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Fit for a dog

You can make your own healthy pet food at a reasonable cost
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Veterinarian Sara Lavery makes organic dog treats for her business, The Pet Bakery of Oakmont, Pa. (Robin Rombach/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/MCT)MCT
 Posted: 2:00 AM March 05, 2014

More and more pet owners want their animal companions to eat as well as they do.

Home-prepared meals of raw meats and vegetables usually provide the best nutrition for man's best friend, says Kathy Blackshear, a holistic veterinarian based in Ashland. But the commitment to cooking for one's dog or cat often doesn't extend to pet treats, she says.

"They're so highly processed," says Blackshear of commercially manufactured pet foods and treats. "And they're full of preservatives and chemicals."

Peanut Butter-Buckwheat Kisses

Vegetable oil, for greasing cookie sheet

1 cups buckwheat flour, plus extra for dusting work surface

cup and 1 tablespoon steel-cut oats

1 heaping teaspoon blackstrap molasses

1/3 cup unsweetened, creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the buckwheat flour and oats.

Measure the blackstrap molasses into a small bowl. Pour cup boiling water over molasses and stir until dissolved. Add the peanut butter and stir. Add to bowl with flour and oats and mix together to form a soft dough. (If it is a little dry, add a few tablespoons of water.)

Lightly flour a clean work surface with additional buckwheat flour and turn out dough onto it. Roll small pieces of dough into balls about half as large as golf balls. Put them on prepared cookie sheet and press down gently with thumb on each ball. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Let kisses cool (they should be quite hard), then store them in a sealed container. They should keep for at least a week.

"Dinner for Dogs: 50 Home-Cooked Recipes for a Happy, Healthy Dog" by Henrietta Morrison (The Experiment; 2013, $15.95).

Beefy Red Hearts

2 cups Lakewood Organic Super Veggie Juice, or other organic vegetable juice

7 envelopes Knox gelatin

1 pint beef broth (no onions)

Pour the juice into a bowl and add 3 or 4 ice cubes. Sprinkle gelatin over juice; stir until gelatin has dissolved, for about 5 minutes. In a saucepan, bring beef broth to a boil. Add gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin has dissolved, for about 5 minutes.

Place in a rectangular glass baking dish and refrigerate until firm, for about 3 hours. Cut into squares or use a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Makes 2 dozen squares.

"Dog-Gone Good Cuisine" by Gayle Pruitt (St. Martin's; 2014; $21.99)

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 large sweet potato, baked, peeled and mashed

1 cups all-purpose flour (may substitute whole-wheat)

1 egg

cup rolled oats

teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients together and knead a few times. Roll dough into a thick sheet and cut out desired shape of biscuits.

Arrange biscuits on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and cook in a preheated, 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, until crunchy and golden-brown.

Store them in an airtight container or sealed jar for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 1 dozen biscuits.

Adapted from "Dog Treat Cookbook:

20 Homemade Recipes Your Dog Will Love"

by Wendy Wright (Amazon Digital Services;

2014, $2.99 on Kindle).

Salmon Florentine

4 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed of excess moisture

4 ounces ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1 large egg

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups cooked rice or quinoa

2 tablespoons chicken broth

2 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

Lemon slices, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In bowl of a food processor, combine the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan and egg; puree.

Brush the oil on bottom and sides of a glass, ovenproof dish. Add the rice to bottom of dish and spread out evenly. Spoon the chicken broth evenly over rice.

Place the salmon fillets over rice and spoon pureed spinach-cheese mixture over top. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes; when done, spinach should be puffed.

Garnish with the lemon slices.

Recipe from "Dog-Gone Good Cuisine: More Healthy, Fast and Easy Recipes for You and Your Pooch," by Gayle Pruitt (St. Martins; 2014; $21.99).

The home cook usually can do better than all the gourmet pet treats on the market, says Blackshear, a "rather rabid proponent" of home cooking for pets since relocating her house-call practice four years ago from New Mexico to Ashland. She plans a workshop on the topic of cooking for pets this summer at Ashland Food Co-op.

Doggone good treats, in some cases, can be produced in the home kitchen at a fraction of the cost with ingredients already in the pantry. Caution should be taken, however, with ingredients bound for the dog dish, tempting as it may be to simply fill it with what's left of tonight's dinner.

Onions, for example, can make dogs anemic. Even a single serving of grapes or raisins can lead to rapid renal (kidney) failure. Fat trimmings can trigger pancreatitis, and raw yeast dough can expand in a pet's digestive system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines. Chocolate can make dogs extremely sick.

From three new cookbooks geared toward pets, here are a few treats — all made with "people food" — that cooks can feel good about feeding their dogs.

An entire section of Gayle Pruitt's "Dog-Gone Good Cuisine, More Healthy, Fast and Easy Recipes for You and Your Pooch" (St. Martin's Griffin; 2014; $21.99) is devoted to equal-opportunity recipes the entire family can share. Pairing creamy, cheesy spinach with heart-healthy salmon, Salmon Florentine would make any dog beg for leftovers.

Each of the following recipes has some potential health benefit, according to the authors. Plain, unflavored gelatin, for example, can help to prevent arthritis, arthrosis and other degenerative joint disorders in dogs.

Peanut butter is a good source of protein, vitamins and healthy fats. As anyone who's ever had to sneak a pill into Fido's mouth with a spoonful of the stuff knows, it also tastes good. Choose an all-natural brand without added sugar or salt.

A good source of dietary fiber and vitamins B6 and C, sweet potatoes make a great base for doggie treats. These easy biscuits get extra crunch from oatmeal.

"Dogs love to crunch on things," says Blackshear, who recommends some of the same snacks for pets that their owners enjoy: baby carrots and good-quality jerky.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email McClatchy News Service contributed to this story.

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