Edible holidays satisfy any craving

Happy Hump Day, foodies! On tap this week is a slew of scrumptious holidays that are sure to inspire you to get out and try them or go invade your local grocery store and fill your carts with sweet-smelling noms that will bring your friends from far and wide.

I hope everyone has a tasty second week of school!

Monday, Jan. 20th, 2014: National Buttercrunch Day, National Cheese Lover’s Day 

Buttercrunch is just like it sounds — a crunchy, delicious morsel of crunch with butterscotch, caramel and sometimes even chocolate. Sort of like a Heath Bar, but better. Good enough to have its own holiday, in fact.

I like cheese. Growing up, I would have random childish outbursts of, “I like cheese! I like cheese,” which my mother found very bizarre, but she went with it (bless her heart); then I went through a period of lactose-intolerance, which was horrible, and now here I am feasting on all of the gorgonzola, pepper jack and sharp cheddar I could ever want. Even if you’re not a big lover of cheese, you have to appreciate what it has done for our world, such as the creation of American favorites mac ‘n’ cheese and the grilled cheese sandwich —just think about that.

Los Angeles is filled with fabulous specialty cheese shops. Unfortunately, they are not cheap, but in my opinion, they are worth every penny; if you’re a fan, many cheesemongers offer tasting events. On the West Side there is The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and Andrew’s Cheese Shop, a hole-in-the-wall shop located in lovely Santa Monica. For all my hipsters out there, there is The Cheese Store of Silver Lake.

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014: New England Clam Chowder Day, National Granola Bar Day

If you are a New England Patriots fan, you can still celebrate a great season with a delicious and warm bowl of clam chowder, but sorry I’m not sorry for your loss. I had the privilege of trying authentic clam chowder in Cape Cod as a kid and boy, do I miss it. There is nothing better than smelling the sweet smell of the ocean and feeling the cool air while scarfing down a hot portion of clam chowder served in a warm sourdough bowl, but you can try some close competitors in Los Angeles such as the bowl at the L&E Oyster Bar in Silver Lake or enjoy the warm California beaches at Santa Monica Seafood.

Granola bars: the man-made invention to insert necessary fiber into every college student’s diet in order to prevent them from ever eating normal amounts of food. They’re delicious and they come in an assortment of flavors, but please don’t live off of them. Since they get their own holiday, I hereby give you permission to go nuts.

Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014: National Blonde Brownie Day

As the saying goes, “Blondes have more fun,” but in this case, they have more sweets. Golden “blonde” brownies, or blondies, have pure brown sugar, butter and vanilla that create a caramelesque, butterscotchy flavor that nobody can resist.

Blondies are a super treat to tuck into lunch bags and are easy to make too, but in case you don’t want to make them and would rather go on an L.A. culinary brownie adventure to hit your sweet spot, I recommend Milk on Beverly Boulevard or Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery in Santa Monica.

Thursday, Jan. 23rd, 2014: National Rhubarb Pie Day

If you have a sweet tooth, you understand the importance of pie in your daily diet. Rhubarb pie is a classic flavor that is actually made from the very versatile vegetable rhubarb. Rhubarb has a bright red stalk and poisonous leaves and tastes very bitter when eaten raw; hence no one eats it raw. Some cultures use rhubarb as a vegetable in creating savory dishes, but in the United States, we boil it and add a ton of sugar to make toppings and fillings for desserts -— you can also make rhubarb chutney, flavored with ginger, orange zest, brown sugar and sultanas.

Though  there isn’t a place in Los Angeles that serves just rhubarb pie, there are many others that serve a variety perfect for any sweet tooth. Marcie’s Pies is known for its decadent strawberry rhubarb pie. Made with fresh ingredients that come from a fresh and organic farm, Marcie’s can only be found in local farmers markets such as the Sunday Hollywood Farmers Market. Other great places to get pie in Los Angeles include Urth Caffé in the Arts District and Philippe the Original’s Apple Pie.

Friday, Jan. 24, 2014: National Peanut Butter Day! Lobster Thermidor Day

National Peanut Butter Day falls almost exactly in the middle of National Peanut Month. Peanut butter is a snack, a dessert, a meal, a protein, a paste, a goop, a condiment and a solid. Those who are allergic live a sad life, and those who do not like peanut butter in any form whether it be in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are missing out on all the wonders that peanut butter creates. Eat responsibly.

Lobster thermidor is a French dish consisting of a creamy mixture of cooked lobster meat, egg yolks and cognac or brandy stuffed into a lobster shell that can also be served with an oven-browned Gruyere crust, with a mustard sauce. Due to expensive and extensive preparation, lobster thermidor is usually considered a recipe primarily for special occasions, but can be found in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Institution Musso & Frank’s.

Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014: National Irish Coffee Day

Irish coffee is a cocktail consisting of hot coffee, Irish whiskey and sugar, though some recipes specify that brown sugar should be used instead. The cocktail is stirred and topped with thick cream. The coffee is then consumed through the cream. The original recipe explicitly uses cream that has not been whipped, although drinks made with whipped cream are often sold as “Irish coffee.”

Tom Bergin’s is known in Los Angeles as the home of Irish coffee, conveniently located on the busy and bustling Fairfax Avenue, so you will want to plan ahead to make sure that you can get parking. Another great place to celebrate Irish Coffee Day is heading to O’Brien’s in Santa Monica. There, you have the option of choosing from a slew of sweet coffee beverages, or going for the classics.

Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014: National Pistachio Day

Pistachios are members of the cashew family, and are a great snack to eat at any time. They can be found in classic desserts such as baklava, or in the delicious pistachio ice cream, and come in an assortment of flavors. Like any nut, they can be seasoned to fit anyone’s fancy, but make sure to take off the shell.

Alegra’s recipe of the week:

“I always cook with wine. Sometimes, I even put it in the food.”

Baked Herb Lemon Chicken, By Andicakes

This is a recipe that hits close to home, and is ridiculously good. When made correctly with time and love, you will be enjoying a rich platter of succulent herb lemon chicken breast, that goes great on top of a pile of steamed or sautéed green beans in olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar for a excellent way to get both vegetables and protein or serve chicken on a pile of spaghetti, tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar for an affordable Friday night dinner. With my Italian heritage, I always like finding what I think are authentic recipes, and to be honest, the last time I made this dish, I was blasting Italian dinner music in my kitchen! I encourage you to try it – plus, gents, this is a great way to impress the ladies in your life!

Don't be chicken -- Andicakes, a cooking blog run by couple Andi and Tracy, shows how to make an effortlessly tasty chicken dish. - Photo courtesy of Andicakes

Don’t be chicken — Andicakes, a cooking blog run by couple Andi and Tracy, shows how to make an effortlessly tasty chicken dish. – Photo courtesy of Andicakes

4 boneless chicken breasts, skin off or on
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon sliced in wedges, 6-8 slices (can also be replaced it with lime)
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil
9 cloves minced garlic – about 3 tablespoons
1/3 cup dry white wine (can also use red wine)
1 tablespoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves, plus 4 sprigs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

First, prepare the chicken breasts by rinsing them and drying with a paper towel. Trim any excess fat from the breast and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish [skin] side up. Repeat with the remaining breasts. Sprinkle the breast with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Now slice one lemon lengthwise into 6-8 wedges and set among the chicken breasts in the dish.

Next, add the extra virgin olive oil to a small sauté pan and heat over medium-low temperature, once warmed add the minced garlic and cook for just a minute stirring constantly. Turn the heat off and add the dry white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, dried oregano, and minced thyme. Pour the warm mixture into the dish to surround the seasoned chicken breasts. Using a brush lightly brush the chicken breasts skins with the oil mixture so it will brown and crisp during baking and then add the 4 sprigs of thyme on top the chicken breasts.

Bake the dish uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, until the breasts are cooked and reach 165 degrees F. Turn the oven to broil for 1-3 minutes and broil the dish if necessary to brown the skins on the breasts. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil and allow resting for 10 minutes before serving.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and pour desired amount of cooking liquid onto the platter for service.

For the online recipe on the Andicakes website, you can click here.