Of the many things that make me proud to be American, I especially admire my compatriots' increasingly pawsitive attitudes about how we pawrent our pets. As a nation, we're dedicating more time and resources than ever before to our four-legged family members' health, happiness, and longevity, and we recognize that our fur babies' good health has a lot to do with what we feed them.
In my nearly three decades, there was (until quite recently) a time when natural, organic, and/or specialty diet dog chow was uncommon and the only easily accessible options seemed to be what we now consider poor-quality feed with questionable contents and provenance. The fact that several nutritious, thoughtfully conceived products are now readily available and being made in our country is a testament to the improving quality of America's pet care market, and one brand that has continuously stood out to me as a leader of the food reform pack is Merrick.*
While no brand is perfect and no one food is perfect for all dogs, Merrick has a 27-year-strong track record of producing top-notch recipes in its Texas-based plant, using natural ingredients sourced from American farms without the additives, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners commonly found in popular pet feeds. Six different natural dog food lines offer a wide variety of options for even the pickiest pups, including grain-free, raw, limited-ingredient, ancestral diet, and classic recipes featuring real, deboned fish, poultry, and red meat like salmon, duck, buffalo, and venison, to name a few.
An American brand with natural and novel American ingredients (which helps American economy and agriculture by buying domestic!), made with high ethical and quality standards that is made for American dogs? Now that's the kind of All-American dog food to which this paw-triotic fur mama could pledge allegiance!
Here at Barcelona & Co., we love Merrick (and America!) so much that we decided to pay homage to both our country and one of our favorite flavors, the grain and potato-free Real Venison + Chickpeas Recipe, with a special, marbled red, white, and blue "Merrick"-an themed treat!
Our treats call for only six ingredients, including venison, chickpea flour, applesauce, blueberries, and peas (all found in some form in the aforementioned Merrick dish) as well as a small amount red beet, which we added as a natural coloring.
A low-fat novel protein, low-glycemic index chickpea flour, and vitamin/mineral-rich fruits and vegetables make this an ideal, healthy treat for most dogs, that is unlikely to set off fireworks in the tummies of pups with even the most common canine food allergies/sensitivities such as chicken, corn, soy, grain, and potatoes.**
Happy Indepawndence Day!
What you'll need:
- 5-5 1/2 cups garbanzo bean flour, divided
- 3/4 cup unsweetened organic applesauce, divided (if store-bought, the only ingredient should be apples!)
- 1/2 pint organic blueberries
- 2 ounces unseasoned green peas, cooked drained, and cooled
- 1/2 small, organic red beet, peeled, cooked, pureed, and cooled
- 3/4 pound ground venison (or a red meat of your choice)
- 1 tablespoon refined coconut oil (unrefined is okay, too, although it might impart coconut flavor onto the venison)
- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add coconut oil and melt. Add venison and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until browned, using a wooden or heat-resistant spoon to break apart the meat into crumbly pieces. When fully cooked, drain and set aside to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, mix 4 cups garbanzo bean flour with 1/2 cup applesauce in a large bowl until flour is slightly saturated. The mix should be crumbly.
- Divide garbanzo-applesauce mixture equally among three medium bowls.
- In one bowl, add 1/4 cup more applesauce and mix until the crumbly mix is fully saturated and smooth. Incrementally add up to 1/4 cup garbanzo flour until you can form a slightly tacky ball with your hands. Set aside.
- Blend blueberries and peas, then add to another bowl of the garbanzo flour-applesauce mix. Stir until well-blended. Incrementally add 1/2 cup - 1 cup more garbanzo flour until the dough is stiff enough to form a slightly tacky ball with your hands (the juicier your blueberries, the more flour you'll likely need). Set aside.
- Blend the beet puree and cooked, ground venison together. Add to the remaining bowl of garbanzo-applesauce mix and blend with your hands until well-mixed. The texture should be similar to that of a raw meatball (if not, add up to 1/4 cup more garbanzo flour). Form into a ball and set aside.
- Roll out a foot-long piece of plastic wrap and lay flat on your work surface. Take small pieces of each type/color dough and randomly patch together to form an 8 to 10-inch long, 2-inch wide, 1 1/2 inch tall log (see below). When done, wrap tightly around all edges. Refrigerate for at least two hours or until firm. (I got impatient and froze this batch for an hour -- it worked out pretty well!)
- When dough is firm, preheat your oven to 350°F. Unwrap dough and turn the log out onto a cutting board or your work surface. If your dough is a little tacky, you can lighting dust the surface with garbanzo flour.
- Cut the log into 1/3-inch slices.
- Stamp out 3-4 biscuits from each slice using a small cookie cutter (I used the second smallest of Wilton's 6-piece star double cut-outs for fondant). Align the pieces on two parchment paper or silpat-lined cookie trays.
- Cook each tray individually in the middle rack for twenty minutes, flipping the pieces halfway.
- Immediately move the pieces to a cooling rack.
- Serve when cooled completely or store in an airtight container and refrigerate. Will keep for several weeks.
*Nope, Merrick didn't offer me anything in return for this article (in fact, they didn't even know about it)!
** You and your vet know your dog best, so if you've never introduce some or one of these ingredients into their diet and you're unsure if you should, it's best to discuss it with their vet first!