Guest Post! Fortinbras’ Quick and Easy Spinach Sauté

Ole Fortinbras surprised me by sending me a guest post! First I’ll let you hear from him in his own words, then I’ll tell you how to veganize it (which is very easy, he just added some parmesan cheese at the end that I’ll be swapping out). So without further ado, heeeere’s Fort:

Hello all you fantastic I Eat Food folks. Since I’ve moved to California and returned to school, I have zero time to cook and zero money, so fast, cheap and filling is the name of the game. This recipe is something I eat a few times a week because it fits the bill, and it is just so delicious. Also, the aromatics are gonna make your home smell great.

When putting this together I throttle way back on the salt because the Parmesan cheese has a pretty high salt content.

Quick and Easy Spinach Sauté


Baby Spinach uncooked – 3 big hand fulls (about 6 cups)
1/4 of large onion chopped
Garlic – 6 cloves chopped
10 Cherry Tomatoes – chopped
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese

2 tsp of dried basil
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of dried rosemary
olive oil

Chop up your garlic, onions and cherry tomatoes. (Keep these separate because you will be adding them individually).

Heat a sauté pan with 4 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat (you want your cooking surface to be hot enough to cook the onions and the garlic down but not so hot that it might fry the garlic).

When pan is hot toss in the onions and the garlic with a little bit of salt and pepper. As soon as the onions begin to become translucent reduce the heat to medium low (you want your onions to still have a bit of firmness).

Add in the basil, oregano, rosemary toss that around a few times and then add in the tomatoes.

After adding in the tomatoes and after mixing it all up real good, toss in your spinach and continue to incorporate the ingredients and reduce the spinach.

Toss it all about until the spinach wilts a bit (not overly reduced in volume) and then turn off the heat. Let the heat of the pan continue to reduce the spinach.

Now toss in the Parmesan cheese and stir it all about.

Now put it all into a bowl and eat it up because it tastes and smells so dang good and you are hungry.

Greetings and happy eatings from Sunny California!

Okay, Renae back at the helm. I made this tonight and it was really good. I followed Fort’s instructions exactly, other than the cheese, and using less oil (‘Bras – did you REALLY use 1/4 cup?!).

Here are my ingredients:

Sauteing the onions and garlic:

Adding the herbs and tomatoes:

And the spinach:

Okay, about that parmesan cheese. There are a number of ways you can handle this:

  1. You can just omit it – really, this is good enough that the cheese is superfluous.
  2. You can buy commercial vegan parmesan (although I never do this).
  3. You can just add a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.
  4. You can add some Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix
  5. You can omit Fort’s seasonings and sprinkle some dukkah on it – I intend to try this next time.
  6. You can make a vegan parmesan. The simplest version is just equal parts nutritional yeast and sesame seeds or nuts, plus a little salt. But what I did this time was:

Vegan Parm
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 Tbsp white miso
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Place all ingredients in a blender or spice grinder and blend for several seconds.

I just used a tablespoon or so. This will keep in the fridge for a while.

I served this with some sprouted quinoa that I made using sun-dried tomato soaking water that I saved a few days ago, with a touch of bouillon. Wow, that was inspired – the quinoa was fantastic and went very well with the spinach.

So, thanks to Fortinbras for taking time from his very, very, very, very busy life to share this recipe! Here is Fort’s current favorite picture of us.

If I try to make a post without kittens, I get comments demanding kitten action. Fort was in fact here the weekend we got the kittens but he isn’t in any of the pictures I took, and then he went and abandoned me for L.A., so you will have to settle for the only picture I can find of Fort and Tigger. It’s about a gazillion years old, but I remember taking it. Tigger was being unruly and Fortinbras was trying to tell him a thing or two. Tigger wasn’t listening. There were a bunch of people in my apartment at the time, which just goes to show you that Tigger always had to be right in the middle of things. Boy, do I miss him. And I miss Fort, too.

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Brachtune, a love letter

In the wee hours before dawn, many, many, many years ago, friends and I were sitting in the courtyard of their apartment building, quietly talking. Across the way, a single light was on in a building that backed to my friends’. The walls of the lighted room were painted red and there was an American flag and a Nine Inch Nails poster hanging on the wall. On the window sill there sat a cat. It was too far and too dark for me to make out anything but a cat-shaped silhouette, but I felt comforted someone else was up as late as us and that they had a cat, and I wondered aloud what the “flag people” were like.

About a year after that night, my roommate, Lisa, and I moved into the apartment complex across the street from my other friends. Tigger, still a kitten, moved with us. As we were moving things in, some guys came around and invited us to a party later that night across the way. So we went to the party, happy to already be making friend with our neighbors. As I was standing around the dining room, marveling that all four walls were lined with beer cans, floor to ceiling, Lisa came racing up to me from a hallway and told me I had to go into one of the bedrooms, where the “most beautiful cat” was hiding from the party. So I followed Lisa to the bedroom and you guessed it: red walls, a flag, and a NIN poster. And the most beautiful cat in the world sitting in the middle of the bed, seeming a little put out by the party but accepting pets from me and Lisa.

Some months later, the owner of the cat announced he was getting rid of her. I couldn’t figure out why, but begged him not to take her to the pound and instead took her myself, planning to find her a home. I quickly realized part of the reason he didn’t want her was probably because she was in heat, which was really pretty annoying. I also quickly found her to be very aggressive: she tried to kill our senior citizen cat, Eishel, and sparred with Tigger. This also made it hard to find someone to take her in, so I called some no-kill shelters, but I have this condition where it’s near impossible for me to tell a lie, and when I admitted she was aggressive, the no-kill shelters refused to take her. Eventually, although we didn’t want three cats, especially three that couldn’t get along, it became clear we were stuck with this beautiful but somewhat annoying cat, and I made an appointment to get her spayed.

I’ve often joked that the animal hospital got it mixed up and gave her a lobotomy when she went in for her spay, because Brachtune (by the way, the origin of her name is in this post) returned home a completely different cat. She was sweet and loving and not aggressive at all. Eishel was sort of ousted by Tigger and Brachtune and went to live with my parents, and I went on to spend 15 more years with Tigger and 16 with Brachtune, convinced I had the two most perfect cats in the world.

Regular readers know Brachtune’s been sick for a while. Like many cats, her kidneys started to fail, and she was hyperthyroid and anemic on top of it. She hadn’t been herself for a week or so and had stopped eating, so I took her in to the vet on Wednesday. After simply examining her, the doctor gave her only a couple of days to live, and after doing some bloodwork, urged me to delay no more than a day or two putting an end to her suffering, warning me her body was going to start to drastically fail very soon. So I took off work today and am spending all day with her, and am indeed watching her body shut down. She and Mark and I have to go to animal hospital at 7. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Part of the reason I loved Tigger so much was probably because I identified with him. Of the two cats I’ve had in my adult life, I think I am most like Tigger; our personalities were similar: independent, feisty, suspicious of strangers but fiercely loyal to loved ones, loud and gregarious at times but introspective at others. Convinced we’re always right. Proud, perhaps to a fault. Uncaring and largely unaware what other people think of us. A bit dual natured. Adventurous. Risk taking. Brachtune, on the other hand, is who I strive to be. It sounds corny, but I learned a lot from Brachtune, and it was mostly this: calm down and enjoy yourself. Love everyone. Tigger had a hard time making friends outside me and Mark, but everyone that met Brachtune loved her. She is just sweetness personified. Friendly, laid back, loving, affectionate, warm, caring…if everyone were like Brachtune, or even half as sweet as her, we’d have no wars. Tigger judged you. Brachtune only judges you on your propensity for petting her.

I just keep thinking a single thought: She’s too nice to die. I need her, true, but the world needs her. The world is a better place with her in it and will be missing something without her. She may have been small – by the end, tiny – but her value as a living being is so much bigger than her physical size. Sometimes it’s hard to see the good in the world around you, but Brachtune radiates goodness. I think it’s so hard for me to deal with because she was so happy, all the time, to be alive. I hate seeing life extinguished from someone who just enjoyed it so much.

Mark and I would constantly joke with Brachtune as she wedged herself between the two of us while we were watching TV or something: “Brachtune, cheer up. Why are you so depressed all the time? Why must you hold all your emotions in?” As she sat there purring like a machine and pawing at us if we stopped petting her for a single moment. Brachtune always seemed ecstactic. I think she may have had an MDMA problem. Except Brachtune didn’t need chemical bliss. It is just her nature to eminate – and soak up – love.

I have a favorite reading chair – regular readers have seen it in numerous photographs because Brachtune liked to share it with me – and I can be found in it almost every evening. When entering the sunroom where my chair is located, from the doorway at the opposite end of the room, Brachtune would saunter into the room, make eye contact with me, and start walking towards me, then start trotting, finally racing toward me at full gallop, holding my gaze the entire time, until she reached my chair and leapt onto my lap. I’ve tried and I can not think of a single more endearing thing in the world than the thought of Brachtune picking up speed as she got closer and closer to me. Every time.

A few years ago, Brachtune got underfoot and I stepped on her, breaking her leg. I felt terrible. The day I brought her home following her surgery, she was hopped up on painkillers and had to learn to walk with a pin in her leg, which had to hurt. I had to take her kitty carrier apart and lift her out of it because she couldn’t walk out of it. I did so and sat on the floor a few feet from her, feeling upset and hideously guilty. Brachtune looked me in the eye and dragged herself over to me, unable to use her hind legs, until she got to my lap, which she collapsed in, purring. I’ll never forget that. It’s rare you feel that loved.

But as much as she loves me, no matter how comfortable she was on my lap, or how fast asleep she was, or how long or short a time she’d been cuddled up with me, the second Mark walked into the room and sat on the floor, she’d bound up off my lap and race to him. Brachtune liked everyone, but she loved us, so much my heart bursts thinking of it.

Brachtune. Brachtunavitch. B-tune. The Toonse. Toonsie. Sweetheart. Sugarplum. Sweetpea. Dollface. Sweetness and Light. Lovebug. Purrbot. I love you and I miss you.

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In which I talk about cats but not food

I was reprimanded for not having enough cat pictures lately … sorry.

I’ve just been so busy! But then I realized I had a bunch of pictures on my iPhone I’d been saving to share with you, all of cats. In fact, there were so many I’m going to make them their own post. Rest assured that I plan to have a food post for you later tonight or tomorrow, though, so if you aren’t among the cat lovers out there, you can sign off now and come back tomorrow for the food!

I took this series of pictures of Brachtune on my phone shortly after Mark’s birthday, when I was enjoying a slice of his birthday cake for dessert one evening. Brachtune was dining with me:

Suddenly, she approaches:

When she thought I wasn’t looking, she had a little snoot of the cake to see if it smelled like tuna:

And finally attacks!

I eat a lot of meals looking at this view, by the way:

In other cat news, this is the cat I’m going to have one day very soon:

His name is Nakata. I love him.

And okay, I’m not sure how soon I’m really going to have him because I must come up with an elaborate, foolproof plan for stealing him from my friends Dale and Nona, to whom he doesn’t even actually belong. They are long-term cat sitting him and another cat for a military friend of theirs. And his name isn’t actually Nakata. But get this: I fell in love with him on sight the first time I met him and immediately re-named him Nakata (from Bogey), which has been on my list of possible cat names ever since I read Kafka on the Shore. I thought the name sounded neat for a cat, especially since it’s the name of a character who can communicate with cats. Cool, huh? And I instantly decided that The Cat Formerly Known As Bogey looked like a Nakata. What I didn’t know at the time I issued this new name is that Nakata is actually from Japan! Nona’s friend rescued him when she was stationed there. Nakata is Japanese, like his name! NAKATA SHALL ALSO BE MINE. I feel I have a special bond with Nakata. He comes over to me and lies his tiny little head (actually, it’s quite large; he’s a substantially sized kitty) on my lap every time I am there! My heart, it melts.

This is the cat that really belongs to Dale and Nona, Pot Pie. She’s also super cute and I love her, but I’m not planning to steal her.

Finally, this picture is a year and a half old, but I mentioned in one of my recent San Francisco posts that I go looking for and chase around random and stray cats when I’m traveling because I really miss having a cat around to pet, and it reminded me of this cat I found at the beach last summer, lounging on a Harley. I really want to know if the bike belongs to the cat’s human:

There was also the time in New Orleans when Pig found a Siamese in a bookstore (you have no idea how much I love bookstores that have cats, by the way). Ended badly for Pig:

(You’d think I’d get kicked out of bookstores more often than I do…)

Finally, when I searched my galleries for those older pictures, I came across this picture, which made me mist up a bit:

I miss my handsome orange boy.

Right, well, time to hit Wegmans, make dinner, and make a post that’s actually about eating food, not terrorizing or stealing cats.

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Guest Post by Fortinbras! Peanut Butter Salvation Cookies

Note from Renae: I’ve been promising you Fortinbras’ Christmas post forever, and he decided Easter was as good a time as any to get around to it. (He exists! He exists! I didn’t make him up!) So with no further ado…

heeeeeere’s Fort!

…and just in time for Easter, I Eat Food Presents:
Peanut Butter Salvation Cookies (a delicious story of addiction, decadence, and ultimately redemption)

6 bottles of champagne
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of light brown sugar
2 sticks of margarine (slightly cool and softened)
The equivalent of 2 eggs using egg substitute (we used egg replacer)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of unsweetened, salted all natural crunchy peanut butter (Crunchy is what the recipe calls for, but smooth can be used instead, really the decision is left to the discretion of the baker. Remember: Life is short, as Jesus has taught us, so you use the type of peanut butter that you desire because, who knows? Tomorrow somebody may want to crucify you and you don’t want to be hanging there wishing you had used the kind of peanut butter that you prefer. Amen)

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of soy milk chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 and get ready to make the most delicious cookies you have ever eaten in your entire life. Seriously, they are life altering good.

Go on ahead and pop open that first bottle of champagne.

Pamper yourself and pour a nice healthy glass and take a big ol’ swig from the bottle, as if you could be, if given the proper circumstances, a rock star or a naughty politician.

Now that we all feel better about life let’s begin to mix together the essential wet ingredients. Mix the sugars, the egg substitute, the vanilla, the margarine and lastly the peanut butter together in a large bowl.

When incorporating the margarine it is very important that it be soft and slightly cool. If the margarine is melted or room temperature your cookies are still going to taste good, but they will be more thin and crisp after baking. Also, the cookies tend to come out better if the peanut butter is added last, I have no idea why this is but I do know it has something to do with physics and viscosity, parallel dimensions and the letter W. VERY SCIENTIFIC COOKIE STUFF, Y’ALL.

By now you should have finished, at the very least, one of your bottles of champagne. So lets open another, shant we? Why yes, yes we shall.

Now, children of the New Testament Era, it is time to sift the flour and the salt and the baking soda together in a bowl of your choosing. So take a few sips, refill that glass and hop to it.

After sifting the dry thangs together, you should be tired, so reward yourself for all of your hard work by taking a long smooth drink of your cool bubbling champagne. Feel free to laugh as the bubbles tickle the back of your tongue and throat, knowing in your heart of hearts that you deserve this moment. Lucky, lucky you.

NOW FOR THE DEAL, THE OPUS, THE SHOW! Grab your wet ingredients and your dry ingredients and get thee to a mixing station! If you are using a hand mixer I am gonna tell you now, there comes a point with this dough, that you will have to get in there with your hands and mix it using the raw power of all ten digits. Don’t be afraid, it will be okay, take a sip of your fourth bottle of champagne and get in there and make that magic happen! Humph! For those of you who own a professional mixer you may want to forgo allowing those ingredients to fornicate together in the relative privacy of the mixing bowl and just pretend that you own a hand mixer and get in there as well. Let’s keep it clean, but let’s not forget to keep it sexy as well. Everyone begin to add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they form a firm dough.

And for the love of God do not forget to take that fifth bottle of champagne out of the freezer!

Now, at this point you should have a good buzz and a stiff cookie dough going. Form the dough into a ball

And, if you were raised in the circus as I was, feel free to toss it about as if it were a bowling pin or a baby.

But remember, accidents can happen.

So if you are not circusy you should probably just take that ball of dough and put it in a bowl and chill it in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes. Use this time to prep your cookie sheets with parchment paper or tin foil, again, remember the cross, and do what you prefer. LET THERE BE NO REGRETS DURING YOUR CRUCIFIXION!

15 minutes and one bottle of champagne later:


By now you should have lost the pretense of the glass and you should be drinking long and deep directly from the bottle, you should also be removing the ball of dough from the fridge and getting out a tablespoon sized scooping apparatus from your drawer of apparati. Now get your cookie sheet in front of you and get that scoop in your hand and I want you to take a very healthy tablespoon sized scoop from your ball of dough using your scooping apparatus of choice and then I want you to roll that scoop of dough between your palms until it is in the shape of a ball.

I suggest that you start with eight scoops on your first tray, spacing them evenly until you gage how much your dough will spread during baking.

Now that you have your dough balls spaced evenly on your baking sheet I want you to smoosh them down slightly, giving each potential cookie a little smack down.

Next place 1 to 3 soy milk chocolate chips in the center of each of the smooshed down dough balls.

Now it is time to raise your bottle and your adorned cookie sheet in celebration of the fact that you have come this far. You are very intelligent and gifted, by this point in the recipe you should already be aware of this.

NOW, very carefully, (because by now if you have been following this recipe to a tee, you are drunk) place the baking sheet with your unbaked smooshed down cookie dough upon it onto the middle rack of your oven and remember to close the door .

You are going to want to bake these cookies for 13 to 16 minutes depending upon your oven, if you have a slow oven you may need to bake them even longer. After you get a feel for how the dough bakes you can increase or decrease the temperature of your oven if you feel that it is necessary. Baking times are so inconsistent between ovens that I refuse to draw a hard line where time and temperature are concerned. Just know this: These cookies aren’t going to be golden brown; at the golden brown stage after they have cooled they tend to be a little over done, still more delicious than any other cookie on the planet, but a little over done. Instead, I recommend that all bakers everywhere should shoot for finding that point where they are simply cooked thoroughly. I find that tasting the first tray of cookies, even if it means that you have to eat them all, can reveal the subtleties of the cooking process that will give you the information necessary to bake these Peanut Butter Salvation Cookies to perfection, just the way Jesus would.


Fort out – it’s Renae again. I CAN’T BELIEVE OF ALL THE PICTURES OF ME FROM THAT DAY I SUPPLIED HIM WITH, HE CHOSE THE ONE CALLED “VERY UGLY RENAE.JPG”. Why is he my best friend again? Oh yeah, because he’s hilarious. And also he thinks it’s okay for us to drink six bottles of champagne while doing all of his holiday baking. And also “very ugly Renae.jpg” was probably one of the least horrible looking photos of me in the batch. (I’ll never let very ugly Renae-2.jpg get out to the public, boy.) Yes, I love Fortinbras. But since he didn’t include any of the nice pictures of the ole Tiggster from that day, I shall:

Tigger used to always hang out with us during parties, no matter how raucous we got. Brachtune, on the other hand, doesn’t know what to make of us when we get rowdy and tends to hole up in a safe place:

And with that, I wish you all a happy Easter as well!

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I don’t really have an intro for this one. I wanted to use up the rest of the cheddar Teese and dreamt up a sort of Smark-Os made with ramen. (I didn’t actually look at the Smark-Os recipe until after I’d made this dish and was surprised how similar they are.) When Mark asked what it was I said, “it’s Smark-Os made with ramen, so I guess it’s smark-ramen…smar-ramen….Sma-ramen!” (rhymes with shamen!)


2 large shallots or 1/2 large onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 stalk celery, minced
1 carrot, minced
1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
1/8 tsp fennel seeds
2 cups vegan “beef” broth
1 14.5 ounce can tomato sauce
2 frozen basil cubes, or 1/4 tsp dried basil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 package vegan ramen noodles (chuka soba)
1/3-1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese – use a nice melty sort
vegan Parmesan or Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix, for topping (optional)

Mince the shallot or onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Shred the “cheese”.

Heat some olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and fry for two minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds. Add the carrots and celery, as well as the red pepper flakes and the fennel seeds. Fry for 7 minutes or until veggies are soft.

Add the “beef” broth and bring to a boil.

Add the tomato sauce and basil; bring to a boil again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the ramen, breaking into pieces if so desired. Cook for two minutes.

Add the shredded “cheese” and stir. Cook for three more minutes.

Swirl the ramen around a chopstick to help it break up and cook evenly.

Ramen should take about 5 minutes to cook thoroughly.

Serve, sprinkling with vegan Parmesan or the “uncheese” mix if desired.

This was darn tasty and very fast. Vegan “hot dogs” would not be unwelcome in this dish.

The Toonse continues to wear her cone. One thing that makes me feel especially bad for her is she can’t properly groom herself and I know that’s got to be driving her mad. That and having had a fractured wrist when I was 13, I know how frustrating it is to experience the itch you just can’t scratch. And at least I could stick a pencil down my cast! So I think it’s important for me to give her at least a couple of hours a day without it, even if I have to stand over her and monitor her constantly the entire time to make sure she doesn’t dig at her ears. Which she does, almost immediately after I remove the cone. But I cleaned her up real good tonight and afterwards she wasn’t quite as itchy. And she had the chance to eat a meal without having to awkwardly maneuver her mouth out of the cone, and then clean herself up to her satisfaction afterwards.

I know she really appreciated the break.

When she has the cone on, I can tell her mouth feels really itchy because she wants to clean it so badly.

I don’t think I really gave much thought before to how a cat would feel if deprived of the opportunity to groom herself.

I think they’d feel much the same as I would feel if I weren’t allowed to shower.

So I feel it’s important to give her this chance each day.

Until it results in this:


Happy Birthday, handsome. I miss you, buddy.

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Grilled Romaine, Broiled BBQ Tofu, and Sweet Shallot Mustard Dressing

Craving salad, I sort of went overboard with the romaine lettuce the other night. I bought both hearts of romaine and baby romaine, and although Mark and I have been having big salads for dinner every night for three nights, I still have more romaine than you can shake a fork at. Short of eating tossed salad three meals a day, I was wondering what to do with it all, when I remembered one night last summer when our friends Luke and Lanet invited us over for a grilling extravaganza. Lanet loves to cook as much as I do and visiting their house for dinner is always a treat because although she’s not vegan, she likes to experiment and is always trying new vegan dishes out on me. On this night in particular, she was grilling just about every vegetable imaginable, including romaine hearts. Mark and I thought that grilling lettuce was very avant-garde, but it was really good. We don’t have a real grill here, but I do have a George Foreman, so I thought I’d try grilling up some romaine on that. It worked pretty well, though Lanet’s was better.

Grilled Romaine Hearts

1 -3 romaine hearts, depending how many servings you’d like (a serving is 1/2 a heart)
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame sauce
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cider vinegar
1 piece of ginger, size of a child’s pinkie finger
3-4 drops sriracha

Mix together all ingredients except lettuce in a small bowl.

Chop the romaine hearts in half lengthwise.

Rub your (clean!) hands in the marinade, then rub the lettuce all over with it.

Place two halves at a time on an indoor electric grill (only one half is pictured here because Mark is working late so I saved his half for later):

Close the grill and cook for about 3 minutes or until lettuce is wilted and beginning to brown.

I hardly ever buy tofu. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did, other than the other week when I was I recovering from my trip to Australia and didn’t think I’d have time to make it, so I picked some up at Super H while I was there. I haven’t needed it and it was about to expire, so I decided I’d use it up tonight. I thought I’d broil it in a barbecue sauce similar to the ole pork chop sauce. It’d have been better with homemade, but it was decent.

Broiled Barbecue Tofu

1 lb extra-firm tofu
1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup brown sugar (loosely packed unless you like your sauces pretty sweet)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
sriracha to taste

Preheat the broiler on high.

You can press the tofu if you’d like. My homemade tofu doesn’t need pressing, and this Asian brand was very firm, so I didn’t bother. Slice it into thick slabs like this:

In a broiler-proof pan, preferably cast iron, pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, then place the tofu slabs in the pan in a single layer, turning them over to coat both sides in the oil.

Place under the broiler and broil for 10-15 minutes or until golden on top. Flip each piece over and return pan to broiler.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ingredients except the tomatoes.

Add the tomatoes, and unless you are using already-crushed tomatoes, whir an immersion blender through them a few times. It doesn’t need to be too smooth.

When the tofu is beginning to blacken, remove from the broiler.

Pour the sauce onto the tofu and make sure it’s evenly coated. This photo isn’t out of focus so much as the pan was just very hot and steamy:

Place pan back in oven and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken:

Okay, so I grilled some romaine and got one of the hearts out of the way, but I still had a bunch of baby romaine left over, so I made a side salad as well. SO MUCH LETTUCE. I thought a good mustardy dressing would go well with the barbecue flavors of the other dishes, so I made:

Sweet Shallot Mustard Dressing

1 small shallot
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
juice of 1/4 lemon
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 scant Tbsp agave nectar
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in small food processor or chopper.

Process until smooth. (If you don’t have a food processor, just mince the shallot finely and combine all ingredients.)

Enjoy on a tossed salad.

And here’s the whole meal:

It was pretty quick and easy to throw together, although the whole tofu broiling business was a little more involved than I’d have liked. Namely, it took a lot longer than I was anticipating and also the house got pretty smoky. I think I’ll probably just stick to baking or pan frying.

Another issue with broiling the tofu was my cast iron skillet needed special cleaning. Now, I am very attached to my cast iron skillet. It’s an antique and it’s seasoned to perfection. I’m probably somewhere on the midpoint of anal retentiveness when it comes to cleaning it, though. On one hand, I would consider murdering anyone who dared put soap on it or soaked it or tried to scrub it. On the other hand, although you are supposed to clean cast iron while it is still warm from preparing the meal – that means before you sit down to eat – I refuse to eat cold meals. (This fact also explains why my pictures of my plated meals are usually so crappy; I hate spending precious time trying to make them look artistic or good.) Clean-up after my meals is pretty easy because I wash all my prep stuff while I’m cooking, but the final pots and pans always sit on the stove while the meal is consumed, then any leftovers are removed and put away and the pans are cleaned. By then they’ve cooled. My skillet is so well seasoned this hardly ever matters: not much sticks to it. But when I’ve baked something onto it, like broiled barbecue sauce, I need to do something to loosen the baked-on food without scrubbing my seasoning off. It’s really no big deal, though. All you have to do is pour some water into the pan, set it over medium-high heat, let it come to a boil, and boil for a minute or two:

Next – and this is very important – remove any cats that are lurking at your feet between the stove and the sink (mine are ALWAYS there and I don’t want to spill boiling water on them), don a heavy oven mitt, and carry the pan to the sink, pouring out the water.

See that little bit of sauce? It’s all that didn’t get removed when I dumped the water out, and it slid right off when I rinsed the pan briefly – absolutely no scrubbing. Then I dried with a towel (ALWAYS dry cast iron immediately) and spritzed lightly with olive oil.

Honestly, some people think cast iron is high maintenance, but I find it a lot easier to clean than most other things!

And now for a bit of cat news:

Poor Brachtune is a conehead. She somehow got an ear infection and then managed to scratch herself when it got too itchy, so the doctor said she has to wear a cone while it heals up. Sigh. I feel incredibly bad for her about the cone. It’s breaking my heart! Especially since last night I let her take it off while we were hanging out for a few hours and she didn’t try to scratch once. But then when I got home tonight, I took it off and she promptly starting scratching herself. After three chances, the cone went back on.

She looks like Little Kitty on the Prairie here.

After seeing someone ask how to pronounce Brachtune in the comments last time (it’s Brock-toon), my mom suggested that I explain how she got her name. But this post has been really long, so I’ll save it for next time. So you have that to look forward to!

Finally, tomorrow – April 1 – would have been Tigger’s 16th birthday. My sweet April Fool. I miss him more than you can imagine.

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The Greatest Cat in the World: Tigger, 1993 – 2009

I didn’t make this post while I was in Australia because I thought it would upset me too much and I was concentrating on not letting it ruin my vacation. A few days after I left, Mark had to let Tigger go. He’d had kidney disease for several years but had only in the last month or so shown any real symptoms. When I booked my trip back in October, it was with no small amount of apprehension that something would happen to one or both of the cats right before the trip or while I was gone, but as they both seemed in relatively decent health at the time, I felt I couldn’t live my life based on “what ifs”. To my immense sadness, the worst case scenario came true and Tigger fell ill just before I left. He spent Wednesday night in the animal hospital. When I retrieved him on Thursday, he was not himself, although he was very clingy and did not appear to be in pain. I spent Thursday night with him sleeping on me and when I said goodbye to him on Friday when leaving for the airport, it was with tears in my eyes because part of me was sure it was for the last time. And unfortunately it was. He declined rapidly after I left and after another visit to the vet, it was decided between Mark, the doctors, and I that the time had come to let him go.

I can not express to you how glad I am that I have such a marvelous husband who took care of this for me. While I was gallivanting around the globe, Mark was home shoving several pills a day down Brachtune’s throat, cleaning up after Tigger in his final days (apparently he became a bit incontinent), taking both cats to the animal hospital (Brachtune also needs sub-q fluids every other day), and generally giving both cats the enormous amounts of love they need. Although my heart breaks at the thought that I was not there during Tigger’s final moments, I am comforted by the fact that Mark loved the little tyke as much as I did, and that Tigger loved him too – as much as he loved me. I don’t know that I would have felt comfortable about this with anyone other than Mark, but in the 8 years they knew each other, Mark and Tigger were just as close as Tigger and me.

I’ll share a brief story of Tigger’s life with you, if I may. In 1993, a friend of mine was planning to move back “home” from the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, in order to attend my university with me. I’d be moving out of my current apartment and we’d be moving into a new one together. A couple of months before the move was to happen, she drove a tiny 6-week old kitten the three hours from Ocean City to Towson, Maryland, and presented him to me, to be our kitty together when she herself moved up later. She looked exhausted when she arrived, stating the little one had screamed the entire trip. Having traveled much lesser distances with this cat in the future, I can tell you Lisa was nothing less than a saint for tolerating him for that long! I fell in love with the kitten on sight. Lisa named her Antigone, both because she liked the name and because another friend of ours had recently been in the play of the same name.

When the time came for me to move from the old apartment into the new, there were some sort of repairs that needed to be made to the new apartment that caused me to leave the cats (I also had at the time a stray I had taken in a while before) in the old place after moving all of the furniture. On my way home late one night after being out, I stopped by the old apartment to visit the cats and was dismayed to find one of the window screens had been cut and my little orange kitten missing. Either someone had deliberately stolen the cat, or (more likely) someone had been trying to rob us and was very disappointed indeed to find the place completely empty, and unwittingly let the kitten out, either by the front door when they left or through the hole in the window. Whatever the case, I was devastated. Friends and I spent the Fourth of July making Lost Cat signs that we hung around the neighborhood. I called Lisa, who hadn’t yet moved up from the beach, in tears. On the day we were to make the final inspection and move the one remaining cat to the new place, I was late meeting another friend of mine there. He asked me to go retrieve his bag from one of the bedrooms. I told him to get it himself. He insisted that I get his bag for him, which was behind a. closed door. When I opened the bedroom door, I was greeted not by his alleged bag, but by one tiny, orange, much-missed kitten! One of my neighbors had seen the bowls of food I’d been leaving out (but curiously not the signs) and, finding my friend heading in to wait for me, had asked if he was missing a cat, and he’d gone to collect my baby. I went to the neighbor’s apartment to thank her. She was a cat person herself and had taken good care of the little one for a few days, but insisted on calling the kitten a “he”, despite the fact that Lisa had always called it a “she”. I was not the brightest crayon in the box at the time and instead of peering under the kitten’s tail (I knew very well how to tell a boy from a girl cat), I simply assumed the lady was sloppy with her pronouns. A couple of weeks later, though, when my orange kitten got its first shots, I was of course made a fool of. Antigone, despite the girlish name, was a boy, and became from that day simply Tigger. And also king of my heart.

When Lisa and I eventually moved on and were no longer roommates, I took Tigger. I didn’t even give her a real choice in the matter. I loved him more than anything and wasn’t going to be parted from him. I was totally crazy for this cat. When singing along with songs, I substituted “Tigger” for most 2-syllable words and claimed all songs were in fact about Tigger (and how great he is). Tigger could be aggressive at times: if you looked at him wrong, he was sometimes apt to claw you. But I always sided with the cat instead of bloodied friends and family, claiming they must have provoked it and that he was just a little baby boy who never did anything wrong. When Mark and I were away from home – whether on a long trip or just at a bar – we’d ask each other constantly, “What do you think Tigger is doing right now?”

I met Mark in 2001. Mark and I were one of those sickening couples that falls almost instantly in love, but if he and Tigger (and Brachtune for that matter, but she loves just about every human) had not hit it off as well as they did, I’m not sure what would have happened. Mark even had to sacrifice his own cat in order to move in with me because Tigger barely tolerated Brachtune after eight years and would have probably killed Mark’s cat. (Mark’s mom now provides a very happy home for Mark’s cat, Din.) Mark was fond of saying that Tigger needed a male role model in his life and it did seem as if Tigger mellowed after being adopted by his new father figure. I’d never seen Tigger like anyone as much as he liked me – he barely tolerated anyone else on his best days – but he almost immediately took to Mark, and Mark to him.

I’ve had cats my entire life, but I’ve learned that you bond with different pets with varying amounts of intensity. The bond I had with Tigger was immense and eternal. He greeted me at the door whenever I came home, begging to be picked up and cuddled. As readers of this blog are aware, he “helped” me cook nearly every meal I made. He happily wore a harness and leash and went for jaunty walks around the neighborhood with me. He loved to be held like a baby and walked around the house by Mark. Mark and I would often pick him up and sandwich him with kisses. He tolerated me picking him up and dancing around the house with him. He’d put his paws around my neck and hug me when I was feeling blue. He was my best friend.

Mark told me on the phone when breaking the bad news that he was glad I was so far from home when things turned bad because all of my memories of Tigger will be good and happy, and I won’t have to remember the pathetic state he was in in the day or two before he was gone. Although it sickens and pains me to think I wasn’t there, Mark made a valid point. I knew Tigger’s passing was going to turn me into a sniveling wreck of a human being for a long time, but I was kept so busy in Sydney, that though I grieved, I had some time to adjust before coming home and dealing with the house being devoid of him, and the simple fact of his not being here is the hardest thing to take. I nominate Mark for Husband of the Year, however, and having gone through this, I am reminded of why I love my husband. Mark tells me that Tigger spent his last couple of days not budging from his lap (which was in a way a symptom of his illness, because Tigger wasn’t much of a lap cat). I know Tigger died a happy cat. And I’m so happy to have had him for nearly 16 wonderful years.

I was right in that being in the house with it empty of him would be the hardest part. It’s only beginning to really hit me now that I’m home. I missed him walking in the door because he was always there to greet me. I missed him when doing the laundry because he’d always stick his head in the washing machine as I loaded it. I missed him while making soup because he always helped me cook. I missed him while taking a shower because he always took showers with us. I miss him every minute.

He always helped me cook. How can I do it without him?

I just hope he’s in peace.

This is one of my favorite photos in the whole world: my two favorite boys.

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Happy New Year!

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Let me show you what I was talking about

Remember the Anti-Tigger Shield in this post? Well, here’s why it’s necessary:

That’s Tigger sitting in a bread basket. On a loaf of bread. It was stale bread, so it didn’t bother me, but it’s even more weird that he wants to sit on rock-hard bread.

What, is he roosting?!

A very hungry Mark just came into the library where I am posting this, gnawing on a piece of the very stale bread. “You realize Tigger just laid that, don’t you?”

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Kale and Corn Chowder

I got Mark to eat TWO servings of leafy greens in one meal!! Does the glee in my voice translate to the typed word?!

I wouldn’t call Mark a picky eater by any means: he practically demands to eat Brussels sprouts, for god’s sake, but unlike me who will eat pretty much anything vegan that is NOT a mushroom, he has his limits, and leafy greens are in most cases across the line. Whereas I love spinach, he hates it, or cooked spinach anyway. He will eat raw spinach in a salad. And forget about collard greens or kale. So although I like collard greens and kale, I don’t make them that often because I know he won’t eat them. (Spinach is so easy that I will often make it as a side dish for myself.) But I bought some kale tonight because, by golly, that stuff is awesome for your health and we are going to eat it! So I came up with the following recipe that satisfied my requirements of maximizing the use of my my new toy AND getting kale down Mark’s gullet. And he LOVED it! While it was still cooking, he exclaimed “I don’t know what you are making, but it smells incredibly amazing!” And it seemed to live up to his expectations when he ate it.

Kale and Corn Chowder

I tried – I really did – to get a picture of the ingredients either without Tigger or with him in his entirety, but it wasn’t working out for me, so unfortunately you are stuck with a picture that includes his butt.

1 leek, chopped (white and green parts are okay)
1/2 celeriac (celery root), chopped (or 3 stalks of celery, chopped)
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili pepper, minced (to taste)
4 cups water, veggie broth, or vegan “chicken” broth
1 small bunch kale, chopped
3 red potatoes, chopped (I had tiny potatoes and used however many are shown in the picture)
1-2 Tbsp vegan “bacon” bits (optional; adds a smoky flavor that attracts Smarks)
1-2 cans creamed corn
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, for garnish

Maybe it’s because I have lived without a proper food processor for, gosh, about five years now, but it rarely ever occurs to me to use a mini chopper or the mixie’s chopper blade, or anything other than my chef’s knife to chop vegetables. I like using my knife, even though my knife skills are not superior. But I wanted to test out the new Multiquick, so its chopping attachment got a little workout tonight.

It chopped the leek:

And the carrot, celeriac, chili pepper, and garlic:

Meanwhile, I heated up a Dutch oven (or large soup pot) and added a little olive oil. When the oil was hot I added all of the above …

… and sauteed until soft.

Then I added the broth, potatoes, and kale.

And the optional “bacon” bits.

Then I covered and cooked for half an hour, or until potatoes were very soft.

Blend to desired consistency with an immersion blender (or cool and puree in batches in a regular blender).

Add the creamed corn. I only had one can (and despite frantically searching for some frozen corn, which I usually have stocked in the freezer, I found no more), and the soup was definitely a success, but I wanted to add more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the fresh thyme.

Some food bloggers label their recipes as “kid-friendly” when their kids particularly like a recipe. If I were to invent a “Mark-friendly” label, this soup would definitely win the prestige. He polished off two bowls and complimented it profusely the entire time. I served it with a tossed salad made with a ton of baby spinach, which he also gobbled up. And that’s how I got two servings of leafy green vegetables – and a host of other veggies – into Mark in one sitting!

This made about 5 servings: I had one, Mark had two, I packed one for lunch tomorrow, and there is another one leftover.

PS Tigger is STILL in the box:

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