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It feels like it’s been forever. It really has been forever, hasn’t it? HI!
Things have been flat-out crazy around here lately, hence the radio silence recently. I drafted up a Life Plan-of-Attack a few weeks ago that basically boiled my hours down to a fine dust: 63 hours of research, 20 hours of miscellaneous writing work, 15 hours of blogging, 15 hours for teaching prep, and 15 hours for swimming. That left 40 hours in the week for sleeping, and next to the word “social” on my whiteboard are two giant symbols:
Thankfully, it turns out that the weeks of sleepless fervor were well worth it, because now that we’re entering February (WHAT), the dissertation writing momentum is finally, finally starting to pick up. I’ve waded through what must be a quarter of the school library’s tomes on evolutionary theory and child development, not to mention haunted the local Starbucks in more stuporific dazes than I care to mention. Meanwhile, I’m slowly reintroducing parts of my social life back into its place, and guess what? Now that I’ve done some preemptive cramming, I actually get to spend this coming weekend rocking out with my fambam for Chinese New Year’s!
CNY is kiiiiinda a crazy weeklong affair for my family. While we’re pretty Americanized in a lot of ways (helloooo, English major and not yet disowned! hooray!) this is one holiday on which our household definitely does NOT skimp.
The end of every year always starts with a head-to-toe house cleaning, followed by the plastering of new fortune papers and placing of tangerines all around the house. This year will be the year of the monkey, so we’ll spend the next lunar year in the company of the troop of cartoonized red-cheeked primates that will deck our walls. On New Year’s day, we’ll spend the morning greeting each other and bestowing long blessings to each other in Chinese. If you’re me, you’ll likely also spend 95% of the blessings period tripping over your 2nd-grade Canto vocabulary and trying to avoid sounding like you’re cursing everyone in range instead.
But guys–let’s skip ahead for a second, because I need to tell you about THE FOOD.
Now I know that food is a HUGE part of most cultures’ traditions, but trying to celebrate CNY without amazing fare is like trying to whip-nae-nae without making full use of your swingin’ hips–feasible, but not very cool and why would you ever do that. After eating sweets first thing in the morning, we eat a completely vegetarian meal to start off the new year. With the tables groaning under water chestnuts, vermicelli noodles, mushrooms, and vegetables galore, this meal is a vegetarian gal’s best friend.
With almost a full week until the big day, however, I couldn’t very well sit around drowning in a lake of my own drool (as I am wont to do the week before CNY). I was therefore determined to make something simple, reminiscent of home, but also fusion-y enough for me to create without feeling like I was completely botching my Asian heritage. I immediately settled on making my favorite peanut sauce, but opted to browse the shelves at Ralph’s for more Chinese New Year’s inspiration, which ended up looking a bit like a basket from Chopped. I picked up some Kikkoman rice vinegar for the sweet-tangy sauce, Minute® Whole Grain Brown Rice, and a can of Dole pineapple chunks for that sweet touch that always makes me order sweet-and-sour anything at Chinese restaurants…
I’m happy to report that, contrary to the tenets of reality food TV, all of the components came together with remarkable harmony. The Dole (of Dole whip fame, yas pleeeease) pineapple chunks are sweet and tangy, and naturally basically everything (fat-free, cholesterol-free, rich in nommy Vitamin C), making them the perfect complement to the Kikkoman rice vinegar (which is also mildly sweet and tangy). Then I plonked the whole thing on top of a bed of salad greens and Minute® Whole Grain Brown Rice: the nutty flavors of brown rice cooked in 10 minutes was too good to pass up, especially since it has the same nutritional value as regular long-cooking rice (MSG-free/GF!). 15 minutes, later I was chowing down happily on my first bowl of CNY-inspired fare, and BOY was I one happy camper!
If you’re looking for a great, simple way to count down to CNY, I couldn’t recommend a better one. Happy year of the Monkey, all!
Do you celebrate Chinese New Year? Maybe you should check out some of these ideas for inspiration!
For the bowl:
- 1 crown broccoli, rinsed and chopped
- 1/2 box tofu, cut into 2"-long pieces
- 1 cup Minute brown rice
- 1 cup salad greens
- 1/2 can Dole pineapple chunks
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the peanut sauce:
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup Kikkoman rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 cup water
For the bowl:
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add broccoli and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain, add salt & pepper to taste, and set aside.
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil, then pan-sear tofu for 2-3 minutes on each side (until golden brown). Remove from pan and toss with salt & pepper.
- Cook brown rice according to instructions on package and set aside.
- Assemble bowl by layering salad greens, brown rice, pineapple, tofu, and broccoli. Top with peanut sauce and enjoy!
For the peanut sauce:
- In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients until smooth.