Oh Thanksgiving, the ways we celebrate you.  Today I was talking to Bülent and realized that this was our 5th Thanksgiving by ourselves. All of which one I cooked.  If we had been living in the US within a five hour drive of my parents, I would have been a guest, and had been a Thanksgiving Virgin.

However, after I graduated from college I moved to the West Coast, and then to Turkey.

So there is a Thanksgiving Timeline.

2006: Just the two of us!  Small Turkey!

2007: My BFF (since age 5) joins us with her husband.  Thanksgiving and the Beach!  Yay for vacation!

2008: Bad Ass Barraford Thanksgiving.   My cousin Hilary joins me on the West Coast (LA) and we have a rocking Thanksgiving with a party of 12 and clubbing after dinner!


2009: Arrive in Turkey, guests at a co-workers home.  Lovely dinner, great introduction to the world of NO SHORTCUTS cooking.  Want stuffing?  Buy a loaf of bread, cut it up, spice it and make it into stuffing.  Forget anything out of a can, jar or box.  Delicious but time consuming.

2010: Awesome fun but crazy hard. Read above.  Cooked for 18.  18! With Colitis!  Ouch!

2011: We have decided to go for a more intimate Thanksgiving.  I have decided to include one of my favorite recipes before the dinner.  My friend and I have also decided to make it a more intimate Thanksgiving.  When living abroad, some of your friends transcend boundaries and become family, as my kanka (blood sister) has.  I am looking forward to this Thanksgiving, enjoy the prep, the cooking, the eating and the drinking.  There will be just six of us, so it should be relaxing.  As one of the guests of the 2010 Colitis debacle, my friend from upstairs said “ Tell me what to make…or I am not coming!” Yay!   Here is a list!  Let’s all have fun.

It is the little things…

I moved to Turkey almost 3 years ago, leaving behind almost all my my personal possessions in San Diego CA. This was really difficult.  After I graduated from college Bülent and I moved to San Diego, and slowly started accumulating the things you need to make a house a home.  A bed.  A couch.  Kitchen accessories.  We could not afford to ship everything, so we left it behind and donated it to a very worthwhile charity.  Some of the things I still miss.  One of them is my first “grown up” purchase I paid for all on my own, a red leather (pull out) couch and matching chair.


I also miss my kitchen accoutrement, especially the cast iron pan and griddle I bought.   Now, I could buy cast iron while I am in the states and bring it over here, but it is just too heavy.  Cast iron is not as popular here, and I can not find some of the things I have been looking for, such as a 12 inch cast iron fry pan, and the Holy Griddle…I mean Grail.    I love a big, two burner cast iron griddle, just like my mom had. Not only was it handy, but every time I use one I think of her and of cooking in our family kitchen.   I have not been able to find anything like it.  The closest thing was a little like this, and an arm and a leg.


But that is not THIS…


The cast iron griddle is great, for pancake and French toast, and really anything that needs a larger surface area.  Also, the grill side is great for the inside-grilling of fish and chicken and especially veggies.  You can use it to grill eggplant and make a super low fat eggplant parmigiana, with no frying at all.

Anyway, the other day, one of these cast iron griddles fell into my lap!  My kanka Terry pulled one out her her cupboard and handed it to me.  She said he had been feeling guilty owning it after I had been expounding about my search for the Holy Griddle.   No guilt needed to be felt, but then again she is Catholic, so it could have been that. *wink wink*  But since she has given it to me I have used it once or twice a week.  Once for a grilled hot salad with zucchini, eggplant, tomato, onion and cauliflower with a garlic and rosemary infused olive oil rub which was awesome.  This morning I made super yummy whole wheat pancakes.    So now I own a little piece of home, and when I whip out my cast iron griddle, I think about my mom, and now also Terry.

***Terry—I will have you over for brunch and use the griddle as part of the payment installment. There will be bacon.

LASIK Shout Out!

Traditionally after the wedding the bride and groom exchange gifts.  Or so I was told.  So for my gift, my new beloved husband told me he would finance my LASIK surgery.  YAY!  My eyes are horribly myopic, around –3.75 plus astigmatism.  His gift was perfect.  We both can’t wait.  However, since it is my EYES and if we mess it up there could be serious complications, we have proceeded cautiously.

Hospital #1: Super Shiny!  Clean and New!  Expensive and commercial.  We felt that they did not care about safety as much as money.  They wanted to give me LASIK after only one week of not wearing contacts.  I have been wearing soft contacts for 10 years, seven days a week, 15-18 hours a day.

Hospital #2:  Our new doctor is SUPER conservative.  Maybe too much!  He saw me (after not wearing contacts for two weeks) and said at least one month later.  So today I go in—after not wearing contacts for six weeks.  (Side note:  I hate wearing glasses) He wants to wait six more months of no contacts before the surgery.  That seems excessive to me—what about you?  All the research I have done says that before LASIK you cannot wear soft contacts for two weeks, toric for a month and hard lenses for a month for every decade you wore them!   Am I mistaken?  I really don’t want to wear glasses for six more months if I don’t have to, but I also don’t want to ruin my eyesight.

Any suggestions?

We are going to Hospital #3 tomorrow.

Dinner Ala Turk

When I invite guests over, normally I cook a mix of Turkish and American foods.  My repertoire of food is what I learned from my mother and the Joy of Cooking.  When I have dinner parties the main dish is usually something American-ish, because I am more comfortable cooking it, and confident a that it will turn out well.  However, the other day I had some friends over, they were both foreigners and did not have the same ample opportunities to eat Turkish home cooking.  The home style of Turkish cooking is very diverse, and particularly tasty.  It is also not usually served in restaurants, so when both members of a couple are not Turkish, they have fewer opportunities to eat what I consider real Turkish food.  I made three vegetable side dishes and one main dish.  I also made cheese cake which I served topped with sour cherries, which I dropped on the kitchen floor trying to put it away. (3/4s was left.  I was fairly irritated.)

Yoğurtlu Pancer Salatası/Beet and Yogurt Salad

Cooked beets, shredded, minced dill and garlic yogurt.

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Zeytinyağlı Pırasa/Leeks in Olive Oil

Leeks and carrots sautéed with olive oil and tomatoes served room temperature.

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Yoğurtlu Havuç Salatası/Carrot and Yogurt Salad.
Sautéed carrots mixed with garlic yogurt.

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Hünkar Beğendi/Sultan’s Delight

OHHHHHH…One of my favorites.  Slowly stewed lamb or beef chucks with tomatoes and peppers on a bed of roasted eggplant that has been whipped with cheddar cheese.

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Dinner was really fun because my friends had never had any of these dishes and were really surprised.  It was also very tasty if I do say myself.  I am getting more confident with my Turkish cooking.  There are still occasional mishaps and my börek is weak, but in general I am coming along.  My Turkish cooking is definitely more developed than my language fluency.

Birthdays and Beypazarı

In February both my Mother-in-law and aunt-in-law had birthdays.  We weren’t quite sure what to get them.  We decided instead to treat them to a day trip.


Beypazarı is about an hour from Ankara towards Istanbul.  The city known for several things.  It produces 60 % of Turkey’s carrots, has beautifully restored Ottoman houses, and the renowned 80 layer (it is normally 40) baklava.  The pazar in town was lovely with lots of dried herbs and spices.IMG_1612

There were also beautifully handmade soaps and lots of carrot products.  There was carrot juice, carrot jam, carrot lokum.  The history the city is very rich as it was a stop on the silk road between Istanbul and Baghdad.


While there we went to Tarihi Taş Mektep, a historical restaurant with traditional Beypazarı foods.  This includes very tasty tarhana soup, a special type of sarma, a very delicious and rich guveç ( a meat and rice stew) and an 80 layer baklava.  I tasted everything but the baklava which contained walnuts, and it was fabulous.


It was a lovely trip and both Bulent’s mother and aunt really appreciated the trip.   We might be going back in the future just for that rich, lamby, delicious guveç.  I may have been have been tempted to lick the clay pot it came in.

Welcome to the New-ish Year!

I am a little late for the obligatory New Year post, but I have good reasons.  We spent New Years Eve with some very good friends of ours.  It would have been a lovely evening if I had not been huddled under a blanket, drinking herbal tea, being miserable and running a fever.  We stayed until midnight and then headed out.  Bulent tucked me into bed and took care of me for the next couple of days.  I feel much better now, but was really out of it for a week and a half.  I had sort of gotten better but talking (and yelling) at children for seven hours a day really slows down the healing of a sore throat.  I actually sound pretty sexy—if you like a raspy low pitched growl.  Bulent thinks it is cute. 

I was also dealing with the loss of my laptop.   My hard drive crashed.  I lost a little data but I had backed up a few weeks ago.  Luckily, I had it back within a week all fancy and like new.    I replaced the hard drive with a larger one and upgraded from Windows Vista to Windows 7.  So yay!

The new year also started a new adventure…A Masters!  I found a great distance program through a public university in the States.  So that has started and I have completed my first Saturday of homework.  Whee…Graduate level education, here I come. 

Kurban Bayram and a Vacation

This week is Kurban Bayram or Eid al-Adha, the second religious holiday after Ramadan.  It is a festival of sacrifice, and charity.  Animals, usually sheep and cows, are sacrificed to represent Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.  After the sacrifice a certain percentage of the meat is donated to the poor.  The rest is divided among the family.  Usually during this time your time is spent doing family visits and memorial visits.  Usually the first or second day of Bayram the family visits the cemetery and pays respect to their dead.

The visits start out at the oldest relatives home, and progress down the line.  At the visits tea and snacks are served, usually one salty and one sweet.  You can not refuse.  So Bayram becomes a time of visiting and eating, and eating and visiting.  And then later feeling slightly ill due to the amount of sugar and tea you have consumed.

But not this year!!!  This year the calendar aligned so Bayram started Monday at 12pm and ended Friday.  The government decided to give us all of Monday off which means we have the whole week off! YAY!

We decided to drive down to Marmaris, a 10 hour drive and spend the week at the summer house.  It has been great.  It is cool, about 60 and a little rainy but incredibly gorgeous.  During the summer it is usually about 100 degrees so it is so nice to take walks along the sea or in the mountain without seriously worrying  about heat stroke and death.

As I write this I am sitting in the garden, under a lush canopy of green, smelling the jasmine in the air moist and rich from the rain. I can even hear the crickets and frogs.  A vast difference from sitting here in the sweltering heat listening to the loud techno music from the bar down the streets and the drunk tourists swearing while they stumble on the road behind me after a night of clubbing.

Trip to Niğde

A few weeks ago we took a trip to Niğde, where my husband’s mother is from. Niğde is know for its apple production, and his family owns a small apple orchard down there. We were going to watch the harvest. We drove down Saturday and were greeted by chilly weather and rain. We did manage to see Kapadokya’s most intact and well preserved Byzantine Monastery, Gümüşler Monastery. After trudging around in the freezing rain seeing the historical site for several hours, we had a lovely dinner with some extended family.

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In Niğde in mid-October there was already snow on the mountains. Niğde is nestled into the plains surrounded by inactive volcanic mountains.


When wewere there we were supposed to go to the apple orchards and watch the harvest, but we ran into some trouble. We spent the afternoon in a small village looking for a mechanic, then for a tow truck.


While we were waiting I took a look around the village.

We saw puppies…we always do.


Plums drying in the sun.


Farmers harvesting cabbage.


That last photo was taken from inside the car on the top of the tow truck. We needed a new radiator and by the time it was fixed it was time to head back to Ankara. It was a whirlwind trip. While we did have some fun we have since decided that we will save trips of five hours of driving or more for long weekends only.

A Better Day

Today was less stressful and the kids were fine.  Also I have tomorrow off. That makes the world a better place in general.  Today I also had a student write something very sweet and profound.  The kind of thing that reminds me why I became a teacher, and why I bother with nagging the brats about doing their homework.

I managed to save the Craptastic Soup.  It was supposed to be Ezogelin Corba.  The proportions of the recipe were off, the bulgur in the soup soaked up too much of the liquid, and the flavor was flat.  I split it in half, spiced up and revived one half as soup and the other half as a bulgur pilaf.  So Yay!  I hate wasting food, but as we all know, when you try new recipes or experiment with them every once in a while you get a dud.  Thankfully I was able to save mine.

Tomorrow I will be hitting up the pazar.  I usually go on Sundays, buy my produce and wash and prepare it for the upcoming week.  However, I do not cook much during the week because I get home late.  Then on the weekend, when I actually have time to cook, I run out out of fresh things to cook with before Sunday.*  Our neighborhood pazar is open on Thursdays and Mondays, now that my day off falls on Thursday instead of Wednesday, I can take advantage of this.  Another Yay!


* I could actually go to the grocery store and get what I want and I sometimes do.  However, I prefer to buy my produce and eggs at the pazar.  It is fresher and I feel I am helping support the local economy.

No Internet Connection = Irregular Posting

We won’t have internet for the rest of the month.  So posting may be spotty.  That is fine since it gives me the opportunity to post wedding porn!

So the lowdown on the wedding…It was fantastic!

We had a fairly small wedding on the lakeside.  The actually ceremony was under a tent on the shore and the reception was nearby at the boathouse on the same property. We had a small wedding party, just the matron of honor, the best man and a flower girl.  We wrote the ceremony, which included a ring warming, and the whole thing lasted about seven or eight minutes. 

My friends were amazing.  I had one friend drive up from Kentucky the Monday before the wedding (which was on a Saturday.)  My friend spent the week doing laundry and yard work and anything else that we asked, to help prep for the wedding.  My other friends all helped out and decorated the boathouse for the wedding. 

My matron of honor was amazing.  Not only did she arrange the shower and help with invitations and make my jewelry for the wedding, but she also hosted another one of my friends from out of town.  Her husband actually drove two hours to the airport to pick my friend up.  My friends are wonderful and I am so lucky.

There was one small hitch.  My Matron of Honor got a flat tire on the way to the wedding.  She calls, says she already has the tire iron out and shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes late, just then in the background I hear “That’s a might pretty dress…”  Some boys stopped and helped her and she was only 10 minutes late. It worked out fine.  While we were waiting for her I shoved my future sister-in-law out of the limo to start the ring warming so the guests would get too antsy.  Enough with the talking though….Wedding Porn.


Nazar Boncu pinned to my dress


My brother and me at our home.

whole fam

My parents, brother and me at the house.FIRST KISS

First Kiss


Walking out as husband and wife. (Music: Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder)


Walking to the boathouse with my men.


Wedding cake, which my mother and I made.  She has the skill, I just helped. 


  View from the boathouse.

More photos coming later, including tales from the Morning After Brunch.  That’s right, my mom threw an after wedding brunch for 75 people and cooked it all herself. And it was tasty!