Tips & Tricks
This journey into canine cuisine is a learn as I go journey so this page will help clarify how I prepare or use certain ingredients, the products I rely on, basically those little tips and tricks I've learned to use in my kitchen preparing homemade dog treats and dog food meals. I'll add more as I think of them or discover them... Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!
My workhorses are my Kitchenaid Mixer, Ninja Master Prep, and American Harvester Snackmaster Dehydrator (I'm still dreaming of that Excaliber Square Dehydrator). In baking recipes I always say to use a parchment paper lined baking sheet but I invested in some silicone baking sheets which over time have saved me a lot of money.
When cooking a soup or stew and you find you need to add more water during the cooking process, use hot water since adding cold water will slow down the whole cooking process.
Bananas - Storing
Most recipes require ripe bananas but there are times I have really ripe bananas sitting on my counter when I’m not ready to use them. I freeze them, still in the peel, for several months by placing them in freezer bags.
Whole flax seed will stay fresh for up to a year if stored correctly. Purchase from a source where you’re sure there is rapid turnover. Ideally the meal should be refrigerated at the store. The bag should be opaque since light will accelerate the meal going rancid. Vacuum-packed packaging is the best because it prevents the meal from having contact with oxygen before opening.
Whole flax seed should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place preferably in the refrigerator or freezer to be on the safe side. Flax meal should be stored in the freezer and used up within a few weeks.
Since flax seed will go rancid more quickly after being ground up into meal it's safer to buy whole flax seed and grind it into meal in a coffee grinder (set aside one that is NOT used to grind coffee beans which are toxic to dogs). It should have a mildly nutty taste so if it is at all bitter, throw it away. A ¾ cup of whole flax seed yields 1 cup of flax meal.
Many recipes you already use can be adjusted for your dog by omitting or replacing ingredients that aren't dog friendly. One replacement for sugar is natural honey. Because of its high fructose content, honey has a higher sweetening power than sugar. This means you can use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired sweetness. A trick is to coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or oil before adding the honey so it will slide right out. A 12-ounce jar of honey equals 1 cup.
Liver - Removing Toxins
To release any toxins that were stored in the liver and remove some of the pungent smell, place the thawed and drained liver in a covered container with about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and refrigerate overnight.
Meat - Cutting
Cutting or slicing meat to grind or cook can be tricky even with a sharp knife. To make it easier, place the meat in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to stiffen it up.
You can always buy oat flour in the grocery store. However, for a cheaper and healthier version make your own. I purchase old fashioned rolled oats such as Quaker or the store brand.
Pour the rolled oats into a food processor or blender and secure the lid in place. Blend or process on low speed in 30-second increments stirring to remove any oats that may be stuck to the sides or bottom of the container. Continue blending or processing until the oats are the same consistency as flour. Once ground the oats can become rancid more quickly so store any extra in an airtight container in the refrigerated for up to one month. Don’t use quick oats which are precooked since cooking them again will create a mushy texture. Steel cut oats can be ground but will result in a coarser flour. 1 ¼ cups rolled oats yields 1 cup oat flour.
Potato flour, ground from peeled, dried potatoes provides a soft, moist texture, makes dough easier to shape and handle and increases its shelf life. Add potato flour to the dry ingredients in your recipe and whisk together before adding directly to liquid or it can clump and make lumps.
You can grind instant mashed potato flakes to make your own potato flour in a food processor or blender. Read the ingredients in order to choose an all natural or organic brand to avoid extra additives your dog doesn't need. When baking breads it's recommended to replace 1/4 cup of regular flour with potato flour. Making Kirby's treats I've successfully used just potato flour since he enjoys the dense, chewy texture which lets the main flavors come through. 2 cups ground potato flakes yields 1 cup potato flour, 1/3 cup potato flakes = 1 medium potato
Treats that have a crunchy or hard texture make excellent choices for mail delivery. They tend to be fairly sturdy so you don't have to worry too much about breakage and since they already have a fairly dry texture, drying out isn't much of an issue.
The trick to shipping treats is to pack them snugly in an airtight container. They should be well packed in an inner box (I like to layer the treats between paper inside the container), then well packed in a second outer box. Choose a box that is appropriate in size to the airtight container you are using. This will help keep the container from shifting and the treats from breaking. The ideal cushion is 2 to 3 inches of packing material on all sides. Use packing peanuts or Bubble Wrap to reduce rattling and any breakage. Used wrapping paper can be shredded and used for lining the boxes.
First make sure they are completely cooled, otherwise they’ll steam, soften up, and stick to each other. Treats can usually be stored at room temperature in airtight containers for up to a week, however, I like to keep them in the refrigerator. Appropriate containers can be cookie jars or tins, screw top plastic jars or snap-top plastic boxes, or a tightly closed ziplock bags. If you plan to store treats for more than a week, wrap them so air can’t get to them and freeze for up to 3 months.
Use A Straw
I store Kirby's treats in zip lock bags. I can write the name and date on the front and they don't take up much room in the freezer. However, all that air in there can cause ice crystals to form which in turn affects the food. That's why I use a straw! Slide the end of a straw into the baggie and zip shut as close as possible. Suck out the air, carefully remove the straw and zip the rest of the way shut. Not as good as a machine but close enough!
Vegetables - Cutting Wobbly Ones
To safely cut wobbly vegetables like potatoes, squash, and beets, with a sharp knife, cut a thin slice along the length of the vegetable to create a flat side. Then turn the vegetable cut-side down on the cutting board. This will make it stable so it won’t wobble. Slice until it becomes unsteady and hard to grip. Then turn the vegetable so that the broad, flat side from which you made the last cut is face down on the cutting board and finish slicing.
A wire whisk, not a spatula, is the best tool to use when you need to "fold in" something delicate like egg whites into a batter without losing air.