Today I had indulgences on my mind. After the feast of Fat Tuesday, this is the day of fasting. Missing even one meal made me hyper-aware of all the food around me. Coworkers bringing in snacks from nearby vendors, Valentine's treats beginning to find their way into the break room, even the notices at the gas pump proudly proclaiming "quick munchies" from the convenience store on my way home.
I needed a break from the outside world until my fast would be broken and found some solitude down at my favorite bench at Poverty Bay. For just a brief moment I meditated on the luxuries of my life, all the beautiful things and people I have been blessed with, and the experiences in life I have been gifted.
So much gratitude.
My thought of indulgences harkened back briefly to a moment earlier this week when I was putting together a Peach Panzanella Salad. Peaches are not in season right now. Yet, I had this intense craving for them and stopped at three different markets before I even found a small fresh basket of them hidden in the produce section. I pulled out a recipe from a while back at The First Mess and adapted it to my liking.
On that little bench I gave myself permission to enjoy this salad and simply be thankful.
The Shopping List (for the croutons):
Loaf of fresh bread
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
dash of salt and pepper
The Shopping List (for the salad):
4 stalks of kale
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
basil to garnish
dash of salt and pepper
First, start with creating the croutons. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a fresh loaf of bread into large bite-sized pieces and place on a baking sheet. I used a wheat lavain, but most soft breads will work. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over top and sprinkle salt and pepper. Toss the bread on the sheet and place in the oven for 12-15 minutes, flipping the bread at the halfway point to bake evenly. Pull them from the oven and let them cool while the salad is being prepped.
On the stove top bring the vegetable broth to medium heat before adding in the quinoa. Allow the quinoa to absorb all of the liquid before removing from the heat and fluffing. Set to the side to cool.
De-stem the kale and chop before putting it in a large bowl. Cut up the tomatoes and peaches to bite sized pieces and add to the bowl. Finally, chop the basil into smaller pieces and add to the salad. Drizzle on the olive oil and balsamic vinegar before adding some more salt and pepper before giving it a good toss. Mix in the cooled quinoa before topping off with the freshly made croutons.
Allow the salad to sit for a bit (approximately 10-15 minutes) to soak in all the juices before serving.
Do you believe in love at first sight or do I have to walk by one more time?
Have you been drinking milk, because it sure did your body good.
Do you like raisins? How about a date?
Let us face it, I am not going to find my Valentine with bad pick up lines -- but I may entice someone to a date with a cup of spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate.
Play to my strengths, after all, they say the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
In all honesty, I probably will not be sharing my spicy-sweet drink. The dueling flavors come from cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Cayenne has a few health benefits as well, such as acting as a digestive aid by increasing enzyme production and stimulating the digestive track.
The Shopping List:
6 cups milk (or almond milk)
6 oz dark chocolate
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp vanilla
(optional) 1/4 cup milk for frothing
(optional) a drop of red food coloring
In a sauce pan, heat milk slowly over medium heat. Melt in chocolate in and stir consistently and remove to heat. When the chocolate is thoroughly melted, mix in the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and vanilla.
To add a little flourish, I frothed some milk with red food dye. There is a fantastic set of instructions on how to froth milk at How About Orange. I garnished with a bit of chocolate syrup and a wafer roll.