There’s an age-old debate about feeding your cherished dog commercial pet food (hopefully a much higher grade, which is widely available today) versus a homemade diet. With thousands of medical, environmental, economic and other factors informing the conversation, and veterinary experts, nutritionists, and pet owners earnestly weighing in, the pros and cons of both could fill a small library.
For many of us, whether we go the commercial or home cooked route for our pets, feeding them and ourselves–while striving to be healthy and stretch a well-earned dollar in the process– is a real concern and strong goal. Throw in a measure of creativity, though, and you have the perfect recipe for meals with ingredients that are both human and canine-friendly, and even lend themselves to providing additional treats for our canine friends.
While certain foods are reported to be dangerous and even fatal for dogs, such as grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, potato skins, chocolate, and onions–the last two containing the alkaloid theobromine (check with your vet for more information)–combining beef, chicken, or fish, vegetables, and carbohydrates like brown rice, barley, or oatmeal into healthy stews is a quick, easy, economical path to satisfying both human and canine appetites, as well as pleasing the pocketbook.
Reserving some of the meal’s meat juices, and even adding ingredients like chunks of fruit, to flavor homemade dog treats can result in savory, vitamin-packed snacks that provide your dog with ingredients for optimum health and energy, instead of fillers like corn and processed chicken parts (i.e. beaks and feet) often found in conventional pet products. Controlling exactly what goes into them, such as using natural peanut butter in place of more common sugar-laden brands, when the recipe calls for it, is just one of the many benefits of cooking for your pet. However you do it, including your furry family member in meal planning can give you both the good nutrition you need for long, healthy lives.
Try this produce-packed stew recipe for dinner for you and your loving canine, with “dessert” an added bonus for the four-legged epicurean:
Beef Barley Vegetable Stew
4 slices bacon, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds stew beef, lean, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sliced celery
6 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup pearled barley
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups diced turnips
1 large baking potato, cut in cubes (remove skin if preparing for your dog)
1 cup green beans, frozen, thawed
2 tablespoons flour blended with 2 tablespoons cold water, optional
Cook bacon over medium-low heat in a large stockpot or Dutch oven until almost crisp. Toss stew beef pieces with the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add to the bacon mixture. Add olive oil. Add mushrooms and celery. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until beef is browned. Add beef broth and bay leaf. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes. Add barley, carrots, and turnip. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Add potatoes and simmer for about 25 minutes longer, or until vegetables and meat are tender. Add beans and cook for 10 minutes longer. If desired, stir in the flour and water mixture. Cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbly. Serves 6 to 8.
Beef Barley Biscuits
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic granules (optional)
4 tablespoons parsley
2 cups beef broth/juices — obtained from leftover stew
2 cups barley flour
3-4 cups rye flour
Preheat oven to 350 ° F. In a large bowl, combine olive oil (extra-virgin olive oil is more expensive, but lower grade olive oils are blended with other vegetable oils that may contain corn or soy), garlic and parsley. Heat beef broth and add to the olive oil mixture. Stir in barley flour and let cool until lukewarm – or cool enough to work with. Gradually blend in rye flour, adding enough to form stiff dough. Transfer to a floured (rye flour) surface and knead until smooth (about 3-5 minutes). Shape dough into a ball and roll to 1/4-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter of your choice or cut into small squares. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 1/4-inch apart. Gather up scraps, roll out again, and cut additional biscuits.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and turn over. Bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides. After you finish baking all batches of biscuits, turn off the oven, spread all the biscuits in one baking pan and set them in the oven to cool for a few hours or overnight. The extra time in the oven as it cools off helps make the treats crunchier.