Spinach Artichoke Dip (Primal)

Spinach artichoke dip is one of Andrew's favorites. I couldn't find a good recipe online so I asked myself "What ingredients must you have to have a successful spinach artichoke dip?" The answer was spinach, artichokes, and cheese. Knowing that mozzerella cheese is mild and melty for a good dip base, I bought a block of it. Seeing the results, I would buy 2 blocks next time to make a cheesy-er dip but it was still good. I ate mine with Tostitos (gasp- but Tostitos aren't paleo! That's right, they aren't. I eat about 80-90% paleo with occasional other foods that are generally gluten free, preservative free, free of artificial stuff, etc. Corn does make it's way into my diet occasionally.)


Ingredients:
small block mozzerella cheese (or two if you like your dip really cheesy)
1 bag baby spinach
2 soup can size cans of brined artichokes

1. Add cheese to microwave safe bowl and heat for about 1.5 minutes or until just melted.
2. Add artichokes (without the brine) to food processor. A
3. Add spinach to food processor.
4. Add melted cheese. Blend until evenly diced and incorporated. Serve warm.

Makes about 2-4 meal size servings with one block of cheese.

Shenadoah Waterfall Trip 11/15-11/16

Originally we planned to do a 3 day backpacking trip on the Tuscarora Trail in PA but the friend that was going to join us drove up on Friday rather than Saturday. Oops- serious miscommunication! So Friday evening we had to re-plan our whole weekend since he no longer wanted to join us after driving 3.5 hours each way to meet us at the trail. I didn't want to drive up in a separate car because I knew after hiking 30 miles in 3 days I would be exhausted and I wasn't sure I'd be able to drive that far without falling asleep at the wheel on the way home. I also didn't want to drive Andrew up there and drop him off- that's a whole day spent driving. But at the same time, it's rare that I have a weekend with no pet sitting so we decided to take advantage of it.

Luckily, I woke up early Saturday morning because Andrew called me around 7:30 to make plans. We decided to go to Shenadoah and do all the waterfall hikes. We had already done one on the Overall Run trail. So, by the time I got ready and got on the road, we started the hike around 2 pm (it's a several hour drive to Shenadoah). We decided to hike White Oak Canyon which was probably about 8 miles total and had 2 waterfalls. The waterfalls were beautiful especially with the partially frozen portions. Since we got a late start we ended up finishing the hike in the dark, but luckily it was just up a not-too-challenging fire road and we were prepared to hike in the dark with our headlamps and lights on the dogs' collars. We got done around 6 pm and went to have dinner at the Wayside in Big Meadows which is a casual sit down restaurant. We both got burgers and salad and they were good. I was really looking forward to a hot meal after a long, cold hike. It worked out well since this was the last weekend the restaurants were open in Shenadoah. We could have eaten camp food but that's only meh so we decided to get a hot meal including spiced hot cider.

White Oak falls and Maximus
By then it was about 7 pm and our sleeping options were either to tent camp in Big Meadows (surrounded by lots of other tent campers where the dogs would almost surely bark A LOT during the night), hike about a mile in on the Appalachian Trail to a shelter where there might be campsites left (we've hiked in and camped at this particular spot before) or stealthily sleep in the back of Andrew's SUV. Considering the temperatures and the dog factor, I made the call to sleep in the back of the SUV, which may or may not be allowed in the park. I slept about as well as I do normally camping (which is not well at all) and we got up early to walk the dogs and catch breakfast at the Wayside when it opened at 8. Overnight, we had Maximus in one front seat, tucked in with his jacket and a blanket, Jubi in the driver's seat with her two jackets, my Carhardt, and a blanket, and Aramis in the back seat with a blanket and his jacket. During the night Andrew decided Aramis was too cold sleeping off on the side in the back of the car so he shared his sleeping bag with him as usual, which meant poor sleeping for Andrew.

Aramis at a falls overlook
The kids (including Jubi in her new expensive pink jacket)

We had a nice hot breakfast (I had breakfast potatoes, scrambled eggs and bacon along with more hot spiced cider.) then hit the trail again. We did a loop hike that encompassed several waterfalls. Although I enjoy hiking, the uphills still tire me out! Jubi was having a great time, though, and I think she was comfortably warm with her new (very expensive) winter jacket. Then we did two point to point hikes that were probably about 2 miles each (probably about 8 miles total the second day) to see the last two waterfalls. We didn't see too many other people on the trail and we had a nice time out.

Andrew and I <3
 
Me holding the kids at the last waterfall while Andrew went to the lookout to take pictures (where there was another dog)

We stopped at a diner on the way home for more burgers (I had a salad and green beans with mine) then we also stopped for frozen yogurt. It had really good froyo (except the strawberry lemonade flavor which tasted like cleaning chemicals to me- yuck! but the angel food cake and dulce de leche were very good topped with fresh fruit.) We made it home around 7 ish and then did some unpacking, showered and relaxed a little.

Monday I had already requested the day off so I stayed home and caught up on stuff- mostly meal prep, then relaxed in the evening.

Pumpkin Cheesecake (Primal)

Inspired by a crust-less cheesecake at a conference recently, this is my pumpkin version.

Ingredients:
1/2 neck pumpkin or 2 normal size cans pumpkin puree
4- 8 oz boxes plain full fat cream cheese
1.5 cups maple syrup
1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Note: If you really like pumpkin pie spices, double the amounts above. What is listed gives just a hint of pumpkin pie flavor.

1. Preheat oven to 400. Slice pumpkin in half and place sliced sides down on a tin-foil lined baking sheet or inside of an oven-safe casserole dish. Bake for 1 hour or until interior pumpkin is soft. (Skip this step if using canned pumpkin).
2. Meanwhile, thaw cream cheese at room temperature.
3. Once pumpkin is cooked (or if using canned pumpkin) add all ingredients to food processor or electric mixer. Mix until well combined.
4. Grease a spring form cheesecake pan with coconut oil. Dump in cream cheese mixture. Bake for 2.5-3 hours at 350 or until firm inside. (I over baked mine a little at around 3-3.5 hours.)

Makes several servings.

Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk Ice Cream

This recipe is modified from A Girl Worth Saving. The flavor is very good and the texture is similar to "cream ice" from Rita's.


Ingredients:
3 cans coconut milk
1 can pumpkin puree
1 cup maple syrup
1 heaping tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
splash of vanilla

1. Add all ingredients to a blender and puree.
2. Add to electric ice cream maker.
3. Layer ice and salt around ice cream maker per ice cream maker instructions, and process for about 30 minutes.
4. Freeze.

Serves about 6.

Stuffed Apples (W30, 21DSD, LH, AIP Friendly)

I got this inspiration by seeing another blog post for sausage stuffed apples. Since most of the seasonings that go into sausage aren't LH friendly, I modified this recipes based on what I had at home.

Ingredients:
6 apples
3 pounds ground chicken
large bag kale
2 tablespoons coconut oil
about 10 stems dill weed
sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cut apples in half through the stem. Remove stem and bottom part (just the little stem like part). Use an ice cream scoop to remove seeds and core parts carefully.
3. Place cut side up on a large baking dish or cooking sheet.
4. Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons coconut oil to a skillet on medium heat. Then add chicken.
5. While chicken cooks, cut kale and dill over top and carefully stir in to incorporate. Season with salt.
6. Cook chicken, breaking up as you go, until no longer pink.
7. Then load the chicken into the apple halves. Reserve any extra chicken mixture.
8. Cover with tin foil and bake for 30-45 minutes or until apples are desired tenderness.
9. Serve with extra chicken.

I eat about 2 halves for one meal, so it will serve about 6 people.

Bacon Pumpkin Chili (W30 Friendly)

I made this chili for Veteran's Day and I really liked it. Not too spicy and plenty of flavor.

For those that prefer a more spicy chili like Andrew, go ahead and double the spices listed (paprika, cayenne and ancho chili).

We used fresh tomatoes because that's what we had in the fridge, but for a more substantial chili you can use 2 regular size cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes. Mushrooms take the place of beans and pumpkin acts as a thickener and adds more veggies to the mix.

This recipe can also be done in the crock pot to let the flavors meld all day, but will require prep work and pre-cooking of all the meats. Just a reminder that tomato based meals often taste better and more flavorful the next day, so keep that in mind.
Bacon after it came out of the oven. I used a baking sheet to elevate it so it would crisp up.

Chili

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef
5 large fresh tomatoes (or 2 regular sized cans fire-roasted tomatoes)
1 small can tomato paste
1 package bacon
1/2 neck pumpkin or 2 regular size cans pumpkin puree
1-2 onions
1-2 cloves garlic
sea salt
1 package mushrooms
1.5 cups red wine (I used Foodies Merlot from World Market) or 1.5 cups beef broth if W30
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin

1. If using fresh pumpkin, do steps 1-4. Otherwise, skip to step 5. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Line a baking sheet or oven safe casserole dish with tin foil.
3. Slice the pumpkin in half and place cut side down on the baking sheet.
4. Bake for 1 hour or until interior is soft.
5. Meanwhile, dice onions, garlic, tomatoes and mushrooms. If you have a food processor, you can do this by chopping the mixture a little at a time. Otherwise, dice by hand.
6. Cook the bacon. If you have baking sheets, line them with tin foil and lay the bacon strips so they are not touching. Bake each sheet (took me 2 sheets for one package bacon) for about 15 minutes at 400 while pumpkin bakes or until crisp.
7. Once bacon cools, dice by hand or gently in food processor.
8. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add ground beef. Add vegetables. Sautee until cooked through.
9. Once beef is cooked, you can either transfer beef and veggies to a large pot with a lid on the stove or throw everything in the crock pot. If using a pot on the stove, turn the burner to low and add meat, veggies, tomato paste, red wine/beef broth, spices, salt and when cooked add pumpkin and bacon. Simmer on low or warm for 2-3 hours to allow the flavors to meld. Do not skip the flavor melding step.
10. If using the crock pot, throw all ingredients listed in step 9 into the crock pot and cook on low for about 8 hours to allow the liquid to reduce and flavors to meld.

Makes about 6 meal size servings.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

These cookies are so good! With the texture of slightly crispy oatmeal cookies and the flavor of pumpkin spice, they are delicious!

Recipe modified from http://hewontknowitspaleo.com/pumkin-spice-macaroons/




Ingredients:
4 cups shredded coconut
2 cups coconut palm sugar
1 can pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350, and grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
  3. Scoop out balls of dough by the tablespoon onto baking sheets. Lightly press each one down to form semi-rounded circles.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, until bottoms are browned, and cool completely before eating. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Makes about 60 cookies.

Robertson Mountain Hike with Jenn

Jenn F. and I met briefly at Camp Nerd Fitness and since have talked several times. When she invited friends to join her for a day hike in Shenadoah National Park, I was really hoping to go. Unfortunately, when she first invited friends I had a pet sitting reservation that night for two dogs and a cat with a time sensitive insulin shot so I didn't think I would be able to make it, but about a week out the reservation was cancelled so I was able to go. Originally we were thinking we would hike Old Rag which is a very challenging hike but because of the fall color nuts that flock to Shenadoah we decided to do a less popular hike- Robertson Mountain.
 
view from the parking lot of Old Rag fire road that we hiked to get to Robertson Mountain trail


Since it was a 2.5 hour drive, I left the house around 5:30 intending to arrive around 8 am to be on the trail around 8:30. Jenn and I were both running late (driving separately) so we probably got on the trail a little after 9. Andrew was going out of town over the weekend so I decided to bring all three dogs in my car, since I didn't want to pay twice as much for gas to drive his SUV out there. That worked out well because his Doberman Aramis gets anxiety in the car and seems to be more comfortable in my car, even though the dogs have a little less room.

Aramis the Doberman getting comfortable in Jubi's beagle sized bed in the front seat on the drive home
I was glad I packed my cold gear for the hike, even though when I packed it I didn't think I would need it with the weather forecast. It turned out to be a really cold hike, and we even had snow up near the top. I've never experienced snow this early in the year!

We stopped for a snack at the top of the mountain. We had planned to have lunch but part of our group had gotten separated and they were the part carrying Jenn's lunch. I made Aramis the Doberman carry my lunch in his pack along with his water, because all I brought was a camelback which had no room for anything besides water. Oh, speaking of that I accidentally left my camera battery in the car, but brought my camera. Luckily, Jenn took several photos on her phone. We were going to take a "flex" picture at the top but we were too freaking cold! We pretty much ate lunch as quickly as we could and headed back down the mountain.

Jenn and I and her youngest son at the top of Robertson Mountain- can you tell we are cold? Especially Jubi's face!
 
View from the top
We took two fire roads back, rather than another trail through the mountains due to the weather. Maximus got lost at one point trying to run through the woods to avoid another group of hikers (he is afraid of people) but he showed up not too long after I went looking for him. Jubi was pretty cold especially when we stopped for breaks, but Jenn's youngest son took a liking to Jubi and snuggled her inside his jacket on more than one occasion. Spoiled beagle! I am thinking I will need to get her a warmer jacket though considering the hikes and backpacking trips we plan to do this winter. Other than the weather, it was a nice day out and good exercise and I enjoyed spending time with Jenn and getting to know here better. I'm sure we will do more hikes together once it gets warmer in the spring!

How sweet- her son was snuggling Jubi in his jacket. Picture in motion :)
We got done some time around 4 pm and I was pretty tired by the time I got home that evening. I didn't do much besides feed the fur kids, do my one pet sitting visit that evening (no insulin required) and go to bed!

Check out Jenn's post about our hike: http://alienjenn.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/robertson-mountain-1nov14/

Beef, Beef Liver & Spinach Sausage Patties (W30, 21DSD, AIP Friendly)

One of my good friends just bought a quarter of a cow that was grass fed, organic and relatively local. For the longest time I've been wanting to start eating organ meats because 1) they are a cheap source of protein and 2) they are super nutritious!

So I finally sucked it up and started off by adding just a little liver to ground beef and made sausages. It was noticeable but it wasn't overwhelming and Andrew and I were both able to eat the sausages without any issues. YAY!

Sausage patties served with sweet potato hash

Ingredients:
2 pounds beef
about 1/2 pound beef liver (this is a good ratio to start with)
1 bag spinach
sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 250.
2. Add beef liver and spinach and salt to food processor. Process carefully until it is all mixed together smoothly.
3. In a large bowl, add ground beef. Then add liver/spinach mixture.
4. Wash your hands if you haven't already.
5. Use your hands to mix the beef/liver/spinach all together until incorporated evenly.
6. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
7. Shape beef mixture into sausage patties, about 1/4 cup in size. Place on baking sheet so that they do not touch.
8. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the inside of the sausage patties is cooked to your liking.

Makes 4-5 servings of about 4 sausage patties each.

Easy Broiled Turkey Burgers (w30, LH, AIP, 21DSD Friendly)

These burgers are super easy to make!

Turkey burger with mashed white sweet potatoes and cider for Halloween dinner! Looks weird, tastes good.

Ingredients:
3 pounds ground turkey
1 elephant ear garlic piece (or 2 cloves regular garlic)
3 shallots
sea salt
about 1-2 inch piece ginger root (or about 3/4 tablespoon ground ginger)

1. Set oven to broil. Wash and dry hands.
2. Remove outer peel from garlic and shallots. Either add to food processor and process until chopped, or dice.
3. Add ground turkey to large mixing bowl. Add garlic and shallots.
4. Sprinkle in a generous amount of sea salt.
5. Grate ginger and add to turkey.
6. Mix all together using your hands until thoroughly incorporated.
7. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
8. Shape turkey into generous patties, about the size of a heaping handful. I made mine into about 7 patties, so just under 1/2 pound of protein each.
9. Broil for 20-30 minutes or until no longer pink inside.

Makes about 7 servings.