Posts Tagged With: Cooking

364/365: National Bicarbonate of Soda Day

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

358/365: National Egg Nog Day

If the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, it’s time to kick back in front of the tree and enjoy today’s perfectly appropriate and festive food holiday. December 24 is Christmas Eve, and Christmas Eve is National Egg Nog Day. What an excellent pairing.

Egg Nog is a sweetened beverage made with milk or cream, sugar, whipped eggs, and spices such as nutmeg. It is often mixed with liquor (brandy, rum, whiskey, bourbon, and vodka are all popular choices) and is closely associated with the Christmas holidays. Egg Nog is packed full of vitamins and antioxidants and is extremely low in calories and fat, making it a popular beverage choice for folks on a diet or those returning from a workout at the gym.

NOT.

But it sure is delicious! It is unknown where and when, exactly, the drink originated. It might be related to posset, a Medieval European beverage made with hot milk. “Nog” may come from noggin, a carved wooden mug used for serving alcohol. Or it could come from egg ‘n grog, a Colonial drink made with rum. An infamous Egg Nog Riot occurred in the U.S. Military Academy in 1826 when whiskey was smuggled into the barracks to make egg nog, resulting in twenty cadets and one enlisted soldier being court-martialed.

To celebrate, we made spiked egg nog to enjoy while watching that holiday classic, Bill Murray’s Scrooged. Tara added a splash of Presidente brandy – okay, more than a splash – to our nog, along with a sprinkle of nutmeg and served it over ice. Ho, ho, how delicious!

National Egg Nog Day

Categories: Alcohol, Beverages | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

356/365: National Date Nut Bread Day (Round 2)

Don’t forget to check your calendar, you crazy person, you! December 22 is National Date Nut Bread Day. (Apparently, the closer we get to the end, the more of a stretch these puns become).

And also, the less original the holidays, as we already celebrated National Date Nut Bread Day on September 8. I warned y’all back then we had another duplicate holiday! There were no alternatives back then, and there are none today. So we’ll add date nut bread to the list of duplicate food holidays.

With our challenge nearly over, I’m planning a special post afterwards, and would love to answer any questions you might have! The ones we most often hear are,

  1. What was the worst food you tried?
  2. What was the best?
  3. Which was the most difficult challenge to celebrate?

I’ll be answering all those, of course, but if you’ve got more – fire away! I’m also interested in knowing whether you’d see any value in turning this year’s challenge into a book. It would be a simple self-published Kindle edition costing no more than $2.99 or so. Be honest – my feelings won’t be hurt if you say no! I just need to know if it’s worth the effort to format and try selling. I also have friends in the app business (shout out to Heidi and Ross) who have approached us about making a National Food Holidays app based on the blog. It sounds like an intriguing idea to me. Thoughts?

But onto more important matters. That is, the date nut bread. Even though the holiday was a duplicate, the recipe was not. This time Tara tried a new recipe. It calls for soaking the dates in orange liqueur. ‘Nuff said!

National Date Nut Bread Day

Categories: Bread | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

274/365: National Homemade Cookies Day*

Bad news if you’re a Keebler elf: today’s holiday just might put you out of business. October 1 is National Homemade Cookies Day!

It’s also World Vegetarian Day, but when given the choice between cauliflower and cookies, that’s a no-brainer. I’ve talked about cookies many times in this blog already, so there’s no need to rehash any of that. There’s something about homemade cookies fresh from the oven that awakens the inner kid in us all. I remember visiting my great-grandparents in Trenton when I was a wee lad o’ 6 or 7; they would always put out a container of potato chips and a platter of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Those were the best: rich, slightly chewy, and bursting with flavor. Sadly, homemade cookies are sort of a lost art these days, with all the prepackaged stuff (not to mention the refrigerated dough that only requires you to slice into uniform circles and stick in the oven). Come on, folks…that’s not baking!

The art of making cookies from scratch.

The art of making cookies from scratch.

Tara happens to have some really good recipes for homemade cookies, so I turned all the prep work for this holiday over to her. She says…

It’s that time of year and I’ve been craving one of my favorite autumn season cookies; Pumpkin Chocolate Chip!  These cookies are special for me because I’m reminded of growing up in Springville, UT.  One of the local grocery stores sold these cookies only during certain times of the year…at least from what I remember (feel free to correct me, Mom). Anyway, we never had much money and it was always such a treat to splurge on those cookies.  And then I moved away, grew up, and got married.  For years I kept an eye out for them in the local stores and for any similar recipe in cookbooks.  It was four years before we got our first computer when I finally found the recipe I still use today. 

Pumpkin Cookies
from the kitchen of Elk Creek Ranch; Island Park, ID

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup veggie oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  Blend sugar, pumpkin, oil, and vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture.  Stir until smooth.  Add chocolate chips.  Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes.

National Homemade Cookie Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

241/365:National More Herbs, Less Salt Day*

Well-seasoned cooks will appreciate the challenge presented by today’s food holiday. August 29 is National More Herbs, Less Salt Day!

It’s also National Chop Suey Day and National Lemon Juice Day. Wow, lots going on today! We decided Chop Suey is too fake (it’s Americanized Chinese food, kind of like the fortune cookie) and lemon juice is too easy, so we’re increasing the herbs and putting down the salt shaker today.

More Herbs, Less Salt Day promotes a healthier lifestyle by encouraging us to use fresh herbs in place of salt, which – as wonderfully as it adds zip to food – isn’t the healthiest ingredient in the world, especially for those with high blood pressure. Granted, there are some foods that absolutely need salt. Certain cuts of meat benefit from a nice dose of salt to bring out their flavors, for instance. And for me at least, I can’t imagine eating popcorn without it. I tend to enjoy savory, zesty flavors, and salt is definitely a mainstay, though I try to keep it in moderation.

“Try” being the key word.

Great on cottage cheese...

Great on cottage cheese…

Interestingly, this is one of the few food holidays that was created by a company – specifically, Wellcat Holidays and Herbs, founded by Thomas and Ruth Roy – and is actually copyrighted. A note on their website says we are supposed to obtain permission to use their holidays in any fashion. Maybe we should have stuck with chop suey! No, I did not contact them first. I figure, I’m doing them a favor by generating free publicity!

Most herbs belong to either the mint family (basil, oregano, rosemary, sage) or the carrot family (dill, parsley, cilantro). Late August is an excellent time to celebrate this holiday, as fresh herbs are at their very peak. They have been used for centuries for cooking, medicinal, and even spiritual purposes. They are distinguishable from vegetables because they are used in small amounts and provide flavor, rather than substance, to food. They are nutritionally insignificant but a great way to boost, or enhance, flavors. Hence, today’s holiday!

...and on scrambled eggs, too!

…and on scrambled eggs, too!

To celebrate, Tara and I took different approaches. Tara dished up some cottage cheese and liberally added Mrs. Dash, probably the most well-known herb-based salt substitute out there. I scrambled up some eggs and did the same. I have to say, the cottage cheese was really good. Probably because it’s naturally salty. The eggs? Well…they needed salt. But I resisted! And we’ll make an effort through the remainder of the day, as well.

Categories: Too Weird to Categorize | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

138/365: National Cheese Souffle Day

There’s no need to feel deflated today, not when you’ve got the perfect excuse to enjoy a puffy, flaky, cheesy treat. May 18 is National Cheese Souffle Day!

Back in February, we celebrated National Chocolate Souffle Day by having a friendly little bake-0ff. In front of a live audience. It was our first (and only) interactive food challenge, and we had a blast. It doesn’t matter who won – the point is that we had fun! (Which, of course, means Tara won. Whatever). We were looking forward to repeating the challenge when cheese souffle day rolled around, only minus the streaming video feed this time. The camera was simply too distracting to me. We would, instead, rely on real-time Facebook posts charting our progress. Either way, I wanted an opportunity to avenge my initial souffle misdeeds and earn the title of Souffle King, which has (through a very odd childhood quirk) been a lifelong dream of mine.

And then, we learned that we would be in Seattle the day of the challenge. In an unfamiliar kitchen, with unfamiliar utensils and an unfamiliar oven. And busy as hell, to boot. So another interactive challenge seemed like too much trouble. It would be tricky enough just finding the time to make a cheese souffle in the first place. But persevere we must, regardless of the circumstances! So it was full speed ahead, strange kitchen or not. I was much more focused on my souffle this time. We mixed, we whipped, we stirred, and we baked. And in the end? Well, let’s take a look at some photos first.

Whisking action.

Whisking action.

Tara's recipe.

Tara’s recipe.

Waiting anxiously for some rising action.

Waiting anxiously for some rising action.

Mark's souffle doesn't look half bad!

Mark’s souffle doesn’t look half bad!

Souffle

Tara’s souffle is pretty impressive, too.

But in the end, there can be only one winner. And though the results were close – both souffles were delicious – in the end, the victory went to…surprisingly and shockingly, I’ll be the first to admit…Mark! So, HA! Redemption is mine. Mine, all mine. Tara’s sharp cheddar and garlic rose impressively and tasted great, but my gruyere and parmesan had a slight edge. Even according to Tara. Yes!!

Truthfully though, this was a lot of fun, and souffles are so technically challenging I’m just proud that both of us could make a souffle that rose impressively and tasted great. Good job, babe!

Categories: Pastry | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

131/365: National Eat What You Want Day

YES!!!

This is the holiday we’ve been waiting for. After 128 consecutive today-we-have-to-eat-this-because-it’s-on-the-calendar food holidays, we get a break and can have whatever we want. Talk about a novel concept. May 11 is National Eat What You Want Day!

This holiday was actually created as an intent to give dieters a break, and allow them to set aside one day in which they can indulge in any craving they’ve got and eat whatever they wanted, guilt-free. But it’s not limited to dieters – anybody can use today as an excuse to enjoy whatever their culinary hearts desire. Some people may gorge themselves on junk food, others might choose to splurge on a fancy meal in a restaurant, and others might decide to create from scratch a favorite childhood meal. However you celebrate today’s food holiday, the sky’s the limit. There are no rules: it’s all up to you!

Portland is known for their popular food cart scene. Mobile cuisine is all the rage, with food trucks offering everything from waffles and dumplings to Cuban pork mojo, Vietnamese bhan mi, and Hungarian paprikas. Tara and I were downtown for a trip to the farmer’s market, and decided to swing by our favorite food cart pod at 10th & Alder for lunch…where we proceeded to Eat What We Wanted. That meant fish ‘n chips for her and a porchetta sandwich with lemon arugula for me. We were both pretty pleased with our choices.

The People's Pig The Frying Scotsman

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

107/365: National Cheeseball Day

Much like fruitcake and Rodney Dangerfield, the food we are honoring today gets no respect. April 17 is National Cheeseball Day!

This kitschy party favorite has gotten a bad rap for years. New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser once wrote, “Cheese balls tend to be associated with shag rugs and tinsel, symbols of the middle-class middlebrow.” But wait. I happen to be a fan of all things ’70s – including shag rugs and tinsel! In fact, I received a box of tinsel as a Christmas gift last year, after complaining that I could no longer find it in stores. (Thanks, future mother-in-law!). Which probably explains why I was looking forward to celebrating the cheeseball.

Nobody knows its exact origins, but Virginia Safford’s 1944 cookbook Food of my Friends contains the first known recipe for a cheeseball. Typically made with a blend of cream cheese and another softened cheese, cheeseballs are popular party dips that, over the years, have fallen out of favor with the American public. This article has some great information as to why, and the explanation is right there in the opening paragraph: cheeseballs are viewed as “an orange softball filled with garish industrial cheeses, smacking of an untraceable sweetness, and coated with stale, often soggy, nuts.” But they don’t have to be this way! Recipes for gourmet versions are abundant. Even Martha freakin’ Stewart has come up with ways to class up the lowly cheeseball. So get on the bandwagon, folks! Let’s bring cheeseballs back into vogue!

Tara and I bought one from WinCo. Kaukauna brand. It was…well, it was a cheeseball. Maybe there’s a reason these things receive so much derision. It made an “okay” appetizer for dinner, anyway.

Cheeseball

Categories: Appetizers, Dairy | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

102/365: National Grilled Cheese Day*

You just might melt with desire over today’s food holiday. April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day – a favorite of kids and adults alike! At least these two adults. In fact, last year Tara and I did a grilled cheese challenge on my regular blog…long before this one ever got started. You can read about it here. Suffice it to say, we both love grilled cheese, and were happy to be able to celebrate it today.

For the record, it’s also National Licorice Day. We both despise licorice, so choosing which holiday to celebrate was a no brainer! Besides, not only is today National Grilled Cheese Day, but April is Grilled Cheese Month. How could we resist?

Bread and cheese have been served together at mealtime for centuries – a practice dating back to at least Roman times. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s – at least here in the U.S. – that the bread and cheese actually joined forces, when people who were flat-ass broke and struggling to survive the Great Depression took two inexpensive ingredients, sliced bread and American cheese, and turned them into a cheap meal. They were a staple of the armed forces during World War II; navy chefs prepared countless “American cheese filling sandwiches” aboard ship. Early versions of the sandwich were served open-faced and initially called Cheese Dreams, and then “toasted cheese” or “melted cheese” sandwiches, remaining popular well into the 1960s. That was when enterprising chefs realized they could add a second slice of bread and create a more filling meal, one that was capable of being eaten by hand. And also when they were first referred to as “grilled cheese” sandwiches. The very definition of comfort food, grilled cheese sandwiches fell out of vogue for a number of years, but starting in the 1990s have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. They can be made with any cheese that will melt, and an endless array of toppings (see link to our blog post above).

For today’s challenge, we kept it simple and went back to basics. Just bread and cheese (cheddar for Tara and American for moi). After all, why mess with perfection?

Grilled Cheese

Categories: Bread, Dairy | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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