Reader's Recipe


This time, we are lucky to have our student, Mari Niikura, share Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savory Pancake) recipe. “Okonomi” in Japanese language, means “as you like.” We can put any ingredients we like for the Japanese pancake in addition to cabbage (most Okonomiyaki has cabbage). We can add meat, seafood, cheese, vegetable, Kimchi, and or many things! Okonomiyaki was invented to save wheat flour and vegetables in the past but later it became a popular food for lunch and dinner in Japan and all over Asia. Hope you will enjoy the recipe!

OKONOMIYAKI     <Japanese Savory Pancake>

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup soup stock (*Japanese “Dashi”)

1 egg

3-4 sheets bacon (or your favorite meat/sea food)

¼ cabbage

3 green onions

 1-2 spoons red pickled ginger

Pinch of salt

Topping:  * Japanese Okonomiyaki sauce (can be “Chuno-sauce”)


                  *Dried fish flakes (“Katsuobushi”)

                  *Dried sea weed flakes (“Aonori”)

* You can buy at Asian market


First, cut the cabbage and green onion.

Put all ingredients except bacon into a bowl.

Mix them well.

Put some oil on a frying pan, and put bacon on it.

Put the batter on the bacons.

Close the cap and bake it for 3-5 minutes.

Flip and bake another side few minutes.

Put the Okonomiyaki on the plate, and add toppings.

Tips: Please use a special sauce called “Okonomiyaki sauce” as topping for a tasty result.



Winter Events and Things to Do in Twin Cities


Minnesota is known for its cold and long winter season. But, don’t let the weather slow you down. There are numerous events and happenings in the Twin Cities during the winter that keep you active.

Join us exploring the Twin Cities this winter!  

Gingerbread Wonderland

Can you imagine a room full of decorated gingerbread? Yes, it does exist! Norway House in Minneapolis creates a Gingerbread Wonderland of Twin City buildings and landmarks made out of Gingerbread. The exhibit opens from November 21, 2017 through January 7, 2018. For more about the event, please visit Norway House.

Winter Carnival – Giant Snow Slide

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival has been ongoing since 1886 and it is considered one of oldest carnivals in the USA.  The carnival that should not be missed when you live in the Twin Cities. This year the carnival will be extended to coincide with other Super Bowl activities from January 25 to February 10, 2018. It is reported that there will be for a giant snow slide at the state fairgrounds during the carnival. Wow, that means 17 winter days of snow slide fun! The schedule of the Giant Snow Slide is available here: Giant Snow Slide Schedule.

Winter Carnival – Snow Sculpture

One of popular events in the annual winter carnival is Minnesota’s snow sculpting competition. It is a state level competition and the snow sculpting team who wins the race will represent Minnesota at the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. Visitors are welcome to view the sculptors and their teams do the sculpting. The event starts January 26 and goes to February 11 in Vulcan Snow Park. Finished sculptures are lit after dark and remain on display for the duration of Vulcan Snow Park—or until they collapse. Come early and don’t wait until they collapse! The complete schedule of the event can be found here: Snow Sculpture in Vulcan Snow Park.

Winter Kite Festival

2018 will be the 16th year for the Winter Kite Festival on frozen Lake Harriet. Kites of all shapes, sizes and colors will fly above the lake on January 28, 2017. Minnesota Kite Society experts will demonstrate maneuvering spectacular kites throughout the day, and offer their expertise to kite flying enthusiasts. For more about the event visit Winter Kite Festival at Lake Harriet.

Visit the Frozen Minnehaha Waterfalls

The 53-foot-high waterfall, Minnehaha, is one of the most popular waterfalls in the United States. The falls originated about 12,000 years ago as water drained from a giant lake formed by the meltwater of glaciers. Today the water flows through the Minnesota River and a portion of the Mississippi River. Minnesota’s cold winters often cause the Minnehaha Falls to freeze over and it’s an amazing phenomenon.


How to survive a Minnesota winter

Winter in Minnesota can be very cold with lots of snow. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the winter in Minnesota.

• Dress in layers for warmth.
• Wear clothes made of wool instead of cotton.
• Wear a hat.
• Wear mittens instead of gloves.
• Keep your feet and hands dry.
• Be careful when walking on icy or snowy sidewalks.
• Drive slowly on icy or snowy roads. 
• Traffic will be slower when it snows. Give yourself more time to get to work, school or other places.
• Watch the weather report on the local news.
• Check WCCO (channel 4) on the TV or radio for school closings when it snows.
• Get your home ready for winter by covering windows and checking your furnace and smoke detectors.
• Learn how to ice skate, snowshoe or ski. With these activities, you can enjoy being outdoors during the winter months.

Watch this winter safety video from Emergency and Community Health Outreach (ECHO). The video is available in English, Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Vietnamese, Lao, and Khmer.

New class in December

From December 2017 through March 2018, International Education Center will offer Citizenship Class. This class will help students prepare for the U.S. Citizenship test, while broadening their understanding of United States history. Topics will include Early History and the Colonies, Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, System of Government, the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, the Judicial Branch, the 1800s, Recent US History, Rights and Responsibilities, U.S. Government Today, and Geography.

Students who attend all of the sessions will be prepared to pass the U.S. Citizenship Test. This class is for students with a CASAS score of 195 or above. Class will be offered on Tuesdays from 12:30-1:30 pm. Contact us today to enroll!



Summer Activities

Summer is coming! We will experience three months of warm weather, sunny days and endless fun outdoor activities. The Twin Cities (St. Paul and Minneapolis) offer lots of activities during the summer – don’t miss out! Following are some of our favorites: 

Summer Festivals

Festivals are happening almost every week during the season.  Most are free or for a small cost.

4th of July Fireworks and Parades

Nothing beats seeing the famous fireworks celebrating Independence Day. In Minneapolis you can see the Red, White & Boom fireworks from the Stone Arch Bridge, the Mill City Museum Observation Deck (paid entrance ticket and only 35 people allowed), Lake Calhoun (from a distance), and restaurants with rooftops. Fireworks start around sundown, but get there early as these spots fill fast.

There are plenty of other activities in the Twin Cities to celebrate Independence Day. Check out Edina 4th of July Parade and 4th in the Park in St. Paul for races, parade routes and music events.

The Minnesota Twins

Baseball is one of America’s favorite sports. From April to September, the Twins play over 160 games. Summer is perfect weather to watch the game at the Target Field and support the Minnesota Twins without wearing your thick winter jacket!  Single home game tickets can be purchased at a reasonable cost at


Cycling the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway

If you like to bike (and it’s free!), Minneapolis is one of the top places in the country for bicyclists. The Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway links park areas in Minneapolis with special corridors for pedestrians and cyclists. It has about 50 miles (80 KM) of trails through parks, lakes, wetlands, gardens, woodlands, some of the best nature sites in town. Eight miles cycling per week during the summer is a healthy (and fun) summer activity!

If you don’t want to complete the entire byway, take a cycle around “The Chain of Lakes.”  The route is within the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway’ area and it covers trails around Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, Brownie Lake, Lyndale Park and Lyndale Farmstead Park. Minnesota is famous for its 10,000 lakes and this route will take you to five beautiful lakes in the Twin Cities.

For more information on the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway go to:

Picnic at the park

Did you know that June 18th is International Picnic Day? A picnic is a great way to spend your summer day outdoors with delicious homemade food, friends and family, and getting close to nature (that includes the ants and squirrels at the parks). There are several popular places around the Twin Cities for picnics such as Hidden Falls (St. Paul) and Minnehaha Falls (Minneapolis). You may need to reserve the picnic area if you come with a large group of people. But don’t worry, there are plenty of picnic sites for a small number of individuals on a first-come, first-served basis. 

More information about picnic locations in the Twin Cities can be found on the parks websites: St. Paul Parks and Minneapolis Parks.

Readers' Recipes

Indonesian (BBQ) Satay with Peanut Sauce

We are starting a new column of recipes from readers. Our newsletter reader and IEC volunteer, Indah Susanti, will share her favorite recipe from her home country, Indonesia. 

“Indonesian satay is a popular menu for lunch and dinner time, we usually eat the satay together with white rice. We have tens variety of satays, but this time I introduce the satay recipe from Java Island. The popular meat for this type of satay is chicken with its original name is ‘Sate Ayam’ (Chicken Satay).”

Essential Ingredients

  • 600 gram of meat of your choice (boneless Chicken/Beef/Lamb/Pork/Plant-based meat), slices the meat into small-medium size cube pieces
  • Bamboo skewers, soak them in water before skewering the meat

Marinade Ingredients

  •  ¾ large Shallot, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon ginger, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coriander, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce (at Asian shop called as Ketjap/Kecap Manis)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Little bit of salt and water
  • ¼ cup of unsweetened coconut milk
  • If you like to have it spicy, add chili paste or chopped “bird's eye chili

Peanut Sauce Ingredients

  • 5 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • ¼ shallot
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • water
  • sweet soy sauce (at Asian shop, it is called as Ketjap/Kecap Manis)
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • If you like to have it spicy, add chili paste or chopped “bird's eye chili”

Barbecue Time!

1.    Mix all marinade ingredients in a plastic bag or a bowl. Then add the meat cube slices, mix them well with the sauce and put them in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours.

2.    After marinade, put the meat cube slices into the bamboo skewers. Give space in between the meat.

3.    Barbecue the meat in the skewers accordingly. Turn the meat frequently and basting the leftover marinade sauce into the meat each time you turn the skewers.

Making the Peanut Sauce

1.  Prepare the oil, fry lightly the chopped garlic, shallot and peanuts on medium heat (add the chili if you like)

2.  As the peanuts look brown (not too dark), then put the fried peanuts, garlic, shallot in a blender and mix them. Add a little bit of water and salt to the mixture then until it turns into a fine paste.

3.  Move the paste from the blender and cook the paste over low heat, mix it together with sweet soya. If the sauce is a bit too thick, please add a little bit of water.

4.  After the sauce is warm, then serve together with the meat in the skewers.


  • If you can’t find sweet soy sauce (Ketjap/Kecap Manis), use Japanese soy sauce and mix it with a little bit of sugar.
  • Best with chicken meat.
  • Three top keys to get delicious crunchy and tender satay: the marinade, how to grill the satay and its peanut sauce dressing.

Do you have a special recipe to share? Please share it with us by sending your short story and recipe (with a photo if possible) to

IEC volunteer spotlight

Stan Graham has volunteered at IEC for more than five years. He was born in the village of Wagner, Bahia State, Brazil and lived there the first 14 years. Besides volunteering, Stan also enjoys reading fiction, biographies and history. He currently assists in ESL classes and holds 2 math tutoring sessions each week. His volunteering helped many students and we are truly grateful for his gift of time and talent.

Stan will continue his work at IEC through June and then plans to move to Seattle. He will be greatly missed!

How long have you been volunteering at IEC?

I don’t remember precisely when I started, but it was when IEC was at 8th and Hennepin---probably around 2010. I mainly help in ESL classes, but also have taught math courses in past years.

Have you volunteered at other organizations before IEC? 

No. But, for several years I have served on the Board of University Retirees Volunteer Center (URVC), an organization affiliated with the University of Minnesota that searches for volunteering opportunities and for volunteers to fill those needs. It’s how I connected with IEC.

Why did you choose to volunteer here?

I had taught part-time at the University of St. Thomas for many years before I retired, and I wanted to continue in the education field. 

What do you enjoy most in your work at IEC?

Helping students wrestle with the English language, thinking constantly about how difficult it would be for me to learn a foreign language while living in a foreign land. Equally important is the friendship with students and staff. They are very friendly and helpful.

Do you have a message for our readers?

The effort and time have been worth it, a thousand times over. That’s been my experience. I’m always thanked as a volunteer, and I understand that. But, I’ve derived much more benefits from volunteering than I’ve given in services.

Enjoy Seattle, Stan – we’ll miss you!

IEC student spotlight

Fartun A. Omar is a 24 year old from Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia. She arrived in Minneapolis in July 2015 knowing only “yes” and “no” in English. Today she speaks in English during the interview with us. She has been a student at IEC since August 2015 and she shared with us how the class has helped increase her confidence and plan for her future. She hopes her future career will be a contribution to her community. Following is our interview with Fartun, a student who has a dream and works hard to achieve it.