banana muffins

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter/oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup yogurt
3 ripe banana's
chocolate chips

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream the butter & sugar, then add the remaining wet ingredients and mix well. Combine everything into the larger bowl. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Top with some chocolate chips (we sometimes use peanut butter chips!). Bake @ 400F for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

glory to Jeani - one of my favorite people in U-town.

grandma's scones

These are so easy & fun to make with kiddos! The girls especially love getting to roll out their own treats, and even cutting them into pie pieces. Hope you enjoy this recipe passed on from the grandma of a friend. :)

1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp baking soda
4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt & baking soda well. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients and mix well. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Finally stir in the yogurt & egg until moistened. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead well. Divide dough into smaller balls - and pat each into a flat round, about 3/4 inches thick. Cut into 4-6 pieces. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Yum!

Joe's northern bean soup

2 cup dry beans (Great Northern white beans)
6 cups water
1-2 Tb. cooking oil
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, sliced
2-4 cubes beef or chicken bouillon
5-6 cloves garlic
½ - 1 pound fried bacon/ham* (we use beef bacon)
2 stalks of celery, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 2 small potatoes, diced

Sort and wash beans under cold water. Soak overnight in water (or use canned beans?). Drain off excess water before using. In the bottom of your pot/crock-pot layer oil, onion, garlic & simmer until slightly browned. Add soaked beans & water and simmer for 1½ - 2 hours, until tender. While simmering – add remaining ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until thoroughly cooked. Enjoy with cornbread!! *This soup is also yummy without any meat.

glory to Joe D.
a favorite winter/cold weather/snuggle soup

granola bars

These are some of the best granola bars I have ever tasted - the recipe was created & tweaked by friends in my city, with items we can find in China. They are so delicious!

2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup brown sugar (maybe a little less)
dash of nutmeg & cinnamon
2 ½ cups oats
1/3 cup peanuts
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (or 1 cup total of other preferred nuts)
1 cup raisins (or any dried fruit)
1 cup banana chips

Combine honey, peanut butter & brown sugar in a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes and stir well. Set aside. Toast the nuts (crushed or chopped) in a skillet, stirring constantly, till you can smell the nutty goodness (about 5 min). In a large bowl - combine oats & nuts well. Microwave your sugary-peanut-honey again for 30 seconds, and stir well. Combine hot sweet syrup with the nuts+oats until coated evenly. Add the raisins & banana chips and stir again. Line a 9x9 baking dish with tin foil (enough to cover the bottom, and and wrap back over the dish). Spray the foil with oil - so you can remove the bars easier. Pat the granola-bar mixture into the baking dish - pressing down into the pan well. Fold the foil back over to prevent burning. Bake @ 350F for 15 minutes. Allow the bars to cool for about 1-2 hours, and then remove from the dish. Cut into bars with a large knife. Store in an airtight container or else you will eat them right away. :)

tortilla soup

There are so many ways to make a delicious Tortilla soup - but here are some basic ideas & ingredients that we are able to find easily here. Also, you can make in a pot over the stove, or slowly in a crock pot. Either way - its tasty!!

oil - 2T
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2+ chicken breasts
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
dash taco seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1.5 tsp salt (or more to taste)
2 tomatoes
1 large green pepper, without seeds
celery -3 stalks
2 cups black beans (cooked)
2 carrots
1 cup corn
3 cups+ water
chicken bullion cubes - 1-2
toppings: crispy tortilla strips, fresh cilantro, sour cream, grated cheese

In a Crock Pot: Add oil, onions & garlic. Allow to simmer until translucent. Add spices. Place chicken breast on top, add 3 cups boiling water & chicken bullion. Blend tomatoes & green pepper well, then add to the pot. Add all the chopped veggies and the black beans. Simmer on low until chicken falls apart. Top with fave toppings! Enjoy!

mushroom veggie burgers

Now - don't freak out!! These mushroom patties might not look appetizing in this picture - but they are SO good! See the finished product below! They are SO yummy!!

cashews+walnuts+almonds, chopped (about 1 cup total)
3-4 cups mushrooms, diced
1 med white onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup rice, brown or white (cooked)
1 T soy sauce

Your choice of seasonings:
fresh cilantro, chopped
Italian seasoning
Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste
bread crumbs (if needed to hold things together)

In a large skillet, toast the nuts until slightly browned. Blend the toasted nuts until fine, and set aside. Dice the mushrooms & onions well, and saute in the same skillet until browned, and the water is cooked off. Blend the *mushrooms/onions in a large blender along with the garlic and any seasonings you choose (from above). Combine blended mixture with toasted nuts and rice in a large bowl. Combine well. Add bread crumbs until you can form nice patties without them falling apart. Grill in a skillet (or on your BBQ!!) until toasted brown and enjoy with all your favorite fixings!

*I am sure you could experiment with any extras that you might want to add to this burger - like grilled peppers, chick peas, or any other veggie combo into the blender too.

lentil soup

1 T butter
2 T oil
1 onion
4-8 cloves garlic
1.5 cups lentils (dry, any color, rinsed & sorted)
6 cups water (approximate) or chicken/vegetable broth
1 T salt
3-4 stalks celery
2 small potatoes
2 carrots
Optional: squash, tomatoes, 
Spices (to taste): curry powder, coriander, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper (about 1 tsp each)
1/8 - 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Melt butter/oil in your pot (or slow cooker), add onions & garlic. Saute until translucent. Add lentils and 3 cups of water. Simmer for about 20 minutes until soft. Add the rest of your ingredients, chopped fine. Simmer until veggies are tender. Puree most of the soup in a blender, but save some to add back for chunky texture. Yum!!  Add the juice of 1 lime for some extra flavor.  Top with avocado too!  
*Lentils are high in protein, iron, fiber and even manganese. Who knew? The fiber in lentils can also lower your cholesterol!


Mix together:
6 cups oats
1 cup flour
2 cups nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts)
2 cups coconut
¼ cup sunflower seeds/sesame seeds
1 tsp. salt
½ cup nonfat milk
cinnamon (optional)

Mix separately, then add to dry ingredients:
1 cup maple syrup
½ cup oil

Mix everything well until coated evenly, and bake at 225 for about 2 hours. Stir every 20 minutes. Turn off oven and add 1 cup dried fruit (raisins, chopped dates, dried apricots, etc). Cool and enjoy! Store in an airtight container so it stays crunchy. We take this camping too!

pumpkin soup

I made this soup in a crock pot - in the morning, slow and steady. You can also whip this together faster in a pot on the stove. There are also a TON of variations to the flavor of pumpkin soup - so use some the optional ideas below, depending on your craving!

2 Tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
1 onion, chopped finely
3-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 pumpkin (take seeds out, peel & dice) OR about 1 kg (4 cups pumpkin puree)
1-2 med. potatoes (skinned & diced)
1-2 carrots (peeled & diced)
3-4 stalks celery, chopped finely
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
vegetable (or chicken) bullion (2 cubes) with 3-5 cups water (about 1 liter+)
OR 3-5 cups vegetable broth/chicken broth

½ tsp black pepper (to taste)
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
½ tsp nutmeg
½ cup cream (or use half & half)

Optional – spicy alternatives!!

1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
sweet potato, peeled, diced
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 tsp turmeric
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp sugar
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded, chopped coarsely

This was SO EASY to make!!
Put butter in the bottom of your crock pot (on the highest setting). Add the onion & garlic while you chop your pumpkin/veggies. Add diced pumpkin, then layer other veggies. Close the lid to allow the ingredients to begin to heat up. Soon add ½ the vegetable broth to allow the veggies to steam well. Turn the heat to low after about 30-40 minutes. Add the rest of your veggie broth with spices, until the veggies are almost covered. Allow everything to simmer for as long as you want – on low heat. I blended about 2/3 of the soup, so there was still a chunky feel to the soup. Return everything to the crock pot – and stir in cream. Add any extra seasonings to taste. Dollop with sour cream/plain yogurt, and/or garnish with fresh parsley, fresh chives, or roasted pumpkin seeds if you have them!
For some extra flare:
serve it inside a hollowed out pumpkin, with fresh bread.

Chinese porridge - Congee

CONGEE (稀饭 xīfàn) - is basically rice cooked in water/chicken broth, eaten for breakfast! There are many variations to how this can be cooked & served - but here is the basic gist:

Combine in a saucepan, and bring to a boil:

1 cup white rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped/shredded chicken (some people use tuna/fish)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp peanut oil
water as needed

1 inch of ginger, cut into long thin strips/threads

Optional Toppings:
ginger, cut in small slivers
2 tsp soy sauce
white pepper
sesame oil
green onion, chopped fine

Rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well. Put the rice in a large sauce pan and stir in the salt and oil. Add the water & chicken stock. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir the rice to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cover (with the cover ajar) and boil gently for about 5 minutes. Cover and reduce the heat to low - simmer, stirring occasionally until the rice is soft (the consistency of porridge). Add ginger. Simmer for about 1 hour. Porridge is ready when the rice is soft with a mushy appearance. Add water if needed. Serves about 6. Ladle the hot porridge into bowls and sprinkle with desired toppings. Serve hot!

Some interesting facts about Congee too
: It is always recommended to eat when you are feeling sick (similar to chicken noodle soup). Some of the oldest Chinese imperial records have mentioned it being a health food. It was also eaten most often by the poor, or during times of drought and famine - when food was hard to come by. Legend tells us that during the time of Emperor Yong Zheng (Qing dynasty), a famine broke out. He ordered his officials to serve & distribute Congee to the starving people. Corrupt officials would skimp on the rice and serve watery versions. When the Emperor heard about this, he set a standard that the porridge must be so think that a pair of chopsticks would stand upright! Any officials who failed this standard were beheaded. Congee is also served during funerals - because it is plain and simple, and suits times of grief and mourning.

caramel dip

This is barely a recipe....but they are easy things to find here in China!

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 t. vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar; whisk for two minutes. Add the cream; whisk another two minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Pour into a jar to store in the fridge for later. It will thicken as it cools! Yum!!