This spring, as you start cleaning out your homes, please think of your local animal shelter to donate items they can use.
Shelters are always in need of food, towels, blankets and toys, among other things, because of the tremendous number of animals that pass through their doors each day. I often stop by yard sales in my neighborhood to pick up stuff I can bring to the shelter, and the staff is always grateful.
One nifty trick is to clip newspaper coupons for sale items on cat and dog treats and food. Using these, I get products really cheap or even free (especially during store sales). The shelter distributes the food and treats to pet parents who might be facing hard times and cannot afford to feed their animals. It is a great way to keep animals in homes with loving parents and out of shelters.
Here's a list of some common items animal shelters are always in need of. Used items are perfectly fine, unless otherwise indicated.
* Blankets, towels, heating pads and animal beds
* Grooming items (brushes and combs)
* Tennis balls and hard rubber dog toys such as kongs
* NylaBones (new)
* Canned dog food, dog treats
* Esbilac for puppies
* Litter boxes (new only) and liners
* Cardboard scratching post
* Cat grass/nip
* Clay cat litter; Care Fresh Litter; Nonclumping
* Plastic or rubber cat toys (nothing furry)
Now for this week's paws:
As some of you already know, I highlight regularly one dog and one cat up for adoption at the Washington Humane Society in my hometown of Washington DC. My hope is to raise awareness about the wonderful pets available at animal shelters. You can also check Petfinder for other wonderful animals up for adoption in your area.
This week's dog is Dougie, a handsome 5 month old Lab mix who was surrendered by his owners because they were moving to a home that doesn't allow dogs. The shelter says Dougie is a very playful, goofy pup who loves to give licks! He adores squeaky toys, gets along well with other dogs and responds well to handling and touch. Dougie is so smart, he is a member of a training program run by the humane society called SIT!
Our featured kitty for the week is Cannoli (what is it about cats with food names?). Cannoli is a gorgeous 2 year old black and white beauty who is a fan of face rubs and nose kisses. The shelter says that once she warms up to you, she can be a real purr machine!
How gorgeous are those two?
Finally, here's today's recipe for quick and easy chocolate-cheesecake bars that will have you licking your fingers.
I know the word "cheese" sounds weird on a vegan blog, but we are talking vegan cream cheese here which tastes very much like regular cream cheese, and is great in baked goods like cheesecakes.
The bars are very much like brownies, but cakier and moister, and I used pine nuts to give them a buttery punch.
I also experimented here a little bit, and I am pleased to say it worked beautifully: I used silken tofu as a binder instead of the cornflour that I normally would use in such a recipe to substitute for eggs. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was a tad nervous, but once the bars were baked and ready, no one would ever have guessed that part of their decadent richness came from this healthful ingredient. And that, to me, constitutes a winner!
Chocolate-"Cheesecake" Bars with Pine Nuts
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup sugar
4 ounces of vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti brand from Whole Foods)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2/3 cup soft silken tofu
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted slightly
2 tbsp chopped bitter chocolate (Ghirardelli's has a great vegan version)
A pinch of salt
In a bowl, beat together the shortening, oil and sugar until fluffy with a hand-mixer or in a stand-mixer set to a low setting.
Add the cream cheese and beat in until smooth and well-blended.
Add the tofu in three batches, beating in well after each addition.
Add the two extracts and cocoa powder and mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Now add the flour to the cream-cheese-cocoa mixture, stirring it in gently.
Add the pine nuts and the bitter chocolate. (The bitter chocolate is optional, but gives the brownies a nice chocolatey boost without being cloyingly sweet).
Scrape the batter into a 9-inch square, greased baking pan, and smooth down the top with a spatula.
Bake in a 350-degree preheated oven about 25 minutes until the top feels firm.
Remove and cool on a rack at least 15-20 minutes before cutting in.