Making Broccoli-Beef Stew for Phoenix

I’ve been working on a book for some time now.  It’s called Cooking for Your Dog, not exactly an inspired title, and that will probably change before it goes to print.  Marie will come up with something catchier.

The book is, as the mundane title says, about cooking food for your dog.  But it’s not just recipes.  It’s chock full of information on canine nutrition and the various ways they differ from people in what they can and cannot eat and why.  I’ve been researching it for a long time because it takes a lot of effort to validate information that is found on the internet.  In case you haven’t discovered it yet, you can’t trust everything on the internet to be accurate or even true.  Such is the case here.  Companies that make kibble sponsor “studies” that slam canned food.  Canned food producers disseminate info, through side channels, that tells how dangerous raw diet is and how much healthier a canned diet is.  You get the idea: everyone has an agenda and you can’t always tell who sponsored a particular study, or if it was truly unbiased.  I asked Dr. Sandra Conard Manes DVM for help in sifting through the hype and getting at the “meat” of this issue.

I’ve got a few details to finish up, but it’s mostly written.  I just need to test the recipes.

Getting Phoenix to eat enough to gain the weight she needs to gain has been a challenge since she does not like kibble, and gets bored with canned food.  Besides, good quality canned dog food is expensive.  I came to the realization that if I’m going to be spending over $40.00 per week on canned food for one dog, I could be testing the recipes and probably saving some money as well.

So here is documentation of my first recipe test and what I learned as I went.

Broccoli-Beef Doggie Stew


  • 2 cups Beef cut into 1/4″ cubes.  We used a roast, but you can use whatever cut you want.
  • 1½ cups of chopped broccoli
  • 1 large sweet potato (needs to yield 2 cups when mashed)
  • ½ cup barley
  • 4 cups liquid (including beef broth)
  • 1000 mg calcium citrate

Steam the veggies until soft.  Don’t boil them.  Then mash or puree to release the nutrients, a dog’s gut does not break down cellulose like ours do, so they can’t get at the nutrients of many plants, especially leafy plants.  Use some of the beef broth for thinning the puree so it renders down smoothly.

Cube up your beef.  Cut it into small pieces that won’t choke your dog (they are not known for diligently chewing their food) and will be easily digested.  Trim away excess fat.  Too much meat fat causes pancreatitis in dogs.

Boil up the barley according to package directions.  You may have to do some math here — or just make a larger amount and save the excess in the fridge for the next batch.  Use the beef broth to cook the barley.  If you need to drain off excess liquid after cooking, use a strainer and bowl to capture the liquid, don’t pour it down the drain.  That has good stuff in it, don’t waste it.

Add the calcium citrate.  You can use vitamin C capsules for this.  If they are the gel-caps, pull them apart and add the powder.  If a tablet, crush it/them in a pull crusher or between two large, nested spoons.  Calcium is important to your dog’s diet.  A wild dog gets calcium by eating the bones of its prey.  If you have a great butcher shop near by, you can get beef ground with bones in, just for dogs.  If not, add calcium citrate or dietary bone meal to the recipes.  Do not use the bone meal you find in the store’s gardening section.

The result is going to be stiff.  Add beef broth – barley water to thin to a pleasing consistency.  Go ahead and give it a taste, everything you’ve used is human grade food so just because you’re calling it dog food doesn’t mean you can’t try a bit.  I can definitely taste the sweet potato, the broccoli is more subtle.  That’s a good thing as far as dogs go.

Okay, pack that into an air-tight container and store it in the fridge.  If you have any liquid left, save that too, you’ll need it for thinning in days to come: it will stiffen up as it sits.

How Much To Feed?

This was the hardest question to find a good answer for, and I’m going to give it to you for free!  But first, some preamble.

If you are accustomed to feeding your dog canned food, you are probably thinking that the slightly over 3 pounds of stew this recipe produces won’t last but a day.  Less if you have a large dog.  Because you’re used to feeding your dog 3 to 8 cans of food per day.  That’s because commercial dog food is notoriously low on nutrient and high on fillers.  The cheaper the brand, the more true this is.  The top brands (see contain less bulk, but cost $2.00 to $3.00 per can.

My book goes into how to arrange for a balanced diet.  This one recipe will not do it.  You’ll need to vary ingredients to achieve nutritional balance over the long haul.  A general rule of thumb to use with any of the recipes in my book is to figure 2% to 3% of your dog’s ideal body weight in home-made food per day.  Note that I said “ideal body weight” and “per DAY” not per meal.

Let’s do a couple of examples.

This stew, as I made it, weighs 10 ounces per cup.  Let’s write that on a sticky-note and pop it right up here where we can see it while we work this stuff out.


YUM, warm beef stew!

Phoenix needs to weigh 55 pounds.  She is well under that right now, but that’s what we’re working toward so that’s what we use as a feeding basis.  And since we want her to gain weight, I’ll use the 3% figure.  3% of 55 pounds is 1.65 pounds or 26.4 ounces, of food per day.   She gets fed 3 times a day, so we divide that into thirds, and she needs just under 9 ounces.  (check the sticky note) Not quite a cup of stew per feeding.

As she closes in on her ideal weight we can cut back to the 2% figure or 5.9 ounces (call it 6 oz) of stew per feeding (check the sticky note) or about 2/3 cup.

Blondie Bear

Blondie Bear should weigh 80 pounds.  She usually runs heavier, so we’ll use the 2% figure.

2% of 80 pounds is 1.6 pounds.  Let’s convert that to ounces now: 1.6 x 16 = 25.6 ounces needed per day.

25.6 divided into two meals per day is 12.8 oz. per meal.  Let’s call it 13.  (check the sticky note) That’s 1 1/3 cups per meal.

That’s equivalent to what she gets fed in kibble.  The canned food we’ve been using says to feed one can per 15 pounds per day.  That’s 2 3/4 cans per meal.  That’s a lot of food!

Dr. Manes agrees with other evaluators who say that even the best dog kibble is essentially junk food.  It has to be cooked at such high temperatures to produce shelf-stable dry nuggets that most of the nutrient contend is killed off in the process.  A top brand of kibble is better than a cheap brand of kibble, but kibble is still kibble.

If I really want to do this right, I should just start making my own dog food for the whole pack.  I’d only need 8 pounds of home made food per day — that’s three times the batch I made today.

Every day.  (sigh)

Camden Tangelockz: Notes on a foster dog

The Humane Society of Jefferson County nick-named this guy “Dreadlocks” because of his twisted, knotted fur.

Hopefully he’ll be able to be groomed one day soon and the moniker won’t fit any more.

Last Updated: July 11, 2020

Base Info:

  • Arrival date: Feb. 06, 2020
  • Breed: Poodle Mix
  • Sex: Male
  • Age: Puppy, Young Adult, Mature, Senior
  • Weight: 26 Pounds (April 23)
  • Neutered: Yes
  • General Health: Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor
  • Temperament: Wants to interact, but cannot be handled.
  • Departure date: July 11, 2020 returning to H.S.J.C. then to Carolina Poodle Rescue 7/14


Camden was one of several dogs pulled from a hoarding situation in Green county that ended up at the Humane Society of Jefferson County.  He is not at all aggressive but is terrified of being touched, so he cannot be handled — or groomed.  He needs a low-stress environment to just chill out and learn to trust.

Camden’s Progress Summary:

Detailed notes on this foster dog’s progress are posted below the summary.

Relational Behavior

  • Relates well to other dogs: Yes
  • Can eat food/treats near other dogs: Yes
  • Preferred style of play: unknown
  • Is affectionate: In his own way, just no touching.
  • Is good with:
    . Men: Yes
    . Women: Yes
    . Children: No
    . Cats: Unknown
  • Jumps up on people: No
  • Mouths: No
  • Walks well on a leash: No

House Dog Training

  • Willingly enters his crate: Yes
  • Is calm/quiet while in crate: Yes
  • Understands going outside to potty: Unknown
  • Alerts me of need to go outside: no
  • Is destructive of bedding and/or toys: No
  • Refrains from kitchen counter cruising: Yes (can’t reach)
  • Stays off people furniture: Unknown


  • Comes when called: Yes
  • Sits on command: No
  • Down / Off: N/A
  • Shake / Paw: No
  • Kennels on command: No


  • DA2PP: 01/18/2020 (HSJC)
    . Booster:
  • Bordatella: 01/18/2020 (HSJC)
  • Wormed: Dates | Product | Dose | By
    .    01/18/2020 | Strongid | ??? | HSJC
  • Rabies: 01/18/2020 (???)
  • Neuter: April 22, 2020 (HSJC)
  • Heartworm Test: April 22, NEGATIVE (HSJC)
  • Flea/Tick preventative:
    . date, product, dose
  • Heartworm preventative:
    . May 4, Ivermectin Oral 0.25 ml
    . June 1, Ivermectin Oral 0.25 ml
    . July 3, Ivermectin Oral, 0.3 ml
  • NOTES:
    . I’m told he has bad teeth and needs soft kibble or he won’t eat.
    .4/23 – 4/27 Amoxicillin Trihydrate 62.5 mg 2 x daily for infected ingrown claw (removed at neuter)


Mixture of Pedigree Pouches and Kibbles & Bits: (supplied by HSJC), 1 cup twice a day.


In chronological order, newest at the bottom. Some pictures are linked to a more detailed Doggy Tale about that update, click those to open the related story.

Camden says he’s a BEAR, he wants to hibernate in his den.

A new snuggle friend.

Enjoying the sunshine

Progress Updates

Progress notes are listed below, in chronological order, newest at the bottom.

Feb 6

Camden has just arrived, so we don’t know much yet.  However he tolerated riding around in a transport box without fussing and crying.  I checked on him frequently.  During the transport and after being released into his kennel he seemed guardedly interested in Marie and me.  Not shrinking away and cowering in a corner.  That’s a good place to start with him.

Feb 12

Camden has lost his fear of me to the point he tends to be underfoot a lot while I’m in his room doing “housekeeping”.  He will come right up and take bits of cheeseburger (sliders) from my fingers, but won’t let me pet him yet.  Working on it … we’re getting there.

Feb 16

Cammie is making some progress with his fearfulness.  He won’t quite let me touch him, but he will take treats from my fingers and will come over and sniff my hand.

During this cold, I set up an old transport box that’s missing its door inside the garage/lumber-shed/kennel.  It’s on a sheet of Styrofoam to insulate it from the cold concrete slab and held in place against the doorway through the wall with concrete blocks. I draped a blanket over the box leaving the louvers on one side open, put lots of blankets inside it, and set up a propane furnace to blow warm air through the open louvers.  That gave him a warm place to go when it got down to 24° at night.

April 8

Made some progress with Camden today.  He has been willing to come out and be quite close to me any time I’m in his kennel with him, but is leery of my hands.  If I reach out to touch him he scampers away.  Every day at noon I take him a few hot dog bits.  He will take these from me if I pinch them between thumb and fore-finger, but if I lay one on an open palm he stays back.  Until today.

April 24

Camden was neutered at Humane Society of Jefferson County (HSJC) on Wednesday the 22nd.  While he was unconscious, they shaved off the tangled mat he was wearing and checked him for hidden problems.  I’ve seen matted up dogs like this end up with colonies of maggots underneath, living in skin lesions.   Not the case here: aside from and ingrown and infected dew claw and one small skin lesion he’s in good shape.

He is not happy about being naked, though!  That will grow back, and I need to get him accustomed to being touched, so he can be brushed (at least) and (hopefully) groomed occasionally.

May 11

It’s been almost three weeks since Camden’s neutering and he should be all healed up now.  I can’t tell for sure because he will not let me look closely let alone touch.

It’s time to take the cone off, but it does not untie by pulling on the ends of the gauze rope.  I’ll need to cut it off, but he still reacts badly to touching and I don’t want to accidentally stab him in the neck with scissors.  I’ve been in touch with Julie, Manager at HSJC, about getting him a dose of something to relax him.  She says she has some Trazadone in the proper dosage that should do the trick.

I had hoped to be able to use his cone to protect me from being bitten so I could try some “forced petting” but that has not panned out.  His fear of being touched is deeply ingrained, not just an aversion.  Yet he meets me at his kennel door when I bring him food, plays around my feet while I clean his kennel, and will all but climb into my lap (I’m sitting on the floor)  when I feed him his mid-day hot dog treats.  He will take them off my open palm.  But will not allow me to touch him. (sigh)

July 3

I got word over the weekend that Camden has been accepted by a Poodle rescue in North Carolina.  They say this “Social Distancing” behavior is quite common in abused Poodles, they know how to deal with it and can help him.

While in our care, he has become a friendly, happy, little fellow who will come out of his dog house to cavort around my feet as I clean his kennel.  He just backs away from being touched.

He got out of his kennel once and went around checking on the other dogs, who thought this was quite exciting!  I was able to herd him back into his kennel without incident.  Another time he decided to moosh himself between his dog house and the fencing of his kennel with his back pressed up against the fencing.  I came along and decided to try scratching his back.  Usually that would result in a flying leap over the dog house to get away.  This time he turned his head to stare at me with a “What do you think you’re doing?” expression and drew himself up a little but there were no panicked acrobatics.  Maybe he’s made a little progress with this too.

July 8

July 11

Camden was safely delivered back to Humane Society of Jefferson County.  It took only a little coercion to get him into hos transport box, he rode well, and at the other end he came right out, trotted around and hopped up on the cushy raised bed they had prepared for him.  Happy as a clam in silt.  Happy tails to you, Cammie!


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