Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cooking Mini Camp

I have definitely gotten behind in all the things I'd like to write about here. When I have the most to write about, I am also doing the most other stuff and therefore have less time to write about it. Oh well, such is life. I'll be trying to post more recipes and DIY projects soon, but I thought I'd share a little more about the projects that we did for our mini cooking camp that we did last week.

The boys are actually getting to be somewhat helpful in the kitchen. Now they can work together to set the table for every meal and Aaron can actually do a few simple jobs that are truly helpful to me. They can make scrambled eggs together and Aaron can peel carrots, both with supervision of course. Aaron can also get his own breakfast of granola and milk and make his own PB&J sandwich. Aaron can also help Andrew enough to get him these meals too.

Together we also made mac and cheese, whole wheat tortillas, potato chips from scratch, homemade donuts, marshmallows, graham crackers, s'mores, granola, oatmeal raisin cookies, and stove top popcorn. We also practiced reading a recipe, measuring correctly, and setting the table correctly. The boys will of course continue to need a lot of practice to get good at any of these harder activities and recipes, but at least they've got a good start. And they had so much doing cooking camp! Andrew keeps asking to do more cooking camp and Aaron keeps telling me he wants to learn how to make this and that all by himself.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 杨梅 (Chinese Waxberry)

While fish heads, chicken feet, and some other delicacies here, may not particularly be our favorites, one thing we do love about the food here is all the different fruit we get to try. This region, because of it's mild climate and long growing seasons, has a exceptional amount of fruit and vegetables all year long. Like most of the world, the people here mostly eat seasonally and locally grown produce, with very little imported. But because of the abundance and variety available in this area, this is very easy to do here and get a well rounded diet and not get bored. We definitely appreciate this about this area because as Americans we are particularly spoiled by the notion that we should be able to have virtually any type of produce at any time of the year. This just isn't the case for most of the world, and many areas of China have vastly different climates and much less variety of produce.

One of our favorite seasonal fruits this time of year is the Chinese Waxberry or Chinese Bayberry. Although since we have only known these in China, we never call them that and only use the Mandarin name yángméi (杨梅). These taste like a cross between a raspberry and a cranberry to us. Our boys absolutely love them, which sometimes surprises the Chinese people, because they can be quite tart.

Recently, Nate took the boys to pick some growing in our apartment complex. This batch wasn't all the way ripe so they were more sour than usual. I ended up boiling, mashing, straining out the pits, and then adding sugar to make yángméi pancake syrup. It turned out great and the boys were super excited with their special pancake sauce.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Easy Holiday Breakfasts

For this past Christmas breakfast, I made up a breakfast tray the night before. This time, I included pumpkin bread, cinnamon rolls, and strawberries. I have also done this many times in the past when I want an easy holiday breakfast all ready to go. I usually make the baked goods well ahead of time and freeze them, defrosting the day before they are needed. What is on the tray varies by what I want to bake and what fruit is in season. I love that strawberries are in season here in December! Everything is cut and washed ahead of time and then arranged on the plate. On the holiday morning, I just have to pull out the plate, and we can all nibble on it throughout the morning as we like.

This isn't quite as deluxe as making a huge fresh breakfast with eggs, pancakes, sausage, etc., but it is still delicious and takes any stress anyway from having to prepare breakfast on the morning of a holiday. We didn't have to go anywhere or meet anyone this Christmas morning (except of on Skype), but for those holidays in the past where we have been rushing out the door mid-morning, this breakfast plan has been a real sanity saver.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Studying America

The boys are enjoying the extra planned activities in our day. Actually, they have been enjoying them so much that we have already finished most of the activities that aren't reusable and reused the reusable ones a lot more than I thought we would. I didn't want try too much for this first unit study, but clearly next month I should add more.

The boys have enjoyed doing more worksheets. Aaron has suddenly become really careful about coloring and tracing. This happened right around his third birthday, but I think it had more to do with him observing me actually color Thomas the Tank Engine correctly, than simply turning three. Andrew loves to color, so he scribbles happily along beside.

I was pretty happy with the collection of American themed activities I chose, as they covered a little bit of everything. Preschool basics like tracing, counting, coloring, sorting, graphing, as well as facts about American history. We did do one quick craft I made up where we glued stars and stripes that I had cut out of wrapping paper to make our own flags.

Probably everyone's favorite thing was the special Fourth of July food. The hamburgers, watermelon, apple pie, frozen yogurt, and sparkler cookies were all a big hit.

We are still continuing our American facts calendar and singing songs about America. Aaron has learned quite a few facts and songs this month, and Andrew likes to chime in too. It is really neat to hear Aaron requesting to sing The Star Spangled Banner, presidents song, state song, Battle Hymn of the Republic, and America the "Beauty" (as he calls it). Don't let him convince you though that it was Thomas Andrew Jefferson that wrote the Declaration of Independence though, as Thomas Jefferson really has no middle name. Aaron just throws that in when he is feeling silly. I love that he is learning so much but is still a funny three-year-old.

I'm looking forward to continuing with this theme slowly for the rest of July and starting to plan our next unit study for August: D is for Dinosaurs. Although whenever Aaron sees me starting to work on it, he wants to do everything right now.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Family Friday: Dinner, Grocery, and Bus Adventures

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to visit the extremely nice Chinese-American gentleman who hosted us the night we first arrived. Sam is back in town a for a few weeks and kindly invited us out to dinner with his wife and son. They took us to a very nice Chinese restaurant near their home. I have never seen a fancy restaurant with a playplace, but I think that it is an idea that Olive Garden and even higher end American restaurants should pursue, because it made the evening so enjoyable. The boys were able to play while we visited, and everyone was happy. After we talked for a while, gave them a small gift, and attempted unsuccessfully to pay the bill (Sam really is to nice to us), we agreed to keep in touch and bid them good night.

We thought since we were already right next to Metro (a German version of Walmart), we would try to stock up on a few bulk purchases before heading home. We got pasta, tomato paste, oatmeal, peanut butter, real Hellman's mayonnaise, and a huge tub of chocolate ice cream. The ice cream is the only item that is not fabulous, but the boys love it (Aaron has nick-named it, "a big ol' kind of ice cream"), and it is cheap to buy it this way. Thankfully, we were able to find everything we were looking for and ended up purchasing about 24 kilos (50 pounds) of western food staples for about $60 US, which is quite a good price for rare and imported items. Besides making everything yourself, buying in bulk is the only really affordable way to have western food here. It is nice that we are able to have some of these convenience foods on hand for some easy meals. Yes, these are convenience foods to us, and no I didn't always view these as convenience foods either. Hopefully, these items will last us about two months.

On a very crowded bus
Now for the inconvenient part of the story: the bus system. To get to this part of town, we needed to take two buses. We were late getting to Sam's house for dinner in the first place because we had to wait a long time to get the connecting bus, and boy was it packed. It was so packed in fact that for several stops, they couldn't accept any more passengers. This very rarely happens on a double decker bus. There were even people standing on the stairs.

A not so crowded bus
We were really hoping that it wouldn't be quite so crowded on the way home, as we had 4 bags of food, 2 small boys, and 1 awesome but still bulky double stroller to get on and off of two buses to go home. We were really blessed and got seats on both buses on the way home. We were very glad to be home. We had some big ol' kind of ice cream and went straight to bed.

Nate is very glad that he won't have to ride the buses so often for a while as he finished his first semester of classes and has a short break before classes resume in the fall.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 烧烤

My stomach is still feeling the effects of Saturday's Chinese barbeque (烧烤 shāo kǎo), and the Fourth of July is coming up soon, so I thought it a good time to talk about barbecuing. Like a lot of things here, barbecuing is both similar and different to how we generally do things in America. Also, eating anywhere here has been referred to as a Chinese roulette: sometimes you get sick, and sometimes you don't; sometimes you know why, and sometimes you don't. So, it is possible that it was something other that this barbecue that made us sick.

My husband's school was hosting a barbecue at a lovely park on a lake southwest of the city. The park is beautiful. You can see mountains and the lake, and there are lovely gardens. There are also a lot of man-made tourist attractions and souvenir shops.

When we arrived, we went walking through the park and eventually found the shāo kǎo area, or as the sign says, "blarbacue tribe," and were told where to sit by Nate's teacher. The tables in this area have built-in barbecues, so your food is cooked right there in front of you. It is a convenient, but smoky, setup.

Now they do have hamburgers (hàn bǎo) and hot dogs (rè gǒu) in China, but you aren't likely to find these at a traditional shāokǎo. Actually, they are pretty rare anywhere outside a fast food place or western restaurant. At this barbecue, they served chicken wings (jī chì) and sliced pork (zhū ròu). By the way, the phrase "to eat chicken wings" in Chinese is "chī jī chì," in case you weren't confused enough already. They also had potatoes (tǔ dòu), onions (yáng cōng), and zucchini (xiǎo guā). So far, this is not too odd for barbecue food. Then they brought out some sort of breakfast cake, which didn't look at all like cake, and put that on the grill too. Last they brought out cold rice noodles (mǐ xiàn) in individual dishes. They didn't grill the noodles. Cold rice noodles are a famous local dish.

The food all tasted good and seemed to be cooked well. Shāo kǎo literally means "fire roast," and the food was cooked until incredibly hot, except for the local soy bean and spice sauce and cold noodle dish, which makes them the most likely suspects for tummy upset. The boys didn't see the need to eat for politeness' sake, so they didn't eat anything besides Pepsi and part of a banana. They are still doing fine, so perhaps there decision was wise.

We all had a great time walking in the woods and along the lake. The boys particularly enjoyed the large jungle gym there and throwing rocks into the lake. It was a beautiful day at the park, at least until Andrew filled his diaper and Aaron had a bathroom misadventure. Then is was time to head home.


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