Homemade Dog Biscuits

Adding a puppy to the household has certainly upped the pet food bill. After reading the ingredients on some commercial dog biscuits and seeing the price tag on some of the better quality ones, I decided to make my own.

Thanks to two nice folks on the Labrador Retriever Chat Board, I found two recipes that sounded pretty good.

Here’s the first one – Peanut Butter Yummies.  Devin loves peanut butter but, strangely, he didn’t really care for the peanut butter flavored biscuits that I bought (and he’s a Lab – he eats ANYTHING).  Frankly, I didn’t like them much either after I tasted one.

Flour and baking powder.Dry ingredients: 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 tablespoon baking powder.

Milk and peanut butter.Wet ingredients:  one cup of skim milk and one cup of peanut butter.  I used 1/3 cup of non-fat dry milk powder + water to equal 1 cup.  I also use reduced sugar/salt peanut butter.  Why do items that have ingredients LEFT OUT cost more? (Never mind, that’s another topic.)  I despise scraping peanut butter out of measuring cups, so I take a 2 cup glass measuring cup, add the one cup of milk, then add peanut butter until the milk level reaches 2 cups.

Heat and mix.I put the mixture in the microwave and heated it gently to make it easier to mix the peanut butter into the milk.

No dishwashing necessary :-)Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients, then place measuring cup on floor for easy clean-up :-)

Mix thoroughly.Mix it thoroughly and dump it out on a floured board to roll out the dough.  It’s pretty oily so I didn’t need much flour at all.

Cut into shapes.After it’s rolled out about 1/4″ thick, cut into shapes.  I did some round ones with a biscuit cutter…

Ready for the oven.some squares, and some bone shaped.  I prefer to use parchment paper, but the original recipe called for greasing the pans.  They don’t spread, so it’s OK to crowd them pretty close on the cookie sheet.

Baked.Bake at 375° for 13-15 minutes (possibly as long as 20 minutes depending on your oven).  I did flip mine over about halfway through the baking time.  Next time I make these, I’m going to experiment with adding a wee bit of honey and some anise seed (the catnip for dogs).  One spice you shouldn’t give dogs is nutmeg, so stay away from that (as well as chocolate, onions, grapes and raisins – the jury’s still out on garlic.  Some say it’s OK, some say it’s not, even though you find it in a lot of commercial dog food).

Devin’s vote:  2 paws up.  BarBBQ Bill’s vote:  pretty good (his idea to add some honey – yes, he taste-tests all of Devin’s food).

Banana Bites

Next, I tried Banana Bites.  Another simple, healthy recipe.

2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 large egg
1/3 cup mashed ripe banana
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water (the original recipe added a beef bouillon cube to the water, but I couldn’t find any that weren’t 1000% salt)
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1. Mix all ingredients until well blended.
2. Knead for 2 minutes on a floured surface. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness.
3. Cut out shapes using a cookie cutter and place on ungreased baking sheets.
4. Bake at 300° for 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Devin’s favorite:  actually the ones in the center of the picture.  After I got bored using the cookie cutters, I simply rolled out the remainder of the dough into a rectangle, spread it with peanut butter, rolled it into a log and cut into slices.  Next time, I’ll do them all this way.

Mom, Daddy's eating all my treats!Daddy, STOP eating all my treats!

 Helping Dogs in Shelters

Before we adopted Devin this spring, I was somewhat oblivious to the plight of homeless animals across the country.  Since then, I’ve become much more aware of the huge problem that exists, but feel somewhat helpless.  I joined a dog forum and a member had posted this today:

“Pedigree is offering to donate 20lbs of dog food to shelters for every blog post today about its Adoption Drive. You can find out more info here.”

Pedigree Adoption Drive

This was a great chance to have a 20 pound bag of dog food donated to a shelter simply by writing a blog post. The food drive is not limited to pet blogs.  The amount of food donated could be substantial. Here is the full scoop:

* Each year, more than 4 million dogs end up in shelters and breed rescue organizations. Pedigree created The PEDIGREE Adoption Drive to help shine a spotlight on the plight of these homeless dogs.

* This year the PEDIGREE Adoption Drive is raising awareness for homeless dogs by donating a bowl of food to shelter dogs for everyone who becomes a “Fan” or “Likes” The PEDIGREE Adoption Drive on Facebook. So far more than 1  million bowls have been donated.

* Special for BlogPaws West: For each blog that posts about the PEDIGREE® Adoption Drive through September 19th, PEDIGREE® will donate a bag of their new Healthy Longevity Food for Dogs to shelters nationwide. It’s simple: Write a post, help a dog.

* Thursday, September 16 through Sunday, September 19,  the Pedigree BlogPaws bloggers will host a Blog Hop, to help raise awareness for the “Write a post, help a dog” effort.

It is so easy to make a big difference. If you have a blog, please set aside a few moments to write a post. Include the bullet points above.  Copy the pictures if you’d like. Add whatever you’d like in addition to help get the message out. Because this is not limited to pet bloggers, there is tremendous potential. Know bloggers in other categories that might be interested? Please share this post with them or post one of your own by Sunday, September 19, and leave a link to your post on Life with Dogs.

Our Rescued Dog

Based on what Devin eats, a 20-pound bag will feed a dog for a month or more!

Devin says “Thank You” for helping others like him, but who haven’t been lucky enough to find their forever home yet.

Update: Take the number of posts in the link below and move the decimal over two places to the left and see how many TONS of food will be donated! 100 posts x 20 lbs each = 2000 lbs. = 1 TON!

 Sweet Heat

It’s been a busy and bountiful summer.  I’ve canned the usual – pickles, beets, salsa, tomatoes, etc. but nothing new or interesting until now.

Thanks to some inspiration from my niece (amongst the empty canning jars she returned was one with a peach salsa label on it – and a note “This was really good!”  Hint, hint…), I adapted my regular salsa recipe to include peaches as well as tomatoes.

Peach SalsaI felt comfortable substituting peaches for half of the tomatoes as they are lower in pH than tomatoes (3.5 vs. 4.5) so they add acidity to the overall recipe.  That’s a good thing.

Kellogg's Breakfast tomatoesI had some lovely Kellogg’s Breakfast heirloom tomatoes (the ones on the left and right).  They are my favorite tomato – sweet and juicy and a pretty color that I hoped would make a good looking salsa.

Tomatoes peeled, chopped and drained.I used 4 cups of peeled and chopped tomatoes (aren’t they a great color?)  Let them drain VERY well.  They are meaty but very juicy.

Lovely local peaches.Prepare 4 cups of peeled, chopped and drained peaches.  These were nice local peaches.

PeppersWe debated about using orange peppers, but BarBBQ Bill thought the salsa would need some red in it, so we used 1-1/2 cups of chopped red peppers.  This is about 1-1/4 cups sweet red peppers and 1/4 cup of mixed Anaheims and jalapenos for a little heat – all from our garden.  Feel free to adjust the heat level by using more hot peppers and less of the sweet ones.  Just don’t increase the total amount of peppers.

Onions, garlic and cilantro.Add 2-1/2 cups of chopped onions and 6 cloves of garlic, minced.  I was lucky to find some sweet local onions and the garlic came from the garden.  I used 4 cloves of garlic – ours were really big.  I also used about 1/4 cup of cilantro (I love cilantro – if you don’t, leave it out).

Combine the ingredients.Here’s everything in the pot.  I added the following spices:  2 teaspoons cumin, 2 tablespoons canning salt, and about 2 teaspoons of ground pepper (I used white pepper).

For the acidity (crucial for canning salsa because of the low acid vegetables like onions and peppers, and because you eat it without heating it up), I used 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of bottled lemon juice and 1/4 cup of bottled lime juice.  Use whatever combination of acidic liquids you like – all vinegar (as long it is at least 5% acidity), more lemon, more lime, whatever floats your boat.  Add at least one cup total – more if you like.

Mix and start to bring to the boil.Stir the ingredients and begin bringing it to a gentle boil.  A thick bottomed stainless pot works the best.

Cooking down.Gently boil the salsa for 10 minutes.  Start tasting.  I added another squirt of lime juice (I love lime!)  If your tomatoes aren’t as sweet as mine were, you can add sugar to taste.  Brown sugar might be nice with the peaches.

If it’s not thick enough (and you don’t care about the color), you can add 1-2 small cans of tomato paste and/or up to 2 cups of tomato sauce.  I wanted mine “peachy” colored, so I didn’t add any thickeners.  Mine did thicken nicely.

Peach SalsaPour into hot jars (use only 1/2 pint or pint jars – no quarts), seal and process in a hot water canning bath for 15 minutes.

BarBBQ Bill’s vote?  Two thumbs up!

Sweet Heat Peach Salsa

4 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained
4 cups peaches, peeled, chopped and drained
2-1/2 cups onions, chopped
1-1/4 cups sweet peppers, chopped
1/4 cup hot peppers, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons pepper
2 tablespoons canning salt (kosher salt is fine – just don’t use iodized salt)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup 5% cider vinegar
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
1/4 cup bottled lime juice

Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Pour into hot pint or half-pint jars, seal and process in a hot water canning bath for 15 minutes. Makes about 6 pints.

 What We’ve Been Up To

Yes, it’s been quite a while since we’ve posted anything.  We’ve been busy:

1. Starting a new business.

Seedlings2. Raising over 300 plants from seed for the garden (in our tiny little kitchen).

Batty, the Little Brown Bat3. Successfully rehabilitating a Little Brown Bat (in our bedroom).

DSCN1435-Phoebe4. Watching an Eastern Phoebe couple raise their chicks right outside our back door.

Our New Baby Boy5. And enjoying our new puppy (who still is not sleeping through the night)!

Not to mention the weeding, planting, spring cleaning, etc.  No wonder we’re tired!

 Homemade Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage

Thanks to St. Patrick’s Day, large fresh heads of cabbage are plentiful and very inexpensive.  That calls for a big batch of Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage!

Hungarian Stuffed CabbageSince both BarBBQ Bill and I are Hungarian, we grew up eating “Töltött Káposzta”.  This is one of our main “comfort foods”.

The IngredientsHere’s the ingredients:

1 head green cabbage (large)
2-3 lbs. meatloaf mix (pork, veal and beef) or all ground beef (I used ground venison with a little ground pork for this batch)
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 – 2 eggs
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Fresh parsley, chopped  (I ran out so I used dried parsley)
1 – 2 onions, diced (I used 1 really large sweet onion)
3 – 6 cloves garlic, minced
2 – 3 14 oz. cans sauerkraut
2 – 3 46 oz. cans tomato juice or vegetable juice
Lots of paprika (I use two kinds – sweet and a half-sharp)

Parcook the rice.Cover the 1 cup rice with boiling water and let stand (about 10-15 minutes) until the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool.  If it’s still a bit wet, just drain the excess water off.  It shouldn’t be cooked all the way.

Cook the onions.In a large pot (the one you’re going to cook the cabbage rolls in), saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent, not brown. Add paprika to taste, being careful not to let the paprika burn (it will get very bitter).  This is a big head of cabbage, so I’m using my largest stock pot (I think it’s 16 quarts?) for cooking.

The filling.In large bowl, mix ground meat, 1 egg, cooked rice, most of the cooked onion mixture, parsley and some of the bread crumbs.

Mix the filling.Mush it around with your hand to mix thoroughly. Season with salt and more paprika. Add another egg and more bread crumbs if necessary. It should be moist enough to hold together into balls of filling.

Core the cabbage.With a sharp, sturdy knife, carefully cut out the cabbage core…

Simmer until the leaves can be removed.and bring large pot of water to simmering. Add whole cabbage head and cook until you can start to peel the outer leaves off without tearing. Keep returning the cabbage to the pot, peeling off the outer leaves until they get too small or too crinkly to roll.

Cut off the rib.Trim the rib off each cabbage leaf with a sharp paring knife (this makes it easier to roll).

Add filling.Place a spoonful of ground meat stuffing on base of cabbage leaf and roll once.

Roll once...Remember the stuffing will expand slightly when the rice absorbs the liquid, so don’t roll too tightly.

Fold over one side.Turn in one half of the leaf (I do the left side first) and roll up.

Secure the other end.Tuck in the other side of the cabbage leaf with your forefinger to secure the roll.  If the leaf is really wide and there’s too much cabbage to tuck in, just trim part of it off and add the trimmings to the pot.

The finished roll.They should look like little packets that will (usually) stay intact during the cooking process.

Adding the rolls.In the large pot that you sauteed the onions in (I left a few in there to flavor the sauce), add about an inch or two of tomato juice and a layer of sauerkraut.  Start adding the cabbage rolls.

More layers.When you get a layer finished, season with more paprika if desired (I don’t add more salt, because the tomato juice and sauerkraut contain a lot of salt). Pour tomato juice over to cover.  I used two quarts of home canned tomatoes instead of one of the cans of tomato juice.

Full pot!Continue layering sauerkraut and cabbage rolls until you run out of cabbage rolls. Chop or sliver whatever cabbage you have left and use in layers in the pot. Make golf ball sized balls with any leftover filling, and add those to the pot as well.

Cook over very low heat until sauce starts to bubble around the edges – maybe three to four hours. Be careful when you stir so you don’t start tearing the cabbage rolls, and watch that you don’t scorch the bottom layer.  This works well in a large crock pot, too.

I usually turn off the heat and let the pot cool. Then gently heat the whole pot back up again to serve. This cooling and reheating seems to really blend the flavors together. After that, you can scoop some out into a baking dish or ovenproof saucepan, and reheat in the oven. This prevents scorching.

Stuffed cabbage is much better after it’s reheated, and it freezes well.  For freezing, I take some of rolls and sauce out before it’s totally cooked.  To serve, thaw and heat thoroughly to finish the cooking.

Add a dollop of sour cream when serving (if you like) or a side of kielbasa (I don’t like it cooked in with the cabbage – BarBBQ Bill does, so we compromise and have it on the side.  You can certainly cook it in there if you wish.)

This was my mother’s (and grandmother’s) recipe.  Today would have been my Mom’s 86th birthday-every time I make this, I think of her.  Hard to believe she passed away 25 years ago this month.  Sometimes it seems like yesterday.