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. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

About the Recipe: Pup-kin Oatmeal Muffin Treats

Please forgive the pun… it’s not meant to be pandering, exactly; but I’ve got to be sure to reach my target audience. And yes, I know pup-kin isn’t terribly original as far as puns go; however, I couldn’t figure out a way to alter the word muffin to imply they were made specifically for dogs.

Also, I know I’d previously implied, slightly, that November was going to be dedicated to the sweet potato (and you’ll have to forgive me for waiting a week to post this—as it’s now December); but I didn’t have a sweet potato nor did I want to buy one. For this recipe, I was very opportunistic with my ingredients overall; and I did have another partial can of pumpkin puree setting in my fridge just itching to get used. Of course, a cooked, mashed and cooled sweet potato could be substituted easily and would work out just as well if you have an extra one of those lying around from your Thanksgiving Day cooking.

My Thanksgiving Day went well; and I made a couple of chocolate-meringue pies and cranberry sauce for my pot-luck, extended-family gathering on Thursday. Then as is our tradition, my mom and I went shopping afterward; and since we didn’t get home until almost 8 am Friday morning, I ended up sleeping there until later that afternoon when I helped put up her Christmas tree. If you’re thinking I’m a dutiful son, please hold your praise—I hate doing it and complained about it the entire time…now, if you think I’m heartless since I’m complaining about doing something nice for my mom, you’ve never seen her tree—it’s old school and a pain in the ass to put up, which is why she doesn’t put it up herself. Also, she didn’t help me at all with my two trees—both totaling 7 feet of tree—and she has three grandchildren that should have helped her anyway—but oh no, they have to think it’s magic how her house get decorated...

But I digress…

All in all, these treats are a lot like my Great Pumpkin DogTreats (and I’m kinda kicking myself for not using that same pup-kin pun with that one) only these were made using my trusty mini-muffin pan; and since I bought it especially for my sweet-potato pie treats, I was happy to find another use for it. All in all, I think it’s going to come in handy as it’s also almost the perfect size for a bite-sized indulgence for my boys. Plus, you know I do like to have variety with my dog treat recipes and mini-muffins are a new one for me.

In case you’re new to baking, a scant cup translates to just under 1 full cup—which is what’s left of a can of pumpkin if you had another recipe which called for 1 cup of pumpkin; and again, these treats are a great way to use that little left over bit from another recipe. Pumpkin is perfectly safe and fairly healthy for dogs, and I’ve talked about that several times. In fact, I’ve talked about all of these ingredients before, what they do, how they’re good for your pets, and why they’re being used in my treats—especially the usual suspects: oats, whole-wheat flour, unsweetened applesauce, and olive oil.

Olive oil was used because I didn’t have enough coconut oil, but that would be my substitution to offer there. You know, when trying to find a fat for a recipe—because fats do effect the texture and moisture of a baked good—it’s essential to find one that not only serves its purpose but also brings something else to the table; and olive oil is not only heart-healthy but can also help with weight loss and make your pet’s coat shiny and healthy. Like coconut oil, it can also be added to your pet’s diet to help with dry skin.

Presley faithfully waiting for dog treats
 Oats are a great, heart-healthy grain that add a nice texture and do double duty as an ingredient in the treat and for the topping. Since they’re mostly neutral in flavor, they blend well in almost any baked good. Truth be told, I use them mostly for their wholesome looks; but they’re really useful for more than that.

 Also, I’d like to note that when I say unsweetened applesauce I don’t mean sugar-free. Unlike sugar-free options, unsweetened applesauce is a healthy, natural option which contains no added sugars, no added high-fructose corn syrup, and no artificial sweeteners—which are things you’ll want to stay away from when baking for your four-legged friends. Artificial sweeteners can actually adversely affect your dog’s blood sugar levels and can lead to a scary situation. 

If you’ve reviewed this recipe, you’ll see that I’ve used not only used whole-wheat flour, as per usual, but also white or all-purpose flour. While wheat flour is healthier, all-purpose flour yields a more appetizing treat. As I talked about with my gluten-free treat recipes, different flours behave differently; and all-purpose flour is the gold standard, so to speak, when making baked goods for human consumption. Whole-wheat flour is heavier than all-purpose flour and tends to yield gummy and denser baked goods when used alone; and to overcome that, I’ve added a bit of white flour.

You can use all whole-wheat or all white flour; but know that whole wheat flour is the healthier option. With that being said, the little bit of white flour doesn’t necessarily make these any less healthy—after all, all-purpose flour isn’t the devil…Sometimes, it’s important to balance your expectations with what’s best for your pets. Both of my dogs are larger dogs (80+ lbs each) and only get treats as an additional part to an overall, fairly healthy diet. At any rate, I wanted these to be as close as possible—just far healthier—to a muffin I would eat; and the oats are actually going to prevent a lot of the gumminess if you go the entirely whole-wheat route.

Now, onto the spice mix—cinnamon, ginger, and cloves—all of which are common in fall baking; and I’ve used and talked about them before. These are interchangeable and can be adjusted based on availability and or preference. If you don’t have some of them, just adjust the others. When thinking about fall spices, nutmeg is a favorite of mine; but I’d steer you clear of nutmeg as it’s not as pet friendly.

One of the new ingredients in this recipe comes in the topping. Now, as per usual, the topping is totally option; but I think it elevates this treat in a great way. You simply combine molasses with the oats until fully coated then sprinkle on the treats with a few pepitas—it doesn’t get much easier than that. Molasses is a derivative of the sugar refining process and is commonly used in things like gingerbread and animal feed (like horse feed). It’s mildly sweet with a somewhat complex flavor and perfectly safe for your dog to ingest—in moderation of course. It is sweet and should only be used sparingly. My boys quite enjoy the flavor.

If molasses isn’t something you’d be likely to purchase, substitute honey or sorghum one for one instead. If it’s something you’re considering purchasing, go for a blackstrap variety as it will contain more trace minerals and end up being slightly healthier overall; but don’t stress, either variety will work as well. I liked the look and the added sweetness to the topping; and it’s a way for me to start to transition into my Christmas dog treats.

The prep for this recipe is as simple as mix and bake. I filled the muffin tins to about ¾ full and added a few pepitas on top before sprinkling on a bit of the molasses and oats. You may want to press it down a bit into the batter to help it stick better; but the treats should rise slightly around the topping anyway. Mine baked for 12 minutes when they were firm but springy to the touch; and yes, a toothpick inserted should come out clean.
Let them cool in the pan slightly—like 5 minutes—before removing them; and again, an offset spatula will be your best friend in this process. You can serve them to your dogs warm, room temperature, or chilled; but I’d let them cool completely prior to considering a storage solution. As with most of my dog treat recipes, I’d suggest the refrigerator for your immediate needs and then the freezer for longer-term preservation. I put mine in zip-top baggies in a single layer (12 fit fairly well in a quart-sized bag); kept 12 in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

Overall, these treats look just like a fancy muffin you’d buy from a bakery; and again, this was one of the simplest recipes to make and smells amazing when baking. The pepitas give homage to the pumpkin contained within and the oat/molasses topping add a bit of crunch and further the visual interest. Thanks to the oats and all-purpose flour, the interior is soft and moist with a wonderful crumb. They seriously
look good enough to tempt almost anyone.

If you make this or any of my other treats, please feel free to share them with me via the social media links to the top right or via email; and also, don’t be shy if you have questions. As always, the actual recipe will follow below (or click here); and be sure to follow Jesse on Twitter @ Jdawg_yellow

Thanks for reading!!