Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pug Treats and Pumpkin Bread

A few days ago, I was working with the wonderful dog trainer I sometimes hire to help me with behavioral issues as they pop up with my pugs.

(If you have pugs, you have behavioral issues! Unless your pugs are SuperPugs, in which case I don't wanna talk about it.)

I told the trainer about a treat I give them--basically, Cheez Whiz for dogs, but peanut butter flavored. Her eyebrows shot up and she suggested a cheaper, less fatty, and far more nutritious treat: canned pumpkin.

So I went to my neighborhood mom-and-pop pet shop and bought these:

They're bones!

But they're pet-safe. They've been sterilized, and filed or buffed or sandblasted just a bit so they have no sharp edges. The idea is, you fill them with something yummy like canned pumpkin, freeze them, and presto! Healthy snack for the dog. When the bones are all licked clean, you can wash them out and use them again and again.

Your dog will enjoy 15 minutes of bliss, licking the good stuff out. (Or if you have a pug, 5 minutes of bliss.)

Anyway, I put about a tablespoon of pumpkin puree into each one:

...and popped them in the freezer, with a piece of plastic film underneath to keep the wire shelves clean. (Funny how, in our freezer, the dog treats are on the same shelf as the people treats.) Oh, hello, Ben & Jerry's, Haagen-Dazs, and Skinny Cow!

But now I have a problem: I have a can of pureed pumpkin with only 3 tablespoons missing. What am I going to do with all the rest?

The answer is Pumpkin Bread (recipe at the end of this post). It's a sweet bread, sometimes called a tea bread. And it's very simple to make.

First, beat together sugar, eggs, and mayonnaise (mayo is basically oil and eggs, folks, so this isn't as bizarre as it sounds):

Next, sift together your dry ingredients. Mmmmmm, cinnamon and freshly-grated nutmeg:

Add the sifted dry ingredients into the sugar/egg/mayo mixture:

...and add canned pumpkin. Just make sure it's plain puree, not the kind that's ready to be turned into pumpkin pie (which is a cheat-y product that we don't use around these parts):

The batter comes out a pale...well, pumpkin color:

You can add nuts or raisins or both to the mixture at this point, if you like:

Pour it all into a greased loaf pan:

It will look like this right before you pop it into the oven:

When it's done, you get a lovely, moist-but-light loaf that's wonderful with afternoon tea. Or for breakfast with coffee. Or under a scoop of vanilla ice cream, for dessert.

P.S. So I'm cleaning up after I make this loaf and find my pug Mu Shu avidly licking something up off the pantry floor. I chase him out and investigate. It's sugar! I must've spilled some, and the little rascal beat me to the spill. All that sugar-free part in the middle? That's where he's already licked the floor clean:

I could hardly hold the camera straight, I was laughing so hard. That isn't grey hair on his chin; that's pure sugar!

And there you have it, folks: another treat for a pug. Sugar: It's not just for teacakes anymore.

Pumpkin Bread
(from Mademoiselle magazine, in the mid-1970s)

1-1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. mayonnaise
2 eggs
1-2/3 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 C. canned pumpkin
1/2 to 1 C. chopped nuts or raisins, if desired

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together sugar and mayonnaise. Add eggs and beat thoroughly again. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mayo mixture. Beat until combined, then add pumpkin and beat until combined. Stir in chopped nuts or raisins if desired--anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup.

Pour into a greased loaf pan or muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Baking times are:
For a loaf pan, bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes
For regular muffin cups, bake 30 - 35 minutes
For mini muffin cups, bake about 20 minutes

Remove from oven, run knife around edge of loaf pan or muffin cups to loosen. Let sit in pan for 20-30 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes 1 loaf, approx. 18 muffins, or approx. 3 dozen mini muffins.

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