Friday, April 12, 2013

Frugal Foodie Friday - Vegetable Lo Mein

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...
I have a wonderful recipe to share with you today. Participation in the SNAP challenge left me with a lot of material to read. Tucked among the books was a treasure called, Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed our Children. The book was written by the Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann Cooper who created the Vegetable Lo Mein that is the feature for this week's frugal Friday post. Make no doubt about it, this is a woman with a mission. Her goal is to replace the highly processed foods that are fed to children with more nourishing substitutes, one school lunch at a time. Her blog, which you can see, here, has some wonderful recipes that I hope you'll take a look at and try. I'll get you started with this fast, easy and very inexpensive noodle dish. It's as good for grown-ups as it is for kids, but before you can eat there's some learnin' to be done. Ready?

Rice and grain based foods are an integral part of Chinese diet and culture. The Mandarin word "fan" means both "rice" and "food" and in China you will often here the question, "Ni chi fan le ma?" The literal translation is, "Have you eaten rice(food) yet?" No matter where you go in China, a typical meal will have a grain based "fan" such as rice, noodles or buns, that is served with meat or vegetable dishes, called "cai". The cai is meant to add flavor and variety to the fan while not overpowering it. The meals of the poorest in China usually consist of simple grains that are eaten with salty pickles to add flavor. Even the simplest food in China can be quite good because the balance of fan and cai is maintained. Noodles are an important part of the Chinese diet.

That brings us to tonight's application of fan and cai. This is a foolproof dish as long as the vegetables and noodles are not overcooked. It is important to have all the elements for the lo mein set to go before you actually begin to cook. If you are watching pennies and using spaghetti instead of lo mein noodles, make sure to follow the directions on the box. They vary from brand to brand and you definitely don't want soggy noodles in this dish. Feel free to swap out vegetables to your personal taste but try to stick to the quantities suggested in the recipe. The sauce carries the dish. It is slightly sweet but not at all cloying. Strangely enough, I don't think the dish ages well. The garlic and ginger seem to grow stronger at the lo mein sits, so I cut the recipe in half when I make it for Bob and me. I do hope you'll try this recipe. Here is how the lo mein is made.

Vegetable Lo Mein...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of the Renegade Lunch Lady Chef Ann Cooper and her book Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children


3/4 pound lo mein noodles or whole wheat spaghetti
Sesame oil (start with a small amount)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
4 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1/3 cup sliced scallions (green onions)
1 cup julienne carrot (2 large)
1 cup thinly sliced celery (1-2 stalks)
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (1 medium)
3/4 cup fresh bean sprouts
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


1) Cook lo mein noodles in boiling salted water until al dente. Cool. Toss lightly with sesame oil to prevent sticking.
2) Combine hoisin and soy sauces in a small bowl and mix well.
3) In a wok or a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon canola oil and quickly sauté ginger, garlic and scallions until they release aroma, then add carrots, celery and red onions and briefly sauté before adding bean sprouts, about 2 minutes.
4)In a separate medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil and sauté noodles. When they are hot and look pan-fried or lightly browned, add them to ingredients in wok.g in large pan. Add soy-hoisin mixture and stir to coat. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve. Yield: 4 servings.

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Unknown said...

Mmmm, I like this very much! I particularly like the way you have explained Chinese food and they way ingredients are put together. I have all these ingredients. I'll make it tonight.

Diane said...

I love your frugal Fridays, you always have something interesting that tasted fantastic. Have a great weekend, Diane

Sprigs of Rosemary said...

It sounds like a wonderful book . . . and if this simple noodle dish is any indication, I better get it soon. I loved our little education today -- it wouldn't be right visiting you, Mary, and not learning something new and fun.

Kim said...

This actually is a great lunchtime (or dinner) recipe. I like this kind of easy dish... When I'll have a child (soon I hope) there is NO WAY he or she will eat processed food!

Unknown said...

I think it's great that more and more people are taking a stand at trying to make sure children are eating healthier! And this is a great recipe to start with.. perfect for lunches and so much more. Although, my mom made a version of vegetable lo mein when I was a kid that I would never touch (too many veggies). Thank goodness I grew out of that!!

Ola said...

I love this kind of actions to change childrens bad food habits, because I live in Ireland and I see how does it looks like when parents ignore what their children eat. I think that vegetables and pasta is a really great source of all elements that kids need during the day, so I really love this recipe. Have a lovely Day!

SallyBR said...

Loved this post, bringing me memories of my studies of Chinese years ago...

lovely dish!

thank you for the inspiration, and the memories....

sississima said...

very good, bye SILVIA

Catherine said...

Dear Mary, It is nice to be back blogging and visiting with you.
This is a wonderful healthy version of "take-out".
I hope all is well. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

Ginny Hartzler said...

Looks really good, I need to try it. With my Lo Mein, it does not have enough flavor unless we add more soy sauce, then it gets so salty.

Pam said...

Oh Mary, the noodles look really delicious. I haven't had lo mein for WAY too long.

Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said...

These noodles look brilliant :D
And I love the veggies in it!

Choc Chip Uru

Joanne said...

Lo mein noodle filled with veggies are a great healthy cheap meal!

Juliana said...

Looks good Mary, simple and yet so tasty...
Have a great weekend :)

Gwen said...

We love Lo Mein around this joint! This looks like a perfectly simple and delicious week night meal! Thanks for sharing.

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