Two tails up, way up, for these cookies

Agatha is one fortunate pup indeed. Her owner always finds time to bake Christmas cookies just for her, no matter how much holiday decorating, shopping, and meal planning there is to do. And if that weren't enough to bark about, Elaine Fronczek, a Knoxville, Tenn., hospital pharmacist, even bakes extra cookies for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to give to her playmates, Annie and Bailey. Each December, Mrs. Fronczek wraps the dog biscuits in plastic bags tied with brightly colored bows, attaches a tag with Agatha's name, and drops them off at her neighbors' houses.

A first-class cook who prefers made-from-scratch to store-bought foods, Fronczek began making Agatha's dog biscuits several years ago after her daughter-in-law gave her a couple of recipes. "It doesn't take a lot of time," she says, and she considers them more nutritious than some commercial dog biscuits.

Janine Adams of St. Louis agrees. She began making her own dog treats years ago, and "once I saw how easy and economical it was, I never turned back," she says. In fact, using her poodles, Pip and Kirby, as taste testers, she's recently completed a dog-biscuit kit, "You Bake 'Em Dog Biscuits" (Running Press, $12.95). In spring, her cookbook of the same title will also be published.

Making dog treats is easy, but those who do it recommend selecting natural ingredients instead of highly processed ones and avoiding refined sugars, food additives, chocolate, and onions. "I use whole wheat flour and skim milk in all of Agatha's treats," Fronczek says.

Like people, dogs have their favorite biscuits. Agatha is fond of "gobblers" made from ground turkey. Ms. Adams's dogs like peanut butter cookies.

For those with neither the time nor the inclination to bake for their four-legged friends, dog-loving entrepreneurs around the country run "gourmet shops" for pets.

Cookies made with liver and peanut butter are bestsellers at Polka Dog Bakery in Boston, where Deborah Gregg makes a wide assortment of treats for pets. During the holiday season, she cuts them into snowflakes, gingerbread men, angels, trees, and other holiday shapes.

"The shop does a steady business all year, especially with owners in their 20s, 30s, and 40s," she says. "But business definitely picks up around the holidays, when people are looking for gifts that say pets are special, too."

Red and Green Dog Cookies

3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons safflower oil
1/2 cup tomato juice
1-1/2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Blend the flour and cheese in a large bowl. Put 2-1/4 cups of the flour-cheese mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Add tomato juice and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Mix together until a ball of red dough forms. Remove the dough from the food processor and set aside.

Rinse out the food processor bowl. Return it to the base and add spinach. Process to chop the spinach. Add water while the blade is going and continue to process until the spinach is finely chopped. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 2 cups of the flour/cheese mixture. Process to form a green dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll both red and green doughs out, separately, into 1/4-inch-thick ovals. Try to make the ovals the same size and shape. Stack the green oval atop the red oval and roll again. Use seasonal cookie cutters to cut into shapes.

Place on a baking sheet covered with greased or nonstick foil. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until dog cookies just start to brown on top. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Sesame-Peanut Butter dog Biscuits

2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 egg
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flour and wheat bran in a large mixing bowl. In a food processor, mix together peanut butter and milk until the peanut butter is liquefied. Add applesauce and eggs and mix well. Add the liquid mixture to the flour and mix well. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to 1/4- to 1/2-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut into shapes. Place on a foil-covered baking sheet. Make the topping by beating the egg with a pinch of salt and set aside. Brush each biscuit with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops and bottoms brown. Store at room temperature in a loosely covered container.

- Recipes from 'You Bake 'Em Dog Biscuits'

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