Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Feeding Fido Real Food - UPDATED!

It's odd but wonderful how, as a blogger, you can toss something into the ether that's fascinating to you at the moment, and then forget about it. I guess most of my posts are totally forgettable? But an April 2013 piece about feeding people food to dogs and cats somehow made its way through zillions of Internet info bits into the pervue of a guy named, ha ha, Guy Crites. 

Mr. Crites emailed me about that 2013 post, the only one I've ever written about the care and feeding of critters. He explained that he contacted me because he was researching safe/toxic people food for dogs, which was exactly my topic on that long-ago day. (Maybe he thought I knew something, but I didn't. Just telling a story.) He wrote:

If you’re open to suggestions, we just published an infographic; massive guide with over 200 people foods for dogs ( Hope you dig :)

I checked out his link and, yes, I dig. Seems to be a definitive guide re what's safe to feed canine pets and what's not. I didn't see any way he and his co-creator were selling anything other than ideas to help pet owners improve their pets' health. So here's the link, and if you have a pet, have a look.

Can Dogs Eat That? The Ultimate Guide

Back then....
Once upon a time, dogs were in my life. I love dogs. I did not know how to feed them. They got grain-based kibble and table scraps. And probably too much of what they're not supposed to eat.I regret not having known. My favorite dog, Buck, developed a bowel problem, likely diet-based, and I was clueless. I wish I would have had this feeding guide and had made his later years more comfortable.

Anyway, here's that long ago post, but if you don't have time to read it, but have a dog whose health you want to improve, at least click the link above. 

April 4, 2013

My buddy Jan Harding loves her dog like most people love their kids. Sadly, I can think of parents who don't seem to care for their kids as much as Jan cares for her best friend and companion of 10 years. Actually, I think that a lot of people like their dogs more than they do people in general and, in some cases, members of their own families.
 Jan with Tasha BEFORE she switched the dog to people food.Tasha was then fed typical dog fare:
 dry kibble loaded  with corn and soy. Grains. Just what dogs don't need.  
When it comes to feeding time, however, that care does not necessarily translate into the best food for Fido. Oh crap, what do I know about feeding dogs since I don't even have one? And when I did, I fed my various pets, as many dog owners do, occasional canned dog food, inexpensive kibble and table scraps. Not good—especially the table scraps since they often included fatty meat trimmings, chicken skin, leftover bread, or, gasp, Krusteaz pancakes. Yes, there was a time during years of steady weight gain (mine, not the dog's) when Krusteaz was a breakfast staple. 

But dogs are such good sports, usually, and so starving all the time, that they just wolf down whatever. 

They're dogs. Who cares?  But overfed or poorly fed pets can and do get fat and lethargic and sick, just as overfed or poorly fed humans do. That happened to Jan—the over-and-poorly fed part—and she gained weight and felt crappy before she got religion about diet and exercise and so on and she began to look and feel better.

But Tasha the dog? Still old and fat. Then Jan had an epiphany about her dog's diet. In an email, she wrote:
About six months ago I started Tasha The Dog on a real-food program, since 1) even the top-of-the-line dog kibbles are loaded with grains, 2) she loves real food (apples, pears, berries, and of course meat of any kind.) 
Dogs, being carnivorous (and cats even more so), I cook a huge turkey occasionally and make up a couple months' supply to freeze in  6-oz serving-size freezer bags. She gets one in the morning, along with half an apple or half a pear, maybe some berries. Of course she loves it. It's all gone in two minutes. In the evening she gets a hard-boiled egg and whatever fruit I have around. 
I think she is a kind of mini-petri dish study for me, but nothing like this has happened to me!  Probably because I still eat grains. But she is 10 yrs old, was too fat, could not jump into the pickup without an assist, and--most startling--had a white undercoat that shed constantly year-round, all over carpets and furniture. 
She now does not shed at all and has a luxurious coat. I think the undercoat will come off as soon as it starts to get hot, but she literally stopped shedding! 
She slimmed down to vet-prescribed weight, is energetic, and can jump into the back of the pick-up truck without an assist. 
So--I am a believer; dog likes real food as opposed to commercial food. Who knew? My personal coat is not so thick and glossy, and I am still about as fat as ever!  But then, nobody controls MY eating habits, which slop over regularly into French vanilla ice cream and Cheetos. Sigh.
It looks like Jan is onto something. Tasha's diet is just about identical to the ingredients in grain-free dog foods that cost around $85 for a 10-pound bag. Uhhhh, I don't sense that pet owners are reaching for credit cards, even though these 10 pounds arrive via free shipping!

But you might keep your eye on good prices for fresh turkey.

And if your dog itches a lot, has skin problems, bowel issues, or any other maladies, it wouldn't hurt to look check out the feeding guide linked earlier. 

Tasha AFTER her dietary change: slender, sleek, energetic.
Note the hair color change. (Sorry for the weirdness around the
haunches that appeared when I scanned a photo.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Morels, asparagus and roasted red peppers

A spring treat: morels from the forest and fresh-from-the-garden asparagus.
Asparagus season has arrived and with it, somewhere in the mystic Southern Oregon forest, morel mushrooms have pushed through the duff. I know because a kindly ex-neighbor delivered to us morels that he'd collected in a forest we can see from home, and we had them for dinner. Unfortunately, I have yet to observe firsthand morels in the forest.

Our garden served up the asparagus. The asparagus is easy. All you have to do is dig trenches one or two feet deep, plant the asparagus crowns, wait three years, and hello! If the slugs or asparagus beetles don't get them, you can go out there with your little cutter thing and harvest during the month of April.
We planted  crowns 20 years ago and others about 10 years ago. Despite the bugs and slugs, we enjoy a steady spring harvest. Did I envision 20 years ago that I'd be cutting spears in 2013? No. But when in your life can you foresee what will come of your actions so far in advance? Gardening provides a window on the future, and a hold on it. Too bad you have to BE in the future to believe it.

Morels? Different story. We've been skunked on a our recent morel hunts. But the day that our guy delivered the goods, we had a feast comprising fresh morels, just-picked asparagus, and roasted red peppers. Wow! A couple days later, with another asparagus harvest and no morels, I repeated this recipe but used portobello mushrooms, which weren't quite as delicious. But what can you do when the morels shrink and hide? Just run down to Costco and hunt for portobellos.
Recipe and photos follow.

Morel & Asparagus Stir Fry

Morel or other mushrooms, about a pound, rinsed and sliced
Fresh asparagus, about a pound, rinsed, woody stems removed, and sliced
Juice of half a fresh lemon
Roasted red peppers in a jar, about three whole, drained and cut into strips
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Rinse the morels, drain and slice into rounds. Saute in oil or butter until all the moisture has been released. Remove to a glass bowl.
Saute the asparagus for a few minutes over medium-high heat. You want it crisp/tender. Squeeze the half lemon over it. Add the cooked mushrooms and the red peppers. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Serves two or three generously.

Fresh raw just-harvested  morels. These are large and in perfect condition. 
Rinse the mushrooms, slice, and saute in olive oil and/or butter. 

Cook until the liquid has evaporated.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Morels, Zip. Flowers, Zenith.

We failed to find any morels, but spring wildflowers were in abundance.
These are shooting stars, prolific in Southern Oregon forests. 

A friend stopped by the house a couple days ago with—and I am not kidding—a five-gallon bucket overflowing with freshly harvested wild morel mushrooms that he found on the hillside visible from our home and just a few-minutes walk down the road and up the hill. 
I've been staring at and admiring that hillside for three decades and have tromped around up there many times. I just failed to see the terrain as a mushroom super mercado. The friend, who used to be our next-door neighbor, gave us a few morels for dinner** before heading home to process his windfall and add it to the 40 pounds of morels already in his freezer! (Yes, the exclamation point is warranted.) Mushroom envy clutched my throat, and also mushroom chagrin. How could we have lived here so long without taking advantage of this free-for-the-picking bonanza? We were about to find out.

PK and I headed for the forest armed with small knives to cut the mushrooms and mesh bags to carry them—big bags, as the vision of that five-gallon bucket still danced in our heads. Rather than our familiar hillside, we tackled an area, also visible from our garden, where we often hike for exercise and a "forest fix." It's a steep hillside on BLM land, and also an historic gold mining area. We poked around in the typical Southern Oregon mixed madrone, oak, pine, fir and manzanita forest for two hours. We did not see even one morel. Not one! 

Kicking around near a madrone tree, a favorite mushroom habitat supposedly, I called a sharp-eyed veteran morel hunter who I have witnessed spotting roadside mushrooms from a moving vehicle. What were we doing wrong? She confessed to many fruitless morel hunts, and reminded me that "hunting" is an operative word. You don't just go out there and expect easy pickings. Huh? Oh well. There was plenty to enjoy, and I can think of worse ways to spend two hours. Today, we are going to try the  hunting grounds of our former neighbor and hope that bastard didn't pick every last one.

The road has been closed to vehicles for years. It ends at an old mine.
Scarlet fritillaria growing and glowing trailside. 
PK looking for mushroom bulges beneath the madrones. Yes, the trees slant downhill. 
Manzanita bush in blossom.

A colorful stand of Indian Warrior, one of many wildflower displays we enjoyed on our fruitless mushroom hunt.

**Post about a yummy morel and asparagus stir fry is in the works. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kale Chips? EEEK! Potato Chips? YEAAA!

Kale chips and potato chips
attended a party together and made some friends.
It's hard to believe that some people are contemptuous of vegetables. They shove steamed broccoli or cooked peas around as if maggots were on their plates, and relatively unknown greens such as arugula or bok choy send them into vigorous uploading of meat and mashed potatoes.

But there's one vegetable that tops them all in the vile-to-veggie-haters category and that is kale. The evil kale, that we all should know by now is about the best thing we can eat to stave off inflammation and to boost immune systems. But even PK, who is a veggie lover and ardent gardener, can turn squeamish about kale. Any hint of "strong taste" and he's outta there. But he has another reason for being kale-adverse.

"Do you remember what it did to your BREATH?!" he asked. Rudely, very rudely, when I announced my intention to make kale chips again.

The last time I made kale chips was a few weeks back when we needed a party appetizer. I'd avoided making them before because I thought they'd be too much trouble and kale was not yet growing in the cold frame. But I kept running across recipes exclaiming the ease and deliciousness of kale chips, not to mention their superior nutritional value, so I purchased organic curly kale and started with what seemed a huge amount of torn leaves arranged on two cookie sheets.

Raw kale tossed with olive oil and seasoned salt on a parchment-paper
 lined baking sheet.

About 12  minutes later after baking in a 375 degree oven.

But after baking, I ended up with only a small bowl of green crispy things. They tasted great, even PK agreed, but I wasn't comfortable contributing such a paltry amount at a party for 20 people. What to do? Add potato chips!

Not ANY chip, of course, but Tim's Jalapeno Potato Chips. God, I love them. They are my junk food of choice. Just because I'm big into healthy eating and vegetables and low carbness doesn't mean I'm perfect and can't treat myself to a potato chip now and then. (Like maybe a few every day.) So combining them with the ultra virtuous kale chips is a perfect exercise in yin and yang, good and evil, and party pooper and party savor. (get it?)

When making the first batch, I did a fair amount of of kale-chip tasting, just to make sure they were edible, which made my tongue green and, apparently, my breath fetid, although that could have been because I seasoned the kale with garlic salt. PK did not appreciate my breath, but despite his crinkled up nose, the combo was a hit at the party.

Those who endeavor to eat "healthy" loved the kale chips, and even the people who say screw it when it comes to vegetables, took the plunge by trying a kale chip chased by a jalapeno chip, declared it all good, and came back for more.

So if you'd like to be a hit with a potluck appetizer, even with the kale-adverse group, try this. It's easy! Especially ripping open the potato chip package and dumping it in with the kale chips. I tried to go half and half. By the way, the kale chips disappeared first.

Kale Chips—with a little optional help from Tim 

  1. Purchase, or harvest from your garden, one large bunch of kale. Rinse and dry, then remove and discard stems and inner ribs. 
  2. Dump the kale into a large bowl and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Most recipes call for one tablespoon.
  3. Season the kale carefully with salt* and, if you like, pepper. I included a squirt of Sriracha sauce to befriend Tim's chips. I also sprinkled in a little garlic powder.
  4. Mix kale, oil, and seasonings with your hands until evenly coated. 
  5. Spread in one layer on two cookie sheets. Parchment paper eases clean-up.
  6. Bake in a 250* degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the chips are dry/crisp. Check after 15 minutes and rearrange chips and/or turn the cookies on oven racks. 
  7. Remove chips from the pans and cool on racks.

Mixing with Tim's Jalapeno Potato Chips is optional, of course. But if you're headed to a party,.......Aim to please!
* Kale chip recipes abound, and flavored gourmet salts are popular seasonings, as are curry and pepper flakes. Season sparingly, remembering how that big pile of kale shrinks into a small pile. 
* I've seen recipes calling for higher temps and shorter baking times. I like the cooler oven as the danger of burning the chips is less.