‘Lucky food’ starts new year right

As the kids lined up at the door on the last day of school before the holiday break, one of the teachers with whom I work wished the class of second-graders “a Merry Christmas” and then added, “I’ll see you next year.”

In a moment’s time, puzzlement had spread from face to face.

“What? Next year?”

“Are we going to be gone that long?”

“When I come back to school, will I still be in second grade?”

The teacher tried to explain, but I’m still not sure if most of them caught on in the few minutes they had together.

Time is something most of us can conceptualize all too well. The passing of years can herald the onset of new aches and pains, kids growing up and out of our authority, and bring us to the life-changing stages of retirement and elder care and-yes, ultimately-death.

And it’s not that those changes time brings are all bad. Some of the richest blessings come to us as the years pass. Wisdom, freedom, financial security and, as some of my peers are experiencing, grandchildren.

But I find myself tiptoeing into my kids’ rooms at night to watch them sleep. For some reason, this season, I’ve become very aware that our days together as a nuclear family are waning. I certainly don’t want to be a clinging mother, but I think I will miss them when they aren’t around on a daily basis. College is only five years away.

Unlike a 7-year-old in the second grade, I know how fleeting five years really is.

But enough of this melancholia. We have a new year to ring in-2003. I wonder what it will bring? With war looming, the economy crashing and the threat of terrorist attacks ever present, is there anything we can do to ensure a more auspicious new year?

Traditionally speaking, the answer is yes. Almost every country has at least one special food that is eaten on New Year’s Eve or in the first days of the new year that is believed to bring luck, wealth, happiness and success in the year to come.

So, what the hey, here are a few recipes that might help make 2003 the best year ever. (If not, we’ve had some good food.)

In Japan, soba noodles and special rice cakes are prepared for the three-day celebration that rings in the new year. During that festive time, there is an unbending rule that everyone must rest-even the cook. Foods are prepared in advance so the cook need only defrost and reheat.

Since soba noodles are a little hard to find in Marion County, I thought this dish, which contains both rice and noodles, might be a fitting substitute.

Asparagus Cashew Rice Pilaf

1/4 cup butter

2 oz.uncooked spaghetti, broken

1/4 cup minced onion

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

11/4 cups uncooked jasmine rice

21/4 cups vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1/2 cup cashew halves

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Increase to medium and stir in spaghetti, cooking until coated with the melted butter and lightly browned.

Stir in onion and garlic and cook about two minutes or until tender. Stir in rice and cook about five minutes. Pour in vegetable broth. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and cook 20 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed.

Place asparagus in a separate saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender but yet firm.

Mix asparagus and cashew halves into the rice mixture and serve warm.

* * *

Ever since I saw the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” I can’t make a Bundt type cake without laughing. Greek families around the world celebrate the New Year with this classic pound cake.


1 cup butter, softened

13/4 cups white sugar

5 eggs

2 tbs. water

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds

2 tbs. sesame seeds

In a large bowl, blend together the butter and the sugar. Separate three of the eggs; add the yolks and the two remaining whole eggs to the butter mixture. Stir in the vanilla and water.

In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and then add to creamed mixture.

Whip three egg whites until they are foamy. Add one tablespoon sugar. Continue to whip the whites until they are stiff, but not dry. Fold whipped whites into batter.

Pour the batter into a greased 10×4 tube pan. Wrap a large coin in foil and place the coin in the batter. Press the coin down; it should be completely hidden. Sprinkle top of batter with seeds and nuts.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 70 minutes or until done.

* * *

At midnight in Spain, it is customary to eat a grape with each stroke of the clock to ensure a prosperous new year. A little dip might go well, don’t you think?

Easy Fruit Dip

8 oz. Cool Whip

7 oz. marshmallow creme

3 oz. cream cheese, softened

Beat the cream cheese until fluffy and then fold in the rest of the ingredients. You may add one tablespoon of lemon, orange or maraschino cherry juice for extra flavor, if desired.

* * *

Our country has its own traditions coming up from the Deep South. Black-eyed peas and pork, the fattier the better, are considered essentials for every New Year’s celebration.

Texas Caviar

1/2 white onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

1 tbs. minced garlic

1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 (8 oz.) bottle zesty Italian dressing

1 (5 oz.) can black beans, drained

1 (15 oz.) can black-eyed peas, drained

1/2 tsp. coriander

1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro

Mix all of the ingredients and place in covered container. Chill for two hours and serve with tortilla chips or bread.

Brown Sugar Smokies

1 (16 oz.) package little smokie sausages

1 pound bacon

1 tsp. brown sugar-or more, much more

Cut bacon into thirds and wrap each strip around a little sausage. Place the wrapped sausages on wooden skewers, several to a skewer. Arrange on a baking sheet (broiler pan works well) and sprinkle them liberally with brown sugar

Bake until bacon is crisp and the brown sugar melted. You may want to broil for a few minutes, but watch carefully.

* * *

So “eat, drink and be merry” for on Jan. 2, we begin the diets.

Happy New Year.

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