Cats, Cooking, and Life!

My Other Cat Monty

At the back window

From before I brought him home, sixteen years ago, I knew he was no ordinary cat. The breeder said when she did the vacuuming, all the other kittens would scatter. But there was Monty riding on top of the cleaner. He was deaf, of course, but I'm pretty sure he was able to hear a bit, above and beyond feeling vibrations through the floor.

Later, he developed a talent for what I called Late Night Cat Opera. He'd go to the top of the stairs at about 2 AM, and call loudly for about two minutes. Then he'd stop and return to whatever he was doing. This would go on for a few nights in a row, then stop for weeks before starting all over again. He's very loud, probably because of his deafness, and it was very funny.

Just a kitten, exploring the backyard for the first time

Most of the time, he'd be The Cat Who Walks By Himself and would be deeply interested in whatever was happening out of the window. Or whatever else was on his agenda. But he also liked quality lap time. Quality lap time was usually pretty intense, with Monty alternately doing happy feet (a.k.a. kneading) on my belly, and licking my fingertips, and occasionally drooling, purring all the while. Oh, how he liked to lick. He wanted to lick my nose but I had to discourage that because he took skin off.

With a neckerchief and a treat in his mouth

His favourite activities were being brushed, particularly around the face and the ruff, and getting his chin scratched. He'd stretch his neck out for almost anyone, even when he'd be shyly hiding from visitors.

Hard to believe he was this small

When Monty was young, I had a friend visiting. We were talking in the living room when Monty decided it was time for some affection. So he stood on me, back legs in my lap and front legs on my chest, and I stroked his back and ruff. Hard. When I slowed down, he jumped down and ran over to my friend for a repeat performance. When she missed a stroke, he jumped down and raced back to me. He just couldn't get enough. This happened four or five times until he had had enough and retired to the end of the couch to watch us.

Everyone who met him said what an unusual personality he had, alternately hiding from visitors to sitting on their laps, to his unusual vocalisations. Plus his distinctive looks -- a large, shaggy, white Maine Coon with intense yellow eyes. What little skin showed -- nose, lips, ears, paw-pads -- was bright pink and many people thought he was a she. He was very gentle and good-natured. He never bit anyone, and while I had received the odd scratch from him, it was never out of malice or bad temper.

He thinks he's hiding out of sight

We were very close, Monty and me. That's why it was so heartbreaking when he suddenly couldn't walk anymore. He was fine one day, and the next was only able to crawl unsteadily. The vet said it was neurological in origin but couldn't be more specific. A stroke or clot or embolism or something else were possibilities. And with the hospitalisation required to do everyday things like eat and use the litter box, it became a quality of life decision. So we decided to say good-bye to the little guy.

Asleep on the stairs

Monty had had several health problems in recent years. Besides being deaf, he came down with diabetes at age 15. That's unusual for an older cat, according to his vet. I administered insulin shots twice a day for a couple of months, then was able to stop when a special food controlled his blood sugar. He disliked being picked up, but it's easy to sneak up on a deaf cat -- a.k.a. Mr. Oblivious -- so the shots were never a problem.

He loved to wear my sheepskin slipper

Then, a year later, the vet discovered what turned out to be a softball-sized cyst attached to his liver. It was successfully removed, along with other cysts inside his liver, about two months ago. He was recovering nicely when the walking thing happened. So there were problems, but we always worked though them together.

Handsome and furry.  This is his summer coat.

It seems like only yesterday we was saying goodbye to Maxie, my first cat, and way too soon, we had to say farewell again.

At the vet. My last photo of Monty

My wife and I visited my little buddy one last time. He was wrapped up in a blanket and had a drip attached to a leg. He was a bit dazed but still stretched out his neck for a scratch under his chin.

We will miss Monty and all his quirks. But he'll never truly be gone because we will remember him always.

Strike a pose!

Date Squares

Here's a traditional and fancy treat that's got some goodness in it. While it's definitely not health food, it's not as sweet as more common desserts plus there's some fibre content. We never seem to get enough fibre these days.

Date squares are typically served as a fancy treat for Sunday tea, special occasions, and important guests. Elegant and delicious, they have wide appeal. Everyone likes to get the many crumbs left in the baking dish. And, of course, it's hard to find a traditional bake sale without them.

This recipe has been handed down from the Admiral Catnap (retired) (and at least one generation before her). I think you'll find the results are as good as any you've ever tried.

You may be tempted to change the order of these directions by cooking the dates first, but please don't. It's much easier to spread the warm date mixture on the crust than after it has cooled.

Equipment note: If you have a pastry cutter, here's a good chance to use it. If no cutter, then use two table knives in a scissor motion to cut the butter into the flour. Very similar to a pie pastry recipe.

Date note: The Admiral recommends Jaffa dates as they result in a smooth paste that easy to spread when cooked. Jaffa is a city on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

The following recipe makes enough for a 20 x 20 cm pan (9 x 9 in) pan. These pictures show a 20 x 30 cm (9 x 13 in) pan, and we increased the ingredients by 50%.


  • 200 g flour, all purpose (1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 ml baking soda (1/2 tsp)
  • 5 ml baking powder (1 tsp)
  • 2 ml salt (1/4 tsp)
  • 250 ml butter (1 cup)
  • 250 ml brown sugar (1 cup)
  • 375 ml rolled oats (1 1/2 cup)
 Date filling:
  • 500 ml chopped dates (2 cups)
  • 60 ml cold water (1/4 cup)
  • 30 ml brown sugar (2 tbsp)
  • 15 ml lemon juice (1 tbsp)
  • 30 ml orange juice (2 tbsp)
  • grated zest from an orange


Cutting in the butter

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add sugar and oats. Mix well.

After adding the oats

Spread half the crumbs in a greased, shallow, 9-inch square pan. Pat and press the crumbs until firm and smooth.

Pressing the crust using a small bowl

Chopping dates after removing pits
Ready to cook

Cook the dates, water, orange rind and sugar in a small saucepan over moderate heat until thick and smooth. Remove from heat and add fruit juices. Mix well. Spread the date mixture over the bottom layer of the crumbs.

Cooked and smooth

Spread on bottom crust

Top the date mixture with the other half of the crumbs.  Again, pat and press the crumbs until firm and smooth.

Ready to bake

Bake at 180 C (325 F) for 35-40 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Cut squares while still hot and allow to cool while in pan.

Cut and cooled

Does Bowtie Calico approve? Yes, with a lick of her lips.

Bow-Tie Calico Approves!

Japanese Crab Cakes with Spicy Mayo

This is a great recipe that makes for some scrumptious crab cakes. They're a bit finicky, though, as several steps are required to put them together. But they're not difficult to create.

More importantly, they need to be deep fried, so this recipe is *not* for everyone!

But we're not everyone so we bravely forged ahead. The Wonder Woman has lots of experience with stovetop deep frying as she has make wonderful spring rolls for lots of years (more about them in a later post).

Our deep fryer is a pot on the stove top. It's fine if you watch carefully and don't allow it to overheat and start smoking or burning. We keep the heat relatively low, too.

These crab cakes are very nice when served fresh from the fryer with some spicy mayo. The spice level is up to you, of course. Feel free to adjust the ingredients as you see fit.

Ingredients for the spicy mayo
  • 120 ml mayonnaise (1/2 cup)
  • 60 ml (or to taste) your favourite hot sauce such as Sriracha or Sambal Oelek or Tabasco (1/4 cup)
  • 30 ml tobiko fish roe (optional) (2 Tbsp)
  • 10 ml rice wine or rice vinegar (2 tsp)
  • freshly grated lemon zest

Ingredients for the crab cakes

  • 65 g flour (1/2 cup)
  • 120 g butter (1/2 cup)
  • 750 ml milk (3 cups)
  • 500 g crab meat, in small chunks or diced. (1 lb)
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 125 ml rice wine (optional) (1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium potato, cubed and boiled. mash it until it's no longer lumpy
  • Flour for coating
  • 1 egg, beaten, for coating
  • Panko bread crumbs, from Japan, for coating. You can substitute regular bread crumbs but they won't have that special crunch.
  • oil for deep frying

Directions for the spicy mayo

Combine all ingredients in a small blender, or stir vigorously. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Directions for the crab cakes

Start by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Mix in the flour and stir until well combined. Then gradually add the milk and stir until it's smooth.

Add mashed potato in the milk mixture. Mix well.

In a fry pan, carmelise the onion.  Add the crab meat onion and stir fry for a bit.  Add salt, pepper and wine to season.

Add the crab mixture to the potato and milk.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool enough to handle easily.

Lay out 3 medium-size bowls, one containing flour, one with the beaten egg and the last containing bread crumbs. Line a tray with wax paper to hold the finished crab cakes.

With your hands, take some crab mixture and shape into a ball, about 3 cm in diameter.

Dredge the ball in the flour. Remove it and shake off any excess flour. Then dip it in the egg until coated. Remove and shake off the excess egg. Finally, roll the crab in the bread crumbs. Flatten into a disc and place on the tray. Repeat for the rest of the crab cakes.

Heat the oil in the deep fryer or pan. The oil should be at least 5 cm deep to be effective. Otherwise the oil will cool too much when the cakes are added.

Have a plate lined with paper towels ready to drain the crab cakes as they're finished frying.

Once the oil is medium hot, add a crab cake, two at a time into the pan. They'll float to the surface. Watch them carefully and turn once when browned. Remove from the oil and onto the cooling plate. Repeat for all.  The purpose of the frying is to brown the breadcrumbs.  The crab mixture is already cooked so you don't need to deep fry for long, and not a very high temperature.

Serve while still hot along with the dipping sauce in small bowls.

Makes about 20 crab cakes.