alara and alegra’s ooey gooey joyful brownies

if you live in istanbul you are hopefully enjoying this snow day as much as we are!!! the city is quiet and beautiful and watching the snowflakes fall is actually meditative in its own way. 

the snow brought us a LOT of joy- we made a snowman, had snowball fights, made snow angels, drank hot chocolate and of course, baked brownies- yum!

our brownie baking actually happened on saturday, while we were waiting rather (im)patiently for the snow to start.  we knew we would want dessert that night so alara and alegra figured out a way to use up a batch of caramel we had made mid-week for apple dipping.  

the result some of the most indulgent joyful caramel brownies i have ever tasted!  

they humored me and made them gluten free but feel free to use regular flour if you prefer; and don’t worry if you have left over caramel sauce, it is just as delicious on its own and perfect for dipping fruit or making ice cream sundaes 🙂

easy caramel sauce:

ingredients:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 12 tablespoons butter- cut up into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt flakes

instructions:

  • have all ingredients at room temperature 
  • heat sugar over medium high heat in bottom of a large saucepan-whisking continuously
  • once sugar is melted add butter and stir until melted
  • remove pan from heat and slowly add cream
  • whisk until cream is completely absorbed and caramel is smooth
  • add sea salt flakes and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes
  • store in a glass jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks

gluten free caramel brownies:

ingredients:

  • ½ cup dark chocolate- chopped into pieces
  • ½ cup milk chocolate- chopped into pieces
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup gluten free flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup salted caramel sauce

instructions:

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (375f)
  • line a baking dish with parchment paper and set aside
  • in a large pot melt butter and chocolate together- allow to cool slightly
  • add in eggs, sugar and vanilla extract- mix well
  • sift gluten free flour on top and mix in until just combined
  • pour brownie batter into prepared dish and spread evenly
  • place large spoonfuls of caramel sauce on top of batter and use a knife to swirl into the batter
  • bake for 20-25 minutes for fudgy brownies; 30-35 minutes for more cakelike ones
  • the caramel will bubble, and the batter will seem to be shaky but don’t worry! once the brownies cool down the mixture will harden, and you will be able to cut and serve 
  • serve warm with ice cream if desired 

first dessert of the new year… apple crumble!

tonight was fish night at our house- at least once a week we try to have a fish dinner; we always have potatoes next to our fish and we always have some type of dessert too.

there is a saying in turkish that goes sort of along the lines of “after fish, sweets should be eaten”- and we take it pretty seriously- so as i ordered the fish this morning, i also ordered a yummy chocolate cake. but soon after i discovered a huge surplus of apples lurking in the pantry!!!

and so apple crumble was in the works 🙂

this is a super simple, gluten free and vegan recipe that was loved by all the carnivores and herbivores alike in our house… (and don’t worry; the chocolate cake won’t go to waste- plenty of chocolate lovers live here too!)

ingredients:

apple filling:

mix together-

1.5 kilos apples- peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces

5 teaspoons lemon juice

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

crumble topping:

mix together-

¾ cup brown sugar

½ cup almond flour

¾ cup gluten free oats

pinch of salt

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

instructions:

preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius

mix apple filling and crumble topping in separate bowls

spread apple filling evenly into an oven proof baking dish

spread crumble topping on top of apple filling in an even layer

bake for 50-60 minutes until top is browned and filling in bubbly

serve warm (and with vanilla ice cream or sorbet as desired)

beautiful boat bundt cake…

this week was the bayram, or eid, here in turkey, and we were lucky enough to manage to come to the south of turkey for a short escape from the city.

the weather has been typical late spring weather for this area. Hot midday and cool and crisp at night. we did some hiking, some swimming, a lot of reading and relaxing, and a whole bunch of cooking.

one of our favorite recipes to make on vacation is a very light, gluten free almond cake. (we also made a not at all light chocolate cake- not gluten free so not for me- and a banana bread that was a full flop- we combined two recipes and it did NOT work out at all!)

but this lemon cake is delicious. we served it warm out of the oven and it was gone within the hour. i was secretly hoping for a little slice for breakfast, but no dice.

it is so simple that i don’t know why we have never made it at home. but you know, some things just taste better in some places. so, this is our beautiful boat bundt cake… enjoy!

ingredients-

  • 4 organic eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup fresh almond milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 lemond rind
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds (alegra says to try chia seeds if you don’t have poppy)
  • 2 cups almond flour (we added a couple more tablespoons to make the dough more doughy)

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • grease bundt pan with olive oil
  • mix eggs, sugar, almond milk, and olive oil with hand blender
  • add baking powder, vanilla extract
  • mix in almond flour slowly until you reach a doughy consistency
  • fold in poppy seeds and lemon rind
  • pour into bundt pan and place in over
  • bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
  • allow to cool for 5-10 minutes
  • invert on serving dish and serve warm with a glass of turkish tea 🙂

a special thanks to birdal abi for sharing this recipe with us!!

cinnamon bun heaven…

we are having a crazy day here at our house!

we have yet another LONG weekend lockdown (this time four full days); there is a mini-heat wave happening; supposed to be a pesticide spray happening in our neighborhood (so all our windows are closed and we are boiling); we spent 30 minutes chasing the chickens around to get them cooped up before the spraying started (it still hasn’t!); and the electricity just went out.  everything already felt a little surreal when we woke up this morning but now all this is just really a bit extra.

so, our usual saturday live cooking session has been postponed. but we didn’t want to leave you all hanging on a saturday!

so, here is a fantastic recipe for cinnamon buns that we first made last summer on vacation… it is relatively easy, just be sure to plan for some time to allow the dough to rise 🙂

ingredients-

            for the rolls-

  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter + some for greasing your pan
  • 1 package instant yeast- mix with small amount of warm water allow to sit 10 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups gluten free flour (regular flour works too if you’d prefer)

            for the filling-

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

for the glaze (completely optional)-

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • grease a baking dish with butter
  • melt 6 tablespoons butter and mix in milk
  • add in yeast, sugar, salt and vanilla extract, mix well and allow to rest for 2 minutes
  • slowly combine flour and wet ingredients – mixing well between each addition
  • add flour until dough if formed- you might need a little more or less that 4 full cups
  • knead the dough slightly then form into a ball
  • cover with a dish towel and allow to rise for 1 hour
  • meanwhile mix brown sugar and cinnamon together and allow ¼ cup butter to soften
  • after an hour, sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and roll out dough
  • dough should be about 1.5 centimeters thick- cut edges so dough is straight
  • spread soft butter all over your dough and then sprinkle on the cinnamon mixture
  • roll the dough into one large roll and then slice into 2-centimeter-wide rolls
  • place in baking dish with each roll touching each other
  • bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes- check to make sure they are baked through
  • make glaze by mixing powdered sugar and milk- mix well
  • pour over warm buns
  • serve immediately with a cup of tea and enjoy!

this recipe was adapted from “she likes food”

sole simplified…

our latest fish at home meal was another great success!!

…and we managed to use up some of the freezer food to boot!

sole meuniere has always been one of erim’s all-time favorite dishes to order. the girls like it too; i mean really, what’s not to like- delicious fish and a ton of butter 🙂

but cooking a traditional sole meuniere at home has always felt a little daunting, a little decadent.

so, i started digging around to find a version that might be even just a little bit lighter; both in terms of process and product. this simplified oven version turned out to be perfect. it was also a huge relief to be prepping the fish for the oven since i also realized that i didn’t have a skillet large enough to hold the whole fish- so the classical stovetop version would have literally been impossible.

you only need a few basic ingredients and the cooking time is short too.  we also made a lovely green salad, some roasted new potatoes, and some fresh grilled baby zucchinis for a simple, satisfying spring dinner…

ingredients-

  • 2 dover sole fillets (feeds 2-4 people depending on age and size)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 180 degress celsius
  • line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper
  • place clean fillets onto baking sheet
  • season with salt and pepper to taste
  • sprinkle chopped parsley and small pats of butter on top of fish
  • place 2-3 lemon slices on top of each fillet
  • squeeze juice of any remaining lemon slices onto fish
  • bake for 10-12 minutes- fish should be light and flaky
  • transfer to serving dish and serve immediately
our grilled baby zucchinis…

this recipe was adapted from andrea beaman’s life is delicious

craving caramel…

as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and our recent self-isolation we have discovered that pretty much everyone in our house (with the exception of erim) absolutely ADORES popcorn!

we started out making it once or twice a week on movie nights as a treat.  at that time we were using a neat air popper i purchased a couple of years ago.  then we perfected making it with olive oil and sea salt on the stovetop- delicious. this caused our popcorn consumption to skyrocket and become a daily thing.

i frequently added copious amounts of ground curry, cumin and turmeric to my share; which i have to tell all you spice lovers, is a wonderful way to eat popcorn.

and then this week, as part of our “enjoy what we have challenge” we decided to attempt caramel popcorn. i have to admit i really thought this was going to be a major flop… i was WRONG!!

this recipe is super simple, it didn’t take us too much longer than our usual popcorn time, and we even ended up with a little leftover caramel for dipping apple slices the next afternoon.

so if you, like us, are craving caramel… we highly recommend this popcorn. but i will warn you, it is truly addictive!

ingredients-

a big bowl of air popped popcorn (made from about 1 cup unpopped kernels)

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups brown sugar

2/3 cups heavy cream

instructions-

preheat oven to 150 degrees celsius

line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper

pop popcorn and spread on baking sheet in an even layer

in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat

add brown sugar and cream- whisking constantly until all ingredients are combined

bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes- stirring continually

remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes

pour over popcorn and mix well

place in oven for 10 minutes or longer depending on how crunchy you like your popcorn

remove from oven, mix well and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes

good movie, glass of wine… sit down and enjoy while fresh!

how to eat your (spring) veggies…

day one of our finish what we have challenge… we found a great way to use up some veggies and some eggs too. matched with a salad and some leftover cornbread- it was a perfect meal!

frittatas (think quiche without the crust) have been a springtime staple at our house for years!

easy to prepare, beautiful to look at, and delicious to eat; they have been on the menu for every easter brunch, and most mother’s day breakfasts as well.  spring vegetables compliment the egg base perfectly and i love the way the bright green colors sort of pop out when the dish is cooked.

these days we have been making a frittata (similar to a spanish omelet) at least once a week.  served with a soup or salad it is a complete meal; and i find that it is equally delicious served warm or at room temperature…

ingredients-

  • 6 organic eggs
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus-thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion-chopped
  • 5 big handfuls chopped greens (we used beet greens this week)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup grated cheese (optional)

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet
  • whisk together eggs in a separate bowl- season as desired
  • add onions and sauté- stirring occassionally- until translucent
  • add remaining veggies-stir until combined
  • pour in egg mixture (and cheese if you are using it)
  • cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes
  • place skillet in oven and bake until fully set- approximately 15 minutes

serve with a green salad or soup for a beautiful springy meal

a little peanut butter connection…

the other day alegra and i made peanut butter cookies and read some great bedtime books on instagram…

live instagram, facetime, houseparty, zoom… these have all be hugely important tools for us during these times of self-isolation and social distancing.  honestly, if you had told me two months ago i would be doing at least one live video on instagram every day i would have thought that you had lost your mind!

i am actually terribly shy and really pretty self-conscious too; so the idea of being live daily in front of an audience, even a virtual one, would have been something hard for me to believe.

but i have to say that i am enjoying it immensely. i have reconnected with a lot of old friends and their children, students from my lola days have been hugely supportive, and new followers have found us too!

here is the recipe for the cookies, it is a basic peanut butter cookie recipe that is pretty much foolproof… feel free to add in the chocolate chips at the end like alegra did, or use chunky peanut butter instead of smooth. i am thinking about trying almond butter next time to see how that works- i will keep you posted!

ingredients-

  • 1 cup organic peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large organic egg (or 1 flax egg)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • optional add ins- chocolate chips, raisins, shredded coconut

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius
  • line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • mix all ingredients together- adding in extras if you want
  • form dough into small round balls and place on baking sheet
  • cook for 5 minutes and make cross shapes using the back of a fork
  • cook for another 7-8 minutes depending on how crumbly you like your cookies- (cook shorter for chewier cookies)
  • remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes of baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack

serve with milk or tea for a perfect afternoon snack!!

hummus cocktails and sunday lunches…

sunday lunch has become one of the major highlights of our self-isolation…we get to sit around and chat and just really relax…

the girls all have midday lessons on sunday, i get to take a nice long shower (and actually wash my hair properly!), and erim does his sunday yoga session… and then we have a late, long lunch. no matter how agitated we all seem to be by the time we sit down to eat, by the time lunch is finished we have delved into any number of deeper issues- talked about some hard truths- or made some decisions that might have been unexpected.

this week alegra proposed a little pre-lunch cooking…

our brand new food processor has been hugely inspirational and so once lessons and showers and all the rest were finished we got to work! here are the ingredients and some instructions- our “cocktails” were perfect and we hope yours are too 🙂

ingredients-

  • 1.5 cups boiled chickpeas (save ½ cup water for later)
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a bunch of your favorite dipping veggies-thinly sliced

instructions-

  • blend garlic and lemon juice in food processor- let rest for 3-5 minutes
  • add chickpea and cooking water and blend until creamy
  • add tahini and olive oil and blend well
  • season with cumin, salt and pepper as desired
  • add extra lemon juice, olive oil and tahini to taste (I LOVE a little extra tahini!)
  • place 3 generous scoops of hummus in a wine or cocktail glass
  • garnish with sliced veggies and enjoy!!!

fuss-free fish dinner

so, this was one of our best self-isolation meals yet!

our fish dinner this week is based on a loose interpretation of my paternal grandmother’s favorite method of preparing a smell-free, hassle-free fish dinner.

when i was growing up, cooking fish at home in istanbul was something my grandmother never really loved to do.  at the time, refrigeration options were less advanced and less available, so the fish sold at the fish monger was generally fresh off the boat.  most of the fish native to the seas near istanbul taste best either grilled (hard to do in a small apartment with a tiny balcony- and remember no gas grills back then either) or deep fried.  while deep frying was an option it was smelly and, honestly, generally ended up making a pretty big mess in the kitchen.

and so, my grandmother perfected the art of fish in the oven!

fresh fillets of white fish are cooked together with potatoes, onions and tomatoes making the dish a whole meal in and of itself… pair it with a fresh green salad and maybe a glass of wine and, voila! dinner is served 🙂

ingredients-

  • 3 medium sized potatoes-peeled and sliced in thin rounds
  • 3 green peppers-sliced in rounds
  • 1 large onion-also sliced in rounds
  • 2 cloves garlic-chopped
  • 3 tomatoes-chopped
  • ample parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 medium sized fillets of white fish
    • we used a fish called “mezgit”; “whiting” in english it is from the cod family

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius
  • spread olive oil in the bottom of a shallow oven proof baking dish
  • layer potatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and fish in the dish
  • spread tomatoes on top of layers and garnish with parsley
  • season as desired with salt, pepper and even a little red pepper
  • bake for 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft
  • serve immediately

there is a turkih saying that “after fish one should eat something sweet”… i don’t know where it comes from or if there is a truth to it (turks also say that one should never eat fish and yogurt together which makes plenty of sense from a spoilability perspective!)

but i like the eating sweet saying so we almost always have dessert on fish days… this week we made a vegan chocolate sorbet that was delicious! you can find the recipe here.