My husband is one of those people who like to eat goo. I say goo, because we're both oatmeal eaters, but he likes the instant stuff. I, on the other hand, with my gag reflex that makes drinking a smoothie virtually impossible, prefer the good chunkiness of steel-cut oats.
I would argue about who's right and wrong here, because what's a happy marriage without a little friendly rivalry? But it's National Oatmeal Month (who knew?) and it's important to celebrate diversity - even in breakfast foods.
Also, I have lots of rolled oats.
You see, once upon a time, I discovered a local farm that grew and processed their own oats, rendering them about as organic and gluten-free as one could only wish, at this incredible, ridiculous price of about 60 cents a pound. Organic, gluten-free oats cost about $2-3/lb out of the bulk bin, so I was like, "GIVE ME NOW."
"Okay," said the farmer person. "But you have to buy a whole sack 'cause we don't sell anything smaller."
No problem, thought I. I buy bread flour by the 10kg sack. We like oats. I can make granola, and cookies, muffins, bread, oat flour, cereal, and oatmeal. There's LOTS of goodness to be made from rolled oats. And excess can be stored in the freezer. Piece o' cake. I proceeded to congratulate myself on being a frugal, bulk-buying GODDESS.
When the farmer returned with a 50 pound sack of oats across her shoulders, I realized I had made a grievous error when I failed to inquire about the size of their sacks, because a 50 pound bag of oats stands a little over three feet tall.
That's when I realized I was in deep doo-doo, but by then I felt like changing my mind about it would have been kind of a jerk thing to do. When a female farm hand who's only your size is holding a 50 pound bag on her shoulders, and she asks you if you want her to put it in your car, you say "yes ma'am!" and pretend very hard that you meant to buy 50 pounds of oats. You know, just so you don't look like a total dope.
Then you blog about it, because this stuff is comedic gold.
So I let my husband have his goo, and I make his instant oatmeal. Even before I had some 20-odd pounds of organic, gluten-free oats in my freezer, I preferred to make the packets myself, and the reason why is a whole 'nother tale: once upon a time, I used to buy Costco-sized -flavour boxes. This trend continued until I found one of these boxes COMPLETELY STUFFED with 85 packets of the plain oatmeal packets from former boxes.
Hubs had hidden it in the back of my pantry, you see, because he felt like adding sugar and cinnamon was beyond his technical capabilities. 85 packets of plain oatmeal later, he has the correct, happy-making seasoning ratio.
Mix and store.
You can do as I do: I make instant oatmeal using 2 cups of oats at a time, and store it in a Tupperware tub with a 1/3c measuring cup (an instant oatmeal package is about 1/3-1/2 cup dried oats per serving). Alternately, stash them in individual Ziploc bags. You can reuse the bags as long as you keep them dry.
To make oatmeal:
Use 1/3c rounded dried mix in a bowl. Add scant 2/3 cup water or milk. Microwave for 90 seconds and stir.
If your family is full of big eaters, use 1/2 cup dry mix and scant 1 cup water or milk.
Apple-Cinnamon: Add 2 rings of crumbled dehydrated apple per serving
Raisin: Add 2 Tbsp raisins; use only 2tsp sugar
Maple Syrup & Brown Sugar: 1tsp brown sugar only; drizzle a little 100% maple syrup after preparing oatmeal.
Pumpkin Spice: use 1/4 rounded tsp of pumpkin spice mix instead of cinnamon.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, a gallon-size heavy-duty Freezer Ziploc bag holds just about 3.5 pounds of rolled oats on the nose. I know this, because a year after the oat-buying incident, I still have six bags in my chest freezer.
It's still good.
It's a new year, and of course, that means it's time to break out the resolutions. My resolution this year, besides losing 10 pounds (which has been on the resolutions list since 2005), includes knocking out some of the convenience foods that I know I shouldn't eat by making them just as convenient and without all the junk inside.
Bad eating habits for me usually come when I find myself in a proverbial pickle: when I don't have any leftovers (that's how we roll, usually) and I don't have anything that I can whip up quickly. It happens. I get lazy. I have stuff to do. Sometimes I just crave something salty (I don't use much). These are the problems we all face, regardless of how much time we spend at home in the kitchen.
And that's when the fast and bad things like the chicken Cup Noodles sing to me successfully.
You probably know someone who's addicted to instant ramen. You may even have one living in your own house (they usually disguise themselves as teenagers and college students). But if you know anything about label-reading, you possibly also know that instant ramen is one of the worst foods one could indulge in when they're having a "need food fast now" crisis.
Aside from the fact that they've got an untasty-looking ingredient list, they're really high in salt (like 44-62% of your RDA), contain MSG, are made using propylene glycol to keep them fresh and not stuck together in some brands, and they're often "cooked" in a styrofoam cup which contains BPA and, though recyclable, sits unrecycled in landfills more often than not. Oh, and it may cause metabolic syndrome and your body takes forever to break down the noodles, possibly due to tertiary-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a petroleum-derived preservative agent.
If none of those reasons are reason enough for you to want to make your own instant ramen, well then picture this: if you have sensitivities to MSG, or intolerance to gluten, or you happen to be vegan, now you can eat the College Food of Champions, too. With this blueprint, you can style to your needs and wants. You can make delicious food combinations that the instant noodle industry has never heard of. It's freezable in its own BPA-free reusable glass mason jar so you can grab and go and not worry about consuming weird endocrine disruptors or making Captain Planet weep tears of despair.
You can drag it with you any place that has a microwave oven (oh yes, did I mention that because we're making it in a mason jar with a removable lid, you can cook it in the microwave?) And thus, you can save money by not eating out at lunch. And you'll also keep the doctor off your back, because you're eating less salt.
YOU have the power.
Just remember, absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely, kiddies.
I released a key part of the recipe over on my own blog with my own special blend of garlic-and-onion-heavy homemade vegetable bouillon last month... the recipe makes almost 1 litre of bouillon... enough to make more ramen than the most ambitious teenager herd could eat in a year (I think). The product freezes beautifully, and remains soft enough to spoon out straight from the freezer.
If you worry about using that much up, well then grab a heaping spoonful for the stock pot every time you make soup, and I think you'll be pleased with the results!
The other part was sourcing a decent chicken base paste for this chicken variant noodle cup, and I can tell you what I recommend... I use the reduced sodium chicken base from Better than Bouillon (they don't pay me; it's just what I use) which has a nice, readable ingredient list. For vegetarian/vegan you can try with just my vegetarian bouillon or with adding their not-chicken/beef base.
I did all the hard work for you. All you have to do is slap everything in a jar and throw it in the freezer till you're ready to use.
Personally, I think it tastes pretty darn close to the, uh, "real" thing.
Add all ingredients one by one to a clean and dry mason jar. If you add mushrooms, you may wish to add them before the pasta so that they're "weighed down" during cooking.
Seal jar and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 year (assuming they last that long).
*Sub tofu or suitable meat replacement if desired, and chicken base with vegetable bouillon or alterna-chicken base for vegan/vegetarian.
To make noodles:
Unscrew lid and fill to just below the threaded area with cold water.
Microwave on high of 2-3 minutes (from refrigerator) or 3-4 minutes (from frozen), until heated through.
Stir contents thoroughly, and enjoy!