The Cruelty-Free Review

A review of compassionate products, foods, and recipes

Spiked Hot Chocolate


I hope everyone had a Merry/Happy Whatever! Our Christmas was a bit eventful—after brunch we had to rush our kitty Loki to the emergency vet due to a blocked urethra. This is a very dangerous condition in male cats which causes them to be unable to urinate. The wastes from the urine build up, distending the bladder and causing extreme pain, sickness, and death if not treated quickly. Thankfully we got him in before he became too sick and he is already on the mend and will hopefully be coming home tomorrow. I am so thankful that we live only 20 minutes from a 24-hour vet hospital and that the caring individuals got him in right away to begin taking care of him. We visited him yesterday and all the vet techs and the vet taking care of him just love how friendly he is. He really loves going to the vet so he made friends easily once he got to feeling better. Of course, this little trip wasn’t cheap but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t wait to get my boy home tomorrow!

On a happier note, this post is for my Spiked Hot Chocolate! With winter in full swing, we could all use a little extra something in our drinks to keep us warm and this recipe is perfect for that.


A bit of back story—Robert works with some truck drivers from Russia who are always bringing him bottles of liquor. I don’t know why; he’s not even sure except that they are just really giving, friendly guys. We often get various kinds of Armenian brandy and champagne as well as the occasional bottle of vodka or tequila. For Thanksgiving, they brought him a gift set of Patron XO Café and XO Café Dark Cocoa, which are chocolate/coffee flavored liquors. I had an entire container of Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder that needed to be used so I figured they would go great together.  From the Patron website, here are the descriptions for each flavor:

Patron XO Café: Patrón XO Cafe is an extraordinary blend of ultra-premium Patrón Silver tequila and the pure, natural essence of fine coffee. The taste is dry, not sweet as with most low-proof coffee liqueurs with notes of chocolate and vanilla. Patrón XO Cafe is excellent for sipping, as a premium cocktail ingredient, or as a unique and delicious dessert topping.

Patron XO Café Dark Cocoa: Patrón XO Cafe Dark Cocoa combines high-quality Patrón Silver tequila with the extraordinary essence of fine coffee and Criollo chocolate from Mexico to create a unique and enjoyable ultra-premium coffee liqueur. Patrón XO Cafe Dark Cocoa marries the smooth, dry taste of Patrón XO Cafe with the decadence of rich chocolate and light tequila.


I don’t know about sipping either of these but then again I really am not a fan of drinking any liquor straight. So I decided to mix them with hot chocolate. You could use Kahlua (also vegan) or even Fragelico if you aren’t a fan of coffee flavor. Whatever floats your boat, really. And if you aren’t sure what liquors are vegan, check out

For this recipe I used the XO Dark because it is sweeter than the regular XO. I did not add any sugar as the recipe on the Ghirardelli container called for because the sugar in the liquor made it just sweet enough while still retaining a little bit of earthy bitterness from the cocoa powder.  Again, you can add it if you feel necessary. I certainly would add some when using the XO because it has little sweetness to it, making for a stronger coffee flavor. You can also adjust the amount of liquor you add; neither of these is overwhelmingly strong alcohol-wise when mixed with the milk and cocoa but some people might prefer a less intense taste.

Spiked Hot Chocolate (makes 2 large mugs)

3 cups non-dairy milk of your choice—experiment if you want; I used plain old soy milk but I bet vanilla soy milk, almond, or even coconut would take equally delicious!

4 tablespoons Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder

Approx 2 ounces (2 shotglasses) Patron XO Café Dark Cocoa

Sugar, optional

Pour milk into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk constantly until milk is hot (approximately 5-7 minutes) and cocoa is completely incorporated. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan with the whisk or else you will end up with a layer of cooked cocoa that is a pain to wash out. Remove pan from the heat. Pour a generous shots’ worth of the liquor into each mug and carefully pour an even amount of cocoa mixture into each mug. Stir and enjoy!



Sunshine Blog Award…about a month too late



Whoops, I totally forgot about the Sunshine Award Kinenchen at TurningVEGANese  nominated me for this in November. I am sooo very sorry; I hope it isn’t too late to pass on my thanks and nominations!

Here are the rules: If you are nominated you must include the link in a blog, linking to the person/blog that nominated you. You must answer some questions and nominate 10 fellow bloggers and link their blogs in your post. Let the people you have nominated know that you have nominated them!

Here are the questions:

Favorite philosopher: Hmm, this is a toughie since I’m not well-versed on philosophy in general. I’m not good at existential thinking so I’m going to cop out and say Gandhi, even though he probably technically is not a philosopher. But I can actually understand his sayings so he’s my winner 🙂

Favorite Number: 7 because I was born and bred a John Elway fan.

Favorite animal: Cats, of all shapes and sizes.

What are your Facebook and Twitter: Uh, I don’t have a Twitter account and I don’t plan on getting one. I can barely keep track of the few social media sites I participate in now. As for Fb, once this site really takes off I will consider making a Fb page for it.

Favorite time of day: Whatever time it is that I’m asleep 🙂

Favorite physical activity: How physical are we talking? Cause technically I’m being physical when I’m drinking wine…seriously though, I love circuit training. The best way to keep my interest in exercise is to change it up often. Hiking is a close second.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Orange juice. Coincidentally, one of my favorite alcoholic drinks is a mimosa which just goes to show how great OJ is.

Favorite flower: Snap dragons. I can never pass one up without making the mouth open!

What is your passion? Being an advocate for both animals and humans; reading.

So, as I am wont to do, I’m going to bend the rules a bit and not nominate anyone. Bear with me; it’s not that I don’t love other blogs and want to pass on the love, but I just cannot pare it down to a reasonable number, or find enough that haven’t already been nominated. Obviously I need to branch out my blog-reading world.  So here’s what I’d like to do—you tell me what blogs make you smile and bring some sunshine into your life.  They can be vegan blogs, humor blogs, blogs of only cute pics of animals. Just nothing that involves spiders or clowns. Cause there is nothing sunshiny about either of those things.


Holiday Shopping Guide



I have a hard time shopping for presents. I always want to find the perfect, unique gift that the recipient will find unexpected. But my creativity usually fails and I just end up buying whatever DVD or book they request. So if you are like me and just cannot think of something to get your family/friend/significant other besides that completely predictable copy of The Dark Knight Rises or Cloud Atlas (which they never even wanted to read before the movie came out) , I’m here to make some suggestions.

I personally love to get a lot of little things rather than one big thing as a present, so if you know someone like this then filling a gift basket with all kinds of cruelty-free (heretofore referred to as CF) products would be a lot of fun, especially if it means introducing them to new products and maybe influencing them to buy CF if they don’t already. Some people are so set in what they use that they just can’t possibly think that anything else would suffice. I have to say I have yet to find a CF product that I didn’t like as much as the non-CF product I used to use. So how about a basket with:

LUSH Charity Pot Hand and Body Lotion-Besides being vegan and highly moisturizing, proceeds from the sales of Charity Pot go towards various grassroots organizations that support animal, human, and environmental issues. The last pot I bought supported Stop University of British Columbia Animal Testing. Or you can get one of their many gift boxes filled with goodies; the ones that contain all vegan products (and there are a lot!) are clearly marked. Website

Pacifica Perfume-All of Pacifica’s fragrances are vegan and there are loads of scents to choose from. You can choose from a traditional spray perfume, solid tin, or roll-on. They also have body lotion, body washes, candles, and more. For a perfect little sample try the Take Me There set that includes the roll-on perfume, a 2.5oz bottle of lotion, and a Natural Moisture Lip tint. My review    Website

Hurraw Lip Balm –This is my absolute favorite balm. I highly suggest buying your giftee the Sun balm with SPF 15, and Moon balm, but you can’t go wrong with any of their flavors since they contain all natural ingredients. And they are very affordable, so I would also suggest you pick out a few for yourself 🙂 My review     Website

Mineral Fusion Nail Polish-I found out why I can’t find their polishes on their website—turns out they make it exclusively for Whole Foods. Still, a lot of people live within a reasonable distance of a WF and trust me, these polishes are worth it. Lots of colors to choose from, so if you know a polish fiend you can’t go wrong picking out one of their gorgeous, non-toxic colors. My review

EO Hand Sanitizing Wipes-Admit it, we all know that one person who is a germaphobe. They flush public toilets with their feet, open doors with tissues or paper towels, and practically spray Lysol into the faces of anyone who sniffles within 10 feet of them. They would love a box of these individually wrapped wipes, which contain organic alcohol and essential oils to sanitize and moisturize, and are biodegradable. Website

Know someone who is a transitioning vegetarian or vegan and they are a bit overwhelmed? These gifts will help make that transition much easier.

TofuXpress Tofu Press-This is a must have for anyone who uses tofu. The more water that is pressed out, the better able the tofu is to absorb any lovely marinade it’s put in.  When I first started cooking with tofu it was such a hassle stacking pots on top of the tofu trying to get the water out that I stopped using it for a while. This will help any newbies from experiencing such frustrations. My review    Website

A vegan cookbook-there are a ton out there and you probably have your favorite you would love to buy for another, but remember that making vegan cooking accessible and easy is one of the most important factors in getting someone to believe that a vegan diet is completely doable. Mock meats and cheese alternatives seem to be the biggest hurdles for new vegs/vegans to try, so a cookbook laden with those foods might be a turn off. That’s why I suggest Chloe’s Kitchen by Chef Chloe Coscarelli. Her recipes use easy to find ingredients and are simple to make, not to mention delicious—I have not made a bad meal yet from this book! There are only a couple seitan and tempeh recipes, so there are still plenty of other meal options to choose from. Plus, anyone who doubts that vegan sweets can be as good as the dairy-filled ones will think twice when they see the gorgeous cakes and cookies Chloe included-not to mention the cupcakes that won her Cupcake Wars! Website

Go Max Candy Bars-What better way to convince someone that vegan junk food is just as good (well, better, really) than non-vegan junk food. Go Max makes veganized versions of popular candy bars like Snickers, Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, and my personal favorite, Almond Joy. Look for them at Whole Foods. Make sure you buy one for yourself so you don’t end up eating the gift 🙂  Website

Still can’t figure out what to buy? Just Give is a website that allows you to send a designated amount of money to your giftee and they get to choose from hundreds charities to donate it to. The charity list can be filtered by specific cause or even zip code for those who want to donate to a local charity. We did this for Robert’s family last year and they loved being able to pick a charity that was special for each of them. It’s a great way to pay it forward during the holidays. Website

I hope this has helped make your shopping a little easier, but if it not you can always go with the good old Visa gift card standby. Happy holidays!


I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth…..

I greatly apologize for my lack of posts lately. As you may know, I was out of work for almost 3 months and that really put me into a funk where it was difficult for me to even muster the energy to boot up my computer, let alone post reviews or spend any serious time catching up on all the other blogs I read.

But notice how I used the word “was”?  Well, as of last Friday, I am a functioning member of the workforce again! The timing could not have been better; I don’t know how miserable Christmas would have been without being able to at least buy some presents. I am scheduled to start on December 10th, and I can’t wait! I will be working for a company that I have worked for in the past, and they have made great strides towards developing a business model that centers on patient care and making employees feel valued and respected. I will also be returning to work with a doctor I have worked with before and he is someone who I respect and who is an employee advocate. And all the other members of the staff I met were incredibly nice and welcoming. Being unemployed was hard and at times I wondered if I was ever going to be hired (I applied for almost 40 jobs–no lie) but this is obviously a sign that I am going where I am needed.

Now that the obvious stress of being jobless is out of the way, I am ready to get back into the blog world! I have a few recipes I plan on sharing (spiked hot chocolate, anyone?) as well as getting back to reviews. I also plan on doing a holiday shopping  post full of my favorite products that I think would make great gift ideas. So, lots to look forward to and I hope you’ll come back to see it all!