Home Made Dog Food: Our Experience with The Farmer’s Dog

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We have two amazing dogs- Knox [he is a 7 year old German Shepherd/Terrier mix] and April [she is a one year old German Shepherd/Catahoula mix]. Our pups are not just “dogs” they’re absolute family. So of course, their health matters a great deal to us. I’m a dietitian and my husband is a doctor after all- so we know the importance of nutrition + health! Unfortunately, real food for dogs is looked at as kind of an “elite” or “exclusive” or “fancy” thing. When really, whole foods for dogs is just as important as whole foods are for humans and there is a way to make it easy.

We stumbled upon The Farmer’s Dog and it completely changed our life. The Farmer’s Dog is a service that delivers balanced, freshly made pet food with simple recipes, guided by science, and truly driven by love! Meals provided are vet-developed, which we find AMAZING! But before we go into the Farmer’s dog – some more background first! We had always known we really wanted to look into better nutrition for our pups but didn’t know where to begin and often ignored the idea because it seemed like “one extra thing” or just “too much work”.

The Farmer's Dog

HOW IT WORKS. Then, The Farmer’s Dog came along. How it works? You take a quiz on their website so they can learn more about your pup and all the specifics [it was so fun]! Then, you pick which kind of meat you would like them to use and that’s it! All ingredients are specific to YOUR dog’s needs- right down to their calorie and protein needs. Easy ready-to-serve meals are pre-made and pre-portioned. Just open and pour. TALK ABOUT THE HAPPIEST DIETITIAN EVER! I loved this. It took the stress off me. I may know what humans need nutrition wise but dog wise- I know zippo, so homemade dog food has always felt overwhelming to take on on my own. Ingredients are Human-grade USDA aka less processing, natural nutrients, and higher safety standards. Things we believe every pet deserves. The other great part- Your food is delivered to you within days of cooking. Never deep frozen. Never stored on a shelf for months aka you don’t have to worry about mold of food doing bad!

THEIR STORY. Farmer’s Dog is amazing for all dogs but ESPECIALLY those with food allergies! That is actually how The Farmer’s dog started. I had the amazing opportunity to speak with the folks at The Farmer’s Dog on the phone and their mission/how the company started. So now, I will share it with you! The owner’s pup had an issue with allergies- and lots of tummy issues. Their vet had recommended a high end food product (kangaroo meat etc) and it helped symptoms but overall, was not a solution.  The owner of the company looked closer at the dog food and the number of ingredients [as we all know] was insane. Are these brown little burnt looking balls really the best for our pups? He thought no! He started making homemade dog food for his pup and saw more of an improvement than he did with the fancy brands of dry dog food from the store! Then, The Farmer’s Dog was born!

OUR EXPERIENCE. First off, Knox is a GREAT eater and will have anything but he has GERD [so he sometimes throws up foam early in the morning from too much acid build up- meal timing is important for him to avoid this]. April is a very picky eater and when we adopted her she was VERY thin. We often pour her [dry] food and she will walk away. When we started The Farmer’s Dog, from DAY ONE I can’t tell you how much they both loved it. April gobbled it down every. single. day and was SO exciting every time she saw me opening the package. Knox’s GERD issues completely resolved. They both maintained their weight well and their poop was exactly as it should be [much improved from the dry dog food]!! I won’t go into details, but we noticed a big difference.

POST FARMER’S DOG. After two weeks of The Farmer’s Dog. We had figured, well we really need to get rid of our two gigantic bags of dry dog food [The Science Diet]. So lets do that and then we will go back to homemade dog food. ALL OUR PROBLEMS [which aren’t even really problems but even the healthiest dog – we think – should have homemade dog food, you don’t need a health condition as a reason! It’s all about prevention! Same with nutrition for humans. You want to prevent so that you hopefully don’t have to “treat” in the future] but yes, all of our problems came back. April wouldn’t eat her dry food [same as problem prior] and Knox was throwing up some mornings from acid reflux. We even tried adding blueberries, carrots, peanut butter to their food to try and compensate [just to get rid of the dry food] and it didn’t work!

The Farmer's Dog

COST. If we had a small dog, we would 100% use the Farmer’s Dog but we have two large dogs and for us it’s too pricey at the moment. The great part about their company is they also have a DIY program. We have been using the vet-developed plans and making the food at home ourselves. They also have nutrient packs that you can purchase through them to ensure your dog is getting everything they need! Recent research found 95% of recipes online to be lacking in crucial nutrients for dogs. Serious complications from nutrient deficiencies (and, more commonly, overdosing) could arise if a recipe hasn’t been properly calibrated. The Farmer’s Dog provides recipes formulated by their veterinary nutritionists. Here is the link: https://www.thefarmersdog.com/diy.

We are SO excited to offer you 50% off your first order, especially towards a cause we love SO MUCH!! Cheers to happier + healthier pups, that we consider family!

Link:The Farmer’s Dog 50% Off

The Farmer's Dog

Photo’s of Knox + April with The Farmer’s Dog:

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Plant Based Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Photo: Yuli Cooks

I adore this sauce SO much! If you guys like creamy as much as I do but want to skip the heavy dairy additions that most white sauces call for, THIS IS THE RECIPE FOR YOU!

Idea: Swap out the mushrooms for peas, broccoli, etc! If you don’t love mushrooms – no fear, switch it up!

ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp of Olive Oil [you can also use 1/4 C of butter if you’d like it more creamy]
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup flour OR 4 Tsp Arrowroot OR 2 Tbsp of cornstarch [whichever you have on hand to thicken]
  • 3.5 cups almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

recipe

  1. To make the sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, mushrooms and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in flour [or arrowroot or cornstarch] until lightly browned, about 1 minute.
  2. Gradually whisk in milk, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in basil, oregano and nutmeg until fragrant, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. We of course, always sprinkle some red pepper on top!

recipe adapted from: damndelicious.net

That’s it! We hope you love!

The Neilan Family

Spinach, Mushroom + Broccoli Lasagna

Sometimes you just need a rich, comfy and cozy meal! CUE LASAGNA! This recipe makes my little Italian heart so happy. I love lasagna to pieces but oddly enough marinara sauce isn’t my favorite to have all the time. So I whipped up this delicious lasagna with a light white sauce. Typically the moment you hear white sauce you think: heavy whipping cream, cheese etc. Not the case! The sauce we used for this recipe had neither! Patrick and I did add cheese to the lasagna so although the sauce is plant based the entire recipe is not; however, you can omit the cheese and add nutritional yeast should my vegans wish to give it a try!

We separated the sauce + lasagna recipe because the sauce is SO amazing- you can use it with plain pasta too.

ingredients

  • whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 (15-ounce) package ricotta [we used part skim]
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli florets, thawed and drained

recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions.
  3. Spread 1 cup mushroom sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish; top with 3 lasagna noodles, 3 dollops of the ricotta cheese on each lasagna noodle, sprinkle spinach + broccoli, as well as mozzarella cheese and Parmesan. Repeat with a second, third and fourth layer if you have enough space, ingredients, and noodles. [we had 4 layers]
  4. Place into oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until bubbling. Then broil for 2-3 minutes, or until top is browned in spots. Let cool 15 minutes.
  5. Serve, garnished with parsley, if desired.

recipe adapted from: damndelicious.net

Enjoy!!

– The Neilan Family –

Chickpea Meatloaf

Looking for a meatless monday idea? We made this chickpea meatloaf with a side of mashed cauliflower, green beans, peas + snow peas. It was delicious and 75% veggie based aka fiber and antioxidant goals.

We love all kinds of meatloaf but this is an absolutely delicious plant based option!

Recipe from: connoisseurus veg

ingredients

For the Chickpea Meatloaf

  • 2-14 oz. cans  [no salt added] chickpeas
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup unflavored soy or almond milk
  • 3 tbsp.  Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce 
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

For the Maple Glaze

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce 
  • 1 tsp. paprika

recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly oil a 9 inch loaf pan.
  2. Working in batches if needed, place all meatloaf ingredients into food processor bowl and pulse until chickpeas are broken up and ingredients are well mixed, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Do not overblend. If working in batches, transfer each batch to a large mixing bowl when complete and then mix by hand.
  3. Press mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake 30 minutes.
  4. While meatloaf bakes, stir glaze ingredients together in a small bowl.
  5. Remove loaf from oven after 30 minutes and spoon glaze overtop of loaf. Bake another 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.

Hope you guys enjoy!!

-The Neilan Family-

 

Jalapeño + Spinach Turkey Meatball

Sometimes, we do include meat in our diet. I have talked many times about how we try to focus 80-ish% of our diet on plant based meals; however, we do include turkey, fish, chicken etc now + then. This is one of our FAVORITE recipes. The jalapeños give it such a delish kick.

ingredients

  • 1 pound of lean ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2-3 jalapeños [diced]
  • 2 cup spinach [package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed in paper towels to remove excess moisture]
  • 1/2 large yellow onion [diced]
  • 2-3 fresh garlic cloves [chopped/minced]
  • red pepper [to taste- we add about a 1.5 tsp but we LOVE spice]
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Romano cheese [we didn’t have any and left this out]

recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Mix ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs, diced jalapeños, spinach, yellow onion, garlic cloves, red pepper, salt + pepper, and Romano cheese in a bowl [I use my – clean- hands]
  3. Spray baking sheet with olive oil
  4. Roll mixture into balls
  5. Bake meatballs at 400 for 30 minutes

Recommend over banza pasta for an extra fiber + protein boost!

Chia Seed Jam Summer Salmon

We love, love salmon and this has quickly become one of our top 5 favorite recipes! We typically make Salmon with an Asian seasoning or some lemon/garlic/pepper; however, this weekend was super hot in the swamp aka Gainesville, FL so we wanted something SUMMERY! The chia seed jam summer salmon was born. Talk about a meal loaded with omega-3s (heart eyes)!

Patrick and I like to try and have some kind of low-mercury/high omega-3 fish (90% of the time salmon, sometimes tuna) twice a week. The American Heart Associate recommends consuming 8oz of fish a week (12oz a week for pregnancy). Research has shown that regular consumption of seafood rich in omega-3s reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent. Heart disease, as mentioned in Can you include red meat in a healthy diet?, is the number one cause of death (both men and women). That’s why its super important to include an adequate amount of omega-3s in your diet! Heart + brain health!!

If you’re typically not a fan of salmon and/or just want to switch it up for summer- THIS IS AN AMAZING recipe. We promise you guys will not be disappointed.

recipe adapted from: publix

ingredients for salmon

  • 3 tablespoons chopped pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumb
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 salmon fillets [about 1 lb]
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, we used Himalayan [has lighter taste]

ingredients for chia seed jam – this takes only 5 minutes to make and is so worth it!

  • 2 heaping cups of frozen mixed berries [or fruit of your choice]
  • 3/4 C water
  • 1-2 Tbsp of Pure Maple Syrup
  • 4 Tbsp Chia Seeds

recipe for chia seed jam

  1. Place berries and water in a small sauce pot- turn on medium heat- and bring to boil. Stirring occasionally.
  2. Use a fork or spoon to help the fruit breakdown
  3. Once liquid has been absorbed and the jam is your desired consistency [we prefer some clumps of fruit], remove pan from heat and add maple syrup + chia seeds.
  4. Whisk for about 5 minutes to make sure chia seeds don’t clump up on you

 recipe for salmon

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with foil. Chop pecans and place in medium bowl; stir in bread crumbs and oil until combined.
  • Place salmon on baking sheet; season with pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread chia seed jam over salmon [we used a lot- about 12 tsp or more of chia seed jam]; divide pecan mixture evenly over preserves.

We hope you guys love + enjoy this delicious summer salmon recipe!

-The Neilan Family-

Can you include red meat in a healthy diet?

pizza
Photo of our MEATLESS nights: beet pizza crust [you can find this at whole foods] with cauliflower ricotta topping, mushrooms, arugula, onions + pine nuts

Can Red Meat be a Healthy Part of Your Diet?

The answer is yes; however, there’s much more to the story! I am a Registered Dietitian working alongside my husband who is a Senior Resident Physician at the [same] hospital. So, we get asked this question a lot.

A lot of the time our patients ask us, “what do you do?” [in regards to our diet and including/excluding red meat]. So before we get into the research of red meat and why you can have it in your diet in moderation, we will touch on this first. Patrick and I follow a plant based diet 80-90% of the time. On average, we have red meat probably 6-12 times a year [this is a complete estimate]. This is about once every month or every other month aka we do not have it often. Processed meat is even more limited in our diet, we probably have this 3-6 times a year. Some people call this a “Flexitarian Diet” which is very similar to Mediterranean. We follow this diet for organ, mental and physical well being and weight maintenance, not for weight loss.

So then the question is – why? Well thankfully there has been an abundance of research on this topic.

The World Health Organization, a specialized agency focused on public health of the United Nations and The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a carcinogen, something that causes cancer. And it has classified red meat as a probable carcinogen, something that probably causes cancer. Processed meat includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats. It refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and goat.

“Twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions. They found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. That’s the equivalent of about 4 strips of bacon or 1 hot dog. For red meat, there was evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.” – The American Cancer Society. Having processed meat daily, increases your risk of colon cancer about 1%. This is why having processed meat occasionally, is absolutely ok. You don’t want to have it often, not only because it increases cancer risk but also for heart health. All meat, and most animal products, are high in saturated fat. This is the kind of fat that you do not want a lot of in your diet because it increases risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. 1 in every 4 deaths is caused from heart disease.

So how much saturated fat should you have? You should be aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat. For example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fat. That’s about 13 grams of saturated fat per day. – American Heart Association

The purpose is not to fear food. You don’t need that kind of negative energy towards food in your life. When Patrick and I do have red meat or even processed meat to be honest we don’t think twice about it. We enjoy it while we are having it because we know this is not something we have often. So it is truly unnecessary to fear it. Never fear your food. Focus on portion sizes and moderation vs restriction.

The great part about including more plant based meals and swapping out meat a few nights a week is that this typically means you are including more vegetables, beans, fruits etc! This is fantastic. More fiber, more antioxidants and less inflammation- YES PLEASE! Patrick and I have a goal of consuming 10 cups of fruits and veggies a day! Why? Research shows the greatest benefit from including 8-10 cups per day to avoid cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases.

 

References:

https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/world-health-organization-says-processed-meat-causes-cancer.html

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/11/03/report-says-eating-processed-meat-is-carcinogenic-understanding-the-findings/

https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Saturated-Fats_UCM_301110_Article.jsp?appName=MobileApp