food

Healthy Homemade Ramen: Break Up with Your Maruchan Noodles

Here’s a question for ya.

How many of you ate this stuff growing up? Maruchan brand Top Ramen noodles. I’m guilty of it too!

You know what I mean – the stuff we survived off of in college.. those cheap noodles we scarfed down while staying up late writing that midterm paper.. they were so easy to make, just add water and microwave. One study suggested that Ramen noodles were among college students’ top favorite foods. So what’s the big deal?

According to Food Revolution, Ramen noodles are particularly unhealthy because they contain a food additive called Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), a preservative that is a petroleum industry byproduct. They’re also incredibly high in sodium, calories and saturated fat. Additional studies showed that ramen noodles do not digest properly, as the stomach cannot break them down.

Basically, they’re crap.

And when you eat crap, you feel (hate to be so blunt.. but you also look) like crap. Am I right?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to eat those anymore. You need to break up with the Maruchan brand my friend, it’s a very abusive relationship! And I’m here to help.

You see, if you can afford college, or noodles, or eating out, or if you have the time to read this blog post, you can definitely invest the time and money to make a healthier version of your favorite food. Not to mention gluten-free for those who need it.

It does take a quick trip to Costco to get some supplies. For those “yeah-but” pessimists, don’t you worry, you can always use a grocery delivery program like Instacart to deliver your foods, even stuff from Costco! So no excuses.

My recipe is simple, and you can make as many variations of this delicious soup as you can imagine! Here’s what you need:

  1. Jar of Better Than Bouillon (Costco has chicken, beef, and vegetable flavors)
  2. Flavors – add your aromatics here. Grated ginger, onions, sesame oil, garlic, etc.
  3. Water – boiling hot preferred
  4. Veggies – carrots, green beans, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, jalapenos,
  5. Meat – beef, chicken, pork, fish, whatever you crave.
  6. Brown Rice Ramen Noodles (Costco sells these also)
  7. Sauces and toppings of your choice – Sriracha, soy sauce, edamame, bean sprouts, etc.

That’s all! You saute the “flavors” in a stock pan, add boil the water, add the broth/stock according to the instructions on the packet, cook and add the meat (only season with salt and pepper), add your veggies into the broth, then add the noodles (no need to drain) and top with your favorite sauces and fresh veggies. Maybe even an over-easy or soft-boiled egg. Yum!

Here are a few variations: (You can thank me in the comments below)

Chili Beef Ramen

Flavors to cook first: Garlic, Sriracha sauce, sesame oil
Broth: Better than Bouillon Beef flavor
Meat: Thin beef slices
Veggies: Carrots, green beans, spinach, mushrooms
Toppings: More Sriracha sauce, boiled egg, green onion,

Ginger Pork Ramen

Flavors to cook first: Garlic, ginger, a teaspoon of brown sugar, sesame oil
Broth: Better than Bouillon Chicken flavor
Meat: Thin pork slices
Veggies: Carrots, zucchini, spinach or Bok Chuy, mushrooms, broccoli
Toppings: Bean sprouts, ginger, soy sauce, edamame

Garlic Chicken Ramen

Flavors to cook first: Garlic, yellow onion, sesame oil
Broth: Better than Bouillon Chicken flavor
Meat: Thin chicken slices or shredded chicken
Veggies: Carrots, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, green beans
Toppings: Bean sprouts, kimchi, over-medium egg, soy sauce, sesame seeds, edamame

Seafood Ramen

Flavors to cook first: Garlic, sesame oil, yellow onion
Broth: Better than Bouillon Vegetable Stock flavor
Meat: Shrimp, white fish, oysters
Veggies: Carrots, bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, water chestnuts, zucchini
Toppings: soy sauce, sriracha, bean sprouts, over-medium egg, lime juice

Vegetable Lover’s Ramen

Flavors to cook first: Garlic, ginger, sesame oil
Broth: Better than Bouillon Vegetable Stock flavor
Meat: None OR tofu
Veggies: Carrots, green beans, spinach, mushrooms
Toppings: fresh shiitake mushrooms, sesame seeds, sriracha sauce, lime juice

 

You’ll find that after a few tries, you’ll make your own variations that turn out amazing, and I’d love to hear about them! Please comment below!

12 Make Ahead & Freeze Crockpot Meals (with grocery list)

Just in time for the busiest season of the year come these amazing budget-friendly, time-saving (not to mention delicious) meals! We’ve included a grocery list with everything you need to create 12 separate meals, each feeding 4-6 people with ample leftovers. Also included at the bottom of this email is a printable grocery shopping list for your convenience!

Feed your family for less than $1.00 per meal! The 9 recipes below make 12 family meals.


Make-Ahead & Freeze Crockpot Meals

I had a surplus of vegetables and canned goods that I purchased last week during a bulk sale, and I thought- what could I do with these? And the answer hit me – CROCKPOT MEALS!!! I had heard of those “make-ahead and freeze” meals that busy parents could make, but did not know where to start or what recipes were out there, so I did an extensive internet search for recipes that sounded the yummiest, made several twenties of recipes, and I’m happy to share what was least expensive and most delicious. Enjoy!

instructions

Be sure to purchase large gallon-sized freezer bags and ensure you have 1-2 working permanent markers on hand before you start. I would say that the total cost of each meal to make in this post is around $3-4 bucks each, depending on your family size (I have a family of 4). It’s really simple. After shopping for ingredients, I went home and chopped up all the vegetables and put them in separate bowls, measured out all the ingredients and added them to each bag!

*I have a small family of 4, so we obviously have TONS of leftovers. These recipes I made can easily feed a family of 4-6 people, using the exact ingredients I used.

ziploc

Special Tip: Remember, when you prepare your freezer crockpot meals, make sure you take your freezer bags out ahead of time, and with a permanent marker, write the meal name and cooking instructions on it BEFORE you add ingredients. After you add all your ingredients, squeeze out as much air as you can, lay flat to freeze, so you’ll have more room to store them. Don’t forget to defrost them most of the way, or at least overnight before putting them in your crockpot!

Extra Tip: Some people say that their potatoes turn black after being frozen. An easy remedy for this is to either buy frozen potatoes to work with or else boil your potatoes in a large pan of water for about 15 minutes, then proceed to cut them. The starches on the insides are known for changing color if you freeze fresh potatoes.

in the freezer

CROCKPOT FREEZER MEAL RECIPES:

(REMEMBER TO WRITE RECIPE NAME AND INSTRUCTIONS ON BAG BEFORE PUTTING INGREDIENTS IN!)

Teriyaki Chicken (Husband-approved recipe)

I made two bags of these using this recipe, one with broccoli attached as a separate steamable bag (because people in our family are allergic to broccoli), and the other with a steamable bag of edamame. When people make teriyaki bowls, they layer it with rice, then veggies (broccoli), then the meat. This recipe has all the veggies inside except for broccoli, and the edamame can be served on the side as an appetizer. Split this recipe below into 2 separate freezer bags.

  • Bag of Baby Carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 Red Onion in Large Chunks
  • (1) 20oz can pineapple (undrained)
  • 1 Garlic Cloves Chopped
  • 4-5 Chicken Breasts
  • 1/2 bottle of Teriyaki Sauce (I used Kikkoman’s Teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds in it)
  • 2 cups Broccoli or edamame (separate, optional)

Directions: Write recipe name and instructions on two freezer bags. Divide everything evenly into the freezer bags. Seal bags, mix ingredients, lay flat and freeze.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw overnight or for 24 hours. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours. Serve over rice, with or without broccoli or edamame.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

I also made two bags of these, one with broccoli inside the bag, the other without.

  • 12 potatoes and cut into ¼ inch round slices or a large bag of frozen potatoes
  • 2 cans of cream of your choice—I used potato
  • 2 cans of water
  • 4 ham steaks, cubed (2 in each bag, remember, this recipe makes 2 bags)
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups of broccoli (I only added this to one bag. If you want to add them to both, use 2 cups of broccoli in each)
  • salt and pepper

Directions: Write recipe name and instructions on two freezer bags. Divide everything evenly into the freezer bags.  Seal bags, mix ingredients, lay flat and freeze.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw overnight or for 24 hours. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Sweet Barbecue Hawaiian Chicken (family recipe)

This recipe makes one bag.

  • 4-6 Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 20 oz. can Pineapple Chunks, undrained
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbs Corn Starch

Directions: Write recipe name and instructions on freezer bag. Add ingredients. Seal bag, mix ingredients, lay flat and freeze.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw overnight or for 24 hours. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve over rice.

Salsa Chicken

This recipe makes one bag.

  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Cup Salsa
  • 1 Package Taco Seasoning
  • 1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1/2 Cup Reduced Fat Sour Cream (separate, added day of cooking)

Directions: Write recipe name and instructions on freezer bag. Add ingredients except for Sour Cream, which will be used last. Seal bags, mix ingredients, lay flat and freeze.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw overnight or for 24 hours. Add everything to crockpot except Sour Cream.  Cook on LOW for 6-8 Hours. Stir in Sour Cream at the end and serve over rice.

Black Bean Taco Soup (also Husband-approved recipe)

This recipe makes 2 bags. Split these ingredients between 2 bags.

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (we used turkey beef)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 package mild taco seasoning mix
  • 1 (16 oz) bag frozen corn
  • 1 (16 oz) can black beans drained and rinsed (my sister is allergic to beans so we put half of this can in one bag, marked it, and put the rest away in the refrigerator. The other bag is labeled “Taco soup” without beans)
  • 1 (14 oz) cans stewed tomatoes (half in each bag. I drained these most of the way)
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced green chilis
  • 1/4 cup olives (optional)

Directions: Brown meat and onion, drain. Let meat cool for a minute, then dump into two freezer bags and mix together. Let the excess air out, lay bag flat, and zip bag closed.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Cook on HIGH for 1-2 hours or LOW for 2-3 1/2 hours. Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole.

Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Alfredo

This recipe makes one bag and feeds a larger family (5-6 people).

  • 4-5  chicken breasts
  • 2 cups fresh or 1 cup frozen spinach, drained
  • 1 (16 oz) jar Alfredo sauce (I use light)
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1 (4 oz) can sliced mushrooms, drained

Directions: Write recipe name and instructions on freezer bag. Seal bags, mix ingredients, lay bag flat and freeze.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw overnight or for 24 hours. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Serve with noodles, salad and breadsticks.

*This recipe originally calls for 1 cup of broccoli instead of spinach, but again, I simply exchanged the broccoli for spinach due to family allergies, and it worked out great.

Pork Pot Roast

This recipe makes one bag.

  • 1 Eye of Round Roast
  • 1 Packet Pot Roast Seasoning
  • 1 Bag Mini Carrots or Sliced Carrots
  • 6-7 Chopped Potatoes
  • 1 can chicken stock or broth (10 oz)
  • 1 Onion in Big Chunks for Flavor

Directions: Write recipe name and instructions on freezer bag. Seal bags, mix ingredients, lay bag flat and freeze.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw overnight or for 24 hours. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Serve with salad and rolls.

UPDATE: People are asking if the pot roast recipe needs liquid. I’ve done it with extra liquid and without. The roast seasoning usually requires liquid so I’ve just added whatever that required. But I added 1 can chicken stock or broth to the recipe just in case you want more liquid. Also, if your recipe turns out too liquidy at the end, add cornstarch.

Zesty Chicken

This recipe makes one bag.

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 10oz Can Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 Package Cream Cheese cubed
  • 1 Package Zesty Italian Dry Dressing Mix (Or you can Google a homemade zesty Italian seasoning recipe, it was super easy to make)

Directions: Write recipe name and instructions on freezer bag. Seal bag, mix ingredients, lay bag flat and freeze.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw overnight or for 8 hours. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Serve over noodles or rice.

Swiss Cheese Chicken

This recipe makes one bag.

  • 2 slices turkey bacon
  • 4 potatoes, quartered
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced into chunks
  • 1 (10 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • 4 slices swiss cheese

Directions: In skillet cook bacon until crispy, remove and crumble. set aside. Add other ingredients to Ziploc bag; seal bag, mix ingredients, lay bag flat and freeze. Set bacon and swiss cheese slices (1 for each serving) in separate Ziploc bags and freeze separately, stapled to the original crock pot freezer bag.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw slightly or overnight. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Remove individual pieces of chicken to plates along with vegetables and place one slice of cheese on each piece of chicken. Sprinkle bacon on top of cheese.

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Lemon Labor Inducing Cake

While I didn’t think it was possible, this cake from Lemon-sugar literally did put me into labor. There I was, at 38 weeks pregnant, feeling miserable and uncomfortable, hoping that our baby would be born before New Years since our insurance deductible and out-of-pocket max was 100% met and our little girl would be a nice tax break for us (let’s be real, I’m sure any mom would do the same). I started Googling non-tantalizing ways to induce labor, when I came across this labor-inducing lemon cupcake recipe! I was surprised that it seemed so easy (and tasty!), it didn’t involve consuming 7 pineapple cores, drinking a nasty tea or downing a shot of castor oil (which could result in explosive diarrhea during labor), so how could self-inducing labor seem so sweet?

I’ll tell you. The secret may have been the labor process and not the actual consuming of the lemon cake. This recipe took me about 3 hours to make. It involved standing for long periods of time, inhaling citrusy deliciousness, and LOTS of zesting, juicing, and slicing of lemons!!! My intention was to make this as a cake, eat a few slices, and hopefully go into labor within a few days, but not even 5 minutes after I finished frosting the cake, I felt a GUSH and realized my water had broken. I didn’t even get to try the cake! This was Saturday at about 3:30pm.

It was all a blur from there. My husband, being the trooper that he is, scrambled through the house packing up his suitcase and arranging for our toddler to be watched while I sat on the toilet, anxiously wondering if the baby was going to come out right then and there. I’ve watched too many Youtube labor videos haha.

We finally arrived at the hospital about half an hour later, and the nurse confirmed that my water had broken, and I was induced from there (Pitocin is of the devil, seriously) and our little girl was born on Sunday morning just before 7am!

So here’s the recipe that started it all. It was originally designed to make 6-12 cupcakes, but I halved the recipe and made this small cake with it instead, which is the recipe shared below. For safety purposes, I do not recommend making this recipe prior to 38 weeks gestationally. Best of luck and let me know how it goes!

Delicious Gluten-Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Let me start by saying how much I despise gluten-free food. The taste – just yuck!! I feel so bad for people who have Celiac or gluten intolerance, like my poor husband, who can no longer enjoy the best tasting foods (according to my tastebuds haha)! At first I thought he was high maintenance when we were dating, I would invite him over for dinner and he had special dietary needs and it was so overwhelming needing to make a gluten-free version of everything I cooked.

grains and nuts

I’ve seen the effects that gluten consumption have on my husband, along with a few of my nieces and nephews, and I have since changed my mindset so I could be more accommodating and sensitive to their needs. I know they absolutely hate how their bodies react to grains, and I know their hearts break when they go to social and family events and someone busts out a plate of warm homemade chocolate chip cookies, or orders a pizza that they just can’t have – it’s gotta be tough. I’ve tasted a few gluten free foods in my life – like cookies, bread, etc. and I wanted to cry – everything has a tasteless grainy mashed potato after-taste.

woman gagging

Because I love my husband and my nieces and nephews so much and am trying to do better at providing gluten-free options for our home cooked meals, I thought I’d try a few recipes that had hundreds of reviews and high ratings. Here’s one of the first recipes I found, a gluten free sandwich bread recipe. Originally adapted from the Meaningful Eats blog, I tested out this recipe and my hubby really liked it! He’s had his fair share of gluten free store-bought and homemade breads and has just not found one he really likes – until now.

cinnamon raisin bread

I admit the original sandwich bread recipe was a bit grueling to make – I mean, who has almond flour and psyllium husk readily available in their pantry?? I was a bit surprised that I did (don’t ask LOL). And after I tried the recipe and got Hubby’s full approval, I took it a step further and decided to make it into a cinnamon raisin bread. And for someone who absolutely hates the taste (and even the thought) of gluten free foods, I admit this was delicious! So here’s my tried-and-true Cinnamon Raisin Gluten Free Bread recipe, let me know what you think! For best results, make sure to use Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour. Also, make sure to follow the recipe exactly as I did it, and if you have a bread maker, it’s best to let the bread rise inside the bread pan and then set it to a timed option without the entire bread-making process. So here we go!

sliced bread

Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Please share your thoughts, questions, and suggestions below, I’d love to hear how it turns out and your/your family’s reaction to it’s tastiness!