Top Notch

Dogs; man’s (and woman)’s best friend. Our constant companions, protectors, and lovable fluff balls. My fur baby is so much more than a mere pet, as I’m sure most dog mamas and daddies would agree, which is why you’ll always find at least one recipe intended for our four-legged friends in each of my cookbooks. Even when I’m tired of cooking for myself, I’ll never get bored of sharing that passion with my little boy, Luka. He’s the kindest critic I know, wolfing down even the craziest creations with gusto. No matter that he would just as soon eat snails off the sidewalk- it’s still a compliment I’m happy to take at face value.

Recently, I was lucky enough to join forces with Wild Earth, makers of innovative plant-based dog food and treats, to introduce a few toppers to whip up for your own canine gourmands.

What’s a topper, and why do you want one? Think of it as a dog’s answer to ketchup with French fries. Sure, the fries are great by themselves, hot and crispy with a light touch of salt, but they would be even better with a velvety pool of ketchup to dip them in. Beyond the immediate gratification of a delicious dinner, though, you’re introducing a rich array of whole food nutrients in every bite. It’s a treat, it’s a condiment, and it’s a multivitamin supplement, all in one!

First up: Fur Baby Furikake! On the Japanese dinner table, furikake is an essential seasoning even more important than mere salt and pepper. Plain white rice becomes a crave-worthy meal with just a sprinkle, and that not even the beginning of its full-flavored potential. Toasted seaweed meets golden sesame seeds and a diverse palate of spices, depending on the blend for this savory staple. Deeply umami, lightly crunchy, and endlessly customizable to suit individual tastes, furikake deserves a place in every pantry.

If your pup is kind enough to share, there’s a universal appeal to this savory sprinkle. When my own good boy isn’t looking, I’ll admit to using this over freshly popped popcorn, warm sticky rice, and even baked tofu.

Puppy Peanut Sauce may very well become a new staple in your pantry, too. Creamy, sweet, salty, savory and sometimes even spicy, peanut sauce is the Swiss army knife of dressings. Every culture has their own distinctive approach, but it always comes down to a small handful of pantry staples. This recipe for Puppy Peanut sauce combines smooth, creamy peanut butter with a well-balanced combination of spices, a bit of sweetness, and just a touch of acid for an infinitely adaptable formula. Even though this might sound like a recipe for us humans, we’re not the only ones that find this indispensable condiment irresistible.

For those with opposable thumbs, you’ll want to keep a firm grasp on this bottle of liquid gold because it sparkles on everything from salads to stir fries, spring rolls to satay, and beyond. Add a touch of heat with sriracha to appease human palates, along with a splash of soy sauce to round things out. Alternately, take it in the opposite direction with a dab of maple syrup, and you’ll have a dynamite dessert sauce for lavishing on top of ice cream, or dipping into with cut fruit.

Sit, stay, get your Good Boy Gravy! What’s the secret sauce that makes homely biscuits remarkable meals and covers a multitude of sins should you burn the roast on Thanksgiving Day? Gravy, that simple, savory sauce, has got your back. By definition, the word itself also means “something additional or unexpected that is pleasing or valuable,” which is an equally appropriate description for this classic pan sauce.

Speed through this recipe by simply blending a can of cooked, drained lentils with the remaining ingredients if you don’t have time to start from scratch. To be worthy of the dinner table, consider adding 2 tablespoons of soy sauce for a bit of an umami boost, and don’t be afraid to dabble with seasonings. Rubbed sage is a distinctive taste that immediately tastes like a fall feast with just a pinch, and a touch of smoked paprika does wonders to warm the overall flavors. Though this batch yields a generous amount for one pup, I have a feeling your good boy (or girl) won’t be the only one tempted to partake.

Fill up your fur baby’s bowl with some serious good eats. Get 20% off your first purchase of Wild Earth food or treats by clicking through my link, and don’t forget to check out those topper recipes on the Wild Earth Dog Blog for a special treat!

Raining Cats and Dogs

Dear Luka,

I know how you hate the rainy season in the Bay Area.  Maybe this new raincoat will help.  It is truly one-of-a-kind, made using Simplicity pattern #1239, with a few changes.  Instead of lining the coat as directed, I covered all cut edges with seam binding.  I also made the hood detachable, and ignored the scarf (like you would wear the scarf and not chew it to shreds instantly!)

Handmade Dog Raincoat

When you and your Mom go walking around your neighborhood, be friendly if anyone comes to compliment your coat, wear it proudly, and most important of all, stop eating random poop off the sidewalk!

Love,

Grandma

Make a Splash at Neverland

Equal parts spring cleaning ritual and biggest water fight on earth, Songkran marks the Thai New Year with a splash. Tradition mandated trips to the local monasteries to pray, present offerings, and to wash the Buddhas residing within. Water was being thrown well before that, of course, symbolizing sufficient rain for the crops as part of the springtime rites. Now kids (and kids at heart) simply take this opportunity to make a splash and douse one another with Super Soakers, water balloons, and the long-reaching spray of hoses. These antics may sound mean-spirited, but given the sweltering temperatures of mid-April, it would actually be a relief to get nailed with a bucket of ice water!

Even when I visited in late January, the midday heat was astonishing. Stepping out from an air conditioned building onto the hectic, humid streets could knock the air right out of your lungs. While friends back home donned puffer jackets and knit scarves, even a light jacket was unthinkable in this climate. More mind-boggling was the notion that just around the corner, a pack of three dozen huskies, clad in thick fur coats, lay waiting for visitors bearing cool ice to crunch on. Though Songkran is going on right now, from April 13th – 15th, it very well could have been on the day of my visit from the looks of things, too.

Everyday seems like a water festival at TrueLove Cafe at Neverland, a quirky cafe in Bangkok drawing dog lovers from around the globe. Cooling humans and canines alike, all take refuge underneath the giant humming propellers of fans spinning throughout the property. Crunching contentedly on frozen cubes while gamely posing for selfies with tourists, it’s a surreal scene that defies explanation, despite the cute introductory video shown before letting visitors in for playtime.

Neither a zoo or an exhibit, Neverland seems to have grown from one woman’s love of huskies and her inability to let any suffer the heat of Bangkok alone. To keep these majestic beasts impeccably groomed, well-fed, and healthy, tickets could easily be considered a charitable donation, if you feel as silly as I did waiting over an hour to play with the pups, while a line stretched out behind me.

Surrounded by such a friendly herd of fluffy goofballs, it’s hard not to revert to childhood for at least a few minutes. Do I look happy here, maybe just a little? Perhaps the promise of finding true love is more than just a quirky cafe name…

As with the Songkran celebration, food is certainly never far from reach at the cafe, but there are no specific dishes that mark this occasion. Most memorable are the drinks, particularly the shocking aquamarine blue soda, though it tastes mostly of sugar with a hint of citrus. Go for the dogs, stay for the selfies, and not for the cafe. Just be kind and share that ice water with the dogs, no matter how tempting it may be to jump into a bucket solo.

Going to the Dogs

If you build it, they will come. If you shake the treat bag within earshot, they will come with tails wagging and tongues panting, too.

The push for alternative proteins isn’t limited to just the human diet; behind the scenes, toiling away in laboratories and kitchens, the race is on to develop a more sustainable, ethical, and wholesome way to nourish man’s best friend. Wild Earth is growing their blend, and their business, from the ground up with koji, a type of fungus used in soy sauce and miso.

Higher in protein content than steak (24 percent protein by weight), these cultured mushrooms contain over 45 percent protein by contrast. Though the nutritional numbers are impressive, to say the least, what matters the most to my guy is the fact that these healthy spores impart a unique umami flavor to the treats.

Luka and I were early adopters of this innovative concept, well before the Berkeley-based company revamped their packages, added different flavors, and made a big splash on Shark Tank last week. Now pet parents nationwide can’t stop buzzing about the brand, which successfully secured a $550,000 investment on the show.

Treats are truly just the appetizer to kick things off. Coming soon, proper dog food will be made of the very same savory stuff, providing a completely vegan, fully vetted (AAFCO-compliant) main meal.  That may come as a surprise to those still wedded to the notion that dogs are obligate carnivores, but with more research supporting the possibility of raising healthy, happy canines without the need for meat, Wild Earth is making it not only feasible, but enjoyable for the pups in question.