Three hundred sixty-five days, five hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds - that's how long it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun.

To keep the seasons in sync with the calendar year, the ancient Romans standardized the calendar into 365-day units, with a 29th day added to February every four years. This, of course, is how Leap Day was created.

It would take centuries of fiddling to come up with the formula that we use today. Leap Days are included in years divisible by four, and if the year ends in 100, the number must be divisible by 400 to be a Leap Year. We can relax as this intricate plotting should keep us in tune with the seasons for the next several thousand years.

Let's not let the day slip by just like any other. Since it comes around so infrequently, it truly is cause for celebration.

You might be familiar with the legend of St. Bridget and St. Patrick from fifth century Ireland. Bridget complained to Patrick that men were taking their sweet time to propose marriage to their sweethearts. Patrick finally gave into her persistence and set February 29 aside as the day women were allowed to ask for a man's hand in marriage.

The tradition was carried over to Scotland, where Queen Margaret took it one step further. Men who refused the proposal would be fined, either in the form of a kiss, a silk dress or a pair of gloves to be given to the rejected lady fair. That's right, Margaret, go for the goods!

In a more modern American tradition, Leap Day is called Sadie Hawkins Day, and honors 'the homeliest gal in the hills.' Sadie Hawkins, created by Al Capp in his cartoon strip 'Li'l Abner,' and every other woman in Dogpatch were allowed to pursue and catch the most eligible bachelors in the holler on Feb. 29.

Today, there is little need to lace up your running shoes for the Sadie Hawkins Day race. Instead, plan a feast of aphrodiasics - you know, foods with alluring qualities.

Though medical science has not substantiated claims that any particular food increases the allure one person may have for another, it won't hurt to try. And I propose you don't have to go 'over the top' eating leafcutter ants or fertilized duck eggs with a nearly developed embryo. Though considered to be aphrodisiacs in some cultures, I consider eating those things to be just plain weird.

How about some familiar and enticing sounding nibbles, like artichokes, asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, mangos, mussels or chocolate bonbons? Now those are foods with allure!

Always a welcome sight and pleasing to the tastebuds, these early spring treasures will capture the heart of all who eat them. I guarantee you won't have to chase your beloved over hill and dale, just light the candles and turn on the music.

Bon Appetit - Eat Locally!

Chicken and Artichoke Fricassee with Mushrooms

Serves 4 to 6

We're a little early for local artichokes, if you need to use canned, add them during the last 20 minutes of cooking.

1 ½ lemons

12 baby artichokes

6 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 chicken thighs

4 chicken drumsticks

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, your choice of varieties

2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, divided

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup dry white wine

½ cup low salt chicken broth

¼ cup plain nonfat yogurt or sour cream

Fill a large bowl with water. Squeeze lemon juice from one lemon into water; add lemon halves. Tear outer leaves from one artichoke until only pale green leaves remain. Cut top ¾ inch from top; trim end of stem. Cut in half lengthwise. Rub cut sides of artichoke with lemon half; transfer to bowl with lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.

Bring 6 cups of water, 2 teaspoons salt and bay leaf to boil in large saucepan. Add artichoke halves and cook until just tender, about five minutes. Drain.

Melt butter with oil in heavy large deep skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and place in heated skillet. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate. Add mushrooms, carrots, and shallots to skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until vegetables begin to soften, about four minutes. Add one tablespoon thyme and garlic; sauté one minute. Add wine, bring to a boil. Add broth and artichokes; bring to a boil.

Return chicken to skillet, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Turn chicken, cover and simmer until cooked through, about 15 minutes longer. Tranfer chicken and vegetables to platter. Whisk yogurt or sour cream into sauce in skillet; bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken, sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of thyme, and serve.

Asparagus with Roasted Garlic Aioli

Makes 8 hors d'oeuvre servings.

We're early for local asparagus so either save this recipe for our crop to ripen or look for organic asparagus.

2 medium heads garlic, left whole

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 ½ cups mayonnaise

2 teaspoons apple-cider vinegar

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400F.

Cut off and discard tops of garlic heads to expose cloves, then brush each head with ½ tablespoon oil. Wrap heads together in foil and bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool to warm.

Squeeze garlic from skins into a food processor and puree with mayonnaise, vinegar, pepper and salt. Transfer aioli to a bowl and stir in chives.

Peel lower two thirds of each asparagus stalk with a vegetable peeler (or snap off). Cook asparagus in a wide 6 to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until crisp-tender, about five minutes. Drain well in a colander and rinse under cold water until asparagus is cool. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Serve asparagus with roasted garlic aioli.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 503-635-8811.

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