With good friends…and good food on the board…we may well ask, when shall we live if not now?  —​M.F.K. Fisher from, “The Art of Eating.”

“Breaking bread together,” a phrase as old as the Bible, speaks to the metaphoric power of using food to cement new and old relationships and to provoke laughter and stimulating conversation, particularly during the yearend holidays. Even when times are tough, history shows the urge to celebrate holidays with food endures worldwide.

After a number of pre-Christmas high-calorie delicious gourmet meals at my son Matt’s home in Austin, Texas, we were all ready for a post December low-calorie nutrient-dense dinner that was really fun to prepare with the whole family. It involved a lot of chopping, but everyone participated so prep time was quick and easy.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Most adult light eaters will be satisfied with two or three rolls as a main course dinner.  Active teenage boys on the other hand, easily eat six. This recipe makes about 20 spring rolls with one and one half medium shrimp in each roll).


  • 1 6.5 oz package of rice vermicelli
  • 1 package of 8.5 inch rice skins
  • 30 – 40 cooked shrimp, peeled, de-veined and cut in half lengthwise
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 large bunch of fresh mint
  • 1 half head-lettuce finely chopped or, chopped leaf lettuce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped peanuts
  • One finely chopped jalapeno chili
  • Shredded carrots (for extra color)

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
Traditional Vietnamese sauce with a distinct sweet and sour, and sometimes spicy taste. It includes fresh lemons or limes, a small amount of sugar, Vietnamese fish sauce, garlic and chili sauce. Vary the amount of fish sauce depending on your taste. For this recipe we used:
Juice from 4 large lemons
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
4 cloves minced garlic
Asian Chili Garlic sauce to taste (Huy Fong Foods brand is commonly available in most supermarkets)

Purchase rice noodle vermicelli, which is slightly yellow in the package but cooks pure white. The bean-based Asian vermicelli looks white in the package but cooks clear, so it is not the correct noodle for this dish.

Pre-chop all the ingredients and place them in bowls for quick and easy assembly.

Dip the rice skins in a bowl of very hot water for 5 seconds. The skins won’t be completely soft but as you assemble the roll on a chopping board, the rice skins soften up.

Place shrimp on skin. Make sure the shrimp is red side down so when it is wrapped up it shows through the rice skin.

Next place the lettuce, carrots, chopped peanuts, cilantro, mint leaves and chopped jalapeno chili to taste.

Wrap spring rolls just like burritos. Matt says he learned by watching the folks behind the counter at Chipotle. After the first fold over the first side, really tighten the roll before you fold over the two sides and roll it out.

Have kids roll their own and add the chopped ingredients they like. They might not be as pretty as the ones you roll, but they will have fun doing it.

Matt suggests making a few extra rolls since they are great for lunch at home the following day, or for packed school or office lunches.

Nutritional Value

Shrimp are protein rich, the vegetables include a large variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants without excessive calories. The rice vermicelli and rice skins are low-calorie and gluten free. Hot peppers and garlic are proven to have anti-viral properties so that also makes this recipe a great choice for this time of year. These big spring rolls include about 100 calories each.
Ellen Troyer, with Matt, Jane, Rob and Kat Troyer and the Biosyntrx staff 

We sincerely wish all of our Tasty Tuesday readers a Healthy and Happy New Year with fabulous low or lower-calorie nutrient-dense meals whenever possible.