Day 480 – National Eat a Cranberry Day (Thanksgiving)

A day to be thankful.

The past couple of years, we have started our Thanksgiving by having a football game in the yard. I try to make a field with some orange cones and field marking paint although my lines always seem to come out a bit crooked. We use flags for the game which I acquired at some point along the way. Everyone comes over around 10 and we settle the score on the gridiron. But this year, we decided to cancel. There was too much going on. Our nephew had just gotten out of the hospital and his older brother had to go in. We weren’t sure what that would mean in terms of where we had to be or who could join us, so we decided to play it conservatively and cancel the game ahead of time. Instead, on Thanksgiving morning, we stayed in and watched the Macy’s Day Parade. I’ll admit, I like this tradition. We get to see see little clips of all the Broadway shows, we see all the balloon animals which brings up feelings of nostalgia and above all, watching makes me think of my Dad who was a fan of the parade too. He used to work for Macy’s in Herald Square and part of him was always attached to all the hoopla around that day. I remember him watching it every Thanksgiving and sometimes I feel like I’m watching it with him. But even beyond that, it’s a nice quiet way to start the day.

Today was Eat a Cranberry Day and I knew I could accomplish this pretty easily. I had made a batch of cranberry sauce last night and had left it in the fridge to solidify. It had done just that and now I had a whole jar of fresh cranberry sauce. When we started packing up the car to go to Jeff & Becky’s house for dinner, I took a big spoonful of the cranberry sauce. It was delicious. It was made with lots of sugar so it had good sweetness to it (to help combat the tartness of the cranberry). The best part about homemade sauce is that you get bites of whole cranberries in your bites so it is not like the consistency of eating Jell-o. You see the cranberries and taste them. So I did and in doing so, my quest for the day had officially been celebrated.

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We made the trip around 2 pm and packed up all our goodies: the stuffing, the corn casserole, the sweet potatoes, the fudge and the banana cream pie (plus the cranberry sauce too). All of Lola’s sisters were there along with offspring and significants. Plus Jeff’s mom and husband were there too as were Pete’s brother Dave and his family. We were met with a  beautiful cheese platter and all kind of appetizers and a drink was quickly loaded into our hands. We did our best to be helpful around the kitchen getting ready for the feast. I ended up whipping the potatoes under the watchful eye of Tara. The turkey was ready and Jeff started carving while the worker bees all scrambled to get the other dishes ready for service. It was a feast of feasts. Our plates filled up with a bit of everything and soon our bellies were as full as our plates used to be. Belt buckles were loosened as everyone sat back and digested while the slow process of clean up began. Had it been acceptable, we would have loved to have taken a nap right there.

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Later that night after the coffee gave us a bit of a boost (although in the battle of caffeine vs tryptophan, tryptophan was winning), we made our way to the dessert table. Lola’s banana cream pie was tops although cookies from Tara and Katie were perfect little small bites for sweet relief. Becky’s famous Viennese cookies were perfect with the warm coffee too. There were no losers at the dessert table – everything was as good as could be. Later when we were all stuffed as a wood ticks, a game of Balderdash broke out which lifted spirits. It came down to a run off between Becky and I for the championship and Becky took home the win – a victory for all PHS Ulumni. It was time to go now and we were almost the last to leave. We were sent home with a huge booty of leftovers and were home in bed by 11 pm.

It may have been a lot of work with all the cooking and preparing (especially for Becky and Jeff as hosts), but it was certainly a fun night of family, feast and thankfulness. It was a feast that couldn’t be beat. We went to bed with full bellies and happy memories and I guess any time you can do that is a good day. Plus I got to share my cranberry sauce with anyone who wanted it so they could celebrate National Eat a Cranberry Day too. This was truly a day of celebration and I found a sense of thankfulness deep in my heart. That’s a nice feeling to fall asleep with.

Next up: National Leftovers Day

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Day 479 – National Tie One On Day

Tie One on Day is not what you think, although in my younger days,  it may have been exactly what you would think it is. The night before Thanksgiving is always a big night of drinking and a big night for bars. Everyone goes home for Thanksgiving and if they get in the night before, they might as well go out for a tipple or two. I haven’t done this in a very long time. I’ve worked a few over the past decades, but haven’t really partaken in the festivities. That’s ok by me too. I’ll let the kids keep that celebration. It’s just not my thing. Regardless, National Tie One On Day isn’t about all that. It’s about tying on your apron as you begin preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday. The apron goes on and the work begins. Now that’s a holiday I can get behind.

Lola started our preparation early and by the time I got home, she was already suited up in her apron. It’s a light blue apron with polka dots with pinkish trim and a few ornamental buttons in the front. She bought it many years ago at a farmer’s market in New Hampshire from a lady who made them special (while her husband made hand-carved cutting boards) and the apron comes out every time Lola gets down to business in the kitchen. I suited up too. I actually have three aprons (or so I discovered). My best apron my sister got for me last year as a Christmas present and it was custom printed with the Dan’s Holiday Adventure logo on the front. I like this apron however after a recent use, the string for the apron freed itself and now it requires some sewing to get it back into place and it was nit useable today. I also have an apron that my mom got for me, undoubtedly a bargain from Xpect Discounts. This one is a little more sparkly than anything else in my wardrobe so I haven’t really used it. I’m saving it for the right sparkly occasion. The third apron, and the one I decided to wear, is just a plain white apron that came home with me from a restaurant at some point over the years. It’s simple and just what I like. I actually don’t use the bib portion of the apron. I tuck that down and just tie the whole thing around my waist. That’s just how we wore them in the kitchen and how I am used to wearing an apron. When the bib is up around my neck, I feel silly and trapped although I do understand there is a practicality to it. Still, I’ll always tie mine around the waist.

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Lola is making the crust for her Banana Cream Pie here which came out awesome. This was her mom’s recipe and she has been making it for the last few years, although this one was her best. She also made a sweet potato casserole made with honey and a strudel of pecans on top which came out perfect too. I helped where I could but I had my own agenda. I was making the stuffing which was something I had never tackled before. It was another Gigi recipe and Becky set us up to make a three-batch of it. It very specifically called for Jone’s sausages which struck me as odd because Jone’s was the maker of the Scrapple that I ate a few weeks ago. My White Castle stuffing got my stuffing making skills up to par and it ended up being pretty easy to make. I also made a homemade cranberry sauce which I wanted to make because I like the fresh stuff (rather than the canned slices). All and all it was a pretty easy load for us. In the past, the day before Thanksgiving was a lot more hectic with more things to make. This was the first year I didn’t have to peel 20 pounds of potatoes (although I did peel some). I also didn’t have to make creamed onions. Lola and I made what we had to do, we clean up with Lola doing the lion’s share of that, and then we put our aprons in the wash. We were finished for the day.

Our final night before Thanksgiving tradition was to watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles. This could be the only acceptable Thanksgiving movie that really gives you that sense of coming home. I was first drawn to this movie because it was funny and because of John Candy and Steve Martin (how could you go wrong?)  But every time we watch it, we see it for the genius that it is. The mystery of Del Griffith unravels a little more uncovering the sadness behind it all. It’s a tear jerker. And that’s how we ended our Thanksgiving Eve – in the magic of John Hughes world, a fridge full of goodies, a glimmer of excitement for tomorrow and two aprons needing a wash after getting a thorough workout. We were two tired cooks in each other’s arms and thankful for all we have.

Next Up: National Eat a Cranberry Day (Thanksgiving) 

Day 478 – National Stuffing Day 

National Stuffing Day should fall annually on Thanksgiving. That would make sense. However, it happens to fall on November 21st which could be a Thanksgiving Day, but in 2017 in was just a Tuesday. It was also two days before the actual Thanksgiving holiday. I guess the stuffing I made today could be a warm up to the real deal. I could practice making stuffing and eating it. You need to work on your stomach expanding exercises prior to Thanksgiving so you can make sure you can get everything down at the Thanksgiving table. This was going to be my last exhibition game before the season began, so I had to make it count. I could do this.

In the week before Thanksgiving, my cousin-in-law (is that a real title?) shared a post about a stuffing made with White Castle hamburgers. At first site, like you, I was disgusted. It just sounded so awful. But then I started to appreciate it for what it was. A good stuffing is made with sausage (that’s how I prefer it although I understand the delight of a non-meat stuffing). But it’s also made with bread and onions. A White Castle burger has the bread, the onions and it has beef (which can substitute for sausage). It also has cheese which has no place in regular stuffing but how could adding cheese to anything be bad? I saw Tom’s White Castle post as a challenge and that’s what I would make today. Here is the recipe: White Castle Stuffing.

I think they wanted you to start with actual White Castle hamburgers form the restaurant but that wasn’t possible seeing that the closets one is two states away. You could make them with their frozen burgers that you find in the frozen food section of your supermarket, so that’s what I did purchasing two boxes. I cooked them in the microwave as instructed, then chopped them up into small pieces. To that, I added some celery, sage and chicken broth. Then it baked for about 35 minutes. I served it alongside some pork which I had baked seasoned with some salt and pepper. It looked like real stuffing.

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My friends, this was not all that bad. It has everything you want in a stuffing. It was moist yet crispy on the outside. It did have a distinct White Castle flavor to it and if you have ever eaten a White Castle burger you would know that the flavor hangs around. I think it’s the onions they use. There was a also that hint of cheese throughout from the cheeseburgers which was not a prevalent taste but hidden in the background. It all blended well with the other flavors. For what it was, a new approach to stuffing, it wasn’t all that bad. I don’t think I would serve it for Thanksgiving, but if ever I was to host a dinner full of fun and whimsy, I could make this and surprise some guests. Perhaps I will bring it to Tom & Liz’s if ever we travel to Vermont.

So thank you Tom for sharing this recipe and alerting me to an exciting new world of stuffing. It also alerted me to a new world of White Castle recipes. I guess if you put your mind to it, you can make something out of anything. Why not take likable and familiar flavors and make them into other creations? I guess that’s the whole premise behind shows like Chopped and Iron Chef. But today, in my practice working up to Thanksgiving, I got to enjoy a delightfully moist stuffing that put a smile on my face (and I didn’t even have to go through the White castle drive thru.).

Next up: National Tie One On Day 

Day 477 – National Peanut Butter Fudge Day

With the Thanksgiving holiday just a few days away, this was a good time for a holiday like National Peanut Butter Fudge Day to pop up. This would allow me to make some peanut butter fudge and have something I could add to the dessert table when the feast day rolled around. When I make fudge, I almost exclusively make it chocolate. I have made other flavors in the past like mint, walnut, and maple, but chocolate always seems to be the most popular. I usually reserve peanut butter for peanut butter chocolate balls but I didn’t have the bandwidth to make those this week. Being someone who is not wont to turn down a holiday celebration, I started to look for recipes for peanut butter fudge. There were plenty and apparently there is a high demand for peanut butter fudge. I searched for a recipe that used Fluff because that’s what I use for my chocolate fudge and I like the results. I found plenty of those recipes too. I landed on one from GeniusKitchen.com which looked very similar to my regular fudge recipe, just with peanut butter added to the party. After work, I picked up all my supplies and started to throw a batch together when I got home.

It was an easy recipe to make and all it really required was the patience to stir continuously for five minutes and also a tolerance for pain to take the occasional spatter of hot sugar that would pop up and land on your arm. It filled the air with the smell of hot peanut butter, which isn’t a bad thing. While I was making it, I felt that having fudge made completely of peanut butter would be too much. I sensed a need for chocolate in there (as often I do), so before I poured the hot fudge into the pan where it could cool and set up, I poured some semi-sweet chocolate chips along the bottom of the pan. Then I poured the fudge over it all. I tried a taste of the still-warm fudge from the pot and it was tasty – sweet and creamy with good peanut flavor. I gave a taste to Lola too and she agreed.  Now we just needed to wait for the batch to cool.

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It was pretty good. It’s not exactly my thing because I still prefer going plain chocolate over peanut butter, but if peanut butter is your thing, then it was actually great. It was really rich. I thought it was going to taste like eating a spoonful of peanut butter but there was more to the bite. It was creamier and the added sugars sweetened it all up. Plus the texture of fudge brings in another dimension. The chocolate chips on the bottom did not melt at all (I thought they would), so each piece had whole chocolate chips at the bottom. That gave it a little chocolate flavor, but in truth, it was not necessary. If I were to make it again, I would keep the chips out of the mix and keep it all peanut butter. Still, this was a nice little recipe and a way to hone my fudge making skills. Lola liked it, which is always a good thing. Sometimes when I give her a taste, she’s not really ready for a good evaluation. But then she will reach for my creation on her own time she is ready for a treat and she will become a fan. I also brought them to Thanksgiving too and they were well received (although Lola’s Banana Cream Pie was the star of the dessert table). This was a happy little celebration of a new kind of fudge. That’s always a win in my book and a great way to start off our holiday week

Next Up: National Stuffing Day 

Day 476 – National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day

Not much to say about this day other than it is very specific. It’s not just a celebration of caffeinated beverages, it celebrates caffeinated beverages that are carbonated. I love a good caffeinated beverage and it is why I have become a bit of a coffee fiend over the last ten years – craving the extra boost of caffeine. I’ve always been a fan of carbonated beverages too, at least sodas. That was more for taste rather than the caffeine boost (not that I didn’t appreciate the caffeine, but I always appreciated the sugar inside). I’ve tried to cut down my soda intake over the years and while I still have it too often, I am by no means a true soda fiend.  I have substituted coffee instead. (Which is healthier, right?) Recently I have been drinking a lot of flavored carbonated beverages like Ice and Frost which are like soda, I suppose, but no sugar or calories. I am not one that likes flavored soda water because soda water is too carbonated for my delicate gullet. It’s the flavor I crave which is why I fancy this new category of carbonated beverages which is lightly carbonated and full of sweet flavor, although I’m sure there are chemicals involved in producing the flavors that should be concerning. Regardless, those beverages don’t have caffeine, so today, I went all out and got the two sodas I could get with the most caffeine: Mountain Dew and Sunkist Orange.

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We had these while we were eating our leftover Thai food which was an excellent pairing – good sweetness alongside the spiciness. A soda with Asian food is a nice treat and one of the few times Lola actually craves a soda. Sadly, I have exposed Lola to more soda drinking than she has ever had in her life. I guess she was my coffee influence however, so it balances out. Mountain Dew has 91 grams of caffeine in a 12 oz. serving while Sunkist has 68 grams (Coke has 57 grams). That’s a nice little burst of energy and while it had no real function in our enjoyment, we still ingested it happily. I poured the soda in glasses with ice cubes so we didn’t feel like savages. There’s nothing quite like the color of Mountain Dew. You almost feel that your insides turn that color after drinking. Thank god it doesn’t react to your system like asparagus.

In any regard, our carbonated beverages with caffeine were sweet and refreshing and how we celebrated this day as we washed down our Pad See Ew. Some days are just simple like that.

Next up: National Peanut Butter Fudge Day 

Day 475 – National Apple Cider Day

I didn’t have to do much for this celebration. I was working all day at the Vineyard which just happens to make a delightful hard apple cider. When I got to work, I opened a bottle, poured it in my coffee cup and just had a day of it. Ok, not really. I did however make sure I was able to purchase two bottles before I was done. I paid for them with my employee discount and then kept them in the cooler so I could look forward to enjoying some at the end of the day.

Apple cider is essentially an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of apples. Non-alcoholic cider is synonymous with apple juice or juice created by pressing apples. Hard cider takes that juice and adds yeast to the mixture to start the fermentation process. Like I said, Newport Vineyards makes their own hard cider which they have cutely branded as Rhody Coyote. I talk about it when I give my winery tours telling enthralled visitors that it is the only thing we don’t grow on our property but the apples all come locally from orchards less than a mile away (mainly Rocky Brook Orchard and Sweet Berry Farm). We do press and ferment the apples right on site. We use a variety of different apples in the cider but Macintosh seems to be the flavor that comes out the strongest. Today was no exception for my tour spiel and I actually set a new personal best by giving four straight tours throughout the day. My voice was hoarse by the end of it all, so when I got home, I was looking forward to sipping on a glass of cider with Lola. We decided to pair it with some Thai food which was the perfect choice.

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First off, Thai food is awesome especially after a long day of work. We got it from Siam Square which sounds far more exotic than it is, but still good. Typically if you were having spicy food you would want to pair it with something on the sweeter end. This Thai was not that spicy, so the cider worked well. It is a bit on the dryer side with a really smooth finish. It’s not quite as harsh as some of your other ciders on the market (like Angry Orchard), but it still has that effervescence from the fermentation (the bubbles). On rare occasion they will sometimes let us have a glass of wine after work and inevitably I’ll go for the cider as my choice. In that moment, after a long day, it is nice and refreshing. From a purchaser perspective, it comes in a nice little bottle which is not as big as a growler but has the same look (we call it a howler). It’s a great product and perfect to add to your holiday table.

I’m never a fan of apple juice but I really do like hard cider. It has a really nice drinkability to it which makes it a good drink for relaxing. It’s especially nice in the crisp autumn weather that has descended upon New England. A great pairing and an easy celebration. Now please feel free to tip your tour guide and please mention my name in the gift shop on your way out the door.

Next up: National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day 

Day 474 – National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month

Today was National Baklava Day and I was kind of looking forward to it. Last year I didn’t know exactly what Baklava was and I proceeded to make my own. It came out pretty good (good enough to make a second batch a few days later). I knew I could tackle this one today. It was a Friday, and I could toss a batch together in no time. Even if I backed out of making my own, I still had a backup plan to go to the Greek restaurant (Mediterranean restaurant actually) in Middletown and pick some up. Yep, everything was going to work out just fine. Then God laughed.

I got a message midway through the day from sister-in-law Cherie who was looking for my wife. Both of Cherie’s sons were sick and she actually had to take one to the hospital, so she was hoping Lola could watch the other (and her daughter when she got home from school). Cherie and Lola found each other and all bases were covered. On my way home from work, I decided to stop by the hospital and see how Cherie and Calix were doing. Poor little Calix, on his birthday, had a pneumonia and he was getting all kinds of treatments to make him better. Two years earlier, we were in the hospital with him when he was born as he had decided to start his journey into life a few weeks early. Our first glimpses of him were seeing him all hooked up to machines inside an incubator. Seeing him on the hospital bed was a flashback to that day. He was again hooked up to machines and monitors and his little body was working hard to breathe. Seeing him today also flashed me back to my own youth when I was suffering from pretty bad asthma attacks. It was a sad little scene. Cherie had asked Lola to watch her kids until Pete could get home, so when I left the hospital, I went to their house and joined Lola. Brickie was sick too and laying low, although I got a few smiles out of him, and Wavy looked pretty tired too. It was a long day for the whole family and we were glad we could help in the smallest of ways.

All that however kind of put my Baklava plans on hold. I couldn’t put it together now. I had neither the time or energy (plus the stores were closed for the ingredients). I had to celebrate something else. That’s when I realized it was National Peanut Butter Month. That was perfect, so after a long afternoon, I made two pieces of toast slathered with lots of smooth Skippy peanut butter. I was hungry and this was as easy as it could be to put together.

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Everyone, excepting those with allergies, loves peanut butter when they are a kid. It’s a special treat. When you are an adult, you still love peanut butter, but it takes on a new quality of ease and joy. When you are racking your head trying to think of something to eat, peanut butter is always a good fallback plan. It’s delicious – nice and sweet and nutty. It’s also easy to make and you almost always have a jar on hand. Tonight, my peanut butter toast did the job. I came home exhausted and hungry and just wanted something simple and satisfying. Check and check. I love peanut butter on toast because the PB starts to melt and it brings a new depth to the party. No jelly tonight, just the basics. That was the perfect way for me to end this long day and the perfect way to pay tribute to National Peanut Butter Month.

Next up: National Apple Cider Day

Day 473 – National Fast Food Day

I opined the other day while celebrating Chicken Nugget Day that there exists no real fast food in Warwick, RI because there is no real fast way to get anywhere in Warwick. While there are plenty of options of fast food and fast casual restaurants, the traffic patterns are so congested on the main road that you’re not getting anywhere without stopping at lights and backed-up intersections. But, today was National Fast Food Day and I had to celebrate. I could always go the fast food option for dinner, but I didn’t think I’d be doing Lola (or myself) any favors by bringing home a bucket of chicken from KFC or some fries and a Frostee from Wendy’s for dinner. I decided to keep my fast food tribute to lunch and that was good because I had not brought my lunch to work today. I needed to get something for lunch that was quick, cheap and easy and that’s exactly the convenience that we honor in all fast food restaurants. This would be a true appreciation.

Ideally I would have gone to either McDonald’s or Burger King today. Those restaurants are the true stars of the fast food industry. The OGs. The place where it really began, or really took off. However, both of those location are located in the heart of the traffic nightmare area of town. It was only a mile away but would take me a half-hour to drive there and back. I decided to go more local. Oddly enough, the place for food that is in the closest proximity to my office is the Warwick Mall food court. Seems odd, but it’s about a three minute drive away and they have plenty of fast food options. I made the jaunt around lunchtime. I walked in the food court doors which open to a giant carousel complete with calliope, smiling kids and parents trying to take pictures. Behind that, the court opens up to all my options. I started to walk towards Panda Express. I felt that would be a good place to celebrate National Fast Food Day because it pretty much says it is a place for fast food in the name plus it gives you more options that the typical fast food spot. But then I noticed somebody from my office in line at Panda Express. Eating lunch in the food court is sad enough, I didn’t need to be recognized. I walked past Panda Express turning down their offer for a free taste and made a beeline for Taco Bell. While it wasn’t my first choice, this was fast food. This was just what today was all about. I ordered a hard-shell chicken taco, something called a Quesarito and a Coke. I paid. My food was ready in about a minute and then I took my tray out into the seating area making sure I was not in view of the guy from my office.

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Like everything from Taco Bell, this was good. The taco was nice and fresh and a good crunchy shell. The Quesarito was good too. It is essentially a quesadilla that they add meat, rice, sour cream and nacho cheese to, then roll it up like a burrito and grill so the outside gets crunchy. It’s full of flavor although I imagine it tastes the same as any other burrito you get from Taco Bell. Taco Bell all kind of tastes the same (which is not altogether a bad thing). I woofed it all down while playing on my phone to avoid eye contact with anyone. When I was done, I cleaned up my area, tossed out my garbage and returned the tray. A quick shout out to the clean-up team at Warwick Mall who were spraying my table clean within 30 seconds of my departure. It’s an odd little world in the food court.

While we all hear about the negative side about fast food restaurants out there, we sometimes need to appreciate what they bring to our food landscape. They bring us food that we can rely on (to some degree) that’s conveniently available and fast. If you are in a hurry to get anywhere and need something to eat, the choice of going fast food just makes sense because you can get in and out within five minutes and have a complete hot meal in that time. There are feelings of remorse afterwards and even some shame, but it does the job. It brings you food fast which is what you need sometimes. That’s what today’s celebration was about and the folks at Taco Bell delivered. Cheers to all those working hard in the world of fast food – we appreciate all you do!

Next up: National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month

Day 472 – National Raisin Bran Cereal Day

Some days you find a recipe that really intrigues you. This actually happens a lot these days in the world of social media. I tend to follow a bunch of cooking-type people who frequently post their recipes which subsequently fills my feed with a delightful array of tasty options. Every once in awhile, I’ll see a recipe that I simmer on for a few days (pardon the pun) and by then, I am almost compelled to make it. I get excited. I get the ingredients. I set the stage. I look forward to surprising Lola. It’s the thrill of something new on the dinner table plus it brings a little change to our usual rotation. Afterwards we will break it down. I’ll get Lola’s opinion. We’ll discuss the pros and cons – what we could add, what we could take out. We ask the “could we serve this to Becky & Jeff?” question. Not that we really ever feed Becky & Jeff, we just value their palettes. This is the whole process of how great new recipes are found, made and brought to fruition.

Today was not one of those days. In fact, today was probably the polar opposite. When I saw it was National Raisin Bran Cereal Day, I spent about 30 seconds perusing recipes online to see what I could make using Raisin Bran and then scrapped the whole idea. I actually made some kind of marshmallow-cereal treat last year using Raisin Bran and that wasn’t that bad, but not what I wanted today. I wasn’t feeling up to baking anything sweet or cute or unusual. In fact, I wasn’t much in the mood for cooking anything. You are allowed to have days like that every now and then. I texted Lola that my plan for dinner was just to have a bowl of Raisin Bran and she was ok with that. Cereal is right up there with soup as one of Lola’s favorites, so I knew she would be up for it. I stopped at the Dollar General (spared no expense), picked up a box of Raisin Bran Crunch, a little extra milk and was home. When it was time for dinner, I busted out our fancy dinner cereal bowls, poured a heaping portion, filled it with milk and dinner was ready.

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Growing up, Raisin Bran was always one of my favorite cereals but always the Kellogg’s brand, never Post. The raisins in the Kellogg’s version were sprinkled with sugar and that made a difference. The Post variety was plain and boring – a let down. In my youth, I would naturally add a few scoops of sugar to my bowl because that’s what we did back then and I liked to get to the bottom where there was a layer of sandy sugar left behind on the bottom which you could eat by the spoonful. I don’t do that anymore. In fact, adding sugar to a cereal seems silly to me. I still enjoy Kellogg’s Raisin Bran but ever since they introduced their Crunch version, it is my new favorite. The little clusters of oats brings a little extra sweetness to the party plus it adds a great texture to the bowl. They really are audibly crunchy like the television commercial suggests and when you are chomping on a spoonful, you can’t really hear. Lola and I were watching a Narcos episode while eating our cereal and we had to really turn up the volume like my grandmother would do when she watched General Hospital. I think our neighbors got concerned when they started hearing the sounds of mad Columbians shouting coming from our house, but they didn’t report us (like the puta Judy Moncada would). Raisin Bran Crunch is not a suitable dinner for interesting conversation, but it is just fine for chilling, watching a show with subtitles and crunching away. Every now and then, cereal for dinner is just perfect.

We didn’t really pull out all the stops today for National Raisin Bran Cereal Day. In fact, all I did was have a bowl of cereal. But sometimes, that’s just what you want. Cereal is so often associated with a morning treat that we forget how convenient it is for a quick and easy meal. Lola will sometimes have a bowl in the middle of the night when she wakes up with insomnia and gets hungry. I’ll wake up briefly and hear her crunching away which makes me smile. There’s nothing wrong with feasting on cereal. It’s a great way to lift your spirits and bring you some nourishment with little effort. There is no shame in cereal dinner and that’s what I celebrated today.

Next up: National Fast Food Day

Day 471 – National Spicy Guacamole Day

There’s really no need to celebrate National Spicy Guacamole Day when we already celebrate National Guacamole Day. The only difference between the two is that you add something spicy to your guacamole. One of the reasons why we celebrate Guacamole Day is because we honor how easy guac is to make and how adaptable it is to alter the recipe to meet your personal taste. Lola likes things spicy, so every now and then, I will toss a few spicy ingredients into our guacamole to surprise her. Any guacamole celebration could be a spicy guacamole celebration. But who am I to argue with how these days rollout? Today I would celebrate National Spicy Guacamole Day and I’d make it pretty much the same way I always do.

I start with ripe avocados. That sounds like something you wouldn’t have to express but having an avocado that is not ripe will ruin everything. You think you might be able to work with an under-ripe avocado, but you really can’t. An under-ripe avocado is hard to work with and has a bitter taste. My advice is that if the avocado isn’t ripe, scrap the guacamole plans altogether and wait until nature says it’s time. But if your avocados are ripe, you want to remove them from their skins and take the pit out. Then toss in some salt, pepper, garlic powder and cumin (lots of cumin). You mash that all together (I use a potato masher) and then scoop in a few spoonfuls of salsa. When I have it on hand, adding fresh cilantro is always a plus too and really cranks up the fresh taste. To make it spicy tonight, I had a three-pronged approach. I used a spicy salsa. I added fresh garlic. I added red pepper flakes. Ideally I would have added fresh jalapeño peppers which always bring some good heat, but I forgot to pick them up at the store (even though I went into the store specifically for avocados and jalapeño peppers). Nonetheless, the heat was turned up on this batch with what I added. Garlic always adds a nice subtle hint of heat along with all that flavor and red pepper flakes do the job too. On a scale of one to ten, I would say it was about a 6.5 on the heat scale. Spicy, but plenty of room for more. I suppose that’s one of the things to celebrate on National Spicy Guacamole Day – how we can control our spicy destiny by utilizing a whole cacophony of ingredients.

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We ate some with some tortilla chips but then I made some chicken enchiladas for dinner and I served them with the guacamole (and sour cream). Fresh guacamole, whether spicy or otherwise, is the perfect complement to any Mexican dish. It’s the slight tinge of boldness from the sauce and cheese that beckons for the cool and refreshing fresh taste of guacamole. Plus, the green of guacamole cuts the stark redness of the Mexican mess on your plate. It’s kind of the perfect pairing. Having been to Mexico and having seen the abundance of avocado trees, I understand how natural it is for Mexicans to include guacamole and avocados in nearly all their local cooking and flavors. I’m glad that tradition carried over to the States. Life without guacamole would be a little less enjoyable. But not today. Today’s menu was filled with a a nice spicy guacamole freshly made. And that’s just the way we like it.

Next up: National Raisin Bran Cereal Day