At home in Palo Alto or Portland in her family’s “center of gravity” (a.k.a. the kitchen), Michelle Tam, founder of the award-winning food blog Nom Nom Paleo, has a goal: no more short-order cookin’.
“When the kids were little, I fell into the trap of trying to please everyone by cooking one thing for me and my husband, and then something different for each of the kids,” Tam says. “Owen (12) vastly prefers Japanese food, while Ollie (nine) needs to avoid gluten, like me, and is also the pickiest eater in the house—if he had it his way, he’d eat nothing but Cracklin’ Chicken and rice.”
Catering to everyone’s individual needs was exhausting. “And it didn’t teach our children to try new things,” Tam adds. “So, I decided to try something different—cook one meal that would ideally accommodate all dietary needs/tastes, but also encourage our children to broaden their palates and eat as expansively as possible. Our rule is that the kids try whatever I’m serving. They don’t have to finish it, but they know I’m not making anything else!”
The kiddos can always pitch suggestions for what the family will eat, but Tam has also found that they tend to be more open-minded about eating when it’s a dish that they helped make. Enter Ready or Not!: 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-Now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo (Andrews McMeel, 2017), Tam’s second cookbook written with her husband, Henry Fong, which just landed in August. Inspired by crazy-busy parents just like themselves (paleo or not), the book is divided/color-coded by levels of cooking preparedness:
Green = Ready! (more time-intensive or make-ahead dishes)
Orange = Kinda Ready! (tips for giving pantry staples and leftovers a tasty makeover)
Red = Not Ready! (simple snacks and meals you can have on the table pronto)
Presented in Tam’s signature cheeky cartoon format, Ready or Not! is also a great guidebook for crazy-busy kids who want to help—think cool projects for weekends like pressure cooker Kalua pig or quick weekday lessons on how to cook in parchment packets (see the Paper-Wrapped Chicken recipe below) or chop ingredients so that they cook evenly for a sheet pan supper. Teach your children well and soon they might be taking your order.
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