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Instant Ramen Hacks: If They Know How to Cook Ramen, They Know How to Cook

I realize it didn’t take a quarantine to enlighten you about HOW MUCH YOUR TEENAGER EATS. Perhaps you had already been practicing what we call “second dinner” (cold pizza /microwaved pasta)—and now, thanks to the pandemic, there is also second breakfast and second lunch, eaten always and only at home. Every. Single. Day.

Which makes this the perfect time for your kid(s) to learn some cooking skills! 

Can they already make ramen? Given that this involves only the boiling of water, they probably can. (And no judgment if they can’t—you can just add in the educational step about water and how to boil it.) Ramen is cheap and easy, and you can keep lots of it in the pantry, which makes it a good quarantine choice. Is it brimming with nutrients? It is not, unless you add nutritious ingredients. So, encourage your kid to add them, or else to think of ramen more as a snack than a meal. 

But ramen is also a very forgiving canvas for culinary experimentation. The stakes are low, for one thing, and it’s bound to be at least pretty good, for another. Encourage your teenager to try not only making the classic soup, but also draining the noodles and using them as a base for self-created pasta dishes: cold peanut butter noodles; an impromptu Alfredo, with butter, grated parmesan and a splash of half-and-half (as long as they promise to leave enough for your morning coffee); something spicy, with sriracha and soy sauce and rice vinegar and … yum!

“Oooh, make me some?” I always say when I see the ramen lab taking place in my kitchen. Because it boosts confidence and inspiration to prepare food for someone else. Because I want to see what they come up with. And, well, because moms need second dinner too. 

What to Add to Instant Ramen to Make Ramen Fancy

Here are some ramen ideas to get your teen started.

Title: How to turn a 33-cent package of ramen into dinner. Image with labels of a pot of boiling water, sliced mushrooms, cubes of tofu, beaten egg (the hot broth will cook it), and ramen noodles. Caption: To customize your bowl, skip the flavor packet and try adding soy sauce, sesame oil and a splash each of rice vinegar and hot sauce

Catherine Newman is the author of five books, including the new release How to Be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Life Skills to Learn Before You’re Grown Up. She edits the non-profit kids’ cooking magazine ChopChop and writes the etiquette column for Real Simple magazine. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family.

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