October 17, 2013
My husband picked up a couple of necessities on his way home from work the other day — almond milk, canned pumpkin for the dog* — and a bag of tortilla chips, and salsa. Tortilla chips. It was dinnertime, and now all I could think of was tortilla chips. We still had a big box of salad mix, an avocado and olives — all we needed were beans and we could make taco-salad bowls. Taco salad is always a good excuse to eat chips. I wanted pinto beans but they were the only beans we didn't have in cans, and no one had soaked or cooked dried ones. I wasn't in the mood to cook beans so I introduced my husband to the technique I'd learned more than 25 years ago from my friend Claudia, for cooking pinto beans in less than an hour using a pressure cooker. He did it by himself, proving it's easy and foolproof. Just wash and sort the beans, place them in the cooker with about three inches of water above them, and bring the cooker up to full pressure. Cook one minute, then let the pressure come down. Drain the beans and start over. When they come to pressure again, turn off the heat, bring the pressure down, and your beans are cooked. I forgot to tell him to save the final cooking water for soup, but you should save it for stock. When the beans were nealy ready, I started making a cheesy sauce.
The evening before, we had split a hefty baked delicata* squash as part of our meal, and I could only finish half of mine, so there was 1/4 of a squash in the fridge. Banana squash is probably my favorite winter squash — it bakes up so sweet and creamy it's almost like eating a silky pie. Even the skin is edible. Delicata squash doesn't store all that well, so they're only available for a short time, and you have to use them pretty soon after buying them. Don't expect to store them like acorn or butternut — you'll end up with rotten squash.
Anyway, I like finding uses for leftovers, and I turned the squash into a cheesy topping by whizzing it in the blender, including the skin, (I used a Vitamix) with cashews, nutritional yeast, water, garlic, salt, chipotle chili powder, salt and a little fresh rosemary. The taco bowl had a generous base of salad greens, topped by seasoned beans, chips, olives, shredded carrot, salsa and avocado and cashew-squash sauce. What a great way to justify chips for dinner! (The chips we used were 365 Organic Lightly Salted Tortilla Strips, from Whole Foods. We no longer use our old favorite chips since they were bought out by General Mills and are now made from GMO products. We really like the 365 tortilla strips.)
*delicata squash. I originally misnamed the squash a banana squash when I should have said delicata. Just corrected it.
The next day, I took some leftover roasted Brussels sprouts, doused them with leftover cashew sauce, heated them and ate them for an afternoon snack. I love leftovers.
*Why my dog eats pumpkin
This is rather unappetizing but if it halps one dog and its human companion, it will be worth it. Dogs have anal glands that are naturally kept in working order each time the dog defecates. Some dogs have issues with this process, and develop blocked or even impacted anal glands, causing them to excessively lick the area, and also to scoot on the floor or carpet to relieve the pressure. Anyone who has seen this behavior in their house will understand how icky it is. The dog is uncomfortable, and expensive vet visits are in order much more frequently than most people care to visit with their dog's veterinarian. Feeding a dog about a rounded tablespoon of pumpkin each day bulks up the stools, and keeps everything in better working order. Pumpkin aids in both constipation and diarrhea in dogs, and Callie has been much better since I've started giving her pumpkin every day. After opening a can of pumpkin, I freeze it in ice cube trays until it's solid. Then, I transfer the cubes to a plastic bag and store in the freezer. I take out one cube each day, nuke it in her bowl then add her canned food. She eats it right up.
UPDATE: In the ongoing battle over dog anal glands, I'm sorry to say that pumpkin isn't enough to insure complete health. It helps, but just isn't enough. I've had surprising success by changing the diet and feeding pattern of my dog. She now eats Petguard organic vegan formula canned food and a 50/50 mix of V-Dog and Acana chicken and potato dry food. She used to get 1/4 can plus pumpkin in the morning, and 1/2 cup of dry food at night. She still had anal gland issues but less frequently. Then I started giving her the canned food and pumpkin plus 1/4 cup of dry food in the morning, and 1/4 cup of dry food at night, and her problems seem to have disappeared. Even the discolored fur around her butt has gone away, and she seems perfectly normal.
Yesterday, our grandson was here, and when he dumped his lunch onto the floor, Callie the dog ate a bunch of green peas. This morning she produced a huge, very firm poop, which is exactly the goal in this situation. So, now I'm experimenting with giving her peas with her breakfast. Whatever it takes, I'm there.
The reason Callie gets the Acana is because she won't eat the V-Dog without it. She even will pick V-Dog out and drop it on the floor. She will go for days without food rather than eat only V-Dog, but she loves the Petguard. When the V-Dog is gone, I'm going to try another brand, if I can find one with ingredients I think are healthy for dogs.