Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31: Clams on the Half Shell, Oranges and Lemons, & Tater Day

National Clams on the Half Shell Day

I like all seafood, and I love shellfish, but I especially enjoy clams.  (Maybe because I don't eat clams that often.)   I've had clams in various soups, steamed, grilled, and baked, but I've never eaten them raw.  Seems you can enoy Clams on the Half Shell either baked or raw.  Raw shellfish has always been a little difficult for me to eat (but not raw fish... yes, I'm weird that way) so I'll probably continue to stick to cooked clams.

I also poke at clams I find on the beach, but I've never actually eaten any of the clams I've found on beaches.  I'm still a little leary of eating anything I find in the wild.

A friend recently traveled to Washington to visit another friend and shared historic pictures of the geoduck.  I think if I saw a clam as big as these pictures, I'd probably run away screaming.  Still, someday, I will have to try eating geoduck.

National Oranges and Lemons Day

The Examiner serves up the rhyme for National Oranges and Lemons Day.  I'm really not sure what to say for this day, since I think everyone knows what an orange is and what a lemon is.  You can find lots of different varieties of oranges in the stores these days - blood orange, cara cara orange, navel orange....  You also have your choice of growing location - California or Florida will probably be the two most common sources of oranges in the US.  I'm partial to California oranges, as I haven't been fond of the Florida oranges I've tried.  When I mentioned this to a friend, she claimed that the type of orange that is typically grown in Florida is meant for juicing while the ones in California are meant for eating.  I'm still not sure if this is accurate, so take that with a grain of salt.  I did find it interesting to note that oranges are the third most consumed fruit in the US, if you don't count orange juice, according to this paper from the USDA.  (That same paper claims that 74% of Florida's oranges go toward making orange juice concentrate, so maybe my friend was right.)

The cara cara oranges I tried in Whole Foods today were absolutely delicious, so I bought some and celebrated the day by eating one with dinner.  You can celebrate today by eating a fresh orange or lemon (yes, just eating the fresh lemon - I know plenty of people who do this) or by using an orange or lemon in a recipe.  I recently came accross the cookbook "Lemons and Oranges" by Rose Marie Donhauser.  There were a few recipes in there I'm interested in trying, particularly the Carrot Orange Soup, the Sauerkraut with Mandarin Orange, and the Berlin Air.  There are a lot of different cookbooks that feature oranges and lemons, including one that focuses on Mediterranean recipes and one that is so popular it's hard for even Amazon to keep in stock

(National?) Tater Day

Really?  Another day to celebrate potatoes?  The potato must have a really good advertising team, because I think the potato has more days and months on the calendar than any other food. 

In looking for information about today, I couldn't find much about the history.  And while the Examiner and a few other sites call today National Tater Day, I'm  beginning to suspect that it's not a national food celebration at all.  Instead, it's probably a regional celebration.  Specifically,  the town of Benton, Kentucky.  Seems that Benton, KY, has celebrated Tater Day for 169 years!  While it seems the technical "tater day" is April 1, Benton, KY, celebrates for an entire weekend.  This year, Tater "Day" actually runs from March 31 through April 2, complete with entertainment, cookoffs, and a run/walk. 

A celebration that lasts a whole weekend?  Those people in Benton, KY, know how to celebrate!

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30: National Turkey Neck Soup Day

Again, another food I have never had.  The closest I've ever come to turkey neck soup is watching a King Cobra feed on a turkey neck at the Cape Fear Serpentarium.  (Apparently, the snake is fooled into thinking that the turkey neck is another snake and so it chomps it down for dinner.)

I can't find anything about the history of turkey neck soup, but it seems to be an American dish that came about to make sure no part of the turkey was wasted. Fabulous Foodie points out it must be an American dish, since the turkey is an American bird.  (Sidenote: Benjamin Franklin pushed for the turkey to be the national bird of the USA.)   Foodimentary seems to have gathered up all available information about turkey neck soup, which isn't a whole lot. 

Looking around at recipes, it seems like you just make a stock using the turkey neck, then  you toss in whatever vegetables you want.   Want it kosher?  Try this recipe from Joy of Kosher that uses lentils, barley, and mushrooms.  This recipe from My Wooden Spoons is accompanied by a photographic record of the steps, but uses chicken neck.  (I'm not sure if it still counts as turkey neck soup at that point.)  Of the recipes I've found online, I think this one from Ingathered would be the one I'd follow.  Why?  It seems the least labor intensive and it uses wine.

I like recipes that use wine- they give me an excuse to buy wine without coming off as a lush.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29: National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day

Mmm, Lemon Chiffon Cake!  The first time I made lemon chiffon cake, it was for a class and we were making all sorts of different cakes to prove we understood how the texture of a cake would be altered by different ingredients and baking methods.  Chiffon cakes use egg whites beaten stiff, but unlike angel food cakes which have no fat, chiffon cakes also use vegetable oil. 

We used this lemon chiffon cake recipe in class and I've made it a couple of times since then.  Everyone loves it and insists I share the recipe. When I did my write up of it in class, I mentioned that the cake was so good, my roommate had a small slice but then came back for a slice that was a quarter of the cake.  My professor who led the class declared the lemon chiffon cake to be her favorite and promised to take care of any extra cake anyone might have.  The texture is luscious and the icing is really just perfect - not overpoweringly sweet, but not so dainty that the flavor is lost.  No, I think I have to declare this my favorite cake, too.

It really helps if you use a tube pan with a removable botteom and make sure you let the cake cool completely in the pan.  I made this once for my mom and the cake was still in the oven when I had to run out for a little bit, so I told her to remove the cake from the oven when the timer sounded.  Well, I forgot to tell her to let it cool upside down in the pan.  Since she didn't have any experience baking angel food cake or chiffon cake, she didn't understand that when you bake a cake that uses egg white foam for structure, the thin cell walls of the cake need a chance to set with the least amount of strain on them.  So she removed the cake from the pan before it had cooled and I came back to a lop-sided cake.  It was still tasty and she had me bake another for a party she was going to.   This time, the cake got plenty of time to cool in the pan.

Curious about the history of chiffon cakes?  Apparently chiffon cakes were invented in Los Angeles by a man named Harry Baker.  He eventually sold the recipe to General Mills, who released the recipe in 1948 where it was called the first new cake in a hundred years.  What's Cooking America has a nice write up of the history of chiffon cakes.  And Food Timeline has a bit of history along with a smattering of historical recipes. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28: National Something-on-a-Stick Day and National Black Forest Cake Day

National Something-on-a-stick Day

How many foods can be bought on a stick? At state fairs, I've seen potato chips on sticks, apples on sticks, butter on a stick...  Food on sticks are probably one of the best food inventions ever.  With food on sticks, you don't have to worry about your fingers getting dirty.  You also don't have to worry about touching your food if your hands are a little dirty (although, please, wash your hands more often if this is the reason you like your food on sticks.)  Food on sticks is the perfect food to eat on the run.  That's why you'll often see a lot of food on sticks at fairs - no need to find a place to sit, just grab your food and eat it on the way to the next attraction.

And confession time:  I do have a frequent shoppers card for the Food Court fixture known as "Hotdog on a Stick" and I have friends who have worked there, but I don't think I've bought anything from them on a stick in years.  I just stick to their lemonade.  I'm a sucker for their lemonade.

National Black Forest Cake Day

Why is the word "forest" attached to the word "cake?"  It never made any sense to me until today.  Apparently there is a region in Germany known as Schwarzwald, which translates to "Black Forest," and the cake is a specialty of the region.  (This is also where Black Forest Ham originated.)  The Schwarzwald Tourismus GmbH (I have no idea how to read German, so I'm assuming that translates to Black Forest Tourism Board) provides an authentic recipe for Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, aka Black Forest Cake. 

I really don't see the point in looking for other recipes for Black Forest cake, because nothing beats an original.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27: National Spanish Paella Day

I always see paella pans when I go to the kitchen supply stores and I've always passed them up.  I've never made paella so I don't want to spend the money on a special pan that I might only use once or twice.  I suppose the argument could be made that I don't make paella because I don't have a paella pan, but.... cart? horse?  I suppose if I really wanted to make paella, I would use a frying pan as JustAsDelish did

I'm not sure why today is called Spanish Paella Day, and not just Paella Day.  As far as I can tell (from quickly reading Wikipedia and poking about the internet), paella is already recognized as a Spanish dish, and each region of Spain puts its own spin on paella.  The most famous of Spanish paellas seems to be La paella Valenciana.   

Well, if I had decided to go ahead and make paella in a frying pan to celebrate today, I would've had to buy many ingredients from the grocery store.  This recipe uses ingredients I could easily buy, but right now, tomatoes and bell peppers are not very good.  Maybe I'll try making this dish in the summer, when all the veggies are at their best. I would have also had to devote a lot of time - this recipe takes over 11 hours to make!  This recipe from Cooking Light seems to take about an hour and half, which is way better than 11 hours, but still...  I think I'll leave this dish alone.

Except, I'm going to add it to my list of "Must Eat Whenever I Make Travel to Spain."

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26: National Spinach Day and National Nougat Day

National Spinach Day

When I was younger, my mom had me convinced that if I ate spinach like Popeye, I'd be as strong as Popeye.  Obviously, that didn't come to pass, but I ended up liking spinach as an adult.  In undergrad, I would wrap a spinach leave around a baby carrot then dip it in dressing before eating.  It was tasty.

It's been a while since I've done that.  This month, I've already used spinach for Iranian food and in a very green dip.  When I eat spinach raw these days, I'm usually using it in place or in addition to lettuce in a salad or on a sandwich.  I also love cooked spinach and decided that today I would celebrate in a simple way.

I simply cooked spinach until it wilted and became soft, drizzled a little soy sauce on it, and then sprinkled it with dried bonito flakes.  This is something I do quite often with green vegetables.  Cooked spinach has a stronger flavor than raw spinach, so I like my cooked spinach as a side dish or on top of rice, in Tri Color Bento.

I'll have to try growing spinach.  I just worry that the spinach plants wouldn't be able to keep up with my harvesting.

National Nougat Day

Nougat has always been, to me, the unidentifiable white stuff found in some chocolate bars.  It never really appealed to me (I'm more of a caramel fan) but it never offended me, either.  So I never really thought about it.

Until today.  What exactly is nougat?  Chow comes to the rescue with an answer.  Like most candies, it is sugar cooked to a certain temperature and then has a couple of flavorings added.  I may just have to try this Food Network recipe for nougat someday.  Candies always better when you make your own, so maybe I'll find I actually really like nougat. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25: National Pecan Day, International Waffle Day, and Lobster Newberg Day

National Pecan Day

The pecan dessert I know best is pecan pie.  I cringe when I think about the ingredients of pecan pie, but I'll still reach for a piece every now and then.  Everyone I know with Southern ties has a family-specific pecan pie recipe that they just will not share.  Don't want a full size pie?  Try pecan tassies instead.

Another treat I enjoy pecans in are turtles (the candy of course, not the marine animal they're named for.)  They're delightfully simple to make and children love helping to put them together.  Plus, it's always fun to watch someone's reaction when you say, "I ate a turtle!  Would you like one?"

And the National Pecan Shellers Association has all the nutrition information you'd ever want about pecans, plus some recipes.

International Waffle Day

Today was one of the many days on my calendar that I had down as "Waffle Day."  Thankfully, Mr. Breakfast clears up the confusion about National Waffle Day- today is International Waffle Day, not National Waffle Day.  If you're in New York, Gothamist can help you find the best waffles nearby.  In Los Angeles?  The HuffPo has you covered.  Since it is International Wafle Day, you may want resources for while you're abroad - be it London, Paris,  Melbourne, or Singapore.  Waffles can be found in just about every country.

National Lobster Newberg Day

This is another food named after a person, although the story has a slightly different twist than most - the food was named not in honor of the person, but out of spite!  According to Steak Perfection, Ben Wenberg created the dish called Lobster a la Wenberg and shared the recipe with Charles Delmonico who put it on the menu at his restuarant.  It was a hit with customers, but Wenberg and Delmonico eventually had a falling out.  Delmonico removed the dish from his menu but it proved too popular to remain off the menu for long.  Under pressures from customers but not wanting to have Wenberg's name on his menu, Delmonico switched a few letters around and put the dish back on the menu under the name Lobster a la Newberg.  Just goes to show you should never anger someone who has the power to name a dish after you.

And since it's always neat to find old recipes, Michigan State University has the first known published recipe of Lobster a la Newberg online for you to see. I find it amusing that the dish is called "Lobster a la Newberg or Delmonico."  I can't help but think Delmonico got the last laugh.

And I'm not sure if it's Newberg or Newburg - I've seen it both ways.   I'm sticking with Newberg, though, since that's how it is in the original recipe.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24: National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day

There really isn't a whole lot to say about chocolate covered raisins.  They're raisins, covered in chocolate.  I wonder if there are "gourmet" chocolate covered raisins - maybe... plump organic golden raisins covered in sustainably-grown dark chocolate with a sprinkle of sea salt? 

You could make your own chocolate covered raisins, but this is a food I don't think I'm going to ever make.  The time involved and the mess that results just makes it seem like buying is the better option here.  (Although, if you make your own, you could experiment with making "gourmet" chocolate covered raisins.  Hrm...)  I celebrated with some chocolate covered raisins from Trader Joe's. 

I guess the most famous brand of chocolate covered raisins are Raisinets.  Did you know that there are webisodes starring cartoon Raisinets?

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23: National Melba Toast Day and National Chip and Dip Day

National Melba Toast Day

Another food named after a person!  Melba toast is apparently named for Dame Nellie Melba (real name Helen Porter Mitchell- I suppose when you're awesome enough to have food named after you, you can have as many names as you want.)   Dame Melba is also the lucky gal for whom the Peach Melba was named for. 

Melba toast is bery simple to make - it's just thinly sliced bread.  Usually served with soup, Melba toast can be topped with melted cheese or pate.  Apparently when Dame Melba was ill, her chef made these thin slices of toast for her and they became a regular part of her diet.  Not Martha has all the details, including some more information about the fascinating life of Dame Melba. 

National Chip and Dip Day

Chips and dip is not really a food observance that require much elaboration, and it's a day everyone can easily celebrate.  Just pick up a bag of your favorite chips (or make them) and pair them with your favorite dip (either homemade or storebought.)  And it doesn't have to be the old fallback of potato chips and some sort of cream cheese dip.  Why not try something different?   How about apple chips with a caramel dip or banana chips with a chocolate dip if you're looking for something sweet?  Try a different brand of chips than you would normally buy - maybe you'll like it better than your usual brand. 

MyRecipes has a round-up of their favorite chip and dip pairings.  Concerned about eating healthy so you look good in a bathing suit this summer?  EatingWell has a "Healthy Chip and Dip" recipe collection.   I opted to celebrate today with whole grain pita bread chips from Trader Joe's paired with spicy hummus, also from Trader Joe's.  I really can't offer up any good reason why I didn't make my own chips or hummus today - I was just too busy and tired today

At least the weekend is here and I can sleep all day if I want to.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22: National Bavarian Crepes Day

Some calendars also list today as National Coq au Vin Day, but as that's also listed as May 29th and I can't find what other food observance day is May 29th, I'm going with today is National Bavarian Crepes Day. 

Bavarian crepes are crepes (thin, sweet pancakes) rolled into tubes and filled with Bavarian cream (cream made with gelatin and flavored with liquer).  Sometimes the crepes are topped with chocolate sauce or fruit, like blueberry pie filling.  Seems simple enough, but again, this is a food I haven't made.  I'm not sure if I've had Bavarian crepes.  I know I've had crepes, but I can't recall any of them filled with cream. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21: National French Bread Day and California Strawberry Day

National French Bread Day

How do you use your French bread?  I'm referring to the long loaves of crusty-on-the-outside, squishy-on-the-inside goodness that can be found in every grovery store with a bakery, not actual bread from France.  Some of the groceries without bakeries sell French bread, too.  And I hear that bread from France is amazing.  I haven't been to France, but I have had bread from French bakers and that was some tasty, tasty bread.

I like to use French bread for dipping- slices of French bread dipped in a little olive oil and a good herb blend makes a great appetizer.  I also like to eat French bread topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, peppers and olives.  And it's not bad with soup in place of crackers.  My favorite way to consume French bread, though?  I love using French bread to get that last bit of pasta sauce.  Since its completely socially unacceptable to lick the sauce off the plate, sopping up the sauce with French bread ensures that you'll every last bit of a delicious sauce.

And did you know that in France, you can get fresh French bread from a vending machine?

California Strawberry Day

Today's also California Strawberry Day.  California leads the nation in strawberry production so it's no surprise that California strawberries get their own day.  What is a surprise to me?  The strawberry is not California's state fruit.  In fact, California does not have a state fruit.  This makes pretty good sense, though, because there are a lot of different fruits produced in California and lawmakers probably don't want to make any particular fruit industry mad.  My guess is if it came down to a duel for the title of California state fruit, it would be between strawberries, oranges and avocadoes.  (Avocadoes count as a fruit, right?)  I apologize if I just gave you the mental image of strawberries, oranges, and avocadoes dressed up as sumo wrestlers or as swordfighters engaged in a duel.  Oh, you weren't thinking that?  Well, now you are.

The California Strawberry Commission has information for everyone, whether you're a teacher, a child, a health professional, a cook, or just plain curious.  Have a favorite recipe that uses strawberries?  You may want to enter the California Strawberry Festival's contest- you could win a cruise!  You'll have to personally compete at the festival, May 19-20, if your recipe is chosen as one of the final five.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20: National Ravioli Day, National Bock Beer Day, and Iranian Food Day

National Ravioli Day

One of these days, I'll make ravioli.  From scratch, not the whole "open a bag and cook" thing.  Ravioli seems like one of those foods that you need to make from scratch.  I find myself going "Mmm...squash." when I look at this recipe from Emeril.  While not for me, these fried ravioli might make a good appetizer - I can certainly name some of my friends who love anything fried.  And even though I find this recipe for Ravioli a Mano amusing, I'll probably try making this Chicken and Spinach Ravioli recipe.

In honor of National Ravioli Day, Freebies4Mom is holding a giveaway where you can get a coupon for Pasta Prima ravioli.  And definitely check out this Short Rib Ravioli and Creamy Mushroom sauce recipe from the Cooking Channel.  i really like food has a good list of recipes for celebrating National Ravioli Day, including Giada's fried ravioli recipe.  (That recipe seems to be making everyone's list, so I may just have to try it.)

National Bock Beer Day

I'm not a huge beer drinker.  Oh, I totally will go on brewery tours, go to beer fests (I so love Strong Ale Fest at Pizza Port- but you've probably picked up on that already) and if at someone's house I'm offered a beer, I'll drink one.  I rarely drink more than one and unless I'm having a party, I don't stock beer in my fridge.  (Wine and cocktails have always been my preferred alcohol consumption methods.)  I know plenty of people who are beer enthusiasts and plenty of people who brew their own beer.  Yet I don't believe any of them has tried making a bock beer.

I also don't think I've ever had a bock beer.  (I may have to try one in a few weeks, when I head out to a Flying Saucer Draught Emporium.)  Beer Advocate has a short article describing what makes a bock beer, well... a bock beer.  There's also some recommendations in that article.  Or you can just look at their list of bocks and see what other people have said or leave your review of a bock beer. 

Iranian Food Day

Somehow, somewhere, I had noted that today was Iranian Food Day.  (I really can't find anything else about this, so if you've got something, chime on in!)  I don't think I've ever eaten at an Iranian restuarant, so I had to do a little digging to find out what constituted Iranian food.  Well, it seems as though Iranian food gets described as "Persian" food, or lumped with other food cultures as "Middle Eastern" or "Mediterranean" food.  In that case, I may have had a traditionally Iranian food in the past.

This time, though, I figured I'd see if there was something I could make.  I found a page of recipes at the Iran Chamber Society and started browsing.  I discarded any dish that would require me to go buy a special spice (saffron? I don't use it enough to make it worth buying) or any cuts of meat I don't regularly cook ( ex. lamb.)  I settled on the recipe for Nargesi Esfenaaj

The dish just after the eggs
were added to the already cooked
spinach and onion.
Seemed like a simple recipe- cook some spinach, some onions, top with eggs, salt, and pepper and let cook.  Well, us silly Americans haven't gotten on board with the metric system yet and I wasn't paying attention to the number of servings, so I completely glossed over the amount of spinach needed for the recipe.  1 kg.  You know those pre-packed spinach bags?  That's roughly the equivalent of four of the standard-sized bags or two of the large bags.  That's a whole lot of spinach.  I should have noticed that when I first looked at the recipe (when you have a science background, metric is not a strange thing) but I was too focused on the ingredients to actually note the amount of each ingredient I would need.

I ended up cutting the size of the recipe so that I used one bag of spinach (255g), one onion and two eggs.  I was originally going to go with one egg, but once I went to crack the egg, I realized there was room for more than one egg.  So I used two and when the whole thing was cooked, cut it in half to save for later.

I really dislike runny yolk in any circumstances, so I did cook until the yolks were hard.  Because I'm familiar with all the ingredients used, there were no surprising flavors in this dish.  It was a new experience in flavor combination for me, though, as I don't believe I have ever used spinach with onions or spinach with eggs.  It was pretty good and I'll be eating the saved half for breakfast.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19: National Chocolate Caramel Day and National Poultry Day

National Chocolate Caramel Day

Due to the last few days, I'm sugared out.  So no making chocolate caramels today.  Some people have trouble making candies- I believe you can be always be a successful candy maker if you use a thermometer.  It's when you try making candies by eyeballing color that things can go wrong.

So if you'd like to try making chocolate caramels to celebrate today, try this basic recipe from All Recipes,  Want to take it up a notch?  Try this recipe that calls for sea salt, which pairs wonderfully with chocolate.

National Poultry Day

While I want to have bees instead of chickens whenever I buy a house, I admire people who have their own chickens.  Some people will tell you that chickens are easy animals to take care of, but I still maintain that the only easy pet is a pet rock.  Every animal requires care, whether it's a simple changing of water or trips to the vet.   The chickens that are a part of the Sunset One Block Diet blog are a good example. 

Mother Earth's Community Chickens blog has some good ideas for celebrating National Poulty Day, including the chance to win a huge basket of goodies.  If you want to celebrate in an edible way, try making a cake that requires a large amount of eggs, like an angel food cake or a chiffon cake.  Looking to celebrate at breakfast?   Make an omelet or add some scrambled eggs as a side dish.  Or cook your favorite chicken dish for dinner or make a turkey sandwich to take to work.  Remember, poultry is not limited to chicken!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18: National (Lacy) Oatmeal Cookie Day

Some calendars show today as Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day while others simply list today as Oatmeal Cookie Day.  I figured making lacy oatmeal cookies would cover either day, so I decided to make this Lacy Oatmeal Cookie recipe from Mrs. Fields Secrets.  I had all the ingredients already and the recipe was very simple so this recipe beat out the others I looked at.

With just a few minutes of using a mixer and stirring by hand, the dough came together very quickly.  Make sure you follow the directions and only put the dough on the prepared cookie sheets in teaspoon amounts.  I made a couple of them a little larger than a teaspoon and they spread to the other cookies.  Plus, the larger the cookie, the harder it is to remove it without cracking.  I imagine you could shape these cookies if you work quickly as soon as you pull them out of the oven.

The cookies are very delicate and dainty.  I think they'd be perfect for a weekend brunch or a tea party.  They'd also make great decorations for ice cream sundaes or cakes.  They are a little greasy, so I'd recommend storing them with paper towels in between them.  Although, I don't think these cookies can be stored for very long- they seem the type that would be best consumed in a few days.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17: National Green Beer Day & National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day

It's National Green Beer Day and National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day, which can only mean one thing: today's St. Patrick's Day!  Wear green, eat foods dyed-green, eat cabbage and corned beef, drink Irish beers, watch or march in parades, participate in races that reward you with beer at the finish line...  those are just some of the ways you can celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  (I've done all those except march in a St. Patty's Day parade.)  The Miami University students at Oxford, Ohio, instead celebrate Green Beer Day.  Green Beer Day has been celebrated since 1952 with copious amounts of, you guessed it, green beer.  Why some sites report today as "National Green Beer Day," I can't tell you why since I can't find any corporation that advocates it or any record of recognition from Congress.  Maybe as the students graduated and moved to different parts of the country they spread their tradition of green beer.

When a lot of Americans think of Irish food that must be had on St. Patrick's Day, we automatically think of corned beef and cabbage.  So, naturally, someone somewhere decided that today is also National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day.  The thing is - it's not really an Irish dish, a fact also stated by the website European Cuisines.  Still corned beef and cabbage somehow became integratec in the American imagination as a thoroughly Irish dish that was perfect for St. Patrick's Day.  Right now in grocery stores, you'll find great deals on cabbage and on various styles of corned beef.  Want it pre-cooked?  Or how about already seasoned and ready for you to cook?  I've always been the type to just throw it all in the crockpot with seasoning and let it simmer all day.  (I picked that trick up from a friend who throws the best St. Patrick's Day parties ever.)  Making tasty corned beef isn't all that hard, as documented last year by Chef Sarah of At Home for Dinner.  Mahalo has a nice round up for National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day, touching on the history and providing a recipe. 

However you celebrate today, please do so safely and designate a driver or call a cab.

St. Patrick's Day 2012 in Wilmington, NC.  Lots of beer and
lots of green.  The nearby Irish pub was the populat
place to be.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16: National Artichoke Hearts Day

Ah, artichokes.  Personally, I don't care to eat artichokes - I think they're too much trouble for so little food- but I like eating artichoke hearts.  (Probably because those come ready-to-eat.)  Normally, I'll toss chopped artichoke hearts into a quick pasta salad or stir them into a salad of garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and wilted spinach.  I've also had them in a really good artichoke cheese dip that my former supervisor always made.  However, this time I opted to try a new recipe.  Once again I dug out the American Heart Association's No-Fad Diet cookbook and on page 140 found a recipe for Artichoke and Spinach Dip.  (Apparently, it was featured on Good Morning America which is why it's available online.)
The dip was perfect for carrots.

It's a very, very simple recipe.  Some of the ingredients require a quick rinse and drain, but then you just toss everything in a food processor and process until smooth.  I didn't have any garlic so I used some powdered garlic and I used Greek yogurt.  It came out very green and had a bit of a tang, likely due to the fact that I used Greek yogurt.  It's tasty, very simple, and a perfect recipe for when you have a party and need a dip for chips or vegetables.  It makes a large amount - I've got some saved for the next few days, and some more in the freezer.

Now, back to that cheesy artichoke dip my former supervisor always made that I love.  I have that recipe right here for you!  She got it from a friend's friend who got it from someone else who got it from their mom.... you get the picture.  It's a very popular dip.  I only chose not to make it because I would've had to buy a lot of ingredients.  It's also a very easy recipe, but this one requires baking.  It doesn't pair well with vegetable sticks, only because it's best served warm.

Cheesy Artichoke Dip
8-oz. Can of unmarinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
8 oz. Cream cheese, softened
1  C. mayonnaise
2 C. shredded parmesan + extra for top
1/2 tsp. Dillweed
1/2 tsp. Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together.   Put in any type oven safe baking dish.
Sprinkle extra shredded parmesan cheese on top.
Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or bread.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15: National Pears Helene Day

Until today, I had never heard of "Pears Helene," also known as "Poires Belles Helene."  Apparently they're poached pears with chocolate sauce, usually served with vanilla ice cream  It sounds delicious, so I may have to try it when pears are in season.  Pears Helene gets its name from an Offenbach opera, according to My French Cuisine.  (There's also a recipe there.)  BBC even gets in on the deliciousness and offers up its own recipe.  And over at Food Network, Nigella Lawson shares her recipe

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 14: Pi(e) Day, Bake a Pie Day, National Potato Chip Day, Registered Dietitian Day

Wow, talk about a day with identity issues.  Today is Pi(e) Day and Potato Chip Day while this week, the 2nd week in March, is Chocolate Chip Cookie Week.  Contrast that to the fact that today is also Registered Dietitian Day and March is National Nutrition Month.  Meh...let's enjoy the day anyways!

Pi(e) Day/Bake a Pie Day

I think this may be the only geeky food-related holiday on the calendar.  I've known this day for a few years as Pi(e) Day, but I've also seen it called Bake a Pie Day.  This is entirely different than National Pie Day, which is January 23.  (Although, I suppose any reason to eat pie is welcomed.)  Today got the honor of being Pi(e) Day because the mathematical number pi is often shortened to 3.14 and if you take today's date in numerical form - 3/14.  Wikipedia has a surprisingly decent amount of information about Pi Day.  (At least, I found it surprising because I didn't think there'd be that much information about Pi Day.) I found it most interesting to note that it's also Albert Einsteins birthday.  The geeky qualities of this day just keep piling up!

The pie, pre-baking, with filling all the way to the top

So in honor of today being Pi(e) Day (and possibly Bake a Pie Day) I picked up Pie: 300 Tried and True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie.  I flipped through and found a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie.  Since this week is Chocolate Chip Cookie Week, I decided I had found my pie. 

It's a very easy recipe and its basically one giant cookie.  Again, short on time, I opted to use a store-bought crust.  The book made note to purchase a deep dish crust if using store-bought, so I made sure I did that.  And boy was I glad that I followed the directions!  The filling that resulted from the recipe was enough to reach to the very top of the crust and while baking, it rose up above the crust.  Thankfully, it didn't bubble over - it just went up.

The pie, right out of the oven.  Unlike real chocolate chip cookies,
this is best enjoyed after it's cooled. 
The book also suggested to enjoy this pie not right out of the oven, not after it's been chilled for a long time, but after it's cooled a bit, so that the flavors are more enjoyable.  I think it would probably pair really well with vanilla ice cream, or maybe even banana ice cream.  Is that even available?

I like the book for it's huge collection of recipes.  The only thing I don't like about the book is the lack of pictures.  I really like having pictures in cookbooks.  As for the pie?  Well, it's pretty tasty- I'll probably make it again.

National Potato Chip Day

I think most people are familiar with potato chips.  They almost seem to be a requirement for parties.  Traditional potato chips are thinly sliced potatoes, fried in oil, and seasoned with a little salt.  Chips come in many flavors and are great for dipping.  Fooducate did a great job of rounding up ten things you might not know about potato chips.  I certainly didn't know about the history of potato chiips.  I really like the potato chip invention story.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13: National Coconut Torte Day

Wow, there are a lot of variations for coconut torte!  You can incorporate chocolate and almonds for a decadent dessert.   This recipe, from Lindt, with chocolate and strawberries looks very divine.  Godiva, another fine chocolate company, shares a recipe for macadamia coconut torte topped with a chocolate spread.  And of course, pineapple and coconut always go well together.  Redbook shares another coconut torte recipe that features pineapple.  Brazil has its own type of coconut torte, called quindau.

Of course, you can always make a plain coconut torte and still be indulging yourself.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12: National Baked Scallops Day

As much as I like shellfish, I don't eat baked scallops very often.  I'm not sure why - I like scallops, but I think I've only had them baked once.  I typically consume scallops in soups, pasta dishes, or just quickly seared with a side of broiled vegetables.  Scallops are listed as a "best choice" and "good alternative" by Seafood Watch.  (Yes, I'll probably mention them anytime I mention seafood.)

If you're interested in celebrating National Baked Scallops Day, try this highly rated recipe from AllRecipes.  Want to know how to buy fresh scallops?  Chef Smarty Pants has a really nice video about buying fresh scallops.  Although, I don't recommend poking scallops in the store - I don't think the store would take too kindly to you feeling up all their scallops in order to find the freshest.  So really pay attention to the part where she talks about gauging freshness based on color.

Interested in nutrition info about scallops?  Livestrong has a good primer; however, take note it doesn't mention anything about baked scallops.  After all, adding butter and breading to anything is cause for that food item to lose its place in the "good for you" category.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11: National Oatmeal-Nut Waffle Day

A search for "oatmeal nut waffle recipe" turns up this recipe from Taste of Home.  Many other sites link or cite that recipe, and when I looked at the other oatmeal nut waffle recipes online they were all exactly the same as the one from Taste of Home. 

I halved the recipe and used soy milk instead of regular milk.  I still had some slivered almonds left from almond day so I used those for the nuts in this recipe.  I think I'll be making this recipe again as it was a easy recipe to follow and the resulting waffles were very tasty.  I think I'll have to try adding some fruit, like bananas or blueberries. 

The waffles were tasty on their own, but I did top one with cherry-blueberry jam and another with cranberry preserves.  I had the waffles as part of brunch, but SlashFood suggests making a dinner of the waffles by pairing them with chicken.  That sounds intriguing enough that I may just have to try that later this week with the leftover waffles. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 10: National Blueberry Popover Day

Blueberry popovers ready to go
in the oven.

Today is National Blueberry Popover Day.  Now, I've made regular popovers a couple of times before.  Once, for a class, we followed Alton Brown's basic popover recipe and I believe everyone had success with the recipe.  (We were using the recipe as an example of steam leavening.)  I thought about using the same recipe and tossing in blueberries, but since I wasn't sure what that would do to the structural integrity of the popovers, I opted to use a recipe specific for blueberry popovers. 

Frozen blueberries, thawing while
 I take pictures.
I used this blueberry popover recipe from Reader's Digest.   I ended up with enough batter to fill nine sections of a cupcake pan.  (I'll talk about my choice of pan in a bit.)  I used slightly thawed frozen blueberries, since at this time of the year, it's the economical choice.  (Plus, the frozen non-organic blueberries were the only ones from the US.  The fresh organic and non-organic blueberries were from Chile, and the organic blueberries were from Canada.)  I'm wondering if my decision to use frozen blueberries affected the recipe because only a few of the popovers actually rose like normal popovers. 

The popovers to start deflating the second I pulled them out of the oven.  (Normal popovers give me a few seconds to grab a knife to pierce them before they start deflating.)  Plus, the weight of the blueberries meant that the center cavity was open and exposed on the popovers.  I also wonder if I put too many blueberries in each popover.  (The recipe says to put "a few" in each using a spoon - I used about one scoop of a tablespoon in each.)

Blueberry popovers straight from the
oven and already starting to deflate.
As usual, the batter part of the popovers was bland.  (And in my opinion, that's the way it should be, unless you're making cheese or herb popovers.)  The blueberries were the flavor star.  My only real problem with popovers is that they're meant to be eaten right away so they don't store well.  This is a recipe that wasn't bad, but it wasn't so wonderful that I'd make it again.  If I celebrate National Blueberry Popover Day again, I think I'll make regular popovers and fill them with vanilla pudding and blueberries instead.

Now, on what to use when baking popovers:  If you make popovers a lot or enter popovers in competitions, it makes sense to get one of these.  Otherwise, just use a muffin/cupcake pan.  When I made them for my class, I used custard cups.  It results in a slightly different shape than if you used a popover pan.  I've never owned a popover pan, mainly because I've always lived in places with tiny kitchens.

Friday, March 9, 2012

March 9: National Crabmeat Day

Back on February 18th, Crab-stuffed Flounder Day, I spoke about using the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch when choosing seafood.  Hopefully, a second mention will encourage you to use it, too.  After you buy Seafood Watch-approved crab meat, how will you use it to celebrate National Crabmeat Day?  You can always make crab cakes.  Or how about a crab soup or bisque?  Or pair a crab dip with some chips, crackers, or vegetable sticks at your next party?

How'd I use my crabmeat?  I went with a simple pasta salad.  I quickly cooked the crab meat (even though it was already pre-cooked) to warm it up, cooked some pasta, microwaved frozen mixed vegetables, microwaved some fresh kale, chopped up some oil-packed sundried tomatoes, and then I mixed it all together.  All in all, pretty tasty.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

National Nutrition Month

On March 20, in honor of National Nutrition Month, the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics will be on hand to answer your nutrition related questions.  Details are here. 

Men's Health and MSNBC offer a good reminder to be aware of portion sizes.  A Healthier Michigan also stresses the importance of portion control

Amanda Seguin, a dietetic intern with the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, provides a good primer on what a registered dietitian is

"Get Your Plate in Shape" is the theme for this year's National Nutrition Month, tying in to USDA's MyPlate, the latest visual tool to help consumers make healthy food choices. 

March 8: National Peanut Cluster Day

Peanut clusters, waiting to cool.
Peanut clusters are ridiculously easy to make.  All you need is some chocolate and some peanuts.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or very carefully in a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl), add the peanuts, stir, drop the chocolate covered peanuts by the spoonful on wax paper or a baking sheet and then let the clusters cool.  That's all I did.  This recipe calls for candy coating and this recipe from Hershey's uses shortening.  You can add ingredients as you see fit, but really, all you need is chocolate and peanuts.

And, hey!  This is a day that's perfectly timed, since March is also National Peanut Month!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March 7: National Roast of Pork Day and National Cereal Day

National Roast of Pork Day

Also called Crown Roast of Pork Day, today's National Roast of Pork Day.  I don't eat pork a whole lot (just the occasional bacon) so I really wasn't sure what this about.  StartCooking has an excellent resource for anyone who's not sure what to do with that pork roast from the store.  Pork roast is apparently such a popular dish that FoodNetwork has a collection of recipes for pork roast alone.  The National Pork Board provides information as to what pork loin roast is, along with nutritional information and recipes. 

National Cereal Day

Cereal's pretty ubiquitous these days.  You see it in any place that sells or provides food- snack shops, grocery stores, continental breakfasts in hotels, etc.  So, I'm figuring that everyone is familiar with what cereal is, even if you don't eat it regularly.  If you do buy cereal, just remember that even the healthiest seeming cereals have added sugars.  Not sure what added sugars are?  The USDA has a handy list of names for added sugars.  And try to choose cereals that list a whole grain as the first ingredient.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6: National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day and National Frozen Foods Day

National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day

Here's another day where I wish I had done a little more planning.  When I first saw that it was National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day today, I thought, "I have white chocolate.  I have cream cheese.  I'll be able to whip up something after work."  Oh, how innocent I was.  The most highly rated white chocolate cheesecake recipes take a minimum of 8 hours.  There's a lot of chilling time involved.  Ah, well...  It's probably better for my waistline that I don't celebrate with a cheesecake today.

If you do feel like celebrating, try this white chocolate raspberry cheesecake recipe.  Just be aware that it will take ten hours.  Really.

Or just see if your local bakery has any ready.  Or, y'know, the Cheesecake Factory.

National Frozen Foods Day

Now, I'm fairly certain that "National Frozen Foods Day" was mainly established to sell you the kinds of frozen foods that you just heat up and serve.  The kind that you just remove the outer packaging, stab holes into the plastic film, and then microwave for a minute or two.  Maybe you have to stir it before it's done.  I've had those meals before, but I don't really buy those anymore.

Primarily, the only frozen foods I buy these days are frozen vegetables, fruits, and fish.  Frozen vegetables are great for those middle of the winter days when all the farmer's market has is lots of potatoes and cruciferous greens (and you just can't eat anymore of those!) or when the vegetables in the produce section look so sad and limp after traveling so far.

I also like freezing the foods I cook.  It's great for frugal food planning - make a large batch of something and store individual portions in plastic containers.  (I like using plastic containers because they're re-useable.)  One of these days when I finally settle down, I'll get one of the large, stand-alone freezers.  If you're not sure about freezing food or you want to read up on it more, there are a lot of cookbooks out there devoted to recipes that are perfect for freezing.

Monday, March 5, 2012

March 5: National Absinthe Day and National Cheese Doodle Day

National Absinthe Day

Ah, absinthe...the Green Fairy.  I've only ever been around absinthe once and it was fascinating to watch the procedure of preparing the absinthe for drinking.  I didn't drink any because I was on some new prescription meds at the time and I was fine with that - I don't like anise-flavored anything.  The smell of anise permeated the room as soon as the bottle was open so I knew I wasn't going to like the drink.  But I was still fascinated with the ritual of making the drink - the absinthe spoon (which really wasn't a spoon in my opinion), the sugar cubes, the dripping of cold water (we used pipettes - yes, we're all that nerdy), stir and sip.  One guy argued that we had to burn the sugar, so when it was his turn, he carmelized the sugar before dripping the water.

According to WikiHow, there are many different rituals associated with drinking absinthe.  If you're interested in learning about or buying absinthe, the Absinthe Buyer's Guide is an excellent resource.  And if you're in the Los Angeles area, Marpop has a round up of the best bars for a drink of absinthe.

National Cheese Doodle Day

When you Google "Cheese Doodle," you get back a lot of results for "Cheez Doodle."  (That site is weird - a unicorn flies by and some sort of hooved thing and an alien spaceship hovering around while what I can only assume is a cheez doodle wears a helicopter backpack.)  I can't say I've seen them before, but I tend to avoid cheesy chips or chip-like snacks.  Cheez Doodles are touted to be made with real cheese and if you'd like to try some, you can get coupons at the Wise Snacks website.  The Today show even has a suggestion on how you can turn Cheez Doodles into a "gourmet" treat.   And Serious Eats comes to the rescue again by showing how Cheez Doodles are made.  There's even a French version of Cheez Doodles.  Some website compare Cheez Doodles to Cheetos, but they don't seem very similar to me - Cheetos are much crunchier and cheese doodles are more like cheese puffs.

So those are Cheez Doodles.  On the other hand, this recipe claims that cheese doodles are burritos drenched in shredded cheese

Also, in completely unrelated news, the Oreo turned 100 today!  I only eat the actual cookie part because it comes with the filling. It would be such a waste to just eat the filling, right?

And you wouldn't believe because of this post, but March is National Nutrition Month.  I'll have to figure out something for that.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 4: Poundcake Day

Pound cake is one of those foods I used to love buying at the store.  It was always so perfect for topping with strawberries and whipped cream.  Then I found out why it was called "pound" cake and my brain just sort of revolted at the thought of that much butter, egg, and flour and I started eating it less and less.  Which really wasn't a bad thing to do, when you consider the calories and lack of health benefits.

I tried making this recipe from Chobani since I had some yogurt I wanted to use up quickly.  It came out less than spectacular and when I tried to rank it on the site I got some sort of error.   I baked it for ten minutes longer than recommended and it came out...  well, at first I thought it was just super moist, but as I cut closer to the middle, it was obviously undercooked.  This confused me because I had done the toothpick test and it came out clean, so maybe it was just super moist?   I wasn't too thrilled with the cake, so I froze it after slicing and have been eating it by toasting each slice on the stove in a frying pan and then spreading jam on it.   It's pretty good that way.

I won't be making that recipe again and since it's the second recipe I've tried to make from the Chobani website that didn't come out well, I doubt I'll be trying any recipe from them again.  I think maybe next time I'll try this Buttermilk Pound Cake recipe or Elvis Presley's Favorite Poundcake recipe, since both are very highly rated with many reviews.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March 3: National Mulled Wine Day and National Cold Cuts Day

National Mulled Wine Day

Mulled wine is drink I associate with the December holidays.  One of my friends throws a Christmas party every year and serves mulled wine.  The International Drink Garden at December Nights in Balboa Park in San Diego serves a delicious glögg every year.  I've made mulled wine before, but like banana cream pie, I like to take the easist route.  I usually just buy a good California merlot, a packet of mulling spices from Cost Plus World Market, and toss it all in my crockpot.

If you want to put together your own spices for mulling, Ina Garten has a recipe over at Food Network.  Over at his YouTube channel, Alton Brown has a video on making mulled wine.  Wine Intro has a nice compilation on the history of mulled wine and a small collection of historical recipes for mulled wines, including one from 1660.

National Cold Cuts Day

Cold cuts are deli meats sliced very thinly.  Oftentimes, you'll find trays of cold cuts at parties with trays of crackers and cheese or at "build-your-own-sandwich" events.    There really isn't a whole lot to say about cold cuts, but I do think black forest ham is devine.  (I think it's all the pepper that's used.)  The History channel has three facts about cold cuts that you might not know and you can watch the full episode about cold cuts on Serious Eats.  And just a quick reminder, if you're over 50, the CDC suggests that you heat your cold cuts to 165. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

March 2: Banana Cream Pie Day

I'll admit that when I make banana cream pie, I usually take the easy route.  I buy a graham cracker crust, put a layer of fresh banana slices on the crust, top the banana slices with a thick banana pudding, smooth it out as much as possible, chill, then decorate right before serving using whipped cream and more banana slices on top.  Again, this is a food observance I feel is misplaced as I feel banana cream pies are a great dessert for a warm summer evening.

If you're feeling more game than I, you can always try this Old-Fashioned Banana Cream pie recipe from  Feel like kicking it up a notch?  Try this recipe for Banana Cream Pie with Chocolate Gamache and Salted Caramel Sauce from Lick My Spoon.  And I don't know why I never tried this before with banana cream pie, but some recipes use crushed vanilla wafers to make the crust.  It sounds like a good flavor match to me, except instead of using the wafers for the crust, I might try layering them on top of the bananas then put the filling on top of that.  Or maybe crumble up some cookies and sprinkle the crumbs on top of the cream for an easy decoration.  New York Times even has a recipe and tips to try for making banana cream pie.

  Pie not your thing but you still love the banana and cream flavor?  Over at Annie's Eats, banana cream pie inspired some tasty looking cupcakes

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 1: National Fruit Compote Day and National Peanut Butter Lover's Day

National Fruit Compote Day

I can never quite remember what the rules are for something to be a compote.  WiseGeek comes to the rescue!  If I'm reading that site right, a compote is basically fruit cooked with spices and a sugar syrup until the fruit is soft.  has a video providing instructions on cooking a fruit compote, claiming fruit compote is perfect for topping ice cream.  Then it can be served hot or cold, with or without whipped cream topping.  I suppose this means applesauce is a fruit compote?

Taste of Home has a hot fruit compote recipe.  (I love how they put it in martini glasses - very stylish.)  Good Housekeeping also has a recipe that features winter fruits and brandy - always a winning combination.

National Peanut Butter Lover's Day

According to Punchbowl's info for National Peanut Butter Lover's Day, the average child will eat 1500 PB&J sandwiches by the time he or she graduates high school.  That's a lot of sandwiches. 

January 24th was National Peanut Butter Day so I pretty much said everything I wanted to say about peanut butter in that post.  These "Something-something Lover's Day/Month/Week" somewhat confuse me.  Take today for example.  Is this a day where we're supposed to give a gift to someone that loves peanut butter, like we do for Mother's Day?  Or are we supposed to just take this day as an excuse to revel in the fact that we like peanut butter? 

Meh, I'll leave that for someone else to figure out.

A look back at February

Looking over what February was in terms of food month celebrations, I didn't touch on all of them.  I also didn't update for the weeklong celebrations.  So I'll do a quick make-up here for all the food observances I missed.

Heart Healthy Month

While this isn't technically a food observance, I did feel I should mention it because one of the key components to having a healthy heart is eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.  The American Heart Association is a good resource for information on maintaining a healthy heart, including what food choices you can make to keep your heart happy and healthy.

National Cherry Month and Great American Pies Month

I lumped these together, since the cherry pie I made for National Cherry Pie Day basically covered these both. The Cherry Marketing Institute has put together to act as a resource for all things cherries.  I don't think I've ever cooked with cherries - I prefer to eat cherries fresh.

What are Great American pies?  I suppose my list would include apple, cherry, strawberry, pecan, key lime, and peach.  I seriously doubt any of those are strictly American, but they're on my list!

By the way, there's a Great American Pies Festival every year. 

Berry Fresh Month/Berry Fresh in the Sunshine State

This is another one that somewhat baffles me.  I don't really think of February as being the time of berries.  Although, "Berry Fresh in the Sunshine State" makes sense now that I know that Florida lays claim to the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.  (I suppose the National Strawberry Day entry counts...)

National Hot Breakfast Month

Cinnamon roll and tea
I meant to post about this one, but... shoulda, coulda, woulda, right?  Breakfast is not for everyone, but has been found to be beneficial for people trying to lose weight and school children that get breakfast tend to do better in school. 

Too often, I'm short on time in the morning because I overslept or refused to get out of bed. As a result, I often just have a cold breakfast of cereal and soy or almond milk or grab a bag of trailmix to eat in class.

Miso soup, egg over rice with hot sauce,
kale wtih red pepper, and green tea.
A very good breakfast.
 Therefore, when I saw that it was Hot Breakfast Month, I tried to make a concious effort of having hot breakfasts.  The easiest of all hot breakfasts I had this month was hot oatmeal.  My roommate made some very time-consuming but very good cinnamon rolls that paired well with hot tea.  I also haven't had a traditional Japanese breakfast in a while, so I opted for a Japanese-inspired breakfast, seen to the right.  There were also a couple of omelettes over the course of the month.  One thing I learned from this is that if I want to have hot breakfasts, I'll need to start waking up earlier.  Or just save the hot breakfasts for weekend brunches.

Yeah, I like that last idea.

National Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month

I didn't know this at the beginning of the month, but Feburary is National Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month.  The National Library of Medicine has an excellent page explaining what lactose intolerance is and how to manage it.  I'm lactose intolerant, but I still manage to enjoy hard cheeses and some yogurt.  Unlike some other dietary restrictions, avoiding lactose isn't too hard and when I do want to have real ice cream or lots of cheddar or brie cheese, I take lactase enzyme pills.  I've found that some lactase pills leave a nasty taste in your moth, but others like Lactaid don't.  Lactaid is usually a bit pricey, unless there's a coupon and a sale, so I typically buy the Target store brand pills.  Still, buying and taking pills isn't cheap or fun, so I often choose to buy dairy-free products.  Or just take one bite of ice cream and stop.

Recently, I came across soy yogurt from Trader Joe's.  They only had the strawberry flavor when I stopped by so that's what I got.  It wasn't bad - it has a good flavor and it's very similar to regular yogurts with a very smooth, creamy texture.  Still, I doubt I'll buy this often or have it for anything other than dessert.  Why?  Well, I looked at the nutrition facts on the soy yogurt and did a double take on the amount of sugar the soy yogurt - 21 g of sugar in a 6 oz serving.  (In comparison, an 8 ounce serving of Pepsi has 28 grams.)  However, that's not all that different from normal strawberry yogurt - the one I looked at was 24g of sugar.  I guess I'm just so used to buying plain Greek yogurt that these numbers seem high to me.  So while it's  tasty and would make a good dessert, I wouldn't be buying it for breakfast.

First week of February: Shape Up With Pickles Time

I'm not even sure what this is supposed to be about.  Have I missed some news announcement that pickles help you lose weight?  Are you supposed to lift pickle jars for exercise?  (I've had one of my older classmates swear by the "soup can" lift, so this could totally be true!)

National Sweet Potato Month and National Snack Food Month

While I briefly touched on both National Sweet Potato Month and National Snack Food Month, I wanted to revisit both of these one more time.  Mainly because I bought a bag of sweet potato chips and wanted to talk about them. 

I bought a bag of Limited Edition Terra Sweet Potato Cinnamon Spice Chips.  While I won't deny that potato chips are the equivalent of a Siren's Song for anyone trying to be healthy, I love sweet potato and vegetable chips.  So I listened to the call of the limited edition chips (internal dialogue of justification: if they're limited edition, I won't buy them often, right?) and thoroughly enjoyed the sweet chips.  Yes, sweet.  While the ingredients list just lists "seasoning," I felt like you could make your own by frying sweet potatoes slices and sprinkling cinnamon and sugar on them.  But the time and effort that that would require makes me think it was worth just buying a bag.  So, if you like sweet potatoes and cinnamon sugar, these are the chips for you.

2nd week = Great American Pizza Bake, Jell-O week, Kraut and Frankenfurter Week

Well, pizza already had a week in January and gets the month of October, so I left this one alone.  I wasn't sure what the "Great American Pizza Bake Week" was actually referring to.  Is this the week where we American's are supposed to host a pizza making party?  I'm not sure.

Oh man, I missed Jell-O week!  I know Jell-O is a lot of food dyes, sugar and gelatin, but I still love slurping it up.  I'm not a fan of Jigglers because I don't like touching my food with my fingers (especially when its squishy).  I love Jell-O with mandarin oranges and pineapple chunks.  While some of my friends don't like the texture of Jell-O, so many of my friends enjoy Jell-O shots.  For those that fall into the latter category, check out Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.  That blog is truly enjoyable to peruse and the writers (Michelle and Intern Doug) are very creative.  (I especially love their Harry Potter inspired Chocolate Frog Jelly Shots.)

As for Kraut and Frankenfurter Week...  I like sauerkraut, I've said that before. Sauerkraut goes so well on just about everything.  So next year, I will definitely remember to celebrate Kraut and Frankenfurter Week.  But if I find myself at an Oktoberfest celebration, I'll celebrate then.  In the meantime, try one of these Celebrity Kraut and Frankenfurther recipes from Examiner.

4th week = National Pancake Week and Food Checkout Week

I'm not really sure how one would celebrate National Food Checkout Week?  Just go through the checkout lane at the grocery store?  If that's the case, I celebrate every week.  Or maybe it's the week we're all supposed to try a new food we've always been curious about?

The blueberry/Log Cabin pancakes
I did manage to celebrate National Pancake Week, though!  (I just never got around to posting about it - bad me!)  I convinced my roommate to make pancakes, too, but she wasn't feeling adventurous so she made blueberry pancakes using fresh blueberries and Log Cabin pancake mix.

Lot of ingredients waiting
to be turned into pancakes.
I opted to try a recipe from the American Heart Association's No-Fad Diet cookbook.  (This was partly due to my goal of actually using my cookbook.)  I chose the Pumpkin-Cranberry Pancakes recipe on page 376 (or online here, courtesy of the Journal Sentinal Online).  I did make a couple of changes - I used whole wheat flour instead of white flour and I used some homemade applesauce instead of unsweetened applesauce.

They were delicious.  Originally, I thought I would use jam on top of the pancakes, but no jam or syrup was necessary.  The pancakes are very light, fluffy and moist.  Best of all, they're full of flavor.  I finally found a recipe for pumpkin that I really like.  Definitely will be making the AHA's Pumpkin-Cranberry Pancakes again.

These pancakes were delicious!