Easy hors d’oeuvres for a happy husband birthday

Ben’s birthday was a blast. A simple get together at home with good friends, cheap foods, fancy foods, and a smooth bottle of Makers Mark whisky. It involved pizza from Artichoke, a delicious pizza parlour that is the popular post boozing meal of choice for many an east village hipster. We also splurged on prosciutto, melon, truffle oil, fancy cheese and fancy bread. Combine that with a few other drinks and we had fine spread of food including the two hors d’oeurves I came up with. I wanted to combine a few great flavour combinations and use foods that we didn’t eat every day. They were both well received, and simple to make. So, if you ever need a quick party snack that is easy and almost fancy, do give these guys a shot, especially the beets and goat cheese combo!

Rice cracker, beet, goat cheese, walnut, basil and balsamic glaze

Beets*, goat cheese, walnuts are winning ingredients for a simple salad but deconstructed into a tiny bite size snack it’s cheesier and suddenly too cute to resist. Throw in some balsamic glaze and fancy sea salt to bring out the flavours, and a pretty green herb on top. I was lucky to have my basil plant begin sprout new leaves for easy pickings. I’m sure it would have been even better if I had toasted the cheese and the walnuts but I never got around to it.

Quail eggs from an asian grocery were cooked sous vide**. Quail eggs were cooked at 147.2 degrees for 30 minutes to get them soft and perfectly poached. What do quail eggs taste like? I’d say they are pretty similar to chicken eggs but superior in taste. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is but something makes me want to eat ten at a time.  Combined with a smidge of truffle oil, some basil, pepper and sea salt and its a miniature poached egg surprise in your mouth! The only difference I would have from the picture is to have cut the bread a little smaller. Poached or boiled the flavour combo of egg and truffle is still going to be amazing so don’t let the lack of a sous vide machine hold you back.

Sous vide quail egg, truffle paste, S+P, basil on french bread

*The trick to roasting the beets with as little effort as possible is to cut off the stalk, wash them, wrap them in foil while wet and throw in an oven at 400 degrees for 60 to 90 minutes. They are done when a thin knife pierces them with little resistance. After that the skin peels right off, and any extras still wrapped keep in the fridge for about a week. Perfect cooking method for lazy bum me.

**Sous vide means ‘under vacuum’ and the device that provides this cooking style was Ben’s birthday present. A small machine you plug into a slow cooker filled with warm water and a thermometer, it controls the temperature of the water bath so foods can be cooked to precision. Unlike eggs, meats and vegetables would be sealed a vacuum pack before they are put in the water bath, hence the name. Sous vide steak was so good!

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Cat play. two types.

Some cat-play is purely for my entertainment. The other type is so I can sleep past 5 am. 

Doodled cat is not impressed

Sometimes when I play with Blue, it’s all for me. I think Blue would prefer not to be doted on like she’s a toy or a human baby, so this type of play is to keep me entertained. Blue isn’t a huge fan of her pink frilly dress, being wrapped in a burrito blanket, and will only tolerate bouts of extreme cuddling and face mushing. But she has no choice as that’s the fee she pays for a lifetime of poopscooping and two meals a day.  As you can see, doodling on my cat also falls into the first type.

Otherwise, besides Blue’s endless pile of cat mice, feathers, her scratching post, and tree we also engage in the type of play that Blue loves. Blue loves to chase, catch, wrestle, and fight with things that fight back. Since we are currently a one cat home, I become the other cat/mouse/monster. mewr!

Finally and most importantly, it seems that exercise could make your cat smarter. NY Times just published a great article that found that mice who exercised performed better on cognitive tests compared to mice that did not.  Even mice with a rich and varied diet and lots of fun colorful toys which they loved did not matter as much. So, whatever methods you use to play with your cat, make them work for it!

So, at the risk of exposing all the embarrassing things I do with my cat,  here are the 4 games that Blue loves to play.

4: Reverse Peek a Boo.
Demonstrated very clearly in the YouTube sensation ninjacat, cats love to play with eye contact. If I’m looking at Blue, and she is in an inquisitive mood, eye contact is not an optional requirement. If I hold my palm up to block her view of my eyes, or move in a way so that there is an object between our line of sight, she will move just enough to regain eye contact. So, with dodging and moving, I can make her move all around and eventually come so close that she’s in my face. Doesn’t matter that she can see the rest of my body, somehow the rule of the game is eye contact, and she will win.

3. Monster.
This is when go “rawr” and chase her like I want to eat her. At first Blue was terrified and simply hid under the bed, but when I then ran away, she started to catch on that it was a game. Now she loves to tear back and forth around the house between chasing me and being chased. I just wish she wouldn’t initiate play with a hearty chomp to the ankles.

2. Pet my belly. not!
This one is when she rolls over and bares her belly acting oh-so-submissive and cute. Then, as you coo and lean down to rub her inviting belly, she will attack/kick/ bite in glee, and wrestle with you as you try to touch her from all sides. Biting too hard will promptly stop the game so she has learned to be gentle.

1. Hide and seek.
An adapted method of monster, this is where you chase your cat, and she will hide under the table. You run and hide behind the door. She will come out to chase you, only to find that you have vanished in thin air. Extra points if your appearance causes her to jump backwards before she charges off again. Extra extra points if she’s smart and learns to use the new hiding spot after you use it. Extra extra extra points if you scare her so much that her tail puffs up to twice its size!

* A few people have shared various methods to keep kitty alseep at normal human hours, and I think I finally hit upon a good method. Will post on this topic next once I run a few more ‘test trials’ to confirm validity. Seems that this is an issue that we don’t fight alone!

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Preventing the Apocalypse: Keeping Your Cat From Destroying Your Stuff

What a great list! Its pretty clear the author knows what a kitty needs and likes, and is in good company with a cute little trouble maker! I only employ 4 of these methods, but will follow up with my own kitty entertainment methods. Thanks for sharing!

The number one law of domestic cats is:

Keep us busy or we will destroy something you love

Cats are a lot like children in this way. Either you can make the effort to set up games and challenges to keep them busy, or they can empty your kitchen trash can and play with its contents while your back is turned.

My cat Capo is a year old and very active. When she’s not asleep, she expects someone to be entertaining her, and if I don’t entertain her, she will amuse herself by batting objects off end tables, shredding paper, or sorting the recycling…around the living room.

I’ve used my creativity and the internet to come up with this list of tried and true techniques that always keep my cat occupied:

1.Catnip spray

Unfortunately, cats get tired of playing with the same toys. To make old toys interesting again, spray…

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The rest of the trip

Final post on our trip, a smattering of photos to give you the notion that I did not spend the entire trip chasing cats around the island. I would say that our time was well split between exploring beaches, dining on conch and snapper, drinks by sunset, and for me..scritch scratching of mosquito bites.

In other news, We are traveling to Delaware for the weekend to cook a good easter meal for the in-laws. Blue isn’t so keen on the travel but loves the big house and garden view television. Wishing you all a Happy Egg laying bunny weekend!

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Animal Videos: Big Cats vs. Easter Eggs

Big cats small cats.. all play the same!

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Cats and critters of Vieques

 Vieques was blooming with life. Horses roaming wild and fenced, dogs and cats waiting patiently for scraps by food gorging tourists, chickens crossed the roads without question, and large iguanas sun bathed on hot tar roads, perilously close to ongoing traffic. At night we would hear the native Coquí frog whisper “coqui coqui”, “co” to ward off males and establish territory, and “qui” to attract all the pretty ladies. Rather efficient if you ask me.

Ben: Do we have to stop and photograph every cat you see?
me: ….!

Cafe cats were well fed and somewhat portly. These guys possessed the uncanny ability to switch between sleepyface mode to I’m ready for my portion of your food mode in a split second. Salad munching tourists were deemed invisible, while a pulled pork burger granted me a brief upgrade from tolerable stranger to begrudging friend.

Everyone else seemed cared for and free to roam as they pleased, casting a wary eye but confident enough to stay their ground. Some of the older cats looked a little crusty and didn’t bat an eye as I drew close, as if they had long seen their fill of camera happy tourists.

 There were many other critters near and far…and always a stunning view to boot!


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Oh how I miss my Romeo

Romeo.. orphan in Vieques, Puerto Rico, where I disappeared to last week. A recent rescue by the seaside ranch we stayed at. Every day, darling Romeo would come trotting for a quick cuddle before darting off to explore again. At night we would hear little footsteps – Romeo having his midnight run under the  starlit night.

The whole island is beautiful, wild, clean, and refreshingly sparse. A relaxing beach-town atmosphere unspoiled by the many spring-breakers and old wrinkly grandparent tourists. Dotted with beaches, horses, cats, and occasional chickens, we dined on red snapper, conch till we were sick, snorkeled and enjoyed our bacardi coke on tiny beaches. Weather was perfect, not scorchingly hot with a pleasant breeze and ample shade, and more stars in the sky than I have ever seen. The spectacular event of the trip was night-time kayaking in the Bioluminescent bay. a bay full of microorganisms that lit up like fireflies when the water was agitated. What an amazing phenomenon! The water around the boat and the oars would twinkle as the kayak drifted through the mangroves as though full of tiny LED’s. Matched in full by the dark moonless starry sky above. A scoop of water trickling through our hands would sparkle and shine like liquid starlight. The largest and brightest in the world, and definitely an unforgettable experience. best. vacation. ever!

Stay tuned for upcoming shots of the resident island cats and a few other critters my dear WordPress friends. I missed you all and its great to be back!

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