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.

vegan chocolate sorbet

alegra found this vegan chocolate sorbet recipe and asked if we could make it…

at first i hesitated, worried that it would involve an intricate process of cooking, cooling and freezing. but with all this self-isolating taking a toll on our moods i decided to go ahead and say yes. thank goodness i did! the recipe is super simple, the freezing time is totally reasonable, and the end result was right down my alley- not too sweet and not at all too heavy!

ingredients-

  • one can organic coconut milk (be sure to include all the creamy parts too)
  • 3 tablespoons raw cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup- add more for sweeter sorbet
  • 1/2 package organic blueberries

instructions

  • blend coconut mill, cocoa and maple syrup in the blender until well combine
  • stir in blueberries carefully so as not to crush them
  • place in freezer proof container for a minimum of 4 hours
  • allow to thaw slightly before serving

any number of add-ons would be delicious with this recipe- shredded coconut for coconut lovers like me, chocolate chips might be good, different berries would work too!

easiest fish feast ever…

here in istanbul we are so fortunate to have fresh fish available almost all year round.

and going out to a fish restaurant for a nice glass of raki (sort of like greek ouzo); some delicious small meze dishes and a main course of fresh fish is a sunday tradition many families and friends enjoy tremendously.  i have to admit it is one of my favorite things to do too. especially as spring brings warmer and longer days; having a long leisurely lunch- or even early dinner- raising a glass with friends and enjoying some good conversation is a pretty perfect way to spend a sunday afternoon!

as with many things, the coronavirus pandemic has caused us to need to shift our reality.  meeting up with friends, going to restaurants, sharing a good meal- all of these have been put on hold for the time being.  and not only are we not going out at all to eat, but our kitchen is working at full capacity three times a day!

about 10 days into our social distancing efforts i realized we all needed a bit of a break; from cooking and from eating too! and so, a new tradition was born 🙂 once a week, on sunday afternoons, we share a larger meal for a late lunch and then the kitchen is closed.  fresh fruit, cereal, and sandwich fixing are always available for those who need a little something more but there is no more “cooking” that day.

this week we made an amazing steamed fish dish that everyone adored… it is too good and too easy not to share; as simple as it is to cook, it is equally tasty and fancy. it made for a special day even without having left the house!

ingredients-

  • 6 fillets of fresh fish (this week we had a white grouper that is native to the aegean area)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic-minced
  • a large handful of shallots- cut in half
  • 3 green peppers- chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes- chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ample parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

instructions-

  • rinse fillets and set aside
  • in a large saucepan (with a lid) melt butter
  • add garlic, shallots and peppers and saute until softened
  • mix in tomatoes
  • add water and bring mixture to a light boil
  • place fish fillets in pan and reduce heat
  • season with salt, pepper, bay leaves and parsley
  • simmer with lid closed for 20 minutes, or until fish is cooked through- this may change according to the thickness of the fillets
  • serve immediately

we served our fish with some oven-baked new potatoes and a fresh green salad…

sharafat abla’s every day cookies…

we have been baking up a storm over here these days… and with the terrible rainy day we had this week we really needed a bit of a pick me up!

rain or shine, these delicious cookies ALWAYS do the trick. they are perfect in the afternoon for tea, and equally wonderful as a breakfast treat with a lovely cup of coffee.

as far as i know, their origin comes from the turkish seaside town of izmir; a close friend taught us how to make them nearly twenty years ago; and we have been experimenting with them ever since! the original recipe calls for regular flour and white sugar- but we have adapted them in various stages; first swapping brown sugar for white, and then opting to use gluten free flour.  our latest iteration is the most delicious as of yet- and i have to admit they taste pretty good on sunny days too!

ingredients-

  • 1 pound lor cheese (this is a soft uncured goat cheese that is similar to strained cottage cheese)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 3 cups flour
    • we used 1.5 cup buckwheat flour and 1.5 cup gluten free flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius
  • mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately
  • combine and knead until mixture is moist and “doughy”
  • adjust flour as necessary; add a small amount of milk if dough is too crumbly
  • (roll cookies in sugar for an extra treat if desired)
  • form into small ball shaped mounds and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet
  • bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean

grilled artichokes…

spring is finally here!

yesterday we celebrated easter sunday with an afternoon egg hunt and leisurely family lunch of delicious springtime foods- lamb chops, asparagus, fresh corn and artichokes- one of my favorite vegetables!

grilling artichokes is actually very easy; we hadn’t tried it before, so we were pleasantly surprised to discover how simple it was.  i have a feeling we will be making this dish quite often in the upcoming weeks…

ingredients-

  • fresh artichokes complete with leaves
  • 1/2 cup olice oil (plus a little more for grilling)
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crush red pepper, if desired

instructions-

  • prepare grill to medium heat
    • we used a charcoal grill yesterday, but you can also use a grill pan
  • in a large pot, heat water until boiling
  • add artichokes and cook until slightly softened- about 15 minutes
  • slice artichokes in half and brush olive oil on both sides
  • place artichokes face down on center of grill
  • cook for approximately 5-6 minutes
    • you will notice that the artichokes seem to shrink- or wilt- once they are cooked; this means it is time to turn them
  • cook leaf side of artichokes for 4-5 minutes more
  • serve warm with dipping sauce

dipping sauce-

  • mix together olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper using a strong blender (or whisk by hand if preferred)

ps: we also had a lot of questions about the delicious lemon meringue pie that alara made. it was our first attempt at lemon meringue so we used martha stewart’s recipe- it was delicious and i highly recommend it!

you can find the recipes here:

channeling our inner bi nevi deli…

this winter alara and i absolutely fell head over heels in love with bi nevi deli’s pumpkin bread… it is the perfect consistency, not too sweet and super flavorful.

but with bi nevi deli closed for the at least another couple of months, and pumpkin season nearly at a close we decided to do the next best thing and try to make our own 🙂

here the recipe we used, adapted from the minimalist baker… we loved the results, send us pictures if you try it too!

ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 6 tablespoons warm water
  • 1.5 cups fresh pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or honey, if not vegan)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oik
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup nut milk (we used lokal plants hazelnut)
  • 1 cup gluten free flour (we used buckwheat)
  • 1/3 cup oat flour

instructions

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • line a bread pan with parchment paper
  • mix the ground flaxseed and warm water (this is your “vegan egg”) and allow to fully combine for 10 minutes
  • in a large bowl, mix each ingredient in order, making sure to fully combine after each addition
  • bake for 50-60 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
  • cool fully on a wire rack; slice if desired
  • we recommend serving slightly toasted with almond butter for a perfect breakfast or mid-afternoon snack

oven baked potato and chickpea mücver

this is a healthier take on the classic turkish dish mücver; a type of fritter that is traditionally fried in olive oil and served as a side dish.

two years ago we did a food project where we cooked a new mücver every week using seasonal vegetables and a vegetarian protein- you can find all past recipes here

making mücver is a great way to incorporate a ton of healthy vegetables and proteins together in an easy to make and easy to eat comfort food based meal…feel free to substitute any of the “haftanın mücveri” recipes using the cooking instructions; or just throw in whatever veggies you have leftover in the fridge. 

we baked today’s mücver in the oven, which helps significantly to cut down work time in the kitchen.

the beautiful golden alabaş soup we had today is a friend’s recipe- you can find it in her cookbook içindekiler

ingredients:

  • 3 medium sized potatoes-grated
  • 1 cup boiled chickpeas-lightly mashed
  • 3 large handfuls chopped spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup grated cheese
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

instructions:

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  • combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well
  • pour mixture evenly into an ovenproof pan- ours is 25 x 18 cm in size
  • cook for approximately 30-35 minutes until middle of fritter is firm to the touch
  • serve hot or room temperature- both are delicious!

stress free lunch buffet

I don’t know a single parent who isn’t feeling at least a little bit overwhelmed with all the cooking, cleaning, entertaining and e-learning that is going on right now at home… and this is before even mentioning the fact that so many parents are trying to navigate all of this while working at home too! 

with three kids and a husband now at home full-time, one of my biggest struggles has been figuring out how to have healthy meals available without actually turning the kitchen into a restaurant-style establishment!  

the first week of self-isolation here in turkey was officially the girls’ spring break; so that week we let things slide. it didn’t go well. it seemed breakfast lasted all morning and lunch lasted all afternoon! by the time dinner rolled around no one was in the mood to cook and i could never really grasp who was hungry.

once school started things started to calm down; breakfast figured itself out, thank goodness, and for lunch we have started serving a lunch buffet.  it may seem counter intuitive to have so many things out on the table, but in reality, having a main cooked dish that can be eaten room temperature, a soup ready on the stove, and salady vegetable fixings has made life so much easier.  the girls’ e-lesson lunch breaks don’t necessarily coincide every day and erim often has calls or online meetings that happen mid-day. this way we can all come and go and eat when we have time without the stress of trying to coordinate cooking and eating times.

here are a couple of easy ideas that don’t require recipes and the recipe for the delicious lunch we had today is in the next post… 

i’ll be posting new lunch buffet ideas and recipes throughout the coming weeks too; if you happen to make one of them please send me a photo and your thoughts; and feel free to share any favorite ideas of your own!

easy ideas from the past two weeks:

grilled chicken salad– this is a winner! All you really need are lots of greens, cucumber and tomatoes, and some grilled chicken.  My girls also like some corn and grated cheese and I added some oven-baked tofu for a vegetarian option.

cheese and spinach quesadillas– super simple, just grate some cheese and chop some spinach, and heat a tortilla, or lavas here in Turkey, in a pan.  Add the cheese and spinach, top with another tortilla and wait for the cheese to melt. Flip once to get a nice even toasting on both side. Serve with a salad, some soup or even just some chopped veggies. (I made mine with vegan cheese and it was delicious!)

chicken lettuce wraps- this time we sautéed some chicken with soy sauce, had large leaves of lettuce on hand, and added some chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, grated carrots, and sliced peppers. The girls made their own thai-style chicken wraps; I added cashews, cilantro and some pea protein to mine.

ham and Cheese sandwiches- no need for instructions on this one I think 