Homemade Pumpkin Oat Dog Treats

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Ever since I could hold a spoon, I loved getting creative in the kitchen. Growing up, as one of our weekly chores each of the kids had to plan and cook a dinner for the family. My brothers would always make the fastest, easiest meals they could think of, so we had spaghetti at least once a week. I, on the other hand, never made the same thing twice. I was always trying new, complex recipes. My Mom would call be the Swedish Chef, because every time she would walk in the kitchen she would be met with a cloud of flour and little Jessica wildly throwing ingredients around.  My heart has always belonged to baking.

I love to bake!

The problem is that I also love to eat what I make. I have never been the kind of person that can eat one cookie and be satisfied. Meaning, after I taste test one cookie- several more usually follow. This doesn’t even include all the beaters that are licked and raw cookie dough tested along the way. Once I started my weight loss journey, I felt like I couldn’t bake like I used to and stay in control. This was hard for me, because baking is one of my creative outlets.

I wasn’t willing to give up my baking, so  I thought of a creative alternative, combining my love for baking and my slight obsession with my dogs. Now, when I get the urge to bake, I make treats for my furry friends, rather than my human friends. By making dog treats, there is absolutely no temptation to lick the bowl or taste test the final product.

Pleasing a Picky Pooch!

My pup Charlie has always been really picky when it comes to dog treats. I have spent so much money trying different store bought dog treats for him, almost all of them end up in the trash can. He is actually really polite about rejecting the treats. He will take the dog treat, pretend to chew it, leave the room, then politely spit it out when he thinks you’re not looking. Whenever I would take him to the pet store with me, the cashier always asks if they can give him a treat. I always reply with, “You can try.” And without fail, he politely takes the treat, but as soon as we get out to the parking lot, the treat is spit out on the sidewalk.

With such a picky dog, who I will go to extraordinary measures to please, I have made hundreds of dog treats trying to find the perfect recipe for Charlie. Through lots of experimenting, I have created recipes for treats that are Charlie dog approved. My other dog, Ella, joined our family a few years ago and she is the opposite of Charlie- she will eat anything and everything that you put in front of her. She loves my homemade treats too, but then again she loves everything.

Not, only are the treats delicious (at least that’s what my dogs tell me), they are also better for your dogs and better for the environment. Skipping all the chemicals and the plastic packaging is a win-win. Both your dogs and Mother Nature will thank you.

Charlie’s Favorite Recipe

Today, I am going to share with you Charlie’s favorite Pumpkin treat. This was the original recipe that I created and has been the basis for all my other puppy creations.

This recipe is so quick and easy to make, you can have a whole batch done in the time it would take you to go out to the store and buy a bag!

I start by mixing together ½ a cup of pumpkin puree with an egg. I then add in 2 Tablespoons of dry milk power.

To that mixture I add in 2 cups of oat flour. I read somewhere that dogs have a hard time digesting regular flour, so I always use oat flour. You can buy oat flour at a grocery store, or you can make your own. Oat flour can be pricy, so I usually just put regular oats in a coffee grinder and grind it up, until it is a flour consistency. It take a little time, but I have been know to go to extreme measures to save a few dollars.

You may have to add more or less of the oat flour to get the right consistency with the dough. It needs to be able to be rolled out and stay together without being too sticky. Then, all you need to do is roll out the dough and cut out the treats! Of course, I have a plethora of dog themed cookie cutters that I use, but any cookie cutter will work. I found most of my cookie cutters online, it just make it a little bit more fun!

 

 You can also just use a knife and cut it into squares, although I think the cuter the cookie cutter, the better the treat tastes.

Put the treats in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees.  I bake them for 15-20 min, but my pup doesn’t like anything crunchy. If your dog likes crunchy treats you an keep them in for a few more minutes.

Once the treats come out of the oven, make sure that they cool completely before you package them. If you put them in a container when they are still warm, your treats will grow mold quickly. I keep my treats in a mason jar, in my fridge. They will keep on the counter for about a week, but will keep for 2 weeks plus in the fridge.

Now, it Is time to make your doggie’s day! I promise, they will love these treats! Even my picky eater gobbles them up! My cat Carlton has even been know to beg for these treats- they are that good!

You can create so many different variations of this recipe. I have made peanut butter, peanut butter bacon, sweet potato, blueberry, apple and carrot- the list can go on and on. Get creative and share your recipes with me!

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Print Recipe
Pumpkin Oat Dog Treats
Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 20 min
Servings
small treats
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 20 min
Servings
small treats
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a large bowl mix together pumpkin pure and egg, until well combined. Stir in the dry milk powder.
  3. Add in the oat flour. Knead the mixture until the dough comes together. Add more oat flour if the dough is too sticky to roll out.
  4. On a clean, dry work surface roll out the dough using a rolling pin. Add flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter or rolling pin.
  5. Cut out desired shapes and place on a baking sheet. Bake the treats for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Let the treats control completely before storing in an airtight container.

10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Waste

I grew up in a very eco –friendly household. I didn’t really know it at the time, I assumed that everyone lived like that. Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve me forcing our un-motorized push mower up the hill in the backyard while cursing under my breath.

All the clothes were hung up on the clothes line to dry. The family had a system, hang the bigger articles of clothing on the 2 outside lines and the underwear and other un-mentionable would go on the inside lines. This at least gave us the illusion that the neighbors could not see our underwear flying in the breeze. My family didn’t even own a dryer for most of my childhood. A family friend gave us a used one when I was a teenager, but you had to put a piece of cardboard in the door to make it work. After the dryer came to our house, socks and underwear were the only articles of clothing permitted in the dryer. My parents still have that dryer today, and still use that piece of cardboard in the door!

As an adult I always had the intention to continue the habits that my parents taught me, but my laziness often got in the way. When I was severely overweight, convenience often won out over any other good intentions. Quick and disposable many times would trump environmentally friendly. As the weight started coming off, I found myself with more energy. I no longer felt the need to take a nap every day after work, which gave me back about 2 hours a day! This allowed me to be a little less lazy and a little more true to myself.

I was living a little greener, but I wasn’t really fully committed. After watching the news and seeing some of the changes that the government was making, I realized that I could no longer rely on the US government to make the big changes that the world needs to protect our environment. That was when I realized that change would have to start with me. I knew could only control my actions, so I really started trying to be a better steward of the earth. I still have a LOT of room for improvement, but I am headed in the right direction.
Some changes are harder than others. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to one of those people that keeps all their trash for years in a single mason jar, but I have significantly reduced the quantity of trash that I produce.

Through this journey, I have found 10 things that are relatively easy to do, but collectively, make a big impact.

1. Re-usable shopping bags- or none!

This one is my favorite! I have developed a little bit of an obsession with re-usable shopping bags. My husband says that if I keep buying more and more bags it defeats the purpose of trying to reduce my waste. There are just so many pretty one’s out there- it is like they call to me! I always have a few bags in the car- but being the forgetful person that I am, there are still several times that I find myself in a store with the bags in the car. I have one of those bags that folds unto itself that I try to keep in my purse, which is a good back up plan. Although, there are STILL times that the bags are in the car (or at home) and the bag in my purse has mysteriously vanished. At that point, I just don’t use bags.

Several years ago, I participated in a river clean up, where I canoed down a stretch of The Great Miami River and picked up trash. The amount of plastic grocery bags that I found in and around that river has forever cured me of any desire I may have had to use plastic grocery bags. Therefore, you may see me walking out of any given store with my purchases not in a bag at all. I know that not everyone has the same love of re-usable bags that I have (you would if you have a bag with a giant hipster cat wearing glasses) but just think of the amount of plastic saved if you just used your own bags occasionally. It is a learned behavior, the more you use the bags, the easier it is to remember them. Using them occasionally is better than not using them at all. And if you are looking for the best places to get the cutest re-usable bags- I can hook you up! I know all the best places!

2. Skip the straw

Skipping the straw has been a challenge for me, because I loved straws. There is just something about a big mason jar filled with ice cold water that is sipped through a straw that is just so satisfying to me. For years, every night before bed my husband would get me a big glass of water with a plastic straw and place it on my night stand. (Yes, I am aware that I am completely spoiled and have an awesome husband!) Giving that up was difficult for me, but now that I have gone straw-less for several months I don’t even really think about it anymore. There are a lot of people who use stainless steel straws. I have thought about getting one before, but just haven’t gotten around to it. I guess that means I don’t miss straws too much, because if it meant that much to me I would have already found a replacement!

The other big challenge with skipping the straw is going to restaurants. I am still trying to get better about this! I try to remember to ask for no straw with my drink, but many times those servers are just so quick! Once that straw hits the table it is wasted, even if you don’t use it, it still goes in the trash can. I’ve found that if the request for no straw is part of your drink order you are more likely to remember. For example, “I’ll have an unsweetened ice tea with lemon and no straw.” Sure, you still have the occasional server that gives you a straw anyway, just because they are on auto pilot, but if you don’t ask it DEFINITELY won’t happen. If I wait until they are bringing out the drinks, I’m normally busy talking to someone or distracted somehow and I’m not quick enough to catch them.

3. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle

I am a water-aholic. I drink so much water! It really helps with my weight loss. Not only does it help me feel fuller, it helps me retain less water. The sheer number of disposable plastic water bottles that are used each day in The United States is frightening. My water bottle has become an extension of me. I feel like I am missing a limb when I forget it at home. If everyone carried a water bottle think of all the plastic water bottles that would be saved! I also have a one of those double insulated water bottles that keeps my water super cold and refreshing.

4. Bring your own coffee mug

I am not a big coffee drinker, but I know many of you are! This is an easy way to reduce your waste and save a little money. I know that many coffee places will give you a small discount on your drink if you bring your own cup. The Starbucks near my house will give you 10 cents off- not a huge discount, but it all adds up! Just think of all the cups escaping their fate in a landfill. Plus, for me, I got a Yeti cup for Christmas a few years ago and if I use that, my drink stays hot for much longer than any disposable cup!

I also keep a stash of coffee mugs at my office so I never have to use the Styrofoam cups in the office closet. Plus, I think coffee or tea tastes better out of a cute mug. My current favorite mug has cats with sunglasses on it and says “Check Meow-t”. It’s the simple things in life that bring me joy!

5. Think Before You Throw Something Out

We live in a very disposable society. Landfills are overflowing with things that could easily be fixed, or reused in some way. As the old saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Instead of throwing something in the trash can, think, “Could someone else use this?” Consider donating it to a thrift store or re-purposing it. For me, all my rags are made from old worn out clothes that are not in good enough condition to donate.

6. Carry Your Own Utensils

It is so easy to grab a plastic fork or spoon for any meal on the go. I have started stashing set of metal utensils in various places. I have a set in my desk and another that I keep in my purse. You can buy a lot of different fancy utensils made of bamboo or something, but I just use what I already have. You do have to be careful though to avoid embarrassment. I learned the hard way, when I had to pick something up at the courthouse for work. As I went through the metal detector, I had to sheepishly surrender my collection of metal forks and knives that I had in the bottom of my purse. It was pretty embarrassing pulling out several forks and knives and handing them to the security guard. It was even more embarrassing, going and picking them up as I left.

7. Skip Zip-lock Bags

For a very long time my family used a lot of Zip-lock bags. It was just easy and quick. Once I started paying attention to the amount of plastic I used, I knew those plastic bags had to go. I found some adorable reusable bags on Etsy and ordered 3 sandwich bags- one for each member of my family. I loved them, but they were kind of expensive and when my dog ate one of them, I was hesitant to order more.

My creative wheels started turning and started thinking that maybe I could make them myself. My sewing stills are mediocre at best, but I was still able to make some sandwich bags without much trouble. In a future post I will show you how to make them in full detail! If you don’t want to break out the sewing machine, there are plenty of other options. I also have a few bees wax wraps (instead of plastic wrap) that I can use to pack food.  Try washing and reusing jars and containers that you have around the house. I have a cupboard full of plastic containers from my “previous life” that I still use too. My plan is to use them until they fall apart, then replace them with a more eco-friendly option.

8. Shop smarter

Making an effort to live a greener life has caused me to pay attention to things that I would not even register before. One example is packaging. I used to never pay attention to packaging, now my mindset has shifted. If there are two otherwise equal products, one in a glass container and one in a plastic container- I’ll buy the one in the glass jar. Buying in bulk is another way to shop smarter. Not only do you save money, there are many products that you can buy with zero packaging. Flour, sugar, beans, rice, spices, honey- all foods that can be easily bought in bulk.

9. Skip plastic produce bags

It makes me cringe when I see someone at the grocery store pulling off one of those plastic produce bags and putting a single apple in it. Many times, you can skip the produce bag and encounter little or no inconvenience. I have reusable produce bags, but I rarely use them. I only really use them when I get green beans. Almost every other fruit or vegetable just goes without a bag.

10. Composting

My family composted when I was growing up, but when I moved out I didn’t have a compost bin. That was my excuse for years. Once I decided to really make a change, I knew a compost bin was in my near future. The sheer volume of different styles of compost bins was overwhelming! How can there be so many ways to compost? So I did what every grown woman would do, I asked my Daddy. His advice was just what I needed. He made it sound so simple, because, well, it is. He told me I could just build my own using materials he already had in his garage. With a little chicken wire and some poles I had a functioning compost bin. It isn’t fancy, but it’s functioning and that is all I need. Composting not only keeps more out of a landfill, it gives you beautiful rich soil that you can use in your garden. It is a win, win. Now, it just seems so unnatural to throw my fruit and veggie scraps in the trash.

Each of these 10 ways that you can reduce your waste are not difficult. The hardest part is switching your brain on to pay attention. I promise you once you start paying attention, it is hard to ignore. I believe that if everyone does at least one of these things to reduce their waste, we can make a big impact!

Continue reading 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Waste

How to Make Slow Cooker Non-Fat Yogurt

I’ve always loved flavored yogurts but unfortunately, I am allergic to sucralose so many of the flavored low smart point yogurts we off limits for me.  My husband, and fellow weight watcher, loves those individual yogurts and they were a staple in his packed lunches. Those yogurts, although delicious, come in individual plastic packaging and are filled with artificial sweeteners. We were also paying $1 per individual serving

Then, the new weight watchers freestyle program was introduced and non-fat plain yogurt was added to the zero smart points list, which changed my relationship with yogurt forever.

To be honest, I hate the taste of plain yogurt, but at zero points, I was willing to give it another try. The scientist in my came out and started experimenting. I found countless ways to doctor up non-fat yogurt for little or no smart points. By adding a little stevia and fruit or other flavoring, you can have delicious zero point (or 1 point) yogurt.

Here are just a few yummy add-ins that I have used in my yogurt:

Stevia

Fresh fruit

PB2

Chocolate PB2

Sugar Free pudding mix (Chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, cheesecake, banana cream)

Sugar Free Jello mix

There are many scrumptious combinations you can make. Just this evening, I discovered the heavenly combination of sugar free banana cream pudding mix and PB2- my husband calls this combo “The Elvis”.  I also will sometimes combine the yogurt with some lite whipped topping, which makes a delicious mousse like dessert. Yogurt + Cheesecake pudding mix + Whipped Topping is a must try!!

This new love of non-fat plain Greek yogurt, resulted in buying several big containers a week. Each one of those containers is almost $4 and my recycling was filling up with the plastic containers.

I decided to start making my own! Let me tell you, BEST DECISION ever! I can now make a ton of yogurt for less than $2! And it tastes better than the store bought stuff.

All you need is skim milk! I’ve seen a lot of yogurt recipes using fancy equipment, but that is unnecessary. I was able to make delicious creamy yogurt only using my slow cooker, a thermometer and the light in my oven.

The whole process is very easy. It does take time, but 90% of that time is just waiting. I would say the total active time for this process is less than 10 minutes.

You start by adding a gallon of skim milk to a slow cooker. You can also use whole milk, or 2%, it just won’t be non-fat if you use another type of milk.  I’ve seen some recipes where they also add dry milk powder. I’ve tried it with and without the dry milk. I couldn’t really tell a difference so I stopped using the milk powder. The main reason being, I am a penny-pincher and that that is one less expense on my grocery bill.

Turn on your slow cooker and start heating your milk.

Heat until the milk reaches 180 degrees. The first time I made it, I heated it on low and it look forever! I had no idea how long it would take to reach the correct temperature, so I was checking the temp at least once an hour. If you decided to heat on low it will take about 6-8 hours before it reaches 180 degrees. If you heat it on high it take about 3-4 hours. It will also depend on the slow cooker that you use, so the first time you make it I suggest periodically checking the temperature. I just used a digital thermometer that I had. It is the same one that we use on Thanksgiving for the turkey. They have lots of fancy instant read thermometers out there, but as long as you get a semi-accurate read, just use what you have.

Cool the Milk.

Once the milk reached 180 degrees just turn the slow cooker off and take off the lid to let it cool. Let it cool until it is about 100 degrees. You may get a skin on the top of the milk as it cools, just remove it before you go on to the next step. If you don’t you will end up with little rubbery bits in your finished yogurt.

Add the starter.

Once the milk is cooled down to about 100 degrees, take out about 1 ½- 2 cups of the warm milk and stir in the live culture yogurt. You can use plain yogurt you buy from the store as the starter, or once you get going just save ½ cup from each batch to use as the starter for the next batch. I have a container set aside labeled “starter” and I take it out right away. If I don’t, I forget and all of the sudden I am out of yogurt with no starter! Make sure the starter is fully mixed in, then add it back to the slow cooker and stir to combine.

Now it is incubation time!

I turn on my oven for a few seconds to warm it up and turn on the oven light. Be careful not to heat up the oven too much. If it gets too hot, the live cultures in the yogurt will die. I usually let it incubate overnight. In 10-12 hours you will have plain non-fat yogurt.

Want Greek Yogurt?

At this point you can chill and eat it, but I prefer the taste and texture of Greek yogurt. To transform your yogurt to Greek yogurt all you need to do is strain it. I line a colander with a double layer of cheese cloth, place it in the sink and pour in the yogurt. Let the colander sit in the sink for a minute or two, then place it in a large bowl or other container to catch the liquid.

Then cover it and place it in the refrigerator while it is straining. The liquid that is strained off is whey. You can pour the whey down the sink or save it for another use. Whey is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, so if you are feeling ambitious there are plenty of uses for the whey. I personally have never done anything with my whey, but someday I will experiment with it. If you are looking for ideas you can check out  36 ways to Use Whey for some inspiration.

Pour off the whey

For me, I usually pour out the whey a few times during straining just because the bowl I use is not very deep. Almost every time I make this yogurt, I end up stealing some yogurt from the colander before it is finished straining, because I cannot wait to eat it!

Once the yogurt is fully strained- you have Greek Yogurt!

Package and Store your Yogurt.

At this point, it is time to store it. I usually have a few large mason jars of the plain Greek yogurt. Then I mix together some different flavor combos and keep the in the small jelly mason jars so we can pack them in lunches. That way we can just grab and go!

I also use this yogurt to make the bagels that are currently taking the internet by storm. (See recipe here:  Easy Bagel Recipe I make mine in my air fryer)

I don’t think I will ever go back to buying yogurt

I want to hear if you try this process and what your experience is like. Give me ideas for other flavor combinations that I can use to doctor up the yogurt- I’m always looking for new ideas!

Want to know more about me and my journey? Learn more HERE

Print Recipe
Slow Cooker Non-Fat Yogurt
Save money, eat healthy and reduce your waste with this delicious, creamy non-fat yogurt recipe.
Servings
quarts
Ingredients
Servings
quarts
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pour the milk into a crock pot. Heat on low, checking the temperature periodically until it reaches 180 degrees. This takes a while (6-8 hours). You can also heat on high for about 3-4 hours.
  2. Once the milk reaches temperature, turn off the crock pot and allow the milk to cool to about 100 degrees
  3. After the milk has cooled, remove 1-2 cups of the warm milk and add the live culture yogurt to the removed milk. Mix in completely. Add the milk mixture back into the crock pot with the warm milk and mix well.
  4. Place the warmed milk mixture in containers and place in the oven with light on. Let the yogurt sit for 10-12 hours. At this point you have regular non-fat yogurt. You can chill and eat at this point or if you prefer Greek Yogurt move on the step 5.
  5. Place a colander in the sink and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt in to the base of the colander. Let it drain for a minute or two.
  6. Put the colander in a large bowl or other container to catch the whey, then place it in the refrigerator covered. Let the yogurt strain for about 8 hours.
  7. Transfer your yogurt into containers and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Weight Watchers Smart Points: 0