Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chinese New Year

One of the great thing about Chinese New Year is that though the date changes, there are celebrations that last a couple weeks, so I had a good window of time to find a day that didn't have gymnastics, dance, or basketball. My goal is to create simple family memories at the dinner table, so this isn't too elaborate.

I set the basement coffee table at 3:30 p.m. so I'd be free for homework and dinner preparations. Since we were sitting on the floor, the basement carpet is the only carpet I don't mind spilling on. The Siamese cat on the table isn't decoration, she is my Pywackit. I hung some paper decorations I bought at the local Asian market for $1.95 around the walls.

At 4:30, I started the rice in the rice cooker, and made the chicken. At 5:30 I stir-fried the vegetables, made Egg Drop Soup and sliced the oranges. When there was a lull, I downloaded the Chinese Zodiac and piled picture books and Chinese party poppers under the table.

We had some fun attire we purchased at an Asian import store years ago, so I invited the children to try them on.

The Egg Drop Soup was the biggest hit. Even my 4 year old drank her entire bowl. I'm not sure if it was the fun spoon or if it really tasted great. The fun really started when the kids took to the chop sticks. One ran to her room in frustration, then came back to master the sticks. The others refused forks and had a ball. While we ate, we found every one's animal on the zodiac. Before going back for seconds, my husband read The Empty Pot by Demi. Then those of us that could read passed around The Little Book of Chinese Proverbs and enjoyed the wisdom. My children all chanted to me, "Your kindness is engraved on my bones. " (traditional expression for "thanks a lot"). We giggled and giggled. We finished by having the youngest serve the lucky orange slices starting with the oldest, wishing us a prosperous and happy new year.

While cleaning, I found the party poppers still under the table, but the evening was a success anyway.

Red Sweet and Sours
4 chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 egg, beaten
Dash garlic powder
Season beaten egg with garlic powder. Dip chicken in egg, then cornstarch. Fry until golden brown. Prepare sauce.

1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. vinegar
1/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. water
1 T. soy sauce
Dash salt
Combine sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour sauce over fried chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-40 minutes. Turn over every 15 minutes. It is done when there is not much sauce left in the bottom of the pan.
Note: 30 minutes was plenty in my oven.

Egg Drop Soup: From my clever friend Rebecca
5 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 T sherry (opt.)
1 sm. piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 lg. eggs, lightly beaten
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil (or to taste)

Bring stock, soy sauce, sherry (optional), ginger and garlic to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Remove ginger and garlic with a slotted spoon and discard. Simmer uncovered about 5 minutes. Stirring in a circular motion, slowly add eggs. Simmer undisturbed until strands of egg are cooked, about 1 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in scallions and sesame oil to taste. Makes 4 servings.

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