Simple Pasta Caprese

Pasta Caprese | The Kitten Kitchen

I’m sitting on my couch sipping some white wine, wishing I had more mozzarella cheese because I really want to make this dish again. It was so quick and simple, which has been great this week because I’m dealing with a sick kitty cat. I feel this topic is relevant because the blog is titled, “The Kitten Kitchen,” and I have many “kittens.” Four to be exact. And Miss Eleanor RigbyCat is the queen bee in this humble abode.

It was always just the two of us. Two peas in a pod. Best friends forever. Then I got a boyfriend, Chris, now my husband. Then we adopted three more boy kitties. Needless to say, she wasn’t thrilled, but she has nothing to complain about. She basically has her own apartment upstairs with her own litter box, special food and huge king-sized bed. Don’t feel too sorry for her.

But seriously, she’s one of my soul mates.

I found Ellie in my backyard when I lived in old apartment in Newport, Kentucky. I thought she was pregnant, but it turned out she had a huge hernia in her belly area. There was a tear in the area where she was spayed, and all her organs leaked through that tear. I’m sure I’m not explaining this with medical precision, but I remember that was the gist. She was almost put to sleep during the surgery because it was so extensive, but she ended up coming out of it with flying colors.

A few years later, I found out that she was having pain in her chest, and when I casually brought up the hernia thing, the doctor said she was probably hit by a car at one point, broke her ribs, and they eventually healed improperly, leading to chest pain. He said the force of the car hitting her probably also caused the internal tear that led to the hernia. Other problems she’s had include having her two front fangs pulled because of infections, anemia and arthritis. And, earlier this year she was diagnosed with kidney disease. So, she has to take two pills, two times a day, and we give her fluids once a day through a needle in the  back of her scruff. She just sits there and stares at you. Such a lovely, good girl she is.

The lady that used to live next door to me in Newport said that she thinks Ellie lived outside by herself for almost 1o years. That means she’s probably about a teenager now. Time for me to worry. She was lying down in her litter box the other day, chillin’ (and not peeing), so I assumed the worst. She got some blood work done, and we found out today that she is now severely anemic, and not producing enough of a hormone (erythropoietin), so we are going to have to start giving her some shots three times a week or so. She’s not suffering though. That’s what I was worried about. She’s still lovey, purring and all up in my face, so those are all good signs. Send some good vibes her way, if you’re so inclined.

This was a long-winded way of telling you that I really needed something quick to make for dinner the other night. I was stressed, worried and tired. And this dish delivered. It was warm when I served it, and the next day I ate the leftovers cold, which means it’d be a great dish to bring to a picnic!

Make the simplest pasta dish ever…after the jump

Grilled Artichokes

Grilled Artichokes | The Kitten Kitchen

Sung to the tune of “O Tannenbaum

::clears throat::

Oh, artichokes.
Oh, artichokes.
I dip you in some butter.

Oh, artichokes.
Oh, artichokes.
I dip you in some butter.

You fill me up in summertime.
I eat you in a bunch-a bites.

Oh, artichokes.
Oh, artichokes.
I dip you in some butter.

If you don’t know already, now you do—I, Daniele Cusentino, love artichokes. Boiled, stuffed, grilled, you-name-it, I’ll eat it. I especially love artichoke hearts, and if there were an award available to people that can eat a jar in one sitting, I would be a contender.

Since we’re coming up on a long celebratory weekend here in the good ol’ USA, I figured I would share a grilled, easily transportable version of artichokes to take wherever your family units will be gathering.

Disclaimer: Be prepared to answer a few questions since people tend to get weird around artichokes. It’s only because they look strange, and people aren’t quite sure how to eat them. Teach them, you shall. And if you’re clueless, too, that’s okay! You’ll be prepared to field all the inquiries after reading this entire blog post.

Get grillin’ after the jump

Red Beans and Rice

Red Beans and Rice | The Kitten Kitchen

I crave red beans and rice a lot. You could serve it on a bed of poop, and I’d probably eat it. Gross, I know, but it had to be said.

The delicious, beautiful dish is typically served on Mondays in the Louisiana Creole community, which means I should probably move there so I can get my fix every week.

Alright, I’m not really going to move there. It’s too hot. So I took it upon myself to try to make my own. I’m going to be honest—it took a while. The beans really have to simmer for a long time in the liquids before they become creamy, but the end result is divine.

It’s also worth noting that a true Louisianian would probably scoff at this version, but I made it this way because tasso ham isn’t readily available in the Midwest. I could have added Andouille sausage, but I forgot to add it to my grocery list. I did, however, add a tip to make sure that you know when to add it if you prefer some sausage in your recipe.

After I just typed that last paragraph, I searched for tasso online in Cincinnati and found that you can reportedly purchase it at Findlay Market in Cincinnati. Duly noted, Internet, Duly noted.

So, anyway, I didn’t use sausage, but I used the other traditional ingredients, and it turned out awesomely. So, if you have time on a Monday evening, I recommend simmering some red beans on the stove. You can thank me later.

Get the recipe for Louis Armstrong’s favorite dish after the jump

Tomato Soup

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This soup is award-winning. Seriously. One time I won a soup-off with this recipe. And do you know the secret? Nope. Me neither. It’s just good. Oh, and instead of cream, I use bread. That could be the secret. I don’t know. Judge for yourself.

So, hmmm…anything interesting happen while making this? I drank mimosas. Chris and I listened to crappy Christmas music and had a conversation about U2 and the amazing way Bono yells, “BAAAYBEEE PLEASE COME HOOOOME” during the band’s version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” It’s pretty epic. Don’t believe me? Click and watch, around the 1:57 mark. The man is a master at adding beautiful harmonies where they currently didn’t exist before. Okay, enough about U2. Back to the noms. Ugh, I hate when people say that. And “yummy.” Ick.

One bowl of mater soup, comin’ right up, after the jumpy jump

Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and GravyWho doesn’t like some dang biscuits and gravy?

Vegetarians maybe. Sorry.

I had a hankering, plus I had some sausage, but noticed I didn’t have any canned biscuits. The result? Homemade biscuits AND gravy. I’ve never made homemade biscuits before, and baking sort of scares me sometimes, but these turned out delicious. The only thing I’d do differently is to make them thicker. I was nervous to overwork the dough, so I didn’t re-roll too many times. I’ll be less nervous next time.

If you can believe it, the first time I ever ate biscuits and gravy was last year. I made this sausage gravy for a brunch that I hosted on Mother’s Day, so of course I had to try it. Hooked. I seriously crave it now–and Cracker Barrel’s version that I ate last week just ain’t going to cut it.

Make you some biscuits and gravy after clicking righ-cheer

Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

Artichokes are kind of a sentimental thing for me. My mother made them all the time throughout my childhood, and I sort of took it for granted — I didn’t realize that she was preparing a special thing. The first time I put a full artichoke in front of Chris, he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I think many people probably feel that way because they are sort of intimidating. So, how do you eat an artichoke?

Well, you boil them first, then the world is your oyster. Or, in this case, the artichoke is your oyster. Or the world is your artichoke? My mother, brother and I just dipped the leaves into a mixture of olive oil, garlic salt and red wine vinegar. We’d use our teeth to pull the tender leaf meat off, and then discard the pointy inedible ends onto a paper plate. We’d then pull the prickly parts out of the center and dig the heart out, placing it into the bowl of leftover oil and vinegar — this is the only part where you need a fork. We’d cut it into pieces and savor the best part (the goal, really) of the artichoke journey.  The end result is a mound of leaves on a dampened paper plate, but satisfied bellies were a common conclusion.

Artichokes are a springtime treat and shouldn’t be scary. I’ve never stuffed them before, and I’ve never really eaten them in any other way than what you just read above, so I was interested to see if I’d like them prepared otherwise.

Um, I did. A lot. And while Chris didn’t particularly enjoy the stink of the Gorgonzola cheese during preparation, he also enjoyed them.

Stuff your own artichokes after the jump!

Hummus

Hummus

Let’s just go ahead and get this out in the open — I love Alton Brown. When I want to try a new recipe, and I start using the Google to compare recipes, I always type “Alton Brown” and “insert-name-of-recipe-here.” He has made a vast amount of awesome things on his show, “Good Eats” on Food Network, so chances are, you’ll stumble across a variation of something he has made. The thing I love about his recipes and his show is that he explains the science behind cooking and why he’s doing what he’s doing. I was watching the show the other day, and he was making different things with chickpeas. That brings us to this hummus recipe. He used the Crock-Pot, and any chance I get to use my Crock-Pot, I’m sold.

Should I be using that fancy circled “R” after every time I type the word “Crock-Pot”? Are they going to sue me? I could use “slow cooker,” but I don’t wanna.

See how to make this Middle Eastern treat after the jump…