Christmas Tree Treats

Each year I bake dozens of Christmas cookies to deliver to my neighbors, and this year I expanded my list of recipients to include my neighbors’ dogs. I made these cute little Christmas tree dog treats, wrapped them in decorative cellophane treat bags (from a craft store), and tied each package with a ribbon. The recipe is simple and inexpensive but results in a beautiful holiday gift that is sure to be greatly appreciated. The treats are also completely natural, so you can give them in good conscience! They are wheat free, and the fresh spinach puree gives the treats a festive, dark green color and a bundle of healthy nutrients.

At first glance spinach may not seem like a flavor that is particularly dog-friendly; however, literally every dog that has ever tried my spinach flavored treats has happily gobbled them up and begged for more. Who knew? Even dogs that do not typically like to eat veggies seem to really enjoy the spinach flavor.

So, until our next blog post in the new year, See Spot Bake wishes you Yappy Howlidays, Feliz Navidog, and all of the other ridiculous dog-related yuletide sentiments! But seriously, MERRY CHRISTMAS and a YAPPY NEW YEAR to you and your pack!

ChristmasTrees

Christmas Tree Treats

Makes about 40 (1 1/2 inch) dog treats


8 oz organic spinach leaves

2 eggs

1/2 cup water

2 1/2 cups white rice flour, plus more for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Combine the spinach, eggs, and water in a blender. Blend to form a smooth puree.

3. Place the white rice flour in a mixing bowl. Slowly pour the spinach puree into the flour, stirring to combine well. Continue stirring until the mixture forms a smooth, homogenous dough.

4. On a floured countertop, roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Using a Christmas tree cookie cutter (or any other cookie cutter of your choosing), cut the treats out. Arrange the treats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The treats can be placed close together, because they will not spread during baking.

5. Bake on the middle rack for 8 minutes. Flip each of the treats over, and return to the oven to continue baking for an additional 8 minutes. Allow the treats to cool completely before serving.


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

Embossed Dog Cookies

I typically try to avoid posting any recipes that require special equipment. HOWEVER, I got an awesome embossing rolling pin this week, and the dog treats that I made using it were so pretty that I just couldn’t resist sharing the recipe with you.

You can find embossing rolling pins at specialty kitchen stores, like Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma, or online at Amazon.com or baking supply sites. But, believe it or not, an excellent place to look for embossing rolling pins is at yard sales. Yard sales (and rummage sales, flea markets, etc) often have beautiful antique rolling pins hiding amongst bins of used kitchen stuff for DIRT CHEAP. You can find some real treasures this way–as long as you don’t mind having to hunt around.

My new "dog paw" rolling pin from Humble Elephant.

My new “paw print” rolling pin from Humble Elephant.

This time I ordered my embossing rolling pin from a shop on Etsy called Humble Elephant. They offer lots of really fun, laser cut rolling pins, and they’ll even create custom designs for you. Be sure to check out Humble Elephant’s shop at www.etsy.com/shop/HumbleElephant.

Embossed cookies are deceptively impressive, because the technique actually requires very little work or skill to get a dazzling result. Once you have rolled your dough out into a thin sheet using a standard rolling pin, you simply roll the embossing rolling pin over the dough to transfer the design. You should only roll the embossing rolling pin over the dough once, because rolling back over the dough may blur or distort the design. To ensure that the design comes out perfectly on your first roll just be sure to press down very firmly with even pressure as you roll the pin.

The real key to beautifully embossed cookies is using the right dough. It’s essential that the dough be soft and not stretchy. (For human cookies, shortbread or sugar cookies work well.) When testing this recipe, it took me a couple of tries to figure out the blend of flours that would allow the embossed design to look the best on the baked dog treats. I ended up with a blend of white rice flour and oat flour. This gluten-free dough is on the delicate side, but it is still easy to work with. It rolls out nicely and cuts out easily, but you may want to use an offset spatula to help you move the cut-outs of dough to the baking sheet without distorting the shape or the embossed design.

Embossed Dog Cookies

Embossed Dog Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen (2 ½ inch) cookies

 

3/4 cup white rice flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/2 cups oat flour

3/4 cup broth (beef, chicken, fish, vegetable, your choice) or water

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the flours in a bowl.

3. Add the broth or water, and stir to combine well. Press the mixture together with your hands to form a smooth, homogenous dough.

4. On a countertop dusted well with white rice flour, roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/2 inch thick using a standard rolling pin. Next, roll your embossing rolling pin over the dough once. Be sure to press as firmly as possible to ensure that the design shows up clearly on the dough.

5. Use your desired cookie cutter to cut the dough into pieces. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (This dough is fairly soft, so you may want to use an offset metal spatula to help transfer the cookies to the baking sheet.)

6. Bake for 13 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, flip each of the cookies over, and then return them to the oven for an additional 6 to 7 minutes. The cookies should be firmly set and lightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet.

 

These treats should be stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.

 

 

Summer Berry Bars

Right now we have an abundance of fresh, local strawberries here in Gettysburg, so for the past several weeks I have been thoroughly enjoying multiple batches of strawberry shortcake. Today I very generously decided to share some of the strawberries leftover from my shortcake-a-palooza with my dog Pacey, and the result was this recipe for berry bar cookies. If you don’t have fresh strawberries, you can substitute an equal amount of blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, or use a combination of berries.

The preparation is simple, and the treats can easily be made from start to finish in less than 30 minutes. I cut the baked treats into 1-inch by 1-inch squares to suit my little dog, but you can cut the treats into pieces of any size and/or shape using a paring knife or a small cookie cutter. To keep the finished treats from crumbling too much, it’s best to cut them into pieces immediately after removing them from the oven. Just be sure to use an oven mitt or pot-holder and be extremely careful during this step, because the pan and the treats will be very hot.

Summer Berry Bars

Summer Berry Bars

Makes about 30 (1-inch by 1-inch) bars

 

1 1/2 cups whole ripe strawberries, stems and leaves removed

1/4 cup water

1 egg

2 cups oat flour

1 cup white rice flour

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Place the strawberries and water in a bowl. Use a potato masher or the back of a fork to mash the berries into very small pieces (a.k.a. mush).

3. Stir the egg into the mashed berries.

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

5. Slowly stir the flours into the wet ingredients, and continue stirring until well-combined. (The finished dough will be slightly wet but should hold together well and press easily into the pan.)

6. Press the dough into an 8-inch by 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper, making sure that the sheet of dough is of an even thickness.

7. Bake until firm to the touch and baked through, 18 to 20 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the oven, and use a sharp paring knife to cut the bars into pieces.

9. Allow the bars to cool completely before removing them from the pan and serving.

 

These treats should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Cat Treats

I feel like recently I have been inundated with people asking me if I will make CAT treats. I shouldn’t really be surprised that “crazy cat people” want to pamper their pets as much as we “crazy dog people” but, being a true crazy dog person, I guess I hadn’t really thought much about cat treats before. So, by popular demand, here is my first cat treat recipe.

These treats only have three ingredients but are packed with fishy flavor. Since this is my first attempt I wanted to stick to a flavor that is fairly universally loved by cats, but I don’t relish the messiness of working with raw seafood, so I decided to use freeze-dried ocean whitefish. I really like PureBites brand, and I have found it to be readily available in my local pet stores. Whatever brand you choose to use, just be sure that the only ingredient listed on the package is fish. You could also easily substitute an equal amount of a different freeze-dried seafood or meat (like shrimp, chicken, or turkey) in this recipe without a problem.

The kitty taste-testers that I sent my treats to may disagree, but I suspect that the cookie cutter that I used was a little too large for cat-sized mouths. It is about 1 inch long and 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide. You will probably want to use a smaller sized cutter, but remember that that will increase the yield that is listed below.

 Cat Treats

Cat Treats

Makes about 100 (1-inch) treats

 

About 1/2 oz freeze-dried whitefish, or as needed

3 cups brown rice flour

1 1/2 cups water

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the freeze-dried whitefish in a blender or food processor, and process it into a fine powder. Transfer 1/2 cup of the powder in a mixing bowl. Store the remainder of the powder in an airtight container for later use.

3. Add the rice flour to the whitefish powder, and stir to combine.

4. Add the water to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine, and then continue kneading the mixture by hand until it forms a smooth dough.

5. Lightly dust the countertop with rice flour, and roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Use your desired cutter to cut the dough into pieces. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet.

6. Bake until the treats are firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. If desired, flip the treats over halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning.

 

Note:

I used two small (0.28 oz) bags of PureBites Ocean Whitefish Cat Treats in order to grind the necessary 1/2 cup of powder.

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.

Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies

With Mother’s Day just a few days away, I’ve been thinking about all of the wonderful memories that I have of baking with my mom when I was growing up. She is a very talented baker and was the one who inspired me to go to culinary school to study baking and pastry arts. When I was still too little to handle cracking eggs or measuring flour, I remember my mom letting me use a fork to make the crisscrosses on top of the peanut butter cookies. I was always so excited to be able to help, and it was so gratifying to make each crisscross look just so—an early sign of my tendency toward obsessive organization I guess.

These tasty dog treats look just like their human-cookie counterparts but are natural, gluten-free, and wheat-free. I made this recipe for Pacey today, and I have to admit that it was still a treat for me to get to make the crisscrosses.

Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

 

1/2 cup natural, unsalted peanut butter

1/2 cup water

1 large egg

2 cups brown rice flour

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the peanut butter, water, and egg in a bowl and stir well to combine.

3. Add the flour in two additions, stirring well after each addition.

4. Use your hands to press the mixture together until it forms a smooth, homogenous dough.

5. Use a tablespoon to scoop the dough into portions. Roll each scoop into a ball, and arrange the balls of dough on an ungreased baking sheet.

6. Lightly press the tines of a fork on the top of each ball of dough, flattening the ball into a cookie shape and creating a pattern of parallel lines on top. Turn the fork 90 degrees, and press the tines into the dough once again to form a crisscross pattern on top of each cookie.

7. Bake until the edges are golden brown, about 21 minutes. When done baking, turn the oven off, leave the cookies inside the oven with the door cracked, and allow the cookies to dry out for about 2 hours.

 

These treats may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

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.

Tuna Fish Biscuits

Tuna is a very lean protein that is chock full of vitamins and minerals. It’s a good source of B3, B6 and B12, folic acid, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial to your dog, because they support joint mobility, improve the skin and coat, and promote heart and kidney health.

Please note that tuna is only healthy for your dog if it has been cooked. (No doggie sushi!) Never, never feed your dog raw tuna.  Certain types of raw fish, including tuna and salmon, can contain a parasite that causes a potentially fatal disease in dogs known as “salmon poisoning.” For your faithful friend, always stick to thoroughly cooked tuna steaks or canned tuna. When it comes to canned tuna, you should opt for light tuna rather than albacore, because light tuna contains a lower level of mercury. And to keep the fat content to a minimum, be sure to choose tuna packed in water rather than oil.

One additional warning: every dog that has tried these treats has gone completely CRAZY over them! Be prepared for lots of whining and begging for more–even from the most finicky eaters.

Tuna Fish Biscuits

Makes about 80 (1-inch) biscuits

 

1 (5-ounce) can chunk light tuna in water

1 egg

1/2 cup water

1 cup cornmeal, plus more as needed for dusting

1 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup oat bran

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the tuna along with all the water and juices into the bowl of a food processor. Process into a puree.

3. Transfer the tuna puree to a bowl, and add the egg and water.

4. Add the cornmeal, rice flour, and oat bran, and stir to combine. Use your hands to knead the mixture into a smooth dough.

5. On a lightly dusted countertop, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/2-inch thick. (This dough is not very flexible, so you won’t be able to roll it out very thinly.) Cut the dough out into pieces using your desired cookie cutter, and arrange the treats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake until the treats feel firm to the touch, about 18 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the biscuits to dry out inside the oven for about 2 hours.

 

These treats must be stored 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.