Cats, Cooking, and Life!

Cheesecake Fruit Flan

For other desserts we tried to make healthier alternatives to some standard dishes. But in a complete turn-around, we proudly present today's dish, one that's pretty much as bad for you as anything else you care to make. Sure, we cut the sugar and used whole-wheat flour instead of white. Plus we have real fruit. But that's not going to make up for all the fat and calories that we left in.

Still, it tastes great and is easy to make. And it looks divine. Should we do it? Da Original Gangstur says "yea!"

This recipe makes enough for a rectangular flan pan that's about 25 x 40 cm (10 x 15 inches), which is a fairly large pan. We cut the quantities by about a third for our smaller pan that is about 25 cm in diameter.


  • 500 g (2 cups) whole-wheat flour
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) cream of tartar
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) baking soda
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) icing sugar
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) butter
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) vanilla extract
  • 250 g (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) white sugar
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) vanilla extract
Fruit toppings
  • Just about any kind of fruit you want. We used strawberries, blackberries, a kiwi and an apricot. Also good are other kinds of berries, mandarin segments and even banana slices. Try to get an assortment of colours so it will look yummay.
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) cornstarch
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) white sugar
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) water
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) orange juice
  • The juice of half a lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F). Grease the pan with butter.
  2. Crust: in one bowl, sift together flour, cream of tartar and the baking soda. In a larger bowl, cream together the sugar, butter, oil, egg, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and blend well. Spread the dough evenly on the bottom of the greased pan. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Put the pan on a rack and cool to room temperature.
  3. Filling: cream together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Spread on the cooled crust.
  4. Fruit toppings: slice and arrange the fruit on the flan.
  5. Glaze: mix the sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Add the water, orange juice and lemon juice. On medium heat, boil slowly for one minute. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Spoon or brush the glaze evenly over the fruit.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

And Bow-Tie Calico approves. Of course she does.

My Cat Maxie

Just after I bought my first house, I phoned my parents and told them excitedly, "I'm getting a roommate!"

Dad, who was ever so hopeful since I had been single for a few years, promptly asked, "What's her name?"

When I answered "Maxine," there was stunned silence on the line for maybe 10 seconds. They're old-fashioned in many ways.

Then Mom asked in a quiet voice, "So, you decided to rent out your spare bedroom?"

I responded, "No, it's more like I'm taking her in," and there was more silence.

I broke the silence this time and said "She's got long, brown hair and big, beautiful eyes." And taking pity on them at last, added, "And a long, bushy tail."

They twigged.

Later that year, Maxie supervised while I assembled a guest bed. She was in the middle of everything -- she pawed the piles of screws and dowels to stress test the small parts. She'd be on top of the frame immediately after I added each part to make sure it was strong enough to hold her weight. And she stayed on even when I was using the hammer.  Best of all, she decided when was break time.

Then, when I was putting on the bedding, she'd be on top of the sheet, rolling around, playfully batting at my hands as I tucked, chasing wrinkles as I smoothed. I'd shoo her off to put the next layer on. As it was wafting down and before it even settled, she'd jump on top again and the whole process was repeated. For every layer.

She adopted the bed as hers, and would sleep there sometimes, nestled snugly amongst the throw pillows.

That was seventeen years ago, and she was with me all the way through three houses, two cities, two more cats, a wife and a daughter. I can hardly remember a time before her.  As of a couple of weeks ago, though, she is no longer my roommate. She passed away quite suddenly as her kidneys gave out from old age.

Maxie was a Maine Coon, a large, rugged cat with a thick, shaggy coat of browns and black with a mackerel tabby pattern and a white chin. And big, beautiful eyes that changed from yellow to green later in life.

And she loved life. Food, especially, was important to her. Whenever I ate, she insisted on smelling absolutely everything, and sampling a lot of it. Even things that I was sure a cat wouldn't eat, like hummous. Whenever I arrived home she would smell my breath to see what I had been eating.

I was her favourite toy. Especially when I had a stick with a string, and on the end of a string was a pair of feathers that would spin when pulled through the air. It would "thrum" like wings beating, and would drive her wild. She'd chase so hard and so long that she'd pant like a dog.

We had our ups and downs. For a while, her liver was causing problems but was finally settled with some special food. Her brother, Monty, could be a bully at times. She showed her stress in ways I didn't always appreciate, but we were always tight.

Especially tight when she curled up on my lap for a long winter's purr, and maybe to snooze a bit as I worked at the computer or watched a TV programme. Maxie was always ready with a purr, the loudest I have ever heard. With few exceptions, she'd always been a one-man cat, and would sit in no other lap.

It was hard to say goodbye as she lay on the table at the clinic. My wife and I could not believe that it was her time. We scratched her chin as she looked around the room one last time before laying back down on the pad. We will miss her so much. My first cat, and always the best. Seventeen years is a long time, but we want longer. Even though she's no longer our roommate, she'll always be with us, and we will be better for it.
One of my final photos of Maxie

Baked Salmon with Tomatoes and Basil

This recipe is for the fish-eaters out there.  This is something that Wonder Woman makes regularly and it's one of our family favourites.

There are no quantities given and there's lots of room for improvisations so go for it!

The fish remains very juicy because each piece is wrapped in its own foil pouch.  Probably the best I've had.

This dish is also suitable for the barbeque.


For each person:
  • Olive oil, about 5 ml (1 tsp)
  • Salmon
  • A small tomato, chopped
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn roughly
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Hot pepper like a jalapeƱo or Thai red chile (optional)
  • Lemon wedge


  • Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F)
  • Lay out a length of tin foil on the counter
  • Pour the olive oil on the tin foil
  • Put the salmon on top of the oil
  • Add tomato on top of fish
  • Top with the torn basil
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little sugar
  • Add the hot pepper if using
  • Wrap the tin foil around the fish and make into a parcel, more or less tight.
  • Place the package on a cookie sheet and bake
How long to bake depends on the thickness of the fish.  We find that 20 minutes is about right.  The only way to be sure is to unwrap the parcel and look at the middle of the fish.  It's cooked when the centre is pink and no longer reddish.

Unwrap, plate, serve with the wedge of lemon, a green veggie and some rice.  Perfect!

And Bow-Tie Calico definitely approves of salmon!  Her portion was already gone by the time the camera was ready.  But she continued to lick the plate for a while.

Simple and Easy Blueberry Muffins

This week's recipe is all about simple and easy.  And delicious.

The new season brings lots of fresh berries and the blueberries looked particularly appetising so we decided to give them a go.

Once again, we tried our best to make this a healthier version of bad-for-you food by decreasing the sugar and using whole-wheat flour instead of the regular alternatives.

This recipe makes a dozen muffins.  You can cook as many at a time as you want, and put the rest of the uncooked dough in the refrigerator in a sealed container.  It'll keep for a week.

You can also make more at once and freeze any leftovers.   If you do manage to freeze any then you're doing better than the three of us because, once again, they all disappeared right away.

If you have any unused cups in your muffin pan, be sure to fill them with water while baking.  This prevents your muffin pan from warping.



  • 300 g (2 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 25 ml (2 tbsp) sugar
  • 25 ml (2 tbsp) baking powder
  • 3 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) fresh or frozen blueberries (don't defrost frozen blueberries)
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) grated lemon zest.  About 1 lemon


  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) butter, melted


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F)
  2. In a larger bowl, stir together the dry ingredients
  3. In a smaller bowl, combine the wet ingredients
  4. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients.  Stir quickly until the ingredients are barely mixed together and may be still lumpy in places.
  5. Put paper muffin liners into the muffin pan, or grease the muffin cups very well
  6. Fill the muffin cups to about 2/3 full
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  8. Remove from pan and serve warm.
It's best to put the cooling muffins on a rack and cover with a soft cloth until they're ready to serve.

And Bow-Tie Calico approves once again.

Banana Bread for Mother's Day

We decided to make (among other things) a loaf of banana bread for dessert for Wonder Woman on her Mother's Day dinner .  Not content with the usual sugar-laden, refined-white-flour offerings, we decided to make it slightly healthier.  Not that this would considered to be health food, but we don't have to feel quite so guilty about having two slices each.

Here's how we made it.


  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) butter
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 3 mashed, ripe bananas. The riper the better, because riper bananas are softer and sweeter
  • 2 eggs
  • 190 g (1 1/4 cups) whole-wheat flour
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) baking powder
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) nutmeg

Optional, one or more of the following:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) blueberries.  Frozen are good, but see the note below
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) chocolate chips
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts

For our version, we added some milk-chocolate chocolate chips.  Yum!


Butter and sugar creamed together

After bananas and eggs are added

With the dry ingredients and the choco chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until it's fluffy.
  3. Add the bananas and eggs and beat until smooth and creamy.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  5. Lightly mix the dry ingredients into the banana mixture.  Do not overmix!
  6. If you are using any of the optional ingredients, add them now.  Again, do not overmix!
  7. Grease the inside of a loaf pan with butter.  Line the bottom with baking parchment paper.
  8. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan.
  9. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.  The bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Let the loaf rest on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan.  Let it cool some more before slicing and eating.  I know that's hard, but the bread continues to cook after it leaves the oven.

In the pan, before putting it in the oven


If you are using frozen blueberries, it's best to add them in layers when pouring the batter into the pan.  Otherwise the colour runs (we learned this from the Best of Bridge website)

This recipe doubles easily.  You can freeze the extra loaf.

Because we used whole-wheat flour, we had to increase the amount of baking powder from the usual.  Whole wheat is denser than white and is heavier and requires more of a "lift."

And Bow-Tie Calico approves.