The short story…
Hi there! Thanks for visiting Flipped-Out Food. I’m Michelle, and I am so very happy to meet you! We all get stressed out and crazy-busy (a.k.a. “flipped out”) sometimes: Flipped-Out Food is the food that we cook during these stressful, busy times. Guess what? It doesn’t have to involve a take-out menu or a box!
I’ve had a lifelong love-hate relationship with cooking and food. I hated a lot of the food that I grew up eating (sorry Mom!) and the awful food that I made during my college years. I hated being stressed out about what to make for dinner. But then…something happened that changed the way I thought about cooking…and for the last several years, I have LOVED being in the kitchen. Flipped-Out Food is my little corner of the interwebs where I’ll be sharing that transformative journey and the resulting recipes, tips, and strategies with you…and convincing you that you can make really good, healthy, budget-friendly food—even when you’re “flipped out.”
The long story…
Back in my college/grad school days, you might say that I was a Pastafarian. That is, I ate ramen. A lot of it. Don’t judge! It’s done in 3 minutes, and that was about my speed back then. I now have a grown-up version of ramen soup (see recipe below). Although it’s not authentic anything and takes 10 minutes instead of 3, it’s 10 times better—and healthier, because you chuck that sodium-filled flavor packet and add an egg for protein.
But let me rewind and tell you a bit about my background.
The early years
I think it was inevitable that I would be a scientist in some capacity: I was one of those kids with the skinned-up knees who had a toy microscope and a chemistry set, and who loved the outdoors and nature. I still enjoy hikes through the woods in search of morels (with very little success), morning runs, biking, and gardening. I have been known to catch a snake or two when I’m out walking or running.
In college, although I earned a scholarship for vocal performance, I ended up majoring in biology, earning a bachelor’s and then a Master’s degree. In grad school, I studied scorpions: crazy-cool critters that glow fluorescent colors under black light.
No, seriously: you go out at night in desert areas, armed with a black light and forceps, and you see glowing little critters running around. Hunting them is kind of like looking for Easter eggs, except that the “eggs” will sting you if they get the chance…And there are other things hiding in the dark that DON’T glow in the blacklight, like rattlesnakes…
But I digress.
From benchtop to laptop
A 1-year stint as a scientist in a food-testing lab probably explains my compulsive hand-washing behavior while cooking. After all, in a lab like this, you—ON PURPOSE—let various foods spoil, pipet them into culture broth, then streak samples onto specialized agar plates to see what grows. And you would not BELIEVE the amount of stuff that DOES grow if given the right conditions!
After my exciting, smelly foray into everything that is not appetizing about food, I returned to graduate school to earn my PhD in Physiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, using cell & molecular biology techniques, confocal microscopy, and other geeky stuff to investigate scorpion toxins and their effects on heart cells. (WHY??? These toxins have the potential to be modified into therapies for people with certain funky, but potentially deadly heart rhythms.) I followed this up with an American Heart Association-funded postdoctoral fellowship, investigating mutations that cause a rare, but frequently lethal heart disease.
Throughout my studies, I knew that bench science wasn’t for me in the long haul (if you’re a survivor of academia/grad school, I write a lot about that here). What I did enjoy was the writing aspect of science, which prompted the decision to trade the benchtop for the laptop: I now work as a grants consultant, helping start-up businesses apply for early stage capital from federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. I also occasionally help grad students, postdocs, scientists, and professors who need someone to edit an article or dissertation before their adviser or reviewers get to it and hemorrhage all over it.
I have a consulting partner-in-crime—but I am my own boss and set my own hours, which I love. It takes discipline, but the flexibility allows me to pick up the kids, handle doctor appointments, or generally handle whatever needs to get done. Grant deadlines come around 4-6 times per year, depending on which agencies our clients are targeting. The month leading up to the deadline is extremely busy (more about coping with dinner during those times here), but the rest of the time is very relaxed, with a few odd projects here and there. This leaves me time for my other passion.
Food blogging and the birth of Flipped-Out Food
I love to cook and write about food.
Cooking is much like science. You follow a protocol (a.k.a. recipe), mixing specific amounts of various ingredients and subjecting them to particular conditions, until finally, VOILA! You analyze the results—by EATING them. MUCH more fun than data crunching, in my book! There’s also all sorts of science underlying HOW things cook: why one cut of meat comes out really tough after a braise while a different cut is fork-tender, for example. I just LOVE this stuff!
This is probably why my ideal morning would involve geeking out to Alton Brown on Good Eats and drinking (spiked) coffee in my pajamas. Ah, Food Network, those were the DAYS!
And I did get better at cooking. I now find it relaxing. I don’t specialize in any particular cuisine: whatever is fast, tasty, and in the ballpark of real food is good enough for me. I shy away from recipes with cream-of-whatever soup because I’d rather have more control over the calories, salt content, and flavor profile in my dishes (but that’s another story). I dive into bigger cooking projects on weekends so that I can freeze sauces or casseroles for busy weeknights. Making good food fast gave rise to the idea of Flipped-Out Food (all discussed further here), and I’m really excited to finally get it off the ground!
The focus of F-OF is not only fast, easy, healthy cooking, but also cooking on a budget. You can make really, truly fabulous food by—among other things—using the humbler cuts of meat, by prepping ingredients yourself, and by making meal plans to ensure that you actually USE all the groceries you shop for.
My blended family
I talk a lot about Phil on this site: he’s my husband of 2 years, partner in crime, and love of my life. Blending my life with Phil and his three children has been a wonderful adventure (more on that here), and I have never been happier. Phil is the Fry-Daddy and smoke- and grill-meister of our household; he is also Taste-Tester-In-Chief for all my recipes. I give Phil major snaps for patiently waiting while I photograph dishes before digging in.
Also as a result of my ridiculously happy marriage, you’ll find gratuitous musings on parenting from the perspective of someone who previously had no children until suddenly, POOF! I became the mom of THREE. This instant motherhood has been a wonderful journey, but it has also been very challenging: I talk a lot about learning experiences along the way.
Other key members of the Flipped-Out Food team are: 1) my Editor-in-Chief and sometimes-table-centerpiece, Pearl, whose office is located on my lap, with her butt positioned between my stomach and my laptop; and 2) my Quality Control Officer, Penelope, a.k.a. Fuzzbutt, who supervises all goings-on in the kitchen.
Thank you again for joining me. I’ve written more about my professional and personal journey here, including misadventures with my consulting partner/cooking buddy.
And so, without further ado, here is my recipe for “Grown-up” Ramen Noodle Soup. I have recently shifted to using alkaline noodles for this recipe: an even healthier option, since ramen noodles are fried before packaging. Serious Eats has a great tutorial on that here.
- 1 package of Ramen noodles (throw away the flavor packet)
- 2 tsp. finely grated, fresh ginger
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- ½ cup rehydrated mushrooms (optional, liquid reserved)
- 1 carrot, grated
- 3 cups vegetable or meat broth (got rehydrated mushrooms?
- Use the strained liquid!)
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce, or to taste
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- Generous squirt of Sri Racha
- 1 egg (optional)
- ¾ c. chopped Napa cabbage or bok choy (optional)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger; stir until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Stir in your broth and soy sauce; bring to a simmer. Add in your noodles. NOTE: if you don’t like slurping up long strands of noodles, you can crunch up the noodles while they’re still in the package. Otherwise, stir as they soften in the broth to break them up. Squirt in the Sri Racha.
- If you are using an egg, you can add it now. Note that you have a couple of different options here: 1) you can crack the egg into a ramekin and drop it into the broth, in which case you’ll have a perfectly poached egg hiding out beneath your noodles; or 2) you can beat the egg and swirl it slowly into the broth, which will give you little ribbons of egg strewn like confetti throughout your broth.
- In either case, allow two minutes to let the eggs set, then stir in the carrots and cabbage (if using). NOTE: If you went the poached egg route, stir only very gently so that you don’t break your yolk. Cook for an additional two minutes.
- Dish the soup into bowls, garnish will scallions, and enjoy!