Carrot Mini Muffins

Bunnies aren’t the only animals that get to enjoy eating carrots this time of year! Carrots are possibly the most nutritious vegetable for dogs. They are low in calories and high in antioxidants, beta carotene, and soluble and insoluble fiber. The carrots in this recipe are pureed, but chunks or slices of carrots or baby carrots can be fed as a snack to help clean your dog’s teeth naturally. Frozen carrots also make a great chew-toy for puppies that are teething.

Carrot Mini Muffins

Makes 38 muffins

 

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

3 medium carrots, peeled, shredded

1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 pinch cinnamon

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the honey, oil, egg, and carrots in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.

4. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir well to combine.

5. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners, and spray each one lightly with cooking spray. Fill each mini muffin cup about 2/3 of the way full with the batter.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 16 minutes.

 

Store these treats in the refrigerator.

Orange-Coconut Biscotti

Pacey living on the edge by stealing a piece of biscotti while I tried to take a photo!

Pacey living on the edge by stealing a piece of biscotti while I was setting up to take a photo!

These kooky little cookies would be fun any time of year, but using pretty pastel colors makes them a very sweet Easter treat. When dyed green, the shredded coconut kind of resembles the grass-like filling that often adorns Easter baskets–but you could choose another color food coloring if you like or just leave the coconut white if you’re in a hurry.

I honestly wasn’t sure if coconut was safe for dogs, so I looked it up. When I did, I learned not only that coconut is wholesome, but that some people are actually calling it a doggie “super food.” It contains a protein called albumin that aids the formation of red blood cells, and coconut is also naturally rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid that helps boost dogs’ immune systems and fight off infections.

The other flavoring ingredient in these treats is orange zest. The flesh of an orange is definitely safe for dogs, but you typically want to avoid giving them the orange seeds and/or peel; however, the small amount of finely grated peel in this recipe is added only for flavoring and is not nearly enough to have any effect. If you’re really concerned, just add a couple tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice in place of the zest.

MESS WARNING: These treats are super messy, especially for little dogs that are going to have to take some time to chomp through the whole thing. If your dog is a particularly messy eater, you may want to give these treats outside or make sure that the dog stays in a spot inside the house that’s easy to clean up. If you’ve dyed the coconut and/or used colored icing, be very careful that your dog doesn’t lick away at one of these treats on carpet or furniture, because there’s a chance it’ll leave a stain.

Orange-Coconut Biscotti

Makes about 16

 

About 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Gel food coloring, as needed

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons honey

2 eggs

1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups yogurt chips, white chocolate, carob chips, or candy coating, or as needed

 

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Place the coconut in a large Ziploc bag. Add several drops of food coloring, and seal the bag. Shake and knead the bag to evenly color the coconut. Add more food coloring as needed to achieve the color that you want. Reserve at room temperature until needed.

3. Combine the water, oil, honey, eggs, and orange peel in a bowl.

4. Add the flour to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Knead the mixture by hand until it forms a smooth dough.

5. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half of dough into a log about 8 inches long. Arrange the two logs of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (They should both fit on a standard baking sheet, but if you find that your baking sheet is too small, simply use two separate baking sheets. It’s not a problem to bake them both in the oven at the same time.)

6. Gently press down on the top of each of the logs to slightly flatten it against the baking sheet.

7. Bake until the logs feel firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the log comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

8. When the logs are cool enough to handle, cut each one into 1-inch slices.

9. Arrange the slices on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and return to the oven for 8 minutes.

10. Turn each of the slices over, and return to the oven for 8 minutes more.

11. After baking, turn the oven off, crack the oven door, and leave the biscotti in the oven for about 1 hour to harden.

12. Once the biscotti have hardened, prepare the icing that you’d like to use. (I melted candy coating, because I wanted the cookies to be bright and colorful for Easter.) Bring a small pot of water to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Place the chips in a glass or metal bowl just large enough to fit on top of the pot of simmering water. Place the bowl on top of the pot. Be sure to stir frequently with a rubber spatula as the chips melts to prevent them from scorching. The water should stay at a simmer. If it begins to boil enough to actually touch the bottom of the bowl, remove the bowl from the pot and turn down the heat to establish a simmer before replacing the bowl. Be sure to remove the bowl from the heat as soon as the coating is completely melted.

13. Dip the bottom half of a biscotti in the melted icing to coat it. Work carefully, allowing any excess icing to drip back into the bowl. Immediately dip the iced biscotti in the shredded coconut to coat. Place the biscotti on a piece of wax or parchment paper to set. Repeat with the remaining slices of biscotti.

 

These treats should be stored in the refrigerator.

Meet Abner

AbnerA couple of years ago my mom stumbled upon an SPCA adoption fair. Being the softhearted dog lover that she is, she just couldn’t bear for the little Beagle-mix pup to go back to the shelter, so she brought him home. My parents decided to name their new puppy Abner—after Abner Doubleday, a Civil War general who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg and the fabled inventor of the game of baseball.

Abner is a quirkly little dog that has a few “issues” due to being abandoned and then living in the shelter for months, but he has a very sweet personality and is becoming more and more social all the time. Abner loves to play catch and to run around outside. If he catches the scent of an animal that has dared to venture into his backyard, his inner huntin’ dog comes out and he will relentlessly follow the trail as long as he can.

Abner’s favorite treats are my spinach-flavored Shamrock Biscuits.

DIY Dog Shampoo

Yesterday was officially the first day of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway), and it immediately got me thinking about spring cleaning. Nowadays I know lots of people who are concocting their own cleaning and beauty products at home rather than buying chemical-laden products at the store; inspired by these thrifty, “green” type people, this week I decided to try making my own dog shampoo.

Making dog shampoo at home is a quick and easy project that can actually save you a lot of money over time. The ingredients are all inexpensive and can be found at most grocery stores. Glycerin is the only ingredient that may be foreign to you–I had never worked with it before. Pure glycerin is a colorless, gel-like liquid. It is commonly used in soaps, lotions, and other beauty products because it naturally soothes and moisturizes the skin. Glycerin is gentle enough for dogs’ skin and will also help to condition and moisturize their fur. If you don’t see glycerin at your regular grocery store, you can find it at a craft store like A.C. Moore or Michaels (with the soap-making supplies) or at any pharmacy.

I bought a plastic squeeze bottle (for $1 at Hobby Lobby) to use as a container for my finished shampoo, but pretty much any container with a lid will do. To be really green, you could recycle one of your own shampoo or lotion bottles. I do highly recommend using a plastic container, because a glass one can be very dangerous if it gets dropped in the shower or tub.

Drying off a squeaky clean Pacey after his bath with freshly homemade dog shampoo.

Drying off a squeaky clean Pacey after his bath with freshly homemade dog shampoo.

The recipe below is given as a ratio so that you can very easily make as much or as little of the shampoo as you need. To use the given ratio, simply choose a volume of measurement, such as a tablespoon or a cup, and multiply that measure by the number of “parts” listed for each ingredient. For example, I only wanted to fill one small bottle, so I used 2 tablespoons of glycerin and 1/3 cup (a.k.a. 6 tablespoons) of the dish soap, water, and vinegar. If you want to make a bigger batch, you might choose to use 1/2 cup of glycerin and 1 1/2 cups of dish soap, water, and vinegar. Etc, etc, etc.

DIY Dog Shampoo

1 part glycerin

3 parts gentle, all-natural dish soap

3 parts room temperature water

3 parts apple cider vinegar

Scented or essential oil, as desired (optional)

 

Place the dish soap in a bowl. Slowly and gently pour in the water, apple cider vinegar, and glycerin. If desired, add a few drops of essential oil. Use a skewer to very gently stir the ingredients together, trying to avoid making the mixture too foamy. Transfer the shampoo to a plastic bottle for storage.

To use, squeeze a quarter-sized amount of the shampoo into your hand, work into a lather on your dog’s wet fur, and then rinse thoroughly with water.

If the shampoo has been sitting on the shelf for a while between baths, you should very gently shake the bottle to redistribute the mixture before using it.

Shepherd’s Pie: A Feast Fit for an Irish Wolfhound

Pacey eagerly chowing down on his Shepherd's Pie on St. Patrick's Day.

Pacey eagerly chowing down on his Shepherd’s Pie on St. Patrick’s Day.

Originally known as “cottage pie,” shepherd’s pie is a traditional British dish made by layering ground meat, mixed vegetables, and mashed potatoes. The dish is a staple of Irish cooking and makes a perfect post-St. Patrick’s Day meal, because it’s a great way to utilize leftovers. When preparing shepherd’s pie for your dog, remember that this is the type of extravagant treat that should only be served in small portions and reserved for special occasions, like St. Patty’s Day.

It didn’t take much finagling for me to make a shepherd’s pie that’s dog friendly. I had to omit the butter, cream, and salt that make mashed potatoes so scrumptious for us humans, but I promise that your dog won’t mind a bit with all the delicious beefy flavor that’s packed into this recipe. I also limited the veggies to peas and carrots, because they’re healthy for dogs and easy for their systems to digest. If you’d like, you could also include some corn kernels and/or green beans. (If you’re going to eat this shepherd’s pie along with your dog, you’ll definitely want to add salt and pepper to yours.)

While the Irish traditionally use lamb in shepherd’s pie, Americans typically use ground beef, which is what I call for in this recipe. If you prefer, you could easily substitute ground turkey.

Shepherd’s Pie

Makes 2 servings

 

3 Yukon Gold potatoes

1/4 cup low fat, low sodium beef broth, warmed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup diced carrots

1/2 lb. lean ground beef

1/4 cup fresh peas (or frozen peas, thawed)

 

1. Place the potatoes in a pot, and fill the pot with enough water to just cover the potatoes. Bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to establish a simmer. Cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes’ flesh can be easily pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes.

2. Drain the water from the potatoes. Once the potatoes have cooled just enough to handle, remove and discard the skins from the potatoes.

3. Place the peeled potatoes in a bowl, and mash with a fork or potato masher. As you mash, add the warm beef broth to help achieve a smoother consistency. Reserve the mashed potatoes for later.

4. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the carrots, and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the beef to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely brown.

6. Stir in the peas, and continue cooking to heat them through.

7. Divide the beef mixture evenly into two small bowls (or dog dishes). Top each portion with mashed potatoes.

8. This dish should be served warm, but be sure that the beef is not so hot that you run the risk of burning your dog’s tongue. Once the shepherd’s pie is assembled in the bowls, I like to give it a few minutes to cool down before serving it.

Note: Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Everyone’s an Irish Setter on St. Patrick’s Day!

Just because our dogs aren’t allowed to partake of the green beer, that doesn’t mean that they should miss out on all the St. Patty’s Day fun. These green, spinach-flavored biscuits are really festive, especially when cut out with a shamrock-shaped cookie cutter, and they are also rich in antioxidants, iron, and fiber.

Some people (erroneously) think that spinach is toxic to dogs, because it contains a substance called oxalic acid. It is true that in extremely large amounts oxalic acid can cause health problems; however, according to veterinarian Marie Haynes, “the amount that a dog would have to eat in order to cause toxicity is so high that it probably couldn’t be done.” So, spinach is A-okay for dogs to eat in moderation, and it makes a beautiful, natural green food coloring for dog biscuits.

I hope you and your dog have a happy and healthy St. Patrick’s Day! In celebration of all things Irish, I’ll leave you with a few canine-centric Irish proverbs:

-A little dog can start a hare, but it takes a big dog to catch one.

-A live dog is better than a dead lion.

-The dog that’s always on the go is better than the one that is always curled up.

-The cat is always dignified . . . until the dog comes by.

Shamrock Biscuits

Makes about 26 (2 1/2-inch by 2 1/2-inch) shamrocks

 

2 cups organic spinach leaves, tightly packed

1 egg

1/2 cup water

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed for dusting

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the spinach leaves in a food processor or blender, and process to a puree.

3. Transfer the spinach puree to a bowl, add the egg and water, and stir to combine.

4. Add the flour, and stir to combine. Use your hands to squeeze and knead the mixture into a smooth dough.

5. Lightly dust the countertop with flour, and roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick.

6. Use a shamrock-shaped cookie cutter to cut the dough into pieces. Arrange the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet.

7. Bake until the biscuits are firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

 

Note: I used all-purpose flour in this recipe to keep the green color as vibrant as possible, but you can substitute whole wheat flour if you’d like.

 

These treats are best stored in the refrigerator.

Blueberry Bones

Dogs can enjoy many of the same berries that we humans love: cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries. Blueberries in particular are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber. They are also naturally sweet and delicious and turn these dog treats a pretty bluish-purple color.

When it comes to feeding your dog blueberries, keep in mind that a little goes a long way. Too many fiber-packed berries can cause an upset stomach or diarrhea, so feed berries (and these blueberry biscuits) as a special treat, not as a daily supplement.

It’s also important to note that you should never feed your dog fruits or berries that contain pits or stones (like cherries, for example), because many pits/stones are poisonous and they also pose a major choking hazard.

 

Blueberry Bones

Makes about 30 (2 1/2-inch long) bones

 

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, thaw them first)

1 tablespoon honey

1 egg

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup oat bran

2 1/2 cups brown rice flour, plus more as needed for dusting

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the blueberries in a food processor or blender, and process into a puree.

3. In a bowl, combine the blueberry puree with the honey, egg, and water.

4. Add the oat bran, and stir to combine.

5. Add the flour in two additions, stirring well after each addition.

6. Use your hands to press and knead the mixture together to form a smooth ball of dough.

7. Since rice flour doesn’t contain any gluten, this dough is delicate and extra care must be taken when rolling it out. You may or may not need to dust the countertop before rolling it out.

8. Divide the dough in half. (If you try rolling too much dough at once, you’ll have trouble rolling it out.) Use a rolling pin, to very gently roll the first half of the dough out into a sheet about 1/2 inch thick. If you roll the dough too thin, it will not hold together when you make the cut-outs.

9. Use your desired cookie cutter to cut the dough out into shapes. Arrange the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet.

10. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

11. Bake until the biscuits are firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

 

These treats may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Peanut Butter Jar Cookies

Finished JarYou’ve probably all seen this cute jar cookie idea used to make people cookies, but it also works nicely for these dog biscuits. It’s very simple to execute, and (if you’ve got the time and inclination) you can use your crafty-ness and creativity to make the packaging really special. This is a great homemade gift for dog-lovers. I’m planning to use it as a “thank you” gift when someone dog-sits for Pacey.

Since you aren’t always aware of the special dietary needs of your friends’ dogs, I made this recipe wheat-free and gluten-free, just in case. Most dogs love peanuts/peanut butter and can digest it well, so it is generally not a problem ingredient.

If you’re not in need of a gift for someone else at the moment, you could obviously forget the jar cookie idea all together and just make these cookies for your dog following the same recipe below.

Here are the craft supplies you’ll need:

1 large mason jar

1 scrap of pretty fabric

Ribbon (1/2-inch wide or thinner)

1 piece of paper to handwrite or print the recipe on

Hole-punch

Scissors (to use on both fabric and paper)

Here are the ingredients that you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups (gluten-free) oat flour

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour

1/2 cup all natural peanut butter chips

Here’s how you put it all together:

-Carefully pour each of the ingredients into the mason jar in the order they’re listed above. (The oat flour goes in first and so on.) Gently jiggle the jar after each addition to level off each ingredient and keep the presentation neat.

-Place the metal cap onto the top of the jar to seal it.

-Cut your desired fabric into a circle large enough to cover the top of the jar. Depending on the look that you want, you could use regular scissors or the pinking shears kind.

-Place your fabric circle on top of the metal cap on the jar. Place the metal ring (that is made to secure the lid on the jar) on top of the fabric circle. Twist the metal ring to close the jar as you normally would, trapping the fabric tightly between the two metal pieces of the lid.

-Print the recipe onto your desired paper. This is where you can get really creative if you want. You can simply print the recipe out onto white printer paper using your computer (like I did), or you could use colorful printer paper or pretty scrapbook paper. If you’re feeling really fancy, you can handwrite the recipe or even use calligraphy.

-Once you’ve got the recipe printed on the paper, use the hole-punch to put a round hole at the top of the recipe. Then use scissors (again, plain edge or decorative ones) to cut the recipe out. I just did a plain-Jane rectangle, but you could do a circle or whatever shape you like. As long as the recipe card fits neatly against the jar, it doesn’t really matter.

-Cut a length of ribbon long enough to tie in a bow around the lid of the jar.

-Thread the ribbon through the hole that you punched in the recipe card, and tie it into a bow around the metal rim of the jar’s lid. And . . . VOILÀ! You’ve got a personalized gift for your favorite dog-lover!

Below is the recipe as I printed it out for my recipe card. This one is formatted a little differently from the way I typically post my recipes–simply because I wanted it to fit neatly onto a small recipe card.

PB Jar Cookies

PEANUT BUTTER DOG COOKIES

MAKES ABOUT 50

 

Transfer the ingredients inside the jar to a mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Add 1 egg and 3/4 cup of water, and stir to combine. Use your hands to knead the mixture into a dough that will hold together.

 

Roll the dough into small balls about 1-inch in diameter, and arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. Use your hand to flatten each ball into a cookie shape.

 

Bake in a 350°F oven until the cookies are firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Cool completely before serving to your four-legged friends.

 

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.