Monday, April 29, 2013

Loaded Baked Potato Dip

When I first saw this recipe for a loaded baked potato dip, I knew right away that I needed to make it!  Not only are loaded baked potatoes absolutely delicious, but dips are so quick and easy to toss together (especially if one is short on time).  In addition to this, they make a great side item or appetizer, which you can always serve at any party or function, no matter the time of year. 

I specifically made this dip for a get together/party that I went to on Saturday evening, and I'd have to say it was a hit!  The recipe actually turned out better than I was expecting (I ended up altering some of the ingredients) and I can definitely see myself making it again in the very near future!  So grab a bag of your favorite potato chips and enjoy!

Loaded Baked Potato Dip
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Makes about 4 cups
16 oz. sour cream
3 Tbsp. light mayonnaise
16 slices (12 oz. package) bacon, cooked and crumbled (save a little for garnish)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, plus a little more for garnish
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 Tsp. Lowry’s seasoning
½ tsp. garlic powder

Place all the ingredients into a medium size bowl and using a hand mixer, beat on a medium to low speed until well combined.  Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.  This allows the flavors time to blend. 

Garnish with extra bacon, cheese, and scallions.  Serve with your favorite potato chips!
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Sunday, April 28, 2013

30 Day Paleo Challenge, plus Dark Chocolate-Peanut Butter and Oatmeal No Bake Cookies

I love this quote because it's so true.  I definitely plan to keep going, especially
now that I'm getting back to being able to workout!

Well, my 30 day Paleo Challenge is officially over!!!  Ok, it's actually been over for almost a week.  Sorry that I haven't posted lately, I guess I'm a little bit of a slacker in that department.  Unfortunately though, I have to admit that I kind of slipped towards the end.  I could lie and say that I was good up to the very last day, and stayed strong, but I'm an honest person.  Sadly, the temptations (and no, not the musical group) got the best of me.  It was especially difficult when I was making things for the wedding cake the other weekend and Jeff wasn't around to help sample.  I kind of just felt that if 120 people were going to be eating the cake, and I was getting paid for it, I had better make sure that things tasted ok and were actually edible, which they were.

On the brighter side of things, (yes, I'm always positive) I'm proud that I stayed true to the paleo challenge for as long as I did, even over my spring break.  I also feel that if I'd been able to exercise during the challenge,  I might have actually lost some weight.  During the first two weeks or so, I was feeling really good, both physically and emotionally.  After that, I'd honestly have to say that I didn't notice much of a difference.  However, this could be due to the fact, that I was already growing accustomed to feeling healthy.  I'd love to (and plan to) retry this challenge once I'm back to my old self and am able to run and workout at the gym again.  I miss my trainers.  As of the other day, I've been very slowly getting back into my routine, but am not quite there yet.  I don't want to overdo it and injury myself again.

So now it's time to share something sweet........

What other way is there to end a challenge like this one, then with a delicious and incredibly unhealthy, but addictive recipe.  These Dark Chocolate-Peanut Butter and Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies are beyond addictive.  Just remember that you've been warned, because truthfully, the whole batch could disappear before you know what happened. 

Dark Chocolate-Peanut Butter and Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
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Makes about 30 cookies
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
2 cups sugar
½ cup milk (I used skim, not that it matters with all that sugar)
4 Tbsp. Hersey’s Special Dark Chocolate Cocoa powder
½ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla
3 ¼ cups Quaker Old Fashioned Oats

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, milk, and cocoa powder.  Place the pan over a medium heat, whisking until the ingredients are smooth and come to a boil.  Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute and then remove the pan from the heat.

Add in the vanilla and peanut butter and whisk around until the mixture is completely smooth.  Lastly, add in the oats and stir until they’re well coated with the chocolate and the mixture begins to slightly thicken.

Now, lay some wax paper flat on the counter top.  Then drop 1-2 Tbsp. of the cookie mixture onto the paper.  Allow the cookies to completely harden, and then serve.  (I stored the extra cookies in a Tupperware container and placed the container in the refrigerator.)

 Source: Running Upward

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Juline's Wedding Cake

This post takes the cake....quite literally!

I know that I haven't posted anything new within the past few days, but like I warned you, I've been extremely busy in the kitchen.  I'm incredibly excited too, to share my most recent baking accomplishment!  Juline's wedding cake!  I keep telling myself that one of these days I'll take a cake decorating class or two, but as for now, I'll just keep it as a hobby/second job.

So let me take a moment or two now, to share my baking process with you, because a wedding cake, as you might have already guessed, can be pretty time consuming. However, I absolutely love every second of decorating a cake, except of course for the dishes.

The Cake:

The whole cake process really began on Wednesday evening.  That's when I originally started baking the first 4 cakes, and I didn't finish baking until Thursday night.  (Actually, I should say that the process really started last Saturday, when I cut the flowers out of gum paste, in order to make sure they had adequate time to dry out.)  When Friday rolled around, it was all about frosting, filling, and decorating the cakes, which was definitely the most time consuming, but fun part! 

I ended up using a new recipe too, for the buttercream frosting and will definitely stick to this one from now on.  Honestly, it was to die for (Yes, I had to cave and try a small sample, but only because it was the first time I made it this way).  It was definitely a hit too, because guests who attended the wedding came up to me to say that they loved the frosting, and that they're usually not frosting people.

Buttercream Frosting: (cut in half for smaller cakes)
4 sticks butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
8 cups (maybe a little more) confectioner's sugar
2-3 Tbsp. French Vanilla Coffeemate Creamer (I use sugar-free, not that it matters)

After the cakes were decorated, I placed small dowel rods into each layer, for additional support, and also to ensure that the layers wouldn't cave down onto the one below it.  You should be able to see the rods in the photo below.

Once the cakes were set, Jeff helped me spend some time stringing together fake pearls, which ended up going around the cake layers.  Overall, I'd have to say that I'm very pleased with how the wedding cake turned out!  I was a little worried at first, when Juline informed me that she didn't want any color on the cake, but I definitely like it better this way.  I feel that it gives the cake a very elegant look.

Ok....I have to take a minute now, to give my husband Jeff a big, public thank you!  I couldn't have done it without him!  The reason I say this is because Jeff not only helped me daily with dishes, but he also sat and strung pearls with me for about one and a half hours Friday night, then helped me pack the cakes into his Jeep, and also drove me to the Country Club where I needed to set the cake up.  Jeff even helped me carry the cake inside, layer by layer.  I'm so lucky that he's such a good sport about things!

Cake Details:
Bottom layer (14") - Marble cake with a buttercream filling and fresh strawberries
2nd layer (12") - Yellow cake with a buttercream filling
3rd layer (10") - Yellow cake with a buttercream filling and fresh strawberries
Top layer (8") - Yellow cake with a buttercream filling

Juline's wedding cake topper was her grandparent's from their anniversary cake.  I loved it!

Got to love instagram!

Nothing beats the feeling of being a part of a friend's special day!  I wish Juline and Jesse a lifetime of happiness together!  Thanks for trusting me to be a part of your wedding.

Monday, April 15, 2013

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 23 (Bavarian Meatball Sub in the Slow Cooker)


First off, being a runner myself, let me start today's post by expressing my sympathy for the runners' and the city of Boston.  They are definitely in my, and pretty much all of our thoughts and prayers.

So today offically marks day 23, which means there are only 7 days left!  I honestly can't believe how fast the time is going.  Unfortunately I don't have a lot of time to type up a lengthy post though, mostly because I have a lot of things I need to get done tonight.  I do however, really want to take just a minute to share a fantastic and super easy, meatball sub recipe.  I'm one who's always on the look out for a great tasting slow cooker recipe, and this is definitely one of them.....or so I was told. I'm also one who always trusts my taste tester because as far as I know, he hasn't lied to me yet!

Bavarian Meatball Sub in the Slow Cooker
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2 packages Italian meatballs
½ a small onion, chopped
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 package dry onion soup mix
12 oz. Coca-Cola zero
Hoagie Rolls, split in half
1 package, shredded Swiss cheese

In a slow cooker, coated with cooking spray, place the meatballs, onion, brown sugar, soup mix, and coke zero.  Turn the cooker on low and set for 3.5 – 4 hours, or until the meatballs are heated through.

Once they are finished, place the hoagie rolls onto a baking sheet, add a few of the prepared meatballs, and top with the desired amount of Swiss cheese.  Place the pan into the oven, on broil, for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the rolls have turned a nice golden brown color around the edges.


Slightly adapted from Six Sisters

Sunday, April 14, 2013

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 22

The month of April already seems to be flying by, which is honestly fine with me, because that means summer will be here before we know it!  Random side note:  I love summer, and in fact, it already kind of feels like summer outside.  At least down here in the South, the weather's been absolutely beautiful!  Now, I know that some of you are probably thinking I'm crazy, it's only April 14th, but I have a very busy week ahead of me, and time always seems to disappear whenever that happens.  I promise to try my best though, to continue to update my blog throughout the week, especially seeing my challenge is beginning to wind down.  Unfortunately though, I have school during the day, and in the evenings I'll be working on a wedding cake for my friend Juliene, so my free time will be pretty sparse.  Juliene's wedding is this upcoming weekend and I'm so excited for her and Jesse.

I first met Juliene not too long after Jeff and I moved down to North Carolina.  At the time, she was roommates with my team member, Mark, who taught science.  Over the years, I discovered that Juliene herself loves to bake, so when she asked me if I'd make the cake for her wedding, I felt truly honored.  By now, some of you who read my blog, already know that if I had to choose between baking and cooking, I'd choose baking in a heartbeat.  I absolutely love making savory sweets for people!  I'm usually pretty good too, about not eating what I make, but I am known to take small samples during the process, just to make sure everything tastes the way it should, and that it's edible.  However, due to my challenge, I'm going to have to rely solely on my wonderful taste tester and husband, Jeff.  I foresee a very good week is in his future!

Anyway........getting back on topic and back to my challenge.......Last night I made myself Turkey Zucchini Boats, and already have plans to modify the recipe in the future.  This is not because they weren't delicious, but mostly due to the fact that there are a multitude of toppings and combinations that I want to try out.  However, here's how I made them last night:

Turkey Zucchini Boats
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Makes 2 boats (single serving)
1 large zucchini
8-10 oz. lean ground turkey (I cooked a pound so I would have leftovers for a salad later)
1 small onion chopped
½ Tbsp. chili powder
½ Tbsp. cumin
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ packet taco seasoning (Or a whole packet if cooking a pound)
Salsa (as much as desired)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While the oven is preheating, cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then, using a melon baller, hollow out the middles.  Save the hollowed out portion of the zucchini for later use.  Now, place the zucchini face down in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute.  Remove the halves and place into a shallow baking dish that’s been lightly coated with olive oil (I use the spray). 

In a medium to large skillet lightly brown the ground turkey along with the onion.  As the turkey is cooking, add in the chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder.  Once the turkey has browned, and any excess grease has been drained, add in the taco seasoning and follow the directions from the packet.

Once the meat is ready, pour the desired amount (only if cooking extra, otherwise place it all) into a medium size bowl.  Add in the desired amount of salsa, and the chopped up, hollowed out, zucchini pieces.  Stir around until well combined.

Next, scoop the meat mixture into the prepared zucchini boats filling them as full as you would like.  Garnish the boats with a little extra salsa, cover with aluminum foil, and then place the baking dish in the oven.  Let them bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the zucchini is cooked through.

Remove from the oven and serve warm!

(I think these would be great topped with a Mexican sauce and some cheddar cheese.  The only reason I didn’t do it myself was due to eating Paleo)
Inspired by: Skinny Taste
My Menu for Day 22:
Breakfast: 3 egg whites + 1 whole egg, 3 slices Canadian bacon
Lunch: Salad - 2 cups spinach, 3 strawberries (cut) 7 small blackberries, 1/2 a pear, 3 oz. shredded chicken, 2 oz. ham, 1/2 Tbsp. chopped pecans, and a dash of balsamic vinegar
Snack: 100 calorie almonds
Dinner: Leftover Turkey Zucchini Boat

Friday, April 12, 2013

Copycat P.F Chang's Mongolian Beef

One of the only good things about my sports injury is that it means I have plenty of time to cook a nice dinner once I arrive home from school.  On an average day, I’m typically torn between working out and making dinner, mostly because I love to do both!  I know that I always could do both, but I hate to eat after 8:00 p.m., mostly because I feel that it’s too close to my bed time.  Yes, that’s right, I go to bed early, but in all fairness, I do get up at 3:00 a.m.

So last night, seeing I’ve been eating Paleo, (which means that Jeff has sort of been fending for himself) I decided to make a special dinner.  Jeff’s always been a fan of steak; therefore I decided to surprise him with a copycat recipe of P.F. Chang’s Mongolian Beef.  It must have been pretty good too, because he literally ate the entire dish.  I did cut back on the steak portion though, but next time I’ll definitely be using the entire pound.

My Paleo Dinner: Chicken and Ham Spinach Salad
2 cups baby spinach
4 oz. shredded chicken
1 oz. cubed ham
½ avocado
4 snap peas (cut in pieces)
2 Tbsp. fresh salsa

P.F. Chang’s Copycat Mongolian Beef
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2 tsp. vegetable oil
½ tsp. ginger, minced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
½ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
½ cup water
¾ cup dark brown sugar
Vegetable oil for frying (about ¾ cup)
1 lb. Flank steak
¼ cup cornstarch
2 green onions, chopped (optional)

In a medium saucepan, over a medium-low temperature, heat the 2 tsp. vegetable oil. (make sure not to make it too hot!)  Add in the ginger and garlic, and then quickly pour in the soy sauce, plus, water so that the ingredients don’t burn.  Place the dark brown sugar into the liquid and allow to dissolve, you may need to stir around a bit.  Now, increase the heat to medium and boil the ingredients for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Begin by cutting the steak into about ¼” bite-size slices.  Once the slices are ready dip them into the cornstarch, making sure that each side is lightly coated.  Let the beef slices sit for about 10 minutes allowing the cornstarch to sink in. 

While you’re waiting for the beef to finish, heat up the ¾ cup vegetable oil in a wok set over a medium heat.  It should be nice and hot, but not boiling.  Once ready, add the beef to the wok and sauté the slices until nice and brown.  Make sure to stir the beef around during this process to ensure that it cooks evenly.  When it’s down cooking, remove the slices from the oil and place on a plate with paper towel, in order to absorb the extra oil and then pat dry.

Add the beef slices to the sauce, and stir together.  Place the saucepan back on the stove, over a medium/low heat.  Add the chopped green onions and allow to simmer until warm.

Remove the pan from the heat, and serve.

Source: Six Sister Stuff

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 18 (Caulifower Chicken Fried Rice)

Even though I absolutely love to travel, it's always a nice feeling when I arrive home and can get back into my routine.  I'd definitely consider myself a person who follows a routine too, which is just another reason I hate the fact I'm not healed from my tendon strain yet. 

However, here's what my daily routine looked like before my injury and what it will look like again as soon as I heal.
Routine:  up at 3 a.m. to workout on my treadmill, at 5:20 head to the gym at my husband's office, then at 7:15 head into school.  After school, at 4:45, to help me unwind from my day, either go for a walk on my treadmill or go outside for a relaxing run
I know that some of you who are reading this might be shaking your head at this point, because I've been told by some before that is a little excessive, but I honestly don't care.  I absolutely love to exercise and it makes me happy.  If I didn't enjoy to workout, then I wouldn't do it.

As of right now, my 30 day Paleo Challenge continues to be a huge success.  I even had time to try a new and delicious recipe tonight that I feel the need to share.  It's a recipe I've been wanting to try for awhile now, but have never been too motivated, due to all the healthy ingredients.  However, since I changed my eating habits, it actually works out perfectly and when I came across it again, I knew that I needed to make it.  The meal is Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice and it is utterly fantastic!  Instead of using rice, I placed some cauliflower into the food processor to rice it, and honestly if I didn't know it was cauliflower, I wouldn't know the difference.  My husband, Jeff, even ate it, which says a lot because there is no way I could ever just get him to take a bite of cauliflower, it's too healthy.

Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice
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3 cups riced cauliflower
2 cooked chicken breasts (shredded)
¾ cup frozen peas and carrots
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, diced
½ Tbsp. olive oil
4 egg whites, scrambled
3 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce

In a large wok or skillet, set over a medium/high heat, and coated with the olive oil, sauté together the garlic and onions.  Continue to sauté until the onions become transparent.  This process should take about 2-3 minutes.

Next, add in the peas and carrots and continue to cook until they’re heated through and appear soft in texture.  Once they’re ready, add in the chicken and stir around.  Lastly, add in the cauliflower, scrambled eggs, and soy sauce.  Continue to cook the mixture for about 5-7 minutes, making sure to stir together frequently, which will ensure that everything is well combined.

Serve warm, and garnish with any other healthy choice toppings you might enjoy!

Source: Inspired by and adapted from Family Fresh Meals

Sunday, April 7, 2013

30 Day Paleo Challange: Day 15

I can't believe that today already marks the 15th day of my challenge, which leads me to wonder, where's the time gone?  Truthfully, it really seems like just yesterday that I began eating Paleo.  Overall though, I'd have to say that things are going well!  Not only am I constantly feeling healthy and full, but I've actually managed to lose a few inches (without exercise), and haven't been craving junk food.  I even went grocery shopping today and had no problems buying certain food items for Jeff, that I knew I wouldn't be able to eat myself.

I feel it's important to point out though, that when eating Paleo, as with any other diet for that matter, it really does become easier once you make it over the initial hump and your body has a chance to detox and reset itself.  The first few days are definitely the worst, especially when it comes to food cravings.  However, if you plan to stick with it and don't cave, I know that you can and will succeed. 
Failure is a choice, it doesn't just happen, so decide right now that you're not going to.

Random side note:  I'm so happy to be home again, because now I can go back to creating and eating from a set menu and share some new recipes, although it's very difficult to believe spring break 2013 is already over.  As with any break from work, it went by too incredibly fast.  I guess that means the countdown to summer can commence!

Friday, April 5, 2013

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 12 and 13

I can't believe that I'm almost halfway through my challenge and still going strong.  To be honest, I really thought that I'd have had a minor slip by now, but I haven't (not even a small bite, or sip of anything that I shouldn't).  Yesterday was awfully tempting too, because I chose to go out to eat with some girlfriends and each of them ordered an afternoon drink (Hey, it's 5 o'clock somewhere).  One ordered a scrumptious looking mudslide (my favorite) and the other one ordered a refreshing looking mango margarita.  Yum!  I can't lie either; I definitely wanted a sip, but I knew that if I had one sip it would eventually lead me to wanting another, and then it'd just go completely down hill from there. 

Over time I've slowly discovered that when it comes to my eating habits, that's my biggest problem.  I tell myself that I'll just have a single bite, or take a tiny sip of something small, and then, before I know it, a whole bag of chocolate, (dark Dove is my favorite) or a large beverage, of some sort, is completely gone.  I'm very well aware that I can lose self-control sometimes, but at least I can admit it, and am currently working on addressing the issue in order to ensure that it won't happen again.

As far as my food intake over the last few days is concerned, I've 100% stuck to the Paleo lifestyle.  I'd really like to be able to share some new recipes today, but once again, with me being on spring break and being away from home, I've not really been able to cook or stick to a specific daily menu.  Here's a list of some foods I've been eating though and incorporating into my meals:

Breakfast Items:
Chicken bites (just cooked in a skillet)
Omelet (with cubed ham and spinach)
1/2 an avocado

Lunch Items:
Chicken brat
Salad (chicken, ham, spinach, zucchini)
Red and Green Peppers

Almonds                   Strawberries              Zucchini
Walnuts                     Blueberries
Beef Jerky                 Apples
Snow Peas                Gum

Dinner Items:
Salad (spinach, avocado, chicken, pear)
Rotisserie chicken
Fruit salad (pear, oranges, grapes, kiwi)
Oriental turkey lettuce wraps

I'm positive that I've left a couple food items off this list, but I really can't remember what they are.  Thinking back over the last few days too, and looking at the lists, I really need to cut back on my fruit intake.  I know that it's good for you, but I feel that I've had too much of it this week, especially seeing I still cannot work out.  In fact, my injury seems to be hurting a little more then it was.  I really just need to take it easy for a few days and slow down when I walk (walking fast seems to make it worse) but I just hate to walk slow.  I'm determined to get better though.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 11

Let me start by saying that there's no recipe following today's post.  Mostly this is due to the fact that I'm on my spring break, and haven't been doing much cooking.  Well, actually I have, but nothing too fancy, and I don't have my camera with me to take photos. 

I can't believe that I'm already on day 11 of this challenge!  Time seems to be flying by, and I'm honestly feeling great and continue to resist so many temptations!  It's all about will power, and each day it becomes easier.  I actually even got out my tape measure this morning, to record my inches, and noticed that I've gone down a little bit; not much, but some.  I was really somewhat surprised by this too, mostly because I haven't been moving around much; less than 3,000 steps a day actually.  This is due to the fact that the tendon in my leg has started to act up again (apparently I've been making too many quick movements, no exercising though).  Due to this I'm definitely taking it easy, mostly because I really, really, really, want to get back to working out.  It's something that I greatly miss and feel incomplete when I'm not able to do so.  Most people I'm surrounded by, who also enjoy to exercise, know and completely understand where I'm coming from and they're constantly encouraging me that it'll get better soon.  For the time being though, it's very frustrating; mostly because it's out of my control and I don't like it.

This is why the Paleo challenge has been so helpful.  I know that I can be somewhat of a control freak and I love a good challenge!  It has definitely been keeping me distracted and has also made not being able to workout somewhat easier. When I get home on Saturday, I'll be making a new menu, and will get back to posting recipes.  Recently I've found so many delicious looking Paleo ones that I can't wait to try out.  I'll keep you posted (Yes, pun intended)!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

30-Day Paleo Challenge: Day 6-10

I feel bad that I haven't been able to post for the last few days of my challenge, but unfortunately I haven't had Internet access until just now, (thank you Starbucks) and with it being Easter weekend, things became slightly busy.

I'm happy to report now however, that I successfully made it through the holiday weekend without slipping!  Truthfully, I was a little worried that I might not be able to, but thankfully I have friends and family that are very supportive.  This positive reinforcement gives me the confidence to say, "there's no stopping me now!", especially when I'm surrounded by so many delicious looking, and sweet temptations.  Honestly though, the challenge is actually becoming easier and easier, and I'm happy to report that I'm no longer craving anything sweet.  Sure, there are moments when I glance around at the food I'm surrounded by, and think, 'yum' (oreos, Hersey's chocolate, snickers bars, etc.) but I don't really think about eating any of it, which is just so unlike the old me.  Less then 10 days ago, if I happened to be sitting next to one of those bags/packages, they would be taunting and teasing me to just go over and taste them.

As far as my meals go, I wish that I could write down an official menu for the last few days, like I've been doing, but unfortunately I've been on the go, and therefore didn't have a specific plan.  I've just been sticking to what I know and have been eating my lean protein (chicken, eggs, turkey), vegetables, some fruits, and almonds.

Due to my lack of a specific meal plan for the past few days, I'll just share some previous recipes that would work for this challenge.
Former recipes that would work for the Paleo Challenge:



(Just make without the cheese)