delicious and Healthy Holiday Dinner

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The holidays might be my favorite time of year.

It’s such a warm and comforting time: you get to catch up with old friends, spend time with family and of course, eat amazing food. I honestly feel like I’ve been eating continuously since Thanksgiving, because the holiday cakes, cookies, and dinners are never-ending!

Usually on Christmas, we’re either traveling (like our trip last year to New Zealand), or it’s a very low key dinner at my dad’s house with my dad, brother and husband.

But this year, one of my longtime family friends had a Christmas party, and had us over for dinner. You might be wondering, what’s a “family friend”? In South Asian culture, it’s pretty common: it’s basically people who you’ve known your whole life and are like family, but aren’t actually related to you by blood.

When my parents came here from India in 1978, it was just the two of them. All of their family was still back in India. So when they started making friends with other couples and families in similar situations, they ended up with this close-knit network of family friends who became like their “surrogate family” in the Bay Area, outside of their immediate family in India.

I grew up with these families, they’ve all known me since before I was born. And I’m especially close to this particular family whose house we went to on Christmas. The mom, Smeeta, is an awesome cook. Her Thanksgiving Apple Pies are … wait for it…. legendary.

And her Christmas dinner did not disappoint.

The spread was incredible!

Salads and stews and casseroles oh my!

This might be the healthiest, most delicious Christmas dinner I’ve ever had. It was 100% vegetarian too.

On the menu was: Roasted cauliflower and roasted vegetables with spices

A potato and broccoli casserole

This recipe is super easy:

  • 4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garam masala and 1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) red chili powder
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray
  2. Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with the onion slices, 1/2 the broccoli, and add the remaining potatoes & broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt, and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture has thickened. Stir in cheese all at once, and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour cheese over the potato mixture, top with garam masala & chili powder, and cover the dish with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake 1 1/2 hours.

We also had Indian pulao – which is rice mixed with spices and vegetables

Chole – which is basically an Indian Chickpea Stew

A spinach, paneer and corn dish with cilantro

There was also quinoa stuffed peppers, salad, and rotis. I just loved how there were tons of vegetables, a good balance of protein and healthy grains, and just the right amount of fat (e.g. olive oil to roast the veggies, nothing excessive, etc.)  in the meal.

I could have eaten for days. I honestly wished I had more room in my stomach so I could have kept eating, but I had to save room for dessert!

Yes, three cakes.

Red velvet with cream cheese frosting, “tiramisu,” and a rum bundt cake. 

So delicious I can’t even begin to describe it. Mouth-watering-ly delicious.

And totally fine in moderation (or in indulgence) once in a while.

I had a small piece of each – I love making a little dessert tasting plate of my own with a few small bites. It’s super satisfying and then I don’t have to pick which cake to eat.

By the end of dinner, we were all in a food coma. Smeeta’s husband and my husband proceeded to trade notes on movies they’ve seen and enjoyed (they’re both film-o-files)., and the rest of us just hung out and talked.

I started letting my mind wander about how lucky I felt to have such amazing people in my life. Smeeta and her family are like a second family to me. I was her daughter’s first visitor when she was born (she was 0 years old, I was 4). All of us (me, her two daughters and my brother) grew up together and are still friends today. Her mom and my mom used to go on walks all the time when my mom was alive. When my mom passed away almost 8 years ago, Smeeta was one of the people I could count on to help fill that void.

After I got engaged, I was heartbroken because my mom wouldn’t be there to help me plan my wedding, go shopping with me, and be there for this milestone – but Smeeta was there in a heartbeat. She was so involved and helpful that I never felt alone despite my mom’s absence. Every time I was overwhelmed, she fixed the situation. She took me dress shopping. She gave me wedding advice. Her and her daughters were with me every step of the way.

She is a friend, a confidant, silly and zany, young at heart, and one of those rare people who just make things better by being around.

The holidays always make me reflective and nostalgic.

I hope all of you had a great Christmas and were able to spend it with your loved ones like we were.

Happy holidays everyone!


11 responses to “A Delicious and Healthy Holiday Dinner”

  1. I def got teary at the end there… It takes a lot to share something that personal with the world, so props to you Anjali! And all the food, especially the broccoli potato casserole, looks delish!

    • Thanks so much Shrina!! It’s because of wonderful readers like you that I can share so much of my personal life on my blog – it feels like we all have a little community here to share stories about life and food 🙂 Thank you again for the support, and it’s so nice to meet you through my blog!

    • Aw thank you so much! I was a little emotional writing it as well, the holidays make me so nostalgic and reflective!

    • Hehe – unfortunately I didn’t make the casserole, so I don’t have the recipe with me. But I just emailed Smeeta asking her for it – so as soon as I get it, I’ll post it!! Stay tuned! 🙂

      • Ok new update! The potato & broccoli casserole recipe is now included in this post! Hope you enjoy it!

    • Thanks! Yes the roasted veggies were one of my favorites – had a bit of cayenne and paprika sprinkled on them for an extra kick 🙂

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