February 9, 2015

Arkansas

Statehood: June 15th, 1836 (25/50)

All that glitters ain't gold...

Sometimes its DIAMONDS, like the largest one ever found in the U.S. which was in Arkansas. It was 40.23 carats and was discovered in 1924. The gem was nicknamed "Uncle Sam" after the founder, W.O. Basham who went by the same moniker. Years (and years) later, in 1990, Shirley Strawn discovered what would come to be called the Strawn-Wagner Diamond... the only "perfect" diamond (graded O/O/O [for cut/colors/flaws]; the highest grade a diamond can get) ever certified by the American Gem Society. Both were discovered at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, AR. To this day, it's the lone place in the world where anyone from the public can mine for diamonds.

If bling isn't your thing, how about groundbreaking music (Johnny Cash), exceptional written works (Maya Angelou), cheese dogs (a 1956 invention, which is credited to the Finkbeiner Meat Packing Co. in Little Rock), or movie soundtracks (Freeman Harrison Owens, a Pine Bluff native, invented not only the technology for synchronizing sound with film, but the A.C. Nielsen Rating System, and slow motion for films as well... all of which The Natural State also gave us.

Well done, Arkansas, well done! We'll slow clap to that.

Alright, Arkansans, allow me to announce awesome edibles from your area!

(Also... hello, halfway point!)


State Beverage: Milk


Like many, many states, the official beverage of Arkansas is milk. It was adopted in 1985 by the General Assembly because of the important of dairy farming to the AR agriculture. Looking for something uniquely regional to make? Try your hand at a cheese dip - it's so popular in Arkansas that there's even a Cheese Dip Trail!

Vegan Arkansas Cheese Dip
Makes: one large pot

Ingredients:
1 10-oz roll of Teese Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
3 Tablespoons diced green chiles

Method:
In a saucepan on medium heat, combine the Teese with the tomatoes and diced green chiles. Bring to a soft boil before serving as is with chips, french fries, or on top of a big plate of nachos! See?:




State Fruit/Vegetable: Pink Tomato

That's right, Arkansas had the common sense to make the pink tomato not only their official state fruit, but their official state vegetable, as well, in 1987. Did you know that there's a Pink Tomato Festival held in Bradley County each year?

Tomatoes and Potatoes and some Mayo
Makes: 2 larger sides

Ingredients:
3 medium potatoes, cut into wedges
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, halved
1/4 cup of green onions, diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional: Mayonnaise

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a cookie sheet, toss the potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, and green onions with the olive oil and the salt.

Roast for 30 minutes.

Serve immediately... tastes amazing with a drizzle of mayo!


State Grain: Rice

Rice became the official state grain in 2007, because it's Arkansas' leading agricultural crop (nearly half of all U.S. rice is grown here).

EZ Rice N' Beans
Makes: 2 hearty dinner portions

Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
1 1/2 cup water
1 15-oz can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 1/4 cup salsa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin

Method:
Combine rice and water in a sauce pot on high heat. Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Turn down to low heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, salsa, salt, and cumin and cook for another 20 minutes (stirring every so often so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan). Serve immediately with a wedge of lime, dollop of Greek yogurt, green onions, salsa, avocado, etc.


State Grape: Norton/Cynthiana

In 2009 the Norton/Cynthiana grape was declared the official state grape of AR. It's considered an important grape to the wineries of this region of the country. Because it's such a specific item, you may not be able to find it where you live. Hop on over to Amazon or Etsy, and find something that will work!

PB&J Pie
Makes: 1 pie

Ingredients:
1 pie crust (like this)
1 cup smooth peanut butter
8-oz cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 9-oz container of whipped topping
1 7.25-oz jar of Norton Red Wine Jelly (like this)
1/4 cup of salted peanuts

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake pie shell for 18 minutes (or until golden brown).

Let cool completely.

In a bowl, mix together the peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar, and half of the whipped topping until creamy and smooth. Spread into the bottom of the pie crust. Top that with a layer of jelly. And finally, finish the pie with the remainder of the whipped topping.

Freeze for an hour before serving (and top the pie with the peanuts before you do!).


State Nut: Pecan

Another extremely popular food in the United States is pecans. Why wouldn't they be when they're the only nut native to the country? The General Assembly adopted the pecan as the official state nut of Arkansas in 2009.

Waldorf Chicken Salad
Makes: more than enough for two open faced sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 10.5-oz bag of Gardein Teriyaki Chick'n Strips, sauce discarded
1 cup green grapes, halved
1/2 cup raw pecan halves, chopped
1 medium green apple, diced into cubes
1/2 cup (vegan) mayo
2 teaspoons spicy dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt

Method:
Sauté Gardein Teriyaki Chick'n Strips in pan with olive oil on medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes until dark brown and crispy on both sides. Remove from heat and turn out chick'n strips onto paper towel. While they cool, halve the grapes, chop the pecans, cube the apple. Toss into a large bowl. Cut the chick'n strips into chunks and also place in bowl. Add mayo, mustard, and salt to bowl and mix to evenly combine/distribute everything. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving as is or in a sandwich.


Sources:
Kraus, Kerry Ann. "RE: Arkansas.com Contact Form". Message to the author. 29 Oct. 2013. E-mail.
SOS.Arkansas.gov: Arkansas State Symbols