There are many things in my life for which I give thanks, but this little guy is something special. Finn was abandoned in rural Arkansas, along with his mom and litter mates, when he was only a few weeks old. Just a few months later, he had become a true Rhode Island dog, discovering the joys of rolling around in washed-up seaweed, the satisfaction of a hard day spent attacking garden hoses, and the benefits of hanging out around the grill when salmon is on the menu. He isn’t the bravest of lions: thunder, fireworks, garbage trucks, balloons, computer power cords, and men with large beards are all good reasons to hide under the bed. He’s really more of a Boo Radley than a Huckleberry Finn, but what he lacks in courage he makes up for many times over in sweetness, silliness, and a sometimes exasperating degree of cleverness.
If you’re lucky enough to be some dog’s special human, you probably know what I’m talking about. We dog people could go on forever about our slobbery companions; I am not ashamed to admit that I have way more photos of Finn that I do of myself (he is much more photogenic). But this post isn’t just about me gushing over what an awesome dog I have (he is awesome though). This is about thanking Finn, and all the other pups of this world, for being the best carbon-based life forms ever. Whatever we human beings manage to achieve during our existence on this planet of ours, we will never be as awesome as dogs are. We’re so lucky they like hanging out with us so much.
(This is also, admittedly, a bit of an apology on my part, for not bringing home any Thanksgiving turkey leftovers for this poor dog. Alas, there were none left to take; graduate students had pilfered it all already.)
When you’re being thankful for all the good things in your life — family, friends, not being run over by holiday shoppers on various missions to conquer Black Friday like it’s the elusive superboss of Consumerism: The Game — don’t forget about the pup! Bake your little scoundrel some of these treats, and they’ll probably forgive you for spending all of Saturday in line at Target instead of spelunking through the neighborhood’s leaf piles with them.
Finn’s Peanut Butter and Sweet Potato Cookies
(Though I’ve changed it substantially, the original recipe for these treats is from Yvette Van Boven’s Home Made, a fantastic cookbook that everyone should have. There is a section dedicated to planning the ultimate hangover meal. What more could you want?)
Finn has never done too well with foods and treats filled with grain, which most conventional dog foods use. He is just such a sensitive kid. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find alternatives to wheat flour and other grain-based ingredients that are typically used in most dog treat recipes. I substituted the whole-wheat flour with potato flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes a good one, available in most health food stores) and the cornstarch with potato starch. If your dog doesn’t have a problem digesting grain, then go ahead and use regular flour and cornstarch. Sweet potatoes take the place of chicken in my version, since I don’t ever buy or cook it. I also used unrefined, virgin coconut oil instead of butter. Coconut oil, when unrefined, has a lot of good stuff in it for humans and dogs alike. I put a tablespoon in Finn’s food at night to help with his itchy, dandruffy skin, and apply it directly to his paw pads when all the hot pavement and salt water starts cracking and irritating his sensitive little feet (the poor guy had mange when his was little, and it was the most persistent on his paws).
1 Tbsp. virgin, unrefined coconut oil
1/3 cup salt-free chicken stock (homemade is best; avoid onions and don’t add any salt. Plain old water could also work here.)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped.
2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter (no salt, no sugar added)
2/3 cup potato flour
1/3 cup potato starch
Preheat oven to 340 degrees F. Grind the sweet potatoes in a food processor with the coconut oil and chicken stock or water until mostly smooth (minimal chunks). Add the peanut butter and mix a bit more, then transfer into a mixing bowl. Add the potato flour and potato starch, and mix the dough with a wooden spoon until it is Play-Doh like in texture. Form dough into a big ball, dust a clean and dry counter with some flour, and roll out the dough until it is about a centimeter thick. Cut dough into fanciful, outlandish, or completely customary shapes, as your heart desires. Channel your inner child who always liked clay best out of all art class activities. If you feel like it, taste test the dough to make sure it’s “safe.”
I highly recommend lining a baking sheet with some parchment paper. It keeps the treats from sticking without using butter or sprays, and makes cleanup a lot easier, especially if you are dishwasher-less, like me. Bake for 20 minutes, then check to see how the treats are doing. I ended up leaving mine in another 10 minutes; they should be a golden-brown when they are about done. Allow them to cool before tossing one to your impatient and drooling friend, and store in an airtight container.
Since this batch did have chicken stock in it, I have no idea what they taste like, but Finn immediately brought his first cookie over to his bagel bed, dug out a safe hole in the bedding, circled around two or three times, and then devoured it. So that’s a good sign.