Year of The Rabbit, 2/3/2011
新年快樂! Happy New Year to all my Chinese Friends and Family. I usually don’t make a big deal about holidays. To me, you can celebrate any time you want. Every time you have a good meal is a celebration. Holidays are good for the little kids who don't have to go to school that day.
There is no Chinatown in the city where I live, only a small family owned Asian store. That sort of takes away all the fun for people who love Chinese food. We need large Asian markets and nice Chinese dim sum restaurants here. The closest Chinatown to me is a four hour drive to Chicago.
Anyway, I made a Chinese New Year chicken soup (冬菇腐竹蓮藕雞湯) to bring good luck for my family. I only make this soup once a year because it is hard to get all the right ingredients together. I went to Chicago and got some fresh lotus root, dried mushrooms, dried scallops and dried bean sticks. I also added some fresh carrots for extra flavor. This soup is full of flavor, rich and hearty. We enjoyed it very much. I feel blessed already.
The Chinese believe that every household has a Kitchen God (the Stove Master 灶君) to protect and observe the family. The Stove Master makes reports about the family's activities and behavior. Each year on December 23, lunar calendar, he leaves the family on earth and travels back to heaven and reports to the Jade Emperor on what the family has been up to for the past year. The Jade Emperor would then give out punishment or rewards to the family depending on how they have behaved. The Kitchen God will return to the family on New Year’s Day.
Giving offerings to the Kitchen God is the symbolic beginning of the Chinese New Year's festivities. Although mostly abandoned nowadays in the city, this tradition is still largely practiced in China. In fact, many older Chinese settlers in Chinatown celebrate this tradition to teach their youngsters about Chinese culture. They begin with telling a mythical story about the Kitchen God and cooking some food with sugar and honey.
In order to ensure a good report from the Kitchen God to heaven, on December 23, the family will prepare sweet sticky rice cakes, candies, cookies, sugary tangerines and oranges to treat the Kitchen God, hoping the sweet mouthed Kitchen God would not say anything bad about the family. They also clean the kitchen thoroughly to welcome his return from heaven for the new year. Every family wants to believe they have been blessed with safety, abundant food and good health for the coming year.
This year I made a new recipe for a simple carrot cake that has just the right flavor and texture for a homemade coffee cake. The carrots add color and goodness to the cake. It has a little bit crunch on the top and is moist, chewy inside. Perfect to serve with cream cheese and a nice cup of coffee in the morning or for an afternoon pick-me-up. I think the Kitchen God would agree this is a good cake.
|Homemade Cinnamon Carrot Coffee Cake|