National Oranges and Lemons Day

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At first: This struck me as an odd holiday.  Which is odd in itself because to everyone who is not me all of these holidays strike them as odd.  I just felt like why single out two great citrus fruits and pair them together?  Stranger also, all I could think about when I read Oranges and Lemons was a cake.  I was going to just eat an orange and a lemon, but it felt so unsatisfactory.  I needed to use orange oil and lemon oil, and bake a cake.  I make an orange cake with a lemon frosting.  It perfectly met my needs!

Upon further investigation:  I learned of an old English nursery rhyme entitled Oranges and Lemons.  So the pairing is a little less unusual for me.

Regardless, Oranges and Lemons are two or the most popular citrus fruits.  Celebrate either eating them, cleaning with them, or singing their folk song.  Anyway you choose, I’m sure it will be a fantastic holiday.

National ‘Tater Day

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Since there have been so many different Potato related food holidays, I figured instead of repeating myself with histories and what not I would share a great ‘tater recipe.

Potato Croquettes!

If you’re looking for something just a bit fancier than your standard old mashed potato with tonight’s dinner this is a great and simple recipe to try.  After making your typical mashed potatoes (potato, milk, butter) you add one egg to the mix.  Mix it up real well.  Then add any seasonings you wish.  Possibilities include: onion powder, grated cheese, garlic, red pepper, basil.  Spice it up to your personal tastes.  Then add some bread crumb.  I use half unseasoned, and half Italian seasoned breadcrumb.  You want to add just enough to make the potato mixture firm.  It will still be a bit sticky, but not as much as your typical mashed potatoes. I generally use 1 cup total (1/2 cup of seasoned, and 1/2 cup of unseasoned) for approx 4 servings of mashed potatoes.  But you’ll notice the consistency change as you do it, don’t try and measure it to a science because it will be different every time.  Once your seasonings, egg, and potatoes are mixed together well, and you feel as though you have a nice mushy product that can easily be rolled out, pour a little bread crumb into a shallow dish.  Grab some potatoes and roll it between your hands to make a log shape, the mix should still be mushy but be able to hold its shape.  Roll the potato in the bread crumb to coat and then place on an oiled (olive oil) baking sheet. As you place the croquettes on the baking sheet you can roll them in the olive oil a bit as well.  It isn’t necessary but it helps with crisping.   –  If you have mozzarella or provolone cheese you can cut it into rectangles, and roll your potato around the cheese before breading for a delicious variation.

Potato Croquettes are typically fried, but they come out equally as delicious if baked properly and healthier too.  Not to mention 1000x easier.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place a rack at the bottom of the oven, cooking it at a high temperature at the bottom of the oven allows the breading to get crispy as it bakes, the way it would if you were frying them.  I bake eggplant, and mozzarella the same way.  Put the tray in and bake 9-10 on one side, then flip em over and bake 8-9 minutes on the other side.

They’re delicious as a side dish for any meal you would typically have mashed potatoes with.  And they stand alone as a snack too!  Especially if you decide to try the cheese filling.  I like to dip them in marinara sauce.

Bon Appetite!

National Clams In A Half Shell Day

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Clams in a Half Shell are typically eaten raw, served on ice.  I wasn’t about to try that today.  I found a nice baked Clam on a Half Shell recipe with breadcrumb, garlic, and parsley.

Littleneck clams and cherrystone clams are two popular clams for preparing at home.  Clams can be very difficult to ‘shuck’ (open).  You need to properly hold the clam between your palm and fingers while jiggling in a clam knife.  Steaming the clam quickly will also open the shell up, but be careful because this might impede on your half shell recipe.

Clams are animals, they half a foot, a mouth, and a tongue basically.  They live to feed and reproduce, they are not very complex animals.  They have muscles and a digestive system.  No nervous system or brain.  People have been eating them for ages.  Civilization grew in areas near water, and plants and animals dwelling in water have always been on the menu.

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National Turkey Neck Soup Day

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The Turkey Neck it a part of the turkey with tough dark meat.  It’s hard to prepare, but it makes for the perfect soup stock.  Turkey Neck Soup is American in origin, and it was a soup made by lower classes.  It comes from the idea: ‘Less than weathy, Less than wasteful’.  Meaning, perhaps you wouldn’t want to have Turkey Neck soup, but when you’re not exactly wealthy you use everything you have.  Fortunately for the poor Turkey Necks give the soup an unbeatable flavor, the wealthy class didn’t know what they were missing!

The Turkey Neck actually has a lot of meat on it, it is just very very tough meat.  This means making soup from the Turkey Neck is a very time consuming effort.  You must boil the Turkey Necks for a long time for the fat and flavor to come out and tenderize the dark meat on the neck, until it begins to flake off and enter the soup.  You boil/simmer the Necks for two hours, then shred some of the meat off the bone, then add veggies, beans, rice, or what ever it is you want.  Let the soup cook for an hour or more to give it a good flavor, and then when you take it off heat you can even let it sit, covered, for a while before serving.

In my soup I added potatoes, mushrooms, celery, carrots, parsnips, bell pepper, tomato, turnips, bockchoy, fresh green beans, peas, onion, white beans, garlic, and I seasoned it with ginger, bay leaf, red pepper, paprika, thyme, tumeric, and a dash of corriander.  It was delicious!  And it is healthy for you.  A lot of cancer fighting soups use a turkey stock base, and a lot of health-conscious Chinese recipes have grown to use the Turkey Necks for a soup stock.

It can be difficult to find Turkey Necks in your supermarket depending on where you live.  But Shadeybrook Farms is a popular distributor or if you’re out of luck, you can always ask the butcher ahead of time.

National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day

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The chiffon cake was created by an insurance agent from Los Angeles named Harry Barker in 1927.  The chiffon cake was the first new type of cake to be developed in over 100 years.  To achieve a lighter consistency it uses oil instead of butter and, the key difference of the chiffon cake, it uses separated eggs where the whites are first beated with sugar instead of mixing the whole egg together.  These two steps give the cake a light airy nature, making it a happy medium between angel food cake and butter cakes.  Barker served his Chiffon cake at the Brown Derby restaurant and kept his recipe a secret.  Finally in 1947 he sold the recipe to General Mills who then published in in a 1948 issue of Better Homes and Gardens making it an instant success with home bakers.  Chiffon Cake was the poster recipe for the companies ad campaign to market their cake flour and vegetable oil.  With so much exposure and the fact it was a new type of cake chiffon cakes became increasingly popular and served at birthdays and most formal gatherings.  Almost any older cook book has at least one recipe for them.

National Something On A Stick Day

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Eating on a food on a stick may make you think of carnivals and corndogs and greasy junk food.  However, using sticks and skewers are a very old method of food preparation.  Satay is meat cooked on a skewer and in a lot of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking spiced beef is cooked and served on skewers.  Although I would have loved to have some Lebanese kafta today, I had to make due with what I had.  I had shrimp leftover from the Paella, and instead of letting them go to waste I prepared them on “sticks”.

Something On A Stick Day has a pretty large online following.  If you had something on a stick today and wanna celebrate nationally, check out this website: http://www.somethingonastick.com/

Skewers make for an easy preparation and a fun way to eat something.  From satay to spiced meat, kabob dinners to popsicle desserts, or fun carnival food (corndog, bananas, marshmallows) to crazy anything like grilled cheese on a stick.  Go out and enjoy your meal on a stick today.

National Black Forest Cake Day

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There are two German restaurants in my area.  I thought I would go out for a slice of cake with my friend and have a nice afternoon.  Alas, BOTH German places were closed.  I wasn’t sure if it was a typical thing?  I know back in the day it was common for a restaurant to be closed on a Monday, but this is 2011 where people live in constant demand.  So with no luck of sharing a well made authentic piece of Cake from the Black Forest Cafe, we managed to buy the last available Black Forest Cake from the bakery.  (Black Forest was a hot, rare item today it seems!  People must have known about the holiday).

It only seemed perfect to go on a picnic of sorts, where my friend Liz and I munch on the cake,whole, in the park.  It was a celebratorious snack and gathering!  We were even stopped by some man who told us he thought we were the greatest people he saw all month.  But enough about me, and more about the history of this cake:

The cake originated in Germany’s Black Forest region in the late 16th-century.  This was the time when people began to bake chocolate into cakes, and the idea seemed like a flavor revolution.  Chocolate as a flavor became extremely popular.  The Black Forest Cake, or Schwarzwalderkirschtorte as it is known in Germany, is a light chocolate cake layered with cherries and whipped cream flavored with kirschwasser, a cherry schnapps.  The Black Forest region is famous for theri sour cherries, and the dessert kind of resembles the traditional clothing wore by the woman of this regions.  A black dress with a white blouse decorated with red pom poms.

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