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!!

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