I recently reached out to my good friend, Melissa Joulwan, to ask if I could share a sneak peek of one of the simple, flavor-packed recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less. Mel graciously agreed to reveal the recipe for her Paleo-fied Dan Dan Noodles (one of my faves from the book!) AND a bunch of tips and tricks for getting tasty weeknight meals on the table pronto.
Longtime Nomsters know that Mel is one of my favorite humans on the planet. When I first started eating Paleo back in 2010, her blog (formerly known as The Clothes Make The Girl) was a daily must-read for me; I loved catching up with Melicious, a former roller girl who crushed equally on Jane Eyre and Social D, threw heavy weights around the gym, and also happened to be a Paleo culinary wizard. As an ardent fangirl, I was nervous to finally meet her IRL at the inaugural Ancestral Health Symposium back in 2011, but she was a sweetheart. We instantly clicked, and we’ve been great pals every since. Over the years, I’ve been excited about every single one of her cookbook releases, and can’t wait for her latest collection, Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less, to hit the shelves. Just like the first two cookbooks in the Well Fed series, Well Fed and Well Fed 2 (read my review and a history of our friendship here), this one packs in as many delicious recipes and kitchen shortcuts as possible. So without further ado, I’m gonna turn it over to Mel!
Michelle and I have been
friends for years—since before either of us had become cookbook authors—and we
were drawn together by two things: (1) our shared love of eating food that’s so
delicious you want to smash in your own face with joy, and (2) cursing.
Michelle stole my heart when I realized she has tremendously good taste and can cuss like a sailor. But I
promise my guest appearance here today will be free of questionable language,
and I’m going to share a recipe with you that’s crazy-delicious, super-fast to
make, and sure to please you and your family, no matter how picky some of those
picky-pants might be.
If you’ve read my site or
cooked from my previous cookbooks Well
Fed and Well Fed 2, you know I’m
a passionate advocate for what I call the Weekly Cookup: a batch cooking
session once a week to stock your fridge so you can turn those cooked
ingredients into meals before anyone gets too hangry. (You can learn more about this approach here.)
I still think that’s a great
idea, and I know a lot of you do, too. But I’ve also heard concerns like these
“I don’t have time this
week to do a big Weekly Cookup. Am I totally screwed?”
“I want to eat paleo,
but going to multiple grocery stores wears me out. I just want to make recipes
with stuff I can find at my regular store.”
“I just want to cook a
dinner that makes everyone happy. If my kids and my husband eat it—and ask for
seconds—I’m all good.”
“I get bored eating the
same thing over and over, and my family HATES leftovers. I need recipes that
taste good and can be made fast.”
Everyday challenges like
those were the motivation for my new cookbook Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less.
The recipes are inspired by food trucks, takeout favorites, and delicious
things I’ve eaten on my travels, and all of them are made with ingredients you
can buy at your neighborhood grocery store. Best of all, 100 of the 128 recipes
can be cooked in about half an hour.
I learned a lot about how to
cook quickly while I developed the recipes for this book, and I hope these tips
will help you and your family eat the food you love every
day—without feeling like you’ve become a full-time short-order cook. And at the
end, I’ve shared a recipe from the book so you can try out your new tricks.
Become a Veg-o-Matic.
Leafy greens pack a
nutritious punch and add color to your meals, but kale, chard, and collard
greens are practically useless to you if you’re staring down dinner and they’re
unwashed and uncut. Ditto for salad greens, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and
dozens of other veggies. My advice: Wash them, cut them, and store them as soon
as you get home from the grocery store. It might add about 20 minutes to your
grocery-shopping adventures, but it will ultimately save you time—and make it
easier to eat more veggies. Wash hearty greens, remove the ribs, spin them dry,
then store them in a ziplock bag so they’re ready to go when you are. Wash and
trim carrots and celery, then store in an airtight container with a little
water so they stay crisp. Wash and spin salad greens and fresh herbs, then
store in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel to keep them from wilting. If you
can become your own veggie-processing engine, meal time will be faster and
Opt for fast-cooking
First, a disclaimer:
There is no sexier hunk on the planet than Michelle’s Kalua Pig—and
thanks to her Instant
Pot recipes, you can make a lot of delicious meals more
quickly. But if you’re like me, and you’re just working with a stove and a
skillet, fast proteins like chicken breasts and thighs, pork loin, thin steaks,
shrimp, and ground meats are the answer. They’re loaded with flavor, very
versatile, and transform from raw to done in a flash. The recipes in Well Fed Weeknights are built around
these fast-cooking proteins.
Arm yourself with the
right tools in the right place.
Unless you have the
knife skills of Gordon Ramsey or can channel the ghost of Julia Child with a
wire whisk, it’s unlikely that you can julienne, mince, or purée as quickly as
a gadget can. I resisted the lure of a stick blender for years, and now I
wonder how I got by without it. My go-to gadgets for fast cooking are a stick
blender and pint-size Mason jar for making sauces and salad dressings, and a
mandoline or a food processor with a slicing blade to julienne and to make cuts
thinner than I ever could with a knife. I also rely on my spiralizer for making
zucchini noodles, although if you don’t want another appliance, a julienne
peeler works great, too. And I’m madly in love with my meat hamer! I use it to
pound protein into thin cutlets that cook evenly and to smash plantains before
Once you have the
tools you need, put them in the right place! They’re no good to you inside a
cabinet or trapped in the back of a drawer. If you can spare a corner of
counter space for your equipment, you’ll be able to move faster and with less
frustration. You’re essentially the head chef of your kitchen, so make your
space work for you.
Don’t wait until
You already know that
it’s a pretty terrible idea to go grocery shopping without a list or when
you’re hungry—and it’s not a great idea to wait to cook until you’re stomach is
rumbling. Kitchen tasks are so much more daunting when you need to eat right now. So I recommend a mini-cookup
once a week to stock your fridge with the raw materials for fast, satisfying
meals. Just set aside about an hour to prep a few paleo building blocks, then
you can use those food Legos to construct awesome meals all week long.
- Roast or grill
chicken thighs or breasts
- Brown ground meat
cook a dozen eggs
- Blend a jar of
- Whip up a batch
of homemade mayo
- Turn 2-3 pounds of zucchini
into noodles with a spiralizer
- Grate 1-2 heads of
cauliflower into “rice”
- Boil 2-3 pounds of
potatoes or roast sweet potatoes
With these meal basics
stored in the fridge, you’re only about 15 minutes away from a delicious,
nutritious meal. You can use the chicken and cauliflower rice to make fried rice—or
toss the zucchini noodles with chicken or cooked ground meat and your favorite
tomato sauce for a quick Italian dinner. Assemble a big, ol’ salad with raw
veggies, cooked chicken, hard-boiled eggs, and homemade salad dressing. Make
hash with the ground meat and potatoes—or mix both with beaten eggs for a fast
frittata. Combine hard-boiled eggs and mayo for egg salad, or turn them into
Michelle’s Lazy Devils.
There are dozens of ways to mix and match these ingredients to create tasty
Clean up last.
I have a hard time
concentrating when my kitchen is messy, but I’ve learned that if I want to cook
with speed, I have to let some of my perfectionism slide. I’m not suggesting
that you should cook in the middle of chaos, but you can just set aside used equipment to be washed up later, or—even
better!—recruit an assistant to wash while you cook. Once you’ve got your meal
simmering on the stove or roasting in the oven, you can restore order to the
kitchen. But you can also let the dishes languish until after dinner so you can
focus on your food. Kitchen clean-up is so much easier with a full belly!
And my final tip: Build a
collection of recipes you can rely on when you need to make dinner fast. I asked Michelle to choose a recipe from Well Fed Weeknights that you can add it
to your “fast recipe” collection, and she picked Dan Dan Noodles, a.k.a “noodles on a pole.” I think she
Dan Dan Noodles from Well Fed Weeknights
Dan Dan Noodles are one of
the most popular street foods in Sichuan (a.k.a. Szechuan) province of
southwestern China. The cuisine of the region is known for its bold flavors,
with lots of garlic, chiles, and Sichuan pepper. The name “dan dan” refers to
the pole that noodle vendors used to sell their wares. It was carried across
their shoulders, a basket of noodles on one end and the spicy sauce on the
other. Traditionally, the noodles swim in a face-tingling broth and are topped
with minced pork and preserved vegetables. This fast, paleo version uses
zucchini noodles for slurping, cornichons for an acidic tang, and a separate
chili oil so you can customize the heat.
Total time: 40–45 minutes
Ingredients: (Serves 2-4 people)
For the noodles:
- 2 pounds zucchini
- 2 teaspoons salt
For the chili oil:
- ½ cup light-tasting olive
or avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon whole black
- ½-inch piece of cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons crushed red
For the pork:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger
- 1 jalapeño
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1½ pounds ground pork
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons tahini or
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame
- ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice
- ¼ teaspoon ground black
- ¼ cup coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned
- pinch coconut sugar
- ⅓ cup cornichons
handful cashews, 2–3 scallions
Make the noodles. Julienne the zucchini with the spiralizer. Place the noodles in a
colander and toss them with the salt until the strands are lightly coated. Set
the colander in the sink to drain while you prep the other ingredients.
Make the chili oil. In a small saucepan, combine the oil, peppercorns, cinnamon, and red
pepper flakes. Warm the oil over medium-low heat while you cook.
Cook the pork. Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. While the oil
heats, peel and grate the ginger, mince the jalapeño, and peel and crush the
garlic. Add the aromatics to the oil and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Crumble the pork into the pan, season with the salt and pepper, and cook,
breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until it’s browned, 7–10 minutes.
Make the sauce. While the pork cooks, place the tahini, sesame oil, Chinese five-spice,
and black pepper in a small bowl and mix with a fork. Add the coconut aminos,
vinegar, and sugar; stir until combined. Chop the cornichons and set them
Put it together. Add the sauce to the meat in the skillet and stir to coat the meat. Add
the cornichons to the skillet, toss to combine, and transfer the meat mixture
to a large bowl. Reheat the skillet over medium-high heat. Rinse the zucchini
noodles under running water, drain well, and squeeze them dry in a clean dish
towel. Add the noodles to the heated pan and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes until
hot. Return the meat to the pan and toss with two wooden spoons to combine;
allow it to heat through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cinnamon stick from
the chili oil and discard it. Set the oil aside to cool. Chop the cashews and
divide the noodles among individual bowls and top with a drizzle of chili oil,
then sprinkle with cashews and scallions.
Spiralize the zucchini, make
the chili oil, and prep the sauce in advance; store everything in separate
airtight containers in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, cook the pork and put
it all together according to the directions.
For 127 more delicious
recipes like this one, please check out my new cookbook Well Fed Weeknights.
When you pre-order through my online store, you’ll also receive awesome free bonuses, including an exclusive
1-month Epic Well Fed Dinner Plan, plus goodies from ButcherBox, Thrive
Market, and Paleo Magazine. You can
also pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
If you need more convincing—or
want to start cooking some of the Well
Fed Weeknights recipes before the book is officially launched on November
1—you can download a free 70-page sampler
that features 18 recipes.
Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index! You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my Webby Award-Winning iPhone® and iPad® app, and in my New York Times-bestselling cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013).
Original Source: Dan Dan Noodles from Well Fed Weeknights