Gracie is now 13 years old!

For nine years she's eaten REAL, HOMEMADE FOOD, NOT commercial dog food. This blog shows how easy it is to be a DOGGIE CHEF and how healthy a home-fed dog can be.

October 27, 2009

Easy Poached Doggie Chicken

Most of the chicken meat I give Gracie comes from fryer chickens I buy at the grocery store. I often roast these chickens in the oven or cook them in a slow cooker. Recently I started cooking them another, easy way: poaching them in a pot of seasoned water.

To poach a chicken I first wash it under cold running water, removing the bag containing the neck and organ meats from inside the chicken. I then remove most of the chicken skin (using a kitchen scissors) and put the chicken in a large pot. I add about an inch or two of water to the pot, pour a little dry sherry wine over the chicken (for flavor), then sprinkle it with seasonings: lots of parsley, a tiny bit of salt and pepper, some rosemary, basil and sage.

I also wash the chicken neck and organ meat and place them in a separate, smaller, pot with a little water and dry sherry wine.

I put both pots on the stove top, covered, over medium flames, until they just reach a boil. Then I lower the flame and poach the chicken and organ meats in simmering liquid until they're done. The chicken usually takes a more than an hour (I cook it until the leg meat falls off the bone and the juices run clear) but the neck and organ meats only take about 25 minutes. I check both about halfway through their cooking times to make sure the water hasn't boiled out of the pot.

After both have cooled to room temperature I cut up the organ meats (heart, gizzard, liver), add it to the neck meat (which I remove from the neck bone) and store it in a container.
I then remove as much meat as possible from the chicken, including some of the very soft, white cartilage (NOT the harder cartilage). I cut it all up and mix it together (so the dark and white meats are mixed together) and store it in containers in the freezer for future meals.

October 20, 2009

Homemade Doggie Chef Bread

I like to make homemade bread for Gracie. A bread machine with a dough cycle is very helpful if you make homemade bread frequently. I hardly ever bake bread in my bread machine. I mostly use the bread machine to mix up and raise the dough.
Here's the recipe I use to make Gracie's Doggie Bread:

1 1/3 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon brown sugar or honey
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast (Fleischmann's Rapid Rise or Bread Machine Yeast works best)

Place all ingredients in the bread machine, in the above order. If baking in the bread machine, choose the basic, white bread, light crust or similar setting. If you want to bake the bread in your oven, just choose the dough cycle. Check dough about 5 minutes after it starts kneading. It should be smooth. Add a little water if it appears too dry. Let dough rise in the bread machine.
Remove dough from bread machine. Shape into a loaf and let rise in a lightly greased loaf pan until it crowns about 1-inch above the pan's rim. Or shape dough into a large baguette or two small baguettes and let rise on a baking sheet until almost double in size.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven about 30 minutes or until done.

Here's a loaf  I baked in the bread machine:

Here's my favorite way to bake Gracie's bread --- shaped like a big baguette. It
provides more chewy surface area baked this way.

Here's a loaf I baked in a loaf pan:

I don't like feeding Gracie too much doughy bread so I often leave a fresh baked loaf of bread out on the counter overnight to dry out a little before packing it away for future Doggie meals. Or I'll cut it up and toast it in the oven to dry it out.

This bread recipe is very forgiving. You can use less or more salt, sugar/honey and rolled oats. You can replace a small portion (1/4 or 1/3 cup) of either flour with oat flour (made from grinding up additional rolled oats). You can replace some, or all, of the rolled oats with whole wheat berries, or rye or wheat flakes. You can also use more wheat flour (just use that much less white flour). Using a higher percentage of wheat flour will require a little more water when making the dough and a longer rising time.

Most of the time I use store-bought whole wheat bread in Gracie's meals. Click here to see which kind I use.

October 13, 2009

Store Bought Wheat Bread

Since becoming a Doggie Chef, I've mostly used store bought bread to provide the carbohydrate/grain portion of Gracie's meals.

In recent years I became more aware of the high sugar and sodium content in even good quality store bought bread. Also, most store bought bread contains a long list of ingredients and preservatives I can't pronounce and never heard of.

I finally settled on using Brownberry Natural Wheat Bread in Gracie's meals. Out of all the breads available in my grocery store, it seems to contain the most healthful ingredients and the least questionable ingredients. Plus, I like the way it tastes as much as Gracie does. Yet in the last year and a half this bread has almost doubled in price!

So I started using store bought bread less and instead use more home-cooked grains in Gracie's meals (oatmeal, barley, brown rice). I also make homemade Doggie Bread much more frequently than I used to (click here for an easy Homemade Doggie Bread Recipe).

I realize you can't beat the convenience of store bought bread. Especially if you're pressed for time or taking your dog on a trip. If you do use store bought bread in your dog's meals, read the ingredients list carefully. Some wheat breads contain concentrated raisin juice. Raisins are toxic to dogs, so I wouldn't take a chance feeding my dog these breads.

According to the Brownberry Natural Wheat Bread ingredient list, the bread contains: cracked wheat, water, unbleached enriched wheat flour [flour, malted barley flour, reduced iron, niacin, thiamin mononitrite (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid], sugar, soybean oil, salt, yeast, cultured wheat starch, nutrient blend (tricalcium phosphate, maltodextrin, vitamin E, vitamin A, niacin, reduced iron, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, thiamin mononitrate, folic acid, vitamin B12), grain vinegar, soy lecithin, whey, soy flour, nonfat milk.

October 6, 2009

Brown Rice

Brown rice is an excellent, inexpensive way to provide carbohydrates and other nutrients in homemade dog meals. It's also easily digestible if cooked with plenty of moisture. I usually make brown rice for Gracie in the microwave. Here's an easy method:

1 cup uncooked brown rice
2 1/4 cups water

Combine rice and water in covered, microwave safe dish. Microwave on HIGH (100% full power) power for five minutes, or until water is boiling. Reduce power level to Medium (50% ) and microwave 25 minutes more or until water is absorbed. Let stand for five minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve or store in the refrigerator.

This recipe can be doubled. Use a larger cooking dish and first microwave on HIGH for 10 minutes. Then reduce power level to 50% and microwave for 30 minutes or longer, until water is absorbed.

Like many whole grains, if the cooked rice is very dry you might notice much of the grain will just pass through your dog's digestive tract. I prefer cooking brown rice with enough water to keep the grains moist for better digestibility and nutrient absorption. Every microwave is different so you might have to adjust the amount of water slightly. If the grains seem too dry you can add water at the end of the final cooking time and cook for several minutes longer on medium power.