Lancaster, PA Trip

Several months ago Mom and I decided to go see a musical at the Christian Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA. My Grandpa lives nearby and offered to host us at his house.

So Friday morning 10/24 I picked Mom up and we headed up to PA. Our first stop was Stoltzfus Meats which has a small restaurant and lots of local meats and cheeses for sale, including smoked applewood bacon cheddar, bologna, kielbasa and more! We stopped for lunch and I got a bun-less BBQ bacon cheddar burger with lettuce and tomato and sweet potato fries. I also had locally made apple cider! Then we headed to Kauffman's nearby for some fresh local apples. I also picked up no sugar added apple butter, pumpkin butter and peach butter. I'll use them on either paleo waffles or if I made a crust-less cheesecake and top it with them.

We arrived at Grandpa's house mid-afternoon and spent about an hour catching up with him before grabbing a quick dinner at George's Family Restuarant. I remember going there with the whole family and both grandparents as a little girl. We had a light dinner then went over to the show. They recommend you arrive 45 minutes early, well we arrived probably 1.5 hours early or so. I see why they recommend you come early- they have lots of food and souvenir vendors inside!

Mom and I at Moses
The show "Moses" was really amazing. There were live horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, camels, birds and more that were part of the show. It was really amazing to see the burning bush scene- it made me feel like I was there when it happened originally. Parting of the red sea was also cool. And at the end, Jesus was on stage. I really felt like I was back in biblical times observing these things.

Saturday morning I slept in until around 8 am then went for a short jog around the neighborhood. We went to breakfast at Bob Evan's with Grandpa where I had bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns and fruit. Then Mom dropped me off at the Tanger outlets and I did several hours of shopping. Mid-day, she took me to the Rockvale Outlets where I did more shopping. Then that afternoon we went to Park City Mall. I was able to get almost all of the clothes/shoes/accessories on my list and some kitchen items as well, so it was definitely a successful trip, and I still had some money left over. Eventually (after about 7.5 hours) I finally got tired of shopping so we went and met Grandpa for dinner.

Reppin Camp Nerd Fitness at the outlets
Except we got confused and waited outside for him, meanwhile he arrived just before us and got a table and was waiting inside for us! After about 30-45 minutes we finally decided to go make sure he was ok and check his house. Well when I walked out to the parking lot to drive to his house, I saw his car was there and he wasn't in it, which is when we discovered he was already at a table inside. Oops! We had dinner at Olive Garden. That evening we stayed up reading and talking for a bit and then I went to bed early.

Sunday morning Mom and I went for a short jog together around the neighborhood then got cleaned up and went to breakfast at Bob Evans. It was one of the best breakfasts I had in a while- pot roast, scrambled eggs with cheese and home fries.

Breakfast with Mom an Grandpa at Bob Evans on Sunday
Then we came back, packed everything up and said goodbye to Grandpa. We went straight home and arrived mid-afternoon after about a 3.5 hour drive. It was a fun trip.

My purchases on my bed when I got home

Easy Homemade Coconut Milk (W30, 21DSD, LH, AIP Friendly)

I have always bought my coconut milk, but that stuff is expensive! I had a bunch of coconut flakes and shreds at home that I hardly ever use, so I decided to make use of them and make my own coconut milk. It's easy to do and you can make several batches out of your coconut.



Ingredients:
4 cups coconut flakes or shreds, dried and with no sugar added
about 6 cups water

1. Boil the water.
2. While it is boiling, add the coconut to your blender.
3. Then add boiling water (carefully). You may need to scale back the ingredients depending on the size of your blender. I use about 1 cup coconut to about 1.5 cups water.
4. Blend for several minutes.
5. Let cool.
6. Strain using a lot of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag. You will have to squeeze it quite a bit. I recommend doing this over a large bowl or pan to catch the coconut milk.
7. Repeat process with fresh boiling water until coconut milk becomes too thin.

Note: Coconut milk can be frozen if you use a jar that is cylindrical rather than tapered (see above). A tapered jar will crack when thawing.

Makes several cups of coconut milk (maybe about 3 batches of 3+ cups each?)

Shepherd's Pie with Mashed Sweet Potato "Crust" (W30, LH, AIP Friendly)

I've never had a regular Shepherd's Pie, just a paleo version so I couldn't tell you if this resembles it's "Standard American Diet" counterpart. But I can tell you that it is delicious and one of Andrew's favorite meals. It's a great meal in the cold weather because it's hearty and warm.


Ingredients:
3 pounds ground beef
3 cloves garlic
3 shallots
sea salt
3-4 cups broccoli florets*
6 large carrots*
10 radishes*
approximately 5 sprigs dill weed
approximately 10 sprigs cilantro
2-3 large sweet potatoes
1 can coconut milk

*Note: Veggies can be substituted for any other preferred veggies.

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Remove tops and roots from radishes and carrots. Add to food processor. Add in broccoli florets.
3. Peel garlic and shallots (just remove outer most skin layer). Add to food processor. Add sea salt and herbs. Mix until chopped coarsely or liquid-y (whichever is your preference). If you don't have a food processor, you can dice all of these by hand.
4. In a large bowl, add beef. Then add in veggie mixture.
5. Wash your hands and mix well, incorporating thoroughly.
6. Spread meat mixture evenly into two glass pie pans.
7. Bake for about 45 minutes or until beef is cooked through. Carefully drain off beef grease if possible and set pie pans aside.
8.Meanwhile, add sweet potatoes to a glass baking dish or baking sheet. Bake while beef if baking until soft to the touch through oven mitts, about 45 minutes to one hour depending on size.
9. Rinse out food processor and carefully add hot sweet potatoes. Add coconut milk and sea salt. Carefully pureee until smooth.
10. Spread mashed sweet potatoes over ground beef. You can stop here and serve, or
11: Optional: broil for an additional 15 minutes or so until crust starts to brown a little.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Low Histamine Whole30 Results

From September 22- October 21, 2014 I've been doing a Low Histamine Whole30 with one of my good friends Laura. We both suspect we have histamine issues and were hoping this would resolve some of them. It's basically 30 days of eating whole foods minus foods high in histamines, like an elimination diet to hopefully be able to reintroduce foods one by one and see if any changes occur.

Here's a quick excerpt from the Whole30 site on histamine intolerance:
  • Histamine is a chemical which occurs naturally in certain foods.* It’s also one of the chemicals that is released in the body as part of an allergic reaction, causing the typical allergy symptoms, like ‘itching, sneezing, wheezing, and swelling. (Many over-the-counter allergy medications contain an antihistamine.) We have an enzyme which breaks down the histamines found in food, but some people have a low level of this enzyme. When these people eat too many histamine-rich foods, they may suffer ‘allergy-like’ symptoms such as headaches, rashes, urticaria (hives), itching, gastro-intestinal upset, asthma, or eczema. This is called histamine intolerance.
  • *Certain foods are also able to stimulate the body’s own natural release of histamine. These are called “histamine liberators.”
  • If you are one of the 1% of people with a histamine intolerance, your best recourse is to follow a Paleo + low-histamine diet. Our low-histamine shopping list eliminates all histamine-rich foods not allowed on the Whole30 (like cheese), and excludes additional histamine-rich “Paleo” foods. Pay special attention to the notes at the bottom of the list, as some specific types of foods (such as cured or smoked meats, canned foods like salmon or tuna, and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha) should also be avoided.

For me, there were two main things I hoped to see improvement in: the constant mucous I have in my throat (yuck!) and my sleep. Despite trying numerous supplements, bed time routines, regular sleep/wake schedules, exercise, not eating close to bed time, no electronics before bed, blackout curtains, earplugs, etc I still wake up an average of 6-12 times per night no matter how tired or well rested I am. As a result, I almost never feel like I am well rested. This has been going on for as long as I can remember, and I was curious if histamines had anything to do with it (still not sure about that).

Here are some of the main differences between a regular Whole30 and a low-histamine Whole30:
  1. No eggs.
  2. No nuts/seeds/oils derived from nuts/seeds.
  3. No processed anything (no canned olives, no canned tuna, no prosciutto, no packaged chicken broth, no sugar free bacon, no dried fruit, etc.). I made an exception here for packaged coconut, coconut water and coconut milk. Since avocados are also out if you want to play it safe, coconut and your cooking fats are pretty much the only fats you can have unless you have access to fresh olives.
  4. No dried herbs or spices, only fresh.
  5. Food must be either cooked fresh or cooked fresh, frozen, then microwaved/cooked from frozen. Leftovers accumulate lots of histamines. Thawing accumulates histamines. For this one I did the best I could because sometimes we were traveling and I packed a salad with chicken in the cooler and things like that. There were a few times that I did eat "leftovers" but mostly I ate food straight from the freezer.
  6. No shellfish.
  7. No tomatoes.
  8. No citrus fruits.
  9. No herbal teas.
  10. No fermented products like kombucha.
  11. No vinegar.
So here's some things that inadvertently happened as a result of my low-histamine Whole30.

First, I bought 20-some meal size tupperware and put a "Label Once" sticker on each of them. I thought that having all my meals in the freezer and having to microwave them from frozen would be sooo inconvenient, but actually it worked out really well for me, so I plan to do it again. The main advantage of that was that if I didn't want to eat something today, I didn't have to, because it would keep in the freezer. Also, other then when I batch cooked, the only dishes I had to wash were just tupperware.

Oh, I whittled down the grocery list even further by looking up lists of high histamine foods online. Different sites have different lists, and I wanted to do the "safest" route to hopefully see a reduction in mucous.

In order to have enough food pre-packaged for each meal, I learned how much food I actually need per meal. I need about 1/2 pound protein and about 1-2 cups veggies plus one serving fruit. These amounts helped me meal plan my grocery shopping for the week. If I work out, I usually eat an extra 1-2 cups of starchy vegetable, usually plantains or sweet potato.

I learned that pretty much any frozen fruit is tasty. Frozen blueberries are like little candies.


Ground bison with Sweet Potato Poi
 
I normally enjoy Whole30s (this is my fourth) because I get more creative with my meals. This time around, I really only used 1 or 2 recipes because since our food list was so limited, it really wouldn't work with almost any recipes without tons of substitutions. So I made a bunch of my own recipes including lots of burgers, veggie/ground meat scrambles, meatballs, sausage patties with vegetables and more. I have never planned so many meals with not a recipe in sight. And pretty much every one turned out good. Actually, Andrew loved my cooking even more than usual this time around because he doesn't like too many flavors/herbs/spices together in one meal. He can taste every individual flavor and so he prefers simpler meals like these.

Cauliflower rice with garlic and shallots, Beef and Veggie Meatballs and sweet potato hash

I always eat more veggies on Whole30s then otherwise and I used up the large quantity of random vegetables I had accumulated in my freezer over the past few months. I think it really helps that I eat veggies with breakfast. Most veggies freeze and thaw well, but there are a few that change texture like spaghetti squash and yellow squash/zucchini. Even so, they aren't terrible.


Roasted duck with sauteed cabbage and green apple

I learned how to cook with fresh herbs. I love dried herbs, as my roommates can vouch for due to the shelving in the kitchen that contains jars upon jars of my dried herbs. I keep them in glass mason jars with a hand written label on top. I have the overflow on shelves in the garage. So I really wasn't too familiar with the rations of fresh herbs, nor how to use them. I dove right in and guesstimated my way to success.


Baked chips made from organic potato- have you heard, potatoes are now Whole30 approved?!

Oh, and since I learned my meal portions and ate big breakfasts, I had very few snacks between meals (say 5 or less over the whole month).

Sweet Chicken and Green Apple Sausage Patties with sauteed shredded zucchini
 
The best news is that I have seen a reduction in mucous! For the first time in my life, it was non-existant at times! Unfortunately, those times were sporadic and I haven't been able to determine what caused the lack of mucous or what continues to cause the mucous. However, simply seeing an improvement is thrilling and made this whole thing worthwhile. But, I got a notebook and have been recording my meals, meal times, exercise, sleep and generally how I'm feeling each day in the hopes to notice a pattern over time. I will be reintroducing most foods gradually and noting how I feel.


Breakfast hash: ground turkey, fresh herbs, cubed butterntu squash and sugar snap peas
 
I've also had several nights of better than average sleep. Right around the same time I started taking a new supplement (L-Theaning Double Strength which is an anxiety relieving supplement...this is the only supplement I take and I take no meds) I saw an improvement in sleep. That was also around the time that the temperatures started dropping here in MD and I sleep a lot better in the cool weather. I've also started exercising more (walking Jubi 1-2 times most days and jogging a few times a week on my lunch breaks). The two consistent factors have been the supplement and the temperatures, but we will see if this trend continues.

Baked chicken thigs with carrot rice "risotto"- probably my favorite meal this Whole30

Weight loss: when I started this Whole30 I weighed in at 161 pounds. Granted, this was after eating a little more junk than usual prior to the start of the Whole30. About a week prior to starting this Whole30 I weighed in around 155 pounds. After the 30 days, I was back down to 156.

Ground Beef and Cauli-Rice Lettuce Wraps
 
What's next? I'll continue eating my Whole30 meals like I do the majority of the time anyway, with a few paleo but non-whole30 foods/meals here and there. Mostly what I miss is my paleo or paleo-ish sweets- coconut milk ice cream, coconut macaroons, etc. I'm planning to make pumpkin pie macaroons (paleo) and (paleo) coconut milk pumpkin pie ice cream, but I did stock up on other goodies, some healthier and some just plain old junk. After each Whole30, I usually eat one junk food with no nutritional value. This time it will be zebra cakes. Then, all my other not so healthy snacks have standards, i.e. no gluten, none of the foods that bother me (rice, nuts, seeds, cocoa/chocolate, seed oils), no HFCS and nothing artificial.

Bear Church Rock Hike on Columbus Day (10/13/14)

Originally Andrew wanted to do a day trip to Assateague then turn around the next morning and leave for a two day backpacking trip, since we had a long weekend, but we compromised and did a day trip to Assateague Saturday, rest day Sunday, and a day hike in Shenandoah on Monday. Here's the hike we did: http://www.hikingupward.com/SNP/BearChurchRock/. I sent out an invite to friends, but only one friend was able to make it. One of my new friends from Camp Nerd Fitness Taylor L came out to meet us, even though he had a 3.5 hour drive! Our drive was only 2.5 hours. It was nice to see him again and I was happy that he and Andrew got along.

Taylor and I at the top- check out the awesome foliage

Camp Nerd Fitness Friends!

Although the weather was not the greatest (very rainy when we arrived, changed to sprinkles/clear with fog/mist) we had a nice time. All together, including breaks, the hike took about 4.5 hours and was 8.5 miles. It was an out and back trail (rather than a loop trail) so I'd say the first 3 or so miles were almost level. The last mile or so was pretty steep. And then coming back it was all downhill/mostly level again. We also took a short side trail to a cabin. With the fog around the cabin, it made for a cool view.


The cabin
We brought the dogs and they had fun running the trail. We only saw a few other people the whole time.


Jubi looking cute, as always
The boys running the trail
When we made it to the top we took plenty of pictures then had a lunch/snack break. I had carrot sticks and an apple. None of us were extremely hungry by then. The foilage views from the top were amazing. I had been really looking forward to seeing Shenandoah in it's fall beauty. It got pretty chilly when we stopped for lunch, but despite the weather we weren't cold at all on the hike!


Andrew doing modified tree pose
Full tree pose...scary!
We spent a lot of time chatting and getting to know each other better, which is always one of my favorite things. Andrew is former Navy and Taylor is active duty so they had that to talk about, too.

The whole family together <3
Then we headed to Pig and Steak for lunch. We each got a steak and two sides (I got plain baked potato and green beans). Andrew enjoyed their apple pie and ice cream. I was impressed to see they had funnel cake on the dessert menu. The food was so-so, but it was nice to get a hot meal after the hike.

Then we said our goodbyes and each headed home. We got home around 5:30 so we still had a few hours left to bathe the dogs, cut Andrew's hair, and celebrate the dog birthdays with Pet Birthday Cupcakes and their new Buster Cube food toys. We also got to watch a movie that evening which was nice.
Who wants birthday pup-cakes?!

6 Ingredient Sweet Chicken and Apple Sausage Patties (W30, LH, AIP Friendly)

When I was meal prepping for our Whole30 with Lena and Laura, Laura suggested making sausage patties with green apple in them. What a great idea! I've purchased sausages before with green apple in them, but never made my own. And I happened to have some leftover green apples too!

I didn't dice my apples very tiny, as I napped through meal prep time this weekend, so I was up early this morning (4:30 am) to meal prep before pet sitting before work. I used my handy Progressive Veggie Dicer to dice the apples but you can also dice them by hand, especially if you want smaller pieces of apples and celery.

Ingredients:
3 pounds ground chicken
3 green apples
5 stalks celery
3 leeks
about 1-2 inches of ginger root (subsitute 1/2-1 tablespoon dried ginger)
Sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 400. Wash your hands.
2. Dump chicken into a large mixing bowl. Grate ginger over mixing bowl. Add sea salt.
3. Dice apples, celery and leeks. Add to mixing bowl.
4. Incorporate all ingredients using your hands to mix until consistent.
5. Line 2 baking sheets with tin foil.
6. Shape sausage patties and place onto baking sheets so they are not touching. You can use a 1/3 cup measuring cup as a guide.
7. Bake for about 20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Note: If you prefer non-crunchy celery and apples, dice these very finely and/or sautee prior to adding to chicken.

Makes about 6 servings and about 30 sausage patties.


Ground Beef and Cauli-Rice Lettuce Wraps (W30, 21DSD, LH, AIP Friendly)

These wraps are very tasty and a good food for company! They are reminiscient of tacos without the tomatoes and pepper-y spices.




Ingredients:
3 pounds ground beef
dill weed (about 10 stems)
cilantro (about 15 stems)
sea salt
2 shallots
1 elephant ear clove garlic
2 heads cauliflower
2-3 romaine lettuce hearts
2 tablespoons coconut oil

1. Add ground beef to large skillet on medium. Add sea salt.
2. Dice dill weed and cilantro over beef as it cooks. Stir to incorporate. Cook, breaking into smaller pieces, until no longer pink.
3. Meanwhile, quarter your cauliflowers and remove as much of stems as possible.
4. Insert shred blade into food processor, and shred cauliflower. If you don't have a food processor, you can grate your cauliflower by hand with a cheese grater.
5. Heat a large skillet on medium and add 2 tablespoons coconut oil. Once heated, add cauliflower.
6. Remove outer peel of garlic and shallots. Add to food processor and blend to dice, or dice by hand. Add to cauliflower in skillet.
5.  Add sea salt. Stir until slightly translucent and tender. Remove from heat.
6. Serve by loading up lettuce leaves with cauli-rice and beef. Enjoy!

Makes 6-12 servings.

Assateague Island Trip 10/11/14

Saturday morning we headed up to Assateague Island via Chincoteague Island to see the wild horses. I have been wanting to go there for a while and decided this year was the year! Unfortunately, due to pet sitting and other scheduling conflicts, we weren't able to go this summer, but kayaking tours are available through the end of October.

Despite the rain, we headed out Saturday morning a little after 8:00 am. We packed our lunches in a cooler to have a picnic when we arrived. The drive was rather long (4 hours or so) but we napped and listened to music and talked. My roommates Lena and Xavier came with us, as they are new to MD (moved here a year ago from CA) and had heard good things about Assateague.

We arrived around 12:30 or so and found the Assateague Explorer where the kayak tour departed from. We got directions to a park nearby and ate lunch at a picnic table by the water. Unfortunately it was chilly and gloomy, but we still enjoyed our lunches.

Picnic lunch

It was just the four of us and the guide on the kayak tour that afternoon. Andrew and I got separate kayaks and Lena and Xavier shared a kayak. The tour lasted around 3 hours and we got to see a lot of wildlife including several kinds of birds and my favorite was salt water hermit crabs! I have pet fresh water hermit crabs and I loved seeing the salt water hermit crabs scuttling around under the water in their natural habitat- so cute!
Kayaking!

 

Look at that teamwork!
We kayaked down to a sand bar and got out to take a break. Then we kayaked to the beach and walked around there. Kayaking back to the departure point was tough as we were going against and wind and current, but we all made it. Despite the gloomy weather, it was a nice trip on the water and they were having an Oyster Festival with a live band so we got some music on our tour.

On the beach taking a break
 
We were all pretty disappointed that we didn't get to see any wild horses. Our kayak guide told us that they had rounded up all the horses the day before for their annual vaccines, so they might still be penned up. We drove around for a while and Andrew even flagged down a ranger to ask about the horses, but apparently they were no longer penned up and had run farther than normal after their vaccinations. We checked several areas the ranger recommended for horse viewing but there were none to be seen. Still, we had a good workout and it was a nice day trip. We are thinking we might go back on the big annual pony swim next year.

Then we headed in search of a restaurant. My roommates and I are all doing a Whole30 right now but on the way Andrew wanted to get some fudge. He doesn't have much of a sweet tooth but he loves some fudge! Even though we are on our Whole30, we all got some fudge for after it's over (next week). I got vanilla fudge, pumpkin pie fudge, a little orange creme fudge, and some salt water taffies (yum!). Then we went to Steamer's for dinner. Dinner was ok, I had a steak, salad (just a pile of lettuce with carrots) and plain baked potato.

After dinner, we were ready to head home as it was rather late. We took a wrong turn and added on a few minutes by driving into DC (oops) but we got home shortly before midnight.

I was glad that I designated Sunday as a rest day, to sleep in, catch up on grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking and other chores.

Carrot Rice "Risotto" with Chicken Thighs (W30, AIP, 21DSD, LH Friendly)

BJ's sells giant bags of carrots (5 pounds) which is awesome, but is an awful lot for one person. So, I used about half of them to make this risotto! I usually think of eating carrots raw or in chicken soup, but this is a great and easy way to eat them, too.


Ingredients:
2-3 pounds boneless chicken thighs
3 tablespoon coconut oil, divided
salt and pepper
About 20 carrots or a normal sized bag of full sized carrots
1/2 bunch parsley (about 20 stems)
2 cloves garlic
4 shallots

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Line a baking sheet (or two) with tin foil.
3. Lay out chicken thighs so they are not touching on the baking sheet.
4. Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in microwave.
5. Drizzle over chicken thighs with spoon and distribute evenly.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until no longer pink. Set aside.
8. Meanwhile, remove tops of carrots.
9. Using a food processor's shred blade (or by hand with a cheese grater) shred carrots into slivers resembling rice.
10. Place a large skillet on medium heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Once melted, add shredded carrots.
11. Dice parsley, garlic, and shallots and add to carrot mixture.
12. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Once carrot rice is becoming soft and onions are translucent, remove from heat. Do not over cook or your rice will turn to mush.
13. When chicken thighs are cool, dice and add to "rice".

Enjoy. Serves about 4.

Pet Birthday Cupcakes (Dog/Cat Treats)

Our fur kids get to celebrate their birthday every year with a new toy and/or treats as well as a homemade birthday cake/cupcakes (some version of a pet friendly meatloaf).

This year, I've created a cupcake recipe!
Such hungry puppies...no one ever feeds them!


Pupcakes

Ingredients:
1 pound ground pork (or other ground meat, unseasoned)
1 egg
1 cup frozen mixed veggies (preferrably corn free- I used a blend of carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, squash and broccoli)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Add all ingredients to food processor and process. OR if you are like me and forgot your food processor, steam veggies and carefully dice into small bits. Then mix all ingredients together by hand, kneading until evenly distributed. (You can puree the shell too if using the food processor.)
3. Evenly distribute meat into cupcake tins. Mine filled about 7 cupcakes worth when they were only filled about 3/4 of the way.
4. Bake for 20-45 minutes (until no longer pink inside).

Makes about 7 cupcakes. For small pets like cats and small breed dogs, I recommend feeding only a small portion of a cupcake per meal as too much change in diet can cause upset tummy.

These do keep in the freezer, too.