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All Natural Dog Treats

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This post is dedicated to my best friends: my Basset Hounds, Daisy and Lola. They have become more than the family dogs; they are our children. They were both rescue dogs who found their forever homes with us and have lived long and happy spoiled lives with our family. Sadly, with long lives comes geriatric health issues. In mid-November, Daisy was diagnosed with Lymphoma and is not expected to have more than a few more months with us. While we were still adjusting to that sad news, Lola was diagnosed with a liver condition and she declined very quickly, so we said goodbye to her just last week.

Lola

Lola

Daisy

Daisy

So, in their honor, I write this post about making their homemade doggie treats. I make these about every two or three weeks and have meant to post the recipe and pictures, but just haven’t taken the time until now. I started making these when we realized that our cheaper dog food and treats were causing some digestion issues for both dogs, but especially Lola. I started reading about and buying healthier grain-free foods for them and then I found some recipes for dog treats and figured that if I made them, I would know what was in them and it would likely be less expensive than the store-bought fancy kind.

I use a version of the Woofies recipe found on the Kitchen Muse blog. I add carrots and usually use about 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat flour. I have also used mashed sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash in place of the pumpkin when I had those leftovers. Dogs can eat many of our household veggies and fruits, but be careful as some are not safe. According to WebMd, we should NOT feed our dogs the following vegetables or fruits:

  • Avocados
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Grapes (or raisins)
  • Persimmons
  • Peaches
  • Plums

On the safer side, we can share these:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Banannas
  • Watermelon
  • Carrots
  • Green Beans
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Cooked potato

Here’s how to make All Natural Dog Treats:

Since I do this every two weeks, I’m not fussy about ingredient amounts and I don’t worry about presentation (no, I don’t have the bone-shaped cookie cutter!). I’ll show you my no fuss, simple method.

Roughly chop up a couple of carrots. I was using up some late garden baby carrots, and left the peels on and some of the stringy roots because the hounds don’t care :).

All Natural Dog Treats

Spray your food processor bowl, lid, blade, etc. with some non-stick cooking spray. This is a sticky dough so this helps with cleaning up. Throw the carrots in the food processor with the blade attachment and give it a whirl or three. Alternately, you could grate the carrots for a finer consistency if you’re not sure your pooch is a carrot lover.

All Natural Dog Treats

Dump in the rest of the ingredients and turn on the processor and let it go until you have a soft dough ball. If it’s looking more wet and sticky than doughy, add more flour. If it’s super stiff, add a little more pumpkin or some water. You want to end up with something a little firmer than pie dough because you’re going to roll it out and don’t want it too sticky.

All Natural Dog Treats

Flour your workspace and roll out half of the dough. I don’t care if it’s symmetrical, I just care that it fits on the baking sheet. I learned that it’s easier to cut it into smaller pieces after I move it to the baking sheet.

All Natural Dog Treats

All Natural Homemade Dog Treats.

Then…..(I think I’m pretty genius to think of this one) I use a pizza cutter to slice it up into bite-sized pieces. Brilliant, right? Again, I’m so not fussy about size and shape – and neither are the pups. I don’t spread out the pieces or anything because they don’t really expand in the oven.

All Natural Homemade Dog Treats

I pop them in the oven for about 45 minutes. They are done when they are pretty hard. If they are softer, they won’t last in a container on the counter as long. If you cut yours larger, they may also take longer to harden. Admittedly, this batch went a little too long because I got distracted and left them in a little long, so they’re a little darker than usual. Daisy said she didn’t mind.

All Natural Homemade Dog Treats

Let them cool, snap the pieces apart and toss into a jar and you and poochie are all set!

All Natural Dog Treats:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 3/4 cup flour (I use half white and half wheat) + a handful for rolling out dough
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (I usually have homemade in the freezer, but canned works also) – or sub sweet potato or squash puree
  • 2 TBSP peanut butter (I use crunchy)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Non-stick cooking spray (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray food processor parts with non-stick spray for easier clean up later.

2. Rough chop carrots, then place in food processor with blade attachment. Whirl for a few seconds until carrots are finely diced.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until a firm dough ball forms. Add flour or pumpkin/water to mixture as needed to get to the desired consistency.

4. Place half the mixture on a well-floured surface, then roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Transfer rolled dough to a baking sheet. Use a floured pizza cutter or sharp knife to slice the dough into about 1 inch pieces.

5. Repeat with the second half of the mixture, placing onto a second baking sheet.

6. Bake for about 45 minutes until pieces are hardened. Cool, then snap pieces apart and place in air-tight container.

Your pup will ADORE you even more now! Mine know when I’m making these now and hover about my feet while I’m mixing up the dough. Lola used to be against carrots, but once she got used to the carrots in the treats – because they were TREATS – she decided she liked them and I added them periodically to her food, too. Pumpkin is good for digestion – in people and dogs – so if your pooches have delicate stomachs, these treats may help settle them when they get indigestion.

For other doggie treat recipes, check out my “Doggies” board on Pinterest.

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Creamy Acorn Squash Pasta

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I admit it; I was pretty doubtful about this recipe the first time I tried it. I had some acorn squash from my Bountiful Basket order and I wanted to do something more interesting with it than roasting with brown sugar and maple syrup, so I turned to Pinterest, as usual. I found some interesting recipes, but since I’m a sucker for pasta dishes, I was drawn to Healthy Happy Life’s recipe for Acorn Squash Vegan Alfredo Sauce. Well, I’m not vegan, but the idea of making pasta sauce from squash sounded fun, so after careful consideration, I decided to give it whirl. I viewed it as an experimental recipe, fully prepared to go to plan B if it didn’t work out. (In our house, plan B is cereal for me and frozen burger patty for the Hubs).

The first issue I had with the recipe was that it calls for nutritional yeast flakes. I have no idea what that ingredient is, so I wasn’t sure what to sub for it. In reading through some of the comments on the post, I learned that cheese might be a good substitute, so I decided to try using some Parmesan and asiago cheese, since that’s what I had on hand. I only had vanilla flavored soy milk and worried that the vanilla flavor wouldn’t go well with the savory flavor of the sauce, so I used skim milk instead. Otherwise, I made a few other minor adjustments and the results were truly surprising. It was creamy and it didn’t taste odd – or squashy. The flavors are deep in their Italian savory roots. It’s not sweet, like you might think, either. I added some cooked chicken breast to the dish, mostly because I was afraid that the Hubs would reject a meatless meal – especially when he found out that the main ingredient was squash.

When the Hubs arrived home for dinner, I nonchalantly served up the squash pasta and commenced eating my own, waiting for his reaction. He started eating without asking questions and then said the magic words: “This is really good.” I asked him if he knew what it was. Then he gave me that look – the one that says, “Oh Lord, what has she fed me this time?” I told him the sauce was made from acorn squash and he was pretty surprised and said he really liked it.

BUT, the real test came later when a family friend’s 18 year old son dropped by and we offered him dinner, but didn’t tell him what it was, other than pasta. He ate two plates before we told him he was eating squash sauce with the pasta. Didn’t faze him. Kids: you never know.

I was happy to receive a couple of acorn squash in my Bountiful Basket again recently so I could try this recipe again. Here’s how I made it, but play with the ingredients to suit your own tastes:

Creamy Acorn Squash Pasta

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole acorn squash
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil (I used some frozen I had from the garden)
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (or Asiago, etc.)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard (I used the whole wheat variety, but recommend the smoother kind)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasonings
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (use the good stuff)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or less to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 box penne pasta
  • Optional: protein such as diced cooked chicken or cooked shrimp (this time I used some chicken sausage, sliced)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice squash in half, horizontally. Place cut side down in a baking dish. Add about an inch of water to the pan. Roast for about an hour, but check for doneness at 45 minutes. The skin peels away easily when it’s done. Allow squash to cool enough to handle.
  3. Set salted pasta water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente. (I also added my sliced chicken sausage to the pot while pasta was cooking). Reserve a cup of pasta water when you drain the pasta, to add to the sauce to thin, as needed.
  4. While pasta cooks, remove squash skin and seeds, then place the pulp in the food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend until all ingredients are creamy. Taste and adjust spices to taste. If you need to thin it, add some pasta water a little at a time and blend then check consistency.
  5. Toss pasta with sauce. Serve immediately.

Notes for next time:

The first time I made this, I used both parm and asiago cheese and I liked that better than just the parm. Another thought – to make a little more creamier, I think I might add a little Greek yogurt next time. I love shrimp, so I would add some cooked shrimp instead of chicken, but the Hubs doesn’t love shrimp (well, he doesn’t love shrimp touching anything other than deep frying batter and cocktail sauce). Instead of protein, you could also up the veg quotient with some steamed broccoli or some sautéed bell pepper or zucchini. The apple cider vinegar creates a nice tang in the background, but I almost tried some red wine vinegar, instead. I think it goes with Italian better. Finally, I want to add some caramelized onions to the mixture for a little more savoriness.

Try this! I bet, like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you love it and how different it tastes than you expect.

For my other squash pins see my Squash Board on Pinterest.

Related posts: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta


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Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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I already told you about my affinity for orange food when I wrote the the carrot soup post, so you had to know I would be talking about pumpkins – a lot! If you’re a Pinterest fan like me, you know that pumpkin-anything recipes are the most pinned recipes right now, so it’s only fitting we make some homemade pumpkin puree to get ready for all those orange recipes.

Along with my mysterious cantaloupe plants out in the garden, I also ended up with a very nice crop of pie (sweet) pumpkins. I never thought to grow pumpkins before. After all, how many jack-o-lanterns does one need a year? But, I knew that the pumpkins that I accidentally grew were pie pumpkins because that was the only kind I had thrown out there during my lazy composting last winter. So, it dawned on me that since I use a lot of pumpkin puree for Fall recipes and for my homemade doggie treats (Yeah, I’m that kind of dog owner. Yeah, I’ll share the recipe in a future post), I should be really happy to have my own crop of sweet pumpkins.

That said, I always thought starting with an actual pumpkin would be complicated and laborious work. Turns out I was wrong. It’s pretty darn simple and it tastes SO much better than canned. AND, a cup of pumpkin is only 41 calories! While I know most people don’t have a personal crop of pie pumpkins in their backyard, we can all take advantage of the plethora of little pumpkins that are appearing in big bins at the market and farmers markets at this time of year. They cost almost nothing and they are so easy to work with. I used a couple of resources to learn how to make puree: Simple Bites and Elana’s Pantry.

Here’s how:

First, start with the little pie pumpkins – they are the baby-sized ones, not the big carving kind (which don’t taste as yummy) or the super-mini kind. You can use them for decor around the house during Halloween season, then make puree and all kinds of pumpkin yummies out of them.

Use small pie/sweet pumpkins to make puree for cooking

Cut the stem off, then slice the pumpkins open, horizontally.

Slice horizontally

Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp, reserving for later.

Remove seeds and stringy pulp

It’s ok if some of the stringy part is left intact

Place pumpkin halves cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Two pumpkins fit on one of my baking sheets.

Place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-60 minutes, depending on size. You know they are done when you can insert a fork into the outside of the pumpkin easily and the inner flesh is quite soft, but not complete mush.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes

Let cool until you can handle the roasted pumpkins. Then scoop the flesh from the outer shell and place in the food processor. Puree until very smooth.

Scoop flesh from outer shell

Puree the pulp until very smooth

Remove from food processor to a colander to drain off excess moisture. Use cheesecloth or coffee filters to line the colander so you don’t lose the precious pulp. Allow to drain for about 30 minutes.

Drain in a lined colander for about 30 minutes.

Once it’s drained, you can use it immediately in your favorite pumpkin recipe or you can store it in the fridge for a few days and/or freeze it for later use. My two small pumpkins yielded about 2.5 cups of puree. I used a little for a fruit tart recipe (recipe coming in a future post) and froze the rest. I used a muffin tin to freeze 1/2 cup portions, which are handy to grab and defrost as needed.

BUT WAIT, there’s more! Remember the seeds and stringy pulp you scooped out of the pumpkins earlier? Separate the seeds from the pulp. Put the leftover pulp in the veggie stock freezer bag (see sidebar in this post) and rinse and dry the seeds.

Separate the seeds from the leftover pulp

When the seeds are dry, mix with a little melted butter and salt and roast at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Mix seeds with a little butter and salt, then roast at 300 for about 45 minutes

Great, healthy snack! For other fun roasted pumpkin seed recipes, see my pumpkin board on Pinterest.

Tasty healthy snack!

So, from two little pumpkins we have made puree for cooking, seeds for snacking and pulp for veggie stock. Some would also argue that we should reserve the liquid from the puree we drained. Ok. I didn’t, though.

Now, what are we going to make with our pumpkin puree? EVERYTHING! My personal fav is the soft pumpkin chocolate chip cookie, but I can’t have those very often. So, there’s also pumpkin pie (duh, right?), pumpkin waffles and pancakes, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin chili, pumpkin bread and muffins, pumpkin bars, pumpkin quinoa, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin butter, and pumpkin granola bars…..and the list goes on and on! Here are three of my pumpkin creations: Curried Pumpkin & Bean Soup and  Pumpkin & Fruit Galette and Pumpkin, Bean and Rice Burritos. I’ll show you as I go through my pumpkin pins. Oh, and did you know that you can sub pumpkin puree for oil in many baking recipes (like you might do with applesauce)?

Leave a comment with your favorite recipe using pumpkin!

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Mexican Zucchini Succotash (Calabacitas)

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It’s that time of year when squash is taking over our gardens, kitchens and every other available corner of our lives. It’s great that it’s so easy to grow, but after you’ve made 88 loaves of zucchini bread, it’s time to change things up a bit. Zucchini is a very versatile veg, so you can really put it in most any recipe and it’ll make a great addition. My friend Mary even made a zucchini cobbler for book club once and it was way yummy (it was actually sweet, not savory).

This is some of the squash that is currently hanging around in my kitchen

I have a speedy weeknight, one-pot wonder of a zucchini meal for you that the whole fam will devour. When I first started growing zucchini, my husband kept talking about something his mom used to make with zucchini, corn and cheese. He called it calavacitas, but in doing some research, it looks like calabacitas and calvacitas are the same basic dish – each family just has their own way to say it. The beauty of it all is that there are many versions of the old-school dish, so we can tweak it however we want!

I also use the zucchini, corn and a little cheese, but I add a few more ingredients to make it more of a main dish. I use chicken as the protein, but you could swap that out for pork, ground beef, or shrimp – or you could leave it out and make it a vegetarian meal instead. It is really fast to throw together and it’s one of those recipes where you can sub out any ingredient you don’t have for one you do have and get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Simple one pot Mexican Succotash!

Start by dicing the chicken into bite-sized pieces. I used some chicken tenders (about 3) I had in the freezer, but you could use breasts or boneless, skinless thighs also. The meat is easier to dice if it is still about half frozen.

I buy a large package of chicken tenders when they’re on sale and then freeze smaller portions to pull out as needed.

While you’re dicing the chicken, heat a large saute pan to medium heat. When hot, add a few swirls of EVOO and let it heat up. Add 3-4 cloves of minced garlic to the pan and cook for a minute – be careful not to scorch it as burned garlic tastes really bitter.  Chop up about a quarter (or more, if you like!) of an onion and add to the garlic.

Add garlic to taste: I used 3 cloves

Now add the corn. If you have fresh corn on the cob, just slice it off the cob straight into the pan. I used two cobs in mine.

Once the corn gets a little sear on it, place the diced chicken in the pan, along with some salt and pepper. Sprinkle in about a 1/2 tsp each of cumin and Mexican oregano. Stir and simmer over medium heat.

I have a lot (a ton) of these little green peppers – we think they’re Sandias – so I chopped up a few and threw them into the pan. You could use bell peppers or whatever type of pepper you might have on hand – or just skip if you don’t.

We received a mystery pepper plant from a friend that we think is a Sandia pepper and it’s very productive, so I threw some in for some flavor.

Next, add some chopped tomatoes, and/or salsa. I had some (or about a thousand) cherry tomatoes and some fresh salsa so I added some of both. Use what you have on hand. If you think you’ll need a little more heat, throw in some red pepper flakes.

Throw in some tomatoes and/or some salsa and let it all simmer together until the chicken is fully cooked and tomatoes are softening.

Then continue by chopping the zucchini (or yellow squash) – I used about two regular sized zuccs to feed two of us. Add more for a larger group (or to use up more of your harvest).

Slice the zucchini in half, then slice each half horizontally.

Repeat with the other half until you have quarters

Chop the quarters up into about 1/2″ slices

Add the zucc to the pan and stir into the mixture. Cover and simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Watch the zucc, though, because you don’t want to let it get overcooked and mushy.

Add the chopped zucc and cover. Simmer 3-4 minutes.

At this point, your meal is complete – well, the Hubs says it’s not complete until you add the cheese! He likes a lot of cheese all mixed up and melted in the pan, but since I’m on the healthy kick, I shred a little on the side so we can each add as much or as little cheese as we like.

I had some sharp cheddar and some Monterrey Jack cheese on hand; use what you have, or skip if you prefer no cheese

Garnish with some green onions and/or cilantro and you’re ready to eat!

Can it get any simpler than that? If you have other veggies you need to use up, go ahead and throw them into the pot as well. I think some diced potatoes or some green beans would be a happy addition – and would add a little more bulk if you’re trying to stretch the meal a little further. I could also see beans – maybe pinto or black – rounding it out nicely, as well. You could also wrap it up in a corn or flour tortilla to make it more kid friendly or portable.

Mexican Zucchini Succotash

Servings: 2-3

  • 2-3 medium sized zucchini, diced
  • Diced chicken (2-3 tenders/thighs/1 large breast) – or similar quantity of pork, ground beef or shrimp
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Sandia peppers (or 1/2 bell pepper), diced, seeds removed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • Corn – 2-3 fresh cobs or 1 small can drained or 1 cup frozen
  • Tomatoes, diced (1 handful cherry or two regular) and/or 2 Tbsp salsa (optional)
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup grated cheese (optional)
  • Red pepper flakes (optional – to taste)
  • Salt and pepper + 2 Tbsp EVOO

Directions:

1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of EVOO to lightly coat the bottom of pan.

2. Add garlic, saute for 1 minute then add onions. Saute on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove corn from the cob and place in pan with garlic and onions.

4. Stir cumin and oregano, along with salt and pepper into the mixture.

5. Once corn is beginning to sear, add diced chicken to the pan.

6. Let the chicken begin to brown and then stir in tomatoes and/or salsa. Let simmer until chicken is no longer pink. (If you’re using shrimp, add the tomatoes, allow to cook five minutes then add shrimp with zucchini, making sure they are cooked through (pink) before removing from heat.)

7. Add diced zucchini, cover and cook 3-5 minutes until zucchini is tender but not mushy.

8. Remove pan from heat and stir in cheese, if including it – or use as topping for individual portions. Garnish with green onions, cilantro and red pepper flakes to taste.

Notes for next time: The Hubs liked this version of his childhood favorite and endorsed the addition of the chicken. He said I made it a little spicy for him (perfect for me), so taste before adding extra heat with peppers. I will make with shrimp next time (when I’m home alone) because the Hubs is weird about shrimp mixed into other food – he likes it on the side (??). Otherwise, I might also add some beans next time.

I would love to hear your spin on this old, new again classic.

Need other zucchini recipes (who doesn’t?)? See my squash board on Pinterest.

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