Resolved & Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower

veggies_03Alright then, here we are in 2016. The last twelve months just flew by. The dawning of the new year means it is time to come up with some resolutions. Decisions, decisions, to resolve or not resolve. Such dilemmas! Okay, let’s take a stab at it. Here goes:

Thankfully, there’s a whole slew of bad or silly habits that I’ve managed to avoid. That means I don’t need to give up twerking, fast food or smoking.

Plus, I already live a pretty healthy life. I could pledge to eat my vegetables, walk every day, drink more water and practice yoga. But I already do those things, so I don’t think they’d count as 2016 resolutions.

Lucky for me, the medical community goes back and forth on coffee and wine. I won’t give up either but continue to drink the two in moderation. What’s moderation? Well, I’m decidedly independent, so I guess that’s for me to decide.

As a decidedly independent type, I can’t promise to become more fashionable. Although I’m not exactly stuck in a time warp, I discovered my own personal style several years ago. While, they may move at glacial speed, my fashion preferences have evolved. My jeans have gotten skinnier but I don’t think I will ever give up turtlenecks, Bermuda shorts or the little black dress. You might find my look dull, even boring. I think of it as classic and it suits me.

The latest and greatest new phone is not on my list of must-haves so I can cross – stop texting while driving – off the list of potential resolutions. Okay, I admit my friends’ shiny gadgets generate sporadic twinges of phone envy. It’s not that I’m a Luddite. Truly, I’m not. Of course, I own a cell phone and, yes, it works. I even remember to charge it a few times a year. But hey, I work from home. I’m nothing if not easy to find.

While I have little interest in a new phone, I am intrigued to meet new people, learn new things and acquire new skills. That said, unless someone sends me a fact-a-day calendar as a belated Christmas gift, I can’t promise to learn something new every day. Nor can I promise to meet 366 (it’s a leap year) people in 2016. Remember, I work from home and live in a small town. My little life is not teaming with strangers. Then again, I could always introduce myself to random tourists in the supermarket. Somehow, I don’t think I will.

Many might be shocked to learn that I don’t keep a journal. Don’t all writers keep journals or morning papers? Perhaps that one should go on my list of resolutions. Well, I tried it once. I had just moved to Switzerland and figured it would be a good idea to chronicle my adventures. I even had a clever name for the journal – Notes from a-Broad. I kept it up for two maybe three months. Even with a new country, new job, new friends and a fair amount of travel my day-to-day musings were not that interesting. I prefer to let my thoughts and memories steep and age a bit before putting them to paper.

So, don’t expect me to get a tattoo, take up the saxophone or switch to green tea. Instead, I’ll side with the popular choice for once and take up the number one resolution for 2016. What is it? Enjoy life to the fullest. After all, 45.7 per cent of Americans can’t be wrong; can they?

Happy New Year and bon appétit!

Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower
Along with greens and grapes, lentils are one of the lucky foods popular at New Year. Main event or side dish, lentils are a delicious and healthy way to start 2016. Enjoy!
Serves 6

veggies_032 cups red or brown lentils
Vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard seed
3-4 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Roasted Cauliflower (recipe follows)
Garnish: roughly chopped cilantro leaves

Pick through the lentils and remove any stones. Rinse well with cold water and drain.

Heat a little oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and carrot and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, jalapeno and spices and sauté for 2-3 minutes more. Add the lentils and enough stock or water to cover by 1-2 inches and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. You may need to add more stock or water. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the roasted cauliflower to the lentils, toss to combine and serve immediately garnished with chopped cilantro.

Enjoy lentils as a main dish on Meatless Mondays with basmati rice and sautéed greens or as a side dish at your next Indian inspired dinner.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with just enough oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with turmeric, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer and roast, stirring once or twice, until browned and tender, 20-25 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Spiced Chai
Two Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Three Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Fourhree Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Fiveour Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Seven Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

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Holiday Special – New Year’s Eve

New YearsRomantic dinner, an open house with a cast of thousands or binge-watching Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey and a bowl of popcorn … how will you spend New Year’s Eve?

In or out, big or small, potluck or the entire meal, I’m happy offer a few suggestions. Whether you need every dish from start to finish, something for that pot luck or a tasty gift for your host; let’s get started!

Want something a little special to nibble before dinner? Everyone likes scrimp and they’ll love my Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli. Or give my Zucchini Pancakes with a dab of Tapenade or Spanakopita Triangles a try. Hmm, how about crostini? I can recommend Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction or maybe you’d prefer my Mushroom Crostini with Pancetta & Fontina.

How about a salad? Try my Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad, Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad or Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad . Any and all will be delicious and look beautiful on a buffet table.

When it come to the main course, are you thinking comfy and casual for New Year’s Eve? For a big crowd, you can’t beat chili. How about … Chili Con Carne , Winter Vegetable Chili or Chicken Chili?

Perhaps you’d prefer something a bit more elegant? Instead of mugs of chili by the fireplace, gather round the table. How about Pork Tenderloin with White Wine and Mushroom Sauce and a Cheesy GratinCreole Shrimp with Cheesy Grits or Seared Salmon with Lentils and Spinach? (If you are superstitious, lentils are good luck and a favorite for New Year’s festivities.)

For dessert … If you are on a cozy track, how about a warm and wonderful Apple Crisp, a fiery Bananas Foster or a comfy Cranberry Clafoutis.

For a more elegant sweet, try my Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème, Ginger Crème Brûlée or a decadent Triple Chocolate Parfait.

And if you need a gift to bring along for your hosts? After a busy day preparing for a party, they will love a lazy morning. Bring one of my Cranberry Coffee Cake along to enjoy on New Year’s morning.

Have a Happy New Year celebration with family and friends and bon appétit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

How will you celebrate the New Year? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2015

No Excuses & Spiced Chai

no_excusesIf it’s the New Year, it’s time to make resolutions. Maybe it’s those few extra pounds you packed on during the rainy days of December. Or the undeniable fact that you haven’t done a lick of exercise since Memorial Day. Or you still have half a dozen boxes waiting to be unpacked in the garage. And oh, you moved to New Hampshire in 1997. Or, or, or …

Perhaps 2015 should be the year of no excuses. You don’t have to tackle the whole world or even your little piece of it. Just choose three things. Heck, take it down to one thing for that matter. Then, make a plan and make the time.

The difficulty with New Year’s resolutions is that they are, for the most part, all about deprivation. And perhaps more important, draconian in scale. After all those lovely holiday sweets and treats, we vow to spend the month of January subsisting on water and celery sticks. We promise ourselves that we’ll get up at five to run five miles before breakfast. We swear to spend every weekend from now until eternity, cleaning out closets, emptying boxes and taking trip after trip to the dump.

What’s the fun in that? Is it any wonder that less than half of us succeed in keeping our resolve?

So here’s the deal. If you want to tackle your resolution without excuses, you need to figure out what works for you. This winter and well into the future.

Neither man nor woman can live on celery alone but you can probably exist without that fancy coffee drink you indulge in every afternoon. Swap it out for a brisk walk around the block or a set of jumping jacks followed by a few deep breaths and a lovely cup of tea. If your undoing is that heavenly dish of gelato after dinner, stop buying it and change your after-dinner ritual. Do a crossword puzzle or learn to knit. You might be surprised at how easy it is to make one small change and, more important, what one small change can bring – a healthier, slimmer you.

Now ask yourself, will you really hit the icy streets when it is still dark and the mercury is hovering around zero? If not add a lunchtime or end of day Zumba class to your schedule. You’ll dance, laugh and maybe make a new friend or two. Or try a spin class or drumming. Choose an exercise routine you’ll love and you’ll be hooked for life – and a fitter life at that.

What about those old boxes in the garage? If you haven’t needed, let alone wanted, the contents in five, ten or a lot more years, you probably won’t need or want them … ever. Donate them. Find a rummage sale, a jumble or yard sale and hand them over. Don’t bother open them; just drop them off. Ignore that nagging feeling, the worry that there might be something important inside at least one of those boxes. Just stop by the sale as soon as it opens. Give a look around and buy back that almost forgotten treasure. The price will be small compared to the hours of unpacking and sorting you saved. Moreover, the nonprofit who received your boxes will be more than grateful for the money you helped them raise.

So, let 2015 be the year of no excuses. Think small when you make your resolutions. Think realistic when you set those goals. Think creative when it comes to solving a problem.

Have a wonderful 2015 and bon appétit!

Spiced Chai
mugThe spices and tea will give you a lift and that little bit of protein from the milk will keep you going for the rest of the afternoon. Enjoy!
Serves 2-3

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups water
4 teaspoons loose black tea (or 4 tea bags)
About 1/3 cup nonfat milk per cup
Brown sugar or honey to taste

Put the cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice, pepper, cloves and salt in a small saucepan, stir in the water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. (You can do jumping jacks, stretches or sit-ups while the spices brew if you like.)

Return the pot to the stove and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the tea, cover and steep for 3 minutes.

While the tea brews, heat the milk to steaming on the stove or in the microwave.

Strain the chai through a fine mesh sieve into mugs and discard the tealeaves and spices. Add hot milk and sugar or honey to taste to each mug.Spiced_Chai_04

A similar sized Caramel Brûlée Latte at a well-known coffee shop will set you back about 370 calories. Keep it to a teaspoon of sugar or honey and this tasty chai can be enjoyed for about 50 calories. If all you do is switch out that afternoon latte for this chai every day, you could lose about thirty pounds in 2015.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Two Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Three Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Four Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Five Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Six Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? What’ are your smart strategies to keep them? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Fourteen Things to Do in 2014 & Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

14_in_2014_01While many people turn to resolutions at the start of a new year, others are taking stock of their bucket list. Some of these buckets are so full that I for one wonder what the heck they’ve been doing for the last ten or twenty or more years. How about you? Are you starting to think that hiking Kilimanjaro or swimming with dolphins is more pipedream than possibility?

Maybe it’s time to take a second or third look at that bucket list. If you need to win the lottery to accomplish your goals, it’s probably time to reconsider. (Especially if you don’t buy lottery tickets; even when the jackpot is over $600 million!) So how about a simple list of fourteen things to do in 2014? And then do them. I’m still working on my fourteen for fourteen but here are a few ideas:

1. Learn something new. Take a course or design your own self-study with a pile of library books.

2. Find a new favorite author. Read reviews, ask friends, family and strangers for recommendations or pick a book by its (gorgeous) (racy) (intriguing) (sophisticated) (you get the picture) cover.

3. Change your look with a pair of brightly colored socks or a new shade of lipstick.

4. Cut your hair or grow a beard. Afraid of the scissors; change your hair color or go back to natural, find a new style or wear a great hat.

5. Get a tattoo?!? Show it to friends or keep it a secret.

6. Dive in and do something that intimidates you. Write a letter to the editor. Send the letter. Hang glide. Go to a party alone. Make a soufflé, Beef Wellington or Baked Alaska from scratch. Wear bright red lipstick or florescent pink socks, out, in public. Talk to a stranger. (A nice compliment is a good way to start.)

7. Every day for a week, get up in time to see the sunrise and go for a long walk.

8. Whether it is a walk-in closet or a tiny cupboard, clean your pantry. Think of the delicious treasures you’ll find. Dried cherries? Israeli couscous? Black beans? Anchovies, Kalamata olives or capers? Whip up a few great dishes with your finds.

9. Slap a new coat of paint on your living room or bedroom walls. Or both.

10. Think positive. When it’s too cold or too rainy to go out, spend the day reading your new favorite author. If you look for the silver lining, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find it.

11. Make a new friend.

12. Celebrate the small wins. When your favorite song comes on the radio, sing at the top of your lungs. When someone holds the elevator for you, thank him with a beaming smile. When you’re running late and every light is green; join the radio in joyful song.

13. Be thankful … for new friends, old friends, strangers who hold elevators, favorite songs, and, and, and …

14. Be happy; maybe not every minute of every day but most of the time.

I wish everyone a wonderful 2014 and bon appétit!

Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
When the weather turns cold or rainy, a mug of soup will warm you to the core. Enjoy!
Serves 8sweet_potato_soup_02

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 carrots, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon or to taste minced chipotle chiles in adobo
1/2 cup dry sherry (optional)
6-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
Garnish: sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro or cilantro oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan, sprinkle with cumin, thyme, salt and pepper and drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat. Toss to combine and roast for 45 minutes.

Add the garlic, chipotle and sherry to the pan and toss to combine. Return to the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Let the vegetables cool for about 15 minutes. Working in batches, puree the vegetables with a little broth in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Put the vegetable puree in a large soup pot. Add the bay leaf and whisk in more or less broth for a thicker or thinner soup. Reheat on the stovetop on medium and simmer for on low for 15 minutes.

If you have the time, the soup is best if cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated for several hours. Reheat on medium-low until piping hot.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, stir in a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle with cheddar and cilantro or drizzle with cilantro oil and serve.

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One Year Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnutst
Two Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Three Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Four Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Five Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do your have 14 for 14? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Welcome 2014 & Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad

2014_resolutionsYikes, where did the time go? The days and weeks from mid-November through the end of December were a marathon of decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, wining and dining. And just when we’re ready for a well-deserved break, we are bombarded with the question, “What are your New Year‘s Resolutions?” The first week of January is not a time to make lists and plans; it is a time to flop down into a comfy chair and let out a big pheeewww.

We can blame it on the Romans. Somewhere around 150 BC, the Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of new beginnings and transitions. While it would be unfair to call him two-faced, Janus did have two faces. One looks back into the past and the other looks forward to the future. Janus became the Romans’ symbol for resolutions and change.

Whether we want to or not, when the New Year rolls around, many of us start to reflect on the past and consider our prospects for the future. Blame it on the howling winds and snow that drive us indoors. We cozy up to the fire with a cup of tea but, instead of reading a good book, we dream up ways to improve ourselves. We can’t help it; it’s that time of year.

In spite of good intentions, those resolutions are broken more often than not. By the time the ground hog pops out of his den, most of us have given up on our promises and returned to old habits. But why the big failure rates?

Many, may be even most, New Year’s resolutions are made on the fly. After a six-week binge of holiday parties, we resolve to change the first bad habit that pops into our head on New Year’s Day. But before you go out and invest in a juicer and a case of kale or a set of free weights, consider your priorities. From there you can determine your goal for 2014 and the best ways to achieve it.

Too many resolutions are linked to deprivation. Operative words include stop, quit, lose and give up. Think positive, focus on the end results and actions to achieve that result. If you’d like to be ten pounds lighter, don’t resolve to lose weight. It’s not only negative; it’s vague. Instead, explore ways to reach your end goal, like dance every day for thirty minutes. The exercise will help you shed the pounds and you’ll have fun doing it.

If you need to save money, forgo restaurants and take-out in favor of a family fun night. Make homemade pizza or Chinese food and play games or watch movies together. Or swap recreational shopping for a game of soccer with your kids or a walk with your favorite neighbor. In other words, adopt a new positive habit to achieve your goal.

Don’t let one slip-up take you down. Most smokers quit four, five or more times before they finally become smoke-free. Learn from your setback and develop a new and improved plan for success. Wishful thinking and pure, dumb luck will not achieve your goal. Commitment and a plan will.

If you haven’t set a new goal for 2014, you still have lots of time. It may be the world’s oldest holiday but, around the globe, New Year’s is celebrated at different times. It was first observed about 4,000 years ago on March 23rd in ancient Babylon. The New Year falls on January 14th if you follow the eastern orthodox calendar and at the end of the month in China. Or wait until September and celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew New Year. The dates may vary but throughout the world the New Year is a time to celebrate a new beginning.

I wish you happiness and success in 2014 and bon appétit!

Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Roasted cauliflower and bitter greens come together for a great winter salad. Enjoy!
Serves 8

cauliflower_arugula_radicchio_011 head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower, cut into 1-2 inch florets
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sherry vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 2 tablespoons capers
About 1/2 cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives
1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 head radicchio (about 8 ounces), cut into thin strips
About 6 ounces arugula
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
About 4 ounces Pecorino Romano, shaved or grated

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the cauliflower with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and spread in a single layer in a roasting pan. Tossing once or twice, roast at 425 degrees until browned and tender, 30 minutes. Cool in the pan. When the cauliflower has cooled, add the capers and olives and toss to combine.

cauliflower_arugula_radicchio_02Meanwhile, put about 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar in a large bowl with the shallot and garlic, season with salt and pepper and whisk until well-combined.

When ready to serve, add the radicchio, arugula and parsley to the bowl and toss to combine. Transfer the salad to a large platter or individual plates, arrange the cauliflower mixture on top of the greens and sprinkle with Pecorino Romano.

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One Year Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Two Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Three Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Four Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Five Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Holiday Special – New Year’s Eve

New YearsAre you hosting a dinner or heading out to a potluck this New Year’s Eve? Whether you need an hors d’oeuvre or a batch of brownies to bring along or a soup-to-nuts dinner, here are a few ideas!

Want something a little special to nibble before dinner? How about my Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli, Chicken Liver Pâté, Tapenade with raw veggies and artisanal crackers or Spanakopita Triangles. Mini cups of soup would be tasty on a cold night, try my Soupe de Poisson Provençal. Unless you’d prefer Wild Mushroom Soup.

How about a salad? Roasted fruit or vegetables are great in winter salads. Try my Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes, Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad or Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash. Any and all will be delicious and look beautiful on a buffet table.

Are you thinking comfy and casual for New Year’s Eve? For a big crowd, Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with or without Spinach is delicious and a favorite of kids as well as adults. For something a little different, try my Butternut Squash Lasagna.

Maybe you’d like something that can make in advance and then reheat while everyone sips a glass of wine and reconnects. The possibilities may be endless but how about Braised Beef Bourguignon, Braised Lamb with Artichokes & Mushrooms, Sort’a Like Jambalaya or Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives & Preserved Lemon.

The beef, lamb and jambalaya will be delicious with Creamy Polenta. Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts will be great with the Moroccan Chicken.

For dessert … Something festive would be nice like Lemon Cheesecake. If you’re looking for something rich and chocolaty, you’ll love my Death by Chocolate Cake or luscious Triple Chocolate Parfait.

Have a Happy New Year celebration with family and friends and bon appétit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What about you? What are cooking New Year’s Eve? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2013

Year of the Snake & Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles

I send you all best wishes for an auspicious New Year of the Snake. Yes, in case you missed the memo, the Chinese New Year celebrations begin this coming Sunday. The Chinese or Lunar New Year starts with the first new moon of the ancient Chinese calendar and the celebrations continue until the moon is full. The holiday does more than mark the arrival of the new lunar year; it celebrates luck, happiness and prosperity. This year’s lunar celebration is a welcome relief. With all the cold and dreary weather we have been having, any excuse to celebrate is a good one.

fireworks_Pleasant_Lake_2012_05According to Chinese custom, the New Year calls for a new look and a clean sweep. Tradition demands that we welcome the New Year with new clothes. If you are a shopaholic, feel free to shop ‘till you drop. In the days leading up to the new moon, Chinese families are also busy with mops and brooms. House and hearth are given a good going-over to sweep away any bad luck and clear the way for a bright future. Windows and doors are thrown open to welcome the New Year and the luck it brings. It’s pretty chilly in New Hampshire in February so I think I’ll keep my windows closed.

With clean houses and a great new look, the Chinese celebrate for fifteen fun-packed days. There are dinners with family and friends, special services to honor ancestors, gifts, parades and fireworks. Through western eyes it may look a bit like Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Christmas, Mardi Gras and the 4th of July all rolled into one.

Many of today’s Lunar New Year traditions developed in ancient China. According to legend, a Nian comes out of the mountains during the winter to hunt for humans. Fortunately, the ancients discovered that this man-eating beast is sensitive to loud noises and the color red. To keep the Nian at bay, the celebrations are packed with noisy fireworks, drums and cymbals and red is everyone’s go-to color.

Unlike western New Year celebrations, gifts are a big part of the festivitiesand children traditionally receive red packets of money. Amounts are carefully chosen since certain numbers reflect good luck and honor. Even numbers are generally considered lucky, but beginners beware. Eight is very lucky but four is associated with death and funerals.

But the most important gift of the Lunar New Year is time spent with family and friends. Special holiday dinners with dishes symbolizing wealth, happiness and good fortune are shared. Whether you decide to throw a big party or meet a few friends at your favorite Chinese restaurant, put on your finest red sweater and gather around the table for a festive meal. Have a wonderful celebration and,

Bon appétit!

Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles
lettuce_cups_shrimp_noodles_04A great choice for a New Year celebration! Lettuce symbolizes prosperity, shrimp signifies happiness and good fortune, noodles represent long life and water chestnuts denote unity. Happy New Year!
Serves 8 as a main course or 12 or more as an appetizer

About 2 1/2 pounds shrimp
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced peeled ginger
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno pepper
Juice of 1 lime
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced water chestnuts
Romaine leaves

Prepare the noodles (recipe follows) and set aside.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper.

Put the rice wine in a bowl, whisk in the hoisin sauce, honey and soy sauce. Whisk until smooth and well combined.

Heat a little oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno, and stir-fry for 15-30 seconds. Add the shrimp and stir-fry about 2 minutes. Add the hoisin mixture and toss to combine and cook 1-2 minutes more or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Remove from the heat, drizzle with lime juice, sprinkle with water chestnuts and scallions and toss.lettuce_cups_shrimp_noodles_05

Set out platters of romaine leaves, shrimp and noodles and let everyone assemble their own lettuce cups. To assemble: place a small mound of noodles on a romaine leaf and top with shrimp and water chestnuts. Roll up the lettuce leaf and enjoy.

Chinese Noodles
About 4 ounces vermicelli rice noodles
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the vermicelli in a bowl, cover with hot water and soak for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain well.

While the noodles soak, put the oil, vinegar, soy, fish and hoisin sauces and sesame oil in a bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste and whisk to combine. Add the drained noodles and toss to combine.

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One Year Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Two Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon
Three Years Ago – Chocolate Mousse
Four Years Ago – Shrimp & Feta
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate the Lunar New Year? Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013