We’re a dog family. We have two. A nine year old lab mix and a two and a half year old Irish Setter. (insert cute pictures of dogs here).
The lab mix (Miss Lark) is not a dainty girl. She’s a classic crotch sniffer (I’ve tried to break her of the habit since she was a puppy but she’s having none of it) and she has a lot of allergies. A LOT of allergies. Making Summer her arch enemy. She’s allergic to Summer. All of it. Grass. Trees. Fleas. All of it. And so every summer, we battle her skin and body as it battles the allergies.
She’s been on special food so we could control the allergens that were controllable (stuff we were putting into her body, as opposed to the stuff floating around her body). It’s a great brand of food – Stella and Chewy. They’re frozen raw patties made of lamb and other human grade ingredients. And while it works for great her, it’s EXPENSIVE.
Then one Saturday a few weeks ago at the lake, we realized we’d forgotten to bring up a frozen bag of patties and only had the three patties we’d defrosted the day before. I hated to turn around and drive the hour and ten minutes home, merely to pull into the garage, place my hand in the freezer and then drive the hour and ten minutes back. On a gorgeous sunny day. When we had company. Would you want to leave here?
I didn’t think so. Me neither.
So, my brain kicked into gear trying to solve for the problem. Enter the ingredients list on the package (I looked it up online): Lamb. Beets. Pumpkin. Broccoli. Spinach. (Among other things.) Wait! Those are all things you can buy at the store, right? Even is BFE North Carolina. To the car and off I headed to the local Food Lion and got a package of ground lamb, a can of beets, a can of pumpkin, a head of broccoli and a package of spinach. Back at home, I chopped and mixed it all up and made it into patties. Which, she ate with the gusto of the hound dog that she is. Total cost? $13.52 for 6 days worth. <light bulb goes off in Wendy’s head at this point>
When we got back home that Monday, I started to call around to price out lamb. And through that process got some good advice. You need ground lamb, but it’s best if dogs also get some organ meat (not the piano like instrument – think heart, kidney, etc.). It’s nutrient dense and lean and so I also priced out lamb hearts. Apparently you can only get lamb hearts in 15lb bags (ummm – who needs 15lbs of lamb hearts at one time?!) and the grocery store won’t grind them up for you (Thanks, FDA guidelines. You suck.). You (meaning I) get to do that at home. Yay me.
My fifteen pounds of lamb hearts were ordered and arrived in a couple of days, surreptitiously after a visit to the vet about Lark’s skin issues, where the vet embraced the idea of making her food at home and even gave me a recipe so I could have a better grasp on the portions of each ingredient.
Here’s what I learned while dealing with the lamb hearts:
1. Lamb hearts are very juicy. Very.
2. If you want to grind up lamb hearts, you’re better off roasting them first (at 350 degrees for 30 minutes) to reduce the juice (see item number 1)
3. You will need to cut up the roasted lamb hearts to get them into the grinder attachment for your Kitchen Aid mixer. A big knife works great and it looks menacing in case someone comes to the door trying to sell you crap.
4. Having a kick ass Kitchen Aid mixer (thanks ex-boyfriend of years ago that went overboard on the Christmas gifts) and a kick ass Cuisinart makes things MUCH easier.
5. ALWAYS wear an apron when grinding lamb hearts (see item number 1).
6. Roasted lamb hearts makes your house smell like Christmas time.
7. Dogs will stalk you when they smell the Christmassy lamb hearts, as soon as they figure out you are the one in possession of them.
All in all, it was pretty easy. I’ll share some photos and the recipe below. And I would suggest making it a two person job (easier to have one person cutting hearts and one girding at the same time, as well as one person mixing the concoction and one making patties simultaneously). When I did it, The Hubbs was out of town. I’ll plan better next time.
And our dog food bill? Cut in HALF. Yup. Plus we’re in control of what goes in, so I know nothing is in there that will cause her problems and I can pronounce every ingredient.
Here’s the recipe:
15 lbs uncooked lamb hearts
6 lbs ground lamb
1 large container of fresh organic spinach
2 large heads of organic broccoli
1 large can of pumpkin (not pie filling – just straight pumpkin)
1 regular can of pumpkin
2 cans of cooked beets
1 package of Trader Joe’s Almond Meal (you could sub in any kind of ground meal here, Lark isn’t allergic to almonds, so we went with that)
First: Roast your lamb hearts on a lightly greased pan (it took two cookies sheets for me) in a 350f degree oven for about 30 minutes. Let them cool.
When cool, cut the lamb hearts into small enough chunks to fit into your food processor or meat grinding attachment. Grind all the hearts and set the ground meat aside.
Take your spinach and dump it into your food processor and grind it up very finely. Same with the broccoli and then put them in a bowl together.
Open your cans of beets and dump them in your food processor to puree them. Pour that into a bowl with the canned pumpkin.
Open your packages of ground lamb and set them in the sink with the mixer near by (don’t forget to take off the grinding attachment), so any blood will drain out of the package and down the sink drain.
The next steps are more by feel and you’ll have to play with it, but I took two large handfuls of ground heart, one package of lamb, approximately 1/6th of the pumpkin/beet mix and about 1/6th of the spinach/broccoli mix and put it all in the mixer’s bowl. Then added about 1/2 c of almond meal and used the triangle (not the hook and not the whisk) attachment for my mixer to mix it all together for a minute or two on speed four.
Scoop the mixture out onto a plastic cutting board and start to make patties. Depending on how big your dog is, that will dictate how big your patties are. Lark is about 55lbs, so the patties are the size of a very large hamburger and she gets three a day. The recipe made 65 of them.
I used waxed paper torn into rectangles to wrap each patty so they didn’t freeze together. After I finished with the first batch, I made a second, until I’d used all the ingredients and made six batches total. I stuffed a weeks’ worth of patties into a large freezer Ziploc and stuck them in the freezer. They should stay frozen until you take them out to thaw in the fridge the night before you’re going to use them. We just keep a Rubbermaid container in the fridge all the time to hold that day’s patties.
The dog loves them! It’s half as expensive AND I get to play with big knives and kitchen appliances. A total win.
Now you can make your own dog food, play with knives and save some coin. See, I told you it was recipe week. And you’re welcome.