Allatoona Pass Trail – #14 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Allatoona Pass, also known as Deep Cut.

One thing great about living near Atlanta is that so many of our trails have a lot of history surrounding them, especially Civil War history.  I love to learn and I love to hike so enjoying both at the same time is great.  I hiked this trail back on 06/09/12, before I started the blog, so I’m playing a bit of catch up here.

Allatoona Pass (also known as Deep Cut)  sits on the western shores of Lake Allatoona and was the site of the last Civil War battle in the Atlanta area.  The pass was built by slaves during the construction of the Western and Atlantic railroad and is flanked by two large mountains… or hills, depending on your definition.   On the eastern hill there are several rifle embankments and Federal trenches.  The western hill was the location of The Star Fort, composed of 6′ earthworks walls and 6′ trenches with only one opening to allow munitions to be brought in.  General Sherman rode his horse through the pass in 1844 and was so impressed with the defense it provided that he avoided it during his Atlanta Campaign.  I think it’s extremely cool to hike down a trail in the exact location William Tecumsheh Sherman once rode.

I’m also a firearms enthusiast and this battle was one of the earliest where the Henry rifle was used by Union soldiers, and it made a huge difference in the battle.  After an encounter with the 7th Illinois Volunteer Infantry a Confederate Officer is credited with the quote, “It’s a rifle you could load on Sunday and shoot all week long.”

The trail itself has a total length of just over 3 miles and winds in and back out along the banks of Lake Allatoona.  At the beginning of the trail is Memorial Field with monuments to both the Union and Confederate soldiers that fought here.  There are some moderate hills and the trail offers some great views of the lake through a heavily wooded area.  Walking through the center of the cut there is a staircase leading up to The Star Fort and further along the trail is a sign marking the Grave of the Unknown Hero.  The trail eventually dead ends and you loop back to the trailhead.

This was a very fun and educational hike on a very hot day.  My poor old dog almost couldn’t take it and would lie down anytime I tried to stop to read one of the signs.  Looks like she’s getting a bit tender in her old age.

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Deconstructed Pork Tamales

Delicious Pork “Tamales”

Sometimes recipes just kind of come together.  I wasn’t sure what to cook one night and after rummaging through my fridge and pantry I had a pork roast,  some black beans and a roll of polenta – this is what came of it.  It’s not my lowest calorie meal but at 426 calories per serving still pretty low cal, and a lot better than having a couple “real” tamales.  Serving this with some steamed cauliflower and/or a salad and you’ve got a full meal for about 550 calories.

Although the polenta delivers a good dose of carbs it is a complex carbohydrate and therefore has a low glycemic index, it is also gluten free for those avoiding gluten.  Polenta is high in Vitamins A & C as well as potassium, phosphorous and magnesium and contains small amounts of iron, zinc, thiamin and niacin.  You get a good serving of fiber and protein from the black beans and lots of protein from the pork roast.  One thing I love about this meal is that it feels like it’s cheating, you get to eat spicy/meaty “Mexican” food but not destroy your fat and calories for the day.

DECONSTRUCTED PORK TAMALES

Serves 4

Click here to view/print this recipe from Google Docs.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean pork tenderloin roast, shredded
  • 1 lb prepared polenta cut into 12 slices
  • 2 cups black beans
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 4 Tbsp low fat sour cream
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and garlic to taste.
  • Hot sauce

Preparation

Trim any visible fat from pork roast and season as desired.  You can marinate it if you choose or use a dry rub of ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.  Simply coat the roast with spices and allow to rest in refrigerator overnight.  Roast can be slow smoked, cooked in a crock pot or in the oven.  Cook to an internal temperature of 160F for medium doneness or 170F for well done.  Make sure to cook the roast slowly and keep it moist, you want it to be very tender and easily shredded when done.

When the roast is almost done heat 1 can of black beans and grill the polenta.  Season each side of the polenta with salt and pepper and grill over medium heat (can use grill pan or regular skillet) until heated through.

Arrange three slices of polenta on each plate and top with 4 oz of the shredded pork and ½ cup of black beans.  Top with sour scream, hot sauce, salsa, diced onions and/or jalapenos as you choose.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving : ¼ recipe)

  • Calories: 426 per serving
  • Carbohydrates: 44 grams
  • Fat: 8 grams
  • Protein: 44 grams

Scallops Fra Diavolo – Low calorie, low carb, packed with protein.

One of my local stores sells a take-and-bake version of this dish.  They use bread crumbs and butter in there’s and I wanted to see if I could tweak it to low the carbs and calories a bit.  Many other Scallops Fra Diavolo recipes have a spicy tomato sauce.   By making this dish without a sauce it eliminates the need to serve it over pasta, and you still get the spicy tomato flavor.  If you want this a bit more saucy you can use canned diced tomatoes instead of the fresh tomato, just drain off any excess juice first.

Scallops Fra Diavolo

Serves 2

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz bay scallops, raw
  • ⅛ cup almond meal
  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced & seeded
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil spray


Directions

Start by combining almond meal, parsley, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a bowl.  Once combined add scallops then stir to coat in the seasoned almond meal.  Add tomatoes, onion and garlic and stir gently to combine all ingredients.

Spray a shallow pan with non-stick cooking spray and add scallops to pan, spray top of scallops lightly with olive oil.  Scallops should fit in pan in a single layer  Bake in preheated 400° oven for approximately 20 minutes until scallops are firm.  Plate and serve, topping each serving with ½ of the grated Paremsan.

Basic Nutrition Info (per serving)

  • 183 calories
  • 14 grams carbs
  • 6 grams fat
  • 20 grams protein


Approximate Cost = $4.00/serving ($8.00/recipe)
At about $9.00/lb the only major cost here is the scallops.  Almond meal is about $14.00/lb but you only use a small amount.  Add a side salad to this meal and you can feed 2 people for about $10.00.

Big Trees Preserve Trail – #2 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Marker at Trailhead

This trail is #2 in the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta.  I picked this book up recently and I’ve set the goal of hiking all 60 trails in the book.  With this hike I’ve completed 4 of them, only 56 to go!

The Big Trees Preserve is off Roswell Road in Sandy Springs, the trailhead is actually in the south parking lot of the North Fulton County Annex.  The preserve has several trails that criss-cross each other, which confused the heck out of me but admittedly that’s not always hard to do when it comes to navigating.   Your hike starts off on a paved path and then splits onto a mix of packed dirt and wood mulch, certain areas of the trail had piles of mulch where they were improving the trail.  Depending on the branch of the trail you take the hike can be from 1.2 miles and up, I ended up at 1.3 miles over a 35 minute hike.  There are some steady hills on the Backcountry Trail and although the book states they are “so well done they are effortless” they gave me a pretty good workout.

You get some nice views of a rocky creek as you wind through the trails.  My dog cooled herself off in some of the clear pools that formed.  Several of the trails wind along and over the creek with small bridges to cross.  In certain areas you can walk along the creekbed on rocks and still stay dry.  There is quite a bit of wildlife as well with bird feeders scattered throughout.  I saw a variety of birds as well as squirrels, chipmunks and a couple lizards.  Some of the trees are marked to identify them, there are a lot of large white oaks in the preserve.  This is a great escape from the city that sits just outside of the area and is secluded enough to block out the traffic noise from Roswell Road.

Boo walking the trail sporting her fancy cell phone charger leash.

One complaint on this trail, and I’m not sure if it was just the people there this particular day, but even though the trail sign clearly states that dogs must be leashed at all times I came across 3 different people allowing their dogs to run free.  I forgot my leash and home and had to MacGyver one up so I used an old cell phone charger tied around my dog’s collar to “leash” her.  May have looked totally redneck but it got the job done.  One family had a little schnauzer with a bad attitude, they were holding the leash but allowing the dog to run free.  We passed each other 3 separate times and each time they’re dog ran up to my dog an started growling and barking, they would run up and grab him and say, “Sorry, sorry about that.”, but still didn’t put him on the leash.  Another couple had two large dogs running free and as I passed one of them said, “We’re good here, all of us are friendlies.”  That’s not the point though as you don’t know how my dog will react to your dog running up to her.  There are also people who are quite afraid of dogs and even if you have the friendliest dog out there they could be intimidated.  So a note for those that hike with dogs, please leash your dog at all times.  My dog is super-friendly but she will defend herself if need be, and I absolutely love dogs but if a dog runs up to me snarling and barking I’m not going to take too kindly to it.

Even with the dog problems I enjoyed this little trail.  It’s good for a quick hike and the continuous tree cover keeps it fairly cool.  It’s nice to find something like this so close to the city where you can tuck away for a little while and avoid all the hustle and bustle.

One view of the creek along the trail. The trail winds alongside the creek for most of the hike.

Map of the trail path at Big Trees Preserve

Shrimp Scampi with Shirataki Fettuccine

I was shopping at Trader Joe’s recently and one of the associates suggested I try Argentine Red shrimp.  He said although it was a bit of a stretch they compared the taste and texture to lobster.  I like shrimp so I decided to pick up a bag.  I sure wasn’t expecting lobster but I have to say these shrimp were excellent, they have a sweeter taste than other shrimp and the texture (amazingly) did remind me of lobster.  If you have a Trader Joe’s around I definitely recommend trying these shrimp.

I added some to a simple stir fry one night and then decided to try some scampi.  I’m trying to avoid pasta so I used shirataki noodles.  My local grocer has House brand (tofu noodle) so that’s what I use but there is also a Miracle Noodle brand that others say is very good.  The Miracle brand contains no soy and is instead made with a soluble fiber.  The House brand noodles have 20 calories per 4 oz serving and the Miracle Noodle claims 0 calories per serving.

If you try shirataki expecting it to be exactly like other pasta you’ll be disappointed.  These noodles are slightly springy in texture with a firmness similar to al dente pasta.  They soak up the flavors of whatever they are cooked in so make sure to add them to any sauces or broths a few minutes ahead of time to get some flavor in them, they are rather bland by themselves.  You’ll also see a warning on the package about the “natural aroma” of the noodles, it’s definitely noticeable and has a mild fish fragrance.  Simply rinse the noodles for a few minutes in hot water and this aroma will disappear.  I’m sure after reading this description the noodles don’t sound appealing at all but definitely give them a try before passing final judgment.

Enough rambling, on to the recipe.

Shrimp Scampi with Shirataki Fettuccine

Click here to view/print this recipe in Google Docs.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz shrimp (I used Argentine Reds)
  • 8 oz shirataki noodles
  • 1 Tbsp salted butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (or to taste, I use a lot of garlic in mine)
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

Preparation

Add the butter and oil to a pan over medium heat then add the minced garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook until done, I saute mine a couple minutes then put a lid on the pot and let it sit for 3-5 minutes more.  Add the mushrooms, oregano, salt and pepper and continue cooking for a couple minutes until mushrooms are done.  Prepare the shirataki by emptying them into a strainer and rinsing under hot tap water for 1-2 minutes, drain excess water and add to the pan.  Cook for a couple minutes stirring frequently to coat the noodles with the sauce and allow them to soak up the flavors.   Sprinkle with the Parmesan and if desired more ground oregano.  This recipe makes 2 generous servings.

Basic Nutrition Info
(per serving, 2 servings per recipe)

  • 250 calories
  • 7 grams carbs
  • 13 grams fat
  • 28 grams protein

Calorie and Activity Tracking

One thing I’m doing differently this time around with my weight loss is tracking what I eat as well as my activity, it’s been a HUGE help to me.  I was always hesitant to track my food before because I thought it would be a pain to log everything that I eat, and not too long ago it would have been a pain.  But with all these internets we’ve got around us as well as iPads, iPhones and Androids it’s a lot easier to do these days.

I found out that by tracking what I eat it not only keeps me on track for the day but also educates me on what the impact is on certain foods.  You may not realize how much fat, sugar and overall calories are packed in certain foods.  With a good tracking app you can not only find out what’s bad for you but see alternatives to the “bad” foods.  By tracking my exercise I can see the benefits of being active and how many calories I burn with my activities.  Many sites now add a social aspect to your fitness goals, it’s great to have friends join you for support and encouragement… plus a little friendly competition is fun, too.

Here are the sites that I use to track my fitness goals:

reddit.com/r/loseit – If you’re not familiar with Reddit you should check it out.  There are “subreddits” for most interests.  r/loseit is a great forum where people share their successes and challenges, post progress pictures and generally just encourage each other, it’s a very friendly community.  If you head over to Reddit also check out r/fitmeal and r/fitness.

MyFitnessPal.com – Referred to simply as MFP by it’s users.  A great site to track your calorie intake and expenditure each day.  Enter your personal info (age, height, weight, sex, goals) and it will help you target a calorie plan to reach those goals over a set amount of time.  Also gives you charts to show your weight progress (gain or loss) over time.  The site has discussion forums as well.  One of the greatest features of the site is the food database, many common foods are already listed and there is a page to enter your own recipes for future use.  If you use the app on your iPhone you can also simply scan a barcode and enter the serving numbers to track calories.  MFP allows you to have a friends list on the site to share information.

Fitocracy.com – “Fito” is my latest discovery, it’s a very fun site.  Their focus is strictly on the activity side of things, not in calorie tracking.   The format is similar to Twitter with you having an activity feed on your home page but they also incorporate groups and friends to look at special interests.  When you track an activity you get points and you can “Level Up” as you reach certain goals.  Fitocracy also has quests, achievements, challenges and duels to compete with others.  The combination of encouragement from others as well as the competition and the rewards system make this site very addictive, I find myself pushing a bit harder at a workout just to get a few more points to level up or to beat a friend in a duel.

Runkeeper.com – Runkeeper allows you to use your smartphone as a GPS tracker to measure your time, speed and distance when you walk, run, hike or bike.  In addition you can manually enter exercise if you’re inside, like a stationary bike ride.  For GPS-tracked activities it will show you a map of where you traveled as well as the time you were traveling, your pace, distance and total time.  You can view charts on the site to track your progress over time.

These are the sites I use however there are many others that do have similar functions, some even more.  Garmin makes devices that link with their own site to track you much like Runkeeper with your iPhone. Nike+ also has hardware you can purchase as does Fitbit.  Endomondo is another popular fitness tracking site.  If none of these work out for you a bit of searching on Google should find one that suits your needs.

One more note, invest in a good heart rate monitor to help with your tracking.  You’ll be able to get a more true sense of your activity and calories burned per workout.  Polar makes some very highly recommended monitors in a variety of styles.

Please consult with your physician before starting any diet or exercise routine.