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Dining In — Recipe of the Week: “Lucky foods” to start the year


They say you can’t make luck, but maybe you will have a chance at harnessing it if you try any of the many traditions for “lucky foods” eaten on New Year’s Day.

In Pennsylvania Dutch country they eat pork and sauerkraut for luck, while in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries they eat 12 grapes at midnight. In the South they eat Hoppin’ John, a one-pot meal of black-eyed peas, ham hock and rice, while in China they make jiaozi, which are dumplings shaped like gold ingots.

In Poland and parts of Scandinavia many eat pickled herring at the stroke of midnight to bring a year of prosperity and bounty.

Meanwhile, in Japan, families eat buckwheat soba noodles at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to the year gone by and welcome the year to come.

Among the simplest lucky foods to make is the Greek New Year’s Cake, Valesopita, which is a coffee cake-style treat served on New Year’s Eve or breakfast on New Year’s Day. Unlike the other lucky foods, the New Year’s cake has only one recipient of good luck: the person who finds a single coin hidden inside.

If you make the cake, be sure to warn people that they are looking for the coin; it wouldn’t be good luck to swallow it. Here is a recipe for the cake from

Vaselopita Greek New Years Cake

1 cup butter

2 cups white sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

6 eggs

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F)

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

¼ cup blanched slivered almonds

2 tablespoons white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 10-inch round cake pan.

2. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light. Stir in the flour and mix until the mixture is mealy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Combine the baking powder and milk, add to the egg mixture, mix well. Then combine the lemon juice and baking soda, stir into the batter. Pour into the prepared cake pan.

3. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove and sprinkle the nuts and sugar over the cake, then return it to the oven for 20 to 30 additional minutes, until cake springs back to the touch.

Gently cut a small hole in the cake and place a quarter in the hole. Try to cover the hole with sugar. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate.

4. Serve cake warm. Each person in the family gets a slice starting with the youngest. The person who gets the quarter in a piece gets good luck for the whole year.