Kung Pao Shrimp

This kung pao shrimp can be made at home in the time it would take for "take-out" to arrive.

Merry Christmas! I hope you are enjoying a special time together with family and friends. Next our thoughts turn towards New Year's celebrations. You may have certain ways you celebrate each year, but if you are open to trying something new, here are some recipes to help you bring in the New Year that feature some of the foods that are thought to bring you good luck.

It is popular to go out for Chinese food for New Year's, but try preparing it at home instead. You can prepare this recipe for Kung Pao Shrimp in less time than it takes to call for “take-out.” If you don’t have any of the dry sherry called for in the recipe, you can substitute a dry white or red wine, or even apple cider.

Kung Pao Shrimp

(Servings: 4)


1½ tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided

1½ teaspoons dry sherry, divided

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp

1 tablespoon peanut oil

¼ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1½ cups thinly sliced celery

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

½ cup chopped onion

1/3 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons green onion strips


Combine ½ tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon dry sherry, 2 teaspoons cornstarch and shrimp. Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add peanuts, ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper; stir-fry 30 seconds. Stir in celery, bell pepper and chopped onion; stir-fry 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add shrimp mixture; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon sherry, and broth. Bring to a simmer; cook 1 minute, or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and salt. Top with onions. Serve with rice, if desired. Source: “Cooking Light, Best Holiday Recipes,” 2011.

Hoppin' John is one of the New Year's traditions. The black-eyed peas represent coins and wealth that will be brought to you. Rice also represents coins and wealth.

Hoppin’ John Fried Rice

(Servings: 6)


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1½ cups cooked black-eyed peas or 1 (15 oz.) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained

4 cups cooked and chilled long-grained white rice

3 cups pulled pork or 1 (12 oz.) container sauceless pulled pork

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot sauce

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup chopped green onion

Fried eggs to serve

Garnish — chopped green onions, hot sauce


In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add black-eyed peas and tomatoes; cook for 5 minutes. Add rice, pork, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt and pepper; cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in green onion. Serve with fried eggs and garnish with green onion and hot sauce, if desired. Source: Cooking with Paula Deen, "Celebrate the Season’s Best Flavors,” December 2018.

Pork is another food that is a symbol of good luck for the New Year because pigs root in the dirt with a forward movement, thus representing a forward movement in life. This fruit-stuffed pork roast has a savory, less sweet flavor with the balsamic vinegar and thyme added. It makes a beautiful presentation at your dinner table.

Fruit-Stuffed Pork Roast

(Servings: 10)


1½ cups dried fruit bits

1/3 cup apple juice

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon white balsamic or cider vinegar

½ cup finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 (3- to 4-pound) boneless pork top loin roast

2 medium onions, cut into wedges

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup red currant jelly

2 medium apples, cored and cut into wedges

Fresh thyme leaves (optional)


For stuffing, in a small saucepan combine dried fruit, apple juice, and ¼ cup vinegar. Bring to boiling over medium-high heat. Boil gently, uncovered, 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand 30 minutes. Stir in chopped onion, chopped thyme and the salt and black pepper. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butterfly pork loin. If some areas are thicker than others, lay a piece of plastic wrap on top and pound the thick spots using the flat side of a meat mallet. Season meat lightly with additional salt and pepper. Spoon stuffing onto meat. Starting from a short side, roll up into a spiral. Tie securely with 100% cotton kitchen string. Place onion wedges in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon melted butter and the olive oil, toss to coat. Arrange onion wedges in an even layer; place meat on top. Season roast with additional salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, roast another 30 minutes. Meanwhile in a small saucepan melt jelly over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar. Place apple wedges in a medium bowl. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter, toss to coat. Arrange apples in roasting pan around roast. Brush meat, onions and apples with jelly mixture. Roast 30 to 45 minutes more or until a thermometer inserted in meat registers 145 degrees. Remove from oven. Cover meat with foil; let stand 15 minutes before slicing. If desired, top with additional thyme. Serve pork with apples and onions. Source: Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, October 2019.

Greens are another one of the New Year traditions that are said to bring good luck since the color represents money, and you can serve them in a different form with this spinach dip that is baked and served in a bread shell. The dip can be made ahead and chilled, then placed in the bread shell and baked just before time to serve.

Baked Spinach Dip in Bread


2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened (can use low-fat)

1 cup mayonnaise

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

1 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled

¼ cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon dill weed

1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced

1 round loaf (1 pound) unsliced sourdough bread

Assorted fresh vegetables


In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, and mayonnaise until blended. Stir in the spinach, bacon, cheese, onion, dill, and garlic; set aside. Cut a 1½-inch slice off the top of the bread; set aside. Carefully hollow out bottom, leaving a ½-inch shell. Cube the removed bread and place on a baking sheet. Broil 3 -to 4- inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Fill bread shell with spinach dip; replace top. Place any dip that doesn’t fit in shell in a greased baking dish. Wrap bread in heavy-duty foil; place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until dip is heated through. Cover and bake additional dip for 40 – 45 minutes or until heated through. Open foil carefully. Serve dip warm with vegetables and reserved bread cubes. Source: Taste of Home “Best Holiday Recipes”, 2008.

Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.


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