Posts Tagged With: Fruit and Vegetable

336/365: National Fritters Day

Don’t fritter away the day without enjoying a tasty, delectable fried treat. December 2 is National Fritters Day!

If you’re wondering haven’t they already done this before? then you have an excellent memory. Back in July we celebrated National Corn Fritters Day. Oh man, those were good! And simple to make. Fritters can consist of basically anything dredged in batter and fried in oil. Fruits, vegetables, and meat can all be turned into fritters; some of the more popular varieties include potato fritters, apple fritters, banana fritters, pineapple fritters, and zucchini fritters. Even crab cakes are technically considered a type of fritter, as is tempura.

Growing up, my mom used to make apple fritters. These were an amazing blend of sweetness and tartness, and a favorite childhood treat. I hadn’t had in at least 25 years…until a few months ago, when she surprised us with a batch. In retrospect, I know why she did this. We had had my parents over for dinner the evening we served corn fritters, and the following exchange occurred on the blog:

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 2.42.07 PM

Well, it really wasn’t. I swear. But not long after, she made those apple fritters. Which were every bit as delicious as I remembered. The moral of the story? You can’t go wrong with a fritter.

I was torn between making those apple fritters, and the corn fritters we enjoyed last time. In the end, the fact that tomorrow is National Apple Pie Day swayed me toward the savory ones. Only this time, we added more ingredients to our original recipe (follow the link above), and I’m calling them Southwest Corn and Green Chile Fritters. They’ve also got diced onion, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and were delicious dipped in a green chili verde sauce.

National Fritters Day

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Categories: Snacks | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

250/365: National Acorn Squash Day

I don’t mean to step on any toes today, but we are going to celebrate a quintessential autumn dish. September 7 is National Acorn Squash Day!

You probably think acorn squash is a vegetable. That’s the kind of thinking that’ll get you tossed off the island, mister! (If you were on an island and you’re a man). Fact is, much like the tomato, it’s technically a fruit dressed up like a vegetable. In other words, an impostor. Squash is indigenous to North and Central America, and was one of the staple food items of Native Americans, along with beans, corn, and strawberry Jell-O. Named for it’s shape – that’d be an acorn, not a corn – acorn squash is related to zucchini, but much smaller in size. It’s typically dark green with a splash of orange, and has distinctive ridges across its surface. The flesh is yellow-orange and sweet. Acorn squash is best baked, and often served stuffed. It can also be sauteed or steamed. Just be sure to remove the fibers and stems before cooking. Unless you happen to like fibers and stems. If that’s the case, go ahead and leave ’em in. It’s your digestive tract. Other names for this fruit include winter squash, žalud squash, agern squash, ng bunga ng oak kalabasa, courge poivrée, eichelkürbis, makk squash, acorn leiðsögn, squash dearcán, squash ghianda, zīle drūzmēties, gilė skvošas, Żołądź squash, abóbora, ghindă squash, calabaza, acorn boga, ekollonsquash, meşe palamudu kabak, and sboncen fesen.

We had never tried acorn squash before, though I buy it almost every year. Like candy corn, it’s a festive way to celebrate fall (and Halloween). I often have decorative gourds on display. We baked it, with a little butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup – the recipe follows – and served it as a side dish with some fried chicken and potato salad. We were both amazed by how delicious it tasted!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Acorn squash
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Maple Syrup
  • Dash of Salt

1 Preheat oven to 400°F.

2 Using a strong chef’s knife, and perhaps a rubber mallet to help, cut the acorn squash in half, lengthwise, from stem to end. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff in the center of each half. Score the insides of each half several times with a sharp knife. Place each half in a baking pan, cut side up. Add about a 1/4 inch of water to the bottom of the baking pan so that the skins don’t burn and the squash doesn’t get dried out.

3 Coat the inside of each half with 1/2 a Tbsp of butter. Add a dash of salt if you are using unsalted butter. Add a Tbsp of brown sugar to the cavity of each half. Dribble on a teaspoon of maple syrup to each half.

4 Bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the squash is very soft and the tops are browned. Do not undercook. When finished, remove from oven and let cool a little before serving. Spoon any buttery sugar sauce that has not already been absorbed by the squash over the exposed areas.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4, depending on how much squash you like to eat.

IMAG1447

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

220/365: National Zucchini Day*

Squash your plans to eat any other vegetables today: unless they’re long and green, they just don’t measure up. August 8 is National Zucchini Day!

It’s also National Frozen Custard Day, and that presented us with an interesting dilemma: there’s a frozen custard joint in town that churns out delicious, creamy frozen custard. But, with so many desserts on the calendar, whenever the opportunity arises to have something that isn’t sweet, we jump on it. Sure enough, the healthy choice beat out the far more decadent choice, and we decided to honor zucchini (which tend to get far too little respect this time of year anyway, growing to inordinately large sizes and ending up dumped on unsuspecting neighbors’ doorsteps in alarming numbers).

The truth is, like tomatoes and Carmen Miranda’s hat, zucchini are technically a fruit, not a vegetable. I actually failed to mention this fact on National Zucchini Bread Day, but did cover the history of the squash itself, so click on the link if you want to know how/where it originated.

We didn’t want to repeat ourselves and bake zucchini bread again, so we got more creative this time. I like the challenges where we repurpose the main ingredient in unexpected ways, straying from the obvious. We made pork and chicken fajitas for dinner, and added sliced zucchini to our vegetable mix (peppers, onions, and mushrooms). Traditional Mexican? Not at all, but that didn’t matter a bit. It was delicious!

National Zucchini Day

Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

168/365: National Eat Your Vegetables Day

What’s this? A healthy food holiday tucked in amongst all the desserts this month?! Be still my heart! (Or, more accurately, keep beating). June 17 is National Eat Your Vegetables Day!

After a plethora of pies and a crapload of cakes, has broccoli ever looked so beautiful? Peas so pleasing? Spinach so scrumptious? Chances are, you’ll only appreciate this holiday if you’re a grownup. Kids tend to dislike veggies, and as a youngster, I was no exception. There were a few vegetables I didn’t mind. Corn, for starters, but isn’t that pretty universal? Corn hardly “counts” as a veggie. I did always appreciate canned spinach and peas, and never minded green beans or asparagus, but there was one vegetable I hated with a passion and avoided at all costs.

Broccoli.

I was not alone in my contempt for this relative of the cabbage with the flowery head and the tough stalk. Show me a kid who says he or she likes broccoli, and I’ll call that person a liar. Former President George Bush Sr. famously declared a hatred for broccoli, and I’m convinced that’s the one and only reason I voted for him in 1988. (That was the only time I ever voted for a Republican President in my life. Can’t be a coincidence). For me, the texture as much as the taste turned my stomach. Those little flowery pieces on top always seemed to get stuck in my throat and make me gag.

And then, a funny thing happened. I started to not mind broccoli so much. I think this started out slowly. A spoonful of broccoli cheddar soup here, a random floret that accidentally got impaled on my fork when I was eating broccoli beef there. One day, I discovered I could eat it without gagging. Before long, I found I actually liked the flavor. I still don’t know how that happened. I know our tastes “mature” as we age, but I’ve never started liking watermelon or cauliflower. Broccoli, on the other hand, is delicious. Some people cover it in butter or drown it in cheese. I feel like that’s cheating. Tara steams hers with chicken broth instead of water, and it’s fantastic.

For National Eat Your Vegetables Day, we had to celebrate with broccoli. It was wonderful!

National Eat Your Vegetables Day

Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

110/365: National Lima Bean Respect Day*

For the record, I like beans. Let me rephrase that: I like most beans. Lima beans, however, are one of the few varieties I can’t stand. Not only do I not like them, but I absolutely do not respect them. So when I learned that April 20 was National Lima Bean Respect Day, I thought, no way is that happening. Especially since it’s also National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day. P.U.D. Cake is something I most certainly do respect. But then, the more I thought about it, I started to realize that the whole point of this food blog is to embrace the challenges and try new things. It would be easy to celebrate P.U.D. Cake, but there’s nothing adventurous in that. I thought it would be fun instead to celebrate a food both Tara and I despise. It took some convincing for her to agree, but in the end she was on board.

Lima beans, also known as butter beans, were first cultivated in Peru around 6000 B.C. They were discovered by European explorers in the capital city of Lima, which they were named after. They were discovered to have a long shelf life – rivaling even Twinkies! – and became a popular food item for ships setting out on long ocean voyages. They arrived on America’s shores sometime in the 19th century. Lima beans have excellent health benefits: they are high in fiber, which lowers cholesterol and prevents blood sugar levels from rising too quickly following a meal, making them an excellent protein source for diabetics; and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including iron, manganese, and molybdenum. Beans, beans, good for the heart? In this case, very true.

Too bad they taste like crap.

Oops. That wasn’t very charitable of me. I’m not helping the cause at all, am I?

We bought a bag of frozen vegetables advertised as an “Italian mix.” It contained carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and lima beans. We picked those out and ate them separately. I found them very starchy, and Tara said they had little flavor. However, we both agreed that they weren’t as bad as we’d thought.

“Not as bad as we’d thought.” Does that count as newfound respect?

We weren't happy that we had to eat lima beans.

We weren’t happy that we had to eat lima beans.

Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

85/365: National Spinach Day

I’ll POP you in the EYE if you aren’t strong enough to celebrate today’s food holiday. March 26 is National Spinach Day!

Spinach originated in Persia (modern-day Iran) in ancient times. Indian traders brought it to India and China, where it was known as “Persian green.” It is still called this today, though I’d feel funny walking into a public market and asking for Persian green. I might get arrested or something. It made its way next to Sicily, and became so popular in the Mediterranean it was christened the “captain of leafy greens” in Spain, an honorary title that really pissed off kale. It was introduced to Europe in the 14th century, and was such a hit with Catherine de’ Medici, the Queen of France in 1533, that she insisted on eating it with every meal. Nowadays, spinach dishes are known as “Florentine” reflecting Catherine’s birthplace of Florence, Italy. In the U.S., spinach gained popularity in the 1930s thanks to Popeye the Sailor Man, who was portrayed as gaining strength anytime he ate spinach. This was actually based on a misunderstanding; in the 1870s German scientist Emil von Wolff misplaced a decimal point when measuring the iron content of spinach, making it appear that spinach contained ten times the amount of iron it really did. “Oh well,” von Wolff said later, nonapologetic. “I yam what I yam.”

Spinach is one of those vegetables that a lot of kids wrinkle their noses over, but growing up I loved the stuff. Or rather, the canned stuff. Heated up and sprinkled with salt? That was a childhood fave! I remember the first time I tried “real” spinach. I was like, what on earth is THIS?! It resembled lettuce more than anything from a can. Disappointed though I was, I still liked it.

How to make green eggs.

How to make green eggs.

There was no eating spinach from a can today, though. Tara has a great way of preparing it, and I’ll let her talk about that.

A gal I work with mentioned she makes ‘green eggs and ham’ for her daughters a few times a week.  Rather than dye the eggs with green food coloring, she blends baby spinach with eggs and scrambles them up.  Served with crumbled turkey bacon and a little bit of shredded cheese, it’s an often requsted favorite of her youngsters.  Since I had just bought a Magic Bullet and there was fresh spinach leftover from Mark’s last batch of Italian Wedding Soup (something he SHOULD be making today…hint, hint, babe) I wanted to try the green eggs for myself.  I’m glad I did because they really are delicious and nutritious.  After blending the spinach and eggs for a few minutes, the mixture will be very frothy.  This is a good thing because it makes for light and fluffy eggs and the spinach flavor is very subtle.  Paired with a whole wheat english muffin and some orange slices, it’s an easy, healthy breakfast I can throw together quickly, even when we’re running late.  Sorry about leaving all those dirty dishes, sweetie!

No problem, darling. That’s why they invented dishwashers!

I do love Tara’s green eggs, and have become addicted to them myself. This is also a fun, great way to sneak a serving of vegetables onto a kid’s plate…they’ll never even taste the spinach. And if they balk, tell them it’ll make ’em big and strong. Just like Popeye.

IMAG0663

Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

48/365: National Cabbage Day*

Happy February 17th! There are three holidays on the ol’ food calendar today: National Indian Pudding Day, National Cafe Au Lait Day, and National Cabbage Day. When given an option we’re likely to avoid a dessert, since there are so many. And drinking coffee is too easy. So, we opted today to celebrate National Cabbage Day.

Do you know where cabbage grows? In a cabbage patch, dolls and guys.

(See what I did there?)

Wild cabbage existed long before creepy looking dolls, first appearing in England. It was cultivated and domesticated around 1000 B.C. and spread throughout Europe, where it grew very well in the cool northern climate. Greeks and Romans believed cabbage had medicinal properties, and could help those suffering from gout, headaches, and poisonous mushroom ingestion. Dutch sailors went so far as using sauerkraut to prevent scurvy. By the 17th century it became a food staple in many countries, including Germany and Russia, and is in fact considered Russia’s National Food (a fact which surprises me…I’d have guessed beets). Cabbage is considered a good cash crop due to its short growing season (three months). It can be used in many different ways: from eaten raw to steamed, pickled, sauteed, stewed, and braised. But the reward for Oddest Use Of Cabbage Ever goes to baseball legend Babe Ruth, who wore a cabbage leaf beneath his cap during games in order to keep his head cool. He would switch it out for a new leaf every two innings. I’m not sure what he did with the old leaf, but I gotta admit it wouldn’t totally surprise me if he just ate it.

Cabbage is closely related to broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel’s sprouts, and my aunt Nancy. Interestingly, I despise cauliflower and Brussel’s sprouts, but am quite fond of broccoli and cabbage. (And my aunt Nancy, too).

Given the variety of preparation methods, we could have gone in a dozen different directions for this challenge. In the end, Tara made fish tacos topped with a mixture of onions, Anaheim chilies, and strips of raw cabbage. The crunchiness of the cabbage perfectly complemented the soft chewiness of the fish and the kicked-up tartar sauce. It was delicious, and the cabbage was a perfect accompaniment.

Cabbage on fish taco

Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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