Chinese New Year

Scrumptious stir-fry for the family

Stir-fry is a dish many people, adults and kids alike, seem to love. That popularity is perhaps because no two stir-fry dishes ever seem to be the same or because stir-fry dishes encourage cooks to take chances with ingredients.
Those who want to experiment with a tried and true stir-fry success might want to try Michelle Dudash’s recipe for “Orange Peel Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry With Brown Rice” from her book, “Clean Eating for Busy Families” (Fair Winds Press).

Orange Peel Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry With Brown Rice
Serves 4

For Sauce:
2    tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1    tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1    tablespoon cornstarch
2    teaspoons honey
1⁄2    teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4    teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder (or 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1⁄8 teaspoon each ground fennel and cloves)
1    tablespoon dark sesame oil

For Stir-Fry:
51⁄2    cups bite-size broccoli florets
1    tablespoon minced garlic
1    tablespoon minced ginger (or 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger)
1⁄8    teaspoon salt
1    pound flank or flat iron steak, or top sirloin, thinly sliced against the grain in 11⁄2-inch pieces
1    tablespoon expeller-pressed grapeseed or canola oil
1    orange, 2 teaspoons grated zest, inner segments sliced
2    teaspoons sesame seeds
3    cups cooked brown rice

To make the sauce: Stir together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. 
To make the stir-fry: Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat, add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Add broccoli, reduce heat to a low boil and cover with a lid or piece of foil, leaving a gap for steam to escape. Steam for 5 minutes until almost fork-tender. Move broccoli to a plate, reserving cooking water in another container.
In a medium bowl, sprinkle garlic, ginger and salt evenly over the beef. Scrape the pan clean, place it on high heat and add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the beef in an even layer and cook for 2 minutes undisturbed until brown. Toss with a wooden spoon to break up the pieces, reducing heat to medium-high as needed. Add orange zest and sesame seeds and cook until beef is done, another 2 minutes. Swirl in the sauce, add broccoli and stir-fry to reheat. Add a splash of reserved broccoli water if mixture seems too dry. Serve hot and garnish with orange segments.

Celebrating Chinese New Year

Each year at the turn of the lunisolar Chinese calendar, celebrants gather for a festival that remains one of the most significant social and economic holidays for those of Chinese descent. According to, Chinese New Year is a time to honor household and heavenly deities and ancestors. It’s also a spring festival in which people pray for a good harvest and spend time with family and friends.

It’s unclear when Chinese New Year celebrations originated in China, but some historians believe it evolved from the year-end religious ceremony during the Shang Dynasty (1766 to 1122 BCE). Others date it back even further. 

Legends also surround the origins of the celebration. According to tales passed on through generations, Chinese New Year started with a fight against a mythical beast that looked like an ox with a lion’s head. Called “The Year,” this beast would emerge from its watery abode to harm animals, people and properties, but feared fire, loud sounds and the color red. That is why the Chinese will post banners of duilian (couplets of poetry), participate in parades and shoot fireworks off in commemoration of the holiday.

According to the travel information group, China Highlights, the Spring Festival, known as Chinese New Year in the western hemisphere, is an official public holiday in China. Many Chinese people will have seven days off from work to celebrate.
In addition to fireworks, dragon dances and ancestor worship

are part of many celebrations. Temple fairs may offer traditional performances, representing such events as an emperor’s wedding. Snacks and other foods not typically consumed the rest of the year are offered.
Red, of course, is a primary color for decorating and celebrating as it’s considered to be a lucky color. Red lanterns are hung, and red images of prosperity are posted on official buildings.
This year will be the Year of the Monkey, according to the Chinese zodiac. Celebrations will begin on February 8, 2016, and the year will continue through January 27, 2017. The monkey is thought to be a clever animal, and those born under this sign are considered intelligent.