Puppy Treats: Sweet Potato Balls

Dog Treats Sweet Potato BallsOn August 9, 2010 our first dog, Sascha, passed away. We were in Sri Lanka for a wedding at the time and received the news just as we checked onto our flight home. Her departure was sudden. I can still remember my disbelief. After all, she had been full of energy and vitality. As we left for the airport just days earlier, she had gazed down at us from the top of the stairs with that mix of imperious aloofness and doleful sweetness that made her special in our eyes. She was 11, but had not shown any signs of slowing down. Continue Reading →

Canine comfort food

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It seems like all the dogs in my life are currently not in the pink of health. Just before we left for our month-long trip, Brando, my longhaired mini-dachshund god-dog (yes, I’m referred to as his “Auntie Mom”) suffered from a nasty back problem and had to get an emergency operation. It was heart-wrenching seeing him at the animal hospital, crying from fear and pain. I had decided, then, to bake him some peanut butter cookies to cheer him up (if you’re a regular reader of J’s blog, you’ll realise that Brando is a bit of a canine foodie) and picked up the ingredients I needed at an organic store. But a whole bunch of things got in the way of my baking.

Now, many weeks later, our much-better-suited-to-a-temperate-climate golden retrievers have come down with a nasty case of scabs. The poor things have been shaved and now look like sad, skinny, shorn sheep. Sascha, the vainer of the two, spends her days looking mournfully at her reflection in our bedroom mirror. She also has an icky spot on her front left paw that she has been licking. So to add insult to injury, we have had to cover that one paw with a dog bootie. She is a rather strange sight to behold. Of course, being the unsympathetic parents that we are, we’ve taken to calling her “Michael Jackson”. Unfortunately, Sascha doesn’t see the humour in that. In fact, she has taken to giving me decidedly dirty looks.

With two moping dogs in my apartment and another one slowly regaining the use of his back legs upstairs, I felt that it was time to make some time to bake those peanut butter cookies. To be honest, they took very little time to make. I mixed the dough just before I went to bed, and popped the cookies in the oven the following evening. However, I was rather amused that as they baked, Chubby Hubby kept commenting on the delicious peanutty aroma that filled our apartment. He was very upset that I didn’t make him a batch with sugar in them.

These little pick-me-ups are my way of giving my favourite pooches some edible hugs while they are recovering from their various boo-boos. I hope your dogs enjoy them too!

Poochie peanut butter pick-me-ups
Makes 70 cookies

230 grams whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
260 grams natural peanut butter
1 cup (225millilitres) milk

Combine the flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the peanut butter and milk. Whisk until evenly combined. It should have the texture of a thick milkshake.

Add the peanut butter and milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well and knead until it becomes a uniformly mixed ball of dough. Wrap tightly with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

Working with half of the dough at a time, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a 6-7 centimetre (1/4 inch) thickness. Using a 4-centimetre wide cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Roll the dough scraps together and repeat. Continue rolling and cutting the remaining dough. As you cut the cookies, place them on a baking tray. Freeze them for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (I use the oven fan when I bake these cookies).

Place the cookies about 2 centimetres apart on a lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Cool them on a rack before storing them in an airtight container.

Puppy love

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Today, 2 April, our younger golden retriever, Alix, celebrates her fourth birthday. Friends have observed that we have a softer spot for our second dog. I guess I can’t help it. Alix is smaller than her older sister and inevitably gets less than her half of the back seat in the car because Sascha has developed a slick manoeuvre that ensures that she spreads herself across two-thirds of the space before she lets Alix jump up behind her. Alix doesn’t bark or make alarm-raising noises, so when her favourite soft-toy is forced to endure a lobotomy under the expert paws of Dr Sascha (which has happened innumerable times), I tend to only notice the catastrophe when it’s far too late; when the soft, fluffy innards of her teddy have been scattered across our bedroom. (Inspired by the Simpsons, we’ve taken to naming them Ted1, Ted2, etcetera; we must be up to Ted20 by now.) I’d walk into a room and find Alix either anxiously but silently rushing back and forth around the room, unable to “rescue” her teddy herself, or quietly nursing her headless toy.

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Don’t get me wrong, I adore Sascha too. But they’re both very different dogs. Alix unquestioningly follows Sascha’s lead. When we take walks, she automatically stops in order for Sascha to catch up. She prefers to walk alongside Sascha rather than the person who is walking her (yes, it’s bad training on our part). If Sascha were to break loose, she’d know how to find her way back. Alix wouldn’t.

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Last year, when Alix broke loose from her handler while CH and I were away, she didn’t find her way home. We knew that it wasn’t something she was likely to be able to do, which really made the possibility of being reunited with her pretty slim. I continue to be grateful that a wonderful gentleman named Andy picked her up, took care of her, and made an effort to get in touch with us when he heard about our lost dog posters. We can’t thank you enough, Andy! We deeply appreciate your generous act of kindness. Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate the fact that Alix has given us so much joy for nearly four years. Thank you.

alix_mom_small.jpgThis year, as a birthday treat I tried out a couple of recipes from the only cookbook we have for doggy edibles: the Three Dog Bakery Cookbook. Ginger’s Fourth of July Snaps were reasonably easy to make. They smelt very much like gingerbread and I loved the wee bit of added height the addition of baking soda gave them. The Poochie Pleasin’ Pretzels, however, didn’t quite turn out as promised (you’ll notice that they look more like breakfast rolls). It’s not a recipe I am planning to revisit any time soon. However, one of the best things about baking for your dogs is that they’ll adore just about anything you give them. They won’t tell you what they think you could’ve done better, and they’ll gobble up every last bite of your labour of love.

Ginger’s Fourth of July Snaps
Adapted from the Three Dog Bakery Cookbook
Makes 30 three-inch dog bones

¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup molasses (I prefer unsulfured molasses)
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup water
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons ground ginger
¼ cup raisins*
¼ cup chopped pecans**

*RAISINS ARE CALLED FOR IN THE ORIGINAL RECIPE, BUT SINCE THERE IS EVIDENCE LINKING THE INGESTION OF RAISINS WITH ACUTE RENAL FAILURE IN DOGS, YOU MIGHT WANT TO OMIT THEM.

** MOST NUTS ARE APPARENTLY NOT GOOD FOR YOUR DOGS. THEIR HIGH PHOSPHORUS CONTENT IS SAID TO LEAD TO BLADDER STONES. MACADAMIA NUTS ARE PARTICULARLY BAD FOR YOUR DOGS.  THEY HAVE BEEN FOUND TO CAUSE LOCOMOTORY PROBLEMS. YOU MIGHT WANT TO OMIT THEM TOO.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Combine the oil, molasses, honey and water in a bowl. By pouring the oil into the bowl first, you reduce the likelihood of the molasses and honey adhering to the bowl. Similarly, before you measure out the molasses and honey, coat your measuring cup or spoon with a thin layer of oil. This ensures that most of the molasses and honey will slide into the bowl rather than stick to your measuring tool. Stir to combine.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, raisins and pecans (if using, see notes above) . Whisk to blend evenly before pouring the wet ingredients into the dry mixture. Stir to combine.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough. It should come together easily. (A word of caution: this dough is meant to be pretty dry, as you can tell by the cracked surface of the finished product. Don’t be put off by it’s crumbliness. It will hold its shape.) Shape it into a ball. Cut a quarter of the dough and keep the rest of it under a damp kitchen towel. Roll out dough to ¼-inch thick then cut out shapes. The scraps can be gathered into a ball and rolled out again. If the dough feels a little too dry, spray a thin mist of water onto it before you knead it a little and roll it out. Repeat with the remaining dough.

I refrigerated the cut dough for 15 minutes before placing them on trays lined with Silpats. Bake for 15-20 minutes (don’t let them get too brown). Let them cool on a rack before storing them in an air-tight container.

DogPretzels_small.jpgPoochie Pleasin’ Pretzels
Adapted from the Three Dog Bakery Cookbook
Makes 14 to 16 large un-pretzel like rolls

1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (45 degrees Celsius or 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 tablespoon honey
4 cups plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit). In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. The instructions are sketchy here. I added the honey after the yeast, stirred it and let the mixture stand until fine bubbles appeared on the surface of the liquid. Add enough flour to make a soft dough (I added all 4 cups). Knead for 6-8 minutes until smooth.

Here, the recipe proceeds directly into shaping the pretzels (which I did). But I suspect that allowing the dough to rise, punching it down and letting it rise again before I shaped them might’ve given me more pretzel-like results.

Pinch off about 2 tablespoons of dough for each pretzel. Using your palm, roll dough out into a 12-inch long, ½-inch thick rope. What they don’t tell you is that the dough is really sticky and having wet hands might make it a little easier to handle. Or perhaps additional flour might’ve helped? I’d just read in a Reinhart book that sticky dough won’t stick to wet hands, so I wet my hands. But I have to say that the dough was difficult to roll out. I rolled it between both palms (the book ambiguously states, “using the palm of your hand”, so I could’ve done it wrongly), letting gravity help it along.

Shape into pretzel twists and place on a baking tray lined with a Silpat. Brush with egg and bake for 20 minutes (I basically took them out when they turned golden brown). Allow to cool on a rack before storing in an air-tight container.

lost and FOUND!

It’s a little after 10pm on Monday and I’m very, very happy to report that Alix has been found, picked up, showered and is happily snoozing away.

I’d like to send out huge thanks to all the people who posted very kind and sympathetic comments, who emailed me during the day, and all the bloggers who put up notices on their own sites. Your support was amazing and it really touched both S and me.

Even bigger thanks go to Andy, the ultimate kind samaritan. This very nice guy saw our crazy little gal trying to cross Siglap Road last night. He rescued her and gave her a safe place to spend the night. Andy, thank you so very much!

Help. Our dog has gone missing!

I’m typing this from Perth, where my wife and I have been the last few days. Last night, we got some horrible news. Our younger dog Alix (pictured here) has gone missing. She was staying a friend’s house while we were away. During a walk near Telok Kurau Lorong M, she got spooked by a stupid little boy on a bicycle (who almost ran into her), got loose and ran off. She was last seen running towards the canal that runs adjacent to Lorong M.

PLEASE, please, if you have seen her or have any information on her, my wife and I would be eternally grateful. Alix is a 3 year old Golden Retriever. She’s very small (much smaller than normal) with a short coat. She doesn’t bark (ever) and is overly friendly. She’s wearing a yellow collar with an AVA tag on it. S and I are very willing to give a small reward to anyone who helps us find her.

Please email me at aun@chubbyhubby.net if you have seen her or have found her. Also, I would be very grateful if you could ask friends who live in the East to keep their eyes out for her. She means the world to us.

Damn Dog!

Let me repeat that. “Damn dog!” For dinner tonight, S, obviously inspired by the recent Asia-Middle East Summit that was hosted here in Singapore a couple weeks ago (and that one of our relatives was involved in), had decided to make something from Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

The recipe she chose was Yogurtlu Basti (Chicken with Spiced Yogurt). Before she picked me up from work (yes, I am very spoilt by her), she prepped her mise en place. She mixed the required spices and the yogurt and set it aside. She chopped the onions. And most importantly, she took some fresh boneless chicken thighs out of the fridge, salted them, and put them on a plate on the kitchen counter, expecting them to reach room temperature by the time we reached home.

Of course, she had forgotten about our fluffy white kitchen-shark, Sascha. For those who don’t already know, Sascha is a 5 year old Golden Retriever with a penchant for gourmet foods and the skills of a ninja. Normally, Sascha is a sweet, lazy, fuzzy-wuzzy. But every so often, when our backs are turned, she dons her black ninja mask and whisks delectable goodies off the kitchen counter and into her tummy with amazing stealth and speed. Dog trainers tell us we should only scold a dog when catching it in the act of doing something bad. Suffice it to say, we’ve never caught Sascha in the act. All we usually catch is the sight of a dog sitting smugly, smiling to herself, and an empty space on our kitchen counter where our dinner was sitting just moments before.

Over the years, she’s stolen abalone, tofu, braised pork belly, and a whole host of other treats off our counter. But she’s smart. She doesn’t do it all the time. She lulls us into a false sense of security by being perfect for months. Then, when we’ve just forgotten about her last indiscretion, BAM! She’s done it again. Tonight, as you’ve already guessed, she did it again. When we came home, the chicken was missing, or rather, had found its way down our greedy pooch’s gullet.

Thankfully, we live near a supermarket, so went right back out again and came back with some chicken drumsticks, with which S made the Yogurtlu Basti.

Yogurtlu Basti (serves 4)

2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
1.5 inches ginger, grated
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3.5 lb chicken, cut into quarters, or 4 filets
salt and pepper
1/4 cup toasted chopped almonds

In a bowl, mix the yogurt with the cardamom and ginger and let it infuse while you cook the chicken. In a large skillet, fry the onion till soft. Add the chicken and sauté until onions are golden and chicken browned. Add salt and pepper and a cup of water, and cook over low heat–12 minutes for breast meat, 20 minutes for dark–until chicken is tender and sauce reduced, turning the chicken over and adding a little water if it becomes too dry. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the yogurt. Serve sprinkled with almonds.

Doggy Cookies

April 2nd was Alix’s second birthday. Alix, as you can probably tell from the picture below (hovering in the background) is the younger of our two Golden Retrievers. To celebrate, my wife S, in addition to feeding her a special breakfast of scrambled eggs, decided to whip up a batch of doggy cookies.

The cookies are from the Three Dog Bakery Cookbook, written by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff. The recipe she chose to follow is called the “party hearty mix-it-up-mix”. The dogs (both Alix and her older “sister” Sascha) loved them, drooling appreciatively while they were cooling off.

Amusingly, the dogs seemed to know right away that the cookies were for them. From the moment S started combining ingredients, the dogs wouldn’t leave her side. Alix even watched the oven while they were baking. Unfortunately, while I certainly tried, I couldn’t get a picture with either dog either holding or sitting in front of a cookie—they would eat it up the second I lifted the camera to my eye. Instead, S suggested I take the shot (above, on the left) to mirror the shot I had done of her chocolate sables.