Sunday, August 7, 2016

About the Recipe: Mean, Green, Bad-Breath-Fighting Treats

Waiting for Baked Goods

This recipe was really fun and easy to make; and if you’re looking for a way to start baking for your furbaby, this is a great treat recipe to start you on that journey. It’s one bowl—no mixer or special tools required, and very forgiving in its measures and baking time. Plus, the ingredients are forgiving and interchangeable. As you’ll see if you keep reading, if you don’t have or want to mess with fresh herbs, you can swap out for dried; and feel free to change out the flours if you’d like. 

These treats are not really mean…However, they are green; and with a healthy dose of mint, they will fight your pooch’s bad (or questionably smelling) breath guaranteed. Well, they do my dogs’ breath, anyway—or at least Presley’s. 

Of my two furbabies, Presley (the black labradoodle) is really the only one who gets bad breath or ever smells like a dog. We’ve theorized that there’s something in Jesse’s ¼ wolf-heritage that keeps his breath neutral and his fur fresh and clean; and while he probably sheds so much that his fur simply doesn’t have a chance to get smelly—it’s constant and worse in spring and fall, there’s nothing else to really explain the breath. 

However, poor Presley needs all the help he can get (even when he doesn’t try to eat excrement in the yard); and before you start chiding me about catering yet again to just one of my dogs, Jesse will get some of these treats as well—and like them all the same (this isn’t my first time making “breath busting” treats, just FYI). Both boys seem to enjoy mint and minty treats.

If you search for breath freshening ingredients or look over the ingredients of that kind of treat in the store, you’ll find that mint is a prevalent component. Luckily for me, I happened to have planted two varieties of mint this year in my garden (sweet mint and peppermint); and although I didn’t plant them with these treats in mind, it did save me a trip to the supermarket. Also, I feel that I should tell you, just for the sake of posterity, that I didn’t plant those things to make you feel like less of a pet parent, either—I’m not all that ambitious as a gardener and have sort of left them to their own devices since I planted them.

In addition to the mint, parsley also helps freshen dog breath; and fortunately, I also happened to have planted a variety of that herb (peat pot herbs were 3 for 10 at the home improvement stores in my area several times during the planting season). 

Now, if you looked over the recipe, you’ll notice that I also included Lemon Balm; and while it has many wonderfully positive properties (topically, it can help soothe itching and even cold sores; and when ingested, it has a calming effect), it’s not all that renowned for its breath fighting abilities despite it being a cousin to mint. I included it because I had it; and I planted it because I love to pick the leaves and eat them while I’m walking through the garden (or at least I did before Rob sprayed it with bug spray—yes, I washed all of my herbs thoroughly before using them…and they were sprayed weeks ago). 

Lemon Balm really does have a wonderful lemony flavor; plus, it’s incredibly hearty, easy to grow, and will repel bugs from your yard. I included it because I have it—if you don’t, substitute with more mint or parsley or omit it altogether—there are a lot of herbs in this recipe, and your dogs will never know if you lowered the amount a bit—I used probably more than was necessary since, again, I had them on hand. 

Chopped Herbs
Also, feel free to use dry mint and parsley if you don’t have a garden or feel that they’re a little over priced in the produce section—I feel the same way; but if you use dried herbs, lower the amounts as they’re usually a bit more potent when dried—2 tablespoons of mint and the same amount of parsley would be more than enough. 

If you are using fresh herbs, you’ll want to chop them up first. Size wise, I minced the mints and lemon balm until they were fairly fine; and did a bit of a rough chop on the parsley. And while I used curly parsley because it’s what I had planted, you can use any parsley you want. 
Using what’s available is actually the basis for this recipe; and I didn’t buy anything new for it at all. In fact, I only used ½ cup of unsweetened applesauce (the same as I bought for the pupcakes) because it’s all I had left as I enjoy applesauce myself; and I didn’t want to go to the store for anything to make this. After adding the applesauce, I mixed up the herbs really well since I felt that it would help distribute the minty flavors better if it got somewhat steeped in the liquid; and at this point, I added the two eggs and three tablespoons of coconut oil. 

Herbs, Eggs, and Applesauce

Originally, I started out with only one egg; but I ended up making some adjustments in the end where it didn’t turn out the way I wanted so I needed another one. I’ve talked about both ingredients before in the pupcake recipe; and both are good for your dogs in moderation, of course and have good properties that help their skin and coats. However, if you don’t have eggs in your house or if you want to make these treats vegan or vegetarian, you can substitute a ripe, medium-sized banana for each egg; and if you don’t keep coconut oil in your house, olive oil would be my replacement—but if you have another vegetable based oil, it would probably work but I’d stay away from butter. Not to mention that more applesauce can be used in place of either eggs or oil. 

The aromatic ingredients are next; and while there’s only ½ tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp of ginger, they definitely do enhance the smell enough for you to notice especially the cinnamon when they’re baking. Otherwise, there’s not really enough of either for it to really make a difference; and if you wanted to omit them or just go with one or the other—it would be fine. I’d keep the ginger and go to 1 ½ tsp if I omitted the cinnamon; but my boys enjoy the flavor so much that I would omit the ginger if anything. I used dried ginger; but feel free to use fresh and grate it if you have or want it—fresh ginger is wonderful and you could use up to a tablespoon I think and end up just fine. 

The oats, flours and powders can go in next once all the wet ingredients and aromatics are incorporated. The oats provide a wonderful texture and an additional grain that I think rounds out the treat very nicely; however, I wanted to keep these treats very cookie-like. To do this, I added the cake flour. Now, I have cake flour because I’ve been known to make cakes from scratch—more specifically, my grandma’s angel food cake recipe calls for it; however, if you don’t have it or have any reason to use it ever again, substitute regular all-purpose flour at a 1 to 1 ratio. 

This is the point where in the making of these treats I decided that it wasn’t turning out the way I wanted and I added the extra egg (when I made it, I only used 1 when mixing with the applesauce) and the whole-wheat flour and got the texture I wanted. If you don’t have whole wheat flour, you can substitute white flour—keep in mind that they don’t exchange 1 to 1, so you’ll need ¾ cup of the white flour to take the place of ½ cup wheat flour. Read through my pupcake recipe to see my opinion of swapping for gluten free flours (it’ll require a bit more research on your part—I’ll make a gluten free treat one day, but that day isn’t today).

All Mixed Up
Again, I used aluminum-free, organic baking powder (I still have it in my pantry); so these treats do rise a little. Mine didn’t spread out at all, and I think it’s a combination of the oats and the wheat flour. Anyway, you don’t have to worry about how far apart you put them on the sheet pan; but you will still want them to be a little far apart so you’ll end up with completely separate treats. 

If you’re wondering what Spirulina powder is and why do I have it, well, it’s an algae that’s been powdered. It’s used in a lot of smoothies to add protein and vitamins, so it’s safe for your pets. It’s also a brilliant green color; and when added to a recipe, it’s a natural food colorant. Keep in mind that it smells slightly fishy (or at least salty) to me, so you may not want to use it to tint everything; but it works really well in these dog treats. 

Of course, if you don’t have it and don’t want to buy it, it’s easy to omit; and your treats just won’t be as green as mine. Your dogs probably won’t even be able to tell a difference. I happened to have it on hand because I’d used it in some red and green treats I made the boys for Christmas (I used beetroot powder to make the red, btw). When I set out to make this recipe, I knew I had it and was going to use it because, again, I had it—so why not? However, the treats were fairly green before I added it from all of the herbs (so you wouldn’t have to change the name of your treats if you omit it—ha!). 

1 tsp Cookie Scoop
Word of caution: if you use the spirulina powder, it may stain towels or countertops. Truth be told, this hasn’t been an issue in my experience; however, I haven’t used it very extensively, either—it’s only been used in dog treats. If you want to seek out this super food, you may want to check at your local natural market’s bulk section which is where I found mine—and it’s what inspired the idea for the red and green Christmas treats at the suggestion of my clean-eating friend. I do enjoy bulk spices and powders—it’s a great way to get a small amount of something; and I’ve found that it’s also usually very reasonably priced. FYI: for whatever reason, spirulina powder makes me sneeze and kind of makes me stuffy; but it had no effect on the dogs.

These treats were kinda sticky when dropped onto the pan (whole-wheat tends to do that in cookies and treats), so I’d definitely suggest you use a silpat or parchment to prevent sticking and to make cleanup a breeze. As you can see, there’s nothing in these treats that would (or should) make you feel odd about using your normal baking implements again with another recipe (that was one of my mom’s only comments when I told her I’d made dog treats for my boys—“You’re using your good pans to make dog treats?” “Yes, mother, it’s fine.”). 
Going into the oven

I used a 1 tsp cookie scoop to dish them out; and it made 28 treats total—it would make a little more if you are more diligent than I with leveling out the scoop. I did flatten them out a little after they were on the pan; but as I said before, they didn’t really spread. Also, they were firm and starting to brown on the bottoms after only 12 minutes in my oven. 

As a tip: I always set a timer when I bake; and I usually set it for a minute or two less than what’s called for and adjust from there—as baking times can vary from oven to oven; but if they’re a little too brown, I doubt your dog will even notice. 

Just out of the oven
A 1 tsp cookie scoop is the smallest scoop (I think); and it will yield a smallish treat. My boys are fairly large dogs; but I like making smaller treats so I can feed them a few more. Both Presley and Jesse have come to expect quantity—meaning, they appreciate more treats over bigger treats even if they end up with less treats by weight. So, when I break a small treat in half, they still think they’re getting two treats when they’ve really only gotten 1. 

When I was chopping the herbs, the smell of mint was wonderful; however, I didn’t really smell it when they were baking. Once they were out of the oven and I put them on the wire rack to cool, there was a light cinnamon smell about them which was nice. Then after they were totally cool and I finally broke into one; and I could definitely smell the mint then. 

Presley was in the kitchen from the chopping of the herbs; and Jesse joined him at about the point where they went into the oven. Then all eyes were definitely on me once they come out. I think they know when the treats are for them—it’s like they can sense it or something; oh, wait, they just assume everything that goes into the oven is for them. At any rate, they were definitely waiting on the line once I asked them if they wanted a treat. Once they took a bite, they came back for more; and even after they were put away and I gave them another one, they seemed excited to get another one. 

And now a word about storage… I know I didn’t talk about this with the pupcakes; and honestly, it was because I didn’t think about it. The main difference between the treats you make at home and the ones you buy is that homemade treats do not have any preservatives; and as such, you’ll want to store them like any other homemade good. I use ziplock bags and generally leave my treats in the refrigerator. With this recipe (and with most of my other treat recipes), I froze half of them. 

In an airtight container on your counter, I’d say they’d easily last up to a week; but in the fridge, you could probably go up to two weeks. I always put them in the fridge no matter how long I think they’ll last. The reason I started making my own treats is because I bought some “gourmet” “homemade” treats in the mall for the boys for Christmas; and while there was no caution on the package, they molded before I could feed them to the boys—since then, mine always go in the fridge and the extras in the freezer.

Then the frozen treats can be stored indefinitely (in reality) but you’d probably want to get them used up within a month or two. When thawing, I put them in the fridge the night before then they’re usually good to go by the next morning; but since they’re not liquid, they don’t actually freeze solid and your dog might like a super-cold treat on a hot day (my boys have been known to eat ice cubes on occasion). The good thing about these smaller batch treats is that they don’t take a lot of effort to make and you don’t have to worry about keeping them around all that long. 

I hope your dogs are as happy with this recipe as mine are; and as always, if you make it, let me know. Also, please feel free to ask questions in the comments or via the social media links to the right; and don’t forget to follow Jesse on Twitter @jdawg_yellow.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

What adorable Dogs! Such a lucky man