Butternut Squash Garden Veg Puree

Squash from our garden

Squash from our garden

I know I recently talked about the benefits of pumpkin, and the benefits of butternut squash are not far off, but I love it so much that I had to write about it. This year we attempted (successfully I might add) to grow our own butternut squash. This magical winter squash is one of the healthiest vegetables you can feed to your dog. It is higher in Vitamin-C than any other winter squash. It is also a packed full of fiber, vitamin A and potassium. Vitamin-c helps boost your dog’s immune system while vitamin-A helps with vision health.

For the Butternut Squash Garden Veg Puree I started off by peeling, seeding and cutting up the squash. 20130930_160935[1]

I then pureed the squash in a few different batches because it quickly filled my food processor. I added olive oil to the puree to help my processor out. 20130930_161459[1]

I then separately pureed some Swiss chard, kale and a pear from my garden. I also added some apple cider vinegar and some more olive oil.

20130930_162242[1]I then mixed all the purees together. You can do this all in one batch if you use smaller quantities or if you have a giant blender…which I don’t.

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And, Voila! You have a big mixing bowl full of veggy puree. I bagged it up into six labeled and dated freezer zip locks and one small tupperware. The tupperware portion will be served up for the pups meals for the next week or so and the freezer bags will keep me stocked for a while. Of course, I still have plenty of produce  growing in my garden so I’ll probably make a couple more fresh purees before the snow really starts to fall.

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So why not cook my dogs food?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHuman evolution included learning how to cook foods like meat to make them more easily digestible. So why would we not do the same for our dogs? Well for one heat destroys many of the vitamins in the food, especially many B vitamins and Vitamin C. One reason we cook our food is because enzymes begin breaking down the raw product causing it to spoil. If we cook it, the enzymes are destroyed, stopping this process and allowing us to store food more effectively. When cooking food for our dogs, the enzymes which control chemical reactions are destroyed. These enzymes are important to your dog because they help aid in digestion as well as slow the aging process. Without these enzymes, your dog’s pancreas is force to work harder thus resulting in health problems like Pancreatitis and Diabetes. Antioxidants, another anti-aging nutrient, are also destroyed when heating food. This can lead to degenerative diseases during old age such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

When you cook your dog’s food two essential amino acids are lost with the heat: Lysine and methionine.  The loss of these essential amino acids can lead to growth problems, skin problems, reduced resistance to disease and more.

IMAG1599Basically, when you cook your dog’s food all the major nutrients, the fats, the proteins, the carbs are all changed. Dogs were not designed to process a steady diet of cooked foods. So, while just like everything, it is ok in moderation, cooking food is just not the best option for your pooch. Think about this as well: when you provide homemade cooked meals for your dog they are usually deprived of the chewing, ripping and tearing that accompanies raw meat. That means that not only are they not getting the best nutrients but they are also being deprived of the exercise when eating their meal. It also means that their teeth are not being cleaned while they eat. Meaning you have to do more brushing, bleh. (Those of you who follow my blog know I HATE brushing my dog’s teeth.) So more brushing and more work cooking, that alone is reason enough for me to feed my dogs RAW!

The Benefits of Adding Apple Cider Vinegar to your Dog’s Diet

applesFor centuries people have been using apple cider vinegar to improve their health as well as for the heath of their pets. Raw apple cider vinegar is packed with potassium. One tablespoon contains 11 mg. When it is combined with foods that have significant vitamins it helps the body assimilate them. It will also help the body absorb calcium and other minerals. Vinegar helps prevent the growth of bacteria and viruses in the digestive tract. My theory is that this helps reduce the chance that your dog will have any issues with harmful microbes that may be in the raw meat you are feeding them. Especially because it will not effect the body’s beneficial bacteria. You can add it to their food or water, or apply it topically to your dog’s skin. If using topically for the first time, test it on a small patch of skin to be sure your dog doesn’t have an allergic reaction. Adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar daily to fresh water can help with eyes, teeth and coats. It is also a non-toxic cleaning product that is safe to use around your furry friends. You can use it to disinfect toys, deodorize bedding and to help remove pet stains.

Vinegar in general has a low pH. While water is neutral with a pH of 7, most vinegars are in the 2 to 5 pH range. Apple cider vinegar is in the 4.25 to 5 pH range making it less acidic than most vinegars. ACV, white vinegar and balsamic vinegar are the most familiar vinegars and are available at your local supermarket. Organic apple cider vinegar is made by crushing organic apples into a cider which is then aged in wooden barrels. The finished product is dark and cloudy because it is raw and unfiltered. It is usually light brown or orange color.

Apple cider vinegar can help with ailments such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Allergies
  • Skin Problems like dandruff and static control

It also helps:

  • Cholesterol problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Sinus infections
  • Regulate blood sugar levels
  • Regulate blood pressure
  • muscle aches
  • sunburn
  • insect bites and stings

I also like to add it into some of my vegetable purees. My dogs seem to love the taste.

Have you ever used apple cider vinegar for yourself or your dog? How do you use it?

Sources:

Puotinen, CJ. The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar to Dogs. The Whole Dog Journal. January 2012

Flaxseed Salmon Treats

These treats have become a favorite of my dogs. They are rich in protein and omega-3s. They are also really easy to make. I found the recipe in Natural Dog magazine’s 2013 annual.

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For these treats you will need:
– 1 14-ounce can of salmon
– 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal. I used golden flaxseed meal.
– 2 egg yolks

1. Drain the can of salmon. Empty drained salmon into a large bowl and finely shred with a fork removing all bones and hard pieces.

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2. Add the flaxseed meal and egg yolks. Mix well.

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3. Take 1 teaspoon of the mixture and form into flat patties about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick.

4. Place on dehyrator tray. Patties can be placed close together but should not touch.

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5. Dehydrate at 160 degrees for 6-8 hours or until dry and crisp.

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Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use within a few weeks. Excess can be frozen.

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Peanut-Butter Trail Crunchies

Peanut butter face

Peanut butter face

I have been looking everywhere for a biscuit or cookie recipe that does not contain any wheat. I finally stumbled across one when flipping through the latest issue of The Bark magazine. I then adapted their recipe, Granola Peanut-Butter Crunchies, adding my own twist. You can find the original recipe at TheBark.com/recipes. Here you will also find a recipe for homemade peanut butter that my dogs went absolutely crazy for. If you are following either The Bark’s Granola Peanut-Butter Crunchies or my Peanut Butter Trail Crunchies recipe and wish to make your own homemade peanut butter you will need to triple the recipe to have enough. Also, The Bark’s recipe just calls for pumpkin seeds. The only pumpkin seeds I could find were shelled and I spent a lot of time shelling. So, if you can find unshelled pumpkin seeds, I strongly suggest that route.

For my Peanut-Butter Trail Crunchies you will need:

  • 2 cups 100% Natural Whole Grain Old Fashioned Oats (not instant)

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  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

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  • 1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds

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  • 1 tablespoon golden flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 cup shredded or grated coconut (I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Coconut Chips)

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  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried apples

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  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey (I used raw honey)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted peanut butter (preferably homemade)

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  • 3/4 cup almond milk

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Recipe:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lay parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

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2. Grind pumpkin and sunflower seeds slightly in a food processor.

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3. Combine seed mixture, flaxseed meal, coconut, and dried fruit in a medium-size bowl.

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4. Heat the coconut oil and honey long enough to soften.

5. Slightly beat egg in a small bowl.

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6. Put the peanut butter and almond milk into a food processor and process until mixed.

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7. Add the egg, honey and coconut oil and mix again.

8. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in the medium-sized bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon. It should be at a consistency that can easily be rolled into balls. If it seems too wet add a more flaxseed meal in small quantities.

9. Roll into small balls. I made two sheets of different sized balls. Large balls for big dogs on one sheet and small balls for little dogs on the other sheet. You can space them close together. Bake for 20 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.

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10. Cool balls on a rack and store in an airtight container.

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These turned out to be a big success. I took them to the training center and tested them on the dogs there. 15 out of 16 dogs LOVED them. The rest of the evening, whenever I would walk by the kennels the dogs would get out of their beds and sit nicely by the door with hopeful looks and drooling jowls. These treats also made my house smell delicious. I tried a nibble myself and while a little dry for my taste they were pretty good. I really debated about posting my recipe because I think I may start selling these through my business. So enjoy while you can. I may delete this post in the future and lock the recipe in my vault. 🙂

Thanks to Rose, none of the peanut butter went to waste.

Thanks to Rose, none of the peanut butter went to waste.

The girls licking the bowl. They love it when I bake.

The girls licking the bowl. They love it when I bake.

Ruby loved 'em...

Ruby loved ’em…

...Foxy loved'em...

…Foxy loved’em…

...Tucker loved'em...

…Tucker loved’em…

...Athena loved'em...

…Athena loved’em…

...Kernal loved'em...

…Kernal loved’em…

...Neo,  not so much.

…Neo, not so much.

An assault on my nostrils.

IMAG1529As I mentioned in my last post, I bought some offal to dehydrate. For those of you who do not know what offal is, it is organs. My friend Ali always refers to it as “awful offal”. And after my attempt to dry liver, I will also probably be referring to it this way in the future. I decided to try drying the offal products not only because its fun to try new things but because trying to get Rosalie to eat liver is like trying to get a  five-year-old to eat brussel sprouts. I have try so many different things to get her to it. Mixing it with vegetables, other meats, drenching it in fish oil, making various purees, etc. However, as you read in my previous post I finally succeeded in this quest before I started drying. The answer was so simple too. Just try a different kind of liver in this case it was chicken. I had previously only tried beef.

This did not deter me from dehydrating though. Although, after the stench of the liver wafting through my house for several days makes me wish it had.

I began by rinsing all the offal. The chicken hearts, gizzards and livers I just plopped right on to the dryer racks after their rinse. The beef liver I sliced into long strips before setting on the racks. I turned on my dehydrator and left for work. I do not know what temperature it was set at because my dryer does not have the option to set different temperatures. When I returned about 7 hours later, my nostrils were assaulted as soon as I opened my front door. I do not suggest drying liver inside your home! If you can, do it outside somewhere, like in your garage, DO IT! Unfortunately I do not have this option so I am now cursed with a house that smells really, really bad. Hopefully the smell will dissipate soon. Otherwise I may have to move. 😉

IMAG1482The other problem I had when drying the liver was that it stuck to my racks and was very difficult to get off. I am still soaking and scrubbing the trays from the first batch. For the second batch of beef liver (hey, my house already reaks might as well get it all done now), I sprayed the rack with Canola Oil cooking spray. This made a world of difference. It was SO much easier to get off the racks.

IMAG1477I will probably never dry liver again. The dogs loved the smell though. You know how your house smells when you have some delicious dish cooking all day in your slow cooker? Well, this is how I imagine my house smells to them. They spent a lot of the evening with their noses in the air taking in the doggie goodness.

I didn’t have any problem with the hearts and gizzards and will most likely dry them again in the future. The dogs love them too. Rose even liked the dried beef liver! Another offal success.

IMAG1490Unfortunately, I think I left my dehydrator on for too long. After two days of drying, I woke up this morning to a partially melted drying rack. Also, don’t strain the scalding hot water from your dinner’s pasta onto the plastic trays sitting in the sink. This will also melt them.

Pre-dried Beef Liver

Pre-dried Beef Liver

Pre-dried chicken hearts and gizzards

Pre-dried chicken hearts and gizzards

Pre-dried chicken livers and beef livers

Pre-dried chicken livers and beef livers

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Dried beef livers

Dried beef livers

Dried chicken livers

Dried chicken livers

Dried chicken hearts and gizzards

Dried chicken hearts and gizzards

The finished product

The finished product

Nutritious and delicious: Dehydrating treats for your dog.

IMG_20130214_214503  “In November 2011 the Food and Drug Administration issued a cautionary warning regarding chicken jerky products from China after receiving over 1,000 reports of illness associated with the consumption of the product.” (Palika, 2013) With all the recalls on chicken jerky treats from China this last year I have become more and more wary of commercial dog treats. And if I’m making the big move away from commercial dog food why not treats as well. For my birthday last year my mom gave me my very own food dehydrator. Never would I have thought when I was younger that I would start asking for kitchen appliances as Christmas and birthday presents. (I got a bread maker for Christmas last year and hope for canning supplies this year.)

Most meats, fruits and vegetables can be dried, such as:

  • Salmon
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Pig
  • Lamb
  • Turkey
  • Venison
  • Cranberries
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Green Beans
  • Carrots

Don’t be afraid to get a little creative! Only use things that are fresh though. Don’t dehydrate anything for your dogs that you wouldn’t eat yourself. In fact, when I’m dehydrating stuff for me I usually put aside a portion of it for the dogs.

Dehydrating homemade treats for your dog removes moisture thus inhibiting the growth of microorganisms. The nutrients, however remain intact unlike cooking the treats because the temperatures used in dehydration are lower.

Be careful not to over-dry your treats. Certain foods will lose their nutrients if dried too much. You will know when your meat and fish are dry when they are leathery and tough. Fats might still appear moist making them a little more tricky to tell when dry. The leaner the cut of meat the better it will dry. Vegetables will be crisp. dried bananasFruits will have no more spots of moisture but are still pliable. Tear the piece of fruit in half, if there are no more spots of moisture then it is done. Some fruits need to be pre-treated before dehydration to prevent discoloration. Mix about 3 cups of water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice and dip the fruit in the mixture before dehydration. Also check your foods every couple of hours. They all dry at different rates. After drying store in air tight containers preferably in the fridge or freezer.

I will be making a batch of Flaxseed Salmon Treats soon so keep an eye out for that post. Happy drying!

Citation:

-Palika, Liz. (2013 Annual) Do-It-Yourself Dehydrated Dog Treats. Natural Dog, 28 – 35.