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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chinese Astrology, Vernal Equinox, New Traditions

This is the Year of the Rabbit or Hare.  I love Chinese Astrology and occasionally will have a Chinese New Year celebration with my family.  Since my youngest son is a rabbit, I thought this year we especially needed to celebrate; these Chinese astrological years come around only once in 12 years; one is going to be lucky to even have the opportunity to celebrate one's own sign 7 or 8 times in a lifetime.
This year we celebrated on the vernal equinox, another important date in my line of thinking.  I don't really celebrate the major traditional holidays in my heart as I don't share many of the belief systems they are founded on and some holidays I think are simply manipulations by commericialism (see my post on Valentine's Day).  {But, I do love to put up a few Xmas decorations, hypocrisy aside}.

No, the days of the years that resonate most closely with my inner being are the solstices and the equinoxes.  I feel the most grounded and yet, at the same time, the most cosmically connected on these days that signal the magical transitions of the seasons.

So, I was thrilled when my family could come out on the vernal equinox and to have some members in the family that are willing to indulge my ideas of how to celebrate.

My oldest son brought his 3 roommates, and my youngest and his girlfriend were present, so I had 7 carnivores and was a little worried putting out a totally vegan meal (all vegan except some store-bought veggie egg rolls--which was of course the one thing my darling husband chose to comment on 'wow, these came out good'...<sigh>  he did enjoy the other foods though).  To my surprise and delight, most were happy with the food (except oldest son, who managed to fill up on brown rice and dessert....a meat, dairy, salt and sugar craver, how I worry about his health, but will work on that a little at a time). 

Our celebratory feast consisted of a simple stir fry (onions, broccoli, carrots, garlic, edamame, celery and mushrooms) over brown rice, pad thai (recipe to follow), spring rolls and peanut dipping sauce (recipes to follow) and for desert, mango tango, vegan brownies and fresh strawberries.

"A." attempts to master chopsticks.

I call this one "A. vs. Spring Roll" ---that spring roll didn't stand a chance.  (Note "C. "on right, deftly using the chopsticks---love an enthusiastic participator)

 I was also impressed with "A.'s" THAT's enthusiasm!!!  Pad Thai has fork in it.

There were crafts.....

My youngest "T." on left and willing participant "K." are both gifted origami-ists. 

We nibbled on dessert, and had more crafts....

Oldest son "T." served as origami crane consultant.

I asked everyone to place wishes inside their paper lanterns and we took our creations outside to burn them at the firepit, to allow our wishes' ashes to be carried up on the winds.....(no one even remotely insinuated this was corny....I suspect a few pyromaniacs were present....).

Pad Thai - from Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet

12 oz fresh or dried rice noodles
2T plus 1 t peanut oil (I omitted)
8 oz extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2" wide strips (I used firm and cut into cubes)
2 T tamari or soy sauce
1/2 small red bell pepper cut into thin strips (I subbed mushrooms as my guys don't dig peppers)
4 scallions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 med. tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
1T light brown sugar or sweetner (I used agave---I know, I know, it's processed--...I hardly ever use it)
2T rice vinegar
1/2 C fresh bean sprouts
1/4 C chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts (I toast raw ones in a dry fry pan)

1.  Prepare rice noodles.  If fresh, rinse under very hot water and place in large bowl, separating them into individual strands.  If dried, plunge into large pot of boiling water to soften, drain and place in large bowl.  Toss noodles with 1 t of peanut oil and set aside.  (NOTE:  I did use a very teeny amount of toasted sesame oil to coat noodles).
2.  Heat 1T of oil (I used water) and add tofu until brown, about 5 mins.  (Mine didn't brown, but I still left it in about 5 mins).  Add 1 T of tamari and stir to coat.  Transfer to platter and set aside.
3.  Heat remaining 1T of peanut oil over med. heat.  (I used water).  Add pepper, scallions and garlic and stir-fry til soft, about 5 mins.  Add the tomato, sugar, vinegar and 1T of tamari.  Cook for about 3 mins to blend flavors.  Add noodles and tofu and toss gently and heat through, about 5 mins.
4.  Divide among 4 individual plates, sprinkle with the bean sprouts and peanuts and serve at once.

I doubled this recipe and added some steamed broccoli per Robin's suggestion as a finishing touch in addition to the sprouts and peanuts.  This is an excellent dish, is great the next day for leftovers and was a big hit with my non-vegan family members. 

Spring Rolls and Peanut Dipping Sauce
These are from Averie's blog "Love Veggies and Yoga". Averie is a wild woman, and I mean that with love and envy in my heart.  Beautiful with a zest for life, I do like to 'check in' on her blog fairly regularly and tap into that life force.  She does not always have the most healthy recipes, even she would admit that, but she does have some interesting ones on there, including a killer recipe for kale chips.  Her peanut dipping sauce did not disappoint (although I did have to log an extra few miles on the treadmill to offset it---high sugar content and also oil, so I wouldn't recommend this as a staple---it'll be another solstice or equinox before I treat myself to it again).

Spring Rolls:
Assemble fillings (carrots, peppers, squash, spring mix, or noodles, tofu, whatever you want).  Dunk wrapper (these aren't too hard to find, even the regular stores carry them now in the asian food aisle) into bowl of warm water for 15-20 seconds.  Place filling in center of wrapper, fold up bottom over it, then fold in sides and roll up.

Peanut Dipping Sauce:
1/3 C peanut butter
1/4 C maple syrup/agave blend
1/4C sesame oil (key ingredient says Averie)
1/4C apple Cider vinegar
1t-1T ginger powder (opt).
Shake up or whisk.  (Opt.:  add 1/2 orange- blend all in Vitamix)

This year of the Rabbit is said to be a placid year, one of peace and the return of diplomacy.  Money should be plentiful this year as well and there should be opportunity for leisure and an unhurried pace.
Sounds good to me.

Sue, hopeful in Ohio

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