DIY Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments

The recipe that I’m sharing with you today is a family favorite at my house. The cinnamon dough is prepared as if you’re making cut out cookies, but the result is a hard, dry ornament that is sturdy enough to hang on your Christmas tree for years to come. (Trust me–0ur tree still features a dough ornament that I made when I was in preschool.) And the heavenly cinnamon scent that fills the house as these ornaments bake is just an added holiday bonus!

Obviously you can cut your ornaments into any shape, but I love the idea of personalized dog bone ornaments. They are very simple to make, and they are a perfect holiday gift for all those dog lovers in your life. This year I made the personalized dog bones, plus dog breed silhouettes, and a heart/dog bone combo (see the photo below). Your only limitation is the types of cookie cutters that you have available. Although, I did find that large ornaments are much more difficult to transfer to the baking sheet, so I would recommend using cookie cutters no bigger than 5 inches or so in length.

Once baked, these ornaments are beautiful enough to leave plain–just add a piece of ribbon, twine, or string to use as a hanger and call it a day. However, they are also a great blank canvases for all kinds of embellishments. I simply wrote my family’s dogs’ names on the bones using white fabric paint (a.k.a. “puffy paint”). You might also try using acrylic craft paint, spray paint, glitter, sequins, buttons, rick-rack, jingle bells, or any other adornment that can be adhered using craft glue or a hot glue gun. Keep it simple or go crafty crazy: it’s totally up to you.

Christmas Ornaments

Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments

Yield will vary depending on the size of your cookie cutters

 

1 cup ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting

3/4 cup applesauce

 

    For this project you will need: cookie cutters, an offset spatula, a plastic drinking straw, scissors, string or thin ribbon, and plus any craft supplies that you want to use to decorate your ornaments. I used white "puffy paint" (pictured here), but you could also use acrylic or spray paint, glitter, sequins, buttons, rick-rack, jingle bells, etc.

For this project you will also need: cookie cutters, an offset metal spatula, a plastic drinking straw, scissors, string or thin ribbon, plus any items that you want to use to decorate your ornaments. I used white “puffy paint” (pictured at right).

 

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F.

2. Place the cinnamon in a bowl. Slowly stir in the applesauce. Continue stirring until the mixture forms a smooth dough.

3. Lightly sprinkle a large piece of wax paper with cinnamon, and roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough sticks to your rolling pin or wax paper, sprinkle with more ground cinnamon.

4. Use your desired cookie cutters to cut the dough into pieces. After each piece is cut, press the end of a plastic drinking straw into each piece of dough to cut out a round hole. (This step is VERY important because you will later use this hole to attach the ribbon that will serve as the hanger for your ornament.)

5. Use an offset metal spatula to carefully transfer each piece of dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can arrange the pieces close together on the baking sheet–they will not spread during baking–but the pieces should not be touching each other.

6. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour. Flip each ornament over, and return them to the oven for an additional hour.

7. Transfer the ornaments from the baking sheet to a cooling rack or a paper towel on the countertop.

8. When the ornaments are completely cool, add the hangers:  first cut a length of ribbon for each ornament. (I cut my ribbon pieces about 4 inches long). On each ornament, thread a piece of ribbon through the hole that you poked with the straw. Tie the two ends of the ribbon together (in a bow or double knot) to form a loop that you can use to hang the ornament on your Christmas tree.

9. At this point, you may choose to use the ornaments as-is, or you may want to decorate the ornaments with paint, glitter, sequins, or other embellishments. Once the ornaments are decorated it’s best to allow a full 24 hours for them to dry completely before hanging them or wrapping them up for holiday gift-giving.

 

NOTE:  As always, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on pets during the holiday season so that they don’t get into any decorations that could make them sick. (i.e. eating Christmas ornaments, holly, pine needles, etc). This basic cinnamon ornament dough is completely non-toxic to your pets; however, please take extra care if you add any decorations to your ornaments that pose a choking hazard.

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.

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).

Apple Turnovers

Apple season is just beginning here in Southern Pennsylvania, and I have been busy plotting all of the scrumptious apple desserts that I’m going to be baking this Fall. I feel that I must disclose that my family is a little upset, because I decided to make these apple turnovers for Pacey before I made any apple turnovers, dumplings, or pies for the people in my life. (Sorry, folks!)

Since the apples in the filling will release steam as they cook, it is necessary to cut a vent in the top of each turnover. When it comes to that step, you can keep it simple or use your creativity. I just used a paring knife to cut slits in the dough, but you could use a tiny cookie cutter instead. If you happen to have small enough letter cutters, you could even cut a monogram or initial into the dough.

Due to the release of steam, it is also important to seal each turnover very well after you do the “turning over.” To do this you can simply press the dough together firmly with your fingers. I pressed the tines of a fork into the dough around the edge of the turnover to keep it closed and also add a special touch. If the turnover is not sealed properly it may pop open in the oven. If that happens, the flavor won’t be changed but the turnover sure won’t look very pretty.

These treats must be large enough to contain the filling, so for most dogs you’ll need to break each treat in half (or even smaller pieces) before serving it. If you don’t have a round cutter about 3 or 4 inches in diameter, you can use a saucer or small bowl as a template to cut out the dough circles. Simply flip the saucer upside down onto the sheet of rolled-out dough and use a sharp paring knife to cut around the saucer.

Apple Turnover

I made these turnovers using local apples from the first harvest of honeycrisp at Hollabaugh Brothers Farm.

Apple Turnovers

Makes about 8 treats

Dough:

2 tablespoons unsweetened natural applesauce

2 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup water

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Filling:

1/3 cup small diced apples **peel, core, and seeds removed**

1 tablespoon unsweetened natural applesauce

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Egg wash:

1 large egg

1 tablespoon skim milk (optional)

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. To make the dough:  place the applesauce, honey, and water in a bowl and stir to combine.

3. Mix in the flour. Use your hands to knead until the mixture forms a smooth dough.

4. To make the filling:  stir the apples, applesauce, and cinnamon together until the apples are well-coated with the applesauce. Reserve.

5. Roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut the dough into circles. Fold each round of dough in half and then open it back up, so that you can tell where the center of the circle is.

6. In the top hemisphere (“top half”) of each round of dough, cut a small vent using a paring knife or decorative cutter.

7. Place about 1 teaspoon of the apple filling onto the bottom hemisphere (“bottom half”) of each round of dough.

8. Fold the top half of the circle down over the bottom half, so that you have a half moon shape. Firmly press the two edges of dough together to seal the turnover.

9. Arrange the turnovers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

10. To make the egg wash: combine the egg and the milk, and whisk well.

11. Use a pastry brush to LIGHTLY brush the top of each turnover with eggwash.

12. Bake until the dough is light golden brown and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. The filling will be piping hot when the treats come out of the oven, so be sure to allow the turnovers to cool completely before serving.

These treats must be stored in the refrigerator.

Apple Mini Muffins

With their delicious natural sweetness, apples make a great flavoring ingredient for dog treats. Whenever you’re baking it’s very important to choose a crisp apple with flesh that won’t break down into mush in the oven. The classic choice for baking is Granny Smith, which I used when I developed this recipe, but there are plenty of other varieties of apple that hold up equally well in the oven. You may want to branch out and try a Jonathon, Jonagold, Braeburn, Fuji, or Cortland apple, for example.

All of the ingredients in this recipe are readily available at most grocery stores. If you can’t find wheat germ in the baking aisle, it may be hiding in the organic or health food section. Although wheat germ is generally accepted as a safe ingredient and is perfectly harmless to most pets, some dogs can develop sensitivities to wheat (i.e. gastrointestinal issues). If this is the case with your pooch, you can omit the wheat germ and whole wheat flour in this recipe and substitute 2 cups of all-purpose or unbleached white flour instead.

For easy clean up and, of course, for the cuteness factor, I used decorative paper muffin cups to line the pan, but they’re not really necessary. Just remember to spray the pan generously with cooking spray if you’re not using the liners, because this batter tends to stick to the pan. And hopefully this goes without saying, but . . . if you use the paper liners, remember to remove them before serving to your dog.

These treats can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature but will last longer if stored in the refrigerator.

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Apple Mini Muffins

Makes about 42 muffins

 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/3 cup wheat germ

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

3 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup natural, unsweetened applesauce

1/4 of a granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and small diced (about 1/3 cup)

 

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Combine the flour, wheat germ, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.

3. Add the egg, honey, water, applesauce, and diced apple. Stir to combine.

4. Prepare the mini muffin pan by lining with paper muffin cups or spraying lightly with cooking spray.

5. Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about three-quarters of the way up.

6. Bake until the muffins are golden brown and spring back when touched, about 9 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool completely before serving.

NOTE: To make standard size muffins, prepare as above but increase the baking time to about 20 minutes.