Tuscan Panzanella

My wish in life is for it to be 70 degrees and sunny everyday.  Is that really so much to ask?  Apparently so when you live in Washington, DC.  I still ask myself why I moved from sunny CA to New York City.  Ever single winter I whine and complain.  I don’t like snow.  I don’t like cold.  And I will probably not accept your invitation to go to the park for a snowball fight.  Nope.  Definitely not.  So as soon as it starts to get a little warmer, like 50 degrees, the coats go away and I bust the flip flops out.  Now that we are hitting 75/80 nearly every day, yeah, I can get behind that.  Warm weather in the east coast does not last forever and I take full advantage of it.  There is something about summer that makes me want to eat salad all the time for every meal.  Fruits and veggies make me feel so fresh and healthy and throwing this and that into a salad just make me happy.  Another thing that makes me happy?  BREAD.  French bread, wheat bread, ciabatta bread, ANY BREAD.  Being an athlete who chose to partake in the two sports that REQUIRE mass consumption of bread you might say I have a love/hate relationship with starchy goodness.  And by love/hate I mean love/can’t live without.  Obviously.

I love all things starchy and delicious.  Who doesn’t?  I don’t do whole-wheat pasta.  I’m sure it is delicious and while I appreciate the health factor, I embrace the white pasta and white French/Italian bread.  I was craving something new and have been wanted to make this forever but it’s so great to use day-old bread for this Italian salad.  Well, I didn’t have day-old bread so I went to Whole Foods and bought end of the day bread which is kind of the same thing, right?  I love the Italians because they don’t really measure things.  Kind of just throw ingredients in the pot and hope it tastes good.  Usually more butter and/or oil is added so it is always delicious.

Tuscan Panzanella

(serves 4-6 people salad servings, or 2-4 people entree servings)

3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
salt/pepper, to taste
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
½ cup mozzarella cheese, chopped into ½ inch cubes

For the vinaigrette:

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Red Wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Olive oil

salt/pepper to taste

 

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10-15 minutes, or until nicely browned and fairly crunchy.  Add more oil as needed.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.  I have included measurements here for portioning, but definitely add more or less to taste.  I always add more.  Especially bread.  and cheese.  This is just veggies, cheese, and bread.  And a tiny amount of vinigrette, if you choose.  Super easy.  And super yum.

Growing Up

Who doesn’t love a birthday?  Definitely not me.  I love birthdays.  All birthdays, but especially mine.  And luckily for me, it was my birthday last Friday.  Ever since I have been little I looked forward to my birthday, so much so that I would start planning six months in advance.  And of course, I dragged everyone who would listen along for the elongated birthday ride.  My favorite threat/phrase during that time sounded something like. . .

“PLEEEASE!  If you give this/do this I will invite you to my birthday party,” or

“You can’t come to my birthday party!”

I was quite a conniving six-year-old and my mom had to initiate a rule that if I even mentioned any party plans before April I wasn’t going to have a birthday.  My mom has always done a pretty good job of combating manipulative mini me and six-year-old Sarah did not want to test the waters of possible not having a birthday.  I was also born on Mother’s Day so I think my mom is very fortunate that I am THE ULTIMATE Mother’s Day present.  Every year.  Forever and ever.  You’re welcome, Mom.  Over the years, that may have changed a little, more to the fact that I have celebrated my 25th birthday a few times now.  Twenty-five is such an awesome age to be and obviously I will be 25 forever.  This year my birthday weekend was incredible; I spent time with two of my favorite people in the world, made myself THE BEST cake ever, and celebrated my favorite team WINNING an epic/important game.  I know, it’s too much for anyone on their birthday.  Which makes me wonder if it is time to begin embracing the truth of the birthday, or continue to believe I won’t grow up.  Based on my 2012 Birthday Adventures, 28 (alright, I said it) is turning out to be pretty cool already:

Pre-birthday hockey game which my team lost (but ended up winning the series 3 days later), but any day for hockey is an incredibly good day.  Although the overwhelming RED did make me a wee bit uncomfortable.  I definitely was not “rocking the red.” :

Day off from work means a stroll through Georgetown and a stop at my favorite ice cream store: 

Celebratory Birthday Cake made by yours truly, which is the best summer-time/greatest cake ever (I sense a post coming soon):

All of this was followed by a birthday brunch with friends, The Avengers, and lots watching of this video.  I love celebrations and this one was all about me.  I am so excited that I got to share it with people I love.  I love being a spring baby.  It means I have the ENTIRE summer to look forward to (and lots of summery treats to make).


BELIZE: Mother Nature’s best kept secret

While this is not a post about something yummy, it is a post about something amazing so you should definitely read this.  Trust me, you are about to be amazed, jealous, and dreaming of getaways.  First off, you should know that I don’t do vacations.  I just have never had time for them.  Spring break and summer vacation are totally novel concepts to me.  This is because I was an athlete for 8 years of my life.  The constant fear of being cut from my water polo team prevented me from ever taking any vacation in high school and in college our season was the ENTIRE spring semester.  Now I kill my body because I just love the soreness in my shoulders.  Doesn’t everyone?  So this concept of “vacation” is totally a novel one for me.  And I am totally behind it.  One hundred and forty-five percent.

Being in school is kind of like being on vacation.  Except for the writing papers, taking tests, trying to graduate part.  But you can skip class, if you want.  You COULD skip work, if you want.  But I really like getting payed the same amount on the same day every two weeks.  Being in the “real world” for my first “real” job is a completely eye opening experience, one that I’m not really sure I am cut out for.  I like waking up early to go workout but that is nearly impossible when you go to bed at midnight and are working a job that keeps you busy all the time.  So I have tio settle for 5 hours of sleep a night.  Really not the best thing.  My body is crying everyday.  But at least I’m not fat.

In the past year I have graduated from school (again), moved to a new city, changed jobs (twice), and trained for a half-marathon (worst.decision.EVER).  I have never wanted, no NEEDED, a vacation more in my life, that I can remember.  So last week I spent 6 days in Belize.  Truly amazing.  Never in my life have a ever felt so relaxed in a continuous period of time.  The weather was hot and sunny.  The food was amazing (fish every day.YUM).  Slept at least 8 hours. EVERY NIGHT.  And I am finally tan again.  Life is good.  Of course that all went away THE MOMENT I got to the office on Monday.  But I think this “vacation idea” is here to stay.  At least I won’t relinquish it without a fight.  Here is proof that I do know how to relax.

Day 1.  Get to the beach.  And lie on beach until the sun goes down.

View from the balcony that I called home for a week.

The boy and I at Mayan Ruins.  So hot and and SO MASSIVE

Post-ruin drink.  I definitely has about 6 of these.  Where is the rum?  Definitely in every drink I had.

Day 6.  Goodbye, Belize.  I miss you already.

Now that I am back to reality I PROMISE I will share something yummy with you next time.  Be ready for some sugar-filled happiness.