My life with Noofs

Tales and musings from a Newf mom

Archive for the tag “dogs”

Dog Food Day

About once a month or so, I cook for my dogs. I make up a batch of my canned-style dog food as a mix in to their store-bought super premium dry kibble. It adds a bit of flavor, some extra nutrients and makes it easy to mix meds and supplements into their food, if necessary.

For years, I used high-quality store-bought canned food for convenience. I’ve seen the price rising upwards, and finally put my foot down when the brands of choice pushed $3 per can! After looking at the ingredients, I thought to myself, “Heck, I can make this stuff,” so into the kitchen I went.

Before listing the recipe, I want to make very clear that this food is not designed to be a replacement for regular kibble – or whatever the bulk of your dog’s diet is. It’s meant as a wholesome mix-in that at the most will add a few extra nutrients and at the worst will do nothing.

Chicken is the main source of protein in my recipe, so if your dog is allergic to it, try another protein source. We eat a lot of chicken in this house, so often get bone-in chicken breasts on sale. When cooking for our food, I debone the breasts, leaving a generous portion of meat on the bone. I stock them in a plastic baggie in the freezer until I have a pound or so of these bones to make my broth, which is added into the food (NOT the bones; just the broth from them). If you can’t or don’t want to do that, it’s fine – it’s just another way to add flavor and nutrients to the dog food. You can do this with raw bones or those that have already been cooked.

I use whatever cut is on sale at the moment. Sometimes, we get bone-in breasts for just .99 per pound; I’ve seen leg quarters as cheap as .39 per pound, but more often, it’s around .60 or .70 per pound. Sometimes, I can get a whole chicken for less than $3.50. Buy bone-in to get the most benefit of flavor and nutrients and you’ll pay less.

The downside is, without question, the prep. I won’t kid you – it’s a pain. But, the absolute upside to this is that the food is full of good, wholesome ingredients that YOU choose, and costs infinitely less than what you could ever get of premium store-bought canned food.

A food processor is probably required equipment here. I process each component separately into a finely chopped consistency, then mix it together in a big tub. The result is a multi-colored mixture, not a paste. You could try chopping it all up by hand, but I don’t recommend it.

With that said, here is the recipe. As you can see, the components can be adjusted quite a bit:

Chicken and Veggies Canned-Style Dog Food Mix-In

3-4 lbs raw chicken pieces

1 lb chicken gizzards and/or hearts

2-4 cloves garlic, chopped*

1 to 1-1/2 cup brown rice

½ – 1 cup olive oil (you may use canola or other healthy oil)

4 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and shelled

1-2 cups each of frozen carrots, peas, green beans and broccoli. You can use fresh, but need to par boil or steam them a little first. This is for maximum nutrient absorption.

Preparation:

Place the chicken parts, bones and pieces in a large stockpot. I don’t have a big one, so use two Dutch ovens. Add the chopped garlic. Add water up to the level of the meat and heat to a steady boil. Turn down the heat to maintain the boil. Cook until done, about one hour.

When cooked thoroughly, turn off the heat, remove the pieces and allow them to cool for deboning and processing. Reserve half the broth for adding to the mixture if needed or to use as your own stock. If you can, put the broth in the refrigerator to coagulate the fat, for easy skimming. An option is to remove skin and fat before boiling.

In the remaining broth, add the brown rice and cook under medium heat until done, 30-40 minutes. The result is a rather soupy consistency – you’ll be adding stuff to it, which will take up the rest of the moisture. Add more broth or water if needed.

Turn off the heat and add the frozen veggies. Mix them in well. They will cook through in the residual heat. Allow the mixture to cool. This will cause the rice to swell a bit.

If the mixture is too soupy, just add a tablespoon or two of potato flakes or cooked rice, if you have it on hand.

Debone the chicken; discard the bones safely (where the goggies can’t get at them). If you didn’t remove the skin before cooking, do so now. The skin contains too much animal fat, which could cause problems for the pooch. This is why we’re adding olive oil – it’s a healthier oil.

Processing:

Process each component separately, adding the olive oil as you process. The consistency should be finely textured (photos forthecoming). This includes the rice and veggies mixture, which increases nutrient absorption early in the dog’s digestive tract.

Hard-cooked eggs in food processor

Hard-cooked eggs are processed.

Cooked chicken in food processor.

The cooked chicken in the processor.

Cooked chicken giblets in food processor.

And the cooked giblets. You can process them with the chicken if you prefer.

Mix all of the components together in a large tub or bowl. Place in containers for freezing. Keep in the fridge only enough to last 3-4 days. I use the small, plastic containers with tight-fitting lids that we get when we order Chinese take-out. Thaw in the fridge or micro-thaw, if desired.

Processed ingredients in tub before mixing.

Add the processed ingredients in a tub and mix thoroughly.

Someone asked if the mixture could be canned, which would make traveling much easier. I agree, but can’t say whether the mixture will be good for that or not. If anyone tries it, I would be very interested in learning how, so please share your findings in the comments. 🙂

Other options – adjust the amount of broth or water added to be sure that the consistency is correct:

  • 1 lb chicken livers (It will change the consistency of the food to something a bit creamier, but adds a lot of iron, fat and protein). Cook them with the chicken.
  • 1-2 cans salmon or mackerel (adds tons of protein, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and adds flavor, but might be too smelly for some). No cooking necessary – just process and add to the mixture.
  • Blueberries, cranberries, etc. – for those who want to add extra antioxidants or acidity for dogs that have urinary problems. Not sure it will replace cranberry pills, but it can’t hurt. I don’t think it’s necessary to cook them, but process like the other ingredients.
  • Potatoes – if you want to go completely grain free, use potatoes, either sweet or regular. This addition will change the consistency of the food.

I strongly suggest that any vitamins, powders or other supplements are not added to the mixture as a whole. Add them in as you normally would right before feeding. There’s no telling what the extra heat or cold will do to the supplements. It might make them useless at best, toxic at worst.

*Note: Some folks are of the belief that garlic is bad for dogs. It is, after all, a relative of the onion, which is certainly harmful. However, I side with holistic vets, who say that dogs can tolerate moderate amounts of the stuff. It adds flavor and is said to help repel fleas. If you are dead-set against adding garlic, feel free to omit it. Don’t be a snot and send me hate mail because you disagree with me!

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ALLRECIPES DISCLAIMER

I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position) and am not compensated for my work with Allrecipes.com. Products received from any advertisers are only used for experience-based reviews on My life with Noofs. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the blog author (Danielle Bingham) and are not reflected by Allrecipes.com, its advertisers or any other entity.

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My Cooking has Gone to the Dogs

Cartoon dog with knife and fork

Image courtesy of Grant Conchrane

I feed the Noofs high-quality kibble and until recently, supplemented their dry, crunchy staple with canned dog food or dog-safe people food. My food budget in the last several months has shrunk exponentially, so I have been looking for ways to stretch my food dollar – and those of my dogs – without sacrificing quality or nutrition.

I’ve always been a label reader, and have kept my dogs on a very high-quality, low filler diet. That means no corn or wheat gluten, no soy and absolutely NO animal by-products. This food does not come cheap, especially the canned dog food when you look at caloric and nutritional density. The “ultra-premium” canned food will run between $2 and $4 per can! If I buy by the case, the cost can go down to about $1.75 per can, but is still pretty pricey. The reason this is important to me is that some dogs (mine, especially, it seems) do get bored with their food, chiefly my 140 lb male, Merlin. High quality canned dog food keeps my dogs interested in their kibble, and doesn’t make nasty with their digestive tracts.

A few months ago, I started looking at canned dog food labels from the perspective of cooking that food. As I realize that certain nutritional needs must be met, I am keeping their kibble diet untouched until I can figure out this part of it. I am in my third attempt at making “canned” dog food. The first two attempts were certainly edible, and the dogs enjoyed them immensely. However, this third try has me thinking that I am definitely on the right track.

While I am still in the development stage of this endeavor, I can say this much: Yesterday’s entire batch of “canned” dog food, which will last between two weeks and a month as a mix-in or topper, cost me less than $5 to make.

That makes me happy on so many levels. Since I have become an ambassador for AllRecipes, I find that it’s my responsibility to share my successes (and failures) when it comes to my cooking – even for the dogs. As soon as I have developed a somewhat sensible recipe, I will submit it to AllRecipes for addition to the dog food and treats collection. There aren’t enough recipes for dog-related food items in there for my satisfaction.

Oops – almost forgot the legalese:

I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position) and am not compensated for my work with Allrecipes.com. Products received from any advertisers are only used for experience-based reviews on My life with Noofs. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the blog author (Danielle Bingham) and are not reflected by Allrecipes.com, its advertisers or any other entity.


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Of essays and exploded eggs

Sometimes writing and cooking don’t mix. Actually, that happens pretty often, if you’re a writer like me. I tend to get so involved with what’s going on when I write that I have to make an effort to remember stuff I’m doing elsewhere.

Case in point: On New Years Day, I had an article I needed to finish and send out for approval (yeah, I know, but freelancers don’t work on the standard Monday through Friday, 9-5 gig). On that day, I needed to make some dog food for the Noofs (details on this later), and wanted to hard-boil some eggs to mix in.

I *know* how to hard-boil eggs. I’ve done it since I was barely big enough to stand in front of the stove and I have it down to a science: Bring salted water and eggs (at least a week old, for easier peeling) to a boil slowly from cool water. Once at a full boil, let ‘er rip for one minute, turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. It’s simple and you get perfect hard-boiled eggs every time. No icky green ring! I put the pan with the cool, salted water and eggs on the stove, set it to medium high and went back into the office.

This particular morning, I forgot.

I’m happily typing away, getting absorbed in my goal, then a notice a burnt smell. I barely got the thought of “hmmmm…” in my head when I heard the explosion. Well, “explosion” is a bit dramatic, but one of the eggs did explode, splattering yellow and white (and brown, from the burnt bits of eggshell) on the ceiling, floor and, well… everywhere. I hastily ran to the kitchen (Noofs following me just as hastily), and upon seeing this mess I grabbed the pot, with not a drop of water and minus the exploded egg, dropped it into the sink and quickly turned on the cold water.

The Noofs, seeing Mom in a panic, obviously wanted to be in the middle of it, and requested to know exactly what happened. When I didn’t respond to their questioning looks, they let their noses answer the question. I then had to turn around and grab the dogs to get them out of the kitchen before they started scoffing on the still-hot egg mess. They left dejectedly, as if I were depriving them of their only meal in a month. Poor goggies.

I did manage to salvage most of the eggs, surprisingly enough. After they cooled, I peeled the little bastards, cut off the brown, rubbery parts and used the eggs in the dog food anyway.

There was only the slightest green ring around the yolks.

Welcome to my world

I’m adding yet another blog so that I can round out my life. This blog is one for personal reflection and experiences outside of my writing career (although I will comment on that from time to time). Chief among my life are (not necessarily in order of importance):

  • My pets. I have two Newfoundlands, affectionately referred to as Noofs, rugs, slobber-slingers, furballs, etc. My cats will feature here, too, as they have their own opinion about me and like to let me know often.
  • Musings. I like to muse and wonder aloud. Why not here?
  • Cooking – one of my favorite pastimes.
  • News. I’ll comment on news items from time to time, here, as well. Don’t worry, I won’t get on a soapbox (for long) and I won’t proselytize – just the occasional rant.

I hope my friends from Facebook will visit, and encourage others to visit when I write something worth reading.

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