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Xin nian kuai le!

Chinese New Year falls on Friday, January 31st this year. We are having some new friends over for dinner to celebrate and will serve them some of our favorite Chinese entrees. These are tried and true recipes that are staples in our culinary repertoire. (see recipes below)

Moo Goo Gai Pan – this is usually a chicken dish (gai means chicken in mandarin), but we’ll be preparing it with pork this night, for variety. (We have done this before and it’s wonderful.) We omit the mushrooms (moo goo) since we have an Almost Allergy to them in our house. It also calls for sugar snap peas/snow peas in this dish (depending on which are currently in my fridge or garden) and a thick, almost smoky sauce.

Lemon Chicken – Probably the least healthy of the four entrees, the thin sliced chicken is tossed in flour (whole wheat!) and then pan-fried in coconut oil. The syrupy lemon reduction sauce you add at the last minute is delectable.

Pepper Steak – A fave of da Hubs, this is ripe with “sweet bells(bell peppers, don’t say pepper around my kids) of all colors and lots of fresh cracked black peppercorn.

Stir-fried Cabbage – You THINK you don’t like cabbage, but then you try this. Quickly tossed with fresh garlic & ginger in a pan and finished with sesame oil & a few green onions… so good.

Fried rice – I’m a rice snob. We prefer white (don’t even start) basmati. I cook it up in our trusty rice cooker and then stir fry in coconut oil with onions, fresh garlic and peas, then finish with fresh cilantro & green onions.

Each of these dishes are quickly executed once in the pan, the key is to spend your time prepping. I like to prep in the afternoon and then cook once our guests arrive because it’s fast, furious, fun, and smells amazing.

We checked out the following books from the library to aid in our education of this rich Chinese tradition to our children. We plan on celebrating Chinese New Year every year from here on out.

photo (11)

That evening, we’ll light off the remainder of our floating Chinese lanterns into the big Montana sky (Locals: Don’t freak out about UFO’s on the 31st.) since it’s way too hot to do so on Little Brother’s July birthday, in the prime of fire season.

How will you be celebrating Chinese New Year?

recipes

MOO GOO GAI PAN

1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (or pork chops), cut into thin strips

3 tbs chicken stock or water

1 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs rice wine vinegar

1 tbs cornstarch

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

2 tbs oil *

1 tbs chopped garlic

1 tbs chopped fresh ginger

1 c fresh sliced mushrooms (we always, always omit these) 

1 c trimmed snow peas or snap peas

1/2 c sliced water chestnuts (I hate these, never use them) 

2 tsp sesame oil

Wisk together stock/water, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, salt, sugar, & pepper. Heat oil w/garlic & ginger in a large wok or deep skillet over high heat. Scatter in chicken/pork before garlic browns, into single layer, (Gotta move quickly w/these recipes!) tossing well. If you are using mushrooms, remove chicken from pan once color has changed, leaving liquid in pan and placing in reserved bowl. Add mushrooms to pan, cooking for a minute, tossing, before adding chicken back in. Cook one minute more, then add snow/snap peas & water chestnuts (if using), toss well. Cook until peas are bright green, just tender, and chicken is cooked through. Add the sauce mixture, cook, tossing now & then, until sauce is shiny & thickened, evenly mixed. Add sesame oil & serve.

LEMON CHICKEN

1 c flour (I use whole wheat)

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thin

2 tbs water

1 tbs cornstarch

1 c chicken stock

1/3 c sugar

2 tsp chopped fresh ginger

1 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c lemon juice

1/3 c oil

3 tbs chopped green onions

Combine flour, salt & pepper in bowl, dip chicken into flour mixture, coat well & shake excess. Heat oil in large, deep skillet over med-high, place chicken pieces in (avoid crowding), cook until golden brown- 1 to 2 min’s. Flip & cook on other side until crisp & cooked through, transfer to platter once done. Might have to cook in batches. Combine water & cornstarch in small bowl, stir well. Combine stock, sugar, ginger, soy sauce & salt to saucepan on medium, stirring to dissolve. Stir in lemon juice and cornstarch mixture as soon as boiling again. Stir often, sauce should turn cloudy, then clear and thicken to a glossy state in about one minute. Pour over chicken, sprinkle w/green onion & serve.

PEPPER STEAK

1 tbs rice wine vinegar

1 tbs water

2 tsp cornstarch

1/2 lb. thin sliced beef steak

2 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs chicken broth or water

1 molasses (optional, but I always use it) 

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

3 tbs oil

1 tbs chopped garlic

2 tsp chopped fresh ginger

2 c thin sliced bell peppers, any color

Combine vinegar, water & cornstarch, stir to dissolve. Add to raw beef and stir to marinate until cooking. Combine soy sauce, chicken broth, molasses, salt, sugar, & pepper, mix well. Heat 1 tbs of oil, garlic & ginger in wok or large skillet and scatter in peppers (“sweet bells”) into pan quickly. Cook about one minute, tossing regularly, then scoop out into a bowl set aside, add remaining oil to pan then beef w/it’s marinade. Cook, tossing often, until no longer pink, return bell peppers to pan, add soy sauce mixture, cook tossing often until cooked through, serve.

STIR FRIED CABBAGE

This one is much less formal: Cut a head of cabbage (or half if for a family of four-ish) in half, then into 1″ strips. Heat chopped garlic & ginger w/a tsp of salt in a couple tbs coconut oil on high, then add sliced cabbage to pan. Once hot, add a couple tbs of water to pan to steam, along w/a pinch of sugar. Do not overcook, toss constantly, I like to use tongs. Remove from heat and toss w/a tsp of sesame oil and a couple tbs of chopped green onions before serving.

FRIED RICE

Cook rice in rice maker. Heat garlic w/a half tsp of salt in 2 tbs oil. Add frozen peas & half a chopped onion (you could also add shrimp to this, it’s wonderful) and stir fry. Add cooked rice and keep stirring. Turn off heat and add 2 tbs chopped green onion and plenty of chopped cilantro. So good.

*I use fresh, local, organic ingredients whenever available. When I say sugar, I mean raw, organic cane sugar. Salt = natural sea salt. Oil = coconut oil, which withstands high temp cooking well w/o turning into a carcinogen and also has countless health benefits. You can see many of these recipes call for fresh garlic, ginger & green onions. I typically prepare these items before starting, grating the ginger, food-processing the garlic, and using kitchen shears to efficiently cut the green onions. 

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