When it comes to feeding the dogs we love, the options are mind-boggling. The choices in days gone by included kibble or canned. The range of ready-made specialty diets for dogs today is a far cry from the chow our grandparents’ pooches lived on.
Sure, kibble is easy, but what kind? What about canned food? Freeze dried? All-natural fresh ingredients or all organic? Made in America? Grain-free? Soy-free? Chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, fish, duck, venison, bison — or vegetarian? You name it, it’s out there.
While we’re busy pondering the best diet to keep them healthy, all dogs really care about is whatever comes next. Mine do all their asking with their eyes. If that fails, a gentle nose nudge works pretty well too. I imagine they ask, “How about a walk in the woods?” or, “How about a ride in the car with the back window rolled down enough to catch a good whiff?”
The internet is filled with countless recipes for homemade dog treats, but this recipe evolved from my quest for a limited number of superfood ingredients to make a cost-effective alternative to store-bought goodies.
The sustainable high-quality protein comes from sardines or mackerel, excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids and high in vitamin B12 and selenium. Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene, a rich source of vitamin A, and provide easily digestible fiber. Peanuts, actually legumes rather than nuts, provide good plant-based protein. Oatmeal and flaxseed meal make great gluten-free sources of fiber in addition to the extra boost of omega-3 fatty acids in flax seeds.
If there is one thing my dogs will do just about anything for, it is the not-so-subtle aroma of these homemade dog treats.
Superfood Power Treats
1 small sweet potato
4.375 oz. canned sardines or mackerel, preferably water packed, no salt added, drained
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted peanut butter. (Avoid peanut butter with artificial sweeteners, which are dangerous for dogs. The only ingredient on the label should be peanuts.)
3 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Pierce the sweet potato with a fork and microwave on high 4 to 5 minutes or until soft. Cool and remove skin.
Using a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the rolled oats for 2 to 3 minutes to grind into a meal. Transfer to another bowl. Add flaxseed meal, mix well and set aside.
Place cooked sweet potato, sardines, egg and peanut butter in the food processor and pulse until thoroughly mixed. Add dry ingredients and pulse until just mixed (as you would if making pie dough or biscuits) without allowing the dough to form a ball.
At this stage the mixture will appear dry and crumbly but don’t be deceived — it should hold together when pressed. If too crumbly, sprinkle up to 1 tablespoon of water and pulse the dough a few more times to make it workable. The less water added, the better.
Using a 1-teaspoon measuring spoon, roll pieces of dough into balls and press onto the lined baking sheet to ¼ inch thickness. Or roll the dough out on parchment to ¼ inch thickness and cut into 1-inch square pieces to save labor. With crunchy treats like these, smaller is better.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the treats appear dry and the bottoms are lightly browned. Turn off the oven and allow the treats to dry in the warm oven until completely cool.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week or store frozen for up to 3 months.
Makes 72 yummy and highly addictive dog treats.
A word to the wise: Turn on your exhaust fan while baking these bad boys. That funky fish smell in your kitchen will dissipate as quickly as your heart melts over how much your dog loves ’em.
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