Category Archives: recipes

Three-Course Turkish Dinner

After running 6 miles on Sunday morning (first time doing a longer run since my Half Marathon on April 13), I spent most of my day in the kitchen preparing an elaborate Turkish dinner.


Aren’t my head-band and flowery apron something? Dave was handling the food photography because he got excited to use the tripod and a nicer camera than my iPhone (which I usually use). Anyway, I didn’t know he would put me into 80% of the pictures or I would have chosen to look less ridiculous.

Now to the task at hand: Cook a three-course Turkish dinner for four people in three hours. All three recipes were new to me, but the cookbook Sultan’s Kitchen has been phenomenal so far, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

1. The Appetizer – Grape Leaves Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Currants, and Rice


Just looking at this has me wanting to make another batch of these beyond-delicious things. It was my first time making vegetarian grape leaves. In the past, I’ve stuffed them with rice and ground beef or lamb. But no longer. The combination of pine nuts and currants with cinnamon, dill, and parsley is out of this world. Sprinkled with lemon-juice, they’re a fresh, tangy summer treat. They could be their own meal and I definitely devoured the left-overs for lunch on Monday. Triple yum!

We served them with some fresh baguette and Raki – an anise flavored liquor that no Turkish meal should be without.

2. The Main Course – Flounder Fillets Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Spinach, and Scallions

Holy moly. Flounder fillets are expensive. The recipe called for 3 lbs., but that would have meant $45, so I decided to get four and divide all the other ingredients in half too. That was a good choice, since we had so much other food, too.


First, you cook the pine nuts in olive oil until they’re golden brown, then you add garlic, spinach, and scallions and saute the mixture until it has wilted. After letting it cool, you place the desired amount in the center of the fillet and then fold it over, holding it together with a tooth pick.


Number one and two.

Then, you steam the fillets in a mix of dry white wine, chopped tomato, lemon juice, spices, and dill for eight minutes. When it’s done, you sprinkle it with parsley.


We served this course with bread and a choice of red and white wine. Don’t you want to take that piece of baguette and make it soak up the delicious sauce? The dish was the perfect mixture of herbs, fish, and a tangy mix of wine, tomato, and a kick of spiciness due to paprika and red cayenne pepper. So good. So so good.

3. The Desert – Rose Water Pudding


This was a basic pudding made with whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, and cornstarch, but the rose water gave it a very unique flavor. We actually sprinkled these servings with cinnamon before putting them on the table, but were too absorbed into conversation by that time to remember taking pictures.

It was so much fun to try three new recipes and introduce our friends to Turkish cuisine. They seemed to really enjoy everything. Dave and I definitely loved all three dishes, so we’ll definitely make them again. The leftover grape leaves definitely were a special Monday lunch treat.



Filed under deserts, drinks with dinner, leftovers, recipes, running, seafood, Turkish

Weekend Round-Up

We spent the weekend enjoying the beautiful May weather both in State College and NYC. I don’t have many pictures at all, but will attempt to document the events with words.

Friday night, I worked on expanding my Turkish cooking portfolio. A family friend in Germany has created “Koch Dich Türkisch (cook yourself Turkish),” a website with Turkish recipe videos. He’s been doing this for several years and has built a remarkable following. I finally wanted to cook with one of his videos and chose this one, called “Imam bayildi,” which means “The Imam Fainted.” It’s a traditional eggplant dish. One of the myths about its name is that the Imam’s wife made this for him and he fainted because he learned how much olive oil was in it. Olive oil was very expensive. Another says he fainted simply because it was so tasty.


Imam Bayildi (serves 2 or 4, depending if you want one or two halves – vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free)


– 2 large eggplants
– 3 medium onions, diced
– 3 tomatoes (peeled or unpeeled, depending on preference)
– 2 garlic cloves
– 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
– olive oil (amounts can be based on preference)
–  1 tbsp. sugar
– salt and pepper
– a little thyme, finely chopped


Halve the eggplant and slice the skin in a zebra pattern. Soak them in saltwater for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the onions and the garlic, as well as the other ingredients. Fry the onions, garlic, and sugar in a large pan. Once they are well-glazed over, add the other ingredients minus the parsley and fry everything for a few more minutes.

When the eggplants have soaked, pat them dry with paper towels. In another frying pan, heat up olive oil. When the oil is ready, place the eggplants face-down into the pan and sear them until the edges are browned. Place the halves into a casserole or baking dish, fill them with the vegetable mix, add parsley on top, and sprinkle them with more olive oil. Then bake them for 35 minutes and enjoy.


I had to cut the baking time for mine to 20 minutes because I was running late for a girls night with two friends at Gigi’s in State College. We sat on the back patio, drank wine, and enjoyed the view of the mountains until it got dark, we got cold, and we moved to a table inside.

Saturday morning, we tried to sleep in a bit to be well-rested for our trip to NYC. When he wanted to make omelettes for breakfast, Dave realized we only had one egg left, so he came up with this:


And this:


Cornbread-stuffed Italian peppers and cornbread muffins. His reasoning was that cornbread was the only thing he could think of that requires only one egg. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me.

We packed up fast for the one-night stay and headed out. Before we left town, we stopped at Wegman’s to get a gift for our hosts and pick up some food for the road.


I got Kombucha and a salmon roll.

This is where I stopped taking pictures, so forgive me if you are visually inclined.

We visited one of my co-workers who just helped open the Woolrich office in Manhattan a few months ago. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband. We got there around 3:30 p.m., got a tour of their house, and then walked around the neighborhood and the Brooklun Botanical Gardens. The weather was perfect. We also stopped at this amazing juicing bar and I got a kale and pineapple-based creation that can only be described as phenomenal.

We stopped at an authentic Italian pizza place and got takeout pizza and salads. They had three other people over at their house for dinner. We ate, made strawberry-mint ice cream (so good), and played The Settlers of Catan. Have you ever played this game? I just ordered it on Amazon this morning because I liked it so much.

On Sunday morning, Dave and I left their place early and headed to Manhattan on the subway to see the Civil War photography exhibit at the Met. The upper East side was full of runners, bikers, and families on walks. It was nice to be around large amounts of people again. We had some coffee and banana muffins at the cafe and then walked around the exhibit, which was fantastic.

Back in Brooklyn, we had some pizza for lunch and then headed out because we had a Cinco de Mayo party in State College at night. Our route took us across the Manhattan Bridge, through China town, and then put us back into New Jersey via the Holland Tunnel. Driving in China Town was definitely something I do not wish to make a habit. Way too many swarms of tourists not paying attention to traffic lights and too many crazy drivers. But it was worth it because the parking in Brooklyn was free.

We got back to State College shortly before 7 p.m., went to our friends’ house for the barbecue, and then did some grocery shopping to make sure we’re not entirely unprepared for the week. Dave got to sleep in this morning (lucky), but I was back at the office bright and early for the Monday groove. At least I have my second eggplant half saved for lunch today!

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Filed under recipes, Turkish

Banana Oat Flour Pancakes

I will make away bigger deal out of this than is appropriate, but WOOOHOOOO, I made up my first very own pancake recipe.


Maybe the following anecdote will put this into perspective. Don’t let me fool you with this having a food blog thing. When I moved into my first own apartment for college in Germany, I asked my roommate what setting on the stove I needed to use to make my potatoes boil. Yep. I had no clue how to a) cook and b) use kitchen appliances. My mom was just that …. engaged around the house. I never had to learn it.

So I’ve come a long way, okay?

I’m not a natural at cooking. I did learn quite a bit while working as a pseudo-cook at a restaurant in Muenster for a year. But then I unlearned most of that because I moved to the U.S. and ate at my college cafeteria for the rest of my undergrad career.

My new love for cooking has only emerged over the last year, ever since I started experimenting with vegan and vegetarian food.

So please, bear with my enthusiasm 🙂


Three bananas, three eggs, half a cup of oat flour, half a cup of almond milk.


Served with the proven duo of almond butter and maple syrup (lotssss of maple syrup).

I was thrilled because they looked like perfectly normal pancakes and Dave said he preferred them over “normal”pancakes. High praise, my friends, high praise.

We ate them during our 5 a.m. German lesson on this fine Tuesday morning. Things could certainly be worse.

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Filed under Breakfast, dairy-free, recipes

Turkish Zucchini Fritters


Nothing delights me more than a new Turkish cooking adventure. Okay, maybe not nothing.  But for a Monday evening, this one did pretty well.

This was a real Turkish recipe, so the fact that the fritters tasted like summer and ocean and family didn’t come as a surprise to me. But I’m pretty sure you can just add parsley, paprika, olive oil, and feta to anything and make it taste Turkish. Parsley more than anything, though.


– 2 zucchinis, grated
– 1 sweet potato (grated) – or use two carrots and achieve the same orange color
– 1 cup whole wheat flour
– 2 eggs
– a bunch of chopped scallions (white parts only)
– a bunch of chopped parley
– a bunch of dill
– 7 oz. crumbled feta cheese
– salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
– Greek yogurt and more chopped scallions for serving
– olive oil for frying


After grating the zucchini, put them into a coriander with some salt and squeeze the excess liquid out of them. Switch them over into a big bowl and add all the other ingredients. Mix well.


As always, I take the most appetizing pictures. Food photography – now there’s a course I should have taken in grad school. But they didn’t offer that. So I blame them.

Next, heat up the oil in the largest frying pan you have. When it’s hot enough, add as many fritters as you can. Just add a loaded tablespoon of “dough” for each one – these should be pretty thin and not too large.


Fry each side until golden brown. I used two spatulas to flip them just to be safe. Oh, also, I  shook the pan now and then to make sure they were getting enough oil. When you’re done with the first batch, place them on a paper towel and place another one on top to soak up some of the oil. This becomes less necessary as the oil in the pan depletes with every batch.


These were a big hit. The feta is an amazing addition. I’d say they are a perfect light dinner for a week night, or you could serve them as an appetizer/take them to a potluck. I think they are sure to impress, so what are you waiting for?

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Filed under dairy-free, recipes, Turkish

Goodbye Chores, Hello Tastiness

I’ve been thinking lately about what a waste of time stress is and how worrying about mundane to-do lists can take so much joy out of my daily life. It’s scary because I’m not even prone to being anxious or to easily stress about things. I think as a child and teenager, I easily classified as the “not a worry on the mind” type, living for the moment and always happy to experience something new. I’m not saying that was always a good thing – I often lost stuff, failed math tests, and never thought about saving up for college, etc. – but having that as part of my identity makes me uncomfortable when I do feel anxious about getting stuff done now that I’m an “adult.”

Yesterday, a friend posted this quote on Facebook: “Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.” I couldn’t agree more.

So today, I decided most of the things on my weekend chore list are not that important.

Dave and I hit the gym at around 8 and then had what’s becoming our staple Saturday breakfast – sweet potato pancakes.


There is currently nothing more delicious to me than this creation. The almond butter and maple syrup on top paired with the taste of pancakes and coffee are unbeatable. I devoured my serving and regretted I didn’t make twice as many.

After reading on the balcony and drinking more coffee, I needed a smoothie made from frozen berries, coconut milk, and Amazing Grass powder to counter the caffeine overdose.


A little later, we headed out for lunch at our favorite Thai restaurant.


We sat outside because it was 65 degrees and sunny. I ordered the red curry with shrimp as usual. I have documented my obsession with this dish several times before.


Next, we went to Webster’s, a coffee shop in downtown State College, so Dave could work on end-of-semester papers and I could drink an almond milk decaf latte and read. If you have read Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), you will know what a good time I had. She’s hilarious and inspiring.

Around 5 pm. we went to Trader Joe’s to get groceries and then headed back home for a relaxed evening in.

I was still feeling a little out of it from my caffeine overdose, so I had Synergy Kombucha. It was my first bottle ever. I picked it up a few days ago to try it. It’s really good. It will take restraint not to make it a regular habit, which would be an expensive one.


Feeling refreshed, I put on The Office (inspired by Mindy) and put the groceries away before making the most random of random dinner creations I’ve ever put together.


Red Quinoa, sweet potatoes, a zucchini, and kale all in a casserole dish…


…before adding vegetable broth, salsa, cashews, pinto beans, salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt and then topping it with Daiya Cheeze.

30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees and voila


A pseudo casserole that turned out more like a warm salad. It was actually surprisingly good.It could have done with less vegetable broth and the sweet potatoes may have still been a little too crunchy for some (so 35 minutes in the oven might be a better cooking time). But other than that: really good. Bonus points for me for using zucchini because I never buy or eat zucchini. I only bought some today because I need them for a recipe later this week.

We finally have chocolate coconut milk ice cream again, so I had some of that and watched about half a season of The Office. Mission postponing weekend chores complete.

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April 27, 2013 · 8:37 pm

Leisure-Time Marathon

I love Saturdays just as much as the next person, and this week was especially delicious, both literally and figuratively speaking. We packed so many activities into today that I feel like the weekend should be over already. And it’s not. So I’m winning.

It all started with a 7 a.m. workout at our apartment complex gym. I did the elliptical for 30 minutes while Dave ran and lifted weights.

This made us pretty hungry, so we had sweet potato pancakes for breakfast.


3 eggs and one mashed sweet potato – bam. The trick is to use plenty of coconut oil for frying and keeping them small-ish to make them easy to flip.


I topped mine with almond butter and maple syrup. The flavors of this mixed with coffee flavor put me in heaven. We went over German dialogues while eating.

The next stop was Cafe Lemont for some lattes (regular for Dave, almond for me).


Dave studied German vocab and I worked on a freelancing project. Coffee shops and Saturdays are a dream combo, if you ask me. Especially if they have non-dairy, non-soy latte options.

Around noon, we left to go grocery shopping. On our way to Trader Joe’s, we realized we were both starving, so I introduced Dave to this all-you-can eat Asian buffet. I had been there before and wanted him to experience the insanely large variety of food.


It was $10 per person for the lunch buffet, which included an appetizer bar, a Chinese buffet, a salad bar, a huge selection of sushi, and a ton of desert options. They also have a Mongolian-Grill style setup, but I stuck to pretty much appetizers and sushi.



Afterwards, we went to Trader Joe’s before returning home for some reading and TV time. I think every weekend needs several hours of couch-time. It was hard not to take a nap, that’s for sure.

Around 6 p.m., we decided to play tennis on our apartment complex courts. It was much colder than it has been today and pretty windy as well, but we wanted to give it a try.


I had to wear a headband and a jacket, but once I warmed up, I could take those off. We played for about an hour and the score at the end was 15:1 for Dave. I really suck at tennis, but really enjoy it at the same time. I have great ambitions for beating Dave one day. Maybe this “season” will bring more success than last summer.

Back in the apartment, I made dinner and we watched The Mindy Project. Have you guys seen it? It’s hilarious and so current. It’s one of the few shows Dave and I enjoy equally.


Dinner was spinach salad with avocados, toasted cashews, goat cheese, and dried cranberries, The dressing had balsamic vinegar, sunflower seeds, sugar, cayenne pepper, and poppy seeds in it. Desert was chocolate coconut ice cream, naturally, though no pictures were taken.

Not too shabby for a Saturday in State College, if I do say so myself. Getting up early is my new favorite thing.

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Filed under Breakfast, dairy-free, deserts, eating out, gluten-free, recipes, salads, seafood, vegan

Sweet Potato & Quinoa Salmon Cakes Vol. 2

Dave had class tonight, so I got a little over an hour for some full-power mid-week cooking and cleaning. I danced in the kitchen to a strange mix of music on Spotify – from 90s to high school classics to German pop.

I gave these salmon sweet potato & quinoa cakes another attempt – this time, I remembered to put the eggs into the mix instead of having to put them on top fried.


After cooking a medium sweet potato and half a cup of quinoa, I mixed them with 6 oz. of wild Pacific salmon, half a chopped onion, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of cornmeal.


Then I seared them in olive oil for about 4 minutes per side.


They held together a little less well than last time, despite the eggs! I think that’s because I didn’t cook the sweet potato for long enough. It was less doughy and sticky than last time.


Deliciousness. If you make this, make sure to add enough salt and pepper. Also, I think it would be even better with green onion than just with regular onion. Yes, now that I think of it, definitely use green onions or scallions.

Six cakes meant we have leftovers for lunch. Yay!


Filed under dairy-free, gluten-free, lunch-prep, recipes, seafood