Happy Lots of Things!

Including, but not limited to…Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, and Blog Anniversary…

Well, seems like we were just celebrating the Western New Year, and here we are, Chinese New Year! I never celebrated Chinese New Year. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Caucasian female “true blue” American (we can trace both sides of my family in the US before the Revolution)? Perhaps it’s because I never really liked Chinese food? Regardless, I never had reason to celebrate the Chinese holiday. That is until now…I admit it, I finally love Chinese food! I used to loathe Chinese food, but little did I know it was because I’d never had Chinese food, only the super-Americanized version of Chinese food. Oh how I’ve since been educated!

I have a good friend from work, Justin, who has a Chinese partner. He is very picky about his Chinese food and loves to share his cultural cuisine with his friends. Our first outing together was for Peking Duck at Peking Cuisine here in Houston. Peking duck is one of a few specialties in Yao’s hometown, and this place did it about as authentic as you can find in the great state of Texas!

Our second meeting was over Yao’s hometown delight of the hot pot! Yao prepared the hot pot in the traditional manner and we wined (well beered, wine is too acidic for hot pot) and dined over lots of yummy meats and veggies cooked in the spicy Szechuan broth

Well, today Yao was going out of town, and with it being Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day, I decided to take matters into my own hands, a traditional Chinese dish known as chap chye. From what I’ve read, traditionally the Chinese like to have a healthy vegetarian dish to start off their New Year on the right foot. Well, sounds great! It’s a new lunar year, plus the start of a new year of my blog, why not celebrate with this traditional dish?

I spent most of the morning researching recipes and came across this recipe from Christine’s Recipes. Her recipe sounded like it would just hit the spot! Light, healthy, and full of mushrooms (my longtime fav.). I asked Yao about the authenticity of the recipe and he said it wasn’t from his region, but looked appeared to be from the Southeastern part of China (good enough for me)!

After finding Christine’s recipe (and asking Yao for his input), I headed off to find all of the ingredients I needed to make this traditional dish. I’ve been to 99 Ranch Market a few times since it had opened, but have been tipped off by fellow Houston Chowhounds About H-Mart,, which was supposedly much better than 99 Ranch Market! I couldn’t believe an Asian market outdoing 99 Ranch Market, but well, it does in one big area, produce.

I obtained fresh shitake and black cloud ears there as well as the rest of the veggies I’d need this week and fermented red bean curd. All for the whopping total of $23…nearly a whole week’s dinners for $23! I can deal with that…

There were a few items I couldn’t find at H-Mart, as it’s a Korean predominated grocery store, not Chinese, so just down the road I visited Ranch Market for those last few items on my list, including fresh wood ear mushrooms! I’m such a lucky girl to live in an area with two excellent Asian markets to get exotic and fresh ingredients!

Somehow I was done with my grocery shopping by noon, so I decided to try to make up my long run from last week by getting a run in quickly before I ate lunch. Last week, I didn’t do so hot, with my IT band acting up on me. Well, what a week of strength training can do. I successfully ran, not my goal of 3 miles, but a “whopping” 3.7 miles! My longest run since the Houston Half Marathon and with little discomfort (except for a few blisters, ugh, and a surprising loss of cardio). After good stretching, rolling, and some icing I was as good as new and ready to continue my day!

I then got to reflecting of the past year of blogging and how far my photography has come in one short year…

Here is my first food-related blog post from last Valentine’s Day…

Compare to this year’s Valentine’s Day/Chinese New Year dinner…

What a difference a year makes! Now if I could only work on my prose a bit more…in time young grasshopper, in time…

I leisurely prepared dinner, as Mark was working today (hopefully last Sunday working!!!) and had it ready just in time after he got back from his quick evening run. It was actually quite simple of a dish to make and had a complex palate of flavors that you just can’t place. This time I followed the recipe exactly, but next time I’m going to adapt it a bit to give it a bit more zing!

After dinner, we had a cupcake (or two) from Rebbecca Masson and Lucky Dog Rescue’s Valentine’s Bake Sale.

All in all, we had a great celebration in honor of all of the events occurring today! Hopefully it will translate into health and prosperity for the New Year!