Saturday, August 4, 2018

Let’s blame the puppy…

So I know I haven’t posted a recipe in a while…and if you’ve been following my Instagram feed, you already know that last October, we got a puppy—a pure-bred Siberian Husky we named Pilot.

Yes, I made that bow tie
The original plan was to get a puppy when Presley got a little older, you know, so Jesse would still have a brother when Presley passed away (Dogs live, dogs die—it’s a fact of life. Rob’s philosophy: you get them for 10-12 years, make the most of it, but you have to let them go eventually--it's part of it); and since I knew it was going to happen eventually, I was kind of puppy crazed for a while. While I wanted a puppy-puppy, Rob wanted an older puppy—one halfway housetrained and on its way to becoming a good dog—his age range was 6 months to two years.

This led us to a 6 month old bloodhound we found on Craigslist for free. He was so beautiful and sweet when we met his owner in the Little Caesar’s parking lot; and he got on just fine with Presley as we brought him to gauge how this dog did with other dogs (Jesse tends to not like any dogs at first, so Presley was a natural choice—however, Presley is such a pushover—most dogs like him anyway, so it’s a catch 22, really). We knew he had a “pre-existing condition” which was food aggression; and the previous owner had disclosed the condition—but not the extent.

Rob was confident that such a sweet dog could be corrected—most dogs are a little food aggressive, I know my childhood dog was (a peke-a-poo who came to mid-shin). Also, Jesse—our husky-wolf mix (#lowcontentwolfdog, #yellowdogjesse)—was very food aggressive as a 4-month old puppy who’d been born in a culvert and had lived outside with his siblings and his ½ wolf mother; but Jesse is totally pleasant at meal times. Food Aggression isn’t incurable, but it takes work. Once we realized that this wasn’t a small problem, we set about to do some research and try to overcome it.

However, whenever there was food present, our sweet, adorable bloodhound puppy turned into a vicious, snarling terrorist who was anything but pleasant. Since we knew about the problem, we worked to correct it using “positive” techniques which got me lunged at multiple times when my hand moved the wrong way and got Rob attacked two or three times. Meal times were not peaceful—we did not feed the new dog with the other boys—nor did we allow our other dogs near the bloodhound when food was present. We were afraid he’d go after one of the other dogs and hurt them; and after 6 days with no improvement, we had to send him off to a new home.

I don’t regret sending that dog away—but I’m not fond of talking about it. We tried, we researched, nothing worked, and the longer he was with us the more we realized that he was not a people-pleasing dog (which is kind of odd for the breed).I’m not ashamed to say I failed. He went to become a hunting dog for a very nice family who lived in the country—pictures of Rob’s bloody arm were shown and strong cautions given (they had a toddler); and I stopped dreading coming home—it was a stressful week.

It cured my puppy fever; but solidified my wish for an actual puppy—I didn’t want to inherit anyone else’s bad training or failings. No, whatever dog I got, I wanted to know where his behaviors came from; and if my dog turned out to be a complete psychotic asshole, there would be no one to blame but myself. Once bitten, twice shy.

Puppies were the furthest thing from my mind—due to the bloodhound and other reasons—when Rob came home that fateful night in October to tell me that one of his client’s (a dog breeder) had had a “whoops” batch of pure-bred Siberian Husky puppies, was offering them at a “discount” because she knew them (and because they didn’t have the right coloring or movement), and one of his co-workers was going to look at them that night. Despite the fact that it was over 30 minutes away, Rob coordinated with his co-worker and agreed to go see these “defective” puppies. We discussed it in the abstract on the way to her house—we did not have to leave there with a puppy to be happy.

Well, we get there and there’s four little fluff balls tumbling around this woman’s living room; and it quickly became not a question of if we’re getting a puppy but which puppy we’re going to get. Truth be told, I wanted the one his co-worker had settled on—he had the most “classic” husky markings and was the most outgoing; and my second pick was his sister—who was also what I thought a husky should look like and was also very friendly. We ended up getting one of the shiest ones who was
looked like a possum who was so ugly that he was kind of cute.

The bitches (scientific term, btw) were ruled out because (bitches be trippin’) Rob has an aversion to having to find doggy tampons (and yes, I know there’s no such thing; but it’s something to consider with a female dog until you get her fixed) and he thought that girl dogs were harder to potty train.

No, we’re an all male household; and adding another boy just seemed right—plus, the only dog Jesse has ever gotten down with his teeth to her neck was Rob’s brother’s female boxer mix; and while she was being a real bitch (yes, I’m chuckling…maybe I am still just a 12-year old boy at heart) at the time, it made me wonder if he just doesn’t dig the ladies. At the end of the day, we knew this was going to be a real life change for all of us and figured another male was going to be the best fit.

Jesse was curious about the new addition, Presley basically ignored him. I half considered naming him the same thing as the bloodhound (the name that will not be revealed was fairly epic); but new dog, new name. We settled on Pilot, and Rob added Possum as a middle name—and yes, we
hyphenated the last name (not really, he just has Rob’s last name as we wanted him to blend with the other boys). All was peachy, and we were basking in the cuteness which is a 9-week old puppy.

However, now, we’re going to get into why I haven’t blogged in a while—Puppies are a hell of a lot of work. We had to transition him to a new food while working to ensure that he would never be food aggressive (a process during which I was almost certain I was going to make him food aggressive—but he’s not…he’s just like the other boys at meal times: pet-able, correctable, and respectful—albeit far more vocal and slightly stubborn).

Then while transitioning him off his breeder’s food and onto one more in line with what we feed the other boys, he developed what we thought was a common issue—loose stool (which is putting it mildly—watery, disgusting stool would be more appropriate); and when it didn’t self-correct, we consulted our vet who had us bring a sample of his stool (i.e. a spoonful of his watery shit in a plastic baggy) in for testing.

He was treated for parasites and a bacterial infection that I can’t readily remember. It didn’t clear up. More baggies of poop, more tests, more de-wormer. It didn’t clear up. More baggies of poop, more tests, more de-wormer, and a prescription low-fiber food. It didn’t clear up. More poop baggies, more tests, more de-wormer—for good measure, and a high-fiber prescription food.

Pilot had a fiber sensitivity…and yes, I can say had because he’s out grown it now. He now eats what the other boys eat, and his poop has never looked better (and yes, we do still check).

Pilot's Feeder
And all that was just his poop issue.

None of that included his shots, or getting him neutered and microchiped (or the four hours I waited at the Human Society to do so before deciding that saving 20 dollars wasn't worth it and scheduling an appointment with our regular vet). None of that included his potty training, his obedience training, or his constant shedding—which is different and far more extensive than his wolf-mix brother’s (we finally found a slicker brush does the best job, but it still just kind of falls out in clumps when it
wants to—dog hair is a reality we cannot escape).

Jesse's Feeder

None of that includes the play time, the exercise, the fight with Amazon when they practically refused to deliver the toy I’d ordered for him and instead kept sending me some Lego-like dog model. None of that includes the socialization with people and other dogs, the trips to the park, the fencing of the back yard. None of that includes designing and building him an elevated dog feeder so he could feel like a big dog with the other boys...or the designing and building of new elevated dog bows for the other two dogs as their existing feeders looked really shabby.
Presley's Feeder
None of that includes the breaking of peeing outside his crate (yes, the little bastard figured out quickly that he didn’t want to sit in his own pee and that the crate had bars from which he could pee on the bed and subsequently the walls—Siberian Huskies are not dumb dogs, but they are hella stubborn). Oh, and let’s not forget our full-time gainful employment and our two other dogs.

Again, puppies are a lot of work; and his saving graces are that he’s sweet as he can be when he wants and is as cute as hell with his constant mischievous eyes and expressions—he outgrew the possum look within a month or two, and is now a gorgeous example of his breed (his mother, father, and grandparents are show dogs, after all). Oh, and let’s not forget all the time it takes to take pictures of your new puppy…and your other furbabies… you can’t forget that.

It’s been a time consuming journey; and as he just turned one on August 1, 2018, it’s not even close to being done. While Rob still has misgivings over raising a puppy (he loves the little devil as much as I do, don’t let him fool you), he admits that he’s happy with Pilot’s progress—although I’m fairly hopeless when it comes to discipline or correcting the cuter negative behaviors. I don’t regret or dread coming home and am happy to have another furbaby; and while treats have been made and consumed over the past however long it’s been, I just don’t blog like I used to.

In honor of my Pilot Possum turning 1, I did create a special treat for the occasion; and when a friend asked for the recipe, I typed it up and decided to post it here as well. It will follow.

Pineapple Upside Down Pupcakes

Preheat oven to 350

3 whole cherries, pitted, cut in half
1 8 oz can pineapple tidbits (drained with the juice reserved)
Coconut oil for brushing pan
Dollop of honey in each of 6 cupcake/muffin tins

Prepare cupcake/muffin pan by brushing about 1tsp coconut oil into each of 6 cups-be sure to brush the sides, but most of it will drip down into the cup. Put small squeeze of honey in the bottom of each cup... just like a nickel size and place the cherry cut side up on the honey drizzle. Sprinkle the pineapple around the cherry and set the pan aside while you prepare the batter.
1 tbs ground flax seeds
3 tbs reserved pineapple juice, water or low sodium chicken stock

Mix together and set aside for about 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so

1 medium ripe banana mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 can salmon in water drained and rinsed
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock or water
1 tbs ground flax seeds
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Mash banana well and mix with coconut oil and remaining dry flax seed. The mix in flax seed pineapple juice mixture until well combined. Add in salmon and chicken stock and mix well. Add in flours and baking powder and soda and mix until just incorporated.

Drop by spoonfuls into prepared baking cups until just to top of cups. I had some extra which I made into mini muffins without the pineapple.

Put in the pre-heated oven and bake until a toothpick comes out clean about 17-18 minutes for the full sized cupcakes. About 12 minutes for the mini cupcakes.

Most of the ingredients in these pupcakes should be familiar to you if you’ve read my other posts. In moderation, pineapple is a wonderful fruit for your four-legged friend to enjoy; and while fresh is always best (FYI; the fibrous core makes a fairly healthy chew “bone” that your dog will probably love), we can be real for a moment and acknowledge how much of a pain it can be to chop up a pineapple—just buy a can of pineapple packed in water or 100% juice and drain it, I can’t judge you since that’s what I did. Also, you’ll want to remember how sweet pineapple is and that your dogs will think it’s at least 100% sweeter than you; so use it sparingly when decorating the tops of your pupcakes.
When giving cherries or any other stone fruit to your pets, it’s important to acknowledge that the reason they’re generally not recommended for dogs is that the pits are the problem. Be sure to pit your cherries prior to feeding them to your pets and before using them in this recipe; and while I was “lenient” on the pineapple front, you should use fresh or frozen cherries in this recipe not the red-dye soaked ones you find packed in syrup and use on your banana splits.

Cherries are good for you, and there’s something somewhat satisfying about spitting the pits if you eat them yourself. FYI: if you don’t own a cherry pitter, you’ll want to visit your local Chinese-food restaurant and pick up a pair of chopsticks—you can poke the cherry with it (yes, I’m guessing that will be a mess), but I’ve read it will extract the pit (yes, I own a cherry pitter that I purchased from Bed, Bath, and Beyond in my early days of dating Rob in an attempt to wow him with a homemade cherry pie—and ummm…it is kind of impressive just to say).

As with all of my recipes, this one is somewhat flexible. If you don’t have or want to get ground flaxseeds, just an egg or add another banana or substitute applesauce. If you don’t have a banana, use an egg or applesauce. If you have no eggs, bananas, applesauce, or flaxseeds, don’t make this recipe—I’m only half serious…umm…let me think…mayonnaise can be used in place of eggs—but I used the flax seeds instead of the eggs to lower the cholesterol and fat content which mayo doesn’t do…buy a couple bananas—they’re good for a lot of dog treats.

If you don’t have stock, you can use the drained pineapple juice or water—I’d lean toward the water as the pineapple juice will add a lot of sugar; but they’re your dogs, make them hyper if you want. In the case of flours, all whole wheat or all white flour can be used—if you go the all whole wheat route, you’ll want to increase the leavening and maybe add a few tablespoons more water—whole wheat flour tends to suck up moisture. And if you’re trying to be gluten free, you can sub your gf all purpose flour blend; but remember, xantham gum, a common ingredient in most off the shelf gluten free flour blends, is probably worse for your dog than the gluten.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year’s Resolution Cookies

Okay, most people’s New Year’s Resolutions almost always include “Lose weight” or “eat healthier” which can be a problem if you’re a baker or you’re accustomed to eating sweet treats; however, I think this cookie recipe will tick off both of those boxes. I mean, with the oatmeal and the pepitas, it’s basically a granola in a cookie; and with the brown sugar, applesauce and honey, they’re also sweet which will help you with those sweet cravings. Then there are chocolate chips which make everything better.

Yes, these are for human consumption—for a change. I made these yesterday afternoon… Well, I’ve had two sticks of butter sitting out for the past two days in an attempt to get them to room temperature. My intention was to make traditional chocolate chip cookies; and I set out to do just that but got to thinking that I could make a much healthier version. Plus, I wanted Rob to think that these kind of cookies were what he has to look forward to for 2017…sometimes it’s fun to make him worry—especially when sweets are involved.

The interesting part is the dichotomy that exists between my dog treat and regular baking because making cookies healthy is what I do when making dog treats but not something I even try to attempt when making “treats” for myself or Rob. Often when I make dog treats, I look to strip a recipe to it’s healthy core and make it “cleaner”. In dog treat baking, I stray away from things like refined sugars and animal-based fats; so I decided to do so here and since it’s been a minute since I posted anything (we’re overstocked on dog treats at the moment due to my Christmas baking—which I’ll post before this—but write after), I figured I’d work this recipe up and share it.

When baking these treats, I found a traditional recipe for oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies and halved it since I was worried about how they would turn out and didn’t want a bunch of goopy, gross cookies on my hands. Then I went about altering its ingredients as I would if I were stripping it to make dog treats. These cookies use a lot of my dog treat staples; and I think this is a great recipe to highlight that if you’ve invested in them for your four-legged friends then you should be able to use them to make your own life healthier—there’s nothing wrong with getting the most out of your purchase.

The first thing I did was to mix the ground flaxseeds (1 Tablespoon) with the water (three tablespoons) to make the egg; and I continued to stir mine with a fork during the five minute sitting period. The mixture got slimy and cohesive after the five minute point, so I don’t think there’s a way to speed that part up. On the other hand, I don’t see the harm if you let it go longer—the flaxseeds would continue to absorb the water and get even more egg-like. If you don’t have flaxseeds, ground cha-cha-cha chia seeds will do the same (a simple google search will give you the ratios); or you can use 1 medium mashed banana…or just use the egg—it won’t kill you.

Flaxseeds add a nutty flavor, have omega three fatty acids, and add fiber; and I used a bit more later in the recipe—so you’ll need three tablespoons total: one for the egg, and the other two as an additive. When halving the ingredients, I ended up needing an odd amount of flour; so I added the flaxseeds to avoid calling for ½ cup plus two tablespoons of flour.

Now, Coconut oil and applesauce stand in for butter; and since coconut oil is solid at room temperature like butter, it works out on a 1-to-1 ratio. Applesauce is a great way to cut fat in a recipe as it can also be substituted for fats or eggs in baked goods. Keep in mind that applesauce will add moisture where other fats won’t—so if you’re adapting your own recipe, you may need to counterbalance that with added flour, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, or additional oats.

Pepitas are the hulled inner seed of pumpkin seeds. Many natural-food markets sell these roasted and unsalted in bulk; and I certainly use them a nut substitute in my dog treat recipes. I used them here since I have them on hand, and they’re super healthy while adding a nice crunch to the texture. If you don’t have them or want to get them, add your favorite nut or omit them altogether.

Now, since we don’t get the flavor of butter, I added the cinnamon and cardamom to kind of help fill the void. I didn’t actually taste either of them directly; but I’d like to think they help round things out. With oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon isn’t really called for; but I thought it might be a good addition. Cardamom tends to be kind of expensive if you buy it in the store, and I found mine in bulk at my local natural market. It’s a powerful spice, so use it sparingly—it can easily overwhelm if you use too much.

Once baked, these cookies turned out slightly crispy on the outside with a soft, moist interior; and the chocolate chips give you just enough of a treat to almost trick you into forgetting all the healthy ingredients in these cookies. I hope you try these, I hope you love these, and I hope I’ve given you a few hints on how to adapt your own favorite recipes and make them a bit healthier. Just for the sake of posterity, I made no New Year’s Resolutions and am not going to be going through my recipe box switching things around; however, I have snuck in whole-wheat flour to two different recipes over the holidays with outstanding results—Rob didn’t even know it was there. 

New Year’s Resolution Cookies

¼ Cup Coconut Oil
½ Cup Packed Brown Sugar
¼ Cup Honey
¼ Cup Unsweetened, Natural Applesauce
1 flaxseed “egg”*
½ Tsp salt
1 tsp Vanilla
¼ tsp Ground Cardamom (optional)
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon (optional)
2 Tbs Ground Flaxseed
1 ½ Cups Quick-Cooking Oats
½ Cup All-Purpose Flour
¼ tsp Baking Soda
½ Cup Pepitas
½ Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

*(1 Tbs ground flaxseed + 3 Tbs Water, combine in a bowl and let sit 5+ min stirring occasionally)

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together coconut oil, brown sugar, and honey until smooth. Add applesauce and flaxseed-egg mixture and combine. Next add salt, vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, ground flaxseed and mix scrapping down the sides as necessary. Add Oats and continue mixing.

Remove mixer and add remaining ingredients (flour, baking soda, pepitas, and chocolate chips) and finish mixing using a spatula or spoon. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While cookies are chilling, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare baking sheet using silpat, baking spray, or parchment. Once oven is to temperature and mixture is chilled, drop by spoonfuls or by using a cookie scoop onto baking sheet leaving two finger-widths between cookies. Bake for 13-15 minutes until set. Cookies will be golden brown in color.

Let cook for 2-3 minutes on pan and remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

Christmas “Cookie” Dog Treats

Okay, I know this is late…and just so you know, I’m not a bad doggy dad—I’m just a bad blogger. I made these the week before Christmas; but with the holidays I couldn’t get them posted. Then after Christmas, I had to get prepped for New Year’s which we spent with Rob’s family in Bonne Terre—like last year…and then I had to take the Christmas decorations down, etc…again, I’m a bad blogger.

These three treat recipes were all fun to make, and there’s enough to share/exchange with your fellow doggy parents. The Red-quinoa and green pepitas muffins were meant to imitate the colors of Christmas; however, the turmeric turned these gluten-free treats orange. Then we have the traditional gingerbread cutout cookies which will let you get as fun and festive as you want when you chose your cookie cutters. Lastly, we have red and green Carob-chip treats which get into the Christmas spirit as you divide the dough to color red and green with beet root and spirulina powders.

FYI: spirulina powder makes me sneeze. Like after I added it to the half I was turning green, I went on a 15 minute sneezing fit which included going outside and blowing my nose. It was a fun part of the baking experience. And the powders are optional—omit them if you don’t want a festive treat.

Caution: Turmeric can stain white dishes, sinks, or cookware. Use caution unless you want everything you own to gain an orangeish tinge.

Also, I’ve called for a new ingredient (or at least one I’ve never used before) in the muffin recipe below—Brewer’s Yeast. Brewer’s Yeast is a byproduct of beer making and smells faintly of beer but not the same as
Nutritional Yeast which is generally used by vegans to add a cheese flavor to different dishes. From what I’ve read, Brewer’s Yeast has several health benefits and my dogs were greatly intrigued by the smell (I opened the jar and let them sniff).

Overall, all of these treats were well received by my boys; but the gingerbread was the clear favorite amongst those treats we shared with the Red & Green Quinoa Muffins being favored by the boys at home and amongst a few of our other dog friends. All of these treats freeze wonderfully but will definitely yield enough of each to share.
2016 Christmas Picture

Red & Green (but really orange) Muffins

½ cup raw red quinoa (prepared according to package directions)
240 grams gluten-free baking mix
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup brewer’s yeast
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tsp agar agar
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup water

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare mini-muffin pan by spraying with non-stick spray (I recommend coconut oil spray).

Prepare and cool your red quinoa according to the package directions.

Combine the dry ingredients and whisk together in a separate small bowl.

Beat the eggs and applesauce before adding rest of the ingredients and mixing until well combined. Add cooled quinoa and fold into other ingredients. Once quinoa is incorporated, add dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

Dish into prepared mini-muffin pan until cups are ¾ full and bake for 15-20 minutes (a tooth pick inserted should come out clean). Yields 43 mini-muffin treats.

Gingerbread Dog Treats

1 egg
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup molasses (black strap preferred)
½ cup coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
2 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup ground flaxseeds
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare cookie sheet by spraying lightly with cooking spray or by covering with parchment or silpat.

Beat egg, applesauce, and molasses. Add melted coconut oil, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon and mix until well combined. Add flaxseeds, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour and baking powder and mix until a still dough forms and you can no longer see any dry flour.

Chill dough for 10 to 30 minutes before flouring rolling surface and rolling out to ¼ to ½ inch thickness. Flour cookie cutters and cut shapes rerolling as needed. Place on cookie sheet leaving only a nominal amount of space between treats and bake for 10-15 minutes depending on how firm you’d like your treats.

Yield depends on size and shape of treat you choose to make.

Red & Green Carob-Chip Cookies

2 ripe, medium-sized bananas
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 ½ tsp vanilla
¾ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
½ cup carob chips
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

To color;
2 tsp spirulina powder
2 tsp Beet Root powder

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit, prepare baking sheets by spraying with cooking spray or by covering in parchment or silpats.

Mash bananas until barely any lumps remain. Continue to mash lumps with the back of a spoon or spatula as you add the remaining ingredients (except coloring powders) one at a time until everything is mixed.

Once dough is formed, divide between two bowls. In one bowl, add spirulina and mix until the green powder colors the mixture. In the other bowl, repeat process using the beat root powder.

Drop colored dough using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop onto baking sheets leaving approximately two fingers width between to prevent spreading. Then bake for approximately 10 minutes. Treat will be lightly golden around the edges and feel somewhat set.