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The Local Beet: Wholesome Pet Treats That Will Make Pigs Fly

Underwriting support from:

Cecelia the Pig's Beer Bizkits

Recipe by Alicia VanHeulen



  • 2 cups cooked and mashed Pumpkin, Sweet Potatoes and/or Carrots
  • 3 cups whole dried spent grain**
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (reserve 1 cup for firming)
  • 1/2 cup low fat/sugar peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees for the treats. In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients- molasses, egg, peanut butter and pumpkin mixture. Add flaxseed and spent grain. Mix in 2 cups of flour, until a soft dough forms. Slowly add in remaining flour as necessary- dough should be moist, yet firm enough to shape with your hands. Form into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet, press flat into shapes or rounds as desired, or flatten and use a cookie cutter to shape. 

Bake on center racks at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly golden brown on the bottom. Flip, and bake for another 12-15 minutes until cooked through. Treats should have the consistency of a baked, slightly moist cookie- not overly dry. Store in a ziplock and refrigerate treats left out for long periods of time, or place in freezer during the summer for a cooling treat!

**Notes on Spent Grains: Dogs can have an allergy to hops: ask the brewmaster if the grains you are using have come into contact with hops at any point. In 99% -if not all- cases you will find they have not, but it's better to be safe than sorry! Spent grains may need to be prepped before making treats. If they are wet, spread out on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees and bake slowly until dried out. 


Cecelia the Pig

Cecelia the Pig /David Winick

/David Winick

Green living isn’t a just a growing trend for people. More and more, pet owners are going natural for their animals especially when it comes to their food, treats and toys.

Kelly Jansens Boos, founder and owner of local shop Green Dog Pet Accessories, is a Grand Rapids expert in the field of organics and healthy pet living. Boos can attest to owners’ rise in awareness of the quality of materials and ingredients - especially in foods -- for pets.  “More and more, people are making the connection between what’s in their pet’s foods, toys, and treats and their wellness.” 

Green Dog Pet Accessories was created out of Boos' concern for her own dog’s wellness. “I couldn’t believe the quality of dog toys from China with potential lead in the materials and quality of dry food that had fillers of corn and other suspect ingredients,” Boos describes. “It made me wonder about the quality of these materials and why more and more pets were coming up with terminal illness like cancers at a young age.” 

Wholesome, local, and healthy -- all key qualities Boos had in mind as she selected Montague-based Daisy Doodles as a supplier and producer of her locally-grown pet treats for Green Dog's own private label. "Daisy Doodles sources the most local of ingredients from raw, local honey to free range eggs to Michigan squash and pumpkin. We wanted to carry only the most nutritious treat around,” says Boos.

As for taste? “Dogs LOVE them and they are yummy even for human consumption,” laughs Boos. “I know -because I’ve tried them!”

Go the whole hog - Make your own pet treats

Meet Alicia VanHeulen. She’s a Grand Rapids graphic designer by day and lives a lifestyle that embraces values of local, sustainability, and earth stewardship. And her pet? Her name is Cecelia. But she's not a dog or cat or fish. No. She’s a pig.

Cecelia - CiCi for short - isn’t just any pig, but the pig that was the inspiration for 2010 ArtPrize entry, The Steam Pig.  My partner Thomas and I have what some would call an *unusual* pet. While she is indeed unique, in most respects she is akin to having a clever, food-motivated, mischievous dog -- that makes interesting sounds,” VanHeulen laughs.

VanHeulen’s interest around healthy, local food led her to more fully evaluate Cici’s diet. “During my own quest to eat healthier in the past few years, I found myself looking more closely at the ingredients I was feeding Cici,” said VanHeulen. 

“Although her main diet is basic and healthy, it turned out that some of her favorite dog treats we were purchasing were loaded with fillers, artificial flavors, chemicals and colorings, and were expensive to boot,” she said. “Behind the cute shapes and fun colors that made them so appealing, I felt I knew very little about how they were made or with what they were being made.”

VanHeulen had experience in making bread from spent grains from the local brewery Schmohz - which led her down a path researching recipes to make healthy pet treats.  “Spent grains are brewer's grains that are left over from the brewing process,” VanHeulen describes. “Grains are typically discarded but can be useful in many ways- in breads, feeds, composting, etc. They make a wonderful, rich, earthy bread that is great on it's own with preserves or makes a fantastic french toast.”

And in her pet treats? “My final pet biscuit recipe included simple ingredients like molasses, pumpkin, peanut butter and flaxseed,” explains VanHeulen. “Cici absolutely loves them and quickly becomes my shadow when they are baking- as she knows she gets to 'test' the broken castaways!”  

These yummy treats aren't only pig-approved- VanHeulen has had them canine tested as well.  “After a few requests from brewery patrons and approving barks from canine testers, I decided to offer them at the Schmohz brewery in small batches,” says VanHeulen.  “The treats work extremely well as a training reward and they have a wonderful, fresh-baked smell to them that humans can appreciate, too,” 

At the end of the day, why does she make CiCi’s treats from scratch? “I am not a baker by trade, I'm a graphic designer. Along with gardening and growing what food I can, I enjoy cooking and baking as a way for me to "get my hands dirty," says VanHeulen. “Creating Cecelia's biscuits is a enjoyable, rewarding activity that I can share with my pet, dog owners and friends. Made in small batches and with love.”

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