For Japanese style recipes and food info go to

Friday, September 14, 2007

Even Our Dogs Are Foodies

We have a three year old Wheaten Terrier named Jamie, and she has been the pickiest of eaters ever since we got her. She simply doesn't like dog food, no matter what brand we try. Placed in front of her she'll pick at it, walk away and eventually come back to begrudgingly eat it hours later. Human food is a totally different story, she will swipe food off the counter, and I even caught her licking the bottom of a hot bbq grill trying to get at some of the smokey goodness of a slow cooked pork shoulder. Over the years I have cooked for her from time to time when I was worried about her (such as when she was sick or when she got depressed after our other dog passed away). These forays into dog cuisine were random in nature and usually consisted of simple things like eggs (either scrambled, or sunny side up with the yolk still runny) mixed in with her regular dog food. Sometimes I would save the rendered fat from a chicken, beef roast or a smoked pork shoulder (think bacon meets schmaltz) and use it to wet the dog food. These little tricks would usually get her eat a little bit more, but she rarely finished her food and I always had the feeling that I was the adoptive father of an anorexic pooch. We got a new puppy a few weeks ago (a standard schnauzer), and she is the polar opposite of Jamie. Jessie eats everything in sight, begging and pleading for her food, and seemingly devouring everything in the bowl before it hits the floor. Once she's done with her own food, she runs over to Jamie's bowl and finishes the usually untouched contents.

With the pet food scare earlier this year I started thinking about really cooking food for the dogs instead of buying it. I began researching the issue, and found it hard to get actual recipes for homemade dog food. The closest I got was a series of ratios (40% meat 30% whole grains 30% vegetables). Figuring that this was a relatively logical starting point, I made up my first batch of dog food last week using boiled chicken thighs, brown rice, oats and a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. I removed the skin and bones (reserving them along with the stock for my own personal consumption), mixed the chicken with the rice and veggies, and passed it all through the meat grinder attachment of my stand mixer.

Chicken thighs seasoned with a bouquet garni from my
herb garden, after all we're not animals!

A mixture of brown rice and oats, cooked in the rice cooker.

Frozen mixed veggies (ya gotta cut corners sometimes!)

The secret ingredient, anchovies! They add vital omega 3's,
plus that special stinkiness dogs love.

I chose the meat grinder instead of a food processor because I was worried about the texture getting too gummy. The resulting product had the consistency of damp sawdust, and had the wonderful flavor of a chicken and vegetable stew.
Ready to grind!

This attachment cuts without crushing. I've used it before to make vegetarian "sausages" from whole grains and legumes.

It tasted so good that I put a big spoonful in a soup bowl,
added more chicken stock and ate it for dinner myself !

To my delight, when I fed it to the dogs they both wolfed it down with gusto. Jamie could not be dislodged from her food dish, licking the bottom till it shone like a mirror. It is a world of difference, serving them freshly cooked meat and veggies, and obviously they know the difference. I do worry about if this is nutritionally complete, but on the surface the combo of whole grains, veg and protein would seem to the the trick. I'll talk to the vet to make sure, but at least I know that they like the taste.