Healthy Food

This is a really great warm weather salad that’s fresh, filling, and packed with flavour. There’s a little Vietnamese place Dan and I like to go to in Minneapolis called Jasmine Deli which serves amazing phở, great bánh mì, as well as really excellent bún chay – a salad made with tofu or meat, rice noodles (usually vermicelli), lettuce, various crunchy raw vegetables, fresh herbs, and a moreishly flavourful sauce.

We decided to recreate the salad at home and it’s set to be a summer favourite. You could make it with chicken, pork, or beef instead of the grilled tofu that we made. In terms of veggies, we went with carrots, cucumber, and daikon radish, but bean sprouts are a common addition too and bell pepper would add a similar textural crunch. The sauce is wonderfully salty and full of flavour from the fish sauce and lime juice, but feel free to play with the ingredients there as well.

Bún Chay (Vietnamese Noodle Salad)


For the marinade

  • 1/2 stalk lemongrass, bulbous portion only, finely chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 dried red chili, minced
  • splash of water

For the salad

  • 7 ounces/ 200g dried vermicelli noodles
  • 1/2 pound extra firm tofu (or substitute chicken, pork, or beef)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 a head of romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1/2 cup daikon radish, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumber
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • Large handful of fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 2 tbsp peanuts, chopped (to garnish)

For the sauce

  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed


  1. Press tofu between paper towels to drain excess water. Cut into 1-inch chunks.
  2. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Place tofu in marinade and let sit for half an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare noodles according to package instructions, cooking until white and tender but still firm. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water, fluffing the noodles to separate the strands. Drain again completely. Set aside.
  4. Heat bbq and grill tofu until crispy and golden. Flip and cook the other side. (Alternatively, you could stir fry the tofu in a wok over high heat.)
  5. Shred lettuce set aside with cucumbers, carrots, and sliced daikon radish.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce. Set aside.
  7. Divide the noodles between two bowls. Arrange greens and tofu on top and garnish with peanuts. Just before eating, drizzle with sauce to taste and toss.

This is a departure from the kinds of breakfast I usually post in this space. Normally, it’s all about weekend breakfasts. Well, it’s more exciting isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to be wooed by sweetcorn fritters, fancy potatoes, waffles, fry ups, french toast, biscuits and bacon, and pancakes?

But more likely than not, you – like me – eat something much more normal most weekdays. Something along the lines of some muesli and milk, runny eggs on toast, bagels with cream cheese, granola and yoghurt, almond or peanut butter and banana smooshed on toast, or simple greens and eggs.

This here is a new kid on my breakfast block. It’s had a look at oatmeal and gone, “yeah, that’s great but what about THIS?”

The best thing about this cereal, straight off the bat, is that you pre-make it so no time is wasted early in the a.m. when you’re fighting the urge to lie down and nap on the kitchen floor with your cat.

Make a big batch (the recipe below makes enough for about five breakfasts) and then in the morning just pop some in a saucepan with some milk to warm it through and you’re ready to eat.

It’s super filling and unbelievably creamy, whilst managing to retain a definite crunch. The cinnamon and ginger are such warming spices, you feel like you’re getting a giant healthy hug. Quinoa and millet are both really easy to digest (and gluten-free), plus ginger aids with digestion – basically it’s one of the most gentle things you can put in your body first thing in the morning. I told you, healthy hug.

It’ll warm you to your frigid core and it’s so bloody good for you, you might just get a medal for eating it. Can I rave any more? Make it. Eat it. Do it.

Breakfast Quinoa
from My New Roots

For the cereal base


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup millet
  • 4 ½ cups water
  • pinch of sea salt


  1. Rinse grains well. Place in saucepan and add the water and salt.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  3. Let cool slightly. Store in a container in the fridge.

For each portion of cereal


  • 1 cup cooked grain mix
  • ¼ cup water or milk (I use almond or soy)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • generous pinch ground ginger
  • 1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • fresh fruit
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • handful chopped nuts, such as almonds or walnuts (optional)
  • dollop of yoghurt (optional)


  1. Measure out one cup of the cooked grain mix and place in a small saucepan with the water or milk. Heat over medium heat until warmed through. Remove form heat.
  2. Stir in the cinnamon, ginger, and chia seeds if you’re adding them.
  3. Place grain mix in a bowl, drizzle with maple syrup, add nuts and chopped fresh fruit, plus a dollop of yoghurt, if you fancy it.

Have you read this article in the New York Times? Recently I told Dan I’d like to gain some more confidence in the kitchen and perfect more basics and “weeknight” type meals. My interest in cooking and baking was first piqued by reading other food blogs, most of which (like mine) focus on recipes.

I’m good at following instructions and I think I have a good sense of what will work well together and turn out tasty. But often I lean on recipes like too much of a crutch, following instructions and ingredients to the tee, mainly through fear of messing something up should I go astray. This is the primary reason I like simple recipes. They allow for some variation and adaptation without fear of anything collapsing, burning, or blowing up.

What this article talks about though, is something that really speaks to me and that is ditching recipes and instead familiarizing yourself with basic techniques and skills. If, like me, you didn’t grow up around parents who cooked from scratch at every opportunity then there’s a high likelihood that conjuring up a great meal after one glance in the fridge as if by magic doesn’t really work for you.

So I give you this salad in the spirit of simplifying life and ditching recipes every now and then in favour of spending less time thinking about food and more time just enjoying it.

I started with some fresh arugula (rocket, in the UK. A much cooler name, incidentally.) and then found a selection of root vegetables (choose whatever is in season where you are – carrots, parsnips, potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes, turnips – see what you find). I always find roasting vegetables to be the simplest way to bring out their delicious flavour. (You know my feelings on roasted broccoli.)

What really does the trick here though, is the dressing. It’s very simple but it just elevates this into proper salad territory. Red wine vinegar (balsamic would be good too), lemon juice, salt and pepper, mustard, fresh parsley. Bam. Throw some tangy feta cheese on top and you. are. golden.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad


  • 2 handfuls arugula (rocket)
  • 2 carrots, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 2 parsnips, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 beet, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 small sweet potato, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled


  1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Toss chopped parsnips, carrots, beets, and sweet potato in a roasting pan and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast , shaking and turning occasionally for about 30-45 minutes.
  2. While those are roasting, add walnuts to a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 6-10 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and chop them into small pieces.
  3. Next make your dressing: get a big bowl and whisk together the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, remaining olive oil and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the chopped parsley. Add the vegetables, walnuts, and arugula to the dressing and toss. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and serve with a nice hunk of bread.