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Celebrations call for special foods this February

Celebrations call for special foods this February
Celebrations call for special foods this February
Suetta Tingler

What do tater tots, banana bread and frog legs all have in common? They are all national food days celebrated this month. You might say that February is truly the month for food lovers.

Let’s visit a few familiar February holidays that you might consider celebrating at your family table.

•Feb. 2, Groundhog Day. Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil is a well-known celebrity groundhog who has predicted the weather for decades. If Phil sees his shadow when emerging from his comfy burrow in the morning of Feb. 2, be prepared for six more weeks of frigid weather. If the rodent doesn’t see his shadow, spring is on its way.

February is often a cold and snowy time, so what’s better than to enjoy the comforts of a hot bowl of homemade soup. If you like the Zuppa Toscano soup served at Olive Garden restaurant, you’ll want to try the following recipe to make at home. Make groundhog cupcakes for a nice treat by frosting the top of cupcake, adding chocolate cookie crumbs for dirt and an upright standing Teddy Bear graham cracker for the groundhog on top.

1 pound spicy Italian sausage, crumbled (can use mild sausage and add ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes)
5 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 quarts chicken broth
2 pounds Yukon Gold, red or Russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups kale coarsely chopped
Salt, pepper to taste
Cook sausage in a large pot, stirring to break up large pieces, until evenly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Wipe excess grease from pot with paper towel. Add bacon to pot; cook until crisp, about 10 minutes. Stir in onion and garlic; cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes; simmer, uncovered, until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in cream, kale and cooked sausage; cook until heated through.

•Feb. 5, Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year of the Rabbit began Jan. 23 and will culminate Feb. 5. No matter the exact timing, there is plenty of good luck to be had throughout all of the month of February. Celebrations include the gifting of money in red envelopes and hanging decorative fish and glowing lanterns, firecrackers and the Chinese Dragon Dance. In Chinese culture, those born in the Year of the Rabbit possess good reasoning skills and are attentive to details, but can be insecure and need to be assured often.

(“Favorite Recipes from Quilters”)
1 pound ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cups celery, diced
1 cup uncooked raw rice
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can cream mushroom soup
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can cream chicken soup
2 cups water
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 (15-ounce) can bean sprouts, undrained
Salt, pepper to taste
1 (10-ounce) can chow mein noodles
Brown ground beef and drain excess fat. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT chow mein noodles; blend well. Spoon into casserole baking dish and sprinkle with chow mein noodles. Bake at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.

•Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. Flying cupids symbolize romance and courtship that dates back to Greek and Roman mythology. The following recipe will be love at first taste, perfect for any Valentine gathering.

1 (64-ounce) bottle cranberry juice cocktail
3 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
1 (32-ounce) bottle ginger ale, chilled
1 pint raspberry sherbet
Mix cranberry juice cocktail and pineapple juice in a large pitcher or bowl. Cover and put in the refrigerator for at least two hours. When ready to serve, add ginger ale and stir. Pour into glasses and top with sherbet.

•Feb. 21, Mardi Gras. On the streets of New Orleans, there will be parades, feasting, tossing of beads and always beignets. Few know that Mobile, Ala., was the real birthplace of Mardi Gras. Today, New Orleans is the place to be for the fun and parades, while Mobile is all about the lavish festival balls. When in Mobile, don’t miss out visiting the Mardi Gras Carnival Museum. The docent-guided tour is well worth your time. Bring the taste of Café du Monde with this New Orleans recipe.

1 package active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup evaporated milk (undiluted)
7 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup soft shortening
Oil for frying
Confectioners’ powdered sugar
In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over water; stir to dissolve. Add sugar, salt, eggs, nutmeg and milk; mix with blender. Add 4 cups flour; beat smooth. Add shortening and blend in remaining 3 cups flour. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight. Roll out on floured board to 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 1-1/2 inch squares. Deep fry at 360 degrees for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on towel and sprinkle with lots of powdered sugar. Serve hot. Makes 5 dozen.

•Feb. 22, George Washington’s birthday. What better way to celebrate our first president than with cherries? One of the most well-known legends about George Washington is told that at age 6 he was given a hatchet as a gift and proceeded to cut down his father’s favorite cherry tree. When his father became angry, he confronted his son about the damage. When asked if he had done it, little George replied, yes. His honesty was worth more than the tree.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 can cherry pie filling
Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour. Spread 3/4 of mixture into a greased 13×9-inch pan. Spread pie filling over batter. Drop remaining batter on top of pie filling by the spoonful. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Here are a few other but less notable national food days celebrated during the month:
•Feb. 9, National Pizza Day. Add your favorite sauce and toppings to the following dough.

(Giada DeLaurentiis: Bon Appetit Magazine)
3/4 cup warm water (active dry yeast works best in water 105 to 115 degrees)
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups+ flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pour warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast and let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes. Brush large bowl with olive oil. Mix 2 cups flour, sugar and salt. Add yeast mixture and olive oil; mix until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer to lightly floured surface. Knead dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is too sticky, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. Roll out. If dough is hard to roll, allow to rest 5 to 10 minutes to relax. Makes 1 pizza crust.

*Feb. 19 to 25, National Pancake Week. DO NOT use metal bowl or metal spoon when making this recipe batter.

(“Favorite Recipes from Quilters”)
1 package dry active yeast
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon shortening, melted
In a glass bowl, combine yeast, flour and warm water. Beat well with plastic or wooden spoon and set in warm place for 8 hours or overnight. Add all remaining ingredients and beat again. Spoon desired amounts of batter into pancake shapes in oiled skillet. Fry on both sides. Serve hot with maple syrup. Makes 6 pancakes.

•Feb. 29, National Frog Legs Day. Every four years on this date, frog legs are eaten to celebrate Leap Year. Plan to enjoy in 2024.

•Feb. 7, National Send a Card to a Friend Day. Be sure to enclose a favorite recipe that you love to prepare or eat.

Good Food, Good Memories