Stepping Out

Chinese New Year feasting

Welcome the Year of the Snake


If Super Sunday entertaining wasn’t your thing, then perhaps another round of New Year’s revelry is more your style. It’s time to take out the broom and sweep away the winter doldrums with a Chinese New Year gathering: the Year of the Snake is celebrated on Feb. 10.

The Snake is the sixth year of the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 years (and 12 different animals) total. Contrary to Western stereotypes about snakes being a fearful animal, Chinese folklore looks upon snakes as lucky.

Ancient Chinese wisdom went so far as to believe that finding a snake in your home was a good omen, and meant your family would be well fed and prosperous. In fact, during certain Chinese spring festivals, people like to paste the paper-cut ‘Fu’ character, which means happiness, and combine it with a snake twisting around a rabbit onto their doors. This popular pattern is a sign of abundance and wealth in the year ahead.

If you were born in 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989 or 2001, you were born under the sign of the snake. According to Chinese Astrology, a “Snake” person is a smart person. People born during the Year of the Snake are said to be endowed with wisdom and with deep philosophical understanding. They are born thinkers who excel in finding solutions to complex problems.

Enigmatic, intuitive, introspective, and refined, the Snake in the house is considered a good omen because it means your family will not starve. People born in the Year of the Snake are considered keen, cunning, intelligent, wise, and good at business. They also are typically sophisticated, and their choices for home decoration are cultured.

Famous people born in the Year of the Snake? They include Bob Dylan, Greta Garbo, Art Garfunkel, Audrey Hepburn, Dean Martin, Dorothy Parker, Paul Simon, Oprah Winfrey, Virginia Woolf, Ben Stiller, Charlie Sheen, Darwin, Jacqueline Kennedy, Martha Stewart, Pierce Brosnan, President Abraham Lincoln, Robert Downey Jr., Tim Allen, and Grace Kelly.

People who are born under this sign, are a complex mix of personsonality traits, acording to the Chinese Zodiac. They can be loners and may use others to achieve their aims and goals. Their goals may be worthwhile for mankind or could be solely for the gain of the Snake person.

Spectacle and symbolism

Chinese New Year is all about spectacle, from those ubiquitous fireworks and dancing dragons to an assortment of delectable food. That’s why it’s a holiday anyone can enjoy – and a great time to host a party.

From the décor and color scheme to the food, Chinese New Year is rich in beautiful symbols. If you’ve got a round table, this is the time to use it, because it is a sign of wholeness. Decorate it with red and gold accents to represent good luck and


During Chinese New Year, the color red is everywhere. People wear red, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children “hong bao” (or “lucky money”) in red envelopes. That’s because the color red symbolizes happiness, abundance and good fortune. It also symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck.

There are all sorts of symbolic foods, each associated with specific blessings or good luck. Noodles – in dishes such as Wonton Soup and Snake Alley Noodles – stand for longevity. Pork symbolizes wealth; whole chicken stands for completeness and prosperity

Supplement the meal with other symbolic foods, such as pot stickers or spring rolls (said to bring prosperity because they resemble gold ingots); a bowl of tangerines or oranges (their Chinese names sound like the words for “luck” and “wealth”); fortune cookies to go with dessert – you can even insert your own customized fortunes for the year ahead. For the ultimate in a customized fortune make homemade fortune cookies and write creative fortunes to delight and amuse your guests. And at exactly the stroke of midnight, open the doors and windows to release the stresses of the old year.

Lucky Day Stir-Fry

1/3 cup stir-fry sauce

1 large clove garlic, pressed

1/2 pound fresh asparagus

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1/2 pound fresh snow peas, trimmed

1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips

10 to 12 ears canned whole baby corn, rinsed (optional)

1. Combine stir-fry sauce and garlic.

2. Cut asparagus crosswise into 2-inch pieces.

3. Heat oil in hot wok or large skillet over high heat. Add asparagus and onion; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add snow peas; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add red bell pepper; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add corn; stir-fry 1 minute.

4. Pour in stir-fry sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until vegetables are coated with sauce. Serve immediately.

5. Heat oil in hot wok or large skillet over high heat. Add green onions and stir-fry 10 seconds. Add soy sauce mixture; cook, stirring, until sauce comes to boil.

6. Add noodles; cook, stirring, 1 minute or until sauce returns to boil and noodles are evenly coated with sauce.

7. Remove from heat. Add sesame seed and oil; toss well to combine.

Classic Fried Rice

6 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 egg, beaten

8 green onions and tops, sliced

4 cups cold, cooked rice

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Move bacon to the side of the pan; add egg and scramble. Move egg over and add green onions to the skillet; sauté for about a minute.

2. Stir in the rice, add garlic and soy sauce. Toss until mixture is well blended and heated through.

Snake Alley Noodles

3/4 pound uncooked spaghetti

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons dry sherry

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 pound ground pork

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3/4 cup chopped green onions and tops

1/2 pound cooked baby shrimp, rinsed and drained

1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, omitting salt; drain and keep warm. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch and 1 cup water.

2. Stir-fry pork with ginger, garlic and red pepper in hot wok or large skillet over medium heat, until pork is cooked.

3. Add green onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Add soy sauce mixture; cook and stir until mixture boils and thickens slightly. Stir in shrimp and heat through.

4. Pour over noodles and toss to combine.

Homemade Fortune Cookies

3 egg whites

3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper. Have fortunes ready to go on small strips of paper.

2. In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites and sugar on high speed of an electric mixer until frothy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and stir in melted butter, vanilla, almond extract, water and flour one at a time, mixing well after each. Consistency should resemble pancake batter. Spoon the batter into 3 inch circles on the prepared baking sheets. Leave room between for


3. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown slightly. Quickly remove one at a time, place a message in the center, and fold in half. Fold the ends of the half together into a horseshoe shape. If they spring open, place them in a muffin tin to cool until set.

Note: Bake until cookies are golden around the edges. Otherwise they will be too soft, spongy and pancake-like.