Thursday, February 20, 2014

English, Cooking and Fun!

Welcome ESL students to my blog! Did you know that you can learn a lot of English through cooking? Here is a list of things you will learn:

Giving directions (and potentially following directions!)
Food Vocabulary (includes spelling)
Count/Non-Count Food Nouns
Food packaging
US weights and measurements
Short story writing

It doesn't matter what level you are at, cooking brings all of us together and allows us to share something about each of our lives while learning a new language.

Assignment #1 - I want you to look through my blog and pick a recipe. In the comments section of that recipe, please list the imperatives that were used and write their definition.  Next, I usually include a short story about the recipe, please summarize the story in 2-3 sentences. Due February 28, 2014.

Assignment #2 - Who cooks in your family? Ask that person for their favorite recipe to cook for your family and post the recipe to your blog. Tell me about the recipe, is it from your country? An old family recipe? Write an interesting story in 2-3 paragraphs or more! Due March 7.

Assignment #3 -  I did this when I was in high school for French class and it was a lot of fun, before blogs existed. Because this takes planning, the due date will be in March 20th, 2014.

1. Choose another recipe or the same one from my blog. You will prepare it for your family. You will need to follow the directions and use the correct measurements when given.

2. Re-write the recipe on your blog. Add a photo. Write a short story about your experience (was it fun, boring, difficult, easy?). If you changed any steps or ingredients, please write about it.

3.  I'd like your family members to comment on the blog by giving you a grade and some comments about what you cooked for them. If they have a smart phone, show them how to use it!

***As always, if there are any issues that might keep you from being able to do part of the assignment, always let me know in advance!

These are supposed to be fun assignments, so if you come into any trouble please let me know!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shiritaki, Shirataki, Yam Noodle...WHAT?!

Wow, it's taken me a long time to figure out what to write about this except for DON'T DO IT!! Now, I want everyone to try it and use my advice...

With the United States so concerned about diet and carbs and this and that, there are so many products available that claim to be delicious like pasta!  Gluten free this, low carb that....Well, please follow my advice and don't waste your time or money on any of those products. The sad truth is, nothing can compare to good ol pasta. Or can it....?

Back in the early 2000s I found this miracle pasta, bin after bin of this strange reddish brown stuff claiming to be edible. Since this was before we had too much information on the internet, I had no way of researching this stuff, and since it was so low carb EVERY ONE was going to find out about it and buy it, especially at 50 cents a lb right?  Well, there was a good reason that case after case was sitting there unsold at a national liquidation store. Not because the store was in a strange location, but because that pasta was down right the most disgusting thing I have ever put in my mouth, and I am so sorry for any of those whom I may have fed it to.

This reddish brown, inedible pasta shaped crap tasted and felt nothing like pasta. Even 10 years later I am still haunted by it. While I was so excited that I found it, after spending $20 on (you do the math) x packages, I was so livid with myself...what was I going to do with the rest? I had to throw it away, its not even something that you could donate.

I tried cooking it for HOURS, it was still hard and tasted horrid. I tried dousing it in cheese and butter. Nope, just wasted some good cheese on that. Never ever ever again! So for the next 12 years I continued to eat regular pasta, high fiber pasta, rice pasta, spelt name it pasta!

One day while browsing a large local Asian market, I stumbled upon some refrigerated noodles packed in water. I had briefly heard about them before and at $1.29 a package I figured I'd try some. I got two shapes, one angel hair and one butterfly. I brought them home and researched and found out that these aren't all that new and have been around in Asian cuisine for thousands of years, and made from the Konjac or Konnyaku plant root.  If you've ever heard of the "rotting corpse plant" its pretty similar to that...makes you want to try it now huh, but very interesting looking plant!

Not only are these noodles low in everything bad and high in everything good, there is an abundance of glucomannan in the konjac plant that is supposedly helpful with weight loss. Read all about Konjac HERE!

First thought: ugh, these noodles never get soft and kind of smell fishy!  WASH THEM IN HOT WATER and don't sniff them!
Second thought: these are no substitute for pasta, but are excellent in Asian cooking!
Third thought: a whole package has something like 10-50 calories (depends on the brand, and DON'T Trust Asian packaging to tell the truth), a lot of fiber and almost zero carbs.

Next, which kind to buy? Like I said, the straight up konnyaku are semi crunchy and really can't be used as spaghetti or anything similar. They would be excellent in soups and stir fries though and soak up the flavors in your dish wonderfully. I also recently read that you can soften then noodle by dry frying it in a pan for a couple of minutes. I haven't done this yet. I mentioned I bought butterfly was the second most disgusting thing I put in my mouth...the texture was just....bad. Too thick of a noodle to do with anything. It wasn't even good in soup!

There was also another kind, which was speckled with seaweed flakes. I just tried these today and they were slightly softer and virtually no nutrition at all, a few calories and a lot of fiber. Bland and not bad, but there are better brands.

But the overall winner are the Shirataki brand tofu noodles. I am not a fan of Hungry Girl, but the package with her on it is the one you should get. The calories are slightly higher, the carbs are about 6 per package and I honestly think you can EASILY substitute this product for pasta. Again, DON'T smell these noodles right out of the package!  Boil for about a minute after rinsing and then enjoy.

I usually eat the whole package, its something like 40 calories, 1g fat, 6 g carb and 4 g fiber that makes this brand the overall winner!

Stay tuned for some recipes using House Foods Shirataki Tofu Noodles (and don't be afraid of the word tofu! It makes the noodle soft).

konnyaku fiber choice (left), Shirataki Yam noodle (top), House Foods Shirataki (bottom)