Sunday, October 30, 2016

About the Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Dog Biscuits

Okay, so we’re very Halloween adjacent; and I have a Jack-O-Lantern cookie cutter and some leftover pumpkin from a pumpkin-yeast bread I made for work last week. Again, it called for only 1 cup of pumpkin puree; so I had yet another partial can left. But it’s whatever…I’ve been itching to make another pumpkin treat anyway.

These treats were fun to make not only because of all the fun possibilities in choosing a cookie cutter, but also because they made my house smell like fall—and I needed that because it’s been so warm. Seriously, it’s supposed to be 80 degrees on Halloween…it feels odd to still be this warm. Also, despite the truckload of leaves our giant oak tree has dumped on our yard, I can’t get into the fall mood until I’m fully immersed in flannel and can wear a cardigan at least 6 days out of 7.

If you don’t know and you didn’t read my last treat recipe post, pumpkin is safe and somewhat good for your dogs…the somewhat has to be said as you need to be sure to monitor your dog’s pumpkin consumption as too much can cause digestive issues. However, moderate amounts like what’s called for in these treats shouldn’t hurt anything. The pumpkin will be a low-calorie, healthy source of fiber and beta-carotene that’s somewhat sweet to a k9’s pallet.

This recipe not only calls for pumpkin puree but also for pepitas which are shelled, pumpkin seeds. My local health food store sells these roasted and unsalted in their bulk section making them an easy and inexpensive choice for me to add a bit of texture to these dog treats. Plus, they add a crunch like a nut without being a nut since most nuts aren’t great for dogs; so if you don’t want to find or use pepitas, I say just omit them altogether. They’re not a reactive ingredient and won’t really affect how your treats turn out other than without the pepitas yours will be way more boring.

Now, one ingredient I’ve used this time around that I haven’t in a few treat recipes is ground flaxseeds. Flaxseeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, are hearth healthy, and contain both soluble and insoluble types of fiber. They also have a slight nutty taste to increase the complexity of the flavors in the treats. In the dough, the flaxseeds are the darker brown flecks that make these treats look even healthier.

On another note, flaxseeds can be moistened and used in place of an egg should you wish to convert a
recipe into a vegan alternative. I added them just after the eggs, oil and pumpkin somewhat for this reason—truly, with this recipe, the order of ingredients doesn’t really matter so long as you mix everything well; but it won’t hurt anything to let the mixture sit for a few minutes after you add it as directed.

If flaxseeds aren’t a part of your pantry, substitute rolled oats or ground (cha-cha) chia seeds. As I’ve mentioned in the past (several times), I like the look of oats in dog treats; and in fact, I purposefully omitted them this time because I felt the need to vary my methods a bit. Plus, I still have ground flaxseeds in my freezer—and my dogs seem to like them just as well as oats; and I’ve substituted oats before prior to purchasing flaxseeds.

My huge container of coconut oil that I’ve been using to mix in with my dog’s dry dog food is only about halfway empty, so I’m still turning to it when I make my treats. However, if you’re fresh out or don’t want to buy any, olive oil is a fine substitution as it’s a somewhat healthy fat; but stay away from butter or margarine, of course, if you’re also out of olive oil.

If you need another alternative, mix additional ground flaxseeds with water at a ratio of 1 part ground flaxseeds to 2 parts water (for ¼ cup measure of water, you’ll want to add 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds) then let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or more. It’ll get kinda slimy…but should do the trick. Or you can just use ¼ cup applesauce as I’ve talked about substituting applesauce for fat several times before. Applesauce was also omitted from this recipe for the same reason as the oats; but it would be perfectly fine if you find yourself in a pinch. 

As a novelty and not a necessity, dog treat baking should be fun and as stress free as possible; so, please, don’t feel the need to take this activity as seriously as I do. Just know, that I take it seriously enough for everyone. Also, some of these ingredients can get expensive especially if you’re just starting out or if you don’t eat these items in your regular diets and have to purchase them especially for treat making…If you want to make the investment or are intrigued by some of these ingredients but didn’t know how to use them before, that’s wonderful and I hope these treats can translate into something else for you… Rob just rolls his eyes at me for buying all this stuff, and so can you.

But I digress…

Now let’s talk spice. With the exception of the cloves, all of the spices selected were selected because they’re what’s in that little container of pumpkin spice you can buy to make into a pie or cake or latte; however, pre-mixed pumpkin spice contains nutmeg which isn’t all that dog friendly… now, I can’t quote why nutmeg isn’t doggy friendly nor can I say that the amounts contained in the pre-mixed spices are enough to make a difference; but I can say I didn’t use it because I had all the other spices in my cabinet.

I keep things like ground ginger, cinnamon, and allspice because I’m a baker; and occasionally, it’s useful to blend my own spices as opposed to using a pre-mixed package. Personally, I like to add additional cinnamon; and since spices are for flavoring a mixture and don’t affect the texture of the final product, these things are flexible. So, feel free to use what I’ve outlined here; or just use some of them… you can play with the amounts or not—your treats will still smell like fall when they’re baking so long as you’ve used a few of them.

If you followed the pumpkin spice conversation, you’ll remember that cloves aren’t part of that equation; but yet, I included them. Cloves are actually good for your dogs and can help rid them of internal parasites. Yes, if you’re looking for a natural de-wormer, you can feed your dog a whole clove to help. Just like with all things, I’d encourage you to do your own research when turning to natural remedies because like with most things too much can usually be harmful—and I know larger dogs like mine can tolerate more than smaller dogs; so in this case, size does matter.

Truthfully, in the small quantity that I’ve called for, it’s not going to do much except enhance the smell of your treats. I do know my dogs like cloves as I’ve made them gingerbread treats last Christmas which didn’t last very long; and cloves, to me, smell like fall. If anything, let your dog smell all the spices individually and see what they like the most…this is a fairly flexible process.
All mixed up

In talking about the flours, some of you may have been surprised to find that I actually used a blend of
all-purpose flour and wheat flour. When making breads or cookies or anything else for human consumption, I’d never use 100% wheat flour—I’m just not that kind of baker (mostly because you have to change too much stuff to make it work)…and usually when making dog treats, I go 100% wheat flour because it’s healthier for them. However, this time, I wanted to change things up a bit… white flour won’t kill my dogs; and I really liked the way these treats rolled out and cut. Plus, white flour is so much better for dusting a rolling surface.

Yes, I decided to make these a roll out treat because of my awesome Jack-O-Lantern cookie cutter; and yes, I knew the pepitas might be an issue when it came to cutting the shapes. Nonetheless, the pepitas went in; and I still got great, true shapes. Just be sure to press down firmly, and your cutter should chop right through the pumpkin seeds as they’re not a hard as actual nuts.

As my cookie cutter has indentions for the eyes and mouth and I wanted to maintain those features in the finished treats, I omitted any leavening—so these treats have no baking powder or soda; and they still turned out really well and not too hard. The omission of leavening is going to be my excuse for naming these biscuits and not treats…Also, I’m thinking biscuits in the same way the British use that particular term.

Rolling out the dough
This dough did turn out quite stiff, and I did have to finish mixing it by hand. I would definitely suggest a heavy dusting on your rolling surface, rolling pin, and cookie cutter…and you’ll probably want to re-dip your cutter into flour after every few cookies to keep it from sticking. Again, a small off-set spatula is your friend in this process. Also, be sure to use a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet to bake them as that’s the best way to prevent sticking without adding additional fat or oil. 

Mine were perfect after 10 minutes at 350, and I did rotate my pans about halfway through (top to bottom and spin the pans). Then I immediately removed them from their baking sheets with a spatula to finish cooling on wire racks. Once cooled, I bagged them by the dozen and moved most to the freezer but kept some out for the fridge for immediate snacking.

Again, the smell was amazing—it’s worth it to make these treats to have my house smelling that good while they’re in the oven and to have that smell linger in the kitchen for most of the afternoon. As spoiled as my dogs are to all these varieties of treats, they still acted very fidgety when presented with these treats in that way that they reserve for food they think they just gotta have; and as these treats are about as wholesome as its gonna get in my house, I don’t have to feel bad at all in sharing them.

Check out the actual recipe by clicking here or keep scrolling…If you make these biscuits or have any questions about this or any of my dog treat recipes, please let me know. Feel free to leave a comment here, email me, or reach out to me via the social media links to the top right. Also, you can follow Jesse on Twitter @jdawg_yellow!

They always get that serious look in their eyes
Thanks for reading!!

Pumpkin Spice Dog Biscuits

Yields: 58 + 1 odd


1 scant cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs (slightly beaten)
¼ cup Coconut Oil (melted and slightly cooled)
½ cup ground Flaxseeds
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried, ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp Allspice
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)

½ cup pepitas (shelled, roasted pumpkin seeds)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

 Whisk pumpkin, eggs and coconut oil until well mixed. Add flaxseeds, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice and mix until incorporated. Give the mixture 3-5 minutes to allow the flaxseeds to soften before adding flours and pepitas and combine until there is no more dry flour.

Dust your rolling surface, rolling pin, and cookie cutter. Then turn out dough, dust the top lightly, and roll out dough to ¼ inch thick (or just slightly thinner). Cut shapes using cookie cutter—dipping the cutter into more flour as needed—and place in a single layer on parchment-lined cookie sheets until all dough is cut.

Place pans in oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the biscuits are slightly browned and firm but somewhat springy.

Let cool prior to feeding to your dog(s) or placing in an air tight container to store or freeze.

Check out the about the recipe section for more baking tips and tricks

Sunday, October 16, 2016

About the Recipe: The Great Pumpkin Dog Treats & Cookies

the human yummy!
The Great Pumpkin Cookies are something my mom used to make me when I was young… then one day she just stopped making them—no word on why (side eye to my mom); and I sort of forgot about these amazing cookies until a few years ago. Then I found them again when I was pursuing one of those old elementary school, fund-raiser cookbooks that the PTA put together from a time when my mom did things like attend PTA meetings and submit recipes for compilation cookbooks (which was circa the same time she made these cookies, actually). Back then chocolate chip cookies were somewhat of a luxury (even if they did have oatmeal and pumpkin in them)—I mean, the only sugared cereal we had growing up was frosted flakes and raisin bran…but I digress.

Rediscovering these cookies was wonderful; and now that I’m an adult, I think I appreciate them even more than when I was a kid. Plus, they’re fairly easy to make. But they only call for 1 cup of pumpkin.

The common elements
A standard can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) is usually 15 oz which is just shy of 2 cups; so you use the 1 cup for the cookies then the other cup sits in your fridge in a small container until it molds and needs to be discarded. Well, not anymore my friends… and No, I don’t know why there’s sales-pitch-like wording there…this probably isn’t a problem for most people anyway… but it got me to thinking about what I could do with that other almost-one-cup of pumpkin puree… But wait…there’s more, I have found a way to use that leftover bit of pumpkin…and since I make dog treats (and this is a post about a dog treat recipe), I think you can see why I’d automatically try to make dog treats out of it.

Pumpkin is perfectly healthy for dogs; and I’ve talked about it briefly before in regards to how it’s high in fiber and helps dogs along with what high fiber foods do… Rob’s Mom thought her dog Molly was constipated, and I believe I Googled it as a trip to the vet wasn’t immediately available.


I’ve been jonesing for pumpkin ever since my Omaha trip last weekend—it was a blast, btw; and I’d gone to visit my friend Nancy (I did the math recently, and we’ve just past our 18th anniversary as friends…just FYI) who is a woman and wanted #pumpkinspiceeverything… we actually ended up buying a pumpkin pie and bread and I drank pumpkin spice creamer in my coffee…then we visited a pumpkin patch “attraction” there…needless to say, my pumpkin craving was jumpstarted (not to mention that I’d promised pumpkin spice themed dog treats for October…and the fact that just last night I purchased Pumpkin Ice cream—now, all I need to do is buy a pair of UGG boots and my fall transformation will be complete given that I’ve been trying to wear as much flannel as possible despite the unseasonably warm temperatures)…

So this recipe is really a two-birds with one stone kind of thing…and I kind of like the thought of making a pumpkin treat for me and a treat for my furbabies (but I’m pretty sure Rob doesn’t count this as a treat for him as he’s not overly fond of pumpkin).
Click the image for full screen

Now, I didn’t take any pictures of me making the regular Great Pumpkin Cookies…and if it’s all the same to you, I’m not really going to talk about the preparation of that part; however, I have posted the recipe (a scan of the actual recipe from the actual spiral-bound cookbook—with my mother’s name omitted because stalkers and I’m sure she wouldn’t want me to put her name out there lest any of my old readers are catching up on this blog). Like I said earlier, they’re super easy to make—just mix and bake; but they’re not all that dog friendly.

Other than the chocolate chips, the recipe has a human-cookie amount of white and brown sugars and actual butter (despite the fact that the recipe calls for margarine…another side eye to my mother…but that was the late 80s or early 90s and margarine is a lot cheaper than real butter—my mother used to be a lot more economical back then out of necessity). For our four-legged consumers, some adjustments need to be made.

We start with pumpkin…and when I say I used the rest of the can, that’s because I did… I made my cookies first then went to buy mums with a friend and came back to finish the dog treats. If you’re only making these treats for your dogs, you’re missing out…but just use a full cup of pumpkin—it’ll be fine.

To the pumpkin, I added melted coconut oil and applesauce both of which I have on hand not only since they’re dog-treat-making staples but also since I love applesauce and have been adding coconut oil to my dog’s dinners since my huge jar of it arrived from (no I’m not being paid for that shout out—that one’s free).

Coconut oil is perfectly healthy for dogs and has a number of health benefits from being a natural flea repellant and helping to improve the shininess of their coats to helping their gums and teeth—like this recipe, coconut oil is a win win (and no, I’m not being paid to promote coconut oil). Now, I didn’t only add the coconut oil for its health benefits… Fats are essential to baking for various reasons like helping to retain moisture and they affect the texture…Plus, my dogs really seem to like it.

Since coconut oil is solid at room temperature as is butter, I felt it was the best way for these treats to turn out like the cookies (which is the point of adapting the recipe and not just making these a roll out treat or something different). Fats are generally interchangeable (meaning oil can be substituted for butter and butter for shortening, etc)…so if you don’t have coconut oil on hand, feel free to use olive oil instead… if you don’t have olive oil, well… …just try to use a fat that’s as heart healthy as possible. 

All mixed up
We’re already using applesauce in place of some of the fat in the recipe—as well as the sugar; so I don’t think increasing the applesauce will have a good effect…but well, I suppose you could add an egg… If you’ve read over the actual recipe (find it below or by clicking here), you’ll see that’s one ingredient that I didn’t actually sub out or use from the human recipe. Eggs are fine for dogs and can add some extra binding power and protein to your treats; however, here, they weren’t needed—we’ve got binding from the pumpkin and applesauce…

And if you’re just realizing that these treats are vegan, congratulations… we’ve arrived at the same conclusion basically at the same time (the only difference is that I’ve been trying to incorporate that line for the last few sentences). When I was working up the recipe, it simply didn’t occur to me…But there are no animal products or byproducts used in this treat recipe, so if any Vegans need a pumpkin-spice pick me up, here you go. Again, it’s incidental. My dogs aren’t vegan…no dogs are vegan (I think I ranted about that before)…

So, if you’ve read over the human recipe, or remember from the post below, I mentioned the sugar included in the recipe (and white sugar isn’t exactly vegan as they use bones to make it white—yeah, look it up... I only say that because it’s one of the things I think about with every teaspoon I stir into my morning coffee)…any way, between white and brown sugar, there’s 2 cups of sugar in the original cookies—which doesn’t bother me in the least because, well, they’re my treats and cookies are supposed to be sweet…and they have to overcome the pumpkin flavor.

All of that to tell you that I was going to add honey (thus negating the vegan properties); but if you approach it from a dog’s perspective (with hopefully very little experience with processed sugars) pumpkin is sweet (ish) as is the applesauce…I didn’t feel that these needed any extra sweeteners (but if you’re a vegan with a sweet tooth reading this recipe to make these for yourself, use agave…probably like 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup…but be mindful that you’ll need to offset that liquid with some more flour).

Also, cinnamon was a given… I love cinnamon. My dogs love cinnamon (or at least I feel that they do). And cinnamon is ok for them to eat…which is why I actually increased the amount instead of scaling it back (this recipe was adapted to roughly ½ of the original proportions—save the pumpkin…which is standing in for some of the fat and sugar in the original recipe). Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory properties which are
good for older dogs…like my now gray Presley.

Oats were also a given. They’re dog friendly (not to mention vegan—side eye to myself for that one). I like the look of them in treats, and I like that they’re heart healthy. Besides, they’re in the original recipe (probably to fool moms in the 80s and early 90s into thinking these were “healthy” cookies)…as is the vanilla which I didn’t cut in half since I love vanilla.

Now, when it comes to flour, I don’t generally use white flour in dog treats as it’s healthier to use a whole grain like whole-wheat flour; but if that’s all you have, you’re dogs will be fine (so long as you remember that you’ll need 1 full cup of white flour to substitute for the ¾ cup of whole wheat flour). Not to mention that you’re treats will probably be even more like the original cookies. Using only wheat flour tends to make this kind of baked good slightly rubbery (or gelatinous) feeling…they don’t get as cakey, anyway. If you’re a gluten-free baker and/or household, you’ll want that egg and probably another one before it’s over…and you’ll need to increase the leavening as well. As it’s written, I used a full tsp of baking soda—just like the original recipe—as I was using whole wheat flour and felt it would be needed to help lift them a bit more.

Damn Hippies!
Hopefully, you all know that chocolate isn’t good for dogs which is why I opted for Carob chips (think dog-safe chocolate). Usually, my local health food store has these in bulk; however, the hippy bastards there stopped stocking them (yes, that’s way harsh Ty…but the check out guy kept referring to me as “brother” to the point where I almost pointed out that we, in fact, don’t share parents…but I just took it at the time safe in the knowledge that I would type “hippy bastards” at one point during this post); and I turned to the prepackaged carob chips which rang up $7.85 for a 12 oz package (and I thought all those damn hippies were commies or socialists…but apparently, at least one of them is a capitalist—RESPECT—because they charged over twice the price of the good bag of chocolate chips that the big box retailer does for a bag of fake chocolate that’s also labeled vegan).

Why did I pay $7.85 for a bag of vegan, fake chocolate—well, I’m just that kind of person—DETICATED—to my dogs and my dog treat recipes…and I got it in my head that I needed these to be as close to the original as possible… Given that you probably don’t have the same hang up, I’d suggest forgoing the carob chips for Pepitas (hulled and roasted pumpkin seeds)… they would add another layer to the texture of the treat and not fall apart or refuse to melt when baked (as did the carob chips—seriously, they tasted worse than generic, chocolate-flavored chips, too).

One thing you should NOT forgo (what’s with me and the odd use of all caps?), is using a teaspoon to drop
these cookies on a baking sheet and adding a little bit more batter for a “stem”… it’s not as hard as it sounds… and when I say teaspoon, I don’t mean a measuring spoon—I mean the teaspoon with which you’d stir your bone-dusted white sugar into your morning coffee. I slightly rounded the spoon and scooted it on the pan. Now, these cookies don’t spread as much as the human ones, so you could get by with putting them like an inch apart…but do leave some space.

Ready to Bake!
Mine were done after exactly 12 minutes (yes, I used a timer and so should you)…and the way I scooped and formed my little Great Pumpkin Treats ended up making 32 of them. But if yours are slightly bigger or smaller, you’ll get more or less and may have to bake them for longer or slightly shorter… Once they’re finished, the pumpkin in the treats will start to turn brown and they should be kinda firm but springy if you touch them. If they’re on the cusp and you’re afraid of burning them, just let them cool completely on the pan as they will continue to bake outside of the oven if left on the baking sheet (conversely, if they’re too done, you may want to carefully remove them right away).

FYI: this is a sticky, moist batter given all the pumpkin and applesauce; and you will want to line your baking sheet for easy removal.

If you make both recipes (which I highly suggest), your house will smell like sugar and spice and your dog will drool with you. Both recipes were easy to make, and both are delicious. Presley was in the kitchen constantly as he is my
ever faithful kitchen helper; and he got rather anxious after smelling the human versions for his own treat. Once they were out of the oven and cooled, Jesse magically appeared…and by the way they gazed longingly at them(sorry for that, Nancy and I bought cheesy romance novels to read together while we’re apart—like our own private book club). At any rate, both Presley and Jesse looked at the top of the oven with an almost burning desire at the rest of the treats, so I’d have to say that they were a hit—not to mention that they kept coming back for more (like me and that romance novel—“The Trouble with Mistletoe” A Heartbreaker Bay Novel published by Avon Books—BUY IT—you don’t have to tell anyone—it can be your own little secret treat; but know if you thank me—like you should—I will be obligated to mention it in my next post).

Right out of the oven, the treats seemed delicate (like Willa’s heart) while they were cooling but went into the bags without incident (like her feet did after the possible love of her life and ex-high-school crush Keane dismembered them after he killed her following finally getting some on the roof of that building—SERIOUSLY, Nancy, I had no idea this was that kind of book…ooh, I forgot, Spoilers…); and I bagged mine (the treats that is—and please forgive me for the dismembering imagery…we are Halloween adjacent…and no, that’s not in the trashy novel, I just thought it would be funny if Nancy isn’t to that part yet…) in bags of 12, put the two full bags in the freezer and the partial in the fridge.

These treats should freeze well…and I always suggest storing homemade treats ready to use in the refrigerator; however, with these, you may want to label them “dog treats” as they do look somewhat like actual cookies. If you can’t tell, I had a lot of fun making these—not only from revisiting a classic cookie from my childhood, but also for providing a new variety of treat for my furbabies. I don’t make drop-cookie style treats that often, but this recipe may be the start of more to come.

Thank you for reading. As always, the actual recipe follows (or you can click here). If you have any questions or comments, you can leave them here, email me directly, or use the social media links on the upper right. Please feel free to share your treats with me if you make these… and be sure to follow Jesse on Twitter @Jdawg_yellow.