When was the Last Time You Tried Something for the First Time?

Our brains are hardwired to enjoy novelty and challenge.

Well…according to neuroscience, that it! Which has me thinking – when was the last time you tried something for the first time?

If newness and challenge can light up the brain and excite the soul perhaps it’s time we become explorers of fresh, unusual, and adventurous things.

  • When did you last make a new friend?
  • When did you last meet a new neighbor?
  • What about trying new ingredients in a recipe or eating a new food?
  • When did you last have a new experience or dive into something challenging?
  • When was the last time you sought restoration for a relationship that was strained?

Partaking in new activities means different things for different people. I’m not suggesting you run out and go skydiving (unless of course that’s your ‘thing’), but what can you do this week and in the days to come that’s new? Be sure to scroll to the end for your dare for the week.

Let’s talk about Nin-Goh

This is a picture of my brilliant and sassy friend Jessica and her husband Alvin – they’ve sent us a new recipe to try out! Traditional Chinese Nin-Goh.

[This photo of Nin-Goh by Jessica’s friend Liz McGarvey.]

Jessica and I became fast friends when we shared a suite in college. Our first journey together unfolded as we went to pick up our college issued computers. Pretty sure we wandered the woods [lost] for a few hours until we made it to the pick up location; new and adventurous things happens when you go to school in the wild Upper Peninsula.

Take it away, Jessica:

Unsolicited Recipe and Thoughts about the Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year: January 31, 2014
Year of the Horse
Happy New Year!

Bringing in the new year isn’t just about fireworks or an exciting parade, it’s true celebration is around the dinner table with family and close friends.

In preparation, we clean our entire house from top to bottom…think of it like spring cleaning but we’re dusting away the old year to make way for the new one. This means taking down and washing curtains, foiling the dust bunny revolution by vacuuming underneath beds since they were just about to form their own government, putting a fresh coat of paint on the front door to welcome all who enter our home, and clearing any clutter that has accumulated throughout the year like the mending that needs to be done or the freezer that needs defrosted.

It is a lot of work, is a bit overwhelming without lists, and takes me at least two weeks, eight reminders to my husband to fold his shirts, as well as three phone calls from my mother-in-law inquiring as to the state of chaos the house is under. I promise you the madness is worth it. When it’s all finished the house feels lighter somehow and welcoming guests becomes a joy instead of a stressful “Is this clean enough?!” visit because by the time this process is complete there won’t be a speck of dust for anyone to find. [**Note from Alysa here – I’m a strong believer of letting people into your home, mess and all – but there’s just something refreshing about deep cleaning your home, beginning again from an organized state.]

When we invite the ones we love to dinner we’re ensuring our first memories of the new year are filled with love, delicious food, and happiness.

The Traditional Dish, Nin-Goh (Pronounced Neen-Go)

1 package Rice Ovalettes (soak for 3 hours in lukewarm water)
1 package Shitake mushrums (if dried, soak for 4 hours in lukewarm water)
1-2 lbs Nappa Cabbage, thinly sliced. It’s best if it is yellow.
Lee-Kum-Kee oyster sauce [red bottle with gold letters]

In a wok or large stock pot, sauté mushrums in extra light olive oil for 3 minutes, set aside.
Then, saute nappa cabbage, add ¼ cup water for each pound of cabbage, cover and cook for six minutes. Or, as my mother-in-law says “just a little bit” but I timed her and she clocked in at 6 minutes, exactly. Set aside.

Drain water from ovalletes, cook in slightly oiled wok or stock pot and stir for 4 minutes.
Return nappa cabbage to wok/pot on medium heat, cook 2 minutes, add shitake mushrooms and any cabbage water.Cover and cook on low 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Thinly slice 2 cups of ham per 1lb of cabbage, set aside.
After cooking 15-20 minutes:
Add 1 tbsp of oyster sauce for each pound of cabbage.
Add ham and stir, cover and let set for 5 minutes.

Serves 6-8 or 4-6 with seconds and thirds!

Substituions for ham:
Pork of any kind
Boneless hoison beef bbq ribs (cha-so)
Chinese Brocolli (gui-lan)
Fresh water chestnuts

[**Note from Alysa: Seeing as I live in a smaller town, I couldn’t find the rice ovalettes ANYWHERE so I used rice noodles (rice sticks) instead. Found those in the small ‘Chinese Food’ section at my local grocery store. We were out of ham so I substituted some left over pork loin, and since I can’t do the oyster sauce I made my own concoction of a sauce with beef broth, molasses, salt, pepper, grapeseed oil, garlic, white vinegar, and sweet rice vinegar. Perhaps soy sauce would have worked too? So although it was substitution city up in here – this dish was delicious. Pretty sure I’ll be ordering some ovalettes offline so I can try the more traditional recipe!

On the ‘newness front’ this recipe had me munching on shitake mushrooms for the first time, ever, which led me to say, ‘Sure!’ when my husband asked if I wanted to try some hot sauce on my chicken. If you know me…I’m not a mushroom OR hot sauce girl…but they were both quite tasty. And in other news…Brent and I are taking a bus trip to Iowa in February to visit some farm equipment factories. Big time for a farmer and his wife. Talk about adventuring.]

Here’s your dare: do something completely NEW or CHALLENGING this week and come tell me about it here.

4 comments… add one

  • KristiLynn February 1, 2014, 3:15 am

    As you know, I am up to my eyeballs in NEW and CHALLENGING. Honestly, most of this new tech-y stuff I don’t even WANT to know, but I’m super proud of myself for overcoming so many challenges. I hope it’s worth these new gray hairs!

    I would’ve given up long ago if I didn’t have YOU, my NEW friend, helping and cheering me on!

    • Alysa February 1, 2014, 9:45 pm

      Aw! I’m continually amazed at all the techie challenges you’re overcoming to launch your website. Cannot wait to see it bloom. Proud of you too. What gray hair?! 😉

      Totally cheering you on!

  • Merritt February 4, 2014, 2:50 pm

    I love this “do something new and challenging” idea. I don’t know if this counts, but my husband and I have felt drawn to get to know one of our neighbors–they are a cute family with two kids who live right behind us. Last week we ran into them in a restaurant, but we didn’t know who they were (that’s how “new” they are). They waved. We kept walking and sat down. Thankfully my hubby got up to say hi and ask them how we knew them. After swallowing our pride a little for not recognizing them, we stopped and chatted a bit. They talked of recent babysitter challenges, so I offered that we could watch the kids for a night. They haven’t taken us up on it (yet), but it’s been the start of more frequent interactions with them…and hopefully the beginning of a new friendship.

    Thanks for your encouragement Alysa!! I’ll keep you posted.

    • Alysa February 9, 2014, 1:08 pm

      Can’t wait to hear how this progresses Merritt. Glad you stopped to chat with them and extended a helping hand with the kids!

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