Mini Corn Muffins

Cornbread is a general term that is used for a fairly wide variety of quickbread recipes made with cornmeal and baking powder. As the name “quickbread” suggests, cornbread batter is quick to mix and just as quick to bake. I had these mini corn muffins made from start to finish in under fifteen minutes.

To produce cornmeal, fresh corn is dried and then ground into a meal. Cornmeal is available in two varieties: yellow and white, depending on the color of the corn that was used to make it. Yellow corn is naturally sweeter than white corn, which makes yellow cornmeal slightly sweeter than white cornmeal; however, the two types can be used interchangeably in most recipes.

There is some debate about cornmeal amongst pet owners. Dog food (not treats!) should make up about 90% of your pet’s diet, and I believe that there is a very valid argument against cornmeal being used as a main ingredient in these types of commercial dog foods. Yes, some dogs have a sensitivity to corn. Yes, dogs are naturally carnivores and digest meat protein easier than corn protein. But for me the real problem is that commercial dog food companies are using cornmeal as a cheap substitution for meat protein in a product that is being marketed as high quality, nutritious, and even “meaty.”

However, some dog owners are choosing to eliminate corn completely from their dog’s diet. Here are my two cents on that issue. Like most things, cornmeal is okay in moderation. As with all the recipes on this blog, these muffins are intended to be given only once in a while as a special treat. Cornmeal adds both flavor and texture to dog treat recipes, and unless your dog has a sensitivity or allergy, I personally don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with occasionally incorporating it into your dog’s diet.

If you do object to cornmeal, in many recipes you can substitute oat flour instead.

Mini Corn Muffins

Makes about 36 mini muffins

 

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup chicken broth (homemade or low fat and low sodium)

1 large egg

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

 

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Place the honey, oil, broth, and egg in a bowl and stir to combine.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients to just combine.

5. Lightly prepare a mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full of batter.

6. Bake until the muffins are golden brown and spring back when touched, about 8 minutes.

 

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

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.

Dog Treats VS. Dog Food

My taste-testers: Corby, Abner, Marley, and Pacey

My taste-testers: Corby, Abner, Marley, and Pacey.

I think that it’s important for me to take this opportunity to make a clear distinction between the dog “treats” that I typically make and discuss on this blog and “dog food.” Just like humans, dogs should have balanced diets. According to the ASPCA, “treats should make up only 5 to 10 percent of your pet’s diet–the rest should come from a nutritionally complete pet food.” Quality commercial dog food is specifically formulated (by veterinarians and nutritionists) to give your dog the vitamins and nutrients that he or she needs to be healthy. It’s important to always be conscious that treats are special snacks that should not in any way be considered a substitute for your dog’s regular food.

Baking homemade dog treats can be a fun and rewarding experience if you just use common sense. I like to approach treats for dogs in the same way that you should approach dessert for humans. A special treat is perfectly fine in moderation but can do harm if eaten in excess. For example, a pupcake with cream cheese frosting or a cheesy biscuit is totally okay if it’s given very sparingly as a special reward; you will, however, inevitably give your doggie an upset stomach if you load him or her up with too large or too many dairy-laden treats. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I know from experience that when you love your pet and want them to feel pampered it can be very easy to overdo it. Simply exercise good judgment, and if you’re ever in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

Similar to the manner in which you would slowly integrate a new type of dog food into your pet’s diet, it’s best to introduce any new treat in very small amounts. Just like humans, some dogs can have allergies to foods or ingredients that are considered safe and healthy for the general population. When you are baking a treat recipe for the first time or trying a new ingredient, be sure to give your dog only a small taste at first and keep an eye out to make sure that they have no negative reactions. The most common allergic reactions are vomiting, diarrhea, and itchy skin. Obviously, if you notice any of these symptoms, stop giving your dog the treats, and if there’s any type of severe reaction, call your veterinarian immediately.

If you ever have any feedback or questions (in reference to a post or recipe on this blog or just a general question), please leave me a comment. I’m no expert, but I’m always happy to do a little research to try to find an answer to your questions about canine health.