Thursday, February 3, 2011

Celebrating Chinese New Year by Reading, Cooking, & Homeschooling

Today marks the start of the Chinese New Year - the Year of the Rabbit.  Part of today's homeschooling focused on the Chinese New Year.  I read the girls a book about Chinese New Year as well as a book that I've read to them in the past that they've enjoyed:  The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine. 

In the back of the book, there's a recipe for Baked Nian-Gao (or New Year's cake).  According to the book, the most improtant dish in a New Year's Day meal is Nian-Gao.  It states, "Eating Nian-Gao during the New Year's celebration birng safety and fortune to the entire family for the year."

So, I let the girls read the recipe in the book, measure the ingredients, and bake the cake.  Here's the recipe:

Dry Ingredients

1 pound glutinous rice flour (also called sweet rice flour) [I didn't have this type of flour on hand so we just used all-purpose flour instead)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup nuts [we didn't use these because we don't care for nuts in cakes]

Wet Ingredients

3 eggs
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine all the dry ingredients ina large mixing bowl.  Mix thoroughly.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the other wet ingredients to the eggs and stir.

Olivia is adding water to the vegetable oil and eggs.

The girls are stirring the dry and wet ingredients one last time before combining them:

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour in the batter.  Bake for 40 minutes.  The Nian-Gao will rise when done.  A knife poked into the center will come out clean.

Note:  The dough comes almost to the top of the pan, so I put a cookie sheet underneath it just in case it rose a bit too much and overflowed.  It didn't, but it was worth doing.  It took much longer than 40 minutes to bake.  Either my oven isn't hot enough, or it just takes longer than the recipe suggests.  It took almost 55 minutes to bake. The Nian-Gao has a nice flavor to it.  Everyone liked it.  It's especially good warm...right out of the oven.

In addition to the Nian-Gao, we made sushi.  Even though it isn't a Chinese dish, it reminded me of when the girls were adopted from China.  Many times - and at multiple restaurants throughout China - sushi was served.  There was always a vegetarian sushi option which Sophia and I prefer.  Olivia just likes the rice.  As she says, "I don't like to eat seaweed" (the green wrapping).

Sophia placed sushi rice, carrot slices, and
a green onion on top of the sushi paper.

Even though Olivia doesn't eat sushi, she still wanted to peel and cut a carrot into slices.  She passed on slicing the green onions.

Olivia is working with the carrots while Sophia is rolling the sushi.

Sophia is almost done rolling one of sushi roll. 
The rice is rather sticky.

Once the girls were done with the nian-gao and sushi, they took a break while I put everything together in a muffin tin.  Some of the items had a Chinese connection...others didn't.

Top row: orange (good luck/fortune), grapes, rice, long noodles (long life)
Middle row: sushi, coleslaw, nian-gao (see above for meaning), nian-gao (see above for meaning)
Bottom row: oranges (good luck/fortune), grapes, rice, long noodles (long life)

The girls brought out placemats and chopsticks that are from China.  They were purchased when Sophia was adopted in 2001.

The girls starting to eat their Chinese New Year lunch.

Shibley Smiles

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth


Vagabond Carnival said...

Happy New Year!

I will have to try the Nian-Gao at some point.

RedTedArt said...

I think it is great to combine books and cooking with certain "times of the year". A really great way to make things special - and a great way for you guys to celebrate Chinese New Year. I love sushi...mmmh.

Thanks for linking up to Kids Get Crafty!


Evie's Tool Emporium said...

Looks like fun and tasty too!

Wonder Mom said...

That lunch looks FANTASTIC! What a DELICIOUS way to enter the Chinese New Year...

Anne@LittleSproutBooks said...

Thanks for visiting Little Sprout Books! I love the Nian-Gao recipe! Thanks for sharing!

Natalia said...

This looks so fun! I don't think we have read either one of those books but they are going on our library check-out list for sure and I am dying to make baked Nian-Gao. Thanks for sharing and thanks for stopping by Make Monthly!

JDaniel4's Mom said...

This meal looks wonderful. They did a wonderful job.

Thank you so much for linking to Read.Explore.Learn.

April said...

That is great that you incorporated cooking...I went with the take out. tsk tsk :)

That is great that your girls got to celebrate a part of their culture. I try to do that with Mexican customs/traditions/holidays as much as possible.

Coming thru from Read.Explore.Learn

Island Mom said...

What a great idea, both the cooking and incorporating books and food as part of the celebration. I'm trying to do that more and more with my son as he gets older (of course, he's only just turning 3 next month, so I've got time).

Sugary Flower said...

I think it's so cool that you used the opportunity to celebrate the culture of the girls' country of birth. The meal looks yummy, too!

SnoopyGirl said...

Happy New year! What a great muffin meal to celebrate with!

Sharon said...

Looks good! Makes me want to make sushi!

Ludicrous Mama said...

I love that your older kids still love this! It means I won't have to stop once she hits elementary school! And I love that you not only celebrating a part of their culture, but tied it in with books and food.

Sandy said...

Fun lunch!

Gina said...

Thanks for sharing and inspiring others to embrace culture through food by setting such a shining example. Looks like so much fun, too!