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.

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.