I don’t need an excuse to make Chinese food at home, but Chinese New Year is a fun excuse to have. I love Chinese food. All the different seasonings like soy sauce, chilies, ginger, and dark sesame oil, create a rich and flavorful meal. Additionally, some meals like stir fries are quick and easy to prepare. As a cook, it is one of my aspirations to learn how to make a variety of Chinese foods. I have an insatiable curiosity about all things food related so it is hard to resist the temptation to write a post about this special occasion. As I learn about different foods and cultures, I want to share my findings in hopes to encourage you to expand your food repertoire. Also, in the process of sharing, I might learn a thing or two from one of you.
With such a rich and important Chinese American history in the US, learning about the different traditions is one way to respect our differences and common values. Traditions. Good Health. Long life. Success. Prosperity. Auspiciousness. Family. Food.
A list of some dishes served for Chinese New Year and their meaning
Spring Rolls symbolize wealth because their shape resembles a gold bar.
Dumplings, because of their shape symbolize family reunion and wealth. The crescent shape is like the ancient Chinese coins called silver ingots.
Longevity Noodles symbolize long life and happiness. Never cut the noodles, it is ok to slurp these babies up.
Whole fish symbolizes an increase in wealth, or surplus, “May you always have more than you need.” The word for fish in Chinese, “Yú”, sounds like the word for surplus. I linked my recipe for rainbow trout. If you make this recipe for Chinese New Year, do not cut off the heads and tails. Serve the fish intact. The “beginnings” and “ends” have significant meaning for Chinese New Year. Another recipe to try is whole steamed fish from David Tanis of the New York Times.
Vegetable dishes are also important because the spring is the time to plant new seeds. Bok Choy is a favorite or try my Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms. Even my Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise would work.
Fresh fruit like oranges are important, as the round shape and color represent wholeness and good fortune.
Glutenous Rice Cakes Nian Gao, the round shape symbolizes family togetherness and the sweet taste means a rich and sweet life.
On New Year’s Day it is important to eat a vegetarian meal. You can make my fried rice recipe and omit the salmon and add sautéed broccoli and spinach.
Links for more information about Chinese New Year
This list of foods and their symbolism is short and generalized. My idea to write about the different foods and their symbolism is not meant to Americanize an important Chinese tradition, but to introduce the significance for each dish. You can find more information from these websites that I used as resources. The Spruce, Chinese New Year 2018, and China Highlights. Here is a link for information about the Lunar Year of the Dog.
The idea of preparing a traditional Chinese New Year feast is daunting, especially because I have no experience at it. In preparation for Chinese New Year the making and eating of specific foods is a huge part of the celebration. Also, having family around to celebrate with is central to the New Year celebration. This list is just a small selection of some foods served during Chinese New Year. Because preparing a Chinese New Year feast takes a lot of work, I plan to build up my menu a little at a time. Every year I hope to get closer to making a full feast of my own. Until then, baby steps. It is my hope that this sample whets your appetite for more and inspires you to cook Chinese food at home.
Gǒunián dàjí, “Lots of luck for this Dog year”
Xīnnián hǎo, “Happy New Year”
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
We eat a lot of chicken so to break up a pattern of eating the same thing every time chicken is on the menu, I look for recipes with lots of flavor and ease of preparation. Several years ago I came across David Lebovitz recipe for Chicken Lady Chicken in his cookbook, My Paris Kitchen. After reading his description, I knew it was going to be one of the first recipes to try out for myself. In the recipe, David marinates a spatchcock chicken in harissa, wine, mustard, garlic, soy sauce and honey overnight then browns the chicken in a skillet before baking it in the oven. It is delicious and one of my favorite recipes from his book.
Sometimes, I forget to plan ahead for an overnight marinate and often need to adjust the recipe and marinate for an hour or less. Marinating a whole chicken for less than an hour is not worth the effort, so I found it best to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. As a result of my inability to plan ahead, sriracha chicken was born. I use the same marinade from Chicken Lady Chicken, or a slight variation thereof, with boneless chicken thighs and bake them in the oven. What I get is golden chicken thighs with the bright sriracha flavor and lots of pan juices. For today’s purpose, I made a whole meal out of Sriracha chicken by adding sweet potatoes, broccoli, shallots and garlic cloves for an easy weeknight chicken dinner.
I am particularly fond of making meals that cook together in the oven. With just some initial prep work, I am free to relax while the oven does all the work. My favorite combination is marinated chicken with potatoes and shallots. The marinade and juices from the chicken infuses with the potatoes and shallots making them silky and full of flavor. Any type of wax potato will work, but sweet potatoes add a whole other flavor component which compliments the layer of heat from the sriracha chicken.
This winter I have grown especially fond of oven roasted broccoli. The broccoli spears get nice and browned adding a slightly charred and caramelized flavor. This winter is just too cold, and the toasted notes of roasted vegetables warms me up. I especially like roasting whole garlic cloves protected in its peel with the broccoli. Roasted garlic softens and becomes wonderfully sweet. It does not burn and taste bitter like it would if you roasted the broccoli with minced garlic. The key to perfectly roasted garlic with vegetables or meats is use medium-sized garlic cloves. If they are too big, the garlic cloves won’t finish roasting at the same time as the broccoli, sweet potatoes or chicken.
Helpful Tips for making Sriracha Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli
Combining all the ingredients in one pan just made sense to me. All that goodness roasting together in the oven is hard to resist. Unfortunately, they do not all fit on one sheet pan like I planned. Spreading them out between 2 pans is the best option.
- Roast the sriracha chicken, sweet potatoes and shallots on the larger pan, while the broccoli and the garlic roast on a smaller one. You could divide the ingredients strewn together between two medium same size pans. Yet, I like keeping the chicken thighs all on one pan to produce the most amount of pan juices as possible.
- For silky potatoes, roast the potatoes with the marinated chicken and remaining marinade along with the shallots. On another pan, roast the broccoli and garlic cloves.
- If you prefer crispy potatoes, roast them separately and add the garlic, shallots and broccoli to the pan with the chicken. You may need more olive oil for the sweet potatoes if you do.
- It is important to make sure you have the right size pan. If the pan is too large, the pan juices will dry up. Too small and the chicken will steam and get a mushy texture.
- For boneless and skinless chicken, thighs work better than breasts. Use this marinade for boneless chicken breasts, pounded about a half-inch thick and marinate the chicken for less than an hour. Grill the chicken breasts over medium high heat.
Sriracha Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli
- 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs- about 2.5 lbs (1 kg 154 g)
- 2 tsp Kosher salt divided
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 4 TB extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 TB fresh lemon juice
- 2 TB dry white wine
- 1 ½ tsp sriracha or harissa more, or less depending on how spicy you like your food
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 TB honey
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 TB soy sauce
- 1-2 TBS minced fresh tarragon more for garnish
- About 1 lb 476 g sweet potatoes, about 2 medium sweet potatoes
- About two heads of broccoli 1 lb 5 oz (673 g)
- 4 - 6 medium size garlic cloves peel on
- 6 5 ½ oz / 161 g small shallots, peeled and separated
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
Prepare the marinade
Trim off extra fat from the chicken thighs and place in a large non-reactive mixing bowl. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and toss the chicken around with your clean hands to spread the salt evenly over the chicken thighs. Clean your hands and set the bowl of chicken aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, white wine, sriracha, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and minced tarragon. Whisk until the honey is completely dissolved and the marinade is evenly combined.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and use your clean hands to mix the chicken to get an even coating over each thigh. Clean your hands and cover with plastic wrap.
If you are cooking the chicken right away, let the chicken marinate on the counter for no more than an hour. Otherwise, refrigerate the chicken. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you want to roast it.
Prepare the Vegetables
Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Place two oven racks in the two middle slots in the oven, making sure there is enough space between each rack for two sheet pans with all the ingredients to fit between.
Trim each head of broccoli by cutting off part of each stem. Use a vegetable peeler to gently peel off the outer layer of the broccoli stem and remove any leaves, (see note). Cut up the broccoli into spears, making sure they are even in size. Add to a large mixing bowl.
Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters, lengthwise. Cut each potato wedge into pieces about 1 ½ inches (3.5 cm) in size. Add to bowl with the broccoli spears.
If any of the shallots look too fat, slice them in half lengthwise. Add the shallots and garlic cloves to the bowl. Add the remaining extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt with several rounds of black pepper and toss to evenly coat the vegetables. I mixed everything together in one bowl to save on cleaning up two mixing bowls. If you prefer, keep the broccoli and garlic separate from the sweet potatoes and shallots. They will eventually go on different sheet pans.
Putting it all together
When you are ready to roast your dinner, spread out the chicken thighs over one large rimmed sheet pan large enough to accommodate the chicken thighs, the marinade, sweet potatoes and shallots. Spread out the sweet potatoes and shallots between and around the chicken thighs. You want enough space for air to circulate around the chicken and potatoes, but not too big to dry up all the juices. The area of my sheet pan for the chicken was approximately 11.5 x 16 inches (29 x 40 cm).
Spread the broccoli and garlic cloves over a small sheet pan approximately 8.5 x 11.5 inches (21.5 x 29 cm).
Place each sheet pan on its' own rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes switch the two sheet pans, from top to bottom and front to back for even roasting. Continue to bake for 20 more minutes.
Check the chicken thighs for doneness. Pierce the biggest thigh with a fork, if you feel some resistance the chicken it is not done. Also, the juices from the chicken will run clear when the chicken is done. If the juices are cloudy or pink, the chicken needs more time to cook. The internal temperature of properly cooked chicken is 165°F/ 74°C. The potatoes and broccoli are done when they feel soft through the middle when pierced with a fork. If the broccoli is finished cooking before the chicken, remove it from the oven and keep warm.
When the chicken is done, turn on the broiler and remove the broccoli if you have not done so already. Baste the chicken with any pan juices and broil the chicken for a couple of minutes to brown the edges of the chicken to your likeness.
When the meal is done roasting, arrange the chicken, sweet potatoes, broccoli, garlic, and shallots on one serving platter then pour any pan juices over the chicken. Place on the dining table. Or arrange the food on a plate for individual servings. Make sure to include any accumulated juices from the chicken, a garlic clove and shallot on each plate. Each person can squeeze the garlic out of its peel and spread it on the broccoli or potatoes. Garnish with fresh tarragon.
Use most of the plant: Broccoli stems are very sweet. You can cut the removed stems into wedges and add to the broccoli spears. Cut the stem in quarters lengthwise to make a wedge. The very end of each stem is woody, so cut off that section and discard.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
At times the hustle of the day’s events makes preparing a family dinner challenging. Preparing a balanced meal of a protein, vegetables and healthy carbohydrates takes time, especially when you cook with a lot of plant-based foods. Are there any solutions for making dinner that is easy to prepare and doesn’t require a lot of time slaving over a stove? Yes, there are. Listed below are links to easy dinner recipes found on my website for a quick and easy reference.
What is an easy dinner? A dinner recipe that requires little prep work and comes together in a reasonable amount of time. There are a couple of solutions to make dinner easier to put together. One short cut is, buy produce already chopped. Many grocery stores offer a wide selection of produce already chopped and ready for cooking. Each item may cost more, but if buying prepared vegetables is the difference between making dinner or not, it is worth the price. I do not usually buy cut up produce because these days I am mostly cooking for two. However, I cannot ignore how buying prepared vegetables saves a lot of time. It is my opinion, the value of cooking and eating a home cooked meal is significant, especially when compared to eating take out dinners.
Another time saver is make dinner in one pan. Sheet pan, or one pot dinners often require minimal prep, work and everything cooks on (or in) one pan. This also makes clean-up a lot easier as well.
All of these recipes easily come together with little prep work, or cooked in one pan or pot, or take a minimal amount of time to cook. Enjoy!
Easy dinners: Shellfish
One of my favorite easy dinner recipe is my Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Sausage. The mussels are cooked in a broth of tomatoes, garlic, wine and Spanish chorizo sausage. The broth comes together in about 20 minutes and the mussels take 5 minutes to cook. I never served this meal to young children, but many adults love this. It is great for entertaining a small group of friends, because you can cook the sauce ahead of time then cook the mussels 5 minutes before you want to eat dinner. Serve with good crusty bread to soak up the juices and a tossed salad. For a vegetarian option, omit the chorizo sausage.
Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach is another supper easy dinner recipe. This recipe is an older one of mine, but the shrimp and spinach cook up quickly and with little effort. Serve with white or brown rice or your favorite grain.
Easy dinners: Fish
I honestly believe all my fish recipes on Lemon Thyme and Ginger are easy to make. By nature, fish does not require a lot of cooking time. They are an especially easy dinner to make when the fish is cooked in a pouch of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill and Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce are both prepared en papillote. Sole Stuffed with Herbs is similarly prepared, but it is not tightly sealed in a neat package.
Fish Tacos comes together easily when you buy the cabbage already sliced for coleslaw.
Easy dinner: Chicken
Another favorite easy dinner are sheet pan meals. I particularity like to use chicken when I make a sheet pan dinner, either bone in or boneless work. The boned chicken will take longer to cook but the chicken does not dry out as much, especially with chicken breasts. If you want to go the boneless, skinless chicken route, use chicken thighs, breasts dry out too easily. Roasted Curry Chicken with Potatoes and Raisins has minimal prep and is delicious paired with blanched broccoli, green beans or a salad. Oven baked Chicken with Shallots and Fennel is another easy chicken dinner baked together on one sheet pan.
Easy Dinner: Meat
One of my favorite marinades for meat is the sherry marinade used in Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak. It also tastes great with pork tenderloin. Both types of meat benefit from a flavorful marinade. I like to marinate the flank steak over night, but if you want place the flank steak in the marinade first thing in the morning, it will taste just as delicious. If the current weather prohibits you from grilling, pan grill the flank steak on the stove top. You get more browning and caramelized flavor using a grill pan vs the broiler.
The easiest of all meats are lamb chops. They are delicious and quickly cook on a grill or stove-top within a matter of minutes. My recipe for Lamb chops: An early fall harvest dinner for two, describes how to cook lamb chops. In the winter, you can substitute the summer and fall vegetables in this recipe with any vegetable recipe on the blog like, Sweet and Spicy Herbed Carrots, or Green Beans with Roasted Onions.
Easy dinner: Pasta
The fastest and easiest cooked tomato sauce I know is Marcella Hazon’s, Tomato Sauce with Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar. Tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, rosemary and balsamic vinegar come together for a silky sauce perfect for penne or other tube-shaped pasta. It makes for a light supper, but a satiating one at that. It also tastes delicious over polenta. If you want a more substantial red sauce and pasta meal, make Pasta with Turkey Meat Sauce.
This time of year Brussels sprouts are easily found at most grocery stores, Pasta Dinner with Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Sausage is a real crowd pleaser, especially for the meat lover in your family. For a vegetarian option substitute the sausage with chickpeas or cannellini beans.
Easy dinner: Eggs
Often when we are in a hurry or low on food, we make a frittata. Basil and Zucchini Frittata is a great quick and easy dinner for the summer, but in the winter substitute the basil and zucchini with left over Brussels sprouts with pomegranate glaze. Or, make a pasta frittata with left over pasta with turkey meat sauce.
Omelets are another easy dinner choice. However, I prefer to make one omelet at a time as opposed to one big omelet, sliced into individual servings.
Easy Dessert Recipes:
Swedish Apple Pie is so easy, someone who insists they cannot bake, will have success with this recipe.
Yogurt Panna Cotta is also easy to put together. You can make a spiced fruit sauce with any seasonal fruit.
If a cake is what you want, Silver Palate Chocolate Cake was my go to dessert for many years.
If you make any one of my recipes I would love to hear from you. You can share a photo on my Facebook page, or on your Instagram feed and tag me @lemonthymeandginger.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Other than the ingredients, all you need to make a delicious and easy dinner is one knife to chop, one bowl to mix and one sheet pan to roast. No special equipment required, except an oven. What you do need is time to mix, marinate and bake. Roasted curry chicken with potatoes and raisins has it all. A flavor packed one-pan meal with warming spices and fruity-sweetness enveloping tender chicken meat and potatoes.
For this recipe, as well as salt I added a ground curry spice blend for the main seasoning. My recipe for roasted chicken curry is not traditional Indian cuisine, or any curry meal from Asia. It is an American rift inspired by Indian flavors, and ease of preparation. I love curry, but there are so many types and each one is as unique as the cook making it. Every country, region, city and cook has its own variation of spices for curries. As I learn more about curries and the cuisines that developed them, I plan to make my own curry spice blends. Until that time, I’ll take a shortcut and use store-bought ground curry to satisfy my hankering for curry flavors.
Chicken for a cook, is like a blank canvas for an artist. It is the foundation from which all added flavor will enhance. Because chicken has a mild taste and texture, it benefits from adding seasoning and then letting the flavors steep into the meat before cooking. Of course, if pressed for time, you will still have a decent tasting curry chicken dinner if you must skip the marinating step. However, taking the extra time to marinate will make a big difference in the over-all depth of flavor.
More one pan dinner recipes:
I realize not all children like the spiciness of curry powder. Some curry blends have a lot of pepper and chilies in them. If you can find a ground curry blend that is on the sweet side it might change your family’s opinion of curry. I found a Massale curry blend from Spice and Tease in New York City. It is similar to a Garam Massala but not as hot and peppery as other curry blends. For more information, here is an article explaining the differences of the two spice blends.
I love making meals where I can mix together the flavors I love and cook them together on one pan in the oven and forget about it. No standing or stirring over a hot stove. Just place in the oven and bake. This easy recipe, of roasted curry chicken with potatoes and raisins is so simple it is hard to make a chicken dinner any other way. The raisins may seem out-of-place, but the sweetness compliments and softens any heat in the curry spices. Add, additional vegetables, like cauliflower or broccoli, for a more well-rounded dinner.
Roasted Curry Chicken with Potatoes and Raisins
Curry Chicken with Potatoes
- 3 garlic cloves mashed
- 1- inch 2.5 cm piece of fresh ginger*, grated
- 3 TB 35 g extra virgin olive oil
- 1 TB curry spice blend not a spicy curry blend
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Zest from one lemon and juice- divided
- 1 TB chopped fresh tarragon can use dried tarragon if fresh is not available, but only 1 teaspoon
- 6 chicken thighs either bone-in and skin on, or boneless
- 1 lb 450g fingerling potatoes, or other small wax potato like red potatoes or Yukon Gold
- 1/2 medium onion sliced in half moons no more than 1/4 inch (6mm)
- 1/4 cup 60 ml raisins
- Optional: Half a head of cauliflower cut into flowerettes. Reduce the potatoes to 1/2 to 2/3 lbs 225 g - 300 g.
- 4 oz 125 g plain yogurt
- Juice from half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2- inch 1.3 cm piece of fresh ginger*, grated
Peel each clove then slice in half. If the green germ is there, remove it. If you have a fine microplane grater, grate the garlic cloves. Or, scatter a pinch of salt over a pile of roughly minced garlic cloves then mash the garlic with the side of your chef's knife. Move the blade from side to side pressing down with the blade until the garlic forms a paste. Add the garlic paste to a medium mixing bowl large enough to hold the chicken and vegetables.
Mince or grate the ginger root and add to the bowl with the garlic.
Add the olive oil, curry powder, lemon zest, Kosher salt, a couple of rounds of fresh ground black pepper, tarragon, and juice from half a lemon. Mix until just incorporated.
Add the chicken, potatoes, onion slices and raisins (cauliflower if using). Using your clean hands mix the chicken and vegetables until the marinade evenly coats all the pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator and marinate for 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
Take the chicken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you want to cook dinner and bring up to room temperature. The chicken can rest up to one hour on the counter before cooking. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F (204°C) twenty minutes before you are ready to cook.
Spread the chicken and vegetables evenly across a low sided sheet pan. The sheet pan should be just big enough for the chicken and potatoes to fit comfortably without overcrowding. Too big of a pan and the juices will dry up. Too small of a pan and the ingredients will steam.
Place the sheet pan in the oven middle rack.
Bake for 20 minutes, then using a thin spatula, turn the potatoes around. Bake for another 20 minutes. Check the chicken and potatoes to see if they are done. The chicken is done when an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 165°F - 170°F (74°C - 77°C) and the juices run clear. The potatoes are done when they are tender when pierced with a fork.
If either ingredient needs more cooking time, remove the chicken or potatoes and place on a plate cover and keep warm. Continue to cook until the vegetables or chicken is done.
While the chicken is baking make the yogurt sauce. Mix together the yogurt, grated ginger, Kosher salt and lemon juice in a small bowl. Cover and set aside until the chicken is done. Just before serving, garnish with fresh herbs and lemon zest.
Serve curry chicken and vegetables with the yogurt sauce on the side.
*Do not substitute the fresh ginger with powdered ginger. The curry spice blend might already have powdered ginger in its mix. The minced ginger adds a fresh ginger flavor.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
What to eat over the weekend? I complied a list of three menus for the holiday weekend to satisfy a variety of food preferences and tastes. One menu for the steak lover. One for food with a little heat. And a menu for a plant-based meal.
My focus for each menu is ease of preparation and the option to cook the main entrée on a grill. Each menu includes an appetizer, main course, vegetable side dish, and dessert. I hope each menu inspires you to cook for yourself and don’t be shy to mix it up a bit. The recipes are easy to scale up or down depending on your crowd. Or enjoy your leftovers for a later date.
Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to only these menus. Just search my archives listing the food you crave and hopefully you will find something to your liking.
It still feels like spring here in the Northeast, but now that it is Memorial Day, the summer has officially started. Let me know if you make any of these weekend menu ideas. I would love to hear from you.
Weekend Menu Ideas For the Meat Lover
Weekend Menu Ideas For the Spicy Food Lover
Weekend Menu Ideas for the Plant Food Lover
Aquafaba Meringue Nests fill with mixed fruit and coconut whipped cream
Hope every one has a fun weekend with friends and family. It looks like a sunny weekend is in the forecast, perfect for lots of outdoor activity and grilling. If you make any one of my recipes post a picture on Instagram and tag me @lemonthymeandginger and #therecipename. You can also post a photo on my Facebook page. I would love to see what you create.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
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