National Grab Some Nuts Day

Hold onto your privates. Your private stash of nuts, that is! August 3 is National Grab Some Nuts Day, and we’d hate for you to come up short.

Humans have been grabbing nuts for about as long as nuts have been around to grab. Archaeologists unearthed evidence of this fascination with nuts at a site in Israel, where seven different varieties of nuts were discovered, along with the stone tools needed to crack them open. The site was estimated to be 780,000 years old, and included almonds, water chestnuts, acorns, and pistachios. Nuts were also popular closer to home; Native Americans frequently used “hammer stones” to crack open beech nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, pecans, and hickory nuts, which were either eaten whole or ground up into a nut butter. Other folks around the world prized nuts for their oil, or turned them into a powder used for thickening foods. Nuts pack a nutritional punch, making them a great source of energy and protein.

Nuts also have a very strict definition, which means that some of the nuts you think are nuts aren’t really nuts. That’s nuts! By definition, a nut is a fruit composed of a hard shell and a seed. So far, so good…but read the fine print: that shell must not open to release the seed. So, from a botanical standpoint, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns are all true nuts. Peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios? They’re nuttin’ but wannabes. Though technically incorrect, any large, oily kernel found within a shell and used as a food source is considered a nut. So Planters, you’re off the hook.

One reason nuts are such a popular snack is due to their health properties. They are considered a “superfood” high in healthy monounsaturated fat and other good-for-you nutrients including vitamins E and B2, folate, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium. They tend to be high in calories though, so a handful at a time is plenty.

A day rarely goes by where I don’t grab some nuts, so today’s food holiday was easy to conquer. I’m particularly fond of Blue Diamond’s lineup of bold flavored almonds, so I indulged in some Sriracha and Jalapeño Smokehouse nuts. For dessert, I added a few Planters Salted Caramel peanuts.


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326/365: National Cashew Day*

Today’s celebrated dish is a kidney-shaped seed that is sometimes referred to as “the world’s healthiest food.” November 22 is National Cashew Day!

It’s also National Cranberry Relish Day, which would be great…if Thanksgiving weren’t next week. I love cranberry relish, but I don’t particularly feel like making it twice. I’ll wait ’til Turkey Day for that. Instead, we’re honoring the mighty cashew, one of many nuts we’ve paid homage to this year (see almonds, pistachios, pralines, pecans, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, etc.).

Cashews are actually the seed of the cashew apple, native to Brazil. They grow on the bottom of the fruit (which itself is considered a delicacy in Brazil and the Caribbean) and must be shelled before being sold because the interior of the shell contains a caustic resin used to make varnishes and insecticides. Not something you would want to ingest willingly! Cashews are nutritional powerhouses not only because they are shaped like boxing gloves, but also due to the fact that they contain less fat than most other nuts, and 75% of that is oleic acid, the same heart-healty monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. In fact, cashews have so many healthy antioxidants and vitamins, new studies show if you eat a handful a day you will start aging in reverse and will never die.

OK, not really, but I bet that got your attention! Eating a handful a day of most nuts IS good for your health, and cashews are no exception. So indulge to your healthy heart’s content!

We bought a can of cashews and each had a handful to snack on. Good stuff…cashews are some of my favorite nuts!

National Cashew Day

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311/365: National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

Celebrating a food holiday you’ve already honored previously is bittersweet. Literally. November 7 is National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day.

OK, so it’s not exactly the same as National Milk Chocolate with Almonds Day (July 8) -but it’s almost identical to National Bittersweet Chocolate Day, one of our first challenges way back in January.  Bittersweet chocolate is, by its very definition, bitter. It contains less sugar and more cacao for a rich, intense flavor that is best suited to baking. It is sometimes lumped together with semisweet chocolate and the two can be used interchangeably in most recipes, though semisweet chocolate does contain a little more sugar. The darker the chocolate the healthier it is for you, so eating bittersweet chocolate is akin to snacking on three broccoli florets. OK, not really, but we can pretend, right? Almonds are a natural pairing: 40% of the world’s almond crop goes to the chocolate industry.

To celebrate, we split a Hershey’s bittersweet chocolate with almonds bar. I am not a fan of dark chocolate, and found it much too bitter (truth in advertising!) for my liking. Wouldn’t you know it, Tara liked it. For once, the tables were turned. I think this would have been better used in baking rather than eaten plain.

National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

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295/365: National Nut Day

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. If you don’t, today’s not your day. October 22 is National Nut Day!

National Nut Day has been around for a long time in the U.S. A few years ago, it spread across the pond when Liberation Foods Company, a U.K.-based organization run by and devoted to supporting small farmers and nut gatherers in some of the world’s poorest countries, “imported” the holiday to England as a way to raise awareness for nuts while promoting a healthy lifestyle. The British take it very seriously, with an official website and a nationwide public awareness campaign. Talk about a noble cause. Here in good ol’ America, few people probably realize today is devoted to going nuts. But they should: nuts are healthy and nutritious, and are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is believed that a handful a day can help prevent heart disease. There are many varieties of nuts, some meeting the true botanical definition (acorns, chestnuts, hazelnuts, palm nuts) and others considered culinary nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, and peanuts). What’s the difference? Let’s ask Wikipedia!

A nut in botany is a simple dry fruit with one seed (rarely two) in which the ovary wall becomes very hard (stony or woody) at maturity, and where the seed remains attached or fused with the ovary wall. A nut in cuisine is a much less restrictive category than a nut in botany, as the term is applied to many seeds that are not botanically true nuts. Any large, oily kernels found within a shell and used in food are commonly called nuts.

Clear? Good! We had a tough time deciding how to celebrate. We’ve already paid homage to many different types of nuts this year, including peanuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds, pralines, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts. They’re all good! We finally decided the best way to honor nuts, plural, was to sample from a can of mixed nuts. It’s recommended you eat a handful a day, and that’s precisely what we did. The can included peanuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, filberts, and pecans. All good stuff!

National Nut Day

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264/365: National Pecan Cookie Day

You won’t have to delete your browsing history to enjoy today’s cookies. September 21 is National Pecan Cookie Day!

We’ve already done this holiday. Kind of. June 23 was National Pecan Sandies Day, and what better type of pecan cookie is there? Speaking of the nuts, I’ve already discussed their background on the first of 2 (!) National Pecan Days. You can say we’ve done more than our fair share of honoring pecans already this year, so all that’s left to talk about is pronunciation. Is it pea-can, pea-con, puh-can, puh-con? This is one of those classic potato/po-tah-to quandaries. I’ve always said pea-con, but I’m not from the South, so for all I know I could be wrong.

Do any regular readers have any questions for us regarding the challenge? Now’s a good time to ask! Gotta do something to fill up all this blank space.

To celebrate, Tara and I picked up a package of Pepperidge Farms’ Dark Chocolate Pecan cookies. These guys never disappoint with their cookies!

National Pecan Cookie Day

Categories: Desserts, Nuts | Tags: , | 4 Comments

247/365: National Macadamia Nut Day

You’ll be saying “mahalo” when you learn about today’s food holiday. September 4 is National Macadamia Nut Day!

When you think of macadamia nuts, your mind probably wanders to the sandy, tropical shores of Hawaii. And with good reason: the Aloha State is the world’s largest exporter of macadamia nuts, churning out 95% of the world’s crop. Despite this close association, the buttery-flavored nut is actually native to the land of kangaroos, koala bears, and Paul Hogan. That’s right: it comes from Texas! Err…Australia, mate. Specifically, the rain forests near Queensland. Aborigines have been eating the seeds of this evergreen tree, known as gyndl or jindilli, for thousands of years. In 1857, a botanist named Baron Ferdinand von Mueller (hmm, do you think he was German?) named the nut after his friend, Dr. John Macadam, a well-renowened scientist and secretary to the Philosophical Institute of Australia. I’m not so sure that was a compliment, though? Sadly, Macadam died while sailing on a ship to sample the nut named after him. In 1881, William Purvis introduced macadamia nuts to Hawaii, where the trees were intended to serve as windbreaks for sugarcane. Nowadays, a trip to Hawaii is incomplete without a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. Production has fallen in recent years due to oversupply, with areas like California and Australia beginning to shell out (pun intended) more of the tasty nuts.

Growing up in Hawaii, I am very familiar with macadamia nuts. To celebrate, we had white chocolate macadamia nut cookies – one of my favorite flavor combinations!

National Macadamia Nut Day

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193/365: National Pecan Pie Day

If you’re a little bit nuts, you’ll be proud to partake in today’s food holiday. July 12 is National Pecan Pie Day!

First off, in order to make sure you’re pronouncing things correctly, here’s a clip of Harry teaching Sally how to correctly order pecan pie.

Oh, how I love that movie.

Pecan is a Native American word used to describe any nut that requires a stone to crack. Which means that a pecan is a pecan, and a walnut is also a pecan, but a peanut is not a pecan.

Far out, man.

Pecan trees are the only nut trees native to North America. They originated in the central and eastern parts of the country, and were favored by pre-Colonial Americans because of their close proximity to natural waterways, their smooth and buttery flavor, and the fact that they weren’t “a tough nut to crack,” which is more than I can say about some of my ex-girlfriends. Every autumn, Native Americans would gather pecans to make a fermented drink called Powcohicora. They would then sit around a blazing hearth and get silly-ass drunk off of nut juice. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were so enamored of pecans, they planted trees in their gardens. New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, became a crucial hub for marketing and distributing pecans throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. French immigrants living in that city baked the first pecan pie, and the Karo company popularized the dessert by including pecan pie recipes on bottles of their corn syrup. It soon became a Southern staple, particularly around Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving may be months away yet, but that didn’t stop Tara and I from sharing a slice of pecan pie today. For breakfast. Neither of us had ever had it before. It was a little sweet for my tastes, and definitely had a maple flavor…which actually made it perfect with a cup of coffee. 

National Pecan Pie Day

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175/365: National Pralines Day

Today’s food holiday is a little bit sweet and a little bit nutty. June 24 is National Pralines Day!

A praline is essentially a pecan that has been boiled in sugar until it turns crisp and brown. In some parts of the world, almonds are used. Pralines are popular additions to cookies, candy, ice cream, and chicken noodle soup.

Pralines are French in origin, and were named after the 17th century diplomat César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin. Talk about a mouthful. Dude-with-a-long-name’s personal chef, Clement Lassagne, actually created pralines after watching children scavenging leftover scraps of almonds and caramel from one of his pastries. Other versions of this story exist. In one, he followed the children, who had stolen almonds and heated them over a candle, caramelizing them. Or, one of his klutzy apprentices knocked over a container of almonds into a vat of caramel. Whatever the true story, pralines caught the fancy of many, and even though dude-with-a-long-name gets all the credit, Lassagne didn’t do too badly for himself. He opened a candy shop in France called Maison du Praslin which is still around to this day.

Pralines made their way with French settlers to New Orleans. Because almonds were in short supply, cooks began substituting nuts from Louisiana’s abundant pecan trees instead. Women who sold pralines on the streets of the French Quarter were known as Pralinières and were given the unique opportunity to sell their wares in order to earn a living. Women who sold “other things” on the streets of the French Quarter earned a living in other ways, but we won’t discuss that since this is a family blog. Since New Orleans was a busy port city, pralines spread around the country, and became a popular confection nationwide.

To celebrate the mighty praline, we stopped by Baskin Robbins for pralines and cream flavored ice cream. I had never had it before, and I’m not exaggerating at all when I say it was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had!

National Pralines Day

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104/365: National Pecan Day

Today is Groundhog Day! Well, not really, but it sure feels like it. Because we celebrate National Pecan Day. Even though we already celebrated National Pecan Day on March 25. Early on, we were warned there were a few duplicate holidays. Several are devoted to potatoes. There’s even a second Coq au Vin Day. Honoring a food more than once seems like overkill, especially when there are plenty of deserving foods that do not have their own holiday yet. Like Spam.Deja Vu

And it also presents a dilemma. I’ve already cracked my jokes and shared the history of the food. I don’t want to repeat myself, so if you are interested in the background of pecans, click on the link above.

In the meantime, I guess we’ll just keep this post really short and let you know how we indulged in the tasty nut this time around. A few weeks ago, we celebrated joint holidays and made pecan waffles. Had I known then that pecans had another day coming up, I’d have just gone with the waffles. Instead of enjoying them for breakfast, this time around we indulged in dessert. Tillamook Caramel Butter Pecan ice cream, to be exact. If you’re not from around these parts, you are missing out. Tillamook is an Oregon creamery known for their cheese and other wonderful dairy products. The ice cream is no exception. I believe this was the first flavor I ever tried, and remains one of my favorites.

Caramel Butter Pecan Ice Cream

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92/365: National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day

Whenever you find yourself in a sticky jam, relax and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This childhood favorite is tasty, nutritious, and evokes fond memories for many of us. We are happy to celebrate National PB&J Day today!

Once upon a time, all you could get was a J sandwich: jelly has been around since the 15th century, while peanut butter didn’t make an appearance until late in the 19th century. In 1884, Marcellus Edson of Toronto filed a patent for a peanut paste “with a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment.” Dr. Ambrose Stroud of St. Louis decided that this peanut paste would be a great way of providing protein to elderly patients without teeth, and developed a machine that produced a more palatable version of peanut butter, which he patented in 1903. In the early 1900s, peanut butter was considered a delicacy, and could only be found in upscale tearooms in New York City, a favorite of the upper class (and those lucky toothless bastards in Missouri). Peanut butter was paired with many different ingredients early on, including cheese, pimento, celery, and watercress; in 1901, Julia Davis Chandler published a recipe for a PB&J sandwich, and a classic combination was born. By the 1920s, the price of peanut butter had dropped enough that it was no longer relegated to the filthy stinkin’ rich – even average citizens with teeth could enjoy the sticky treat. It became a favorite of children everywhere, and during World War II, both peanut butter and jelly were on the official military rations list.

I remember the first time I tried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We were living in Hawaii, and I was 4 or 5 years old. The lady who owned the house where we lived took a liking to me and my brother, and made us PB&J sandwiches one day. This was a novelty to me: for some reason, my mom was more into bologna or tuna. I thought this sandwich was creamy, sweet, and delicious, and it became the first of many for me. Then again, everybody loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Right?

Not happy that today is National PB&J Day.

Not happy that today is National PB&J Day.

Ahh, Tara. One of the few people I know who is not enamored with peanut butter and jelly. To “celebrate,” she had peanut butter on a celery stick and toast with jelly.

As for me? I was always partial to chunky peanut butter and grape jelly, spread between two slices of white bread. So that was my lunch!


Categories: Fruit, Nuts | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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