This has always been my favorite week of the year – the week leading up to Christmas! I have so many fond childhood memories … baking cookies and decorating gingerbread houses with my mom and sister, delivering home baked goodies to friends, making gifts for my family, watching Christmas movies all curled up in front of the fire, and of course, all the last minute shopping and wrapping! Nowadays it seems as if Christmas is just about over this time of the year – we’ve been bombarded with Christmas for months on end and the week before doesn’t seem quite as special. I’ve heard many utter the phrase, “I just want it to be over” and I think, how sad. This is such a magical time of the year, we should savor every moment!
But I do realize this has been a ruff year for many, if not all, of us. It seems we’ve all suffered from the loss of loved ones, both 2 legged and 4 pawed, and the constant negativity on the news doesn’t help in lifting our spirits. I have to admit, I’ve struggled with getting in the Christmas spirit this year. I’m missing my family as they are on the West Coast and we won’t be together this Christmas. I’m missing my little Luna Rose who was gone much too soon after battling cancer this summer. And mostly, I’m feeling very nostalgic and wishing Christmas could be like it was when I was younger – when it seemed that miracles were possible and my heart was filled with more joy than sorrow.
And yet, deep inside, I do still believe in miracles and yes, I believe in Christmas magic. And so this morning I woke up early, turned on the Christmas tree lights and reminded myself that Christmas isn’t over, it’s just beginning! There’s still time to get in the spirit and experience the wonder of the season!
For me, the best part of Christmas is giving – not just to close family and friends, but to many who have touched my heart over the past year. I used to bake countless dozens of cookies and sweet treats, all wrapped up with bows and delivered days before Christmas. I’m still baking a few cookies, but over the past few years, I started experimenting with a variety of sweet and spicy nuts – a nice break from the sugar overload this time of year (see recipes below). These days, the majority of my baking time is spent making special cookies for all the precious 4 paws in my life!
Many have asked for my secret recipe and so in the spirit of Christmas, I’ve decided it’s time to share. Actually, this isn’t my recipe, it’s my dad’s recipe … he has a big heart for dogs and my fur kids love it when Granddad comes to visit and makes them his special cookies! So if you want to really experience the joy of the season, bake a batch or two of these and deliver to your 4 paw friends – I guarantee you’ll be greeted with wiggles, tail wags and Christmas smooches!
Wishing you and your family – both 2 legged and 4 pawed – a very Merry Christmas Week,
Granddad’s Peanut Butter Dog Cookies
3 cups of whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cups of peanut butter
1 ½ cups of milk
½ cup oatmeal
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 tablespoon of molasses
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a large stand mixer, mix peanut butter, milk and molasses … very slowly so it doesn’t splash! Then slowly add the dry ingredients, a little at a time until soft dough forms. Roll out on floured surface (I use a silpat), about 1/8” thick, cut with desired cookie cutter shapes. I used little Christmas trees and stars for the smaller pups on my list and a large bone for the bigger dogs. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn off oven and let cookies cool IN OVEN. If you can, bake these before going to bed and let sit in oven overnight so they get nice and crunchy!
1 egg white
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
¼ cup sugar (I use coconut sugar)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne (or more if you like it HOT!)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups pecans (peanuts would work well, too!)
Mix all ingredients, except for nuts in a large bowl. Then add the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Spread the nuts out on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt – I love the pink Himalayan salt for nuts! Bake at 350 degrees. Let cool before packaging. These will keep for up to a week in an air tight container.
Maple Vanilla Walnuts
(from Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook)
2 cups raw walnuts
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of fine sea salt (I use Pink Himalayan salt)
½ cup coconut sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, toss the walnuts, maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the coated walnuts onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly.
Bake for 20 minutes, turning the nuts eery 5 minutes to keep them from burning. After 20 minutes, the walnuts should be fragrant and golden brown.
While the nuts are roasting, mix together the coconut sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Add the roasted walnuts to the bowl with the coconut sugar mixture and toss until well coated. Spread out on a clean baking sheet and let cool before eating (or packaging).
NOTES: If giving these as gifts, please make sure and note on the gift tag that walnuts are extremely toxic for dogs! I’ve found that these keep very well for up to several weeks. They’re great for snacking and also wonderful in a salad with gorgonzola and apples or pears.