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Christmas dinner for you and your dog

Christmas dinner for you and your dog

One of the best parts about the holiday season is all of the delicious food. So many pet owners try to share a little bit of their Christmas dinner with their dog, only to yield unfortunate results later on in the evening. A traditional turkey dinner is full of fat, salt and sugar that most dogs aren’t used to consuming and it can really upset your dog’s stomach or in extreme cases trigger a dangerous condition called pancreatitis. 

As a canine nutritionist and a dog mom with a spoiled cocker spaniel, I wanted to figure out a healthy way that I could share a little Christmas dinner with my dog. There’s a healthier, dog-safe approach to almost every meal, including turkey dinner with all the fixings. The following is a recipe breakdown of how you can have your turkey dinner and let your dog eat it too.

The main event; the turkey

whole roast turkey

Roast turkey with herb and lemon compound butter

What’s better to have for Christmas dinner than a tasty, succulent turkey? Nothing! This is my favorite recipe for turkey. It’s flavourful and festive and the best part? It’s safe to share with your dog. Turkey is great because it’s so lean and also high in protein. Not to mention, it tastes great! I can feel the turkey coma coming on already!

Ingredients:

  • Whole turkey (giblets and all)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • Thyme (fresh) to taste
  • Rosemary (fresh) to taste
  • Sage (fresh) to taste
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 lemons
  • 5 large carrots
  • 1 bundle celery

Directions:

  • To make the compound butter, mix herbs and softened butter. Zest the lemons and add to the mixture. Set zested lemons aside.
  • Remove giblets and neck from the turkey. Set aside to use for the gravy.
  • Wash the turkey and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Lather compound butter onto the turkey, covering every surface. Make sure to get under the skin and in all the nooks and crannies. 
  • Chop carrots and celery. Place half of the vegetables into the bottom of a roasting tray.
  • Stuff turkey cavity with lemons (quartered), remaining carrots and celery, 1 bay leaf, and a sprig of thyme, rosemary and sage.
  • Place buttered turkey into the tasting tray, on top of the vegetable turret.
  • Bake uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 15 minutes per pound.
  • Check turkey with a meat thermometer to confirm it is completely cooked (should read at least 180 degrees fahrenheit in the thigh).
  • Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Carve and serve.

Notes:

  • Thaw your turkey the night before. 
  • If the skin of your turkey is getting too dark before the meat is fully cooked, cover it with tin foil.

Feeding instructions:

  • Cut your dog meat from the breast of the turkey. Remove the skin and cut into small cubes. Feed 1.6g of turkey for every pound your dog weighs (ex. A 25lb dog would get 40g of turkey).

Turkey gravy

Gravy boat in front of a christmas tree

Why even bother having turkey dinner if there’s no gravy? If you’re anything like me, you like to drench your plate in rich gravy. For dogs however, high fat foods like gravy are a major risk for pancreatitis and an upset tummy. That’s why I’ve devised this low fat, healthy gravy that even your dog can enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups bone broth
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch + ¼ cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, bring bone broth to a boil.
  • Reduce to a simmer and stir in cornstarch and water slurry.
  • Add in salt and pepper and stir until thickened.
  • Transfer to a gravy boat and serve.

Notes:

  • Homemade is best! And that includes the bone broth. Bone broth is so easy to make. If you have a chicken or turkey carcass that you were saving in your freezer for soup, use it for this instead! Simply place bones in a crockpot with the giblets from your turkey. Add in a bunch of thyme and rosemary. Fill your crock pot up with water and let it cook on low for 8 hours while you go about your day!

Feeding instructions:

  • Add 2 tablespoons of turkey gravy to the top of your dog’s turkey dinner.

Sides

Turkey dinner is nothing without all the fixings. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberries are the perfect pairing to the perfect turkey. It might sound rich, but I’ve created a few recipes that keep the fat low, while also replacing any refined sugars with natural sweeteners. Worry not though, these recipes are not only appealing to dogs, they are packed with all the flavour that humans love too!

Maple whipped sweet potatoes

mashed sweet potatoes in a bowl in front of blurred Christmas background

I love playing with the sweetness of yams and sweet potatoes. By adding in a small amount of pure maple syrup and cinnamon, they really start to taste like Christmas. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup skim milk
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. 
  • Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Cover and bake for ~1 hour or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.
  • Slip off skins. Beat potatoes with electric mixer on medium speed until no lumps remain.
  • Add maple syrup, butter, salt, milk and cinnamon. Continue beating until potatoes are light and fluffy.

Notes:

  • Instead of baking the sweet potatoes in the oven, you can also cube and boil them.

Feeding instructions:

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons to your dog’s dinner bowl.

Parmesan and thyme pomme puree (mashed potatoes)

mashed potatoes in a bowl in front of blurred Christmas background

Turkey dinner is nothing without mashed potatoes. It is an absolute staple for the perfect Christmas dinner. However, your dog may not agree if you just offer them some plain, grainy potatoes. This parmesan and thyme mashed potato recipe is so smooth and cheesy that it will appeal to everyone! Seriously… I almost ate the whole pot before I even got to serving them.

Ingredients:

  • 2lb Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup skim milk
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Peel and cube potatoes.
  • Add to a pot with water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat when the potatoes are fork tender. 
  • Drain potatoes and add milk and butter to the pot.
  • Mash the potatoes to desired texture.
  • Stir in parmesan, thyme and salt.
  • Transfer the potatoes to a dish and serve.

Notes:

  • I like to use a potato ricer to mash my potatoes. It ensures that there are no lumps and that the potatoes do not get over mashed and starchy.

Feeding instructions:

  • Feed 1.6g of mashed potatoes for every pound your dog weighs (ex. A 25lb dog would get 40g of potatoes).

Cranberries

cranberry sauce in a bowl in front of blurred Christmas background

Cranberries are a bit of a controversial turkey dinner. They are beloved by some and resented by others. Personally, they are one of my favorites. Not only are they tasty but they also are super healthy. Cranberries are packed with antioxidants that can help fight aging and inflammation! They can be a little bitter however. So instead of adding a bunch of sugar to sweeten them up, I’ve added a tantalizing combination of orange juice and raw honey to make them palatable for everyone.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole cranberries
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

  • In a saucepan combine all ingredients.
  • Simmer until cranberries “pop” and reduce.
  • Let cool and serve.

Feeding Instructions:

  • Add a ½-1 tablespoon of cranberries to your dog’s bowl.

Cranberry and apple stuffing

stuffing in a pan in front of blurred Christmas background

Growing up I never understood the appeal of stuffing. Soggy bread stuffed into the butt of a turkey was never really my jam. That was until I discovered this baked cranberry and apple stuffing. The edges are golden and crunchy, the inside is soft. It’s wildly flavorful, filled with herbs and most importantly, a delicious sweet and bitter taste that is perfectly balanced. My human version of this recipe uses wine and onions, both of which are toxic to dogs. Instead I’ve revamped the recipe a little bit so you can share it with your pooch. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups bread of your choice 
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup cubed apples
  • 2 teaspoons sage
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • ½ cup bone broth
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:

  • Cube bread and toast in the oven until it dries out. Place in a mixing bowl.
  • Cube apples and measure out cranberries. Add to the bowl with the bread.
  • To the mixing bowl, add herbs, bone broth, and lemon juice. Mix to combine.
  • Transfer to a baking dish, cover with tin foil and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees fahrenheit. 
  • Remove tin foil and bake uncovered for an additional 20 minutes.
  • Let cool and serve.

Feeding instructions:

  • Feed 1-2 tablespoons to your dog depending on their size. 

Sautéed butternut squash and green beans

Green beans and squash in front of blurred Christmas background

Let’s be honest, everyone's least favorite part of any meal is probably the veggies. I took that as a challenge and decided to make a side of veggies that even your dog will devour. This recipe takes very little time to cook and almost no time to prep. A little lemon zest and homemade bone broth is all you’re going to need to get your pup to eat their veggies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup green beans (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup butternut squash (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup bone broth
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Chop beans and squash into equal size pieces for even cooking.
  • Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add beans and squash to pan and pour over the bone broth. Cover with a lid and let steam for 5 minutes.
  • Once beans and squash are cooked through, add lemon zest, canola oil and salt.
  • Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  • Transfer to a dish and serve.

Notes:

  • If broth evaporates before the vegetables are fully cooked, add a little extra and continue to steam until done.

Feeding instructions:

  • This recipe is easily the lowest calorie portion of the dinner. You can feed the beans and squash to your dog at liberty. For a balanced meal, I would recommend 1-2 tablespoons for a balanced meal.

Dessert

Dessert is the best part of every meal… or so I'm told. As a nutritionist, I know that no matter how full you are from the meal before, you will always have room for dessert in your second stomach. The second stomach is a lesser known organ specially designed for storing sweets and desserts like pie, cake and ice cream after you’ve eaten a large meal.

Mini apple pies

Mini apple pie in front of blurred Christmas background

Jokes aside, these dog friendly apple pies are quite tasty and surprisingly healthy! They substitute processed starches in a normal pie crust for a healthier, high fiber oat flour version. Additionally, there is no added sugar in these pies. So how do they taste any good you may ask? In place of white sugar as the sweetener, this recipe uses raw honey which pairs perfectly with the apples and oats. It’s a dessert you and your pup don’t need to feel guilty about eating!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cubed apples (I like to use a mix of granny smith and honey crisp)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch + ¼ cup water
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  • In a food processor, pulse rolled oats until they become a flour.
  • Add ¾ cup cold water into food processor with oat flour and mix on high until contents resemble wet sand (~5 seconds).
  • Dump mixture onto bench top and form into a ball.
  • Roll out to ⅛ inch and transfer to a greased cupcake tin.
  • Line cupcake tin with dough, making sure to set some dough aside to make the top lattice.
  • Cube apples and add to a saucepan over medium heat. Add in honey, cinnamon, lemon juice and ¼ cup water and bring to a boil.
  • Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add in cornstarch and water slurry and stir until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and start filling your pie shells.
  • Once pie shells are full, roll out remaining dough. Cut dough into ¼ inch strips and weave into a lattice structure on your pies.
  • Brush egg wash over the lattice and place in oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
  • Let cool fully and feed to a hungry pup!

Notes:

  • The oat flour and lack of butter in the crust makes the dough a little more crumbly. As a result, it may be a little more difficult to shape the crust and top lattice. Don’t be too hard on yourself if they do not come out perfect. These pies are for a dog after all!
  • Add a dollop of greek yogurt on top in place of ice cream!

Feeding instructions:

  • Depending on the size of your cupcake tin, feed using your own discretion (I would probably recommend ½-1 pie per dog).

Healthy portioning

One of the biggest reasons dog tend to get sick after they eat part of their pet parent's turkey dinner is that they are consuming way more fat and sugar than they normally would. This abnormally rich food can cause the digestive system to become upset and lead to diarrhea, vomiting, gas and in extreme cases, pancreatitis. The turkey dinner in this blog is designed to be low fat and low sugar, however I would not recommend feeding it to a dog who has a sensitive stomach or and major health issues.

One way you can keep your pup from getting an upset tummy from their turkey dinner is by correctly portioning out their food according to their calorie needs and making sure that you are not giving them more than they can handle. If you're unsure of how to portion out the turkey dinner in this recipe, seethe feeding instructions under each section or watch the video below!

Cocker spaniel in santa hat imposed on image of turkey dinner spread
Cocker spaniel in santa hat imposed on image of turkey dinner spread

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