My Top 3 “Substitute” Foods and The Power of Habit

I like carbs. I like carbs a lot. When I play the “desert island” game, I’m pretty sure bread’s on my list of things I would require. And cheese, don’t even get me started on cheese. I eat it, and my tongue smiles, my insides beam with light, and my entire well-being is temporarily bursting with euphoria.

So let’s be honest, a part of me is screaming: “PALEOOOOOO!!!!!! I WILL AVENGE THEE!!”

Nonetheless, if I were to honestly evaluate the past 8 days of being strictly on this way of eating (we are no longer using the “d” word here at Chez Haley), I’ve come up with the following conclusions:

1) It’s not THAT hard to go without dairy; I was pretty much using it as a reason to avoid cooking meat and preparing vegetables. It takes two seconds for me to grab a few string cheeses or slop a bunch of cocoa powder in my quart of Fage and call it “dinner”, but that doesn’t make it okay.

2) Just as in everyday life, there is a way around the rules. Enter: substitutes.

You don’t have to be “paleo” to appreciate healthier alternatives to things like pizza, pancakes, and chocolate cake. You just don’t. As much as I espouse this movement in my writing, I do want to make it clear that I am not strictly a “Paleo blog”. My utmost intention is to provide you with good information that will allow you to live life more thoroughly. And as I’ve always stated, my proverbial door is open if you wish to tell me that I am failing at that. I mean that honestly.

Anyway, below are some of my favorite food subsititues of all time, let alone on the paleo protocol, along with links. to recipes I’ve cooked – or will cook very shortly here. Because God knows I don’t yet have the talent to create something this fantastic myself.


3. Zucchini pasta noodles

I just love pasta. Who doesn’t? Well, my Mom. But unless you’re my Mom, you are crazy-cray for not loving buttery, saucy carbosity all up in yo’ grill.

…yes. My eccentricity aside, I was so thrilled to have discovered “zoodles” through one of the best-known paleo food blogs, Nom Nom Paleo. While she had me at her blog’s name, Michelle Tam has captured the hearts of thousands of bloggers, journalists, and general food-lovers with her amazing, award-winning recipes that even sugar-fueled carboholics love. I recreated her Zoodles Recipe without meatballs and with goat cheese and it was incredible. I did it a second time with just plain ghee and it was even more incredible! Less is more, sometimes. Once you can nail down cooking time for your preferred firmness, this is the best thing ever.

Wish List (aka, “You WILL see me make this in the future” List)

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce


2. Pizza made with cauliflower crust

Oh man, if there’s one thing I love even more than pasta, it’s pizza. I’ve made this recipe before and it was simple, yet fantastic. It’s been over a year since I made this, but images of the tender crust and party of flavors still infiltrates my memory. Pizza, being the paragon of carby-cheesy fantasia, is adored the world over. Now you can enjoy a slice or 7 without capitulating! Yes, this recipe in its entirety only contains about 515 calories. That’s the amount in ONE large piece of Papa John’s cheese pizza. LOLWUT?!

The best recipes made with alternative crusts (lol) are also paired with cheese, though I’ve seen many-a dairy-free pizza online that looked incredible.

Wish List

Paleo Chicken Pesto Pizza



1. Chocolate mug cake

Because chocolate.

Seriously, though. This has to be my number one for multiple reasons. It’s ridiculously easy, it’s fast, and it’s freaking chocolate. I cannot exude enough positivity over having discovered this. Whether I’m in a bind in the morning, need a mid-day boost, or am itching for a pre-workout snack, this recipe has been there for me through thick and thin. I made this recipe from PaleOMG and have been using it regularly for over a year.

Little did I know that there’s even an entire food group dedicated to “mug cake”.

Wish List

Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

Cinnamon-Apple Mug Cake

I suppose the lesson here is that no matter what way you eat, you can make it fun. And fun is a wonderful thing.


On another note, let’s talk about habit.

Ah, yes. Habit. We all have habits – positive and negative alike. Most of us are trying to create positive ones that we will stick with for the duration of our lives. All of us have bad ones that we would like to rid ourselves of. It’s no secret that bad habits die hard and good habits are hard to form, so how do we deal?

15 minutes a day.

15 minutes a day will get you fluent in another language. It will get you in shape. It will help you ace an exam. Commit yourself to 15 minutes of doing something every day and see where it goes. You could even try for 10 if it makes it easier. We all have 10 minutes to spare, right?

Another way to get yourself in the habit of something is to have a sense of accountability. That person or other motivator that keeps you in check. It could be a friend, a family member, a paycheck, an app, or just the CEO of U (aka, yourself, and the most important person in your life). It’s all about motivation and feeling “responsible” in a way. If you don’t feel a sense responsibility to do it, you won’t do it.

Brief as it was, I suppose you can consider that my extended “Thought of the Day”.

Off to my 15 minutes of exercise.

Recipe of the Moment (ROTM): Brussels Chips ‘n’ Bacon Bits

I really, TRULY should be sleeping. I’ve even set a timer for myself for writing this entry: 30 minutes, no más. If I can come within ten minutes of exceeding that, I’ll be impressed with myself. 

Anyway, after a cringe-inducing day (let’s just say: I could definitely improve upon my “wingin’ it” skills), I chose to remedy the overdriven state of my noggin with some gym therapy. I once wrote an essay about the mental health benefits of exercise, and for good reason: it works! I get a little miserable if I don’t move for a while, so this was a much-needed interlude in my evening. What was even better was the nourishment that followed said physical indulgence: enter, the latest and greatest snack craze – BRUSSELS CHIPS!


These things are so dang good, they’ll erase any memory you had of hating brussels sprouts as a kid, I promise that. The bacon probably helps. As to why I’m eating something so seemingly random, I do feel obligated to jump in and let you guys know that I have returned to the paleo way of things. Except this time, I’m doing the unthinkable. Yes, I’m giving up dairy in addition to everything else that paleo already bans. So no grains, beans, sugar, peanuts, or even cheese, which everyone knows is my favorite food on the planet and planets beyond.

What kind of sadistic person am I, you ask? Why in  the world would I give up my favorite food in existence for a “crazy diet fad?”

I suppose it’s because I’m curious, and not just because of paleo. Paleo isn’t the first “diet” to associate dairy with negative effects. That was a vegan thing before it was a paleo thing. It’s also part of the “GFCF” thing that some circles are talking about for autism prevention. I’ve found, however, that research is difficult to do on food unless you experience food yourself, so I’m taking the initiative and going at least four weeks without dairy to see if I feel any better or different. Today was my first day. 

Audience: “Alright, let’s just get to the brussels chips.” Done deal. Allow me to regale the story of…

Brussels Chips with Bacon

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients: 7-10 minutes (depending on how burnt you like your chips)

Outer leaves from at least 10 large brussels sprouts (for 1 serving…and believe me, you’ll want more than one!)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2-4 strips of bacon


1. Peel the outer leaves from as many brussels sprouts as you have the patience for. I had peeled about 30 smaller ones, which took monumental concentration and perseverance, thank you.

2. Stick ’em in a bag and pour some olive oil, salt, and pepper in there to taste. Even if you have a ton of leaves, do not put more than one tablespoon in there; you don’t want them too oily.

3. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes – even more if you want them extra crispy.

4. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into small strips/bits (I literally cut them, as seen below) and microwave for 2-3 minutes. I know, I’m lazy. If you want to get fancy, simply place the bits in the oven with the sprouts, with the understanding that 1) you need to ensure the bits are actually bits and not strips and 2) the grease will saturate the leaves and might make them soggy.

5. After everything is done cooking, toss the two together in the same bag and – voilà! You’ve created a masterpiece.

I suppose I’ll need to give a formal update tomorrow after I have these as my work snack, but I’m predicting some great snacking power here already. Feel free to try this and let me know your thoughts. 

By the way: 23 minutes. Not bad!

– H

Thought of the Day: If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic! (from “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” by Napoleon Hill)

The Great Beaver State, or How to Properly Do (a large chunk of) Oregon in One Week’s Time


In spite of my relatively limited travels throughout the region, I firmly maintain that the Pacific Northwest is the best kept secret of the United States. While the world and worlds beyond are aware of the rich history of New England, the bustling megalopolises of New York and Chicago, and the glitz and glam of Hollywood, the PNDubs gets a rap for the purported following attributes: rainy, cold, and depressing. My friends, that is exactly what the locals want you to think.

With lush evergreenery, a plethora of outdoor activities, and a restaurant scene that makes tastebuds sing, states like Oregon and Washington are anything but depressing. I was fortunate enough to spend an entire week in Oregon traveling alone. During the trip, I was able to experience the state in full panoramic view: from the windswept oceans, to the uniquely defined and vivacious pockets of Portland, to the serene mountains and even down to the sunkissed, arid climate of Central Oregon. I got to eat eel pie at a fancy French restaurant, drive on the beach, and ski on an active volcano. I got to bike across the Willamette River, sip tea in a Chinese garden, and buy some of the funkiest comics I’ve ever seen. I got to be a tourist and, dare I say, melted into the background as a local whenever I chose to be. I sometimes laid down with my computer at night and, while blogging about my days, sat in disbelief at my recently transpired experiences. I came back rejuvenated with great memories and an enormous reminder of the splendor and beauty of this world. If this cheesy paragraph is enough to convince you, I encourage you to visit.

…and now that you’re convinced – let’s start planning! 🙂

In the hopes of helping you along, here is a basic itinerary of what I did, along with more fun and helpful stuff.


Day 1: Flew into Portland. Ate Peruvian in the upscale, posh Pearl District and spent some time in Sellwood-Moreland area, a fairly quiet, family-oriented area with a grand array of old Craftsman/Victorian homes. Stayed with a family I found on AirBnB, which I recommend far and above any other type of lodging any day. Stayed in Portland.

photo 4
Tanner Springs Park – Pearl District, Portland

Day 2: Biked from SM to downtown and spent the day there. Saw the Saturday/Sunday market, the library, the “token spots” of Oregon (Powell’s Books, Voodoo Doughnut, etc.) and spent the night exploring some spots in East Burnside, including the most expensive restaurant I’ve ever dined at in my life, ever. Stayed in Portland.

Cherry blossoms in bloom near Saturday Market, downtown Portland

Day 3: Spent the morning/afternoon exploring more of natural/historical Portland (Pittock Mansion, Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum) and later set course for Seaside. Spent the evening strolling the beaches and having dinner on “The Prom”, Seaside’s boardwalk and primary center of entertainment. Stayed in Seaside.

Zen garden in Portland Japanese Garden

Day 4: Spent the day exploring the finest of the Northern Oregon Coast – Astoria, home of the famous Astoria Column and, of course, the Goonies house; Cannon Beach, which holds the gargantuan and impressive Haystack Rock as well as Ecola State Park and Indian Beach; Tillamook, where vast pastures and fun attractions (the Tillamook Cheese Factory and the Air Museum) await thee; and Cape Lookout, where I got trapped in a marsh and fell in a pile of mud one can see some of the most breathtaking scenery on the Pacific Coast. Returned to and stayed in Seaside.

Haystack Rock – Cannon Beach

Day 5: Headed due east for Mt. Hood and skiied there for the day. Later explored the area around my hotel in nearby Welches and found fantastic hiking in forests that looked almost prehistoric. Stayed in Welches.

A terrible picture of Mt. Hood. But hey, it’s Mt. Hood!

Day 6: In a spontaneous fit of adventure, headed south to Smith Rock State Park and spent the day hiking most of the trails available. Went south another skosh to Bend and explored more nearby hiking as well as the charming downtown for amazing sushi. Stayed in Bend.

Monkey Face Spire – Smith Rock State Park (near Redmond and Terrebonne, 25 minutes from Bend)

Day 7: Made the journey back up from Bend to Portland and saw Multnomah Falls, the Chinese Garden, and Forest Park. Rested up before enjoying delectable Argentine food and a blast of a show at the swaggalicious Doug Fir in east Burnside. Stayed in Portland.

Forest Park, Portland

Day 8: Made like a local and hit up Mississippi Avenue and the Alberta Arts district for some satisfying art spotting and antinque-trinket shopping, not to mention otherworldly ice cream-tasting. Headed out in the late afternoon to return to make my journey back to life.

Lavendar and Pear/Blue Cheese Ice Cream from Salt and Straw. That went into my belly.


Airfare: …is completely dependent on where you’re coming from. My flight from Phoenix was purchased about 2 and 1/2 months in advance and cost about $215 roundtrip.

Where I stayed: Peoples’ house on AirBnB (best option), motels (decent option), and hotels (if-you-must option). $44-120 a night. Backpacking is an option I haven’t explored, but I’m sure you could do that and go even cheaper.

How I got around: Rented a car. HIGHLY recommend if you want to see the varying landscapes of the state. $576 total (ouch, but worth it), and only because I was born in 1990. Yeah, there’s a $200 underage fee added to your rental bill if you are under 25, which is something to consider when you’re a child like me traveling. Lame.

I also spent about $120 on gas the whole time I was there – quite a bargain for the amount of ground I covered, but it helped that my car had half-decent gas mileage. That includes tips to the attendants who pumped my gas for me – how exciting that was to experience for the first time ever! 🙂

Where I ate: Portland is one of those cities that offers myriad food choices that appease anyone and fit any budget. I chose to go the more dollar-burning route and ate the vast majority of my lunches and dinners out. It’s the cross for an aspiring foodie to bear, I suppose. Meals, like anywhere, can vary in price from $5-105, but I opted to spend about $60/day on food on average and ate QUITE handsomely. Again, though, there are food trucks galore throughout the city and they are EXTREMELY good. Not as many chain restaurants, but you’ll find a few and do fine if you so choose.

What I did for fun: Portland and Oregon in general have a TON of attractions and things to do outdoors. That being said, most of these cost at least something. State parks are generally $5 for a day pass. Local attractions like the Pittock Mansion or Japanese Garden run about $9-20. Certain places like Forest Park or some of the falls are totally free for both parking and visiting. You can avoid the ore expensive sites and still have an absolute blast, particularly if you’re active and like the outdoors.


Favorite parts of the trip: Cue obligatory “ALL OF IT”, but in the spirit of decisiveness: my meal at Le Pigeon (see “most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten in my life, ever”), Smith Rock State Park, and the concert at the ‘Fir.

What I’d do differently next time: Purchase an annual park pass to save money on parking, check the weather before going skiing a little more carefully, and visit Southern Oregon to see the Shakespeare Festival, Mt. Hood, and my uncle who lives in Roseburg. I’d also try out some of the Portland brewery tours, as those are extremely popular in the city. Don’t even get me started on the dunes in Florence!

You’d like this trip if…: you love the outdoors, you want both solitude and urban buzz within close range of each other, or if you love food. Depending on the type of you, you should probably also be cool with rain.

For more detailed info: Ask me. I’m an open book.

Happy traveling, or should I say living!

– H

Thought of the Day: Practice patience. Do something, wait 20 minutes, then decide if it’s ready to be done/sent/submitted/shipped.