Category Archives: healthy

grain free cat and dog treats

Four Leg-ed Hunter Snacks: homemade grain free treats for dogs and cats

When our freezer started dying quite a bit of our meat thawed and refroze to some degree. The vacuum packed stuff really didn’t deal well with that. Yet another reason why I’m not a fan of vacuum packing, it has its place but I prefer butcher paper and some plastic bags or wrap.

Anyway, we tried eating some, it was horrible! The texture is absolutely ruined and it tasted like a beef flavored chew toy, not that I have chewed on one to know that, but I have a good imagination. Pretty bad. It’s still technically safe to eat and I hate wasting food so I had to figure out something to do with it. I have always wanted to try making dog treats and I thought this was the perfect occasion. These did start out as dog treats but Paisley wanted in on the action before anyone else so they couldn’t be just dog treats anymore.

Ingredients:

 1 Cup cooked sweet potato or pumpkin (baked is best)
1 Cup ground pumpkin seeds 
 3lbs your choice your pets choice of meat. 

There is no reason, and no need, to use any flours from any grain. It really isn’t good for your dog or cat and this makes nice treats without it.
In place of the pumpkin seeds you could use ground flax or chia seeds, but dogs really can’t digest any seeds very efficiently and those are tougher to digest than pumpkin seeds because of all the fiber in their seed coat. There are probably other, maybe even better choices that I haven’t discovered yet; if you know of one, tell us about it! To make this even more nutritious, sprout or just soak the pumpkin seeds overnight before grinding them. The added water will mean the treats take longer to dehydrate.
 
Try to use a meat or mix of meats that you know your dog likes. If you aren’t sure what that might be, next time you are preparing meat offer them a little piece. I honestly don’t know any dog that turns down any meat. Still, it’s better to make sure they like what you use and it’s not worth the risk of having a whole batch of treats they won’t eat!

Method:

First things first, you need to cook the outside of your meat. Muscle is sterile, so the only part that might have bacteria that would make the treats spoil faster is the outside of the meat. You can bake in a 350°F oven until the outside is no longer pink or brown it in a hot pan, whichever is fine. You don’t have to do this step but it makes a treat that might last longer and if you are buying industrial meat, cooking the outside is safer for everyone. 
Next:
Get out your handy-dandy food processor! Grind your pumpkin seeds and meat. My food processor is small enough I had to do this in multiple batches. You can see the different colors of the batches if you look. 

Even if you have to do multiple batches you can still mix them really well together after they are processed and not get the different colors, I just didn’t think it mattered or that the Furs would care. If you are lucky and can grind it all together, still thoroughly process the pumpkin seeds into meal before you add anything else.

 So I might have a bad habit of writing down recipes and how I do things on scraps of paper. Well, there are a lot of scraps of paper lying around our house and the cats like playing with them. So I may have, sort of, lost my notes on this recipe. I’m pretty sure there was 3 pounds of meat and I think it took 4 hours to dry completely; I’m sure about the other details though!


You could do this in your oven on a low 200-ish or so temperature, leave the oven cracked so moisture can escape. The texture will probably be harder. I made these in a food Dehydrator on the highest (160) setting that’s for making jerky and similar thing.

If you have the fancy inserts use them. I only had one so I cut wax paper to fit the trays with room for air flow around the outside and inside column 

 Spread your dough out on the wax paper about a 1/3 of an inch thick. If you spread it too thin the treat will crumble easily, if it’s thicker it will just take longer to fully dry.   You could also try to spread the dough out on a counter and cut shapes with a knife or cookie cutter before drying.
This filled my four trays with a little taste testing by the pets. You could also freeze some of this dough for giving pills or other medicines with.

 

When the top side is dry to the touch, the rounds will be solid enough to flip over so the other side can dry faster. You should also remove the wax paper now. When you think it’s dried all the way, break a round in half and take a piece from the inside (should be the least dried area). Let it cool fully, then you can look at the color and feel by the texture if it’s dry all the way. These make a slightly brittle crisp when finished. 

When you are satisfied that they are fully dried; turn off your dehydrator and remove the rounds so they can cool faster. You don’t want to store anything that has been dried before it’s cooled because the last little bit of moisture in the heat can encourage mold.

I broke the rounds up into serving sizes and then transferred them to jars. This batch made 2 very, meticulously, absolutely full quarts, and there was taste testing again before I even tried to fill the jars.


 I tested these on 4 dogs and 3 cats, only one cat out of all the animals wasn’t interested; Blackie acted like it wasn’t even food. Other than him, everybody ate theirs and came back wanted more.

Let us know how your four leg-ed hunters like them!

This post is participating in The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #80 blog hop, 119th Homestead Barn Hop and Mostly Homemade Mondays, go check them out to find more blogs like ours!

I hope you found information and inspiration, come back soon!
Kindest regards,
Emily
lentil cakes

Lentil cakes with Raita

If you haven’t discovered lentils yet, you are missing out! They have a unique taste I can only describe as “lentil” that is really, well, tasty! They cook fast, don’t need to be soaked (although they benefit from it) before cooking and you can eat them just sprouted unlike most legumes that have anti-nutritive compounds that can only be deactivated with long soaking and boiling. Those compounds are partially responsible for the link between beans and gas/ bloating. You can read more about cooking lentils and other legumes in my Cooking Legumes post.
There are a few different kinds of lentils. The two I have tried are the “brown” or really tanish-yellow colored and the french green which have a green marbled color, very pretty. I prefer the greens. They seem to hold up better during cooking and have a more lentily flavor.

I had been cooking lentils in soup, curried and for taco beans but I wanted something different to try with them. After Googling and hunting through cook books, this was the recipe that caught my eye. It was featured on Epicurious as South Indian Lentil Cakes with Raita. As usual, I deviated from their recipe but not much! 

The cakes turn out much better if you give the beans and lentil a couple days to sprout, at least start them the morning of the day before you want to make this for best results. This batch feeds AJ and me ,when hungry, with just a little left over.

 
Also need-
1 head of garlic
olive oil for frying 
Raita

1tablespoonextra-virgin olive oil
salt, ground pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 or 1/2 cup finely chopped English or baby cucumber or seeded other cucumber
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 minced seeded jalapeño
juice from half a lemon – more to taste

 *seeded means seeds removed, hubby thought you might not know*
 First things first, get that head of garlic roasting. 
The recipe said to roast on 450°F but I did mine on 375°F and it worked just fine. I think the only difference is that it will take longer to cook at a lower temperature and at least in my case, I’m more likely to burn that puppy to a crisp when I forget about it at a higher temperature. Cut the papery top and a little of the cloves off. The first time I made these I thought this was just a fancy-pants step, so I didn’t do it. FIRE !!! Yes, really, there were flames in my itty-bitty oven, so take my advice and do the fancy-pants step.
 

 
 
I just set mine on the rack but it will bubble over while cooking so you might want to put it on a baking dish, one of those fancy garlic roasting pots or wrap it in foil or other oven safe papers. I try to stay away from foil, I have heard some rumblings about it ending up in the food but haven’t taken the time to research it yet so I just don’t use it unless I have to. I didn’t keep track of how long it took to cook, it couldn’t have been more than a half hour. Since the garlic goes from hard to squishy I think you will have a pretty easy time figuring out when it’s done.
yummy roasted garlic

 Extract the cloves by squeezing from the base of the head of garlic up, depending on how much of the top you cut off you might need to cut open some cloves. Don’t wait around to do this, the garlic gets really sticky and is a pain in the butt if you let it cool off all the way. Once you get all the goods out smash them into a nice paste. You will spread this deliciousness onto the lentil cakes when they are finished.

 
While the garlic is roasting, toast your cumin seeds. Yes, you can just use ground cumin. But, the difference in cumin that’s from toasted seeds is huge. Some smart person must have known how much better toasted cumin tastes since you can buy toasted ground cumin here, instead of making it yourself. Toasting makes a more complex, nuttier and smoother flavor than your normal ground cumin. Add the cumin seeds to a dry pan and over medium high heat swirl them around every few minutes until they brown. 
Before toasting

about the color  cumin seeds should be after toasting

They shouldn’t start smoking but if they do just a little, you can still use them. If you use nonstick, this is something you will need to find another type, any other type, of pan for. If you do this with non-stick it will not only release toxic fumes but ruin the pan. Those fumes cause flu like symptoms called “polymer fume fever” and are deadly toxic to birds.  I was unable to find a temperature where fumes are created that affect humans but birds have been documented to die from fumes created at 325°F. To give some perspective, Teflon coated light bulbs used in commercial poultry operations were responsible for killing many birds. If you want more information on this topic visit the Teflon offgas studies page at EWG.

 
use a spice grinder, mortar and pestle or get inventive.
Okay, enough about toxic fumes! Back to happy cooking land. Now you will need to grind the seeds. I don’t have any particular kitchen tool actually made for grinding things but I do have paper weights and this one nicely textured bowl my grandpa made that together work perfectly to grind things. A spice or coffee grinder or mortar and pestle would be more conventional ways to grind the cumin.
 I just make the raita in that bowl and add everything to the now ground toasted cumin. You finely mince the cilantro, pepper and cucumber, mix that in with your cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and yogurt. The second time we had this I used half a cucumber and my husband complained the raita was too thick, so if you want a thinner version use 1/4 of a cucumber. Don’t forget to taste it and make sure it’s seasoned to your liking.
 
thick yummy raita

 

 I  make the raita first so the flavors have a chance to get friendly while I make the lentil cakes. Speaking of lentil cakes…

 

 

Lentil Cakes

1/4 cup dry lentils, I used french green lentils such as this
1/4 cup dry mung beans, such as this

1/4 cup rice, I used basmati rice- this is our go to brand but you can use whatever rice you want, I want to try this with wild rice next!
1 clove garlic , minced
1 teaspoon chopped peeled fresh ginger- turns out fine without it
1/2 jalapeño, seeded, minced
1 cup spinach- or pea tendrils, arugula, mustard, kale? use a green that hold up nicely when cooked
1/2 cup peas- can be with edible pods or just peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped red onions or scallion or leek
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

 These cakes are edible, tasty and stick together because the legumes are sprouted. Since they are sprouted the cakes cook very fast, you can actually eat the mung beans and lentils just sprouted, try them before you grind them up. They don’t taste half bad and are really good for you. The original recipe only says to soak for five hours, I think that is way too short. They are not at all soft by then, not sprouting yet so you don’t get any of the health benefits of sprouts and they don’t stick together that great. 

these little beauties had been growing for two full days

To soak, rinse the lentils and beans, then put them in a container with twice their volume of water and room to expand. It’s a really good idea, especially in hot weather, to change the water once during soaking. After overnight soaking, rinse the beans and put them in an inverted mason jar with a sprouting lid ( it’s just a mesh lid so water can drain and air can circulate) or in a mesh colander or large bowl. You can use them in the cakes at this point but if they have even a day to sprout the cakes with taste better. Rinse them at least twice throughout the day, five or so times is best. 

 

 

Add your sprouted legumes, peas, ginger, coarsely chopped onion, cilantro, garlic, pepper and seasonings to your food processor. You will probably have to stop and push everything  off the sides once or twice. When the mix is about as course as the picture below add your coarsely chopped greens and process until it’s about twice as smooth as pictured. Look at the picture of the frying cakes to see what I mean.

 
texture from first round of processing
sprouts, peas, onion, ginger, garlic, cilantro, seasonings.
how the final texture should be

 
 
 
 

I think making smaller cakes is better because they are pretty fragile little buggers at first. I made them about half cup size. Add a just a drizzle of oil to coat your pan, you will need more as you are frying. Heat it until you see the oil ripple, meaning it’s hot, and add some of your cakes. I found that it was easier to do multiple batches so I had more room to turn them; cramped spacing the first time resulted in a few broken ones.

 

 These cook really fast. Medium heat and a watchful eye are in order. When overcooked they get unappetizing hard bits in the browned areas. If that happens lower your temperature and/or cooking time.  Remember, everything in these patties you can eat raw so frying is really about making them warm, stick together and flavor from browning; not about cooking them.

 
 
 
 
 
 

This is a really healthy and delicious meal that we love. Try it and let me know what you think!

 

This post is participating in The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop, Mostly Homemade Mondays , Real Food Fridays and Healthy Tuesdays, check them out to find other great blogs like ours!

I hope you found information and inspiration, come back soon!
Kindest regards,
Emily