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.

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.

Ham and Cheese Dog Treats

Ham and cheese is a classic culinary combination for very good reason. The gooey cheese and thin sliced ham create a satisfying textural contrast, and the two flavors work deliciously together. Most dogs find each of these ingredients mouthwatering on its own, so the double-whammy makes this recipe is virtually irresistible!

It’s best to use a reduced sodium, low fat deli ham, rather than a ham steak or other thickly sliced ham. Never use Virginia ham or other super salty ham. The cheese should be low in fat, but you can use whatever specific variety you like. I used Swiss cheese, but cheddar, mozzarella, or another mild cheese would also work well.

Ham & Cheese

Ham and Cheese Treats

Makes about 20 large treats

 

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

1/4 cup chopped ham

1/4 cup finely chopped or grated reduced fat cheese

1/2 cup water

 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Place the flour, ham, and cheese in a bowl.

3. Add the water to the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Knead until the mixture forms a smooth dough.

4. Roll the dough out into a sheet 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Use your desired cutter to cut the dough into pieces.

5. Bake until the treats are firm to the touch but not yet browned, about 12 minutes. If desired, flip the treats over halfway through the baking time.

 

These treats must be stored in the refrigerator.

Pizza Bites

About 36% of all of the pizza consumed in the United States each year is topped with pepperoni. In fact, we Americans annually consume about 252 million pounds of pepperoni on our pizzas. Those are some staggering statistics! So I thought to myself, why not make a pepperoni dog treat? Dogs can’t have all of the grease, tomato sauce, and copious amounts of gooey cheese that make our human-food pizzas so delicious, but these tasty little treats do have a touch of Parmesan cheese and lots of turkey pepperoni bits.

Turkey pepperoni, which is a dried sausage made from turkey, contains less calories, fat, and sodium than regular pepperoni, which is made with pork. As with any special treat, you don’t want to give your dog too much turkey pepperoni, but in moderation it is perfectly fine. Be sure to buy mild pepperoni for this recipe. Do NOT ever give your dog any pepperoni labeled “spicy”.

 

Pizza Bites

Pizza Bites

Makes about 75 treats

 

2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 oz finely grated parmesan cheese

10 slices turkey pepperoni, chopped

1 cup water

2 tablespoons olive oil

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, cheese, and chopped pepperoni.

3. Add the water and oil to the dry ingredients and knead until the mixture forms a smooth dough.

4. Let the dough rest at room temperature for about 5 minutes.

5. Take a piece of dough (about a teaspoonful), roll it into a ball, and place it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remainder of the dough. The dough balls can be placed close together on the baking sheet but should not be touching.

6. Bake until firm to the touch and baked all the way through, about 12 minutes.

 

These treats must be stored in the refrigerator.

Doggie Dim Sum

I love Chinese food of all kinds but especially dumplings. When I was living in Poughkeepsie, New York, my friends and I discovered the greatest hole-in-the-wall dumpling place. (Due to some confusing signage, there’s still much debate as to whether this restaurant is named “Dumplings Palace” or “Palace Dumplings.”) The menu features several types of soup, a couple seaweed salads, and about 40 different types of dumplings. The kitchen staff consists solely of one little old man who works tirelessly to make all of the dumplings from scratch. Each type of dumpling at this place was more delicious than the next, and my mouth is watering just reminiscing about it.

This dog-friendly recipe is a take-off on the Chinese dumplings that I love so much. I used cheese as the filling (because what dog doesn’t love cheese?), but you could use diced fruit, fully cooked bacon or lean ground meat, or any combination that you like. These dumplings are a great snack for larger dogs, but they can be messy and unmanageable for smaller dogs—especially with more crumbly fillings. If you’ve got a smaller dog, you may want to cut the dumpling in half or quarters or even to make the dumplings without any filling to cut down on the mess.

Cheese Dumplings

Makes about 20

 

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour

1 cup whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 large egg

3/4 cup homemade or low sodium, low fat chicken broth

Low fat cheese cubes, as needed

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the flours, baking powder, and ginger in a bowl. Stir in the egg and broth. Knead the mixture by hand until a smooth dough forms.

3. On a very lightly floured surface, roll the dough out as thinly as you can. Use 3-inch round cutter (or the rim of a glass) to cut the dough into circles.

4. Place a cheese cube on the center of each circle of dough. Bring the edges of the dough over the filling and pinch it together to form a little bundle.

5. Arrange the dumplings on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake until firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

6. Allow the dumplings to cool completely before serving.

 

These treats must be stored in the refrigerator.

Cheddar Biscuits

I have yet to meet a dog that doesn’t love cheese. Cheddar cheese is packed with protein and flavor, but you do want to be careful not to overload your dog with too much. Most dogs will have no reaction at all to the occasional bit of cheese, but you should be aware that it is a common canine allergen. According to the ASPCA, “pets lack significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose in dairy products. As a result, some may have difficulty with digestion and end up with stomach upset. Cheese, however, has less lactose than milk and some other dairy products, so it’s less likely to cause problems.” Just be sure to use low fat cheddar cheese and feed these treats sparingly.

 

Cheddar Biscuits

Makes 34 (2-inch) biscuits

 

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 cup very finely shredded low fat cheddar cheese

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup homemade or fat free, low sodium chicken broth

 

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Knead vigorously by hand until the mixture forms a smooth dough.

4. Generously dust the countertop with flour. Roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thick, and cut into pieces using your desired cookie cutter.

5. Arrange the biscuits on a prepared baking sheet, and bake until firm to the touch, about 12 minutes.

6. When finished baking, turn the oven off, crack the oven door, and leave the biscuits to dry out for about 2 hours.

 

These treats must be stored in the refrigerator.

Parmesan Cheese Bites

Dogs love cheese. It’s a universal canine characteristic—at least in my very non-professional opinion–so these little treats are always a big hit. The Parmesan imparts a strong cheesy flavor (and fills the kitchen with a delicious aroma as it bakes), but in a pinch you could easily substitute finely shredded cheddar or pretty much any mild cheese that you happen to have sitting in the fridge. Just remember that switching up the type of cheese may affect the baking time or the amount of water that is needed.

I like to cut these treats into small bite-sized pieces rather than large biscuits, because the fresh Parmesan cheese is packed with flavor (and you also never want to overload you dog with too much dairy). For this recipe, I used a 1-inch round cookie cutter. If you decide to make larger biscuits, you’ll need to increase the baking time to 20 minutes or more.

Since these treats contain cheese, they are best stored in the refrigerator.

Parmesan Cheese Bites

Makes about 125 small treats

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornmeal, plus more for dusting

1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1 large egg

3/4 cup warm water

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, and cheese. Add the egg and mix to combine.

3. Add the water a little at a time, kneading the mixture by hand to form a smooth dough. (If the dough starts getting too wet, don’t add all of the water. If the dough is too dry, add more water a tablespoon at a time until the dough reaches the right consistency for rolling.)

4. Generously dust the countertop with cornmeal. Divide the dough in half, and roll the first half out into an even sheet about ¼ inch thick.

5. Use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into your desired shape and size. Repeat with the remainder of the dough. If the dough is sticking at all, try dusting both sides with more cornmeal.

6. Arrange the treats on a lightly greased baking sheet, and bake until firm to the touch, about 16 minutes. You do not want these treats to get too brown. I like to turn the treats over halfway through the baking time to help ensure even color.

7. Allow the treats to cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet.

NOTE:  These treats are not extra crunchy, which can be a nice change from traditional hard dog biscuits. But if your doggie prefers crunchier treats, try leaving the baked biscuits in the oven (with it turned off) with the oven door widely cracked open for a few hours to overnight.