Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April Foodie Holidays: Week 4

April 22 - Jelly Bean Day
April 23 - Cherry Cheesecake Day, Picnic Day
April 24 - Pigs-in-a-Blanket Day
April 25 - Zucchini Bread Day, DNA Day
April 26 - Pretzel Day
April 27 - Prime Rib Day
April 28 - Blueberry Pie Day
April 29 - Shrimp Scampi Day
April 30 - Oatmeal Cookie Day

Jelly beans are a fairly recent confection (at least in terms of food history), having been around since the mid-1800s. The Jelly Belly brand of beans came into prominence when Ronald Regan was in the White House, as he favored them specifically.

Depending on where you live, April 23rd may still be too chilly to enjoy a picnic outside, but there's also cherry cheesecake for that day, so you're still covered. 

Having a recipe for zucchini bread comes in handy later in the summer, when that one zucchini plant in your garden is producing way more than you ever considered it might. This one is from my mother's mother: 

DNA Day marks the day the Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Franklin published their paper in Nature on the structure of DNA. There has been a fairly recent trend in genealogy to make use of this science to better understand lineage. It's not a cheap test, generally $100 and up depending on how much information you want, but it can be a really interesting one. (When I win the lottery, I'll probably do this, but until then... it's not a priority.)

I love oatmeal raisin cookies, but my husband prefers them with chocolate chips (weird). I'm working on a recipe for oatmeal bacon cookies, that the first trial was a huge success according to a friend of mine. Here's the recipe my mother-in-law gave me when I was compiling our cookbook: 

Oatmeal Cookies

1 C. brown sugar
1 C. sugar
1 C. oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 C. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 C. oatmeal
chocolate chips or nuts as desired

Directions: Cream the sugars and oil together. Add vanilla. Add the dry ingredients except oatmeal and mix well. Add oatmeal gradually. Stir in chocolate chips or nuts as desired. Drop in spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350ºF for about 10 minutes until golden.

Available at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April Foodie Holidays: Week 3

April 15 - Glazed Ham Day
April 16 - Eggs Benedict Day
April 17 - Cheese Ball Day, Ellis Island Family History Day
Apri; 18 - Animal Crackers Day
April 19 - Garlic Day, Amaretto Day
April 20 - Pineapple Upside-down Cake Day
April 21 - Chocolate Covered Cashews Day

Cheese balls may have their origins in the Southern United States, and are frequently made as a party food at Christmas or for other gatherings.

I'm pretty sure that's my aunt's handwriting, but the paper it's written
on is from the car dealership her dad (my Papaw) worked at before
he retired. Things like this will help you research family history
because it will tell you where they were at that point in time.
Also on April 17th, is Ellis Island Family History Day. Did your ancestors come through Ellis Island? Use the Ellis Island search form and find out!
Ellis Island Family History Day was first celebrated on April 17, 2001 to commemorate the opening of the American Family Immigration History Center® at Ellis Island and its companion website: www.ellisisland.org.

Animal crackers were originally imported from England in the late 1800s, but were so popular in the U.S. that companies began making them domestically. The "Barnum's Animals," named for the circus, didn't appear until 1902. The string on the box was so that they could be hung on the Christmas tree, as they were produced as a holiday treat. It was so popular, that the packaging persists even today.

Pineapple Upside-down Cake is a particular favorite of mine. Mom always asked us what kind of cake we wanted for our birthdays. For my 21st, I requested pineapple upside-down cake. Mom got creative since you can't frost it, used crushed pineapple instead of rings, and used the cherries to create the number 21.

Available at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April Foodie Holidays: Week 2

April 8 - Empanada Day
April 9 - Chinese Almond Cookie Day
April 10 - Cinnamon Crescent Day
April 11 - Cheese Fondue Day
April 12 - Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day
April 13 - Peach Cobbler Day
April 14 - Pecan Day

Celebrate your Spanish and Portuguese heritage with empanadas! These are similar to Cornish pasties, and may trace their long food history all the way to Indian samosas. There are so many national variants of this portable food!

Or maybe you come from a Swiss background -- fondue originates from Switzerland.

For a slightly less messy way to enjoy melted cheese, there's grilled cheese sandwiches. Even though this seems to be a ubiquitous kid's meal, there are plenty of ways to enjoy grilled cheese that are not so simple. Add different cheeses, add meat, add herbs and spices, add a slice of tomato -- it doesn't have to be American cheese on white bread! My favorite is Colby cheese and bacon bits.

Cobblers seem to have originated in the British American colonies, and were made with biscuit dough or dumplings cooked on top of a hot filling. (Crisps and crumbles differ from cobblers by the oats used in the crust.) There are many regional variations and names for this dessert. Which does your family use?

Pecans are native to the North America. My dad's mother's recipe for pecan pie calls for "butter the size of a walnut." If you have recipes like that, measure that "walnut-sized" lump and include the measurement in your cookbook, along with the original instructions. While "2 Tbsp butter" may be easier or more accurate, "butter the size of a walnut" is more charming, don't you think?

Available at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Foodie Holidays: Week 1

As I mentioned previously, the daily posts were killing me so I'm moving to a weekly format.
April 1 - Sourdough Bread Day
April 2 - Peanut Butter and Jelly Day
April 3 - Chocolate Mousse Day
April 4 - Cordon Bleu Day
April 5 - Deep Dish Pizza Day
April 6 - Caramel Popcorn Day
April 7 - Coffee Cake Day

Cordon Bleu means "blue ribbon" in French, but the dish made with chicken or veal, ham and Swiss cheese was developed in the United States, not France, and it has nothing to do with the Cordon Bleu cooking school.

Deep dish pizza is a Chicago invention, and Uno's takes credit for it. Prepare to wait a while when you order it at their restaurants, for a couple of reasons. One, it takes a while just to get a table downtown; two, that pie takes a while to bake.

I worked at Karmelkorn one summer in college. It was a pretty fun, if hot and sticky, job, and I loved the cotton candy machine. After I left that job and we graduated (got married, moved), I developed my own recipe for making caramel popcorn on a much smaller scale.

Caramel Popcorn

1 bag microwave popcorn
1/2 stick butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
3/4 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
generous pinch of baking soda

Directions: Pop the popcorn and remove unpopped kernels. Place in large bowl, bigger than you think you'll need – I use a 5-qt. metal bowl. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter and add the sugar and corn syrup. Boil gently. You want the sugar to burn a little. The longer you leave it cooking, the "darker" your caramel will taste, but don't overdo it.
When the mixture starts to smell like it's burning, remove from heat, and add the baking soda, mixing well -- this will make the sugar mixture a little foamy. Pour over the popcorn and toss to coat it evenly using a long-handled spoon. Be careful: this is HOT! Once the corn is coated, you can either turn it out onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and break into smaller pieces as it cools, or sit down with your favorite movie and enjoy! Store any leftovers in an airtight container.
Variation: Use molasses instead of corn syrup and make Cracker Jacks!

Available at Amazon.