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

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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.

Dreams of owning a freezer

IMG_20130303_121156Earlier this week I stopped by my favorite place to get meat for the dogs, Clay Meier’s Game Processing only to find the doors locked. When I told my friend this she told me, “yeah, it’s their off season so we have to call ahead to get meat now.” This made sense. I don’t know why I thought a game processing place would be open even with no game to process. Although, I have to admit I really have no idea when actual hunting season is. I just start seeing men in camo and hunter’s orange on my usual hiking trails or sitting in their big trucks on the side of the road peering up the mountain side with binoculars glued to their eyes.

IMAG0715So, we called ahead and the owner’s, who live on site, were out of town but had someone coming in Saturday from 10:00 to 12:00. Because there were several of us who were trying to get products from Meier’s and the time window was so small we possed-up so that one or two of us could go down and get meat for the rest of us. (Thanks Jill!) My friend Ali and I usually split a 48 pound box of ground deer and elk meat with bones because neither of us can fit 48 one pound blocks in our freezer. Hell, I can barely fit the 24 pounds in mine.

IMAG1277Earlier in the day on Saturday, my landlord came to the house to take his beehive from the back yard. Unfortunately during the winter, moisture had gotten into the hive and killed all the bees. When he opened it up, the bodies just poured out. It is so sad to see tens of thousands of honey bees laying lifeless in a heap. The silver lining though is that they left most of their hive full of honey. My landlord was nice enough to give a rack which I am going to process myself and use for both me and the dogs. IMAG1288

Later in the day I stopped by my cousin’s house. While I was there she handed me an egg carton. Opening it revealed  a rainbow of chicken eggs. Green and brown, big and small! The picture really doesn’t do it justice. And here, yet another wonderful thing the dogs and I can share.

IMAG1301

That is one of the reasons I love feeding my dogs the way I do. We can share our food. If I get too much of something for me to eat, I can often give the left overs to the dogs. It also reduces the amount of food I waste. They help me eat things before they go bad.

freezerSaturday just seemed to be falling together as a stock up day for me. I never in a million years would have thought that someday I would have dreams of owning a stand alone freezer. Some day when it is more in the budget, or when I find one for super cheap that I can justify putting on my credit card, I will own an upright freezer.

So in the spirit of the day, I stopped by The Dog’s Meow to check out their green tripe selection. I picked up a few different packs of green tripe. OC Raw Dog has a frozen green tripe which The Dog’s Meow sells for about $7 for what I beleive is a pound. IMAG1294I also picked up some canned beef green tripe by tripett. They make green tripe from many different animals. Unfortunately, The Dog’s Meow was sold out of the lamb tripe so I got the beef. The sales associate told me they will be getting buffalo tripe in soon as well. The tripett beef green tripe costs about $2.50 a can at The Dog’s Meow. You can also buy a case of 12 cans for $32.99 from Amazon with free shipping which works out to be about $2.75 a can.

IMAG1296After my trip to The Dog’s Meow, I made a run to my local grocery store and bought a bunch of their clearance meat. I bought a little over 5 pounds of pork chops, half of which had bones and about 3 1/2 pounds of chicken drum sticks, all for total of about $15.00. Then came the really challenging part of my day, trying to get it all in my freezer, minus the cans, honey and eggs of course. Now you can really see why I need a freezer, ha ha. IMAG1297

How do I start feeding my dog raw?

I like to tell people who want to know where to begin feeding there dog a RAW diet to start small and build slowly. I started out by adding just a little of Stella & Chewy’s frozen raw patties to my dogs kibble.20394 I began by adding about a quarter patty to Zuke and Nakia’s food for about a week or two then slowly built from there. Eventually I got to the point where I would feed them kibble 5 days a week, fast them on the 6th day and feed strictly the RAW patties on the 7th day. I then started increasing the number of RAW days.

Feeding a pre-made raw food like Stella and Chewy’s is an easy and convenient way to feed RAW. My dogs loved Stella and Chewy’s but it got pretty expensive for me. Plus, I could not stand the smell. It was torture for me every time I had to prepare their meals. I am glad I switched because I really enjoy putting together the components of their meals myself, I find it more rewarding. If you are interested in taking the already prepared RAW approach, I suggest Stella & Chewy’s.  Plus, they also make RAW food for your cat.

When I say, “just start out simple” I mean to add things gradually. Don’t go all out right at the beginning. Of course, if you have done your research and want to start out big, feel free. For the average beginner though, start with something simple. Start adding pieces of raw chicken pieces or a little bit of ground beef on top of their kibble.

Great source of Omega-3 for your dog. Only $5.99 from Costco!

Great source of Omega-3 for your dog. Only $5.99 from Costco!

I also suggest starting out with fish oil. I love the capsules of fish oil from Costco. It’s only $5.99 for 400 soft gels. Most dogs will just gobble them up with the rest of their food. I give Nakia 2 capsules at night with dinner and cut open 2 capsules and drizzle over Rosalie’s food. I have been told that Alaskan Naturals Wild Salmon Oil (currently $25.89 for a 32 oz bottle on Amazon) is a winner but I have not tried it myself. It comes in a pump bottle and is much more convenient for dogs like Rose who can not eat the capsules. I don’t mind the extra work of cutting open the capsules though so I prefer to go with the cheaper option.

Slowly work up to larger portions. Your dog’s stomach pH needs time to adjust to the change in diet. It is best to start with bland, easy to digest foods, like chicken. Worry about vegetables and organ meat later. Don’t get too crazy at first with protein sources either.

dog with boneLet your dog get used to it. I like to tell people to start with raw bones too. You can find raw beef marrow bones at your local butcher. They will usually cut them into smaller pieces for you.

You may find as you are building up to more and more RAW meals that your dog begins to refuse to eat his or her normal kibble. He or she now knows there is a better option. Don’t worry, your dog is not going to let itself starve to death. However, if your dog goes a few days without eating at all, see your Vet asap. It could be a sign of something more serious.

Some people start feeding their dogs RAW using what is known as the cold turkey method. With this method, you stop feeding kibble immediately start feeding all RAW. Of course, your dog will most likely have an upset stomach and the runs for the first little bit. I personally did not want to cause my dogs the stomach upset so I used the slow method.

Keep in mind while most dogs do really well on RAW it is not necessarily for every dog. If your dog just doesn’t seem to enjoy it or suffers from lots of tummy upset it just may not be for him.