Nom Nom Paleo

Surviving the Night Shift

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A few days ago, a reader named June left this comment on my site:

"Michelle, I know this is a food blog, but I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how you make nightshift as healthy as possible for you. I am a new nurse and I love night shift, but I am freaked out about the health consequences of flipping back and forth all the time."

Surviving the Night Shift by Michelle Tam

This question has popped up more than once, so I thought I’d share in detail what my work schedule looks like, and how I’ve managed to cope with working night shifts for over a decade. I’ll also pass on some sleep strategies that apply to everyone—even you lucky ducks who don’t have to work through the night.

Interested? Read on!

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Paleo Eats: 2/25/13

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Sometimes, I loathe cooking. There. I said it.

Yesterday morning, after finishing my fifth night shift in a row, I arrived home feeling tired and cranky. I wanted nothing more than to plant myself on the couch and surf the web for articles about IKEA’s horsemeat meatballs. (Horsemeat is so Paleo.) The last thing I want to do after a ten-hour shift is make dinner.

But you know what? Sharing a healthy, home-cooked meal with my family is a top priority for me, so I suck it up and get crankin’ in the kitchen. In shades, no less.*


And because I took that extra 15 minutes in the morning, dinner was a breeze to pull together in the evening. Wanna see what I did?

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Paleo Eats: 11/5/12

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I’m more than halfway through my week of night shifts, and the work’s been steady — not too crazy and not too slow. It’s been juuust right. Sipping bone broth during my 10-hour shift staved off the hunger pangs, so my leftovers stayed in my lunchbox all night.

But when I walked through the front door and smelled the boys’ breakfast of eggs and sausages sizzling on the stove, I was suddenly famished. That Henry is a good daddy…

…AND a great husband ‘cause he made me a plate, no questions asked.

Breakfast for dinner!

Once the boys were out of the house, I set to work concocting a new Asian-inspired marinade with scallions, ginger, coconut aminos, rice vinegar (it’s Whole30-approved!), honey (gasp!), and Red Boat Fish Sauce (duh!).

I poured it over a bunch of chicken thighs…

…and stuck the chicken in the fridge before passing out in bed.

When I woke up several hours later, I grabbed the bag of thighs…

…and popped them into the oven. 

While the bird roasted, I cut up two bunches of kale…

…a few carrots, half an onion, and some garlic cloves…

…and tossed them in the pressure cooker to make a quick pot of braised greens.

As I waited for the chicken and kale to finish cooking, I pulsed a head of cauliflower in the food processor…

…and pan-fried some simple cauliflower rice.

In less than an hour after I stepped in the kitchen, dinner was ready. 

Here’s my plate:

And here’s me in all my bedheaded glory making dinner:

Obviously, I spend tons more time in the kitchen than I do in the powder room futzing about my appearance. But that’s all gonna change, people. I just ordered a mess of natural beauty products from the highly-acclaimed Primal Life Organics. Tape your jaws shut: The next time you see me, I’m going to be made up like Honey Boo Boo in full-on pageant mode, complete with Go Go Juice in hand.

Or not.

Paleo Eats: 6/30/12

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My work-hubby is off for a couple of nights to attend a wedding, so I was on my own after 2:30 am. The last time he disappeared for vacation,  the pharmacy was out-of-control crazy busy. Steeling myself for more of the same, I brought my meal in a LunchBots Clicks so I could gobble it all up straight from the fridge: sous vide tri tip, roasted broccoli, and napa cabbage kimchee.

Luckily, my shift at the hospital was non-eventful, and the work was slow and steady. Before I knew it, the sun was up, and I was peeling out of the garage on my way to the Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market. There, I picked up beaucoup veggies, spices, seafood, and stone fruit.

I was still peckish when I came home, so I pulled out some chicken gizzards and hearts from the fridge.

What? You don’t have organ meat lying around? Shame, shame!

Just joshing. I rarely have any at the ready. But when I roasted a couple of chickens the other day, I made a conscious decision to keep the odd bits that came stuffed in the cavities. I froze the livers and neck bones, and threw the gizzards and hearts in the fridge. I know gizzards are best confited or braised, but I was HANGRY and short on time.

I decided to simply season them…

…sauté ‘em in melted butter…

…and toss in a handful of cherry tomatoes at the end.

The hearts were mighty flavorful, but the gizzards were too crunchy. Note to self: there’s a reason why sautéing isn’t a preferred method of cooking gizzards. My jaws were sore from masticating muscular bird stomachs.

Next time, I’m gonna sous vide the gizzards or follow this recipe from uber hunter-gatherer Hank Shaw. In the sage words of the Beastie Boys: Slow and low, that is the tempo.

Before heading off to bed, I tinkered with a new recipe for a Paleo cookie.

The recipe requires some additional tweaking, but Lil-O didn’t seem to mind gobbling up the test batch.

I passed out for almost eight hours and woke up later than normal — which is both a good and bad thing. I was able to chip away at my sleep deficit, but I had to scramble to get dinner on the table before the Double-Os’ bedtime.

Tabil Seasoned Sautéed Shrimp to the rescue!

I started by rendering bacon grease… which I added the seasoned shrimp…

… cherry tomatoes…

…and a chiffonade of basil.

Then, I stir-fried kale and bacon in the same pan.

Here’s my dinner plate:

Afterwards, I fished a flap steak out of the SousVide Supreme and seared it for my packed lunch.

Yep, the same dirty skillet for all three dishes. I hate washing extra pots and pans.

Once my kitchen chores were finished, I tucked the kiddos in bed before sneaking into our newly-cleaned garage gym (thanks, Fitbomb!) to practice double-unders, Abmat sit-ups, and push presses.  I need lots of practice.

By the way, how many of you are heading to the CrossFit Games in a couple of weeks? Fitbomb had a blast last year (check out his multi-part recap of the 2011 Games here: Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4/Part 5), but I missed out on all the fun.

That ain’t happening this year, ‘cause the Nombomb clan’ll be there in full force! If you see a couple of harried Asians dragging along their sweaty and exhausted spawn, come say hi!

I promise I won’t bite. Much.

Paleo Eats: 6/3/12

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If this blog was still expletive-laden like in the olden days, today’s post would explode in a massive fireworks display of Technicolor language. But since I’ve purged all the bad words on this site (now that Big-O and other wee ones are reading it daily), I’m just going to have to type BLEEP the BLEEPING BLEEP BLEEP. (You can fill in the blanks Mad Libs-style.)

Let’s just say work was draining. Too busy to eat. That is all.

Although I was tired and cranky when I came back to the hotel, I instantly perked up when the Double-Os welcomed me back with hugs and adorable Deadlift Girl portraits.

I look fierce, if I do say so myself. Especially with bug-eyes and a mustache.

After some much needed family bonding time, I dragged myself off the couch to cook my last meal before bedtime. My stomach was growling something fierce so I needed some fat and protein pronto. I ripped open a package of wild king salmon lox…

…fried a Thai omelet…

…and plated everything up with half an avocado and a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper.

When we returned home, I seasoned a couple of steaks and plopped them in the SousVide Supreme before heading to bed.

While I slept the day away, the boys ventured to the park for a birthday party…

…where they bashed a pretty princess to bits with a baseball bat to get at the candy inside. You know what they say: Girls are made with sugar and spice, and other pro-inflammatory, metabolically-deranging chemical substances.

In the evening, I woke up ready to tackle some new recipe development. I baked a batch of pork chips (a.k.a. crispy prosciutto chips)…

…that added a salty crunch to a bright and summery arugula and peach sala.

Next, I charred some shrimp and watermelon skewers on the backyard grill.

I also fried a batch of crispy cheater sous vide duck confit legs for extra protein.

We ate the skewers (with a generous squeeze of tangy lime) as an appetizer…

…and chased it down with our summer salad and duck.

I felt quite productive, and I hadn’t even left for work yet!

Before I bid you all adieu, please check out my guest post over at LucyInDaSkyWithDiamonds about my virgin experience with kohlrabi.

Also, I need your help answering an important question:

Where should the Nombomb clan eat in Seattle this weekend?

I’ll be at the BlogHer Food ‘12 conference most of the weekend, but I definitely want to sneak away to chow on mind-blowing Pacific Northwest cuisine. We have some family faves from previous visits to Seattle, but I’d love to get some new recommendations. Criteria: AWESOME food (even cheat-worthy is fine) and suitable for well-behaved kids with decent table manners. Shoot me your suggestions in the comments, Seattle lovers!

Thanks in advance!

Paleo Eats: 3/22/12

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During my first night back at work, I ingested a few squares of dark chocolate, a Tanka bar, bone broth, and a garbage scramble filled with leftover bone broth meat, broiled asparagus, and bell peppers.

When I returned home in the morning, I helped hustle the boys to school before collapsing in bed.

The sun was still up when I woke up in the evening which actually made it easier for me to drag my booty out of bed. I whipped up a super fast supper: roasted broccoli…

…and meatballs inspired by a recipe in Eat Like A Dinosaur. This time, I added Penzeys Spices’ Shallot-Pepper seasoning and pan-fried the meaty orbs before finishing them off in the oven.

I reheated half a jar of Rao’s marinara sauce and tossed in the browned meatballs.

After I put the boys to bed, I broke open some parcels that came in the mail.

Look, mom!

Fermented CLO/butter oil blend

…and Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.

If it sounds like I’m getting all WAPF on you, I am.

While Fitbomb and I were down in Austin, I picked the brains of many sharp folks (Diane, Diana, Chris, Angelo, and Laura) who embrace both Paleo and the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) Diet. Although I don’t agree with everything WAPF espouses — I can’t give up my SousVide Supreme and I’m probably not gonna resume eating grains — I’m totally down with a big chunk of their dietary guidelines.

In fact, I’m now a card-carrying member of WAPF and plan on attending their annual conference in November. I’m open to exploring new ideas in becoming a healthier me — plus, I heard the food at the conference is kickass. 

I definitely think Paleo, Primal, and WAPF diets have a lot in common — we all promote eating unprocessed, nutrient-dense, whole foods based on an ancestral framework.  Liz of Cavegirl Eats describes how all three diets meld together perfectly in this post as does Kristen over at Food Renegade right here. Quite simply, it just makes sense to me. Who cares about labels anyways? This is just how I eat.

Before I dashed off to work, I gulped down a teaspoon of cinnamon-flavored fermented CLO/butter blend

It doesn’t taste all that icky — sorta like Big Red chewing gum. If you wanna learn more about why this stuff is good for you, read:

I know you’re all dying to know if I’ll be cooking up more organ meats…and the answer is YES!

Hey! Turn that frown upside down. My chef sister will be helping me create recipes so you know they’ll be tasty.

Paleo Eats: 1/17/12 (Whole30 Day 17)

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Let’s see what I ate today…

During my night shift, I ate a couple of hard-boiled eggs dusted with Magic Mushroom Powder, sliced red bell peppers, and some leftover emergency protein accompanied with frozen broccoli.

I also nursed a big thermos filled with steaming bone broth

Not super exciting chow but it kept me full and energized until morning.

When I came home, I marinated a mess of chicken drumsticks with Magic Mushroom Powder…

…and a few splashes each of Red Boat fish sauce, coconut aminos, and balsamic vinegar. After I rubbed ‘em all over, I stuck the bird parts in the fridge.

Before heading to bed, I gobbled up a package of Just Jerky, a spoonful of coconut butter, and too many bites of Mee Eat Paleo’s Paleo Meenut Butter.

Mee tells me that she’s got a mac nut+coconut butter in the works — I’ll be all over that crack-in-a-jar when it comes out.

In the evening, I baked the drumsticks in the oven…

…braised a pot of kale and carrots in the pressure cooker

..and sauteed some mushrooms seasoned with homemade Dukka and salt.

Here’s my dinner plate:

..and my second serving. 

I really ate double of everything.

Then, I went to work for the last time this week. Yay!

Paleo Eats: 1/16/12 (Whole30 Day 16)

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Yay! I’m over the hump for my Whole30. That means dark chocolate and bacon are just around the corner…

For my meals in the middle of the night, I packed a container filled with leftover chorizo scramble and braised spicy kale…

…and a LunchBots Trio crammed with a hard-boiled egg (sprinkled with Magic Powder), baby carrots, sliced red bell pepper, and a big dollop of homemade guacamole.

When I returned home in the morning, I chowed on some fried chorizo and onions…

…and made a quick chicken and pork bone broth in the pressure cooker

My throat’s been kind of scratchy so it was awesome that I could make a flavorful soup in less than an hour.

In the evening, I woke up and prepared dinner for the family. I reheated the slow cooker brisket and kale stew I made the other day…

…roasted a tray of broccoli…

…and made stove-top braised cabbage.

Here’s my dinner plate:

Don’t forget — you’ve still got time to enter my giveaway!

Paleo Eats: 1/15/12 (Whole30 Day 15)

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Yay! My Whole30 is halfway over! Did you see the giveaway I’m hosting to commemorate this momentous occasion? 

While I was working at the hospital, I ate some leftover slow cooker pork roast with cauliflower, carrot, and parsnip puree and spicy braised kale.

I also scarfed some raw veggies and a few slices of Applegate Farms organic roast beef.

When I came home, I made another curry wrap with leftover emergency protein

…and a gulped down a heaping spoonful of coconut butter. It’s deja vu all over again but I was too tired to come up with something new.

After sleeping my Sunday away, I woke up to make dinner. To my delight, my awesome husband had already baked up a batch of Great Balls of Fire…

…so all I had to do was reheat leftover veggie sides: roasted Pan di Zucchero

…stir-fried spinach, and Portobello mushrooms.

Here’s my dinner plate:

As the sage mother, Theresa, once stated, “Happy wife, happy life.”

(I’m quoting from the best and brightest today.)

Paleo Eats: 1/14/12 (Whole30 Day 14)

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I’m thisclose to being halfway done with my Whole30

For my chow at work, I packed a leftover bowl of Phở Under Pressure and the accompanying garnishes…

…some crudités, and a small container of defrosted Hawaiian Sun coconut milk.

When I came home in the morning, I hung out with my boys…

…and made myself a couple of curry wraps filled with leftover emergency protein.

Since I still had the munchies, I ate a small serving of toasted almond slivers and a heaping tablespoon of coconut butter. Yes, I eat even more when I’m tired.

In the evening, I crawled out of bed and started making dinner. 

Fitbomb had already made a chorizo scramble with Whole30-friendly fresh chorizo from 4505 Meats

…so I just roasted a head of Pan di Zucchero (a type of chicory) in the oven, finished with a splash of aged balsamic vinegar…

…and braised spicy kale in the pressure cooker.

For the braised greens, I used a bag of Trader Joe’s ready-to-cook kale and sauteed the carrots and onions in Pure Indian Foods Niter Kibbeh ghee

These flavored ghees are kickass and Whole30 approved, too.

Here’s my dinner plate:

I love having breakfast for dinner. Well, in this case, I guess I’m eating breakfast for breakfast.

To keep you motivated to stay true to the Whole30, I’ve got another giveaway lined up in the morning. Stay tuned…