In Season February 2013

Warm and creative ways to celebrate the month's holidays.

Samantha Chan

Kindness is Contagious

On February 17, pay it forward on Random Acts of Kindness Day. This is a great time to teach children about how to help others and repay the kindness they receive from others. Consider volunteering at a local charity or visiting the elderly at a nearby nursing home. Kindness comes in small acts, too, like holding a door open for the person behind you.

Pencil Buddy

Celebrate Groundhog Day on February 2 with your little one by making this cute groundhog pencil topper from www.artistshelpingchildren.org.

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • 3 wooden beads (or anything else round, small and light)
  • Craft glue
  • Brown pom pom (light or dark, depending on the color you want your groundhog to be)

What To Do:
Apply a layer of glue on one bead and put it on the pom pom, where the eyes should be. Do the same for the other eye, followed by the nose. Make a pair of ears for your cute little groundhog by drawing a pair of half circles on paper. Cut out the designs and apply a layer of glue on one and fix it to the pom pom where the ear should be. Do the same with the other ear. Take the pencil and apply a generous layer of glue on its eraser. Fix the fluffy ball on top of it. Let it dry and enjoy your new pencil buddy.

Break for Breakfast

February 5 is National Pancake Day. Celebrate with IHOP, which has raised more than $10 million for charities in the communities in which the company operates since 2006. Guests receive a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes and are asked in exchange to give a donation. Log onto www.ihop.com for details.

Celebrate the Lunar New Year

Ring in the Chinese New Year with this egg fried rice recipe from www.chinesefood.about.com.

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 3 c. leftover cooked rice (7 oz. dry weight before cooking)
  • 4 oz. frozen peas (defrosted)
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 oz. bean sprouts
  • 1-2 tsp. soy sauce
  • Ground white pepper, to taste

Preparation:
Beat egg and sesame oil in a small bowl. Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan. When the oil is simmering and almost smoking, add the rice and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until completely heated through. Add peas, spring onion and bean sprouts. Cook for about 3 minutes, turning the rice constantly. Season well with soy sauce and pepper, then push to one side of the pan. Pour the beaten egg on the other side of the pan and leave for about 10 seconds to set. Using a chopstick, stir around the egg to break it up and then toss around with the rice. Stir-fry for another minute and serve. Feel free to add extras, such as chopped ham or cooked prawns. Serves 4-5 as a side dish.

Pie in Jar

Say “I love you” with a personal serving of pie in a mason jar. Use any pie filling recipe you desire while avoiding a mess of plates. The following recipe is for apple cider apple pie from Cooking Light magazine. One pie filling recipe fills six half-pint canning jars.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. Pillsbury pie crust, or your own pie crust recipe
  • 2 c. apple cider
  • ⅓ c. sugar
  • 3 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1¼ tsp. pumpkin-pie spice
  • 7 Braeburn apples, peeled and quartered (about 3 lbs.)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 Tbs. sugar

Preparation:
To prepare filling, bring cider to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Cook until reduced to ½ cup (about 20 minutes). Cool completely. Combine cooled cider, ⅓ cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla and pie spice in a large bowl. Cut each apple quarter crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Stir slices into cider mixture. Take the pie crust and break off little balls to press into the bottom and sides of each mason jar. No need to grease the jar. Use the jar lid to cut out circles to use as the topper for each pie. Fill each jar with approximately ½ cup of pie filling. Place the pre-cut crust circle on top and flute the edges. Cut four slits into the top to vent. Combine egg and water. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. If you’re nervous about the glass breaking, place the pies in a cold oven and allow them to heat with the oven. Place jars on a baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Once the jars cool, adorn with ribbons, tags, fabric tops and other decorations. Mason jar idea from www.ourbestbites.com.

This column appeared in the February 2013 issue.