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I sat down on the couch to page through this book with my two terriers tucked in beside me and a cup of tea in hand. For an hour, I walked down memory lane with Judith Jones, the author of Love Me, Feed Me, a collection of recipes for canine-loving cooks. As a dog lover, I thoroughly enjoyed the photos of her past pets and reading about the roles each has played in her life. But it's her current "pup," as she calls him, that inspired her to write a book that nourishes both cook and companion.
Before opening the cover, I expected to find formulas for dog food, but instead found recipes for real food that can be adapted into a wholesome meal for two -- you and your canine companion, that is. While most of the recipes serve one person and a small dog, most of them can be easily multiplied to accommodate larger dogs and families. The dishes are also easily frozen for easy weeknight dinners, a strategy Jones encourages. The cookbook is also peppered with helpful advice and gentle reminders to ensure the health and safety of your pet.
While Jones encourages certain practices, like maintaining a ratio of one part each protein, starch, and vegetable, she also reminds us that the “recipes are only guidelines." The ingredient lists are short, with items often found in a well-stocked pantry, so that it is easy to build upon them. The grains chapter includes quinoa and farro, two popular grains that allow for experimentation without a big investment, while the vegetable dishes are simple and easily adapted. She offers quite a variety of protein options, as well, from beef tongue to salmon.
More: Homemade dog biscuits just taste better (don't ask us how we know).
Everything we tried was easily managed on a weeknight: The Ground Turkey Paté reminded me of meatloaf, and it paired well with Jones' recipe for Roasted Vegetables, although the dogs had mixed opinions about the beets and parsnips (Korben scarfed them down with enthusiam, but Estelle remained skeptical). And the Lamb Meatballs in Yogurt Sauce were a tangy surprise, served over the Red Lentils -- who knew that dropping plain yogurt in pan drippings creates such a tasty sauce? Jones' simple twist of adding sesame oil and seeds to a soy sauce dressing for asparagus changed my perception of the dish -- I've always roasted mine rather plainly with olive oil, salt, and pepper. And the Casserole of Rice and Vegetables was a quick but tasty use of leftovers.
Since we're a household of two adults and a pair of Mabon-sized terriers, I multiplied the recipes; this also allowed me to avoid measuring eggs by the tablespoon, which some of the small-scale dishes required. As for my disappointments, I tried her instructions for brown rice, but I reverted back to my own favorite method when her version came out soggy and undercooked. And as much as I wanted to try the Braised Beef Shanks, I discovered that there is fierce competition for them in my area -- I'd have to become a butcher-stalker to track them down.
More: Did somebody say hot dog? No? Our mistake.
My grandfather introduced me to the pleasure of bonding with a pet when he shared his last sip of coffee with my first dog, Shadow. I have carried on this tradition by saving the last sip of my tea for my own little dog, Korben. Though I've made food for my dogs from formulas in the past, I can honestly say that Judith Jones’ recipes are infinitely more fun -- and that, after spending some time with this book, I am inspired to take my grandfather's tradition a step farther by sharing meals with my pups, as well.
First photo by Mark Weinberg; first dog biscuit photo by Sarah Stone; all others by James Ransom