Showing posts with label cats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cats. Show all posts

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Rock and Roll Paella from guest Clea Simon

Please join us in welcoming our multi-talented and prolific guest author Clea Simon (and feline accomplice Musetta) for this recipe that has us drooling.

This is Musetta, not Clea

Rock and Roll Paella, from Clea Simon

Thirty years and two cats ago, I wrote my first recipe. I was not, as I am now, a mystery writer. Nor was I, as I have been at various points over a long (and somewhat checkered) career, a food journalist. What I was, at that point, was a freelance rock critic – an aspiring “scenester” looking to find my place in my post-college tribe of musicians, managers, fans, and assorted late-night-club denizens who called the Boston club scene home.

But when one of my colleagues decided to put together a “Rock and Roll Cookbook,” I was enthralled. Despite a diet that largely consisted of ramen and beer, I loved to cook. I’m not saying I was good at it, but I was trying, regaling friends with one-pot dinners of chicken stew and pasta and, on one memorable occasion, an absolutely inedible Thai curry (that’s when I learned the difference between coconut milk and coconut cream).

My contribution was something I called “Paella with Cat.” Not that I cooked with the cat, but because my then-feline, Cyrus, had a taste for human food, and anything made with chicken – not to mention shrimp – would have him underfoot and begging. Basically, it’s a simple take on a New York Times recipe – some hot sausage and saffron, shrimp and clams. Step two, though, was my own: “Remove visible fat from chicken. Feed to small cat.”

It’s probably no accident that once I started writing mysteries, both cats and rock and roll played prominent roles. The music is in the background of the books, these days, but “cats and crime and rock and roll” is still my catchphrase, at least for those first few Theda Krakow mysteries.

These days, I still make a version of this paella, as well, although my current feline, Musetta, has nothing but disdain for the human-food leavings that drove Cyrus wild. I’ve upgraded the recipe over the years: instead of water, I use a mix of clam juice, wine, and chicken broth. I like to use Arborio, or some other short-grain rice (bomba, if I can get it), for a proper, crispy socarrat, and I add some hot smoked paprika for zing. But I still blast the music while I’m cooking – Sleater-Kinney or maybe some vintage Bowie. Because that’s what makes it all good.

Revised Paella with Cat

Olive oil
Two links chourico or other smoky, hot sausage
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 Tablespoon roasted chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup white wine
1 cup clam juice
1 cup chicken broth
1 roast red pepper (jarred is fine), skin removed
a dozen littleneck clams
4 chicken thighs
1/2 lb of shrimp, peeled, deveined
salt/pepper to taste (start with 1 teaspoon salt

   and a healthy grind of pepper)

1. Put saffron up to steep in the wine

2. In olive oil, sauté the sausage until it releases its fat

3. In the fat and olive oil, brown the chicken. Remove the chicken after it has browned to make room in the pan.

4. Add the onion and garlic to the fat and sausage and sauté until translucent. Add bay, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper, and rice and let everything toast for a while

5. Add the chicken back, and then the liquids, including the wine/saffron mix.

6. Bring to a simmer. Let simmer 5 to 10 minutes

7. Lay clams and shrimp on top, and top with strips of red pepper.

8. Cover and put in hot oven for 15 minutes, until clams have opened and rice has absorbed all the liquid.

9. Taste for salt and pepper. Open a can for the cat. Enjoy.

Hungry, Musetta?

Clea Simon is the Boston Globe-bestselling author of 19 traditional/cozy mysteries in the Theda Krakow, Dulcie Schwartz, and Pru Marlowe pet noir series, most recently Code Grey (Severn House) and When Bunnies Go Bad (Poisoned Pen). This month, her 20th mystery, The Ninth Life (Severn), launched the Blackie and Care series. A former journalist, Clea lives in Massachusetts. Although her books are getting darker, they still always include a cat. She’s not sure why.

Praise for When Bunnies Go Bad:

"Once again Simon’s wacky humor—darkish but surely not black—provides more than enough entertainment."
     -- Booklist

"From the wild humor of the title, to the wry conversations between animal behaviorist Pru Marlowe and her cat Wallis, every chapter of this new mystery is jammed with surprises and suspense."
     -- Kingdom Books

Find Bunnies at Amazon
Praise for The Ninth Life:

"Forget everything you think you know about 'cat mysteries.' The Ninth Life is a dark and gritty story of life on the streets."
     --New York Times­-bestselling author Joe Finder

"Compelling and utterly unique."
     --Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins
        Clark award winner

"A delight for anyone who relishes cat mysteries."
     -- Library Journal

Find it at Amazon

Or pick up a signed copy of either book at Harvard Book Store or Porter Square Books In Cambridge, MA

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.)

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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Check out our website.

STIRRING THE PLOT is available for order: order here.

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

Available for pre-order:
order here

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Langues de Chat

Or Cat's Tongues 
by Peg Cochran

I got my first cat when I was around seven years old.  Predictably, since she was orange and white striped, she was named Tiger. Many cats followed.  Somehow a cat always ended up on our doorstep during a howling snow storm and my mother would let them in "just so she could give them something to eat."  Of course they stayed.  Somehow they were also always female and pregnant.

I remember one in particular that was a beautiful Persian and had the most adorable kittens--half were balls of fluff, the other two were short-haired.  All these stray cats always had the name of "Puss."  Our dog was Boots so we had Puss and Boots. 
Fast forward: Our latest cat, Frazzle, went over the rainbow bridge a couple of
Frazzle with younger brother Reg
months ago.  My stepson found her in a dumpster and she looked as if she'd stuck her paw in an electrical socket so she looked quite "frazzled" hence the name.  According to the vet she was a dilute calico.  She was a strange cat--scaring herself with her own tail and once even chasing herself off the kitchen counter with it!

These cookies are called "langues de chat" or cat's tongues because that is what they resemble.  Cat's tongues are fascinating--they have tiny, backward-facing barbs (papillae) on them which create the rough sensation you feel.  For some more fascinating facts about cats' tongues, visit Interesting Facts About Your Cat's Tongue.
My granddaughter & grand cat Roy

On to the cookies!  The batter is simple to make and only takes minutes.  To pipe out the cookies, either use a pastry bag with a medium star tip, a heavy duty baggie with the corner snipped off or a cookie press.  I used the baggie method.  I am sure they would be more "perfect" if I'd used a pastry bag but they were still delicious!

1 stick butter (1/4 pound)
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add in flour and vanilla and mix well.  Fill a pastry bag with the batter and pipe three inch lines on a parchment covered baking sheet.  Leave plenty of room for the cookies to expand.

Bake in a 400 degree oven *approximately* ten minutes or until golden brown around the edges.  Baking time varies tremendously depending on your oven, the thickness of your cookies, etc. so these are the kind of cookies you need to keep a close eye on while baking!

 Cream butter and sugar until light.

Add egg whites, flour and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Cookies can be dipped in chocolate--or you can "glue" two together with jam or melted chocolate--or you can eat them plain! 

Cookies are perfect with tea or coffee and a good cozy!  

You can pick up a copy of ICED to DEATH from my Gourmet De-Lite series here.
Or a copy of UNHOLY MATRIMONY from my Lucille Series here.  
Visit my website or my Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Losing a Pet: Pay Attention to the Cracks. It’s How the Light Gets In ~ Leonard Cohen (A post from Cleo Coyle)

“The birds they sang at the break of day. 
Start again I heard them say. 
Don't dwell on what has passed away… 

Ring the bells that still can ring. 
Forget your perfect offering. 
There is a crack in everything. 
That's how the light gets in…” 

~ lyrics from Anthem by
songwriter and poet
Leonard Cohen 

Inspiration for the annual
"How the Light Gets In"
Festival, taking place next week.
Click here to learn more.

Caring for an animal, making it part of your home or family is an act of courage. We outlive them, and we know we will, which means we commit to witnessing the arc of their lives. No mean feat. 

We watch as they move from puppies or kittens through their active prime years. We play with them, laugh with them, and eventually suffer with them as they decline. 

It’s hard to see those you love in pain, even harder to say goodbye, and real grief follows a beloved pet’s death. 

Why do we do this? 

Those who have never owned a cat or dog or opened their homes to a sentient animal may wonder why pet owners take on the cost and pain and trouble. Everyone has their own answers. Here are mine:

We do it because the joy
outshines the heartbreak...

We do it because cost 
is part of living
(and should be)...

We do it because 
when we experience pain, 
we crack a little, and 
whether we see it or not, 
the cracks in our darkest hours 
are how the light gets in.

Of course, I borrowed that last line from the gifted songwriter Leonard Cohen, who wrote a set of lyrics that helped me through this past week after I lost my little long-haired stray cat to cancer.

(Like me) she was a misfit from the start, a sickly little flea-bitten thing who my husband and I nursed back to health. The health stayed with her for ten very happy years until she died of a fast-moving cancer last week.

Subjects of this nature are usually reserved for great cathedrals, where they are preached with great profundity (and footnotes), but (for me) real understanding truly come during weeks like this. 

I loved my Fluffy-Bunny very much—and she loved me, which I saw (almost miraculously) in those big blue eyes, even at the very end, as I stayed with her while she was put to sleep. It’s something that will always stay with me...

When the pain and fear are over, when the grief begins to fade, one thing is left, in the mind and heart, and that is love. The love is what lasts—and that is what matters.

Who is Cleo Coyle? 
~ Alice Alfonsi,
...who writes as Cleo Coyle
in collaboration with her husband,
Marc Cerasini

Because this is a blog where we always share recipes, I’ve chosen an old favorite--Roasted Chicken with Lime and Rosemary

Our cat Fluffy always stayed close by the kitchen when we cooked this recipe. She enjoyed the aromas--and, at the end of our evening meal, we would share a few warm, juicy pieces with her in a ritual we called "Fluffy-Chicken" treats. If you make it, I hope you (and maybe your own sweet cat or dog) will eat it with the joy that we did.

To download a PDF copy of the above recipe for Roasted Chicken with Lime and Rosemary that you can print, save, or share, click here. To see the original blog post, click here, and...

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Learn about my books here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

P.S.  "How the Light Gets In" is also an annual festival of philosophy and music in England's beautiful town of Hay-on-Wye (the internationally famous "town of books"). Learn more about attending (wish I could!) by clicking the link below. The festival begins next week.

Click here for more info on this year's
"How the Light Gets In" festival.