Tag Archives: cooking

Thanksgiving 2010

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Pumpkin pie slice by cgbug_steven_garcia from openclipart.org

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. A few days ago, my brother-in-law flew up from San Diego to join us. On Wednesday, my brother-in-law and I baked two pies and made cranberry sauce. On Thanksgiving, my husband, brother-in-law, and I cooked everything else: sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, broccoli, stuffing, and turkey. We bought the rolls (bread) and gravy. Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was fun.

Here’s an important Thanksgiving word: leftovers (group noun–the adjective is leftover). After you eat a meal, you may have extra food. If the food can be kept to eat later, then you have leftovers. At Thanksgiving, there’s almost always way too much food. People usually expect (and even hope for) leftovers. We’ll be eating turkey for several days!

Here are some of the recipes that we used:

  • Cranberry Orange Sauce (I doubled the recipe because we wanted leftovers. I added two cinnamon sticks and some ginger. You need to remove the cinnamon sticks before you serve the sauce. Ground cinnamon is OK too. You can use candied ginger or powdered ginger.)
  • Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Red Pepper (We baked this in the toaster oven because the main oven was full.)
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes (We added two entire heads of garlic, and also fried shallots)
  • Coconut Spiced Sweet Potatoes (I didn’t use coriander because I didn’t think it would taste good. I used a larger amount cardamom instead. This is an unusual recipe and really good!)
  • Mahogany Turkey Breast and Mahogany Roast Turkey (I combined these two recipes; however, it takes much longer than 1 1/2 hours for a whole turkey–even a small one!)

Unfortunately, we’re not very good at the timing of doing so much cooking. So by the time we were done, we were really hungry. I don’t have any photos! Sorry…You can see other people’s photos at Flickr.

Pasta Sauce Recipe

One of my clients wants to start cooking American food. Well, it’s always hard to say what that is, but Americans eat a lot of pasta. So here is a recipe for tomato sauce.

You can make it first, then make spaghetti (or any kind of pasta). Just keep the sauce warm while you make the pasta. You can add ground beef to the sauce if you want to. You can also add tofu, pieces of chicken breast, or slices of sausage. Just cook the meat first if you use it. I like to use shredded Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta. We often have a meal of this: angel hair pasta (it cooks fast), tomato sauce, and shredded parmesan on top, and baked eggplant cutlets.

This recipe says “to taste” a lot. That means “the way you like it.” So you can put in a lot or a little. I use a BIG onion, a LOT of garlic, some red pepper flakes, etc. It just depends on what your family likes!

This recipe was adapted from “Fast Tomato Sauce” from the book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
by Mark Bittman. (This book is excellent, but you need to have advanced English reading skills to use it.)

It takes about 45 minutes when I make it.

INGREDIENTS
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1 can of whole tomatoes (24-32 oz.) with no salt (unsalted)
- Minced garlic to taste
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Red pepper flakes to taste (spicy!–optional)
- Dried or fresh or frozen basil, oregano, parsley to taste
- (Optional) A can or tube of tomato paste

EQUIPMENT
A tablespoon (measuring spoon)
A 10-12-inch skillet/frying pan
A cooking spoon

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Dice the onion. (Cut the onion into small pieces.)
2. Drain the can of tomatoes. (Remove the water/tomato juice.)
3. Cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces.
4. Heat the oil in a 10-12-inch skillet over medium heat.
5. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Cook the onion until it’s soft, stirring sometimes, for 2-3 minutes.
6. Add the garlic. Cook for about one minute. Keep stirring. (If it turns brown, lower the heat.)
7. Add the tomatoes.
8. Add the salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Just add as much as you want. You can add more later, so don’t add too much.
9. Keep cooking. Stir it sometimes. Keep cooking until the tomatoes “break up” and the sauce gets thick. This takes at least 10-15 minutes. Taste it and see what you think. Add more salt or pepper if you need to.
10. When it’s almost done, add the herbs (basil, oregano, and parsley). Just add a little, then stir it and taste it. Add more if you want to.
11. If you’re done but it’s too thin, add some tomato paste until it’s thick enough.
12. Put it on some pasta!

You can add lots of other things, including balsamic vinegar, curry powder, Chinese chili sauce, etc. It’s really up to you!

Cooking Language

I’m sorry I haven’t written much. My husband got a new job (which is good!) and my friend has been very sick (which is bad!).

Did you know that different kinds of English have very different ways of talking about food and cooking?

I decided to collect some recipes for my friend who is sick. Another friend, J., sent me some recipes. J. is from South Africa. She is a native English speaker, like many South Africans. However, when I looked at J.’s recipes, I knew I would have to “translate” them into American English. Different English dialects use different words and different styles to talk about food. Actually, sometimes I have to change recipes from the southern parts of the U. S. A., too, because they use different words for some things. This happens in other languages, too–I know some vegetables have different names in Beijing compared to Taipei.

Using recipes is a fun way to practice your English and learn something about food culture at the same time. Just be aware that if you ask an American friend to help you with a British recipe, for example, she or he might be confused, too!

Anyway, here are some of the major differences you might find:

Measurements: Most American home cooks use an old-fashioned system of cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons to measure cooking ingredients. Most European and other non-American home cooks use weight instead, because it’s more accurate. In fact, I’ve heard that most American professional chefs also use weight. I don’t know why most Americans don’t. Anyway, even when we DO use weight, such as “3 pounds of potatoes,” we use the so-called “Imperial system” (pounds, pints, and ounces), not the metric system (grams and liters). Measurements will have to be converted, but there are lots of converters online.

Ingredient names: Different dialects have different names for things, even within the US. For example, some Southern recipes say “sweet milk”–this is normal milk, but Southerners sometimes say “sweet milk” to make it clear that they don’t mean “buttermilk,” a kind of thin, yogurt-like milk. Most varieties of British English use the word “aubergine,” but in the USA, people usually say “eggplant.” Wikipedia is a good way to check on ingredient names. Another good way is to check Google Images or Flickr, so you can see a picture of the item. These searches are also a good way to see what the finished dish you’re cooking should look like!

Ingredient substitutions: Of course, some ingredients are impossible to find in some countries, or you might have to buy something at an import market. A “substitution” is an ingredient you can use instead of another ingredient. For example, if an American recipe calls for pumpkin, a Japanese cook can usually substitute kabocha instead. I got a British recipe once that called for “custard powder.” This is extremely rare in the US, although I was able to buy it by going to a German grocery store near me. However, I could also have used a substitution, such as instant pudding powder. You can search Google for “substitution for …” to find a substitute. Usually, Google will have an answer!

Cooking terms: Vocabulary for cooking varies, too. Americans may say “mix” or “box” where a British person would say “packet,” etc. Fortunately, most of the verbs are the same. However, cooking verbs (like “sautee,” “braise,” and “simmer”) are very specialized. You may not know these words, even if you are very fluent in English (actually, a lot of these words come from French!). I didn’t know how to braise until recently, actually. To learn how, I looked it up in The Joy of Cooking. This book is for advanced English readers only–it’s very good and very big. It includes most popular American recipes and international recipes that many Americans like. It also includes instructions for most cooking techniques, such as braising. You can also search Google for “how to braise,” etc., of course.

Anyway, cooking is a great way to expand your English vocabulary and experience a different part of international culture. Just watch out for these differences before you start a recipe!