Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Goodies

Candy and Gingerbread house

Pies and Pizzelles

Christmas Eve snacks--our 'international" dinner:
Chinese egg rolls, Italian pizza, Mexican taquitos, and American hotdogs

Friday, November 28, 2008

Making Everything from Scratch

In Chinese cooking, everything is done from scratch, so I have been learning how to make things we were used to buying in the stores (such as syrup, butter, baby food, etc.) from ingredients I can find here. We love this easy maple syrup recipe. It's very easy to make and tastes a lot like normal syrup. Since we love pancakes and French toast, we just couldn't live without syrup, so I looked on the Internet and found this recipe:

Heloise's Homemade Maple Pancake Syrup

1 c. brown sugar - I use white because the brown sugar here taste like molasses and has very hard chunks that are literally like rocks.

3/4 c. water

1 tsp. maple flavoring (only available in the States or in a foreign food store in Beijing)

1. Mix sugar and water in saucepan
2. Bring mixture to a boil; simmer for 15 minutes (don't let it boil again or over cook).
3. Add maple flavoring; chill. Use more or less flavoring to your personal taste.

I'll also share our favorite pancake recipe. We've been using this since shortly after we got married two years ago. Jeremy and I had different views on what a pancake should be like, so we compromised and searched for a new recipe that would become our family favorite. Jeremy liked his pancakes to be small, light, and flat. I liked my pancakes to be large, thick, and chewy. This recipe is right in the middle and we both love it!

Plain Griddle Cakes

1 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)

Beat and add:
1 egg (optional)

1 c. milk (scant)
stir gradually to make smooth

1 tsp. melted butter or oil

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cooking in a Chinese Kitchen

It's been a little while so I'll give a quick update. My husband and I now live in China. We moved here about 5 weeks ago and I am learning how to cook and live here. I'm not posting these pictures because I think my kitchen is attractive; in fact, I think it's one of the ugliest kitchens I've ever seen. But one of the first things you realize when you step on Chinese soil is that things are made to be practical, not necessarily attractive.

This is where I cook. You can see two gas burners and the really attractive gas tank underneath. In Chinese cooking you only prepare one dish at a time and you always serve the dish right away. Because each dish requires concentration it is difficult to cook more than one thing at a time. That is why Chinese kitchens usually only have one or two burners or an electric hot plat to do your cooking on. It's all you need. One person does the cooking while the other people eat. The person cooking brings the finished dishes to the table one at a time. Because we like to sit down and eat together as a family, I do not do it this way. I cook each dish and serve them all together as in American style. I just pop the finished dishes in our "oven" to keep warm until it is time to eat.

To the right is en electric tea kettle to boil water for tea or other things (it saves on using a burner!) and my cooking sauces, vinegars, and wines.

You can also see a jug of oil underneath. Because most Chinese dishes are stir fried in a wok, oil is used in every meal. You buy oil by the gallons here.

Here is my "oven." It's really more like a toaster oven size-wise, but can cook just like a regular American oven. You just can't fit as much into it. Baking is not a common way of cooking Chinese food, so "ovens" here are small.

Pipes are put on the outside of the walls. I think it's because the walls are concrete with steel re bar and putting them on the outside makes them much easier to get to if they ever need fixing (which they do!). Aren't they lovely?

I like my fruit basket that my husband hung up for me. Fruit is the most common dessert and sweet food here. I also use it for potatoes, tomatoes and onions.

Here is a closer view of my beautiful sink. At first I didn't know how I was going to wash dishes in a single sink with no hot water. The sink is flat so it doesn't drain well. I'm sure you've noticed the funny hose hanging from the faucet. My husband put that on so I could control where the water goes. As you can see the faucet is next to the edge of the sink where the water splashes everywhere. It makes it hard to rinse dishes. The hose was a wonderful and creative addition. I guess you could call it the Red Green version of a sprayer. It makes it so that the water doesn't splash everywhere and I can steer the water anywhere I want and it makes the sink drain better. As far as the hot water goes, I fill a bucket from our shower (our only source of hot water) and dump it into the sink. Not as convenient as in the US, but it works and I've gotten used to it.

Here is the hot water tank where we take our shower from. Can't complain about getting a hot shower. In fact it's so hot it will literally burn you if you're not careful. I have to use rubber gloves when I wash dishes because it's so hot, but it gets the dishes nice and clean!

Okay, back to my kitchen. This is how it looks from our living room:

There is a little room behind the kitchen that we use for storage. I'll post pictures later because I don't have it organized and stocked yet.

Now for some recipes! The Chinese don't really use recipes, so I find most of mine on the Internet. The Chinese eat pumpkin in many different ways and the autumn spirit inspired me to find this Stir Fried Pumpkin recipe. When we cook pumpkin we normally think of pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, or pumpkin cookies, but this spicy pumpkin stir fry will give you a new appreciation for pumpkin and it's many health benefits. Even my 9-month-old son likes it!

3 T olive oil (I used the oil I have here. I can't tell you what it is exactly because I don't know. That's the bliss of living in a foreign country and being illiterate--you don't know exactly what you're doing, but you know the nationals do it and that it works.)
1/2 c chopped onion
1 t minced garlic
4 c cubed fresh pumpkin
1/2 c grated carrot (I chop mine because when I grated it it ended up burning before the pumpkin was cooked)
2 T soy sauce
1 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
2 t black sesame seeds (I skip these because I do not know how to find them here yet.)

1. Cut up pumpkin, onion, garlic, and carrot.
The hardest part is cutting up the pumpkin. I use a Chinese cleaver to hack it apart (do whatever you think is best).

The onion, garlic, carrot, and pumpkin all cut up and ready to throw into the wok:

2. Heat oil in wok (or large skillet). Add onion and garlic.

Stir fry until onion begins to brown. Add pumpkin, carrot, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir fry 5-7 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.

3. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Finished Product
My husband loves this dish!

I have many more recipes and Chinese cooking methods to share, so come back soon.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Refreshing Frozen Yogurt Pie

Absolutely perfect for summer... refreshing, light, and delicious!

Mix two containers raspberry yogurt with 4oz. softened cream cheese till smooth. Fold in 3/4ths container of cool whip. Freeze in a graham cracker crust for 4 hours. Serve with fresh raspberries.

Note: You could also make this with blueberry yogurt and fresh blueberries, or blackberry yogurt and fresh blackberries.

For dinner that night we had corn on the cob, spinach salad, and grilled pork tenderloin.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dinner Last Night

Grilled chicken, whole wheat garlic pasta with tomatoes, and salad.

Elliot enjoyed his chicken and pasta!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Grilled Mojo Chicken Salad with Asparagus and Oranges

Last night we had my in-laws over for dinner, and I served this recipe. It's a unique and flavorful gem I found on, and everyone enjoyed it immensely.

Grilled Mojo Chicken salad with Asparagus and Oranges


  • 1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 3/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 oranges
  • 1 bunch medium asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • 12 cups mixed salad greens


  1. Whisk first seven ingredients plus 2 Tbs. oil in a 2-cup measuring cup. Pour all but 3/4 cup of mixture into a gallon-sized zipper bag. Add chicken; seal and refrigerate 30 minutes to 4 hours. Whisk 1/4 cup of oil into remaining mixture for dressing. Peel and section oranges. Sprinkle asparagus with oil, salt, pepper.
  2. Build a fire on only one side of grill (to conserve charcoal). When coals are covered with white ash, place chicken on rack over direct heat, cover and grill until well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn, cover and grill another 4 to 6 minutes. Remove chicken and add asparagus, spears perpendicular to rack. Grill 3 to 5 minutes, until well browned and just cooked through.
  3. Remove chicken and let stand for 5 minutes or up to 1 hour. Cut, crosswise, into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Toss greens, oranges, salt and pepper with most of the dressing. Arrange salad in six shallow bowls. Place chicken and asparagus over each. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Serves 6
The only thing I did differently from the recipe was to omit the chopped fresh mint, because I didn't have any. The dressing/marinade recipe would be good to make anytime for a salad dressing!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yummy Cashew Chicken

Tonight I made Cindy's Cashew Chicken, and we ate outside on our back porch. I am simply loving the Spring weather. We've taken to eating most of our meals outside before it gets too hot, and before the mosquitoes are out in full force!

This is really a great recipe. Tangy, and full of delightful flavor. The recipe can be found HERE. The only changes I made were to add bell peppers and onions to the vegetable mix, and to marinate my chicken for a bit in some orange juice and garlic. Served over brown rice, with a side of egg rolls, this is a delicious and healthy meal!

Elliot even enjoyed it!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

~Sugar Cookies aren't just for Christmas~

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Maple Baked Pork Chops and Pears

I have been cooking and finding new recipes, but just haven't been getting around to posting. So here is my first new recipe find:

Maple Baked Pork Chops and Pears

6 loin chops, cut 3/4 inch thick

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. sage

2 pears
2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 1/2 c. hot water

1/2 c. maple syrup

1 tbsp. cider vinegar


Rub pork chops with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sage. Brown slowly in hot skillet. Place in shallow baking dish. Core and slice pears. But do not peel. Arrange slices on top of pork chops. Blend cornstarch into fat drippings in skillet. Gradually stir in hot water and cook until thickened. Add syrup, vinegar and remaining 3/4 tsp. of salt. Pour sauce over pork chops and pears. Cover and bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour or until pork chops are tender. Garnish with parsley.

Jessica, you and Justin might like this since you cook with pork chops a lot. It has become one of our favorite dishes. Unfortunately, pork chops are not cheap in our area, so this recipe is a treat when I find pork chops cheap enough for me (or when I feel like splurging). I made them when my mom visited in November and she loved them too!

I've tried several other recipes that I wanted to post, but I cannot remember what they are right now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Wysocki Sandwich

Last week when we had sandwiches, I was teasing Justin about how mine was better then his because I folded and layered my lunch meat to look all pretty like the sandwich on the lunch meat package.

So...the next time we had sandwiches, he proceeded to make himself a special sandwich. In his best TV chef's voice he explained how to cut the lunch meat into quarters and then place the pieces on the bread in an extra-special spiral formation. Cutting the cheese was also very important, and integral to the art of making a sandwich. This sandwich was called a Wysocki Sandwich because it was inspired by the paintings of the early 1900s painter, Charles Wysocki. An example of one of his fine paintings can be seen HERE. Don't you agree, that Justin's sandwich is an excellent redefinition of a Wysocki painting?

Last week I made Cindy's Cashew Chicken recipe. It was AWESOME! Thanks so much for the recipe, Cindy! I think it will be come a favorite here, and Justin is even considering having it for his annual birthday party dinner instead of his longstanding tradition of having enchiladas. That would be great with me because Cashew Chicken is a lot easier to make than enchiladas!

Elliot's newest feats now include pulling himself up on stuff. He did this all by himself! He will be 11 months tomorrow, and is such a big boy. He's one of the biggest joys of my life right now.

That's all for now!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Cashew Chicken

Tonight for Family Fun Night at our house it is Bethany's night. She chose Cashew Chicken with Egg Rolls, and Chicken Fried Rice. Now before you get too impressed, the egg rolls and rice are from Sam's! I used to make my own egg rolls, but that was in the 1980's.

3/4 C orange juice
1/3 C honey
1/4 C soy sauce
1 T cornstarch
1 t ground ginger
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t pepper
2T vegetable oil
4 green onions, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4 boneless chicken breasts cut into chunks
1 C cashews

In a bowl, combine juice, honey, soy sauce, cornstarch, and seasonings. In a large skillet, heat 1T oil and stir fry vegetables until tender. In the same skillet, push vegetables aside, heat more oil and stir fry chicken. When the chicken is done, combine with vegetables, add sauce, and cashews and heat until thick and bubbly. This really tastes like restaurant food. Notes: I double this recipe for our family. Enjoy!