Saturday, November 26, 2011


Because I am a genius, I volunteered to host a Thanksgiving Potluck for the other newbies at ISB. Thankfully, I only had about 16 people RSVP- but still 16 people! So I went to the store and bought the smallest turkey I could find. After all, I knew I had some vegetarians and they don't count when calculating how much turkey one needs. So I buy the turkey, the woman weights it and I do the math in my head... I had just purchased a 9.1 kilo turkey. For you folks unfamiliar with the metric system 9.1x2.2= a FUCKLOAD of turkey (20.02 pounds, to be exact).

So I had my groceries delivered that night.I don't know about you, but I was not about to bike with all that stuff. Plus, there is no way all of it would have fit in my bike basket. Into the fridge it went to defrost for a few days...

I pulled it out on Thursday so that I could pre-cook it 3/4 of the way, carve it and then finish cooking it on Friday before my guests arrived. This would save us from eating at 11:00 at night on Friday. After all, we still had to work. Yep, that's right, no 4 day weekend for us! So I made an herbed butter and slathered that baby down- on the skin and under the skin--- nobody wants a dry turkey! Here's what the beast looked like in my oven.

Now yes, I do have a smaller oven than those in the states. but IT TOOK UP MY WHOLE FREAKIN OVEN! I couldn't use my roasting rack because it make the bird too close to the top of my oven. So I had to improvise and use rolled up aluminum foil. No judging people, my father usually just fries the stupid turkey for Thanksgiving. Also, I would like to see you lift and move a 20 pound bird by yourself. 

This is what it looked like when done. I got a little excited and started carving before I remembered to take a picture, so you only get to see the non-carved half. Looks good, doesn't it? It was, I assure you.

And just to prove that I am actually certifiable, I make a pumpkin cheesecake with some of that pumpkin puree that I had made previously. I was also tasty. There is no pretty picture of this one, as soon as I pulled away the barrier, it was attacked. So enjoy what you can. 

Hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving! Happy belated Turkey day from Beijing!

Movember Main Event

On Friday, we had an Elementary School Assembly. The culminating event was when a coworker of mine shaved his head. Now, to be fair, it wasn't a random moment. He's been raising money for Movember and said if enough money was donated, he'd shave his head. This man has had long hair for 25 years! 25 YEARS! Of course, he's trimmed it so it's not all nasty bits, but it still is almost shoulder length. His wife had actually not ever seen him with short hair. She's a bit nervous. With grand pomp and circumstance, he entered the room...

Yes, he is wearing a red satin robe. Look at all that hair!

So he prepped the cut by putting his hair in pigtails and spoke a bit more about raising money for charity. He raised a load of money for cancer research- wahoo!!

And honestly, what is a fundraiser without the Smurfs? Apparently it was wild and crazy day in the middle school, so they channeled their inner Smurf and then came as a whole gang to donate money. How awesome is that?! When was the last time you saw the Smurfs up close and personal?
All in all, it was hilarious and shocking to watch all that hair fall off. I'll have to get a better shot of his shaved head for you later, as he was COVERED in fur hair when they were done. It made him look a lot like a baby bear. Who says work is boring?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meat and Astroturf

So I stopped off at the grocery store to get some stuff for our Thanksgiving dinner and while the lovely attendant weighing the massive turkey I was buying, I noticed that all the meats in the cooler are on astroturf! How I hadn't noticed this before, I don't know. But I immediately had to snap a photo. So this is my photo for today: meat meeting astroturf. Dig it.

Guest in the Kitchen

So as you may or may not have guessed, PB is not a chef. He's not even an amateur cook. To be honest, the only time he goes in to the kitchen to get bevs and leftovers for lunch the next day. Or maybe to throw something out. After a quiet, civilized conversation, (really, it wasn't that bad, honest) we (I) decided that he should learn to help a little in the kitchen. So on Monday, he decided (was forced to) help out in the kitchen. And wouldn't you know it, he did GREAT! Things he said that made me laugh when he was working:

1. This knife is awesome. I love it.
2. How do you do the fast choppy thing?
3. This isn't that hard.

Of course, it helps that our kitchen is easily three times larger what is was in Cairo. Both of us in the kitchen in Cairo usually meant one of us (me) wanting to physically harm (murder) the other.

But last night, things went beautifully, and while the chicken simmered away, I had time to make gingerbread cake because PB had already made the salad. WIN! Looks like I have a prep cook from now on... :)

So make someone important to you do some manual labor, whatever it is! Oh, and while they are working hard, you can make some Gingerbread Cake! See, sharing work really equals cake. Remind them of that if they complain. Repeat the word cake as necessary. It will work, I'm sure of it. If not, give them no cake.

Gingerbread Cake


  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Whipped cream


  • 1. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.
  • 2. Combine the water and molasses.
  • 3. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with molasses mixture, beating well after each addition.
  • 4. Pour into a greased 8-in. square baking pan, or line the pan with parchment paper and don't grease it, mine came out just fine without greasing the pan or parchment.
  • Bake at 350° Fahrenheit (176 Celsius) for 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Serve warm with whipped cream, if you're naughty like that. And trust me, you should be.

  • Makes: 9 servings.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


So I've mentioned my living-in-sin partner as PB on this here blog thang. Why PB you ask? It's short for polar bear. Why call him polar bear? Conjure up the picture of a polar bear in your mind right now. Go ahead, I'll wait...

Got it?

Good. Now thing of three words to describe said polar bear. Again, I'll be waiting over here...

What where those words you came up with? Mine are big, white, and furry. Can you guess what PB is? If you guessed big, white (and I mean WHITE, as in one step away from see through), and furry you are correct! PB also happens to LOVE the cold. If is too cold for most to be comfortable, he's in shorts and a tee-shirt. He's strange like that.
He also puts up with me. In case you've not figured this out yet, I'm a bit odd. I say random things and have the energy of a four year old on a sugar high- but only at the most random of times. Hence, this is what PB looks like after most of our conversations. But I cook for him, so he has no choice but to stay.

Cookie Time!

After the chili cook off, I was in a mood for chocolate. Brownies were calling my name, but PB has a pension for eating half a pan in one sitting, so cookies seemed like a better idea. Thus, Brownie Cookies! And yes, they are the definition of chocolaty goodness, tender like a brownie but with that great cookie portability. Keep them in an airtight container to maximize tenderness if you don't eat them all right away, no judging if you do. Because, after all, chocolate is a food group- just ask PB! Here's the recipe, thank you pureandyummy!

Brownie Cookies
1/2 cup butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Combine butter, unsweetened chocolate, and 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. (you really need to have a good set of heavy bottomed pots and pans in your kitchen, just saying) Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture melts; let cool.

2. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla at medium with an electric mixer- you can also totally do this by hand with large whisk. Come on, build those arm muscles!

4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, beating will after each addition. I found it useful to switch to a wooden spoon here if you're doing it by hand.

5. Add the chocolate mixture and beat well. Add the chocolate chips.

6. Scoop dough onto parchment lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 Celsius) for 10 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets, then move cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

AHH! A few days behind...

So I have already fallen behind in my challenge of daily posting. Let us catch up, shall we? This week was terribly busy, and I was all alone. PB was in Singapore as a chaperone for high school MUN students. The joys of living abroad. So between math night and the chili cook off for Movember, I didn't get the chance to update. So enjoy while I post several days in a row...

Let's start with the Chili for the Movember Cookoff. What is Movember? During the month of November, men all around the world grow moustaches in support for men's health. Look here for the US informational website:

Its GREAT cause, so if you haven't donated, you totally should. Next year, you should convince a dude close to you to grow one and raise money.
Our school is BIG into Movember. Almost all the men in our school participate, so we're a molicious school right now. Another fundraiser we did was a chili cook off. People volunteered to make chili and compete for the honor of making the best chili. Voting cost 5RMB and you could vote as many times as you'd like. I decided to enter with my white bean chicken chili, adapted from an Epicurious recipe. I didn't win, but got a fair enough amount of votes. Plus it was loads of fun and heckling. I remade some chili today for PB, since he didn't get to enjoy the cook off as he was in Singapore.

As for the photo, I apologize for the curtain, but as winter approaches, the only good place for natural light is our giant picture window. So be expecting a lot of my food pictures here from now on!

Also, here's the recipe for the chili, if you'd care to try

White Bean Chicken Chili
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion,chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon aniseed
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 kilo boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 15-ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
  • 1 cup canned chicken broth
  • 1 can salsa verde, or 15 ounces home made salsa verde (I can't get tomatillos here, so canned it is)
  • 3 7-ounce cans diced green chilies
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • Grated cheddar cheese- for garnish
  • Chopped fresh cilantro- for garnish

  • Preparation

    1. Heat oil in a large pot- about 4 liter size will do. over over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, aniseed and dried red pepper. Sauté 5 minutes.

    2. Push onion to 1 side of pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pan. Sauté chicken approximately 5 minutes.

    3. Drain beans; reserve 1/2 cup bean liquid.

    4. Add beans, broth, salsa verde, chilies, cream and reserved bean liquid to chicken.

    5. Simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

    6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat before using.)

    Ladle chili into bowls. Top with cheese and sprinkle with cilantro.

    THIS MAKES 4 LITERS OF CHILI! It would feed PB for quite a few lunches and dinners, so if you'd like to make less, just halve the recipe. Or you could have a bunch of mates over and enjoy this easy dinner together!

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    A Few Days at Once

    PB and I have started to settle into our new house, and like all sane, non-child bearing couples we each claimed a room as "mine". His is a typical man-cave; except that it's bright purple (heeheehee I love it!) It's has a computer desk, couch and T.V. mine is much more fabulous, with an armoire, desk and shelving unit. It was extra fabulously organized too, until ourshipment arrived. We've successfully moved boxes into the appropriate rooms and have even unpacked most of them. But this is what awaits me in my room...

    You wouldn't want to unpack it all either, would you!? It's on my to-do list for this weekend,

    but I gotta be honest, its a wee bit low on the list. I LOATH unpacking. And packing. Alright, lets be honest. I love to buy stuff but never manage to get everything put away in a timely manner. It's enough to drive PB mad... which is why we have our own rooms. See how that works?

    And now for Wednesday's photos: Homemade Pumpkin Puree

    I know, the pumpkins look scary here, but bear with me...

    In the States, ya'll can just wonder over to a grocery store and buy a can of Libby's. Not so muchhere. If you can get it, it is EXPENSIVE. Because, after all, it's imported. You know what's cheaper? Making your own. And it's super duper easy. Almost a "set it and forget it" task. Anyone else obsessed with the Ronco food product infomercials? Nobody?
    Hmmm... moving on.

    I use tiny pumpkins, back home they'd be called "sugar pumpkins" You can roast your pumpkin two ways.

    1. Cut apart the pumpkin and scoop out the good. Put the chunks on a sheet pan and put in a 225 degree oven (425 for you Fahrenheit folks). Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the pieces can be pierced easily with a fork. When done, take the pieces out of the oven and cool slightly. Peel off skin and put pumpkin in a food processor or food mill. Puree away and enjoy!

    2. The slightly more lazy way: put the entire pumpkin on the rack in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until a knife can pierce through to the middle. Take the pumpkin out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Now cut that squishy dude in half and scoop out the seeds and such. The skin will peel off easily and you pop the pumpkin meat into a food processor or food mill and puree away!

    I love this because it's mega cheap and I know exactly what's in the puree. Pumpkin! No mystery ingredients here. And I can make a huge batch (see stacked containers above) of puree and put it in two cup containers and freeze it for whenever I need it. It defrosts well and can be used in cookies, bread, cake, pasta... anything your pumpkin lovin' self wants to do!

    So go out there and make some pumpkin puree! After all, you can use this delicious pumpkin puree to make your own pumpkin spice latte syrup. Tempting, isn't it?

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Sunday, Lovely Sunday

    Sorry that this is a few days late, but man, I had things to get done! Do you ever feel like you to-do list will swallow you whole? And then still goof off on the interwebs and spend time in front of the T.V. any way? Cause that's kind of how I roll. I'm a procrastinator like that. Anyway... Sundays are for going out to breakfast and stopping at Starbucks before going to the grocery store. Yeah, I live in Beijing, can you tell? I know this makes me a terrible person who makes living abroad look bad, but DAMN, I love me some Starbucks. I do, it's true. And the best part? I didn't even like the 'bucks until about five years ago. One of my friends used to stop on her way to work and started picking me up things. Then I found one of my reasons for living: the Caramel Macchiato. OMG that is a ridiculously delicious meal in a cup. I say meal in a cup because it has to have that many calories. OH WELL. I dig it. Another reason for living that Starbucks has provided: the Pumpkin Spice Latte. And wouldn't you know it, they don't have those in China. So I've had to learn to make my own. It's surprisingly easy and delicious. I'll include the recipe soon, I promise. For now, I leave you with my favorite part of the day: How I almost convinced PB (the living in sin partner) to own a furry seahorse.

    Let's set the scene. We're enjoying our post breakfast, pre-Starbucks bevs whilst sitting outside and people watching. I saw a lady bike by with an ADORABLE puppy in her bike basket. Now, before you get all "Poor puppy!", this was the Mercedes Benz of bike baskets, complete with padding and a safety strap. I comment on how badly I wanted a dog and how we could easily get a tiny dog like that. His response? "It looks like a sea horse." WTF? was my polite, ever genteel response. "A sea horse, with fur. A furry sea horse. It's a furry sea horse in a basket" I started at him incredulously, and yep; boys and girls, he was serious. I could do nothing but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

    A bit later, however, we spied two of THE CUTEST PUPPIES ON THE PLANET playing in the parking lot. We assumed they belonged to a gentleman who was playing with them, but not so. I ranted and raved about them and saw PB's reserve get a little shaky. He was going to cave, I could feel it! He was going to suggest tucking one (or both) of those adorable little creatures into our bike baskets and giving them a good home. Or he was going to suggest that I go pet them and get puppy wanting out of my system. Guess what happened.
    Hint: we biked home without a furry sea horse, or a puppy.

    Oh well, at least I got my Starbucks.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Skype, I love you.

    You ever have one of those friends who makes poor decisions and is always convinced that the worst ideas are indeed the best ideas ever? Everyone has one friend like that. I was that friend. Luckily, I also had this other friend. She was safe and thoughtful and didn't really like to break laws.
    As we grew up she kept me out of trouble (mostly, I mean...I was pretty convincing with some of my schemes) Any way, due to the wonder of Skype, I got to catch up with her for a whole two and a half hours today! WAHOO!!! It's always fun to catch up, and I love talking to someone and having it feel like it's only been for a bit, just to discover hours have passed. That's a friend you keep around.
    So today, I have a glorious shot of this friend's dog. (I forgot to ask her if I could post a picture of her) But in all fairness, this dog is the love of her life, next to her husband, so I'm sure getting him some web attention won't be a problem. And look at him... isn't he the cutest damn thing you ever saw?

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Epic Throwdown: Us vs. Brachs (big fail)

    One of my best mates from Cairo, Jen, is visiting us in Beijing this week. We are generally an awesome duo. Not to toot our own horns, but we are fabulous. Put us together and we'll rock your socks off. We can bake circles around normal folk and Jen is slowly learning to cook. Living abroad for three years now, we have become copy kat extraordinaire. No pumpkin spice latte available? Make your own. I pride myself in being able to figure out how to make things, from scratch. So when I mentioned to my living- in-sin partner that I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted some candy corn this Halloween season, he found a recipe for me online. Which I had not gotten around to making until reinforcements arrived. Don't get me wrong, the recipe is simple enough, I just had other things on my mind- you know, settling into a whole new country, setting up a house, figuring our the curriculum to a whole new school- easy stuff. Jen leaves tonight, much to my dismay, and we decided to make candy corn; while enjoying some Christmas music. We were a well oiled machine of organization and badass. Until we calculated the incorrect amount of butter. Oops. No worries, we had plenty more where that came from. Batch number two held nothing but possibilities and potential. It came together beautifully, was relatively easy to color. 2nd batch was a success... or so we thought. As we started to roll out fabulous ropes, it started to harden a bit. Hmm.... we thought,and rolled faster. Let me here state that whomever wrote this cakespy recipe found here must have some kinda magic up their sleeve. Because our candy corn looked and tasted nasty. N-A-S-T-Y. It was hard and crunchy in an unappealing way, which really, is everything hard and crunchy unless we're talking biscotti, but that's another post. We struggled to roll some ropes and put them together. We did cut out a few candies and while they look passable, they are now cute rocks. Just as my living-in-sin friend. We told him to try one and he's currently at the dentist, getting new teeth put in. And so friends, I declare the Brachs vs. Jen and Lauren Candy Corn Throw down an epic fail. We were bitch-slapped by a simple recipe. And thus, we order pizza and slink off to leave the sugar coated conundrum for another day.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Once more, with feeling...

    I've done a blog before, and it was entirely based on my student teaching experience in Cairo, Egypt. I was faithful to that blog, but as soon as my student teaching was finished, I let it go to the wayside. Sad but true. I returned back to the States and didn't think of it again. Now, as I move around the world, I feel the need to burden whomever reads this with my ridiculous, often beyond obscure thoughts and actions in my daily life. I'm sorry, future readers, if there are any of you; I'm a bit of a nutcase. I am currently living in Beijing, China while teaching first grade. And I live in suburbia. Crazy, but true. Accompanying this blog will be pictures... one a day for as long as my patience holds out. (don't hold your breath)