Veggie packed DIY Vietnamese lemongrass beef vermicelli bowl

This Vietnamese lemongrass beef vermicelli bowl is a noodle salad dish that’s great for hot summer days when you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. The dish is often treated like a salad and eaten cold. You can usually find this dish at a Vietnamese restaurant, but you can also easily recreate it at home. The best part of recreating your favorite restaurant dishes at home is that you get to be creative and customize it to your liking. As long as you have a few of the essential ingredients and the final product tastes good, there’s really no right or wrong way to make it. Make sure you load it up with veggies, herbs and lean protein to make it a healthy dish. Check out this quick recipe below!

INGREDIENTS

1 lb beef sirloin; thinly sliced or another protein of your choice such as chicken, tofu, shrimp, pork or ground turkey

FOR THE PROTEIN MARINADE
2 garlic cloves; minced
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp lemongrass powder or 3 tbsp finely chopped lemon grass

TO ASSEMBLE
1/2 cucumber; peeled, seeded, and julienned (or zucchini)
4 cups shredded lettuce
handful fresh, chopped cilantro
sprinkle of sesame seeds or chopped peanuts
1 package thin vermicelli noodles; prepared as per package directions

Optional additions:
(Unfortunately, I didn’t have these on hand when I made the dish)
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
4 cups mung bean sprouts, washed
handful fresh mint or basil leaves
1 red Thai Chili; finely minced

FOR THE SAUCE
1/4 cup warm water
5 teaspoons sugar (for a healthier sub, try 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp monkfruit sweetener or 6 tbsp 100% apple juice)
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
optional: julienned carrots and/or sliced chilies to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

PREPARE THE BEEF
In a medium bowl, combine minced garlic, fish sauce, sugar, fresh lime juice and lemongrass powder/chopped lemongrass. Add the the beef slices and add to the marinade. Let sit for about an hour or so. Then heat a lightly oiled pan or wok on medium-high heat. Stir fry marinated beef in batches.

FOR THE SAUCE
Combine the water, sugar, fresh lime juice, rice vinegar and fish sauce together. Stir well and let it sit.

FOR THE VERMICELLI NOODLES
Prepare as per package directions. Drain and set aside.

TO ASSEMBLE THE BOWLS
Arrange lettuce in the bottom the bowl or have it on the side. Top with vermicelli noodles. Place cooked beef on top of vermicelli noodles. Finish off with toppings of cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, mint, sesame seeds or peanuts. Drizzle the sauce on top of the dish and enjoy!

Healthy pantry makeover

One of the simplest ways to encourage more cooking and find joy in it is to have a well organized kitchen pantry. When your pantry is cluttered, overly packed, stocked with expired items, spilled sauces, filled with highly processed foods or simply unorganized that you don’t know where things are, it can be a headache thinking about cooking. In addition, if your pantry doesn’t align with your healthy eating goals, it’s time for a makeover! It’s amazing how a well-organized and well-stocked pantry can help make mealtime easy and nutritious. Keep reading to learn simple strategies to help you stock a healthy pantry.

1) “Out of sight, out of mind”: If your goal is to eat healthier, you might want to swap out less-healthy foods such as snack foods or highly processed items that are high in salt, sugar and fat for healthier options. If you find that majority of your pantry consists of less-healthy foods, consider getting rid of most it (or all). By most of it, I encourage at least 85% of it. You may decide to choose only a few fun treat foods to keep around. In organizing these items, try the method of placing the healthy options at eye level and at easy-to-reach places, while intentionally placing the less-healthy treat foods at harder-to-reach places that will require a bit of effort to get to them. Strategic placement will help control impulsive urges to snack during times when you’re bored or stressed.

2) Utilize organization containers and label them: As you go through your kitchen pantry, you may find surprises such as expired items and mystery items (items with change in color, texture or maybe you have no clue what it is). Can you relate? It is extremely helpful to have organization containers such as clear food storage containers with lids, baskets and jars to place pantry foods in. The original containers that foods come in may be dirty, bulky and taking up too much space in your pantry, so toss those out and you’ll find that you can utilize your kitchen space more efficiently. Organization definitely helps with functionality. Don’t forget to label the containers with their name, their brand (optional) and their expiration date.

3) Organizing the spices and herbs: Incorporating a variety of spice and herb options will help add flavor, make cooking fun and healthy. Many spices come with exceptional health benefits! (Link below to learn more about spices). We are finding that too much sodium (salt) in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, edema, bloating and even calcium loss. So, move aside the salt and stock your pantry with spices and herbs. In organizing them, try placing your spices near the stove so they’re easily on hand as you cook. If you’re low on pantry space, consider placing them in a nearby drawer instead. In addition, make it easy to locate the spice by arranging them alphabetically or organize them by what you like to cook and group spices accordingly. You may also consider a spice rack to place on the counter!

4) Storing Tupperware: With a well-stocked and organized pantry, hopefully you will find yourself cooking more. To simplify the process of packing leftovers or meal prepping, make sure you have a set of quality Tupperware. If feasible, I encourage getting a uniform set of Tupperware with a variety of sizes. It makes storage of them easier by placing them into each other and separating the lids. Find a clean place in the cabinet or drawer to store all of these in one location.

For more ideas on healthy pantry makeovers, check out these links:

Healthy Food Pantry Makeover by Whole Foods Market

Healthy Pantry Makeover Tips + Free Printable Pantry & Meal Planning Checklist by Green Child Magazine

Pantry Makeover: What to Stock, What to Skip by Food Network

24 Delicious Herbs & Spices With Health Benefits by Organic Facts

I hope you found these tips and links useful and inspiring! A kitchen pantry makeover can bring so much happiness and I encourage you take on this challenge in your own home.