Twinkling candles, Christmas trees, children's voices raised in traditional carols and songs. Ah yes, it is holiday season again.
As the festive time approaches, the Goblins of Greedyville return. Before we realize it, our lofty family discussions of sharing and "'tis better to give than receive" fall on deaf ears, for the first wave of goblins have arrived. They hitch-hike to your mailbox and then into your home via the catalog express. They boldly hurl themselves through TV land and cyberspace with the sole purpose of landing smack dab in the middle of a family outing.
Without warning, your sweet little person who is merrily skipping along beside you puts on the brakes. It might be a giant candy cane or a little battery operated something or other that activates the inner goblin.
Oh. you know how it goes ... the sweet little person is now doing the two-step. No it isn't the potty dance. It is the goblin-induced "I want that candy cane now" dance often accompanied with earsplitting lyrics.
I hope our children are not actually hardwired for the greedy, gotta-have-it attitude. I believe it is more likely they are the captive audience of the all-knowing advertising agencies. We, the savvy parent consumers, can be swayed by advertising. Have you noticed soup ads appear just about the same time as the first frost? Those ad agencies are oh-so-happy to remind us about the changing season and to persuade us that we would be warm and cozy with a nice cup of soup. I am not compelled to run out and buy a can of soup; however, I can be convinced that it is time to make a kettle of homemade vegetable soup.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if it were as easy to neutralize the Goblins of Greedyville as it is to disinfectant your kitchen counter? So, how do we combat the goblins? This fall, while on Granny duty I witnessed the first invasion of the seasonal goblins. My grandkids intercepted an early bird "educational toys" catalog. I knew the goblins had invaded when the grandkids looked up from the catalog and their eyes were swirling whirly-gigs. The best I could do was to quarantine the pesky invaders until my son and his wife returned from their trip.
Basic Dog Treats
In a large bowl, mix 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 2 cups whole-wheat flour, 1 cup corn meal, 1/2 cup rye flour, 1 cup organic oats broken down in the blender, 1/2 cup powdered milk, 1 package dry yeast.
Now mix in 1/2 cup canola oil and 3 1/2 cups warm broth (chicken, beef or vegetable).
If you want to make fresh breath biscuits, add 1 tablespoon crushed dried parsley or 1 teaspoon mint extract.
Another variation on the traditional recipe is to add 1 cup peanut butter. I add freshly ground peanut butter - not processed. Read the label on your jar of peanut butter. You'll see sugar, salt and other ingredients your dog does not need.
This dough should be fairly stiff.
Turn it onto a lightly floured board and kneed until smooth.
If the dough is sticky and too soft, add rye or oat flour by the tablespoon. If it is too stiff, add more broth.
After the dough is smooth, break off chunks and roll it out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Turn the kids loose with the cookie cutters. If you have dog bone cutters, fine, but not to worry. You can cut in geometric shapes. Doggies will happily munch stars and trees!
Bake on oiled cookie sheets at 300 degrees for 40-45 minutes. The biscuits will be light brown around the edges. The thicker the cut, the longer the cookies must bake and the fewer cookies you get.
Air dry the dog cookies overnight on wire racks. They will dry rock hard. Store in airtight bags. If you are making the doggie biscuits to give, include a list of the ingredients on the bag or package. The yield is approximately 6 dozen.
I suggested that the kids make lists, including descriptions of everything they wanted from the catalog. This listing process took the better part of three afternoons. When they showed me their lists, I suggested that they each pick five items they really liked. After they completed that task, each picked out the top item to show Mom and Dad. Whew! I was on my flight home just in time!
Diversion is another way to keep the goblins at bay. Holiday time is baking time. Oops ... not so fast! This is an open invitation to the goblins. Here they come dancing on the backs of sugary candies, honey cakes and cutout cookies.
Children love to make cookies, so why not extend the baking to doggie cookies? They are not nearly as tempted to eat this uncooked dough! It is amazing how quickly children recover from the goblin invasion as they make special holiday gifts for animals. Not every family has a dog, but every town has veterinarians and an animal shelter.
My best-ever dog, Max-a-roo, lived to be 16 years old. During his last three years he was an insulin-dependent diabetic. He was fortunate to have an holistic vet and was not plagued with many of the side effects of traditional diabetic treatment. I worked with her in creating a special diabetic diet for him that included homemade doggie bones. Although he is gone now, I still make regular, non-diabetic doggie bones as special treats for the dogs that are boarded at the animal hospital over holidays. Some of my friends have taken up the cause and make doggie bones for our local no-kill animal shelter.
The recipe is simple. Do not be deterred by the lengthy list of ingredients. You can add herbs like parsley and mint, but do not use garlic or onions as these are toxic for dogs. Once you make the initial investment, you can make many, many batches of bones. Another purchasing perk is that all the flours and grains for the bones you can utilize in your regular cooking. Use organic products if available.
See the recipe above!
Heidi Maness Hartwiger, a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is the author of two books, "All Join Hands: The Forgotten Art of Playing With Children" and "A Gift of Herbs." She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.