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Cooking Corner

February 5, 2011
Bernice Volkens

There is so much going on in this first week of February, this might be a short month, but a lot goes on this month. The first thing is that it looks like the mid-west is going to be hit with a big blizzard. This doesn't really bother me too much, if the roads are bad we just stay home. I always have plenty of food, even if we have some snow-bound visitors. This hasn't happened lately, but we at one time had five extra people stranded at our house. And if the electricity goes out we'll just fire up our wood stove and get out the kerosene lamps and curl up and read a good book.

Also in a few days will be Groundhog Day. Something I always watch with interest, but with the forecast it looks like the rodent won't see his shadow, but one way or another we can still count on 6 more weeks of winter.

However, if the electricity goes out on Sunday, watch out, we'll be out looking for a TV because the husband just doesn't miss the Big Game.

We are going to Allison's game in Omaha this weekend, but busy week-end or not, we'll be taking in the game. After two exciting conference games. The Big Game looks to be a great match-up with Green Bay and the Steelers. Kick-off is Sunday Feb. 6th at 5:30 Iowa time. I'm looking forward to the game but I also look forward to the new commercials.

Another big event also happens in the first week of February and that is the Chinese New Year. For the year 2011, the date is on February 3rd and is the Year of the Rabbit. We don't hear of it much in Iowa but it is the most important holiday for ethnic Chinese people around the world and I think it's worth more than a mention. The Chinese calendar dates are traditionally based on changes of the moon. They are not based on the sun. The New Year starts at the beginning of this lunar calendar and is also called the Spring Festival.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated for fifteen days. On the New Year's Eve families come together to eat a meal in the evening. This meal is called the Reunion Dinner. No matter how far away they are, Chinese people will try to visit their families at least this one time of the year. Even if a family member could not attend, an empty seat would be kept to symbolize that person's presence at the meal. When they visit, the people like to wear new clothes and this clothing is usually red in color, a color that means good luck. Another custom is to exchange mandarin oranges and send greetings for a great year to people they know. We also wish for all these things but the Chinese culture has so many more customs than we do, but it is interesting to know about the culture of another nationality. We Americans are a melting pot of many nationalities and each ethnic group has its own customs.

Along with customs, each group seems to have a special food to their celebrations. Many foods we eat and call Chinese really are American versions, like Chop Suey or Chow Mein. I imagine this recipe isn't true Chinese but it does include chicken, which is one of the "good luck" foods.


1/2 cup cooking oil

3 whole chicken breasts

1 cup sliced water


1 cup bamboo shoots

2 cups sliced celery

1/2 lb. green beans,


3 cups boiling hot

chicken broth

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. Accent, optional

2 Tbls. corn starch

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. pepper

Heat oil in wok or frying pan over low heat. Cut boned and skinned chicken breasts into match-like strips. Cook until meat turns white. Increase heat to medium high.

Add water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, celery, beans and chicken broth. Then add soy sauce, salt, Accent, sugar and pepper. Cook covered 5 minutes or until a fork can be inserted into the chicken with ease. Spoon 1/2 cup of sauce into corn starch. Stir to blend. Then pour back into pan while stirring to mix. Cook until sauce thickens (about 1 minute). Serve over Chinese noodles or rice.

Chinese New Year means "Sweeping out the Old."



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