Disclaimer: I am part of the #foodloversunite campaign sponsored by the Atlantic Superstore. I have been compensated but all opinions and content are my own. I only work with brands I truly love.
I don’t know about you but for me dinner can be the most stressful time of the day. Not only do you have a limited amount of time to get a meal on the table but when you don’t have a plan, just thinking about what to cook can make your head spin. Because my two hungry beasts, I mean kids, want food and they want it NOW.
Enter meal planning, the solution to stress-free dinners. Set aside some time each week, make a plan, make sure you have all the ingredients and suddenly mealtime doesn’t seem so daunting. If you’re really looking to change the game completely, set aside some time once a week to do some meal prep. Talk about a lifesaver. I’ve been a fan of meal planning for some time but now with a second little beast to feed, it’s essential. Though I will admit that even I - with years of experience cooking for others - still get stressed. Sometimes I fail to make a solid enough plan or forget a key ingredient or even plan a meal that’s far too complicated.
This month’s Food Lovers Unite challenge with my local Atlantic Superstore was the opportunity to pick the brain of their in-store Registered Dietitian and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I think many people still hold the misconception that dietitians deal solely with those looking to achieve a healthy weight. While they are certainly trained in that area, dietitians are so much more. They are as much a food lover as I am, passionate about sharing their love of healthy food and a balanced lifestyle with others. Looking for help navigating the store in search of healthier options? They can do that. Need advice decoding nutrition labels? They most definitly can help with that. How about packing balanced lunches for those little people? They can help with that too. And meal planning? Well, my local Atlantic Superstore Registered Dietitian Kristen Gaudet was a wealth of information. Not only did she have meal planning templates and information at the ready, she also has a natural ability to explain meal planning in terms of a balanced plate. If there is one thing many of us could use it’s a little balance. Kristen also discussed ways to make meal planning and mealtimes less stressful from relying on weekly theme nights to using on a slow cooker to rethinking your plate so that a platter of crudités and dip easy becomes a serving or two of vegetables. Armed with plenty of helpful information and newfound confidence, I decided it was time to conquer that meal plan. I chose a few favourite meals I could easily execute and, after a quick trip to the Atlantic Superstore for all the fresh and local produce, it was time to take the stress out of mealtime once and for all.
This Vietnamese noodle salad or ‘bun’ has long been a favourite of mine both at home and at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant. It’s a weekday staple for all the best reasons: it’s fast and simple, coming together in about thirty minutes, it’s packed full of beautiful herbs and vegetables, and it makes a delicious (mostly) vegetarian meal. It is also easily prepared in advance; simply mix together the sauce, cook the noodles, and chop the vegetables. Come dinner, you only need to fry the tofu. Like most of my go-to meals, this dish is perfectly customizable with whatever fresh and local vegetables you have on hand. Pickled vegetables are also an excellent addition. For a complete plant based meal, substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce to taste.
If you’re looking for a flavourful stress-free dinner to add to your meal plan repertoire, look no further. It is especially great for summer. If you too need help meal planning or guidance with other nutrition goals, the in-store Registered Dietitians at the Atlantic Superstore are an excellent place to start. For further information, visit bookadietitian.ca.
Vietnamese Tofu Noodle Salad
¼ cup warm water
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup sugar
2-3 tablespoon fish sauce
1 small bird’s eye chili or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
350 g extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
¼ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon pepper*
vegetable oil, for frying
150 g rice vermicelli
1 carrot, julienned
1 cucumber, julienned
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups bean or other sprouts
3 cups shredded lettuce
¼ cup peanuts, toasted and chopped
handful each mint and cilantro
lime wedges, to serve
*Sichuan pepper works well for a touch of mouth numbing spice.
Mix together the water, lime juice and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add in the fish sauce and chili pepper. Adjust sweetness or sourness to taste. Refrigerate until use. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Chill or serve warm. Meanwhile, heat a layer of oil in a cast iron or heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Toss the tofu in cornstarch and spices, shaking off the excess. Fry tofu in batches until crisp on all sides. To assemble, top vermicilli with tofu, vegetables, and herbs. Serve with sauce, crushed peanuts, and lime wedges.
A word on tofu. We LOVE tofu. So we don’t bother with pressing or marinating it like you may see in other recipes. We like the texture of extra firm tofu just fine and it gets super crispy using the above method. Go ahead and do what you like.