There's a new kid on the block in the Paleo cookbook world! Check out this quick interview with Melissa Joulwan, author of “Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat,” available for orders here on her website (a signed softcover book or eBook) or via Amazon.com.
And… Melissa has GENEROUSLY offered up a softcover copy of Well Fed to one lucky reader here! See details to enter to win at the end of this post!
1. What's your favorite thing about cooking?
I grew up in a big food family; my dad owned a diner and my mom regularly won cooking contests. The kitchen is where we show and feel love; we've always come together over meal planning, cooking, and eating… around the dinner table and in the kitchen. Even though I live far away from my parents, whenever I start rattling pots and pans, I feel connected to them — and an added improvement now is that with paleo cooking, the recipes we share with each other make us healthier, while we still feel that comforting food-love.
Cooking also fires up my imagination. I especially like international recipes because I love to dig into the culture surrounding the dish: the history, what the experience of eating the food is like in its local setting. It's similar to the way a great book can transport me to another place — only with the associated fun of eating.
Time in the kitchen can be relaxing and meditative, too. Chopping vegetables, stirring pots… it can be very soothing, especially on a weekend morning, when I'm sipping a cup of tea, preparing nourishing food for the week.
2. What's your favorite, time-saving cooking tip?
Definitely, definitely The Weekly Cookup I describe in Well Fed. I enjoy cooking, but hate “making dinner.” The difference for me is that cooking is creative, while making dinner is a time-sensitive necessity. I have a full-time dayjob, in addition to working out and blogging, so free time is pretty tight. I do a giant cooking party on Sundays, aka, The Weekly Cookup, then eat the delicious results all week long so that on any given day, my time in the kitchen is minimized — but on the weekend, I can still enjoy that play time in the kitchen when cooking feels creative.
3. What's your favorite but slightly more obscure/underused ingredient that's used in Well Fed?
I'm a spice junkie, so I'm a big fan of the Ras el Hanout spice blend in Well Fed. It's a Moroccan blend that includes 10 spices — although some Moroccan cooks include up to 30 or more in their personal recipes. It adds a spicy-sweet-peppery zing to vegetables and meats, without being overwhelming. A sprinkle of Ras el Hanout instantly transports your meal to an intrigue-filled alley in Marrakesh — and it takes two seconds to change boring chicken+butternut squash into Moroccan Chicken.
I'm also really excited about the recipes for Jicama Homefries and Jicama “Potato” Salad. It was a big experiment to figure out how and if jicama would even work — and it took several failed attempts to get the cooking method and timing right. I'm delighted that we figured it out and the response to those two recipes has been great. It was so much fun to have the experiment work — and it's great to have an alternative to white potatoes to recreate some favorite recipes.
4. What would your ideal day of food look like to put you in a happy place?
I love love love to start the day with a big pile of broccoli, sauteed with eggs, some ground beef, and a little butternut squash — with either Ras el Hanout or Tsardust Memories seasoning from Penzeys. When I eat veggies and eggs for breakfast, my energy is stable all day, and my hunger arrives at appropriate times… no cravings!
My favorite lunch right now is tuna salad with homemade mayo — or sardines packed in olive oil — arranged like a deli platter with raw vegetables, a scoop of Jicama “Potato” Salad, some little pickles, a few olives, and half a grapefruit. It all tastes light and fresh, it's easy to pack for work, and it's very satisfying. Plus, I love to arrange food so it looks like it came from a restaurant.
For dinner, I really like comfort food, especially now that it's dark so early in the evening: a coconut milk curry served over cauliflower rice, or paleo egg foo yong, which is really like Chinese breakfast-for-dinner and takes only about 10 minutes to make. Easy and hearty makes me happy at dinner time.
5. Why is Well Fed a must have for any paleo or primal eater?
There are two things about Well Fed that make it a worthy addition to a cookbook collection, even if you already own the other great paleo cookbooks that came out this year. The first is that I explain a system for The Weekly Cookup. This plan should help busy people keep their kitchens stocked with paleo food all week long, so their tastebuds will not get bored, and they won't find themselves in a food emergency of being super hungry with no prepped and ready to be eaten. And by following the instructions, even a slow cook can make enough food for 4-5 days in about 90 minutes.
The second is that all of the recipes are Whole30-approved (Editor's note: That means they'll also be 21-Day Sugar Detox-friendly, hooray!), which means they're the cleanest of the clean. The definition of paleo- and primal-approved foods can be quite broad, depending on philosophy — and I think that's a huge advantage to this way of eating. I love that it's not a concrete list of rules because I think it's really important for people to find what works best for them within the guidelines. But my requirements for Well Fed were very strict — no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no added sugar, minimal nuts — because I wanted to create a recipe collection that would provide delicious food that can be eaten every day and would work for everyone. I've been eating these foods for the last three years, tinkering with the recipes so that they live up to my foodie tastebuds, but also make me healthier. The recipes in Well Fed — plus The Weekly Cookup and Hot Plates — provide hundreds of ideas for eating great every day with no “borderline” ingredients.
Well said, Melissa! Thanks for not only sharing some time with me but for sharing this beautiful and recipe/idea-packed book with us!
TO ENTER THE WELL FED GIVEAWAY:
Do the following, then come back here and add a comment letting me know which you did!
NOTE: Only one comment per person will count as an entry. Posting more than one comment will disqualify you from the contest, so please just post once! Thanks!!
1. Like the Well Fed (Clothes Make the Girl) and Balanced Bites Facebook pages.
2. Follow Melissa (@melicious11) and Balanced Bites on Twitter.
3. Subscribe via email to the Balanced Bites newsletter/blog updates.
Then add a comment below about which you completed! That’s it! No purchase necessary.
Note: This contest will be open through the end of Monday, January 9, 2011 and ONE WINNER will be selected using random.org and announced here on the blog, via Facebook and on Twitter. If you do not email me to claim your prize within 48 hours of the announcement, a new winner will be selected in your place.