Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saving Stale Bread

While you are in Italy it is quite natural to develop an unnatural attraction to bread. The unfortunate consequence of the affinity is purchasing more bread than you can eat before it goes stale.
I abhor waste! When fruit is dangerously teetering on the brink on the wrong side of its ripeness peak, I freeze it. The same with vegetables.
Bread on the other hand is best frozen before it goes hard.
And one simply does not waste bread in Italy.
Economy is of course a factor, but the primary reason is
fresh or hardened by age it is delicious
I was eating at a restaurant and a couple at a table across from me sent the bread back to the kitchen.
This offense was great.
It was very late in the evening so the bread was not soft as when it is freshly baked but there was not a thing wrong with the bread. (also you do not send food back to the kitchen by insulting it but that is another story for another post.)
From the moment the woman knocked the bread on the table and said this is hard, the quality of their service sharply declined. The waiters started taking things from their table to give to other guests and the attentiveness that is so characteristic of service in Italy all but disappeared.

But I digress...

When you are at home and your bread is a bit harder than you would like there are quite a few recipes that that you can make. Bread pudding, panzanella and stuffing are just three off the top of my head.

The above pictured dish actually had the flavor notes of mushroom stuffing.  I just used the seasonings we had on hand in the apartment and they happened to be those often used in American "stuffing".

The basic idea is to wet the bread and heat it simultaneously so it toasts and crisps without getting soggy. It's a really easy non recipe. You just need to add ingredients in proportion to the amount of "stale" bread you have.


Save Some Bread
2 day old rolls (gluten free or regular) sliced
3 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup fresh spinach
1/4 t rosemary
1/4 t Italian seasoning
1/4 sea salt
3 T olive oil
1.Heat 1 T olive oil then add bread and toast one side
then drizzle with rest of oil and half of salt before flipping.
2. Before the oil is absorbed completely
add mushrooms, seasoning (including rest of the salt)
and tomatoes heat until mushrooms wilt
3. Add spinach and stir then turn off heat and let spinach wilt
4. Sprinkle with pepper and devour....
but like a lady....
unless you are a man...
that is all....

Monday, July 22, 2013

Spring to Summer

Amazing that lovely spring flowers were in bloom when I left for Florence.
And I returned to the full heat and humidity of summer. Although the humidity is never desirable, how lovely it is to have summer produce ones disposal. Eating local is exceptionally pleasurable is the summer when berries and squash are ripe.
What quick meals do you enjoy in the summer season?
When its too hot to cook?

 If you're expecting a recipe for salad I'm terribly sorry to disappoint you. I like nutrient dense foods and lettuce is not particularly high on that list. And I'm not much of a fan of raw spinach although it is higher on the list.
Sushi is a lovely treat any time of year. Lazy sushi is a great way to get the taste of sushi without the work of rolling.
Step 1: put rice on a place other sushi toppings

Step 2: Use your hand or foot to grasp some rice
with a piece of sushi paper.
Stir fries are also great.
Quick, healthy, flavorful and delicious.
After all, a stir fry is basically a hot salad isn't it?

tofu, avocado, sundried tomato, kale stir fry
 Qaa (pronounced quah) is one of my favorite as I loosely call it salad.
 But only because I am biased against the word.
I had to find a short name for this salad because my friends say the old name is way too long.
This is actually a variation with the protein rich addition of Quinoa.
When I'm feeling exceptionally wily I add chickpeas as well,
which I say only to give you the hint that this is adaptable and versatile little dish.
Tasty warm or after its been in the fridge for a while,
which is to say I make a big batch and eat from it for days.
(Quinoa, Avocado and Artichoke Salad)
6 cups cooked quinoa
1-2 avocado, pitted and chopped
1-2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced
1/4 c fresh cilantro
1 big cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 can artichokes, drained, rinsed and sliced in half
1/4 c olive oil
1t salt
1/4c salsa verde (optional)
1/2 c chickpeas (optional)
Throw all into a bowl and have a stir.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Adjusting to Readjusting

It's hard to believe I've been back in Pittsburgh for a little over 2 weeks now.
It felt like I was gone for years. Not in a bad kind of way either.
Just a few days in Florence and I felt so comfortable as if I had never left.
The walls burst forth with beauty.
I'm having a bit of a struggle adjusting back to life in the U.S.
The pace is different, the prices are different, and strange sensory things like the smell.
Another thing, my mobility is different.
It's amazing what a difference being able to afford a monthly bus pass makes. That alone makes day to day activities easier in Florence. I don't mind walking one bit, but Florence proper is flatter than my stomping grounds in Pittsburgh. And even with the awkward sidewalks it was easier
to just walk places.
For instance, one evening we were invited to our friend M and S's house for dinner. They happen to live out in the country so D was going to meet us and give us a ride. We agreed to meet closer to where she would be at the appointed time since there was supposed to be a bus that went right by the plaza. Well, when we went to catch the bus we realized this particular bus only runs in the morning. Yay for commuters, but boo for us. So, we started walking.. and walking.. and walking.
According to Google Maps we walked 27 miles(4.5km), but it was relatively flat and we managed to arrive at the meeting place at the time we had set and no worse for ware (okay so maybe a bit more tired than before but no complaints).
Pas possible in Pittsburgh! If the hills didn't kill us the humidity would have.

What is up there?

I know it will be different when I move there because I will have to work.
It is such a treat saving up and then being able to not work while I serve.
But I think that if I can do something I enjoy I wont mind.
Teaching has always been on the list of things I enjoy.
However, I enjoy the type of teaching that I do for free.
However, getting paid to teach English will not diminish the joy that comes when you hear someone form their own sentence, it is grammatically correct and they understand what they have said. What a joy that is for me.


Readjusting to Home....

So how do you readjust yourself to being "home" after you have been away for a bit over a month? Here is an incredibly comprehensive guide (okay not exactly comprehensive but go with it):

==> Eat your favorite local foods. Foods in season and lots of fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and veggies also offset the jet lag.

sautéed tofu with fresh basil, garlic and tomato

==> Do things for others. Volunteer work is always a capital idea when you are feeling not quite yourself. Focusing on others quite naturally gets your mind off your own discontent. And after all "bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving."

==> Re-establish a routine as quickly as possible. Take a little extra time to do the things you love to do.

Doesn't everyone's routine involve Chipotle and enlightening reading?
==> Get high on endorphins. Endorphins are such a lovely boost!

==> Be the best version of yourself. This could also be called "fake it til you make it". I don't particularly like the phrase "fake", but when you pretend to be happy and positive it tends to help you feel that way. Misery loves company, but so does positivity. Why be a gloomy guss about what you left in the place you were traveling to when you very likely have reasons to be happy right at home.

==> Importantly, be patient as you adjust to readjusting.
==> Most importantly, PRAY! Through prayer we can get peace from the one source that gives it freely.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Missionary Trip to Florence: First Impressions

I was a tad nervous about going back to Florence.
First impressions can be wrong.
What if the love has cooled?
What if I have a horrible time?
Thankfully, neither of those questions, those worries, had any validity.
Strawberry and Banana Gelato from Riva Reno
on Via Borgo Degli Albizi
 Our very first meeting was the TheocraticMinistrySchool/Service Meeting on Wednesday night. After the meeting we were bombarded with open arms and bright smiles many "we missed you from those we met on the last trip and "lovely to meet you" from those who have joined the congregation since the last time we were there.
And we quickly found ourselves with 'appointments' for service
(On days or at times when there is no arranged meeting for service work
we set up appointments with each other).
No matter the amount of time that has passed...
Tuscany maintains its charm and character.
The undeniable warmth of the brother hood is a worldwide mark of identity,
but somehow this trait is amplified in the Tuscan sun. It is perhaps the local affinity to care in a rather pushy but pleasant way for the needs of others.
Going back to Florence felt like coming home after a long trip.
It is the strangest feeling.

A homemade meal of spinach, tomato, mushroom
and pan bread (recipe to come)
But the similarities between Pittsburgh and Florence
may be part of what is drawing me there.
River, bridges, warm Italian people, regional eating, local specialties....

But the biggest draw is the great need there for Kingdom publishers.
Along with the ministry work, the convention in Rome greatly illustrated the potential for growth in the English field in Italy. The fields are "white for harvesting".

Here are some pictures from my weekend in Rome...

Gods Word is Truth! District Convention
Assembly Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses
Rome, Italy

Etched glass doors leading into Assembly Hall auditorium
Rome, Italy

Always look up...
Bus stop near assembly hall
Rome, Italy

The Spanish Stairs
Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain...and tourist
Rome, Italy

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Back in the Burgh

No more of this view for a while....
A four and a half and then ten hour layover in Moscow, Russia..
It was quite lovely to observe the Russian people for a "day".
It might sound rather boring, but the view was actually interesting.
Giant beautiful window with planes coming and going.
People coming and going as I sat and read and waited.
On the four hour layover I was waiting..
Waiting to go to Italy..
Waiting to go home again to my adopted country of "birth".
On the four hour layover I was waiting..
Waiting to return to Pittsburgh..
Waiting for a hot shower and a decent meal....
Waiting to start planning my return to Italy...
And no more of this view....
80 stairs to get to my apartment.....
79 full stairs and 2 half stairs...
They were lovely!
Beautiful grey stone and such a great workout!
Down and up them everyday at first.
When I got used to them it was down, up, down and up again.
It may not seem like many stairs, but remember it was on top of
much walking every day that I climbed those lovelies.

And back to the fair city I call "home"....
A very different view of Pittsburgh than is often seen.
This was taken after a Sunday dinner (months ago) with friends at Buca di Beppo.
Coincidentally an Italian restaurant in Station Square on the South Side.
It's quite an old picture, but I could do for a visit to Joe's Basement.
I try to eat Italian food when I'm in Italy and other things in Pittsburgh...
Well, I'm actually craving Chipotle at the moment...
And cake...
But that is a whole nother story...
A story that involves icing.....