Elementary Cooking Class

I teach an enrichment class on Wednesday afternoons to 1st through 3rd graders at our school.    So far this fall we have made fruit smoothies,  homemade granola bars, apple pumpkin muffins and Chinese mooncakes, just to name a few.   Last week I prepared one of mine and Sean’s favorite cookie recipes, Old Fashioned Teacakes.   I have fond memories of these cookies, since we ate Texas-shaped Teacakes at our Wedding Rehearsal dinner. 

I guess these Asian girls learn early to always smile and display the “peace” sign.

Old Fashioned Teacakes


1  cup softened butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla 
7 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup milk


Using an electric mixer (or aggressively by hand) cream butter and sugars together.  The mixture should turn to a light color after a few minutes.  Stir in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg.  Add vanilla.  Stir to combine.  In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and nutmeg.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternating with small amounts of milk.  Mix well.  Form into large ball then roll on floured surface to about ¼ inch thick.   Cut with cookie cutters.   Bake at 350 degrees for about  8 minutes, until lightly browned on edges.  Overbaking will result in more crisp cookie and not as soft and cake-like.


The kids had fun rolling, cutting and eating these cookies.


Chinese Pumpkin

To purchase canned pumpkin in Tianjin is rather expensive.  I have found that the Chinese have many varieties of fresh pumpkin that work just as well, or even better, when recipes call for pumpkin puree.

Here’s a picture of a rather large pumpkin I can buy at the local vegetable market.  It takes a little work to cut, cook, peel, and puree, but in the end I am left with many 1-cup packages of fresh pumpkin that I can use at present or freeze and use at a later time.


Last cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, I decided use my fresh pumpkin and make these easy Pumpkin Scones.    A side benefit being that, keeping the oven on helps to take the chill out of the air in our apartment, since we don’t have heat yet.   See recipe below,  Happy Baking


Whole Wheat Pumpkin Scones


2 cups whole wheat flour 
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup canned pumpkin (or fresh cooked and mashed) 
2 eggs
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
½ cup cold butter, cubed or grated
½ cup pecan (optional)
½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional) 


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease cookie sheet or cast iron scone pan (if you have one). 

In a small bowl, combine pumpkin, cream, vanilla and ONE egg.  Stir well and place in refrigerator.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, spices, and sugar.  Using a pastry blender or fork work the cold butter cubes into the dry ingredients, until mixture resembles a crumbly consistency.  Add the cold pumpkin mixture, pecans and chocolate chips using a rubber spatula.  Only stir until combined.  

On a floured surface knead dough slightly to finish combining dry ingredients.  Form into an 8-inch square about an inch thick.  Cut the square into four large squares.  Then slice each across the diagonal to form 8 triangles.  In a small bowl beat the remaining egg.  Brush each scone with egg, then sprinkle with sugar and top with more pecan pieces.  

Bake for 15–17 minutes.  Do not over bake or scones will dry out.

Returning Sleeping Bags

Friday afternoon the kids were released early from school after the annual International Day Festivities. The girls and I decided to head out to our neighboring community (about a 20 minute walk) to return the sleeping bags we borrowed for our Great Wall camp out. It was nice to get out. I think the girls are picking up some of the Chinese culture of friends walking arm and arm. Such sweet sisters.


Opening our care package from the Joyces!

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Yesterday evening a package arrived for us from our friend’s the Joyces. Receiving packages from America is so special for us, especially when they bring delicious treats! Gathering together on our mattresses in the living room (we were having a sleepover :), we opened the presents! What wonderful surprises awaited us, all sorts of candies, fall decorations, and the next two books in a series that Ruth and I especially love! We are so blessed to have the Joyces in our lives! Thank you Ruth!


Pumpkin Scones

I woke up this morning to gray skies and a chilly house.  All of my siblings were still asleep underneath their warm covers.  I reluctantly crawled out of bed and brushed my teeth.   Mom and Dad were in the kitchen talking and making coffee.   I asked mom if we could make scones, pancakes, or waffles for breakfast.  At first she was not so enthusiastic on grounds that if we baked we’d have more dishes to take care of and the water, once again, was off.  (We have learned not be too surprised to find the water or the electricity off some mornings when we wake up).  With my ready assurance that I would stack all the dirty dishes nicely under the sink, my mom and I decided on trying a new recipe: Whole Wheat Pumpkin Scones.  We had to settle on white flour because we had no whole wheat flour and made a few other changes to the recipe.  After alteration and 30 minutes, we pulled a tray of Mini Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Scones with pecans on top and one candy corn for presentation out of the oven.  They were delicious!   Check out my mom’s blog for this scrumptious recipe.  http://chocolatechips.apt801.com/


International Day

Rachel had the privilege of participating in a Beijing Opera dance performance at our recent International Day Celebration at school. It took over three hours to transform her face and hair into what you see here. Can you find Rachel in this group?


Megan’s Friend

During our Annual International Day celebration at school, Megan was so sweet with my coworkers little boy. On the playground she helped him play and watched out for him around the other children. What a big girl?


Senior Moms

Last Thursday I hosted a gathering for the moms of this year’s Senior class. I was really blessed to get to know the mothers of Michael’s classmates a little better. We are a diverse group of ladies from Japan, Holland, Taiwan, Korea and the US, all going through this season of preparing our kids for the next season of their lives. As an ice breaker I asked each mom to hold up a picture of their student and tell us the favorite food item they would prepare for their son/daughter on their first trip home from college.


A Visit to Beijing Part 2:

Beijing. Sunday afternoon. Sanlitun shopping center. Can you imagine, the camera zooming in on a certain girl who is about my height, with long brown hair, looking pretty much exactly like me jumping up and down next to her brother, giddy with excitement. Well, that was me when we arrived at this shopping center. What, was I so excited for? Well, this shopping center was an extremely nice place, with Starbucks, a Nike shoe store, American Apparel (Hint: an American clothes store), and many other Western shopping places. It was a beautiful day, with the sun shining brightly and a cool wind blowing… I was one excited girl. Michael and I shopped around for a while, sat at Starbucks for a while, and talked for a while. That might sound extremely boring to you, but you don’t know what went on behind the scenes. Behind the scenes funny fact #1: While we sat at Starbucks, no one would ever know that what we couldn’t stop giggling about was Michael’s continuous attempts and failures of drawing me! Lets just say that he couldn’t get the drawing to stop looking like Medusa! Behind the scenes funny fact #2: Little did anyone know that the girl who wasn’t patient enough to stand in line in order to try on a jumpsuit at Uniclo walked behind an isle and started pulling the thing over her jeans and sweatshirt… actually, come to think of it, more people probably saw me than I had hoped, my awkward little performance was a bit too obvious I’m afraid. By the way, if you are wondering why in the world I would want to try on a jump suit anyway, they’re coming back in! Behind the scenes funny fact #3: Yeah, those kids sitting on the curb looking like proper hobos, that was us. We were waiting for our shuttle bus, arriving a bit too early to catch it, and all there was to do was sit there and pretend like we knew where we were sleeping that night 🙂 Sadly, this is the end of “behind the scenes funny facts of the day”, in conclusion, Sanlitun was quite awesome, I had a very nice time hanging out with Michael.

For lunch we went to Starbucks and I purchased a deliscious Chicken salad :)”]


After shopping, Michael and I went to a cupcake cafe where we enjoyed a carrot & zucchini cupcake!



Our cupcake!





Doesn’t that look yummy!


These are the lemon cupcakes that the bakers were making when we came in.