History shows that celebrations of the new year have taken place for thousands of years; the earliest evidence comes from ancient Babylon about 4,000 Easy recipes to prepare for after the New Year years ago.

Traditions and superstitions abound and may differ according to regions of the country. Here are a few you may know about and a few that may befuddle or amuse you.

  • Fireworks and loud revelry: In many cultures, noise is believed to drive out evil spirits.
  • Images of a baby with a banner: they represent the birth of a new year. The Greeks used this imagery in 600 B.C.
  • Kissing at midnight: Smooching our favorite people ensures our ties and continues throughout the new year.
  • Resolutions: early Babylonians made promises to return borrowed farm equipment, but modern people are more likely to swear off smoking and liquor.
  • Eating black-eyed peas, collard greens and corn cornbreads Southern tradition has gained favor nationally. Black-eyed peas symbolize prosperity because peas swell when cooked; collard greens represent money, and cornbread symbolizes gold.

Some common superstitions about New Year’s Day include:

  • Take nothing out of the door: Nothing, not even garbage, should leave your house on New Year’s Day. Don’t even take Grandma home.
  • Don’t eat chicken or turkey on January 1: Like these birds, you’ll scratch in the dirt all year long for your dinner.
  • Don’t wash your laundry on New Year’s Day: If you do, a family member may be “washed away.”
  • Don’t cry on the first day of the year: Tears set the tone for the next 12 months.
  • Let out the old year: At midnight, open all the doors of your house to let the old year escape unimpeded.

Easy recipes to prepare for after the New Year

For two months, you’ve been shopping, wrapping, cooling, baking, and partying. Now you want to pull in the purse strings, but still provide your family with meals they’ll love.

SIMPLE, SLOW-COOKED PULLED PORK

Crock pot slow-cooking is perfect for pulled pork and can make the ingredients sing.

1   4-5 pound boneless pork shoulder or butt, trimmed of excess fat

1   large yellow onion, thinly sliced

4   medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1   can of beer or root beer, not diet, (acts as a meat tenderizer),

or, 1 cup regular or low-sodium chicken stock

Pork Rub

1   tablespoon chili powder

1   tablespoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1   tablespoon packed brown sugar

Barbecue Sauce

Combine the chili powder, salt, cumin, and cinnamon in a small bowl with the brown sugar. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and rub well with the spice mixture.

Layer the sliced onions and garlic in the slow cooker and pour in the liquid (beer, root beer or chicken stock).

Place the meat on the onions and garlic. Cover and cook 5 to 6 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low, until the pork is fork tender.

Turn off the slow cooker and remove the pork to a cutting board. Using two forks, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any remaining fat.

Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through a strainer into a bowl; return the solids to the slow cooker. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and mix to combine.

Now, remove the amount of meat that will be used in later meals. It refrigerates or freezes well. If you’re serving on hamburger buns, add enough barbecue sauce to the remaining meat to thoroughly moisten. Serve with barbecue beans, corn and coleslaw.

Makes 10-15 servings. Try pulled pork in tacos, hash, a pot of chili, lettuce wraps, soup, or on a baked potato.

BOURBON CHICKEN

There’s no bourbon in this recipe. It’s named Bourbon Chicken because it was created by a Chinese cook who worked on Bourbon Street.      Serves four to six.

2 pounds of boneless chicken, breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/4 teaspoon ginger

3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup apple juice

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup soy sauce

While preparing this recipe, cook the white rice according to package directions.

First, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned, turning to achieve an all-over light brown.

Remove chicken.

Put all remaining ingredients into the skillet, heating over medium heat until well mixed and dissolved.

Add the chicken pieces and bring to a hard boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve over hot rice and enjoy.

FRIED RICE

8 dried shiitake mushrooms

3 tablespoons peanut oil

2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of kosher salt

4 scallions (white and green), thinly sliced

1/4 cup minced carrot

1 large clove garlic, minced

Pinch red chili flakes

1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

3 cups cooked long-grain rice

1 cup cooked meat cut in 1/2-inch cubes, such as pork, ham, beef, or chicken

1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted in a strainer at room temperature

Put the mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water and soak until re-hydrated, about 20 minutes. Drain, squeeze dry, and cut mushrooms in quarters. Set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of the peanut oil in a well-seasoned wok or large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat the pan. Pour in the eggs, swirl the pan so the egg forms a large thin pancake. (Lift the edge of the egg to allow any uncooked egg to run to the center.) As soon as the egg has set, turn it out of the pan onto a cutting board. Cool, cut into one inch pieces.

Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and heat the remaining peanut oil over high heat. Add the scallions and carrots and stir-fry for one and half minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, chile, and ginger, stir-fry for one minute more. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and rice and stir-fry for two to three minutes. Add the meat, peas, and reserved egg, cook, stirring until heated through, about two to three minutes. Serve immediately.

NOODLES WITH CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE

3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1/2 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 bay leaves

3/4 cup tomato puree

12 ounces spaghetti, broken into 3-inch pieces

Grated Manchego or Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)

Bring a large kettle or pot of water to a boil. Season the chicken and sausage with two teaspoons salt, one teaspoon pepper and the marjoram. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add the chicken and sausage and brown on all sides, about five minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves and tomato puree to the pot. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring, until the oil turns deep red and the onions are tender, six to eight minutes. If the onions are sticking, add a splash of water and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Add the spaghetti to the onion mixture and stir-fry until golden, about six minutes. Add the chicken and sausage and enough boiling water to cover the pasta by 1/2 inch. Simmer, stirring once or twice, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with cheese, if desired.

STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS RECIPE

4 to 6 large green bell peppers
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 (20 ounce) can whole tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
grated Parmesan cheese

Cut tops off bell peppers and remove seeds. Parboil in salted, boiling water for four minutes. Drain and cool.

Brown meat in skillet with onion. Drain oil. Add tomatoes that have been mashed. Add
Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add rice. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add Cheddar cheese, stirring until melted and well blended. Stuff mixture into peppers. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees F about 20 minutes or until hot.

CABBAGE ROLL RECIPE

1 lb. hamburger
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 onion
3/4 cup cooked rice
12 large cabbage leaves
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 lb. ground pork (optional)

Combine meats, salt, pepper, rice, onion, and one can tomato sauce.

Cover cabbage leaves in boiling water for four minutes. Drain.

Place portions of meat mixture in center of each cabbage leaf; roll up.

Place seam side down in skillet. Mix remaining tomato sauce with brown sugar and lemon juice. Pour over rolls. Simmer, covered, for about one hour.

 

MEATLOAF

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all the ingredients except the barbecue sauce together, then spread the meatloaf mixture into an ungreased loaf pan.

Spoon barbecue sauce on the top of the meatloaf, and bake, uncovered, for one hour.