December 22nd National Date Nut Bread Day

Another food day for the holidays, this one is pretty good though! It’s National Date Nut Bread Day, a sort of desert, sort of snack, sort of meal kinda thing. That means you can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner… or all three.

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It all starts with dates, originally harvested in the Middle East as far back as 6,000 B.C.. Dates are not prunes, they just seem like they are. Actually dates are pretty sweet, chewy and, by themselves, good for you. A true fruit of the dessert.

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Next come the nuts. Walnuts, pecans, practically any nut you choose except for peanuts. Peanuts are not actually a nut, they are a legume. Besides, a lot of people are allergic to peanuts, as well as tree nuts and any other sort of nut. So you may want to skip the nuts and just make date bread if you have family members who are allergic to nuts. (See how complicated it gets!)

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Anyway, here’s a recipe for you if you care to make it for your family. It is believed Date Nut Bread was first made in England. Probably after the crusades when England sent troops to the Middle East. Anyway, some how they ended up with dates and naturally hat led to date nut bread.

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Add a little cream cheese and you have a meal fit for a King, like the King of England! I can just imagine King Arthur sitting around the round table munching on some date nut bread with his knights.

How to celebrate – Make some date nut bread. Grow your own dates. Gather around your own round table.

July 30th National Cheesecake Day

Cheesecake has been around longer than you may think. It is thought to date back to at least 2,000 B.C. in ancient Greece. There is mention that it was served to athletes in Greece during the Olympics in 776 B.C. because it gave the athlete energy to perform. Made out of flour, wheat, honey, and cheese, it was considered a Greek Wedding Cake. Athenaeus wrote of cheesecake in 230 A.D., professing even then that it had been around for nearly 2,000 years. When the Romans invaded Greece, they brought back recipes that they adapted themselves. They were called “Libuma” as noted in a recipe left behind by Marcus Cato in the 1st Century B.C.

In 1545, Henry VIII’s chef made his own version of cheesecake, soaking cheese in milk for three hours, straining it, and adding butter, eggs, and sugar to the King’s liking. In 1872, a farmer in New York, who has not been named, accidentally created cream cheese which was eventually packaged and sold to customers. The Phoenix Cream Cheese company purchased the rights and began to widely sell cream cheese. By 1912, James Kraft, learned how to pasteurize cream cheese making it easier to sell, not to mention safer! In 1928, he acquired the name”Philadelphia” and the rest is history.

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Nowadays cheesecakes come in many flavors and styles. Among the more favorite flavors added to or topping the cake include blueberries, strawberries, fruit sauce flavors, chocolate, raspberry, pumpkin, key lime, lemon, orange, cherry, whipped cream, and toffee.

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Styles come in New York, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Country, Lactose Free, Chicago, Cheesecake Kludys, and Savory. The difference seems to be in the heaviness, or lightness, of the filling and the make of the crust. Crust comes in crumbled graham cracker, crumbled cookie, or sponge cake.

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The filling itself is generally made of cheese, cream cheese or cottage cheese, mixed with eggs, and sugar or honey.

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Practically everybody likes some form of cheesecake. It can be baked, or it doesn’t have to be cooked at all. It can be a dessert for any type of meal or even a mid-day snack. It doesn’t even have to come in cake style at all, with crumbs and filling just plopped in a cup.

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Here’s a cheesecake recipe for you to try. Just be aware there are hundreds of them to choose from.

How to celebrate – Make a cheesecake you, and your family, can enjoy. Have a cheesecake party where everyone makes a different style of cheesecake so you can sample a little of each. Or just sell out and go to the Cheesecake Factory and buy a pie!

July 26th National Bagelfest Day

The bagel, originally called the beigel, dates back to 1610 when the first written record of it appeared in Poland. The bread dough, usually wheat, is boiled first and then baked giving it it’s tough exterior and soft center. It was made in the Jewish communities, particularly Krakow, but rapidly spread throughout Eastern Europe becoming a staple in the diets of Poles, Germans, Russians, and anywhere the merchants carried it.

Polish-Jews moving to America around the turn of the century (1900’s) brought their traditions with them, instantly beginning to serve up bagels in the New York City area. The idea caught on but was tightly controlled by the International Beigel Baker’s Union, Local 338 for decades. You could call it a Bagel Mafia of sorts! If the bagels were not made by one of their bakers, it was not allowed to be sold.

Because of the Union, most bagels were homemade until the 1960’s when Daniel Thompson invented a bagel making machine. Later that same decade Henry and Murray Lender along with Florence Sender, figured a way to freeze the bagel and automate the production and distribution of bagels, shipping them all over the United States, and later the world. Murray, Henry’s son, also invented the pre-sliced bagel saving us all our fingers and time!

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Originally the bagels were served plain but as time went on the bakers began to add such things as cream cheese and lox. Lox is smoked salmon, served salty to add to the overall taste, and make a meal out of the traditional bagel.

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Today bagels come in many flavors: rye, wheat, sesame, coconut, sourdough… you name it and they probably make a bagel out of it. It is also topped with nearly everything under the sun. If you think about it, a bagel is just like two slices of bread that you can put anything on or between.

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Leave it to Americans to make something their own, we have turned the bagel into a breakfast feast of its own.

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National Bagelfest Day was started by Lenders Bagels when they held the first festival in 1986 in Mattoon, Illinois where the world’s largest bagel factory is located. Murray Lender was the host.

How to celebrate – Have a bagel!  If you like them enough, buy a bagel making machine.