Cheddar Crackers

If your dogs are anything like mine, they just can’t get enough cheesy treats. Unlike a lot of cheese-flavored dog treat recipes, these crispy little biscuits are made using freeze dried cheddar cheese. Freeze drying is a process that naturally preserves food without the need to add any artificial preservatives, and recently freeze-dried foods have become somewhat trendy. There are now lots of brands of freeze dried cheese out there, so you can experiment to find the one that you (and your dog) like best. I choose to use PureBites brand “Freeze Dried Cheddar Cheese Dog Treats,” because it is produced specifically for dogs, made in the USA, and readily available at my neighborhood pet shop.

You will need to grind the freeze dried cheese pieces before making this recipe. To do this you simply place the cheese in a food processor or blender and process until it is the consistency of a fine powder. To yield the necessary 1/2 cup of powder, I used less than 1 ounce of freeze-dried cheese.

 

Cheese Crackers

Cheddar Crackers

Makes about 60 (1-inch square) treats

 

1 cup unbleached flour, plus as needed for dusting

1/2 cup finely ground freeze-dried cheddar cheese

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp water

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the flour and cheese in a bowl.

3. Add the water, and stir until the mixture forms a homogenous dough.

4. Generously dust the countertop with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into your desired shape using a cookie cutter, paring knife, or rotary cutter. (I used a rotary cutter to cut the dough into 1-inch by 1-inch squares.)

5. Arrange the pieces on an ungreased baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until crisp, about 16 minutes. If desired, flip the treats over halfway through the baking time to help ensure even browning.

These treats should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Summer Berry Bars

Right now we have an abundance of fresh, local strawberries here in Gettysburg, so for the past several weeks I have been thoroughly enjoying multiple batches of strawberry shortcake. Today I very generously decided to share some of the strawberries leftover from my shortcake-a-palooza with my dog Pacey, and the result was this recipe for berry bar cookies. If you don’t have fresh strawberries, you can substitute an equal amount of blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, or use a combination of berries.

The preparation is simple, and the treats can easily be made from start to finish in less than 30 minutes. I cut the baked treats into 1-inch by 1-inch squares to suit my little dog, but you can cut the treats into pieces of any size and/or shape using a paring knife or a small cookie cutter. To keep the finished treats from crumbling too much, it’s best to cut them into pieces immediately after removing them from the oven. Just be sure to use an oven mitt or pot-holder and be extremely careful during this step, because the pan and the treats will be very hot.

Summer Berry Bars

Summer Berry Bars

Makes about 30 (1-inch by 1-inch) bars

 

1 1/2 cups whole ripe strawberries, stems and leaves removed

1/4 cup water

1 egg

2 cups oat flour

1 cup white rice flour

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Place the strawberries and water in a bowl. Use a potato masher or the back of a fork to mash the berries into very small pieces (a.k.a. mush).

3. Stir the egg into the mashed berries.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the oat flour and rice flour.

5. Slowly stir the flours into the wet ingredients, and continue stirring until well-combined. (The finished dough will be slightly wet but should hold together well and press easily into the pan.)

6. Press the dough into an 8-inch by 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper, making sure that the sheet of dough is of an even thickness.

7. Bake until firm to the touch and baked through, 18 to 20 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the oven, and use a sharp paring knife to cut the bars into pieces.

9. Allow the bars to cool completely before removing them from the pan and serving.

 

These treats should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Grain Free Peanut Butter Cookies

This week I continued my foray into the wonderful world of grain free baking. Like wheat, many beans (like soy beans or chickpeas) and seeds (such as buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa) can be ground into flours that are great for baking dog treats. Most of these grain-free flours are widely available in grocery stores, but you can also very easily create your own by grinding the whole beans or seeds into a powder using a grain mill, food processor, blender, or coffee grinder.

Peanut butter is one of my dog Pacey’s favorite flavors, and my Peanut Butter Cookies are unquestionably See Spot Bake’s bestseller at the farmers’ market. To create a grain free version of this favorite, I replaced the brown rice flour in my original recipe with buckwheat flour and adjusted the moisture content. I found that the buckwheat flour baked up denser than rice flour or wheat flour, so I recommend rolling this dough out as thinly as possible to keep the finished treats from being too heavy.

I used a store-bought buckwheat flour in this recipe simply because I already had it in my pantry. To make your own buckwheat flour, you would buy “buckwheat groats” (they may also be labeled “raw” or “hulled”) and grind them into a powder using any of the appliances that I mentioned above.

 

Grain Free Peanut Butter Treats

Grain Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about 26 (2-inch) treats

 

1/2 cup natural peanut butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1 egg

2 cups buckwheat flour

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the peanut butter, water, and egg a bowl, and stir to combine.

3. Add the flour in two additions, mixing well after each addition. Continue stirring until the mixture forms a smooth, homogenous dough. Use your hands to knead and press the dough together into a ball.

4. Roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. (You do not need to dust the countertop with flour.) Use your desired cookie cutter to cut the dough into pieces.

5. Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake until the cookies are firm and golden brown, about 15 minutes. If desired, flip the treats over halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning.

 

These treats are best stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.

Frozen Peanut Butter Treats

As the dog days of summer start heating up, it’s important to remember that your pooch is probably feeling just as hot and uncomfortable as you are! As always, you want to be sure to keep your dog’s bowl filled with clean, cool water, but from time to time it’s also nice to pamper him/her with a frosty treat. This quick and easy recipe for frozen peanut-flavored treats is a great way to help cool your hot dog down at the beach, by the pool, or after a good romp in the backyard.

Most dogs will really appreciate the novelty of a frozen treat, but as the treat starts to melt it can get pretty messy. A lot of dogs will want to play with the slippery treat like a toy—flinging, pushing, and chasing it all over the place before actually eating it. Therefore, it is best to serve these treats outdoors (or on an indoor surface that you don’t mind having to clean up).

Frozen Peanut Butter Treats

Frozen Peanut Butter Treats

Makes about 10 small treats

 

1/4 cup natural peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)

1/4 cup natural, unsweetened applesauce

Carob chips, as desired

 

1. Use a rubber spatula to stir the peanut butter together with the applesauce until the ingredients are well combined into a smooth, homogenous mixture.

 

2. Pour the mixture into the cavities of an ice cube tray or mini muffin tin.

 

3. Gently press 2 or 3 carob chips into the top of each treat.

 

4. Place in the freezer until firm, at least 2 hours.

Southern Cheese Straws

Cheese straws (along with Brunswick stew, grits, and Carolina pulled pork barbecue) are a Southern delicacy that I’ve really missed since moving north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Even though Virginia may not be considered the Deep South, natives to historic Richmond and the surrounding areas certainly pride themselves on their Southern heritage, and cooking plays a significant role in that identity. Growing up there, I remember cheese straws being a culinary staple at most get-togethers, pot luck dinners, and receptions. This delicious, savory finger-food is highly addictive. It’s nearly impossible to eat only one . . . or even just a handful, or two handfuls . . . you get the idea.

The traditional recipe is basically tons of cheddar cheese, tons of butter, a few spices, and a little flour to hold it all together. In my dog-friendly version, the butter and spices are gone but there is still plenty of the cheddar cheese that pooches will love. Don’t have cheddar in the fridge? You can substitute an equal amount of whatever shred-able cheese you’ve got on hand.

I had a grand vision of creating fancy, scalloped cheese straws, so I piped my dough out using a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped piping tip. The lines of dough did look beautiful before going into the oven; however, they spread out so much during baking that I might as well have used a plain, round piping tip. While much flatter than I originally envisioned and less crunchy than the original human snack, the finished dog treats still came out looking and tasting good. In fact, they got an enthusiastic A+ from all four of my taste-testers!

 Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws

Makes about 40 treats

 

15 oz fat free shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup natural applesauce

1/4 cup cold water

1 cup oat flour, or as needed

 

1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

2. Place the cheese, applesauce, and water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until the ingredients are very well combined and the cheese shreds appear slightly mushy.

3. Gradually add the oat flour to the cheese mixture, beating well after each addition. The dough should hold together but still be soft enough to push easily through a piping tip or cookie press. (You may need a little less or more flour than the 1 cup that is called for.)

4. Transfer a portion of the dough to a cookie press or piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip. Pipe the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat® mat. It works best to pipe the dough into long, even lines that run the length of the baking sheet. The dough will spread out quite a bit as it bakes, so be sure to leave about 1 1/2 inches between the parallel lines of dough as you pipe.

5. Bake until the straws are crisp and browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes.

6. While still warm, cut the long strips into smaller pieces using a paring knife. (Pieces 2 to 3 inches in length work well for most dogs.) Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or (a piece of wax paper on a cool countertop) to allow the cheese straws to cool completely before serving. If needed, use a metal spatula to help release the cheese straws from the parchment paper.

Store in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.

NOTE:  It works better to shred your own cheese than to use the pre-shredded stuff; the slightly stickier consistency of the freshly shredded cheese helps hold the dough together.

Sweet Beet Treats

The red beet, or “beetroot” as it’s called in many parts of the world, has been touted as one of nature’s superfoods. The root vegetable is jam-packed with iron, potassium, magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins A, B, and C. The beet is also a detoxifier, which simply means that it encourages the liver to cleanse the body of toxins, and it is also thought to improve blood flow and stamina. And on top of all of these health benefits, beets have a naturally sweet flavor that most dogs will love.

The beet’s intense red pigment gives these dog treats a beautiful pinkish color, but you should promptly rinse out your blender, bowl, utensils, etc. so that the natural dye doesn’t stain your equipment. Be aware that the color can also transfer to your hands while you’re peeling and cutting the beet. But don’t panic! It will go away with a few good hand-washings. (I also recently heard a tip that washing your hands with coarse salt, in addition to soap and water, will help pull the color out of your skin more quickly.)

At this point some of you are probably wondering, “how do I shop for the perfect beet?” When in the produce aisle, look for those that are uniform in shape and medium in size. (In this case, bigger is not better. Larger beets will taste less sweet and more earthy.) You also want to find beets that feel very firm to the touch; a beet that feels soft is old and will not be the best quality.

Sweet Beet Treats

Sweet Beet Treats

Makes 50 (3-inch long) dog treats

 

1 medium-sized red beet

Natural apple juice, as needed

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup natural applesauce

3 cups whole wheat flour, plus as needed for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

1. Lightly peel the beet using a vegetable peeler and roughly chop it into pieces. Place the beet in a blender and blend until smooth. If needed, add apple juice by the tablespoonful to keep the blender moving easily. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Strain the pureed beet through the fine-mesh strainer, using a spoon or rubber spatula to press down on the pulp and squeeze out the maximum amount of juice into the bowl. Reserve 1/3 cup of beet juice for this recipe. You can discard the pulp, and use the remainder of the beet juice for another purpose (or just drink it up—it’s naturally sweet and healthy for you!)

2. Preheat the oven to 350F.

3. Combine the 1/3 cup of beet juice, oil, and applesauce in a bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing constantly. Continue mixing until a smooth, homogenous dough forms. (The dough is slightly sticky.)

6. Generously dust the countertop with flour, and roll the dough out in to a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Use your desired cookie cutter to cut the treats out.

7. Arrange the treats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

8. Bake until the treats are firm to the touch, about 14 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

 

NOTE:  These treats bake up very soft and cakey, so they make a great choice for older dogs or any dog with dental issues.

These treats are best stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.

Grain Free Dog Treats

In the past few weeks I have had a handful of people ask me about making a grain free dog treat. In fact it seems like I’m encountering more and more dogs who are on a completely grain free diet. The recipe that I’m sharing today is perfectly tasty to make as-is, but it also makes a great baseline to add your own flavoring ingredients and creativity. For example it would be simple to add minced herbs or small diced veggies or to replace all or part of the broth with canned tuna water or freshly squeezed veggie juice.

It may confuse some of you that the main ingredient in a grain free recipe is buckwheat flour. Contrary to popular belief, buckwheat is NOT a type of wheat. As a matter of fact, buckwheat is not a grain or cereal of any kind. (So, yes, it is gluten free!) Buckwheat is actually a seed that is harvested from a flowering plant closely related to rhubarb. The pyramid-shaped buckwheat seeds, or “groats”, may be toasted and sold whole or may be ground into a rich, gray flour labeled as buckwheat or kasha flour. Buckwheat flour is now widely available at most grocery and health food stores, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it in your local baking aisle.

Grain Free Treats

Basic Grain Free Dog Treats

Makes 60 (2-inch) treats

 

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup chicken or beef broth

2 cups buckwheat flour

 

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Combine the olive oil, egg, and broth.

3. Slowly pour the buckwheat flour into the egg mixture, stirring constantly to incorporate.

4. Knead the mixture until it forms a smooth, homogenous dough, about 2 minutes.

5. Roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into pieces using your desired cookie cutter.

6. Arrange the treats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

7. Bake for 6 minutes. Flip each of the treats over, then return to the oven and continue baking until the treats are firm to the touch, about 6 minutes more.

 

These treats are best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

DIY Slip-On Dog Collar Bandana

Pacey looking dashing in his new Slip-On Bandana. You might notice that he does NOT look too amused . . . perhaps he’s not into preppy prints as much as I am.

While I would say that my pup Pacey has at least tolerated most of the cute (some might say silly) accessories that I’ve made him wear over the years, he never seems to keep a bandana tied on very long. Like lots of dogs out there, he wriggles and chews and usually manages to lose the bandana in a matter of mere seconds. To avoid this pesky problem, a super smart blogger over at Crafty Critique has created a bandana that slips right onto your dog’s collar so that it stays in place. And since you don’t have to tie any knots, it’s much easier for you to take off and put on. Think of all of the seasonal bandana possibilities!

I am a novice seamstress at best, and I successfully whipped this bandana up in just a few minutes using some scrap fabric that I already had sitting around. Crafty Critique’s tutorial also includes a printable pattern, but I decided to make my own. I just measured out the shape using a ruler and cut it out of construction paper. The pattern size that I used (3-inch straight sides with 5-inch angled sides) fit my 15-pound chihuahua-mix perfectly, and I think that it’ll work well for most toy breeds.

Click the link below to see Crafty Critique’s full step-by-step tutorial:

http://www.craftycritique.com/2011/06/tutorial-slide-on-dog-collar-bandana.html

 

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

Fabric scissors (I used pinking sheers to help keep the edges from fraying); pattern; scrap fabric; a few pins; plus, thread and a sewing machine or hand needle.

Fabric scissors (I used pinking sheers to help keep the edges of the fabric from fraying); bandana pattern; scrap fabric; a few straight pins; PLUS, an iron, some thread, and a sewing machine or hand needle.

 

Once I had the piece of fabric cut out (as you see in the photo above), I chose to hand-stitch my bandana. It’s such a small amount of sewing that I just sat and did the stitching while I watched a sit-com, but a sewing machine would be the simpler and faster way to do it. If you know that your dog is going to be really rough on the bandana, you probably want to choose to machine stitch so that the finished bandana is as sturdy and durable as can be. But whatever floats your boat.

The other place that I cut corners on the tutorial’s instructions is that I did not sew the extra line across the bandana to form a true pocket for the collar. After sewing the edges of the bandana as instructed, I flipped it right-side-out and called it a day. Again, if you want a sturdier, more professional looking product, go ahead and follow all of the steps of Crafty Critique’s tutorial. (As my blog followers may be starting to realize, I tend to be a little lazy when it comes to craft projects so I took the easy route. But I still think the bandana came out looking lovely.)

My finished Slip-On Dog Collar Bandana.

My finished Slip-On Dog Collar Bandana.

Just slide the finished bandana onto your dog's collar, and you're ready for action. No knots needed!

The finished bandana has a wide enough pocket that it should slide onto essentially any dog collar. My bandana fit easily over Pacey’s 1/2-inch wide collar with the buckle and dog tags attached too.

Now just slide the bandana onto your dog’s collar and you’re ready for action. No knots needed!

Fruity Frozen Dog Treats

After a very long, unexpected absence from blogging due to illness, I’M BACK! And without a moment to spare: I’m bouncing back just in time to enjoy the springtime weather and the opening of this year’s farmers’ market season! In celebration of the sunshine and warmer temperatures, this week I whipped up a fun frozen dog treat to share with you. I used a fancy, silicone, bone-shaped ice cube tray to make this batch, but you can use any ice cube tray (or even a mini muffin pan) to mold the treats. Just be sure to set aside at least a couple hours for them to firm up in the freezer.

The base of these treats is applesauce. If you have the time and inclination, feel free to make a homemade batch from scratch, but a natural, unsweetened, store-bought applesauce works as well. I included strawberries because my dog Pacey happens to love them; however, you can use whatever fruit is handy in your pantry. Fresh or frozen blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or even dried cranberries would all work well.

Fruity Frozen Dog Treats

Fruity Frozen Dog Treats

Makes about 18 frozen treats

 

About 4 medium-sized strawberries

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 cup applesauce

 

1. Remove the stems and leaves from the strawberries and discard them. Dice the strawberries into very small pieces.

2. Stir the strawberries and parsley into the applesauce.

3. Pour the mixture into the cavities of an ice cube tray or mini muffin tin.

4. Place in the freezer until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

 

Note: Like any frozen delight on a hot day, these treats can get a little messy. It’s best to serve them to your dog outside (or on a floor that you don’t mind having to wipe clean).

Turkey Day Treats

This year, instead of caving in when your dog comes begging at your Thanksgiving table, be sure to have these tasty turkey-flavored dog treats handy. You don’t even need to cook the turkey ahead of time to make this super simple recipe. Just combine everything in a bowl, roll into meatballs, and bake.

Ground turkey is a very lean meat and a great source of protein for your pooch; however, you really should resist ever feeding your dog turkey from your table. The skin of a roasted (or fried) turkey is fatty, poses a choking hazard, and can even cause pancreatitis. The turkey meat isn’t safe either, because the cooked bones splinter very easily and are a major choking hazard–for people as well as pets. And, as tempting as it may be, you should also avoid giving your dog any bites of your salty, butter-laden side dishes (like veggie casseroles or gravy) or any candy, desserts, or alcohol that may be around the house during the holiday season.

Turkey Day Treats

Turkey Day Dog Treats

Makes about 50 treats

1 pound raw ground turkey

1/2 cup water

1 egg

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Combine the turkey, water, and egg in a bowl, and stir to combine.

3. Stir in the flour, and knead the mixture by hand until it forms a smooth dough.

4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, and arrange the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

5. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 23 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

NOTE:  Dogs, just like people, are susceptible to bacteria, so as soon as these treats are cool enough to handle they should transferred to the refrigerator for storage.