Just like some people can barely draw a stick figure, or sing “Happy Birthday” without causing a scene, I can’t cook. I just can’t. I simply don’t possess the level of analysis, creativity, and decision-making that allow chefs and kitchen masters to work their craft. That said, after spending some time with a new app and my iPad, now even I can make decent meals.
I’m talking about the Nom Nom Paleo app for iOS. Launched last year by Michelle Tam, the app takes the best recipes from her Nom Nom Paleo blog and presents them in an easy-to-follow guide with clear instructions and beautiful pictures.
If you can’t tell from the app’s name, the recipes follow the Paleo diet, a new way of thinking about food that’s gained popularity over the past decade. While the diet is the subject of extensive debate and literature, I’ll sum it up for the purposes of this review: avoid grains, dairy, sugar, starches, and processed food and eat grass-fed meats, wild caught fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats.
Whether you follow the Paleo diet or not, you’ll still find dozens of delicious recipes in the app. Recipes are grouped by category (Eggs, Poultry, Sides, etc) with plenty of options from which to choose. From Tandoori Chicken, to Deviled Eggs, to Shrimp-Stuff Mushrooms, there’s something for almost every taste and appetite. But delicious recipes are a dime-a-dozen on the Internet; where the app really excels is the way it presents instructions.
Selecting a recipe brings up beautiful full-color pictures of each step of the process. Below each picture is a description of the steps, ingredients, and tools required. Where recipes from other sources state, for example, “blanch the vegetables” (an instruction that leaves someone like me holding a jug of bleach over the stove and thinking to myself, “this can’t be right”), the Nom Nom Paleo app explains what blanching is and shows you how to do it. Brilliant!
If you prefer a more text-based approach to recipe instructions, there’s also a “recipe card” for each item. Selecting it brings up an overview of the recipe, including data such as servings and prep time, a full list of required ingredients and kitchen equipment needed, and a condensed text-only list of instructions. Helpfully, even in this text-based mode, tapping on a particular instruction brings up the corresponding picture in a small window at the top left corner of the screen.
It’s clear from the recipes that app creator Michelle Tam is talented chef, and some of the recipes are more complicated than others, or require equipment not likely to be found in most kitchens (see the sous vide recipes, for example). However, the majority of the recipes call for common ingredients and equipment and can be crafted, with the help of the detailed instructions and pictures, even by cooking-challenged individuals like myself.
In addition to great recipe walkthroughs, the app also includes tools that will help you shop and share recipes. As you browse through each recipe, you’ll find check boxes next to each ingredient and piece of kitchen equipment. Tapping the checkbox will add each item to a universal shopping list. This makes it easy to spend a few minutes each weekend picking out recipes for the following week and then taking the shopping list to the grocery store.
The shopping list, along with recipes themselves, can also be emailed directly from within the app. You won’t get the pretty pictures and nice interface, but you’ll be able to send shopping and ingredient lists to others without the app or iDevices, allowing friends and family to do some shopping for you or to easily verify if there will be any food allergy concerns at your next dinner party.
Beyond recipes, the app also features an extensive “Paleo 101” section for those interested in learning more about the Paleo diet. The section contains background on the diet and its principles, an overview of foods that are good for the diet and those that should be avoided, a wonderful 30-day meal plan with in-app links right to the recipes called for each day, an overview of essential kitchen equipment needed for a “Paleo lifestyle,” and more. In short, the Nom Nom Paleo app is really two apps in one: a great cookbook and an educational nutrition guide to the paleo diet.
Overall, the app is attractive, easy to navigate, and a great way for cooks of all levels to try new recipes and techniques. My only gripe is that the interface, filled with large images that swipe in and out of view, can sometimes stutter slightly on a third-generation iPad. It doesn’t kill the experience, but can become a bit frustrating when you’re trying to quickly jump to a particular recipe or step. Also, while the recipe list is searchable, I’d like to see an optional text-based list of recipes that would be faster to browse than the current “Cover Flow” style.
Those on, or just starting, the Paleo diet will find the app and its recipes invaluable, and even those not interested in Paleo nutrition will still find plenty of delicious recipes that are healthy additions to any diet. I therefore have no hesitation in recommending Nom Nom Paleo to iPad owners of any cooking skill level and any diet preference. The app is available now on the iOS App Store.
Nom Nom Paleo
Developer: Nom Nom Paleo LLC
Category: Food & Drink
Current Version: 1.5
Requirements: iPad running iOS 4.3 or later
Last Updated: January 2013