Simply Vietnamese Cooking and the Big Cool Noodle Bowl


No woman is an island. So, occasionally I look to mix things up around here by trying out some recipes in a cookbook for inspiration. I looked around and found this book ‘Simply Vietnamese Cooking’ by Nancie McDermott, you Good Eats fans may remember her as the Cake Historian. A person who knows cake that well should be trusted. I’m pretty sure that’s a law. This particular book also grabbed my attention because I love Vietnamese food but lack a restaurant in this corner of the shire. I find Vietnamese food to be so different than say Thai or Chinese, so sadly those places just can’t fill that void. I need those bright, vibrant and refreshing flavours that come from their use of fresh and fragrant herbs. Oh, and we must not forget the oodles and oodles of noodle dishes!

We always hear how healthy Asian cooking can be for us, so why aren’t we doing it more? Well, likely because you think (much like myself) that getting those authentic flavours is a complicated process or perhaps you are a little tired of just doing Chinese food. I put a few of the recipes in this book to a stress test. I was determined to make them after a late night of work. You know what? I succeeded. I had a bowl of tasty authentic flavoured Vietnamese cuisine in front of me within 15 minutes. I even had time to read the cute little “Vietnamese Tales” educational story included with many of the recipes. Really, most of the time was spent cutting and assembling. Vietnamese food assemble!! The best part, I used produce from my own garden. So many of the recipes in here include things that grow so very well in my garden such as cucumbers, mint, basil, green onions, chili peppers…to name a few. A wonderful way to enjoy the last tastes of your summer garden or even next year’s flavours.

After a late day of work it had that refreshing taste that I love so much in Vietnamese cuisine.  A light tasting perfect pick me up dinner. It was so enticing I couldn’t wait to start slurping up those noodles and making unlady like noises of appreciation for the variety of flavours. If you are also a fan of Vietnamese food and want to accomplish authentic flavours easily I recommend this book. I know I will be visiting it frequently myself for another tasty noodle bowl or perhaps a Vietnamese iced coffee or a steamy bowl of Pho.  Want to try out one of these recipes? Please do! Here is the one I had last night:

Big Cool Noodle Bowl with Roast Chicken, Cucumbers and Mint

This recipe is a pattern for innumerable delicious variations on the meal-in-a-bowl known in Vietnam as bun. You can compose a go-to version using ready-to-savor ingredients, such as chunks of rotisserie chicken, slices of Char Shiu-Style Pork (page 88), roast duck from an Asian market or tender slices of grilled flank steak from yesterday’s grill-centered feast. Keep a couple of packages of dried rice noodles (or angel hair pasta) in your pantry, stay stocked up on fresh herbs and lettuces and mix up a jar of pickles (pages 128 to 131), and you’ll be set for pantry meals of irresistible deliciousness on a moment’s notice.

Serves 4

  • 1 lb thin dried rice noodles 500 g
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce or spring salad mix 500 mL
  • 3 cups shredded roast chicken 750 mL
  • 2 cups sliced peeled cucumber 500 mL
  • 1 cup small sprigs fresh mint and fresh cilantro combined optional 250 mL
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts, optional 500 mL
  • 1 cup shredded carrots 250 mL
  • 1⁄3 cup thinly sliced green onions 75 mL
  • 3⁄4 cup chopped dry-roasted salted peanuts 175 mL
  • Double recipe Everyday Dipping Sauce (see below recipe), about 1 cup (250 mL)

1. Bring a large saucepan, Dutch oven or pasta pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Drop in noodles, remove from heat and let stand, using tongs or a slotted spoon and a fork to separate the noodles and let them cook evenly, for 10 minutes. When noodles are tender, drain, rinse in cold water and drain again. You’ll have about 6 cups (1.5 L) of cooked noodles. Let stand while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. Set out 4 big Asian-style noodle or soup bowls. Divide ingredients evenly among the bowls: lettuce first, topped with 11⁄2 cups (375 mL) noodles in each bowl.

3. Place roast chicken on one side and cucumber, fresh herbs and any optional ingredients you’re using on the other.

4. Sprinkle green onions and peanuts over chicken, pour 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) of Everyday Dipping Sauce over each portion of the noodles and serve at once, inviting your guests to toss everything together as they begin to eat.


These delicious mix-and-match main course noodle salads make an ideal buffet where each guest can choose their favorite ingredients in quantities they like. Set out the ingredients in the order guests will add them, with noodles first, along with tongs or two forks for easy serving. Next come meat, cucumbers, mint and bean sprouts; followed by pickled carrots, green onions and peanuts. Have the sauce in a bowl with a ladle or big spoon or a small pretty glass pitcher if you have one, so they can add the seasoning at the end.

Everyday Dipping Sauce

  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic 15 mL
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar 30 mL
  • 1⁄2 tsp chile-garlic sauce, finely chopped 2 mL fresh hot red chiles or 1 tsp (5 mL) hot pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce 45 mL
  • 3 tbsp water 45 mL
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice 30 mL

1. In the bowl of a mortar, if using, combine garlic, sugar and chile-garlic sauce and mash with a pestle to a paste. (Or combine them on your cutting board and mash to a coarse paste with a fork and the back of a spoon.)

2. Scrape paste into a small bowl and stir in fish sauce, water and lime juice. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Transfer to small serving bowls for dipping. Or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Courtesy of Simply Vietnamese Cooking by Nancie McDermott © 2015 Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold. Photo credit: Colin Erricson

Victoria’s First Gluten Free Health and Wellness Festival (Coconut Macaroon recipe)


Any of you fellow local Hobbits looking for something to do this weekend? By local I mean somewhere within questing distance of Victoria, BC. Well, if you are you might want to check out this festival at it’s grass roots level. Saturday, February 22nd from 12pm-5pm at the Victoria Conference Center for the main event with various presenters and workshops. It’s not just food, there will be Chi Gong and Yoga to do too! Check out the website for more details or to purchase tickets online:

Want to know even more? Well, lucky me I was able to ask the founder of the event a few questions.

HH: Thank you Ari Hershberg for taking time out of your busy schedule preparing for the first ever gluten free health & wellness festival to answer a few questions.

AH: Thanks for interviewing me about the Gluten-Free Health & Wellness Festival.  You have a cool blog.

HH: First of all, what inspired you to put together a festival of this kind here in Victoria, BC?

AH: I have a speaker agent background.  I moved back to Victoria almost 2 years ago.  I love this city and wanted to bring in big name speakers that people are passionate about, who usually only go to the big cities.  I came up with the idea soon after a visit to the Pacific Rim College.  They are an Alternative Medicine school in Victoria. Their three major programs – acupuncture, phytotherapy (western herbs) and holistic nutrition bring much insight to what gluten does to the body. How to help heal the gut and what modalities will bring balance to the body.  It was suggested to me to take gluten out of my diet.  After a few months I was shocked that my sinuses cleared up and that was just the start.  My sinuses had always been congested and I thought that it was genetic.  I started reading “Wheat Belly”, the New York Times mega best seller book by Dr. Davis and realized that he would be a wonderful speaker to bring into Victoria.

HH: I see a fantastic array of topics have been arranged for this festival from gluten free awareness to digestion health to chi gong and yoga. What message are you hoping attendees of the festival will learn from their afternoon of wellness education?

AH: The goal of the event is to go beyond all of the sound bites out there on gluten-free and educate people on gluten-free as well as the many other aspects that can put people in their best health.  There are so many wonderful things you can do to improve your health.  I wanted to make the event into a festival of possibilities.  For example, Chi Gong is one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world and in North America the exercise is pretty obscure.  This is an opportunity for people to look at so many different forms of health and see what they think in an open, friendly environment.    

HH: How do you see gluten free health and wellness today as opposed to say 10 or 5 years ago?

AH: That is a great question and one I have thought about often.  Pardon my Malcolm Gladwell reference, but Gluten-Free hit a tipping point about a year ago and now is a term that everyone has heard about.  In Victoria it seems like every restaurant now caters to gluten-free.  Prior to this tipping point, a small group of people who knew the term gluten-free were celiacs or people who went to their naturopath or Chinese Medicine doctor and was told to try and take gluten out of their diet and see how their body performed.  There was very few people who knew about the term gluten-free.  I would give the majority of the credit to Dr. William Davis and his book Wheat Belly.  This book created discussion and is still creating discussion.  

HH: What do you hope to see in the future for this festival?

AH: My biggest hope and dream for the festival is that it becomes a trusted educational event, where people come who want to take a day and learn.  Through learning people who attend will feel comfortable, confident and even excited about their health and see how easy it is to make some minor adjustments in their health and the many health advantages they have from making these changes.  I also want to create community.  The opportunity to listen to phenomenal speakers in a live event creates discussion.  This past year I was honoured to be the Media Relations Coordinator for TEDxVictoria.  People love TED and TEDx talks and have favourite videos online that they have shared with friends.  Being at the live event was different, during the intermission people gathered in the foyer and talked about different talks that excited them with friends and people they just recently met during the event.  I would like to see the same at this festival.

HH: As a health focused “foodie”, I have to ask, what are some of your favourite healthy snacks and/or meals?

AH: It changes all of the time.  For years I would spend a year or more mainly cooking a specific cultures food (Italian, Chinese, Indian).  Lately I have been reading Sandor Katz, learning the Art of Fermentation and am all over Chinese soups again.  My favourite soup right now is Corrine Trang’s “Cure All” Soup.  It is a combination of fresh ginger, green onions, pork ribs, ground pork, daikon radish, fish sauce (I add fresh turmeric and kombucha squash) and fresh cilantro.  I am going to have to go get groceries after I write this and make it today…yum!  I like to cook from scratch and my meals change regularly.  Cooking is my opportunity in the day to listen to great music and make wonderful food. 

HH: Lastly, what is health and wellness to you?

AH: In a nutshell, enjoying life.  Doing work that I love, that gives back to the community, exercising with friends, cooking great food and sharing with friends, learning and trying new things and laughing, laughing a lot.

HH: Once again, thank you for taking the time to answer these question and congratulations on making the first gluten free health & wellness festival in Victoria, BC a reality.

Now, I can’t finish this up without having some kind of recipe so the kind folks at Origin Bakery have given me a recipe to share.

ImageCoconut Macaroons


  •  3 cups organic unsweetened dried shredded coconut
  • 1 cup organic coconut cream
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4 large free-range egg whites
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence, or ½ vanilla bean



  1.  Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk egg whites with honey and vanilla, just til combined.
  3. Whisk in coconut cream, then add coconut and salt and stir til combined.
  4. Scoop by tablespoonfuls onto greased or parchment-lined tray.
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes or til golden on top.


Yields about 25 cookies, depending on size. Each cookies contains: 75 calories, 6.6 grams fat, 4.2 grams carbs, 1.3 grams fibre, and 1.2 grams protein. A tasty indulgence, my husband LOVES coconut macaroons. It’s one of my favourite things to send him in a care package when he is away.


Mac and Cheese now with covert veggies

Yes, I messed with that classic, the precious macaroni and cheese. Yes, I added vegetables. Hear me out though! Years ago kraft came out with a healthier mac that included cauliflower in its sauce. I tried it, it was ok…except that cauliflower upsets my tummy. Notice you don’t see me using it much? Well, I finally got to thinking there must be a better way. After a bit of playing around I have found it. I was torn for awhile between pumpkin and carrot,  but in the end carrot won. Mostly because I used up all my pumpkin making all my other delectable treats.


  • 227 grams high fibre dry macaroni
  • 370 grams carrots, cut into chunks (I just washed them and left peels on)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1 cup light shredded cheese (I blended some cheddar and mozzarella but have fun trying out new things, I would include a sharp cheese in the blend though)
  • 1/4 cup light shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbl light cheddar cheese spread
  • 3 tbl shredded romano or parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven 375F and spray a 9×9 baking dish.
  2. Cook the pasta as directed to al dente, drain and reserve 1 cup of liquid.
  3. Place carrots in a microwave safe container. Add 1/2 cup water. Microwave for 4 minutes or until soft. Add reserved water from the pasta and puree until smooth.
  4. Add the carrot puree to the pasta and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the “sauce” thickens.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add the mustard powder, 1 cup of shredded cheese blend, cheese spread and romano/parmesan cheese. Stir until creamy and season to taste.
  6. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with the 1/4 cup light cheddar cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbling.

Serves 4. Each serving contains 338 calories, 8.2 grams fat, 53.3 grams carbs, 2.6 grams fibre, 17 grams protein. A great comfort food, I forgot about the carrots in it after the first bite and just carried on loving a creamy noodle dish of num. A little side salad and you have accomplished so many of your daily veggies or better yet cut this into smaller pieces and have it as a side dish. A 6 serving side dish is 225 calories, 5.4 grams fat, 35.6 grams carbs, 1.7 grams fibre, 11.3 grams protein.

Book Review: Dining Out at Home Cookbook 2

Ever wanted to imitate those dishes you enjoyed while eating out for much cheaper at home? I do. I do this all the time, I taste something, then I go home, imitate it and try to make it healthier. This book comes from a fellow blogger, Stephanie Manley of, who has had so much success in food imitation she has filled a second book of recipes. I’m a sucker for a great icon guide, this one indicates recipes for cocktail parties, vegetarian, make ahead (always great for dinner parties or freezer cooking), impress the guest (really who wouldn’t want to?), dinner for one (which happens around here a bit), and dinner for two (which happens a lot around here happily) just to name a few. There are so many tantalizing tidbits in there. The thing I love about this book for people like myself who are trying to eat healthier is, now that you have the recipe, it is so much easier to make substitutions. Want that cheesy goodness that comes from Logan’s Roadhouse loaded potato skins? Flip to page 32, substitute light sour cream, light cheddar and monterey jack cheese, and light butter. You are in tasty heaven and for less fat and calories than eating out in the first place. I love to do take out from home. It is always, cheaper, healthier, and often faster (consider driving time, ordering, etc). What about the Melting Pot’s Wisconsin Trio Fondue? Yeah, it’s in there…you know what to do. I do not have access to a lot of these restaurants, being Canadian, so a book like this adds extra excitement. Many a time my husband and I have been watching tv and seen commercials for places like Sonic, Panda Express, Red Lobster (we don’t have one on the island), and Cheesecake Factory (that is actually due to all our Big Bang Theory watching), they look so good but are nowhere near here. Happily they all have recipes in this book, I can’t wait to make some of those red lobster biscuits, healthy version of course. So many great restaurant recipes are represented in this book including my own addiction, a version of starbucks pumpkin spice latte which I get to share with you right now! Perfect timing too right?’s Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Syrup

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tblsp grated nutmeg
  • 3 cinnamon sticks or 1 1/2 tblsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tblsp canned pumpkin

Pumpkin Spice Latte Serving

  • 1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee
  • 2-3 tblsp pumpkin syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk, warmed and frothed
  • whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Make pumpkin syrup:

  1. Bring water, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Strain through a coffee filter. You want the seasoned water to be free of the spices.
  4. Pour the strained water back into the pan and add the sugar and pumpkin. Mix well.
  5. Simmer another 10 minutes. Makes approximately 1 pint of pumpkin spice syrup. Store in and airtight container in the fridge. Will stay fresh for up to a week.

Make the Latte:

  1. Brew a 4 ounce serving of espresso or strong coffee.
  2. Place 2-3 tblsp of pumpkin syrup in a coffee cup and add coffee.
  3. Gently pour the frothed milk over the coffee and gently stir.
  4. Top with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg if desired.

Serves 1

Want to make it a skinny pumpkin latte like I do? Substitute the sugar with stevia or splenda, choose skim milk or unsweetened almond milk, and skip the whipped cream. A skinny pumpkin spice latte serving (with unsweetened almond milk) comes in at 28 calories, 2 grams fat, 5.4 grams carbs, 1.2 grams fibre, and .9 gram protein. Nummy! I make this with organic canned pumpkin and stevia. Watch for sales throughout the year and enjoy!

Double Dark Brownies

When life gets crazy, make brownies. Life around here has definitely been crazy, you might have noticed the absence of posts. Well, to comfort myself I made a fudgy style of brownie and felt I should definitely share. Accept my chocolatey, tasty, less than guilty apology? Wait till you see the secret ingredient…don’t let it turn you off. My husband, the surly dwarf, didn’t even notice. Definitely try it.


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup splenda, truvia or other sugar substitute
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup nutri flour (or unbleached flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 7 egg whites or 1 cup egg substitute
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened light coconut milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Spray 13″x9″ pan, preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine sugar, cocoa, flour, and baking powder.
  3. Add egg whites, pumpkin, coconut milk, and vanilla. Stir until moistened.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Pour into pan and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into 24 squares.

Makes 24 brownies. Each brownie contains 58 calories, .9 gram fat, 14.5 grams carbs, .7 gram fibre, 1.8 grams protein. Yeah, I know. I had to double check, I was so surprised. Definitely a go to brownie for those chocolate comfort cravings.



Cheeseburger Bubble Pizza

A friend of mine approached me to try to make a healthier version of this tasty dish. Most of all she wanted to avoid the use of pre-made dough which is full of preservatives. I had to admit, I had no idea what bubble pizza was. Apparently it’s when you take dough in a can and mix it with pizza ingredients to make a delicious kind of deep dish meets casserole experience. After playing around with it a bit I found a combination that not only worked but we have now added to our own list of favourite not so naughty dishes. The best part? Leftovers can be frozen and reheated. They taste just as good as the original baking. For you freezer cooks this is definitely one I would add to your menu. Alright, enough talking about the holy grail of pizza lets get down to the details!


  • 1 tbl honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbl water
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (I actually used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 tbl light butter
  • 10 oz extra lean ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar tomato sauce of your choice or homemade (16 oz)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 cup light mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup light cheddar
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Pizza toppings of choice (optional, not included in nutritional info)
  1. Grease a 9×13 baking dish, preheat oven to 350F
  2. Combine the first ingredients in either a breadmaker according to your directions or knead together on a floured surface to create a dough. Proof twice.
  3. In a deep skillet brown the ground beef, break up any big bunches.
  4. Add garlic and onions. Continue to cook until onions are soft.
  5. Stir in tomato sauce and basil.
  6. Grab small (thumbsized) balls of the dough and add them to the sauce mixture. 100_2984
  7. Stir the mixture very gently until all the dough balls are coated with sauce.100_2986
  8. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven, sprinkle with the cheeses and another other pizza toppings you want to include. Bake for another 10 minutes (longer if you really load it up).
  10. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before cutting into 6 really large portions.100_2997

Makes 6 servings. Each serving contains 339 calories, 13.8 grams fat, 34.6 grams carbs, 4.2 grams fibre, 19.9 protein. So filling and so easy to make into a feast by adding a side salad. My surly dwarf was impressed with how full it made him feel after a long day of work. This might actually find a special place in our freezer to take care of those, aarrgh, let’s just have pizza kind of days. 2-3 minutes in the microwave is faster than delivery and so much cheaper.


Hardcore Hobbit: Mince and Taters

What a lovely Scottish dish this one is, some of you might know this better as mince and tatties. In LOTRO you make this comforting food using leek stock, carrot, taters, herbs, and beef. Like the description says this is a simple and extremely satisfying meal. A traditional approach to this tends to be a bit of a…well…rustic presentation. I’m going to pretty it up a little but I feel it’s still rustic and so tasty. I played around a bit with my usual gravy recipe too, instead of flour I worked with potato starch. A very successful experiment, I have to say as a thickener, potato starch is pretty awesome and of course, gluten free for those who worry about that.


  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 red potato
  • 2 cups leek or beef stock
  • 2 tbl potato starch
  • 2 tbl light butter
  1. In a bowl combine beef, carrot, onion,worcestershire sauce, cloves, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Form into small, slider sized patties about 2-3 oz each.
  2. In a med-high heat pan sear each patty for 2 minutes on each side. Set aside.
  3. In a sauce pan melt the butter.
  4. Add the potato starch and stir to create a roux.
  5. Whisk continuously as you pour the stock slowly in.
  6. Allow the gravy to come to a boil for 2 minutes then lower the heat to a simmer. Season gravy to taste. Add the patties and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile wash and cube potatoes. Bring water to a boil in another pot. Add potatoes, cook until fork tender (about 10-15 minutes). Drain, add a bit of stock and mash.
  8. Serve your mince patties, with a mountain of tatties (having a close encounters moment like I did is not required), and gravy. Enjoy!

Makes 6 patties, a whole bunch of potatoes, and more gravy than you actually need…I’m a gravy eating monster and I couldn’t finish it. Each patty contains 142 calories, 9.7 grams fat, .4 gram carbohydrate, 0 fibre, and 10.6 grams protein. Each 1/2 cup of potato contains 117 calories, .1 gram fat, 26.7 grams carbs, 4.1 grams fibre, and 2.9 grams protein. Each tbl of gravy contains 12.5 calories, .8 gram fat, 1.4 grams carb, 0 fibre, and .1 gram protein. *phew* That was a lot of math today. You know what would finish this dish even better? An english pea puree. That is another story though.