Friday, August 7, 2015

Marinated Beets

One of my newest fascinations is pickling things. Now, I haven't yet pickled anything aside from eggs, but this recipe was what sparked my curiousity. These beets aren't exactly pickled, more like marinated. Even still, they're delicious in a salad.

  • 1 bunch (4 or 5) beets
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Salt and pepper

1 Remove greens from beets. Scrub the beets free of any dirt.
2a Boiling method. Place the beets in a medium saucepan and cover with water by about an inch. Bring to a boil on high heat then lower the heat and maintain a simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the beets, until they are easily pierced with the tines of a fork.
3 Once you have boiled the beets, drain them and rinse them cold water. Use your fingers to slip the peels off of the beets. The peels should come off easily. Discard the peels. Quarter or slice the beets.
4 Make the vinaigrette by combining the cider vinegar, sugar, olive oil, and dry mustard. Whisk ingredients together with a fork. The dry mustard will help to emulsify the vinaigrette. Adjust to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine beets and vinaigrette in a bowl and allow to marinate for a half hour at room temperature.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Teriyaki Sauce from Scratch

I was craving teriyaki chicken a few weeks back, but I didn't have any sauce on hand. So I decided to make some! I found this recipe, and tried it out. So easy, so delicious and SO going into my recipe binder! Cook up some rice (Or quinoa), some chicken, and saute some veggies, then enjoy!

  • 1 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup cold water
  1. Combine the 1 cup water, brown sugar, soy sauce, honey, garlic and ginger in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with the ¼ cup water and whisk until dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan.
  3. Heat the sauce until it thickens to your desired thickness. If the sauce becomes too thick, add more water to thin it out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Part Three: Homemade Dog Food

Here's the final part of the three-part series about the importance of food for our dogs' health. I told you the stories of Annya and Tessie, how the poor quality of their food was affecting their health. Now I'll talk a bit about the alternative to store bought, processed foods: Homemade Dog Food!

Now, I'm not going to lie. There is a lot to take into consideration when making food for your dog. First, and often the most simple choice, is whether to make wet food or dry. I chose to make wet food, because less processed food is the main goal for Annya.

After that, there's all kinds of complicated things like calorie requirements, rations of fat, protein, and carbs, how often to feed your pet(s), etcetera, etcetera. So the easiest way to go, is step by step. Obviously, I'll be using my own information about Annya as the basis for this post.

Calories: There's a fancy complicated formula for working out how many calories your pet needs, but it's all based off of the weight and activity level of each animal. To simplify the process, I've provided a calorie requirement chart for you to check with. For Annya, there is a calorie range for her between 800-1100 calories per day. This will vary depending on her activity level, and whether or not she needs to lose or gain any weight. It is a constantly changing variable, so typically I just give her as much food as she'll eat, and let her decide how much she needs to eat in a day.

Protein, Carbs and Fats: According to my research, most people say that appropriate dog food should contain 45% Protein, 30% Carbs and 25% Fat. Personally I think dogs should have much more protein than that, so I try to make Annya's food with at least 50% protein.

Frequency: I used to feed Annya in the morning, just filling her bowl up with her dry food, and letting her nibble on it throughout the day. Now that her food is made fresh, it shouldn't sit out for long, so instead I feed her once in the morning, and once in the evening. If she seems particularly interested in my meals, I'll feed her another smaller portion in the middle of the day. The whole process is about trial and error, so just test things out, and see what works for your animals.

So now that we have all of the complicated stuff out of the way, we can get to the fun part: Making the food! This is actually a lot easier than it might seem, especially since I've taken quite a bit of the leg work out of the whole process. All you really need to do is pick and choose which foods you want to use, figure out how much you need for your dog(s), and then voila! Homemade dog food!

Tips: I'd recommend keeping as much food raw as possible, to make sure the nutrients of the ingredients are intact. Of course, this will depend on your dog's taste preferences. Annya won't eat raw carrots, but if I cook them she will. If you can get away with the raw ingredients, do it. Also, if your dog has any dietary restrictions, keep those in mind when making the food. And don't be afraid of switching things up. You dogs, like you, appreciate new flavors.

So go on then! Pick some ingredients, fix them up, and let your dog tell you what they think about it!

Sources of carbs:
Sweet potato*
Banana (Not too often, it can upset the stomach a bit)
Rice (Like the banana, some dogs tend to have a hard time digesting too much rice.)
Apples* (Remove cores and all of the seeds.)

Sources of Protein (All cooked):

Sources of Fat:
Coconut (Dried flakes, milk, or just the oil are all good options)
Flax (Seeds or ground meal)
Olive oil
Hemp seed

*These foods have have 100mg or more of Zinc in portions of 100 grams. For Annya, these are the foods I need to make sure she eats regularly.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to bake. Part of the reason for that, is that I love to eat the things I make. It's the best part of baking, right?

When I spent the summer at my grandma's house several years ago, she taught me how to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. When I came home, I forgot to get the recipe from her, and I've been testing out recipes ever since, looking for the right one. Yeah, I could always call and ask for the recipe, but where's the fun in that? So far, I haven't found anything that perfectly replicates the delicious, chewy cookies I'm looking for. Until now, that is. Pinterest has once again come to the rescue, and has provided me with this lovely recipe from Deliciously Sprinkled.

Now, I know. There's the glaring problem of these cookies not having chocolate chips in them. However, the base cookie is absolutely perfect. For this trial recipe, I added pecans to it, because I was skeptical that the plain oatmeal cookie would be worthwhile on its own. Oh, how wrong I was. These little beauties can definitely hold their own against any other cookie you can bake.

Next time I make these, I'm adding chocolate chips, to test how well they'll really hold up against my grandma's cookies.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats


PRE-STEP: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
STEP 1: In a large bowl, using an electric or stand mixer, cream together the granulated sugar, light brown sugar, butter, and shortening.
STEP 2: Add eggs one at a time, mixing between each egg.
STEP 3: Add baking soda, salt, baking powder and vanilla extract.
STEP 4: Add flour and old fashioned oats until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX!
STEP 5: Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough into balls about 2 Tablespoons each and place onto prepared baking sheet. Place baking sheet with cookie dough balls in the freezer for 10 minutes. Once chilled, slightly press down the cookie dough balls and place back onto prepared cookie sheet.
STEP 6: Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before moving them to a wire rack.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Easy Slow Cooker Bread

As you know, I've been on a journey to gradually start making things from scratch, instead of processed or store bought versions of the foods my family eats. For quite a while now, I've had a desire to begin making my own bread but I was completely intimidated by the idea of having to use yeast. I had read countless recipes and tutorials from people telling me that making bread is way easier than I imagined, that it was something that could be learned in a matter of minutes. I always brushed it off, thinking that these people must have been in the kitchen since they could stand.

Well, we ran out of sliced bread this week. I kept mentally reminding myself that we needed to pick up another loaf from the store, but we never actually got to it. Then last night, like a light bulb had gone off in my head, I remembered that I'd seen something on Pinterest talking about making bread in a slow cooker. So I thought to myself, 'Why not just try it? We need bread anyway, and if it doesn't turn out, then at least I can say I gave it a genuine effort.' And so it began.

I found this recipe online, checked to make sure I had all the ingredients, and read through the entire process to make sure that there were no hidden steps, or outrageous techniques I needed to master before attempting the recipe. It was actually an extremely easy process, to my surprise. And you know what? The bread turned out great!

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 Tb yeast
1/2-3/4 Tb kosher salt
3 1/4 cups flour

Stir water, yeast, and salt together in a large bowl, or container with a lid. Dump in the flour and mix together into a wet, shaggy dough.
Let rise, covered but not sealed (the yeasty air needs to escape) for 2 hours at room temperature. You can use the dough right after the 2 hours rising time, but I suggest putting the dough in the fridge for another hour first. My loaf rose better, and stayed nice and round when I used cold dough. You can keep this dough in the fridge for 2 weeks; use it anytime, and it will develop a bit of a sourdough flavor.
When you're ready to bake, turn your slow-cooker on to high (Mine worked better when it was preheated)
Sprinkle some flour over the top of the dough, and pull out about half of the dough. Return the rest to the fridge.
Form a ball by tucking the sides in and under a few times, stretching the top surface of the dough ball. (They have a video of this technique here, it's important!)

Place dough ball on a sheet of parchment paper and lower into the slow-cooker. Cover and cook for 1 hour. (Some people have reported it taking up to 2 hours) It will be pale when it is done, and the outside will beslightly stiff, not hard and crusty.
If you want to darken/crisp up the crust, put the loaf on a baking sheet or stone and put in the oven under the broiler for 5-10 minutes. Let cool completely, and slice!

Make sure you use Kosher salt, like the recipe says. There really is a difference between kosher and table salt, as I found out. Table salt is much saltier than Kosher, so if you find that you don't have any kosher salt on hand, then just cut the amount of table salt you use by half. Unless you like very salty bread, then go for it.

If you don't want your crust to be too crunchy, but would still like a bit of color on it, I would recommend taking the loaf out of the slow cooker a bit earlier than the recipe says, and transfer it to your oven to broil for a few minutes. I found that my crust came out a bit tougher than I like on my first loaf, and I left it in the slow cooker for the entire hour, and then moved it to the oven to broil for about 10 minutes. However, this is simply a preference thing, so use your best judgement.

In the comments on the original recipes post, many people were voicing concerns about the use of the slow cooker without it having any liquids in it. I did both of the small loaves without any issues, but if you want to be safe, there's an easy alternative. Find a metal or heat-safe glass bowl that will fit in your slow cooker. Place about 4 balls of crumpled up foil on the bottom of the slow cooker bowl, fill with 1-2 inches of water, then place the bowl on top of the foil balls. Add the bread and bake according to the directions above.

Depending on the desired size of the loaf, you may want to make one large loaf as opposed to two smaller ones. My two came out to be about 6 inches across, which will work perfectly fine for me. But if you want a larger size, just keep all of the dough together instead of halving it.

I hope you all will try this recipe, it really is easier than I thought it would be! Good luck, and Happy Baking!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Part Two: Annya's Story

This is Part Two of a series, and if you haven't yet read Part One, I suggest you start there.
In the first post, I shared with you the story of my first dog, Tessie. Today's post will be quite a bit less tragic, but no less important in the telling of the story I'm offering to you.

Part Two: Annya's Story

I convinced my dad to allow me to get Annya in the winter of 2008. She was about three years old at the time, and her previous family no longer wanted her. The day we took her home, we were warned that she needed to eat only a certain type of food, otherwise she would get sick. Being the stubborn person that I am, I decided to give Annya some of Tessie's food, just to test it. Lo and behold, the original owners were correct, and Annya did indeed get sick. Little did I know that this was the start of a long and unending journey in the discovery of the best types of food for my dear Annya.

For the next five years, I continued feeding Annya the same brand of food that her original owners fed her. During that time, and even now, there have been several periods of time where Annya develops digestive issues for several days in a row, resulting in extremely loose bowels, lack of appetite, and occassional vomiting. Until recently, I'd always thought that she had gotten into some food that didn't sit well in her stomach, or that it was just some sort of stomach bug that work work its way out of her system on it's own. I didn't know how wrong I was.

When I switched Tessie to grain-free food, I had to switch Annya's food as well. Luckily, the switch didn't seem to be an issue for Annya, as the food was an upgrade in quality for her. She did well with the change, the diarrhea and vomiting became much less frequent, and for that I was grateful.

Despite the change to a slightly higher quality grain-free food, all has not been well for Annya. In the last four years, there have been a few days where Annya spent anywhere from an hour to three hours having small cluster seizures.

The first time these happened, I happened to at my boyfriend's (Now husband) house when I got a call from my parents. Annya had come in from the backyard and was acting strange for a few minutes before she had starting seizing. The seizures lasted for about an hour in total that day, with small periods of normality interspersed between seizures. By the time I got to the house, they were almost over, and I only witnessed a couple small seizures. I watched her carefully over the next several hours, but nothing else happened. Once the seizures stopped, it only took Annya about ten minutes to return to normal. She shakily stood up, walked around a bit, took a small drink of water, and then returned to lay down by my side for the rest of the night. My parents had figured that she might've hit her head (Very typical of Annya. She often miscalculates where and how large her head is.) while playing outside with Tessie, and we all cautiously dismissed the strange occurrence.

The next episode didn't happen until almost two years later. It was a normal day, I was at home with Annya and she had been napping on her bed. She woke up, stretched, walked into the kitchen to get a drink of water, and one of her back legs gave out. At first I thought she had slipped on a little puddle of water on the kitchen floor. She walked out of the kitchen on unsteady legs, and sat, then flopped over on the ground in the dining room. This time I knew what I was seeing, and I rushed over to her as her legs began twitching. Again, the individual seizures would last between two and ten minutes each, with  only short periods between them. This episode only lasted for about 45 minutes, totaling about 6 seizures. She recovered quickly, and within half an hour it was as if nothing had happened at all.

The most recent episode came about six months ago. Again, Annya had been napping, this time on the couch next to me. She woke up, climbed off the couch, and immediately went into a seizure as she reached the ground. I sat on the ground with her through each seizure, trying my best to comfort and her. I had learned from the past that there wasn't anything I could do to get her to come out of a seizure, and luckily for me, her seizures have always been on the more mild end of the spectrum. This time, she had a few longer seizures in the space of about 45 minutes, and after that the spacing between them was longer. She went about an hour without any issues, and then another seizure would hit. This happened twice, and then there was nothing else for the rest of that day. 

At this point, I knew it wasn't just a fluke, or some weird coincidence that she was having these seizures. I spent the rest of that day looking for information, for any article or forum I could find that would give me some kind of answers for what was happening. I found several interesting facts:

1. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to seizures than others, and Siberian Huskies are one of the more likely breeds to have issues.
2. The type of seizure Annya was having is called Grand Mal seizures, or generalized seizures. This simply means that the seizure affects her entire body, not just one side or limb.
3. Since there doesn't seem to be any kind of trigger or schedule to her seizures, it's unlikely that she has canine epilepsy. so there has to be some other cause.
4. Since Annya's seizures don't occur very often, there isn't any treatment that a Veterinarian would likely use for her until the occurrences are more than once a month- which they aren't.
5. Seizures happen when there is a disruption in the electrical impulses in the brain. There are lots of things that can cause seizures, but after careful consideration and analysis, I can confidently rule out accidental poisoning, liver damage, genetic default, and head injury.
6. There are a few different medications a dog can take to help prevent seizures from happening. However, with many of these medications, once the dog has begun taking them, it's a lifelong medication. To stop the regimen would increase the dog's risk of seizures, as well as risk the worsening of the seizures.

After learning all of these things, I began looking deeper into the causes of seizures, and once I was able to figure out the most likely cause, I wanted to find a natural, non-medicated treatment option for Annya. What I found was that the most likely cause for Annya's seizures (And the cause of a lot fo seizures in Siberian Huskies in general, actually) was a Zinc deficiency. Northern breeds of dogs like huskies and malamutes tend to have a genetic inability to absorb the Zinc that is found in their foods, causing the deficiency.

According to Snowdog Guru (an expert on Northern Breeds and their health), some common signs of a chronic Zinc deficiency are*:

  1. Chronic digestive issues (often mistaken for food allergies), often accompanied by bouts of diarrhea, and lack of appetite (often mistaken for being a picky eater).
  2. Raised itchy crusty patches of dermatitis,( ZRD) ( often diagnosed as allergies or hot spots) around the nose, mouth, eyes, groin, or paws that may respond temporarily to topically applied Zinc Cream. These crusty patches seem to come back with more intensity each time.
  3. A host of seemingly unrelated illnesses that are actually immune system related. Immune system may under function and not respond well to clearing up infections in the body or it may overreact and your dog’s immune system may be treating everything as if was an invading force. This issue can lead to the development of cancers.
  4. Thyroid gland malfunctioning causes problems with weight gain or loss, increase or decrease in appetite, skin and coat problems including excessive shedding, a constant cycle of secondary infections, and possible on going cough. Hormone levels in the body become out of balance.
  5. Major organ failures; liver, kidney, heart from a lack of sufficient support from the Thyroid.
  6. The last process in line where Zinc is used is in the brain. Adequate Zinc has to be present in order for Taurine to be used as a neuro transmitter smoother. The end result of inadequate available Zinc can be erratic neurotransmitter firings(seizures).

Sound familiar? Bouts of diarrhea? Lack of appetite? Excessive shedding? Seizures? Here I was, thinking that these were all totally unrelated things, not knowing that they all added up to something bigger. I thought the shedding was just a symptom of a Siberian Husky living in sunny and hot Sacramento. I thought the diarrhea and lack of appetite were from a sensitive stomach. The seizures were the final straw that got me to realize that there was something else going on. And it's as simple as a Zinc deficiency! Zinc is one of the most important minerals in the biological processes of a dog's body, and since there isn't really any kind of storage capacity of Zinc in their bodies, they need a daily intake for their bodies to run their best. 

Some foods (like grains) bind to Zinc and make it nearly impossible for a dog's body to absorb, once those foods are digested. This explains why Annya's Zinc-related issues were at their worst while she was still eating foods with lots of grains in them, and also explains why her symptoms have gotten better since switching her to grain-free foods.

While it is possible (and sometimes necessary) to supplement your dog's diet with a Zinc supplement (Such as a pill or tablet), it is a much better option to try to include or increase the foods that are already high in Zinc, before adding a supplement to their diets. Some foods with high Zinc quantities are*:

  • Most meats, 100 grams yield 100 mgs of Zinc ( beef, chicken, duck, pork, salmon)
  • 100 grams of the following foods yield Zinc in the following quantities:
  • Turkey 120mgs
  • Lamb 150mgs
  • Liver 130mgs
  • Tuna in oil 120 mgs
  • Eggs 70mgs
  • Apples, blackberries, and strawberries 100mgs
  • Plain yogurt 200mgs
  • Carrots (raw) 50 mgs
  • Potato (baked) 120 mgs
  • Pumpkin 100 mgs
  • Sweet potato and yams 100mgs
  • Peanuts( raw) 5 = 25 mgs

Since learning all of this, I have started adding more zinc-rich foods into Annya's diet, and so far I've seen nothing but improvement from her. After her last bout of digestive upset (about 3 weeks ago, at this point), we've been giving her nothing but homemade foods, deciding that at least for now, it's best and easiest for us to tailor her foods to her needs, to ensure that we can identify the ingredients and the quality of the foods we're feeding her. Our family and friends have been making comments about how good her fur looks now, how much healthier she looks, even asking if she's gained some weight. (Which we take as a compliment, since she had been steadily losing weight for several months.) She's been shedding much less than normal, despite the temperatures in our area raising for the summer. 

Now, all of this information should not be taken as a replacement to professional medical knowledge. This article is nothing but the story of what I've learned about my own dog, and the journey to finding what works for her. No two dogs are alike, and no two medications or treatments will work the same way. Luckily for us, it seems as though I've finally figured out what the issues have been for Annya, and what the correct course of action should be for her. the future is definitely looking brighter for her, now that we've found the answers we've been searching for, for so long. 

To read more about Siberian Huskies, Northern Breed dogs, or the Zinc related issues that they face, visit these articles from Snowdog Guru:

Correcting Zinc Deficiency in Huskies

Stay tuned, Part Three will be coming soon, and it'll detail what and how I feed Annya now, and what it looks like to make homemade dog food for your pets!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat your pets without the advice of a Veterinarian or other professional. If your pet is sick, please take them to see a Veterinarian, and then do your own research before choosing a treatment option. 
*All information cited and provided is taken from and is not intended to be viewed as my own personal research findings. No copyright infringement or plagiarizing is intended.