Archive for category food holidays

National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day

Today is a hard holiday to complain about! I was thinking about getting ambitious and trying to make chocolate covered bacon, but G was deeply suspicious that this would work out, and I was secretly worried I might just like it too much.

So instead, I kept it healthy with dark-chocolate covered walnuts. I busted out my make-shift double boiler again, but luck doesn’t always strike twice. I was confused about why my chocolate was clumping up rather than melting, but then G took one look at the burner and told me the heat was too high. Sure enough, I turned things way down, and the chocolate melted smoothly. I added a little honey, then dropped in the walnuts.

They taste good as is, but I’m putting most of them on a plate to harden overnight. I’ll take a handful for a snack tomorrow, and I bet they’ll make a good yogurt topping.

Mmm, December holidays are ridiculously decadent.

P.S. George is still under the bed.

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Ice Cream and Violins Day

This one is a bit of a weird one, even for me. I decided to make a form of vegan ice cream while listening to violins, but thanks to the Metrodome collapse this weekend, the Vikings game was rescheduled for tonight. This meant that while I could get away with noisily running the food processor in short bursts, there was no way G could have handled listening to an orchestra as his men got squashed by the Giants.

Vegan "ice cream"

Vegan "ice cream"

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to try this VegFamily recipe for awhile. I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, but awhile back I was on a big banana kick. The trouble was fruit goes bad really fast in my apartment, so I was finding myself with an increasing supply of black bananas. So we froze them, and G made a couple of loaves of banana bread.

We still had leftovers, so I found the recipe for “ice cream” made from bananas and tonight was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. Cathe Olson is totally right–it was “better than ice cream,” in its own way. I packed almonds and frozen berries in with the frozen bananas, and food processed the hell out of it. I used coconut milk as the non-dairy milk. (I admit, I may have cheated if I had any dairy milk, but my kitchen it getting pretty bare, so the universe insured my concoction was animal product free.) It came out very creamy with nut and berry bits, and I kept heading back to the freezer for an extra spoonful. I know coconut milk is high in fat, but I’m positive this is a much healthier alternative overall than regular dairy ice cream. It’s definitely worth doing again.

A parting tip: Before freezing bananas, peel them! Otherwise, a vegetable peeler does the trick.

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National Sachertorte Day

 

Successful Sachertorte

Despite difficulties, ultimately successful Sachertorte

As we have well established by now, I am not a particularly proficient cook, and baking is probably my worst arena. So seeing that today was a celebration for a rather intimidating cake was, well, intimidating.

The sachertorte is a unique Austrian chocolate cake that is supposed to be very light and fluffy, with a layer of apricot spread in the middle. It was invented by a sixteen-year-old under intense pressure from him boss to deliver something great that night for a crowd of hoighty-toighties. Hey, if a kid can do it …

If you can believe it, Wolfgang Puck’s recipe is one of the more approachable versions. Seriously, though, WHY does the Food Network refuse to convert measurements into American standard form? I don’t own a single kitchen item that measures ounces and grams. I have cups and teaspoons, and I hate math.

Anyway, my plan for the day was to run some errands, come home and make the cake, and then head over to a friend’s place for the evening. Not long into my erranding, G called, looking for the satellite radio, which I had taken with me. He’s a Vikings fan living in the land of green and gold. There usually is no  way for him to watch/hear the game other than the satellite radio. So even though I was across town with a list to do, I knew it was my girlfriend duty to return, radio in hand.

Thank God I did. Once home, I decided to just put off the errands and start the cake. It ended up taking me about three hours. Three. Hours. If I’d have started when I originally planned to, I never would have finished before our evening plans. Yes, I totally admit it took three hours because I had no idea what I was doing. I had to look up “how to make egg yolks look like ribbons” and “how many teaspoons are in one ounce of sugar.” I had to stare for awhile at my make-shift double boiler (one random pot set in a larger one) and tell myself no, this will not result in melting a pot or mysteriously causing the oven to alight (two things that have happened in my kitchen in the last month).

The double boiler ended up being the least of my problems. For whatever reason I had the darndest time separating eggs, and on egg number four I ended up with a little yolk in the whites. There was no way I was going to waste the eggs and start over, so I just went with it. Sure enough, yolk contamination makes it next to impossible to get “hard peaks.” By the time I finally mixed them to what passed as soft peaks if you squinted, I declared them hard enough and folded them into the chocolate/butter/sugar/yolk “ribbon” mixture.

Sachertorte

When the cake came out, it was nowhere near as tall as the recipe probably intended. I’m positive this is because I didn’t do the egg whites correctly, but regardless, it tasted fine and was just thick enough to slice in half. The Puck method calls for slicing the cake into thirds and putting the apricot/brandy puree in between, but there was no way my cake could be split more than once. So I just added the excess to make a super-thick puree layer, replaced the top layer of cake, and covered the whole mess in melted dark chocolate . Voila. Or, however you say that in Austrian.

After I let it set and cool while we were gone, we gave it a try. I have to admit: It’s a pretty tasty dessert. G was ridiculously excited about licking the chocolate out of the bowl, and I realized I could have just melted chocolate over the stove and he’d have been just as impressed. But nonetheless, I achieved a version of sachertorte complete with apricot filling and chocolate glaze. It’s incredibly sweet and rich, and while this cake is not for the faint of kitchen skill, I’d say it’s worth the effort. Once a year.

 

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National Lager, er, Eggnog Month

Okay, I have to confess: I had no idea what to do for International Day for Disabled Persons. And as I munched on my remaining apple bars, I absolutely couldn’t justify celebrating National Apple Pie Day. So I had to dig into the monthly holidays.

Now, it’s pretty common knowledge among my family and closest friends that my memory isn’t the most reliable. I inherited this from my father, who draws a total blank when my mom references certain events from their 20s.

As for me, G likes to bring up the time I started telling him a story about getting recognized by someone in a restaurant. He stopped me halfway through and reminded me that the story I was telling was actually something he had experienced and told me about months ago. I honestly believed at the time that it was my story. Oh well. What’s mine is G’s …

Anyway, the point to all this is that today, instead of checking my trusty holiday list, I relied on my memory to pick a month-long holiday. I thought, hey, it’s National Lager Month. And hey, I picked up some Capital Dark with just this occasion in mind.

G and I opted to stay in tonight since it’s pretty darn cold and we’re both pretty tired after a long week. He picked up some Thai food, and I cracked open a Capital, confident in my somewhat weak but still successful observance of a holiday.

Eggnog

My last-minute eggnog

My confidence went unchallenged until pretty much just now, when I sat down to type up a charming missive about the lager and my general thoughts on Capital, one of Madison’s local breweries.

And then I saw the holiday list. And double checked The Nibble to make sure my list was right.

National Lager Month is not a thing. And I’m not going to be super lame and say, hey, I declare December to be National Lager Month. No, no, I acknowledge my mistake. National Lager Day is December 10 and Lager Week is the second week of December. There will be plenty of opportunities this month for lager ruminations. But tonight is not one of them.

So what will I do? Well, it is National Eggnog Month. And we do have eggnog in the fridge. G adds chocolate to his, but I’m a traditionalist with cinnamon and nutmeg–and yes, sometimes whipped cream. Truthfully, eggnog actually appeals more right now than the prospect of finishing off my lager. It’s probably the looming snow. Off to the fridge!

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National Fritters Day

Today was one of those super-long days. I had to go to work early and then I had my technical college course this evening. My original plan was to just pick up some fritters from some Madison hole-in-the-wall, but after some Googling, I realized that would actually be pretty tricky. Other than a possible corn fritter-like dish at a Caribbean place, I wasn’t finding a great fritter source.

I refused to sit this one out, though, since I’ve never actually eaten a fritter. I knew I had to hang in there at the end of the day and make some. I didn’t have time for a grocery store stop, so I had to make do with what I already had in the kitchen. No cornmeal or canned corn, so corn fritters were out. I’m still well-stocked in apple bars and apple hash, so apple fritters weren’t that appealing. I had apricot preserves (for the upcoming Sachre torte Day), but no apricots proper, so, well, you get the picture.

What I did have was a fresh, crisp red pepper. I was determined to make it work.

After checking my Pillsbury and striking out, I found a red pepper fritter recipe from the U.K. Times. I truly love the Internet, by the way. The recipe called for ham, but all I have is some really old deli-style turkey slices, so I kept my fritters vegetarian.

Remembering my hard-learned lessons about frying during Homemade Bread Day, I right away pulled out the cast iron rather than an aluminum pot. I also learned how to peak egg whites while making the fritter batter. All by myself. It was the most gorgeous foam ala poultry product ever.

The batter recipe was super simple: flour, baking powder and cayenne. As usual, I had to improvise a bit and went with paprika, which I happened to have. I also had to convert some of the measurements from metrics. Just so you know, 100 grams of all purpose flour comes out to between 3/4 to one cup. And 50 grams of Parmesan cheese is touch more than a half cup.

Red pepper fritters

The recipe calls for only a tablespoon of vegetable oil, but this must be a typo, or else those British folk have a very different conception of fried food than we do in the Midwest. Either way, most other fritter recipes are deep-fried, so I just did that. After playing around the amount of time these buggers needed to cook, I figured it out and came up with a plate of them.

Overall, they weren’t bad. A bit bland, though, so I’d probably add some sugar or go much heavier on the spices. G used hot sauce on his, and I went for honey. The only hitch was it was so late by the time I made them that I didn’t have the energy to make anything else, so fritters pretty much made up my entire dinner tonight, which isn’t really something I recommend. But whatever, I’m just so freakin’ proud of the fact that I was able to successfully fry something!

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Eat a Red Apple Day

I cannot believe it’s already been a year since I’ve last posted. Holy jeepers.

But yes, it has been a year, and even though many things have changed, some haven’t. I’m still in Wisconsin, I still can’t cook, G still is my daily hero and Koda still eats, well, everything.

And on that note, it’s time to get at it.

McIntosh apple

Eat a Red Apple Day seemed like a straightforward way to jump back into holidaying. An apple a day, a holiday a day–seemed like a nice symmetry. Today the first snow of the season fell here in Madison, and though it was light, it was noticeable, and I remembered how utterly cranky winter makes me. It doesn’t help that I’m surrounded by folks at work who have either recently survived the stomach flu or are on the brink of it. So an excuse to ingest some extra antioxidants wasn’t something I was going to complain about. (Random factoid of the day: In the average apple, there’s only about 8 mg of vitamin C. A medium orange has 70 mg.)

After scheming briefly about whipping up some apple burgers or apple pasta, I decided to keep it simple. Tucked in the back of my cupboard were a couple of packages of Kari Lee’s caramel apple mix. My mom gave them to me forever ago, but I’m generally not a big apple eater, so I just never got around to picking up some fruit and making the bars. Tonight was the perfect occasion, so I braved the ridiculous cold and went to the grocery store for some McIntosh apples. After a careful reading of the five directions and a little help from G with the mixer, I produced some genuinely decent bars! I keep picking at the pan, and after a little Googling, I found out I better savor them: It doesn’t look like Ms. Lee is selling this particular mix anymore.

Even though I made dessert first, I also wanted to incorporate apples into an actual dish tonight. Again, I considered the burgers, but again, I chickened out. I could probably handle making a breadcrumb coating, but a breadcrumb and oatmeal coating? That could get way too tricky for this gal.

Rachael Ray came to the rescue on this one. After searching for “weird apple recipes” for awhile, I just went to the Food Network and found Ray’s recipe for apple hash. Sounded unique enough for a holiday dish, so I went for it.

Perhaps I’m smarter than I was last year. Simple recipes seemed to work out really well tonight. For the hash, I baked some potatoes, cooked some apples and onions in olive oil, threw it all together and there it was. Apple hash. It’s an interesting mix of textures, with crispy apples and soft potatoes. The big surprise to me was how well the apples and onions went together. It’s a combination worth remembering, actually.

So overall, a simple fruit gave me a simple start to my holiday season. Can’t complain, but I’m still cold.

 

Caramel apple bars and apple hash

Caramel apple bars and apple hash

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Thanksgiving

Yes, the forces that be have not scheduled any other celebrations today other than the holiday monster that is Thanksgiving. Though my family did our formal, giant meal two weeks ago before my brother left for boot camp, my mother couldn’t stay away from the kitchen. She prepared another turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, etc. (I’m especially glad she did the sweet potatoes, as it’s Sweet Potato Awareness Month.)

We set a place for my brother and even put some corn on his plate. Since he was little, he has always demanded frozen corn at Thanksgiving. Even this year he noticed his bowl of corn was missing from the table–amidst the hurried preparations, we’d left it in the microwave.

Anyway, ’twas a fabulous meal today. I’m still full, even though we ate at 1:00. Nap time.

Hope your T-day went just as well!

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