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Paleo Lunchboxes 2014 (Part 2)

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Paleo Lunchboxes 2014 (Part 2 of 7) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Hello again! As promised, here’s the second installment of Paleo Lunchboxes 2014, my collaboration with our pals at LunchBots—the gleaming stainless steel food containers you see in these posts. Our mission is to demonstrate that packed lunches can be simple, nourishing, and magically delicious for kids and adults alike. 

Like the first box in this year’s series, today’s lunch can be assembled the night before, so all you’ll need to worry about in the morning is dragging yourself out of bed and eating breakfast. And wiping the sleep from your eyes.

Paleo Lunchboxes 2014 (Part 2 of 7) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Spicy Tuna Cakes are a big hit with our whole family…almost. (Big-O digs these portable veggie-and-protein cakes, but Lil-O doesn’t like spicy foods, so he’s less of a fan. Man, six-year-olds have no taste.)

Bonus: these tuna cakes taste great cold, too.

Paleo Lunchboxes 2014 (Part 2 of 7) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

You can whip up a dozen (or even double the recipe!) in advance, and pack the next day’s lunchbox(es) before you go to bed. Your reward for planning ahead? Getting to hit the snooze button a couple of extra times in the morning.

My recipe for Spicy Tuna Cakes has been around for a while now; it was first introduced in my iPad app, and since then, it’s popped up in my cookbook and on my blog). So if you haven’t tried ’em yet, what are you waiting for?

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Paleo Lunchboxes 2014 (Part 1)

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With a new school year just around the bend, it’s time for the 2014 edition of Paleo Lunchboxes—my annual collaboration with our friends at LunchBots. And this time around, I’m presenting 7—that’s right, SEVEN—new ideas to jumpstart your creative engines.

Paleo Lunchboxes 2014 (Part 1 of 7) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

These lunchbox ideas are great for your school-age spawn, but trust me: the meals in this series aren’t just kid stuff. In fact, this first one’s a fast and satisfying lunch you can eat with your bare hands. Plus: we’re talking HOT DOGS.

“But wait a minute! How are hot dogs even Paleo?”

Fine. They’re not technically “Paleo™,” but I’ve got nothing against convenience foods that are made from wholesome, healthy ingredients. Most hot dogs on the market are filled with all sorts of chemical additives and cast-off CAFO animal parts—we should all avoid these freaky franken-weenies like the plague. There are, however, other options.

I’m lucky to have a brother-in-law who hand-makes his own hot dogs out of grass fed beef short ribs

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…but most of the time, I just look for commercially-available wieners made with sustainably-raised grass fed beef and a few simple seasonings and spices. The two brands I buy for my family are Applegate and Fork in the Road (I don’t sweat the small amount of sugar in the latter), and you can find them in most grocery stores. (For additional recommendations for high-quality grass fed hot dogs, check out this link.)

Paleo Lunchboxes 2014 (Part 1 of 7) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Hot dogs have always been a kid-friendly favorite, but I recently hopped onto the bandwagon in a big way after discovering Flame to Fork’s game-changing idea to use the wiener as the “bun” (a.k.a. #hotdogasthebun) on Instagram.

Since then, I’ve been playing around with different fillings every time I make hot dogs for the kids. (The best thing about using the wiener as the “shell”? Sneaking extra veggies into your kiddos’ bellies!) Unlike hot dogs on bread buns, you can assemble ’em the night before; they won’t get soggy, and they taste great cold. Or maybe I’m just a weirdo for loving cold hot dogs. 

Personally, I like hot dogs piled high with sautéed peppers and onions or kraut and pickles, so for this lunchbox, I made both. Properly cooked onions take a while to sauté, so I always start them in the skillet over medium heat with my favorite cooking fat before I do anything else.

Paleo Lunchboxes 2014 (Part 1 of 7) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

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Paleo Lunchboxes 2014 Preview!

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Kids: Put away the gadgets ’cause it’s time to head back to school!

As in years past, I’ve teamed up with our friends at LunchBots to show you that portable Paleo lunches can be healthier and more satisfying than a soggy PB&J sandwich. From tomorrow through Labor Day, I’ll be posting a myriad of midday meal ideas that’ll (hopefully!) inspire you to take a few moments out of your day to throw some meat, veggies, and fruit into a container. These aren’t just for kids, either—grown-up eaters will have plenty to feast on, too.

Plus, for those of you who’ve requested heartier fare for bigger eaters, I’ve got you covered! This year, you’ll find even more rib-sticking meals in this lunch series. 

Come back tomorrow for the inaugural post—and in the meantime, check out the previous years’ lunches!

August 2014 Whole30 Inspiration

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Participating in the worldwide official Whole30® challenge this month? Congrats—you’re halfway there!

August 2014 Whole30 Inspiration by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

You’ve valiantly persevered through bouts of carb flu and white-knuckled your way past the infamous “KILL ALL THE THINGS” phase. At this point, that Tiger Blood coursing through your veins is feeling pretty good. But despite your newfound superhero status, one nagging thought keeps flitting in and out of your brain like that jerkwad mosquito that buzzes by your ear at bedtime:

“I’m sick and tired of cooking every meal.”

August 2014 Whole30 Inspiration by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Yep. You’re thisclose to throwing out all your organic veggies and falling face first into a bag of cheesy poofs.

August 2014 Whole30 Inspiration by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I totally sympathize. Cooking and planning meal after meal (after meal after meal) can be a royal pain in the butt, so that’s why I try to make my dishes as pain-free and flavor-packed as possible. As much as it seems like a thankless chore, cooking at home with wholesome ingredients is one of the most important things you can do for your family—and it doesn’t have to suck the life out of you.

Here’s the thing: As I said in my Whole30 primer/survival guide, simple and quick does the trick. The majority of the recipes on my blog (and just about all of the recipes in my cookbook!) are Whole30-friendly, and all of ’em are rookie-proof. In fact, they all reflect the way I eat on an everyday basis. I’m the queen of lazy, so if I can do it, you can, too.

August 2014 Whole30 Inspiration by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

And now, I’ve got even more Whole30-compliant recipes that you can whip up as you enter the home stretch, including essential flavor boosters, simple veggie sides, and family-friendly entrées! Best of all, these dishes pack a whole lotta bang for the buck, and belong in your repertoire even if you’re not on a Whole30.  

Ready to get reinvigorated?

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Kelly Brozyna’s Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream + Ganache

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Doing a Whole30 this month? You rock. But QUICK! LOOK AWAY! THERE’S NOTHING TO SEE HERE!

Kelly Brozyna’s Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream + Ganache by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Really—this post ain’t for you…or at least, not right now. Go check out my Whole30 recaps, or better yet, go make yourself some Cracklin’ Chicken or Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Eggs. Come back in September—this ice cream’ll still be here. 

Still with me—and looking for a cool, dairy-free treat to beat the heat? Then follow along as I crack open my copy of Kelly Brozyna’s Dairy-Free Ice Cream and whip up some vanilla ice cream with chocolate ganache!

Kelly Brozyna’s Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream + Ganache by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Ever since a review copy arrived in the mail, I’ve been eyeing the vanilla ice cream. You’d think I’d make a beeline for the chocolate ice cream recipes in Kelly’s beautiful new book, but NOPE. Know why?

Kelly Brozyna’s Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream + Ganache by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

’Cause of this little guy.

Kelly Brozyna’s Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream + Ganache by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

As soon as he spied me dragging my long-neglected ice cream maker out of the garage, my six-year-old vanilla ice cream fanatic knew what was up. And he wasn’t shy about pointing out precisely which recipe he wanted me to make.

Kelly Brozyna’s Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream + Ganache by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Vanilla packs a huge wallop, and is anything but boring. According to Cook’s Illustrated, vanilla’s a “flavor potentiator” that not only increases our perception of sweetness, but also our ability to taste other ingredients that accompany it—like nuts, fruit, coffee, and chocolate. 

But as much as I share Lil-O’s love of vanilla, there’s no way I was going to let someone who can’t even tie his own shoes keep me from my beloved dark chocolate. 

The compromise? Ganache, baby. GANACHE.

Kelly Brozyna’s Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream + Ganache by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

As Kelly points out, ganache (a.k.a. fancy chocolate sauce) can be made dairy-free, too; just substitute full-fat coconut milk for the heavy cream. Drizzle some ganache over a scoop (or three) of Kelly’s rich, dairy-free vanilla ice cream, add a sprinkle of toasted slivered almonds, and you’re all set for one of the best frozen treats you’ve had since going Paleo.

Kelly Brozyna’s Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream + Ganache by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Who’s ready to scream for some ice cream?

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Forky Friday: 7/25/14

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Forky Friday: 7/25/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I know: it’s hot, you’re tired, and you need to rest your sweaty noggin. The remedy? Pour yourself a large glass of pineapple coconut water and lose yourself in my favorite links of the week!

Jimmy Kimmel’s No Master Chef

If your gut is friends with dairy, Gordon Ramsay’s method for making creamy scrambled eggs is well worth a try. The dish appears dead-simple to whip up—especially when Chef Ramsay (yes, that’s Ramsay with an “A”—caution butt photo ahead) makes it on TV—but looks can be deceiving. His recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live proves that not everyone can be a Master Chef. 

Don’t worry, Jimmy—practice makes perfect!

Hot Tubbin’ Steaks

It saddens me to report that my “defrost bowl” now sits empty most of the time. I’ve just been too lazy and forgetful to keep replenishing it with frozen meat from the freezer. 

Forky Friday: 7/25/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Still, I don’t sweat it if all my meat’s frozen solid ’cause I know of a sure-fire way to defrost steaks in a flash. You may have heard that you should only thaw meat in the fridge or in cold water, but in fact, you can dunk frozen meat in hot water to get it ready for the grill in just minutes.

Food scientist Harold McGee was recently interviewed on The Splendid Table about how it’s perfectly safe (and smart!) to thaw steaks in 100°F water. (And by the way, if you’re a self-proclaimed food nerd and you don’t have copies of McGee’s Keys to Good Cooking and On Food and Cooking on your bookshelf, I’m calling you out RIGHT NOW.)

Forky Friday: 7/25/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Slice and Dice Like A Ninja

You already know that the most important weapon in your kitchen arsenal is a sharp chef’s knife (and not just because it’s all sharp and stabby), but are you cutting your veggies in the most efficient way possible? If not, check out this great video by Andrew Zimmern as he demonstrates how to cut perfect batons, matchsticks, ½” dice, and brunoise (a.k.a. super-teeny-tiny dice).

Bonus round: Want an ingenious tip for slicing a bunch of cherry tomatoes all at once?

Grab two plates (or container lids), a sharp knife, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. And watch this video. Don’t forget to take a moment to admire how the posh British narrator calls ’em to-MAH-toes.

Really—this works like a charm. See?

Forky Friday: 7/25/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Forky Friday: 7/25/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Forky Friday: 7/25/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Mind blown, right?

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Spice Hound Giveaway

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Spice Hound Giveaway by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

**UPDATE on 7/27/14: The giveaway is OVER! Congrats to Chavy C.!**

Staying motivated in the kitchen ain’t always easy, but we all know that cooking our own meals is the best way to nourish ourselves and our families. The problem? WE’RE TIRED AND LAZY.

I’m right there with you. But here’s my secret to mouth-popping food: I keep a stash of delicious flavor boosters in my pantry. That way, when I’m too exhausted to cook anything complicated, I turn to a handful of dishes I can whip up on autopilot that still deliver big flavor. Example? Garbage Stir Fry!

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The key to amping up the flavors in even your simplest homemade concoctions is to use high quality spices, salts, and seasoning blends. I’ve tried a lot of spice blends on the market, and as longtime readers know, some of my favorites are from a local Bay Area company, Spice Hound. Years ago, I met the owner, Tammy Tan, when my nose (and my kids’ grabby hands) led me to her stand at the Palo Alto Farmers’ Market.

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After purchasing and trying a bunch of Tammy’s spice blends, I was hooked.

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You can smell the difference with Tammy’s spices as soon as you twist open the jars. Her blends and spices are incredibly fresh (unlike a lot of the spices in the supermarket that have been sitting on the shelves for who-knows-how-long), and go a long way towards enhancing the dishes I make. Spices and salts are Tammy’s passion, and she searches the ends of the earth to source the best ones available.

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Plus, Spice Hound grinds all the blends in house and just about all of ’em are Whole30-approved! At the moment, Spice Hound spices are only available online for shipment to the 50 states. (If you’re in the Bay Area, you can also pick them up in person at Spice Hound’s San Francisco brick and mortar store and at the Sunday Campbell and Palo Alto farmer’s markets.)

But thanks to Tammy’s generosity, everyone on the planet—not just us Americans—has a chance to try my favorite blends in this week’s giveaway!

What’s up for grabs? 

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Watercress With Seared Prosciutto + Peaches

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Watercress With Seared Prosciutto + Peaches by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Heads up: A ten-minute meal comin’ your way!

I’m not kidding—this dish takes NO. TIME. AT. ALL.

Prosciutto-wrapped peaches on a bed of bitter greens is a classic Italian starter that I used to order every time I spotted it on a summer menu…’til it finally dawned on me that this dead-simple recipe can be made at home for pennies on the dollar. Yeah, I can be dense sometimes. It took this old dog a decade to learn this peachy new trick, but hey: better late than never, right?

Once ripe peaches made their first appearance of the year at the local farmers’ market, I started making this savory, sweet, and assertive summer salad on a regular basis. Can you blame me?

Watercress With Seared Prosciutto + Peaches by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Most recipes call for grilling the porky peaches, but I’ve found that searing ’em in a skillet is a much easier and faster method. (In fact, it takes longer to fire up the barbecue than it does to prepare and eat this gorgeous hot-weather salad using a skillet.) 

Plus, I’ve replaced the usual bed of arugula with watercress. Why? ’Cause she’s the new Queen Bee of the vegetable aisle (that’s right: move over, kale), and I’ve been doing my darnedest to incorporate this nutrient-packed powerhouse into my diet. The warm peaches wilt the watercress slightly, making each mouthful  a kaleidoscope of flavors and textures.

What do you say? Ready to try your hand at my favorite summer salad?

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Forky Friday: 7/11/14

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Forky Friday: 7/11/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Dying to know what food-related links are top-of-mind for me this week? No? Well, just humor me anyway.

Taco Bell: Going Paleo?

Once upon a time, I proudly declared Taco Bell to be my favorite fast-food joint. As a high schooler, I made a Run To The Border™ on a regular basis with my fellow pimply-faced pals to order (and then annihilate) pile after pile of crunchy, cheesy Taco Supremes. I even wanted my very own caulking gun to squeeze reduced-fat sour cream on…well, everything. Weirdly and disgustingly enough, I have fond memories of Taco Bell. That’s why this Bloomberg article suggesting that Taco Bell’s attempting to tap into the Paleo market actually made me hopeful…for a nanosecond.

Forky Friday: 7/11/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Upon closer inspection of Taco Bell’s press release announcing its new “Cantina Power Menu,” though, it’s painfully obvious that the company’s just upping the protein on the menu without doing anything to improve the quality of the ingredients. And despite the misleading headline of the Bloomberg piece, Taco Bell’s new menu clearly doesn’t aim to be Paleo at all. After all, they should know that Paleos won’t stuff junk into our mouths just ’cause the protein volume’s been doubled. Our mascot may be a caveman, but we’re not stupid; Taco Bell’s food products—no matter how high protein or low carb—are nowhere near Paleo-friendly.

I still kind of want a Taco Supreme, though.

Guess Who (I Wish) Was Coming to Dinner

I’m not usually a fan of icebreaker activities, but there’s one get-to-know-you question I really dig. Melicious posed it to me a while back: “You can have dinner with any characters from movies, TV, or books that you want. Table for 8. Who’s at the table?”

Clearly, I have a hard time with reading comprehension, because instead of offering up a bunch of fictional characters like she asked, I spat out a list of celebrities like Andy CohenAnthony Bourdain, and George Takei. The only non-celeb on my list was BMO from Adventure Time — the best robot companion in the Land of Ooo.

But now, I’m thinking about swapping BMO out for the hardest working man in show business, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. Sorry, BMO, but a guy with 16 jobs trumps a cute little robot. Even one with an alter ego named Football.

Forky Friday: 7/11/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Not only has Questlove dazzled audiences (including Late Night fans) as the drummer/frontman of The Roots, but he also happens to be obsessed with eating fabulous food.

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Spicy Tuna Cakes

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Spicy Tuna Cakes by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Now that I’ve quit my job, I should’ve spent the past week developing and writing up a brand-spankin’ new recipe for y’all, but you know how it is: the mountain of crumpled-up laundry on the couch is keeping me from doing ALL THE THINGS. I’ll admit it: I’m terrible at keeping our house in order. But don’t you worry your pretty little heads; as soon as I emerge from this bottomless pile of mismatched socks and pillowcases, I’ll get back to cooking. After all, there’s nothing I love more than messing up the kitchen.

Spicy Tuna Cakes by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

In the meantime, how ’bout I share one of the most popular recipes from our cookbook and iPad app? (You’re nodding, right?) Ready or not, it’s time for Spicy Tuna Cakes! 

Spicy Tuna Cakes by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I make these portable savory cakes about once a month ’cause I aways have the ingredients on hand. You may not normally associate canned fish with sweet potatoes and jalapeño peppers, but trust me on this one: they’re tender and subtly sweet, with a wickedly peppery bite that sneaks up on you. The heat levels can be adjusted to your taste; amp it up by subbing serrano peppers in place of jalapeño, or turn it down by cutting down on the red pepper flakes. Serve these spicy cakes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—or whip up an extra-big batch for your next dinner party!

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