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While we don't need a holiday to enjoy our favourite Chinese-inspired dishes, we can't wait to join in the celebrations with these delicious recipes.
The Year of the Rooster begins on Saturday, January 28, and lasts until February 15, 2018. This holiday is also called the Lunar New Year, and is celebrated not only in China, but across Asia and around the world in countries like Canada, where Chinese Canadians number more than a million — one of the most common ethnic origins in our multicultural mix.
There are a number of traditional dishes served during the celebration that are meant to be auspicious. Noodle dishes are especially important, as long noodles are a symbol of longevity. Dishes that cook a whole animal (such as a fish) signify the beginning and ending of the year, and the head and tail are usually displayed intact on the serving dish. Dumplings can signify prosperity, and oranges, representing luck and wealth, are a great way to round out a meal.
Here are some of our favourite traditional and reinvented recipes that we'll be cooking up this year to join in the festivities. Gung Hei Fat Choi!
Traditionally served during the holidays and Chinese New Year, these crumbly melt-in-your-mouth cookies have three layers of almond flavour. Ground almonds add a hint of crunch, almond extract lends a sweet aroma and whole almonds make for a pretty garnish.
This Chinese classic gets a wholesome makeover by replacing the meat with loads of fresh vegetables. Korean hot pepper paste isn't traditionally found in ma po tofu, but it adds a nice kick. Look for it in the Asian section of your grocery store, or substitute with one teaspoon of sriracha.
“This is my take on a wintertime favourite that's served in my childhood home,” says Food specialist Irene Fong. “My dad loves this braised beef with noodles, but it's just as good served over rice.” We've used brisket here because it's unbelievably tender when braised.
The thick meat sauce on these noodles is a bit like an Asian-style Bolognese. The cooked noodles tend to stick together if they stand for a while, so mix the sauce into them and eat right away for the best texture. For a twist, serve the sauce over rice with a side of steamed bok choy.
This tofu is so delicious and simple, you'll look for any excuse to make it. Serve as an appetizer or as a meatless main, either with a side of rice or stuffed inside a steamed Asian bun.
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Learn the basics of setting your dinner table with these helpful tips from The Marilyn Denis Show's Charles the Butler.
While fashion in table settings has changed over the centuries, affecting the flatware, glassware and china we use, the method of setting a table remains exactly the same.
This is the basic method I recommend:
1. Set just one place setting first. Don't try to set the entire table at once as there will only be more to undo if you don't like how it looks. Make sure the placement is correct and that you are happy with it.
2. Next, take the rest of the chargers or main course plates and place them around the table where you want to position all the other place settings. Keep the spacing between settings equidistant. Once they are properly positioned, organize utensils and glassware around them.
3. Check for symmetry. Why do we care so much about this? Because the human eye loves symmetry. When things are not symmetrical our eye sees imperfection. Use the butler stick (a specialized yard stick designed for precise place settings) for this!
The North American place setting
In this table setting, the glasses form a diamond shape above the cutlery, with the first glass placed directly above the main course knife (inside, right). The dessert spoon and the fork are at the top of the plate, and above them is the place card. Guests use the cutlery from the outside moving in. This place setting starts with a soup course (spoon, outside right), moves on to a salad (fork, outside left), a fish course (middle fork and knife) and a meat course (inside fork and knife).
The Asian place setting
In Asia, unlike the Western world, there is no standard for formal place settings at tables. In fact, the focus is on the food rather than the place setting. The diagram shows a typical place setting, but it can easily be changed to suit your needs without making any errors of etiquette.
Using a butler's stick
One of the first rules of formal table setting is the 24-inch rule. This refers to the ideal amount of space from the centre of one plate to the centre of the next plate, allowing each guest plenty of elbow room. You may need to decrease the distance if your table is not large enough to allow 24 inches between settings.
A trend in Asian table settings is to provide two sets of chopsticks: an inner set for personal use, and the outer set to be used by guests when helping themselves to communal food.
The ideal distance from the back of a chair to the edge of the table is also 24 inches. This allows guests to sit comfortably. A good butler will use his or her butler stick to take these two measurements.
Today, few people use butler sticks to set their daily dinner tables, and to be truthful, even the contemporary butler doesn't necessarily use the tool every day. But when there is a special occasion—such as an important family birthday or anniversary—the butler stick can be of use.
This is how a professional butler would set the dining table with a butler stick:
Align the bottom of the butler stick with the edge of the table. The baseline for a place setting should be about one inch from the edge of the table—the width of the butler stick.
Align all the cutlery, the plate and the napkin to touch the top of the butler stick. This will create the perfect straight edge for your place setting. The plate should be centred at the 0, the centre of the butler stick.
Ideally, place the first knife 1 to 1.5 inches away from the plate. Continue using this same metric for the rest of the cutlery so that it is all equidistant. You may choose to reduce the amount of space between items of cutlery if your table space is limited. What's important is to keep everything consistent.
As you move around the table creating each place setting, use the same measurements.
To help achieve a beautiful place setting, strive for accuracy, and horizontal and vertical symmetry.
Excerpted from The Pocket Butler: A Compact Guide to Modern Manners, Business Etiquette and Everyday Entertaining by Charles MacPherson. Copyright © 2015 Charles MacPherson. Illustrations courtesy of Charles MacPherson Academy Inc. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, a Penguin Random House Company. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
While every Canadian faces his or her own unique set of health hurdles, there are a number of ailments that have become pervasive in Canada. Though medicine has advanced over the years, our modern lifestyles have introduced a new set of health challenges. Here are some of the top health problems that Canadians face today.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, diagnoses of diabetes among Canadians increased 70 percent from 1998/1999 to 2008/2009. For those ages 35 to 44, the number of diagnoses actually doubled in that decade! Experts blame the shocking increase in the disease on rising obesity rates, caused by diet and inactivity. The Canadian Diabetes Association says there are nine million Canadians with diabetes or prediabetes, and experts expect the prevalence of the disease to grow another 47 percent by 2024.
Heart disease and stroke are consistently among the leading causes of death in both men and women. Though some of the contributing factors, such as age, race and family history, are out of our control, many of the lifestyle factors associated with heart disease are on the rise. For instance, the rise in obesity and inactivity is putting more and more Canadians at risk. And for those Canadians living with diabetes, heart disease risk is also higher. While smoking has decreased greatly in the past decade, 16 percent of Canadians are still smoking, and putting themselves at a significantly higher risk for developing heart disease.
Multiple sclerosis may not be a leading killer, but it's a scary and uniquely Canadian disease. Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world, with about 100,000 people living with the disease. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, but the cause of the disease is still unknown. Mysteriously, some of the hardest hit countries seem to be those furthest from the equator, leading some people to believe that the disease is linked to a shortage of vitamin D, which is produced from sun exposure. But even accounting for our northern location, this theory doesn't seem to explain why our rate is a whopping 28 percent higher than that of Denmark, the country with the next highest rate.
Cancer as a whole is the leading cause of death among Canadians, and the incidence of the disease is expected to increase in coming years as our population ages. More than 75,000 Canadians are estimated to die of cancer a year. While lung and colorectal cancers account for 40 percent of all cancer deaths, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. In the past two decades, we have managed to decrease the death rates associated with many cancers, including breast, prostate and stomach cancers, but others, such as liver cancer, are on the rise. (Liver cancer is associated with hepatitis, alcohol use, obesity and diabetes.) Though there have been many advances in cancer research in the past several years, Canadians still have a long way to go in the fight against cancer.
While it's not a disease in itself, alcohol leads to a number of dangerous diseases in Canadians, including addiction and several types of cancer, but alcohol can also lead to other accidents and personal injuries. In fact, alcohol can account for eight percent of all deaths among Canadians under the age of 70, and a study from the journal Addiction says that Canadians drink about 50 percent more alcohol than the rest of the world, on average.
Much like cancer, chances are that everyone has been affected by mental illness in some way, whether through association with friends or family, or through their own struggles. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 percent of Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime, and eight percent of adults will experience major depression. Mental illness also leads to suicide, which is one of the leading causes of death among Canadians from adolescence to middle age. Unfortunately, Canada still struggles to properly treat mental illness, as many patients wait months to see a psychiatrist or are forced to pay out of pocket for therapy.
There has been a recent flurry of misinformation warning the public about the safety of vaccines that has gotten health officials worried that we could soon see a rise in previously eradicated diseases. In early 2014, there was an outbreak of the measles in Fraser Valley, B.C., that made hundreds of people sick because of the failure to vaccinate against the disease. Currently, the province of British Columbia is reporting their lowest vaccination rates among kindergarteners in a decade. And it's not just affecting kids. During the 2014 flu season, a poll found that less than four in 10 Canadians received the flu shot, and the primary reason so many neglected to get it was because of a mistrust of vaccines. In the coming years, education about vaccines should be a priority in Canada to keep the next generation free of preventable diseases.