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Food for Thought
Pamper Those Pets!
When it comes to being thankful, to being happy in the moment, to being grateful for every gift received, animals are superior to us in every way. I am blessed with a crew that sleeps in my bed, sits on my lap, and is ecstatic to see me if I'm gone for more that five minutes. It's time to return the love!
This month, rather than bombarding you with recipes for pumpkin pie and green bean casseroles, I have some wonderful recipes for dog, cat, and bird treats. They're easy and fun (though maybe a little stinky) to make, and my critters are very enthusiastic about the results. I've made homemade dog biscuits for years, primarily because it sickens me to read the ingredients label on the boxes of store-bought biscuits. Lately there have been many cases of illness and death in animals that have been traced back to purchased treatsa very good reason to make them at home!
Even if you don't have pets of your own, you could always whip up a batch of these goodies as a nice holiday gift for someone who does. Or you can scroll past the cat and dog recipes until you get to the bird seed treats and ornaments, and mix up an attractive offering for the wild birds in your area.
Treats for finicky cats
A few years ago a friend gave me a copy of MacPherson's Natural Cookbook, Easy-to-Make Cat Treat Recipes, written by Diane Millward. My cats are really finicky and didn't like most of the crunchy treats I'd bought for them in the past, so I tucked the book away and just baked for the less picky dogs. Last week I retrieved the book and read through the recipes, and was hooked. I could make cat treats with real meat in them!
I started with one of the easiest recipes: Tuna Treats. Once I got past the "ick" factor of handling oily tuna dough, it was a breeze. It smelled a little bit like Mom's salmon loaf (gak) in the kitchen, but it wasn't too intense. The cats went crazy over these delicacies, and I guess I let the success go to my head, because next I made Cat Biscuit Delight treats, and doubled the recipe. A single recipe makes 500 small pieces, which would have been plenty for two catsespecially since one of them should be watching her waistline a bitbut I'd bought the big can of tuna and didn't want to waste it. We now have "Cat Biscuit Delight" security.
For some reason, the second recipe smelled a little stronger. It may have been the egg, or maybe the catnip . . . or maybe just the odor accumulation of two batches of tuna-based goodies. It couldn't get much worse though, right? Right?
Looking online I found savvyhomemade.com, with a recipe for Crunchy Cat Biscuits. It called for two cans of stinky sardines that had to be mashed with a rubber spatula and then rolled into balls with my fingers. While the biscuits were baking, the rubber spatula and my hands got the lemon juice and baking soda treatment, which thankfully removed the odor. The cats were very, very impressed with these, leaving their place by the fire to come get seconds. With windows open and the kitchen fan on, it was definitely the time to move on to dog treats!
Oddly enough, my big spoiled mutts aren't very fond of bacon. If I hand them a piece of bacon, they'll politely take it and eat it, but without enthusiasm. If I put bacon grease on their dog food, they'll walk away. But when I add crumbled bacon and grease to dog biscuit dough, they're just tickled. Go figure! Here's my favorite recipe for homemade dog biscuits. I often vary it, depending on what I have on hand in the refrigerator and pantry at the time. Use your imagination; as long as you adjust the flour and liquids to make stiff dough, they'll turn out great.
Both dogs enjoyed Munchy Crunchy Meat Treats (a recipe I found at a really inspiring website, bullwrinkle.com) and picked this biscuit out first when I put several options down in front of them. The recipe can be made with either chicken or beef. It calls for rice flour, which is supposed to be a lot easier for their digestion, but I think you could easily substitute any flour without a problem. The dough in the original recipe was too soft, and I had to add a little additional flour, but once I did that it was very easy to roll out and made nice smooth biscuits.
From the same website I tried Pet Puffs. This dough is dropped onto the cookie sheet from a spoon, so the treats aren't very pretty, but of course the dogs didn't seem to care. The puffs have canned dog food in them, and are made with yeast, so they're meaty and light. I made them a little bigger than the recipe suggestedpartly because I have big dogs, and partly because I was getting tired of standing at the kitchen counter and just wanted to sit down with a cup of coffee!
Don't forget the birds
Maybe you would like to indulge some of our feathered friends by giving them a treat this winter. I know I'm thankful for our wild birds; they eat a lot of bugs that would otherwise torment me! Feeding wild animals is controversial, but from what I've read, feeding birds in the winter will do more good than harm. Putting an occasional treat out for the birds will certainly not make them dependent on you; their food sources come and go in nature all the time.
There are many websites that offer instructions for making decorative seed balls and ornaments, but most of them use unflavored gelatin, and many of the reviews mentioned a problem with the seed getting moldy. When hunting for a more natural method, three options caught my eye, and two made the cut. This recipe for seed balls is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It gave me a few problems and I had to adapt it a bit, but the final result is wonderful. They hold together well, with no crumbling. I don't know how long they will store, so if you don't use them all immediately, I would recommend refrigerating or freezing them.
For attractive bird seed ornaments that would be great for gifts, here is a recipe from Audubon California. For easy handling, use cookie cutters with simple shapes, and make sure you let them dry thoroughly. Hang some outside now so the birds will find them before the cold weather hits, and consider making extras. Decorate them with festive ribbons and tiny pinecones to hang on a living Christmas tree in the yard next month.
Pamper those pets! By making treats for them out of wholesome ingredients, you are giving them the gift of good health and happinessa small payment for all of the hours of enjoyment and laughter they give to us.
Contact Lorinda at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorinda resides in Eastern Washington, where she joyously combines her love of cooking and gardening. Baking is her passion, and licking the batter off the spoon after making a cake is her reward. When she's not in the kitchen, she's out in the garden pulling weeds and snacking on young peas. Enjoy Lorinda's blog, The Rowdy Baker.
Food for Thought copyright 2013.