My friend Ellen Loughlin in Allentown, PA, who, with her family, has spent some years in China, just sent me a beautiful Chinese New Year greeting festooned with bright red Chinese lanterns, reading: “We wish you prosperity and good fortune in the Year of the Dragon.”

Which got me thinking…

The Year of the Dragon, according to the Chinese Zodiac, begins today, January 23, and lasts until February 9 of next year. In ancient China, this mythical celestial dragon represented a powerful emperor. Today, the dragon is the ultimate auspicious symbol signifying success and happiness. In Sung Dynasty texts, the dragon is described as having the head of an ox, the muzzle of a donkey, the eyes of a shrimp, the horns of a deer, the body of a serpent covered with fish scales, and the feet of a phoenix.

Which got me thinking about success and happiness … and healthy eating … and Chinese stir-fries.

Let’s say that one of your New Year’s resolutions roughly twenty-three days ago was to eat more healthfully every day of 2012 (and beyond). And let’s say you haven’t quite begun to live up to that lofty resolution. This new Chinese New Year provides a second chance. (And, let’s face it, aren’t we Americans suckers for second-chance narratives?)

Today you can begin again. Invest in a new wok if you need one (my new one cost only $13.88 at the Wal-Mart here in Taos), hang it in a handy place in your kitchen, and use it at least once a week to make a quick, healthy, colorful, flavorful, veggie-filled dinner for yourself and your family. Add to your weekly shopping list FRESH GINGER, SCALLIONS, and GARLIC, which constitute the triumvirate of flavors most stir-fries start with. Splurge on a beautiful cookbook, such as Grace Young’s gorgeous Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories (Simon & Schuster, $35), and you’ll be all set.

Here is one of Grace Young’s recipes to get you started on your road to success and happiness in this new Year of the Dragon:

Cantonese Cashew Chicken

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thigh, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry

¾ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

2 tablespoons minced ginger

½ cup sugar snap peas, strings removed

½ cup thinly sliced carrots

½ cup thinly sliced celery

½ cup unsalted roasted cashews

1. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and sugar. In a small bowl combine the broth, the remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice wine, and ½ teaspoon cornstarch.

2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil, add the ginger, then using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the ginger is fragrant. Push the ginger to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken, and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Stir-fry 1 minute, or until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through.

3. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon oil into the wok, add the sugar snaps, carrots, celery, and cashews, and sprinkle on the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir-fry 1 minute or until the sugar snaps are bright green. Re-stir the broth mixture, swirl it into the wok, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just cooked through.

(Serves 2 to 3 as a main course with rice or 4 as part of a multicourse meal.)