As parents everywhere are putting the finishing touches on Christmas gifts and treats for their children, we have a similar situation at our house, but with a slight difference. Our children have paws and whiskers.
This will be the sixth year that my husband, Les, and I will stuff stockings for our pets. On Christmas morning, there will be plenty of joyful ruckus in our living room, as they will enjoy new toys, a few packaged treats and some extra special surprises.
For our spoiled cat, Taz, the big surprise will be a new, tall cat tree. Her old one, which Les bought to help her feel at home when the cats and I were preparing to move into his (now our) house, had seen better days, and we moved it to the garage toward the end of summer. Like any cat, Taz likes to be on top of things, and I predict that she will quickly claim the tree’s top perch as her new favorite spot, just as she did with the last tree.
And sweet Nilla, our 13-year-old husky mix, has already been looking forward to opening her stocking—so much so, that she has excitedly brought the stocking to us a few times since we unpacked the Christmas decorations. It’s empty, but she remembers Christmas mornings past, and no wonder, with these tasty, chewy, totally healthy treats tucked inside.
Nilla’s love for vegetables is not limited to sweet potatoes. She gives equal time to green beans, red bell peppers, butternut squash, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, raw asparagus, peas, carrots and (her all-time favorite) spaghetti squash. But these sweet potato chews have become a bit of a tradition for us at Christmas, and I cannot refuse this sweet girl!
If you also have a very good dog at home, here is a treat that is easy to make and delightful to share with your furry loved one. All you need is a couple of good-sized sweet potatoes, a sheet pan and an oven. Cut the sweet potatoes into thin slices—lengthwise if you have a large dog and crosswise into chips for a small dog—and roast them at a low temperature until they are somewhat dehydrated and chewy. So easy! Dogs love the flavor and texture of these one-ingredient treats, and the vitamins and fiber are good for their bellies.
Please consult your veterinarian if your dog has dietary issues and remember that although your dog will want to eat the whole batch in one sitting, it’s best to share these sweet potato chews as treats rather than a replacement for their regular feedings.
Fresh sweet potatoes—that’s it!
Olive oil spray and ground cinnamon (optional)
Preheat oven to 300° F, with two oven racks in the near-center positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scrub the sweet potatoes (peeling is not necessary) and slice them into ¼” thick pieces. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the parchment-lined sheets. If you wish, spray the slices very lightly with olive oil spray and sprinkle a touch of ground cinnamon onto one side of the slices. Do not use salt or sugar, as both are not great for dogs.
Roast for about two hours, turning the sweet potato slices over halfway through roasting time. When the potatoes reach a chewy, firm texture, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
Note that the sweet potatoes will continue to dry and harden a bit after removal from the oven, so you don’t want to roast them until they are fully dry.
Keep the cooled sweet potatoes in an airtight container in the fridge. For Nilla’s stocking, I like to wrap up a handful in a piece of plain parchment paper. Here’s a sneak peak at what Christmas will be at our house.