Year Of The Horse

新年快乐! Happy Chinese New Year to everyone!

Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year and the ways of celebrating are day and night compared to the New Years we know.

If you are born in 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954 or 1942, this is your year! Your Chinese zodiac sign is the Horse; they are known for being hard-working, motivating and clever.

The Chinese are all about being prosperous, good fortune and health. There are little traditions we do to ensure that the new year treats us well.

Starting the festivities is usually a parade filled with fire crackers, lion dancing and children dressed in silk robes and garments.
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I missed the lion dancing when I went to the fair last weekend, which sucks because it is actually my favorite part of the holidays ever since I was a little nugget. Legend has it that the echoing of the drums and the clangs of the cymbals are suppose to help scare away bad spirits.

(the lions take a few minutes to wake up but it is definitely worth checking out!)

(this one is really intense, I never seen them go on pedestals before)

Red envelopes (lai see) are one of the most recognized traditions of Chinese New Year. Children and unmarried young adults will tell their elders Gong Hay Fat Choi! and collect the lucky money. People you are not really close to will give you two dollars or so, but your family will give you anywhere from $20-$100 in the envelopes. I used to get so many when I was younger, you can see how I am not letting go of the one in my little hands in the picture below.

Also note how I am decked out in almost every shade of red possible, I think it is clear that red is the lucky color of Chinese culture.

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CNY is not all fun and games, no sir. We have to start the new year fresh, so we clean the whole house the day before to sweep away bad fortune, wear new clothes and get a haircut. That way we are entering with all the bad luck gone and more space for good.

Finally, the most important tradition is to spend time with your family and enjoy a great meal together.

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The CNY dinner involves pretty much everyone in your family, your closest friends and every other Asian person down your block. There are a lot of meats, hot pot, potstickers and clementines.

Some might say that this was just an excuse for me to post pictures of when I was younger and I will plead the fifth. If I could start a successful blog where I post a #tbt of myself everyday, then game over. There are so many more cultural traditions, folktales and little things to do during Chinese New Year, but I want this to be an on-going documentation for the following years.

Remember to wear red today!

Does your culture have any special activities for the new year?

Any questions you have about how we celebrate?

Flying Sucks

When I came back from my Asia trip, I vowed to stay away from planes for at least a year. Within a three-week period, I spent over fifty hours on seven flights. Some comfortable and others extremely sketchy. By the time I was finally flying home, I was so over the stuffy cabins and having to sit for hours on end.

I broke my pledge a week later by going cross country to New York for a wedding. On that flight back home, I was completely sure I did not want to fly for a looong time.

Now I am sitting here with two flight itineraries waiting for me in January. How did this happen?!

Well, my sister has been living in Denver for around ten years now and I have only visited her once in middle school. It was her first Thanksgiving out of California and I had what must of been the most expensive mash potatoes of all time. I’m sure Lauren will chime in the comments section if you are in for a real hum-dinging story.

We see each other every year for Puerto Rican Thanksgiving (more on that later) but I am so excited to finally hang out with her in her hood!

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This is my all-time favorite picture of her and I had to stalk her Facebook to find it. I think she is somewhere in NYC eating dim sum, but the red diner-booths confuse me. Hopefully she is as excited to see me as she was to grub down on chow mein and potstickers.

PS: Speaking of my amazing Jie Jie (what I have called her since forever), she has her own personal training business for almost a decade now in the big CO and worked on the show ‘The Doctors’ along with some seriously motivating weight loss stories. If you have any questions at all regarding anything, such as her love of spaghetti squash or how to properly do x, y, z, please e-mail me and I will have her compile a post! She is one of the best writers I know and I am slowly trying to convince her to start blogging.

Do we look alike? We are both unfortunately unphotogenic, so this is one of the few pictures we have where one person does not resemble Sloth from The Goonies.

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Segwaying with the NYC anecdote, that is where my second flight is going. SFO -> JFK. Virgin had a deal I couldn’t pass up so I am all locked in for mid-January. I am actually really nervous about the weather because I think it snowed for only 3 minutes one time in San Francisco history but hopefully everything will work out well. I am excited!

The sucky part (cue title) is that I will be in NYC from Saturday-Tuesday, stay in San Francisco for a day on Wednesday and then fly to Denver from Thursday-Sunday. It is hard to complain when I have such a fabulous week lined up for me.

My sister told me she would punch me in the throat if I came to Denver with a list of Yelp recommended restaurants. She loves food just as much as I do. It is a Condell thing.

However, I do need recommendations for NYC! Fancy, street food, hole in the walls, pastries, local dives, everything and anything would be nice.

This week has been so hard for me guys. I have not eaten out at one restaurant the whole week. I forgot what it feels like to be a functioning member of society. With that, I thought it would be nice to round up a few different eats I have remembered to take pictures of.

I have been going through hummus like a crackhead in the Tenderloin. To be honest, this container was almost finished in one sitting. I was both impressed and kind of disgusted with myself at the same time.

When this one was finished the next day, I cracked open a new one from The Hummus Guy I purchased at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday. That container is lucky I ran out of pita chips or the poor dip would not of even had a chance.

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This is kind of cheating because I just posted this on Wednesday, but I ate Sriracha broccoli with chicken and yams on Tuesday. Desert was a glass of two-buck Chuck and sweet red grapes.

Potstickers for lunch during a horrible study session. Nothing close to the real deal, but good enough for hard times.

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Can’t forget about the multiple espresso shots for the days I wake up when it is still dark outside. I do not remember life without my Gran Maestria.

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I said earlier I was going to make my jalapeno green bean stir fry, but I forgot to pick up a jalapeño and got really lazy after school. Instead, I seasoned with herbs de provence, garlic, oregano and paprika. Do not forget the crushed peanuts for texture!

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And to finish off with the saddest picture of kale chips, lighting on the second floor suuuucks.

To make up for it, I sneaked in a festive Halloween oven mitt.

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Nothing really planned for the weekend, all I want to do is get started on a new book and go to bed at 9 PM. Anyone with me?

What is the best meal you made this week? Can you recommend me a favorite book you finished lately?

Chinese Potstickers

So, we finally got a battery for the scale in our bathroom and the number on there was a lot higher then I remember. I just told myself it’s muscle from working out (ha), but found myself making a salad for lunch.

Spring mix, sautéed mushrooms, a little chicken and shallots.

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My quest for light eating rapidly came to an end when Chi came home with cupcakes para gratis. Whoops, another day another attempt.

Today’s recipe is sponsored by…

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my grandparents! I usually see them once a week, and this time we made potstickers together. My grandpa actually learned when he was younger in the war. Potstickers was a really popular item when drafted because it was really cheap to make and filling.

So here is to another authentic, Chinese family recipe! The other two I have made so far are Eggplant Stirfry and Chinese Chicken and Bok Choy. Check them out!

Chinese Potstickers

Prep Time: 1 Hour

Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Serves: 58 Potstickers

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Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 Lbs Ground Pork
  • 6 Pieces of Cabbage, boiled
  • 1 Package of Potsticker Wrappers
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic, diced
  • 1/2 Ginger, minced
  • 2 Eggs
  • 6 Stocks of Green Onion
  • 10 Shakes White Pepper Powder
  • 2-1/2 Tbs Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tsp Sugar
  • (Not Pictured)
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Corn Starch
  • 1 Tsp Cooking Oil
  • 2 Tbs Oyster Sauce

TO PREP

1. Boil the cabbage for five minutes until soft.

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2. Cut the green onions thin, dice the garlic and mince the ginger.

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3. Cut the boiled cabbage thin so it doesn’t pierce the potsticker wrap.

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4. Pour all the solid seasonings just chopped into a bowl with the pork in it.

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5. Pour in soy sauce and oyster sauce and oil. Sprinkle in the sugar, white pepper powder, salt and corn starch. Crack open the two eggs.

6. Stir everything around with your hands clockwise until everything is mixed throughout. (Mixing it clockwise is a must according to my grandma).

TO WRAP

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6. Prep the table. Open your wrapper packet, a shallow dish of water, the pork mixture and a plate to put all your finished potstickers.

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7. Lightly fold the wrappers in half and in quarters to separate them for maximum usefulness.

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8. Dip your index finger in the water and get the edges of the wrapper slightly wet.

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9. Wet the back of a little piece to fold and use your thumb, index and middle finger to fold the wrapper.

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10. Do the same thing 1/2-inch away from the first fold.

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11. Put a little of the haam (pork stuffing) in the middle of the wrapper and take the middle of the opposite side and fold it toward the two folds you just made.

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12. Pinch the sides to make sure it’s closed tightly.

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13. Keep making them until you run out of stuffing or wrapper. We made 58.

TO COOK

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14. Boil the complete potstickers until they float. (We did 10 at a time and froze the rest).

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15. Fry them in cooking oil until they are as crispy as you’d like.

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16. Serve with soy sauce or hot sauce. In my case, both!

You can substitute the meat with chicken if you don’t eat pork (ahem, Chi), or my grandma said dried mushrooms and cabbage are really good for a vegetarian option. Enjoy!

What is the distinct cuisine of your ethnicity? Aren’t my grandparents the cutest?