Have a Heart …

… literally!  A beef heart, to be exact.  Besides work and rescue activities, I’m also in conformation training with the puppy, Teller.  Well, not so much a puppy anymore as he’s now 14-months old but I suspect he’ll be known as “the puppy” around our house for quite some time to come.  Getting — and keeping — his attention at class can be hit or miss depending on what’s going on and how many dogs are in attendance.   While he’s greatly improved in the past month, it’s time to step our game up.  With a recipe for microwaved braunschweiger (thanks, Deb!) and the most recent find … baked beef heart … we have his mostly-undivided attention.

After several phone calls to the meat department at King Soopers, the two half beef hearts arrived in vacuum-sealed packages.  Not a stranger to the meat industry, opening the first package brought back a flood of memories … on smell alone.  I have a twin brother and every summer my father, a commercial meat salesman, would take one of “the twins” on his three-day out-of-state sales route.  More than just time spent with Dad, it was a break for my Mom who apparently didn’t want to listen to the twins bickering and/or whining all summer.  So, for years, part of my summer was spent being schlepped from grocery store to butcher shop to meat market.  The smell of fresh meat is unmistakable and, in my case, unforgettable.  Know how to cook kidneys?  Boil the piss out of ’em!!  Haha … sorry, inside joke.

With recipe in hand and a two-pound chunk of beef heart oozing blood on the cutting board, I put aside my disdain for the organ meats.  Or anything that even remotely resembles organ or “offal” meat (a totally appropriate name in my book), i.e., heart, kidney, liver, tongue, tripe, etc., etc.  Supposedly, beef heart is making a culinary comeback but I’m not buying — or biting — into that trend.

First step is to slice the heart into 1/8″ slabs.  Easier said than done as the heart wants to roll with each slice, leaving a much Heart on cutting boardthicker piece than what’s needed for even baking.  I quickly figure out that squeezing and compressing the heart while slicing results in thin, uniform slabs.  Dad would have been proud … and prouder still that my knives are always razor sharp and made quick work of the slicing.  Know the most dangerous utensil in the kitchen?  A dull knife.  If nothing else, I did learn proper knife use and care while on the perimeter of the meat industry.

Lay the slices on cookies sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with crushed rosemary and a little garlic powder.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes (325 if using a convection oven).  About half way through baking, dab with paper towels to remove excess liquid.  At 35 minutes, I removed the cookie sheets from the oven (now turned off), turned the slices over, dabbed again with paper towels and put back in the now-cooling oven for another 10 minutes or so.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  When cool, slice into very small cubes and package for freezing.  During the baking/dabbing process, Teller got a bite.  Evidently it was pretty good as he kept going back over to the oven door and looking in at the still-baking treats after that bite.  Once completely cooled and cubed, I kept some out for this week’s training treats and stored the rest, about three cups worth.  For storage, I opted for freezing and used the FoodSaver with the wide-mouth jar accessory to seal in pint jars.  Vacuum sealed, the treats will stay fresh longer and won’t form ice crystals.

Now the answer to the question that’s sure to be on your mind … does it smell??  Yes, but not nearly as obnoxious as liver that’s being cooked (I’m *very* aware of cooking and dog odors in the house).  The odor dissipated fairly quickly once I opened the house up to air out.  Given the first run, I will make this again but with more rosemary added and the house windows open at the start.  At some point, I’m going to try the dehydrator so (1) it doesn’t have to be under refrigeration at all times and (2) so I can set it up in the garage for volume production.

In any event, the homemade treats are definitely a hit with my four-legged crew!!  Hubby … not so much  lol.

UPDATE:  Hold the rosemary!!  Evidently there is a connection between rosemary and seizures in dogs.  Guess I’ll be using parsley next time around.

Ready for freezing
FoodSaver w/wide-mouth jar attachment
Top – braunschweiger treats; bottom – baked beef heart

The little red dog …

The little red dog ... Mae-Mae
The little red dog ... Mae-Mae

… is an absolute joy.  And the resilience and adaptability of the canine never ceases to amaze me.  Mae-Mae — our little puppy mill survivor — has been here five weeks now.  Other than watching her a little more closely to monitor her house training, you’d think she’s been here forever.  Nothing short of astounding as she lived her entire life in a puppy mill.  Many of the mill dogs are fearful, having had little human contact, and their adjustment can take months or even years.  Some never get over the trauma.

Mae-Mae sleeps through the night in her crate.  She toilets appropriately having decided the grass is more “user friendly” than the concrete or stone patios.  She knows what “outside, go potty” means .. and will do exactly that … walk outside into the grass and go potty.  She dances for her food bowl and will take a treat from my hand.  She delights in being petted and will seek out this attention.  She is comfortable being picked up as she no longer splays her front legs out, stiff as a board and as wide as they’ll spread.  My Apsos are not lap dogs per se; however Mae-Mae definitely is and a favorite evening pasttime entails curling up next to me on the couch.  She probably thinks she’s died and gone to heaven.  In her five weeks here, she’s taught herself — with little input from me — to walk nicely on a leash.

Her greatest joy, I believe, is having the freedom to run in the yard.  Zoom, zoom … there she goes with a happy grin on her face.  Sometimes she just sits and suns herself, contented to soak up the warming rays.  I would surmise that her former surroundings were rather dark and dismal.

Sugar doesn’t come any sweeter than this little red dog …

We Need to Talk …

tzu-w-presentFor several years now, we’ve seen and heard all the different news accounts of pets being made ill or out right poisoned by products manufactured overseas.  And it doesn’t stop with just products for animals … baby formula, pot pourri, toothpaste, sea food, toys … you name it.  In the interest of our health — and our pets health/well being — owners need to be hyperviligant about bringing in items manufactured outside the US.

The vast majority of our pets will be participating in Christmas with us.  Other family members include them in their holiday gift buying … and this is where we need to talk.  Many well-meaning gifters will not be aware of the contamination of products for our pets.  This is where you — as the owner — need to carefully inspect packaging for country of origin as well as overall safety of the item.  Read the label carefully — that country of origin is often buried in small print.  Does it have small pieces that can be chewed off and ingested?  It is a ball that a tongue can be caught in, cutting off circulation?  If your dog is a “heavy” chewer, can the item be easily destroyed and eaten?  If in doubt, get rid of it!  The toy or treat you toss out may just save you $$$$ in vet bills.

Santa Paws is coming!!
Santa Paws is coming!!

Dogs and chocolate. Dogs and high-fat foods.  All deadly combinations that are accessible during the holidays.  Chocolate is a known poison to dogs (especially dark chocolate and small dogs).  High fat foods can cause pancreatitis in dogs … an extremely painful and life-threatening condition.  Skip the fat, treat with veggies if one absolutely must (and not the veggies swimming in gravy!).

Santa Paws can continue to visit … just make sure that what he’s carrying in his sack is safe for those little ones (or not-so-little ones)!!

And, if you’re still feeding the ever-popular chicken strips to your dog, please read the latest update from the FDA as of December 19, 2008.