Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Italians REALLY do do pizza best!!

So I am in Naples, the home of PIZZA among other great traditional Italian foods that are eaten in other locations around the world. Today is my FIRST day in Naples and I hit the ground running, so to speak.

One of the things I was really excited to do here was to eat a Margarita pizza. I even wanted to try and eat it at the famous Pizzeria Da Michele (yes, the one that is in the movie Eat, Pray, Love). As I was wandering the streets today (basically I was lost... let's be honest), I stumbled upon said pizzeria and decided to try and find my way back (being that it was 10 am and just too early for pizza). Lucky for me, the chaotic streets of Naples have some order to them and after doing a little shopping and sight seeing, I was able to get back there for about 1:30. It looked like this outside:

Not knowing the procedure for how to get a seat or get food, I simply went inside and to the man at the cash. He asked how many I wanted to seat and I said that it was just me. Well, minutes later I was seated and my bira was placed in front of me (Italian beer is VERY light).

My pizza took a little longer and I'm pretty sure that my adorable singing waiter actually gave my order to another table at least once, but I'm not mad. The place was popping with people and pretty much everyone was getting the same thing. Hard to keep track really. Eventually, this:

was laid before me. *sigh of gargantuan happiness* If you are looking for crispy pizza, don't come to Italy. The tomato sauce is the most flavourful and plain sauce I've ever had.. it's very wet never mind all the water that comes off the FRESH mozzarella cheese, there is just a tiny bit of basil (I wish there was a tiny bit more) and then they drizzle olive oil over it. So needless to say the dough is a little soggy and a knife and fork are required for eating... but its SOOOOOOO good!!! The dough is a little salty and chewy and the flavours are... well... perfect. In a word, I could eat this meal every day while I'm here, and I just might since it only costs 6 Euros including the drink and I was so full that I couldn't finish... and I tried... trust me, I tried!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nummy, Yummy Potatoes

I forgot to take a picture (I was rushing out the door with these little gems hot from the oven).

Here is what I did:

I sliced potatoes and purple onions (as many or as little as you like... I know, I know it's very irritating for the exact measuring people out there), about enough to do 2 thin layers of each in a 9"X13" Pyrex baking dish.

Then in a big pot I made a roux with butter (melted and almost about to turn brown), garlic (powdered or real), flour and milk. I melted the butter and sautéed the garlic first. Then I added the flour until I had a thick paste. Then I added the milk slowly until I had a smooth and slightly thick sauce. Do not let it boil. I then added smoked guyere cheese and some regular white cheddar cheese. I continued to cook and stir until the cheese was all melted. I put this on top of my potatoes and then sprinkled more cheese and some chopped up bacon on top. Cover with foil and toss in the oven at 350* F or 175/200*C for about an hour. Take the foil off the top for an additional 10 minutes at the end and serve... it was rich, cheesy, buttery, smoky goodness!!!

Happy Eating!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Best Chicken Soup EVER!!

So my friend Jordan is the soup king around here. He makes the most amazing soups and while I tend not to make a lot of soups, I've gained a new appreciation of them and just how many flavours you can build into a soup. Well, Jordan was away for a little while and his poor girlfriend, also my friend, Charity was surviving on cereal (or at least that is what I tell myself in justification for making the soup for us). She invited me over to watch a movie and I offered to make dinner.

I jetted home and put this together (makes enough for 2-4 people depending on portion sizes):

1/3 cup chopped up chorizo
1/3 cup diced purple onion
2 cloves finely chopped/minced garlic
2 or 3 chicken thighs chopped up
1 medium sized carrot sliced thickly
1 medium potato cubed
2 or 3 mushrooms chopped up
1 or 2 cubes of chicken bouillon
1 small can of corn
a sprinkle of dill, cayenne pepper and oregano
1 tbsp olive oil.
1 litre water

I put the olive oil into the pot and got it good and hot, added the chorizo, garlic, onions and mushrooms to sautee. Then I tossed in the chicken cubes in order to get them good and browned. Then I added the water, spices and other ingredients. I brought it all to a boil for a few minutes and then let it simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. I thought it was super tasty and my dinner guinea pig seemed to agree! :) No pictures this time, sorry!!

Happy Eating!

Quick and Easy Pasta

I love a pasta dish (perhaps it's the Italian in me) and while I love the fancy ones, sometimes something simple and tasty is just what I need. The other night, I felt like I could really use a yummy dish that was simple to make and so I threw together some ingredients and this is what I came up with:

All it has is whole wheat bow tie pasta, chopped and sauteed chorizo sausage, blue cheese (just a little for creamy texture and flavour), oregano, dill and some small chunks of cheese that get all melty when you stir them in with the pasta. It was a quick dish that was easy to make and SOOOOOooooooOOOOOO tasty!!

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Food Trucks!!

Vancouver is one of the prettiest cities in the world with a ton of great stuff to offer and now they have one more: Food Trucks!! Vancouver has joined the elite foodie cities in the world with great, gourmet food available at reasonable prices on the street. (I love street food and make it a regular practice in my travels to try street food wherever I go) Normally my cooking blog is reserved for my own kitchen experimentation but I just couldn't let the opportunity pass to plug what I think is the greatest food truck in the city (perhaps I am biased because they originated on the Sunshine Coast where I am from... I ate there, in Davis Bay, last summer and remember telling them to get on one of those foodie shows... and they did!!! Eat Street from Food Network was there after I left!!). Anyway, it's a great big purple truck called Feastro and they do prepare a feast for every palate. They have fresh locally caught seafood, locally grown greens (coming from Henry Rd. Farm in Gibsons), delicious daily specials, incredible flavours and it doesn't hurt that the dude taking orders is adorable and good with the customers.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Vancouver with a hungry belly... head down to West Cordova and Thurlow (right across from the Olympic torch and the convention centre) and give Feastro a try... you won't be sorry!!!

Crab Cakes

So the image is not mine (I'd forgotten to charge my camera battery) but it's basically what they looked like once I finished. I took a very basic recipe that actually called for fake crab and spiced it up the way that I do and came out with a DELICIOUS way to use up the oodles of leftover crab we had from our family reunion.

Here is how it went:

You will need:

3/4 cup flaked crab (I used locally caught fresh stuff but use what you can get)
2/3 cup fine bread crumbs ( you may need more and you WILL need some additional ones to coat the crab cakes)
1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
3 eggs, beaten (not that advocate the beating of any of your food... hehehe)
1 tbsp parsley (freshly chopped or dry flakes)
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tbsp dill
1 tsp dry mustard powder

Mix the wet ingredients with the bread crumbs and spices and then fold in your crab. You may or may not need more bread crumbs depending on how wet your mixture is and how easy it is to make into little patties. You can also add extra lemon juice if it's too dry with what you have in it already. Once you make the patties, coat them in some extra bread crumbs.

Then heat some oil in a frying pan on the stove. I used leftover bacon grease (I know, I know... not very health conscious but it was TASTY!). Fry the crab cakes until they are golden brown on both sides (it's about 4 minutes per side).

Plate 'em and eat 'em!!!


Friday, July 29, 2011

The Beauty of a Local Brew

I'm a bit of a Lucy-Come-Lately to the beer scene, but I've really been enjoying the process of finding out what I like (and, no, not just because I get buzzed when I try to figure out what I like...). Being international makes it all that much more fun as I get to try local brews that aren't exported and that others may not get the opportunity to try. I can say that I enjoy a Japanese Asahi beer with Japanese food... a Korean Cass beer with their version of fried chicken... a Chinese Tsingtao beer on occassion... a Thai Singha beer with my green curry... a Turkish Efes on a hot day... and the list can go on. Currently, I'm at home and we have a fantastic local brewery called Granville Island Brewing and they have some fantastic beers... my favourite is the Robson Street Hefeweizen. Let me know what local brews you like best... I'd love to give them a try!

Take that, Cinnabon!!

So I found this great recipe online for a cinnabon styled cinnamon roll recipe and I decided to give it a try. I followed it pretty much to a tee, except that I have a theory that all sweet baked goods are better with vanilla and since this recipe didn't call for any, I took the liberty of putting in about 1 1/2 teaspoons into the dough and because it is a cinnamon roll, I also put some cinnamon into the dough (didn't call for that either, but it was a good move... trust me on that one). I guess I used about 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon.

The rolls were light, fluffy, flavourful and simply tasty. I highly recommend the linked recipe above... it's just good.
This is immediately post oven, pre-icing... yum yum!!

Happy Eating!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Garlic Cheddar Buns

MMMMMMMMmmmmmmm!!! That's just to indicate how good they taste!! As I said previously, I felt like I was cursed when it came to baking. Cooking? No problem... baking? Uh... yea, that was another story. But I think I may have broken the curse with a little help from my mom and a new container of yeast.

Our family reunion is fast approaching and my mom makes a killer spaghetti sauce (the recipe is in my archives, but if you click the work "spaghetti" above, you'll go there directly) and we decided it would be the best opening meal to the weekend. It wouldn't matter what time people got there, it could be ready to put on a plate with some Caesar salad and some garlic bread. But then I got to thinking and some garlic cheddar buns might be a nice answer to the traditional garlic bread. I tried to make them the other day and failed miserably, but found out that the yeast had gone bad, so we got some new yeast and I gave it another try.... SUCCESS!!!

Here is how I did it (by the way, this was my FIRST TIME EVER making homemade bread):


4 1/3 cups of flour (I used all purpose)
2 tbsp salt
4 1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp powdered garlic
1 tbsp parsley flakes
1 tbsp dill
(I might try oregano instead of the dill next time)

The first thing you need to do is check that your yeast is active. So warm up your water to about 38 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir in the sugar and then drop in your yeast after the sugar is all dissolved. The yeast will take 10 minutes to reach it's active state, but you will know that it is active once you see it bubble and rise into a foam on top of the water.

While you wait on the yeast, you can put all your dry ingredients (about half of the flour to start with and NONE of the cheddar) into a large bowl and mix well. Add the yeast mixture and continue to add the flour (you need to work it in with your hands now) until the dough is no longer sticky on your fingers. Now work the cheese into the dough, always folding the dough into the centre. Punch it down, form it into a ball and place it into a buttered, metal bowl or container. Place a tea towel over the top and pop it into your oven (you just need to warm the oven, then turn it off and leave the door open a crack). Pop that bowl in there and let it rise for about an hour. It should be double the size.

Once it's risen, remove it from the oven, and set your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and you can either form buns (I made 45 little buns) or 2 loaves. Put it on greased pans and then pop it in your hot oven. If you are making buns, they should be ready in 15-20 minutes (they sound hollow when you tap the tops) and a loaf of bread should be ready in 30-40 minutes.

When they are done, brush them with a little unsalted butter. These are a little on the salty side, so you might want to reduce the salt or use a less salty cheese.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Case of the Cursed Baker

That's what I've felt like for the last year... a cursed baker. I can cook and cook well! You can throw just about anything at me in the kitchen and ask me to make something tasty and I can do it, but for the last year, I've felt like I couldn't bake a thing. I didn't bake too much the year before it (when you have a roommate like I did, who is clearly gifted in baking, there was just no need) and so at first I thought I was out of practice. Then I thought it was because I struggled to read and translate the Turkish instructions (which was hard but, with the help of a dictionary and Google Translate, not impossible). Then I thought it was the elevation of the city of Ankara (I wasn't used to baking at high elevations and people said it could be problematic). Then I thought it was the experimentation with the gluten-free flour (which was part of the problem for me... I need to figure that stuff out!!). But finally, I began to think that these things were just excuses and it was ME... I couldn't bake. I'd lost the baking groove (a terrible thing to lose, let me tell you). This was further confirmed here in Canada a few days ago when I tried to make homemade, yummy garlic/cheddar buns and cinnamon rolls. I followed the recipe and the instructions but the dough didn't rise and all I got were some amazing smelling hockey pucks. It put PMSing me over the edge and I nearly lost my mind. That is, until my mom and dad discussed the yeast and figured out that it was no longer active.... so, I may or may not still be a cursed baker, but I know that the last baking mishap was NOT my fault. I will try both recipes again tomorrow and hopefully have some gorgeous pictures of yummy treats to show you. Stay tuned and HAPPY EATING!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Another Great Summer Salad

I love a good pasta salad in the summer. Typically it involves mayo as part of the dressing and in an effort to do something different and lighter, I hit the kitchen tonight after a great day by the pool to make a summer pasta salad.

Here is what I did:

I boiled some lightly oiled and salted water and then cooked some pasta (I used elbow macaroni for it this time, but really just about ANYTHING would work great). When the pasta was nearly done, I tossed in about a cup of frozen shrimp to cook with the pasta in it's last minutes.

While the pasta was cooking, I chopped up a cucumber and several cherry tomatoes (these I just cut into halves). I then doused them with a little bit of olive oil and a spice mixture that I get in Turkey called Olive Sauce (basically it consists of oregano, crushed red chillies, salt and a touch of sumac). I also sprinkled on some dried garlic spice and a wee bit of salt. Just before I drained and rinsed the pasta and shrimp, I decided that there was something lacking from the veggie mixture and I added 1 tbsp of caper berries in vinegar and the juice of half a lemon.

I drained and rinsed the pasta and shrimp in cold water to remove excess oil and to cool them before adding them to veggie mixture. Then I tossed them altogether for a wonderfully spicy and refreshing salad!!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Super Summer Salad

I love a good salad (in fact, I eat it just about everyday for lunch... topped with a boiled egg and some Turkish yogurt if I can get it)... but sometimes they can get boring. Today, I decided to play around with the idea of a salad and to make it a little more interesting.

On top of lettuce (I had a red one), I put cucumber slices and halved cherry tomatoes. Then I threw on some half wedges of grapefruit and some halved, hard boiled quail eggs (don't worry, they taste just like regular eggs, just cuter). And over it all I poured warm curried shrimp (peeled and cleaned shrimp that was sauteed in butter, curry powder, grapefruit juices, sumac, garlic and cumin). YUMMY!! And it was pretty with all the colour contrasts too... eating isn't just about pleasing your tongue, right?

Happy Eating!


In Turkey, Kumpir is a baked potato, but like nothing you have EVER seen before. Trust me when I say it blows ALL other baked potatoes out the window. It's cheap to get here and is SO good!! What they do that makes it better is that the potato is cooked so that the inside is soft and the outside is crispy (I don't know who they get it to work exactly like that) and then they crack it open and MASH the insides with butter and cheese (sounds wrong, but trust me on this one... it's SO RIGHT!!!) until it's a gooey, mashy mix. Then they let you choose what you want to top it with (everything from veggies to BBQ chicken are available). It's WONDERFUL! I wish there were proper Kumpir places everywhere I went... this could be my new crack food (you know, the food that's like a drug to you).

Sandwich Gone Wrong

A while back, I went to Eskişehir with some friends. We were there to watch a basketball game and to just have some fun. Fun was had for sure... but I just have to share a food story. We were recommended to a place for dinner and we went. Place was extremely busy and things were flying off the menu, so I thought I'd stick with something easy and that would be simple to make with all the rush: a clubhouse sandwich. Now, I don't know about you, but when I think of a club, I think of bacon (I knew I wasn't going to get bacon on it... this is a muslim country afterall), turkey, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo etc with 3 slices of bread total... well, this is what they thought it was:

UH?!?!?! Needless to say, I took it apart and ate what I thought was edible which wasn't much. Beware when ordering what you think is simple!

Happy Eating!!

Scrumdilicious Banana Bread

So I had some ripe (overly so) bananas in my fridge (here in Turkey it's the only way I can keep them for longer than a day or two it seems) and I wanted to make some banana bread. I haven't had a lot of luck with cakes and breads here and generally just get pissed off about the whole thing. But... I thought, why not give it one more try. So here is the recipe that I found online:

4 ripe, mashed bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1 1/2 cups flour

I threw in a crushed up bar of dark chocolate just for fun and a little extra flour because it seemed a little too moist when I was mixing it and that always turns into cake/bread gone to trash here.

And guess what?! IT TURNED OUT GREAT!!!!!

Happy Eating!!

Saturday, April 30, 2011


One of my Turkish friends really likes Thai food and asked if I could cook it (I'd told him that I was a pretty good cook so... ) and I said I could but couldn't get some of the ingredients here. He volunteered to do all the shopping if I'd cook for him and some friends. I readily agreed and planned a pretty good menu that included:

Cucumber Salad
Salad Rolls
Tom Yum Goong (spicy sour shrimp soup)
Pad Thai
Green Curry

He got me nearly everything I needed and wanted and I was able to make some adjustments and substitutions that helped to keep the flavour profile pretty similar and it was tasty... I found my recipes from www.thaitable.com and www.thaifood.about.com for a great green curry paste recipe. Take the risk and make your table Thai-tastic sometime... I had a blast doing it!

Tom Yum Goong... it was so tasty and sour!!

Green Curry... making the paste myself was much easier than I thought! I loved doing it!

Salad Rolls with imitation crab in them... also yummy!

Cucumber Salad...so refreshing!

Stuffed Eggplants

The other day I was really digging my detox diet but had already stopped detoxing.... so I decided that eating healthy is a lifestyle and I wanted to keep on it. Sure, I can have whatever I want but I am going to choose to have healthy foods more often than not and so I made my own version of stuffed eggplant.

Here is how I did it:

I took 2 small eggplants, cut them into halves and then topped off the ends and hollowed them out. I cased them in foil and sprayed them lightly with olive oil and put them in the oven at 350 to baked while I prepared the filling which consisted of:

1 of the eggplant innards all chopped up
1 diced onion
1 cup cooked brown rice (cooked in salted water with olive oil, oregano, garlic and sumac)
1/2 cup cooked bulgher wheat

After about 10 minutes I took the eggplant shells out and put the filling in and topped them with a light cheese and put them back into the oven for about 15 more minutes. Then removed them from the foil and enjoyed. They were great!!!

Happy Eating!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vegan Green Lentil Soup

Sorry... no picture for this one. I actually took a photo (or thought I did) but ended up not having the memory card in the camera... hehehe Somedays I don't know where my brain is!

Anyway, in my detoxing that I was doing, I was allowed lentils and I LOVE the lentil soup that they make here in Turkey. I searched online to find a recipe that would be similar and contain no meat or meat products. I found a recipe but needed to tweak it a little and here is what came out:

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
8 cups water
1 1/4 cups dried green lentils
salt and pepper to taste

First take the onions and garlic and sauté them in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Then add the rest of the ingredients and bring them to a boil. Once you have them boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until your lentils are completely soft. Then turn it off and let it cool before putting it in a blender and pureeing. Reheat to the temperature that you like your soup at. It's a great soup!!

I didn't have a blender so I elected to eat it chunky style and it was still tasty and I thought it would be amazing over brown rice!!

Happy Eating!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


When I lived in Oman, a woman from Jordan introduced me to this little spring jewel and I am thrilled to be back in a part of the world that sells, enjoys and loves them! They are the green, spring almond. It's an almond before it reaches maturity. It's crunchy, tangy and just plain good!! The green fuzzy part is what becomes the shell given time to ripen and harden. The inside is what will become the almond nut itself. Anyway, they come just once a year and are a treat! Soak them in a little salted water before eating, or simply crunch away while dipping in a little sea salt. Up to you!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Call For Recipes

Hi Foodie Friends!!! I've recently gone to the doctor for something that I think is unrelated to my weight but my doctor wants to put all the blame on my weight... so I'm happy to comply and lose the weight (I'm sure that it's not the cause of the issue, but I am also sure it's not helping things). Here are the parameters I must function within from now on (some are fairly easy for me since I don't partake in them often):

  • no salt (at all)
  • no sugar (at all, this includes fruit juices)
  • no oil (as little as possible)
  • no bread (guess what? It has salt!!)
  • no fast food (easy... I don't have that often anyway)
  • no cheese (this is like murder for me... if you remember, I had a post about melted cheese alone!!!)

Here's where you come in... please leave me links to good recipes or even some recipes you know and have that I could use in my comment box. After my Spring Break I had planned to follow a detox program and I have a few recipes with that, but I am going to need more... especially considering that I can't get all ingredients readily here.

Help me get back to happy eating, my friends!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Turkish Coleslaw

I am not the biggest fan of coleslaws usually, but there is one that they make us for lunch here that I have fallen in love with. So I asked my friend, Nilay, to tell me what's in it and she did. Let me share it with you!!!

You will need:

1 large white cabbage (chopped or shredded)
3 lemons
2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp salt
2tbsp crushed red chilies
4 tbsp oregano
2 tbsp freshly chopped mint.

Chop up the cabbage, and then squeeze the lemon juice over them. Reserve a little for the dressing.

Mix the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour it over the cabbage and toss it all together... and that's it! Super easy, super tasty and fresh!!

Happy Eating!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Eggs... IN OATMEAL!?!?!?!

Yes... and it's GREAT! I like having something hearty like oatmeal to start my day but I need protein or I am just hungry in an hour. You'd think oatmeal would hold me... but it doesn't. So I went looking online and this is what I found:

This is for a single serving so adjust as you need for your family.

1/2 cup oatmeal, uncooked
1 cup of water (you could cream it up with milk instead if you like)
1 egg
1 small pat of butter
sugar, cinnamon, fruits or whatever you like to add more flavour (I used dried cranberries, a little cinnamon and about 1 tbsp white sugar)

Bring the water to a boil, add the oatmeal and bring it back to a boil while stirring... add the butter and egg at this time.

Keep stirring so that it keeps a creamy consistency. It won't be as stiff as regular oatmeal, but it is tasty. At the end, throw in your fruits if you are using dried fruits. If not, plate it up and add your sweeteners and spices.


Mmmm.... chicken!

I don't buy meat often for my house because it's just me, it's expensive and I really enjoy vegetarian meals throughout the week. It makes meat a special treat when I go out to eat. However, I had some chicken legs leftover from the soup and I decided to give it a go.

Here is what you need:

skinless chicken legs (2 per person)
Rice (measure to the portion of people you are serving)
2 or 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes
red or green bell peppers
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp rosemary

Begin by sautéing the chicken with a little olive oil and the garlic.

Once it begins to brown, add some water and the rest of the ingredients, cover and let cook. Talk about an easy, 1 pot dish that is tasty!!


Spicy Chicken Soup

So... I'm not really a soup person but this country and my friend Jordan are slowly changing my mind. In Turkey, soup is an important part of most meals and Jordan makes pretty much the best homemade soup I've ever eaten. So I thought I'd try my hand at this art... and it's as much art as science as far as I can tell. I'll give you my ingredients and in brackets I'll give some alternatives that I would have used if I was in Canada or the US.


Chicken carcass or 5 chicken legs, I used skinless ones
Spicy Sucuk (I'd use chorizo sausage if I was home), chopped
3 carrots peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
10 mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 can of corn
2 purple onions, chopped and divided
1 chicken bouillon for flavour
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 litres of water
salt and pepper to taste.
1 HUGE soup pot

I started by sautéing the the chicken legs, garlic, sausage or sucuk and half the onions with a little olive oil. Once the chicken was nicely browned and the onions were translucent, I added the water, bouillon, veggies and spices. Stir, bring to a boil and then let simmer for a couple of hours. Then I pulled my chicken legs out, pulled the meat off and put it all back into the pot to cook some more. Finally, I added some noodles and brought it back to a boil for about 20 minutes. I think the noodles were a mistake or I need to learn how to do that better... they were mushy! hahaha Or I'd add rice next time.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Conquering the Cake

Cake has been the bane of my existence in the kitchen since arriving in Turkey. Ankara is at a higher altitude and without proper cups or measuring tools, it's been a crap shoot. Getting cupcakes to work was my first step and once I got that I figured I could do a cake (a zucchini loaf to be exact... which went terribly array and the only thing I can think of to explain it is that the zucchinis were really young and watery...). Anyway, tonight, I conquered the cake!! I decided to try again as I sometimes attend the Marine House Happy Hour that the US Marines put on at their house/bar on the US Embassy. They are a bunch of great guys who are loads of fun and the last time I was there they sent me home with an AMAZING salsa dip in a container.
Now, I don't know how your mothers raised you, but mine said to never show up at someone's house empty handed and NEVER return a container, that came to you full, empty. So even though I won't be attending this week's happy hour, I wanted to get their container back to them and thought I could make some cupcakes (see this entry for recipe and substitute apples and cinnamon for extra dark chocolate chips or chunks) or a cake. I decided to do both and, in the words of Monica on Friends: I WON! I WON! I WON!!!

Here's the recipe I used (I found it online when searching yogurt pumpkin bread):

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin puree (I finely grated fresh pumpkin and it was AWESOME)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg (I didn't have any so I grated up a few cloves to bring that spicy aroma in)

First cream the butter and sugar together, add in the eggs, vanilla and yogurt. Then fold in the dry ingredients until well mixed and at last put in the pumpkin and fold it in. Bake at 350 until the knife comes out clean. The result? Have a look at that:

It is moist, not too pumpkiny and just right. I love this recipe and I LOVE this cake... hope the guys like the cake and cupcakes... if not... meh? *shrugs* whatcha gonna do? ;)

Happy Eating friends!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pumpkin Risotto... the easy way

So lately when I cook, I want something savoury and PRETTY!! I want it to be a feast for my eyes as well as my tummy. And pumpkin/squash is just such a beautiful vegetable. So I went online searching for pumpkin recipes that wouldn't require pureed pumpkin or things that I couldn't get here in Turkey and this is what I came up with:

The recipe called for some things I didn't have or couldn't get so I modified it and made it my own recipe. For this you need:
Pumpkin, 2 cups of rice (I combined rice and bulghur wheat for a different texture), 5 cups of chicken stock, 2 sprigs of fresh dill, 2 cloves of garlic or some garlic powder, 1 or 2 red peppers, 1 purple onion, a small bunch of fresh basil, 1 or 2 sprigs of oregano, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 3 or 4 pats of butter.

In a pyrex dish (a fairly large one), pour your oil, hot chicken stock and rice. Stir them around a little... like the murkey picture above. Don't rinse the rice first, the starchiness is required to make a more sticky and risotto like rice.

Chop up all your veggies and spices and toss them into the pyrex. Add a little salt and pepper if you like, stir, cover tightly with foil and pop into your oven at about 375 F and cook. Check it occasionally to stir it and once it is near to being done, put the butter on and let it cook down a little more. I let my cook a little too far so it was dryer than a risotto should be, so be careful to let there be some liquid still in it...

Happy Eating... it's a delicious savoury dish!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Simple, Apple Cupcakes

I've had some apples in the fridge that I've been meaning to make into something for a while, but it isn't always easy to think of what to do. Initially I thought I would make some muffins but most of the recipes I found online had things that I didn't have readily available in my kitchen. However, this cupcake recipe did. And then I finely chopped up some apples, added them in with some cinnamon and voila:

They were light, fluffy, not too strong in flavour and the most successful thing I've baked since coming to Turkey. The altitude and not having proper measuring tools is doing me in for baking... until today, that is!

Happy Eating.

Eggplants and Saffron Rice

Eggplants are one of those vegetables that people are often uncomfortable turning into a main dish at a meal unless they are vegetarian. I love them, I love their texture, their flavour and their meatiness. So here is what I did with a couple of them last night to make a wonderful meal:

I had the skinnier versions of the eggplant and sliced them length-wise after taking off the tops and bottoms. I then brushed them in olive oil and sprinkled salt and garlic over them and popped them in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes or so.

While they were baking, I put on some rice mixed with a little bulghur wheat in a pot with salted water, some saffron and a little butter and set that on the stove to cook. Then I sliced up a couple of tomatoes and some cheese (since I am in Turkey and all the cheeses I would normally use - brie and mozzarella - are really expensive, I just used some halloumi cheese and some kasar cheese).

I then took the eggplant halves out of the oven, topped them with the tomatoes and lightly dusted them with basil, oregano and rosemary before putting the cheeses on top and putting them back in the oven. There is no time limit for how long they should stay in the oven, but the general rule is to wait until the cheese is bubbly and melty good! I originally took this recipe from Cook Yourself Thin, but have had to make some adjustments now that I am here and can't just find all the things that they list so easily. But if you are in North American or Europe and can easily get what they call for, I really recommend their recipes. Super healthy and easy and TASTY!!

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Awesome Food Inventions

Today one of my students brought his snack in this:

Is that not one of the smartest food inventions you've EVER seen?!?! I love it. I love it as much as I love my Tupperware/Pampered Chef orange peeler, or my Pampered Chef oil sprayer, my Pampered Chef chopper (which is sadly in Canada and not here in Turkey with me), my Pampered Chef egg slicer, my apple corer/slicer and my Pampered Chef peeler, corer, slicer. I love kitchen gadgets and neat inventions that make things neater and more convenient. This is definitely one of the best I've seen in a long time!

What are your favourite kitchen gadgets/inventions?!

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Weekend of COOKING!

So, first off, let me apologise because I don't have any pictures to show (it was just too busy for that!!!) for all the work that I produced this weekend. I made lasagna, salads galore, stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed mushrooms, and garlic bread. I was cooking for MANY, so if you know me, you know I was HAPPY! Here is how it all came about with some recipes sprinkled in between.

Earlier in the week my friend Taljit (he'll be thrilled to be published in the blog) asked me if I would help him cook a special meal for some workmates and friends. I readily agreed and then reminded him that he promised some of my workmates and friends that he would be hosting a dinner party for them at his house. He sighed, hummed and hawed and then decided to kill two birds with one stone and do a full weekend of dinner parties. Being that his kitchen is gloriously large and he was supplying the groceries, I readily agreed to be the kitchen slave for the entire weekend. We met on Saturday morning and got to shopping and chopping. Thankfully the menu for the following day allowed me to pre-make or prepare lots of ingredients the day before. Here is the menu for Saturday:

Lasagna, fresh salad, garlic bread

*Taljit could be Italian with the amount he wanted to make, I had to reign him in a little so this is for 2 LARGE lasagnas

Here is what I did for my lasagna:

I made a meat sauce (reserving some of the ground beef mixture for the stuffed peppers the next day) that is just like my mama's which you can view by clicking the link to that post. Then I made a cheese sauce of 1 1/2 containers of ricotta cheese (big containers), washed and squeezed dry fresh spinach (about 2 cups), 3 eggs and 2 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of granulated garlic and salt and pepper. Then I used the Barilla brand of lasagna sheets that don't need to be precooked. I layered them alternately with the meat sauce and cheese sauce while sprinkling a little mozarella into the meat mixture (my theory that melted cheese makes everything better still holds). Then I generously put shredded cheese on the top and baked them covered in foil (spray your foil to keep the cheese from sticking to it, or use toothpicks to keep the foil off the cheese) and cooked them for about 1 hour at 350-375 degrees. They were GORGEOUS!!!!

For the salad I threw together several different kinds of lettuce and a variety of fresh veggies that were colourful and tasty. For the dressing I combined 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil with 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2/3 cup pomegranate vinegar, 1 tsp granulated garlic, 1 tsp sumac, a dash of salt and a pinch of pepper. It was incredibly fresh and tasty!!!

For the garlic bread I simply combined butter, freshly chopped garlic, a pinch of salt and a BIG pinch of oregano. You kind of need to feel this one out for the amount of bread that you have. I put it in the oven face up to melt and then toast the bread in the oven... super yummy and would have only been made better by sprinkling a little parmesan cheese over the top.

So that was Saturday... Sunday's menu was stuffed peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms, served with a side salad. I'd never done stuffed anything before so this was a bit of an adventure with NO RECIPE to help me... I am most proud of this dinner and how beautiful it looked on the plate. SO SAD I DON'T HAVE A PICTURE!!! *sigh* But here is what I did:

There were 6 dinner guests so this is a pretty hefty meal in regard to recipe proportions, but you can be creative and scale it down however you like.

I prepared enough Basmati rice for each person (1 1/2 cups rice to 3 cups water.... lightly salt the water and wash the rice 2 or 3 times to remove excess starch and keep the rice fluffy.).

Stuffed Peppers/Tomatoes:

6 large bell peppers and 6 large tomatoes (take the tops off and clean out the insides, then wrap them in foil and place on a pan. They will go into the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes to soften them before stuffing)
Mix the cooked rice with beef (the cooked ground beef from the day before is what I used) and a veggie mixture (see below) as well as 1/2 a large container of ricotta cheese.

Veggie mixture:
Dice up the following: eggplant (1 small one or 1/2 a big one), 1 onion, 2 carrots, 3 cloves of garlic, 5 or 6 mushrooms, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tbsp crushed hot red chillies, and some of the tomato innards. Cook these down in a pot with olive oil until the eggplant is soft.

Once the shells are out of the oven, stuff them with the filling, top with cheese and send back to the oven until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browning. The hard part is plating because you have to get that hot foil off the peppers and tomatoes.

Stuffed Mushrooms:

Peel the mushrooms instead of washing them because of the moisture inside the mushroom. Pull out the stems and reserve them. Once you have the buttons all cleaned and peeled, pop them into a pan with hot olive oil and let them brown up a little. This will also help to get some of the moisture out of the mushroom.

In a bowl, combine the chopped up mushroom stems with one package of cream cheese and an equal amount of blue cheese and 2 chopped green onions.

Flip your mushrooms into a baking pan and make sure the indent is facing up so you can spoon the cheesy goodness in them. Then sprinkle a little parmesan on top and send them to the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and they are hot. Don't be alarmed when there is a heaping amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan... it's NORMAL! Just take them out of the pan to serve. They are incredibly yummy and the recipe comes from my friend Raymond!

So there you go... a weekend of shopping, chopping, stacking and cooking... A GREAT WEEKEND.

Happy Eating!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Homemade Mac and Cheese

So, one of my goals was to make something every week. And so far, I am doing great! Made a great cake last week (although, truth be told, I messed up the glaze, so I am going to try it again this week some time but make it into cupcakes... yea yea!!), and this week I got the urge to try making Mac and Cheese. Now... I've NEVER made a for real, homemade Mac and Cheese before and I decided to just wing it (how's that for trusting my culinary skills?!)! So here is how it went down:

You will need the following ingredients if you are going to follow my recipe (that's right, I made this baby up all on my own!! No help from Food Network, any other site or cookbook):

*Pasta enough for about 6 servings
*1/2 of a small wheel of brie cheese
*2/3 of a cup of another strong cheese (I used Eczine here in Turkey... I don't know what the equivalent would be, it has a strong flavour but is very soft)
*1 1/2 cups of grated, fresh parmesan
*3 cups of grated white cheese (in Turkey, I used Kaşar Peynir, but I think a white cheddar or another cheese of your choice would be fine)
*3 cloves of garlic finely minced
*1 stick of butter
*2/3 cup of flour
*2 cups of milk
*1 green onion chopped
*1 red bell pepper chopped
*2 stalks of fresh dill finely chopped
*1 tbsp each of rosemary, sweet basil and oregano

I chopped all the ingredients first and cooked the pasta while I was chopping. When cooking the pasta, make sure to salt the water to give it some seasoning and when it starts to boil put a small pat of butter in there. Keeps it from boiling over and gives it a nice buttery flavour. Don't over cook your pasta. Make sure it's just al dente (a little on the undercooked side) because you are going to cook it again once you pop it in the oven.

I used the same pot that I cooked my pasta in (I threw it in the baking tin once it was drained) to make my roux and cheese sauce. I've NEVER done a roux before but it's pretty easy and I had fun with it. I threw my butter in the pot (it was on a pretty low heat), and added my minced garlic... talk about YUMMY smells!! When that was melted, I began to add the flour:

It gets thick really fast, so don't leave it!! I didn't end up using all my flour because I didn't want it to be pasty. Then I switched to using a whisk and began to add my milk, constantly stirring. You may need more or less milk depending on your tastes or how thick you like it. I added the two soft cheeses to the building milk sauce and melted them right in there. Then I tossed in a little of each of the other cheeses.

Then when that was all happy, melty, gooey, I tossed another small handful of the harder cheeses onto the pasta and threw in the pepper and onion. I tossed them lightly together and then oozed my cheese sauce over the top.

Finally I sprinkled the remaining cheeses over the top of the pasta mix and topped with all my herbs and spices. Threw it in the oven at 350 F and let it baked until it looked like this:

And, I am not tooting my own horn here (well, maybe just a little) but this is INCREDIBLY GOOD!! It's gooey, flavourful but not too rich. The cheesy spice crust on the top is much better than a bread crumb one in my opinion (I don't need more carbs on my carbs) and it does get a little crunchy on top because of the parmesan and the herbs.

Happy Eating!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lemon Cake with a Raspberrry Lemon Glaze

It has been far too long since I last posted to this blog. Sorry readers. I do apologize for that. It's just been a big hectic and, really and truly, no fun to cook for just yourself. In the US, I had a lovely roommate and friends who were foodies. Here, in Turkey, I am alone and bored with trying to make things for myself. So... what I thought was that I would just cook for people and give it away as little gifts. Now, this can be limiting in the fact that I might make something that no one else likes, but I'll take the risk! My goal is to make one thing a week that can be shared with friends here and the masses out there! I hope you will enjoy what I have to offer, just as I hope my foodie friends here will too!

For my first weekly offering, I decided that I wanted to bake a cake from scratch... something I haven't done in ages and ages! So off I went into cyberspace to see what recipes I could find and I found this one on Food Network. It is a lemon yogurt cake (and we have awesome yogurt in Turkey, so why not showcase that?!!?) with a lemon glaze. Now, being who I am, I just couldn't leave well enough alone. So for my glaze, I substituted some of the sugar (no, Mary B, I am not sure how much... just eye-balled it like usual) for raspberry jam. I thought that might take the flavours up a notch and well... it's one of my favourite combinations of flavour. I'd like to see about steeping the lemon juice in green tea as well as that can be super tasty... look for this cake to make a come back! ;) It's super moist and tart/sweet and tasty!!

Happy Eating!!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I know I haven't posted in a really long time, but I've really just been doing the same old, same old. And that's no fun to read about! But since it was the holiday and we (my friends and I) were traveling about and eating all kinds of new things and taking in a few new things, I thought I could at least share that with you!! ;)

As we were running around the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, this is one of the things we saw... I laughed so hard. It didn't help that the store owner was keen to meet me later... I just kept laughing and laughing!

Turkey has an amazing number of spices, teas etc sold in bulk like this. It's wonderful!! Helps to inspire me to cook more!

Dried fruits... mmmm....

Nuts and sweets, Turkish style. In the Spice Bazaar, they often let you taste things. It was such fun to wander through here and get ideas of things I wanted to try to taste and to make!!

More Turkish sweets...

Fresh honey and honeycombs for the taking. Turks have some of the best honey I have ever tasted.

Roasted chestnuts anyone? These little gems are sold everywhere on the streets in the winter.

More simit! Although, I have to say, these weren't as good as the ones in Ankara!!

Ladies making Gözleme. A yummy snack here that can contain spinach, cheese, potatoes or even as simple as lemon and sugar.

A typical sweet store... stacked to the max! And it is often sold by weight, not by piece.

My Turkish breakfast at the restaurant that we ate at often... so tasty and more than I could finish.

Penne Arrabiata. This was Raymond's choice and it was so yummy!!

Roasted chicken and veggies... can't go wrong there!!

I can't remember what this was, but my friend Nicolas got it and devoured it! So it must have been tasty.

My tortellini... so good. Just because you are in Turkey doesn't mean that all there is on offer is Turkish food. Many restaurants here have a good variety of foods and do an excellent job preparing it!

I am NOT a soup person, but the lentil soups here in Turkey are AMAZING!! I am also a huge fan of their tomato soup too. Mmmm... so hearty and tasty on a cold winter day.

There was a random cage along the way we were walking and they had the best hot chocolate I have EVER had. I am pretty sure that they steamed chocolate milk. And the chocolate milk here is not overly sweet, but is super creamy. SO GOOD!!

Our favourite place to grab a bite to eat in Istanbul for this trip was a place called Pasha in Sultanahmet. We ordered a nescafe coffee there and when they asked if we wanted milk, we said yes. I had no idea that it would come steamed and foamy in a little pitcher for us to pour into our coffee... it was so good that we never got away with just one cup!

Raymond's omlet... perfectly cooked, no runny eggs at all.

I asked for chicken crepes... and I got this gooey, cheesy yumminess!!!

So even though I haven't been cooking much lately, I have been eating well!! Time to get back on the treadmill and to preparing my own tasty treats!