Can I Take My Whole Kitchen? + Blueberry Buckle Recipe

I remember the day we sold all of our possessions. We had been married 3 years and lived in an apartment, knowing we’d probably move overseas at some point, trying to be careful to not collect too much “stuff.” But, wow, was it hard to watch it all go! We only told family and friends, but 30 minutes before we opened the door, there was a line! I guess they knew they’d get a good deal on barely-used items. Especially since my dear hubby was in charge of the pricing. Priced to GO. Like, most items under $5. Including small appliances and a whole set of silverware. People ran into the house with their initialed stickers, ready to label what they wanted. It. Was. Chaos! Everything flew out the door in the matter of two hours.

It soon started to set in that we’d be moving in a week and had to fit everything we wanted into 6 suitcases (thankfully we bought a seat for our 1 year-old to get extra luggage!). I’d gathered several lists from other mommas who had lived in China for a while, trying to prioritize. It was tough! Because every city is different, I didn’t know what food items would be available to us. That stressed me out. At the time, I was a terrible cook and didn’t know what to take that would help ease the painful transition of learning how to cook in a new place.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve learned what is important for our family to take over. I also start a list (on the fridge or on my phone) of items I want to bring back the next time. It gets long, but definitely helps me buy things during that last grocery store run. Here are some things I make sure are in our suitcases (mostly—nowadays my Taobao-savvy husband just tells me I can buy everything on there!):

  • Spices: paprika, garlic powder, Lowry’s seasoning salt, ground cardamom (for my CHAI tea; buy it at an Indian store if you have one), onion powder, ground mustard, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground coriander, lemon pepper, sage
  • Coconut oil
  • Baking powder
  • Curing salt
  • Seasoning packets (Ranch, taco, chili, Italian dressing—can be homemade, but once in a while these are easier!)
  • Cream of tartar
  • Food coloring
  • Extracts: vanilla (although I make my own—easy with vodka and vanilla beans), almond, peppermint
  • Coffee and tea
  • Comfort foods (mostly for the kids, such as a fun box of cereal or a box or two of mac n’ cheese)
  • Chocolate chips
  • Crisco (I now buy it on Taobao, but in the early days I’d bring back a small can for the 2 recipes I use it in)
  • Seeds to plant herbs—first year trying this!
  • Some handy kitchen utensils: measuring cups and spoons, pastry blender, muffin tins, cupcake liners, pastry bag, cooking spray or oil sprayer, pepper grinder

Since we’re on home leave in America right now, I’m being inundated with blueberries. I just found out July is National Blueberry Month, too! So, let’s make a delightful blueberry recipe. I could eat these plump berries by themselves all day long, but also love this recipe. I love it even better than any blueberry muffins I’ve made! I know. Big statement. Try it out and see if you agree!

P.S. When in China, blueberries are expensive and only come around at what seem like random times of the year. I discovered they were the “cheapest” last summer, so just included 2 small containers in my weekly budget, then froze them. I had a decent stock that I could make this as a special treat throughout the year!


My parents have this handy sifter, but when in China, I just use a fine mesh strainer. ‘Bout the same!


The beginnings of such deliciousness!


Not a good choice of mixing bowl…pretty sure I splattered batter all over the kitchen!


Start with flour, end with flour. I’m not savvy enough to know why, but I’ve baked enough to know to do it.


Look beyond the mess to see the creamy batter!


Yummy, plump(-ish..these were frozen) blueberries! Picked from the farm are the best! At our local farm, the kids get to tie a bucket around their waist and pick (and eat!) to their heart’s delight.


The topping–how can you go wrong when it has butter in it?!


Looks so pale now….just you wait.


Blurry, but you get the gist, right? Make sure you let it rest in the pan that extra 10 minutes, otherwise it will come out a crumbly mess!


Juice blueberries mixed in with muffin-like cake and a buttery crumble topping. Yum, yum, yum!

Blueberry Buckle

Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Makes: 1 9-inch cake

Slightly adapted from Alton Brown

For the Cake:

2 cups cake flour (or see this substitute)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

4 Tablespoons butter, room temperature (unsalted if you have it, if not, add only a pinch of salt to recipe)

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2-3 cups of blueberries (I usually only use 2 cups)

For the Topping:

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

4 Tablespoons of butter, chilled and cubed

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray (or coat with butter) and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated, approximately 30 seconds. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated and then add 1/3 of the milk and beat until incorporated. Repeat, alternating flour and milk until everything has combined. Gently stir in the blueberries and pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:
In a small bowl combine the sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add the butter and work into the dry ingredients using a fork or your hands (or pastry blender!) to combine. Continue until the mixture has a crumb-like texture. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the cake. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden in color. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

What food or kitchen items are must-haves for you?

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. Amanda July 23, 2014

    For me a good knife, measuring cup and spoons, garlic press, pressure cooker, spatula and cinnamon

    1. Ashley Felder July 23, 2014

      Amanda, yes! A garlic press! I think that’ll go on my list this year. 🙂 Do you put a pressure cooker in your suitcase?!

      1. Amanda July 23, 2014

        Yes I do. I pack the pressure cooker right full of things and then put the lid on. Then it doubles as good pot, as those are hard to come by in Chad. 🙂

  2. Michele Call July 23, 2014

    A good chef knife, kitchen scissors and large enough pots, pans and mixing bowls for my large family are my must have equipment. We were serving in Mexico so we would bring all-natural peanut butter, shredded wheat and cheddar cheese over the border. We’re on furlough now and will be transitioning to Uruguay, where I will need to replace these food favorites since I can’t bring enough in my suitcase. I love the idea of bringing garden seeds, and might add that to my packing list.

    1. T July 24, 2014

      Our friends make their own all-natural peanut butter in their food processor…if you can get peanuts in Uruguay, you make your own….just put the (skinned and roasted) peanuts in and process w/a tiny bit of oil if it is too dry.  Sorry, but I prefer my sugary Jiffy or Skippy or whatever is on sale! 😉

  3. T July 24, 2014

    And off I go to make iced chai lattes (since you mentioned chai in your post!!)…should help my head clear up after another late Ramadan night, though!  Greetings to all of you ladies out there who are in our final week of this crazy month!

    1. Ashley Felder July 24, 2014 you’re speaking me language. How sad that I’ve only had one iced…I blame my parents for keeping the house so cold that I need to drink something warm! Who cares, it’s still delicious! Hope it does the trick for you!

  4. Brittany July 24, 2014

    Before I moved to Romania, I hunted for the ONE kitchen appliance I just HAD to have.  A KitchenAid stand mixer. I found a store that sells them here (with the proper voltage) and, no joke, our first day here we went a bought it.  I told my husband that I don’t require much, but with how much I love to cook and bake and with all the conveniences we DON’T have here, I NEEDED that.  And he loves me so he more than obliged.  🙂  I use it almost daily and though it was ridiculously expensive, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  Worth the sacrifice for me!

    Next time I go home, I’m making sure to pack up coconut oil, decent vitamins/supplements, maple syrup, quinoa, chili powder and cumin, chocolate chips, and Jif peanut butter!  I know I can make my own pb but it just doesn’t taste the same!

    1. Ashley Felder July 26, 2014

      I would LOVE a Kitchen Aid! Maybe sometime down the road… 🙂

  5. Sommer July 26, 2014

    Can someone tell me the website that has a lot of recipes for folks living overseas. The name was something like “market to meals, or market to table?”



    1. Ashley Felder July 26, 2014 Love that site! She has the best ideas for substitutions, and she really does make tons of stuff from scratch! And, if you’re in China, she has links to things she buys for Taobao that are good deals!

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