Ever since I started fundraising for Labrador Retriever Rescue Scotland, I've been experimenting with ways to make healthy, tasty dog treats. It's not always easy as most recipes call for flour or other wheaty things that a lot of dogs are allergic to. I'm really trying to find ingredients that shouldn't bother most dogs, throw them together and hope they make good cookies. So far, my banana/peanut butter/yogurt/cinnamon cookies turned out really well and today I tried another made up recipe, which I think was quite successful. The only thing I'm worried about is that these treats aren't pretty.
In the grand scheme of things, that's not a big deal if I was just feeding them to just my dogs, but trying to market these things is difficult when there are so many other treats out there in fun shapes, pretty packaging and fancy decorations. My treats don't even have a uniform shape. They are healthy and tasty and definitely low calorie, which means dogs can have more than one, but they don't look like anything a person would buy from a professional; not even if it's for charity. I don't know how to remedy this. I don't want to sacrifice quality, taste and health for shape, colour and visual appeal. The whole point of under taking this was to produce a treat that was worth eating, not a cookie that is just corn glossed over. Okay, that was a bit pretentious, but you know what I mean.
Let's take my recipe from today, for example.
Ingredients: butternut squash, cinnamon, honey...oh, that's it. Simple, identifiable ingredients all with nutritional benefit for your dog.
Nutritional value, for me, means that I selected each ingredient because of what it can positively contribute to the dog's diet. Since there are only three ingredients, let's examine each briefly.
Honey: a small amount of unpasturised honey contains anti-bacterial properties. It seems to help battle yeast infections. Roscoe has mild allergies to wheat, corn and perhaps some environmental allergies, but when he is eating a teaspoon of honey a day, his allergies stay pretty cleared up.
Cinnamon: I can't say enough about this spice. It helps regulate insulin levels, so it is good for diabetic dogs, and people too. It also acts as an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflamatory agent. A lot of "antis." It is also thought to assist with heart health. There is a word of caution with cinnamon though because it does assist with thinning the blood, and, could potentially cause uterine contractions in pregnant dogs. So, if you are going to administer cinnamon as a daily dietary supplement, research it first. Basically, cinnamon is good for dogs with arthritis, Diabetes and allergies. A little bit on a treat, in my opinion, very good.
Butternut squash contains anti-oxidants, a good source of vitamin C and an excellent source of fibre. It too has a multitude of health benefits.
So, what do you get when you combine all three ingredients together?
A very "super food" type treat that looks...well, ugly.
The treats are made in my handy dandy dehydrator and so the butternut squash ends up curling up and twisting all around, but not in a pretty twirly or curly Q fashion. Oh, no. They ugly! I tried one and they are tasty and Glacier, Roscoe and Hermione all thought they were great, but they are just so visually unappealing. Because I can't see, I have no idea, but I suspect the dehydrating process probably discoloured the butternut squash as well, or perhaps the honey and cinnamon turned it a funny colour, but if it did turn a strange colour, how do I sell shriveled up, brown dog treats that are supposedly a "super food?" I'm just saying. :)
Would you like to know how to make these super food treats? That way you can see for yourself how UGLY they are.
Step 1: slice butternut squash in to pieces. Depending on what kind of treat you want, your treat will be either sliced thinly or thickly. I made both because I have big dogs and a little one. The thicker pieces are meant to be something for Glacier and Roscoe to work at, while the thinner pieces are for Hermione. These are probably more of a treat rather than a "training" reward kind of cookie because they take too long to consume.
Step 2: sprinkle thin layer of cinnamon over each slice.
Step 3: spread thin layer of honey over cinnamon.
Step 4: put in dehydrator and let dehydrate until it reaches the consistency you want. The longer you leave them in there, the tougher they will be.
So, there you have it: my recipe for my super food treat that is UGLY.