Gong Hei Fat Choi! Happy Chinese New Year! I've mentioned many times I'm a sucker for themes and nothing brings out themes like international holidays. Chinese New Year is an easy holiday for anyone to celebrate. Chinese food (or an Americanized version) is easy to find and many websites suggest fun ways to decorate for the holiday. I used epicurious.com to find a simple kid-friendly menu and www.activityvillage.co.uk for some cute Chinese New Year printables. Eyrleigh and I decorated the table together. I had some gold place mats and napkins that I tied with red ribbon. I found some pillar candles and an Asian-style vase to make a centerpiece. We printed out a lantern to glue together and some lucky money envelopes. I slid some money in and Eyrleigh could barely wait to open her envelope. She was so excited!
The menu on epicurious was titled "Chinese in a Flash" and it was a super easy take on Chinese that Eyrleigh loved. The main dish of Hoisin Chicken in Lettuce Leaves was chicken and water chestnuts in a simple sauce. Eyrleigh doesn't like lettuce much, I think it's textural, so she ate her chicken without the lettuce. Flavor wise, this is not an outstanding dish but it has simple flavors and is super easy to make so until I have more time (no crying 6 month old who won't eat any of this anyway!), this menu gets the point across.
The Chinese Style Mushroom and Tofu Soup was also simple and not particularly flavorful but it was quick and easy. It is a great introduction to tofu if you are not sure what your child (or husband:) will think of it. The broth flavors the tofu and helps mellow the textural uniqueness of tofu. I served these dishes with brewed green tea.
The dessert is a bit strange and though Eyrleigh loved it, I'm not sure I will repeat this recipe. The Mandarin Orange Napoleons use the super kid friendly canned oranges which immediately makes them tops in my child's book. I however could live without the candy sweet little things and liked them even less in what basically amounts to cream cheese frosting. I also was very annoyed at the directions to bake the filo dough layers for 10-15 minutes. The first batch burned to a crisp in 10 minutes and even the second batch that I only cooked for 8 minutes was dark and tasted burnt on the edges.
Next year, I may try to amp up the authenticity in dishes but for my first Chinese New Year with two, this menu worked and allowed for some time to make some fun crafts. I tried to get Eyrleigh to make a dragon for Richard's place setting but she ended up gluing white paper and some origami I made. Rylynn played with (ate) her little toys and was just as happy with pureed butternut squash. I look forward to next year as Eyrleigh gets more artistic and Rylynn will be old enough to scribble something.