Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Fools' Cooking Class

The cooking class has not been getting much attention on the ECG blog, which is a shame because the garden and the cooking classes have been working together a lot recently. The cooking classes have been using a lot of the fresh produce from the garden and many of the recipes have been seasonally influenced. The cooking classes have also been emphasizing some of the vegetables that are less common in grocery stores. We're looking at you, chard.
By teaching recipes that use more whole vegetables, instead of canned veggies, the cooking classes have increased demand for the garden vegetables.

But on Monday, in honor of April Fools' day, we decided to change things up a little. I decided that it was time to teach class members how use one of the ingredients universally reviled by health conscious Americans:
Oh yeah, ramen noodles. The package you are looking at provides roughly 75% of the salt you need in a day along with some delicious MSG.

Other than the entertainment factor, there are a few reasons I wanted to teach a ramen noodle themed class. First, the TCAA food bank has a pile of ramen noodles taller than I am. They are definitely giving them out to neighborhood families, so I might as well create a curriculum for "responsible" ramen usage. Second, the cooking class emphasizes healthy food on a budget. In calculating a budget, I try to take into account time as well as the dollars and cents. Fortunately, ramen is great at both of these. The noodles cook faster than it took me to type this sentence.

The largest drawback to ramen, as I mentioned earlier, is the high salt content. Fortunately enough, all that salt comes in a convenient packet so that you can easily throw it away. So, to review, the first step in all of these recipes is to pitch the little salt packet.

Now then, on to the recipes we whipped up during our class: I ended up finding recipes that use ramen for a main course, a side dish, and a dessert.

Ramen Noodle and Vegetable Soup
This dish is not exactly a surprise. The cheap ramen noodles you find for fifty cents in a store are actually based on a style of soup that has existed for generations. In fact, there is a resurgence in ramen and many cities now have high-end ramen shops. We aren't attempting anything fancy with this recipe. If you want a truly traditional ramen recipe, google it. The recipe below is based on what was in the garden at the time, and a smattering of vegetables left over from previous cooking classes, as well as a few necessary additions (ginger and a little soy sauce).

In a large soup pot, begin to heat up:

· 6 cups stock (any stock will work)
· 4 cups water
Meanwhile, in 2 tbsp oil, sauté until soft:
· 6 garlic plants, chopped finely
· 1 leek, tough dark green end removed and finely chopped
· 1 onion, coarsely chopped
· 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
· 6 green peppers, finely chopped
Add sauteed vegetables to stock as well as:
· 3 tbsp ginger root, peeled and cut into very small pieces
· 4 bell peppers cut into bite size pieces
· 1 tbsp soy sauce
· Radishes, whole
· Mushrooms, whole
· 4 carrots, finely chopped
· A handful of turnips, trimmed and quartered
· 4 sliced chard stems
Boil above vegetables until they are tender (10-15 min.), turn off heat and add:
· 4 leaves of chard, coarsely chopped
· Spinach leaves, whole
· Radish greens
· 4 packets of ramen noodles
When leaves are wilted and the noodles are softened, serve topped with:

1 bunch of cilantro
· Limes, to taste

As you can see, this recipe is very flexible and was based on what we had at the garden and kitchen that day. Although it was delicious, I would not suggest trying to replicate it in any exact manner. However, you could take the idea and substitute out any vegetables in season in your area.

Ramen Cole Slaw
I have always found cole slaw a little boring. It is an easy way to use up cabbage, but hard to really do the cabbage justice. That is why I was surprised by this dish. Even without the ramen, this slaw was excellent. With the toasted ramen and almonds, this cole slaw recipe was worth putting on the fridge next to the picture of your kids.

Also, fresh cabbage helps much more than one would expect. I think there are more sugars in freshly picked cabbage and all that time on the shelf causes the cabbage to use them up. Now then, on to the recipe:


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 package ramen noodles, crushed, (seasoning packet can probably be used to prop up a wobbly desk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 medium head cabbage, shredded
  • 5 green onions, chopped


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to create a dressing.
  2. Place crushed noodles and almonds in a frying pan. Roast in pan for 5 minutes until lightly brown.
  3. In a large salad bowl, combine the cabbage, endives, green onions crushed ramen noodles and almonds. Pour dressing over the cabbage, and toss to coat evenly.
Judging by how much of the slaw we went through, the cooking class members agreed with me.

Ramen Kugel
I am proud of this one. This Jewish dessert/side dish is the rare noodle-based pudding. It can be savory, but I went the sweet route. I did my best to keep the recipe healthy, which explains the yogurt (instead of traditional sour cream) and apple sauce.

I also substituted out the traditional egg noodles with ramen. Since ramen is actually cooked and then dehydrated noodles, this recipe is much faster than traditional kugel because you can mix in uncooked broken up ramen noodles instead of cooking a batch of noodles and adding them to the mix.

Also, for the sake of fitting the recipe into the class period, I made these in a muffin tin. If you pour the mixture into a square pan, the kugel should bake for 45-60 minutes.


· 4 packets of ramen noodles, flavoring discarded
· ½ cup melted butter
· ½ cup yogurt
· 3 eggs
· 1 cup sugar
· 1 tbsp lemon juice
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1 15 oz can applesauce
· ½ cup raisin (or figs, for our recipe)
· 1 teaspoon cinnamon


· Preheat oven to 350°F.
· Break the noodles into smaller pieces and soak in enough water to cover while you assemble the remaining ingredients. (They should soak for at least 5 minutes)
· Butter the muffin tins.
· Mix the butter, yogurt, eggs, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, applesauce, and raisins in a mixing bowl.
· Drain softened noodles and add to mixing bowl.
· Pour mixture into muffin tins and place in pre-heated oven.
· Bake for 25 minutes. Edges should brown slightly.

I hope you have found these recipes useful, or at least unique and entertaining. When planning this class, I was worried that the the dishes would be boring but all the food in the class turned out much better than I anticipated.