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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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Independence Day

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Those of us in the U.S. are celebrating the Fourth of July by kicking back and grilling things. But if you’re here for a food-related post, you might want to head over to my Recipe Index or archive instead, ’cause today’s post is all about me quitting my job.

That’s right: I’m celebrating my own personal independence day. After 14 years as a clinical pharmacist at the local hospital—the last dozen of which was spent working overnights in a fluorescent-lit ICU pharmacy—I just wrapped up my final graveyard shift.

Independence Day by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

My last night at the hospital was more emotional than I’d expected. One minute I was rocking out to Europe’s “The Final Countdown” (which was blasting triumphantly in my head all night), and the next, I was weepy over leaving my happy little nightshift family. (Goodbye, Will and Deb!) I’d been working at this hospital since 2000—when Bill Clinton was in the White House, Buffy Summers had no idea she had a sister, and Mark Zuckerberg was just some 16-year-old kid. I won’t miss the 70-hour workweeks, but on some level, I’d become weirdly fond of my nightshift routine. My Indow Windows blackout panel is pretty awesome, and I love my Tempur-Pedic Sleep Mask. Call it the Stockholm Syndrome, but I’ll even (kind of) miss the jetlag I’ve suffered every Wednesday since Ben Affleck and J. Lo got engaged.

Independence Day by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

In some ways, I loved being a zombie drug dealer. (The job title has a nice ring to it, too.) Believe it or not, I actually chose to switch from my position as a critical care pharmacist to a generalist nightshift pharmacist back in 2002 because I craved predictability; I figured the seven-nights-on, seven-nights-off schedule would allow me to make restaurant reservations weeks or even months ahead of time. (Yep, I had my priorities straight.) The routine was fabulous…

Independence Day by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Independence Day by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Independence Day by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Independence Day by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…until it wasn’t anymore.

In hindsight, it’s telling that I titled my nightshift primerSurviving the Night Shift” and not “Thriving on the Night Shift.” No matter how you slice it, staying up all night is neither natural nor healthy; numerous studies show that nightshift zombies like me are at higher risk for sickness and death. No bueno. For over a decade, I felt like I was able to keep it (relatively) together and avoid (most of) the ill effects from regularly punching my circadian rhythm in the face. Plus, my energy levels and sleep quality improved by leaps and bounds once I started eating Paleo—but looking back, perhaps experiencing the benefits of Paleo only prolonged the inevitable.

Independence Day by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

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Forky Friday: 6/27/14

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Forky Friday: 6/27/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

In the off-chance that there’s more than one person (hi, Dad!) who’s interested in what I’m checking out on the Internet this week, I’ve once again compiled my favorite food-related links of the week. Read ’em and weep!

Paleo + Celebrities

If there’s anything (other than food) I love, it’s celebrity gossip news. But it’s only now, after almost 40 years of studying trashy tabloids and Hollywood rags, that I’m starting to see Paleo elbow its way into the news (or at least the news that I care about, anyway).

In the past few weeks, a number of celebrities have publicly come out as Paleo (or Paleo-curious): not only did Robin Wright (Princess Buttercup a.k.a. Claire Underwood) open up about her (allegedly “no carb”) Paleo diet, but country superstar Tim McGraw also showed off the impressive eight-pack that he credits to CrossFit and Paleo.

Forky Friday: 6/27/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

News of weight loss and sexy washboard abs will no doubt appeal to folks on the lookout for the Next Great Diet Fad, but to me, A Great Big World’s Chad Vaccherino’s reason for going Paleo is the most inspiring: he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007 when he was still in college. After learning about Dr. Terry Wahl’s TED Talk, he started eating Paleo and lo and behold: his symptoms went away. Amazing.

See? Who said gossip rags are filled with garbage?

Dr. Oz on the Hot Seat

Dr. Oz may have talked up the benefits of Paleo on his show a couple of times over the past year, but he’s become known for promoting a ton of sketchy “magic” weight loss products, too. Recently, the doctor was grilled by Congress for making fantastical claims about potentially scammy supplements, and then skewered by John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight to boot. 

I think I liked it better when Dr. Oz was just the guy who showed up on Oprah in hospital scrubs (hey, I don’t blame him: I know how comfy scrubs can be) and talked about the shape of his poo.

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Crazy Clown Eggs

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Crazy Clown Eggs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Henry’s the artistic one in our relationship—not me. I’ve been called tricky and sly, but never crafty. (See what I did there?) In fact, when I started popping out kids, one of my worries was that I’d diluted Henry’s creative genes. Luckily, our two boys appear to have turned out more more left-brain-dominant than their right-brained mama, as evidenced by Big-O’s creepy clay sculptures and Lil-O’s colorful comics and Lego creations. Phew.

Even though I can’t keep up with the boys artistically, I do occasionally manage to come up with a fun project that convinces my spawn to put down their colored pens and join me in the kitchen.

Crazy Clown Eggs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

The other night, as I was leafing through the yellowed and food-stained pages of my well-loved copy of Jacques Pepin’s La Mèthode, I was struck with some old-school culinary inspiration. There, mixed in with the chef’s classic (but eye-poppingly intimidating) recipes for Goose Liver Pate in Aspic and Stuffed Pig’s Feet, I stumbled upon a super-simple, kid-friendly kitchen activity:

“Hard-Boiled Eggs, Clown-Style.”

Crazy Clown Eggs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Yeah, you heard me right:

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I don’t know why, but I couldn’t get these insane clown faces out of my mind. So at the break of dawn, I bolted out of the bedroom and announced to my bed-headed boys that we were straight-up making Crazy Clown Eggs. 

Crazy Clown Eggs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

What follows is Big-O’s interpretation of Chef Pepin’s jaunty clown-faced eggs, with an assist from me (I helped prep the eggs and veggies) and his pop (Henry supervised my nine-year-old’s knife work).

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The Paleo Kitchen’s Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs

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The Paleo Kitchen's Honey Mustard Chicken Wings http://nomnompaleo.com

Unless you’ve been living underground (like a good cave-person should!), you know that Juli Bauer and George Bryant just released one of the most highly anticipated cookbooks of the summer, The Paleo Kitchen. And if you  know about this extraordinary book, then I’m sure you’ve already scooped up a copy—and helped it debut on the New York Times best sellers list!

The Paleo Kitchen's Honey Mustard Chicken Wings http://nomnompaleo.com

It’s difficult for me to be objective about The Paleo Kitchen because I’m pals with George and Juli. In person, they’re exactly how you picture them from their respective blogs: Juli is smart, sassy, and funny, and George is savvy, passionate, and loyal. Together, their Wonder Twin powers activate like nobody’s business, and you can see this in their exceptional cookbook. Its pages are packed with tantalizing recipes, luscious food photography, and a whole mess ’o useful cooking tips. I love their light-hearted, devil-may-care approach to Paleo, showing folks that anyone can be fit and happy without going to extremes. 

The Paleo Kitchen's Honey Mustard Chicken Wings http://nomnompaleo.com

While George and Juli are renowned for their Paleo treats (and yes, those are pancakes on the cover of their book), don’t be fooled into thinking that  The Paleo Kitchen is nothing but desserts and grain-free baked goods. Inside, you’ll discover a healthy balance of savory and sweet dishes for every occasion. In fact, one of my favorite recipes turns out to be one of the easiest main courses in the book: Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs. I love that can throw this dish together on a busy weeknight with items that are already sitting in my kitchen. Besides: who doesn’t love honey mustard chicken, for cryin’ out loud?

When I told George and Juli how much I wanted to share this super-simple recipe with you, they generously gave me the green light. Ready to get cooking?

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