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Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Translation: Happy Chinese New Year! It's the Year of the Tiger, a symbol of bravery. Even if you can't make it to Chinatown for an authentic celebratory feast, you can try this easy delicious Asian-inspired recipe by Melanie that your kids can help assemble. After testing it out, I'd call it Happy Salad! The flavors were like a sunny day—clean, bright, crisp. I never realized that Napa cabbage makes a perfect salad base. The sesame oil and spices affirm the Asian essence. (Note that I didn't have soy sauce or bok choy handy so my photo above isn't as colorful as Melanie's original recipe!) It's a lovely complement to any dinner; or add a cup of sliced chicken, shrimp, or cannellini beans to transform it into a refreshing lunch. Click here for the recipe!


Show the Love

Happy Valentine's Day!Looking for an alternative to chocolate this Valentine's Day? Ok, you're probably not, but I'll still mention a delicious option available at Acorn's Bakery in Needham. There's some irony in going to Acorn's on the sweetest day of the year, as this popular little bakery is infamous for not showing the love. The owners have been dubbed the "Cake Nazis" for their lack of social skills, scaring off more than a few customers. But if you can look past their sour faces, you'll see a cozy eatery that offers a truly impressive array of scrumptious, beautifully made paninis, quiches, soups, breads, and pastries of every kind—all made on the premises (the owners are busy cooking at 5:00 am). Note that on a recent visit, I was greeted by new counter help who were refreshingly helpful and...smiling! A longtime favorite of mine is their fruit cake. Everything about it seems light. A layer of colorful fresh fruit sits on a light cream that is also spread between layers of light spongy cake. It's minimally sweet; in fact the fruit tastes sweeter than the cake. It reminds me of the fruit-topped cakes my family would buy in Chinatown. Celebratory meals would be heavy in volume and fat, so the dessert, if any, had to be very light: orange slices or delicate pieces of cake. Try this lovely cake for Valentine's Day, Chinese New Year, or any holiday. Here are more images to salivate over:    



Super Bowl of Snacks

Turkey is to Thanksgiving as snack foods are to Super Bowl parties. In fact, the USDA reports that Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest day of food gluttony in the United States after Thanksgiving! So much for finally getting on track with losing those holiday pounds. Kickoff to final touchdown can mean three to four hours of noshing on gooey dips, salty chips, and greasy meat sticks. Try this tasty menu with lean protein, fiber, and healthful fats and nutrients. Shhh, just don't mention to your party crowd that you've fine-tuned their eats—bet they won't notice! 

Walnut Hummus surrounded by an array of crispy baked snacksWalnut Hummus — In a food processor, puree a 19-ounce can of chickpeas (drained) in small batches until smooth. Add 1/4 cup walnuts and process until smooth. (Optional: Add 1/4 cup jarred, drained roasted red peppers and puree.) Finally, add one teaspoon garlic powder and salt to taste. A final pulsing and you've got a rich-tasting nutritious dip. My favorite munchies to serve with it are baked and reduced in fat and sodium: Cedar's Pita Chips, Hint of Salt Triscuits, Tostitos Baked Scoops, and Synder's Organic Honey Wheat Sticks.

No Sweat Turkey Chili — This recipe is so SO easy and can be made the day before and reheated (actually tastes better). Serve over rice or with pita chips or baked Tostitos. Click here for the recipe.

Chocolate Dipped Fruit — You can't leave out the sugar so you might as well sneak in some nutrients. You can get this grand Super Bowl chocolate covered Edible Arrangement for $76 OR get inspired by the photo to make your own! Slice apples into wedges and cut bananas into marshmallow-sized chunks. Place one cup chocolate chips in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds on high power; stir well. Heat for another 30 seconds if not completely melted and stir again. Dip end of apple wedges into chocolate and lay on waxed paper to cool. Put a toothpick in center of bananas and dip ends in chocolate, then into crushed walnuts (use food processor) or ready-sliced almonds. Pineapple rings, melon wedges, and strawberries also dip well. You can refrigerate the fruit to speed up the cooling process.