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As a young child, ‘eccentric’ was not a word in my vocabulary. I used to watch with fascination as my great uncle held a steak over the flame of a gas stove to cook it. When he was finished, he cut the steak and threw half the meat on the floor for his dog. Making sure that everyone heard him, he loudly proclaimed “what I eat, my dog eats.”

Sixty year later, Americans cherish their pets more than ever. Last year, as a country we spent $66.6 billion on pet food alone. To non-pet owners, this figure might seem appalling. I prefer to keep in mind the words attributed to Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Nevertheless, sometimes a line has to be drawn.

With the Chinese dog treat scare five years ago, Americans became wary of giving their pets packaged dog biscuits. Feeding on this anxiety, an industry bloomed. For $5 you can now buy 10 small “homemade” dog biscuits. They come in a variety of flavors and sizes with no added preservatives or artificial flavorings. They are an excellent product, but with a price tag that will ensure that Fido doesn’t get too many treats.

If you are concerned about what your dog eats, below is a recipe adapted from the King Arthur Flour website. Making dog biscuits is much like making cookies but with less fuss. There is no creaming of butter and sugar and no icing afterward.

If you buy some bone-shaped cookie cutters, they make an attractive gift for a special pet.

Dog Biscuits

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats, regular or quick

1 tablespoon dried parsley or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

½ cup nonfat dry milk

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup natural peanut butter (I like Smuckers.)

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon cold water, enough to make a cohesive dough

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease a couple of baking sheets, or line them with parchment.

Mix together the flour, oats, parsley, dried milk, and salt. Add the eggs and peanut butter, stirring to combine; the mixture will be crumbly. Add enough water to bring the dough together; the amount of water will depend on the humidity, adding more in the winter and less in the summer.

Roll the dough about 1/4-inch thick, and cut with a cookie cutter of your choice, the size depending on the size of your dog. Gather and re-roll the scraps and continue to cut biscuits until you've used all the dough.

Bake the biscuits for 40 to 60 minutes, baking the smaller cookies for a shorter amount of time. When finished, the biscuits will be dark golden brown and will be dry and crisp all the way through.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.

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