Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31: National Macaroon Day

A few years ago, when a Lolita clothing brand released a print with French macarons on it, the Japanese fashion communities in the US got a little confused.  "What are these?  These aren't macaroons like we know them!"  Eventually, a concensus seemed to be reached: macaroon (with two Os) referred to the coconut cookies that are just about everywhere during Passover and macaron (with one O) referred to the the light and airy cookie sandwiches.

As the French cookie became popular in the US, more people became curious about this treat now appearing in places such as Trader Joe's and becoming the featured treat in bakeries from coast to coast.  Serious Eats put together a primer on the French cookie.  And there's plenty of history out there.  Slate lets us know how macaroon, macaron, and macaroni are related.   

Still, when I hear macaroon, I think of the coconut cookies.  And when I hear macaron, I think of the light, airy French treat. But if someone says "French macaroon" or a "coconut macaron" I'll probably be able to figure out what they're talking about.

I had hoped to make some coconut macaroons today, but having spent a large chunk of this last month traveling has caused life and all it's little chores to catch up to me.  So I'm swamped right now.  But I have all the ingredients for coconut macaroons and since National Chocolate Macaroon Day is coming up, I'll be making cookies then.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30: National Mint Julep Day

Mint's not a food I do well with (yet I love the smell) so I've never had a mint julep.  Apparently, I'd fit right in in Louisville (let's just ignore the fact that I lack a Southern drawl, ok?)  Yet, the mint julep will forever be associated with the Kentucky Derby, as Cocktail Times makes clear with it's telling of the history of the mint julep.  Drinks Mixer gives us the basic recipe for a mint julep- mint, sugar, bourbon whiskey and water.  Food Network claims to have the recipe for the perfect mint julep.  Then again, I'm sure a lot of bars out there claim the best mint julep.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29: National Coq au Vin Day

Chicken in wine.  Sounds so simple, but apparently it is a very delicious dish that is extremely popular.  I don't think I've ever had it, but it appears to be a great dish to serve at dinner parties.  If you plenty of time before the dinner party to prep, try Alton Brown's recipe - it takes 13 hours.  Most of us don't have the time for 13 hours of prep before a dinner party, so you may want to try a recipe requiring much less time from another Food Network chef, Ina Garten.  Of course, when it comes to French cooking, anything by Julia Child is a favorite of just about everyone.  (Ms. Child reportedly suggested blanching the bacon.) 

Nigel Slater of the Guardian claims to have made it from the dregs of wine glasses left by customers.  Ew.

And Food-Worldwide gives us the history of Coq au Vin.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28: National Hamburger Day and National Brisket Day

National Hamburger Day

Hamburgers are a mainstay of American barbecues.  Normally hamurgers are made of ground beef, but these days "burger" can refer to anything shaped into a patty - veggie burgers made from quinoa or black beans, turkey burgers made from ground turkey, or tuna.  And of course you can top burgers with just about everything you can imagine:  add a slice of your favorite cheese to make a cheeseburger or try stuffing the cheese in the meat instead; fresh tomatoes and lettuce are classic toppings; pickles, peppers, and onions add a tang to the burger; mushrooms add a savory flavor; onion rings and potato chips add a crunch...  the topping possibilities are endless.

Since I recently returned from a country where the wise course of action was to avoid anything uncooked and it seems like I only ate meat and some bread, I feel like I've eaten more meat in the last couple of weeks than I would eat in a whole year.  As a result, I've decided to avoid meat for a while and that meant that to celebrate today, I was going to have a veggie burger.  I checked out the burger recipes from Vegetarian Times and chose one that would require very little time and work.  Oh, I could have just bought a veggie burger patty, but I wanted to cook something, after not being able to cook for so long.

Vegetarian burger mix from Whole Foods
Then, while at Whole Foods to purchase the ingredients, I came across a vegetarian burger mixture in the bulk aisle.  The directions were to mix equal parts of the mixture and boiling water, let it cool, shape into patties, then fry in a pan with a little oil.  I decided to give it a try.
Add water, shape into patties, and
fry just until lightly browned.

While my roommate found the texture bizarre, I didn't think it was any different than most vegetarian burgers.  Oh, there was no way anyone would say that it was the same as a burger, but it wasn't revolting, just different than a real hamburger.  The patties held together and didn't crumble while or immediately after cooking, like so many other vegetarian burgers do.  The flavor was good - I'm not sure if there was a particular spice in the mixture that made it so tasty, but I enjoyed it.  3/4 cups of the mixture and 3/4 cups of boiling water made three good sixed patties and one bite-sized patty.  I enjoyed one of those larger patties on a homemade biscuit with a slice of Swiss cheese, some lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a sliace of homemade pickles. 

It was super delicious, if a bit too large to eat without squishing it flat.  So thumbs up to the vegetarian burger mixture from the bulk aisle at Whole Foods.

Looking for more traditional burgers?  MSNBC lists the best burger cities in the US for 2012 while Men's Health lists the 15 worst burgers.
The burger was just a little too tall.
But it was tasty!

National Brisket Day

Brisket is cow.  More specifically, brisket is a cut of meat from the front half of the cow.  Best cooked with moist heat, brisket is typically used to make corned beef.  You can also barbecue it, which is apparently very popular cooking method in Texas.  Food Network gives an easy, if a bit time consuming, recipe for cooking brisket in the oven

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27: National Grape Popsicle Day

Ah, summertime.  Hot weather that makes you just not want to move.  Or cook.  Or even go through the effort of calling for food to be delivered.  Times like the hot weather we're having now (and it will only get hotter) are perfect for popsicles.

Now, you can always just buy popsicles.  (OtterPops will always have a special place in my heart, as will any flavor or brand of popsicle that comes in the little plastic tubes you break in half.)  However, making your own is totally easy.  It can also be very cheap, depening on what you put in your popsicle. 

Ideally, you'd have a popsicle mold.  (If not, you can always use hard-sided, freezer-safe food containers and popsicle sticks.)  All you have to do then is pour in some of your favorite juice or fruit puree and freeze until solid.  There are also some super-fancy popsicle makers that will make popsicles in minutes, but they also have a huge price tag, so I'll stick to my $2 popsicle molds.

Since today is National Grape Popsicle Day, I bought some Trader Joe's White Grape Juice to make grape popsicles.  I like both white and purple grape juice, but the white grape juice was $1 cheaper for the same amount, so I went with it.  I mixed 1.5 cups of grape juice with 0.5 cups of water, because I always feel grape juice is a little on the sweet side.  I poured the grape juice/water mixture into the molds and drank what was left over.  The popsicles have been in the freezer for a few hours now and I just had one.  I'll enjoy them one by one over the next day or two and when they're all gone, I'll clean out the popsicle mold and pour in the next flavor.

If you want to try making your own, you can also try adding grapes cut in half or mashing a few grapes into a mush at the bottom of each mold.  Pour grape juice on top, freeze the mold for a few hours, and enjoy your popsicles with real fruit.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 26: National Blueberry Cheesecake Day and National Cherry Dessert Day

Two holidays that really don't seem to go well together, but I suppose you could have blueberry cheesecake for breakfast and a cherry-based dessert after dinner.  Or you could have two desserts, or one as a snack, or....

National Blueberry Cheesecake Day

Most blueberry cheesecake recipes have you make a standard, plain cheesecake (either baked or just refrigerated) and then pour a blueberry topping over the finished cheesecake.  Some have you just put blueberries on top.  This recipe from Cooking Light changes it up a bit by having you mix in some blueberry puree with the filling. 

Really want to change it up a bit?  Try making Blueberry Cheesecake Flapjacks for breakfast.  Or make Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars.

If none of the above linked recipes appeal, check out a little bit of history on blueberry cheesecake and some recipe variations from Blueberry-Recipe.

National Cherry Dessert Day

I just got back a few hours ago and really had no time to celebrate today's food holidays.  Had I plenty of time, I would have made cherry dessert to celebrate.  Maybe a cherry empanadaCherry cheesecake sounds tempting, too, but seems inconsiderate of National Blueberry Cheesecake Day.  Cherry cookies would go well with tea or coffee.  Maybe I should do a cherry chocolate cake instead.  Or another cherry pie

Hrm... I have a piece of  frozen cherry pie in the freezer.  I think that will be my breakfast tomorrow.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25: National Wine Day and National Brown Bag It Day

National Wine Day

I've already discussed wine before, so I'm just going to be brief and provide you with some links. 

Since every state has a winery, check out what your local wineries are doing to celebrate National Wine Day.  Or, since a lot of people like going out on a Friday night, gather up your friends and check out a local wine bar.  Or go even easier and just pour yourself a glass of whatever you have on hand.

National Brown Bag It Day

As a nutrition student, I think this day is awesome.  I totally believe more people should take the time to make a lunch to take to work.  It saves you a lot of money over time and if you're using leftovers, you end up saving a lot of time, too.  There's no standing in any line (unless there's one for the microwave and you need to reheat something) so you get to fully enjoy your lunch hour, maybe squeezing in a few minutes of exercise.
Some of my lunch bags.
But why brown bag it?  That's so boring!  Plus, it's rather wasteful, even if you are recycling your bags.  If you still love the brown paper bag, try the reusable, insulated version.  Today, reusable lunch bags look like purses, so you can stay stylish while being Earth-friendly.  Reuseit has a large collection of lunch bags for your perusal.  The Container Store also has all sorts of items to make it easy to bring your own lunch.

So take the time today to pack up a lunch or snack for your day, even if it's just leftovers from the last night.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24: National Escargot Day

Some peopel have a very strong aversion to escargot, simply because they can't get over the fact that escargots= snails.  I've had escargot twice.  It was okay - just kind of chewy.  They were pretty much drowning in butter, which is probably why I was so "meh" about them.  Good Cooking's recipe for Escargot Bourguignons looks a lot more appealing - I like the idea of all those herbs.  Or you can just go the easy way and garlic it up.

If you're in Philadelphia today, Grub Street has all the information you need to find some escargot for today.  In San Diego?  Get your escargot fix at Au Revoir.  Be careful if you're in the Bay Area because apparently the escargot in SF like to explode.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23: National Taffy Day

When it comes to taffy, I have one rule: I can only buy it when I'm on vacation.  I'm not exactly sure when this became a "rule" for me, but it did.  When I'm traveling, I love finding the local candy shops, especially if they make their own candy.  If a candy shop has the taffy pulling machine, I always stop to watch it for a little bit.  I  could probably watch a taffy machine for hours.  Its even more awesome when the candy makers are making taffy using a taffy hook.  (Maybe it's just me, but if I can see some food being made in a shop or factory, I always take the opportunity.)
Salt water taffy, which was invented in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is typically what I purchase.  Maybe it's the soft texture.  Maybe it's the bright colors and variety of flavor.  For some reason, I'm never disappointed in salt water taffy.  When purchased from small town or touristy towns, it always seems to come in a white cardboard box with a store sticker on it. 

Even though the Exploratorium has directions for making my own saltwater taffy, this is one think I will never make at home.  Now, if I get the chance to make taffy while traveling...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22: National Vanilla Pudding Day

Sometimes I forget that as time marches on, the meaning of words change.  Take the word "pudding" for example.  According to the Food Timeline, pudding has not always referred to the sweet, creamy, eat-it-by-the-spoonful dessert we're accustomed to today. At one point way back in human history, Medieval puddings were meat-based and were the way to stretch all the leftover meat bits even further.  These puddings still somewhat live on today as blood puddings.  (Definitely not a dessert!)  The sweet pudding most Americans are familiar with has it's roots in Roman custards.

I, and probably most of my friends, am most familiar with instant pudding.  Not the ready-to-eat kind where you just pull back the lid and scoop away, but the powdered pudding to which you add cold milk and then vigorously whisk until you think your arm will fall off.  Okay, not that long - just long enough for the mixture to start to thicken.  These first mention of these instant puddings appeared in 1949.  And they've stuck around.

Vanilla is usually the pudding flavor I go for when I grab an instant pudding box.   Vanilla pudding is great for filling eclairs or cream puffs, or to use in place of frosting if you don't want to overwhelm a cake with too much sugar.  And while I've always just gone with instant pudding, it looks like vanilla pudding is pretty easy to make from scratchSome recipes don't even take very long.  Vanilla pudding can even be made vegan.  With as easy as it seems to be to make vanilla pudding, I'll have to try making my own some day.  Or maybe I'll make a vanilla pudding pie- that looks pretty tasty.

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21: National Strawberries and Cream Day

So, did you celebrate yesterday by picking some strawberries?  If you did, and you haven't eaten them all yet, today's the perfect day for eating strawberries with some cream.  You can go the easy way and buy a tub or spray can of whipped cream, or you can make your own pretty easily.  All you need is some heavy cream and sugar.  Dip the strawberries in the cream for a perfect summer snack or dessert.  Heck, I even like strawberries and cream for breakfast.  (But I can't stand anything flavored "strawberries and cream" - that food always tastes too fake.) 

This also is a fun way to enjoy National Strawberry Month.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20: National Quiche Lorraine Day and National Pick Strawberries Day

National Quiche Lorraine Day

When I looked at my calendar, this was another food that I wasn't familiar with.  I knew what a quiche was, but I had no idea what a "quiche lorraine" was or how to prepare it.  (My roommate swears that she survived solely on quiche lorraine and bread while in France.)  I thought perhaps it was another dish named after a person, but I was wrong.  Lorraine seems to refer to the Lorraine region of France, which has German influence due to it's history/location.  "Quiche" actually comes from the German word for cake.  The Examiner provides us with some history of the quiche lorraine.

So how to make quiche lorraine?  It seems be just a quiche made with bacon, onion, and cheese.  The ever reliable Betty Crocker gives a recipe, but Emeril's recipe takes about half the time to make.  Quiche lorraine probably isn't good for a quick breakfast (unless you've already got some in the fridge and you're re-heating it) but it could be the star of a brunch get-together.

National Pick Strawberries Day/National Strawberry Month

Whoo!  It's strawberry season, finally!  Today is the perfect day (well, provided the weather's nice where you are) to go pick strawberries.  Don't have a bunch of strawberry plants growing on your patio or in your backyard?  No worries!  Just go to to find a U-pick strawberry farm near you.  Nothing near you or no time?  Well, I suppose going to the grocery store and picking out a container of strawberries you like can count, but it really is more fun to go to a U-pick farm.  They're great for kids, too, and there's usually some sort of other entertainment available.

Acto to a u-pick farm any day of this month, because this would be a great way to celebrate National Strawberry Month, too!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 19: National Devil's Food Cake Day

Supposedly, the original Devil's Food cake was a red chocolate cake, much like Red Velvet cake.  I'm more accustomed to the dark, rich chocolate Devil's Food cake that is commonly found in bakeries these days.  What's Cooking America provides us with some more history about Devil's Food cake, including the fact that Devil's Food cake has been around since the early 1900s, so it's still a relatively young cake.  Wise Geek gives us some information and directions for making Devil's Food cake and Alton Brown graces us all with a recipe that gets some solid, high reviews

If you're hesitant to have bake Devil's Food cake because you're worried about your waistline, the Skinny Chef comes to the rescue with a somewhat healthy version of the cake.  Vegan?  Try this recipe from Greens Restaurant.

Of course, if you want to share the Devil's Food cake goodness with your coworkers, try making cupcakes for easy transportation and sharing.  Or, you know, don't share and eat it all by yourself.  If you don't tell anyone you make Devil's Food cake, no one will care if you eat it all.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18: National Cheese Soufflé Day

Ah, soufflé.  Some people love the airy treat.  Some hate it for being a persnickity thing to make.  I'm on the fence.

I never really cared to eat cheese soufflé because of all the cheese.  (Why eat something that would upset my stomach?)  So I was never really on board the "I love it!" train.  When I had to make it for a class, I messed up my first one.  I pondered over everything I did and my second attempt was successful. 

Well, sort of.  After speaking with my instructor, it appeared that I had used a soufflé dish that was too large for my recipe.  Oops.  So after going through all the trouble of making sure I got a soufflé dish that had the perfectly straight lines, the slight turn-out at the top, the flat bottom.... I had the wrong size.  The dish was just too big for the recipe and so my cheese soufflés didn't rise over the top as they should have.  You can see in the picture that my second attempt was edible and had the right texture, but it didn't get as tall as it should have.

You can try making your own cheese soufflé.  Just be sure to watch this episode of Good Eats before you do - Alton Brown does a wonderful job of explaining soufflés.  In fact, I think the cheese recipe I had to make for class was his.  (It appears to be a very popular recipe - googling "cheese souffle success" brought up many pages with links to that recipe.)  Food and Wine gussies up the cheese soufflé a bit by using various cheeses and adding some additional flavors.  And I completely disagree with the comment on this brocolli and goat cheese soufflé recipe - soufflés should never be eaten reheated.

So try making a cheese soufflé today to celebrate this food observation day.  Just be sure to use the right sized soufflé dish.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17: National Cherry Cobbler Day

There's only two cobbler days out of the year - April 13 which is National Peach Cobbler Day and today, National Cherry Cobbler Day.  This time, What's Cooking America serves up the history of fruit cobblers.  (Have you ever heard of "pandowdy?"  That's totally new to me!)

Cherry cobbler, like all cobblers, is pretty easy to make.  You can make cherry cobbler with fresh cherries (arguably the best but incredibly time-consuming- all that pitting!) or frozen cherries (might be a little too sweet for some, since frozen cherries are usually sweetened).   Or you can super easy and just used canned cherries. You can also use cake mix for the topping

Cherry cobbler always disappears rather quickly at parties and if you take it to the next barbecue you're invited to, you'll probably be a very popular person there.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16: National Coquilles St. Jacques Day

When I saw this on my calendar, a "Huh?" escaped my lips.  First off, my French is very limited and I'm fairly certain I pronounce what little I've picked up very wrong.  Secondly, I had no idea what type of food or dish a "Coquilles St. Jacques" is.  One thing I did feel pretty good about, though, was that it was probably a dish named after St. Jacques, whoever he was.

Well, a little internet sluething later, I discovered that St. Jacques = St. James.  (Somehow, it never entered my mind that the names of the saints might be different depending on the language.  I think it was just too early in the morning for me when I looked at the calendar.)  St. James was one of the 12 apostles and is considered the patron saint of laborers.  (His day is July 25th, so I'm a little confused why a food dish named after him would be over two months earlier, but, hey, I don't set these dates, I just blog about them.)

So what is Coquilles St. Jacques?  eHow has a pretty good video explaining the dish, as does What's Cooking.  Coquille St. Jacques is basically scallops and mushrooms cooked in some sort of butter-based sauce.  Some recipes will use wine, others add cheese. Why scallops?  Apparently, the scallop shell was the symbol of the Order of St. James, chosen because St. James save a knight from drowning and when the knight emerged, he was covered in scallop shells.

As always, with all seafood, please check with Seafood Watch as to its sustainability.  Seafood Watch approves of pretty much all types of scallops out on the market (none are red flagged, just oranges and greens) so go celebrate today with a helping of Coquilles St. Jacques at your local seafood restaurant or try making your own.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15: National Chocolate Chip Day

While there are some foods chocolate chips should never be in (soups, for example), chocolate chips can go in just about anything.  Chocolate chip cookies are always a favorite - so popular that chocolate chip cookies get a weeklong celebration in MarchChocolate chip pancakes are always a sweet day to start the morning, as are chocolate chip muffinsChocolate chip biscotti pairs extremely well with coffee and espresso drinks.  And of course, you can just eat the chocolate chips - no baking necessary!  Try them sprinkled on ice cream, mixed in with yogurt, or on top of a piece of warm toast.  There's just so much you can do with chocolate chips!

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14: National Buttermilk Biscuit Day

Biscuits are a food that people can seriously get into a fight over.  Everyone firmly believes that their biscuits or their mom's/aunt's/grandmother's/dad's/uncle's/etc biscuits are the best ever.  I think the only thing anyone can agree on is that biscuits are best served warm, right out of the oven.  I've used this recipe from Alton Brown multiple times - first for a class and then every time after that was because I really liked the recipe.  (Plus, I think the notes from his grandmother are absolutely charming.)

While Alton Brown's recipe is a very traditional, plain buttermilk biscuit recipe, some buttermilk biscuit recipes allow the addition of honey, cheese, herbs, or even bacon.  I'm partial to keeping biscuits plain and then topping them with herbed butter or honey, but to each her/his own.

In addition to some buttermilk recipes, Pinch My Salt provides some excellent tips on making perfect biscuits and a very good explanation about how important the choice of flour is.  I very much agree with that the first thing anyone should know about biscuits is: don't over-work the dough.  As part of the class for which I made biscuits, I had to show and explain what happens to over-worked biscuit dough.  Over-working the dough results in less fluffy biscuits that just don't rise as much.  In the photo, you can see that the biscuits on the right are from the first cut and the biscuits on the left were the last ones to be cut, after I reworked the scraps and handled the dough some more..

So remember when you make you buttermilk biscuits for today - don't over-work the dough and they're best served warm.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13: National Apple Pie Day and National Fruit Cocktail Day

National Apple Pie Day

"As American as apple pie."  Why this phrase came about is beyond me.  See, apple pies did not originate in the US, nor are apples native to North America.  Yet, apple pie has become identified as wholly American and in the 1940s the phrase "as American as apple pie" became common.  Maybe it's because it was an easy dessert for the settlers to make.  Perhaps it was because apples traveled better than other fruit and as the American West was settled, apples were the first fruits to go with the settlers and not end up smushed to all oblivion.

You can almost always find a frozen apple pie, ready for baking, at the grocery store and oftentimes the bakery will have ready-to-eat apple pies.  Apple pies are pretty easy to make - crusts, apples, sugar and spices of your choice.  This apple pie recipe from AllRecipes is incredibly popular - over 4500 reviews and it has rating of 4.8 out of 5.  Impressive.

The nice thing about apple pies is that there is no one "right" way to make them.  If you don't like the crust all that much, you can do away with the top crust and replace it with delicious crumble topping.  You can try fried apple pies when you need something easy to eat on-the-go.  Serve apple pie with ice cream or whipped cream and serve it as an always popular dessert.

Or eat it for breakfast, like I did.  Great way to start off the day.

National Fruit Cocktail Day

When people refer to fruit cocktail, they are generally referring to a collection of fruits cut up and mixed together, not the alcocholic beverage or the multi-fruit treeFruit cocktail is different than fruit salad - fruit cocktail is a mix of diced fruits in natural fruit juices or syrup and fruit salad is a mixture of larger pieces of fruit, sometimes with cream added.  Did you know that in the US, the USDA regulates the mixture of fruits in fruit cocktail?  Now I understand why there's always so few cherries in a can of fruit cocktail. 

And did you know that the largest can of fruit cocktail can be found in Sunnyvale, CA?  I will have to seek it out next time I'm in Sunnyvale.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 12: National Nutty Fudge Day

I don't know anyone who dislikes fudge.  Fudge is delightfully indulgent and is available in such a wide variety that you can probably find at least one flavor you like.  (Personally, if it has caramel on it, I'm going to like it.)  If I don't take it in to work to share with coworkers, fudge can last me a very long time.  I find myself unable to eat very much of it in one go - it's just too rich and sweet, even for my sweet tooth - so it very slowly nibbled at.

Going to the store and buying a piece of fudge is the easy way to celebrate the day.  (And totally what I'm doing.)  If you want to make your nutty fudge to celebrate today, there are a whole lot of options for recipes.  You have to decide what kind of nut or combination of nuts you want to use - peanuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, macadamias, etc.  You also have to decide if you want to stick with the traditional chocolate fudge or do you make another flavor, like white chocolate, peanut butter, or butterscotch

Nutty fudge is particularly delightful because the crunchy nuts provide a pleasant texture contrast to the creaminess of the fudge.   Then again, not everyone likes nuts, so if you don't like or can't eat nuts, stick to your favorite flavor of nut-free fudge.

Friday, May 11, 2012

May11: Eat What You Want Day and National Mocha Tarte Day

Eat What You Want Day

Really?  We have a day for this?  Doesn't this happen every single day?  Maybe this day was brought about just so that everyone who is dieting and exercising to look good in their swimsuit could have an "off" day without the guilt that's usually associated with breaking a diet. 

I eat whatever I want every day, mainly because I like to eat and I only eat foods I like.  There's no one telling me what to eat.  Ultimately, whatever you put in your mouth is your choice.  Well, if you're an "adult" that is.  Children don't get to eat whatever they want, so maybe this day was made for them.

National Mocha Tarte (Tart/Torte) Day

I thought about making a mocha tart today, especially since I had all the ingredients for this recipe, but then I realized: no one would eat it.  Coffee-flavored foods are a huge miss for my roommate and I'm not too fond of them either (even though I will drink coffee and espresso drinks when I need caffeine.)  Normally, I would just take it in to work and let everyone there have at it, but I've had quite a few complaints (all jesting and half-hearted, I believe) that I'm making people fat, making it impossible for people to keep to diets, and that I'm mean and evil for bringing in treats so often.  Ah, well.  No making of a mocha tart for me today.

Of course, if I did make one, I'd probably use this Haagen Dazs recipe.  I know quite a few vegetarians and vegans, so this vegan mocha tart will be a recipe for me to keep for later use.  Or if I really wanted to impress, I'd make a marblized mocha tart.  For some reason, marblized desserts always recieve many, "That looks so good!"

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10: National Shrimp Day

When I was younger, there were two types of shrimp in my world: the super-tiny freeze dried things you can find in shrimp flavored instant noodles and the large shrimp that would be served breaded and fried at a restaurant.  Now, I know better - there are many different types of shrimp.  As usual, with seafood, I do my best to consult with Seafood Watch.

What's the best way to cook shrimp?  Well, breading and frying shrimp is always popular, but I prefer to avoid deep frying things if I can.  In the South, shrimp and grits is a very popular dish.  And I always love has plenty of shrimp recipes for you to choose from.  Of course, if you're feeling the need for something quick, add cooked shrimp to cooked pasta, your favorite vegetable, and a little sauce or seasoning and you have a simple but tasty shrimp pasta dish.

What's Cooking America has a ton of useful information about buying and de-veining shrimp.  Or you can just buy it that way.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 9: National Butterscotch Brownies Day

Butterscotch brownies aren't technically brownies - they're blondies.  True brownies use chocolate.  Oh, I suppose you could make brownies with butterscotch swirled in or with butterscotch chips and call it a butterscotch brownie.

Traditional butterscotch brownies are relatively easy to make and don't require any butterscotch chips. Still, some recipes do call for butterscotch chips and those are a fairly gauranteed way to make sure you get the flavor right.  Butterscotch brownies, or blondies, have a more cookie-like texture than regular brownies.  CakeSpy has an excellent write-up of brownies vs blondies.  (Plus, the photos there are adorable!)  None of the recipes linked so far your style?  Check out CDKitchen - there's a list of butterscotch brownie recipes where you should be able to find one you're interested in.  The Los Angeles Times shares a recipe from the restaurant Clementine.  Or you can try making butterscotch brownie swirls - those are sure to impress at your next party.  Want to change things up a little bit?  Try adding Baileys, apples or try going for a tart form.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 8: National Coconut Cream Pie Day and Have a Coke Day

National Coconut Cream Pie Day

Coconut cream pie is so ubiquitous and popular, it's even been on iCarly.  When a famous restaurant shut down, patrons lamented the loss of the coconut cream pie served there... until the secret recipe was found years later.  It's so popular that it hasn't been restricted to taking on a pie form - there are coconut cream pie cupcakes and candy.  You can even try making your own Coconut Cream Larabars

Well, if you want to celebrate by making a coconut cream pie, try this recipe from Food Network that only takes 45 minutes while others can take hours.  You can top it with whipped cream or add bananas to add a little variety. 

As the weather heats up, a cool coconut cream pie will be welcome at any party you go to.  Plus, coconut cream pie is perfect for tropical themed parties.  And who doesn't love tropical themed parties?  Any excuse to wear a Hawaiian shirt, right?

Have a Coke Day

Gee, which company may have been responsible for this food holiday?  Okay, this one is very obviously a corporately sponsored and created day. There's a Facebook page for the day and you can also try making one of twenty-six different cocktails featuring Coke.  Or, if you're near Atlanta, check out the World of Coca Cola

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 7: National Roast Leg of Lamb Day

When I hear "roast leg of lamb," the first thing that comes to mind is the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Lamb to the Slaughter."  It's such a great episode of an amazing show.

I've eaten lamb, but I'm not sure if I've had roast leg of lamb.  Roast leg of lamb has been around for so long, I can't find anything about how, when, or where it started. I did, however, find 18th century directions for preparing leg of lamb.  If I ever make roast leg of lamb, I'll follow more modern directions.  Maybe I'll even use rosemary - that seems to be the popular seasoning for leg of lamb.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6: National Crepes Suzette Day and National Beverage Day

National Crepes Suzette Day

Traditional Crepes Suzette are crepes with sugar, butter, citrus juice and then a citrus liquer which is then lit on fire to present a visually appealing en flambe dish.  (Okay, so I think all "en flambe" dishes are visually appealing, but I'm the type to stare at a campfire.)  The origins of the name are somewhat disputed, but I think this can be listed as a food named after someone.

Interested in making Crepes Suzette to celebrate?  Food Network offers you two recipes - one from food nerd favorite Alton Brown and one from the ever flamboyant Bobby Flay.  I love them both, so I'm  not sure which recipe I'll make first.

National Beverage Day

A lot of things get called a beverage - if you can drink it, it's a beverage.  My favorite beverage is water.  As a hiker and someone with an interest in nutrition, water has such an important role in my life.  It's dangerous to hike without carrying plenty of water, so I'm always paranoid that I'm not carrying enough.  I'd rather carry the weight of extra water than find myself running out of water.

Not everyone enjoys the access to clean water that we have here in America.  And even then, the quality of water in some parts of the US is suspect...  Still, I'd like to point you to The Water Project, a non-profit devoted to bringing water to people who need it most.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May 5: National Homebrew Day, National Chocolate Custard Day, National Hoagie Day, and Totally Chipotle Day

National Homebrew Day

Some of my good friends brew their own beers.  One managed to convince enough of the others to team up and brew all the beer for his wedding.  Eventually, this undertaking prompted the sad lament from one, "I have 50 gallons of beer in my closet and I can't drink any of it yet."

The American Homebrewers Association has some suggestions on how to celebrate the day.  Try looking for a National Homebrew Day event near you.  Beerpulse gives a little background on this day, including the information that this became an official recognized food observance day in 1988.  (It's a little confusing though, since the stie says May 5th is National Homebrew Day, but that May 7th was the day it was recognized.  Some places (including Google - try Google searching "National Homebrew Day") list National Homebrew Day as May 4th, but since the American Homebrewers Association and Beerpulse list it as May 5th, that what I'm going with.

National Chocolate Custard Day

When making chocolate custard to celebrate today, you have plenty of choices.  Do you go with a no-bake custard?  Or one that requires baking?  You can even try making a low-carb chocolate custard.  Personally, I like the idea of being really indulgent and making this dark chocolate custard.  Hmm...maybe that's how I'll celebrate.

If you want to celebrate, but aren't feeling up for eating custard, try these Chocolate Custard Muffins.

National Hoagie Day

For the longest time, I thought a hoagie was the bread used to make hoagie sandwiches and you had to use the word sandwich after hoagie to differentiate the two.  Well, I was wrong.  Turns out simply saying "hoagie" means you're referring to the sandwich.  The bread just seems to be referred to as a roll.  Hoagies are also called heroes, submarine sandwiches, subs, grinders, bombers...  I wonder how these names all came about - are they all just regional variations or did they originally refer to different sandwiches?  Wise Geek tackles the question, "What is a hoagie?"

To celebrate, I picked up this jar of hoagie spread.  I didn't know such a thing existed, but since thousands of new foods are introduced each year, it's not all that surprising.  Hopefully this will be as spicy as it seems it should be. 

Totally Chipotle Day

When I saw this on the calendar, I half-heartedly hoped it celebrated chipotle peppers.  Nope, this one is a corporate sponsored day to celebrate Totally Chipotle products. Ah, well. 

I know it's a totally different company, but I thought of Chipotle, the quick serve food company.  They have this great commercial out there (cute animation and great music performed byWillie Nelson!) and of all the quick serves or fast food companies out there, Chipotle is one I don't feel bad about buying from.  Chipotle started up initiatives recently to support local farmers and is working to expand it's reliance on renewable solar power.  So, cheers to Chipotle.

Now, today is also Oyster Day.  Not National Oyster Day - that's in August.  Since there's also a National Oyster Day later in the year and since there's already a lot going on today, I'll talk about oysters later.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 4: National Candied Orange Peel Day and National Orange Juice Day

National Candied Orange Peel Day

Last December, I made candied orange and grapefruit peels as gifts, inspired by the holiday cookie issue of the Food Network Magazine I had picked up on my holiday travels.  The orange peels were definitely more popular than the grapefruit peels and the grapefruit peels eventually made their way into cookies.  (And yes, the cookies were liked more than just the peels themselves.)

Candied orange peels are a great way to use up every little bit of an orange and they're incredibly easy.  It's essentially a lot of boiling and a lot of sugar, until you eventually end up with a chewy piece of candy with an orange flavor.  A lot of people like to dip the candied orange peels in chocolate, but I've never been a fan of the chocolate and orange pairing, so I usually just make plain candied orange peels. Although, the idea of sticking the candied orange peel in a date along with an almond and then dipping the whole thing in chocolate does sound very tempting.

When it comes to fruits that need to be peeled, some people don't buy organic because they're not eating the peel where the pesticides are applied.  When making candied orange peels, though, I always choose organic.

National Orange Juice Day

Orange juice goes with just about every breakfast food.
Ah, orange juice.  Seen as an ally in the fight against illness and a requirement for all brunches.  And there's so many varieties to choose from!  High pulp, low pulp, no pulp, calcium added, heart healthy, juice from US orange...  There's an orange juice for everyone.

Orange juice made the news a few months ago when imported orange juice tested positive for a banned fungicide.  And even more recently, there were fears of a price spike.  (Thankfully, that never materialized.)  Diseases and pest plague orange groves.  According to, 80% of the orange juice made in the US is produced from Florida oranges.  This means that the US production of orange juice is heavily dependent on Florida having a good orange harvest.  If something happens to Florida's oranges, it's not like California oranges can easily step in.  (Florida and California are really the only two places in the US where oranges grow.) 

It seems to be generally accepted and it's also my opinion that Florida oranges are for juicing and California oranges are for eating. I do like eating oranges and drinking orange juice, so I guess you could say I support both states.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3: National Raspberry Tart Day & National Raspberry Popover Day

National Raspberry Tart Day

If someone placed a slice of raspberry tart in front of me, I certainly wouldn't send it back.  While I love eating the fruit straight off the vine, a well-made tart with many of these delicious berries can be heavenly. The LA Times celebrates National Raspberry Tart Day.  If you're interested in celebrating today by making a raspberry tart of your own, try this recipe from Joy of Baking or this one from the Cooking Channel.  If you want to add a little international pizzazz to your celebration, try this French raspberry tart recipe.   

National Raspberry Popover Day

Well, March 10th was National Blueberry Popover Day, so I'm not terribly inclined to talk about popovers.  Popovers tend to be bland because they're meant to be filled with something.  If you do plain popovers, you could go with sweet or savory fillings.  If you make popovers with fruit, such as raspberries, sweet fillings such as clotted cream or lemon curd pair perfectly.  (Although, I suppose if you made cranberry popovers, they'd probably go well with turkey...hrm...)

Anyhow, today celebrates raspberry popovers.  When fresh raspberries are on sale, I may have to try some of these recipes I found because it looks like these may actually have flavor.  These raspberry peach cardamon popovers from Doughmesstic look like they'd be perfect for a Sunday brunch or maybe a tea party.  Also from Doughmesstic, these Nutella raspberry popovers with fresh bananas look like something I could serve as a dessert.  And just look at these Raspberry and Orange Popovers!  In fact, all the popovers in Doughmesstic's Popover Project are making rethink my opinion that popovers are bland. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May 2: National Truffles Day

Recently, on Bones, there was an episode where the lifecycle of truffles was an important clue.  Not the lifecycle of those delicious chocolate truffles, but the underground mushroom type.  I've never had those, but apparently they're prized enough and worth enough money that Ian Purkayastha created a very successful business importing truffles into the United States when he was in high school.  Maybe one of these days I'll try the underground mushroom truffle. I mean, they're only $110 an ounce on Amazon!
In the meantime, I'll stick to the truffle that is a candy.  They're definitely a lot easier to find.  You can find chocolate truffles in just about every chocolate shop.  At the check out counter for most craft stores, you'll find the foil-wrapped Lindt truffles.  And they're surprisingly easy to make, too.  (Although, I haven't made chocolate truffles in a few years.  Maybe I ought to put that on my "to do" list for the upcoming weeks.)

Whichever way you decide to honor National Truffles Day, it's sure to be indulgent.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 1: National Chocolate Parfait Day

Chocolate parfaits, at least in the US, are desserts made by alternating layers of chocolate pudding or mousse with something else tasty - whipped cream, fruit, cookies, another flavor of pudding, or a combination of any of those.  Chocolate parfaits are a great treat during those hot summer days.

The new show Revolution shares with us a recipe for a raspberry and chocolate parfait.  Or you can try this recipe for peanut butter and chocolate parfaits.  Or how about this oat and chocolate parfait?  However you make you chocolate parfaits, they're sure to be tasty.

April roundup

Wow, I did a really poor job about posting the April month-long food observances.  I'm going to blame it on all the end-of-semester projects and finals.  Okay, okay....  so those aren't really to blame.  I did celebrate some of the month long food celebrations, I just didn't post about them.  Let's take a look at what April celebrated.

National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month

Well, I kinda touched on this on National Grilled Cheese Day.  I think it would be interesting to see if someone could celebrate this food observance by eating a grilled cheese sandwich every day, using a different bread and different cheese every day.  I think the cheese part would be easy enough because you can buy cheese in small amounts and it lasts so long.  The bread part would be tricky - who has room for 30 loaves of bread in their house and can eat it all before the bread starts going bad?  I suppose if you had sandwiches for all three meals (they don't have to be grilled cheese sandwiches, either) and there was more than just the one person eating the sandwiches, it might be done.

Fresh Celery Month
Wait, what? March was National Celery Month and April is Fresh Celery Month? Some consolidation is needed here, folks.

Did you know that Michigan is considered the "birthplace of the nation's celery industry?" Or that there's a California Celery Research Advisory board which was formed to combat the celery-killing fungus known as fusarium? And wow... California produces 91% of the celery grown in the US.

Fresh Tomato Month
 This was another one of those observances that seemed out of place for me.  Maybe it's supposed to refer to the fact that most people are planting their tomato plants now fo they can have fresh tomatoes later?  Well, whatever the case, I did manage to find fresh tomatoes at the farmer's market.  And I mean, GOOD fresh tomatoes.  For too much of the year, you can get fresh tomatoes at the grocery store, but the tomatoes won't be good because they're not in season and they're not quite ripe yet.  So I celebrated by having tomatoes in bean salads, lettuce salads, plain, in omelets, and in....

National BLT Sandwich Month
...a BLT! Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato - such a great combination.  Bacon is one of the few red meats that remains a weakness.  Since it was National BLT Sandwich month, I decided to indulge by purchasing some Black Forest Bacon to cook for a BLT sandwich.  I had a bit of a dilemna as I had no bread that was suitable so instead I substituted matzo crackers.  It started out as an open-faced BLT sandwich using matzo, but as it started to fall apart on me and the matzo started breaking, I started stacking matzo pieces on top and had a true sandwich.  It was mighty, mighty tasty.

National Pecan Month

I touched on this a little on April 14, National Pecan Day.  Waitaminute...  I also said March 25 was National Pecan Day!  Turns out, April 14 is National Pecan Day while March 25 is just Pecan Day.  Whoops.

How do you pronounce "pecan?"  I've always gone with "PEE-can," but there are also many other correct pronounciations.  Wayword Radio (yes, I'm an NPR junkie and yes, I love that show) tackles the word in this podcast.
Fresh Florida Tomato Month

Well, this kind of goes along with the "Fresh Tomato Month" thoughts above.  I've been lucky enough to almost always have tomato plants and when I don't have tomato plants, local tomatoes (field or hothouse) are usually available in stores.  I don't recall ever eating Florida tomatoes.

Florida tomatoes have been cast in a negative light lately, thanks to the book, TomatolandNPR has an article about the book, if you're interested in getting the gist of the book. 

National Soft Pretzel Month

Mmm...soft pretzels. These are the one thing I always get at state and county fairs. At fairs, I usually just get the normal salted ones, but when shopping with my mom, we always stop to get the dressed up ones from the pretzel store. I always choose the jalapeno soft pretzels.

I had hoped to make soft pretzels at some point this month. Instead, I made Pretzel Bread, from the book More Bread Machine Magic. I didn't have coarse sea salt so I used Kosher salt instead. It was a pretty tasty bread and will be added to the "must make again" list. I think Pretzel Bread would be great at party served with a tasty dip.


National Food Month
I didn't touch on this one because I wasn't really sure how to touch on it.  "Food" is such a broad term - it's what we eat.  How am I supposed to talk about that?

Well, Gone-ta-Pott tackles National Food Month and brings together a bunch of definitions of food.  Tractor Parts Talks addresses National Food Month from the point of view of a farmer.  Chef Kathy Casey addresses the topic from a chef's view.
If you're interested in food as a general topic, I highly recommend Marion Nestle's book What to Eat.  (I haven't read her latest book about calories, so no comment on that yet.)

National Soy Foods Month
Soy foods is almost a requirement for me to live.  Ok, exaggeration, but tofu is pretty much a staple, especially since I use it in place of meat in some recipes and it's one of the main ingredients in what I consider a standard miso soup (tofu, daikon, mushrooms, and seaweed).  Soy sauce gets drizzled on most of my sauteed vegetables.  Soy milk means I can still eat cereals, and not just as a dry snack.  I'll also occasionally use soy noodles in place of regular pasta noodles.

Soy is one of most versatile foods out there and you'll find in it products you wouldn't think have soy.  This can be a problem for those with soy allergies, but soy is considered one of the top eight food allergens so food producers are required to label if the food contains soy.

Now, soy foods are still plagued by fears of soy being dangerous. And soy, like corn, is one of those foods you can easily get into a GM/non-GM or organic/conventional argument about. (I'm not touching that here - I think there's plenty of debate about that out there.)  I believe soy foods such as tofu and soy sauce are perfectly safe.  I can't speak on the soy products that are, well, products of science, but unless you're allergic, please don't think, "Oh noes, I need to avoid all soy product!"    I actually had a friend, a (usually) smart young man with a PhD, who believed that eating soy foods would cause him to develop man-breasts.  When he told me that, I stared at him for a good thirty seconds in disbelief before I busted out laughing.  Then, we proceeded to pull up paper after paper on PubMed so we could discuss soy foods.

Hey, when you're a bunch of nerds with access to thousands of peer-reviewed journals, that's what you do when you get into a disagreement.

Starting 1st Monday = National Bake Week

I'm not sure how this one got started.  I can't really find anything about this one beyond a few blog entries.  I suppose this is the week to bake something every day for a week, before the summer heat kicks in, because in some parts of the states, it'll be too hot to do anything other than sit in the shade with a cool drink.

So what would be the seven things I'd choose to bake?  Cookies, cakes, muffins, pastries, souffle, custard, and a pie.  Okay, I suppose I could bake 7 meals instead....  Potatoes, pizza, casserole, poultry, meatloaf, stuffed bell peppers, and lasagna.

Week  after Easter= National Egg Salad Week

I had multiple entries for National Egg Salad Week, but I finally figured out it was because it National Egg Salad Week is the week after Easter, which is a fluid holiday.   It falls during the week after Easter so you can use up all those dyed eggs leftover from egg hunts - which I think could lead to some very funky colored egg salad.  (And some serious cases of food poisoning if you're not careful.)

 What exactly goes into an egg salad?  I had to make egg salad sandwiches for class once and we used eggs (obviously), mayonnaise, celery, and some spices.  I thought it made for a rather plain egg salad - I like things with a kick.  My favorite egg salad is made with eggs, Miracle Whip, chopped dill pickles, celery, pimientos, and pepperocinis.  Yeah, I like my egg salad spicy.

3rd Week = Bubblegum Week

Ah, bubblegum, how I miss thee.  I had to give up gum years ago due to dental problems, but I have many fond memories of sweet bubblegum being almost required on the softball field.  It was either delicious soft BubbleYum with it's overly sweet flavors or sturdier Bazooka Joe Gum with the comic I'd try to save to build a collection.  Find the history of bubblegum here.