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March

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Why do we eat chocolate bunnies on Easter?

It’s hard to imagine what a chocolate rabbit has to do with anything in the religious realm. I mean, we’re not complaining — It’s a deliciously adorable Easter treat enjoyed by millions across the globe. But it’s just that, well, how did a milk chocolate mammal become the unofficial symbol of Christianity’s spring holiday? According to Time, the origins of Easter can be traced back to the pagans who celebrated Eostre, the goddess of fertility. Of course, reproduction is what rabbits do best, so it’s fitting that Eostre’s animal symbol was a bunny. Fast forward to the eighteenth century. Christian holidays had long since taken favor over pagan holidays, but some of the symbols and imagery were reappropriated. Part of the tradition of the Easter holiday in Germany included the folklore of an egg-laying rabbit named “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” As Germans immigrated to the United States in the 1700s, so too…

Thick or thin? The skinny on asparagus size

‘Tis the season for asparagus. And whether we get it from the grocer or our garden, it would be hard not to notice the size difference in asparagus stalks. So which is better, thick or thin? For a while “thin was in.” Skinny stalks were thought to be more tender and were even marketed as “gourmet.” Thicker stalks were passed over at the market because they were thought of as woody and tough. (Admit it. You assumed this, too.) But larger doesn’t actually mean tougher, and our association of “young” and “tender,” when it comes to asparagus, is incorrect. In fact, according to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, young asparagus puts a lot of energy into producing spears that can stand upright, so the younger plant is more likely to have more crude fiber per square inch. Whereas, if thick asparagus got a reputation as woody, it’s because home cooks…

Creamy asparagus, mushroom casserole

This creamy asparagus and mushroom casserole is the picture of spring side dishes. It uses up loads of that delicious, just-from-the-garden asparagus, fresh mushrooms, and leftover hard-boiled eggs. (Confession: My eggs had pretty pastel spots from getting dyed just days before, but this dish is a great way to make sure they don’t go to waste!) I’m a big fan of this casserole because it delivers such a big serving of vegetables, but it’s also so flavorful, I would eat it as a meal. The smoked paprika brings a lot of flavor to the white sauce, so take a few taste samples as you simmer the sauce and add more to your liking. Creamy asparagus, mushroom casserole Ingredients 2 bunches asparagus 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, with dirt brushed off 2 1/2 tbsp butter + 1/2 tbsp butter 1/4 cup onion, finely copped 2 tsp Dijon mustard 2 1/2 ounces shredded…

10 Surprising facts about Jelly Beans

Unless you’re an uber-fan, you probably don’t think about jelly beans a whole lot until Easter rolls around — then the little candies take center stage. But what do you really know about these sweet pops of flavor? Here are some juicy details. 1. It can take 7 to 14 days to make A jelly bean. Making jelly beans is no easy task. It requires many steps from liquifying sugar and flavors to pouring into tiny bean-shaped molds and letting dry overnight. The candies then undergo a process called “panning.” They’re transferred to a rotating drum where flavors and colors are added as they spin. Sugar is then added to create the bean’s hard exterior shell. Finally, a hot syrupy wax is applied to give them their shine. After all of that, the beans still need to go through packing and shipping. 2. the battle for favorite flavor. For two…

Lucky Charms Bars

Lucky Charms is probably one of those cereals you only spring for occasionally — like around St. Patrick’s Day when that devilish little leprechaun gets the best of your diet. But we must admit, the luck-themed sugary marshmallow shapes do add a fun flair to the holiday. This year, upgrade your classic Rice Krispie squares to these Lucky Charms bars. You basically just swap out the cereal in your favorite Rice Krispie recipe. Lucky Charms bars Makes 16 squares Ingredients 6 cups Lucky Charms 4 tbsp butter 1 (10-ounce) package of mini marshmallows Cooking spray Directions Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. (This will help you remove squares and cut them later.) On low heat, melt butter in a large saucepan. Add marshmallows and stir constantly until everything is melted. Pour in cereal and fold until cereal is completely coated with melted marshmallow. Transfer cereal…

14 Fun facts about Peeps

Forget groundhog shadows or tulips. The first real sign of spring are bright yellow Peeps stocking the shelves at your local grocery store. Marshmallow Peeps are everyone’s favorite non-chocolate Easter candy — they even outsell jelly beans! Americans will eat 1.5 billion Marshmallow Peeps and Bunnies this spring, but what do you really know about these sugar crystal coated, brightly-colored bird-shaped mallows? Discover 14 fun facts about Peeps: 1. Making Peeps used to be a really long process. It used to take 27 hours to make a Peep. The first Peeps were squeezed one at a time from a pastry tube before receiving hand painted eyes. Today, with an automated manufacturing process, a Peep takes just six minutes to make. 2. About 5.5 million Peeps are born every single day. Machines crank out 3,500 Peeps per minute — that’s nearly 2 billion Peeps per year! 3. Peeps were originally produced by…

Super Simple Shepherd’s Pie

A 20-minute dinner doesn’t get much better than this classic Irish comfort food. It’s perfect for your St. Paddy’s Day celebration, but it’s plenty delicious enough to make all year long. Shepherd’s Pie is one of those foods you’ll find on any March 17 restaurant menu. You’re practically required to eat it at some point in the month of March. It has become as synonymous with the St. Patrick’s Day celebration as pints of green beer — which is to say, that neither the green-dyed drinks nor this beef-based dinner are exactly Irish. Traditional Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb or mutton (It’s Cottage Pie that uses beef). But here in the U.S., we’ve definitely put our own spin on the holiday, so I think this dish gets a pass, too. I like to cut corners with this recipe and get everything pre-chopped so all I have to do is brown some…

Cracking through 8 myths about eggs

They’re cheap, nutritious, and an essential part in the diets of billions around the world. Still, there are a lot of myths surrounding the everyday egg. Get ready for a bit of shell shock. I’m about to scramble everything you think you know about eggs. Myth: Brown chickens lay brown eggs. Truth: The color of a chicken does determine what color eggs it lays, but it’s not the feathers that give it away — it’s the earlobes. (Yes, Earlobes!) Chickens with red earlobes lay brown eggs, while white eggs usually come from chickens with white earlobes. There are always exceptions, but if you’re wondering what color a hen’s eggs will be, this general rule is a good place to start. Myth: All eggs need to be refrigerated at all times. Truth: Whether or not you need to refrigerate your eggs depends on where you live. If you live in the United…

Save money and buy produce in season in March

March marks the beginning of the end of winter (yay!). It might not feel very warm when you walk outside your door, but spring is coming. March is also an interesting month for produce as many winter fruits and veggies fall out of favor and we see the start of sweet fruits we associate with summer (hello, pineapple!). Come April, you’ll be planting your own seedlings and start to see more local variety, but for now, you’ll have to purchase ripe produce from the southernmost states. Get more bang for your buck by buying fruits and vegetables that are in season. They cost less because they are more plentiful — and they’re tastier, too! A big win, win. Here are 10 fruits and veggies ready for your plate right now: Artichokes Artichoke season runs from March through June (and then again in the fall), and most artichokes in the United States…

5 Irish Foods You’re Basically Required to Eat on St. Patrick’s Day

If you’re decking yourself out in green from head-to-toe and heading out to a local pub this St. Patrick’s Day, you might as well enjoy the foods most associated with Ireland. Also see, the recipe to  make the original Irish Coffee. Sheperd’s pie Shepherd’s Pie was born of frugal housewives looking for ways to repurpose leftovers their husbands would otherwise turn up their noses at. Recipes vary widely, but they share a basic structure — mashed potatoes at the bottom and top and minced meat in the middle. A Cottage Pie is a similar creation that contains beef, but a true Shepherd’s Pie will use lamb or mutton. Irish Soda Bread Irish Soda Bread has all the earmarks of being the product of a poor country. It’s made with the most basic ingredients: flour, baking soda, soured milk, and salt. Before baking, a cross is cut into the top to…