Kitchen “Cat”-astrophes

This post was originally published on the Pen Dames Blog. For a chance to win a surprise gift, visit the page and leave a comment before Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25):

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays I love best! Every year, I cook a huge dinner with all the trimmings and at least four pies. Our family has expanded to six adults and two children, and I make everyone’s favorite dish.

Amanda, Amelia, and Abby love my original recipe Cran-raspberry Gelatin Fluff. Jennifer adores mashed potatoes. Dan wants pumpkin pie. Drew loves spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. Everyone insists on apple pie. For me, it’s the turkey, particularly after roasting and basting it all day with that heavenly aroma wafting through the house.

While I’m cooking this enormous meal, I think about all the things I’m grateful for and remember the fun we had in years past, including events that are more amusing now than at the time.

When our daughter was young, we rescued two adorable tuxedo kittens from the local shelter. One was tiny, the runt of the litter, with short hair. She was black with white paws. We named her Boots. The other was plump with long, luxurious black fur and white front paws. We called her Mittens.

Being kittens, the two had no manners. Boots went after anything she wanted. She tried to steal sandwiches off our plates. Several times we caught her dumpster diving in the garbage can, feasting on left over spaghetti. When we pulled her out, she was orange from the pasta sauce!

Their first Thanksgiving with us, Boots weighed no more than three or four pounds. She fit in the palm of my hand, but she had the heart and mind of a tiger. She feared nothing and no one.

Mittens was the opposite. She’d gone from plump to pudgy. Though sweet-natured and loving, she found the world terrifying and raced under the bed at the first unusual noise. When she wasn’t hiding, her preferred spot was a basket where I kept paper napkins. It was much too small for her, but she wedged herself in and acted completely content. I had to put the napkins elsewhere.

That morning, both the kittens hung out with me while I worked, Mittens in her woven retreat and Boots watching intently from a perch on a chair at the dining table.

I got the 25-pound turkey out of the refrigerator and set it in the sink to rinse and begin preparations, but I had to leave the room for some reason. I don’t remember why, but I was only gone for a few minutes.

When I returned, Boots was on the counter licking the raw turkey! She was so miniscule, she could have tucked herself inside the bird, but she clearly intended to eat as much as she could hold.

I shooed her away, but I had a problem. It was too late to buy another turkey. Boots hadn’t taken any bites out of it, and besides, heat would kill any germs she left behind. However, my husband, who grew up on a farm, was not a fan of animals in the house. I was afraid if he found out what Boots did, he would kick the cats out. They would not have been safe outdoors, so I decided not to tell him.

The meal was delicious, and no one was the wiser.

The next year, Boots found a way to outwit me again and gave our main entree a few slurps when I wasn’t watching.

In fact, every year afterwards, Boots did the same thing. I think it became a game. We always gave her a little of the cooked meat, but she never seemed to like it quite as much as the stolen tastes.

Mittens never acted interested in stealing food. She plopped herself in her basket and watched Boots outsmart me time after time. Great entertainment!

After many wonderful years, Mittens and Boots both passed on. We miss them, but it is lovely to remember them, especially during the holidays.

A year or so ago, a strange thing happened.

I still have the basket that Mittens loved to sit in. After she died, I started storing napkins in it again.

It was in its usual place, and I was preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Our daughter, now grown, was helping.

Suddenly, the napkin holder fell to the floor and spilled out all the napkins. No one else was in the kitchen, and no one was near it when it fell. It had been sitting there for months without incident until that moment.

A little chill ran over me, and I got goosebumps.

My daughter said, “Mom, I think Mittens just came to visit.”

I believe she did.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh, by the way, we did eventually tell hubby about the turkey incident. He didn’t react much at the time, but when I mentioned this blog, he said it was gross, and I shouldn’t write about it. (So of course, that’s exactly what I’m doing.)

Here’s the recipe for Kathy’s Cran-raspberry Gelatin Fluff: I serve it as a side dish because it’s sweet with a hint of tartness that enhances the cranberry sauce, but it could be a dessert. It comes out bright pink and the fresh raspberries add a fancy flourish.


1 package frozen raspberries thawed and drained.

1 1/3 cups cranberry-raspberry juice (I prefer sugar free)

 3 oz pk raspberry gelatin

 8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1-pint whipped topping (thawed)

fresh raspberries for garnish


Heat cran-raspberry juice to boiling and pour into bowl

Dissolve gelatin in juice

Cool to semi-solid state (This is the most critical part. If it is too solid, it won’t whip. If it isn’t solid enough, it will be runny. You have to check it and shake the bowl until it wiggles a little but isn’t set.)

Using hand mixer, beat until foamy.

Beat softened cream cheese into gelatin. (Cream cheese should be very soft from sitting at room temperature for a couple of hours, but not runny, so don’t use microwave to soften.)

Stir in raspberries.

Fold in thawed whipped topping.

Spray mold with nonstick cooking spray and pour mixture into mold.

Chill until firm, several hours or overnight.

About 10 minutes before serving, tip mold upside down onto large plate and let rest for several minutes. Salad should unmold onto plate. If it sticks, tap gently on the outside of the mold to dislodge.

Garnish with fresh raspberries and serve.

Remember! Comment on the Pen Dames Blog before Thanksgiving Day to enter for a special gift! What would you have done: cook the turkey or throw it out? Here’s the link again

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Katherine Smits is a direct descendant of Susannah Martin, one of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials. Katherine grew up wanting to be a mermaid but discovered to her dismay this was not a viable career choice. Instead, she became a clinical social worker and helped veterans and their families. Now she brings social work training and experience to her stories of mermaids, mages and magical creatures. Within the context of fantasy and romance, her novels explore real-life issues of self-acceptance, body image, relationship dynamics, and fears and phobias. Mystery, suspense, and a little sex add spice to her books.

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