This paleo, Whole30-friendly 30-Minute Sesame Beef and Snap Pea Stir-Fry Skillet Supper was inspired by Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed Weeknights cookbook; it’s full of real-food ingredients minus any icky add-ins, and it’s even better than takeout from your favorite Chinese restaurant.
So, in a nutshell, Melissa Joulwan is a paleo goddess. She’s the mastermind behind the Well Fed cookbooks and not only are her recipes approachable and innovative, but they’re pretty dang amazing whether you eat paleo or not.
I think we can all agree that it’s a pretty good day when you get to eat a meal that’s as insanely delicious as it is nourishing, right?
Here’s Melissa. How pretty is this lady?!
Most, if not all, of you out there are probably already pretty familiar with the paleo way of eating. It focuses on nutrient-dense unprocessed (real!) foods like grass-fed meat and eggs, seafood, fresh produce, and healthy fats from sources like avocados, olives, coconut, seeds, and nuts. Things like processed foods, legumes, dairy, and grains are avoided.
When I had been eating clean for about six months, I noticed something that came as quite a surprise: my taste buds had completely changed. I was able to pick up subtle flavor nuances and pull out the tastes that had been hiding behind processed foods for so long. Vegetables like Romaine lettuce and green peas actually tasted sweet. Celery on its own tasted quite salty. Mushrooms umami quality tasted so much like meat it was ridiculous. I started to crave the fresh, bright flavor of lemon and the bitterness of dark leafy greens.
Once you give in to this way of life, it’s not about avoiding “off-limits” food. I eat about 80/20 paleo (mostly because cheese, dark chocolate, and coffee with cream are my happy places, lol), and I speak from experience when I say that once you embrace paleo, a whole world of inspiring new meals opens up to you. Chinese-inspired dishes like this become part of your nourishing daily foods, instead of having to save them for a “cheat meal” that makes you feel lethargic and bloated (and worst of all, guilty) after eating.
I never would have thought that I could make a stir-fry that was even remotely as delicious as takeout from my favorite Chinese restaurant. (I’m sure their secret ingredient list includes things like excess salt, sugar, and/or MSG, so it’s no surprise that their food tastes so dang good.) Leave it to the creative genius of Melissa to fix that though, and come up with something that’s not only healthy but will knock your socks off when it comes to flavor.
Her new cookbook, Well Fed Weeknights, is every bit as innovative as her previous cookbooks Well Fed and Well Fed 2. What I really love about Melissa’s cookbooks is how she shares cooking techniques as well as recipes. Once you master her techniques, you’ll find that the recipes have endless variations.
For example, let’s look at the Well Fed method for what Mel calls velvet stir-fry. She calls it satiny and plush (and it really is), and shares the super simple four ingredients that can be used to “velvet” just about any kind of meat you want to stir-fry! Once you learn her brilliant method, take a look at the eight well-thought-out stir-fry recipes or come up with a custom stir-fry based on your favorite veggies and flavors like I did.
This stir-fry technique (which is hands-down the best stir-fry of my life and the only stir-fry I’ll be making from this point on) is only one example of the deliciousness that is contained in this book. There’s also a guide on how to make the ultimate salad bar (and a recipe for Blueberry Pie Salad!), a section on anything and everything you could ever want to know about burger night (including an Apple Pie Burger…whaaat?! I’m so intrigued by that one), and info on how to do taco night with all the fixings. And I love the fact that she keeps paleo fresh and interesting by featuring recipes from different areas of the US (such as Italian Hoagie Salad, Dirty Rice, Fried Chicken Meatballs with Collard Greens, and Chicago Dogs), as well as around the globe (like Deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie, Schnitzel Meatballs with Parsley Potatoes, and Dan Dan Noodles). Check out this cookbook or any from Melissa’s collection and I know you’ll be as inspired as I am.
And because the #1 question I get asked about palso is how to eat paleo on a budget, I asked Melissa this very question, and she chimed in with some practical advice…
The annoying answer is that in the long run, eating well to bolster your health now means less healthcare expenses later. But that's no comfort at all when you're looking at your bank balance! My first piece of advice is to buy in bulk whenever possible. Nuts, spices, and meat are good examples of foods that can be purchased in bulk. Buying, say, half a pig or an eighth of a cow is a big chunk of money up front, but you get a reduced price-per-pound. Spices are great to buy from the bulk department of the grocery store because you can get just the amount you need—which means they taste better, too.
A big part of eating paleo is produce, and the best way to save money there is to shop at the farmer's market or a CSA. You get what's local and fresh, and that usually means it's more affordable, too.
Don't be tricked into thinking you need to buy "special" food at places like Whole Foods or health food stores. I live in a tiny village in Vermont and my regular, neighborhood grocery store has everything I need at regular store prices. Paleo products are sneaky because they're tasty and the satisfaction is instantaneous, but you can make many paleo treats and staples from scratch. Goodies like nut butters, mayo, and grain-free granola can be really pricy, and they're all super easy—and fast to make yourself. In well under an hour, you can whip up homemade Coconut Butter, Spicy Almond Butter, Mayo, and Granola like this or this for significantly less money than buying those products. And if making it yourself isn't your thing, there's the membership-store Thrive Market which has tons of paleo-family products are discounted prices. They offer great pricing on pantry basics like oils, nuts, paleo flours, dried fruit, and more.
- 1½ lbs (680 g) beef steak (such as sirloin, strip, flank, top round), very thinly sliced across the grain
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
- 1 teaspoon organic raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 lb snap peas
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- Stir together all ingredients for the beef together in a large bowl until the beef is well coated. (You can let the beef marinate for 10 minutes while you prep the other ingredients, or you can cover it and refrigerate up to 8 hours. I’ve done it both ways and they both will yield delicious results, but if you let it go for 4 to 8 hours, you’ll be rewarded with meat that literally melts in your mouth.)
- Whisk together all ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
- For the stir-fry, add the olive oil to a large skillet over high heat (or use a wok if you have one). Add half the beef in a single layer and cook until browned on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the browned meat to a plate and cook the remaining beef the same way.
- To the skillet or wok you cooked the beef in, still over high heat, add the yellow onion and red bell pepper and a splash of water; use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits that have formed in the bottom. Cook until the veggies are starting to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Still over high heat, add the snap peas and sauce to the onion/bell pepper mixture, and cook until the snap peas are slightly tender, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the browned meat, top with the sesame seeds and scallion, and serve.
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