menu close
close

Nom Nom Paleo’s Busy-Family Solutions

Michelle Tam spends a lot of time in the kitchen—and so do her sons. Here's how she does it!

1200-04-Table

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.

Did you know? Little Sous offers a monthly themed kids cooking box that will help your family connect in the kitchen. Check out our subscription options!

Paper-Wrapped Chicken with Bok Choy and Shiitakes

Recipe courtesy of Michelle Tam & Henry Fong / adapted from Ready or Not!: 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-Now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo.

  • Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

For the chicken:
  • 4 cups sliced bok choy
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 8 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce
For the All-Purpose Stir Fry Sauce:
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)

Steps:

  1. Step 1

    Make the stir-fry sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a small jar, cover tightly with a lid, and shake well to incorporate. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Always shake well before using.

    Sous Tip:

    Measuring and shaking has “kid job” written all over it.

  2. Step 2

    Make the chicken: Preheat the oven to 450°F with the rack in the middle. Grab 4 large parchment sheets, and fold each in half. Draw half a heart on each sheet so that when you cut them out, you get full hearts.

    Sous Tip:

    Kids can take care of the art project while you slice veggies—or, depending on your child’s age, vice versa.

  3. Step 3

    Unfold the paper hearts and lay them flat. Place a cup of sliced bok choy on one side of each heart. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the bok choy. Salt and pepper the chicken, and then place a piece atop each pile of bok choy.

  4. Step 4

    Top the chicken with mushrooms and shallots. Spoon 2 tablespoons of All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce onto each mound. Fold the other half of each heart over the top. Tightly crimp the edges together, starting at the top-center of each heart. At the pointed bottom end, twist the paper to seal well.

    Sous Tip:

    Piling, folding, and twisting—easiest kid recipe ever!

  5. Step 5

    Place the parchment packets on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. The breasts should register 150°F on an instant-read thermometer, and the thighs should register 165°F. As soon as the packets are out of the oven, carefully cut them open. Serve immediately.