August 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Lola was such a good girl this summer, and as a reward, August is the month of spoiling her silly! She’s gotten a number of packages full of awesome, enriching, and fun new toys. The first up is an awesome order from both Avian Stainless and Avian Organics, two fantastic sister stores that focus on providing the very best, highest quality stainless steel toys and organic parrot food respectively. I know I’ve written about both of these stores before, but I am constantly impressed with every order I receive from them. Avian Stainless in particular takes a long time to develop and test their toys to ensure that no detail is spared: their toys use super high quality stainless steel, there are no sharp edges or points anywhere, and finished products are beautifully polished and shined.
I’m always excited when they announce a new product, but I was particularly excited about this one. Usually, their toys are bells or noise-makers (which I love!), but ever since they discontinued their very cool double skewer I was hoping they’d develop a new refillable type of stainless steel toy base. This is just what the doctor ordered! It’s called the Do the Twist, and it’s a great stainless steel spiral base with a welded o-ring at the top for hanging, and holes that allow you to add your own toy parts.
This toy base actually reminded me a lot of an old toy base that used to be made by Grey Feather Toys, which unfortunately is no longer in business. They had a similar type of toy base that they called the Sterling Twirl. I wanted to see how the two toy bases compared. Although the basic idea and shape of the toys are similar, there are several key differences between the two toys that make them appropriate for different types of birds and for different uses.
The key difference between the two is that the Do the Twist is like a smaller, lighter, sleeker version of the Sterling Twirl. I love the Sterling Twirl– it is made of extremely thick, heavy duty stainless steel– but for this reason, it is a very heavy and huge toy. Aside from the fact that it takes up a ton of room, particularly when it’s loaded with toy parts, it is also so heavy that I was nervous about it knocking Lola out or something if she was playing or swinging very rowdily in her cage. That’s why I love using it as an awesome out of cage toy for Lola’s play areas, but not so much in the cage. The Do the Twist, on the other hand, is made of a much thinner bar of stainless steel that has been perfectly sanded and rounded to prevent any sharp edges, and its smaller size makes it much more appropriate for use inside the cage. The stainless steel is thin and pliable enough that the toy actually has some bounce to it, and is a fraction of the weight of the Sterling Twirl. Even loaded up with parts, I would still feel comfortable putting it in the cage. I’ve yet to actually have a chance to deck it out, but I’m sure that when I do, it’ll be a big hit!
I also made sure to restock some of Lola’s favorite bird breads from Avian Organics. She loves all of their breads, so I like to buy a variety and freeze them. I like that they contain no regular wheat and instead use healthier flours. I also like to throw in lots of fresh veggies or other add-ins when I cook them. The finished product, once baked and cooled, also freezes beautifully!
Last, but not least, I also picked up two of her beloved mashes. The Quick Serve might be her favorite flavor ever, but the Mayan Gourmet Mash is another popular mix here.
A huge thanks to Avian Organics and Avian Stainless for another great order and for such great products! Everything about these stores is top notch, including excellent customer service. Unfortunately, Doris, the wonderful owner recently suffered an injury and the stores are temporarily closed for the time being, but I hope she heals quickly– for her own sake as well as for all of her customers!
January 23, 2012 § 6 Comments
My budgies are generally great eaters, but they are quite picky about some things: they only like their greens fresh and whole, hung as entire leaves in their cage (they will not eat them chopped, frozen, steamed, cooked, or any other way); they only like baby carrots fresh and whole, wedged in between the bars of their cage (they will not eat full-sized carrots, which I never figured out, since they are technically the same thing, nor do they like carrots steamed, cooked, or even skewered); they only like Good Stuff bird bread. Now, I am happy to oblige them, as long as they are eating well, but unfortunately, Good Stuff went out of business several months (has it already been a year?) ago. Thankfully, I found out soon enough to buy all of the bird bread I could and froze it all, which lasted us quite a while. But my stash had to run out sooner or later. And it did. And the budgies have not been happy.
Although Lola absolutely adores Avian Organics bird breads, all of which are fantastic combinations with excellent ingredients lists, the budgies are more picky about their grains: I think they don’t particularly like kamut, for whatever reason, and it’s a staple in all of the Avian Organics bread mixes. They also don’t care for larger seeds like pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, so a lot of the goodies in their mixes go uneaten by the little ones. So, I set out to create my own bread mix that they’d eat. I based it loosely on the Good Stuff ingredients list, but also made a few changes, substitutions, and additions that I thought might help to entice my little ones that much more.
When I finally decided on an ingredients list of my own, however, I realized that the ingredients were not so easy to find! I went to several different supermarkets and two health food stores in my neighborhood looking for the different types of flours I’d decided on, and the only one they had was organic spelt flour, much to my surprise. So I purchased the spelt flour, and had to resort to going online for the rest of them. It was my first type buying any “grocery” type item online, but I found a great site called Fields of Grain. Not only did they carry everything I was looking for, but they also specialize in a lot of certified organic products, non-GMO products, and products grown in the USA and Canada only. Finally, everything was also very affordable, which is always a big plus.
From them I purchased organic corn flour, organic quinoa flour, organic garbanzo bean flour, and organic millet flour. My order was processed extremely quickly, and they were kind enough to include a free package of organic brown lentils as well! If you’re ever looking for odd flours or grain products that you can’t find locally, I highly recommend them.
As soon as my flours arrived, I got to work. I ended up using all four flours as well as the spelt flour. I’m not a big fan of using corn products, but I know that the budgies really adore it and it’s a big plus in terms of taste for them, so since it was organic and non-GMO, I used just a little to entice them. They’re also crazy about millet and quinoa, which I feel are healthier grains, so I used those both as well. Finally, the garbanzo bean and spelt flours were both ingredients in the Good Stuff bread, plus they are healthy additions, so in those went too.
In case you are wondering, this isn’t in recipe form because I don’t really have a recipe. I pretty much eyeballed everything, and as you will see from the photos below, it was all very un-scientific and random. Experiment with what your birds like! I like to think of it as “custom” bird bread.
Next I added the rest of my dry ingredients (all are organic). Of course it needed some aluminum-free baking powder, and some spices (like cinnamon, mmm!). I added some of the wonderful dried veggies from the Avian Organics “Cazuela” mix, which includes green peas, carrots, red chili peppers, dandelion, and alfalfa leaf. I also tossed in some Totally Organics Napoleon Seed mix, a combination of oat groats, millet, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and buckwheat, because I know that they enjoy picking those out. I may have added extra ground flax, but I can’t remember. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I can’t tell from the photo…
As for the wet ingredients, I took a different approach from my usual. Typically, I chop up a ton of greens and throw them in, but I realized that for the budgies, they really don’t need the greens seeing as how they eat them so readily and so much of them on their own. (It’s really Lola that’s slightly more reluctant about the healthy stuff, but that’s another story.) Instead, I really wanted to get a lot more of the Vitamin A-rich fruits and veggies into them that they miss out on because they aren’t huge on eating those, and some fruit as well. So, I very finely chopped some red, orange, and yellow sweet peppers, some fresh papaya, and even half of a banana, and threw all of those in. I added some sweet potato baby food (organic and non-fortified with nothing added), and finally, a beautiful, large, farm fresh, organic egg.
Next I mixed it all up: because I used so many juicy fruits, I didn’t have to add any water, juice, or other liquids. I like to use wet fruits and veggies because unlike juice, they contain all of the fiber, and a lot more health benefits than, say, water. When everything was combined I was a bit worried as it looks nothing like what the usual Good Stuff bird bread mix looked like, but I did make some changes, and it actually still smelled like the Good Stuff mix, so I was happy with it.
I lightly greased the pan with some organic, virgin coconut oil, evenly spread the mix out, and into the oven it went! I debated adding some hemp seed oil to the mix, but I figured that I could also add it after the fact on top and let it saturate the bread. I’ve read conflicting opinions on whether or not hemp seed oil loses all or most of its nutritive properties when cooked or heated, so I’ll play it safe and add it after cooking, just in case.
It baked until a skewer pushed into the center came out clean and it looked fully cooked. It baked into a beautiful, brown with red and orange hues, thanks to the papaya, sweet potato, and peppers. It smells great, actually, and it’s currently sitting on the counter top, cooling. Once it has rested and fully cooled, I will cut it up into individual-sized little squares, set aside enough to last 2-3 days, bag the rest, and freeze it. Every few days I remove a few squares from the freezer and let them defrost in the refrigerator, that way I don’t have to use the microwave and “cook” the bread a second time, unnecessarily nuking more nutrients out of the bread.
I have no idea if the budgies will like it or not, or if it’s close enough to their original favorite recipe for them to be willing even to try it. I really hope so! This is, I believe, the first time I’ve made bird bread from scratch rather than from a mix, and I’m pretty proud of my efforts. Hopefully I will be able to share some photos of them enjoying it. But if I don’t, you know what that means… back to the drawing board!
April 22, 2011 § 2 Comments
Tonight I cooked up a few batches of birdie bread for Charles, Lola, and Sabrina! Charles and Sabrina enjoy Good Stuff Bird Bread, which I bake into mini muffins, and Lola adores her Avian Organics Bird Bannock. I recently read some very fascinating information about red palm oil in a wonderful informational page by the World Parrot Trust, an organization that I highly recommend anybody interested in parrots in any capacity check out; they do incredible work and are also a wealth of knowledge. Red palm oil, although rich in beta carotene in its normal state, rapidly decreases in nutritional value when heated or cooked. I found this information rather alarming being that my most common use of it is cooked into my bird bread! Thankfully, a very wise and knowledgeable member at Avian Avenue shared with me her way of incorporating red palm oil into her bird bread without cooking out all of its goodness: rather than baking it into the batter, instead she waits for the bread to cool mostly, then spreads a thin layer of red palm oil over the top of the bread (like butter). This way, the oil soaks into the bread and saturates it, but the nutritional value is not compromised.
I did just that with my Avian Organics Bird Bannock as well as my Good Stuff Bird Bread– the bannock got a healthy layer of RPO on top (although not quite as thick as the photo makes it look), and each mini Good Stuff muffin was topped with a bit of RPO “frosting.” And in the freezer they went! I also like to jam pack my breads with as many leafy green vegetables as possible for maximium nuritional value. Today’s batch contained mustard greens, swiss chard, and broccoli stems and florets. I am sure the gang will love it!
[This entry has been imported, with some edits, from my previous blog.]