Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Sparkle and the Real

I know it's the season of "fa la la la" but I've been craving real food. Real food is pasta with maybe a meat and some vegetables. It goes into one pot. I'm sated. It's easy. Spicy Italian chicken sausages for heat, greens for reality and pasta for pleasure.

I managed a little bit of sparkle with my first batch of cookies (and so far my only batch of cookies - and yes, they're gone). They're Citrus Italian Knot cookies - just a tad sweet. Puffy and melting in your mouth. Cookies don't always need to go crunch. A touch of sparkle and a lot of pliable - and easy.

My sister and I (mostly my sister) sold a home, emptied a house and my last drive home from the townhome was filled with glimpses of 26 years of baptisms, birthdays, holidays and I was able to give Thanksgiving. For all those years.

Because we did not have enough to do, we brought this into our home.

He was found in the woods - Mom and Dad were feral and he is not. I think. I hope. Say hello to Luce. Which is what we call him when he is adorable and sweet. When he wakes up from a nap his whiskers are askew and his fur sticks up and we call him Einstein.

When he is pouncing on my head and jumping into the soup (gives a new meaning to "Beautiful Soup"), he is called Binky-Boy.

Pippin is not thrilled. (In case you were wondering, not every pampered house cat wants a new friend.) Four days after his arrival, Paul and I left for Iowa for a production of By Candlelight at Bettendorf High School. I got to be a visiting playwright for four days and Kirsten got to stay home and referee Pippin and Luce. After four days, Kirsten declared she couldn't possibly be a "crazy cat lady" (as was previously feared) because it was too exhausting.

I came home grateful for having time with teens and theatre (it's coming home for me).

During the candlelight vigil, "I Think it's Going to Rain Today" was played in the background. And after the final scene, the names of all those "lost" in 9/11 were scrolled on screens as Leonard Cohen sang "Hallelujah." The cast walked on. Nobody applauded. You could hear a pin drop. And the cast learned that sometimes silence is better than applause. It was "the Real."

Back home with very mad Pippin and the little Tazmanian Devil, Feliway became my best friend. It says it calms cats.

And on alternate Sundays it does. And when it doesn't - there's always pasta. It's not really a recipe if you're Italian - you throw these things together all the time - but it is always real. Stable. Substantial.

PASTA AND ACCESSORIES: Chicken Sausage, Bow-Ties and Spinach - serves 4-6 (in my home - 4)
little bit of olive oil
little bit of garlic and shallots or onions or all
1 pound spicy chicken sausage - cut into 1/2"-1" rounds
1/4-1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
8 cups spinach or Kale or Swiss Chard
1 pound bow-ties or favorite pasta (rotini would hug the accessories)
Save some pasta water
Herbs - your choice

Cook pasta according to directions. (Boom! Done!)
Heat olive oil and quickly saute your aromatics (garlic, shallots, onion) until soft. Add chicken sausage and and brown on both sides. Add broth or wine and stir to remove brown bits. Add spinach and stir till wilted.
Drain pasta saving a little pasta water. Add pasta to large skillet. Throw in fresh herbs at the end of cooking (parsley, basil, thyme) or dried Italian herbs at the beginning with the sausage. If dry, moisten with pasta water. Serve.

I've never been a fan of chicken sausage. Gold 'n Plump sent me a huge package in the spring - all natural, locally grown, family farms and I agreed to try them. I've always loved turkey sausage (although as I write this, I hear a specific Italian blogger largely singing "nooooo" in the distance) but chicken sausages have eluded me. They have improved in the last ten years (the last time I tried one). I will be writing more about this - which will be my last "gifted" blog. I was surprised and enamored by the chicken sausage - not greasy - but not pasty and tough and bland as the previous ones I had. Do you know you're not eating pork? Absolutely. Do you care? No. (I still hear a certain someone crying "noooo" in the wilderness.)

And because 'tis the season, I did want a touch of sparkle. I love these because they are not sweet (hence the sugar-sparkle). And the touch of citrus is welcome in winter. Find them here. Because there are times you want sparkle. Without being blinded by it.

First snow. It's December. It's Minnesota. It's real.

Twinkle lights because everyone needs a little sparkle. It helps with what's real.


QembarDelites said...

Glad to see you blog about real stuff:D Have a really merry christmas and happy new year:) That kitten is a cutey!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What an adorable kitten. Your pasta looks perfect for calming your nerves after introducing the new kitty to Pippin. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas and your holiday season is bright. Nice to see your blog post this morning in my reader.

Beth said...

Welcome back, Claudia. I, too, am craving "real" this December. I'm happy to see you blogging again.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

It's good to have you back and be reading your delightful writing. That little troublemaker looks irresistible. I hope I'm not that "certain blogger" saying "nooooo." Just sayin'. Anyway, I do want to make those cookies. They remind me very much of something my mom used to make when I was growing up.

Claudia said...

Of course you are not that "certain" blogger (whose blogs touch me and make me hungry as do yours). The cookies are just right. Just enough.

Proud Italian Cook said...

All right who's that Italian blogger? I like chicken sausage occasionally, they have improved and I always go for the spicy kind like you, but right now I want your cookies!

Gloria Baker said...

Oh Claudia Im happy you comeback!
I love tral food lol!
Love the kitty is adorable!

Angie's Recipes said...

Meow Luce ;-) You look so adorable.
The pasta looks homey and really delicious, Claudia.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

What a cute bundle of fur and energy! My cat is entering his senior years, which makes me a little sad, and I've been cherishing my time with him all the more. I'm not sure how he will enjoy a three day drive cross country..yikes!

Your pasta looks fabulous,Claudia, and so do your cookies. My mother-in-law made something very similar for the holidays.

Well, that certain Italian blogger can't be me as I'm not Italian by birth--only by marriage I like chicken sausage! :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A scrumptious pasta dish, cute kitties, lovely Xmas decorations and cookies! It's always a pleasure visiting your blog.



Mary Bergfeld said...

You have been one busy lady, although it really sounds like you are enjoying the life on the merry-go-round. The kitten is impossibly sweet and his nickname made me smile. I'm so glad you are back blogging. I've missed you. Have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina said...

#1 Claudia, it is SO great to have you back so that we can read your wonderful writing!
#2 I think your mother is involved with bringing you to Luce; beautiful and soft and warm and full of life!
#3 Fantastic pasta recipe; always warming and comforting too in my home!
#4 Glad to finally see a beautiful white blanket of snow in the Midwest where we will spend Christmas in Iowa (with or without snow)
#5 When I read this post aloud to my husband, my newest feline member of the household ( a stray too), named Mowee, let out a HUGE, loud "MEOW!" in sirendipitous agreement and approval of your new family member!

Be well and have a beautiful Christmas season!

chow and chatter said...

great post as always love ya and what a cute kitten

Kathy said...

Claudia, So glad to see you back. Love your little friend…so cute! I love the photo of the kitten looking out the window at the snow.
Your pasta dish looks like the kind of meal I love to have when things are crazy and busy…always easy to throw together and delicious!! And your cookies look so lovely. Merry Christmas!

Joanne said...

I feel like I've been eating WAY too many sweets lately so yeah, real food is definitely what I need! What a great pasta dish!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Welcome back! Love the pasta recipe - I often make pasta in a similar style, just putting things together with no real recipe. And it's always good. So nice of you to adopt a new kitty! It can be hard to introduce a new cat into the house if there's an older cat there - they often don't want to share you! It does help that the new cat is so young, I suspect. Fun post - thanks.

Monet said...

What is there not to love in this post??? A delicious pasta with sausage and the sweetest little kitten I've seen! Thank you for sharing, sweet friend!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Welcome back Claudia! Luce is so adorable!! That pasta dish looks really filling and comforting.