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Debra Caffrey is the Education E-newsletter Editor for FredParent. She also writes, blogs, and assists with events. She is the proud mom of 8-year-old Aidan. She is passionate about cooking, meal planning, and smart grocery shopping, and is excited to share her ‘Practical Pantry’ with you.


Practical Pantry

I recently shared a photo of my favorite lunch to make for myself on Facebook, and much to my surprise, friend after friend started eagerly asking for the recipe. I was taken aback because I know there are a good amount of “food-pic haters” out there who roll their eyes at those who share pictures of food and meals on social media. I try not to post food pictures too often, but when I do, I am always pleasantly surprised at the positive feedback and reactions I receive. I think it proves that food is often the common denominator linking people and experiences together. We all eat, we all enjoy food and a lot of us enjoy cooking it. So, I say—why not share these positive things? I’d much rather look at beautiful food images than read negativity on social media!

The picture of my simple bowl of ramen got so many people asking for the recipe that I decided I should probably showcase it as a Practical Pantry highlight, and let me tell you, it is a superstar as far as practical meals are concerned! Those who enjoy ramen go to great lengths to find the best spots for it. But I’ve discovered that making a delicious and cozy bowl of ramen at home is very possible!

There is something so humble about a simple bowl of noodles and broth, yet, this ramen dish is absolutely my ultimate definition of heaven. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I certainly have one that craves all of the flavors and tastes contained in this meal. It is simply perfect! If you’ve never heard of umami before, you’ve probably tasted it. It is the category of taste that can best be described as savory; an almost mythical je ne sais quoi flavor that doesn’t fit the other categories of taste such as sweet, sour, bitter or salty. It’s that mysterious and yummy taste you experience when eating mushrooms, soy sauce, Parmesan cheese, meats, miso and broths. It’s what I seem to crave all the time, and this ramen is like an umami bomb that satisfies all!

Besides being completely satiating and delicious, this ramen is super easy to pull together. It’s a frequent recipe in my lunch rotations, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I usually make it just for myself! I believe it’s important to “cook for one” a lot and make yourself hearty meals with as much love as if you prepared them for others in your life. Cozying up on the couch alone with this warm, nourishing and simple bowl of ramen is definitely my ultimate version of self-care! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Maybe even enough to happily share a picture of it!

Easy Miso and Mushroom Ramen

● 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
● ⅓ pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
● 4 bunch scallions, sliced
● 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
● 3 cloves garlic, minced
● 6 cups vegetable broth
● 2 tablespoons miso
● 2 tablespoons soy sauce
● 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
● 12 ounces fresh ramen noodles or four 3-ounce packets dry ramen (discard flavor packets)
● 2 heads baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise
● 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
● 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

1) Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until they slightly brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from pot.

2) Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Add half of scallions, ginger and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant, stirring constantly. Add broth and bring to a boil.

3) Add miso and whisk rapidly until smooth and incorporated. Add soy and sesame oil.

4) Add noodles and bok choy. Continue boiling until noodles are cooked through and bok choy wilts slightly. Reduce heat to a simmer.

5) To serve, use tongs to divide noodles until shallow bowls. Use a ladle to pour broth and vegetables on top of noodles. Top with the rest of the sliced scallions, sesame seeds and red pepper flakes.

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