255/365: National Chocolate Milkshake Day

If you’re cuckoo for frozen cocoa, today is really going to tickle your fancy. September 12 is National Chocolate Milkshake Day!

National Chocolate Milkshake DayWe’ve already paid homage to the vanilla milkshake and coffee milkshake, so by now you should be familiar with the history of this frozen treat. If not, click on either of the links and immerse yourself in the world of Walgreen’s employee Ivar Coulson. One thing I did not mention previously: milkshakes got their name because they were originally served in bars. If the customer liked the milkshake, he shook hands with the bartender; if not, he skipped out without leaving a tip. Fun and random fact: it would take 3.2 million average-sized milkshakes to fill an Olympic-sized pool. How fun would that be to swim in? Feel like making your own chocolate milkshake? Here’s an easy and fun recipe from Hershey’s. The term “I drink your milkshake” became a pop culture catchphrase after the film There Will Be Blood was released in 2007.

There’s not a lot else to discuss today, so let’s get down to business. Tara and I stopped by McDonald’s for chocolate shakes. I’m partial to vanilla myself, but it’s hard to complain about a frosty cold shake on a warm summer afternoon!

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249/365: National Coffee Ice Cream Day

If you’ve bean craving a jolt of caffeine, today’s food holiday will make your ears perk up. September 6 is National Coffee Ice Cream Day!

National Coffee Ice Cream DayBy now you can probably recite the history of ice cream in your sleep. But I don’t think I’ve talked about coffee yet. Allegedly, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi observed his flock of animals acting strangely after eating coffee plants sometime in the 9th century. Curious about their behavior, he plucked a few of the berries and tried them himself. Feeling more alert than usual afterwards, he flagged down a passing monk, and shared this story with him. The monk took some of the berries, crushed them into a powder, and mixed them with hot water. After drinking the brew, he too was more energetic and awake than normal, and before long his entire monastery was downing coffee in an attempt to stay awake longer during prayer time. It’s unknown whether this admittedly fantastic-sounding story is true, but it sure makes for a good yarn! The earliest credible evidence for coffee dates back to the 15th century, where monasteries in Yemen roasted and brewed coffee seeds in a similar manner to how it is enjoyed today. Which tells me one thing: the life of a monk must be awfully boring.

It’s unclear when somebody thought of combining coffee and ice cream, but the result is delicious. To celebrate, we bought a small carton of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Yum!

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248/365: National Cheese Pizza Day

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s September 5. It’s National Cheese Pizza Day!

Most people think of pizza as an Italian dish, but in reality it originated in South Dakota. Oops…make that Greece. Or Rome. Or Persia. Which is to say, its exact origins are unknown. Let’s just say somebody, somewhere, at some time, learned to mix flour with water and cook it on a hot stone. Flat, round bread, baked with toppings and eaten by hand, was viewed as an economical, tasty, and convenient meal fit for a working man. Regardless of where it was invented, pizza had become a popular dish in Italy by the 17th century, especially in Naples, whose residents were brave enough to add tomatoes (which were believed at the time to be poisonous), creating the first “modern” pizza. According to legend, in 1889 King Umberto of Italy was vacationing in Naples with his wife, Queen Margherita. Curious to sample the local cuisine, the King summoned a popular local pizza chef, Raffaele Esposito, who prepared three varieties of his special dish: one with pork fat, cheese, and basil; one with garlic, oil, and tomatoes; and a third with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella (the colors representative of the Italian flag).  While all three were delicious, the Queen especially enjoyed the last pizza, which Esposito named a Pizza Margherita in her honor.

Italian immigrants introduced pizza to America in the latter half of the 19th century. The first peddler sold pizza out of a metal washtub he carried on his head, for “2 cents a chew.” Pizzas were originally known as tomato pies back then (and are still called that in parts of the Northeast, such as Trenton, where my family is from; nothing beats a traditional New Jersey tomato pie). Different regions of the country became well-known for their unique pizza styles: Chicago has deep-dish, New York has thin-slice, and Detroit has twice-baked. While toppings can define a pizza – popular ones include pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, anchovies, and olives – there is something compelling about a plain slice of cheese pizza. I definitely think it’s holiday-worthy.

To celebrate, we stopped by a local pizzeria, NYC Pizza in Vancouver. They have a lunch special: two slices of cheese pizza and a soda for $5.00. Can’t beat a deal like that! And while they may not be authentically New York in style, they come close. The crust is thin and bendable, at least, and there’s an appropriate amount of grease. Good stuff!

National Cheese Pizza Day

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246/365: National Welsh Rarebit Day

You’re toast if you don’t hop on over to the pantry and celebrate today’s food holiday with us. September 3 is National Welsh Rarebit Day!

At first, I was worried that we were going to have to eat a bunny today, but it turns out the name “rarebit” is an ironic stab at humor. It turns out that Welsh peasants weren’t allowed to eat the rabbits caught in hunts; these were reserved for nobility (in other words, rich wankers). While rabbits were considered “poor man’s meat” across the pond in jolly ol’ England, in Wales they fetched a much higher price. Cheese, on the other hand, was considered a meal for the poor. So the crafty Welsh simply substituted cheese and called it “Welsh rabbit.” Since there wasn’t any actual rabbit in the dish – a minor detail, to be sure – the name was jokingly changed to rarebit. Oh, those humorous Europeans!welshrabbit

Welsh rarebit is similar to fondue, but cheddar is used instead of Swiss. The dish is simple to make, and considered a hearty and delicious tavern dish in Wales. It’s made by melting cheddar cheese, adding beer and other ingredients (butter, mustard, Worcestershire, seasonings), and serving over toast. Kind of an inside-out grilled cheese sandwich, if you will. I’m game!

Tara and I made welsh rarebit as an appetizer. We turned to Alton Brown for a basic recipe, and just made a few minor substitutions.

Welsh Rarebit


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup beer
3/4 cup heavy cream (or milk)
6 ounces (approximately 1 1/2 cups) shredded Cheddar
2 drops hot sauce
4 slices toasted bread


In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour. Whisk in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add beer and whisk to combine. Pour in cream and whisk until well combined and smooth. Gradually add cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and sauce is smooth; this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Add hot sauce. Pour over toast and serve immediately.

We thought it was delicious, very much like fondue!

National Welsh Rarebit Day

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233/365: National Spumoni Day

If you like your ice cream to contain multiple flavors, as well as candied fruits and nuts, you’re in for a real treat today. August 21 is National Spumoni Day!

Some calendars list National Spumoni Day on August 22, which is when I originally had it planned. But there was enough doubt that I turned to both Wikipedia and our East Coast consultant, John, for confirmation. They both agreed it was August 21. Thanks for the help, John and inanimate website!

Spumoni is an Italian ice cream made with layers of colors and flavors – usually cherry, pistachio, and chocolate, but sometimes containing vanilla in place of one of the other flavors. There’s also a layer of candied fruits and nuts separating each flavor. Bits of cherry are common. I was hoping…nay, expecting…an interesting background story on the invention of spumoni, how the colors represent a famous Italian battle or something else of historical significance, but was disappointed to learn nobody really knows who or how spumoni came to be. Apparently it just appeared out of thin air one day. It is rumored to have originated in Naples, and is thought to be the precursor to Neapolitan (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry). It is no longer very popular in Italy, but can be found more readily here in the U.S. of A.

I’ve never been a fan of spumoni, to be honest. I’m very familiar with it though, as it’s a signature dessert of The Old Spaghetti Factory, a restaurant my family dined at often over the years. To be fair, the spumoni they used to serve contained large chunks of candied fruit that turned my stomach; nowadays, they’ve scaled way back on that stuff and simply give you three flavors of ice cream: chocolate, pistachio, and cherry (the most popular combination).

Obviously, we went to The Spaghetti Factory for lunch. If not for them, I have no idea where we would have gotten spumoni ice cream. And honestly, it was better than I expected.

National Spumoni Day

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219/365: National Raspberries in Cream Day

What do you get when you combine a classic summer berry with the decadent richness of cream? A berry good dessert, that’s what. August 7 is National Raspberries in Cream Day!

We’ve had a few other “in cream” (or “and cream”) days this year. Like peaches. And strawberries. And like those other times, “in cream” doesn’t mean floating in a pool of cream, as I’d always figured before delving into this food challenge. It means layered with whipped cream, which is actually a relief. I don’t think fruit floating around in cream is particularly appetizing, but hey – to each his/her own. There have been a bunch of raspberry food holidays lately, which makes sense, since the juicy fruit is at its peak from June to mid-August. If you’d like a little raspberry history, click on the link.

I recently turned to you, dear readers, to ask which food you would like celebrated as a national holiday, if given a choice. If your name is Wendy, you jumped all over this question and responded with several foods you’d love to see spotlighted. Wendy is keen for a National Chip and Dip Day, a National Mozzarella Cheese Stick Day, a National Mexican Food Day, and a National Chicken Salad Day. I think those are all excellent choices, and any of them would be a welcome break from the constant parade of desserts we are honoring. My mom suggested National Chicken Paprikas Day, and while you may not be familiar with this dish unless your ancestors hail from Eastern Europe, one bite and you’ll agree with mom: it’s delicious. Too exotic? Tell that to whomever decided we would celebrate National Coq au Vin Day not once, but twice. Or any of the other French, British, Italian, Spanish, Indian, or Irish-themed dishes we have whipped up during this challenge. Thanks for your input, you two.

We took the simple route for today’s celebration. Well, kind of. We did make the whipped cream from scratch, now that we’re veterans of this technique. And just topped a bowl of fresh raspberries with it. Easy, and delicious!

National Raspberries in Cream Day

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210/365: National Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day/National Lasagna Day*

I don’t mean to be a pest, but this is one of the strangest food holidays of the year. July 29 is National Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day. Umm…okay…

Even the name is a mouthful. What the heck does it mean?! Well, after a bit of research, it turns out that you are supposed to buy cheese today and “sacrifice” it by using it as bait on a mousetrap to rid your home of the pesky little rodents. There’s only one problem with that: we don’t have mice in the house. I could give credit to the cat for a vermin-free dwelling, but in all likelihood it’s probably got more to do with Tara’s extreme cleanliness. Fortunately, other people who have decided to celebrate this holiday have gotten creative with the rules, and I think they’ve got the right idea. (As an aside, even when I did have a mouse problem in my old house, cheese never worked – but peanut butter snared the suckers every time. Which means that National Peanut Butter Sacrifice Day can’t be too far off, right?). National Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day

Suggestions for celebrating this holiday include sacrificing some of your money to buy an expensive type of cheese you wouldn’t normally purchase, or sacrifice your taste buds by trying a new cheese you’ve previously never had. You could sacrifice a piece of cheese to the fondue pot, or melt it down and make nachos. Or you could sacrifice cheese by not eating it at all…but the holiday specifically mentions purchasing it, so do cheese lovers sacrifice their fondness for the product today by not buying it?

This is one confusing holiday!

Fortunately, it’s also National Lasagna Day. This helped to solve our dilemma, and allowed us to knock out two food holidays in one day.

Lasagna is one of my all-time favorites. Growing up, my mom always let my brother and I choose whatever we wanted for dinner on our birthdays. Scott usually opted for pizza, while I went with lasagna. (Incidentally, my kids both like spaghetti on their birthdays. None of us are even remotely Italian. Go figure).

Our sacrificial cheese.

Our sacrificial cheese.

Actually, even though lasagna is closely associated with Italy, its true origin can be traced back to ancient Greece. The Greeks were fond of laganon, a flat sheet of dough cut into strips. They also used a cooking pot known as a lasanum. When the Roman Empire conquered Greece, they “borrowed” (okay, stole) both ideas and turned them into lasagna, layering pasta, sauce, cheese, and savory ingredients into a casserole, and baking. European immigrants introduced the dish to the U.S., and the rest is multi-tiered history. If we didn’t have lasagna, we wouldn’t have Garfield, and the world would be a much darker place.

Tara has a great recipe for lasagna that isn’t baked, but rather, cooked in the crockpot. She takes uncooked noodles, layers them with sauce, meat, and cheese, and lets them cook all day. This turns out delicious every time! In fact, I once told her I liked the crockpot lasagna better than the regular version, and I don’t think she was too pleased to hear that after slaving over a “regular” pan. What can I say? It’s delicious!

So, we “sacrificed” shredded cheese to the crockpot gods, and ended up enjoying a hearty, delicious lasagna. Two for the price of one!

National Lasagna Day

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207/365: National Coffee Milkshake Day

Today we’re going to shake things up a bit. And no, that’s not the caffeine talking. July 26 is National Coffee Milkshake Day!

National Coffee Milkshake DayThe deeper into our food challenge we get, the fewer new topics there are to write about. Today is no exception. I’ve already  discussed the history of the milkshake. Take one of those, add coffee, and you’ve got a coffee milkshake. Right? Pretty much! Some variations, particularly in New England, call for coffee syrup. Others call for chocolate syrup. At its most basic, a coffee milkshake consists of vanilla ice cream and coffee, blended together. Hey, speaking of, that’s something I can talk about: the history of the blender! This kitchen appliance was the creation of Stephen J. Poplawski, who owned Stevens Electric Company. In 1922, he patented his drink mixer, which had been invented to help mix together malted milkshakes and other frozen treats. In the 1930s, L. Hamilton, Chester Beach, and Fred Osius began selling Poplawski’s blender through their business, the Hamilton Beach Company. Former musician Fred Waring came up with his own version of the blender (he spelled it blendor) in 1937, and his Waring Products company went on to popularize the smoothie in the 1940s. In 1946 Fred Oster, who owned the Oster Barber Equipment Compnay, bought Stevens Electric Company and designed a new version of the blender, called the Osterizer. Blenders have remained a popular kitchen implement thanks to the need for cocktails, Frappucinos, smoothies, and other frozen drinks.

There you go! That was something interesting and different.

When I think of coffee milkshakes, my mind automatically goes to Arby’s, whose signature beverage is a coffee and chocolate milkshake called the Jamocha Shake. So that’s where we went physically. To Arby’s, where we shared a Jamocha Shake. It perfectly hit the spot.

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206/365: National Hot Fudge Sundae Day

It feels like “a month of Sundaes” lately with all our ice cream holidays. We’ve also celebrated fudge three times now. So, it’s kind of fitting that July 25 is National Hot Fudge Sundae Day!

We’ve already talked about the history of the sundae. While there is some debate over who invented that particular ice cream dish, there is no dispute over today’s flavor. Los Angeles candy maker Clarence Clifton Brown opened an eatery named C.C. Brown’s in 1906, where he would serve ice cream with a little flask of molten chocolate customers could pour over the top. According to legend, Brown was constantly tweaking the recipe, changing the formula every day for 20 years until he had the perfect flavor and consistency. In 1929 he moved the business to Hollywood, right down the street from Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and it became a celebrity hotspot. With turn-of-the-century retro decor and homemade ingredients, the hot fudge sundaes become popular with stars like  Mary Pickford, Bob Hope, and Joan Crawford. Marlon Brando was so enamored of the sundaes that he would go inside, place an order, and take his sundae back to the limo to eat in order to avoid the prying eyes of tourists, while his family stayed inside the restaurant and ate theirs. The business closed down in 1996 but the name lives on – as does the hot fudge sauce, which can be purchased through the Lawry’s website.

To celebrate, my mom made us hot fudge sundaes. We had a mini family reunion of sorts, with my brother up for a visit from California (first time in 3 years), along with my aunt, uncle, grandmother, and parents. I’d much rather talk about my mom’s wonderful stuffed cabbage rolls, but alas, there is no National Stuffed Cabbage Day. What a shame, too. They are good. As were the sundaes. It’s hard to go wrong with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, and – of course – a maraschino cherry on top. She apologized for the lack of nuts, but honestly, who needed them? We were already around family. 🙂

National Hot Fudge Sundae

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198/365: National Peach Ice Cream Day

Today’s holiday will leave you feeling peachy keen! July 17 is National Peach Ice Cream Day.

We’ve already celebrated a ton of ice cream-inspired holidays, it seems – and there are more to come. If you haven’t been following our blog religiously (gasp!) and are curious about the history of ice cream, click on the preceding link. Instead, I’ll talk about…umm…

What in the heck am I going to talk about?!

Peach ice cream has long been my mom’s favorite flavor, so there’s that. I’m partial to good ol’ vanilla, which is the most popular flavor in America, while Tara is chock full of love for chocolate. Basically, anything by Tillamook – an Oregon-based creamery that makes a variety of delicious dairy items including cheese, yogurt, milk, and sour cream – is top-notch. Tillamook’s cheese factory – conveniently located in the town of Tillamook, on the Oregon coast – is a fun place to visit, and a popular tourist draw. We get out that way once a year or so, and their onsite ice cream parlor is one of the main reasons why.

Now that I’ve given both Tillamook and my mom shout-outs, I guess we can get down to the business at hand. Peach ice cream, that is. Turns out peach ice cream is difficult to find. But once we went on the road again and pulled into the Fred Meyer parking lot, we found a container of Ben & Jerry’s Willie Nelson’s Country Peach Cobbler ice cream. Which was really, really good, I might add.

National Peach Ice Cream Day


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