Saturday, June 30, 2012

Super late May month roundup

Urgh.  Where did the time go?  With too much travel (and sadly, more to come) interupting my sleep schedule and multiple school deadlines, I didn't get this up when I wanted to.  I had started it so I could get it up on the last day of May, then as it took me forever to write I thought I could get away with mid-June.  Now, it's the end of June and I figure I ought to get this up before June is officially over.  Better late than never, right?

Okay, so, yeah maybe this is a little late, but here's the round up of all the month-long food celebrations for May!  (Here's hoping I can get the June ones up fairly quickly...)


National Asparagus Month

Did you know that asparagus comes in multiple colors?  For the longest time, I thought asparagus only came in green and carrots only came in orange.  Of course, I was wrong on both counts. In the US, asparagus is primarily green, but in Europe, white asparagus is considered a delicacy.  However, the green and the white are the same variety, except the white is grown in the dark.  The purple variety is a different type and has Italian origins.

 During May, I did buy both green and purple asparagus for taste comparison, as the farmer I purchased from told me that purple asparagus was sweeter than the green.  Well, maybe to some people it is, but I couldn't taste a difference.  Plus, I had hoped that the purple would stay purple so I could make some pretty dishes using the different colors of asparagus.  Unfortunately, the purple asparagus became indistinguishable from the green once they were done cooking.  (I simply broiled them in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper.)  Maybe if I just blanch it it'll retain it's color better.

Curious about the number of asparagus farms in your state?  You can find that information here, along with US asparagus production data dating back to the 50s. California, Michigan and Washington are the three states that produce the most asparagus, with California ranking first in asparagus production.  In fact, California produces about 70% of the nation's asparagus supply.  And while the United States produces quite a bit of the asparagus in the world market, China grows even more and holds the number one spot for world asparagus production.  The US has been increasing the amount of asparagus imported into the States so if you're concerned about shopping local, you'll really want to be sure your aspargus is US grown.

There's an Asparagus Fest held every year in Stockton, California, as well as one in Oceana, Michigan and one in Empire, Michigan.  And it's seems that it's not uncommon for cities in Germany to hold a Spargelfest (asparagus festival) every year.  As for the Asparagus Capital of the World?  Well, Stockton and Isleton (both in CA) lay claim to the title, as do Hadley, MA, and Oceana, MI (which even has a movie about it - "Asparagus! Stalking the American Life" which is available free to watch at the link).  Outside of the US, Schwetzingen, Germany, also lays claim to the title.  I'm sure many more places do as well.

If you've ever had to take a bio class where you had to provide biological samples in some labs and the professor strongly suggested you avoid asparagus for at least 24 hours before sample collection, Discovery Channel explains why.

National Barbecue Month

I suppose because it's the beginning of summer, May gets to be National Barbecue Month. So what to toss on the grill?  Well, you could always go with hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs, or brats.  Or kebabs.  Or vegetables.  Or fruits.  It's actually kind of fun to rifle through the fridge and go "Hmm...I wonder what it's like cooking this on the barbecue?  Let's find out!"  (Yes, I've been known to do that.)

Now, if you're taking about the food that's called barbecue - tread carefully.  I've never known a food to incite such regional passions.  Eastern North Carolina barbecue is different than Western North Carolina barbecue and fans of Georgia Barbecue will tell you both taste weird.  Then there's Kansas City Barbecue, and Texas Barbecue, and a whole lot more.  Serious Eats has more on the matter.

Not only does barbecue refer to different types of cooked meat, in some regions the word "barbecue" can take on other meanings.  On the West Coast, it's fairly common to say, "I'm having a barbecue.  Come on over."  Say that in the Eastern South and you'll get a funny look, and then eventually, "Oh, you mean a cookout."  In some parts of the states, you might say, "I just bought a brand new barbecue!"  while in others the proper turn of phrase is "I just bought a new grill!"  Similarly, in some states, barbecue is used as a verb ("Let's barbecue some chicken!) while in others the verb used might be "grill" or "smoke."

So remember, when eating barbecue in the presence of the cook, always proclaim that it's the best barbecue you've ever had.  If you can find out another regional barbecue that's always compared to the one you're being served, say something like, "This is so much better than ______-style barbecue"
and your host will likely beam and launch into an explanation of the difference between the two.

National Hamburger Month/ 2nd week of May = National Hamburger Week

Well, it makes perfect sense for National Hamburger Month to take place the same time as National Barbecue Month.  And even more sense for National Hamburger Week to take place during National Hamburger Month.  But why did National Hamburger Day not take place during National Hamburger Week?  Well, apparently Memorial Day is also considered National Hamburger Day, so that's a food observance not tied to a specific date.

As I think most people are familiar with hamburgers, I'm not really feeling the urge to talk about them much.  What's Cooking America has the history of the hamburger.  Serious Eats talks about the US hamburger history.  Real Simple has some suggestions for creative hamburger toppings and you can get truly creative with your hamburger at The Counter.  (Seriously, The Counter is pretty cool.  If there's one near you, definitely check it out.)  And did you know you could get cheeseburger in a can?  The next time one of my friends go to Germany, I'll be asking for a can o' cheeseburger.

But since I'm pretty much going to be spending most of my time in the US, I'll be making use of Food Network's list of 50 burgers I have to try in the 50 states.

National Salad Month

Very delicious salad at Cheesecake Factory.
Yes, I go to the CF and I eat salad.
Well, I celebrated this one a couple of times because my three-tier planter is which I grow two different kinds of lettuce was pretty much covered in delicious leafy greens.  (This last week, though, it's been pretty sad because the aphids and leaf miners got to it.)  I've been topping my salad with whatever fresh fruits I have, a couple of tomatoes (sundried or fresh), olives, and carrots. 

Next year, if you want to celebrate National Salad Month, but you don't like the leafy greens, don't despair.  "Salad" can refer to many dishes that are simply cold, typically uncooked vegetables.  Remember the bean salad?  Right now, Whole Foods has a coupon for their Black Bean Quinoa salad.  Speaking of bean salads, there's also balela (available at Trader Joe's if you're feeling lazy) and summer bean salads

Maybe you have an important meeting and are avoiding beans- you could always go with a fruit salad.  Or a carrot salad.   Or a potato salad.    There are so many possibilities!

National Strawberry Month

While my strawberry plant has done nothing but put out leaves, strawberries hit the stores and roadside stands during May. I gorged myself plenty of times in May on strawberries.  They don't seem as cheap this year as they have in the past (shortage? just normal inflation?) but they still are super tasty.

This year's winning recipe at the California Strawberry Festival was a recipe for strawberry lasagna.  "Strawberry" and "lasagna" are two words I never would have put together, but if it works, it works.  And I'll have to try making it someday.

National Chocolate Custard Month

Well, May 5 was National Chocolate Custard Day, so I supposed I kind of already touched on this one.  Again, I think it's wonderful when a food observance day is in the same month that celebrates that food.

I can't imagine eating chocolate custard for a whole month, though.

National Egg Month

Wait a minute...wasn't January National Egg Month?  Turns out both January and May are called National Egg Month.  I've always thought I could easily go vegetarian, but there's no way I could go vegan because I can't ever see myself giving up eggs or honey.  For many ovo-vegetarians, eggs are a primary source of protein.

"The Incredible Edible Egg" is probably one of the catchiest phrases ever to be developed to promote a food product and the website used to promote the egg by the American Egg Board is very well developed.  You can find pretty much everything you need to know about eggs at the website, including recipes.  (Full disclosure: I have received some promotional nutrition materials from the American Egg Board at nutrition conferences/events, and I liked those promotional materials.  I didn't find myself rolling my eyes at the claims they made on their materials, like I do with many other food promotion boards.)

However, one thing you won't find any of the egg promotion organizations talking about is the condition of the chickens in the henhouses.  Purdue has detailed information about commercial egg production.  Confused by all those claims on the cartons of eggs you see at the store?  The Humane Society explains the claims, which may surprise you.  You may think the eggs you purchase are coming from happy, egg-laying hens, but if you look into what the phrases actually mean, you could be surprised.

Still, eggs are pretty awesome nutritionally and, well, just in general for eating and cooking.  Eggs can be used as leaveners in some recipes or as binders in others.  You can be simple and make scrambled or fried eggs.  Or you can use them in dishes like quiches or frittatas which are always sure to be a hit at a brunch.

Gazpacho Aficionado Month

I'm not a fan of gazpacho, so this really wasn't something I was going to celebrate.  Then, I realized that gazpacho isn't necessarily limited to what I consider cold tomato soup.  Marth Stewart has a recipe for a peach gazpacho.  Other websites show that there's also a watermelon gazpacho and summer squash gazpacho.

Maybe I'll give one of those a shot.

Beef Month

I'm not a huge fan of red meat for various reasons.  If I do eat beef (about once or twice a year, if that) I do my best to make sure it's grass-fed.  (The NY Times had a nice article about grass-fed beef a couple of years ago. )  All Recipes has a collection of beef recipes and while the USDA has a collection of beef facts.  And it seems that while many (if not all of) states have beef councils, there are also plenty of national organizations devoted to the promotion of beef.

Bake Month

If these observances were up to me, I'd put Bake Month sometime in the winter when it's too cold to go outside without several layers.  I love baking when it's cold outside because my kitchen is warm and smells good.

Although, I suppose May is a good choice for Bake Month, too.  It's right before the weather gets super hot for most of the US, so it's a good time to bake up some extra cakes and cookies and pop them in the freezer. 

Because when it's super hot outside later in the summer, no one wants to be baking.

1st week of May = National Raisin Week and National Herb Week

Raisins just get a lot of love on the food calendar, don't they?  They've already had a food celebration day and I believe later on they get a month.  I love raisins (I think I just like any dried food) because they're perfect for snacks.  I will sometimes buy the small packages to keep one in my bag.  More often than not, I buy the larger containers or boxes and I measure the raisins into smaller containers.

I also use herbs for just about everything.  I try to avoid salt, so I find herbs add valuable flavor.  Fresh herbs are always nice, so I try to keep a few plants of the herbs I use most.  Even if you live in a tiny apartment, you can find room for a small pot of herbs. (Click here for the "Four Herbs Everyone Should Grow.")

So what do I use herbs for?  I add them to bean salads, omelets, pasta salads, couscous salads, homemade bread and rolls, spaghetti sauce, cookies....  There are hundreds of different ways to use herbs in the kitchen.

3rd week of May = International Pickles Week

Why this one gets to be international while most other days get to be only national, I don't know.  Still, I looked up what constitutes pickles in other parts of the world.  In the US, pickles usually just refers to pickled cucumbers, but around the world, other foods get to star in the pickling process.  Try a Chinese recipe for pickled radishes and carrots.  Or go Mexican and pickle some peppers.  Over at Indian Food Forever, there's a long list of Indian pickles.  Not a fan of vegetables?  Try making pickled fish like the Swedish do.

4th week  of May = American Craft Beer Week/American Beer Week and National Frozen Yogurt Week

While I have friends who are homebrewers and I've made beer for microbiology classes, I'm not terribly knowledgable about beer.  If I like it, I'll drink it.  I had to look up the definition of craft beer.  Turns out everything I do find acceptable is a craft beer. 

Did you know that Beer Advocate hosts a yearly American Craft Brew Fest?  While I'm not a huge fan of beer, I do enjoy going to beer festivals so I'll have to remember to add it to the list of events I should go to.

As for National Frozen Yogurt Week, I already spoke about froyo on Frozen Yogurt Day

Memorial Day Monday = Barbecue Day and Hamburger/Cheeseburger Day

Well, this is a little redundant, especially since this year Memorial Day was on May 28 which is always National Hamburger Day anyways.  How many celebrations for barbecue and burgers are there?

Plus, it seems somewhat wrong to equate Memorial Day as "Barbecue Day and Hamburger/Cheeseburger Day."  I mean, it's one thing for May 28 to always be National Hamburger Day, but to link barbecues and burgers to the a day meant to honor fallen soldiers?  That just feels wrong.

June 30: National Ice Cream Soda Day (Again?)

Some sites are saying that today is National Ice Cream Soda.  I celebrated it on the 20th, as did many other organizations.  I'm not sure what's up with this duplicate holiday, but I can't find any other food celebration for today.  (It's National Meteor Day, so I suppose you could celebrate with a Southern Bound Meteor if you're of legal drinking age.)

With this heat affecting most of the nation, I think everyone would be perfectly happy having another ice cream float.

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29: National Waffle Iron Day and National Almond Buttercrunch Day

National Waffle Iron Day

Okay, so it's not a food, but it is a food-related item, so I decided to mention it.  Waffle irons are pretty nifty.  When I travel, I try to pick a hotel that offers free breakfast and when a hotel offers free breakfast, it often has one of the really cool waffle irons that beep when it's time to flip the waffle iron.  Okay, okay... I suppose I'm just easily amused but I love the waffle irons that beep when it's time to flip it.  I've always had waffle irons that don't do that.

Waffle irons are great because you can have large or small waffles, you can put whatever you want in your waffles, and waffles made with a waffle iron are so much better than frozen waffles that you microwave or toast.

If you're not someone who has waffles every day, I recommend purchasing a waffle iron from the thrift store, yard sales or Craigslist.  Oftentimes, people will spend $30-$50 (or more) on a waffle iron, use it once or twice, and then realize they don't want it or need it.   That's when you can scoop in and get it for cheap or sometimes even for free.

National Almond Buttercrunch Day

It's National Almond Buttercrunch Day!  It also happens to be National Candy Month, so this one can be filed under "Days and Months That Match Up."

I've always purchased almond buttercrunch, but after checking out a few recipes, I think from now on I'll be making my own.  For something that seems so gourmet in stores, it's actually pretty simple.  Sugar, almonds, butter and chocolate.  Some recipes call for corn syrup.  Others use a few more ingredients but appear to resemble a very popular brand.  The almond companies are also willing to serve up a simple recipe, forming their buttercrunch in the shape of discs.

Discovery News joins in the celebration and lets us know that almond buttercrunch was very popular during WW2.

Some places are claiming that yesterday was National Ceviche Day.  It Peru.  While I love ceviche, I'm focusing on food observances as celebrated in the United States.  There seems to be a movement to make June 28 Ceviche Day in the US also.  Which would be perfectly fine with me.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28: National Tapioca Day

Not tapioca pudding, just tapioca.  Tapioca is a starch that comes from cassava root.  (Cassava root is also known as manioc or yuca - which is totally different than yucca.)  For many people, the only way they will consume tapioca will be as a pudding.  Or in bubble tea, which is prepared using tapioca balls. 

But tapioca can be used for so many more things beyond pudding and bubble tea.  You can use tapioca in pies as a thickener.  It can be used in shrimp bisque.   Cook tapioca with pineapple for a sweet dessert.  If you travel to certain Latin American countries like I did last month, you'll probably eat a lot of manioc, the whole cassava root, usually prepared boiled.  You can make gluten-free cookies with tapioca flour, or go international and make kue bangket cookies.  (Here's an alternative recipe for those cookies here.)  Keeping with the international flair, you could have a Brazilian tapioca omelet for breakfast, have tapioca pudding or cassava fries with lunch, boil the cassava for dinner, and then have a tapioca cake.  If you follow that, you'll have eaten tapioca in 5 different ways from 5 different countries. 

With all these different ways of eating tapioca, maybe it's time I ventured beyond the bubble tea and boiled root.  Variety is the spice of life, no?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 27: National Indian Pudding Day and National Orange Blossom Day

National Indian Pudding Day

Huh?  Didn't we already have National Indian Pudding Day?  We did on February 17.  Plus, it's also on the calendar for November 13.  Eatocracy is saying it's today,  Daily Food Holiday says Feb 17, and  Punchbowl says Nov 13.

Okay, this food must be super awesome if it has three days honoring it.  I'll have to try making some.

National Orange Blossom Day

Okay, I realize this may be stretching it for a food holiday, but if orange trees didn't have orange blossoms, we wouldn't have oranges.

Actually, an orange blossom is also the name for a cocktail, so whoo!  Legitimate reason to celebrate!  Orange blossom is also a pilsner, a dessert, mini cakes, and cookies.  So many ways to celebrate. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26: National Chocolate Pudding Day

I firmly believe the best way to have chocolate pudding is with fresh bananas.  Dip the bananas in the pudding or slice them up and mix them in with pudding - I don't care.  I just love the combination of chocolate and banana.

I also love having chocolate pudding as part of Worms-in-Mud.  They were always such a favorite party favor while I was growing up, and today, I still love making them for Halloween.

Pudding is one of those things I buy premade or buy a box of instant pudding.  I've never made pudding successfully from scratch.  (Granted, I've only ever tried to make tofu puddings...)  One of these days I'll have to try making a chocolate soymilk pudding.  If you want to make a regular chocolate pudding from scratch, try this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I love dark chocolate, so I may have to give this recipe a try someday.

Monday, June 25, 2012

June 25: National Strawberry Parfait Day and National Fried Okra Day

National Strawberry Parfait Day

I love strawberries and, except for when I microwave frozen strawberries for breakfast, I love to eat them fresh and raw.  So any dessert that uses strawberry in such a manner is a winner with me.

Like with most foods, the parfait has strayed from its original form.  Apparently, parfaits are supposed to be made with ice cream, mousse, or pudding.  This completely surprises me - I've always considered parfaits to be made with yogurt or whipped cream.  For me, a strawberry parfait is alternating layers of vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries, maybe with a little honey drizzled on top of the strawberries.  According to Wikipedia, my type of parfait is typical of parfaits in the Northern United States, while other American parfaits are made with parfait creams, ice cream and gelatin desserts.  (I've heard of Jello parfaits which are whipped cream and flavored Jello cubes, so you get a visually pleasing dessert.)

Of course, French parfait is completely different than American parfait, so whenever I make it to France, I'll have to order a parfait while I'm there.

In the course of looking up information about strawberry parfaits, I learned that parfait means "perfect" in French.  I'll probably go around haughtily remarking, "Parfay.  Tray parfay" in what will probably be the worse French accent EVER, since I've only ever known three French people and I've never been to France.

I'll have to do it around one of my French friends, so they can correct my accent and pronounciation until it is parfait.  (Sorry, couldn't help it.)

National Fried Okra Day

Hey, look!  A food observance honoring a vegetable!  What a rarity!

Of course, it gets fried which negates any good it might do for you.  Fried okra is definitely a Southern food.  I still haven't brought myself to try it, because I'm not a huge fan of frying vegetables, but one day I might try it.

Even though California does not have a huge market for okra, nor does it devote much acreage to okra, it ranks as third in okra production.  The top spot goes to Texas which is followed by Georgia.  Florida rounds out the top four.  Actually, it seems Florida and California vie for third place, since some switch the two around.  An internationally, of the countries allowed to send okra to the US, India leaves every other country in the dust.  Surprisingly, finding information about okra production in the US is harder than finding production facts about anything else.  Everything seems way out of date. 

Okra is related to the mallow, which may explain its gooey texture.  Okra has its origins in Africa, most likely Ethiopia.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 24: National (Creamy) Pralines Day

Some places call today National Pralines Day, others call it National Creamy Pralines Day, so I'm going with National (Creamy) Pralines Day.  I think it's better than National Possibly-Creamy Pralines Day, don't you?

Pralines are another food with a regional difference in pronounciation.  I fall quite firmly in the camp of "PRAY-leen" and would've been very confused if I had ever heard "PRAW-leen."  (But no longer, as I now know what a "PRAW-leen" is.)

There are two types of pralines in the US - the candies made from nuts and sugar syrup and the chocolate cookies with nuts.  Of course, you can argue that there's a third type - the New Orleans praline, which is a variant of the nuts + sugar syrup candy.  The New Orleans praline also has butter, milk, half&half or cream added and are known as creamy pralines.  Pralines are technically made with any kind of nut, but in the US, if you buy pralines, they're probably made with pecans.  If you're looking for a little variety, try almond pralines or hazelnut pralines.

Outside of the US, pralines are a different kind of candy.  In Belgium and France, they tend to be chocolate candies.  Interestingly, pralines are named after a French diplomat.  I suppose that would make the French pronounciation of "praline" the correct pronounciation.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 23: National Pecan Sandies Day

Baking pecan sandies is a popular way of using up an excess of pecans.  Martha Stewart has a recipe, Food Network has Elie Krieger's recipe available, and Smitten Kitchen does their's in squares.  (Which is actually kind of cute.)  Of course, All Recipes and Taste of Home have some pretty popular recipes as well.  I think Bake or Break's pecan sandies look the most delicious, though.  I had to resist licking the screen.

For those who are vegan, you could try the recipe for vegan pecan sandies or the recipe from Two Cheap Vegans.   The TCV recipe also uses whole wheat flour, if you're looking to incorporate that into your diet more often.  There's also a gluten-free recipe that's almost vegan (it uses honey.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 22: National Chocolate Eclair Day and National Onion Ring Day

Wow, two very different foods are celebrated today - one sweet and refined while the other is greasy and common.  Okay, so not a perfect description, since both can go in so many different directions.  Let's take a look.

National Chocolate Eclair Day

Take a puff pastry, make it long, fill it with cream, and add a chocolate glaze.  What do you get?  A chocolate eclair, of course!  You can usually find this French dessert in bakeries or the starring menu item of a brunch.  My mom and I used to make chocolate eclairs for bake sales.  They did pretty well and I always had leftover chocolate glaze to eat.  The only problem I have with chocolate eclairs is that the filling always seems to squeeze out the opposite end of my bite.

There is so little information out there about the history of the eclair.  We can say that eclairs were around during 1884, as that's the first appearance of eclairs in an American cookbook. 

While not technically a chocolate eclair, there is a whole wheat chocolate eclair dessert.  You could use Nutella as the topping.  Chocolate eclairs can be sugar-free.  (I'm really curious to make that - how good can a dessert be if mae without sugar?)   of, if you want to make sure your breath is good, try a chocolat eclair with mint.

National Onion Ring Day

Onion rings are just rings of onion dipped in batter and fried.  Doesn't seem particularly glamorous when thought of that way, but the latest trend seems to be making onion rings much better than before.  For instance, there's a variety of batters to choose from: do you go with the beer batter?  Or how about the cheese batter?  Or herbs?  Or red velvet cake?  (Sorry, I doubt I'll try that one.)

And what about the onion?  I'm used it the onions being the normal yellow onions.  And I think that's what most stores serve.  Now, you can try using red onions

And of course, you may want dipping sauce.  The recipes where the batter is the star and you probably won't want to dip those into anything.  You can do a basic catsup dip, or use a barbecue sauce, or just add some salt and pepper.  You can make fancy dipping sauces.  Or just do a cheese and beer fondue.  (That pairs well with the beer batter onion rings.)   A lot of people like ranch dressing with their onion rings.  Just about anything can be a dip for onion rings.

Just let me know if you do a crazy combination.  For example, red velvet cake onion rings with steak sauce and marinara.  I just don't see that one pairing well.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21: National Lambrusco Day and National Peaches and Cream Day

National Lambrusco Day

Hey, wow! Another food observation that has a webpage! Which is great, since I wasn't sure what lambrusco was. Turns out it's a wine, which made me a little confused. I'm not a huge wine person, but I figured that if it had a food observance day, I would probably know it. Then I learned that it was a fizzy wine and realized that due to my aversion to most things "fizzy," I probably ignored it and put it out of my mind. (If it's fizzy, it's something I won't drink, and if it's something I won't drink, I can't be bothered with drinking it.)

"But not so fast!" cries the New York Times. They're not the only ones to tout lambrusco and lament that it is an underrated wine. Indeed, Riunite claims that its lambrusco is the most popular Italian wine.

Hrm...Trader Joe's has it for $5. Maybe I'll give it a shot.

National Peaches and Cream Day

Mmm....peaches are everywhere at all the farmers' markets right now and I'm thrilled. Right now, the majority of peaches at the markets are super juicy, super sweet, and absolutely wonderful to eat. I've been eating them plain, as lettuce salad toppers, as part of a fruit salad, or made into popsicles. The one way I don't eat them, though, is with cream. I'm not sure where the combination of fruit and cream originated from, but I've only ever liked strawberries with cream.

At first, I was confused why anyone would need a recipe for peaches and cream. It's just fresh peaches and whipped cream right? Well, apparently not. You can serve the peaches with a sugar syrup and unwhipped cream. You can put peaches and cream into a pastry. Or how about using sour cream instead? Or grilling the peaches and then topping them with cream cheese? Real Simple has a pretty large collection of recipes that take peaches and cream to a new level.

[Author's note: I mixed up my days yesterday, so this post originally appeared yesterday.  June 21 is the correct day for Lambrusco and Peaches & Cream.  Yesterday's post has been updated to reflect the correct food observances.  I'm going to take this as a sign I need more sleep.] 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20: National Ice Cream Soda Day and National Vanilla Milkshake Day

National Ice Cream Soda Day
Mmm… Ice cream sodas.  I grew up calling ice cream floats, usually going for a root beer float.  I always thought ice cream sodas were made by taking your favorite soda and adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  (Of course, that meant you had to make to quickly drink it down low enough so it wouldn’t bubble over. )  According to WikiHow, I’ve been making them wrong.  Meh… I’ll stick to my much simpler method.

The ice cream soda can be whatever you want it to be.  Try using a strawberry soda and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Or a vanilla soda with strawberry ice cream.  Or an orange soda with chocolate ice cream.  (Hey, don’t knock it until you try it!)  Skip the champagne at your wedding and serve ice cream floats instead.  Instead of serving cocktails at your next social, try serving ice cream sodas for a retro feel.

For those curious as to how an ice cream soda works, has the answer.  As for history, it seems the ice cream soda was invented in Philadephia in 1874.

National Vanilla Milkshake Day
I wonder why this got put on the same day as National Ice Cream Soda day?  Maybe because summer is starting and it’s the time for cold drinks.  Well, whatever the reason, let’s take a look at the vanilla milkshake.

This is another recipe that is pretty simple throw whatever you want in a blender and as long as it comes out kinda white, creamy, cold and vanilla flavored you’ve got a vanilla milkshake.  Okay, okay….traditionally the vanilla milkshake has vanilla ice cream, ice, and milk all blended together for a cold drink.  You can add more vanilla if you want a stronger flavor.  Just remember to use a high quality vanilla extract if you want to use it for  your vanilla milkshake.

You can also buy powder that you mix with your milk and some ice for a vanilla milkshake.  These have a tendency to taste grainy so I tend to avoid them.  Personally, my vanilla milkshakes are ice, plain soy milk, and soy vanilla ice cream.  (I’ll sometimes add bananas or strawberries, but at that point, they’re no longer vanilla milkshakes.)  A lot of people I know like to add supplements to their milkshakes for the extra benefits.

Well, no matter what drink you prefer, I'm sure it'll make a refreshing summer drink.

[Author's note:  So I made a mistake and originally switched around the food observances for June 20 and June 21.  June 20 is National Ice Cream Soda Day and National Vanilla Milkshake Days.   The entries have been corrected to reflect the correct food observances.]

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 19: National (Dry) Martini Day

Some places list today as National Martini Day and others list it as National Dry Martini Day.  In either case, I'm of the mindset of "Hard liquor only on Fridays and Saturdays and other days where I don't have to get up extremely early the next day" which means I'm not partaking in celebrating today's food observance.

Don't get me wrong - I enjoy a good martini or two.  (Two's the limit for a lightweight like me.)  In San Diego, Martinis Above Fourth is great place for a creative martini.  In Las Vegas, I love hitting up Paymon's Hookah Lounge during happy hour.  If you're looking to make your own martini at home, MartinisOnline should be the first website you pull up for tips and recipes.  Although, I must admit, I am impressed with the amount of random martini facts on this page.

So what'a dry martini and how is it different than a normal one?  Well, martinis are just vermouth and gin.  (And a garnish, of course.) If you order a "dry martini," you're basically taking a crapshot, according to this thread on Chowhound.  According to Wikipedia, these days a dry martini refers to the ration of gin to vermouth - the more gin there is, the drier the martini.  According to Kevin Marsh, Hemmingway liked to order his in a 15:1 ratio.  I shudder to even think about the taste of that!  And according to the Jerasulem Post, a dry martini is made with gin and vermouth and called a dry martini to differentiate it from a vodka martini (you guessed it - a vodka and vermouth mix.)  I've always been of the opinion that if someone asked for a martini (no flavors, no cutesy names, just a martini) they would get a drink made with gin and vermouth, garnished with either onions or olives.  I always go for the olives in a plain ol' martini.  If it's one of the fancy-schmany, creative martinis, I like it with a sugared rim or fruit.

The history of the martini is a little muddled.  (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)  Some claim it was invented in New York, and others claim California.  And yet, others will claim it's a British drink.  Well, wherever it was invented, you can pretty much order one in any place with a liquor license in a variety of flavors and with a variety of garnishes.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18: National Sushi Day and National Cherry Tart Day

National Sushi Day

At first, I thought it was ironic that America has a lot of "national" food celebrations of food that is distinctly not an American tradition.  But then I realized it's just a reflection of our multi-cultural nation and the roots of our nation.  As I read recently, the history of a nation is in the cuisine of the nation.

Anyhow, so today's National Sushi Day! I'm a huge fan of sushi so I wanted to celebrate today's food observance.  To celebrate, I checked out a sushi house that a coworker recommended.  It was okay - nothing spectacular, but nothing bad either.  I suppose if I really wanted to celebrate, I would've made my own.  I've done so in the past before- sometimes I roll it with a mat and plastic wrap, sometimes I cheat and use a sushi mold, and sometimes I get really lazy and make temaki (handrolls), eating them as I make them.

If you'd like to make your own sushi, go for it.  There are plenty of tutorials (I'll let you Google on your own) out there and you can really be as creative as you want with your sushi.  When I make it on my own, cucumber tends to be the most common ingredient.  Sometimes I'll use egg or crabmeat, but it's almost always cucumber. 

Not only are there tutorials for making sushi, there are also tutorials for eating sushi.  You can also find plenty of primers for sushi, but most restaurants will have a picture with translation so you know what you're eating.  Then again, if you want to learn to make your own, why not take a class?  Most kitchen supply stores and some grocery stores in urban areas will offer cooking classes and more often than not, there's usually a sushi class.

National Cherry Tart Day

Food Timeline once again provides us with the history of tarts, but I can't seem to find anything about cherry tarts specifically.  But really, who cares who invented the cherry tart when you're chowing down on a slice?  A lot of recipes for a cherry tart will use fresh cherries, but those can be hard to find.   Frozen cherries are sometimes hard to find, too, but if you're looking to make an out-of-season tart, frozen cherries are going to be your only choice. 

You could try putting a spin on the traditional cherry tart by making a Cherry Tart Tartin.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17: National Eat All Your Veggies Day and National Apple Strudel Day

Eat All Your Veggies Day

It makes perfect sense to have this day right after National Fresh Veggies Day during National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Day.  When it comes to portion sizing, I have one major rule: I can eat as much of something as I want, as long as it's a fruit or vegetable.  Everything else, I check portion sizes and do my best to limit myself to one.  Fruits and vegetables are wonderful because you tend to become full long before you eat enough to equal the amount of calories you might get from a non-fruit or veggie food (a cheeseburger, for example.)

Small bowl of whole wheat pasta with vegetables in
tomato sauce, small bowl of watermelon, and
 a plate full of veggies:
lightly cooked green beans with no seasoning,
 zucchini with lemon pepper,
and bok choy with soy sauce and red pepper.
So eating all my veggies today wasn't really hard...except I chose today to do some batch cooking/prep for the week.  (I cooked three bunches of bok choy, one onion, two zucchini, eggplant leftovers, green beans, and an Asian white sweet potato.  And that doesn't count the canning and fruit prep that went on today.)  I knew there was no way I could eat everything and I was cooking for the next couple of days, so I opted to honor today by filling my plate with veggies and vowing to eat everything on the plate. 

I did manage to eat everything on the plate and chowed down on the watermelon, but ended up saving the bowl of whole wheat pasta with vegetables in tomato sauce for later.  The plate full of veggies was filling enough that I felt as though I would burst, so the pasta and veggies had to be put aside. 

Try filling your plate with nothing but vegetables today and eating them all.  If you're still hungry after that, then go back and eat whatever else you were planning on.  For example, if you were planning on eating a chicken with beans and corn, try eating a plate full of beans and corn first, then go back for the chicken if you're still hungry.

National Apple Strudel Day

Another day that seems out of place.  I'm just so used to apples being a fall and winter fruit that it seems weird to have an apple dish in early summer.  Still, if someone were to wave an apple strudel in front of me right now, I wouldn't turn it down.  Apple strudels are seriously tasty.

Until today, I didn't know that traditional apple strudel dough is time consuming and rather hard to makeThis video shows how to use modern tools to make it a lot easier.  You can just use phyllo dough if you're really pressed for time.

Food Network has 12 recipes to choose from, ranging in difficulty levels and time needed.  German Food Guide has the history of the apple strudel.

And when apples are abundant at the farmer's market in a few months, I'll have to try making traditional apple strudel.  Hrm... I wonder how many calories you burn if you make it the traditional way?  Seems like it's definitely an arm workout.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 16: National Fresh Veggies Day and National Fudge Day

National Fresh Veggies Day

Fresh vegetables are awesome.  When they're in season and you get them within a few hours of being picked or harvested, you experience such flavors that are never matched by frozen or canned.  I'm not saying frozen or canned vegetables are bad - they usually just require some added seasoning.  Fresh vegetables, however, taste great with very little seasoning.

Epicurious has this amazingly awesome (hrm...I wonder how many times I can use the word awesome in one post?) map that will you let you know what fresh fruits and vegetables are available in your area during each month.  I highly recommend checking it out.

If you want something you can print out and put up on the fridge to remind you what's in season, Field to Plate has resources for each state and region.  Some of the guides are very useful and others...well, some are not.

Remember, using fresh vegetables are a great way to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

National Fudge Day

Fudge comes in such a variety of flavors - chocolate, peanut butter, caramel....  The list is pretty much endless, as new flavor combinations are being created every day. 

Traditional fudge recipes are milk, sugar, butter, and a flavoring.  If you're using marshmallow cream or condensed milk.... well, I call that Cheater's Fudge.  Having had traditional fudge recipes not set, I don't really fault anyone for using Cheater's Fudge recipes.  I've done it, too.  I just keep in mind that it's not real fudge.  Real, traditional fudge is a bit of a diva and requires everything to go perfectly.  If you don't heat it enough, if you try making fudge on a rainy day, if you forget to make sure there's no one last sugar crystal clinging to the spoon or to the side of the pot...well, your fudge probably won't set.

Interested in some traditional fudge recipes?  Check out Old Tyme Fudge.  There's some great tips at that website, in addition to the recipes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 15: National Lobster Day

I like all seafood, but I don't eat lobster all that much.  For some reason, most lobster dishes I've encountered tend to be cooked with cream or cheese and that just seems horribly wrong to me.  Seafood is best enjoyed without heavy sauces.

Anyhow, if you're choosing to enjoy National Lobster Day, be sure to choose a lobster that is Seafood Watch approved.  Not sure how to celebrate National Lobster Day?  Forbes has some ideas, as does Gadling.   If you're in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune has you covered.  Or, if you'd rather not eat and would prefer to read instead, Real Simple has a book recommendation for you

Not sure where to start?  I highly recommend Lobster Help.  There's pretty much everything you need to know about picking fresh lobster and cooking it all in that one website.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 14: National Strawberry Shortcake Day

Growing up, I thought the recipe for strawberry shortcake was: fresh strawberries, angel food cake, and whipped cream.  In looking up today's food observance, I learned that while that is perfectly acceptable as strawberry shortcake, it's not what everyone considers strawberry shortcake.  Some claim that the only true strawberry shortcake is made with a biscuit (and the Bisquick recipe is very popular).  Some recipes use pound cake and a few sites claim that strawberry shortcake is made with any sort of white cake.

Well, I thought, "I have strawberries.  I can make biscuits.  I have some whipping cream left.  I'll try a biscuit version!"  Which would have worked out well if I had actually remembered to buy baking powder at the store and if my whipping cream hadn't frozen into sludge.  So I stared at my strawberries, despairing that I would have to eat them as the delicious fresh things they are, plain with no sugar.  Then I remembered I had some leftover pound cake in the freezer!  I quickly broiled a few slices (almost setting off the fire alarm - a bad habit of mine when using the broiler) and sliced up some of the strawberries.

So while it wasn't a traditional strawberry shortcake at all, it was still close enough that I felt like I had celebrated the day.  Considering I got back from a business trip a few hours ago and I'm only running on three hours of sleep, it was as close as I was going to get without buying a pre-made strawberry shortcake.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June 13: Kitchen Klutzes of America Day

This is a little weird... I can't find any mention of a food observance for today!  The closest thing I can find is that it's Kitchen Klutzes of America Day.  I wish I could say I'm not a klutz in the kitchen, but the fact that I'm short a couple of wine glasses and at least one plate since I last movedld indicate that I'm very much a klutz.

So if you've ever dropped something in the kitchen or had to mop a's for you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12: National Peanut Butter Cookie Day

When I think of peanut butter cookies, I think of two types: the kind that use peanut butter as an ingredient and have the crosshatch pattern generated by fork tines and the kind that are actually two peanut butter flavored cookies with creamy peanut butter sandwiched in between them.  (When thinking of the latter, I immediately think of Girl Scout Cookies.) 

If you're like me, and you're finding that more and more of your friends have food restrictions, never fear!  Whole Foods has a recipe for gluten-free peanut butter cookies in the first style.  17 and Baking has a whole-wheat vegan version for you to try.  Too hot to turn the oven on?  Try these no-bake peanut butter cookies.  Want to incorporate more protein and fiber into your diet?  Yeah, I don't normally associate high-fiber and high-protein with cookies, but Weight Watchers has a peanut butter cookie recipe that calls for adding garbanzo beans.

Yeah, that last one sounds interesting enough that I'll have to try it after I return from traveling for work.

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 11: National German Chocolate Cake Day

Despite its name, German Chocolate Cake is a thoroughly American dessert.  Apparently, it was created by an American by the name of Sam German, the man responsible for the creation of Baker's baking chocolate.  German Chocolate Cake is essentially a layered chocolate cake with a sweet, coconut-based filling between each layer and on top.  Sometimes, the outside is also covered with the filling.

The most recent German Chocolate Cake I had was made using this recipe from Penzey's Spices, made by a friend for another's birthday celebration.  It was a very, very sweet cake - almost torturously so.  Really, after about five bites, I had to stop because I felt like my teeth were going to fall out and my body was cringing at all the butter I knew went into the recipe.  It became a "Ugh...I still have cake on my plate...but I can't eat anymore...but it's so good...but I can't eat anymore" moment.  If you like moist, super-sweet, ultra-decadent, make-your-dentist-rich cakes, you'll love that recipe. 

Granted, if you're eating a German Chocolate Cake, you probably aren't thinking about dieting or dental caries.  And if you do like thinking about the damage to your waist you might be doing, the original German chocolate cake (which isn't as calorie-crazy as a lot of more modern recipes) clocks in at 640 calories a slice.  Ouch, a total diet derailer. 

A tasty, tasy diet derailer.  And none of the "light" German Chocolate Cakes I've found have anywhere near decent reviews, so I'll stick to my once-in-a-blue-moon indulgence.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

June 10: National Iced Tea Day and National Herb and Spice Day

National Iced Tea Day

Normally, I drink my tea hot no matter what the temperature.  Most people think I'm crazy for doing that, especially when they learn I typically don't sweeten my tea.  However, every now and then, I find myself drinking iced tea and when I saw that today was National Iced Tea Day (and June is National Iced Tea Month) I figured I'd celebrate by making a pitcher of iced tea. 

I used a black tea called "Carolina Iced Tea" that I bought at a store in Chapel Hill, NC.  I brewed it strong then poured it still hot over ice.  I add no sugar to my iced teas (just like my normal tea) which allows for guests to add sweetener to their preferences.  I believe that while any tea that is good served hot is still good served iced, I find that the fruity and black teas are better than the white and green teas or the roiboos and herbal tisanes.  Some people add lemon to their iced tea, but I prefer not to.  In my opinion, iced tea is best enjoyed on a hot summer day while outside.

National Herb and Spice Day

Herbs and spices are awesome.  They add such flavor to dishes, sometimes making your food really pop.  TLC lists the 10 must have spices for American kitchens..  SimpleBites lists their top spices they believe need to be stocked in every kitchen and Simple Dollar lists their top 10 for spices to make your food tasty while keeping it cheap.  Confused by all the spices you see at the store?  CNN has a quick guide to a lot of spice and herbs.

As for which top 10 spices and herbs I couldn't live without?  Crushed red pepper, cayenne, cumin, ginger, thyme, black pepper, rosemary, garlic, bay leaf, and cinnamon.  Yeah, I'm one of those strange people who only has salt around if I'm living with roommates.  When baking, I often found that I could omit it from recipes or I could find a salt-free recipe.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 9: National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day

I still maintain that the best strawberry rhubarb pies are from the The Purple Pie Place in Custer, South Dakota.  I have some great memories of the strawberry rhubarb pie from there, including a very special one where a friend and I ate a whole one by ourselves.

After my previously detailed mishaps with making pie, the logical thing would be for me to just buy a pie to celebrate today.  Or at least, use a recipe while baking a pie.  I like to think I'm normally pretty logical, but today, maybe due to a serious lack of sleep, my logic went something like this: "Oh, hey, I have some rhubarb still in the freezer from when I tried making rhubarb pie.  I think I have some frozen strawberries....but I don't have that many....I'll make mini pies!"

The lesson I learned today?  I should really master making pies before I even attempt mini pies. 

Instead of buying pie crust or sticking to a recipe I've already used and liked, I decided to try a new pie crust recipe.    It came out pretty good.  I felt the dough was a little dry and kept crumbling when I was rolling it, but it's not bad - just passable.  I lightly sprayed a standard muffin pan and pressed the dough into six of the cups.  The pie crust never realy developed the nice tan or light brown color that is usually associated with perfect crusts.

The pie filling however?  That was just tossing the frozen rhubarb and strawberries together, sprinkling on half a cup of sugar, scooping some into each lined cup, and putting the remainder back in the freezer.  See the major problem here?

I forgot flour or some sort of thickener.

As a result, the filling bubbled up and oozed all over.  It was rather messy.  It was also a little difficult to get the "pies" out of the cups, so next time I try something like this, I'll use my silicone cupcake liners.  The "pies" were tasty, if a bit tart. 

If you're looking to make your own strawberry rhubarb pie, a few days ago The Kitchn posted a strawberry rhubarb pie.  You can also try one from the ever helpful Food Network.  Just follow the directions if you're not a big pie-making person.  Don't repeat my errors - I do that often enough myself.

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 8: National Jelly-filled Doughnut Day

So the first thing I did this morning after waking up was look at the calendar.  After a "Oh, oops, I forgot to post" moment, I realized today's holiday was something I definitely wanted to honor.  I'm not a huge doughnut fan, but I do love doughnuts with filling.

So how best to celebrate today's food observance?  Well, I decided to do something I've never done before: I went to Krispy Kreme.  Prior to today, I have eaten Krispy Kreme doughnuts that people have brought into work and I have been to the little tiny Krispy Kreme in the Excalibur in Las Vegas, but this was the first time I've been to a true Krispy Kreme.  (Being a nutrition student, I don't normally seek out high-calorie, high-sugar foods.)  It was definitely an experience to see how everyone enjoyed being there.  Lots of young children were excitedly watching doughnuts being made.  (By the way, have you heard of the Krispy Kreme Challenge?  There is no way I could eat a dozen doughnuts and still run, but one of these days I'd like to at least see this event.)

I bought a dozen doughnuts of various flavors, including a few jelly-filled ones.  I'm the kind of person who cuts doughnuts and chocolates into multiple pieces (mainly because I want to try them all and I want to make sure everyone else gets to try them too) and I must admit that the ones I've tried so far are pretty good.  The jelly-filled doughnut I bought for today was filled with a delicious raspberry jelly that was slowly oozing out of the doughnut while I took pictures.  It was quite tasty.

In the United States, the term "jelly-filled doughnut" is used to describe pretty much any doughnut with a jam, jelly, or fruit filling - whether it be a Berliner or a Sufganiyot.  If you're looking to make your own jelly-filled doughnuts, pastry injectors make it so much easier.

June 7: National Chocolate Ice Cream Day (belated post)

Whoops!  Forgot to post yesterday!  Here's the post for yesterday, June 7, National Chocolate Ice Cream Day.

The vanilla vs. chocolate is a popular debate when it comes to ice cream.  I'm very much on the "Meh, they're both okay; I'll take strawberry or a fruity sorbet, please" team.  Still, chocolate ice cream is great for those days when you feel like your chocolate dessert doesn't have enough chocolate.  (Chocolate lava cake always goes well with chocolate ice cream.)

If you've got an ice cream maker, Alton Brown's recipe for chocolate ice cream seems very popular, but David Lebovitz touts his as the easiest ever.  No ice cream maker?  Real Simple has you covered with a chocolate ice cream recipe that doesn't require an ice cream maker.  Vegan?  Check out Bay Area Bites for three recipes, including one for Rich Chocolate and Banana Almond Milk Ice Cream.

Are you a teacher?  Check out these suggestions for including chocolate and ice cream throughout your curriculum.  And, of course, the history of chocolate ice cream is covered by Food Timeline.  Apparently, chocolate ice cream has existed since at least the 18th century.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 6: National Applesauce Cake Day (and maybe a belated National Frozen Yogurt Day)

National Applesauce Cake Day

Sometimes, I wonder why some foods get observations and others don't.  Actually, since starting this project, I wonder that almost daily.  Today raised that question for me because I've always thought of applesauce cake as a pretty basic cake.  I suppose it gets a observance day because it's such an easy cake to make and very hard to mess up if you're following a recipe.

The first time I made applesauce cake was (you guessed it) for a class.  That happened to be the time I made 5 different cakes in 3 days. I froze about a third of each cake, tried to get my roommate to eat some (she could only eat so much, too) and then finally just took the cakes in to work.  I was very popular at work that week.

For the applesauce cake, we used this Better Homes and Gardens' Applesauce Spice Cake recipe.  As with all correctly made applesauce cakes, it was very moist.  While it wasn't a heavy cake, it wasn't exactly light either.  It fell somewhere in between, as most cakes do.  When it came time to write up our observations of the cakes, mine basically boiled down to: "It tastes like Christmas."

All the spices in that cake made my place smell wonderful.  And it felt like it was November or December.  That applesauce spice cake recipe would be an excellent thing to take or make for a holiday brunch or party.

Belated National Frozen Yogurt Day..... maybe?

So it seems that even thought most places note that February 6th is National Frozen Yogurt Day, some sites and news outlets are claiming that National Frozen Yogurt Day is celebrated twice a year - Feb.6 and June 4. This confusion may have stemmed from the fact that June is National Frozen Yogurt Month.  Since it seems unfair for frozen yogurt to get two days and a month, I'm gonna stick with February 6th as National Frozen Yogurt Day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

June 5: National Gingerbread Day

What?  National Gingerbread Day is in June?!  When I think of gingerbread, I think of December.  Perhaps it's because of all the gingerbread houses I see around Christmas, some of which are extremely gorgeous. 

But after looking at the calendar and talking with a friend, I realized that gingerbread can be a year-round treat.  Gingerbread doesn't necessarily refer to the thick, hard cookies that are used to make gingerbread houses.  Gingerbread can be a soft, moist cake or it can be a denser cake.  It can be paired with lemon or orange flavors or be combined with chocolate for a heavenly treat.  Gingerbread can be in bars or as cupcakes.  Want a really decadent treat?  Try gingerbread cheesecake.  Of course, if you prefer to drink your calories, you could always have a gingerbread cocktail.

The Swedish love their gingerbread cookies - apparently, you can't have a business meeting in Sweeden without their being some sort of gingerbread cookie.  When it comes to Swedish cookies, I'm most familiar with the Anna's Ginger Thins cookies.  The Anna's are vastly different than the gingerbread used during the holidays to make gingerbread houses.  They're good cookies, with a nice crisp snap to them, and they go great with tea during the summer.  (Yes, I don't care how hot it gets - I'm still drinking hot tea.)

If you're looking to make your own gingerbread today, All Recipes has a large collection of gingerbread recipes.  And while you're noshing on your gingerbread, be sure to check out the history of gingerbread in Europe.

Monday, June 4, 2012

June 4: National Cognac Day and National Cheese Day

National Cognac Day

I don't drink a lot of hard liquors.  Good gin, tequila, and the occasional fruity alcohol like Midori... sure, I'll do shots of those.  But things like moonshine, whiskey, and cognac?  Ugh, no.  Those are definitely a case of "develop a taste for it."

So I had to do a little searching on cognac when I saw that today was National Cognac Day.  What is cognac?  Well, apparently it's a type of brandy.  It seems that it once referred to brandy solely from the Cognac region of France, but a lot of people these days use it to refer to any good brandy.  In honor of today, YumSugar has a Cognac 101.

If you're a cognac drinker, raise a glass and consume in your favorite way.  Or, perhaps, today you'll want to try it a new drinks recipe.  DrinksMixer has over a hundred different recipes for cocktails with cognac as an ingredient.

National Cheese Day

Okay, this day is just trying to be difficult now.  Cheese?  That's it?  Not a specific type of cheese?  Britain alone produces over 700 different types of cheese.  Soft, hard, yellow, white, blue, with fruits, creamy, goat, cow, etc....  I love the fact that both Wisconsin and California have their own respective cheese webpages.  It makes sense, considering the milk industries in both states have always been butting heads.  There eventually had to be spillover to their cheese industries.

I've been very good at trying different cheeses the last few years.  I'm not allergic, just lactose intolerant, so I can usually manage a bite before I need to start taking pills to eat more cheese.  Since I don't eat cheese very quickly and I'm never sure if I'm going to like a particular cheese, I tend to buy my "Meh, I'll try it" cheese from Whole Foods' "$4 and under" section so I can buy my cheeses in small amounts.  I'll use them in quesadillas, on salads, or just to nosh on every now and then.

One nice thing about this day?  It's in June, which is National Dairy Month.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

June 3: National Chocolate Macaroon Day

So not too long after National Macaroon Day, it's National Chocolate Macaroon Day.  I decided to celebrate today by making some chocolate macaroons, opting for the coconut macaroon type because they're a lot easier and quicker to make and I'm still rather busy.  (Part of that is due to the fact that I bought 28 pounds of peaches last week and I really needed to get them in cans today.)

So to celebrate today, I choose to make this Chocolate Macaroons recipe from Epicurious.  It was an easy and fast recipe with minimal steps and ingredients - exactly what I was looking for.  The cookies are very light and very rich in chocolate flavor.  Maybe a little too rich - if I make this recipe again, I think I'll leave out the non-melted chocolate chips.  The chocolate flavor overwhelms the coconut, but that may be what some people are looking for.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

June 2: National Rocky Road Ice Cream Day and a belated National Doughnut Day

For all the bad press Oakland gets these days, Oakland should be proud of the fact that it is the birthplace of rocky road ice cream.  It's still disputed whether or not rocky road was invented at Fenton's or by Dreyer, so it's easier to just say, "Rocky road was invented in Oakland."  You'd be right in either case.

If you're the kind of person who makes their own ice cream, there are plenty of recipes out there.  You can even make rocky road ice cream without an ice cream maker.  Or you could always just get your favorite chocolate ice cream and add toasted almonds and mini-marshmallows.

D'oh!  Missed a day!

I forgot to note that yesterday, being the first Friday of June, was National Doughnut Day.  D'oh!  (Yeah, a Homer Simpson reference is totally appropriate here.)  I love the history of the doughnut as told by  Mr. Breakfast gives a more detailed account of the history of the doughnut and I am amused by the Salvation Army Doughnut Girl poster.  Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, OR, while famous for the crazy doughnuts on the menu, also set the record for largest box of doughnuts.  (One of these days, I will definitely visit Voodoo Doughnuts.  I'll probably eat nothing else for the rest of the day and just sit in a sugar induced bliss.)  Psycho Donuts in San Francisco, CA, is also known for its crazy doughnuts.  In fact, doughnuts are getting the makeover treatment just about everywhere - New York, Chicago, and Seattle just to name a few places.