Fake holidays to the rescue

Sea Scallops and Orzo with Cherry Tomatoes

SERVE SEAFOOD Sea Scallops and Orzo with Cherry Tomatoes may look impressive, but it is surprisingly easy to make for Baked Scallops Day on March 12. (Photo courtesy of The Junior League of Houston)

Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.

The typical individual makes many thousands of choices each day, researchers say, including more than 200 related to food. It can be mentally exhausting deciding what to eat and cook.

Fortunately, there’s a national day for everything. I decided to use these as inspiration. For your cooking pleasure and decision-making, here are recipes that highlight the national food holidays of March:

March 1: Peanut Butter Lovers Day – Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Triangles

March 4: Pound Cake Day – Pound Cake

March 9: Crabmeat Day – Avocado Crab Mornay

March 9: Meatball Day – Mexican Meatballs

March 12: Baked Scallops Day – Sea Scallops and Orzo with Cherry Tomatoes

March 16: Artichoke Hearts Day – Artichoke Fritters

March 22: Coq Au Vin Day – Coq Au Vin

March 23: Chip and Dip Day – Roasted Red Pepper Dip

March 26: Spinach Day – Spinach Croquettes

March 31: Tater Day – Roasted Garlic and Green Chile Mashed Potatoes

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Triangles

From Stop And Smell the Rosemary

½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup sifted powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1.4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine peanut butter, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Set aside. Brush 1 sheet phyllo dough with melted butter. (Keep remaining sheets covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.) Cut phyllo sheet lengthwise into four long strips. Place 1 slightly rounded teaspoon of peanut butter mixture about 1 inch from the end of one of the strips. Starting at end with the filling, fold a corner of dough over filling so it lines up with other side of strip, forming a triangle. Continue folding like flag, in a triangular shape, using the entire strip. Repeat with remaining 3 strips. Repeat with remaining sheets of phyllo, butter, and filling.

Place triangles on an ungreased baking sheet, seam side down. Brush each triangle with melted butter. Bake six to eight minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Frost cookies with melted chocolate and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Cool until chocolate is set. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to two days.

Pound Cake

From Houston Junior League Cookbook

3 cups sifted flour
¼ teaspoon soda
Pinch salt
1 cup butter
3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour large Bundt or tube pan. Sift flour, soda, and salt together; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Add sifted dry ingredients alternatively with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat only until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50-70 minutes, or until cake tests done. (Baking time will depend on size of pan and humidity levels.) Let cake stand in pan 15 minutes before inverting onto wire rack to cool.

Avocado Crab Mornay

From Houston Junior League Cookbook

3 avocados
6 green onions, minced
1½ pounds crabmeat
1⁄3 cup butter
¾ cup sherry
2 cup Mornay Sauce (see below)
3 ounces grated Parmesan

Mornay Sauce:
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup cream
Dash salt
Dash cayenne
Dash nutmeg
2 Tablespoons shredded Swiss cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Halve avocados; remove seeds, scoop out flesh and dice. Lightly sauté diced avocado, green onions, and crabmeat in butter. Add sherry; stir well. Add Mornay Sauce. Pile mixture in seafood shells. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Heat in 500 degree oven for only 5 minutes. Serves eight to 10.

Mornay Sauce:

Melt butter; stir in flour. Cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in chicken stock and cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth. Add salt, cayenne, nutmeg, and cheeses; stir and heat until well blended. Makes 2 cups.

Mexican Meatballs

From The Star of Texas Cookbook

1 pound finely ground lean beef
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup half-and-half
1 small onion, minced
1 Tablespoon butter
2½ Tablespoons chopped chipotle chili
½ teaspoon crushed oregano
Salt to taste
Butter and oil for frying

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Shape into 1-inch balls. Heat butter and oil in a heavy skillet. Sauté meatballs until browned. Serve from a chafing dish with toothpicks. These freeze well. Thaw and reheat in a covered pan or microwave dish. Yields 80-90 meatballs.

Sea Scallops and Orzo with Cherry Tomatoes

From Peace Meals

1 cup dry orzo pasta
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper, divided
1 lb. sea scallops
1 cup chopped sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 cup fresh basil chiffonade

Cook the orzo according to package directions. While the pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of the salt and 1⁄8 teaspoon of the pepper evenly over the scallops. Add the scallops to the skillet and sauté for three minutes on each side or until done. Remove the scallops from the pan and set aside. Drain the excess liquid from the pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the pasta and scallops, and continue to cook for 1 minute or until heated through. Remove from heat, season with the remaining salt and pepper, and stir in the tomatoes, cheese, and basil. Serves 4.

Artichoke Fritters

From The Star of Texas Cookbook

2 cans (8.5 oz each) artichoke hearts
1 egg
½ cup milk
½ cup Bisquick
¼ cup flour
1½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
Oil for frying

Drain artichokes, cut into quarters, and set aside. Combine egg and milk. Stir in dry ingredients, onion, and parsley. Dip artichokes in batter. Fry in at least 2 inches of oil at 350 degrees for six to eight minutes each. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with extra salt and serve. Yields 32 fritters.

Coq Au Vin

From Houston Junior League Cookbook

4 pounds chicken breasts and thighs (or two medium broilers, cut up)
¼ cup flour
Salt, pepper, and paprika
8 Tablespoons butter, divided
½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 green onions
¼ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon tarragon
1 bay leaf, crushed
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1½ cups dry red wine
¼ cup chicken broth or stock
2 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
Minced parsley

Dredge the chicken in seasoned flour and brown in 6 tablespoons of the butter. After all chicken is browned, remove and add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to pan. Sauté mushrooms and green onions. Add thyme, tarragon, bay leaf, parsley, garlic, wine, and chicken broth; simmer 5 minutes. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish (preferably one from which chicken may be served). Spoon wine mixture over chicken. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Add crumbled bacon and pearl onions. Cover again and bake for 1 additional hour. Sprinkle minced parsley over chicken before serving. Serves 6-8.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

From Stop And Smell the Rosemary

2 large red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded (or substitute a 4-ounce jar of roasted red peppers)
4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and patted dry
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 to 2 pickled jalapeños, coarsely chopped
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 bunch green onions, white part only, coarsely chopped
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon salt

Cool peppers, then press between paper towels to remove excess liquid. Otherwise, the dip will be too runny.

Process peppers, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, 1 jalapeño, cilantro, green onions, cream cheese, and salt in a food processor until smooth. Correct seasonings, adding more jalapeño if desired. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips. Yields 1½ cups.

Spinach Croquettes

From The Star of Texas Cookbook

2 pounds fresh spinach or 3 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach
6 ounces mozzarella cheese
6 ounces ham, cubed
2 eggs
Pepper to taste
Very fine cracker crumbs
Fat or oil

Wash and dry spinach. Cook spinach until wilted, drain thoroughly, and chop. Combine with cheese, ham, 1 of the eggs, and pepper. Form into croquettes and dip in 1 beaten egg. Roll in cracker crumbs and fry. Serves 4.

Roasted Garlic and Green Chile Mashed Potatoes

From Stop and Smell the Rosemary

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped roasted garlic (about 4 cloves) (See below for instructions.)
2 tablespoons roasted poblano chile or canned green chilies
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Freshly ground pepper

Cover potatoes with cold water and salt. Boil potatoes over medium-high heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Place potatoes in a large bowl, add milk, and mash with a potato masher. Add roasted garlic, roasted poblano, and butter. Blend with an electric mixer until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: To roast garlic, remove the outer paper layers and place either the whole head or separated individual cloves on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, loosely  wrap, and seal with the aluminum foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven until soft, 25 to 30 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Source: March 1, 2021, The Buzz Magazines, Erin Faulkner