Monthly Archives: February 2015

Mini Banana Split Skewers


Again– so happy it’s strawberry season! My favorite food in all the world is available for just about a month each year here in our town, and I make the most of it! Last night at “Family Fun Night” (a new tradition with a guy who’s been spending a lot of time over here lately and is like one of the fam), we had these mini banana split skewers. Pineapple, strawberries, and bananas skewered together and dipped in chocolate. They didn’t look too pretty, but they disappeared in a hurry and left lots of smiles.



strawberries, halved

pineapple, cut into 3/4″ thick small pieces or cubes

banana, sliced 1/2- 3/4″ thick

melted chocolate

Directions and Notes:

1. First, skewer one piece of pineapple, one strawberry half, and one banana slice onto each toothpick.

2. Melt chocolate, and dip each skewer sideways into the chocolate until half of each piece of banana, strawberry, and pineapple piece are covered in chocolate.

3. Place on wax paper or baking paper and refrigerate until hardened.


Homemade Maple Syrup


Got this recipe from a friend.* Tried it. Loved it. We’ve “upped” our number of breakfast for dinner nights since I started making this… breakfast is awesome!



2 cups white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 cup honey

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon maple extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions and Notes:

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except for the extracts. Bring the syrup to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer 10-20 minutes until syrup thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the extracts. The syrup will thicken more as it sits and cools. It’s really, really thick when pulling it out of the refrigerator before the second use!

*I think the recipe may just be a scaled-down version of the maple syrup recipe on this website.

Strawberry Syrup


We love breakfast. Breakfast for lunch. Breakfast for dinner. Breakfast for breakfast. When we got married, we asked Austin’s grandmother, Moppy, to make a big breakfast meal for our rehearsal dinner, and it was amazing! Moppy made all kinds of breakfast food with lots of amazing fruit syrups. The food coming out of our kitchen will never be a match for Moppy’s amazing food, but here is a simple strawberry syrup that we’ve been making recently to make the most of strawberry season.



4-5 cups roughly halved strawberries

1/4- 1/3 cup white sugar

Directions and Notes:

1. First, wash and roughly chop the berries. I just halved mine. If you have a food processor, throw in the berries and pulse briefly until they’re broken down into small pieces, but not pureed. (You can really pulse as much or as little as you like– it depends on how smooth you want the syrup.) If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll have to chop them pretty small by hand.

2. Pour all of the berries into a medium saucepan and add the sugar. There should already be some liquid from the chopped berries, and they will release more juice as they cook, so there is no need to add additional liquid.

3. Simmer the berries and sugar for 10-20 minutes, or until thickened. Add more sweetener to taste.

Pulled Pork {Sandwiches}


We love meat. We tried cutting back on meat for a while… didn’t leave all of us with happy feelings at the dinner table. So meat is here to stay, and this is our super easy, hands-down favorite way of making sure we’re left with perfectly (and easily) “shredable” pork.



2 pounds lean pork

1 onion

Directions and Notes:

Cut the onion into six wedges. Place three of the wedges on the bottom of a slow cooker. Place the entire hunk of meat on top. Add the remaining onions, and then fill the crock pot with water until everything is well-covered. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the meat can be easily pulled apart using two forks. Discard the water and onions. Pull the meat apart and top with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Barbecue Sauce


I’ve made several versions of barbecue sauce, and we like this one best. We use it to top pulled pork for pulled pork sandwiches. It’s also good on burgers or barbecue french fries.



2 cups ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup very finely minced onion

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons water

3-4 minced garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1 Tablespoon mustard

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

black pepper to taste

Directions and Notes:

1. In a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and saute for just a minute or two until fragrant.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Note: I haven’t been able to find liquid smoke in China thus far, but some of our friends recently brought some to us when they came to visit– I think it made a big difference in the flavor here and was a very “worth it” thing to request from the States.

Recipe adapted from:

Black Bean Soup


I somehow managed to boil up way, way, WAY too many black beans the other day, so I decided to make some nice, warm black bean soup, which in this weather was more than welcome. I served this with some grilled cheese sandwiches and it disappeared around our table!



3 cans of black beans, divided (This is about 4 1/2 cups of cooked black beans.)

3 celery ribs, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 spicy dark green peppers, chopped

2 Tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 1/2 cups chicken broth

5 diced tomatoes

1 Tablespoon cumin

1 bunch cilantro

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

salt to taste

1 pound sausage (optional)

1 teaspoon lime juice

chopped green onions and cilantro for serving

Directions and Notes:

1. Mash 1 1/2 cups of the black beans; set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the celery, onion, green peppers, and garlic cloves until tender.

3. Add the chicken broth, black beans, mashed black beans, tomatoes, cumin, cilantro, Tabasco, bay leaf, black pepper, and sausage if you’re using it. (Note: I added my whole bunch of cilantro whole so it would be easy to pull out later with the bay leaf. Then I had more fresh, chopped cilantro for serving.)

4. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until it is warm and the flavors are melded.

5. Discard the bay leaf and cilantro bunch.

6. Stir in the lime juice. Serve with chopped green onions and cilantro.

Adapted from: Taste of Home 


Carrot Cake


We were blessed to receive cookbooks in some of our holiday care packages this year. Over the course of 2 months, we went from owning zero cookbooks to being the owners of six of them… which may be a little excessive, but we’re so grateful and have really enjoyed having a source for some new recipes, especially on days when our Internet is down and we want to eat! This three-layer carrot cake was adapted from a Southern Living Christmas cookbook. I significantly reduced the amount of sugar in the cake and made only about half the amount of icing, which didn’t look quite as good as the Southern Living pictures, but still tasted plenty sweet for our American palates and was a huge crowd-pleaser for our Chinese friends as well. They raved about the flavor and texture, and they labeled it as the best cake they’d ever tasted. Thanks, Southern Living!



2 1/4 cups self rising flour (See recipe for self-rising flour if none is available. In this recipe I used 2 1/4 cups flour and added 1 Tablespoon plus 3/8 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt; you can reduce the amount of flour by the amount of baking powder and salt you add if desired, but it’s not necessary.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

3 cups grated carrots

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, divided

cream cheese frosting

Directions and Notes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare three 9″ round pans by cutting a 9″ circle of parchment paper to line the bottom of each pan and then greasing the bottom and sides of each pan.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the self-rising flour, baking soda, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.

4. In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs.

5. Little by little, pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture, stirring to incorporate between each addition.

6. Fold in the grated carrots and 1 cup of the walnuts.

7. Divide the batter equally between the three pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.

8. Remove cakes from oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack or plates. Cool completely before frosting.

9. Top with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with remaining walnuts.


*Recipe adapted from Southern Living Christmas Cookbook.