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Editor’s Note: In 2016 our Confident Cook series will feature chefs, authors, and bloggers whose passions for great food and solid nutrition inspire us. You’ll meet the experts, get a few of their favorite recipes, and gain new skills and insights on cooking with healthy whole foods.

Featured Expert | Michelle Tam: The award-winning food blogger at also has a Webby Award–winning Nom Nom Paleo cooking app available for iPhone and iPad. Her cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans, is a New York Times bestseller.

I am a foodie first, paleo enthusiast second. Like a lot of people, I was initially skeptical about this whole paleo thing. No pasta? No rice? Surely you jest.

Eating my way through the San Francisco Bay Area food scene for years eventually took its toll on my waistline — not to mention my energy levels. So when my husband, Henry, started seeing amazing improvements in his health from his newly embraced paleo lifestyle, I decided to do my research and check it out. (My undergraduate degree is in nutrition, and I was working as a clinical pharmacist, so I trusted my science chops.)

Eventually I was swayed. The food is delicious, so I haven’t had to relinquish my foodie status. And I’ve never felt healthier.

My recipes reflect my own approach to the paleo diet. Rather than trying to mimic caveman fare, I look at paleo more as a framework for improving health through real food. It’s an approach that challenges us to avoid “modern” foods like wheat, refined sugar, and chemically processed vegetable and seed oils, which are increasingly associated with autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, type 2 -diabetes, and obesity.

And contrary to popular belief, paleo is not all about meat. It’s about eating more whole, unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods. I actually eat more veggies now than I did when I was a semi-vegetarian.

I don’t go for dogma, and I don’t go for deprivation. For me, paleo is a model for eating real food every day that tastes good and keeps you strong, well nourished, and healthy.

Paleo Recipes

Carrot and Cardamom Soup

Perfect for a cold winter day, this bright, beautiful, nutrient-packed vegetable soup appeals to my whole family. 

Carrot and Cardamom Soup

Makes six servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


  • 1 tbs. coconut oil
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green ends only, cleaned, trimmed, and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 lbs. large carrots, peeled and cut into half-inch coins
  • 1/4 cup diced Braeburn, Empire, McIntosh, or Cortland apple
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh gingerroot
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 4 cups chicken stock or bone broth
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, along with a generous pinch of salt, and sauté until translucent, about five minutes.
  2. Toss in the carrots, apple, ginger, and cardamom, and stir until fragrant. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer until the carrots are easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Mix in the coconut milk.
  4. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender and process until smooth. Or purée the soup directly in the pot with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Avocado Toad-in-a-Hole

This paleo take on the toast-and-egg classic is satisfying and nutritious. It’s perfect for busy weekday breakfasts. 

Avocado Toad in a Hole

Makes two servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes


  • 1 large Haas avocado
  • 2 tbs. ghee or fat of choice
  • 2 large pastured eggs
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Paprika to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Wash a ripe avocado (you’ll keep part of the skin on during cooking). Cut the avocado in half and pop out the pit. Slice off the rounded outer edge of each half, leaving two center slices with a hole through each.
  2. Melt the ghee in a cast-iron skillet on medium heat. Once the fat starts bubbling, place the two slices of avocado in the pan.
  3. Crack each egg into a small bowl and season with salt. Carefully pour one egg into the hole in the middle of each avocado slice. Sprinkle with paprika and black pepper.
  4. For runny yolks, increase heat to medium-high, and fry until the bottom of the egg sets. Use a spatula to flip the avocado slices over; cook for another minute. Serve warm.
  5. For firmer yolks, cover the skillet with a lid, reduce heat to low, and cook for three to five minutes, or until the whites are set.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon

This recipe will convert any Brussels sprouts naysayer — even kids and picky spouses! The mild, nutty bitterness of the caramelized sprouts combines beautifully with smoky pork. There’s a reason this recipe is the most popular one on my blog. 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon

Makes four to six servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


  • 1 1/2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • 2 to 3 tbs. melted ghee or fat of choice
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 bacon slices, diced
  • Aged balsamic vinegar to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Cut off the ends and pull any old outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts.
  2. Cut the sprouts in half, and toss them with the melted ghee, salt, and pepper.
  3. Pour the coated sprouts onto a foil-lined baking sheet, making sure to keep everything in one layer. Sprinkle the diced bacon over everything, and pop the sheet into the oven.
  4. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, checking at 10-minute intervals to rotate and
    flip the sprouts.
  5. Remove from the oven and drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the finished dish to taste. Serve warm.

Kalua Pork

You could make this flavorful Hawaiian-inspired dish in a slow cooker, but my pressure-cooker version will get you a giant pile of smoky, fork-tender pork in a fraction of the time. It’s delicious as is — or you can crisp it up and make carnitas, add it to a frittata, or make tacos with it. 


Makes eight servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: About 2 hours


  • 3 bacon slices
  • 1 bone-in, 5-lb. pork shoulder roast
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 tbs. coarse Hawaiian red sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 cup water


  1. Place the bacon in the bottom of the pressure cooker and fry over medium heat. (If using an electric pressure cooker, use the Sauté setting.) Flip the bacon when the first side crisps up. Turn off the heat when the bacon is browned on both sides.
  2. Slice the pork roast into three equal pieces. (Tip: Cut out the piece with the bone first, and then cut the two other pieces to match the first.) Stab a couple of slits in each piece of pork with a knife, and tuck the garlic cloves into the slits.
  3. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the pork, and place the salted pork on top of the bacon in the pressure cooker, keeping the pork pieces in a single layer.
  4. Pour in the water. (Check your pressure cooker’s manual to see what the minimum amount of liquid is for your particular model, and adjust accordingly.)
  5. If you’re using a stovetop pressure cooker, cook on high heat until high pressure is reached. Then, reduce the heat to low and maintain high pressure for about 75 minutes. If you’re using an electric cooker, simply program it for 90 minutes.
  6. Remove the stovetop cooker from heat or turn off the electric cooker. Let the pressure release; this will take about 15 minutes.
  7. Once the cooker is depressurized, check that the pork is fork-tender. If it is not, you can cook it under pressure for another five to 10 minutes to get it right. Shred with a fork and serve warm.

For a shopping list of these recipes, download the PDF or see “The Nom Nom Paleo Shopping List“.

Cooking Under Pressure

Pressure cookers are game changers for busy home chefs. These beauties significantly cut down the time you need to prepare some really tasty food. Paleo faves like bone broths, stews, and roasts come together in minutes rather than hours. They also save money because you can use inexpensive cuts of meat and know they’ll come out tender and flavorful.

With locking, airtight lids and valve systems that regulate internal temperature, these pots (whether old-school stovetop types or new electronic countertop models) take advantage of steam — a fantastically efficient heat conductor — to cook quickly and thoroughly. They seal in moisture, retain nutrients, and intensify flavors.

For more pressure-cooker recipes, go to “Cooking With Pressure Cookers“.

Brussels Sprouts Chips

Move over, kale chips. There’s a new trendy vegetable chip in town! When you’re preparing Brussels sprouts — trimming the ends and cutting the sprouts in half — put those loose leaves that fall off in the process into a bag and keep in the fridge. (Secret: I will sometimes make roasted Brussels sprouts two days in a row just to have enough leaves to make up a batch of these tasty delights!)

Makes 2 cups
Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Total preparation time: 30 minutes


  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts leaves (the outer leaves from about 2 lbs. of Brussels sprouts)
  • 2 tbs. ghee or fat of choice
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Zest from a lemon (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt ghee in the microwave (about 20 seconds). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the Brussels sprouts leaves with the melted ghee in a large bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.
  3. Arrange coated leaves evenly in a single layer on each baking sheet. Bake for eight to 10 minutes, or until crispy and brown around the edges.
  4. Remove from the oven, and if desired, grate some lemon zest over the crispy Brussels sprouts leaves. Serve immediately.

This article originally appeared as “Nom Nom Paleo” in the January/February 2016 issue of Experience Life.

Photography by: Henry Fong

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