September 18, 2011

Death Rattle

I think that when I wrote this I was merely postponing the inevitable. At the time, I really did believe I could manage one blog post per month. And had I really tried, I would have succeeded. Instead, I’ve only posted twice since then, and one of those really doesn’t count, as it simply announced the winner of a giveaway.

The facts are these: I started blogging six years ago in China as a way to share my experiences with the folks back home.

I continued blogging because I liked to write. So it was that Soap & Chocolate was born, even though I didn’t set out to write about food.

But I ended up writing about food because I discovered other people’s food blogs. Those were art to me, and my life started imitating that art. It was cool. I liked it. A lot.

Soon enough food was all I could think about, for better or for worse. Recipe creation and food shopping occupied my thoughts. It was poor man’s therapy: a creative outlet I wanted and needed, but also basic sustenance. Win-win.

But to make a long story short, a funny thing happened once I became a group fitness teacher: I never felt like blogging. I forced myself every once in a while, just to avoid completely dead air here. I felt really guilty for abandoning something that gave me a lot of satisfaction at one time.

But that time was a different time, and the reality is that it’s ok if something else is scratching that creative itch. Even as I write this, I’m impatient for it to be over. I’d rather be working on choreography for the four (!) different class modalities I teach. Add to that the occasional dance workshops I’ll soon be leading, and I’ve got my hands full.

I barely cook anymore, anyway! Lately, a plate full of crudites with hummus and pita at 10pm constitutes many a dinner. And that’s fine with me. I’m content to be a blog reader rather than writer now. Basically, I can stop making all these excuses if I remove the reason: I won’t feel guilty for not blogging if I am no longer a blogger. I won’t delete it or anything—I want the archive here for my own purposes—but I don’t plan on posting anymore.

These days, I prefer to micro-blog on my Facebook page, LafFIToff with Diana. Sometimes it’s a great song, sometimes an inspirational quote/blog post, and yes, sometimes it’s food! I still eat. A lot. The Facebook platform just fits me better than a full-on blog right now. Click “Like” on that page to follow my updates. Or not!

But that’s all I have to say about that. Thank you for reading.


July 17, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

Just popping in to announce that the winner(s?) of the giveaway is Pure2Raw! Lori and/or Michelle, email your address to diana at soapandchocolate dot com and I will be happy to ship your prize to you.

…well, once I’m back in the country next week, that is. Photos to come!

Da sveedaneeya… Winking smile

July 10, 2011

Facebook and the Cookie (GIVEAWAY)

I bet you didn’t believe me when I said I’d post here once a month or so. Well, here it is, one month later, practically to the day. I think this calls for some vigorous cabbage-patching.

hip hop

I bet you also don’t believe that I teach the cabbage patch in my group exercise classes.

Actually, that’s correct.

But I’m doing a little happy dance on the inside nonetheless, as this upcoming week marks the start of my full teaching schedule for M Dance & Fitness, and I’m really excited to be teaching Hip Hop and circuit training more often, in addition to Zumba.

To commemorate the occasion, I’ve created a Facebook page for myself as an instructor/coach, which I have given the disgustingly clever moniker, LafFIToff with Diana”. I can’t even type that with a straight face, so I guess it works. I post all kinds of fun stuff there, from the next song I’m using in class to workout tips and funny videos.

I’d also like to celebrate with a giveaway for you!

See, back in early 2010, I came up with one of my favorite cookie recipes to date: Raw Almond Cookies. After a fateful encounter with Whole Foods’ macaroons this week, however, I decided to revisit this recipe and rework it slightly to create its cooked counterpart. After an exhausting, grueling, whopping total of TWO trials [mops sweat off brow], it is done. And it is good.


(Please look past the abundance of beige and the absence of good photography.)

Almond Macaroons


  • 2 cups almond meal/flour (I like to use the leftovers from making homemade almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 4 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 30 drops NuNaturals liquid stevia (or more maple syrup to taste)



  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Stir together all ingredients in a mixing bowl until evenly combined.
  3. Scoop by the tablespoonful (I use a mini ice cream scoop) onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top and bottom.
  5. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes ~20 cookies


“Wow Diana, those sound like the best cookies in the known universe, but I don’t have any of those ingredients and actually I don’t really want to have any of those ingredients so thanks but I’m not making them.” ~ You

I hear that. So I’ll make ‘em for you! You can’t tell me you wouldn’t like to have a batch delivered to your doorstep like so:


And maybejustmaybe there will be other goodies in the package too.

To win a batch of Almond Macaroons, etc. please do one or more of the following:

  1. Leave a comment below.
  2. For an additional entry, “Like” LafFIToff with Diana on Facebook and leave an additional comment below to let me know you have done so (since your fb name may not match your commenting-below name).
  3. And for a 3rd entry, leave a comment on LafFIToff with Diana’s wall to tell me your favorite way to, ahem, laugh it off. Is it a certain workout? A great TV show or movie? Whatever makes you smile and keeps you healthy. Again, comment below to let me know you did this.
  4. Finally, you can tweet the following (and comment below yet again) for an additional entry: @soapnchocolate is giving away homemade Almond Macaroons!

I’ll choose a winner on July 17 and get your care package out as soon as possible! (US and Canadian residents only, please!)

I’m off to cabbage-patch into the sunset.

June 12, 2011

We need to talk...



I’m having tons of fun teaching group fitness. I’ve been at it since early February, and it couldn’t suit me better. I’ve even had the chance to create my own classes from scratch, so I now teach Hip Hop and Boot Camp in addition to Zumba.


My good friend Kara Fox is a really talented photographer and came to my last Hip Hop class to take some shots of us in action, so I thought I’d share a few here.


Needless to say, fitness has somewhat taken the place of food in terms of what occupies my mind and therefore what I have to blog about. Don’t get me wrong—I think about food a LOT and consume astounding quantities on a daily basis. However, whereas this time last year I was always thinking about creative cooking and enjoying the whole culinary process, I now simply feed myself. Cooking time is limited now that I both work full-time and teach during the remainder, so for the most part, I turn to quick, reliable dishes that come together easily and with ingredients I always have around. Translation: I eat a hell of a lot of zucchini stuff.


I have a lot of guilt where this blog is concerned. I desperately want to avoid it looking like dead air, so to speak, but my eats are not likely to inspire anyone these days, so the likelihood of this remaining a food blog is low. I wish I could go back to the days of posting 5 times a week, but the reality is that this blog was serving a different purpose for me back then, and I no longer have that need to satisfy. So it is that the blog will have to evolve along with me.


It makes me cringe, but I’m thinking a more realistic goal will be posting once a month. I don’t think I’m breaking any hearts here except my own, though, so a lower expectation on my part is best for now, as far as the blog is concerned.

Indeed, the best way for me to share what I’ve been up to is to show you! I would love to see any New Yorkers in class sometime. You can attend any of my 3 formats at M Dance & Fitness. In fact, we are running a special discount right now: 3 classes for $25! This deal is only available through June 15, so if you’d like to take advantage, click here to sign up. Plus, starting in July, I’ll be teaching 7 times a week for MDF (as opposed to the current 2; I teach Zumba elsewhere at other times).

…And that’s all I’ve got for now. Until next time!

May 28, 2011

Bloggy Style: Meetings to Remember

Last weekend, I got to share a really special dinner with nine other NYC bloggers. Though I wish we weren’t gathering for this particular reason—Gena’s departure from New York (as I write this, in fact)—it was a wonderful occasion to rub shoulders with some of my favorite New Yorkers and enjoy a meal put on by Verite Catering.


Raw gazpacho in a cucumber cup with dehydrated beet chip

There were some familiar faces…


(Pictured: Melissa and Gena; Unpictured: Danielle, Katie, and Dori)

…as well as several people I was delighted to meet for the first time.


(Pictured: Sofia, Leslie and Kathleen; Unpictured: Ada)

We were treated to a gorgeous set of five courses…


Mushroom and sweet potato soup—my favorite of the five! Well, until dessert…


Green salad with spiced sunflower seeds


Half-eaten risotto tart with basil and yellow pepper sauce
(I got so excited that I committed the usual blogger faux-pas of digging in pre-picture!)


Pictured: mango sorbet and coconut mini-cupcake; Unpictured: me on the floor, swooning

I think I am the Godfather of coconut. And by that I mean I doubt I could refuse any request on a day involving coconut treats. Do with that what you will.

While I am loathe to let D.C. have Gena, I’ve no doubt that there are some pretty major things in store for her, and for that I am willing to let her go. Temporarily. During which time I may show up at her apartment unannounced.


Gena toasts Melissa, who I (we?) consider the blog fairy godmother, as she both inspired Gena to start blogging and organized the first blogger meet-up I ever attended.
I’m so glad to know these ladies

All in all, it was such a nice time, and all credit due to Gena and Verite Catering for pulling it off seamlessly.

Dinner kept me out late enough that I’d lost my oomph for blogging last Sunday, so add that to my mile-long list of blogger-don’ts. I don’t like to skip a week unannounced because I am nothing if not consistent, but maybe just this once it’s worth it for the sake of an extra-awesome post, if only for the following photo:


It made me so hap-pea to spend some QT with Sarah after many, many moons of fandom on my part. She was in town for Book Expo America because, in case you didn’t know (as if!), her book drops July 26. (Sarah, can I refer to a book “dropping,” like a single? Whatever, I’m keeping it. Flava Flaaaaaaaaaaaaav!) My piggy bank’s a’rattlin’ with my savings for said book. I wonder if there’s enough in there to fly her out again so she can sign it…?

Our feast of choice occurred at Bonobos.


Necessary accompaniments include the legendary Coconut Chai and fresh Thai Coconut Water. I might start writing off coconut products, what with coconut water being nature’s Gatorade and all. No one wants a dehydrated Zumba teacher, right? Right. Pardon me while I add a “Coconut Chai” column to my budget spreadsheet.



This is how you make a salad stick to your ribs, by the way (and keep it raw, vegan and gluten-free, if those are a factors for you). A bed of greens dressed in their amazing sweet basil dressing, topped with a mixture of walnut pate, zucchini, carrots, sprouts, purple cabbage and red pepper.

This is also how you stay regular. I’m just sayin’!

Again, all in all, Sarah is a wonder to behold and I couldn’t ask for a nicer time. It doesn’t get much better than Pea and poop.

If you’ve ever attended a blogger meet-up, who did you meet and what made it memorable?

May 15, 2011

Inspired Avocado Pesto


I’ve fully accepted the fact that my once-weekly blogging schedule will keep me from posting ideas as I think of them. It will also keep me from coordinating posts with time-sensitive topics (read: I’m currently sitting on a scone recipe I made for the day of the Royal Wedding…and yeah, you’re gonna wait a while longer for that one).

But a number of post ideas have been bumped this week in favor of a delicious, seasonal dinner I had this week, and it is too good not to share. I do not take credit for this being an original idea. It is, rather, a hybrid of two of my favorite bloggers’ recipes. I know and love Angela’s Creamy Avocado Pasta, and when Gena posted her raw Pistachio Pesto recipe, I got a hankering for a gigantic pile of fresh, raw food so strong that I decided to get wacky and marry the two recipe ideas.

So, you see, I call it “inspired” not so much because it was this genius idea of mine, but rather because it was inspired by these ladies’ already awesome recipes.

To be fair to me, though, I think my reaction was something to the effect of “o92nvoiufdsnbvjnw9ejfsiudhfpnvf!!!” when I tasted this variation.


Avocado Pesto (raw, vegan, gluten-free)


  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ~1/2 cup each basil and baby spinach (adjust proportions according to your taste, or even add more!)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 avocado
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt, plus pepper to taste



  1. Grind sunflower seeds in a food processor until a bit crumbly, then add basil and spinach and pulse to combine.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until well incorporated.
  3. Taste and adjust salt and pepper accordingly. If too thick, add more oil.
  4. Toss with noodles of choice. I spiralized 1.5 medium zucchinis  and added cherry tomatoes and chopped sundried tomatoes, per Gena’s serving suggestion.

Makes 2 Diana-sized portions. Serves up to 4 normal people.


You’re not gonna go wrong, whichever version of this recipe you choose! Just worship at the altar of basil and you’ll enjoy your summer of pesto very much indeed, methinks.

Also, if I may, I’d like to think I have the perfect utensils with which to enjoy such a dish. Behold: the Forkchops.


Chopsticks with a fork and knife on the opposite end to deal with those pesky bites that let’sbehonest are not so much bite-sized. Or perhaps not pickuppable by novice chopstick-users? Not that I would know. Winking smile

Basil: love it or hate it? Discuss.

May 8, 2011

Chocolate Winner!

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers and people with mothers! I am unplugged for the day (er…except for right now) in favor of enjoying the time with my own mom, but true to my word I am announcing the winner of the Guylian chocolate giveaway.

And the chocolate goes to: SOPHIA! Email me your address and you shall be shipped your goodies ASAP.