Kitchen / Garden / Sanctuary - Urban Homesteading to Nourish Body + Spirit

Month: February 2010

Healing From Surgery, Part 4: Nourishing Foods

Welcome to another installment in my Healing From Surgery series!

For an introduction to the series, and the pre-/post-surgery homeopathic regimen I created, visit Part 1: Homeopathy.

For instructions on how to make your own Antiseptic Herbal Wash and Herbal Wound-Healing Oil, visit Part 2: Herbal Wound Remedies.

For my recommended skin-healing remedies, visit Part 3: Topical Skin-Healing Remedies.

Part 4: Nourishing Foods

Today for Part 4, I will be talking about foods that are especially nourishing for both before and after surgery. My second surgery is the day after tomorrow, so I have been trying to eat an extra-nourishing diet with emphasis on calcium-rich foods since the surgery involves lots of bone trauma (cutting down one part of a bone in my foot, breaking the bone in another spot, putting in a bone graft, installing a metal plate and 4 screws, and then cutting some muscles through another incision).

Last time, I had prepared lots of lovely, nourishing foods for myself to eat after the surgery. However, I was so nauseated from the anesthesia and pain medication that all I felt like eating was stuff made with sugar or white flour — ginger ale, popsicles, seltzer water, pretzels, saltine crackers. Anything with fats or whole grains was totally unappetizing to me. This was a little distressing because I knew that my body needed nourishing foods more than ever, but I couldn’t even think about eating them. So for this surgery, I am really focusing on nourishing foods beforehand. Plus, since I’m not allowed any vitamins, herbs, or other supplements for 14 days before surgery, it’s a great time to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods (which I feel are better than supplements anyway).

Here’s what I’ve been eating and why:

  • Kefir & Yogurt – rich in calcium & a wonderful probiotic (especially good after the course of antibiotics given during surgery)
  • Dark leafy greens like kale – rich in calcium & other goodies (cooked with bacon because the fat facilitates nutrient absorption)
  • Soups made with Bone Broth – rich in calcium and other minerals (recipe forthcoming)
  • Cooked bones – after making bone broth, the ends of many bones are soft enough to eat! An excellent source of calcium.
  • Coconut water (a.k.a. coconut juice) – for these 3 days before surgery, I’m drinking coconut water (different from coconut milk) to keep myself nice and hydrated. Coconut water is like nature’s Gatorade. In tropical areas, it’s used for dehydration, and for young children and the elderly who are convalescing.
  • Liver pate – extremely rich in nutrients like Vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, protein, trace minerals, etc. Liver is so good for you!
  • Eggs – all-around good nutrient-dense food
  • Canned fish w/ bones, like sardines or smoked herring – rich in calcium and just all-around good for you. Fish bones turn very soft in the can, and are eaten right along with the fish. Sounds gross, but I love the crunchy vertebrae in canned salmon!
  • Lots of fresh fruits & vegetables. My current favorites are mandarin oranges (clementines) and lunch salads made with lettuce, tomato, fresh parsley, fresh dill, diced avocado, bits of chopped ham, and a buttermilk ranch dressing (OMG yum!).
  • Sunshine! Vitamin D is very important for bones. During the winter it’s hard to get enough Vitamin D from the sun, so I like to supplement with Fermented Cod Liver Oil & Butter Oil.

Knowing what I do now, I bought myself the foods that I know I’ll feel like eating (photo below). Even though they’re not ideal foods, I feel that my diet is good enough that it can “forgive” a couple weeks of not-so-nourishing stuff. And when I feel up to it, I’ll be drinking lots of water with fresh lemon or lime juice added; lemon & lime are very nice for flushing out the liver…and I’d like to get as much of the anesthesia out of my body as I can. An even better post-surgery tonic would be coconut water with fresh lime juice added.

Nausea-friendly, post-surgery food: Ginger Ale, Coconut Water, Applesauce, Trader Joe's Fruit Jelly Candy, Animal Crackers, Oyster Crackers, Seltzer Water, Candied Ginger, Pretzels

Since I craved lime popsicles last time, I decided to make my own this time, with better ingredients than the store-bought ones.

I dissolved some raw honey into warm water, then added freshly-squeezed lime juice and some lime zest. Since I don’t have any reusable popsicle molds, I just poured the sweetened lime water into my handy Mickey Mouse Ice Cube Tray (a Disney World souvenir! :-)). They’re the perfect size to pop into my mouth. If you don’t happen to have your own Mickey Mouse Ice Cube Tray, you could use a regular ice cube tray and only fill the cells half way (so that the cubes are small enough to fit into your mouth).

Mini Lime "Popsicles"

Back From Vacation

Kerrygold (grassfed) Irish Butter

Raw goat’s milk (frozen)

We arrived home this evening from a lovely little weekend in New Mexico! Other than relaxing, taking photos, looking at shops and galleries, and walking through quaint neighborhoods, we took the opportunity to go to Trader Joe’s (we don’t have TJ’s where we live, so we TOTALLY stocked up!). As you can see by the photo above, we took full advantage of their Kerrygold butter at a mere $2.69. (Where we live, you can’t get it for less than $4.99.) We love Kerrygold butter because it’s grassfed and very delicious!

I also bought 3 quarts of raw goat’s milk at the farmer’s market! Since it’s illegal to sell raw milk in Colorado, I was very excited to go to New Mexico (where it can be sold legally). However, I didn’t have much luck, and the only raw milk I was able to get was raw, frozen goat’s milk directly from the farmer at the market for $5/quart. But I was thrilled that I was even able to get that (especially considering it’s the off-season for goat milk)…and happily, the milk made it all the way home without thawing out. I can’t wait to try it!! (By the way, visit the website for good information about raw milk, and this Mother Earth News snippet about the raw milk debate. I wish wish wish WISH that I had access to raw milk here!) UPDATE: The milk was delicious!! I like — but don’t love — the animal-y taste of goat products, but the milk was really yummy. Since it has been frozen for a while, the fat had separated a bit, but that had no effect on the taste! Yum.

Anyway, I already miss being on our trip; it’s always bittersweet to be home again. And it’s back to work for both of us tomorrow (yuk!), and I’ll be extra busy this week getting ready for my second bunion surgery (bunionectomy with osteotomy, with a plate and 4 screws inserted) which is on the 23rd. There’s a lot I want to accomplish between now and then — yikes!!!

Did you have a relaxing weekend?

How to Make Your Own Cat Food

Ingredients for raw cat food, ready to be mixed.

Several months ago, as I dug deeper into researching nutrition and nourishing foods for myself and my family, I started getting suspicious about the bagged cat food we were feeding the family cat. Feeding her dried kibbles day after day seemed similar to feeding someone nothing but breakfast cereal (high-heat processed “meal-in-a-bag”), and I wondered how much nourishment our precious Liz was really getting.

As I began my research, I realized that the pet food industry has done a really great job of tricking us into thinking that all we need to do is buy bags of their “nutritionally complete” food and our pets will be set for life.

But as you might imagine, optimum nutrition cannot be obtained from something in a bag, no matter how good the brand may be. And although there are some good, responsible manufacturers out there, much of the pet food sold is made from very low-quality (read: “scary”) ingredients including animal parts that are left over from the meat packing industry, and sick animals that are not fit for human consumption. It’s garbage, really, that they are hawking to us…under the guise of “complete nutrition” for our precious animal companions. Just do a google search on “what’s really in pet food” to read all the gory details. (Or not! 🙂 )

Pets need real food, just as the rest of the family does. In the wild, the ancestors of today’s cats and dogs ate raw meat, gnawed on bones, and ingested the stomach contents of their prey (which rounded out their diet with small amounts of plant matter). Bagged/canned pet food is a new invention; elderly members of my family remember simply feeding their pets “scraps from whatever the family ate.” Many people out there (including myself) feel that processed pet foods cause disease in our pets, just as processed foods cause disease in humans.

And while some premium brands of pet food might list some wonderful, whole-food ingredients on the label, the fact is that the food has been highly processed with heat, which kills or denatures many of the beneficial components of each ingredient, such as enzymes, amino acids, beneficial bacteria, and heat-sensitive vitamins.

So after realizing that Liz probably wasn’t getting a whole lot of health-promoting benefits from her food, I began experimenting with raw, homemade cat food. Admittedly, I was a little reluctant to do the whole homemade pet food thing, and there were some rough patches of trial and error while I was getting the recipe just right so that Liz would be excited about eating it. Right now, half of her diet is homemade raw food, and half is kibbles-from-a-bag (we usually feed Katz-n-Flocken brand, purchased at the local health food store). Even with just half of her diet being the homemade food, we have seen definite improvements in her energy level (she is 9 years old, but has gotten that kitten energy and playfulness back), and her coat is also more lustrous. Now that I’ve finally gotten her “custom recipe” ironed out, I would like to ease her into eating a 100% homemade-food diet.

And yep, it’s more work, and if your cat only tolerates straight meat and doesn’t like the addition of grains or eggs (which are much cheaper than meat!), it will probably be a little more expensive than a good quality bagged food. However, I really do believe the benefits are worth it.

Here’s my cost breakdown for Liz’s raw-meat-only diet:

The supplements and vegetables add a small cost, of course, but in terms of the main ingredient (turkey) … 2lbs of turkey (mixed with 10-20% vegetables) makes about 43 rounded tablespoon-sized biscuits. Liz is a 10-lb cat, and if she were eating a 100% home made diet of turkey (and other meats & fish), she would eat about 3.5 – 4 biscuits a day. This means that the 43 biscuits would last about 10-14 days. I stock up when the natural, antibiotic-free turkey is on sale for $3/lb, but normally it is $6/lb. This means that it could cost anywhere between $3 and $6 a week to feed Liz a 100% raw turkey diet. At most, that would be less than a dollar a day! Of course, variation in meats is highly recommended, but this is just to give you an idea. And if your cat likes grains in their food, then you can certainly stretch your meat further and the meals would be less expensive. To me, though, this is actually not expensive — and besides, Liz is SO worth it! 🙂

If you’d like to read further, this is a good article to begin with: Trends in Home-Prepared Diets for Pets.

Of the books I read on this subject, these were my two favorites:

Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, by Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD

Herbs for Pets, by Mary Wulff-Tilford & Gregory Tilford

This is also a very interesting book:

Pottenger’s Cats, by Francis M. Pottenger, M.D. (For a concise synopsis of the book, click here.)

Here are two other books that have information on feeding a homemade diet:

Cat Care, Naturally, by Celeste Yarnall

The New Natural Cat, by Anitra Frazier

Armed with information and ideas from the books mentioned above, I have finally developed a recipe that Liz really likes. Each cat is different and each one will have likes and dislikes. Liz doesn’t like grains or eggs added to her food. Her stomach, like mine, doesn’t do well with overly rich foods. She enjoys beef but barfs it up immediately, so she doesn’t get beef anymore. She tries to like lamb, but just can’t bring herself to eat it, so we pretty much feed her just raw turkey and chicken (frozen for at least 2 weeks to kill any nasties), as well as fresh and canned wild salmon. Of course, a variety of meat and fish is recommended, but if your cat is picky, do the best you can! Luckily if your cat won’t eat a particular meat concoction you’ve developed, you can enjoy it instead! (Thus my recipe for Italian-Style Lamb Meatloaf!)

One trick I’ve learned is that replacing about 1 teaspoon of the fat in the recipe with bacon grease is a great way to make the raw food more appealing, if your cat is having trouble loving it.

Also, if you decide to “go homemade” then that’s wonderful! But if you don’t, that’s okay too. If you decide not to go homemade, one thing you CAN do is give your kitty some healthful table scraps that s/he really enjoys: meat, fish, eggs, cream, cheese, fruits, and vegetables. (Liz loves corn and edamame, and can never have enough cantaloupe!) I think that our modern-day veterinarians have led us astray in telling us not to give table scraps to our animals. I think it’s a wonderful treat for them, and also much more nourishing to their bodies than kibbles or canned food. And it’s what household pets have lived on for hundreds of years!


Here’s my recipe:

Lindsey’s Basic Homemade Cat Food Recipe

1 lb ground turkey or chicken or a 15-oz can of salmon with juice. (You can feed the meat either raw or cooked, but raw is definitely the preferred choice. I buy organic or at least humanely-raised, no-antibiotic meat. It costs me about $5 to $6 a pound, but if it’s on sale, I stock up! I also freeze mine for at least 2 weeks to kill any bacteria.)

1 1/2 tsp KAL brand Bone Meal (comes from bones of New Zealand cattle)

1 tsp Healthy Powder *see end of post for Healthy Powder recipe

1 or 2 Tbsp fat (I use olive oil, coconut oil, butter, or a mix. Replacing about 1 teaspoon of fat with bacon grease will often make biscuits more appealing to your kitty!)

300-400 IU vitamin A, crushed to a fine powder

1/3 of the contents of a Taurine capsule (optional if feeding raw meat, but I usually add it anyway)

Contents of 1 vitamin E capsule

10%-20% vegetables (optional). I just eye the amount, compared to the amount of meat that’s in the bowl. For Liz, I use very finely shredded raw zucchini (frozen works too), or steamed & mashed winter squash or carrots, or cooked organic corn (since she loves corn). Vegetables aren’t actually necessary, if the cat won’t tolerate them. Unless your cat loves veggies, you’ll probably have to chop them very finely or puree them in order to sneak them in. Other vegetable ideas are potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, green beans, etc.

Fish Oil: No matter what kinds of meat I’m using, I also squeeze in a few capsules of good quality fish oil (Carlson’s brand is nice) or add about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of Blue Ice Royal Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil blend flavor-free gel (I definitely prefer & recommend Blue Ice brand Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil blend. The Weston A. Price Foundation website has good information about that, here.)

I mix all this up (with my hands…it’s easier), and drop by tablespoon-sized scoops onto a cookie tray, and freeze. Once frozen, I transfer the “biscuits” into a freezer bag.

Each day, we take a couple biscuits out of the freezer and put them into a small tupperware container in the fridge. By the next morning, they’ve thawed and are ready to eat. We generally feed one biscuit in the morning, and one later in the day (although if we were feeding her 100% on the home made food, we’d likely feed 3.5 – 4 biscuits a day). At the morning feeding, we then transfer a couple more biscuits from the freezer to the fridge, so they’ll be ready for the next day.

Meat "biscuits" ready to be put into the freezer

My recipe above does not include grains or eggs because Liz doesn’t like those in her food. But your cat might! Below is one of the actual recipes from Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats:

Dr. Pitcairn’s Poultry Delight

1 cup dry millet (3 cups cooked) (cook in chicken broth for more flavor)

2 large eggs

2 lbs (4 cups) ground turkey or chicken (or lean chuck, lean heart, lean hamburger, liver, giblets, fish, or other lean meats)

1 Tbsp Healthy Powder *see below for Healthy Powder recipe

1 Tbsp Animal Essentials Calcium, or a rounded 1 ½ tsp of powdered eggshell, or 2 tsp KAL brand bone meal

4 Tbsp fat: butter, lard, olive oil, virgin coconut oil, or a combo

10,000 IU vitamin A

100-200 IU Vitamin E

1 tsp fresh vegetable with each meal (optional)

500 mg taurine (optional)

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the millet; cover, simmer 20-30 minutes or until the water is absorbed. You may need to add a little more water during cooking. When millet is soft, stir in the eggs to let them set a bit from the heat. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Yields about 8 cups. Each day, feed Small cats about 2/3 cup…Medium cats, 1 cup..Large cats, 1 2/3 cups.

*Dr. Pitcairn’s Healthy Powder

2 cups nutritional yeast

1 cup lecithin granules

1/4 cup kelp or alfalfa powder

1/4 cup KAL brand bone meal or 5 tsp eggshell powder

1,000 mg ground vitamin C

Mix together and store in the fridge or freezer.

One final word — if your cat doesn’t seem to like the homemade food, don’t despair. In Dr. Pitcairn’s book, there’s a great chapter (“Helping Your Pet Make the Switch”) about introducing homemade food and what to do if your pet turns up its nose!

I do hope you’re inspired, as I have been, to incorporate some nourishing foods into your pet’s diet — or if you already feed home cooked meals, please leave a comment and tell us more about that! I’d love to hear feedback from people who have made the switch!


Random News Update

Geez…sorry for the lack of posts lately! Life has been insane. Work has been unusually stressful and soul-sucking for the past month, and I often just come home and collapse onto the floor in front of the space heater and veg out! Sometimes the last thing I feel like doing is staring at a computer screen for another couple hours, after an entire day of it! Thus, the lack of posts. When my life gets stressful, I’ve learned how important it is for me to pace myself, practice good self-care, and make sure I have plenty of relaxation & down time.  🙂

Anyway, in other news, a few areas of my site have been acting stupid lately and I finally tracked it down to some strange code issues with my “How To Make Your Own Cat Food” post. I deleted that post completely, and will re-post it for you soon! (UPDATE: I re-did the Cat Food post. Click here to view it.)

My hubby, F., and I have a lovely little road trip to New Mexico coming up pretty soon, which will be absolutely wonderful! I can’t wait. It will be a VERY much needed vacation! And then on February 23rd, I’m having more surgery — this time on the other foot. Bunionectomy with osteotomy. It will be another big, tiring ordeal, just like last time. I’m not looking forward to it, but at least I’m getting it over with so that I can stop dreading it. And I won’t be at work for at least a few weeks, which I’ll appreciate (oh that’s an understatement). Also, tangential to that, I realized that I never finished my Healing From Surgery Series! Good gracious. Since it will help me prepare myself for the next surgery, I would like to hopefully continue with that series soon. (Hopefully.)

Well, I think that’s about it for now!

How has life been for you lately??

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