Manicotti for Two

Manicotti for Two | The Kitten Kitchen

When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine, that’s amore. Wiser words were never spoken, Mr. Dean Martin. And this is the time of year that amore is on everyone’s radar. It’s cold outside, so you’re stuck inside with your little poopster. Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Red wine is extra delicious when it’s snowy. Basically, there are a lot of good reasons to be in love.

Whichever reason you choose to celebrate it, consider whipping up a superb Italian meal for you and your sweetie to enjoy together.

That’s where I come in. Well, I mean, I’m not going to literally come inside your house and eat dinner with you. But I can provide a recipe pour deux that’ll knock your lover’s socks off. (Meow!) And you can take all the credit!

If you end up loving it, head over to Amazon and get the book that inspired this recipe: “The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook,” by America’s Test Kitchen. You won’t be disappointed.

Celebrate amore after the jump

Quinoa with Spinach, Tomatoes and Artichokes

Quinoa with Spinach, Tomatoes and Artichokes | The Kitten Kitchen

The first time I attempted to make quinoa was a disaster. I followed the directions on the bag, which sounds like the correct thing to do, right? Well, nowhere in the directions did it say to rinse the quinoa before cooking it. When I sat down to enjoy it, I noticed that it tasted nothing like the version I had at a local restaurant—delicious quinoa delicately tucked into lettuce leaves and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It tasted soapy and weird. And that’s no way to enjoy a dish of quinoa.

I tried again. And this time, I was successful. Rinse your quinoa before cooking it, people! It makes a huge difference. I also found that straining it after cooking, then letting it sit covered in the hot pan for another 10-15 minutes made the quinoa perkier and not mushy—yet two more steps that make a huge difference.

Have you made it this far into the post, but you’re wondering what the heck quinoa is? Glad you stuck with me! Here are a few facts about quinoa:

  • It’s a species of goosefoot, and it’s a grain grown for its edible seeds.
  • It’s pronounced KEEN-WA.
  • It’s on Applebee’s Pub Diet menu, so you can eat healthier while you’re getting wasted!
  • It tastes similar to brown rice, and it’s a little nutty (like me!).

If you’ve never tried it, it’s ridiculously easy to make, and there are so many variations that make it a very versatile side or main dish. Start with this one, then experiment.

Cook some quinoa after the jump

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Pasta Fagioli Soup | The Kitten Kitchen

For some reason, I get the feeling it’s a “guilty pleasure” or embarrassing to like Olive Garden. I guess because it’s corporate and not a mom ‘n’ pop restaurant, which I understand (support your local businesses!), but when I get a craving for those breadsticks and salad? Every rational part of my brain goes out the door. And Olive Garden’s pasta fagioli soup? It’s so good. Which brings us to the topic of this blog post.

I’m pregnant. We’ve established that. If you’re just now learning about this exciting fact, you can catch up a little bit here. During the second trimester, I’ve learned that I can’t stay full. It’s impossible. I can eat something, then 10 minutes later something else sounds good. And not just little bites here and there. I want to eat three large pizzas a day (and a lot of salad and grapefruit). It’s a rough life.

This unrelenting inability to stay full led me to try this soup recipe. It’s full of beans and protein, which I was hoping would help me stay fuller longer. And I’m happy to report that it kind of helped! I, uh, did eat the whole pot, but not in one sitting. That’s a feat. Believe me.

Skip Olive Garden and make your own Pasta Fagioli after the jump

Soft Ginger Cookies

Soft Ginger Cookies | The Kitten Kitchen

Once upon a time, last year to be exact, my place of employment received a holiday gift from a bakery in Los Angeles. In the gift were various cookies and brownies, and the one I chose was a ginger spice cookie. After one bite of that thing, I was in heaven. To this day, it’s the most memorable cookie I’ve had in my life. And I have had a lot of cookies. I visited the bakery’s website the other day to see how much it would set me back to order a few of these seasonal delicacies, and it wasn’t cheap. I wanted one so bad, though, that I was willing to shell out the money. Until Chris talked some sense into me.

“Why don’t you just try to make your own?”

I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me. I guess because I didn’t think I was capable of replicating the best cookie I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Well, folks, I’m here to tell ya. I think I did it. Holy crapoly. I think I did it.

This creation is buttery, spicy, melt-in-your-mouth good. There are not even words to properly convey how good this cookie is, and I’m not just tootin’ my own horn. I challenge you to make a batch, then tell me you can stop eating them. I don’t know what I’ll do then.

Actually, I do. I’ll cry for you. Because your taste buds are broken, and that is no good, especially because I’m not sure if there’s even a cure for that. If you’re experiencing this terrible affliction…gimme all your cookies, please.

Bite into a chewy, soft ginger molasses cookie after the quick jump

Baked Soft Pretzels

Baked Soft Pretzels | The Kitten Kitchen

Dip them in yellow mustard. Make the easy dip recipe (provided below) and bathe them in the melted, cheddar-y mess. Slice them, and stack some corned beef and sauerkraut in the center.

What’s “them,” exactly?

Soft pretzels!

I was pining for the ballpark and warm weather the other day. I was also craving mustard. So I decided to try my hand at making these delicious treats, not expecting much because baking scares me a little. They turned out perfectly. The batch made eight, and by the end of the day there were only two left—and those were saved for photography purposes.

I’m not quite sure why I thought making these would be hard. Like I said, sometimes baking intimidates me, since it involves science and all that jazz. I also remember once watching a show that featured soft pretzels, and there was extensive information about the lye solution that professional pretzel makers use to make the pretzels—that maybe scared me off a little. Basically, they dip the dough in a sodium hydroxide solution before baking, and that’s what makes the pretzels brown and chewy. Well, lye is pretty harsh stuff that requires gloves and safety goggles, none of which I have in my kitchen, so I found that most recipes opt for baking soda. It works, but it’s pretty weak. I did some research, and Cooks Illustrated, of course being the sly cooking ninjas they are, came up with a more scientific solution. Bake the baking soda in the oven for two hours to dehydrate it. That brings its pH from a mere eight to 11. Lye’s pH is typically 14.

If you don’t have two-plus hours to spend on these soft pretzels, don’t fret. They will taste just as good if you dip them in regular baking soda and water (instructions included). They’ll just be a little less brown, which honestly is not that big of a deal.

Bake your own soft pretzels after the jump!

Cheesy Cauliflower Pancakes

Cheesy Cauliflower Pancakes | The Kitten Kitchen

I know what you might be thinking. Cauliflower? Pancakes? Together in one recipe title?

Put away the syrup and butter, my friends. There’s a new pancake in town. And it’s made of cauliflower. And cheese.

Still dubious?

Cauliflower pancakes are cheesy, soft, creamy and slightly crispy around the edges. They’re similar to potato pancakes except they have less carbs and are easier to make, in my opinion. And I’m willing to bet that even if you’re not too enthusiastic about cauliflower, you might still like these golden, savory patties. Serve them as a main course with a side salad, or as a side dish with eggs and bacon. I had a lot of leftovers, so I refrigerated them and reheated them in the microwave. They were just as delicious the next day.

You’re still reading? You should be in your kitchen compiling everything you need to make these, stat!

Smash some cauliflower after the jump

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