Monthly Archives: November 2014

Italian Cream Sodas

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Italian cream sodas… I’d never heard of them until Austin and I traveled to Italy on our date-around-the-world tour. We’re not big soda drinkers, but we love these things! They’re a really fun treat for date nights when we’re not in the mood to bake a dessert. We’ve had fun mixing flavors, too, and sharing the wonder with our local friends.

Ingredients:

soda water

flavored syrups (I’ve bought most of my syrups from the same Taobao shop. Here’s the link to the vanilla syrup; that page links to tons of other pages with different flavors.)

cream

ice cubes

Directions and Notes:

1. Place 2-3 ice cubes in the bottom of a glass.

2. Pour half a can of soda water into the glass.

3. Add 2-3 Tablespoons of flavored syrup to taste. Some of our favorite syrup flavors for these sodas are peach, strawberry, vanilla, and mint. But the sky’s the limit!

4. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of cream and stir. Enjoy!

If you want to set up an Italian soda bar, some cute, free printables can be found for free over at Our Best Bites.

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Glow-in-the-Dark Badminton Date

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We recently decided that we’d like to add another hobby to our lives, and we settled on giving badminton a try. We decided we might try playing on the roof of our building to give us a little more privacy. So I decided to plan a badminton night for us. The only issue was that night can be a little dark, so I thought, What about GLOW-IN-THE-DARK badminton?

It was so much fun! This was a fun and easy date to put together and execute. Here’s what to do:

  • You will obviously need badminton rackets.
  • Tell your date to dress in black and/ or fluorescent clothes.
  • Get some light up badminton birdies. I got mine from this Taobao site. I got the option that was a set of 4 for 18 yuan with free shipping, and they all work great.
  • To make it extra fun, get a pack of glow sticks and make jewelry/ headbands/ anything else to dress up with. I bought mine from this Taobao site. I ordered the set of 50 glow sticks in 5 different colors for 10 yuan with free shipping. Also worked great.
  • Then head outside and play, play, play! It was fun to just see flashes of light flying around as we swung our glowstick-adorned arms and watched the birdie fly.

Hot Pot(火锅)

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If you’ve been in China for any length of time, this one warrants little to no explanation, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s so easy and very well-received by our Chinese friends of course!Hot pot nights have been a great thing to do with students for several reasons.

First of all, they’re easy to host because all you need to say is basically, “Hey guys, today we’re going to have hot pot (火锅),” and everyone knows what to do and how to eat it.

Another reason is that the biggest job for this meal is washing vegetables, and washing vegetables is a great activity to do with friends who want to help prepare. When we make western food, it can be a little tricky to direct between 5 and 10 sets of hands who are eager to help with prep work, but with hot pot, I just direct them toward a pile of meats and veggies and the washing begins! It’s a great way to spend time with friends, cleaning veggies and chatting at the same time.

And finally, I like these nights because it’s a fun way to connect with my students’ heart culture. They love western food, but when they sit down around our hot pot with our little space heater under the table warming our feet, they say things like, “Now we’re really like a family,” and I think they have a warm, close-to-home feeling in their hearts like the one Austin and I have when we see a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving or a picnic spread on the Fourth of July… and that’s a feeling worth giving.

Some of the things we most enjoy putting out when we eat hotpot with friends:

  • several varieties of mushrooms
  • tofu balls
  • meatballs (We buy hotpot style meatballs in the open market.)
  • rolls of sliced lamb or beef (available in most bigger supermarkets during winter months)
  • sliced pork or beef (marinated beforehand for extra flavor)
  • lots and lots of green, leafy vegetables
  • lotus root
  • small wedges of corn on the cob
  • sweet potato noodles (or any noodles, sold in open markets. Soak in water for 20-30 minutes before putting them out to be boiled in the hotpot broth.)

There are several varieties of ready-to-go hotpot broth flavoring packets available in markets and supermarkets. I’d like to figure out how to make my own really good broth some day, but for now I stick with the packets. I just add a packet (or 2 depending on packet size and flavor strength) to a pot of water and stir until evenly mixed.

We cook up a big pot of rice to go with and make sure to have heaping bowls of mini oranges for “dessert.”

Another great idea for added fun and flavor is to have a little bar set up with different oils, soy sauce, sesame paste, hot pepper sauces, etc. for guests to make their own dipping sauces.

Pork Souvlaki

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This pork was amazing paired with pitas, hummus, hot pepper cheese dip, and tzatziki at our recent Greek dinner. I’ve made it with anywhere between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 pounds of meat and have just kept the amount of marinade the same. It was voted the “favorite meat” at the Greek dinner, even when competing with our favorite, lamb. We’ve put it on skewers and just stir-fried the pieces without skewers for use in pita pockets. Fast, easy, and definitely worth making again!Ingredients:

1 1/2- 2 1/2 pounds of lean pork, cut into 3/4 inch cubes or into small slices

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2- 1 Tablespoon salt (depending on desired saltiness and amount of meat)

2 Tablespoons red wine or red wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Directions and Notes:

1. Pour the wine or vinegar and oil over the pork and toss to coat. Sprinkle the spices over and mix to combine.

2. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours. (If using vinegar, do not exceed 2 hours.)

3. To make skewers: Skewer the meat and bake on a wire rack over a baking sheet for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until just barely cooked through. Bake time will depend on the thickness of the meat. To make skewer-less meat: Just add the meat to a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and cook until just barely light brown. Do not overcook, or it will become tough.

4. Serve with pitas, hummus, and other Greek favorites!

Recipe from: Greek Tastes 

Greek Date

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On November 12, it was 6 years since Austin and I got engaged. So for this month’s Date-Around-The-World date, I cooked some of the same food I’d cooked for Austin that evening 6 years ago before he proposed– Greek food. I dug up some old recipes that I’d stored away from that night and managed to make them again– China style. They turned out great, and we had a fun evening.

Here are some ideas for creating your own Greek adventure:

  • Listen to Greek music (and dance if you like!).  
  • For food, keep it simple with lots of options for creating your own pita pockets with different combinations of meats, sauces, and spreads. Here are some things we ate:
    • Homemade pitas
    • White bean hummus
    • Stir-fried lamb slices- I bought the ones that they sell in the winter for Chinese hot pot. They’re really thinly sliced and are great on sandwiches or in pitas. I just stir-fried them in a touch of olive oil for a few minutes until barely browned and sprinkled with salt.
    • Lamb skewers- These are another thing conveniently ready-to-go in Chinese markets. They sell them for barbecuing. They taste like they’re already lightly seasoned, so I just popped them into the oven on a wire rack for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternately, you can slide the lamb off of the skewers and stir-fry it in a little olive oil so it’s ready to slide right into a pita.
    • Tzatziki
    • Hot pepper cheese dip
    • Pork souvlaki
    • Roasted asparagus
    • Grapes
    • For dessert, we went for something pretty non-authentic. We used pita halves, which we stuffed with dark chocolate chips, homemade peanut butter, and marshmallows and then microwaved until they were melty and warm.
  • Decorate simply. I used a simple piece of white fabric and bought a string of leaves from a local flower shop to lay down the center of the table.
  • Make it a toga party. We grabbed a blanket and a scarf and made something toga-like to wear. For women, wear gold or bronze jewelry/ head wraps. For men, try making some kind of vine/ leafy crown.
  • Watch a Greek movie. Of course, there’s always “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” or “My Life in Ruins.” Six years ago, on the night we got engaged, after we ate our Greek meal, we’d watched the cartoon movie Hercules, so for this month’s Greece date, we watched the new Hercules movie that came out this year.

 

Tzatziki (Greek Dip)

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I’ve searched for tzatziki recipes before and it seems this one is the most common recipe… every site I click on seems to have about the same recipe. So, this one is not my own, but we were so happy with the results that I want to share it here.

Ingredients

2 cups of thick Greek yogurt (I used some homemade yogurt I’d made the day before with great results.)

4-10 cloves of garlic, finely grated (I used 5 large cloves and thought it was perfect.)

1/2 cup grated cucumber

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions and Notes:

1. In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, and yogurt. Stir until the yogurt and oil are mixed completely.

2. Add the garlic and cucumber. Stir until evenly distributed.

3. Chill well before serving.

Optional: Add a little dill when you stir in the garlic and cucumber.

Oh, and here’s an article all about what do with tzatziki sauce. We added ours to pita pockets with lamb and pork soulvaki. It was amazing!

Photo Scavenger Hunt

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On Friday night, we invited one of our favorite groups of girls over yet again for a photo scavenger hunt. We’d done these in America and remembered how fun they could be. Here’s how we set up our photo scavenger hunt:

We had a group of about 15 people who we divided into three teams. We met at our house at 5:30 and had some snacks and drinks to hold them over until after the activity when we’d eat together. Then we gave each group an instruction sheet with directions in both English and Chinese. We asked one of our friends to read the Chinese instructions to everyone and then sent them off. For the photo challenges, we tried to choose things that would be a bit of a challenge, but nothing too crazy since this was a fairly new concept to them (and all the people they’d run into). We gave them 90 minutes; we should have given them only about 45, we think, because they all finished pretty quickly. Of course, this depends on where you live and how far they need to go to complete the challenges. 45 minutes would have been great for the particular hunt listed below on our campus, because everything was really close by or could be done anywhere.After they completed the challenges, they came back to our house and worked on uploading the pictures to one of their QQ pages where we viewed them after dinner and evaluated whether each picture qualified for points. We gave prizes and called it a night!

Note: Our friends all have camera phones, so gone are the days of scrounging up extra cameras like we had to do back when I was in youth group. :) Transferring pictures ended up being too much work– they wouldn’t e-mail fast enough or we didn’t have the right transfer cords. If you try this in China, we recommend having friends upload the photos to their QQ pages and then opening those pages on a computer so everyone can view them– this method was fast and easy.

Here is a copied and pasted version of the instructions and challenges for our photo scavenger hunt; you may need to change them to fit your situation, but these worked for us. A PDF copy of this document is available for download below as well.

Photo Scavenger Hunt-照片寻宝
Today you will work with a team to take several photos.  Several interesting photo challenges are written below. You will need to be creative and work quickly to take these photos. You and your team will have _______ minutes to take as many of these photos as possible. Some photos may require that your whole team appear in the photo, so you may need to ask someone else to help you take the picture.  You only need one photo of each challenge below; if you take too many photos of each challenge, we won’t have time to look at all of them. Your team will receive points for each picture it takes, and extra points will be awarded for the top three best pictures of the night. Two extra points will also be given to the first team to arrive back at the meeting point. There will be prizes!!! Have lots and lots of fun!

-今天你需要跟你的团队合作拍一些照片。下面列出了一些有趣的拍摄挑战。你需要赋有创意并且动作迅速的拍下这些照片。你和你的团队有 __ 分钟去拍尽可能多的照片。有些照片可能会要求你们团队的全体成员都出现在上面,所以你也许需要请别人帮忙拍照。下面的每个挑战你只需要一张照片;如果你每 个挑战都拍太多张照片的话,我们将没有时间去全部看完。每张你的团队拍出的照片都会得到分数,并且当晚最好的三张照片将会得到额外加分。最先返回汇合点的 团队也将会得到额外两分。将会有奖品!!!尽情去玩吧!

Take a photo of:- 拍照内容:

  • Two members of your team kissing a lion.- 你们团队中的两个成员在亲吻一只狮子。
  • At least 3 members of your team wearing crazy or interesting hats (2 points).- 至少3名你们的队员戴着疯狂或有趣的帽子(2分)
  • Two members of your team with one of the school guards.- 两名你们的队员和一位学校保安
  • Two to three team members riding a bicycle.- 两到三名你们的队员在骑一辆自行车。
  • Two team members pretending to be monkeys while eating bananas (2 points).- 两名队员假装是猴子在吃香蕉(2分)
  • One of you holding or hugging a cute dog.- 你们中的一人抱着一只可爱的狗狗
  • A picture of one of your teammates taking a picture.- 一张记录有你的一个队员正在拍照的照片。
  • Your whole team wearing brightly colored glasses or sunglasses (2 points).- 你们全体队员都戴着彩色眼镜或者太阳镜的照片(2分)
  • Your whole team with China’s flag.- 你们全体队员和中国国旗。
  • Two members of your team with a picture of Chairman Mao (not on your cellphone).- 两名你的队员跟毛主席像的合影(不能是你手机上的)
  • One member of your team holding a chicken (2 points).- 你的一名队员拿着一只鸡。(2分)
  • Your whole team playing basketball.- 你们全体队员在打篮球
  • Your whole team eating lollipops.- 你们全体队员在吃棒棒糖。
  • Your whole team sitting on a scooter. 你们全体队员坐在一辆电车上。
  • Your team making a human pyramid (2 points).- 你们团队在做人体金字塔。(2分)
  • Someone making a funny face, not someone on your team.- 一个人在做鬼脸,不能是你团队的人。
  • Your whole team dancing in public.- 你们全体队员在公共场合跳舞。
  • A selfie in the mirror of your whole team.- 你们全队在镜子前的自拍。

And here is a PDF of our scavenger hunt page if you want to download and use it. If you need it in another format, just let me know! Photo Scavenger Hunt

Here are some more of our favorite pictures of the night:

Your whole team making a human pyramid.
Two members of your team with a picture of Chairman Mao.
Two members of your team pretending to be monkeys while eating bananas.
One member of your team holding a chicken.
Your whole team eating lollipops.
Two members of your team kissing a lion.
At least 3 members of your team wearing crazy or interesting hats.
Your whole team sitting on a scooter.
A selfie in the mirror of your whole team.
Two members of your team with one of the school guards.
Two members of your team pretending to be monkeys while eating bananas.
Your whole team with China’s flag.
Your whole team eating lollipops.
Your whole team wearing brightly colored glasses or sunglasses.
A picture of your whole team playing basketball.