Rachel was a lovely, sweet-natured 7-year-old boxer who found her way to our house when she was diagnosed with lymphoma, a couple of years ago. Her owner was unable to take care of her increased needs, including the frequent urination that was a side effect of the medications that were keeping her cancer in check. Rachel was given a month to live and he knew she would have a better 30 days at our house where she could go in and out as she pleased, in the company of Portia and Ottie, who already knew her well.
Her month turned into seven good months of walks, playtime and nights spent cuddling between Ottie and Portia, a big colorful diaper on her wiggly butt. Part of her extended time on earth was my stubbornness in not giving up and working around the mouth sores that would sometimes appear and would make eating regular food impossible. I realized that if I cooked some chicken with vegetables and pureed everything in a blender with chicken stock Rachel would happily eat so, when needed, I would make big batches of “baby” food to see her through the difficult days. It wasn’t hard.
As obsessed as I am with my pups, I also recognize my time is valuable and excellent commercial food meets my dogs’ needs, without me having to cook for them. On occasion, though, I will feed them some leftover chicken and other tidbits because, contrary to popular belief, dogs do like a bit of variety. And it’s a big party when boiled chicken, leftover salmon or a bit of pasta with olive oil land in their bowl.
When I feel particularly generous – about three times a year – I will make them special treats. I started after the Chinese chicken jerk scare (tainted dog food from China that killed a sizable amount of dogs in the US), much to Portia and Ottie’s delight.
This week, then, I am turning over our customary recipe to the canine kitchen – as much as I draw pleasure in cooking for humans, it makes me equally happy to see those tails wagging when I make something special for my pups.
For the purpose of the blog, I used bone shaped cookie cutters – the end result would look better than the generic lumps I bake – but, when it comes to dogs, presentation doesn’t improve their eating experience!
This recipe was adapted from the one Sherry Yard used to make at the Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco. Sometimes I omit the honey and substitute with a couple of spoons of pumpkin puree. You can add some cheddar if you wish – or some bacon if you want to be really sinful. But always use low sodium chicken stock (or home-made stock). The dough is very stiff but it won’t bake rock hard. If your dogs are older, decrease the baking time, until the treats are barely golden, for a softer cookie.
RECIPE – Yields about two dozens large treats
1 T Vegetable Oil
1 T Honey or 2 T Pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
1 C Chicken Stock 240 ml (3/4 C – 180 ml – if you are using pumpkin puree)
3 C Flour (preferably whole-wheat) 360 g
1/2 C Cornmeal 80 g
Whisk together eggs, oil, honey and chicken stock. Whisk in half of the flour and beat until incorporated (you can also use a mixer). Add the remaining flour and cornmeal. The end result will be a pretty stiff dough. Refrigerate for one hour.
Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough to a thickness of 1/2”. Cut in desired shapes or just form the treats in round, flattened balls with your hands. Re-roll the scraps until all the dough is used.
Place the treats on 2 parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 350F (180C) for about 20 minutes (rotating the sheets half way through) or until nicely browned.
Store in the refrigerator.