I recieved an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Michelle Tam, also known by her blog name Nom Nom Paleo, is at it again. She brings her signature wit, charm and realistic approach to Paleo cooking to her second cookbook in spades. Ready or Not! Features 150+ make ahead or “make-now” meals.
In this beautiful book, once again filled with cartoon drawings of the whole family done by her husband and co-author Henry Fong, Tam shares the kind of recipe many of us are looking for: easy, delicious, and on whatever timetable you have at your fingertips. It’s an added bonus that many of the recipes are easily labeled “healthy” since Nom Nom Paleo is a blog dedicated to the Paleo lifestyle. While I don’t adhere to the Paleo diet, I’m familiar with its parameters and find many of Tam’s recipes mouthwatering and delicious.
I own her first cookbook and cook from it frequently. I can tell Ready or Not is going to have a permanent home on the counter, rather than living over on the cookbook shelf. It’s apparent from the book that her blog and lifestyle truly is a family affair. Her kids and husband feature as illustrations and contributors throughout.
Tam doesn’t preach endlessly about the benefits of Paleo, she gives a quick overview and moves on to the good stuff, what we’re really here for – the quick and easy recipes. She organizes the book into four “readiness” levels, rather than dish or component, so depending on where you’re at in meal planning, from “I’m sitting down now to plan for the week” to “I need dinner on the table NOW!” you know just where to look in the book. It’s a well thought-out organization, that’s very user-friendly.
The first actual cooking section “Get Ready” is full of sauces, salsas, dressings, and condiments, with a few other meal components such as hard boiled eggs and pre-roasted chicken breasts. Many of the recipes are Paleo-ized versions of sauces easily found at the grocery store such as hoisin sauce, gojuchang or Thai peanut sauce. For people not eating the Paleo diet, this section is really the least helpful or interesting. I’m personally just going to buy the sauce in the jar from the store. She also spends time in this section outlining useful basic kitchen tools and pantry items, which is great advice for a novice chef. The best part of this section is at the end when she lists ways to mix and match these super basics into quick meals like Mexi-Chicken Salad using the chicken, salsa, smoky lime pepitas and some avocado.
The “Ready” section is for those times when you actually have time to sit down, meal plan and do some food prep for the rest of the week. Lots of slow/pressure cooker recipes fill these pages, along with a few soups and crunchy things. My personal favorite recipe of the section was the Mok Mok Wings, which is reminiscent of the fish sauce laden wings at the iconic Portland restaurant Pok Pok. The Nom Nom Family has a second house in PDX, so it’s not a leap to guess they’re related flavor-wise.
The “Kinda Ready” section is where the going really gets good though. It’s comprised of recipes that are quick to throw together and lean on stuff you’ve probably already got in the pantry or the leftovers from earlier in the week before you lost your motivation to cook for the week. It’s the inspiration a lot of us lack when we’re staring at the fridge on a Wednesday night after a long day at work when dinner just needs to be on the table and take out isn’t gonna cut it.
Finally, the “Not Ready” section is the section for “Oh my god just put food on the table” nights. Some of these recipes had me a bit skeptical – for example, one of the first recipes in the section is a soup that has a pretty long list of ingredients and takes 15 minutes hands on/45 minutes total to make. Not sure that I’d call that quick. Her egg drop soup and following variations are quick however and delicious. Definitely what I’d consider appropriate for this section.
The final section of the book is the roadmap section, where Tam puts together weekly meal plans and shopping lists, to really make this whole cooking during the week thing seem feasible. A really nice addition to the book, making it extra friendly to the busy home cook who wants to eat healthier.
Parts of the book read like product ads, as Tam is a big fan of both the InstantPot pressure cooker and Red Boat Fish Sauce. She devotes pages to both these products, which feels a little weird.
The recipes themselves are laid out almost like a comic book, but using real photographs of the process rather than simple description or drawings. And, while a number of the recipes are Paleo-ized Asian or Asian-inspired, this is not an Asian cookbook. There are recipes for chicken tinga, baby back ribs, souvlaki and buffalo wings as well. I love a lot of Asian flavors so Ready or Not is absolutely packed with recipes that appeal to my palate.
All in all, Ready or Not is a book I plan to purchase for myself, though I knock a full star off because while it’s very useful and a fun resource, it just didn’t excite me the way other cookbooks do.