Easy Ramen Chicken Soup

Soup is comfort and love in a bowl. Whenever I visited my parents, one of my mother’s many loving offerings included homemade soup. Today it was my turn to make the offering. My darling came home early from work with a low grade fever and headed straight for bed. I needed to get him some nourishment pronto. It needed to be easy to digest and quick to prepare. A quick assessment of our inventory revealed the usual staples on hand: chicken broth, ramen noodles, eggs, garlic, ginger, scallions and carrots. A fortuitous supply of bok choy, Napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms left over from another meal spelled out “ramen soup” in my head, in flashing neon lights. I quickly ran off to purchase a store roasted chicken. About 40 minutes in the kitchen later, I offered him love in a bowl.

My version of Easy Ramen Chicken Soup uses both prepared broth and dried seasonings. Traditional Japanese ramen uses fresh noodles and the broth is created over many hours from ingredients like kelp, chicken or pork. Korean style ramen uses dried noodles and dried powdered seasoning. I love both styles so I took a short-cut, combining a bit of both and used a Chinese 5-spice powder. Please forgive me.

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 store roasted chicken, sliced; wings and bones removed and reserved (omit or substitute with tofu for vegetarian version)
  • 2 – 32 ounce low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon or about 2 inches of freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons of Chinese 5-spice (start with 1 teaspoon and add more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup of low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 4 eggs, rinsed
  • 6 ounces of ramen noodles (I like the millet & brown rice ramen which is gluten-free)
  • 4 cups of bok choy, napa cabbage or baby spinach (rough cut the bok choy or cabbage into 2 inch pieces)
  • 2 cups carrots, grated or cut match stick size (Trader Joe’s sells grated and washed carrots)
  • 12 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
  • hot chili oil or sriracha hot chili sauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Remove the chicken wings and set aside. Remove the meat from the thigh and leg, and set the bones aside. Careful, the chicken will be hot internally.
  2. In a medium pot, combine the wings, bones, broth, soy sauce, onions, ginger, garlic and 5-spice. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium-low heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  3. In another medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add the rinsed eggs and boil for about 7 – 9 minutes. (I prefer a 7 minute softer boiled egg.) You will want to rinse the eggs before because they will be cooking in the same boiling water as the ramen noodles. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, timing it so the eggs and noodles finish cooking at the same time. For example, the ramen noodles I purchased needed only 4 minutes to cook. So added the eggs to the boiling water and set the kitchen timer for 3 minute. After the eggs cooked for 3 minutes, I added the noodles, and set the timer for an 4 additional minutes.
  4. Once the eggs and noodles are cooked, remove the eggs and place them in cold water. This will make it easier to peel the egg shell.
  5. Using tongs, portion out the noodles into individual large bowls. Rinse out the pot and set it aside to use again. IMG_6241If you are on a gluten-free diet, I recommend this millet and rice ramen noodle brand.  IMG_6239
  6. Prepare the vegetables and finish slicing the chicken meat while the broth simmers.    IMG_6237.jpg
  7. Place the chicken on top of the noodles. Remember, a serving size of protein should be the size of a deck of cards (about 3-4 ounces). I tend to consume about 2 ounces or less for myself or I just omit the chicken since the egg is a source of protein.
  8. Peel the eggs and slice in half. Place two halves in each bowl. IMG_6244
  9. Once the broth has been simmering for about 30 minutes, turn off the heat. Place a fine meshed strainer over the empty pot used to boil the noodles and eggs. Carefully ladle the very hot broth over the strainer, transferring all the broth to the other pot. I like to pick out the onions and throw them back into the broth. You might find some good little pieces of chicken meat to toss back in too. Discard the bones and other solids.
  10. Carefully taste the hot broth and adjust the seasoning. You might be tempted to add a little hot chili oil or sriracha sauce too. Turn the heat back on to bring the broth back to a simmer. Toss in the grated carrots, greens and mushrooms. Stir and simmer for 2 minutes to soften the vegetables.
  11. Ladle over the noodles and chicken. Top with sliced green onions. Deliver with love. IMG_6175 IMG_6251

 

 

 

 

 

 

Briley’s Fettuccine Alfredo with Broccoli, Peas, Mushrooms, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

What do you do when a 15 year old requests Fettuccine Alfredo for his birthday dinner?  First you cringe a little because this pasta with cream and butter has virtually no nutritional value and is truly bland in flavor.  Then you remember that even the Hungry Athlete loved Alfredo sauce when she was a kid.  With Halloween around the corner, looks like the Hungry Athlete had to use a little witch craft to create a healthier version of a teen’s favorite meal.  To ensure Briley’s birthday dinner would be a big treat, I had a couple tricks up my sleeve.

The first trick was to sneak in vegetables (muhahahaha).  I loaded the pasta with four vegetables which have some of the best sources of vegetable protein: peas, broccoli, sundried tomatoes and mushrooms.  In the version I made on Briley’s birthday, I confess to using a sleight of hand to hide the vegetables.  I simply diced the vegetables into the size of peas.  Now that my secret is out, the final recipe calls for larger bits of broccoli, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes.  This makes the pasta more pleasing, both visually and texturally.

The final trick is to turn the heavy cream into a disappearing act.  Typical American Fettuccine Alfredo is made with 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano, along with a pinch of nutmeg.  I understand that the original and authentic Italian Alfredo sauce is made of only three ingredients: fettuccine, 2 sticks of butter (wow) and Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Either way, that’s a lot of cream or butter.  So instead of all the heavy cream, I threw into the cauldron some magic: Neufchatel.  No I didn’t sneeze and my cauldron was actually a large All-Clad saute pan.

Named after a town in Normandy, Neufchatel is one of the oldest of French cheeses and typically produced in the shape of a heart.  According to cheese folklore, American cream cheese was created when an American dairyman added cream to the recipe for Neufchatel.  Real French Neufchatel is made with raw cow’s milk. American Neufchatel is made with pasteurized cow’s milk and cream.  American Neufchatel has about 33% less fat than cream cheese and is sometimes called farmer’s cheese. Creamy and slightly tangy, it tastes a lot like cream cheese and a lot better than heavy cream.  It is found next to the cream cheese in the grocery store.

Neufchatel and Parmigiano-Reggiano combine with milk into a creamy Alfredo sauce.
Neufchatel and Parmigiano-Reggiano combine with milk into a creamy Alfredo sauce.

Here’s how Neufchatel compares:

  • 2 tablespoons Neufchatel is about 70 calories and 6 g of fat
  • 2 tablespoons butter is about 240 calories and 24 g of fat
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream is about 200 calories and 10 g of fat of which 7 g is unsaturated fat

I was afraid of disappointing a teenager on his birthday and tested a version with a couple tablespoons of cream, a version with whole milk and a third version with low-fat milk. I found the milk versions to be creamy, rich and delicious. Happy birthday Briley! This sauce was created just for you, to keep you healthy and to fuel your workouts.  May you continue to run those trails fast and strong for years to come.

If you prefer a non-vegetarian version, chicken, poached in a pan, adds more protein and accompanies the pasta nicely.  Check out this website for a foolproof, easy and fast way to prepare chicken for pasta and salads:

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-moist-tender-chicken-breasts-every-time-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-36891

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of your favorite pasta* (I prefer fettuccine or penne)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup chopped white mushrooms
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced (or grated)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons Neufchatel* cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup whole or low-fat milk (I prefer organic whole milk**)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped defrosted frozen broccoli
  • ¾ cup frozen peas
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes***
  • salt (You probably won’t need this. Any additional salt due to the saltiness of pasta water, the sundried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.)

*Note: 8 ounces of uncooked long pasta shapes = 1 1/2-inch diameter bunch = 4 cups cooked pasta

**Note: Non-fat or reduced fat milk requires additional processing to remove the fat and then to put the 1% or 2% fat back.  I prefer less processed foods.  Your taste buds can easily be adjusted from non or low fat to whole milk.

***Note:  Sun-dried tomatoes in oil can be used however I prefer to use sun-dried tomatoes not in oil.  These has a longer shelf life however need to be soaked in water for about 30 minutes before chopping and cooking.

Directions:

Timing is everything in this dish.  As soon as the pasta is cooked it should be transferred directly to the pan with the Alfredo sauce.  The ensure good timing, prepare all of the ingredients in advance then start cooking the pasta.

alfredo7

If you are using dry pasta, allow 5 minutes to prepare the Alfredo sauce.  If you are using fresh pasta, have a pot of water boiling and ready for the pasta and toss in the pasta just before you finish making the Alfredo sauce.

To make the sauce, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Sauté the mushrooms for a couple minutes, then remove from pan and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the same pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon zest.  Stir for 1 minute.

Lower the heat and whisk in the Neufchatel, Parmigiano-Regiano and lemon juice until cheese is melted and smooth.  Whisk in milk for 1 minute.  Whisk in fresh nutmeg for another minute.

As soon as the pasta is cooked al dente, place it into the pan and coat the pasta with the Alfredo sauce over medium heat.

alfredo1
Fettuccine is the traditional pasta used with Alfredo sauce. Here I used penne pasta.

Toss in mushrooms, broccoli, peas, sun dried tomatoes and half the parsley.

alfredo5

Serve immediately with remaining parsley garnished on top.

alfredo2