Well, the more I think about it, the more boring I seem. I mean, I do make things other than noodles or eggs in a (time or money) pinch. Beans and legumes are a godsend. Refrigerator soup is practically a pastime. I can probably make quesedillas and wraps in my sleep.
Obviously I need some more options. That's where Sunday Supper comes in this week since everybody is bringing a Budget Meal idea to the table.
I'm sharing one of the easiest go-to's in the world - Instant Ramen with a POW! I'm not ashamed to say that I like to pick up instant ramen when I'm feeling especially poor. At 15-20 cents a packet, it can't be beat. Plus, it's a great way to use up...stray veggies threatening to go bad...scraps of meat (cooked or raw) in the fridge...half-used cans of beans or tomatoes...bags of forgotten veggies in the back of the freezer...almost empty condiment jars taking up space in the door...
Seriously, you can make yourself a filling and nutritious meal for less than $2.00. All three of the variations I listed were that or less for two servings.
Faux Pho (serves 2)
- 4 c. beef stock or low-sodium broth
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 pkg. Instant Ramen Noodles (any flavor, not using packet)
- 1-2 oz. beef, sliced very thinly against the grain (flank, round, skirt)
- freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
- fish sauce, to taste
- small handful minced fresh mixed cilantro, basil, and mint
- pinch red chile flakes
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- hoisin sauce and/or chile garlic sauce
Place beef stock and star anise in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the instant ramen noodles and cook for 2 minutes. Scatter in the beef and cook for 1 minute longer.
Remove star anise from pot. Add a few squeezes of lime juice and few dashes of fish sauce, to taste. Transfer to serving bowls and divide the herbs over the top with a pinch of the chile flakes and a smattering of green onion. Put a blob of either hoisin sauce or chile garlic sauce in the bowl and stir everything around. Enjoy!
You could also add small salad shrimp during the last minute of cooking time, or larger, uncooked shrimp that has been either chopped or sliced into small pieces (so that they cook quickly). Use it in addition to or instead of the sliced beef.
- Ramen w/ a Poached Egg, Kale, & Sriracha (Poach 1 or 2 eggs in the water when it just comes to a simmer, remove and set aside; skim any stray egg white from pot. Add noodles and 1 or 2 handfuls of kale to the simmering water and cook for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in seasoning packet, to taste. Use spicy chicken flavored seasoning packet for broth (or simmer in chicken stock/low-sodium broth instead of water). Transfer to a bowl (or two) and slide the poached egg back into the hot broth. Squirt Sriracha sauce over the whole shebang.)
- Veggies w/ Red Curry Paste (Cut a couple of handfuls of veggies into small slices or shreds - making sure they're tiny so they'll cook in the heat of the broth - use baby spinach, shredded carrot, teensy-tinsy broccoli florets, etc. Bring 3 cups water to a boil and add the noodles, along with any slightly larger veggies - like the mushrooms in this bowl - cook for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in a tablespoon or two of red curry paste and about half of any seasoning packet you choose. Pour everything over the veggies in the bowl.)
A bowl of ramen that is chock-full of colorful veggies is a great way to use up those little bits and bobs floating around in your crisper not to mention those veggies add vitamins and minerals to your meal. Leafy green vegetables add iron. Eggs add protein. If you have homemade stock or broth in the fridge or freezer, even better - replace the seasoning packets with one of those for less salt (and MSG)...basically, make it as wholesome as possible.
more add-ins for Ramping-Up your Instant Ramen:
- miso, mixed mushrooms, tofu
- shrimp, baby corn, carrots, herbs
- garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coconut milk, chicken
- pork, bean sprouts, spinach
- chiles, corn, crunchy tortilla strips, tomatoes, cumin, onion, garlic
- hard-boiled egg, veggies
- beaten egg (added like egg-drop soup)
- tofu, hot-n-sour sauce, veggies