January 22, 2015

Alabama

Statehood: December 14th, 1819 (22/50)

I'm confused by you, Alabama. You herald the boll weevil for saving your agricultural scene by forcing farmers to grow crops other than cotton so much so that in 1919 you erected a monument in the bugs honor in Enterprise, AL... but then you turned around seventy years later and made the monarch butterfly your official state insect? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd much rather walk through a field of fluttering butterflies gently kissing my skin (I wonder if it really does feel like eyelashes?) then through a patch of creepy crawly looking weevils that I can only imagine latch on like ticks do. I just think it was an interesting move!

Then again, The Heart of Dixie - a public relations born nickname from the mid-20th century by the chamber of commerce as a way to set apart Alabama from other so-called Cotton States - is an interesting place. Like, did you know that the Saturn V was created at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville? What's the Saturn V? Oh, y'know, only the rocket that made it possible for humans to land on the moon. No big deal. Neither is the fact that Alabama was the first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday in 1836. So while Alabama might be the Heart of Dixie, the heart of Alabama is ingenuity and family (with a dash of hospitality).

Allllllllllllright, Alabamians, allow me to announce your appropriately approved emblems!


State Nut: Pecan
Since pecan trees are grown all through Alabama (and are indigenous to the U.S. of A.), the state adopted it as the official state nut in 1982. And why not? It's a staple in many southern dishes and is an excellent source of protein.

NOTE: Today I learned that I suck at making  candy turtles from scratch. I thought I could make vegan caramel nooooo problem, but my turtles came out... well, let's just say entirely inedible and slightly mutated looking. So, the next time I make them - oh, yes, there will be a next time - I'll probably just buy some vegan caramels, melt them down, and make my life A LOT easier.

Turtles Done Easy
Makes: 12 candy turtles

Ingredients:
1 10-oz bag of (vegan) chocolate chips (like these)
3 Tablespoons of nut milk
7 or 8-oz of (vegan) caramels (these look nice), unwrapped
50 walnut halves

Method:
In a double boiler on your stove on medium heat, melt the chocolate chips with the nut milk - be sure to stir well to make the blend creamy.

In your microwave, melt the caramels until smooth and creamy.

On a cookie sheet with wax paper or aluminum (TRUST ME ON THIS ONE), spread a thin-ish spoonful of the melted chocolate. Put four walnut halves on top of the chocolate. Next, spoon some melted caramel on top of that, so the turtle "feet" are mostly covered. Finally, spoon the remaining chocolate on top of the caramel. Let set in the refridgerator for thirty mintues!


State Fruit: Blackberry

In 2004, AL designated the blackberry (in Senate Bill 163) as their official state fruit. 

Buckle Yo' Berries!
Makes: a 9x9 pan of dessert

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cup of blackberries
1 1/2 cup of raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons of water
1 16.2-oz of lemon flavored cake mix

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together your blackberries, raspberries, sugar, and splash of water. Stir gently to combine, then pour mixture into a 9x9 pan. Next, prepare your cake batter according to the direction on the box. I used European Gourmet Bakery's lemon cake mix. It called for both butter, milk, and eggs, so to keep it vegan I used Earth Balance, almond milk, and a 1/4 cup of apple sauce instead. It worked like a charm! Mix the batter together and pour gently over the berries.

Bake 35 minutes. Let cool for ten before serving. Would be excellent tasting with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!


State Tree Fruit: Peach

Blackberries don't get all the glory, as in 2006 the Alabama State Legislature designated the peach to be the official state tree fruit. It's believed that anywhere from thirty to forty varieties of peaches grown in AL.  

Salty, Sweet Grilled Cheese
Makes: 2 sandwiches

Ingredients:
4 slices of hearty, multigrain bread
1/4 lb of Gouda, cut into slices
5-oz sliced peaches
4 strips of (tempeh) bacon (like this), fried in a little olive oil until crisp (or your preferred level of done-ness)
8 to 10 large basil leaves

Method:
Build your sandwich: on one slice of multigrain bread top with half the Gouda, half the peaches, two strips of the cooked (fake) bacon, and half the basil leaves. Place a second piece of bread on top of that to finish sandwich. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Grill on preferred surface - we use our George Foreman, because it also acts a bit like a panini press - for upwards to 7 or 10 minutes (depending on your preference for crunchy of bread/melt of cheese). Serve immediately!

Recipe Note:
We don't have fresh peaches here year round, so I used a 10-oz bag of frozen peaches from Whole Foods. If you go this route as well, make sure to place your thawed peach wedges on several paper towels to absorb the excess wetness.


Sources:
Alabama Department of Archives and History: Alabama Official Emblems, Symbols, and Honors