Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31: National Raspberry Cake Day and Jump for Jelly Beans Day

I have today down as National Raspberry Cake Day and Jump for Jelly Beans Day.  Some sites report National Raspberry Cake Day as July 19th, but I'll be celebrating it today as that's what's on my calendar.  Some places are also reporting that today's National Cotton Candy Day, but I have that down for December 7th and since that's what the majority of sites are saying, I'm going with today is not National Cotton Candy Day.  Besides, there doesn't seem to be any other food celebration on Dec 7th, so I'm obviously going to talk about cotton candy then.

Anyhow, on to the food observances for today!

National Raspberry Cake Day

I'm not sure if this day is honoring raspberry-flavored cake or cakes topped with raspberryThis cake recipe uses raspberries, but it's a lot like a white cake with raspberries sprinkled in so there's not a cake-wide raspberry flavor.

Raspberries pair well with a variety of flavors and raspberry cakes are no exception.  There's Banana Raspberry, Chocolate Raspberry, Lemon Raspberry and Orange Raspberry cakes, just to name a few.  Some cakes use cream for a richer, creamier flavor.  Try buttermilk for a new flavor when baking your raspberry cake.

Jump for Jelly Beans Day

Jelly beans already had their day on April 22, so I'm not sure what to talk about here.  I must admit, why jump?  ABC2News can't find a reason (or perhaps CNN's Eatocracy can't, since the articles are the same.) Maybe it has something to do with this video about a pretty well-known theory of management.

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30: National Cheesecake Day

Today is a day for all flavors of cheesecake, not just cherry(4/23,) blueberry (5/26,) white chocolate (3/6), or pumpkin (10/21).  I'm a fan of the Cheesecake Factory and I'm willing to try any of their cheesecakes that has fruit or caramel on it. 

Some sites say there's only two major types of cheesedake - New York Style and Italian Style.  Food Editorials claims there are many different regional cheesecakes in the US.  Wise Geek tells us there two main types - bake and no-bake.  (Personally, I think baked is the  better of the two.)

Whatever type you prefer, you're bound to find a recipe in either the AllRecipe cheesecake collection or that of Food Network Cheesecake.com and What's Cooking America both give us some interesting background on the history of cheesecake.  What interesting fact did I learn?  Cheesecake was popular with the ancient Greeks.

I think we can safely say that cheesecake is not a fad and will always be a hit.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29: National Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day and National Lasagna Day

National Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day

This has got to be one of  the most puzzling days on the food observance calendar.  I can't really find anything about this day on the internet, yet everyone seems to be going, "Whoo!  It's Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day!  We know nothing about it, but whoo!"

There is the theory that today is supposed to be about the cheese that is used to catch rodents.  I actually wonder if the day came about during one of the wars...y'know, maybe cheese was too expensive or there was a "Save the Cheese for the Troops!" movement like there was with some other foods

So how to celebrate today?  NYCFoodDays has some suggestions for New Yorkers that want to celebrate.  You could send an e-card.  (Believe me, I was surprised to find one for Cheese Sacrifice Day.)  You could also make a "sacrifice" by not purchasing cheese today. 

National Lasagna Day

I can't help it - I think of Garfield (the cat, not the actor or president) when I think of lasagna.  I also remember the time I shocked one of my friends by eating lasagna with chopsticks.  (We were living in the dorms and she had no extra forks.)

This lasagna recipe is extremely popular and well-ranked - 5 stars after nearly 7000 reviews!  Also from AllRecipes, here's a vegetarian recipe that's well-ranked.  Or try this White Vegetarian Lasagna recipe - I didn't know you could make lasagna without a tomato-based sauce.  I also didn't know you could make lasagna in your slow cooker!  That idea really intrigues me and I'll definitely be trying it.  Of course, for the vegans, here's a vegan lasagna recipe that uses vegan cheese and tofu.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 28: National Milk Chocolate Day

Well, some places also list today as National Hamburger Day, but none of my calendars had today labeled as such and I feel like I've talked enough about hamburgers so I'm just going to focus on the fact that today is National Milk Chocolate Day. 

I used to like milk chocolate, but then I became an extremely dark chocolate fan.  Still, every now and then I have a small piece of milk chocolate and I just revel in the sweetness.  I always try to make sure I only buy "ethical" chocolate - chocolate that has no ties to child slavery and is sustainably grown.  And yes, a lot of chocolate is linked to child slavery.  Visit SlaveFreeChocolate.org for more information and a list of companies that are considered slave-free.

To celebrate National Milk Chocolate Day, People magazine offers up an 80's Milkshake recipe.  Try some chocolate for breakfast.  Chow Bella suggests a cocktail that is remarkably similar to spiked chocolate milk.

Check out the history of milk chocolate, courtesy of What's Cooking America.

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27: National Scotch Day

I tried scotch once. 

We didn't agree and we decided to go our separate ways.

So I'm very lacking in knowledge when it comes to scotch, which is apparently a type of whisky.  (And I thought the correct spelling was only "whiskey," but it turns out that use of "whiskey" or "whisky" is dependent on country of origin.)  ScotchWhisky.net bills itself as the "definiteive online guide to whisky" and it sure looks like it is.  Everything from the distilling process to guidance for hosting whisky tasting parties is covered at ScotchWhisky.net.

You can find a brief history of scotch here and 61 cocktails using scotch here.  TheKitchn suggests four mixed drinks to ease you into liking scotch.  Apparently, you can't just like it, you have to learn to like it.  Which might be true, considering my experience.

NOTE:Some sites are saying that today is creme brulee day.  Others list July 21, which is when I celebrated it.  I'm sticking with July 21st as creme brulee day.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26: National Bagelfest Day and National Coffee Milkshake Day

National Bagelfest Day

Hey!  We have a starting date for this one - 1986.  This is probably the most recent of the food observance days to be added to the calendar.  So how to celebrate Bagelfest?  Well, eating a bagel is the easy way.  You can always make your own.  Try toasting a plain or savory bagel, slicing it in half and then using it to make a sandwich.  Try using a different topping or a new flavor.

National Coffee Milkshake Day

Well, I've already posted about milkshakes and I think I'd be belaboring the topic by talking about another flavor. so just a few notes on this one.  Food Stories Blog is having a giveaway in honor of National Coffee Milkshake Day and provides a recipe for a coffee milkshake with banana.  This article suggests adding alcohol for extra kick and this blogger goes for a peanut butter/banana/coffee flavor.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25: National Hot Fudge Sundae Day

A hot fudge sundae is just another variation of a sundae - except this one is both hot and cold.  I have to admit, dishes that combine the two temperature extremes of hot and cold are always intriguing.  They cause my brain to lock into a weird loop of "It's hot...it's cold...it's hot...cold.." which leaves me unable to function until my brain finally goes, "I don't care.  It's good."

Anyhow, if you're curious, there are actually tutorials on how to make a hot fudge sundae.  Which just seems so silly to me - just take a couple scoops of your favorite ice cream, add some sprinkles or nuts if you want, then pour a hot fudge sauce on top.  Add cherry and whipped cream, if you feel like it.

You can buy chocolate fudge topping at the store and heat it up, or you can try making your own hot fudge sundae sauce.  If you add espresso to the sauce, you get a little extra kick and you get to call it Italian hot fudge sundae.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24: National Tequila Day

Today is National Tequila Day.  Tequila is not the actual drink, but rather a denomination of origin.  So when you say, "What tequila do you have?" you're actually asking "What agave-distilled spirit from the Mexican region of Jalisco or from certain nearby regions?"  Tequila is a mezcal or agave-distilled spirit. 

My experience with tequila is limited to tequila shots, a cake recipe that uses tequila, and a fish recipe that uses tequila.  And there is a lot to know about tequila, so I'm just going to point you to two really good sites about tequila, both of which do a great job at explaining the different types and the tequila-making process.  If you're interested in learning more about tequila, check out Tequila Source and Tequila.net.

So while I'm confused why the US has a National Tequila Day when tequila is from Mexico, I'm just going to shake my head and accept it as another national food observance that makes no sense.  But I did find it interesting to learn that there is a drink called Temequila, which is an agave-distilled spirit made in Temecula, CA.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23: National Hot Dog Day and National Vanilla Ice Cream Day

National Hot Dog Day

Maybe eating as many hot dogs as possible in a short amount of time is your thing.  Maybe going for the most expensive hot dog available (title currently held by a hot dog stand in Sacramento at $145.49) is your thing.  Or maybe you're vegan and you prefer the vegan dogs.  However you like to consume your hot dog, there's no getting around the fact that the average American consumes about 60 hot dogs in a year.

I've always been a "catsup, mustard, onion and relish on my hot dogs" kind of girl.  Oh, chili is a great topping, too.  And I'd never say no to a dog topped with sauerkraut (and just try to keep me away from a hot dog with Romanian sauerkraut!)  Still, it never occurred to me that hot dogs, like barbecue, is a hotly disputed regional food in America.  The HuffPo has their roundup of the best regional style hot dogs - which I'm sure not everyone was happy about.

And if you've ever been curious as to what is actually in your hot dog - Scientific American has the answer.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council held a slogan contest this year.  Maybe I'll come up with a snazzy slogan for next year. Hrm...

National Vanilla Ice Cream Day

Okay, while I think both hot dogs and vanilla ice cream are definitely summer treats, I don't think I'd ever want to eat them together.  They do have one thing in common, though - they make great bases for epic dishes.

Vanilla ice cream is delicious in its own right, especially if you like vanilla.  For those that love vanilla ice cream, just a plain scoop is enough.  (Okay, maybe two scoops.)  For others, though, vanilla ice cream is an ingredient in such things as root beer floats or smoothies.  For others, vanilla ice cream is base for super banana splits or record-setting sundaes.  For those who like to imbibe, vanilla ice cream is used in a variety of cocktails.

So go forth and celebrate National Vanilla Ice Cream Day!  And if you do decide to mix vanilla ice cream and hot dogs together?  Well, let me know how that goes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A little housekeeping....

You may have noticed a lack of pictures lately.  I've come very close to the limit of images for my account, not because I have a lot of pictures but because my pictures are all pretty large.  Oh, I know they don't seem large here on the blog, but they are large if you were to look at them full size. 

Thus, over the next couple of weeks, I'll be going back and reducing the size of the pictures I have used and I'll be adding pictures to posts from the last few weeks.  My grad project is finally over (pending a short presentation) so here's hoping that I'll get caught up on photos before classes start.

July 22: National Penuche Fudge Day

Penuche fudge is fudge make with brown sugar.  This gives the fudge a light tan color and a caramel flavor.  You may have also seen this called brown sugar fudge in some places.  Some recipes call for cream, others half-and-half, some milk, and others use evaporated milk.  According to About.com's candy page, penuche is popular in Mexico but I remember Mexican fudge being different when compared to any penuche I've had in the US.  Then again, I'm not sure if Mexican fudge is the same thing as penuche.  According to Wise Geek, penuche in New England is sometimes made with maple syrup and in Hawaii penuche is often used as a cookie topping.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 21: National Creme Brulee Day and National Junk Food Day

National Creme Brulee Day

When I hear the words "creme brulee," I immediately think "blowtorch."  Then I remember the one time a friend tried making creme brulee and her blowtorch leaked, creating a small fireball in her kitchen.  Most exciting creme brulee EVER.

Creme brulee isn't terribly hard to make, but it is time consuming and requires a blowtorch, soI don't think very many people actually make it at home.  What's Cooking America has a recipe that requires less time than Alton Brown's, but you'll still need a blowtorch for that perfect crust.  Cooking For Engineers also does a breakdown of cooking creme brulee.

A blowtorch wasn't always used to get the carmelized top - at one point an iron was used.

The blowtorch approach just seems like more fun.

National Junk Food Day

Well, a lot of things that are perfectly normal food to most people are things I consider junk food, so I'm not really the most impartial person to write on this topic.  Instead, I'm going to pass you on over to Serious Eats for 16 foods you can eat to celebrate National Junk Food Day and to GalTime's tips for surviving the day.

Personally, I think a great way to celebrate today would be to go through your pantry and identify what is junk food.  You don't have to toss it out, but at least go through and recognize what foods you have that are not good for you.

My biggest junk food sin right now?  I still have Girl Scout cookies.

That is the one treat I will never give up.

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20: National Lollipop Day and National Fortune Cookie Day

National Lollipop Day

Whether you like your lollipops bigger than your face or filled with gum or some other candy, I think everyone is familiar with lollipops.  Lollipops have been around for quite some time, dating back to at least the 17th century.  Making your own lollipop isn't all that hard - it's basically just cooking sugar to the hard stage.  Food Network offers up a cherry lollipop recipe, Martha Stewart has some pretty lollipops, and Leite's Culinaria shares a recipe for adults that still love lollipops - liquor lollipops.

I wonder if dentists experience a bump in business after National Lollipop Day.  Hrm...

National Fortune Cookie Day

Did you know that fortune cookie are not Chinese?  Despite being provided at the end of a meal in just about every Chinese restuarant in America, fortune cookies are American with a Japanese background.  While the exact inventor of fortune cookies as we know them today is in dispute, it can be agreed upon that the fortune cookie was made popular by a Japanese immigrant in California.  (ne of the descendants of one of the possible inventors provides her family's understanding of the fortune cookie here.)

While making your own fortune cookie is actually pretty easy, how do you decide to what fortune to put it in?   I suppose if you're a fortune teller and you can see who the cookie will be going to, you can easily put in a fortune.  For the rest of us, though, a computer-generated fortune is probably the way to go. 

And to wrap up this fortune cookie posting, two things:
1.) Yes, you can win the lotto playing fortune cookie lucky numbers.
2.) XKCD has probably the best addition to fortune cookie fortunes ever.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 19: National Daiquiri Day

Mmm...daiquiris.  I fully admit, I love cold, fruity alcoholic drinks.  Even more so when they come with cute garnishes like a citrus peel curl, or even that tacky paper unbrella.

I think most people are familiar with strawberry daiquiris (I know I am!) but did you know that the daiquiri started out as a single drink and has evolved into a category of drinks?  A classic daiquiri is pretty easy - rum, lime juice, and a simple sugar syrup.  (Alton Brown's classic daiquiri recipe gives you strict instructions so you end up with the best daiquiri possible.)  Pretty much any flavor of daiquiri is possible.  Looks for some daiquiri inspiration?  Check out this collection of daiquir recipes.

LATE - July 18: National Caviar Day

Sorry this is late, folks.  Stayed in a hotel last night that had the worst connection ever. 

Caviar.  Is it just a hoity-toity name for fish eggs?  Is it really fish eggs?  I need to know!

Turns out caviar is fish eggs, specifically sturgeon eggs.  You can get other types of caviar, like salmon caviar, but if it's only "caviar" then it's from sturgeon.  If it's orangish, then it's not "caviar."  True caviar is black to gray.

What's Cooking America encourages us to consume American caviar, not foreign. (See?  Even hoity-toity food can be local!  Well, local as in "same country.")  Did you know there's California caviar and Washington caviar

As always with seafood, please check the Seafood Watch list. (2 of 3 red, not good.)  The WWF has an excelent primer on why caviar isn't the most concious-friendly choice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17: National Peach Ice Cream Day

Not a combination you usually see in ice cream stores (at least, if I have recently, I don't recall it) peach ice cream is the total summer treat.  It features peaches which are normally in season right now (this year is a little off due to the crazy weather) and ice cream which just hits the spot on these super-hot summer days.

If you have an ice cream maker, you can always make your own peach ice cream.  Or try a variation that adds honey.  Try making peach ice cream without egs.

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16: National Corn Fritter Day and National Fresh Spinach Day

National Corn Fritter Day

I only very recently tried corn fritters.  I'm not a huge fan of battered and fried foods, but the best friend ordered some as an appetizer and I tried half of one.  It was just... there.  Nothing spectacular, nothing super tasty.  It tasted just like corn and the batter had no real flavor.

Wise Geek mentions that there's also a version of corn fritters where egg white is used instead of batter.  This does sound a little better, so I may have to try making it someday.  Maybe what I need to do is make them spicy and add some greenery. 

National Fresh Spinach Day

There's no getting around it - spinach is good for you.  Okay, I suppose once you start loading it up with dressings and cheese, spinach loses its glamour as a super-food.  Keep away from the extras, and spinach stays awesome.  Eating Well has a collection of healthy spinach recipes to help you avoid the extras. 

Personally, I love raw spinach added to salads- spinach, strawberries, mandarin oranges, and walnuts go very well together.  Fresh spinach is also a great addition to instant noodles.  I also like wrapping a baby carrot in a spinach leaf before dipping it in a vinagrette dressing.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15: National Gummy Worm Day and National Tapioca Pudding Day

National Gummy Worm Day

As a child (and sometimes now as an adult), it was always  fun to pretend that gummy worms were the real thing.  You could mix them with crushed oreos and chocolate pudding to create Wormy Mud Cups.  There are many variations of this child-friendly treat and it's pretty popular at children's Halloween parties.  One variation is Dirt Cake, which is essentially Wormy Mud Cups done on a larger scale.  For another child-friendly snack, try adding gummy worms to Rice Krispie Treats.  Or put them in popsicles.  For a creepy Halloween drink, you can add gummy worms to punch for the extra ick factor.  (For an even creepier punch, try also adding gummy eyes or spiders.)

For the more grown-up parties, gummies soaked in alcohol are apparently the big hit.  While I've had vodka infused with Skittles and Jell-o shots before, I have never had alcohol-soaked gummy worms.  (Or Jell-o shots that use gummy worms.)  The Gummy Worm Martini doesn't use gummy worms, but it gets a pretty close flavor and I imagine a gummy worm garnish wouldn't be out of place.  Check out these 5 drinks that use gummy worms.

Gummy worms are a popular candy to make at home.  There are even sugar-free and vegan recipes available.  Check out this video on making gummy worms at home or this one on making diabetic-friendly gummy worms.  Of course, if you really want to up the cool factor of your gummy worms, you can make them so they glow under blacklight.

National Tapioca Pudding Day

June 20th was National Tapioca Day, but today celebrates tapioca puddingSlow-cooker tapioca puddings are very popular because, well, slow cookers are a blessing to any home cook with little time. Just toss things in and go! Alton Brown's tapioca pudding makes use of the slow-cooker, but the recipe is a "start the night before" recipes since the tapioca has to soak overnight.

Public Radio Kitchen has a good article about tapioca pudding, as does Eat History.  Both describe memories associated with tapioca pudding, emphasizing what an impact tapioca pudding has had on many people.

National Ice Cream Day

Since today is the third Sunday in July, it's National Ice Cream Day. The International Dairy Foods Association provides us with the history of ice cream.  Because most people are familiar with ice cream, I'm just going to help you celebrate today by letting you know of some ice cream coupons.

First off, the coupon in the Whole Foods coupon packet for Ben and Jerry's is still good.  (Plus, my local Whole Foods has B&J's on sale, so double score!)  If you live near a Bruster's, here'a coupon for a free size upgrade.  Sign in at the Blue Bunny website and get a $1 off coupon.  In fact, because today is National Ice Cream Day, there are lots of ice cream freebies out there today.  Check them out!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

July14: National Pick Blueberries Day and National Grand Marnier Day,

National Pick Blueberries Day

If you're looking to celebrate today by going out and picking blueberries, use Pick Your Own to help you find a local farm that has blueberries available.  If there are none near you or you want to simply head down to the grocery store for an easy picking experience, be sure you know how to select and store blueberries.

Once you've picked a bunch of blueberries, enjoy them by eating them by the handful, putting them in pancakes or waffles, preserving them for the winter, or by adding them to your cereal.

National Grand Marnier Day

Grand Marnier is an orange-flavored brandy liqueur.  While I've never purchased a bottle of Grand Marnier, I wouldn't be surprised if I've had some at some point, since Grand Marnier is often used in cosmopolitans, B-52s, and tequila sunrises

Grand Marnier is also used in some food recipes, such as Crepes Suzette and can be added to many classic recipes to create such things as Grand Marnier Souffle.

Alcohol that can be used for more than just drinking?  That's the best kind.

Friday, July 13, 2012

July 13: National French Fries Day

Back in December, Burger King debuted their new and improved fries and launched a massive advertising campaign.  Falling prey to the marketing campaign, at least three of us headed out and ordered the new  fries.  Maybe the hype was too much, butI thought they weren't anything special.  I still think that in terms of fast food French fries, McDonald's still reigns supreme.  (Although the seasoning Jack-in-the-Box uses on its curly fries is pretty tasty.)

French fries don't have to be just the plain-potato fried in vegetable oil.  Duck-fat fries from the Smoking Goat in San Diego are a must have when you're there - just don't think about the health consequences.  I wonder if French fries made with sunflower oil taste that much different than French fries fried in vegetable oil.

And French fries can make a great base food to a variety of toppings.   At the San Diego Fair, my friends and I share garlic fries, with the fries with the most garlic and parsley being the most coveted.  Carne asada fries are a great late-snack food after a night of bar-hopping.  And who can forget the weird fries that you can get at gas stations and random snack shacks where you add copious amounts of a scarily-bright yellow goo or a weird gloopy substance the store believes is chili.  When making fries at home, I perfer to make "nacho fries," topped with shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, onions, jalapeños, and a taco-seasoned meat or meat replacement.

In honor of today, the HuffPo seeks an answer to the all important question of: is there really such a thing as a healthy fry?  The article doesn't find an aswer to the question, but it does provide some pretty pictures of French fries to look at.  Personally, I like making French fries at home, because then I can control the amount of oil and salt used.

Like a all popular foods, the origins of French fries are in dispute.  The Belgians claim they invented fries.  Check out a possbile history of French fries.  Or how about this one?  It has royalty in it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12: National Pecan Pie Day

Pecan pies are probably the only "Southern" food I truly like.  Surprisingly, it may have originated in Texas (I was betting on Louisiana.)  Delish offers up 15 variations of the pecan pie.  You know, for when you tire of the original.

With all the sugar that goes into a pecan pie, I didn't think a diabetic-friendly recipe could exist, but it does!  You can also make a gluten-free pie.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11: National Blueberry Muffin Day and National Vegetarian Food Day

National Blueberry Muffin Day

Blueberries have been putting in a big show at the markets lately, but I feel like they're almost done for the season.  Why?  The prices for blueberries has gone up in the last week.  Prices are always lowest when the produce is in season.

So what to do with all the blueberries you see in the store?  Well, you could always eat them.  Try making smoothies with them.  Put them in pancakes or waffles.  Freeze them or can them.  Add them to your yogurt or cereal.

Or honor today by baking blueberry muffins.

True muffins are not the huge, peaked, cake-like baked goods most people are familiar with.  Instead, a muffin should be somewhat dome shaped without a peak.  These true muffins result when you use the muffin method.  Basically, you make sure to not over-stir the batter so there is no tunneling in the muffins.  (Check out this Good Eats clip to hear Alton Brown discuss the muffin method.  Or just follow his recipe and make sure to follow the stir count directions.)

Of course, if you're of legal drinking age, you can always make a blueberry muffin cocktail.

National Vegetarian Food Day

There are many different types of vegetarians, so if you decide to go vegetarian, you'll need to decide what kind of vegetarian you are so you can learn what to watch out for on food labels.  If you want to avoid all animal products, you'll want to look for foods labeled "vegan."  If you are okay with consuming eggs, milk, and honey, you should be fine with foods labeled "vegetarian."  A lot of vegetarian burgers that are widely available use eggs as binders and many vegetarian energy bars use honey.

Of course, if you make the food yourself, then you know exactly what went into it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10: National Piña Colada

Oh, man!  I wish I had looked at my calendar earlier!  Today was a rough day for a lot of people I know.  Kicking back with a cold piña colada would've made the day seem less miserable.  Ah, well.

Piña coladas are probably familiar to anyone over the age of 21 who has been somewhere tropical.  Or at least to a tropical-themed bar or restaurant.  Traditionally made with pineapple, rum, and coconut cream blended with ice, the piña colada is usually made these days using a mixer, rum and ice.  That's fine with me, since most people won't have any use for coconut cream beyond piña coladas.

According to Pina-Colada.org, the piña colada has its origins in piracy.  I suppose this is possible, since pirates probably started figuring out how to be creative with all the rum they purpportedly drank.  There's even a piña colada song for you to relax to.

Granted, I'd much rather be enjoying a piña colada somewhere tropical with regional music (steel drums?  guitar? pipes?) playing in the background.  Maybe someday...

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9: National Sugar Cookie Day

Sugar cookies are one of the two great fallback cookie recipes out there.  (The other being chocolate chip cookies.)  Sugar cookies are great because you can just do simple ones where you drop them on the baking sheet or you can make rolled ones that you cut into shapes

Sugar cookies are a great basic cookie and can be decorated for any holiday.  Personally, I like colored sprinkles (pink and red for Valentine's Day, green for St. Patrick's Day, pastels for Easter...you get the idea) because I feel they add just enough festiveness without overloading on the sugar.  Another common topping is icing, but I find that it usually too sweet for my tastes.  You could also use icing to hold candy decorations in place.

Plain, undecorated sugar cookies are also great for dipping into coffee or hot cocoa.  Or for slathering with your favorite ice cream and making an ice cream sandwich.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 8: National (Milk) Chocolate with Almonds Day

Some places list today as National Chocolate with Almonds Day and others list it as National Milk Chocolate with Almonds Day.  My guess is that it started as Chocolate with Almonds Day but, of all the different types of chocolate out there, a lot of people like milk chocolate best so the day morphed a bit.  Then again, National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day occurs in November, so maybe there was a need for today to celebrate milk chocolate with almonds.

There really isn't much to say about today.  I mean, really - it's chocolate with almonds.  (Which is different than covered almonds.)  SlashFood claims that chocolate and almonds is a relatively new pairing, having been around for only about 20 years.  Eatocracy suggests celebrating today with an Almond Joy, but I prefer to celebrate today with a bar of Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds - also known as the Wolf Chocolate Bar from the brand Endangered Species.  If milk chocolate is more to your taste, Endangered Species also has a milk chocolate bar with almonds.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

July 7: National Strawberry Sundae Day and National Macaroni Day

National Strawberry Sundae Day

With the heat driving everyone crazy and cranky, celebrating a cool treat is perfect timing.  Made  fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream, strawberry sundaes are a refreshing treat.  There's some history for the sundae and, as usual, there's dispute over how the sundae came to be. 

To boost the flavor, try roasting the strawberriesCookies and jam are a good addition to strawberry sundaes.  Try pistachios as a topping.

National Macaroni Day

Macaroni is a type of pasta.  Often served as macaroni and cheese, it's a familiar pasta to most in the US. Macaroni is also used in some pasta salads.  There are many uses for macaroni pasta.

Personally, I love adding vegetables to my macaroni and cheese, but you can also add meatballs.  Or you can just keep it simple and just add more cheese.

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 6: National Fried Chicken Day

Fried chicken.  When I look at nutritional information, I dislike it.  But when I smell fried chicken and I taste a perfectly seasoned one, I just don't care.  After about three or four bites though, I catch myself thinking about the (not-so-good) nutrition of fried chicken and I usually stop eating.

When it comes to fried chicken, I think KFC, Chik-fil-a and Popeye's are known all around the nation.  But when you're in the Southeast, there's a whole slew of fast food places that sell fried chicken, including the well known Zaxby's and Bojangles.  Fried chicken is very popular in the Southeast.  I'm not sure what the difference between Southern Fried Chicken and "regular" fried chicken is, mainly because, like barbecue, everyone has their own secret recipe.  You can use a deep fryer or you can use a skillet.  Either way, it's hard to mess up fried chicken.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 5: National Graham Cracker Day and National Apple Turnover Day

National Graham Cracker Day

Hey, another food named after a person!  Graham crackers are named for Sylvester Graham, the inventor.  He was a Presbytarian minister that believed that carnal urges could be controlled by following the Graham Diet, a strict vegetarian diet which included his "Graham bread."  (I think that's the first time I've linked to Snopes since I started this blog.)  Graham made a few enemies with his diet - bakers were mad that he espoused whole wheats, tobacco and alcochol companies were mad that he was against both tobacco and alcohol. While the original "graham cracker" was made using graham flour, today's graham crackers are made with unbleached enriched flour.

Graham crackers are very versatile.  You can have them lone as a snack or paired with a glass of milk.  They're essential to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S'mores'mores and s'mores cookies.  You can make pie crusts with graham crackers.  You can make toffee bars with them or easy Christmas bar cookies.

Want to make your own?  Smitten Kitchen and Alton Brown offer up recipes.  You could also try this gluten-free graham cracker recipe.

National Apple Turnover Day

Why apple (a autumn fruit) instead of a berries (summer fruit) I don't know, but today's National Apple Turnoever Day.  It's still too hot across most of the nation to turn on an oven, but maybe you could build a solar oven and bake an apple turnover in that.

There are plenty of recipes for apple turnovers.  Ina Garten has a recipe that is pretty popular- 5 stars after nearly 100 reviews.  Apple turnovers are best when they're flakey and filled with delicious apples.  You can use store-bought puff pastry or you can make your own.  Since apple turnovers are basically portable pies, you can even use pie crust.

Once again, the Food Timeline gives us a little bit of history on turnovers.  Apple turnovers are also apparently "essentially English."  And I still can't figure out what the difference between English apple turnovers and Dutch apple turnovers is.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 4: National Caesar Salad Day, National Barbecue Spareribs Day, and National Sidewalk Egg Frying Day

National Caesar Salad Day

Caesar salad is a fairly simple salad - lettuce, croutons, a sprinkling of parmesan, and caesar dressing.  Instead of buying your dressing, try making your own.  (Did you know that anchovies or anchovy paste are an important component?)  What's Cooking America not only serves up the history of caesar salad, but also provide plenty of supplemental information such as how to make croutons.  Many state that the salad is named for its creator, Caesar Cardini, an Italian chef who lived in San Diego but ran a restaurant in Tijuana to avoid Prohibition.  This however is a bit of controversy, with many people claiming to be the creator and that the real name of the salad is "Aviator's salad."

Well, whatever name it goes by or who invented it, caesar salad is a very common salad in US restaurants so if you like caesar salads, you'll have no problem finding one whenever you eat out.

National Barbecue Spareribs Day

When I saw this holiday on my calendar, my immediate thought was "What exactly are spareribs?"  Well, About.com has the answer to that question, along with cooking tips.  AllRecipes has a whole section on how to cook ribs, with plenty of information on spareribs and lot sof recipes.  Cooking for Engineers has directions for cooking spareribs in an oven.  Food Network has a tasty-looking recipe for cooking spareribs on the barbecue.

One of my friends makes really great ribs, including spareribs.  She boils the ribs in the cheapest beer she can find and then either cooks the ribs on her shiny, awesome barbecue or in the oven with a tinfoil tent and lots of sauce.  I realize boiling ribs is a controversial issue, but I think it results in some pretty tasty ribs.  You can also use Coke as a marinade, which tenderizes the meat a bit and gives it a slightly sweet flavor.

National Sidewalk Egg Frying Day

Who comes up with the days like this?  The phrase "Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk" or variations of it are commonly heard on hot summer days.  Bill Nye (yes, the Science Guy) had a blog post a couple of years back about frying an egg on the sidewalk.  The Library of Congress also gets in on the possibility of frying an egg on the sidewalk.  If you do a search for "fry an egg on the sidwalk" on YouTube, there are way too many interesting results to post here, but there are videos that make it very believable.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3: National Chocolate Wafer Day and Eat a Bean Day

National Chocolate Wafer Day

I like the wafers that are layers of super thin cookies with a cream sandwiched in between.  They do this weird, but cool, thing where the cookie part dissolves in your mouth, leaving you with a sugary goo of cream filling.  Anyone else?  *crickets*  No?

Well, what exactly is a chocolate wafer?  I guess we should start with.... what is a wafer?  According to Dictionary.com, there are five definitions of wafer, two of which deal with food.  Since I don't remember the Euchrist ever having a chocolatey flavor, I'm going to go with the first definition of: "a thin, crisp cake or biscuit, often sweetened and flavored."  So therefore a chocolate wafer must be a thin cookie with a chocolate flavor.

Purchasing wafers is definitely the easiest and least time consuming route, but you can easily make your own chocolate wafers.  Joy of Baking claims that their chocolate wafers are relatively low in fat.  (I'm just curious if they're low in fat compared to other wafers or to other cookies, because if compared to other cookies, of course they're low in fat - they're smaller cookies.)

Of course, after you buy or make your chocolate wafers, you can use them to create a refrigerator roll, which I can see being a surprise hit at a party.  Or use them to make a chocolate-flavored pie crust.  Try adding chocolate wafers to your ice cream sundae for a bit of flair.  Or you can always sandwich some frosting or icing between two chocolate wafers and create your own cookie sandwiches.

Eat a Bean Day

Beans have already been acknowledged a couple of times now, but since it's Eat a Bean Day and it's a hot summer, here are some cool bean-based dishes that won't require you to heat up the kitchen at all.

- For a quick snack, eat edamame beans.  You can microwave or quickly boil them if you want, but most of the frozen ones are pre-cooked so if you let them thaw, you can eat them while they're cool.  Or you can buy dried edamame beans for a crunchier alternative.  I've seen dried edamame sold as "lightly salted" and "wasabi."

- Make a bean salad.  Bean salads are best served chilled.  You can cook dry beans to make these salads, but if you really don't want to heat up the kitchen at all, use canned beans and rinse them if you're concerned about sodium levels.  This is really a dish that is impossible to screw up because you can put anything you want in a bean salad.  Start with one or two cans of your beans of choice, then add fresh vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers.  Marinate with your favorite salad dressing or simply add olive oil and your favorite herbs.  Mix it all together, let it sit for a few minutes, and then enjoy!

- Make a bean dip to enjoy with chips.  Along the same lines, make hummus for use as a dip or as a sandwich spread.

- Eat pole beans raw.  Beans straight out of the garden make crunchy snacks and you get the full flavor of the beans.  You can dip them if you'd like or even marinate them in your favorite dressing.

- Make a slaw for use in tacos or as a side dish.

I'm sure you'll find an easy way to eat at least one bean today.

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 2: National Anisette Day

I really don't like anise flavored foods, so this is definitely not a day I'll be celebrating.  Anisette is anise flavor liqueur typically made in Europe.  (Some sites say Italy, some say "Spanish-speaking countries," and others say France.  I figure sticking with "Europe" is my best bet.)

You can make plenty of different drinks using anisette.  As with all liqeuers, you can also bake cookies and cakes with anisette.  Or how about Anise-Raisin Focaccia?

Of course, you can always just drink it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1: Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day and National Gingersnap Day

Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day

I've seen this also called National Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day, but I'm not sure if this is an officially recognized food observance, so I'm leaving of the "national."

What makes an ice cream flavor creative?  Obviously, vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry wouldn't count in this day and age because you can find them everywhere, but once upon a time they must've been considered creative.  There was a time when I would've considered bacon ice cream to be a creative flavor, but it seems to be everywhere now.  Does it have to be a combination of flavors you don't find anywhere else?

Ben & Jerry's ice cream is the easiest way for many of us to experience creative ice cream flavors.  You can find them in all the major grocery stores.  Ben & Jerry's ice cream is on sale right now at Whole Foods, plus there's a coupon in the Whole Foods Whole Deals booklet, so the roomie and I bought some of our favorite flavors.  It's really tempting to go back and buy some more.  Ben & Jerry's ice creams are definitely worth using my Lactaid pills for.

Better Homes and Gardens lists 10 of the craziest ice cream flavors ever.  (I'm actually very tempted to try the sauerkraut ice cream and I wouldn't say no to the garlic ice cream.)  The HuffPo has a list of places in Los Angeles for creative ice cream flavors and the Examiner takes us to the other side of the nation with the best ice cream stands in New England for creative ice cream flavors.  Serious Eats suggests ten different ways to celebrate today's food observance.   

And as hot as it is today, this food observance seems perfectly timed.  Unlike the other food celebration for today...

National Gingersnap Day

With the raging heat most of the US is experiencing today, it seems very strange to celebrate a food that requires turning on the oven.  Yet, it's National Gingersnap Day.  If it were up to me, this food observance would be in December.  Gingersnaps are just so tied to the holidays for me- they just pair so well with hot chocolate. 

Gingersnaps are spiced cookies.  They pair well with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, making them perfect for ice cream sandwiches.  Alton Brown has a recipe that ranks a full five stars.  Smitten Kitchen's recipe results in darker cookies.  Wise Geek tells what exactly gingersnaps are, while eHow gives us the history of gingersnaps in colonial times