Jordann Windschauer really wanted to eat something sweet - despite being in the middle of a Paleo Diet challenge at her CrossFit gym.
For weeks, she couldn't eat cereal grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt and refined vegetable oils. Fruit was sort of filling the gap, but the cookies were calling her name.
"I started going on the internet and looking into recipes," said the 23-year-old University of South Florida graduate and part-time trainer at CrossFit 813. "I tried a lot of things and I ended up making so much of it, my boyfriend would take the extras into work."
One day, the requests started to come in and The Paleo Box was born.
Windschauer, founder of the bakery, runs the business with a partner and a baker and her baked goods can be found in Fitlife Foods stores and several other locations around the Tampa Bay area.
The shop also takes special orders through its web site and allows purchasers to choose which location they'd like to pick up from.
Creating her bakery has kept Windschauer on track with her Paleo Diet even after the challenge ended.
"I'd say I'm about 95 percent Paleo," Windschauer laughed. "My boyfriend and I still like to have frozen yogurt on Sundays. But every other day, I adhere to it."
She extols the diet for the newfound energy she has, and even credits it with her being able to relax.
"Before I started the diet, I would have trouble getting to sleep and sleeping," Windschauer said. "Now, I can just relax and go right to sleep."
Since opening on Jan. 24, The Paleo Box's offerings have expanded to include muffins, brownies, banana bread, granola, and Snickerdoodle cookies.
Recently, they've even begun selling sandwich bread and seasonal pumpkin bread to help dieters along.
The recipes rely heavily on almond flour, coconut flour, eggs and almond milk to achieve the baked good taste without the use of refined sugar, flour and dairy. Everything's ovo-vegetarian for those looking for cruelty-free food. Results sometimes give the products a more coarse consistency but even when sweetened with honey the tastes can be spot-on.
The Paleo Box's big winner is the granola, which requires a spoon or fork but is chock full of tasty almonds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, honey, maple syrup, dried fruits and seasoned with coconut oil, cinnamon and sea salt.
"The granola is my favorite," said Lindsay Pawlak, 32, The Paleo Box's full-time baker. "It's more of a soft granola and it just tastes so good."
With the nut heavy recipes, the calorie counts aren't much lower than other baked-good offerings. But Windschauer said the beauty of Paleo is the ability of the human body to easily process the ingredients and burn the natural fats to make energy.
Pawlak said that the lack of preservatives also poses a challenge - the food spoils faster and should be refrigerated until you're ready to eat.
Depending on the recipe, it takes Pawlak three to six tries to get a baked treat just right for consumption. The agonizing is part perfectionism and part a product of the medium she's working in.
Pawlak's a trained French Pastry chef who once worked at a Ritz-Carlton and now spends four to six hours a day cooking up orders for customers and stores.
"My background has helped me with learning proper formulas and adapting a traditional recipe using liquid and dry ratios," she said. "Everybody has a sweet tooth and I think that this is the best outlet for someone who is trying to satisfy that - even people who aren't on the diet."
Windschauer said soon the bakery's name will change to Base Culture to reflect an all-encompassing approach to health and fitness.
"We don't want to be just tied to one diet because like Atkins and others, they go in and out," Windschauer said. "It's about reverting to a natural state. ... This name gives us room to grow."
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The Paleo Box
Until the name changes to Base Culture, you can visit thepaleobox.com to place an order or visit one of the 12 retailers around the Tampa Bay area to pick up a snack. A sampler box filled with banana bread, mini granola, snickerdoodle, two brownies and six different muffin varieties can be found at FitLife Foods stores for $21.95.