Shocked in the Kitchen + Favorite Snack Recipes

I hadn’t really wanted to go to China. I was called to Africa, right, God? I had spent time there and loved every second of it. Then I started dating a long-time friend while he was teaching in China. (Talk about long-distance!) He was very up-front when we started dating: he felt God calling him there and if I wasn’t on board, we’d better not date. Um, whoa! Talk about a blow to a girl that had been waiting around for this guy for 3 years!

But then God showed up. As He always does.

I began a mentoring relationship with a woman from church. The first time we met was really the first time we had said more than “hello” to one another. Before we dove into anything, she said, “On the way here, I was praying for you and asking the Lord if He had anything to tell me about you. He did. Two words: China and the “m” word.”

I was blown away. Torn. I had just started dating the man of my dreams who had said I’d better get on board with China or else. I was already fighting it, suggesting we try Africa instead. And there God was, showing up in a way that was completely undeniable.

Flash forward 4 years. You can imagine my enthusiasm when we arrived in China. Yeah, I was a sourpuss, a constant complainer, a China-basher. I was not one of those that even had a honeymoon period. Skipped right over it. Everything about their culture rubbed me the wrong way. Why did we have to be called to a place that was so completely opposite of my culture?! I didn’t understand. Honestly, I didn’t even try to understand. I was just mad.

That anger spilled into a lot of areas, including in the kitchen. Here I was, thrown into a country I had little love for, and I had to re-teach myself how to cook?! C’mon, Lord. Isn’t that a little too much on my plate? I was tired of scraping nasty food off our plates into the trash!

It finally clicked that I couldn’t keep my tried-and-true recipes that I’d made in America. So I started trying new recipes. Sometimes, 3 in a week. After many failures, my wise husband advised me to only try 1 new one in a week. That’s still my rule to this day.

As you can guess, God worked hard on me in this area. I kicked and screamed through it sometimes, but I reflect on the past 4 years in the kitchen, and am so thankful for all that I have learned. Often the hard way, but still worth it. I still have my “China days”–don’t we all? But I’m so thankful that the Lord helped me hang in there long enough to get over the major culture clashes. Turns out, he didn’t give me too much on my plate.

Instead of giving you a step-by-step of a favorite recipe, this time I’m going to link up to some of my easy, go-to snacks. I discovered most of these my first 2 years. If I could make them successfully during that crazy cooking time, then you can too! For me, it’s all about what foods remind me of home that don’t take eons in the kitchen or empty my wallet.


That’s right! Even though it takes a smidge more effort to make a salad overseas (for me), I often make these croutons while I’m chopping the other ingredients.

Caramel Dip

My husband loves this. Like, lick-the-bowl kinda love. For not being a sweets person, that’s saying something! We mainly use it as a dip for fruit/pretzels, but can be transformed into other things as well, such as coffee creamer. Yum!

Caramel Popcorn

First, I LOVE this site. It explains things thoroughly and gives great pics; I’ve learned a lot about cooking from them! Second, this recipe also gives tips on how to make homemade popcorn. Honestly, I can’t stand bagged popcorn after making homemade for 4 years. (Now that I’m in the States, sometimes laziness takes over and I pop a bag, but I half-way despise it the entire time I’m eating it.) The caramel popcorn is soooo good!!

Chocolate Syrup

Another favorite site of mine—she does lots of from-scratch recipes! When I could still consume loads of chocolate, I had a bottle (re-used ketchup bottle) of this in the fridge at all times. It tastes so much better than the stuff you buy at the store!!


These are what we survived on during the AC-less summer last year. Not overloaded with sugar, and with a hint of coconut, which I love! I went ahead and used a whole can of coconut milk and increased everything else accordingly. Whatever didn’t fit in my molds, I just put in a cup in the fridge and ate it like pudding!

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

This is such an easy recipe! When strawberries are in season for you, give it a whirl! I never would have thought to put balsamic vinegar with berries, but it gives a great tang.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Banana Bites

I started making these our first year in China. They tasted like a sweet bite of heaven! If you don’t have chocolate chips or they are too precious to use in something besides cookies, chop up a chocolate bar.

Granola Bites

I left my go-to recipe of granola in China, so I’ll have to share that later. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect granola bar. (I’m pretty picky. Anyone have a good one?) But, these are a yummy snack! I usually leave out the chocolate because I don’t need my kids eating any more sugar. Love them!

P.S. Image above is called forced ingenuity. When you don’t have a cooling rack, this works!

What favorite snack recipes do you have up your sleeve?



  1. Laura August 13, 2014

    Thank you for sharing these snacks!  I have a ton of allergies, but I can eat everything in the fudgesicles.  And since we live in the Dominican Republic where its a gazillion degrees right now… you better believe I will be trying these soon 🙂  I moved here knowing I could not eat any gluten, but a year into life here I became super sick (due to the stress of culture shock?!) and have had to eliminate pretty much everything except meat, fruit, and veggies.  I thought these changes would be impossible in a land of rice and beans, but it turns out having unlimited fresh produce available, especially coconuts and plantains, has made these changes manageable.  Thanks God!

    These coconut crack bars (also from chocolate covered katie) are one of my favorites when I’m lucky enough to have maple syrup on hand

    I make these almost every week modifying with the ingredients available to me

    My boys love honey roasted chickpeas like this recipe

    We too love chocolate covered bananas!  I also love to mix melted chocolate with shredded coconut to freeze and eat.

    And I love your cookie rack 🙂  I spent over a year here looking for one.  I never would have guessed I wouldn’t be able to find one.

  2. Ashley Felder August 13, 2014

    Thanks for sharing, Laura!

    Those coconut bars look awesome! I’ve been (mostly–except when I cheat) off chocolate for a few months now. It’s depressing to look through Pinterest these days! Will have to try these! And, funny think about the chickpeas–I almost added those to my list, but thought it was getting too long. Glad you did. I like mine salty, though. 🙂

  3. Brittany August 17, 2014

    I’m going to have to try the roasted chickpeas.  I’ve heard several people recently rave about them, and I’ve never tried them!  Lots of our go-to snacks aren’t possible here, and I feel kinda stuck.  I’ll have to try some of these!

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