Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

So it’s been awhile since I posted a recipe!

I’ve probably mentioned before how hard it is to find meals that use ingredients I can find here in China. Any recipe that includes canned anything (vegetables, soup, beans, etc) automatically needs to be tweaked, for example. This makes cooking challenging, but I’ve become very good at adapting recipes to become China-friendly.

Tonight I made vegetarian black bean chili. Mind you, these are soy black beans that I used; however, with the right seasonings you really can’t taste any difference. I kind of threw this together using a mixture of different recipes I found, and the result was pretty good! It is almost 100% China-friendly; there are a few spices you can’t find here (but I brought them from home/had them sent to me) and you need a blender.



  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil to be China-friendly)
  • 1/2 large onion, or 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 c. corn kernels
  • 5-6 mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder (possibly could use ground Sichuan pepper as an alternative?)
  • 1 tbsp (ish) adobo
  • 70 g tomato paste
  • 3/4 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 c. cooked mung beans
  • 1 1/2 c. cooked black beans
  • small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • cayenne pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add in onions, tomatoes, red pepper, corn and mushrooms. Saute until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes, on medium-low heat.
  2. Season with cumin, black pepper, chili powder and adobo.
  3. Stir in tomato paste, stock, mung beans and black beans until well incorporated. Add cilantro. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour half of the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree. My blender is really cheap and weak, so I didn’t puree mine until it was nice and smooth (as you can see in the photo). I like the way it turned out, though – nice texture. Add the pureed mixture back into the pot.
  5. Stir everything together. Season with salt. Enjoy!

The whole shebang took me less than an hour (I had the beans already cooked). This yielded about 3-4 portions.

Coming up next – photos from the Ebony Museum here in Leshan!


Happy May(Day)!

How is it already May 1st? I cannot believe how fast my last semester is going!

May 1, also called May Day, is International Workers Day. The holiday is celebrated in over 80 countries, including China. As a result, classes are canceled today. Bonus: we also had Monday and Tuesday off.

On the flip side, in China, whenever there is a holiday, you are required to make up the days you miss on the weekends. So I had to teach on Saturday. It doesn’t make any kind of sense to me, but it’s a necessary evil all teachers (and students) have to deal with.

In any case, I took advantage of my day off yesterday and finally went to the Thousand Buddha Cliffs, located in Jiajiang, Sichuan, about 45 minutes outside of Leshan. It was an adventure a year in the making; last spring I tried to go there with a few friends but we failed miserably. This year, I was smarter and did a little more homework before the adventure began.

From Leshan my friend Beckie and I hired a car to take us straight to the park – 25 rmb each. It was super convenient and definitely worth the extra rmb. At the gate, you have to walk about 10 minutes before you reach the actual park. The entrance fee is a mere 5 rmb. We took the bus back to Leshan, which was almost as easy. From Leshan, take a bus to Jiajiang from the Central Bus Station (8.50 rmb, 40 minutes). From the station in Jiajiang, take Bus No. 1 to the end of the line (1.50 rmb, 25 minutes). This will take you to the gate of the park – you’ll know it because there is a big map of the park and I believe the sign also has English on it.

Truthfully, there isn’t a whole lot to see there. There are the cliffs, into which are 162 niches carved. In the niches are over 2,400 Buddhas carved. The carvings began during the Sui Dynasty and were completed in the Tang Dynasty. The site is pretty well-preserved, however, many of the Buddhas’ heads were bashed in during the Cultural Revolution. I haven’t found very much information on why this was done, but it was really cool to see.

Apart from the niches, there is a small mountain to climb (all stairs!). The views are really nice, especially on a clear day like yesterday. The park is on a very peaceful river, with crops growing alongside. The park also advertised a handmade paper museum, but we couldn’t find it and/or it was closed. Possibly the best part about this place, though, is that it was uncharacteristically uncrowded. Most tourist places in China are PACKED – people pushing and shoving everywhere, barely any room to breathe. Thousand Buddha Cliffs, though, not a whole lot of people. It was a really nice and peaceful afternoon.

Below are some pictures – Enjoy!!

Student Work

Midterms week is officially over! I am proud to say that my students all did pretty well on their exams and presentations. Maybe they are learning something from me after all!

Today I would like to share some outstanding student work. Every week, I start class off with a journal question for my students to answer. This is a great way for them to get in the English mindset for the rest of class, practice their writing and use creative thinking skills. In most of their classes, English or Chinese, they aren’t really expected to do anything but sit there and listen to the teacher. Or not listen, as it were. Not in my class!

Last week’s journal question was: “If you could travel back in time, what year would you travel to? Why?” I got some extremely interesting and creative answers. Usually journals are boring to read because they are kind of are the same…that was not the case this time.

Here is what Jeff wrote:

I would like to travel back to 1970 in USA then I can buy some guns. There is nobody will stop your buying not like now. At that age, people feel free and relax, Maybe I will go to the navy. the ship will take me somewhere and the gun will help me to kill monsters in the sea. After work I can feel the sunshine in the beach with wine and write a letter to my lady. On weekens I can ride my motor to go to home. If I have a boy I will play baseball with him and I’m glad to call him “the team captain.” And I hope him will become a fireman to save people in danger.

This is by far the best journal response I have ever read. It really makes me wonder what kind of American television he’s been watching, or what books he’s been reading.

Here’s a sadder one from a girl named Went (but you can call her Jane). She is one of my best students and has remarkably neat penmanship.

If I could travel back in time, I want to go back in 1999. Because my grandfather died in 1999. If there will be one thing which can last forever, I’m sure that’ll be love. My grandfather was a responsible doctor. He helped a lot of patients and almost everyone in our town knew him. Of course, he loved me deeply. In the year 1999, he got a cancer and couldn’t go to work. So he just stayed at home and waited me to back home after class. Furthermore, he gave his money to me to buy thing I need. I’ll never forget the teardrops on his face when he was dying, and I’ll remember his love and spirit.

I can’t lie, this one almost made me tear up. So thoughtful and sweet. A lot of my students wrote that they wanted to go back to when their grandparents were dieing, but this one was by far the most eloquent.

Finally, another entertaining one. This one has many more grammar mistakes than the first two, but you get the general gist of it. This was written by Jessie.

I would like to back on 1st April, 2003 and I will take the airplane to arrive in Hongkong, take a taxi to stop at WenHua Hotel’s gate to avoid my admire star, ZhangguoRong, not jump from. Because he is the famous and talent singer and movie star which I seen, and I love his movie, enjoy his voice so I do not want he leave the world.

Another thoughtful response. As I said, many more mistakes than the first two, but I don’t grade these on their grammar, rather the content.

This is definitely something I will miss about China. My students can be so sweet and endearing. Last week, I told my students that classes next week would be canceled because I have a conference in Chengdu, and one class was actually very disappointed! They said that they’ll miss me when I leave and so didn’t want to miss any of my classes. It was very touching….but I have to say, I still appreciate when I don’t have class 🙂



Pictures from Indonesia

Here in Leshan we’re almost at midterms (yay!!) and the countdown to June 18, my last day in China, is definitely ON!

While I was in Indonesia in February, my waterproof camera broke on me. While snorkeling. Evidently, it was one snorkeling trip too many for the little guy. I did manage to get a few shots of the MANTA RAYS I saw – hands down the coolest part of my trip.

Here are the pictures I took before my camera died. Enjoy!

Long Overdue

Many apologies for such a long hiatus. After the holidays/school finals, I jetted down to Yunnan with one of my friends to see the breathtaking Yuanyang Rice Terraces.










toddler in traditional garb

toddler in traditional garb

just some cattle rolling through

just some cattle rolling through

thatched-roof cottages

thatched-roof cottages




The pictures really don’t do the place justice. It was very quiet, very peaceful, very beautiful. The rice terraces are surrounded by tiny villages of Chinese minority people – the Yi, Hani, and Miao people. Many people, especially the women, continue to wear their traditional garb on a daily basis. From what I could see, the people live quite primitively with little to no electricity or indoor plumbing.

The best time to see the terraces was sunrise and sunset – yes, I actually rolled out of bed early enough to see the sunrise! The views were incredible. In fact, the rice terraces are quite a famous spot for many photographers, both amateur and professional. The viewing platforms were crowded with tripods every morning and evening.

One of the best parts of the trip was the fresh air and seeing a sky full of stars at night. Getting out of the pollution and smog gave my lungs a much-needed break. And the stars! It had been more than a year since I’d seen such stars. Just wonderful.

Of course, no trip in China is complete without its share of travel blunders. For example, I missed my overnight train from Kunming to Leshan. After making a run for it. In tears, I begged the ticket lady to let me in, but she wouldn’t; the train was scheduled to leave in about five minutes.

Still, I can look back and laugh…now. I seem to have a knack for getting myself into trouble, no matter where I am or what the occasion might be. What would life be without a few embarrassing stories?

After Yuanyang it was Chengdu for two weeks of IST, followed by 19 glorious days in Indonesia. I will add photos from Indonesia some other time.

Now I’m back in the saddle and back in the swing of things here at school. It’s nice being back into a routine and knowing my way around. I’m way more comfortable in front of the classroom than I was my first semester and a much better teacher. I continue to have a love/hate relationship with my students. They drive me crazy and then make up for it by doing or saying nice things. That said, the countdown to go home is definitely on (roughly three months!).

Last but not least, spring is here! The weather has been unbelievable lately. Sun peeking out from behind the smog, relatively good visibility, and t-shirt weather. Couldn’t ask for more.

Stay tuned – photos from Indonesia!

To Warm the Soul

Well, it happened.

Winter has come to Leshan.

I know, I know, it’s been winter for awhile, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I pulled out the long underwear, mittens and hat, and the works. On the bright side, I’m a week and a half away from being done with the semester!

What’s next? An eight week break from school, during which I’ll be hitting the beaches of Indonesia..but that isn’t until February. Until then, I’ll be trying my hardest to stay toasty. Because I’m always looking for good soups during the winter, I’ll share (another!) one with you that I whipped up all on my own today for lunch.

I had half a head of cabbage and half an onion I needed to use up before they went bad. I decided to experiment a little and throw them together in a soup…turned out fantastic!

Cabbage Soup

  • Half a head of cabbage, shredded
  • Half an onion, minced
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 T butter (can omit)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken (or veggie, or whatever) stock
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • Splash of soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large wok, saute onion in butter and oil until soft. Stir in shredded cabbage and garlic, let cook for a minute.
  2. Add in stock and soy sauce. Stir. Turn heat to low and let simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add in uncooked rice and let simmer another 10-15 minutes, or until rice is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Enjoy and feel warm(er)!

I usually have some ginger on hand, but today I didn’t. However, it would have been a nice addition. Crush it up and throw it in along with the cabbage and it would have been even tastier.