sunday muffins… indulgent chocolate chunk cookies

these indulgent cookies were the best bayram treat we could have asked for. baked with love by alara and alegra they hit the spot as we wrapped up a whirlwind tour of the aegean coast and finally made our way back to istanbul. it was a blessing indeed to have had the chance to see such beautiful places and spend time with so many friends and family; something we were even more grateful in these trying pandemic times. 

we started our trip in early July by driving down to a quiet part of the coast.  we spent the first couple days of our trip in a small town called karaca sogut.  

it is a haven for sailboats and the perfect shelter from the wind that is typical in the summers in the inner gulf called gokova.  alegra had been at sailing camp for a couple of days when we reached the spot and although she enjoyed the sailing part of things i think she needed to be reunited with us.  it has been a long 18 months of constantly being together and being thrust into an unfamiliar environment with lots of different camp rules was a little unsettling.  

although navigating this shift was tricky we were happy to be in a different part of the coast and spent our time exploring bays we hadn’t seen before, discovering the ancient island city of cedrae (and it’s beach, cleopatra beach- famous for it’s healing sands), and eating out at the mecca of kitesurfing- akyaka.  

our next stop was the town of bodrum.  It is a real hot spot in the summer, and even more so this year as people literally flocked there to enjoy some post-covid lockdown freedom! there were boats, cars and people everywhere and i have to say it was a little (lot) too crowded for my taste!  

we tried to make the best of it by taking long morning walks in the seaside village of turkbuku, eating and drinking at some of the most beautiful spots we have enjoyed in a long time, and seeing some of our close friends who are spending their summers there rather than suffering the heat of Istanbul.

we did get to have some nice sunset boat rides, and celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary too!

our final stop was kucukkuyu.  this is a small town in the northern aegean where my mother-in-law’s father (erim’s great grandfather) settled during the population exchange of WWI.  known as the “mubadele”; peoples of greek origin who were living in asia minor at the end of the war were literally “switched” with peoples of turkish origin who had been living in what is now greece.  the switching was rather abrupt and difficult; my mother in law’s family lore included stories about how they arrived in their new homes to find the closets and trunks still filled with the belongings of previous owners! 

one small village in particular, adatepe, has been declared a historical zone and the homes and businesses have been rebuilt to their original specifications (with some modern advantages such as toilets and running water, of course).  this is one of my all time favorite places in the whole world! it has a magical energy that is impossible to explain and i make an effort to visit the small town at least one time per trip.  this time we were lucky enough to go up to the village more than once- each visit was special in it’s own way- we found a new cafe the first day, had a beautiful dinner with an amazing view on our second visit, and i was able to purchase some amazing wooden spoons on our last time up.  

the end of our trip happily coincided with the eid holiday.   known as kurban bayram here in turkey, and the feast of the sacrifice for english speakers; it is a time to come together and celebrate one’s blessings.  traditionally families sacrifice a lamb or cow and share the meat with those less fortunate, this makes me a bit uncomfortable so we have joined in a more recent tradition of donating the same amount of money to foundations and organizations geared to serving the needy. 

the fun part of bayram is that you get to go and visit everyone! and with it being so hot it is easy to do so in a more socially distanced outdoors way.  so we went to each of my mother-in-law’s siblings homes; had a big family breakfast with the paternal side of the family; and visited some friends for a daylong poolside celebration.  while i wouldn’t say it was relaxing, the whole trip ended up being so much FUN! 

on our last day there the girls decided to do some bayram baking to share with the family members we visited.  again, we had no muffin tin-because i forgot to pack it! and so they improvised to the tune of indulgent chocolate chunk cookies.  these can be made gluten free or glutinous; but i must warn you that they are the real deal- with plenty of sugar, eggs and two kinds of chocolate they are indulgent for sure! 

a small note: as I finished writing this post massive wildfires broke out, or were quite possibly set as an act of arson, throughout southern turkey. many of the beautiful places we were able to visit on our trip have been inundated with fires and smoke. roads have been closed, animals and families displaced, and lives lost. climate change, political mismanagement and oversights have all contributed to the losses that turkey has endured this week. between rapidly rising covid cases, these terrible fires, and a heat wave in istanbul it has been an emotional and difficult week. my heart is breaking for not only turkey but the world as we navigate an ever more difficult 2021.

indulgent chocolate chunk cookies-

ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ⅓ cup flour (use gluten free if desired)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 1 tbl vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter
  • big handful of milk chocolate chunks
  • big handful of dark chocolate chunks 

instructions:

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • sift together flour, baking soda and salt
  • beat butter, vanilla extract and sugars until creamy
  • add eggs one by one and mix well
  • add flour slowing, mixing well between each addition
  • stir in chocolate chunks 
  • place spoonsized rounds of dough on baking sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes until edges are browned but middle is still soft
  • cool on a cooling rack and serve with tea or lemonade for an afternoon treat!

sunday muffins…gluten free apricot tart a la alara and alegra…

so remember how we are going with the flow and being creative this week because we have no muffin tin?

well, the results have been pretty amazing so far!

alara and alegra were itching to bake something gluten free and delicious for this sunday’s recipe and i was really craving a yummy breakfast treat to go with my morning coffee and here is what we came up with- a completely delicious, completely gluten free almond apricot tart! 

i adore fresh apricots and try to eat them as long as they are in season 🌱🌱🌱 we are lucky here in southern turkey because the land is so fertile that finding good fresh fruits and vegetables is always easy.

and so, with a big bag of ripe apricots ready to go, the girls set off on their next baking adventure…

ingredients: 

  • 1 cup organic almond flour
  • 1 cup gluten free flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs 
  • ⅓ cup butter- browned and cooled
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 6 apricots halved and pitted (you may need more depending on the size of your tart pan)

instructions:

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • mix together almond flour, gluten free flour, baking powder, salt and ginger
  • in a separate bowl whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla extract 
  • combine wet and dry and mix well
  • pour batter into greased tart pan and spread evenly with a spatula
  • press apricots halves, skin side down, into batter- sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar if desired
  • bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean
  • cool completely on a cooling rack and then slice and serve for a great breakfast treat; or with your morning coffee or afternoon tea! 

**recipe lovingly adapted from blossoms to stem**

a tasty tart to go with this weeks books 🌟

sunday muffins…alegra’s special gluten free cookies…

so, we came to the boat last weekend…. and despite the many, many post-it reminders that i had set up for myself i completely forgot to pack the muffin tin! 

but not to worry, we are still baking- we are just getting a little creative in our definition of “muffin”! 

this week our baked goods come to us from the very talented hands of alegra! 

she had an evening all on her own at the boat and used some of her downtime to make these delicious gluten free cookies for her gluten free buddy, eva. 

these have a bit more sugar than our regular weekend treats, but with all the swimming, sailing, paddle boarding and canoeing that we have been doing late i think they are a perfectly appropriate summer splurge ☀️

ingredients:

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar 
  • ½ cup brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter-melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups gluten free flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 giant handfuls of gluten free oats
  • 2 giant handfuls of chocolate chips (you could also use raisins or cranberries if preferred)

instructions:

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • mix melted butter and sugars in a medium sized bowl
  • add egg and vanilla extract and mix well
  • sift together salt, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and oats
  • combine wet and dry ingredients and mix well
  • add in chocolate chips and mix until just combined
  • bake in oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown
  • cool on rack and enjoy with a good book and a glass of homemade lemonade after a long summer swim!

sunday muffins… gluten free vanilla…

happy fourth of july!

this year’s celebration is a little different! alegra and i are on the way to the southern turkey where she will attend a sailing camp for 10days.  it feels very summery and july-like to be off to sail and i am so proud of her for taking a chance and trying something new! 

alara knew we would be leaving first thing today and so she very, very sweetly baked us fourth of july cupcakes for the road! she decorated them in red and blue with white sprinkles in honor of the holiday and i have to say i am pretty impressed 🙂 

alara tells me the recipe was super simple and foolproof- we added a bit less maple syrup than usual and she was so smart to add a whole bunch of cinnamon and ginger because she knows i love a little spice! 

I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday whether you are celebrating or not- send us pictures if you have fireworks and tag us if you try the cupcakes too!

Muffins packed and ready for the road!!!

ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups almond flour
  • ¼ cups coconut flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • frosting and sprinkles if desired

instructions 

  • preheat 180 degrees celsius , and line your muffin tin
  • whisk together butter eggs syrup and vanilla
  • next,add flowers baking powder and spices,mix well
  • scoop batter into muffin tin and bake for 12-15 minutes
  • once tops are golden brown remove from oven and place on cooling rack
  • frost and decorate as desired- for a less sugary version decorate with chopped strawberries and blueberries-perfect for the fourth of july!!! 🌟❤️💙

**recipe adapted from toasted peanuts**

sunday muffins…gluten free and vegan carrot raisin…

june was a crazy, crazy month for us! in just the span of four weeks we finished schools, celebrated two important birthdays, made it through alara’s really important final exams, closed out alegra’s pony competition season, celebrated the girls birthdays (again!), celebrated asya’s graduation and went to the boat for a rather hectic vacation!!!

not surprisingly, in the midst of all this excitement i not only forgot to read on two Sundays- but i also completely missed posting one of the best muffin recipes we have made yet!

I am so sorry! not only for the confusion, but also for having kept your from these amazing muffins! they are hands down one of the best things i have had for breakfast in a long time- especially now that the weather here in istanbul is getting really hot, these are a filling but light and easy way to start your day. 🙂

ingredients: 

  • 1 ½  cups grated fresh carrot
  • ⅓ cup seedless raisins
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnut bits 
  • ¼  cup organic almond butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup 
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 1 ½  cups gluten free oat
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger 
  • ½  tsp salt
  • 1 tbl vanilla extract
  • 2 tbl fresh almond milk 
  • 2 tbl ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tbl water

instructions: 

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease your muffin tin with coconut oil
  • combine flaxseed and water and set aside
  • mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl
  • create a well in the middle of dry ingredients and add wet ingredients one at a time
  • mix well
  • add carrots, raisins and walnuts and stir gently 
  • bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
  • serve warm with a cup of coffee for a perfect easy breakfast or snack! 🥕

**recipe adapted from “from my bowl”**

sunday muffins…gluten free and vegan chocolate chocolate chip…

today’s muffins are MINI muffins and they are amazing! the perfect bite sized muffin to eat with a cup of afternoon tea and a good book!

stuck in another Sunday lockdown here in istanbul, making these muffins were a perfect midday distraction for me and alegra. because they are mini muffins they bake quickly and this super easy recipe can be made in only one bowl- making it ideal for easy cleanup too!

our book reading of the day featured a mouse and a brownie and i enjoyed a chocolatey treat along with the mouse…

easy to make, easy to eat 🙂 and easy to pack as a healthy snack- we hope you enjoy these muffins as much as we did!

ingredients:

instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and line 2 mini muffin tins. 
  • Prepare flax eggs and set aside. 
  • Mash bananas in the bottom of a large mixing bowl and then add wet ingredients and mix well. Add coconut sugar, baking powder, and sea salt mix once more. 
  • Next stir in cocoa powder, gluten-free flour, oats, and almond flour. Our batter was a bit thick so we added a little more almond milk, but don’t worry it will be thicker rather than thinner- perfect for scooping! 
  • Finally stir in the chocolate chips and then fill up the mini muffin tins.  
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes and then cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins from the tin and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
  • Will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge, enjoy with a cup of tea and a good book 🐭

**recipe adapted from the always amazing, minimalist baker**

today’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Brownie

18 years old!!!

18 years ago, today i woke up and got ready to go to the hospital to have my first baby, asya. 

asya, as is still her habit, took her sweet time making her entrance 🙂

asya’s birth story, mercifully, was unremarkable as birth stories go.  being the older and wiser woman that i am now, i am so grateful for the relative ease with which she arrived in this world.  asya emerged into a world of love; surrounded by tons of extended family from both my and erim’s family.  even derin happened to be in istanbul for her spring break and was able to meet her niece within minutes of her birth.  

it would be impossible to fit all the adventures and learning that asya and i did together into just one essay; but believe me when i tell you that i have learned at least as much from being her parents as she has from being my child. 

as a small child asya had a constant refrain of “why mommy?” s. she asked question after question after question.  her curiosity and need for knowledge and clarity was insatiable.  and now, while the style of questioning may have changed, the need for answers and search for the “why” has not.  asya’s wondering has pushed me to question so many of my beliefs down to the basic core; and has even given me the courage to throw out things that don’t serve us as a family; we’ve all grown stronger for it.

keep asking the hard questions, kiddo. they will take you far. 

anyone who has spent time with asya knows she brings a sense of ease and lightness to a room.  her laugh is infectious and since her bedroom is right next to the kitchen, i often find myself laughing out loud right along with her as she reads or hears something funny.  i don’t actually know what’s funny, but her laugh is enough to bring joy to my soul.

her sweet nature also makes it impossible to say no to her! even when she asks for something difficult, i frequently find myself trying to figure out a way to say “yes” when “no” is really the only option 🙂

and so, this is 18.  how did it happen, i will never quite understand. time went by slowly and too fast all at once.  all the cliches about time flying apply.  and all the ones about how i’d go back and do it all again are also true.  

i wouldn’t trade a single sleepless night (and there were many); a fever induced trip to the emergency room; a teenage curfew battle or eyeroll for all the tea in china.  i have adored being asya’s mother and i can’t wait to witness the next chapter as young adult asya emerges.

i would be remiss to not mention the global pandemic and the hardships that have come with it this year.  asya has weathered the storm as patiently and gracefully as possible. i am proud and impressed with the strength and continued ease that she was able to display despite the many frustrations and disappointments she was forced to deal with. 

i am praying that his year will be better, and we will be able to send her off safely to georgetown in the fall. i hope for her to be able to arrive on campus to enjoy college life and thrive in the way i know she will. 

asiko, i love you so much and i am so proud of the beautiful, intelligent, sometimes silly, always kindhearted, animal loving, mega bts fan and loyal friend that you have become.  happy birthday, my sweet girl. 

sunday muffins…. gluten free and vegan lemon poppyseed…

sunday muffins…. gluten free and vegan lemon poppyseed…

i am happy to report that with the exception of not having any muffin tin liners left at home this recipe went off without a hitch! and, as an added bonus- just as i was contemplating prepping for the muffins one of my best buddies here in istanbul sent me a giant bag of lemons! it was fate.

i woke up early to bake these for our breakfast and it was so worth it.  nearly sugar free, the lemony taste with the poppyseeds was just perfect and i savored my muffin with a fantastic cup of morning coffee.

it was early enough that i was moving a bit slowly, but i would say these muffins could be ready in one-hour tops. have your ingredients ready and a hot oven waiting, and you will be set.

ingredients

  • zest of 2 lemons
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax seed with 6 tbsp water- mix and set aside)
  • ½ cup nut mylk
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil-softened
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tbsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds

instructions

  • preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. (400f)
  • line muffin tin with muffin liners or grease with coconut oil and sprinkle with almond flour
  • mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, poppy seeds and lemon zest
  • in a separate bowl mix flax eggs, lemon juice, coconut oil and nut mylk
  • combine wet and dry ingredients and spoon into muffin tin
  • cook for 20-25 minutes (mine were perfect at 22 minutes) and cool on baking rack
  • serve warm with a good cup of coffee… enjoy!!!

not finished grieving yet…

exactly one year ago today the girls went to school with empty bags to empty out their lockers.  at the time, like most of the world, we assumed this would be a 2–3-week hiatus; all we needed was a good break from close personal contact, a proper disinfection of the school building, and some time for authorities to get a handle on this novel coronavirus and get things under control.  then everything would quickly go back to “normal”. 

my family had already made so many plans for the upcoming months that a part of me was thrilled to have a little downtime before we all started flying all over the place. if all had gone as expected, i would have flown back and forth from istanbul to the u.s. at least three times in spring of 2020.  one trip we had planned was a college visit tour with asya and alara that would have taken us from coast to coast with a stop in chicago too! 

it was also the summer of erim and my 20th wedding anniversary. although we hadn’t planned anything for that yet, i had high hopes of spending a long weekend in the south of france; celebrating with leisurely lunches, walks on the beach and beautiful wines.  

and of course, we had planned on spending a huge chunk of time in asheville.  my nephew teddy would turn two- and he was walking and talking and perfect for cuddling. alegra was all signed up for sleepaway camp in the mountains, asya and alara were going to intern for the democratic presidential campaign, and i would finally have time to complete my yoga teacher training.  all this was already on the books.

instead, like almost everyone i know, we’ve been mainly at home.  although the arrival of warm summer weather, and the availability of our boat in the south of turkey, allowed us to move around much more freely than before, we were still so nervous and careful. we drove back and forth to the coast- 8 hours each way- only ate in outdoor settings; and really debated whether or not it was safe to have my parents join us for a week on the boat.  knowing what i know now, i am so grateful that we took advantage of the lull in the virus and only wish that we had recognized just how good we had it then! 

unlike some of our peers, erim and i have tended to err on the side of caution throughout this period.  my refrain has become something along the lines of, “everybody has to take on their own burden of risk”.  despite sometimes facing criticism, we have made a point of only socializing in open air spaces.  istanbul’s traditionally damp winter weather is not really conducive to this- although we have remained valiant in our efforts to connect with people we care about- we’ve purchased multiple outdoor heaters, become proficient fire pit tenders and frequently invoke alfred wainright’s well-known quote that, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

and thus, as we hit this one-year anniversary of our lockdown and a complete upheaval of life as we knew it, i sat down this morning to make a list of all the things we’ve learned and gained. 

however, all i can think about is all that we’ve lost.

while i am keenly aware that my family has felt the repercussions of the pandemic much less acutely than so many others, the state in which the world finds itself brings me unimaginable sorrow. i am sad not just for the things that my family has had to give up, but for humanity as a whole.  

so many lives have been lost over the past 12 months; and so often unnecessarily. 

thousands of people have lost their jobs; and so many women have been forced to leave their careers unexpectedly to care for their now homebound children.  this is a terrible setback for womens’ rights around the globe. 

millions of people struggling to keep their families afloat have now fallen below the poverty line; and they are scared, hungry and hopeless. 

millions of children have lost access to school, setting a whole generation back educationally.  tragically, for many of these children this loss also means a simultaneous loss of access to nutritious food.  how can millions of children living in new york be dependent on school lunches for their main meal- still, in the twenty-first century?

on a more personal level, i don’t know anyone who hasn’t suffered some sort of covid related loss.  either the death or severe illness of a loved one, a change in economic situation, a change in life plans, or a sudden need to readjust hopes and dreams.

recognizing all the pain and suffering in the world leaves me ever more appreciative and aware of all that i still have; healthy children, economic stability, a loving partner, a kind and caring community, strength of body and mind.  

but as we mark one year of this global pandemic, i cannot yet sit to list the things for which i am grateful. 

i am just not finished grieving yet.

as an eternal optimist, i can’t help but believe that this terrible time must lead to something better. 

everyone says the next decade will be our roaring twenties. but the historian in me knows that the roaring twenties were followed by the rise of extreme nationalism and fascism and the devastation of world war two. 

i don’t want the roaring twenties; i want a roaring change.  

i want people to truly care about one another, regardless of race or class, and to try to raise each other up. to work not just for their own sakes, but for the good of all humanity.  

i want education to take precedence over production and consumption so we all learn to love and cherish was what already have.  

i want us all to recognize that without a healthy environment life as we know it is not possible.  we must work together to repair the damage we’ve already done and avoid future damage so that we can all live here on earth more peacefully.  

i want simple things, like home-cooked meals and handwritten cards, to be important again so we can all remember to slow down and just care about each other.  

i know it’s a lot to want, but the only way i can mitigate the immense grief of this past year is with unbounded hope.

maybe next week i’ll look back on all the wonderful things we gained this year.  but this week i feel sad; i am just not finished grieving yet.

sunday muffins…. gluten free very berry

another lockdown weekend; another funny muffin story! 

yesterday i was absolutely exhausted. i had bitten off too many weekend projects, had too many meals to cook and way too many things to tidy and by the time our muffin baking rolled around i had really had it with the idea of being in the kitchen.  

my beautiful children came to the rescue! alegra loves all things cooking related anyway so she was ready to help and alara has been studying like a crazy person for her upcoming in-person exams.  we still don’t know if these exams will actually happen but, rightfully so, she really wants to be prepared.  give or take a few days, when she goes back mid-week, she will have not hand any in person learning for exactly 12 months. (the other two did have the opportunity to go to “real” school in the fall so alara holds our family record for number of days of online school.) 

i had planned to make some very berry muffins- one of my favorites- but i had not planned well enough to actually make sure we had all the ingredients we might need. oops.

we did seem to have an inordinate amount of coconut flour, so that is what we used. the end result was good, although very coconutty! if you do decide to recreate our coconutty berry muffins just be prepared to use a bit more almond milk as coconut flour tends to soak up liquid more than other gluten free flours.

ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups gluten free flour (in hindsight i recommend using an almond flour and oat combo)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¾ cup nut mylk (or more if using coconut flour)
  • 1 flax egg (or regular if not vegan)
  • 8 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mixed frozen berries
  • ¾ cup brown sugar 

instructions:

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (375 f)
  • prepare muffin tin with liners
  • combine berries and sugar and mix gently- set aside
  • mix flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger together.
  • in a separate bowl combine nut mylk, flax egg and melted coconut oil
  • make a well in dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients in
  • mix until just combined; adding more nut mylk if necessary- batter should be moist and may have some small lumps
  • add berry mixture and mix gently
  • spoon batter into muffin tins – cook for 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean and tops are browned
  • cool slightly on cooling rack and serve warm for a perfect breakfast treat!  

**recipe loosely adapted from ina garten’s barefoot contessa cookbook**