Love animals? Let’s give them better chances at happy lives.

You know those people who instantly transform into 5 year old children when they see a dog pass by? The ones who bend slightly at the knee, lean forward, and have the goofiest smile on their faces while exclaiming how adorable the “puppy” is, no matter how old or young that dog may be? Something chemical occurs in the minds of those mesmerized by our beloved furry friends.

I know, because I’m that person.

Today’s post is all about cute dogs, young dogs, old dogs, fluffy dogs, tiny dogs, ginormous dogs, funny dogs, human-like dogs, frustrating dogs, and all other dogs on this big ol’ planet Earth.

My mother and stepfather own a Lab-Mastiff mix named Buddy, who was really cute as a puppy.

This is young buddy.

As he grew, something miraculous happened. We discovered he was part Mastiff. We knew something was up when people asked if he was mixed with bear or horse.

He grew. A lot!

I love Buddy so much. He is a gentle dog with a sweet, relaxed disposition. However, if he spots a rabbit in the woods, he will run and his primal instinct kicks in. This same mechanism causes him to find the UPS man a threat, and the mail man. No one else seems to get this kind of treatment. Poor postage carriers. I apologize for his apparent prejudices against the modern postal system.

Then, there’s Ke’koa. My uncle’s Husky dog is another one of my favorites. He is just as easygoing as Buddy, except he has a tiny quirk.

Kekoa and I in 2009

If you leave him unattended without his daily walk or run, he will go and independently get his exercise on his own via, well, alternatives. There is no fence he can’t scale or dig under, and no leash he can’t unlatch from. This dog takes his cardiovascular health seriously. My uncle is extremely frustrated by this, but I find it hilarious and kind of adorable.

If he was my dog 24/7, I might change this perspective. But ignorance is bliss, and Ke’koa is still cute.

Husky dogs may have a special, preserved, untouched, rather large portion of my animal-loving heart though.

Moving on.

I love animals and believe they deserve as much support and help as they can get. As humans, we can access a very loud and understandable method of communicating: our voices, our words, our actions, and our universal connection as all being a portion of the human race. Animals, however, often get swept to the side. I believe this is due to the fact that they cannot express themselves in a way that we can clearly understand. If a stray dog looking for a meal to eat in a world of garbage and polluted streets could speak English, what would he tell the first person he came across?

Would you listen?

Many people adopt animals from local shelters. However, over 60% of the animals admitted to shelters are euthanized every year. Imagine if the entire population of Tibet were eradicated every 365 days– that is 3,219 people daily. How do we solve the issues surrounding animal shelters, including brand recognition, raising relative adoption percentages, and keeping the pet population at a controlled, comfortable level?

The Seattle Animal Shelter is active in my community toward improving these depressing statistics and encouraging local adoptions based on owner-pet connections, rather than selective breeding methods that often result in the animals being sheltered for “personal preferences.”

One way I’m getting directly involved is by running the Furry 5K this year in Seattle. It is on Sunday, June 10 at Seward Park– a beautiful location for this year’s participants! Did I mention this 5K allows you to walk or run with your leashed dog? So cool!

My job, as an advocate for animal awareness and support, is to encourage those locally to donate their time or money to Seattle Animal Shelter. As a 5K runner this year, my personal goal is to raise $300 with the help of my family, friends, and (if I’m lucky) you, the reader! Your support speaks volumes when a smaller, community-minded business receives direct donations. My promise is to make each donor known, loud and clear, on the day of the race and to the Seattle Animal Shelter. This is to let them know how large the network of support is for animal lovers all over the world.
Join me in giving.
E-mail me at to donate.

What are your thoughts on animal shelters, the Furry 5K, donating to good causes?

“It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” -Mother Theresa

Love animals? Let’s give them better chances at happy lives.

Talk About a Scandal: Wine

Wine. It comes from grapes, or other fruits. It’s alcohol, and we love to tote its nutritional and health benefits. So why are there issues? My theory is that people love a controversy. I’ve taken the liberty of finding out wine’s dirty little secrets to share with all of you.

The soil that wine grapes grow in are more important than the grapes themselves. The difference between wine and rich, flavorful, potent wine is truly the soil it is grown in. This is before cellars, barrels, and even human influence on wine making. ‘Tis true that generating product is sometimes more important than quality control. Here is where the soil comes in: all wines are starting to taste the same. Why?

We’re all using the degraded soil on Earth to grow the grapes in. Not to mention global warming, which is directly related to the top two wine grape must-haves: Climate, and Soil. If the proper temperature is not present, the wine grape will suffer and potentially affect an entire season of crops.

There is relief: GIS, or geographical information systems, are used to pinpoint exactly where the best crops of wine grapes can be planted. The detailed scientific information GIS retrieves about the soil can make or break a winery. Naturally, the demand for viable land is turning into a requirement. Chateau St. Michelle, here in Washington, assures their wine livelihood through the use of this technology.
Growing wine grapes in the right soil is like floating in equilibrium. The grapes taste better, ripen more evenly, and become a hardier, healthier crop. Who doesn’t want grapes of steel in their bottle of wine?

We are all aware of the impact that chemical fertilizers and pesticides have on our bodies and the environment. Wineries do not shy away from the use of these toxic terrors. Why? To ensure that they have a product to make profit from. Devrinol, Karmex, Surflan, and RoundUp are just a few chemical pesticides that are commonly used on grape vineyards to preserve crop viability. Unfortunately, these chemicals have been found to appear in the foods we eat, causing question among wine drinkers everywhere. “Will I be affected by this?” The verdict is “no, not really.” The use of chemical pesticides in wine has decreased steadily and looks to be near or at zero by 2016.

It looks like the controversy with wine has been recognized and answered rapidly. Wine growers everywhere embrace the idea of organic farming because it directly affects wine quality and demand. The higher quality a wine is, the more likely brand loyalty will be established by the consumer.

If this kind of drive to better business practices isn’t convincing, what is?

If you’re secretly saddened by the lack of controversy in this post, I suggest you check out a detailed list of minor issues within the wine sector, such as “corks or screws?”

Talk About a Scandal: Wine

Talk About a Scandal: Wine, Chocolate, Coffee.

Coffee, chocolate, and wine.

Three wonderful, beautiful, delicious food stuffs that humans are blessed to have available for overconsumption. Every morning, a freshly brewed up of espresso or drip coffee accompanied by a chocolate chip scone, and in the evening, a deep dark merlot with dinner, only to be finished with rich decadent chocolate cake.

Then you wake up and do it all over again!
Or is that just me? 

It’s not just a sensory love I share with these three beauties: an ethical love naturally follows it. Kind of like when a cat owner sees a stray cat running and wants to find out if it has an owner, I too, want to be sure my chocolate, wine, and coffee are treated fairly.

Come to find out, they’re not. Coffee is grown in deforested, environmentally toxic conditions with no chance to grow as it naturally had for hundreds of years.
Chocolate is no better. Children in the Ivory Coast are being trafficked into working long hours with no breaks and are often beaten if they don’t work “hard enough.”
Wine has had its own share of unsustainable woes, but now we are finding out that pesticide residue, chemical flavorings, and modern industrial demands destroying wine quality.

I will be covering each issue in depth over the course of this week, highlighting major problems and getting to the truth to figure out exactly what will bring the right kind of positive change to these injustices.

Or, at least, raise our awareness of them.

What do you know about the issues surrounding coffee, chocolate, and wine?

Talk About a Scandal: Wine, Chocolate, Coffee.

Cacao is the next big thing for genome sequencing.

The news is in, people. Chocolate, our friend and our frenemy, has become under close watch for something near and dear to its biologically-nonexistent heart. We have harvested, over-processed, and diluted the cacao plant. Now, we move on to greater and more technologically advanced things. We genome it.

For the record, I felt slightly disturbed after watching the multiple press videos about the team of Mars (hot-shot candy company), WSU (huh?), and IMB (really?). I even thought Why would these three come together?

For now, the only information we do have is that in response to our crop losses in cacao harvesting, this team “Cacao Genome Project” aims to create a cacao plant that will withstand harsh weather, “annoying little pests” (that I personally think are not annoying; or pests), and our growing global climate change. Hallelujah. It looks like we’ve finally figured it out. Cacao will be sustainable and great and lively.


I feel extremely misled and (quite frankly) a little peeved that this is being toted as a solution to our problem. Whatever happened to replenishing the trees that nourish the plants so that they grow on their own time? Whatever happened to treating the world as a stable environment, and not a constantly growing one? I truly feel that scientifically modifying our world to continually feed our expanding appetites is never going to be sustainable or intelligent.

How do you feel about GMO crops, or genome sequencing?

Cacao is the next big thing for genome sequencing.

My First Time: Chocolate Tasting

Today, my friends, is a day for chocolate.
Here, in Seattle, Chocolate Box is a cafe that specializes in selling the world’s most delectable, delicious chocolates and anything that compliments it. You name it, Chocolate Box will likely have it (or order it). There is a small area for wine tasting and chocolate pairing, as well as a selection of pastries, cakes, and brownies (even gluten free). Their mochas and espresso are heavenly. To top it all off, Seattle’s own Molly Moon’s ice cream is sold there!

The month of February is Chocolate Box’s hot chocolate celebration period, where each day a different flavor of hot chocolate is offered. Here’s the full calendar with each flavor— I’m excited for Elvis Day. Friday was “Lemon Pucker Up,” so my boyfriend and I decided to give it a go. We were pleasantly surprised at how the acid in lemon cuts through chocolate to raise the flavor up and make it more playful on the tongue. Chocolate Box topped the hot chocolate with a tangy, zingy lemon marshmallow that I can’t find. (Help!)
Follow Chocolate Box on Twitter to get updates on which hot chocolate flavor is featured each day!

I also was able to try three beautiful truffles, pictured above, from their shop. The truffle on the left is from a company called Moonstruck Chocolates. The one on the right is a currently unnamed mango chile truffle, and the bottom piece is a pure dark chocolate truffle (also unnamed).

Today, I will take my hand at describing these chocolates to you all, and why you need to try them!

the moon truffle

I ate this truffle way too quickly and it is my favorite of the bunch, so forgetting to take a photograph of it was inevitable.
There is a thick and dark chocolate outside shell that takes a gentle bite to break through. The ganache center, with a bright and citrus flavor alongside a peppery aroma, broke up the deepness of the outer shell. Once I started tasting the  ganache center, a kick of heat (maybe cayenne?) spread out and made the peppery aroma stronger. Overall, the balance of bright and spicy with richness and darkness left a creamy and nutty after taste.
5/5 – A great balanced piece of chocolate that utilizes one of my favorite chocolate combinations: chocolate and heat.

the mango-chile truffle

It left an impression on me right away. The dusted cacao powder is drying and thick, which made for an unexpected bite. I was greeted with a very slick and dense filling. The texture is hard to describe, but it reminds me of a very soft gumdrop. There was also grainy textures inside with a mid-level heat that is more of a background note than a flavor. The flavor of the center hits you before the outer shell does, which is dark but creamy. It also melts easily so the attention is entirely on this truffle’s unique center. Overall, a very sweet truffle; I would like to have felt the spice exaggerated a bit more, but it’s balanced.

2.5/5 – This truffle was large, which is a bonus. However, the unique textures in this truffle do not positively impact the experience. I feel as though this kind of light chile heat with a cheery fruit flavor is best done in a chutney. When paired with chocolate, one flavor needs to be exaggerated in order to prevent a lack of flavor.

the wrinkly truffle

It boasts a small, wrinkled appearance dusted in cacao powder. I bit into a very thin outer shell of smooth dark chocolate. Afterwards, it broke away to a slightly tart, sweet and fudgey ganache-like center. The tartness reminded me of a smooth greek yogurt, which gave this truffle a milky aftertaste. The tiny little nugget was the epitome of melt away flavors. Even swallowing the chocolate happened as I chewed on it, much like butter. This chocolate looks like dark chocolate but tastes as milky as a 45% cacao bar.

3/5 – The chocolate itself ended up being too milky for my taste, removing the flavor of rich chocolate. However, the experience of tasting a balanced and slightly tart dark chocolate was unique.

So, how was it for you? 😉
I know I had a good time.

My First Time: Chocolate Tasting

The Only Grain-free, Vegan and Sugar-free Nutella Cookie on the Planet

Oh yeah. We hate to love Nutella’s creamy, fudgey, nutty flavors all combined in a spreadable form.

I hate Nutella. I hate that I can’t have it because it contains skim milk, which contributes to my gastrointestinal complaints.
TMI? I’m sorry.

But while you get to enjoy your jar of chocolatey lactose-ignorant bliss, I’m stuck pacing in the kitchen, trying to find a suitable match for my kitchen’s (and LIFE’S) lack of Nutella on World Nutella Day. Then, it hit me.
You can make something better. Oh yeah. Let’s love to hate Nutella, and fight back.

So for all you who cannot have Nutella, who refuse to eat Nutella, or who just want a different option.. here you go:

the only grain-free, vegan and sugar-free nutella cookie on the planet

makes 13 cookies (Hey, we’re being quirky here.)

  • About 30 hazelnuts
  • 4 medjool dates, pitted
  • capful vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 8 drops of stevia (10 if you like very sweet cookies)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

Roast your hazelnuts if they are raw. I had them in a 400 degree oven for 8 minutes and it was perfect. Roll them around in your hands to remove the skins, and drop in a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pit and cut your dates in halves or thirds. Add them to the hazelnuts and process until crumbly. Add in your vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons cocoa powder. Process until combined. Next, drop in the coconut oil, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and scant 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process until well combined, you may have a dough ball swirling around in the food processor and you may not. It’s ok either way.

Drop by the tablespoon full onto a cookie sheet or silicon baking mat and bake for about 10 minutes. Let these cookies cool!

I repeat do not eat these while warm out of the oven. They will crumble and be a pain to eat; you will end up losing your cookie if you’re not careful! I know, it sucks. But the trade off is one of the healthiest Nutella cookies ever that practically any picky eater can eat! Plus, all the healthy oils in your cookie need time to harden up a bit and stabilize your cookie eating experience.

Did I mention they come out to about 55 calories a cookie?

Oh yeah.

Do you like Nutella? When was the first time you tried it?

The Only Grain-free, Vegan and Sugar-free Nutella Cookie on the Planet

Not your Mom’s Soft Sugar Cookie

It’s a big day for my blog.

Why? Because today is the first day that I have created an entirely original recipe! My blog adventure started with inspiring folks like Katie and Mama Pea who have mastered the art of creative baking and satisfying the world’s undying sweet tooth! Each and every post planted a seed that has culminated into this blog. All my posted recipes so far have been adaptations. This is how I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work. A huge thank you to all you food bloggers out there; you’re inspiring people like me each and every day!

This one’s for you. 😉

How many of you recognize these puppies?

The all too familiar soft sugar cookie that sneaks up on us with every holiday imaginable. Grocery stores carry them for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, ect. There’s nothing quite like biting into a light white colored cookie with that sweet and creamy frosted topping. They also have a special place in my heart for a very different reason.

That’s my Mom. She’s as cool than she looks (which is very cool)! And she’s a soft sugar cookie baking queen! It’s a recipe that’s been handed down since my great-great-great grandmother started making them. I’ve looked forward to those cookies every year (Mom only makes them for Christmas) until my health complications got in the way about 6 years ago.

So here I am, making a cookie that takes me back to childhood: kneeling in front of the oven, waiting to munch on a too-hot cookie with melted icing because they taste that good. Today’s recipe encapsulates that moment without dairy, eggs (vegan option), grain and gluten, as well as any refined or liquid sugars.

not your mom’s soft sugar cookie

serves 8 mom size (large) cookies

  • 1/2 cup almonds, ground to a meal (almond flour creates similar results)
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot powder
  • 3 tablespoons PB2 (added for a peanut butter flavor, omit if you like.)
  • 5 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 capful vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 egg (or for vegans: 1 tablespoon flax meal and 2 tablespoons water)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grind your almonds in the food processor. I made a “chocolatey-chip” kind of cookie and added a tablespoon of cacao nibs along with the almonds to grind. Once ground to a bread crumb size consistency, add in your arrowroot powder, PB2 (optional), and medjool dates. Run the food processor to mix together well. Then, add in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut oil, egg (or flax egg). Run that processor again until the dough starts to ball up and spread out along the sides of the container.
Prepare your baking sheet with Pam, parchment paper, or silicon baking mat (my favorite).  Get your hands wet with water; this dough is sticky and believe me, it will be a cinch to lay the cookies out this way. Ball up the dough and flatten onto the baking sheet.
Baking time varies: it took my first batch 13 minutes, and my second batch 10 minutes. Set the timer for 11 minutes and check. Cookies should be lightly golden brown along the edges.
Let cool for 5-10 minutes.

These cookies are so moist and soft. What inspired the title for this recipe was that they taste exactly like my mother’s sour cream cookies! Otherwise, this post would have just been “An Amazing Soft Cookie recipe.”
Beginner’s luck? I hope it’s not going anywhere! 😉  

Frost them however you’d like! I found these cookies way too delicious to not eat right away. The flavor combinations are endless:
peanut butter (substitute the coconut oil for fresh ground peanut butter), double chocolate (3 tablespoons cocoa powder with 1/4 cup chocolate chips), snickerdoodle (add ground ginger, nutmeg, and extra tsp of cinnamon)…

What flavor would you try? How would you frost a sugar cookie? What’s your favorite childhood dessert?

Not your Mom’s Soft Sugar Cookie