Showing posts with label Cat week. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cat week. Show all posts

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cat Soup for Cat Week

by Sheila Connolly


I’ve had a cat in one way or another since I was seven. The first one (actually, three at once) entered my life when we moved into a new house and found the prior owners had left their cats locked in the garage (my mother had a few choice words for them). We kept two of them for a long time.

When I moved into my first apartment after college, I got a cat before I got furniture. That was Victoria, and I had her for more than twenty years. Since then there has been a steady succession, mostly rescue cats or “found” cats. Right now I have three: siblings Dexter and Lila and newcomer Oliver, who showed up at our back door looking skinny and meowing piteously for food—hence the name Oliver (“please, may I have some more?”). Three months later he’s still inhaling food at record speed, and he's put on a wee bit of weight.

Only one of my fictional characters has a pet: when Meg Corey in the Orchard Mysteries moved to rural Granford, she adopted Lavinia, AKA Lollie (named for Emily Dickinson’s sister’s cat), who had been abandoned. Her fiance Seth Chapin acquired Golden Retriever Max along the way. The animals get along just fine, and neither one is a picky eater. [Note: cozy writers, make sure to remember to feed fictional pets now and then!] As for my other heroines? Well, their lives are a little unsettled, but maybe someday soon…

Now for the recipe. No, I am not making soup out of cats.

Recently pet food maker Fancy Feast® (Purina®) released a new product called Broths. I first saw this in a television commercial, which opened with an image of a bowl of soup which set me drooling. It was gorgeous. I seriously though it was people food.

So I had to go looking for it, and what I found was interesting. The broths come as clear and creamy (both broths are described as “decadent.”). They promise on the back of the pouch that the contents feature “Real recognizable ingredients” (their italics), and no by-products or fillers. Made with real fish. All good.

The pouch weighs 1.4 ounces. It is labeled a “gourmet cat complement,” which is to say (according to the fine print) “intended for supplemental feeding only … may be fed daily along with a complete and balanced cat good diet.” It costs $1.25 for a single-serving pouch  Uh-huh.

But it sure is pretty! And I wanted it (good advertising works!). So I decided to make the human version.

First, I read the ingredients: Broths contains fish broth, wild (!) salmon, fish extract, whitefish, milk, tapioca starch, potato starch, wheat starch, added color, sugar, salt, soy protein, vegetable oil, guar gum, xanthan gum, Vitamin E supplement, egg whites, spice and coloring. Most of these I have in my pantry, and all in all it sounds pretty good (although I wonder why they need so many thickening agents).

(For comparison, a can of Friskies® Classic Paté, the standard food for our three cats (and Oliver eats for two easily), the ingredients are: ocean whitefish, poultry by-products, meat by-products, liver (I thought this was a fish paté?), crude fiber, ash, taurine—this is only the first two lines of ingredients, and the list goes on. I am not going to be making this any time soon!)

So this is the two-legged version. I have endeavored to replicate the spirit of the original (cat) soup, although I don’t think cats really care about onions or fresh thyme. Also, most fish soup recipes call from cream, but I substituted whole milk (per Broths) and a bit of cornstarch for thickening:

Potage au poisson a la crème

3/4 lb wild salmon filet

3/4 lb white fish (I used cod)

4 cups of fish stock
1 Tblsp butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 or more sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped 
     from the woody stems
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup whole milk
2-3 Tblsp cornstarch

Bring the fish stock to a simmer in a skillet and lay the fish in it.  Cover and simmer until the fish is cooked through, about ten minutes (don't overcook it!).  Remove the fish to a plate and set aside.  When cool, flake the fish into bite-size pieces.  Reserve the stock.

In a heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the chopped onions, thyme and bay leaf to the pot and sauté on medium heat until the onions are soft but not browned.

Season generously with kosher or sea salt and pepper.

Add the flaked fish to the pot and heat over low heat, for about five minutes.  Pour in the milk and heat until the soup is warmed through.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

To thicken the mixture, put the cornstarch in a small bowl and add a small amount of the warm liquid from the soup (do not just dump the cornstarch into the soup—you’ll get lots of lumps!) and stir until well blended. Add gradually to the soup, stirring, and simmer over low heat until you reach the consistency you want.

Serve. In the interest of full disclosure: when offered the two bowls at the same time, Dexter chose the Broths version first and finished it; he ignored my version. At least my husband liked it. (Addendum: I finally persuaded Oliver to finish off a bowl of mine--after he'd eaten the canned cat food.)

Purina's (left) and mine (right)

Oops, almost forgot the bonus picture! My sister and I saw this truck on the street in New York last spring, and she insisted I include it here. Happy Cat Week!

And now Max has demanded a token dog appearance. He earned his place on the cover for Picked to Die through his heroics in the last book, Golden Malicious. (Lolly made her debut on the cover of Bitter Harvest, but she had to share it with Meg's goats, Dorcas and Isabel.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creamy Scallop Bake: purrfect for Cat Week

It’s Cat Week at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, as I am sure you all know.  You may not be aware that, although we are usually all about dogs, we do love cats too. There are two beautiful and slightly unpredictable Siamese in all three of our Book Collector Mysteries. To prove it, here is a picture that Victoria painted of one of them. Not sure if it's Good Cat or Bad Cat. It's kind of hard to tell them apart.  

And to celebrate cat week, MJ has knit a darling little cat hat for a baby and we will have a draw for it. If there's no baby handy, you could use the hat for a decoration or a tea cozy.  Check the details for the giveaway at the end of the post.

Here's Baby Ella wearing a version of the cat hat.   Please note, that Baby Ella is not included in the draw.

And now, if you’ll excuse us, it’s time to get cooking. We have no idea what has gotten into those dogs today.  Really, they’re too excited. At any rate,  we want to share a recipe that crossed generations in our family. Victoria’s grandmother and MJ’s mum used to make it.  We’ve added a bit of green onion,  lemon and a bit of garlic and it is now our new best thing.  Maybe that’s what’s getting the pooches so wild.  Oh well, the recipe’s coming up!

Psst: This is it, Daisy!  It's our chance and I know it will work.  Did you see the headline? It’s Cat Week! Hurray, this time we’ll get those cats next door.  Yes, I am sure it will work.  We look just like felines in these hats. Mom won’t notice them missing.  She made a batch of them. We’re just as important as any old babies, so it’s all right. 

Lily, the cats are outside now!  We have to strike while … oh, I forgot how that goes.
Right, let’s go get 'em, Daisy. 

Hey Cats Next Door!  We are your neighbor cats, um, what was it, oh yes, Fluffy and Whitey.  We just want to be friends. Nothing else. Nothing to worry about at all, right Lily, I mean, what was it? Oh yes, Whitey. 

Right. Our mum is making the best stuff to night. It’s a creamy seafood dish.  You are going to love it.  How about coming over to our house to have a saucer full?  We’ll help you, won’t we, Daisy, I mean Fluffy.  Just step through this conveniently open front door and into our parlor, er, kitchen, and watch the fun begin! 

Hey!  Why are you looking at us like that?  You can trust us. For sure.  This way!



Oh boy! sorry, just have to close that door.  How did those cats get in here? Out you go!  And you two dogs, just cut the racket.

Uh oh! Are we in trouble?  We have no idea how the cats got in the house.  Hats? What hats?

Fine, we'll deal with that later. And now, if you’ll excuse us, it’s time to get cooking. At any rate,  we want to share a recipe that crossed generations in our family. Victoria’s grandmother and MJ’s mum used to make it.  As we mentioned, we've added a bit of lemon, a bit of garlic and some green onion and it is now our new best thing.  Ta da!

Creamy Scallop Bake

All you need is:

1 slice toast (we like whole wheat, but you can suit yourselves)
1 clove garlic (peeled)
3 + 1 tablespoons butter + 1 more (!) and a bit to butter baking dish
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (we used 2 %, but again, suit yourself)
One tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Two green onions, finely sliced
Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice + 2 tsp for scallops
1 pound large scallops, patted dry
½ tsp salt and a pinch of ground pepper

All you need to do is:

Preheat oven to 450

Butter a baking dish. Rub both sides of the toast with the garlic. Get as much garlic on that toast as you can!  Pulse in food processor until you have crumbs (but not mush)  You can save a couple of seconds and garlicky fingers by putting the garlic and the toast in together, but really, it’s better our way. 

In a saucepan, saute green onion and parsley until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Then remove and melt 3 tablespoons butter. When foamy add flour.  Stir and cook on medium for two minutes, without browning. Turn down the heat if you must.   Add milk and heat, stirring until thickened, about two minutes. Stir in two tablespoons lemon juice. Return onion and parsley to sauce and stir well.  

Add scallops to buttered dish.   

Sprinkle scallops with 2 tsp. lemon juice.

Pour cream sauce over scallops. Top with garlic crumbs and dot with butter. 

 Bake for about fifteen minutes until brown and bubbly.  Scallops cook quickly, so don't bake too long.  Enjoy. 

Victoria Abbott is the mysterious collaboration between the artist and photographer Victoria Maffini and her mother, the mystery writer, Mary Jane Maffini.  Strangely enough, their three book collector mysteries, The Christie Curse, The Sayers Swindle and The Wolfe Widow all contain Siamese cats.  The next two will as well!



And now for our giveaway!   Here is the baby hat with a little extra bow, just for you..  Just leave a comment saying which Book Collector Mysteries have Siamese Cats.  Easy peasy.   In case you are worried, no dogs will have been wearing this hat.   Good luck everyone!  And have fun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's #Catweek with #Cats & a Chocolate Cake #Recipe for humans

It's Cat Week!

Tigger, from Cookbook Nook Mysteries
Fictional Ginger Cat
I live in Crystal Cove
I like other cats, like to play a lot! Like to pounce and trounce.
Like long walks on the beach.
I am a rescue who has the distinct memory of falling off a truck. 
To hear me meow, click here

Rags from Cheese Shop Mysteries
Fictional Ragdoll
I live in Providence, Ohio
I like dogs and walks on a leash, and cheese!
I am a rescue who isn't very fond of being left alone outside.
To hear me purr, click here.

Sparky from Encino.
Dog. To be specific, Golden Doodle.
Somewhat bummed that the focus today is on cats! I like it to be all about me.
When is it dog week?
This picture was taken right after a walk, hence the leash. I love my walks.
Yes, I say hence. My mom is a writer and teaches me all sorts of big words.
I love going to day care and socializing with other dogs, big or small.
Would probably love cats if introduced to one.
Not fond of Mommy leaving the house...ever!

From Tigger:

Have you ever been to a cat parade? In Crystal Cove, the town featured in the Cookbook Nook STIRRING THE PLOT, is the Black Cat Parade. Cats only. A canine event will occur later in the year. Lots of people participate. There are booths that feature cat foods--I particularly like the tuna treats. There are human foods, as well. I saw one little girl with something pink and frothy. It stuck to her lips and nose. Her mother was trying to get some of it out of her long blonde curls. Some other kids had popcorn balls that they'd gotten at the Cookbook Nook. Katie made them. The kids were purring with delight.
Mysteries, every Halloween there are fun events. One of them, which is featured in the latest story,

TIGGER, in costume.
In addition, there's a costume contest. Jenna, my human, made me an adorable hat. She's pretty good with needle and thread. I won't win the contest. There are a number of gorgeous cats. You know the kinds I mean, gorgeous, but stuck up. They couldn't be bothered talking to me, a rescue cat, but I don't care. As long as Jenna is holding me, I'm cool.

In honor of black writer--Daryl--is offering something spooky dark for a treat...dark as in chocolate! I told her cake wasn't spooky. She agreed but told me it was decadently delicious! For humans only.

I suggested she make something with tuna. She was fresh out, but promised next year she'd make me  a tuna quiche. In fact, she liked the idea so much, she just ran off to the store so she could whip me up a pie. Yummm!

From Stirring the Plot

French Silk Fudge Cake
(ala Jenna, ala Katie)
(serves 4-8)

1 (3.5 to 4 ounce) bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped
1 ½ squares (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons coffee
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons flour (*may use gluten-free flour plus 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum)
1/2 of a 3.5 to  4 ounce bittersweet chocolate bar broken into ½-inch pieces 
If desired: whipped cream or frosting.

Note: I used Ghirardelli 72% dark chocolate instead of bittersweet chocolate.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 4 mini-bundt cake cups.

Please 1 chopped bar of bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Place bowl in microwave and cook on low power until the butter has melted and the chocolate is soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir often to avoid burning the mixture.

In a mixing bowl, whisk cinnamon, coffee, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt until combined. Stir in the flour. Mix in the chocolate mixture. Stir until smooth. Add the ½ bar of bittersweet chocolate that has been broken into ½-inch pieces. Spoon the batter in the prepared bundt cake cups. Fill about ¾ full.

Bake for about 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out with “streaks’ of thick batter. The tops of the cakes will be nearly firm. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 -10 minutes.  Serve warm…or wait 20 minutes and serve at room temperature with whipped cream squirted into the center of the bundt shape.

Note: If you want to frost this cake, consider baking it in cupcakes tins or in a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment paper. Cook about 30-35 minutes.

Note: Dessert, for adults only. 
Cats and/or Dogs may watch human eat...

PS From Daryl aka Avery: I had cats growing up. Black cats named Inky and Blackie (not very original, I know), but I loved those cats. They were independent, feisty, and they owned the neighborhood. When I got married, however, my husband couldn't have cats around, so over the years, we have had dogs. When it's dog week, I'll share all those pictures. 


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STIRRING THE PLOT is available for order: order here.

Next up: AS GOUDA AS DEAD, 6th Cheese Shop Mystery!

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