Nom Nom Paleo

Forky Friday: 7/11/14

Pin It

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.

Read more

Spicy Tuna Cakes

Pin It

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!

Read more

Independence Day

Pin It

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

Read more

Forky Friday: 6/27/14

Pin It

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.

Read more

Crazy Clown Eggs

Pin It

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:

image

image

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).

Read more

The Paleo Kitchen’s Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs

Pin It

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?

Read more

Forky Friday: 6/13/14

Pin It

Forky Friday: 6/13/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Happy Friday the 13th! Yeah, I know it’s been a while. At the end of each week, my dear old dad’s been reminding me that I haven’t put up a new Forky Friday in eons, so I think it’s past time I put up a new post packed to the gills with my favorite finds from ’round the world wide web. So in advance of Father’s Day, this one’s for you, Pop!

Celebrate Your Dad!

Yep—Father’s Day is Sunday. THIS Sunday. Got something special planned for the big poppa in your life? If you’re still searching for a cool gift, I’ve got a feeling all the grilling guys (and gals) out there will love Chris Schlesinger’s and John “Doc” Willoughby’s The Big-Flavor Grill

Forky Friday: 6/13/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Ever since I received a review copy a few weeks ago, I’ve been testing many of the no-marinade, no-hassle recipes on our grill. The simple techniques in this book are a revelation: simply pick the right cut of protein, slap on a zero-fuss rub, grill the meat, and then toss the fire-charred goodness with a flavorful sauce. That’s it.

The Big-Flavor Grill has made a spontaneous griller out of me. It’s a game-changer.

One of my favorite dishes in the book is the recipe pictured on the book’s cover: Grilled Skirt Steak with Smoky Red Onions and Grilled Avocados. 

Forky Friday: 6/13/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

From start to finish, this meal took just 30 minutes to make. If—like me—you’ve had an irrational fear of grilling over an open flame, this book’ll get you over the hump, and it makes for an incredible Father’s Day gift.

But if you’re strapped for cash, you don’t need to buy a present to make your dad feel appreciated. Just let him know you’ll be making brunch, and reconnect with your old man over a plate of Bacon Pancake Sandwiches

Forky Friday: 6/13/14 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…or grill him a Chili Rib Eye Steak by following Chef Pete Evan’s drop-dead-simple technique!

Read more

Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table

Pin It

I know, I know: potatoes aren’t “Paleo™.” And neither is white rice, heavy cream, or butter.

Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table http://nomnompaleo.com

Well, at least according to the version of Paleo that many of us eagerly adopted when we first discovered this way of eating. But as I’ve said before

…there isn’t just one definitive, monolithic, one-size-fits-all “Paleo diet.” Some Paleo eaters choose to go super-low-carb, while others of us are happy to munch on a baked potato or a bowl of white rice every now and then. There are Paleo eaters who can’t imagine life without dairy, and more orthodox folks who refuse to touch even a pat of butter with a ten-foot pole. The Paleo tent is big enough to fit a host of different approaches, but the core tenets of ancestral eating remain the same:

  • Prioritize whole, unprocessed, nutrient-rich, nourishing foods. Eat vegetables, grass-fed and pastured meats and eggs, wild-caught seafood, and some fruit, nuts, and seeds.
  • Avoid foods that are likely to be more harmful than healthful. Especially when regularly consumed, certain foods can trigger inflammation, cause digestive problems, or derail our natural metabolic processes, including many grains, improperly cooked legumes, sugar, and highly-processed seed and vegetable oils.
  • Once a baseline of health is established, we can reintroduce some of these foods (like dairy, white potatoes and rice—not processed junk foods) to see where each of us sits on the spectrum of food intolerance.

In the beginning, I was briefly Primal (remember my early cheesy phase?) before going strict Paleo. And then, for a couple of years, I pretty much ate according to Whole30® rules, except for some dark chocolate and an occasional restaurant meal. But these days, I find that a bit of white rice and potatoes, along with heavy raw cream in my coffee, agree with me just fine.

Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table http://nomnompaleo.com

And I’m not alone. Some think this is absolute heresy, but others of us now see Paleo as a springboard that helps us thoughtfully figure out what works best for our own health—not as a set of inflexible commandments to apply unquestioned.

That’s why I appreciate Russ Crandall so much. On his blog (The Domestic Man) and in his book (The Ancestral Table), Russ shines a light on traditional recipes for a modern Paleo lifestyle—dishes that thoughtfully re-incorporate rice, potatoes, and full-fat dairy. Some purists may scoff that Russ’ delicious and healthy dishes aren’t really “Paleo™,” but I don’t care. After all, mine aren’t, either. Also, my take on Paleo puts the emphasis on the “Nom Nom” part, and dogma leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table http://nomnompaleo.com

Since Russ’s The Ancestral Table was published, it’s been a go-to resource on my overflowing shelves. So the other morning, when Big-O asked me to make shepherd’s pie for dinner, I knew just where to turn.

Shepherd’s Pie from Russ Crandall’s The Ancestral Table http://nomnompaleo.com

I was eager to make an authentic shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes crowning the top of a meaty stew. (If you’re a tater abstainer, feel free to substitute the topping with Garlic Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes” or make Julie and Charles’s Farmer’s Pie.)

Read more

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Balsamic Compote

Pin It

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Balsamic Compote by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

As a child, my love for sweets was indiscriminate. I had no standards; if it was sugary, I figured it belonged in my mouth. I am, after all, the girl who used to go to bed with a sticky plastic bag of sugary drink mix powder next to my pillow.

But with age comes wisdom—and a better-developed palate. I’m turning 40 this year, and after a lifetime of mindless dessert consumption, I’ve actually become one picky mother. These days, I rarely indulge in sweets—and only when it meets my demanding standards. If I’m going to treat myself to something that’s less than healthy (and let’s face it: dessert ain’t health food), it better knock my socks off.

Homemade panna cotta is one indulgence that fits the bill. Offering up  spoonfuls of silky sweetness at the end of a meal, this Italian gelled cream custard has long been one of my favorites. Panna cotta is incredible all by itself, but a dollop of tangy fruit sauce makes it truly special. And what better topping than the classic combination of fresh strawberries and balsamic vinegar?

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Balsamic Compote by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

This recipe calls for just a handful of ingredients, but the quality and ratio of the components are critical to a good panna cotta. Let me be painfully frank: Too many people are making mediocre panna cotta. Some of the offenses I’ve seen? Overly sweet custards or toppings, poor quality cream/nut milk, and incompatible and overpowering toppings.

But the worst infraction of all? Adding too much gelatin. Yes, gelatin’s important for gut and joint health — but I’d much rather down a mug of steaming bone broth rather than chew on rubbery, over-gelatinized panna cotta. Pro tip: If you can hold a bowl of panna cotta upside down over your head with nary a care about messing up your beautifully coiffed head of hair, you used too much gelatin in your dessert. (Or you’re a total slob. Or both.)

Made properly, a panna cotta should be fragile and quivery in texture. This creamy dessert should collapse in on itself when you pierce the surface with your spoon, allowing the fruity sauce and slippery custard to mix and marry.

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Balsamic Compote by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Balsamic Compote by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Now: who’s ready to make panna cotta? 

Here’s what to gather to make 4 servings: 

Read more