22 October 2012

Zeus: my big, strong boy

For those of you following my Twitter feed, you'll know that I've had a pretty rough time over the past few months with my cats Hagia and Zeus.  Hagia passed away in July and last week her brother Zeus lost his battle.  They were both about 17years old.

They were born in my parents' garden on 1 September 1995.  Zeus, the eldest of the litter was the most adventurous of the four.  My father first spied this little stripey kitten when tending the garden.  The grey kitten decided my father was the best thing since sliced bread and bounded out whenever my father went out to pick veggies or water the garden.  Soon Zeus (then called Sofia*), Scutterbotch, Groucho and Hagia moved in.  Scutterbotch and Groucho found homes; Zeus and Hagia stayed.

For almost 15 years Zeus was wary of me--there was no secret he preferred men to women, but I seemed to hold a special place of fear and distrust in this mackerel cat's mind.  He hissed, ran away and generally hid from my sight when I came near.

Four  years ago Mum's cat, Bean, became too rough and tumble.  This aggressiveness became too much to bear.  I'd talked to my parents about moving Zeus in with me (there's no way I'd bring Bean in...he'd simply beat up my poor little girl),  they were against it.  Then one night I received a call from my father asking me to take his sonny boy in.  It was a difficult decision for my dad.  Zeus and my father were two peas in a pod.

So in Zeus came.  Scared, alone, separated from his papa,

Within a few days he was given full run of the house.  It took a bit longer for him to get back in Hagia's good books...they'd been separated for a while and although she was willing to be friends with him immediately, Zeus hissed and growled so much she just went off him.  That would soon be rectified and for the next few years they'd pal around and chatter to one another.

Zeus still treated me as if he thought I was a huge, giant monster.  It didn't help that he developed diabetes and I had to chase him with a syringe of insulin.

In the past year my little mackerel cat's view of me shifted...I was no longer a scary person but someone who was almost okay.  Heck...I could scritch him!  He no longer cowered or hid.

Then Hagia fell ill and passed away.  Zeus' loneliness was so evident.  He simply did not leave my side.  Unfortunately, his health was also on the decline--his diabetes crept back and his kidneys stopped functioning properly.  Daily subcu was thrown into the mix. By the end, he was a shadow of his robust self, weighing about 1/3 of what he did in that photo above.

He spent the last two weeks of his life at the vet's.  I visited him every day, bringing in special people food treats (baked ham, roast beef and turkey) in hopes he'd eat something.  And pretty much every day he came up to me for a cuddle and a purr.  In the end, I had to make a decision...even with artificial stimulants, he wasn't producing enough red bloodcells on his own and his sugar levels kept elevating...and then he had a stroke or some other haemmorhagic episode...he held on until I'd returned from my client's that day.

Zeus purred and slurmed my hand.  It was the most response he'd offered in at least six hours.  We all knew it was a matter of time.

And as my vet said, "he doesn't deserve to die alone."

So I made the call.  He wasn't going to get better.  And I didn't want him to pass, like his sister, in the middle of the night without anyone there.  As he was injected I told him he would be with Hagia soon and they'd play with one another and he would be able to look after her.  He passed, with his head cradled by my hand, purring until the end.

Goodbye, Zeus, my big, strong boy.  You are missed.

jasmine I'm a quill for hire!

* When we first took them in, they were so small...this little grey stripey cat appeared to be a girl, so I named her Sofia...paired with sister Hagia.  The vet set us straight.  When I told my father this, he simply said "He needs a man's name.  His name is Zeus."  or something like that.


08 October 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! Pumpkin swirl cheesecake

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians!  I hope all of you have had a safe and wonderful weekend, surrounded by good friends and family...and...of course a table ladened with the bounty of the season.

My Dear Little Cardamummy asked me to bring pumpkin pies to dinner (yes, plural).  I was all set to whip up something special but my body had other plans.

The day I was to bake I awoke with the beginnings of a cold.  Little surprise as my life has been busy as of late--between my new client that's a teeny bit of a distance away along with my volunteer responsibilities (oxymoron??) I've been burning the candle at both ends.  Long days, late nights and little time to actually take care of myself (or cook...or blog).  This isn't a complaint, just a statement of how my life is right now.

Knowing full well food I cook when I'm not feeling at my best rarely turns out well, I succumbed to the  bigscarymegamart and picked up a couple of pies. I must admit my heart seized a titch when I saw what their head office decreed as "regular price".. +$8!  The "sale" price was $6.  Good gravy.  Given these are factory pies, frozen and then heated in the bowels of the store, I question the $6 price tag...and do not believe the $8 at all.  Alas, I was in a bind and I paid $12 for two rather mediocre pies.

Thanks to Mum's home cooking and a bit of rest, I'm feeling a bit better now.

Needless to say, I wanted to get back into the kitchen and create an autumnal dessert.  My mind turned to my original thought of a swirled cheesecake.

Cheesecakes are rather easy to put together and once you master the basics, easily adapted to a myriad of flavours and combinations.  This time I decided to created a chai-spiced pumpkin and vanilla swirled cheesecake--something that celebrates the season's bounty and brings a titch of warmth to the cooler night air.

The resulting cheesecake is creamy, mildly spiced and perfect for a gathering.  If I were to have served this at dinner, I would have roasted some pear slices tossed in honey, vanilla and cinnamon and served each slice of cake with the warmed fruit with a spoon of Chantilly cream.

Chai-spiced pumpkin & vanilla swirled cheesecake
Yield: 1 20cm (8") cheesecake


For the crust
225g/560ml/2.25c graham wafer crumbs
100ml/0.33c+1Tbsp melted butter
pinch of salt

For the filling
750g/3 bricks cream cheese, at room temperature
250g /1.25c sugar
1tsp/5ml vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
3 eggs, at room temperature
100ml (0.33c + 1Tbsp) heavy cream, at room temperature
275g/280ml/1c+2Tbsp pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2 cloves, ground
2 pods' worth of cardamom seeds, ground
0.5tsp/2.5ml ground ginger
0.25tsp/1.25ml ground cinnamon
a kettle of boiling water


Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Wrap the outside of the springform pan with tinfoil (this will help to minimise leakage--both from the batter leaking out, but also the bain marie's water from seeping in.

For the crust:
Prepare the crust by mixing all its ingredients together and pressing firmly and evenly onto the bottom of the cakepan.  Set aside.

For the filling:
Cut the cream cheese into cubes, and cream together with sugar.  Blend in eggs, one at a time, scraping well between each addition.  Mix in vanilla and cream until well blended.

Reserve about one third of the batter in a jug and set aside.

Add the spices and pumpkin puree into the larger quantity of batter and blend until evenly mixed.

Pour half the pumpkin batter into the prepared cake tin and then pour, in alternate dollops the vanilla and pumpkin batters.  With a skewer or handle-end of a teaspoon, swirl the batters together until you've attained the desired visual effect.

Tap the filled tin on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles.

Place the tin in a roasting pan and pour boiling water in the roasting pan until it reaches approximately half-way up the side of the springform tin.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the outer area of the cheesecake is set and the middle jiggles.  Turn off the heat and let the cheesecake sit in the oven, as it cools, for one hour.

Remove  from the oven and let cool on the counter until it reaches room temperature.  Chill in the refrigerator.

Serve with Chantilly cream, poached or roasted pears, and/or drizzled caramel.

I'm a quill for hire!