In this whole quest to be more handmade with life, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff regarding food.
Specifically, our food. Growing it, cooking it differently, buying it differently. I’ve been making a lot of bread, for instance, instead of buying it at the store, and we’ve been pretty good about only eating fast food every once in a while. (With the exception of pizza night, which is kind of a tradition here.)
Someone in one of the groups I’m in on Facebook mentioned something, however: we’re eating healthy, but what about what we’re feeding our pets?
After all, we consider our dogs to be our little furry children in this house. Since we have none without fur, they’re often subjected to all our mommy-and-daddy urges, and we’d rescue them first if there was ever a fire, I’m sure. (I turned down a dream job, in fact, because we couldn’t find housing that would let us keep the little monsters.)
I mean, come on. Look at this face:
Could YOU feed this face something that isn’t the best thing possible? Look at the trust in those eyes, people!
So I did what anyone would do: I set about finding something healthy to feed them.
There are three of those little boogers in this house, so buying organic hadn’t really ever been an option. We’d like to pay our rent every month.
I also don’t currently have a meat grinder, so many of the recipes I was finding online for food sounded out of the question, as well. In addition, many of the real-food recipe articles I read said that there may be a period of adjustment, just like when you switch “regular” foods, and we weren’t sure the paint would survive a bout of three dogs with acid gas.
Instead, we thought we’d start small: with treats, which we’re also too indulgent about. We’d been buying the big boxes of Milk Bones, and it was already tricky. If we fed one of our dogs the green ones, it was a recipe for having to clean up dog puke the next day. And if the small one (above) got anything other than the light brown, the gas was like a haze in our small house.
So it was with much trepidation that I started to experiment.
I tried some with sweet potatoes, and another with chicken stock, but they went bad very quickly, and moldy dog treats were worse than no treats at all. I tried one that used hamburger drippings, but all three of them showed their displeasure with very upset tummies despite the initial OMIGOD THESE ARE FABULOUS reaction. (The begging: it was legendary.)
We finally settled on a recipe that does everything — it keeps well for the week a batch lasts, doesn’t cause any kind of gastrointestinal distress, and that they love to the point of being annoying whenever we’re near the cabinet the treats are kept in. (They know where they are, and will stand next to the cabinet and do the look-at-the-cabinet-then-look-at-us-and-whimper thing, as if they’ve never been fed in their whole lives. Because, you know, we starve them and never give them anything.)
We’ve tweaked the recipe just a bit, and I’m happy to share it for those of you with pups. It’s really easy to mix up a double batch of dough and refrigerate it until it’s needed, and the whole process takes less than 45 minutes most of the time, even with interruptions. A double-batch will last us 2-3 weeks, and that’s with three insatiable mouths, so for a normal, one-dog household, I’d think they’d last a good month or so.
Just know that I warned you: the dogs love these things. You may be subjected to much whining once they know these treats exist.
Homemade Dog Treats2 c. organic flour (whole wheat or white, we use 1c. of each) 1 c. peanut butter (creamy) 1Tbsp baking powder 1 c. milk a sprinkling of brown sugar for moistness (a tablespoon or so)
Mix together all the ingredients. Turn over on an unfloured board, and knead for a few minutes until smooth. (A dough hook attachment works, if you have one on your mixer, too, though it’s a very stiff dough.) Let it rest for a few minutes to let the flour get moist enough, and then roll out to about a 1/4″ thickness.
You can get fancy here and cut out shapes with cookie cutters and such. I just use a pizza cutter to cut them into rectangles and squares, because, honestly, the dogs don’t care.
Bake at 375F for 18-20 minutes on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Don’t worry if they don’t brown all that much; they’ll be cooked through. Let cool completely and store enough for a week in an airtight container. (Anything more than a week, I’d suggest refrigerating, since there are no preservatives.)
As with any treats, make sure they comprise no more than 10% of your dog’s daily intake. (Now if I could just get my brownie consumption to under 10%…)