Peanut Butter Snowballs

There’s quite a bit of snow on the ground outside my window here in Gettysburg, and I’d say we’ve officially arrived in the dead of winter. Given these chilly conditions, frozen dog treats may not seem very seasonal, but I thought that I could get away with it if the frozen goodies looked like little snowballs. Plus, my dog and his pals seem to enjoy frozen treats no matter what the season!

These simple, no-bake treats consist of a peanut butter base that is rolled in unsweetened coconut flakes to give it the snowy look. If you’re in a rush or don’t happen to have the coconut on hand, you can certainly skip that step and just freeze the peanut butter mixture in balls, or press the mixture into an ice cube tray or other mold before popping them into the freezer. The coconut flour really helps give this dough the body that it needs to be easily rolled into balls, but in a pinch it can be replaced with an extra 1/2 cup of old fashioned oats.

If you’re going to be storing these treats in the freezer for any amount of time, I find it best to freeze them inside an airtight container–such as Gladware or Tupperware–lined with wax paper. If your furry friends are going to be eating the treats right away, you could just freeze the treats on a plate, platter, or tray lined with wax paper and covered with plastic wrap.

 Peanut Butter Snowballs

Peanut Butter Snowballs

Makes about 24 treats

1 cup natural peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup coconut flour

Unsweetened flaked coconut, as needed for coating

 

1. In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, oats, and coconut flour.

2. Place about 3/4 cup of the coconut flakes in a small, shallow bowl.

3. Use a tablespoon or small scoop the peanut butter mixture into portions. Roll each scoop between your hands to form it into a ball.

4. One by one, place each peanut butter ball into the bowl of coconut and roll it around until the ball is completely coated in coconut.

5. Arrange the treats inside a container or on a plate lined with wax paper and place them inside the freezer for at least 2 hours. The treats can be placed very close together for freezing but should be arranged in a single layer if you want to keep the round shape.

 

Pumpkin Pupcakes

I don’t bake doggie cupcakes very often (mostly because a couple of my taste-testers are very messy eaters), but they are the perfect treat for special occasions. It takes surprisingly little effort to make beautiful dog-safe cupcakes that look and smell yummy enough for humans to eat. The Pumpkin Pupcakes recipe that I’m sharing today smells particularly delicious when it’s baking on a crisp Autumn day. The pumpkin flavor pairs really well with natural peanut butter frosting, and the frosted pupcakes would make an excellent addition to any Halloween, Thanksgiving, or birthday celebration.

 Pumpkin Pupcakes

Pumpkin Pupcakes

Makes about 24 mini cupcakes

2/3 cup oat flour

2/3 cup brown rice flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups canned 100% pure pumpkin puree

2 large eggs

2 1/2 tablespoons honey

2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

Natural, unsalted peanut butter, as desired for frosting (optional)

 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Line each cavity of a mini muffin tin with paper liners or very lightly coat each cavity with canola oil.

3. Combine the oat flour, rice flour, baking powder, and cinnamon, and stir to combine.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, eggs, honey, and oil.

5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined.

6. Spoon the batter into each of the prepared cavities of the mini muffin tin. Be careful not to overfill; each cup should be about 3/4 full of batter.

7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops of the pupcakes are firm to the touch.

8. Allow the pupcakes to cool completely before removing them from the mini muffin tin.

9. If desired, frost the top of each pupcake with a thin layer of natural peanut butter.

NOTE: Paper cupcake liners are a pretty touch that make for a very nice presentation; however, you should always REMOVE THE PAPER LINERS BEFORE FEEDING THE TREAT TO YOUR DOG.

 

These treats are best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

There is a strange fact about myself that I typically keep hidden for fear of seeming unAmerican . . . I hate fries. French fries, steak fries, curly fries, potato skins. I hate them all, and I honestly can’t figure out the source of my aversion. I love potatoes and I love fried foods, but I can not stand fried potatoes. However, of all the various French fries, my arch nemesis is the sweet potato fry. I hate the flavor, texture, and pretty much everything else about sweet potato fries. HOWEVER, I know that I’m in a very small minority. Most people (and dogs too) seem to love the flavor of sweet potatoes, and their natural sweetness makes them a perfect flavoring for a dog treat.

You can simplify the prep work for this recipe by using a canned sweet potato puree. (It could also be labeled “mashed sweet potato”). If you decide to take this route, you don’t want to buy candied sweet potatoes, any sort of syrupy concoction, or pie filling. Be sure to look for 100% sweet potatoes on the can’s label.

It’s not that much more work to bake and mash the sweet potatoes yourself. Check out my Sweet Potato Treats post for step-by-step instructions.

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Makes about 40 (2-inch) treats

 

1 cup mashed sweet potato or canned sweet potato puree

1 large egg

1/4 cup water

1 cup white rice flour

1 cup oat flour

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Combine the mashed sweet potato, egg, and water in a bowl.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine the white rice flour and oat flour.

  4. Pour the flours into the wet ingredients, stirring with a rubber spatula to combine. Press the mixture together with your hands until it holds together in a ball of homogenous dough.

  5. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your baking sheet.

  6. Place the piece of parchment paper on the countertop, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/2 inch thick on top of the piece of parchment.

  7. Carefully transfer the parchment paper (with the sheet of dough on top) to your baking sheet.

  8. Bake for 12 minutes.

  9. Remove the baking sheet from the oven.

  10. Immediately (before the treats cool), use a fluted pastry cutter or a pizza cutter to make parallel cuts about 3/4 inch apart all the way across the sheet of dough. Next, working perpendicular to the cuts that you just made, make parallel cuts about 2 inches apart across the sheet of dough. These cuts should now form rectangular pieces measuring 3/4 inch by 2 inches that mimic the shape of French fries.

  11. Gently separate the pieces so that there is about 1/4 inch of space between them on the baking sheet and flip each of the treats over.

  12. Return the baking sheet to the oven for 6 to 7 minutes. The finished treats should be lightly brown and firm to the touch.

 

These treats are best stored in an airtight container inside 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.

Dog Walk Energy Bites

Yet another perk of Autumn is that it brings perfect weather for dog walking (at least here in the Mid-Atlantic states). When you’re out on a nice long walk or hike it’s always good to have a few small treats in your pocket, especially if you’re still training your dog to walk properly on a leash. These little no-bake treats are great for throwing into a zip-lock bag and taking with you on your outdoor adventures. The recipe is very simple. Just remember to allow yourself enough time for the treats to firm up in the refrigerator before you head out the door.

When my dog Pacey is on a walk, he is on a mission: he doesn’t want to stop to smell the roses, he doesn’t want to be petted, and he will not take a treat. Therefore, I wasn’t able to actually get these treats genuinely taste-tested on a long walk. But my slightly overweight chihuahua really enjoyed them while hanging out on the couch at home.

Energy Bites

Dog Walk Energy Bites

Makes about 16 treats

 

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup natural peanut butter chips

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup wheat germ

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon molasses

 

1. Place the coconut, peanut butter chips, oats, and wheat germ in a bowl, and stir to combine.

2. Add the honey and molasses to the dry ingredients, stirring well until all the the dry ingredients are well-coated with the honey.

3. Use a tablespoon to take a scoop of the mixture. Use your hands to squeeze and roll the mixture into a ball. (The mixture will be very wet and sticky, so this part can be a bit messy.)

4. Arrange the treats on a tray or large plate and put them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up. The treats should then be stored in the refrigerator.

 

NOTE: A tablespoon is a good-sized scoop for most dogs. If you’ve got a little dog, you may want to make the balls slightly smaller. Try using a 1/2 tablespoon or (for really small pups) a teaspoon. This recipe makes about 48 teaspoon-sized treats.

Strawberry Oat Balls

One of my favorite things about early summer is the bounty of fresh strawberries. When I was little, we used to go once a year to a local berry farm to pick our own strawberries. Being out in the fields was such a novelty for us suburbanites, and once we’d picked what seemed like a thousand strawberries, we’d take them home and my mom would make strawberry shortcake and lots of homemade jam.

I haven’t picked berries myself yet this year, but I did pick up a bunch of delicious strawberries at a local farm market recently, so I decided to share some with our doggies. When these treats are baking, they smell very much like strawberry shortcake, and most dogs will love the sweetness of the berries and honey.

Using a teaspoon to portion the dough makes a really nice sized treat for most dogs, and the finished treats are still soft enough to break into smaller pieces if you need to for really small pups.

Strawberry Oat Balls

Makes about 72 treats

 

1 cup whole, fresh strawberries

2 tablespoons honey

1 egg

1/4 cup water

2 cups oat flour

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup oat bran

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.

3. Transfer the strawberry puree to a bowl and combine with the honey, egg, and water.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the oat flour, rice flour, and oat bran.

5. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.

6. Scoop the dough by the teaspoonful, and use your hands to roll each scoop into a ball.

7. Arrange the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake until the balls are firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

 

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

Doggie Birthday Cake

Here's the carob cake with carob-cream cheese frosting that I made to celebrate Pacey's birthday.

Here’s the carob cake with carob-cream cheese frosting that I made to celebrate Pacey’s 4th birthday–or 28th birthday if we’re counting in dog years.

Pacey turned four on Saturday (in human years), and that occasion certainly called for a very special treat. I pulled out all the stops and made him a carob-flavored birthday cake with carob-cream cheese frosting. This is one of the most extravagant dog treats I’ve made to date, and the birthday boy and his buddies absolutely LOVED it!

Honestly, the trickiest part of preparing this cake is making the frosting look neat and even, but don’t stress if it doesn’t look perfect. Remember, you are serving it to dogs after all. They’ll still love you and will still chow down on this delicious cake no matter how it looks.

If you’re ambitious (and have a really big dog), you can double the recipes below and then stack the two cakes with a layer of frosting in between. A 2-layer cake would have been way too much cake for a little dog like Pacey, so I just did one layer and only frosted the top of the cake, not the sides.

 

Doggie Birthday Cake

Makes one 8-inch round cake

 

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup honey

1 cup non-fat plain yogurt

2 cups oat flour

1/2 cup carob powder

1 tsp baking powder

 

Frosting:

8 oz low-fat cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup carob powder

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Combine the eggs, oil, honey, and yogurt in a bowl.

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

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

5. Pour the batter into a prepared 8-inch round cake pan.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 32 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

7. To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and oil in a bowl and use a mixer to beat until combined. Add the carob powder and continue mixing until smooth.

8. When the cake is completely cool, use an offset metal spatula to frost the cake with the frosting.

 

NOTE: To make the decorative icing that I used to pipe the writing onto my cake, I took out 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the frosting just before adding the carob powder. You can leave it white, as I did, or stir in a gel food coloring to dye it whatever color you’d like. Place the icing into a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip, and pipe your desired décor onto the cake.

This cake should be stored in the refrigerator.

Blondies

Blondies are bar cookies very similar to brownies, but they have a light brown color since they are prepared without any cocoa powder. Blondies are really quick and easy to prepare, so they are the perfect thing to whip up if you ever find yourself in need of treats in a hurry. Traditional people-food blondies are flavored with brown sugar and chocolate chunks, but my trusty taste-testers went crazy over this dog-friendly recipe that features carob chips and a touch of peanut butter.

These blondies are made with oats, so they are fairly crumbly. I’ve found that it’s best to cut them into the smallest pieces that you possibly can for your dog. I got 36 squares out of my 8″ x 8″ baking dish, and those pieces were still kind of big for a small dog like Pacey, so he made a bit of a mess when he was eating them. If you’ve got a tiny dog, you may even want to bake this recipe in a 9″ x 9″ pan so that the blondies are thinner and more manageable. (Just remember to adjust the baking time if you’re using a larger pan.)

 

Blondies

Makes about 36 squares

2 eggs

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup all-natural peanut butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup plain or vanilla non-fat yogurt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups oat flour

1 cup carob chips

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the eggs, honey, peanut butter, vegetable oil, and yogurt in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the baking powder with the oat flour.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture, and stir to combine.

5. Stir in the carob chips until evenly dispersed.

6. Pour the batter into an 8-inch square baking dish that has been generously sprayed with cooking spray.

7. Bake until the top is golden brown and the sides start pulling away from the pan, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

8. Once cool, use a sharp knife to cut the blondies into individual portions.

 

These treats should be stored in the refrigerator.

Banana Cookies

Just like us, individual dogs have distinct taste preferences. As you try out more and more treat recipes, you’ll get a better idea of what your dog likes and doesn’t. Banana is not a flavor popular with all dogs. I’ll be honest—Pacey isn’t a big fan. However, bananas are naturally creamy and sweet, so some dogs absolutely love them. And that creamy texture also lends itself very well to baked goods.

Bananas have nutritional benefits as well. Dogs are able to quickly metabolize the natural sugars, so bananas can offer an energy boost. Bananas also contain potassium, electrolytes, minerals, vitamin B6, and vitamin C and are fiber rich.

When you’re preparing this recipe, do not panic if the cookie dough seems wet when you’re mixing it. When I made this recipe, the dough was very moist, bordering on a batter, but when I portioned the dough (using a 2-tablespoon scoop) the cookies held together well and didn’t even spread out too much in the oven. I did press gently on the tops of the baked cookies as they came out of the oven. This flattened them out a little bit and gave them a neater appearance, but that’s completely optional. Just leave them as-is if you’re okay with a more rustic look.

 Banana Cookies

Banana Cookies

Makes about 50 cookies

 

2 cups all purpose or unbleached white flour

2 cups (uncooked) oats

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2cups natural, unsweetened applesauce

3 very ripe medium-sized bananas, mashed

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the flour, oats, and baking soda in a bowl.

3. Add the applesauce and bananas, and stir to combine.

4. Drop the dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. These cookies may spread slightly during baking, so be sure to leave about 1 inch between the drops of dough. (Optional: I like to press down gently on the top of each drop of dough to flatten the cookies out a little bit—this is purely for looks.)

5. Bake until the cookies are light brown and spongy to the touch, about 11 minutes. Turn the oven off, crack the oven door, and allow the cookies to harden for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

 

Definitely store these moist treats in the refrigerator.

Wheat-Free Pretzel Treats

There are quite a few dogs who have an allergy or intolerance to wheat, so I’ve been meaning to post a wheat-free recipe for a while. I’d like to give special thanks to Otis the Labradoodle (who is on a wheat-free diet) for giving me a friendly reminder this week.

Many of the most commonly used flours are made from ground wheat:  bleached, bread, cake, pastry, self-rising, and all-purpose, to name just a few. However, there is an increasingly wide variety of flours available that are made using other grains, nuts, legumes, or seeds. When used in baked goods, these “alternative flours” are able to provide structure in much the same way that wheat flour does.

This recipe calls for a combination of rice flour and oat flour. I used white rice flour because it tends to bake up a little lighter than brown rice flour, making the finished product less dense, but you could use the brown if you’d like. You also have a choice when it comes to the oat flour. You can buy premade oat flour (I know Bob’s Red Mill brand offers one), or you can just process rolled oats into a coarse powder at home using a food processor.

I think it’s important to take a moment here to distinguish between “wheat” and “gluten,” because I’ve heard a lot of people (erroneously) use the terms interchangeably. Wheat is a grain. Gluten is a protein. Gluten is a natural component of wheat and other grains. This recipe is wheat-free, but it is technically not considered gluten-free since oats, which are a grain that is often grown in rotation with wheat crops, may contain a very small amount of gluten via cross-contamination. If your dog has a true gluten allergy, you’ll need to buy organic oats that are specifically designated as “gluten-free” on the package.

Making this recipe with rice and oat flours, I found that I needed to work the dough quite a bit to get it to hold together enough to be twisted into the pretzel shape. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t the right texture right away—just keep kneading and squeezing it until it’s flexible enough to shape. As I picked up each individual handful of dough to roll into a log, I took another few seconds to squeeze it together before I started shaping it. With a little elbow grease eventually all the dough shaped up quite nicely. The texture of the finished pretzels is dry and crumbly, as you can see in the photo. They break rather easily, so handle these treats with care if you’re packaging them as a gift or want a really nice presentation.

This is a base recipe that you could really get creative with. I made the pretzels plain, but you could garnish them with sesame seeds, dried parsley flakes, finely grated parmesan cheese, or another dog-friendly topping. Just lightly sprinkle the topping onto each pretzel after you eggwash it for the second time. Have fun with it!

Wheat-Free Pretzel Treats

Makes about 25 pretzels

 

2 1/2 cup white rice flour

1 cup oat flour

1 egg

1 cup beef broth (be sure to buy “low sodium” if you don’t make it yourself)

 

Optional eggwash:

1 egg

1 tablespoon beef broth

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the rice and oat flours in a large bowl.

3. Add the egg and beef broth to the flours, and stir to combine. Knead the dough by hand until it holds together enough to be rolled out, about 2 minutes.

4. Take a small handful of dough and roll it into a log against the countertop. (Do not dust the surface with flour.) Ideally you want the log to be about 1/2-inch thick and 8 to 10 inches long. Twist both ends of the long inward and criss-cross to create the traditional pretzel shape. Repeat with the remainder of the dough.

5. Arrange the pretzels on a lightly greased baking sheet.

6. If using the eggwash, combine the egg and broth and whisk until just slightly foamy. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of each pretzel with the eggwash. Take care not to use too much eggwash or it will coagulate in the oven and your pretzels will look like an eggy mess.

7. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pretzels from the oven and lightly eggwash each one again. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the pretzels are dry and firm to the touch.

8. Turn the oven off, crack the oven door, and allow the pretzels to dry for about 8 hours.

 

NOTE: The eggwash may add a touch of flavor, but it is primarily used to give an attractive shine to the finished pretzels. If you prefer, it can be omitted. If you choose to omit it, simply bake the pretzels until dry and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes.

 

These treats are best stored in the refrigerator.