Thursday, January 14, 2010

I bake for my dogs too. Are you REALLY that surprised?

For those of you who might read this who aren't familiar with my "pack", I should mention that I have an army of little four-legged furry children (and a couple not so furry!).
Several years ago, Tippytoes, one of my italian greyhounds, was diagnosed with a liver shunt. It's a long story so I won't go into it. It was surgically corrected and she's fine now- a total survivor- but I did have to home cook for her for many, many months. I also learned a lot about dog nutrition in that time, mostly out of necessity.
Let me say straight up front, this book helped me a lot:
"Better Food for Dogs"
Now I'm not going to get totally into the home cooking stuff here (for dogs, anyway!) but I may do a separate blog about it someday when I run out of things to say about people food. Don't hold your breath, that could be a long wait.
I would like to share a couple of recipes for homemade treats I've found that my dogs loved. To be honest, I have some picky dogs! They usually don't like most biscuit-type treats. Italian greyhounds and hairless dogs aren't exactly known for their stellar dental histories. That's a joke by the way. They often need cleanings every year or two, lose a lot of teeth, or in the case of hairless breeds like my chinese crested, Voodoo, they don't have all their teeth to begin with. That said, if I can make a biscuit they will actually EAT, I know it must be good. In fact, I ALWAYS taste the food, treats, cookies, or biscuits I make for them. It isn't gross or weird because it isn't dog food, it's people food...for dogs!
Without further delay, I give you a few recipes that were the biggest hits over the years with my dogs. Don't be afraid to taste them yourself. They might seem a little bland to you, but I've also found that it's a Murphy's Law that if your dog sees YOU eating something, that thing all the sudden becomes the most desirable thing in the world to them. Just a tip from me, the crazy dog mom, to you...don't tell the dogs I clued you into that secret. It's just between us.

Pavlov's Pumpkin Bread
recipe courtesy of 3 Dog Bakery

*personal note: great for a doggie birthday cake or for dogs without a lot of teeth!
This gets Cairo's (aka "The Apple Burglar") seal of approval!

Yield: 1 loaf of bread

1 Med. Egg
1 2/3 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. honey
1 C. 100% natural pumpkin (*note* NOT mix! just pumpkin! The "pie mix" has added sugar, etc. that you don't want or need in this)
1/2 c. water

In a bowl, combine egg, flour, baking soda, cinnamon & nutmeg.
In a medium size mixing bowl, mix applesauce, honey, pumpkin and water.
Gradually add dry mixture to wet mixture, mixing together thoroughly.

Pour into a 14 x 8 inch bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 50 minutes to 1 hour, until toothpick inserted comes out dry. Cool bread on a rack. Store in sealed container.

Optional: glaze with a small portion of honey and sprinkle with ground peanut crumbs. Peanuts are safe, other nuts...not so much! Use peanuts to be safe. Not a time to be adventurous with your ingredients.

Practice your pup's tricks and enjoy! Don't be afraid to taste it yourself- it's actually mighty good!

Cheese Multi-Grain Dog Biscuits

*personal note: these tend to be on the "Rich" side, so do NOT overfeed your dogs! In the course of my taste-testing with my pups, these got 'burped up' after too many. oops. Hey, I had to make sure I got the right reaction...but throwing them up was NOT it. Feed in MODERATION, trust me on this...

1 C uncooked oatmeal
1/4 C butter or bacon drippings (what smells like bacon?! bacon! bacon! bacon! I can't read!)
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 C hot water
1 C cornmeal
1/2 C powdered milk
1 C wheat germ
4 oz/1 C grated cheese (your choice. Cheddar is always a safe bet)
3 C whole wheat flour

In large bowl, pour hot water over oatmeal and butter or bacon drippings; let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir in powdered milk, grated cheese, egg.
Add cornmeal and wheat germ. Mix well.
Add flour, 1/3 C. at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Knead for 3-4 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to make a very stiff dough.
Pat or roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness.
Cut into shapes and place on a greased baking sheet.
Bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees.
Turn off heat and let dry in oven for 1 & 1/2 hours or longer.
Makes approx. 2 and 1/4 lbs. of cookies.
Store in airtight container.
*another note:
I refrigerated mine due to the cheese- better to be safe than sorry, and I didn't want them to mold. Mine seemed to last well for almost 2 weeks in the fridge. You could also freeze the dough in portions and take it out to make some as needed, but I haven't tried that yet. Will try it and report back!

Peanut Butter Puppy Poppers

recipe by Nicole Curran, owned by a pug in Delaware, found on Heartland Ranch site.

*yet another note: My dogs loved these, and I love that it's only four ingredients! Simple yet effective!
Again, you can o.d. your dog on any treat. Moderation is always key, especially with milk and peanut butter in these. Sounds good to us, but dogs can only handle so much!

2 C whole-wheat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 C. peanut butter- chunky or smooth, your choice!
1 C. milk

Preheat over to 375 degrees
In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder.
In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk. (tougher than it sounds, be patient)
Then add dry ingredients and mix well. (I use a wooden mixing spoon)
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes.
Bake for 20 minutes on a greased baking sheet until lightly brown.
*note (again!) CAUTION: they can burn easily, so be sure to keep an eye on them. I recommend setting the time for ten minutes and checking every couple minutes from then on...
Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

BONE appetit, les chiens!

Oh no...Chocolate Craving!

I LOVE "Hobby Farm Home" Magazine. Do I have a farm? No.
It doesn't matter. They have some of the best articles and wonderful recipes. I finally bought some unsweetened cocoa last weekend, and thank goodness I did. I'm having a chocolate craving today...
In the most recent HFH (Jan/Feb 2010) they have this great recipe for "Homemade Cookie & Brownie Mix". I WAS going to make the mix to have on hand for when I want brownies.
The flaw in that plan: I ALWAYS WANT BROWNIES!

One of my favorite things about this current issue of HFH is that they had "make more of your own food" in one of the articles about the new year. This magazine is right on target with what I'm doing; making more of my own foods not only because they taste better and I have control of what goes in them, but also it helps reduce household trash and in general helps reduce my carbon footprint.
More on that later, but now, BROWNIES!

According to HFH, a "typical package at the store (brownie/cookie mix) which yields about a dozen brownies, costs about $2.80. The following mix costs about $2.06 and makes enough for TWO batches of one dozen brownies or six dozen cookies". (caps added by me. More brownies, less money- awesome!)*

2 C. Sugar
1 C. Flour
3/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 C. Solid Vegetable Shortening

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Personal Note: You could probably also use a food processor, but I did it "old school" and used butter knives. Good arm workout too! You'll probably have to switch hands while you're doing it- mine started cramping, but I told myself that I need that arm workout to firm up my muscles since there will be a new layer of fat on them after eating all the brownies.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Ok, yeah...right...
I didn't even get to the "storing" part. (cut to me blushing)
In fact, I just moved on to part 2, the actual brownie recipe, and doubled it- I made the whole batch of mix. Bad, bad, bad! But good! Hey, I deserve it! (or so I tell myself)

Here is the brownie recipe for those, like me, who have NO self-control (and aren't afraid to admit it)


2 1/4 C of the homemade brownie mix, well-packed
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla **see my note after recipoe
1/2 C. choppped nuts (optional)

Mix first three ingredients to form smooth batter, add nuts if desired. Spread in greased 9 inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted off center comes out clean.
Makes 1 dozen.

...unless you're me and you are using a huge pan and dumping the whole darn bowl of mix into it.
Come on, really? Who can store half of it? I dare ya', try it. I guarantee that if you DO manage to use 1/2 the mix and store the other half, you'll be making that other 1/2 the next day, or at the very least, within a few days.

Since I used my whole batch of mix on brownies (oops...) I don't have any to try the cookie recipe that goes with the mix. Here it is in case any of you make it past the brownie stage of the thing.

2 1/4 C homemade cookie mix
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 C. water
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Vanilla
3/4 C. Flour
18 walnuts or pecans, halved (optional)

Combine ingredients. Drop spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. If desired, place half a walnut or pecan in the center of each.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
Makes 3 dozen.

What I especially love about these recipes is that if you can make the mix and fight off the urge to make ALL brownies with it, you get a dozen brownies AND 3 dozen cookies out of it. Variety is the spice of life, but today is a brownie kind of day.

I'm off to lick brownie batter out of a giant bowl, and I'm not too shy to admit it.

Happy baking, chocoholics!

*source, Hobby Farm Home January/February 2010, pg. 16

**Note on Vanilla: I make my own and have been for years. I can't remember the last time I bought it at a grocery store. It's a very simple recipe. Acually I can't even call it a recipe. You hardly have to do anything, but you get the most amazing vanilla ever. Keep in mind, it doesn't happen overnight. I let my vanilla "brew", steep, what have you, for at least 6-8 weeks. So if you want to make your own vanilla, you have to plan ahead. When you start using it, if you want to keep using homemade vanilla, you also have to start brewing the next batch before you run out of your current one. Just a couple things you need to remember but that are super important if you're serious about not buying it (like I am). I do NOT add any sweetener to the recipe as mentioned in the recipe. I don't like to mess with the sugar contents in my recipes, even just a little bit with the vanilla. I like it to be as pure as possible, also I prefer it darker, that's why I let it age for almost two months. Again, as Alton Brown says "your rewarded!"
Try it. Once you do, I bet you won't want to buy it at the grocery anymore! Plus, you have an excuse to keep a big bottle of vodka in your house. It's also good for those Sunday Brunch mimosas-but be sure to save some for your vanilla!
If anyone is curious about the savings of making vanilla yourself, in my experience it does save you a lot of money. I've made ONE bottle (large bottle) and it's lasted over a year and a half. I find I can also use less of it in recipes because mine is so strong. When you let it go for 8 weeks and see how concentrated the vanilla flavor can become, you'll also realize how WEAK the grocery store brands are. I've found I use 1/2 the amount of my vanilla compared to store-bought varieties.
Give it a try. It's yummy.
Here's a good site to help you make it:
Vanilla Extract Recipe