K-9 Nation - Baking for your Best Friend

A couple of weeks ago, or was it really just last week, I had the honor of meeting Danny Klecko, CEO of Saint Agnes Baking and author of K-9 Nation Biscuit Book.  Klecko is a super nice guy, funny, approachable, humble and I am happy to have gotten to meet him.

You can buy the book on Amazon or your local book store.

I had purchased this book for the daughter of a friend who likes to make treats for her dog.  I always thought I was too busy making treats for the humans in the house, why make them for the dogs?  They're fine with store-purchased treats and we are careful about what we buy for them.  No Chinese dog treats in this house!  

Then I started reading some of the recipes in the book.  Most of them seemed quite easy and some sounded downright delicious!  So today I tried a couple of them.  The proof would be in whether or not Cider would actually eat them.  Cabby, the black lab, will eat anything. Anything, she doesn't even smell it first!

Cider is my picky eater.  He makes my brother Joe look like a foodie!  Try giving Cider a piece of bread without butter.  Go ahead, try it.  He won't eat it.  He won't even put it in his mouth.  He'll just sniff at it and look at you like, "I'm not eating that until there's butter on it!"  He's the only dog we've ever owned that wouldn't eat a french fry.  Our dogs don't get a lot of "people food" but we do like to see what they will eat and what they won't.  Cider's won't list is longer than his will.

It's not just bread.  When I took him to obedience classes I had an impossible time finding something that would hold his attention from all the other people and dogs in the class.  See, Cider came to us a special needs dog.  He had been abused and he was terrified of the other dogs and people in the class.  His tail was tucked tightly between his legs and his eyes would dialate.  Poor thing!  The instructor was great, he gave us the whole back of the room and kept everyone else up front so Cider would be more comfortable but he was still aware of the other people and dogs. 

I tried cheese, hot dogs, his favorite sweet potato treats (well at least his favorite at home).  Nothing worked.  I even tried that food in a tube that trainers swear by.  Cider would have none of it.  The only thing that worked was steak!  I had to grill the dog a steak before every class then cut it up in bits for training.  This is a picky eater!

The first recipe I tried was "Sausag-y Beagle Biscuits."  Sausage.  He'll eat sausage!

There were no bizarre ingredients in these biscuits, whole wheat flour, semolina flour, nonfat powdered milk, salt, water, egg, butter and Italian sausage.  Heck they even sounded good to me!

The sausage is cooked and added to the other ingredients to form the dough.  I found this to be a very slack dough, a lot like my award winning English muffins!  How long can I milk that?

I patted the dough out and found I needed to flour my pizza cutter to cut the dough and my pieces weren't perfect looking but, well, these were for the dogs.  Do they really care?  I think not.

Once out of the oven and a little cool I tried one.  Yes, I tried one.  Dave chickened out.  I showed him the ingredients, he still wouldn't eat one because they were "dog food."  Whatever.  I thought they were ok.  I'm not a big fan of that much whole wheat flour in my baked goods but they weren't spit-them-out-terrible or anything.

Now to test on Cider!  I gave one to each dog.  Cabby, of course, ate hers right up and then stared at Cider's while he decided if it was something he wanted to eat or not.

He sniffed it, rolled it around, licked it, sniffed it some more, all the while getting irritated at me for trying to get a picture of him actually eating it.

This is his "turn the camera off" look. 

So I did.  And guess what?  He ate it!  Ok, he ate one but the test is will he eat another without all the drama.  He did.  He likes them, he really likes them!  Winner!  These were really easy to make, the batch is fairly big, and I'd make them smaller next time so they will last a long time.  This will not only save us some money, but the dogs will be eating things for which I know and can pronounce all the ingredients.

The other recipe I tried was Peanut Butter Brown Sugar Biscuits.  This one was a bit more iffy for Cider as he's not always a fan of peanut butter.  He will occasionally snub his nose at a Kong filled with treats if there is peanut butter in it and he's not always a fan of peanut butter treats, even when they are made by Barkley's!

Again the ingredients were approachable, nothing out of the ordinary, AP flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking soda, egg, milk, peanut butter (chunky) and beef broth.

This dough came together nicer than the previous and I was able to cut it into pretty pieces!


It's a bit more putzy to bake as the biscuits have to be basted with the beef broth three times.  I'm not sure I've made anything for us that required three bastes with the exception of maybe the Thanksgiving turkey!

These smelled really good, like peanut butter cookies.  And they are very pretty with the beef basted crust.  And I didn't burn the bottoms!  They were as beautiful as the tops.  Thanks for the warning Klecko!

Personally I found these much tastier than the other ones.  I bet if I drizzled some dark chocolate over them and brought them to work they would disappear!  Again, couldn't get Dave to taste one.

These too passed the Cider test.  I didn't attempt the picture so he ate this one more quickly.  A couple hours later I gave each dog half of each biscuit again, he still liked them so that means he really liked them!

So we have two big bags of dog treats in the frig.  There are a few other recipes I want to try too.  I wonder if the dogs will like sardines.....

Saint Paul Bread Club Bake Off!

Over the last few years I've really started to enjoy baking breads.  It all started with Jennifer Reese's book Make the Bread, Buy the Butter I read several years ago.  In this book, Jennifer describes how she came to make each recipe, how hard it was, how much it cost and finally a suggestion as to whether you should make it or buy it.  Bread was definitely a make it choice!

Every Day Bread: 
Make it or Buy It?  Make it.
Hassle:  Can you stir?  You can make this bread.
Cost Comparison:  Homemade:  Less than one dollar a loaf, including fuel to heat the oven.  A 1-pound loaf of levain bread made by Acme, a local artisanal bakery costs $5.50.  A loaf of Sara Lee Classic 100% Whole Wheat:  $4.39.

So I made the everyday bread.  We haven't purchased a loaf of sandwich bread since!

I'd been making artisanal breads on and off thanks to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  I have their pizza and flat bread book too and love them both.  It is rare that their pizza dough isn't in our refrigerator!  I've made Italian bread and even baguettes from time to time as well.

With my "everyday bread" discovery, I started making all of our breads at home.  Why buy them when it's so easy to make them?  Then one day I looked in the refrigerator and there were the English Muffins, the hamburger buns and hot dog buns.  I started with the hamburger and hot dog buns.  I love my recipe, though I didn't place yesterday with this recipe, it makes a good hearty bun that can stand up to a really juicy burger or brat!  You can read about those with the link below if you like.

Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns

Now I had sandwich bread, dinner bread and buns.  But there were still store-purchased English Muffins in my frig.  One day at work (I used to work for a major food manufacturer) I was mentioning that I wanted to make English muffins.  I mentioned the brand I had been buying and a person "in the know" told me that particular brand sprays antibiotics on the muffins after they are baked to preserve them!  Really?  I do not need any unnecessary antibiotics!  I learned to make English Muffins!

English Muffins Attempt #1
English Muffins The Winner

Since then I've tackled sourdough and rye, I love my caraway rye!

A few weeks ago, a friend on Facebook posted a link to information about the Saint Paul Baking Club Bake Off at Saint Agnes Baking.  I commented that I loved to make bread but that it probably wasn't good enough to swim with the big fish.  With a little prodding from this friend and Danny Klecko, the CEO of Saint Agnes Baking, I decided I'd enter.  At first I was just going to enter my "buns" but when the categories came out I decided to make my braided Italian loaf for the Italian category and why not throw some English muffins in the "Other" category?

I made the buns a day in advance but I got up early yesterday morning and made the English muffins and braided bread.  It wasn't my most beautiful braid but it sure smelled good!  About a second after it came out of the oven (I should have gotten up earlier) we got in the car on a very rainy Saturday morning and headed for the bakery.

This was my first time so I wasn't sure what to expect.  There were a lot of seasoned bakers there.  There were some amazing looking breads on the tables too!  Oh well, I'd know what to expect for next year, right?

Our MC for the day, Danny Klecko was HILARIOUS!  He's so down to earth and so much fun!  Did I mention he used to have a blog?  He's recently given it up but I loved reading "The Last American Baker."  I didn't even connect that Klecko was the Last American Baker until the Facebook post about this event. 

After meeting the judges, they change every year, and hearing the rules about judging we turned our chairs around (so the judges could judge in peace).  Danny Klecko was the opening act to a baking demo.  He was again hilarious and told us a great story after which we knew what Cher's favorite beverage was on tour!

Next Kim Ode from the Star & Tribune did a scone demo for us.  She made Rhubarb and Mango scones.  They were pretty good!

Then came the results!  With all the seasoned bakers in the room I really didn't think I had a shot at anything.  But that was ok, I was already thinking about what I'd do differently next year!  Some of the bakers had gotten up at 3AM to bake their breads, others pulled them out of the freezer.  Three or four people picked up most of the ribbons.  But there were two people brand new to the competition that received ribbons and I was one of them!

My buns were far inferior to others on the table.  My braided Italian was good (well I thought so), but with two French (yes, they were from France!) and baguettes on the table, well, mine didn't make the cut in the "French/Italian" category.  Then came the results of the "Other" category.  This was a hard one to judge.  The judges said how do you compare "an apple to a fig.".   There were lots of entries from apricot glazed bread, to sweet breads, to biscuits and yes, my English Muffins.

Guess what?  My English Muffins took third place!  When the judge said "The third place winner goes to something for which it's very hard to get a perfect crumb and also hard to get a nice round shape" I knew it was my muffins!  Yes, I'm very proud of that white ribbon!  I was up against people who do this all the time.  I was up against people who bake for a living and being judged by people who really know bread and my muffins made the cut!

I had a lot of fun and I'll try it again next year.  I probably won't enter the rye competition, the same person has won that for the last 7 or 8 years!  But I may try different buns or some more "Other" entries.

A while back I purchased Danny Klecko's "K-9 Nation Biscuit Book - Baking for your Best Friend" to give to the daughter of a good friend of mine.  She loves to make biscuits for her dog.  I had Danny sign it for her, well, now for me.  As we were waiting for all of the entrants to get registered I started reading it. I think maybe our "kids" might like some of these.  No worries AG, I'll buy you another copy!

I bought two other books at the event.  One was "Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club."  Those of you who know me know that I rarely buy a new cookbook then just let it sit on the shelf.  I had to make bread!  I had fed my sourdough starter that morning so it was ready to go.  I found a recipe in the book that called for regular starter (not a dry starter), and I had all of the other ingredients in the house so I decided I would make, Ristorante Luci's Italian Herb Bread.  Dave and I have never been to Ristorante Luci, but we do have a gift card for there and we will definitely be going soon!

I whipped up the bread yesterday after getting up and making bread, going to the competition, making 2 dozen cupcakes for a baby shower and making a first birthday cake.  Yes, I'm insane.  

The bread calls for the sourdough starter, milk, flour, sugar, salt, minced garlic, minced onion, Italian herbs and olive oil.  I used the Tuscan Herb olive oil from The Olive Grove.  I thought it might intensify the flavor just a bit.  This bread dough smelled amazing!

After the initial rise it is portioned into three loaves, three BIG loaves!  I couldn't fit them all on one sheet pan.

After the second rise into the oven they go.  The house was smelling very good at this point!  Made me want pasta!  Out came these three beautiful loaves of bread.  And yes, this bread is delicious!  It's soft with just enough seasoning that it's really good, not overpowering.  I love it and so does Dave.  We're thinking some of that gnocchi I made last weekend will be dinner tonight with this yummy bread.  

Does it have perfect crumb?  I don't know!  Will it give one of the judges goose bumps?  Probably not.  But we really like it and you can too!  See this made three HUGE loaves of bread.  Dave and I don't need three HUGE loaves of bread.  So if you hung in there with me and read this entire blog and would like one of the two loaves left, here's what you need to do.  The next two people who donate at least $10 to my Breast Cancer 3-Day fund will get one of the extra loaves.  You can donate online with this link:  DONATE HERE

I'll figure out how to get the loaf to you, even if it has to go in the mail!

So all in all we had a great Saturday.  Maybe I'll make some dog biscuits this afternoon!

I made gnocchi!

Our wine club shipment from our very favorite winery, Seghesio, arrived last week.  With it arrived a few recipes from Chef Peter Janiak.  I'm a Chef Janiak fan ever since Dave and I were lucky enough to have a private dinner (and wine tasting) prepared by Chef Janiak last November.

I've made a few of his recipes and they are all outstanding.  The mushroom sauce, oh my!  And I don't like mushrooms!

We are extremely excited because we are going back out to Healdsburg in just a couple of months for dinner right in the vineyard!  We will be eating in the Rattlesnake Hill vineyard, home to the grapes used to make my very favorite wine of all time, Seghesio Home Ranch Zinfandel!

But you want to hear about the gnocchi, right?  Gnocchi is one of those things I've always wanted to try making but was a little too scared that it would be a lot of hard work and then I'd ruin it.  It is kind of like how I felt about sourdough.  We'll, I've conquered sourdough so why not make some gnocchi.

The recipe for the gnocchi and Wild Mushroom and Pea Ragut are below.

The recipe called for Sheep's Milk Ricotta.  Well, I couldn't find that (ok I didn't look too hard) at my local Byerly's so I just bought regular.  When I got home I noticed it was part skim, not whole milk but I wasn't going back!

The ricotta needs to drain in a colander over night.

Once drained, eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt and flour are added and then you add as much more flour as is needed to make a soft, slightly wet dough.  Did I do it right?  I didn't know!

After a little trip to the refrigerator the dough is ready to be rolled out and cut.  I thought it was harder to roll out than pasta or cookie or bread dough.  Not that the dough was tough, it was very soft, but it didn't seem to want to roll into a log!  I finally got it there though.

Then you just cut it into gnocchi-sized pieces.  I didn't put the pretty lines in them.  I just cut them.  I  really don't think it changed the flavor.

This makes a lot of gnocchi!  Almost three pound of it!  So into the freezer it went until I had an evening with time to make the Wild Mushroom and English Pea Ragout recipe that came with our wine.

Tonight was that night!  This is so easy!  I boiled the gnocchi.  Chef Janiak's instructions were the same as my grandmother taught me when making ravioli.  Boil it until it floats then give it a few more minutes!

While that was boiling, I rendered a little pancetta.  Isn't this pretty?

The pancetta is then set aside.  I find my Bad Ass "Egg" Spoon works well for removing the pancetta from the pan!  Unlike Michael Symon, you don't keep the fat in the pan after rendering for this recipe. 

To the pan a little butter is added and then the gnocchi just until it's browned.  Then some shallots and mushrooms are added.  I used shiitake because I know Dave likes those.  If I haven't mentioned it (today) I don't like mushrooms but I will cook with them.  I like the flavor, it's the texture I can't stand.

The pan is deglazed with white wine.  There aren't too many better smells than when wine goes in a dish on the stove!  To the pan, chicken stock is added, reduced, then add peas, a little butter and parsley and it's done!

Chef Janiak says to serve it in warm bowls, well I used warm plates.  I love my plate warmer!  Best gift ever!
So how was it?  I made gnocchi!  Cross that off the list (well I still have to make potato gnocchi).  And it wasn't tough, it melted in my mouth.  It had a nice mellow flavor, I can't wait to try it with sheep's milk ricotta for a little more tang.  The dish was amazing.  You could taste the white wine and who doesn't like cooked pork belly?  I was starving tonight so I added a side of steamed broccoli.  Thank you Chef Janiak!  See you on August 10th!

The recipe:

Sheepsmilk Ricotta Gnocchi

2 pounds sheepsmilk ricotta
2 each eggs
1 cup parmesan finely grated
1 Tblsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
2-2.5 cups all-purpose flour

Drain Ricotta in colander under refrigeration for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Add Ricotta to large mixing bowl. Add eggs, parmesan, salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix until dough just comes together. Put on bench and knead for a minute (using additional ½ cup of flour as needed); dough should be soft and slightly wet. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes to rest. It is important not to overwork the dough or gnocchi will be tough.
Divide dough into four pieces and roll out into ropes on a well floured surface. Cut gnocchi with a lightly floured knife to ¾ inch pieces. Place gnocchi on floured sheet pan and refrigerate until ready to cook. This may be more gnocchi than you need as well and this would be the time to freeze the product. Place on sheet pans in freezer until frozen and then you may transfer to Tupperware and store in freezer. (This step is important so the gnocchi do not freeze in one giant lump but rather individual pieces that can later be dropped into boiling water). They will be good frozen for up to one month.
To cook gnocchi drop into salted boiling water and wait for gnocchi to rise to surface then allow them to simmer for 3-4 minutes. Then remove them with a slotted spoon or spider and place them in ice water to cool and stop cooking process. When they are cool remove from water and dry well on kitchen towel.

Wild Mushroom and English Pea Ragout

3 cups ricotta gnocchi
4 ounces pancetta
1 each shallot finely diced
2.5 cups wild mushrooms (hedgehogs are pictured)
1.25 cups english peas (blanched and shocked)
2 teasp chopped fresh thyme
2 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry white wine
1.5 cups chicken stock
4 Tblsp unsalted butter
S&P to taste

Dice pancetta and render. Reserve crispy pancetta and discard fat.

Over medium high heat melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan.

When hot add the gnocchi and once it begins to brown add the diced shallot and hedgehog mushrooms.

When mushrooms are cooked deglaze with white wine. Reduce till the pan is almost dry.
Add chicken stock and thyme and reduce by 2/3.

Add peas and when peas are hot whisk in remaining three Tablespoons of butter and chopped parsley.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve in warm bowls.

A Week with Curtis Stone - Saturday

Today was a great day!  I love weekends when we don't have a billion errands to run or anywhere we absolutely have to be.  This was one of those Saturdays. 

The St. Paul Farmer's Market finally opened, three weeks late this year!  It still didn't feel like spring with temperatures in the mid-30's and vendors in hats and mittens and scarves, but it was open.  We stopped there, then had our usual breakfast at Golden's Deli.

From there it was a spa day for me!  Hair and nails at Phresh while Dave met a buddy at Salut for beers and catching up.

Before we had left for the Farmer's Market I fed some sourdough starter.  Once I was done at the spa I started some sourdough baguette to go with tonight's Curtis Stone recipe, Orecchietti with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts and Basil.  Yes, this is a Friday recipe but we went out to dinner Friday and I really wanted to try it so I made it on a Saturday.  I know that's breaking the rules but I think Curtis Stone will be ok with that!

The recipe calls for browned butter, broccoli, pine nuts, and basil.  Yes it was as wonderful as it sounds.  Dave asked "what meat is in it" and, well there is none, so for my carnivore I added a little sausage.

On my way home from the spa I stopped at The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company to refill a bottle of Piqual and pick up some of this beautiful Orecchietti.

Curtis Stone says this recipe takes 5 minutes to prep and 15 minutes to cook and I think that was about right.  You can pretty much have this on the table in the time it takes to boil the pasta.

While I was waiting for the water to boil I cut up the broccoli and toasted the pine nuts.

The broccoli is boiled for just a couple of minutes to bring out the bright green.  Then the orecchietti is added to the boiling water and cooked until al dente.  While that's cooking butter is browned in a pan.  I love browned butter!

The broccoli is added to the browned butter and heated through.  I added my sausage too.

The pasta, basil, pine nuts, and lemon juice are added, a little salt and pepper to season, then a drizzle of olive oil to serve.  


I drizzled with my new bottle of Spanish Piqual.  I put it in my cute "fetch" bowl I got a few weeks ago at the HAMMS (Help a Minnesota Maker Succeed) Event in St. Paul.  Isn't it cute?

I served it with the sourdough baguette that had just come out of the oven!  I even over-salted some butter for my hubby!

This was delicious!  We loved it.  And it made enough to have it for lunch tomorrow too!  The recipe says it makes 4 servings.  I halved it and we still had 4 servings!  Maybe it's because I added the sausage?  In any event, with a 20 minute prep time and ingredients I always have in the house, I'm sure we'll be having this again and again!

Tonight?  Crab Cakes with Mango Chutney (a Saturday recipe) or Grilled Vegetable Lasagna with Ricotta Tomato Sauce (a Sunday recipe)... I can't decide!

Homemade Pita Bread

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