Healthy Pizza Zoodles for Meal Prep

finishes Pizza Zoodles in meal prep containers

The key to long term Meal Prep success is keeping it simple and fast while having as much flavor and variety of flavors possible. Healthy Pizza Zoodles for Meal Prep is a great recipe to add to your rotation.

I brought Pizza Zoodles for lunch last, and man was I glad! A vendor had brought in pizzas and the breakroom smelled delicious. It was easy to say no to free pizza because I knew I had a healthier option with a similar flavor in my lunchbox. (I like this lunchbox because it big enough to carry all my day’s food and act as a purse.)

Healthy Pizza Zoodles for Meal Prep in luchbox

Gelatin, A Hidden Super Food

This healthy recipe is made just a little bit healthier by adding gelatin. Gelatin is one of the super foods you can add to almost any meal. Along with adding protein, made up of amino acids many people are deficient in, it also adds a nice body to sauces and soups. Gelatin has many of the same benefits as bone broth but can be kept in your pantry. Here is the grass-fed brand I buy on Amazon.

In Pizza Zoodles, you won’t even notice it is there, but your skin, gut, bones, and joints will thank you.

Healthy Pizza Zoodles for Meal Prep cheese added

To see more of my adventures and Paleo-ish/ Mostly Low-carb food and what I am currently cooking, follow me on Instagram or Facebook!

Healthy Pizza Zoodles for Meal Prep

Enjoy this flavorful simple meal prep recipe.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword batch cooking, gluten-free, grain-free, healthy, low-carb, lunch, meal prep, pizza, simple, zoodles
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 3

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon gelatin optional
  • ¼ c cool water for gelatin optional
  • 1 lb ground meat I used moose
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Avocado oil
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1-3 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 package 4 oz nitrate-free pepperoni, slices cut in about 4ths
  • 3-4 oz Katamala olives black will also work
  • 4-6 zucchinis cut with spiralizer
  • Mozzarella cheese optional
  • Parsley optional

Instructions

  1. Mix water and gelatin together in a small bowl or cup and set aside (this is called blooming). Skip this step if not adding gelatin.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, browned meat and onion with enough oil to keep from sticking and salt.

  3. Once meat is browned, turn heat to low and add garlic, Italian seasoning, and balsamic vinegar. As the liquid sizzles, scrape off any brown piece stuck to the bottom of the pan, also call fond.
  4. Mix in tomato paste and bloomed gelatin
  5. Let simmer for a few minutes then turn off heat and stir in pepperoni.
  6. While the meat mixture is cooling, divide the raw zoodles (spiralized zucchinis) into 4 glass meal prep containers.
  7. Evenly divide the meat and olives place on the zoodles.
  8. Top with grated mozzarella and chopped parsley if you would like.
  9. Put lids on containers and store in the fridge.
  10. Reheat before eating,

Recipe Notes

  • Meals usually last about a week in the fridge, I usually trust my nose, but use your best judgment.
  • If you don’t have a spiralizer use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons or just slice the zucchini.
  • Tomato paste is great to use in place of tomato sauce when cooking with a lot of vegetables. It contains less moisture than the sauce and will help prevent the dish becoming too watery.

Healthy Pizza Zoodles

 

*Wild and Well Fed is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. While this does not add any cost to the consumer it helps Gina continue to work on this blog. She only provides links to things she thinks will help you or you might really like. Thanks for the support!

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Great Books to Help You Eat Healthier and Live Better

Great diet and lifestyle books to read

I had a man asked me on Instagram about my education. He was hoping to educate himself on a healthy lifestyle and wanted to know where I had learned about food and cooking. Well, I have a Bachelors of Science in Physiology from the University of Wyoming (Go Pokes!) and I am an American Council on Exercise certified Health Coach. These are a great foundation, but I am constantly trying to learn as much as possible about nutrition, cooking, and in general a healthy lifestyle. So I put together a list of them and I decided to make a blog post out of it so I could share it with you too!

Honestly, I listened to most of these on Audible. I love audio books and find it easier to listen while driving or cooking, than finding time to sit down to read. (Audible is part of Amazon)

Habit Change Book

First things first, if you are trying to change your habits I HIGHLY recommend Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Who For

ANYONE wanting to change ANY habit.

Why

Gretchen is a genius and has amazing insight into the nature of people. She separates people into 4 Tendencies. Once you know yourself better, you will understand which strategies will and will not work for you. I love this strategy because it doesn’t waste time trying to change you as a person, but finds simple ways to change your habits.

If you have a second take her Four Tendencies Quiz. It only takes a minute and it will give your great insight. I’m a Questioner:)

Basic Diet Books

Who

Food, What the Heck Should I Eat by Dr. Mark Hyman is great for people that want to take the first step into healthy eating, but don’t want to get overwhelmed.

Why

Dr. Hyman does a great job covering the how, what, and whys of healthy eating in a way that is easy to understand. This is a good first read to dip your toes into the Paleo Diet

Who

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson if for everyone.

Why

This is one of three books I recommend by Mark and is a great overview of the primal lifestyle. It is easy to understand. Mark is a smart former pro triathlete turned jacked-old-man-killer-businessman, so who doesn’t want to be more like him? I also really like his balanced message and think it is really sustainable.

Who

Deep Nutrition by Dr. Catherine Shanahan is great for people looking to take a little deep look into diet and how it interacts with your genes. She dapples in epigenetics

Why

Dr. Shanahan works with the LA Lakers to make sure their diet is in tip-top shape so her suggestions are probably good enough for you. She pretty much recommends the Paleo diet but cames to it from her own conclusions using her background as an M.D. She is pro Bone Broth:)

Who

Death By Food Pyramid by Denis Minger is for anyone interested in why the food pyramid is dead wrong.

Why

I like this book because it talks about the political history and science behind the food pyramid and terrible government dietary guidelines. I’m a sucker for non-fiction and history is always interesting (as well as the science).

Next Level Books

Who

Wired to Eat By Robb Wolf is for people wondering why they love to eat junk food so much. The second half of the book will appeal to people that want to geek out on their blood sugar and how different foods affect them.

Why

Robb is a former biochemical researcher so his geeky science side really appeals to me, but he also does a great job explaining things well for people that don’t have a science background. He leans towards the paleo/keto side of things.

Who

Own the Day by Aubrey Marcus if for people looking to take it to the next level.

Why

Aubrey is borderline a biohacker and this book goes through the perfect day. It is a good read and let’s face it, as another ripped, kick-ass businessman he must know what he is talking about.

Who

Nourishing Broth by Sall Fallon Morell (author of Nourishing Traditions) is for people that love Bone Broth as much as I do.

Why

Bone Broth is amazing and everyone should consume it.

Who

Primal Endurance by Mark Sission and Brad Kearns is for anyone interested in training for endurance sports but not willing to sacrifice their health or balanced lifestyle for it.

Why

Both Mark and Brad were professional triathletes and really know their stuff. They are fans of the Maffetone Method

Who

The Wahls Protocol by Dr. Terry Wahls is for anyone that is interested in their mitochondria, which should be everyone. This book is especially important with people with MS or other autoimmune diseases.

Why

Dr. Wahls has an amazing story. She has MS and was in a tilt-recline wheelchair but was able to heal her body to the point she is now able to take long bike rides, all with diet!. Check out her TedTalk!

On a very personal note, My mom had MS and later died from Breast Cancer. I really wish I knew about her protocol when my mom was still alive. I really take to heart her guidelines in my meal plans now and wish everyone with MS know about her protocol.

 

Who

Paleo Principles by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne is for people that and a deep dive into the Paleo diet.

Why

This book is great for people looking for the textbook on the Paleo diet. It is very science heavy but Dr. Ballantyne does a good job making it understandable. There are also recipes in this book, ok most of the books I recommend have some recipe.

Keto Books

Who

The Keto Reset Diet by Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns is for anyone looking to transition into the keto diet without the “keto flu”.

Why

I read this book when I decided I needed to get fat adapted for my sheep hunt and it was a huge success. I like that Mark and Brad are not dogmatic about a ketogenic diet and encourage consuming vegetables.

 

Who

Keto Quick Start by Diane Sanfilippo is another good option for people looking to start the keto diet.

Why

I like Dian’s balanced approach to things and she can really cook. I wasn’t sure if I should put this with the other keto books or cookbooks.

Cookbooks

Who

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is for anyone looking to eat like their great grandmother. People who want to incorporate grains, beans, and dairy into their diet and are willing to put in the time and effort to prepare them correctly to get the most out of them, should read this book.

Why

Sally is the founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation and is all about sprouting grains and bean and raw milk.

Who

The Wild Kitchen by Wilderness Athlete is a great cookbook for everyone.

Why

These cookbooks are very practical and full of healthy recipes, some containing wild game but most do not.

Who

The Meateater by Steven Rinella is for hunters that need to cook all the meat in their freezer.

Why

Steve knows how to cook and write and is very passionate about both. What more could you ask in a cookbook author? He is not into “healthy recipes”, but game meat, naturally, is really healthy.

Who

Paleo Perfected by America’s Test Kitchen is for anyone trying to cook Paleo.

Why

America’s Test Kitchen does not half-ass cooking. They take their job really seriously, and you know each one of their recipes has been meticulously tested and will work every time.

E-Books

Is it weird if I put my own book on this list? I worked really hard on 10 Minute Meal Prep. I truly believe it will help you eat healthier while saving time and money.

10 Minute Meal Prep

Who

10 Minute Meal Prep by me is for anyone who is short on time but wants to meal prep. All the recipes are low-carb and keto friendly, but anyone could enjoy them.

Why

This E-book has 10 “recipes” for meals I make all the time that only take 10 minutes or less to prep. The dinners take additional cooking time (slow cooker, sheet pan, or stovetop),  but can be prepared ahead of time so once you get home from work, dinner is either ready or almost ready.

I am a huge fan of meal prepping and it can save you time and money while making it easier to eat healthily.

 

Hope this helps. Let me know if I have missed any you think should be on this list. I will try to keep it updated with the books I read.

Join my Facebook Book Club if you are interested in reading these or other books like them, and discussing them with like-minded people.

To see more of my adventures and Paleo-ish/ Mostly Low-carb food, follow me on Instagram or Facebook!

 

*Wild and Well Fed is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program (and other affiliate programs). While this does not add any cost to the consumer it helps Gina continue to work on this blog. She only provides links to things she thinks will help you or you might really like. Thanks for the support!

3 Superfoods You Can Add to Almost Every Meal

3 superfoods you can add to any meal

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be all or nothing. These 3 Superfoods can be added to the healthiest, Instagram worthy meals, or those meals that are less than perfect, you know, the ones you are just happy made it to the table.

I would be lying if I said I had never added gelatin to a box of Annie’s Mac and Cheese, but the truth is we all eat meals that aren’t great for us. Adding even a little bit of one of these 3 Superfoods is better than none.

The little things really do add up.

No matter where you are in your health journey you can do this. If eating healthy seems overwhelming, just pick one of these Superfoods and try adding them to your diet a couple times a week.

1. Bone Broth or Gelatin

bone broth

My love for bone broth is no secret. Out of these 3 Superfoods, You Can Add to Almost Every Meal, I am most obsessed with bone broth.

My first ever blog post was about bone broth. I consume bone broth and recommend it to others regularly.

You can make your own, or buy a high-quality brand like Kettle & Fire.

The cook in me loves the extra flavor and body it can add to a dish. The health coach in me loves the proteins it contains and their health benefits. The hunter in me loves showing respect for the animal I harvested by using all the animal I can. The mom in me loves that it easy to incorporate into my kids’ diet.

How to Add Bone Broth to Meals

Use in place of water in any savory meal. If a recipe calls for water, just substitute bone broth.

Uses for Bone Broth

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How to Add Gelatin

Gelatin is a cooked form of collagen and has many of the nutrients found in bone broth. It can be purchased in bulk and kept in your pantry (here is the grass-fed gelatin I use). Gelatin has less flavor than bone broth, so it can be added to savory and sweet dishes.

Start by mixing 1 teaspoon of gelatin and 1 tablespoon cool water. This is called blooming, and once it sets up, it can be stirred into any warm food or liquid.

Uses for Gelatin

DIY Collagen Coconut Milk

2. Frozen Power Greens

imageService
I always have at least one bag of frozen power greens from Costco in my freezer. This way I always have them on hand

How to Add Frozen Greens

Once the leaves are frozen, I crunch them up into little pieces.  Freezing the greens ensures they don’t go bad as well as making some of the nutrients more bioavailable.
Once your meal is almost done cooking, stir in a ½ cup (or more).

Uses For Power Greens

Make Ahead Smoothies

 

3. Cauliflower Rice

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Cauliflower rice is so versatile. And despite Cauliflower being amazing for you, it doesn’t have a very strong flavor once it is cooked.

How to Add Cauliflower Rice

You can buy Cauliflower pre-riced, fresh or frozen, or use a cheese grater/ food processor to rice a head of Cauliflower yourself. Since my Costco started carrying Cauliflower rice, I have tried to always keep a bag in my freezer.

I usually roast Cauliflower rice in the oven.  Just drizzle a little avocado oil, sprinkle with salt, mix, then evenly spread out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat (these are the mats I use almost daily!)

You can also sauté on the stove or add Cauliflower rice directly to the dish.

Uses for Cauliflower Rice

Keto Taco Casserole

  • Curry
  • Chile
  • Fried “rice”
  • Keto Taco Casserole
  • Rice- Often I will cook rice in bone broth then mix with Cauliflower rice. This is a good compromise for kids and people not willing to completely give up rice.

Small Thing Add Up to Big Things

A healthy diet doesn’t need to be all or nothing. Good choices, no matter how small can add up to something great. Finding creative ways to use these 3 superfoods to your meals is a great way to add nutrients to your less than perfect diet, let’s be honest, no one’s perfect.

Hopefully, these small steps will seem very doable and make eating healthier a little less intimidating. Who knows, taking these steps may lead to other positive changes in your life.

Keep in touch, let me know ways you add nutrients to your food!

To see more of my adventures and Paleo-ish/ Mostly Low-carb food, follow me on Instagram or Facebook!

Superfoods

*Wild and Well Fed is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. While this does not add any cost to the consumer it helps Gina continue to work on this blog. She only provides links to things she thinks will help you or you might really like. Thanks for the support!

Keto Taco Casserole with Cauliflower Rice

It is one of my personal goals to make #lowcarbhighveg a thing. Keto Taco Casserole with Cauliflower Rice would definitely be an appropriate recipe to use this sadly rare hashtag. So many people in the keto space seem to emphasize fat on fat on fat and ignore the quality of fats and vegetables. Most, veggies contain tons of micro-nutrients and few carbs.

Cauliflower is Worth the Carbs

In one cup of cauliflower, there are 5 grams total carbs and 2 grams fiber (3 grams net carbs), but it is so much more than its carb count.  Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family (like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts), which means it is high in phytochemicals and sulfur.  These compounds are powerful antioxidants and vital to cellular health.

Sulfur rich vegetables are so good for you, Dr. Terry Wahls recommends you eat 3 cups a day of these amazing vegetables!

Dr. Wahls M.D. is an amazing woman that was able to reverse her multiple sclerosis with her miracle protocol. I highly recommend her Ted Talk or Book to everyone, not just people with autoimmune diseases. Her Tedx Talk “Mind Your Mitochondria” has over 3 million views on YouTube!

Casserole Love

Who doesn’t love a casserole? While they are not the prettiest dishes, they are easy to make and so stick-to-your-ribs yummy. Keto Taco Casserole with Cauliflower Rice is no exception. You won’t even notice that it’s pack full of veggies and either will your kids.

When making this casserole, remember that casseroles are not an exact science. If you have canned tomatoes in your pantry, but they aren’t fire roasted or have green chiles, don’t give it a second thought, use them and move on. If you have ½ a zucchini, slightly shriveled, in your fridge, chop it up and throw it in. Make do with what you have, it will taste great.

Keto Taco Casserole with Cauliflower Rice

This stick-to-your-ribs casserole is low in carbs but high in veggies

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword cauliflower, easy, hamburger, keto, low-carb, vegetables
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs cauliflower rice 8 cups
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Avocado oil
  • 1 lb.  ground beef or game meat
  • 1 bell pepper chopped
  • 1 onions chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1 can 14 oz. fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 6 oz cheese shredded
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Pickled jalapenos optional

Instructions

  1. On a large sheet pan, sprinkle cauliflower rice with 1 teaspoon salt and place in a 425° F oven, for 15-20 minutes*
  2. Meanwhile in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, brown meat, onion and bell pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt together.  Use avocado oil to keep from sticking.
  3. When meat is brown add all spices and stir until you can smell them.
  4. Turn down heat to low and stir in vinegar.
  5. Next add cream cheese, stirring until it is melted and evenly distributed.
  6. In your final baking dish* mix cauliflower, meat mixture, and tomatoes.
  7. Evenly spread out and top with cheese.
  8. Bake in preheated oven (425° F) for about 20 minutes until the cheese is nice and brown.
  9. Top with cilantro and jalapenos to serve

Recipe Notes

*You can skip prebaking the cauliflower, but your casserole will be runnier

*A 13-inch oven-safe frying pan can be used to brow the meat and bake the casserole. Or bake the casserole in a 9X13 baking pan.

Look for organic pasture raised cream cheese such as Organic Valley

To see more of my adventures and Paleo-ish/ Mostly Low-carb food, follow me on Instagram or Facebook!

Keto Taco Casserole with cauliflower rice

*Wild and Well Fed is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. While this does not add any cost to the consumer it helps Gina continue to work on this blog. She only provides links to things she thinks will help you or you might really like. Thanks for the support!

 

Paleo Pecan Pie Bite and Holiday (backpacking) Recipe Book

I teamed up with Heather’s Choice to write a Holliday Recipe E-Book. It contains a few festive recipes that will be delicious in the backcountry or at home and totally FREE! I had so much fun working with the great people from Heather’s Choice. Below is a recipe for Paleo Pecan Pie Bites.

Full disclosure I am an affiliate of theirs, but I highly recommend their products. They make Paleo food for the backcountry. Like actually Paleo and with actual real food ingredients. When I don’t have time to make my own dehydrator meals, I use theirs. It’s great having food I feel good about eating or feeding to my kids.

It was Heather’s First E-Book I turned to when learning how to make my low-carb, high-fat meals for my sheep hunt.

Check Them Out!

The Holliday Recipe Book contains recipes for

  • Autumn Trail Mix
  • Pumpkin Pie Fruit Leather
  • Thanksgiving Turkey Jerky
  • Pumpkin Chili (based off on Pumpkin Pie Spice Chili)
  • Backcountry Thanksgiving Feast
  • Pecan Pie Bites (recipe below)
  • Key Lime Packaroons

Download your FREE Holiday Recipe E-Book!

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Paleo Pecan Pie Bites

Paleo Pecan Pie Bites

Sometimes the little treats make all the difference. These little Paleo treats are great in the backcountry or at home

Course Dessert
Keyword backpacking, dehydrator, paleo, treat

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pecans
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • cup maple syrup
  • 2 oz chocolate finely chopped optional

Instructions

  1. In a blender or food processor, chop nuts until most of the pieces are very small, but larger
  2. than grains of sand.
  3. Add salt, vanilla and maple syrup, pulse to combine.
  4. Use a small cookie scoop or tablespoon to portion and form little balls.
  5. Place the balls on a dehydrator rack sprayed with coconut oil.
  6. Flatten to form disks.
  7. Dehydrate at 115° F until completely dry, about 8 hrs.
  8. Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
  9. Coat pie bites in chocolate and place back on dehydrator rack to cool completely

 

Pecan Pie Bites

 

 

3 Supplements to Bring Backpacking

supplements for backpacking

During my Delta Dall Sheep Hunt, I took 3 Supplements and was amazed how big of a difference it made. Every ounce counts, but with some research, these three found a place in my pack.

I choose these 3 Supplements to increase my athletic performance and decrease pain and inflammation because let’s face it sheep hunting is a lot of damn work and can sometimes be painful.

I am NOT a doctor, this is NOT medical advice. I’m simply telling you what I personally brought on my sheep hunt. If you are thinking about adding supplements to your diet do your own research and speak with a medical professional.
supmlemnts
Harvard Health

The 3 Supplements and Why I Brought Them

Spirulina

Spirulina is high in protein and nutrients. I figured if nothing else, protein and micronutrients never hurt, especially when you are exerting yourself so much. However, it has been shown to boost athletic performance and decrease inflammation (well at least in rats)

According to a study that was published earlier this year, “The results of this study imply that supplementation with spirulina extract may protect athletes against a deficit in immune function (especially, anti-infectious function) associated with strenuous exercise, and may cause a beneficial shift in “overtraining threshold” preventing a radical deterioration of immunity.”

Translation: spirulina boost immune function decreased by hard exercise and allows you to push harder without overdoing it.

Spirulina is well studied, on PubMed, there are over 1,700 published articles. I love that spirulina has been scientifically proven to be so beneficial, but I love how it makes me feel even more. In my n=1 experiment, I have found it gives me a boost of energy.

Use

When we were packing out meat and I was super tired, I would take a small handful to give me a little bust.

Spirulina is part of my normal diet as well. I add the loose powder to smoothies and my kids like it mixed into their yogurt.

Shroom TECH Sport

Like spirulina, mushrooms have been well studied and have way too many benefits to cover in this post.  Onnit has also done their own clinical trials that found Shroom TECH Sport increases athletic performance.

Use

I used as directed (take 40 minutes before workout) for my training leading up to my sheep hunt as well as every morning during the hunt.

Onnit has a money back guarantee (you get to keep the product), so I figured it was worth a try. I personally found it gave me an extra spring in my step for workouts and hiking.  This supplement is a little pricey (beware of cheap supplements, they are probably crap and could be dangerous!!) so I only took it on “breakthrough” workouts.

Turmeric

Like the other supplements, turmeric has been widely studied. A quick search on PubMed shows turmeric has been shown to help prevent cancer, decrease pain, increase cognitive function, and has strong anti-inflammatory properties while being considered safe with only mild side effects (if you take a super high dose). Ginger or black pepper increases the absorption of turmeric so many supplements include them (and many recipes).

Note: I also added cinnamon to my Instant Backcountry Bulletproof Coffee to help decrease inflammation.

Use

I took two tablets each morning and evening. I skipped it one evening and the next morning I could defiantly feel the difference.

Bonus “Supplement”

Salt

Ok, this isn’t a supplement, but salt and electrolytes are very important especially when eating a low carb diet or when you are very physically active. It also makes all food taste better. I brought along a little extra salt. Since I made most of my own food, I didn’t have to use it, but I will bring it next time.

Sea salt and Himalayan salt are best because they contain other trace minerals and don’t contain anticaking agents. I can taste better, but I have been called a salt snob before.

If you are reading this post you might also be interested in how I make my own High-Fat Dehydrated Meals for my sheep hunt. By going Keto/low-carb on my sheep hunt I was able to get cut 10 lbs from my back.

To see more of my adventures and Paleo-ish/ Mostly Low-carb food, follow me on Instagram or Facebook!

*Wild and Well Fed is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. While this does not add any cost to the consumer it helps Gina continue to work on this blog. She only provides links to things she thinks will help you or you might really like. Thanks for the support!

Pumpkin Spice Paleo Chili

Pumpkin Spice Paleo Chili

It is Pumpkin Spice Season and I fully embrace it! I’m not talking about some gross oversweetened “coffee”. Pumpkin Spice Paleo Chili, on the other hand, that is what I’m talking about. The warm flavors taste like a cozy sweater feels.

In Pumpkin Spice Chili, the pumpkin isn’t super pronounced but adds a nice sweetness and body. Many chilies are thickened with flour, but I have gotten in the habit of thickening stews with pureed vegetables.

Cinnamon is a common ingredient in chili, so ginger seemed like a logical next step to me. Like the pumpkin, the ginger doesn’t stick out too much, just adds a little something special.

Why Pumpkin Spice Paleo Chili is the Perfect Dinner

  • Contains meat, veggies, and bone broth
  • Easily made in a slow-cooker (Here are 10 ways to get the most out of your slow-cooker)
  • Tastes even better the next day, in fact, I recommend making it the day before
  • Easily adapted to different dietary preferences and tastes
  • A good way to use up random veggies in the bottom of the drawer

Pumpkin Spice Paleo Chili

This Chili taste like a cozy sweater feels

Course Main Course
Keyword bone broth, crock pot, paleo, slow-cooker
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground meat* your choice
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 4 Roma Tomatos diced, canned will do
  • 1 yellow bell pepper diced
  • 2 cup bone broth
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • Any random veggies you have laying around optional
  • 5 ounces baby spinach roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. In a cast Iron skillet brown meat and onions.
  2. Add vinegar to skillet. As the liquid sizzles, scrape up any brown pieces that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Vinegar will help decrease any gamy flavor.
  3. Add meat mixture to slow-cooker with all other ingredients except spinach.
  4. Stir to combine
  5. Cook on LOW 6-8 hrs
  6. After chili has cooked, stir in spinach and allow it to wilt

Recipe Notes

*I usually use game meat but will use beef if that is not available.

I sometimes add the left-over zucchini scraps from making zoodles or any other vegetables that are looking a little wilted in my fridge. To this day I have not found a vegetable that has not tasted great in this chili. If you find one, please let me know!

To see Gina’s adventures and Paleo-ish/ Mostly Low-carb food, follow her on Instagram or Facebook!

Paleo Pumpkin Spice Chili

Instant Backcountry Bulletproof Coffee

a cup of Instant bullet proof coffee for the backcountry

This is another “non-recipe”. Instant Backcountry Bulletproof Coffee was a big part of my nutrition on my Dall sheep hunt, but it really simple to make, takes up little room in your pack, and delivers calories and coffee while practically weighing nothing. I now keep one or two in my car just in case I need a quick meal.

Warning about low-carb backpacking

Before you try low carb backpacking I recommend that you eat low-carb/keto for at LEAST 6 weeks. Without properly preparing your body to burn fat as fuel, you will not get all the benefits of a ketogenic diet in the backcountry and you may not perform as well as you would like.

If you need help making the transition contact me or I recommend The Keto Reset Diet by Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns. That being said I am so glad I went keto for sheep hunting. I was able to get all my food down to just over a pound per day.

Check out the DIY High-Fat Dehydrated Dinners I made.

Instant backcountry bullet proof

Overall I was really happy with a bulletproof coffee every morning on my hunt. Next time I will bring some plain coffee as well. Sometimes it’s hard to drink a 500 kcal coffee first thing in the morning. I would have preferred a hot cup of black coffee to start my dad most mornings. Then once I was hungry, drank the bulletproof coffee, maybe cold.

There are high-fat premade coffees on the market. I made my own Instant Bulletproof Coffee because the commercially available ones did not have enough calories in 1 packet. Multiple packets would have been a hassle and extra weight. I needed a 500 kcals breakfast to get to my 3,000 kcal/day goal.

Instant Backcounty Bulletproof Coffee

This can barely be called a recipe. 

Course Breakfast
Keyword backpacking, batch cooking, high-fat, keto, ketosis, make-a-head
Prep Time 2 minutes
Total Time 2 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 500 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Ripid Fire Ketogenic Creamer
  • 1/4 cup Aspen Naturals Keto Protein Powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 cups hot water

Instructions

At Home

  1. Mix all ingredients in a snack size zip-lock baggy

In the backcountry

  1. Add coffee mixture to hot water and sir.

Recipe Notes

This recipe makes 2 "cups" of coffee

Why I chose each Ingredient

Grass-Fed Collagen + MCT Oil Powder

Is a good source of MCTs and Collagen Protein. Increases physical activity increases your need for protein and collagen contains amino acids many people are deficient in. It also contained twice the calories per 1/4 cup as the RapodFire Creamer.

Ketogenic Creamer


The powdered butter is a good source of fat and tastes good. I was bulkier than the MCT/Collagen powder and it contains guar gum (derived from a legume) which some people may be sensitive to, but I didn’t notice any side effects.

Instant Coffee

Let’s be honest, there is no good instant coffee, but when you are camping everything tastes better. I bought Yuban at the grocery store and it worked fine. I also put it in my Epic Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (grain-free). It is a lot cheaper than the Starbucks VIA.

Cinnamon


Tastes good and is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.

Sea or Himalayan Salt

Salt makes everything taste better and supplies essential electrolytes. Salt is your friend

To see more of Gina’s adventures and Paleo-ish/ Mostly Low-carb food, follow her on Instagram or Facebook!

Pinterest Backcountry Bullet proof Coffee

*Wild and Well Fed is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. While this does not add any cost to the consumer it helps Gina continue to work on this blog. She only provides links to things she thinks will help you or you might really like. Thanks for the support!

Super Easy Packable Keto Lunch

packable keto lunch

I have a hard time calling this a recipe, but my Packable Keto Lunch worked so well on my sheep hunt I now keep a stash my fridge. I try to have prep salads for lunch, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen, and I need something fast on the way out the door.

I first made Super Easy Packable Keto Lunches because I knew they would hold up after a week in my backpack. After eating them for almost a week straight I still liked them. When I returned home from my hunt I had some leftover and realized they were great even when you aren’t in the backcountry.

I love these Packable Keto Lunches so much they were the only recipe from the blog that made it into my E-book 10 Minute Meal Prep!

3 Reasons Packable Keto Lunches are the Ultimate Meal Prep.

  1. They take less than 5 minutes to prep
  2. They take up almost no room in the fridge
  3. They last weeks in the fridge

Sheep Hunting Food

During my Delta Dall sheep hunt, I wasn’t very worried about total carb intake. In general just feel better when eating low carb, however, sheep hunting is so strenuous I knew some extra carbs would be nice. I wanted high-fat food because fat has over twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrate per gram.   If you are interested in keto backpacking foods, check out my DIY high-fat dehydrated dinners.

packable keto lunch

When I made my backpack hunting meals I used multiple types of nuts and spice blends to mix it up.  You can use your favorite pre-made spice blend (such as Trader Joe’s Chili Lime or Everything Bagle), get creative and make your own, or just use salt.

Pick Your Nut

Nut Nutrition

Other Ingredients Nutrition Facts

Meat and Chese

Soaking Your Nuts

nuts soaking

I also took the extra steps to soak and dehydrate them. This makes them easier to digest. If this sounds like too much work, just buy your nuts dry roasted and salted : )

If you are interested in learning more about soaking nuts, check out this post, and remember you can make over 10 meals at once that will keep for weeks in your fridge so it might be worth the time : )

Super Easy Packable Keto Lunches

I started making these for backpacking, but I liked them so much I now keep a stash in my fridge at all time.

Keyword backpacking, backpacking food, dehydrated meals, high-fat, keto, low-carb, meal prep
Prep Time 2 minutes
Total Time 2 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 500 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 Paleo Valley Beef Sticks or 1 Epic Bar
  • 1 organic cheese stick
  • Nuts see table

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a snack size zip lock baggy.

  2. Store in refrigerator. 

Recipe Notes

I like Paleo Valley Beef Sticks because they are fermented, which gives them a great flavor and probiotics! (They are also available through Subscribe and Save on Amazon)

Choose the nuts that fit your dietary needs.

Try soaking and dehydrating your nuts to make them more digestible.

I recommend making 10 or 12 lunches at a time, depending on how many meat sticks come in the box.

If you would like more protein, add a second meat.

If you chose to use Epic Bars, check the nutritional label. Each flavor has different a different amount of carbs.

Follow Gina on Instagram or Facebook!

Keto Lunch

*Wild and Well Fed is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. While this does not add any cost to the consumer it helps Gina continue to work on this blog. She will only provide links to things she thinks will help you or you might really like. Thanks for the support!

DIY High-Fat Dehydrated Dinners for Backpack Hunting

After going through all the work to become fat adapted for my sheep hunt, I couldn’t find premade backpacking meals that were high enough in fat and lower-carbs. So, along with my Triple Cocoa Coconut Fat Bombs, made my own DIY Dehydrated Backpacking Dinner.

DYI high-fat dehydrated dinners

Why go to all the trouble of making your own Dehydrated Meals?

Health benefits of low-carb while in the backcountry

  • A low-carb, Paleo-ish diet, has anti-inflammatory properties. Sheep hunting is extremely strenuous and hard on your body. Anything you can do to decrease this stress and help you recover faster is worth it. Plus, anyone who has eaten Mountain Houses for a week knows about the GI stress they can cause.
  • When your body is fat adapted, you can go longer between meals and if you must skip a meal, you don’t get that hard crash you do when burning carbs. Fat is also a cleaner burning fuel that everyone carries plenty in their bodies. This translates to better performance in the backcountry.

Other benefits of making your own Dehydrated DinnersA Day's food Backpacking Food

  • They weigh less. Fat has over 2 times the calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein. This means you can either carry way more calories or your back can weigh less. Two pounds of food per day backpacking is considered pretty standard.
  • I was able to get around 3,000 Calories/day to weigh just over a pound/day. This meant my husband’s and mine pack were 10 lbs lighter each (on a 10-day sheep hunt)! That is huge! Especially when you are my size…. And female.
  • DIY high-fat dinners are delicious, almost as good as I could at home. We looked forward to eating them each night, but when you are working that hard, food just tastes better too.
  • I did not experience the strong food cravings I typically do during a long hunt. I’m not sure if it was all the veggies and micronutrients, or just the taste, but I was craving a good cup of coffee instead of my usual hamburger or sweets.
  • You can control what goes in them. I love using real food ingredients, that I know my body performs well on. You can also make them suit your personal tastes. Say you don’t like carrots, just swap them out with another veggie you do like.
  • Want to stay in ketosis the whole time or ear strict paleo? Leave out the beans and peas and just add more fat. Personal I wasn’t too worried about my Marcos. My goal was to perform better not be in ketosis 100% of the time. Sheep hunting is so strenuous, I knew my body would appreciate the extra carbs and go back into ketosis quickly. But you are in control!

How to make your own Dehydrated Backpacking Dinners

I started out by downloading the Heather’s Choice Ebook. They are a great company that makes healthy, gluten-free backpacking foods. Honestly, if I hadn’t been set on Low-carb, I would have saved a ton of time and just bought all my food from them.

Full Disclosure. I am an affiliate with them. The worst affiliate ever. I have recommended their food and E-books countless times, and this is the first time I am using my link.

Anyways, the E-book has lots of good recipes and how-tos to make your own meals.

General process

    1.       Start by dicing all your veggies up. Smaller pieces dry and rehydrate faster. I kept all my veggies separate to allow for different drying times. After everything was dry I mixed the ingredients together.DIY high-fat dehyrdated dinners
    2.       You can dehydrate the veggies either in a dehydrator or in a very low oven. Ovens are faster, but you must watch your veggies more closely.
    3.       In a large skillet brown meat and onions with 2 teaspoons salt. I used caribou and ground turkey.
    4.       Meanwhile, bloom 1 teaspoon gelatin in about 1 tablespoon of cold water. This is optional but results in a pleasant sauce and gelatin (collagen), is a great source of protein and great for you. Ok, I’ll leave it there, but I really could talk about collagen for a while.
    5.       Once meat is browned, add the spices. Keep stirring until you can smell them.
    6.       Stir in wet ingredients and gelatin.
    7.       Simmer until most of the excess liquid is gone.DIY high-fat dehyrdated dinners

 

    1.       Let meat mixture cool until it is easier to handle.
    2.       Dehydrate on the highest setting on your dehydrator or lowest setting in your oven*.

dehydrating in a convection oven

 

 

  •     Once all the food is completely dried, let cool to room temperature.dehydrated backpacking food
  •   In 3 mylar bags, equally divide all the ingredients.
  •   If the recipe calls for coconut butter add it now if the recipe calls for butter or cheese, add those in the backcountry, just before you devour your dinner (remember to pack it).
  •   Add a desiccant packet. I skipped this step, but for piece of mind, I won’t next time!
  •   Seal bag with iron or hair straightener. Try to get all the air out you can. This was the first time I have used my straightener in a LONG time.how to seal a mylar bag
  •   To play it safe, I stored my meals in the freezer just to make sure nothing would go bad. Technically you shouldn’t have to, but who wants to get sick in the middle of nowhere on some mountain?
  •   To eat, simply add about 1 ½ cup boiling water and give a stir. Fold over the top (clip closed with the clip on your pocket knife), and let sit 20 minutes, if you can.DYI high-fat dehydrated dinners
  •   Stir in butter or cheese if desired and Enjoy!

 

*dehydrating times will vary greatly depending on your oven or dehydrator. If you are using a convection oven, the fan will speed up the process. Unfortunately, you will just have to keep an eye on your food. Dehydrators take less supervision than ovens. Good news, these meals can be made in advance, so pick a day when you have plenty of time or break it up into batches. I dehydrated all my food one day and package the next, but there is no reason you couldn’t break it up even more.

Follow me on Instagram to see what I’m eating and my latest adventure!

Basic Chili

Keyword backpacking food, dehydrated meals, high-fat
Servings 3

Ingredients

Veggies

  • 1 bell pepper
  • 3 zucchini
  • 1 can beans drained
  • 5 oz baby spinach no need to chop

Meat Mixture

  • 1 pound meat of your choice
  • 1/2 onion

Spices and Seasonings

  • 2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin whole if you have it
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • cayenne pepper

Wet

  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin bloomed

Add in the Backcountry

  • 3 tablespoons butter 2T/serving
  • cheese to add the desired calories

Recipe Notes

Leave out beans and add more butter to make keto.

Green Chili

Servings 3

Ingredients

Veggies

  • 2 bell pepper
  • 1 can beans drained

Meat Mixture

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 onion
  • Spices and seasonings

Spices and Seasonings

  • 2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin whole if possible
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Wet

  • 1 jar green salsa
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin bloomed

Add in Backcountry

  • 6 tablespoons butter 2T/serving
  • cheese to add the desired calories

Recipe Notes

To make keto, leave out beans and add more butter

Japanese Curry

Servings 3
Calories 940 kcal

Ingredients

Veggies

  • 1 head cauliflower grated
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 lb potato

Meat Mixture

  • 1 lb ground meat of your choice
  • 1/2 onion
  • 8 oz mushrooms

Wet

  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos or soy sauce
  • 10 oz butternut squash

Add in the backcountry

  • 9 tablespoons butter 3 T/serving

Recipe Notes

Brown meat, onions, and mushrooms altogether

Advieh Zoodles

This weeknight Paleo dinner is somehow both a comfort food and exotic.

Course Main Course
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs grass-fed ground beef or lamb
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon Advieh
  • 3 cups tomato sauce about (just 1 Jar)
  • 1-2 eggplants 1 inch cubed 1t salt 20 minutes 425
  • cup apple cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  • ½ bunch parsley roughly chopped

Advieh

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground rose petal
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

Instructions

  1. On a sheet pan, sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt over eggplant, set aside while oven preheats
  2. Brown meat and onions together in a pan with ½ teaspoon salt
  3. Put eggplant in a 400 degree F oven to roast (15-20 minutes)
  4. Add spices and garlic to meat and stir until you can spell them. (Note: if there is a lot of liquid in the pan drain that off before adding spices)
  5. Stir in vinegar
  6. Add tomato sauce and simmer
  7. When the eggplant is done roasting stir into the sauce
  8. Simmer for about 15 minutes
  9. Stir in chopped parsley
  10. Serve over zoodles

*Wild and Well Fed is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. While this does not add any cost to the consumer it helps Gina continue to work on this blog. She will only provide links to things she thinks will help you or you might really like. Thanks for the support!

Pinterest

 

 

Low-Carb Egg Puffs

low-carb egg puffs

Do you like cheese? Do you hate when your blood sugar spikes only to crash again? Are you busy? Want to add some to your diet? If you answered “yes” to any of these Low-Carb Egg Puff are for you!

If you would like more Low-Carb recipes you can make ahead of time, check out my E-book 10 Minute Meal Prep!

Low-Carb Egg Puffs

Low-Carb Egg Puffs are fast and simple to make and can be made ahead of time. Ever since I went Keto to increase my fat-burning capabilities these Low-carb eggs puffs have been in my breakfast rotation.

Course Breakfast
Keyword batch cooking, eggs, gluten-free, keto, low-carb, make-a-head
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 16

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 eggs
  • 8 tablespoon butter melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup sour cream full-fat
  • 6 oz grated cheese chedder, pepper jack, mozzarella
  • 3 oz power greens, frozen and crumbled* optional
  • 7 oz sausage**, cooked (or bacon)

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together coconut flour, garlic powder, salt, and baking powder.

  2. Add in eggs, butter, and sour cream.
  3. Whisk until completely mixed.
  4. Stir in the cheese, greens, and sausage. To cut down on dishes the same whisk can be used 😉

  5. Scoop ¼ cup mixture onto two baking sheets, lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. (I use a #20 scoop)
  6. Bake 400° F for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven), until the edges just start to brown.

Recipe Notes

*I keep a bag of power greens in my freezer for smoothies and baking. This allows me to buy in bulk and they never do bag. Freezing also makes some of the nutrients more bioavailable. Once the leaves are frozen I crumble them up

** Organic Frozen breakfast sausage is a great timesaver. I just take it out of the freezer and cut into 1/4 inch pieces. 

*Wild and Well Fed is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. While this does not add any cost to the consumer it helps Gina continue to work on this blog. She will only provide links to things she thinks will help you or you might really like. Thanks for the support!

Delta Dall Sheep Hunt 2018

Gina Ciolkosz wtih Dall Sheep

 


A LITTLE BACKGROUND ON MY HUNTING BUDDY

Gina Ciolkosz on Delta Alaska Dall Sheep Hunt

 

Just before I started dating my husband, I was about to join Match.com (I promise this is about hunting!) It was August 2013, I needed a hunting buddy for the upcoming sheep season. I would say that at the time I wasn’t interested in finding a life partner but a hunting buddy.  I figured you couldn’t ask a guy to help you packout out if you aren’t willing to put out.

Right when I was about to set up a Match.com account, I had a conversation with my roommate/landlord at the time(enter future husband, Ryan) about how great sheep hunting was. Ryan decided he wanted to give it a try and offered himself up as my new hunting buddy. We started getting ready for the season by outfitting Ryan with the right gear, studying maps, and making packing lists. Within a couple weeks, we had also started dating.

Life Happens

Just before the sheep season opener, my mom, who had been battling breast cancer for a couple of years, took a turn for the worse and I had to fly to Wyoming to be with her. Shortly after I arrived she died, so sheep hunting that year ended up being the least of my worries.

We tabled it until the following year when Ryan drew a great tag (DS203) for just outside of Delta Junction, Alaska. Certain hunting areas in Alaska enough people want to hunt, that the Alaska Fish and Game set up a lottery for tags. You must put in for the individual hunts and for some tags, the odds are very low.

Then…wait for it… later that month, I found out I was pregnant.

Life did what life does, and long story short, I had to wait 5 years to go sheep hunting. This year was a big deal to me – the stars aligned, life calmed down, and I drew a Delta Dall Sheep tag! I’m the first to admit I’ve been super lucky with sheep tags. The four years I have put in for sheep tags I have drawn Tok Management Area and Delta! Anyway, I was super excited and wrote a little post about the Draw Results.

This sheep season was the first time my husband and I had been on a real hunt together (we previously had only done  a fast-overnight brown bear hunt the first fall we dated), it was the first time we had spent a night away from our now two kids together, so in a way, this sheep hunt was like our belated honeymoon.

PREPARING FOR A SHEEP HUNT

Sheep hunting is like the marathon of hunting. Much like people train for a marathon for months, it takes months to prepare for a sheep hunt. A day after tags came out in February, I had designed nutrition and training programs to physically prepare for the hunt.  During my Delta hunt, we covered over 60 miles and, who knows how many feet of elevation gain, all with a ~ 60-pound backpack. I’ve run a marathon without training before, but I would not want to go sheep hunting without a strong training base.

My nutrition plan includes five and a half weeks of strict keto, months of low-carb eating, and countless fasted workouts. All this metabolic work allowed my body to become more efficient at burn fat and not be as depended on constantly eating.

The training program initially was designed to heal some injuries I have, increase strength and endurance. I was unable to heal from the injuries, so I just did the best I could. This was a source of anxiety for me.

Once your body is prepared as it can be, there is all the gear. Sheep hunters are notorious for their Excel gear lists. We had almost everything we needed, but for everything we didn’t have, we spent hours researching and discussing before coming to a final decision. Some final decisions on gear were not made until the very last possible minute.

DIY Low-carb backpackingfood

Food is another important part of hunting. I had decided to pack low-carb. Fat has over twice the calories than carbs and protein. It also is a cleaner burning fuel. I researched and tested many high-fat, backpack-stable foods. Some were a success (like my DIY high-fat dehydrated dinners), some were failures (like my meal replacement drinks). My DIY backpacking food turned out great and I ended up removing ten pounds from each of our packs, which is a really big deal, but that process will have to be its own post.

Every ounce counts! We weighed everything. There is a balance between functionality, comfort, and weight.

DAY 0 – THE BEGINNING

The week before my Delta sheep hunt I had been sick. I was already worried about how my body would hold up (I have a chronic leg injury from caribou hunting that prevents me from training very much). My cough and two sick kids had made sleeping impossible.

As the hunt got closer, most of my extreme excitement was replaced with anxiety. I wanted a sheep so bad. So many things can go wrong, and maybe I wasn’t strong enough, maybe I would miss my shot, who knew? I was definitely nervous. Last year only one woman successfully harvested a sheep on a draw permit. And only five total… those aren’t promising odds.

Ryan’s dad arrived the night before and I worked on finishing some last-minute things for the hunt and to set the kids up for while I would be gone.

On the Road

Once Ryan got home from work we packed up the truck and hit the road. We got to Delta at 11 PM and drove 30 more minutes to a campsite. We just slept in the cab of the truck. I had been sleeping so crappy, but sleeping in that passenger seat was the best sleep I had in over a week.

DAY 1 – COVERING GROUND

Now that we started the hunt, I was starting to get excited.

The early Delta hunt is non-motorized (and non-pack animal), which means you cannot use a 4-wheeler to transport you or your gear, even if there is a dirt road. So, after we woke up, we parked the truck just off the highway, packed up our bikes with kid trailers and hit the road.  

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We biked until we reached a swampy area and decided the rate of return was not high enough to continue biking and we would have to travel on foot.

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The week before sheep season, Delta had gotten a ton of rain. If the conditions had been drier, it would have been possible to make it further using bikes.  However, I will say it was the easiest six miles you can hope for in a sheep hunt.

We switched the gear from the trailer to our packs. Mine weighed 55 lbs. including all my gear, food, gun, and water. Ryan’s weight was 65 lbs. Ryan was carrying five extra lbs. for me. I had calculated that my high-fat food had saved us 10 lbs each., so I figured his pack was still lighter than it would have been if he was hunting with someone else. I felt pretty good about that. Pulling my own weight is really important to me.

It was still relatively easy walking on the trail for a few more miles, if you consider carrying a 65 lbs. pack easy. There was a slight climb but it was a nice solid trail. The trail got less and less well defined and it started to gain in elevation.

We stopped to glass the far-off mountains and saw a sheep that we thought was a ram, but it wasn’t in the direction where we’re headed. Normally if you see a ram you go after it, but it would have been hell to walk straight to him and we would be able to access the area he was in later once on top of the plateau.

While glassing, we realized we had to go down the hill we had just climbed up to get to the mountains. Giving up elevation is one of the hardest things to do in sheep hunting.

PANO_20180809_190531.jpg

By the end of the day though we were up the first part of the mountain. We had covered another eight miles by foot, within range of sheep country just in time for opening day.

DAY 2 – THE OPENER

Opening day!

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The second day was relatively uneventful. We hiked seven miles total and got on top of the plateau. On top was tundra, which is desirably hard to hike through. It is soft and lumping, which makes stabilizing a heavy load difficult. We stopped from time to time to glass for sheep and worked our way back further into the wilderness.

PANO_20180810_121502.jpg

Glassing takes a long time. Ryan and I would take out the spotting scope and binoculars and search every square in of mountain in sight. This is an important part of sheep hunting.

It was a little discouraging not seeing any sheep, but it was still early in the hunt. There was a tent where we had wanted to go, so we camped in a little canyon that night. It was  right next to a great place to glass for sheep the next day!

DAY 3 – NOTHING INSIGHT

In the morning we climbed out of the canyon and over to the large drainage we had wanted to hunt. We glassed it and only saw three ewes. We stayed up high and did a loop on part of the plateau where there were a lot of little drainages there could be sheep. Every little ravine we would stop and glass. As we got close to where we had started, we ran into a solo hunter. We chatted with him a bit. He had missed a shot at a nice ram opening day, which explained why we weren’t seeing many sheep.

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With all the glassing we only covered about five miles. We set up camp higher in elevation that night, but not very far from the previous camp. It was a nice place that we could glass nearby.

That night we heard a shot. My heart sank. That should have been my sheep. Why was I in my tent trying to sleep? (Actually, it totally sucks to field dress and pack out an animal in the dark so I wasn’t 100% mad about it.)

“No way they got a sheep,” I told Ryan, “who gets a sheep with just one shot?”, some people do, but there was also a chance they had misses and scared way more sheep.

DAY 4 – A CHANGE IN STRATEGY 

With the lack of sheep we were seeing, we needed to come up with a new plan. Our camp was in a good place. The way the mountain was shaped, we could head in a few different directions, so we decided to keep camp where it was. We packed up a couple days of food and the essentials and took off. Our hope was with a lighter pack we could travel farther and end up having more luck.

Early in the day, we stopped to glass and finally saw some sheep! They were miles away, we could barely tell they were rams, but they were! They were the only rams we had seen in a couple of days, so we took off after them. We headed down a ridge, then we would head up the next mountain, and across a ridge for a long ways.

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Once we had dropped down on to a little ridge, we were able to look me with the back down the valley with the spotting scope. There was a lone ram! Closer, and it looked like he was legal. It is common in sheep hunting to spot sheep when you change your view. As you travel, you get new vantage points of the mountain. It is possible to be right above a sheep while he is tucked out of sight.

We turned around and got back on top of the ridge we had just been on. Day 4 was really really windy, and the wind was not in our favor. Ideally, you are downwind of the animal you trying to stock so it can’t smell you. The only thing we could think to do was stay just on the other side of the ridge and try to get downwind of him. We were hoping it was windy enough for our smell to be carried past.

PANO_20180812_121309.jpg

Once we were downwind, we went into a drainage to try to spot him and couldn’t see him. I must admit I was not feeling optimistic at this point. There was a good chance he had smelled us and decided to leave. We had also run into some ewes along the way.  We tried to give them enough room as to not spook them, but on top of the plateau was pretty flat, there wasn’t a way to get out of their sight. It was possible they had crossed the ram’s path and made him nervous.

We hiked back to the ridge top and started to work our way closer to where we thought the ram was. Down another drainage out of sight. Then we crawled up a little ridge until we could peer over. There he was, just out of range. Now I had hope again!

Back up to the ridge, we went and then back down another drainage. Now we were in rifle range!

Ryan was able to get a good look and judged him legal. In Alaska, rams must either be a full curl, have broken off both their tips, or at least 8 years old. This ensures the rams have time to reach breeding age and mate, but is not always easy to do. A legal ram is an old ram. If you shoot a ram that is not legal, the Fish and Game confiscate it. 

The ram was standing broadside! Because of the way I was lying I had trouble seeing through my scope and couldn’t judge for myself. Eventually, he bedded down, and I was able to get into a good shooting position. He was looking right at us. I waited until he turned his head. He was a full curl!

The shot, however, was a little tricky. He was laying down facing me, surrounded by rocks and about 300 yards away from me. Usually, I am very conservative on the shots I will take. But the chances of me just wounding him were low and for some reason, I felt incredibly stable, way more stable and calm than I normally feel at the shooting range.

I was sure of myself and this might be my only chance, I had to take the shot. Aim, breath in, breath out, squeeze. I squeezed the trigger.

Defying the laws of physics, he dove towards me and off the ledge he was laying on, but you could tell he was dead! I turned over on my back and took a couple of deep breaths…

THE REAL WORK

In sheep hunting, the real work begins when you pull the trigger, and I now had a sheep down over 20 miles from the truck.

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I didn’t wait for Ryan, I grabbed my pack and took off after my sheep, down the drainage, I THOUGHT he was in. “Ryan, I don’t see him!” I yelled. Ryan stayed high and went to look down the next drainage. There he was, near the bottom. Sheep country can be so deceiving.

When I got to him it was obvious he had fallen a long way. It was gruesome, but miraculously, his horns were just scuffed, not broken.

Unfortunately, we were unable to get a good picture of him. Dall sheep are such beautiful, amazing animals, and I will always be disappointed we didn’t get a good picture.  Killing such a beautiful badass animal is both the best, most exciting feeling and also incredibly sad at the same time.

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We pulled on our whites, the Tyvek suits painters wear. They are handy when stalking sheep if you find yourself without something to hide behind. Sometimes they will fool a sheep into thinking you are a sheep, therefore not a threat. I like wearing whites when I gut an animal, so any blood you get on yourself you can just strip off when you are done.00100sPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20180812142901821_COVER

Then we went to work field dressing and deboning my sheep. It was sunny, and the wind wasn’t blowing down where my ram laid. This might have been the first sheep shot in history mid-day with the sun out, imagine getting back to camp while it is light out! We took as much meat as possible, including some of the organs, out of respect for the animal and because sheep meat is so delicious. You only get about 60 lbs. of meat from a sheep.  

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Once he was all loaded in our packs, we looked up. Wow, was it steep.

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The climb ended up being about 1,700 ft of scree. Some places were so steep I was crawling on my hands and knees. On one of Ryan’s trekking poles, he has an ice ax, which I become extremely jealous of him. I’m not going to lie, with the extra 40 lbs. of sheep meat and horns in my pack, it was a struggle.

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Then once we were back on top of the plateau, we were in a windstorm. Some gusts were so strong, I had to take a knee, so I wouldn’t be blown over. At this point, it was only 2.5 miles back to the tent (if the tent was still there), but with the extra weight, elevation gain, and wind it took us 3 hours to get there. This is what is called Type 2 fun. At the time you aren’t sure why you do it, because it sucks, but in a few weeks, you are able to look back on it fondly.

Fourteen hours after we had left in the morning, we were back at camp, and the tent was still there! Caved in, but still there! I was a little surprised the stakes hadn’t been blown out of the rocky ground.

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That night we did not sleep well. Several times a tent stake would be blown out of the ground and would need to be re-staked. The occasional cave-in was not very conducive to restorative sleep. But I had my sheep!

DAY 5 – I’M TOUGH, I LOVE SHEEP HUNTING, I CAN DO THIS

We slept in a little but did not feel rested. We took our time eating breakfast and drank an extra cup of coffee. One of the best things about getting your sheep early is that you no longer need to ration your food and you eat pretty well on your way out.  The wind died down a little for us, which made breakfast and packing up more pleasant, but once we took off for the day it started blowing again.

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I hate the wind. I’m from a town in Wyoming, that is right next to the world’s largest wind-blown basin in North America. I moved away for a reason.

Day 5 was the most physical and mentally demanding, my mantra for the day was “I’m tough, I love sheep hunting, I can do this.”

Gina Ciolkosz, Delta Alaska Dall Sheep Hunt

After all day of hiking in the wind (did I mention it was windy) we were off the plateau. It was nice to be more protected, but that also meant more brush. Walking through the brush is also the worst, especially when you have a gun and two giant hooks (sheep horns) on your backpack that easily get snagged.

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On the map, we covered about 8.5 miles, but by the end of the day I was about to my limit and was sore all over. With a pack that heavy, you are never sure if it’s harder to do uphill or down, the easiest one is always the one you are not doing.

We made camp next to the trail in the brush on the flattest ground we could find. Even with all the bear sign around camp and meat hanging nearby, I was so tired slept well

DAY 6 – POOF, IT’S OVER

The last day was the shortest and easiest (relatively). We had three miles on a nice trail, then a six-mile bike to the truck. I had a little bike trouble but was able to take care of it before it became a big deal. There was so much weight in the trailer, my rear axle bouned out a couple of times, walking my bike down a steep rocky hill.  I was thankful for my cycling days back in college and my Leatherman. We also ran into two hunters that had called it quits because of the windstorm, proof I’m not the only person who hates wind.

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Getting back to the truck was great. It felt good to put on some yoga pants and Crocs. I felt so satisfied with our successful sheep hunt and was so glad to have gotten some alone time with my husband. However, It is an odd feeling for a hunt to be over. Six months of planning and preparing, and a week in the mountains, then poof – it’s done.  Sheep hunting is a true emotional roller-coaster.

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Now, even before all the feeling is back in my feet, I want to go back. I’m already starting to train and plan for next year.

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