Posts Tagged With: Catherine de’ Medici

85/365: National Spinach Day

I’ll POP you in the EYE if you aren’t strong enough to celebrate today’s food holiday. March 26 is National Spinach Day!

Spinach originated in Persia (modern-day Iran) in ancient times. Indian traders brought it to India and China, where it was known as “Persian green.” It is still called this today, though I’d feel funny walking into a public market and asking for Persian green. I might get arrested or something. It made its way next to Sicily, and became so popular in the Mediterranean it was christened the “captain of leafy greens” in Spain, an honorary title that really pissed off kale. It was introduced to Europe in the 14th century, and was such a hit with Catherine de’ Medici, the Queen of France in 1533, that she insisted on eating it with every meal. Nowadays, spinach dishes are known as “Florentine” reflecting Catherine’s birthplace of Florence, Italy. In the U.S., spinach gained popularity in the 1930s thanks to Popeye the Sailor Man, who was portrayed as gaining strength anytime he ate spinach. This was actually based on a misunderstanding; in the 1870s German scientist Emil von Wolff misplaced a decimal point when measuring the iron content of spinach, making it appear that spinach contained ten times the amount of iron it really did. “Oh well,” von Wolff said later, nonapologetic. “I yam what I yam.”

Spinach is one of those vegetables that a lot of kids wrinkle their noses over, but growing up I loved the stuff. Or rather, the canned stuff. Heated up and sprinkled with salt? That was a childhood fave! I remember the first time I tried “real” spinach. I was like, what on earth is THIS?! It resembled lettuce more than anything from a can. Disappointed though I was, I still liked it.

How to make green eggs.

How to make green eggs.

There was no eating spinach from a can today, though. Tara has a great way of preparing it, and I’ll let her talk about that.

A gal I work with mentioned she makes ‘green eggs and ham’ for her daughters a few times a week.  Rather than dye the eggs with green food coloring, she blends baby spinach with eggs and scrambles them up.  Served with crumbled turkey bacon and a little bit of shredded cheese, it’s an often requsted favorite of her youngsters.  Since I had just bought a Magic Bullet and there was fresh spinach leftover from Mark’s last batch of Italian Wedding Soup (something he SHOULD be making today…hint, hint, babe) I wanted to try the green eggs for myself.  I’m glad I did because they really are delicious and nutritious.  After blending the spinach and eggs for a few minutes, the mixture will be very frothy.  This is a good thing because it makes for light and fluffy eggs and the spinach flavor is very subtle.  Paired with a whole wheat english muffin and some orange slices, it’s an easy, healthy breakfast I can throw together quickly, even when we’re running late.  Sorry about leaving all those dirty dishes, sweetie!

No problem, darling. That’s why they invented dishwashers!

I do love Tara’s green eggs, and have become addicted to them myself. This is also a fun, great way to sneak a serving of vegetables onto a kid’s plate…they’ll never even taste the spinach. And if they balk, tell them it’ll make ’em big and strong. Just like Popeye.


Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

2/365: National Cream Puff Day

Today is National Cream Puff Day. This dessert was introduced to the U.S. in 1880, but dates clear back to the 1540s, where it originated in Europe. It was created for royalty: King Henry II of France’s pastry chef is said to have whipped up the first profiterole (fancy word for cream puff) at the insistence of his wife, Catherine de Medici. Henry largely ignored Catherine in favor of his mistress, so perhaps the pastry was a literal “sweet” gesture to win him over.

Or maybe fatten him up.

Either way, France in the 16th century wasn’t a very happy place, thanks to near-constant war and poverty. A sweet treat like the cream puff could maybe, for a moment at least, make the French forget about their woes.

It made Tara and I forget about ours today. There are few desserts more decadent, in my opinion. Cream puffs are light, flaky, and filled with a delicious cream center. To achieve this consistency, flour and salt are added to a mixture of boiled water and butter, baked at high heat for 20-25 minutes, then cut in half in order to prevent them from deflating. No matter how you slice ’em (pun intended), they are good!

We didn’t make ours, though. Instead, Larson’s Bakery on Mill Plain came to the rescue. I walked in, scoured the display case, and found a pair of Bavarian Cream Puffs on the end, calling my name. I managed to snag the last two left.

“Did you know today is National Cream Puff Day?” I asked the cashier.

“It’s funny you should mention that,” she replied. “One of the managers told me the other day, and I meant to make extras, but I completely forgot about it.”

No harm, no foul. I brought them home, and Tara and I scarfed them down as a pre-dinner appetizer. Upstairs in the bedroom, even. Who says you have to save dessert for dessert? They looked too good to resist, and they were mighty tasty. Bavarian cream puffs have a chocolate topping and a Bavarian cream filling, and are pretty similar to an eclair. Think of them as cream puffs kicked up a notch. Tara isn’t even real keen on cream puffs, but she declared these to be very good. (There is a National Eclair Day, by the way. June 22nd).

Bavarian Cream Puffs have a bonus chocolate layer.

Bavarian Cream Puffs have a bonus chocolate layer.

Two days in, and this project is beginning to feel fun. Maybe by the time summer rolls around we’ll feel otherwise, but right now, we’re enjoying it! Check out the new Calendar page for a daily list of our upcoming food challenges. Tomorrow it’s chocolate covered cherries. Pretty easy so far!

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

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