things inexperienced Americans can cook


Oct 20, 2008
I come from a land where dinner comes mostly from the freezer, or a box already containing the seasoning, and soup comes in a can or microwavable bowl with an easy-open lid. Since I have very limited cooking skills (i.e. can't make pasta sauce from tomato paste or cook meat unless it's frozen or can be sauteed in a pan) and have a very long list of foods I can't like and that will make me sick, is there some brand of easy-to-prepare food that I can make without an oven or grill? Or fancy kitchen appliances? And recipes that don't call for ingredients I can't find here? Anyone?
(Anything but salad. Lettuce makes me feel very sick. I can make very good salad dressing from scratch, though.)
Things that I can't pretend to like or force myself to swallow include eggplant, mushrooms, red and green peppers, brussels sprouts, and internal organs of any animal.
Welcome to the land of pasta. You can walk into any number of stores and buy any manner of fresh pasta for cheap, and if they don't sell a corresponding sauce there are canned sauces to be had in grocery stores. If I may offer a VERY simple homemade tomato sauce recipe, I think you'll enjoy the pasta much more:

Pasta sauce for 1
1 can whole, peeled tomatoes (called 'peritas + pure', my favorite brand is Salsati)
1 small to medium onion, diced
several cloves garlic, diced
dried oregano and rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan on low heat, saute the onions and 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 teaspoon rosemary, and salt and pepper in a minimum amount of olive oil (just enough so it coats the onions). Meanwhile, open the can of tomatoes and smoosh them with your hands in a bowl until they are no longer whole (about a minute); chunks are fine!

After about 5 minutes, once the onions are sort of see-through (make sure to stir regularly), pour the entire contents of the tomato can - that is, don't drain the water - into the saucepan. If you like it spicy you can also add crushed red pepper or any hot sauce. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes.

Add the chopped garlic and more black pepper about 2 minutes before you're ready to eat, and serve with pasta. (Note that fresh pasta takes WAY less time to cook than store-bought, and is generally done when the noodles - or gnocchi - start to float, as little as 1-2 minutes in boiling water).

If you like it a little meatier, you can add a fourth to a quarter kilo of ground beef while cooking the onions. Use a spatula to chop the meat into smaller bits while cooking to get it all evenly cooked, and drain the fatty liquid before adding the tomato sauce.

I eat this all the time and it's always delicious and ready within 30 minutes from when I start it. Good luck!
It occurs to me that perhaps you were looking for a few easier options... every grocery store sells powdered soups and they actually aren't that bad. I particularly like the minestrone. I often add noodles or beans to these soups to make them a bit heartier. Also, most grocery stores have a prepared foods section where you can buy all kinds of food from roast chicken to empanadas to cold dishes and salads (lettuce-free) and on and on.

Finally, with the hot weather here to stay a few months, consider cold vegetable salads, very easy to make: just chop up your favorites (cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, celery, carrots, etc) and dress them with balsamic vinagrette and olive oil, plus spices to your liking (as basic as salt and pepper; any dried green herbs; or even curry or cumin). To make these more like a meal you can add cooked lentils (very easy, just cook and cool first), any kind of bean, or cooked and cooled pasta like tortellini or macaroni. Tastes better after a day or two in the fridge.
Thanks! Now I know what to look for the next time I go grocery shopping.
Hey, I had the exact same problem as you when I got here. I can't cook for the life of I eat fried rice all the time and it's delicious. I make TONS of it and just put it in tupperware. When I want some, I put it in a saucepan with some oil to get the moisture back in it and add more soy sauce if needed. Thats IT. So easy.

So here's how I do it.

Learn how to cook rice. Thats the hardest part...and it's not even that hard. You can go to or just look it up on youtube. People love to make videos about weird crap like that. OR invest in a rice cooker and you don't have to do anything.

Then, take the white rice you made (it actually tastes better if you let it sit in some tupperware in the fridge for a night..but it doesnt matter ultimately... I make it in mass quantities.) and add whatever you want with a bunch of soy sauce! Usually I take cooked chicken breast (all chopped up and tossed around on the skillet- remember, I can't cook) and scramble a few eggs, and last but NOT least, canned pinnapple.

After you make a whole bunch, eat what you want and put the rest in tupperware. Throw it back on the skillet with some more oil and soy sauce and you're good to go for at least 5 more meals.

Overall, it ends up tasting like one of those Uncle Ben's microwavable rice bowls. It's so easy.

Try it, you won't be disappointed.
Here is another recipe: for Mac and Cheese
Take some cheese, grated them...use as much cheese as you like.
1 tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of flour, add some milk.
Put the butter into a saucepan on a medium heat. Melt the butter. Add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring all the time. Add the milk a bit at a time. Stir each time. Then add your cheese. You can added more milk if you like it soupy or more flour if you want it thicker. You can add mustard or peppers for different types of flavor and different meats.
Cook your pasta like any other pasta. (Boil for 10 minutes in hot water or take a piece and hurl it at the wall if it sticks it is listo).
I love to cook & think it would be fun to teach you some simple dishes so you can cook for yourself. Let me know what you like to cook and we can meet at lunch time, do some shopping then make our lunch? I'll teach you some easy, quick, yummy & health things.
That sounds good. I do enjoy cooking. The thing that throws me off is that things come in different kinds of containers and have unfamiliar names, and my kitchen is really small. I like making soup, pasta, chicken or turkey sauteed in something or other as long as I don't burn them. Really easy things.
turkey? tell me where you buy turkey! i need one for the holiday :D

Zenobia said:
That sounds good. I do enjoy cooking. The thing that throws me off is that things come in different kinds of containers and have unfamiliar names, and my kitchen is really small. I like making soup, pasta, chicken or turkey sauteed in something or other as long as I don't burn them. Really easy things.
You can order wonderful free range turkey from the Belgrano is: "La Granja" ...they deliver too! Phone is 4781-1243.
I order their whole chicken, BEST large brown eggs, and their chicken suprema....prices are good for the fantastic quality! I have yet to taste a better chicken than from this place...and I am picky!!!
My husband does do the calling as they don't speak English....if you order a whole chicken be sure to ask for the head and feet cut off...we have gotten that a couple of times...:(